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Keeper of the Chevron Flame

Yisroel Besser

Tradition is the bedrock of Yeshivas Chevron, where the yeshivah world’s top talmidim gather to learn and grow. Rav Yosef Chevroni, great-grandson of the yeshivah’s founder, stands at its helm, steward of not just an institution, but a path.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The course of the Israeli yeshivah world was changed by a single conversation.Leaders of the yishuv hayashan, the traditional Yerushalmi community devoted to safeguarding tradition in matters of dress, appearance, and conduct, were wary of the newcomers. It was 1924 and the talmidim of Slabodka had ascended en masse and set up shop in Chevron, city of the forefathers; the locals were concerned. They organized a group and went to Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, to complain about the clean-shaven, white-suited “Italianer”; the rav of the Old Yishuv attuned to every threatening wind, put the matter to rest.

He registered his own grandson, Mendel Shenker in the yeshivah, a resounding haskamah. “Hizaharu bahem u’viTorasam” wrote Rav Yosef Chaim in a letter; take heed of these bochurim and their Torah.

Because the wise rav perceived that rather than a threat, these boys would save and protect the mesorah. Just a few short years later, the Zionist dream reignited, a new generation of Jewish youth would arise. Strong, determined, and daring, these soldiers would wage the war for the Land. With their uniforms and weapons, they presented a compelling picture; contrasted with the hunched over yeshivah bochur, they radiated confidence and courage.

The yeshivah bochurim heard the roar of the Jeeps and laughter, and perhaps they hesitated: The antidote, it turned out — what saved the yeshivos of that time — was Chevron, the message it gave. Yeshivah bochurim had it too, that very same confidence and courage; with their distinctive straight-backed walk and stylish hats, they, too, radiated pride. And they could learn. Really learn. They were proficient and deep and eloquent.

The Slabodka focus on gadlus ha’adam, the grandeur of man, met military vanity head-on. Slabodka’s founder, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, had based his institution on that ideal according to a tradition he inherited dating back to the Vilna Gaon; to contrast the spirit of mockery wrought by the Haskalah, it would be necessary to reinvest yeshivah bochurim with their own importance.


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