Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review of My Father’s Journey by Sara Reguer

Review of My Father’s Journey by Sara Reguer (Academic Studies Press, 2015)

By Moshe Maimon

About a year ago, Seforim Blog readers were informed by Prof. Marc Shapiro of the publication of Sara Reguer’s book My Father’s Journey, and they were further advised that this book would be of great value to anyone interested in the history of the yeshiva movement and Eastern European orthodoxy (see here). The following review illustrates the contribution the book indeed makes to these fields of study.

This basis of this memoir is essentially a diary which affords readers a very intimate view into the mind of a Lithuanian yeshiva student in the period between the two World Wars. Interspersed between the pages of this fascinating document is a fair amount of interesting yeshiva lore, including little-known facts about prominent Torah personalities contemporaneous with the author’s father. In highlighting some of these passages, I hope to give the reader a sense of the value of this work, while also calling attention to certain historical facts that might enhance the reader’s understanding.

The book, based on a Hebrew memoir by Dr. Moshe Aharon Reguer, son of the famed Brisker dayan, R. Simcha Zelig Rieger,[1] is translated and supplemented with additional material culled from interviews conducted with Dr. Regeur by his daughter, Prof. Sara Reguer, and from family lore she preserved. Additionally, it is bolstered by her insightful comments filling in detail and providing background. To avoid confusion, different fonts have been employed to represent the different sources. The translated text of the memoir appears in italics, the interviews in plain script, and Prof. Reguer’s comments in bold typeface.

This arrangement is helpful in distinguishing between the actual memoir, written by Moshe Aharon Reguer as a young adult in 1926, and the remaining material that relates to a later period in his life. Dr. Reguer wrote his memoir from the perspective of a young man poised at an important crossroads in life. As the narrative moves into his later years, the story takes on a nostalgic, backward-looking tinge.  Prof. Reguer deftly weaves the diverse sources that capture these epochs into a beautifully coherent story.

Here I might suggest that care should have been taken to more clearly distinguish the places where the written memoir “pauses” to include later reminiscences by the author obviously not part of the original document. One example is the references to dates and events after 1926,[2] the year of the composition of the original memoir. There is no documentation for these comments which are printed together with the text of the original memoir. In some instances these secondary sources recount events already recorded in the memoir with occasional variations; to arrive at a clear understanding of what actually happened, the reader would benefit by being able to differentiate between the various sources. Take for example Moshe Aharon’s account of his farher (matriculation exam) in the Slutzker yeshiva.

First, from p. 65:

So I went to Slutzk and the Slutzker Rav Isser Zalman with Rav Aharon Kotler, his son in law, hired a teacher for me: Rav Shach (who is now famous in Ponovezh), who was then known as the Vabulniker”. We stayed together in an inn and he learned with me, and after a short time he went to Rav Aharon and Rav Isser Zalman and told them “I don’t wan’t to take any money - he doesn’t need a teacher!” So Rav Aharon said: “so, he doesn’t need any help and can learn alone?” and he took out a gemara, Bava Kamma 76, where there are two lines of gemara and a huge tosfot, and he told me to prepare it alone. I did it in a few hours, and I knew it, and he said: “you do not need a teacher!” at eleven years old!

The editor has already pointed out that the author came to Slutzk only after his bar mitzvah; consequently he was actually thirteen years old at the time, not eleven.[3] As we will soon see, the above-mentioned scenario is fraught with additional chronological inconsistencies. Compare it with the following incident on p. 84 which seems to be referring to an event that took place the following winter, more than a year later that the author’s given date:

Until mid-winter, I studied with the student Babulnikai, but one day the son in law of Rav Isser Zalman, Rav Aharon Pines, the ilui of Sabislovitz, called me and on his own assigned me a “kri’a” - a group of gemara with all the commentaries, which I was to read and then be tested on. I remember that the “sugya” was in Baba Kama, p. 10. He set a deadline at which point I came to be tested. I knew the entire sugya backwards and forwards, and on the test I performed so well in both breadth and depth that Rav Aharon Pines ordered that I should study alone. This announcement made a strong impression on the yeshiva, especially on the younger students, because it was a tradition that even the best students were never told at such a young age - fifteen - to study alone without help or supervision.

