Shadows of Slabodka in HTC

A few months ago marked the 80th yartzeit of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka. I was reading a publication emailed to me from The Alter on the Parsha and at the end was a list of the major talmidim of the Alter and where they went on to teach. As I read the list I noticed that three Slabodka students ended up in Beis HaMidrash LaTorah (Hebrew Theological College) here in the Chicago area.

Recently I happened to be working as a mashgiach at a chasunah, and I spoke with a someone who had received semicha from HTC. I casually asked him about one of the names listed: Rav Selig Starr, z’tl.

It turns out that the person I spoke with (and other members of his family) learned from Rav Starr. It was total hashgacha pratis (no pun intended). I, of course, asked if he had ever heard anything from Rav Starr about the Alter of Slabodka. Here is what I was told:
Rav Starr was , “A walking adverisement for Slabodka”.

He was famous for saying, “You should know what you know and know what you don’t know”.

Rav Starr once said in shiur that while in Slabodka he was part of a chabura lead by the Alter, that included Rabbis: Ruderman, Hutner, Kamenetsky, and Kotler.
The Alter once told them “I am supposed to teach you mussar. What can I teach you?
I’ll ask you a question: What happens if you kill someone with a gun?”
The talmidim answered that you are chiav misah.

The Alter then asked them, “What if you kill someone with a chair?”
The talmidim answered that you are chiav misah.
The Alter then asked them, “What if you kill someone with a Sefer Torah?”
Again, the talmidim answered that you are chiav misah.
The Alter then said, “You are the future of klal Yisroel. You will be the Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshiva of the next generation. Never ever kill anyone with a Sefer Torah.” With that the chabura ended.
I think the approach the Alter was trying to teach was the reason that Slabodka infuenced the creation and expansion of successful Yeshivas in America. Torah when properly taught is meant to bring someone up (part of the Slabodka philosophy). A sensitivity to the individual and they way we teach Torah to children is the yesod of successful chinuch, in my opinion.

For more information about Rav Starr, including his famous “Ten Commandments” click here.

7 thoughts on “Shadows of Slabodka in HTC

  1. Ezzie

    That’s an awesome story. 🙂

    (My rabbeim in WITS were very into Slobodka mussar, as is Chofetz Chaim in general. My cousin is married to the Alter’s great-granddaughter…)

    Reply
  2. Harry Maryles

    He once said in shiur that while in Slabodka he was part of a chabura lead by the Alter, that included Ravs: Ruderman, Hutner, Kamenetsky, and Kotler.

    Great post.

    Rabbi Starr was one of my Rebbeim when I was student at HTC. He was truly a marevelous individual who “knew what he knew and knew what he didn’t know”.

    Trust me. He knew a lot. I often had occasion to visit him in his home after he had retired from active teaching. I never saw him without an open Gemarah at a desk in front of him.. He was truly a Masmid.

    In addition to learning in a Chabura with some of the greatest Torah names of the 20th century, people might find it interesting to know that he had a masters degree in history from the University of Chicago.

    A truly inspiring figure.

    Reply

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