Sunday 29 May 2022

384) A rare glimpse into the critical mind of a Chassidic Rebbe – Yitzchak Nachum Twersky.


R. Yitzchak Nachum Twersky of Shpikov (1888-1942)

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R. Yitzchak Nachum Twersky of Shpikov (1888-1942) from the Chassidic lineage of Chernobyl, had an unusual critical perspective of the Chassidic world during the early 20th century. Shpikov is now known as Shpykiv, in present-day Ukraine. I have drawn extensively from the work of Professor David Asaf[1] who has researched a letter written by R. Yitzchak Nachum Twersky, which has become a most compelling document in Chassidic history.

This letter, or “confession” by the author’s own admission, was sent from Shpikov, in 1910 (when Yitzchak Nachum was 22 years old), to the Yiddish writer Jacob Dineson (1856-1919) in Warsaw. It comprised 27 pages and was handwritten in perfect Hebrew almost without a single erasure.[2] The young Yitzchak Nachum was weary of his life within the Chassidic court and felt that his talents had been wasted. He was also weary of what the future held for him if he decided to make a change.


The Chernobyl Chassidic dynasty with its many offshoots, was established by the well-known Twersky family. The branch of Shpikov was started in 1885, by Yitzchak Nachum’s grandfather R. Menachem Nahum after the passing of his father who was known as the ‘Tzadic’ Yitzhak of Skvira. Yitzchak Nachum’s father was R. Mordechai of Shpikov.

Around April 1910, soon after writing this letter, Yitzchak Nachum married Batsheva the daughter of R. Issachar Dov Rokeach (1854-1926), the revered Admor or Rebbe of Belz. The Belzer Rebbe was a staunch opponent of anything to do with modernity. He had admired the Chernobyl chassidim and considered it a great privilege that his daughter had married into this family. Yitzchak Nachum had his wife, Batsheva, chosen for him six years earlier when they were engaged, but he had not yet seen her until the marriage. In his writing, Yitzchak Nachum expressed great anxiety about the fact that his wife had been chosen without his consent and was dreading being confined to the Chassidic court. After the wedding, the new groom and bride moved in, as was customary, to the house of the bride’s father, the Belzer Rebbe:

“The Belz court was famous for its fortified walls made up of the thousands of Hasidim who flocked to it, and we can only guess how Yitzhak Nahum endured his first days within the Hasidic court of which he had been so wary” (Asaf 2006:3).

According to records and accounts, Yitzchak Nachum was very much revered in the court of Belz, and was admired for:

“his nobility and his sensitivity, the beauty of his features and the cleanliness of his clothes, his moderated speech, his respect of others and his hospitality.”[3]

According to another account, Yitzchak Nachum was apparently a refreshing scholarly counterweight to the general ‘chassidism’ prevalent in Belz at that time:

“Rabbis who are not from among us, who come to Belz, are met with by R. Yitzhak Nahum, in order to show them that besides Hasidism, there is also Torah scholarship in Belz.”[4]

In 1914, after four years in the court of Belz, Yitzchak Nachum returned to visit Shpikov, and when his father passed away, the chassidim refused to allow him to return to his wife in Belz, and he became the next Rebbe of Shpikov. Meanwhile, the First World War had broken out. The Russian army conquered Austrian Belz, destroyed the town and burned down the Belzer Rebbe’s court. Batsheva had to flee together with her father as well as her young children. Yitzchak Nachum was only able to reunite with his family after the war. In 1925, The Belzer chassidim returned to Belz to rebuild the court, and the Belzer Rebbe placed his son-in-law, Yitzchak Nachum, in Rawa Ruska, about 35 km from Belz, a town with a large proportion of Belzer chassidim. He served as a Rebbe in that town. Eventually, in 1942, Rebbe Yitzchak Nachum Twersky was killed, together with his family, by the Germans in the Belzec death camp. He was given the option to escape but he chose to remain with his people.

Yitzchak Nachum’s sisters

Yitzchak Nachum had four older sisters. His eldest sister, Feige, married the Rebbe of Ruzhin, and he set his court in Shpikov (in peaceful co-existence with her father’s court also in the same town).