The core of the story is the same: young Moshe Aharon learned under the tutelage of an older, more advanced student (R. Shach)[4] until such time as a thorough test, administered by R. Aharon Kotler (Pines),[5] revealed that he was adept at independent study, and was encouraged thereafter to learn on his own. Yet other important details are different, including the identities of the parties. In the first version R. Shach initiates the test, while in the second version R. Aharon takes the initiative “on his own”. In the first version, the subject matter is an extremely difficult passage comprising one of the longest Tosfos in Shas, while in the second; it entails the knowledge of a complex but more conventional sugya. The most glaring discrepancy is the timing of this event: while the first version portrays this as having occurred within a short while after his arrival in yeshiva, the second version has it more than a year later - when the author was already fifteen years old. Which version is the true version?

The clue to unraveling the many discrepancies lies in the author’s parenthetical remark on p. 65 identifying R. Shach as the rosh yeshiva “who is now famous in Ponovezh.” This comment belies the fact that the passage was not included in the original document written in 1926 (when the young R. Shach was entirely unknown), but rather dates to a later time period, at least 30 years later, and likely some 40 some odd years after the events they describe.

Taking this into account it is not difficult to surmise that the later version is actually the original version and likely the more authoritative one inasmuch as it was written closer to the events they describe. The events were quite possibly conflated in the author’s mind when he recounted tales of his youth later in life, and that would likely account for the discrepancies in the details. People do not necessarily intend to set down the historical record in their reminiscences, and the mind has a way of selectively remembering events without explicit attention to historical accuracy - particularly when aided by the haze of nostalgia. Certainly there can be no blame in that; it is the job of the editor to point out what material was penned for the record and that which was recounted later in other contexts.

Here is another interesting tidbit recounted by the author that has likely been blurred by nostalgic reminiscence, and should not be taken as historically accurate. Regarding the closing of the Volozhin yeshiva in 1892, in the course of an interview (pp. 29-30) the author recounts an original version of the events leading up to it:

In those days the yeshiva was closed because one of the students massered (informed) and wrote a letter signing the name of the Netziv, and in a second letter he wrote that the Netziv is a spy and all the students are spies in Volozhin, and the reason why he sent this is because - father told me - when he came in on Yom Kippur, the Netziv recognized that he had eaten, which was true, and he came over and gave him a slap in the face in the presence of everybody. And this he couldn’t stand and he massered on the yeshiva, and they sent soldiers from Vilna and they surrounded the yeshiva and they asked, “where is the Netziv?” and they showed the Netziv the letter, and asked if it was his signature, and he said, “yes it is my signature”. But at the trial in Vilna he recognized that this was a forgery because in all of his letters, after he wrote “Netziv”, he never made a dot and this was with a dot. And they believed him and he was free, but they officially closed the yeshiva.

The editor concedes that there are other versions to the story, and refers the reader to the attendant literature, but grants that this is another variant. However, it is readily apparent that here too, two different episodes - the story of the informant and the story of the closing of the yeshiva - have been inadvertently blended. In reality, they had nothing to do with each other.

The story of the informant has been supplied by the son of the Netziv, R. Meir Bar-Ilan, in his classic memoir מוואלאזין עד ירושלים,[6] as well as in the biography he wrote on his father, רבן של ישראל.[7] There we are told that the episode occurred a few years before the Great Fire; a catastrophe which struck Volozhin in the summer of 1886. The closing of the Yeshiva, on the other hand, didn’t occur until 1892. It is also apparent that some of the details of the episode are more reliably preserved in R. Bar-Ilan’s recounting, who also preserves the identity of the addressee in the forged letter, one R. Yaakov Reinowitz of London. In his account the charge brought against the Netziv was not that of espionage, but rather that of dealing in counterfeit currency, and unlike in Dr. Reguer’s version, the clever detection of the forgery was brought to light with the evidence that the Netziv signed his name נפתלי צביהודה by using the last letter of צבי as the first letter of יהודה,[8] a detail which the forger was not scrupulous in copying.[9]

Additional information has come to light in the discovery of other letters written by the Netziv to this very R. Yaakov Reinowitz.[10] R. Reinowitz, who served as a dayyan on London’s beit din, was close to the Netziv and would assist him with the raising of finances for the yeshiva.[11]  Apparently the forger was aware of this individual’s connection with the Netziv, as well as his financial involvement with the yeshiva, and therefore chose to address the letter to R. Reinowitz to make it seem more authentic. Among R. Reinowitz’ papers are some 40 letters from the Netziv, including two which have been described thus:

