Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Guides Through the Dark Years
From the Biography Series
10 Lectures

Item #: S346

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The story of the Jewish people is the story of great individuals, and when times are especially dark, great individuals shine even more brightly. Rabbi Wein presents the biographies of some of the most outstanding personalities of the past two centuries –leaders who carried the people through the bitter decades between Czarist rule and the Holocaust. Warm, informative and inspiring, these lectures give us a picture of Jewish life in the recent past and more importantly, provide us with role models for our lives today.

Individual lectures:

Rabbi Meir Shapiro - More than just a rabbi, Rabbi Meir Shapiro was a man with a mission. He rose to prominence in the Jewish political party of Agudas Yisroel and won a seat on the Polish parliament in 1921. Amidst government sanctioned anti-Semitism, he became the defender of the Jews. The originator of the Daf ha Yomi shiur and founder of the Yeshiva of Lublin, he left an indelible mark upon the Jewish people.

Rabbi Isaac Charif Shapiro - A champion of the poor and downtrodden, Rav Isaac Shapiro, known as Reb Izel Slonimer, was immensely popular with the Jewish masses but often at loggerheads with his wealthy balebatim. Drifting from one rabbinic post to another, he finally settled in Slonim where he proved himself a powerful foe against the haskala. With a sampling of the sharp quips that earned him the nickname “charif,” Rabbi Wein makes clear just why Reb Izel Slonimer is a rabbinic folk hero.

Rabbi Abraham Grodzensky - The Yeshiva of Slobodka emphasized the greatness of every person, and as its last mashgiach, Rabbi Abraham Grodzensky showed it in his concern for his students. Between the moving stories of his boundless kindness and the wondrous accounts of how he escaped the Nazis, Rabbi Grodzensky’s life reminds us of how God repays mercy with mercy.

Rabbi Dov Ber Widenfeld - In the harrowing years between the World Wars, the most complex questions of Jewish Law landed on the desk of the Tchebiner Rov, Rabbi Dov Ber Wiedenfeld. His insightful and sometimes ironic responses are fascinating in themselves, but coupled with the Rov’s upheaval from his home in Poland to the Siberian labor camps and his ultimate delivery to the Holy Land, this lecture is simply too good to miss.

Rabbi Meir Don Plotzky - The experience of pre-war Polish Jewry was distinct in character, and the life of Rabbi Meir Don Plotzky, one of its prime leaders, mirrored it. Amidst poverty, illness, and the scourge of communism, he still produced the brilliant Torah commentary the Kli Chemdah, and no matter how bitter his personal troubles, he devoted himself to the poor, the agunos, and the weakest amongst the Jewish people.

Rabbi Yosef Zusmanowitz - While war tore across Europe, the Lithuanian yeshivas suffered internal wars of their own, and in Slobodka, the war was over mussar. Amidst this tumult stood a peacemaker, Rabbi Yosef Zusmanowitz. The story of his self-effacing leadership is symbolic of the overall fate of Lithuanian Jewry.

Rabbi Aharon Walkin - Rabbi Walkin was a colorful personality from a famous family, but the story of his 1914 exploratory mission to America is little known. Rabbi Wein recounts Rabbi Walkin’s journey and his prophetic but unpopular report that America’s openness would one day favor Torah observance.

Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Meisels - Rabbi Wein often says that the legends surrounding a person teach much about him even when they are not true. From the legends surrounding Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Meisels, we can easily understand why he was so beloved. Rabbi Wein narrates the engaging stories of a brave, clever, and charitable man who stood up for working class Jews in times of bitter oppression.

Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman - Because of his outspoken leadership in the darkest days of Jewish history, Rav Elchonon Wasserman is one of the most celebrated rabbinic heroes of the not-so-distant past. Relying on the anecdotes of his students, Rabbi Wein presents Rav Elchonon from a fresh perspective, highlighting his warmth, kindness, courage, and self-sacrifice.

Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian - Because he lived to the age of 95, the great Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian lived through the major upheavals of Jewish history. From the glory days of the yeshiva in Kelm to the bleak years of the two World Wars and ultimately to the Land of Israel, Rabbi Lopian saw enough to pinpoint the secret of Jewish survival: the Torah.

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