His second sister Chaya, married her relative, R. Menachem Nahum Twersky, the son of R. Mordechai of Chernobyl. Chaya, however, was attracted to the Enlightenment and to modernity and was known for her erudition. Her chassidic husband, however, was not comfortable with her free spirit. Eventually, they divorced, and Chaya got custody of the children. She moved to Warsaw and there became acquainted with the authors Y.L. Peretz and Jacob Dineson (to whom her brother was later to send his letter).

His youngest sister, Mirl, was married to the son of the Stoliner Rebbe, Asher Perlow. He never became a Rebbe, although he served as a ‘tzadic’. But she was also attracted to the Enlightenment and was well connected to Jacob Dineson, to whom she had sent some of her poems. Dineson encouraged her to continue writing. These brushes with the Haskalah or Enlightenment and with secular thinking were very much seen as an anathema to the Chassidic way of life. Her husband was also attracted to his wife’s way, and, having a talent for music, he broke from the chassidic norm and went to study musicology in Berlin, without permission from the family. This was regarded as scandalous. Eventually, they too divorced and Asher returned home to his father and remarried. On return home, his father threw away Asher’s violin, the source of all the trouble, and from then on, according to chassidic lore, the Melaveh Malka ceremonies on Saturday nights were accompanied only by singing without musical instruments.

In a letter that the now divorced Mirl wrote to her sister Chaya, who finally also received her bill of divorce, they celebrated their divorces from their chassidic husbands:

“Hurrah! You have won, my dearest! Who would have seen even in their dreams that this happy and good moment would arrive? Freedom, freedom! Praises for your bravery, that you have traversed this dark hell with your head high!”[5]

Yitzchak Nachum’s love of books

It was through his sisters that Yitzchak Nachum Twersky made his connection with Jacob Dineson, and their brother was clearly trying to make a statement because:

“[p]rior to sending his confession, Twersky sent Dineson his photograph, so that the famous writer might see the terrible disparity between his external appearance and his internal world” (Asaf 2006:6).

Yitzchak Nachum was very close to his sisters because he wrote that it was in his sisters’ rooms that he could be exposed to “life and literature” and escape from what he considered the claustrophobic Chassidic world around him.

Evidently, Yitzchak Nachum was not very good at hiding his thirst for secular wisdom because while growing up, rumours began to spread that together with his profound Torah studies he was also engaging in secular literature.

Yitzchak Nachum knew his way around books because, in Shpikov, there was a private library of 40 000 books that had been left as an inheritance by R. Yitzchak of Skvira, which included manuscripts on Kabbalah as well as philosophy. As a youngster, Yitzchak Nachum had professionally catalogued all these books.

He once visited his sister Chaya in Berlin, where her son Yochanan was studying philosophy and psychology at the University of Berlin, and he showed deep interest in his nephew’s studies which included works by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Kurt Lewin.

Rebbe Yitzchak Nachum’s sharp criticism of Chassidim

Yitzchak Nachum’s criticism of Chassidim is very intense. He writes against what he describes as their vulgar fanaticism, conservatism, constant haggling and laziness. Assaf suggests that this may have been the result of the “sharpened pen” from his association with maskilim and members of the Enlightenment, who often portrayed Chassidim in such a fashion:

“Even the terminology Twersky uses—“the idiotic costume,” “hallucinations and nonsense,” “wild motions and customs,” “degeneration,” “atrophy”—is taken from the vocabulary of the maskilic and anti-Hasidic critical lexicon” (Asaf 2006:8).

Either way, Yitzchak Nachum hates their dress code, their mannerisms and he highlights this against the beauty he sees in nature in the world around him which he claims the Chassidim ignore. We must remember, though, that he was writing when he was 22 years old. He does not seem to have any issues with chassidism in general because he writes against what he considers a breakdown in the Chassidic movement that occurred towards the end of the nineteenth century:

“Since then, the light of Hasidism has dimmed and its glory has gone into exile, and it has atrophied […], until now it is little more than a debased coin, a name devoid of real content… My ancestors did not leave after them sons like themselves, men of understanding and intelligence, who might influence and impart of their spirit to the congregation of Hasidim.”

Asaf (2006:10) describes Yitzchak Nachum as not rejecting traditional Judaism at all, but rather only reacting to its Chassidic interpretation as he knew it:

”He chooses to remain in the world of traditional society but wishes to break free from the constraints of Hasidic society, which he believes no longer fit his needs…[he felt][6] trapped in the confines of the compulsory Hasidic togetherness, from which it is so difficult for the individual to break away and redeem his own identity.”

