Who hasn’t heard of the prestigious Mir Yeshiva?

That ‘top of the top’, that ‘best of the best’, when it comes to Torah learning and lomdus.

Over the years, I’ve kind of been circling around the Mir Yeshiva, especially on a Friday morning when I used to live in Musrara, and Beit Yisrael was where I did most of my shopping for Shabbat.

Also, one time my husband rented a small office directly opposite the Mir Yeshiva, and he sat in that dingy hole for a year basking in the ‘atmosphere’ radiating out of the Mir.

Man, we all hated that office so much.

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My husband stuck up a poster advertising Rav Arush’s books for sale on his shutter facing the Mir yeshiva, and not occasionally, he got into some pretty big arguments with some of the people who saw it and decided to ‘put him straight’.

For my part, I had a really nice proofreader whose husband was a ‘Mir guy’, and who totally flipped out on me when I sent her the first draft of ‘One in a Generation’ to look at, which she ‘urgently’ discussed with her husband.

She was so clearly uncomfortable with any discussion of Moshiach and geula, and she was so clearly relating to me as some derango ‘mesichist’, and she was so upset with what she was reading – including the suggestion that the State of Israel was persecuting the ultra-orthodox world and targeting it for destruction – that she couldn’t complete the job and I had to find someone else.

Back then, I wondered: What are they teaching these guys at the Mir, that she is getting so very upset about any hint that the world might change radically, and that Moshiach might actually come? And that she can’t accept that the State of Israel is not as ‘benevolent’ as we’d all like to believe it is?

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Another interesting point to note is that some of Rav Berland’s main persecutors within Meah Shearim are very respected teachers at the Mir yeshiva.

And I also used to find that kinda strange, too, that people who are meant to be ‘deep-dyed’ Breslovers were hanging out at the Mir, and apparently enjoying maximum respect and kudos.

Now, with all the water that has flown under the bridge in recent months, I’m understanding much more clearly some of the connections and links behind the scenes, and how ‘deep-dyed Breslovers’ can feel so very at home at the Mir.

Once you start to figure out how all this stuff, all these people, are really connected, it becomes so obvious.

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So, now I’ve set out most of my personal biases, it’s time to take a closer look at that fabulous institution of lomduss, the Mir yeshiva.

Or more specifically, the people who founded it, and all the different people they are connected to.

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Let’s start with the Mir’s own website, and it’s official history, so we can start to get a flavor of just how big an impact the Mir – and its students – have had on the orthodox Jewish world.

This comes from their homepage:

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Pay attention to this par:

Proliferation of Scholars

It is rare to find a Jewish community the world over that has not been touched by alumni of Yeshivas Mir. The majority of Mir students spend their formative years in Jerusalem and then move back to their country of origin; many enter the Rabbinate and the field of education.

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No-one can argue that Mir graduates are a huge force to be reckoned with within the orthodox, and ultra-orthodox rabbinic world.

So it’s really important that we understand who founded the Yeshiva, and what ‘hashgafah’ it’s truly seeding into all the orthodox communities – and orthodox schools – it’s alumni ‘enter’, back in ‘their country of origin’.

Trouble is, tracking down that information is not as easy as you might think  – not even on the easy stuff, like when the yeshiva was actually founded, and by who.

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The Mir’s own website says the yeshiva was founded in 1817, but if you go to Wikipedia HERE, it has references to 1814 and 1815 as the founding years.

And if you go HERE, to the Otzar Forum, you’ll find a discussion in Hebrew that brings evidence that the yeshiva was actually founded some 50 years earlier, in 1767.

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Although no-one really knows for sure, which is kinda strange.

The most prestigious yeshiva in the Jewish world, and no-one knows who really founded it, or when?

Is your BS-O-meter starting to twitch yet?

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Let’s continue with the ‘official story’.

But even Wikipedia is confused about what that actually is.

If you go HERE, you’ll be told this:

The yeshiva was founded in the small Russian town of Mir, Belarus in 1814, 1815 or 1817 by Rabbi Shmuel Tiktinsky. After his death, his oldest son Rabbi Avraham Tiktinsky was appointed Rosh Yeshiva. After a number of years, Rabbi Avraham died and his younger brother Rabbi Chaim Leib Tiktinsky succeeded him. Rabbi Chaim Leib would remain as Rosh Yeshiva for many decades. He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Avrohom Tiktinsky, who brought Rabbi Eliyahu Boruch Kamai into the yeshiva.