In 1879 Rabbi Berlin informed Reinowitz that officials of the Russian government had searched the documents and correspondence of the yeshiva and taken away ‘all my correspondence with you’ - the reason being that ‘a vile person forged a letter of a secret nature which I am supposed to have sent to you’. In his next letter Rabbi Berlin said that the correspondence was returned after a few hours and that nothing untoward happened except that they had a big fright.[12]

When seen together it is clear the Netziv is referring here to the aforementioned episode. These letters indicate that the event happened in 1879, a fact now conclusively proven with the availability of the Russian government’s file on the episode,[13] and in fact had no direct effect on the subsequent closure of the Volozhin yeshiva some thirteen years later (although the involvement of the government in the yeshivas internal affairs almost certainly did contribute in the long run).''

Here is a photo of Rabbi Reinowitz:

As to the identity of the culprit, R. Meir Bar-Ilan indicates that it was never proven conclusively. He cites several theories; including a report not unlike the one cited by our author in the name of R. Simcha Zelig, namely that it was the student who had been chastised for his Yom-Kippur indiscretions. This seems to have been the predominant theory; in R. Bar-Ilan’s recounting of the episode in his aforementioned biography, this is the only version presented. This is also the version recorded by R. Moshe Shmuel Shmukler-Shapiro in his ר' משה שמואל ודורו,[14] where he even identifies the student who was chastised, and the year when the event occurred (1878). (Interestingly, according to R. Shmukler-Shapiro’s version, this student didn’t perpetrate the forgery himself, although his humiliation at the hands (or better, hand) of the Netziv was the catalyst for the subsequent act of revenge).

Further, in the above account, R. Simcha Zelig’s report has the student eating on Yom Kippur. According to R. Bar-Ilan, however, the nature of the student’s sin was appearing late to the prayers after having evidently bathed and combed his hair on the day of Yom-Kippur. Also noteworthy is the fact that R. Bar-Ilan mentions only that his father had angrily chastised the errant student but does not reveal, as does R. Simcha Zelig, that he had done so with a public and humiliating slap to the face. In this regard, R. Simcha Zelig’s version is also confirmed by R. Moshe Shmuel Shmukler-Shapiro in his ר' משה שמואל ודורו,[15] although the student’s sin is described therein in accordance with R. Bar-Ilan’s version. It seems reasonable to me to assume that R. Bar-Ilan, out of concern for his father’s honor, knowingly softened the story and omitted mention of the slap in order to cushion the Netziv’s reputation in the eyes of the modern and westernized reader.

Another bit of family lore, recounted by Prof. Reguer on pp. 30-31, includes the legendary tale of R. Simch Zelig’s sagacious advice to the townspeople of Brisk, saying that in order to spare themselves from the damaging exploits of a wild first-born goat, it would be providential if the animal were to come to injury and thereafter be permitted for slaughter. The townspeople then organized a chase which resulted in the goat injuring its shoulder while attempting to escape, rendering it unfit for ritual sacrifice and henceforth permitted for slaughter.

This episode sounds too similar to an episode recounted by Dr. Reguer himself in 1973 in a letter to the editor of the journal הדרום[16] to dismiss as a coincidence. The incident referred to there was a cause célèbre in Volzhin and was the source of a halakhic dispute between the two Rosh Yeshivas at the time, the Beis Halevi and the Netziv. Dr. Reguer writes:

את הדברים כפשוטם שמעתי בילדותי מפי אבי מורי זצ"ל הרב הגאון ר' שמחה זעליג, הראב"ד בבריסק דליטא, וכך היו הדברים: ליהודי אחד בוולוז'ין היה בכור תיש, ומכיון לאחר שגדל דרכו היה להזיק, מסר יהודי זה את התיש לרשות הכהן, כדי שיוכל להנות מן התיש. הכהן העניק לילדים מעדנים והם רדפו אחרי התיש וערכו לו ציד בבית הקברות הנמצא במורד העיר. כאשר קפץ התיש מעל גדר התיל של בית הקברות נפצע ונמצא מסורס. ואז פרצה המחלוקת מכיון שהכהן היה הגורם למעשה סירוס זה.