In a sense, Yitzchak Nachum is saying that some of the noble ideas of Chassidism in general are quite romantic, “so long as he doesn’t have to live with them” (Asaf 2006:11). Yitzchak Nachum writes:

“Well I remember what I read in Dr. Berdyczhewski’s book The Hasidim, where, after heaping copious praises on the Hasidic theory, he concludes with a heartfelt cry, “May I be so lucky as to share their portion!” […] And, recalling that exclamation, I cannot hold back my laughter. Indeed, Herr Doktor! How right you are! But how convenient it was for you to utter this exclamation, on your lofty chair at Heidelberg University, far removed from the Hasidim and their masses. But what would you say if it really fell to your lot to be among them always? Methinks you would have spoken differently then, a very different call would have issued from your heart, and together with me you would have cried, “May I be so lucky as not to share their portion.””




Extracts from R. Yitzchak Nachum’s letter to Jacob Dineson

What follows are some excerpts from this heartfelt letter from a nascent Rebbe to a lay secular author. The translation from Hebrew into English is by David Louvish. It is a very long letter but it offers a unique internal glimpse into some profound issues within the Chassidic movement that are often ignored and hardly ever spoken about. More importantly, this letter is a journey right into the soul of a man who was not afraid to be human:


“Sunday, [the week of parashat] Terumah January 24, 1910, Shpikov


Dear friend and beloved author, Mr. Jacob Dineson!


For a whole year now I have been endeavoring with all my will and strength to write your honor a letter. For there is none other to whom I can lay bare my mind and reveal the secrets of my life or, better, the gloomy life of my environment; and there is none other who possesses a warm, sensitive, feeling heart, that might fittingly resonate to all the spasms and tremors of my soul…

I have sent you my portrait… I wished you to see and recognize all the duality and two-facedness of my world, to apprehend the great difference and distance between my inner world and my outer world…see all the wretchedness and ugliness in my clothing, and conclude therefrom by logical analogy as to the whole picture, all the external trappings of my life. I wished you to recognize all the darkness and gloom around me, to inspect at once my external appearance, in all its fearful darkness…

[M]y own world is not good and not beautiful…there is another, more beautiful world, more fascinating and appealing. Like a man sitting in the dark, having never seen light in his life, the thought having never occurred to him that darkness is not good but harmful, and suddenly another person appears and opens up for him a window into the light, to show him its goodness and beauty— would he ever be able to reconcile himself to his darkness?

Never have I been content with my narrow, dark, gloomy world, and always am I aware of the contrast between the great, beautiful world and my tiny, ugly world. And always I say, ‘The place is too crowded for me.’

Perhaps your honor is familiar with the state of Hasidism in the early days of its flowering and its growth, in the time of the Besht and his disciples, and later too, in its heyday, in the previous generation, when Hasidism itself was still a kind of “system,” and the Zaddikim who bore its banner aloft were still imbued with the spirit of Hasidism…Surely your honor has personally perused the books of Hasidism and extracted the precious pearls scattered here and there in that literature, among the heaps of ashes of hallucinations and nonsense.

Thus your honor surely knows about the origin of Hasidism and its state in the first and second period [of its existence], although your knowledge is not perfect but involves some errors and misconceptions; for hearsay is quite different from eyewitness evidence, and a person who has been reared and educated in the innermost circle of Hasidism, with masters of the movement all around him, familiar with the development of the movement from its beginnings to this day, with all its faults and merits, cannot be compared with a person born and reared in an environment foreign to Hasidism, all of whose knowledge is derived from books alone, from legends, not from life itself… [But] through popular legends which are mostly very beautiful but far from the truth…

Your honor resides in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, where Hasidism still has all its power and its influence is still tremendous. So let me describe to you, quite briefly, the state of Hasidism here, in our province, the province of Ukraine. In saying here “Hasidism,” I use a metaphorical name, for that name is entirely inappropriate to present-day Hasidism….

