Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner - America the Last Galus

One morning while Davening in the Volozhiner Yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner suddenly burst out crying with heart wrenching sobs. His voice rose in anguish until, a few moments later his cries died down and he continued Davening as before. But then Reb Chaim Volozhiner once again let out a shrieking cry and his tears began flowing harder than before. This time, his cries continued on for a few minutes longer before he was able to regain his composure and finish his Davening quietly.

The talmidim of the Volozhin Yeshiva were shocked. To warrant such an outburst, their Rosh Yeshiva was obviously deeply upset about something extremely important and it worried them. However, no one felt himself worthy enough to actually approach the Rosh Yeshiva and question him. Finally it was decided that one of Reb Chaim Volozhiner’s closest talmid, Rabbi Dovid Tevel would ask him about it.

When Reb Dovid approached his Rebbe, at first Reb Chaim Volozhiner refused to divulge the reason for his cries. Yet after Reb Dovid’s persistence, Reb Chaim Volozhiner finally answered him. “My son, you must know that the day will soon come when European Jewry will cease to exist. Every Jewish institution and bastion of Torah will be swept away and destroyed. The only hope we have left, the only chance for a rebirth of Torah, is in the galus of America - the last leg of Jewry’s tortuous journey through exile until our final redemption. We’ve already endured so many exiles, and America will be the last stop before Mashiach comes!”

Reb Dovid taken aback and then asked, “But Rebbe, what was the cause for the second outburst of cries and sobs that lasted longer than the first?”

Reb Chaim closed his eyes in obvious pain and said, “It worries me to no end, this galus in America. The potential pitfalls, the trials and tribulations that will be faced by those attempting to rebuild Jewry, will be almost too great to bear. Even if they succeed, who knows what Torah in America will look like?”

Many years later, the pioneer of American Torah Jewry, Reb Aharon Kotler, would quote these words of Reb Chaim Volozhiner and use them as his guide in establishing a vibrant new sanctuary of Torah on these new shores of America.

Note: Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner passed away in 1821, almost 120 years before the start of World War II and the Holocaust, which started in 1939. 

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