This version is also not without its ambiguities,[17] but unless we are to assume that these are two separate incidents, it is clear that the episode in question happened in Volozhin, and not in Brisk, and it is equally clear that R. Simcha Zelig was just the source for the story, but was not actually an active participant in this episode.

As mentioned, there are a number of valuable first-hand accounts of important pre-war Torah figures, most prominent among them: father of the memoirist and famed dayan of Brisk, R. Simcha Zelig Rieger, who was renowned as one of Lithuania’s foremost halakhic authorities until his tragic martyrdom in the Holocaust. In a manner characteristic of biographies written by close family members who make no attempt to portray their subjects as larger-than-life,[18] Moshe Aharon’s memoir, particularly the correspondence and photographs he includes, provides us with a close-up glimpse into this scholar’s saintly life.[19]

The book opens a window on the terrible hardships he had to endure throughout his life, and we can surmise the tremendous spiritual fortitude and determination he must have possessed in order to cope with his hard lot. Poverty and illness, compounded by having a married daughter living with her family in his home were part of R. Simcha Zelig’s daily tribulations, yet this saintly man utters no word of complaint. Even after suffering the humiliating experience of having his beard forcibly removed by the Soviets at the beginning of the Second World War, in a most harrowing encounter from which he only narrowly escaped with his life, R. Simcha Zelig had just this to say to his son: “we are all well” (p. 227).

Nothing deterred R. Simcha Zelig from his unfailing dedication to his life’s ideal of learning and teaching – not even the tragedy of losing children to illness, nor the intense pain of watching the defection of most of his adult children from their religious upbringing to a life of communism and socialism. In the face of it all, this humble genius continued unfailingly on his path, giving of himself unselfishly to anyone who needed him. While many biographies of gedolim tend to omit any references to wayward children, the correspondence included in this memoir, and especially the attendant analysis thereof, introduces the reader to the whole Reguer family. One can readily appreciate the extent to which R. Simcha Zelig went to maintain fatherly relations with all of his children - to the point of addressing his letters to every child and spouse, and even their infant children, by name.

Prof. Reguer highlights this tendency in her comments (p. 191), and further makes the astute observation that in these instances R. Simcha Zelig is careful to append the customary salutation שיחיה or שתחיה only to the names of the religious relatives; however, no explanation is given for this interesting behavior. Since this appendage is merely a blessing for long life, and is not indicative of one’s social or religious standing, it therefore strikes me as somewhat odd that R. Simcha Zelig, who went out of his way to show fatherly care and affection to these children, would omit this blessing in connection with them. Perhaps R. Simcha Zelig was only being sensitive to the irreligious outlook of those of his children who having broken with tradition would not appreciate this customary, religiously inspired, prayer on their behalf.

The family background is also instrumental in helping us understand how R. Simcha Zelig was able to countenance Moshe Aharon’s transition from the traditional Lithuanian yeshivas to the modern and Zionistic Tachkemoni yeshivas of Bialystock and Warsaw. Although the Talmudic departments in these yeshivas were headed by Brisker protégés of R. Simcha Zelig, namely the Iluy of Meicheit, R. Shlomo Polatchek, and R. Moshe Soloveitchik, they were by and large considered to be beyond the pale in the traditional Lithuanian yeshiva world.[20] In fact, according to Dr. Reguer (p. 147), R. Chaim of Brisk had actually sought R. Simcha Zelig’s help in dissuading R. Moshe Soloveitchik from accepting a position at Tachkemoni.

This transition eventually saw Moshe Aharon pursue an academic career first in Palestine[21] and later in America (a move which was to eventually spare him from the ravages of the Holocaust). While a letter from Moshe Aharon’s brother in law (p. 232) indicates that R. Simcha Zelig was unaware as to the secular nature of these studies, there can be no doubt that the author is correct in surmising (p. 145) that R. Simcha Zelig’s acquiescence to Moshe Aharon’s desire to pursue secular studies was a direct result of the outcome his earlier chinuch approach had had on Moshe Aharon’s older brothers.