In 1903, Rabbi Kamai’s daughter married Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel (Reb Leizer Yudel), son of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel (the Alter of Slabodka), who in time became the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir. The yeshiva remained in that location until 1914.

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And if you go HERE, you’ll be told this:

The Mirrer Yeshiva was founded in 1815, 12 years after the founding of the Volozhin Yeshiva, by one of the prominent residents of a small town called Mir…, Rabbi Shmuel Tiktinsky.

After Rav Shmuel’s death, his youngest son, Rabbi Chaim Leib Tiktinsky, was appointed rosh yeshiva. He was succeeded by his son, Rav Avrohom, who brought Rabbi Eliyahu Boruch Kamai into the yeshiva. During Rabbi Kamai’s tenure the direction of the yeshiva wavered between those who wished to introduce the study of musar and those who were against it.

In 1903, Rabbi Kamai’s daughter Malka married Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, son of the legendary Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Elder of Slabodka, who joined the yeshiva faculty in late 1906. Under his influence, the yeshiva joined the musar movement definitively and Rabbi Zalman Dolinski of Radin was appointed as its first mashgiach.

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Hmmm.

Let’s see if we can get a bit more clarity about Mir’s (apparent…) founder, R’ Shmuel Tiktinsky.

His Wikipedia entry tells us that:

Shmuel Tiktinsky was “a merchant of considerable means and a talmudic scholar.” He used both of these to build and run the Mir.

Avrohom Tiktinsky [Shmuel Tiktinsky’s oldest son] was given “the whole burden of administration” by his father in 1823.

Weirdly, we’re told that both Shmuel and his son Avraham died in 1835 – but on separate occasions. At this point, Shmuel Tiktinsky’s second son, Chaim, is just 11.

In 1850, the now 26 year old Chaim Yehuda Leib Tiktinsky, known as Chaim Leib, “was appointed joint principal of the yeshiva.” Chaim Leib’s [sons] Shmuel (1876), and then Avrohom (1883), were his successors. The latter retired in 1907.

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But over on the Jewish Encyclopaedia website HERE, we learn some different information about TIKTINSKI, ḤAYYIM JUDAH LÖB B. SAMUEL:

He was the second son of Samuel Tiktinski, founder of the yeshibah in Mir, who died in 1835, leaving his eleven-year-old son without any material means.

Despite his very unfavorable circumstances, young Tiktinski succeeded by diligent application in passing a rabbinical examination before he was twenty, at which age he officiated as substitute for Rabbi Elihu Shik in Deretschin when the latter went on a long journey.

In 1850 he was invited by Rabbi Moses Abraham ben David of Mir to deliver lectures before the local yeshibah. By his brilliant delivery and his rejection of the pilpul he attracted many scholars; and when, in 1867, Moses Abraham died, Tiktinski was entrusted with the entire control of the yeshibah.

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So, let’s recap where we’ve got to so far.

A wealthy merchant and Torah scholar called Samuel Tiktinsky apparently starts the Mir Yeshiva in 1814, or 1815, or 1817 – no-one can really remember.

He dies in 1835, together with his eldest son Abraham, but on separate occasions, leaving his eleven year old son Chaim Tiktinsky destitute.

(Which is kinda weird, for a wealthy merchant who has enough money to run his own yeshiva.)

Meantime, the Mir Yeshiva is taken over by one ‘Rabbi Moses Abraham ben David’, and Chaim Tiktinsky only returns to the Mir yeshiva 14 years later, as a lecturer. When ‘Rabbi Moses Abraham ben David’ dies in 1867, R’ Chaim Tiktinsky takes over – and the rest is history.

This is the official story, and it just seems a little ‘off’ to me, I have to say.

Let’s start digging, to see what we find.

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First stop is to try and track down more details of this wealthy ‘Shmuel Tiktinsky’ in the real world.

Over on geni, his entry is very sparse – no parents, no siblings, and you only find any real details for his son ‘R’ Chaim Tiktinsky’.

