The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Modern Litvak: Fact or Fiction?

Yesterday I mentioned Misnagdim in Vilna

The flag of the Litvishe Olam

Misnagdim in the classic sense no longer exist . . . only a few fools who
wish to continue a 200 year old fight that was resolved 150 years ago.
It's as logical as a group of 'Torries' petitioning for the return of America to the British Common Wealth in the year 2006 . . .

In truth however, the proverbial Litvak has also grown exceedingly scarce . . . who today is truly a Litvak? Despite the presence of many who follow the Lithuanian "derech", who can claim to have a bubby who ate 'Fis'?

The Yeshivos for one are not filled with Lithuanians . . . speak to the Yeshiva-liet of today and ask the, where they came from . . . virtualy all did not originate in Lita -coming from Poland, Hungary, Ukraine etc. Let alone those that are S'fardim in background (an issue in and of itself)
Keep in mind that 94% of the Lithuanian Jewery hy"d were murdered in the war . . .
Lithuania certainly doesn't have a truly Litvishe Community (a fact
that seems to greatly bother 'true blooded Lithuanian' -Jews looking for
their roots) . . . Belarus has a large share in the pie . . .

Then there are the Litvishe Chassidim, my translator last Pesach
told me with pride that she came from a Lubavitcher family in Kovno . . .
her grandfather had a connection to the Rogatchover . . .
My family comes from Grajewo -well within the 'traditional' Litvishe borders (next to Lomza) . . . but they were Chassidim.
Only South Africa has a significant Lithuanian Community .

So, bru, here's to the lekker future of the Litvish!


Misnaged surfer said...

Once again you are wrong.

The differences between Chassidim and Misnagdim were not totally resolved - they were just put on the back-burner at times.

Re Litvaks in Yeshivas - it varies from Yeshiva to Yeshiva. Of course if you are talking about Litvaks in Yeshivas in Boro Park or Williamsburg, New Square or Kiryas Joel, you won't find many. ;-)

You ask 'who today is pure-blooded Litvak' ? Well, there has been 'intermarriage' between different Jewish groups over the years - but that also means that quite a few Hassidim have Litvish/non-Hassidic blood in them as well, and are not 'pure-blooded Hassidim'.

It's true that a very large percentage of Jews from the political entity called Lithuania in 1939 were killed (Hy"d) - but it's also true that 1) the borders of that state were not the same as the borders of what Jews considered the Jewish 'Lita', which encompassed more territory, and 2) various Litvaks emigrated before the war, to Eretz Yisroel, USA, South Africa, etc.

Mottel said...

As mentioned in my response to your comment on the previous post, what are these differences that were put on the back-burner?
A heated mikvah? The sharper steel shechita knife? Changes in Nusach?
By yeshivaliet I didn't mean Boro Park etc. I've spoken to many bochurim from Mir, Slobodka etc. Many came from chassidishe families who sent their children to Litvishe Yeshivos after the war years etc.
1. Jewish Lita is much larger, hence my family from Grajewo being Litvish (this despite their adherence to chassidus etc.)
2. I mentioned emigration, but as stated the largest Litvish community is in SA (hence the flag and the Afrikaans)

My point is merely that your average 'Litvishe'/Yeshivishe/'what have you' guy who davvens nusach Askenaz etc is very likely not to be a true Litvak.

Mottel said...

As a side note, this post is slightly tongue in cheek . . .
My statement about Misngadim no longer truly existing, is however, made in seriousness

misnaged surfer said...

What is a 'true Litvak' ? One whose four grandparents were all certified Litvaks? What if only two were ? What if only his father's father ? Lichayre, al pi halocho, even the latter case would be considered a Litvak, because we go according to the father, even though 3/4 of the grandparents may have been Hungarians, Lubavitchers or even Sephardim !

Limaaseh the term Litvak nowadays signifies someone who accepts the Litvishe belief and value system - even if they don't shtam from Lita. Lita is an idea and a derech - not just a place of origin.

Limaaseh if you look in the mirror, at Lubavitch, you will see that many present-day Lubavitchers don't shtam from Lubavitch either.

misnaged surfer said...

Misnagdim still exist. Have you not heard of the sefer HaGaon that recently came out in Eretz Yisroel ?

Some differences between Chassidim and Misnagdim (just a sample few, there are more) -

Misnagdim follow the Shulchan Oruch. They watch the zman tefillah, zman krias shema and other halochos. Many Chassidim daven after zeman and take other liberties with the standard psak halocho.

Misnagdim concentrate more on limmud haTorah, esp. nigleh.

Misnagdim daven the nusach of the gedolei olom shemipihem onu chayim - Rashi, Tosfos, Rosh, Rama, Chasam Sofer, GRA, etc. - nusach Ashkenaz.

Mottel said...

1. Again my post about who a true litvak was tongue in cheek. It is however true that many of today's 'Litvaks' do not have litvishe blood in them, but that is only part of the general trend in Judaism towards homogenization.

It seems like our 'disagreement' here, at leats in part, is semantics . . . Misnagdim in the sense of non-chassidim exist. People who will be moved to retzicha, like the misnagdim of yore do not.

"Some differences between Chassidim and Misnagdim":
1.Misnagdim follow the Shulchan Oruch.
This statement is pure libel.
a. Zman tefillah -this subject is discussed at length in other places ( for one)
b. Zman Krias Shma -ridicules. Any chossid (or Litvak, or yekka, or what have you) who misses krias shma does so due to his own lethargy . . . something which has no connection to which nusach he follows
2. Misnagdim do not concentrate on limud hatorah more then Chassidim. Look at any list of gedolie harabbonim and one will see how many Chassidishe Rabonim there are today -let alone those of yesteryear (Reb Chaim Naeh, The Rogotchuver, Reb Meir Shapiro, the Avnei Nezer . . . )
3.You daven from the Machzor Vitri? Might I add that the Chasam Sofer had a big kesher to chassidus . . . and that the GRA also changed around the Nusach a hatefillah.

misnaged surfer said...

The Chasam Sofer was a misnaged. Read what he writes in his teshuvos about how people must daven nusach Ashkenaz, questioning making Lag Baomer a yomtov as Chassidim do, etc.

The fact is that Chassidim, birabbim and bifarhesya, routinely have scheduled and publicized minyonim after zeman tefillah. So it's not like just a few of them do it when they wake up late.

There are other examples of this also - maybe another time.

David Kelsey said...

This is absolutely unacceptable.

The Yeshiva movement was a reactionary and radical movement, and is anyway nothing like it was in Lithuania.

Ther are plenty of us who descend primarily from Lithuanian Jewry, and our cultural death is grossly exaggerated.

Mottel said...

I never said that Lithuanian culture was deas, just the opposite in truth -there are many people who keep to the 'Lithuanian' rite . . . I merely stated that many of them do not stem from a Lithuanian background.

Anonymous said...

Historical Lithuania proper was twice as big as today's Lithuania, including most of today's Western Belarus. It was populated by "litvins", people of BALTIC Lithuanian origin, Catholics, but speaking Polish-Belarusian dialect. In Russian Empire, by 1890s, these people became forcibly called "Belarusians", and in 1939 this part of Poland became a part of Belarusian Soviet Republic. But in fact it is also historical "Lita".

Alies Biely,