Besides for his grandfather, the author was also privileged to study under various other great Torah personalities including the Alter of Slabodka (R. Nosson Tzvi Finkel), R. Shlomo Heiman, R. Aharon Kotler, R. Isser Zalman Meltzer and the dynamic young Rosh Mesivta of Karilov, R. Yechezkel of Trestina.

The latter was later to become famous in his capacity as Rosh Yeshiva in the preparatory mesivta in Slabodka and his well known by the title of his work Divrei Yechezkel, a classic work of lomdus in the yeshiva world. Yet, precious little is known about the Karilov chapter in his life,[22] and this memoir, with its focus on the Karilov yeshiva, provides a valuable contribution to his biography.

Special attention may be drawn to the lauditory description of his personality, as well as the unique relationship he shared with his students. Of particular interest is the depiction of the inspirational late-night hashkafa sessions he often held with his students (pp. 111-114).[23] Inasmuch as most people today know him only as R. Yechezkel Berstein,[24] or, as mentioned, by the title of his work Divrei Yechezkel, it would be beneficial to have that had the connection drawn out in the book.

The book contains various other tidbits concerning many of these personalities which readers will certainly find interesting. However, it is worth pointing out the difficulty involved in identifying them as sometimes various colloquialism are used in referring to these people. The difficulty is often exacerbated by the different spellings employed for some of these names. We have already seen that R. Shach has alternately been referred to as ‘the Vabulniker’ and ‘the student Babulnikai’. Apparently, in the Hebrew original, the author had spelled וואבולניקי - which he pronounced orally as ‘Vabulniki’ - as באבולניקאי which was transliterated as ‘Babulnikai’. Similarly R. Aharon Kotler has been called R. Aharon Pines, ‘R. Aharon of Svislovitzch’ and ‘the Iluy of Sabislovitch’. R. Shlomo Heiman too, is alternately referred to as ‘Rav Shlomo Heiman Ha-pritizi’ or ‘Rav Shlomo of Poritz’.

Compounding the problem is the fact that each name is listed separately in the index, and instances where only the colloquialism is used without a last name are often not included. Perhaps this is because the index was produced with electronic search engines according to spelling and therefore did not combine various entries for one person when the spelling was different. Yet, what this gains in expedience and convenience is offset by the frustration one encounters when trying to search for references using a last name which doesn’t appear in all the occurrences. (I might add that it also makes for the inclusion of some unorthodox entries, such as ‘Sha’agat, Arye’).

If this book is republished it may be prudent for the sake of uniformity to streamline the names and titles used throughout the book. Similarly, care should be taken in the phonetic spelling of other Hebraic phrases such as רב דמתא (meaning the rabbi of the city) which has been spelled as ‘Rav Damta’ on p. 105, and thus appears to be someone’s name.

The author’s acquaintance with the Alter of Slabodka began when Moshe Aharon first joined the Slabodka yeshiva, which was then in Kremenchug during its exile during the First Word War. At the time, young Moshe Aharon was duly impressed by the Alter’s sagacious personality, but later this perception is tarnished somewhat, and at the end of the memoir he blames the Alter’s high-handed (und unfair) method in dealing with those whom he suspected of having secular leanings for his ultimate decision to leave the mussar world cultivated by the Slabodka yeshiva. One can’t help but wonder if this perception of the Alter wasn’t colored by the author’s own negative experience, fresh at the time of the writing. Perhaps with the the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, as well as nostalgia, Moshe Aharon may have come to see things differently.

One thing that stands out about his description of the Alter is that he calls him ‘a great scholar’ (p. 95). In Slabodka’s heyday at the turn of the century, owing largely to the Alter’s secretive ways and mysterious habits, this facet of his personality was not common knowledge and different students had different reads on it. R. Yaakov Kamenetzky was convinced that the Alter was indeed a great lamdan and scholar, while in a recent blog post Professor Marc Shapiro has quoted R. Yehiel Ya’akov Weinberg’s opinion to the contrary.[25] It seems that about 15 years later, with the passage of time, the Alter’s reputation as a superior talmid chacham had firmly taken root.

