Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love Letters from a Rosh Yeshivah II

More on the non-existent love letters from a rosh yeshivah, from a reader (albeit edited):

Several days ago, I came across the following excerpts from a letter. Read carefully:
…I wish to remind you that which I commented to you about writing letters [to a fiancĂ©]… Don’t try to find heterim for they are very serious matters, and Hashem leads a person in the way he wants to go, and he will find favor in any path that he will choose, and he should be as short as possible [in his letters], and he should remember that which Chazal said “whoever eats Matzah on Erev Pesach [it is as though he had relations with his fiancĂ© in his in-laws' house]… and concerning this whoever increases his pleasure in words it is as though he ate matzah on Erev Pessach… It is only a parable, but it is to be understood that it is even more severe.
This letter was written by Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer. It is to be found in his recently republished biography in Hebrew by his grandson (Be-Derech Etz Ha-Chaim, vol. 2 p. 406). I contacted a close relative of the author, and he told me that the letter was not written to Reb Aron zt”l but to a different distinguished yeshiva bachur, who became a prominent talmid chacham and would not want his name released. Also, he added, Reb Isser Zalman did not see the letter that the bachur had written; he was upset merely at the length of it.

I think I can now reconstruct what happened. Reb Aron zt”l wrote a letter to his kallah, possibly a longish one. This is and was perfectly acceptable in Litvish yeshiva circles. Until a few years ago, before the cellphone generation, this was still being done by the best bachurim in Israeli yeshivas. Carefully worded letters and poems were exchanged between chassan and kallah. Reb Isser Zalman, being a “kanai” in this matter came running to complain to the Alter zt”l. According to the story printed in “The Making of a Godol”, the Alter responded that he never said that Reb Aron was “frum”. “Frum” in Slabodka jargon is actually a disparaging adjective. It connotes someone who is too emotional, doing things beyond his real level, etc. The Alter was actually defending Reb Aron zt”l. He was telling Reb Isser Zalman that he never claimed that Reb Aron was overly zealous.

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