I plug in ‘Shmuel Tiktin’ – and get back a letter from a Rabbi Shmuel Tiktin – who is apparently this guy:

SHMUEL-FROYM TIKTIN (b. March 2, 1878)

            He was born in Jerusalem.  He studied in religious primary school, yeshiva, and on his own.  In 1891 he became secretary to the writer Zev Yaakov, and later he was an assistant to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.  He was an active leader in Mizrachi.

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He’s not the ‘Rabbi Shmuel Tiktin’ I’m after, because he’s around 100 years too late.

Then, I try to track down ‘Rabbi Shmuel Tiktin’ down in the Memorial book for the town of Tiktin (aka Tykocin).

Nothing, not a sausage.

How can the founder of the prestigious Mir yeshiva – Shmuel Tiktinsky – not even be listed as one of the ‘famous sons’ of Tiktin?

That’s what I start to wonder to myself. I mean, they have entries for ‘Natan the Mad’ and a whole bunch of other famous Tiktin Rabbis like HaRav Meir HaLevi Ish Horowitz (the Maharam Tiktin) and HaRav Shalom Rokeah (the “Ma’aseh Rokeah) – but not a peep about the founder of the Mir.

Hmm.

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Next, I try a different angle, and try to track down the real identity of the ‘Rabbi Moses Abraham ben David’ who takes over the Mir when Shmuel Tiktinsky (and his son…) die in 1835.

Over on Yivo, I find this:

In the absence of an obvious successor, the rabbi of the Mir community, Yosef David Eisenstadt, took over the position of rosh yeshivah.

He in turn was succeeded by his son, Mosheh, but after the latter’s death in 1846 Ḥayim Tiktinski, a son of the founder, claimed the post of rosh yeshivah and took over its leadership. This step was challenged by the rabbi of Mir, who claimed that by then the post had become a prerogative of the community’s rabbi.

This claim was rejected in 1867 by a large committee of prominent rabbis in a precedent-setting decision that amounted to formal recognition of the separation between yeshivas and communities.

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Well, the picture is already starting to come a bit more clearly into focus.

Here’s the geni profile for R’ Yosef David Eisenstadt. Apparently, this guy had some serious yichus. One of his great-grandfathers is R’ Aryeh Leib Pollack (Zak), the chief rabbi of Poland, while the other is Gaon R’ David Ginsberg of Prague.

I’ve been researching this period of Jewish history in Prague for months, already, and it’s the first I’ve heard of ‘R’ David Ginsberg’ – who again, springs from the head of Zeus.

Meanwhile, ‘R Yosef David Eisenstadt’s’ dad is listed as ‘Zvi Hirsh Pollack Zak’, and his aunt is Chashe Zak, who has a whole bunch of ‘Zakheim’ children.

When I was researching the ‘Vilna Gaon’s’ real family tree, HERE, I came across this guy:

Rabbi Joseph Zakheim – who caught my eye, because his descendants are still making headlines today, for all the wrong reasons.

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This comes from Wikispooks, HERE:

Dov Zakheim...is an ordained rabbi who made it to a high position in both government and private business. He worked in the Pentagon between 1985 and 1987. From 1987-2001, Zakheim was CEO of SPC International, a high-technology firm that manufactures, inter alia, equipment to remotely control aircraft.

During 2000, he served as a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush. He was hired as a Comptroller of the Pentagon in the spring of 2001.

On September 10, 2001 , Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary, announced to a stupefied internal Pentagon audience that the Pentagon could not track $2.3 trillion dollars in its books.

This statement disappeared, as it were, into the memory hole the next day because of the deadly events, but continues to be widely quoted by Jew-bashers, who connect these missing funds to Zakheim.

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I’m sure that’s just a CO-IN-CID-ENCE.

(Ahem….)

But in terms of figuring out what’s going on at the Mir, I’ve just hit a dead end.

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I know that many of these rabbinic posts are ‘inherited’ from father to son, so I try to find out who was the Rabbi of Mir at this time.

Whaddya know?

It’s one ‘R’ Zvi Hirsch Eisenstadt‘, the grandson of the secret Sabbatean R’ Meir of Eisenstadt, the teacher of Jonathan Eibshutz, and also brother of ‘sabbatean prophet’ Mordechai Mokiach.

I wrote about all this back HERE.