One personality that is conspicuously under-represented in the book is the Brisker Rav, R. Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik (as well as, to a lesser extent, his brother R. Moshe). The Rieger and Soloveitchik family lived under the same roof in a multi-family dwelling owned by the Kehilla, and R. Simcha Zelig was exceptionally close with his own rebbe, R. Chaim of Brisk, as well as R. Chaim’s sons, R. Moshe and R. Yitzchak Zev. In fact, from a reference in a letter from R. Simcha Zelig to the author, printed at the end of the book (p. 197), it seems R. Simcha Zelig would exchange annual Rosh Hashana greetings with R. Moshe, as well as his son R. Joseph Ber – that is, the famed Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University - long after the two had emigrated from Europe to America. The relevant portion of the letter reads:

I wrote a Rosh Hashana greeting to R. Moshe Azaliion [?] as I write every year and I wrote to R. Moshe’s son a Rosh Hashana greeting and nothing came back to me as usually did each year. Perhaps I don’t have their correct updated address. Perhaps they moved.

Careful examination of the facsimile of the original letter, reproduced on p. 198, reveals that Azaliion is a mistaken transcription of the Yiddish 'אזויא' (meaning ‘just like’) and is not part of R. Moshe’s name. This leads me to believe that R. Simcha Zelig is referring to R. Moshe Soloveitchik, as well as his son R. Joseph Ber who also enjoyed a relationship with R. Simcha Zelig, having received from him a personal smicha, as well as various halakhic traditions. In a passage interpolated into the memoir on p. 45, Moshe Aharon acknowledges this fact and mentions that he asked the Rav’s son (I assume this means R. Joseph Ber’s son, Prof. Haym Soloveitchik) for a transcript of these traditions.[26]

Perhaps Moshe Aharon did not enjoy the same relationship with the Brisker Rav as did his father, possibly on account of the Brisker Rav’s rebbetzin, whom Moshe Aharon considered a difficult woman (p. 67). Later in the book, R. Simcha Zelig’s correspondence with his son reveals that Moshe Aharon also had some sort of altercation with R. Chaim’s older son, R. Moshe (p. 223). The editor surmises that this was on account of R. Moshe having left the Tachkemoni yeshiva, where Moshe Aharon was studying, before the latter could receive smicha from R. Moshe. This seems like somewhat of a stretch, and although we may never know the real reason behind it, to me the ambiguous phrase that R. Simcha Zelig writes in an effort to persuade his son to drop the fight: “you do not know a family without opportunities” (p. 220), lends itself to the interpretation that at stake was some sort of position for which Moshe Aharon may have been jockeying for at the time when both found themselves employed by Yeshiva College.

On a final note: as mentioned before, the original memoir was written in Hebrew and the published edition is an English translation of the original. While the translation on a whole is an excellent one, and results in a fluid compelling read, there are also readers who might enjoy reading the original and would appreciate the biblical and talmudical prose the author sometimes employs. One example of this is when the author refers to the land of Israel as “the land of the deer” (p. 138), which was certainly ארץ הצבי in the original. The biblical expression for Israel as ארץ הצבי appears in Daniel 11:16, and according to most commentaries is based on the verse in Ezekiel 20:6, where the context shows that צבי is not a reference to ‘deer’ (the animal) but rather ‘dear’ (as in ‘desired’).

From the facsimiles of the pages of the manuscript included in the book, one can get a sense of the rich expressive language the memoir was written in, and it is hoped that perhaps it will be printed in the original one day. For the time being we must be content with the artful and masterful work produced by Prof. Reguer, and even as it is we certainly owe her much gratitude for preserving for us this rich and valuable memoir.

