by Rabbi Arye D. Gordon
On Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah, November 14-16th, 2014, The Mir Yerushalayim Roshei Hayeshiva, spent a “Shabbos of Torah” with the Los Angeles Community.
Harav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, shlita, and Harav Nachman Levovitz shlita, returned for their Annual visit to the West Coast.
With over 8,000 talmidim spread out over 10 buildings in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood of Yerushalayim, the financial burden relating to these American, European, Israeli, Hasidic, and non-Hasidic students is tremendous.
The yeshiva was originally founded in the Polish town of Mir in 1814 by Rabbi Shmuel Tiktinsky. After his death, his son, Chaim Leib Tiktinsky, was appointed Rosh Yeshiva. He was succeeded by his son, Avrohom Tiktinsky, who brought Rabbi Eliyahu Boruch Kamai into the yeshiva. In 1903, Rabbi Kamai’s daughter married Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, son of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel (the famed Alter of Slabodka,), who in time became the head of the Mir. The yeshiva remained in that location until 1914.
In the following years the Yeshiva moved and went through various changes. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, the Nazi armies continued to push to the East and the yeshiva students fled to Shanghai, China, where they remained until the end of the war. The story of the escape of the Mir Yeshiva to the Far East, along with thousands of other Jewish refugees during WWII, was largely due to the courageous issuing of visas by the Japanese consul-general to Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara.
The rest of the story is history. While it is much harder to rebuild than to build, Harav Yudel Finkel began the great effort to rebuild the yeshiva in Yerushalayim that resulted in what is the Mir Yeshiva of today.
With the Israeli government cutbacks, the fundraising efforts on behalf of the yeshiva have increased dramatically. Los Angeles, which happens to be one of those communities in the States that have a large following of former Mir talmidim, parents of talmidim, friends and other supporters of the yeshiva, made it a natural place to visit for support.
Aside from the fundraising effort, a significant part of the weekend was used as an opportunity to reconnect with the Roshei Hayeshiva and the former students.
From the moment of their arrival on Thursday afternoon the 21th of Cheshvan 5775, November 14, 2014, through Shabbos Chayei Sarah and Sunday, the Roshei Hayeshiva davened, offered words of encouragement, gave Torah lectures and offered moral support to the various students in the Los Angeles/Hancock Park Community that they visited.
Friday morning the Rosh Hayeshiva, Harav Finkel davened with the talmidim of the Los Angeles Yeshiva Gedolah and were welcomed by its Rosh Hayeshiva Harav Eliezer Gross. Following davening, Harav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, addressed the students. After his inspiring words, the students came forward to greet the Rosh Hayeshiva and shake his hand.
Over Shabbos, Harav Levovitz davened at the Young Israel of Hancock Park, Cong. Khal Zichron Moshe and Yeshivat Yavneh. Harav Finkel davened at Kollel Yechiel Yehuda, Shaare Torah and Kollel Los Angeles.
On Shabbos afternoon the Rosh Hayeshiva, Harav Finkel delivered a shiur at the Kollel Los Angeles.
Sunday morning the Rosh Hayeshiva davened with the talmidim of the Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn. In introducing the Rosh Hayeshiva to the students, Rabbi Yaakov Krause, the Dean of the Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn, related the history of the Mir Yeshiva and its importance to all of us. “Not only is the Mir Yeshiva the largest yeshiva in the world, but it provided the nucleus of Torah throughout the world,” said Rabbi Krause.
While the Rosh Hayeshiva addressed the talmidim in Hebrew, Rabbi Krause translated his words afterwards for those who might not have understood. One of the salient points made by Rav Finkel was that, “You, the talmidim of this yeshiva, are playing a pivotal role in insuring that by your learning, Torah will not be forgotten”.
The Roshei Hayeshiva, Harav Finkel and Harav Levovitz, then attended the Mir Benefit Breakfast held at Shaarei Torah. A video presentation of the Yeshiva in Yerushalayim was shown to the audience. The Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Finkel, then spoke of the continued growth of the Yeshiva, and the extensive work required to keep the students learning and the yeshiva running smoothly.
He finally thanked Chairman Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz and Zev Wolmark, for hosting the Shabbos weekend, as well as the Los Angeles community for its continued support, concluding with words of bracha and hatzlacha.