Here’s a snippet:

Here’s a little about how Mordechai Mokiach (Eisenstadt, brother of Rabbi Meir Eisenstadt) was connected to another member of the Eybshutz family, Ber Eybshutz (also known as Ber Perlhefter):

(From HERE🙂

“In the late 1670s and early 1680s, Ber became deeply involved in the Sabbatean movement as a maggid in the circle of Abraham ben Michael Rovigo [the Eshel Avraham] (c. 1650–1713) in Modena.

He was instrumental in shaping the moderate wing of the movement after the death of Sabbetai Zevi. Though he initially pinned hopes on Mordecai of Eisenstadt (1650–1729) as a second redeeming figure, he later became disappointed and renounced his support…”

As for Mordechai Mokiach, his descendants changed their names to ‘Pick’ and ‘Berlin’, and quickly became leading figures back in the orthodox Jewish community again.

Things are starting to get interesting again!

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R’ Zvi Hirsh Eisenstadt ABD Mir is married to one Finkel Kallir – his niece, via his sister Chava.

Finkel’s brother Rabbi Eleazar Kallir (1728-1801), the author of the Or Chadash -and another person whose been on my radar for quite a while.

This comes from the Jewish Virtual Library, HERE.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Eleazar Kallir’s father died before his birth, and he was therefore given his father’s name. In 1759, he was appointed rabbi of Zabludow, and from there proceeded to Berlin where he lectured in the college of the wealthy Moses b. Isaac Levy.

He was appointed rabbi of Rechnitz and head of its large yeshivah in 1768 and, in 1781, rabbi of Kolin near Prague. … Baruch Jeiteles states that “after the death of Yechezkel Landau, he was the sole remaining authority in the country.”

His first work, Or Ḥadash, on the Pentateuch, was an appendix to the Kotnot Or of his grandfather, Meir Eisenstadt, which he published under the title Me’orei Esh (Fuerth, 1766). …

His son Alexander Susskind was a well-known philanthropist.

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So, at this point in the research, I tripped over something so mind-blowing, it took me out for the rest of the day.

I know, you want a clue, a hint.

Here it is:

Shabtai Tzvi was not some ‘nobody’ from Smyrna who somehow rose to become the potential ‘moshiach’ of nearly the whole Jewish world.

He was a very well known Rabbi and kabbalist.

He was an integral part of ‘the machine’ that’s been running the Jewish world for centuries already – because otherwise, he’d never have accomplished what he did, no matter how eloquent or ‘inspired’ he might have been.

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Sigh.

Let’s stop here for now, and I will work on ‘Part 2’ of the rest of what might be going on with the Mir, over the next few days.

There is so much smoke and mirrors flashing around all over the place, I have to pace myself to do this stuff, and try to pin it down properly.

So, we’ll come back to this topic soon, BH.

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2 replies
  1. Ana
    Ana says:

    I don’t want to make judgements until you put out more of this story, since obviously there is a “special aura” surrounding the Mir yeshiva, including its history and story during WWII and the stature of the rabbonim that supported it / rescue operations / etc.

    At this point, just another note, clarification is to compare the notes here, if you haven’t seen it yet:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Leib_Tiktinsky

    Rabbi Tiktinsky was born on October 13, 1823 in the town of Mir in the Russian Empire (currently in Belarus).[4] His father, Rabbi Shmuel Tiktinsky, had founded the Mir Yeshiva in his town several years prior, in 1817, and after his death in 1835, his older son, Rabbi Avraham Tiktinsky, became the rosh yeshiva, the post he held until his death four years later. Chaim Leib was just 17 seventeen years old at the time of his brother’s death, and too young to replace him as rosh yeshiva.[1] Therefore, Rabbi Yosef David Eisenstadt, the town’s rabbi, became the rosh yeshiva,[a] and after his death in 1846,[5] his son Rabbi Moshe Avraham Eisenstadt, succeeded him. Rabbi Chaim Leib Tiktinsky was installed as a co-rosh yeshiva.[1]

    There’s more on there about his rabbinic career and death.

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      Yes I saw that, thanks Ana.

      While I was researching this topic I stumbled across more info, that made me think I’m going to park this subject for now.

      Probably, enough information is already circulating now to make the point that ‘yichus’ and a lot of Torah knowledge shouldn’t be the only criteria of who we trust to lead us and advise us.

      At least, I hope so.

      Reply

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