[1] Rieger or Riger are the common spellings, although a facsimile of a letter containing the mailing address of Moshe Aharon Reguer (seemingly in R. Simcha Zelig’s own hand) indicates that Reguer is indeed the correct spelling.
[2] Such as this remark on p. 55: ‘many years ago I found out that he had moved to Boro Park, I met him there but he did not understand what I was saying’.
[3] I can’t help but wonder as to the nature of this mistake. Could it be that the author was induced to believe his own fictitious birth date, postdating him by two years, as described in the book on p. 23?
[4]The reference to “the student Babulnikai” in the preceding paragraph should read Vabolnika’i, meaning ‘hailing from Vabolnik’, a reference to R. Shach’s hometown. See also p. 75 where he mentions his studies “with a student from Bubolnik who lived with me”.  I will address this example when discussing the pitfalls of phonetic transliterations later.
[5] The editor, who is seemingly unaware that this is the same episode as the above, also does not indicate that she is aware that R. Aharon Kotler and R. Aharon Pines are one and the same (Pinnes was the family name; R. Aharon later took on the name Kotler to help him evade the draft, see Making of a Godol, second ed., p. 295). Adding to the confusion, the index too has separate entries for each name, but more on that later.
[6] תל אביב, תשל"ט, עמ' 85-87
[7] ניו יורק, תש"ג, עמ' 115-116
[8] This can even be seen today in the facsimiles of the Netziv’s surviving letters, such as the one addressed to our very same R. Reinowitz, in Reuven Dessler’s שנות דור ודור, vol. 4 (Jerusalem 2013), p. 497. Whether the Netziv’s used this unusual format merely to give his signature an individualized flourish, or whether his intent was to avoid spelling out יהודה - in keeping with the pious custom of avoiding the written combination ofיו"ד  and ה"א which form a divine name, it is significant to note that his signature was altered in the posthumous publication of his writings by his family. There, at the conclusion of each responsum, the Netziv’s name appears in its conventional spelling. (In his Making of a Godol, second ed., p. 887, R. Nathan Kamenetzky points to another example of a famous rabbinic personality who signed his name with an ellipsis; R. (Yisroel Eliyahu) Yehoshua Trenk of Kutna who signed his name as ישראליהושע).
[9] See also the report of this episode by a student in Volozhin from that era, R. Eliyahu Mileikowsky, in his שו"ת אהלי אהרן, תל אביב תרצ"ו, עמ' ריח-רכ. Eliezer Brodt has further called my attention to the translation of this memoir, with additional references, in an article by Genrich Agranovsky and Sid Z. Leiman: Three Lists of Students, in Turim: Studies in Jewish History and Literature, Vol. 1 (N.Y. 2008, pp. 3-6 fn. 7).  
[10] See Eugene Newman, The Responsa of Dayan Jacob Reinowitz, 1818—1893, in Transactions & Miscellanies (Jewish Historical Society of England), Vol. 23 (1969-1970), pp. 22-33.
[11] I have already referred in a previous note to another letter to him from the Netziv in Reuven Dessler’s שנות דור ודור. See also a responsum addressed to him in the Netziv’s משיב דבר, vol 2, #17. According to Eugene Newman, ibid, pp. 26-27, responsa #23 and #25 in vol. 4 were also addressed to R. Reinowitz. His signature on a ruling from the London beit din is also confirmed by the Netziv in responsa #56 in the same volume.
[12] See Eugene Newman, ibid, p. 31. Note that according to this account the Netziv’s documents were returned to him after a few hours, whereas in R. Mileikowsky’s account they were only returned to him many months later after the case against him was officially dropped. A further discrepancy, though by no means a contradiction, concerns the lingering danger and prolonged fear and anxiety in R. Mileikowsky’s account, missing in the Netziv’s own telling.
[13] See Agranovsky and Leiman, ibid, p. 2-3.
[14] ניו יורק, תשכ"ג, עמ' 59-60
[15] See also R. Nathan Kamenetsky’s study of similar episodes in his Making of a Godol, second ed., pp. 889-890.
[16] גליון לז, עמ' 264
[17] See R. Chaim Karlinsky’s response to this letter in the subsequent volume of הדרום, גליון לח, עמ' 187.
[18] I think it is this sort of attitude at play in an interview on p. 27 in which he said that he was unable to even approximate his father’s age. Here the editor notes that research shows that it was likely around 1863. I don’t know what research she had in mind, but just by using material supplied in the book it is easy to demonstrate the accuracy of the year 1864 that is often given as the year of his birth (for example see his grandson Chaim Ber Gulevsky’s שבת שבתון p. 365 where his birthday is listed as 20 Adar 1864). On p. 236, the author’s sister, Esther, writes in a letter to him that their mother was 77 at the time of her passing in 1938. Earlier on p. 27 the author himself states that his mother was 3 years older than his father. Now, had R. Simcha Zelig been born in 1863 he would have been 75 in the summer of 1938 and his wife would then have to be at least 78.
