Sep 30, 2015

And the Reason is ...

For years, I heard that the yeshiva in Volozhin was the prototype of a yeshiva, that it is referred to as the "Mother of All Yeshivos," even though yeshivos go back all the way to the yeshiva of Shem and Eiver.  The reason given was that it was set up differently, with the bachurim not having to eat meals with local people, but in the yeshiva.  The yeshiva was not dependent on the locals.  As though that is a reason to dismiss the numerous yeshivos that existed.  To mention a few, there were renowned yeshivos in Lublin in the time of the Maharsha (1555-1631) and the Maharam (1558-1616). The latter headed yeshivos in Lublin, Cracow, and Lvov, and had hundreds of talmidim.  The Maharshal (1510-1573) headed a great yeshiva in Lublin

Then, recently, I heard a shiur in which the speaker said that the reason the Volozhiner yeshiva was unique was because there was a structure and you had to conform to the seder and show up and learn at set times.  It wasn't a free-for all, i.e. learn what you want, when you want.  Oh.

Most recently, I was reading an article by R' Moshe Taub in Ami (#231) in which he says the Volozhiner yeshiva is referred to as the first modern-day yeshiva, even though there were many other yeshivos at that time and hundreds that preceded it (I am glad he wrote that, since I had been left with the impression for years that no yeshivos existed before Volozhin for hundreds of years going back to Sura and Pumbedisa!)

What made it unique? No, not the elimination of essen teg, and not the establishment of a curriculum and times for learning.  He says it is because R' Chaim Volozhiner recognized the need for a yeshiva to remain aloof from local politics.  Until his time, the local rav was also the rosh yeshiva and he was chosen by the balabatim.  Now, the rosh yeshiva was independent.  Oh.

Live and learn.

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