18 Av 5689

In 1929, Arab leadership fomented a wave of violence across Palestine by inventing rumors of a Jewish plans to take over Har haBayis. By Friday, August 23rd, 1929, the local Arabs in Chevron were explicitly declaring their intent to kill. Stones were thrown through house windows.

At 4pm the Slabodka Yeshiva was attacked. Only a couple of people were inside as it was a couple of hours before Shabbos. The gabbai escaped by hiding in a well. One talmid who tried to escape was stabbed to death by a mob.

The wholesale slaughter began early on Shabbos, the 18th of Av. (The 90th yahrzeit of those martyred begins a few hours from when I write this.)

By the time the massacre was over, 67 to 69 of Chevron’s Jews were murdered. The community fled, largely to Yerushalayim ir haqodesh. See, for example, this page on the Jewish Virtual Library. I want to focus on one aspect people with better skill at history than I do haven’t described.

In an alternate universe, Yeshivas Slabodka never had to flee Chevron, never became Yeshivas Chevron in Yerushalayim, never succumbed to the social atmosphere of Yerushalayim, and stayed a unique mussar institution in Chevron.

In this universe, when European Jewry Hy”d fell, Mussar didn’t collapse into an idea paid lip service with the shmuessen of mashgichim and a 15 minute seder in shemiras halashon that we find in typical Litvish yeshivos. Slabodka lived on. And perhaps it would have continued turning out leaders and great thinkers, just as it did in Slabodka.

The entire complexion of Chareidi life, especially but not exclusively in Israel would today look different, because there would have been another vector, one that looked to ideals, one in which derekh eretz qodmah laTorah remained a lifestyle, not a platitude.

חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין

Woe for those who were lost, and people like them cannot be found!

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  1. Gavriel says:

    Thank you for this.

    You clearly see Slobodka of old as a wholly different institution than the yeshiva’s are today, not just in the way that yeshiva’s in Europe were different than yeshiva’s in modern Israel. Could you, please, suggest some reading material that can show or explain that?

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