[19] Perhaps the editor takes this too far in constantly referring to R. Simcha Zelig without the honorary ‘R.’ before his name. Noteworthy in this context; some critics look askance at biographies of this sort, as the approach they take may strike a somewhat presumptuous, all-knowing note, and their tone is often less deferential to their subject. See R. Yisroel Miller In Search of Torah Wisdom (Mosaica Press, 2012), pp. 59-60, who makes this point in the name of R. Avigdor Miller concerning the biography of the Chafetz Chaim that was penned by his son R. Leib (Consistent with this approach is R. Miller’s own account of his repelling of his great urge to read up on R. Yisrael Salanter’s life out of concern lest his reverence for R. Yisroel be diminished, see R. Y. Hamburger’s biography Rav Avigdor Miller (Judaica Press 2016), p. 22). However, often times the authentic human portrait painted by a son is unmatched in its accuracy and detail, and by extension that much more evocative in its portrayal. See also מגד גבעות עולם vol. 1 p. 48-49 where it is reported in the name of R. Mendel Zaks that he preferred the Chafetz Chaim biography written by his student R. M.M. Yoshor over that of his son R. Leib, because the former doesn’t attempt to explain the Chafetz Chaim’s actions as does his son R. Leib. Presumably this is just another way of expressing the sentiment quoted before in the name of R. Avigdor Miller. Conversely, in the Artscroll biography of the late Rosh Yeshiva of Torah V’daath, R. Avrohom Yaakov Pam (Rav Pam, Brooklyn, 2003, p. 13), it is reported that he was fluent in R. Leib’s biography of the Chafetz Chaim and would often quote from it. (Also worth noting is the fact that R. Yoshor himself, in his introduction, relates with pride the fact that his work had found favor even with the usually critical R. Leib). Ultimately, this harks back to the age-old question of whether a hagiography is preferable to a biography. See the excellent discussion on the topic that forms the introduction to R. Nathan Kamenetsky’s Making of a Godol.
[20] It is worth noting in this context a story I heard from the Rosh Yeshiva of the Kaminetz yeshiva in Jerusalem, R. Yitzchak Sheiner, concerning a student who aspired to join the Yeshiva in Radin. This student was disappointed to find out that he failed his entrance examination with the Chafetz Chaim, and was told to seek other arrangements. On his way out he chanced upon the Rosh Yeshiva of Radin, R. Moshe Landinsky, who noticed his dejected look and asked what had transpired. After hearing the story, R. Moshe advised him to return to the Chafetz Chaim and ask to borrow money for the train fare from Radin to Lida. Knowing of the Chafetz Chaim’s aversion to the modern yeshiva founded in Lida by R. Yitzhak Yaakov Reines, this move was guaranteed to make the Chafetz Chaim reconsider his rejection of this bachur. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened, and the bachur was thereupon accepted to the Radin yeshiva.
[21] As an interesting aside, Prof. Reguer recounts on p. 157 how Moshe Aharon was involved in the physical construction of Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, and even provides (among the unpaginated illustrations [corresponding to p. 153]) a photograph of him posing with fellow students at the site. It seems that many students in those days involved themselves in such activities, and this is likely what Prof. Avigdor Aptovitzer had in mind when he wrote to Shalom Spiegel after arriving in Palestine in 1939: "וגם נוכחתי שכמעט אי אפשר למצוא תלמידים מסייעים שכל התלמידים במלאכה, מלאכה ולא חכמה, ונתקיים בהם אל תקרא בניך אלא בוניך, בוניך ממש מלאכת הבנין והסעת אבנים" (Tarbitz, vol. 81, p. 463).
[22] See R. Betzalel Devlitzky’s biography of him in ישורון, vol. 28, pp. 871-899. The Karilov chapter is mentioned there on p. 876. This article was later expanded and included in a recent edition of דברי יחזקאל (הוצאת מישור, בני ברק, תשע"ג).
[23] This section has been summarized in Hebrew here.
[24] In some sources the last name appears as Berenstein. It is likely that at some point he altered his name in an attempt at avoiding the dreaded draft to the Polish army.
[25] See here. See also R. Nathan Kamenetzky’s discussion on the topic in his Making of a Godol, second ed., pp. 775-778, where conflicting opinions are cited in the name of various students.
[26] He also received (through R. Simcha Zelig) various traditions from R. Chaim, and he would sometimes relay these very traditions, as can be evidenced by following the references indexed under his name in Aharon Rakeffet’s The Rav.

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