[T]he light of Hasidism has dimmed and its glory has gone into exile, and it has atrophied, continually declining, continually diminishing from day to day…

In the last twenty years, our part of the world has taken such enormous steps forward that it has almost overtaken even Lithuania. A new generation has arisen, a generation that knows not—and does not want to know— its old ancestral traditions, a generation that thirsts for [secular] education and longs for freedom…

Instead, a new Hasidism, which might more precisely be termed “wheeling and dealing,” has appeared. For the new Hasidism is little more than shop-keeping. A Jew who enters the Rebbe’s house does not come to be admonished, to learn some virtue, to hear a good word, for such Hasidim are no more; they come to the Rebbe in his capacity as a wonder-worker, begging him to demonstrate his miracles for them, to save them from misfortune, in exchange for the money they pay him for the miracle. And it is self-evident that such people are most brutish people, whose very boorishness is their Hasidism…

I imbibed piety with my mother’s milk, I was reared on the wellsprings of Torah and Hasidism, and no foreign spirit penetrated our home to dislodge me, God forbid, from my place. But nevertheless, since the day I attained maturity I was imbued with a different spirit, I was different from all around me. Of course, that was within the hidden depths of my mind; outwardly—the less said, the better.

I felt that my world was small and tiny, constricted, choking and strangling me; and in my innermost being I longed so much for a different world, a beautiful, wide world, that would give me enough air to breathe. I despised the people around me, loathed their way of life, and was drawn upward as if by a hidden force. There, in the infinite expanse, above the swamp in which I was immersed…

But one thing I do know: I have a…yearning soul, that could never reconcile itself to its gloomy, dark condition, but has always longed and pined for another life, more beautiful and far more interesting. I remember the impression made upon me by my frequent hikes, when in my youth I would go out in the summer, with my teacher, to the forest outside the town, along a path meandering between green meadows. Leaving the house, with its all-pervading stifling air and stifling spiritual atmosphere, and my encounter with nature…I felt drunk, intoxicated with life and its joy, intoxicated by the magnificence and magic of nature…I remembered how far I am from nature—the very opposite, I am far removed from free, honest, and simple nature, which knows no cunning or falsehood…

Such sorrowful thoughts and bitter feelings filled my mind as I ended my outdoor walks, returning home always with pain in my heart to discharge my “duties” and to live my “life.”

Much Torah have I studied in my life. Much have I racked my brains over weighty volumes of Talmud and legal codes. I have also pondered books of our philosophers, kabbalists, and Hasidim. Thereby have I earned a place of honor among the Torah scholars of my town, and acquired a reputation throughout my neighborhood. And all the Torah scholars and the Hasidim—of the old type, proficient in the books of the early Hasidim, who served under the old Zaddikim—come daily to visit me…

My ideas are ideas of life, and my ambitions, ambitions of life. But my bitter, harsh fate forces me to spend most of my days among old men— whether old in years or in attitudes, what matter?—mummified, dismal, whose God is not my God, their views not my views, all their thoughts, goals, and desires foreign to me. In such circles am I obliged to spend my days, to partake of their rejoicing, to sympathize with them in their sorrow and grief, to be considered as one of them…

Thus I sit pining and dreaming, my imagination bearing me on its wings to the farthest reaches. Suddenly—a knock at the door. I open, and there before me stands the local rabbi... He wishes to delight me with a novel point that he has made in his Torah studies. And immediately I am torn away from my pleasant dreams. It is as if I had fallen all of a sudden from the heights of magical imagination to the depths of bitter, black reality. And then the sharp, hair-splitting, discussion begins, objections and solutions flying back and forth. An onlooker might believe me wholly engrossed in this give and take; but how bitterly is my heart weeping in secret, for the ruin of my world, for the theft of my youth’s dreams, that I am forced to exercise the best of my powers and talents in empty, dry, casuistry about the minutiae of the dietary laws, in conversation with Hasidim about the Divine Presence in exile—by God! Do they understand, feel, the meaning of “Divine Presence?”

[O]r about so-and-so the Zaddik who performed such-and such a miracle, and some Rebbe or another who worked some kind of wonder…

I constantly have free thoughts, but I am obliged to observe my ancestors’ most minute stringencies of observance; I have good taste and love beauty, but I am obliged to wear the clothing of the uncivilized: a long silk kapota down to my feet, a shtrayml of fur tails—that is the “badge of shame” imposed upon us by our haters for generations, which has become holy to us Jews, enamored of the hand that beats us—with a skull-cap beneath it, and other such “ornaments” as well…

What would your honor say, were you to come suddenly, not knowing me, and see me standing among the praying congregation, clad in this tawdry finery, swaying and praying, what would you think of me then? Surely you would hold me to be ultra-Orthodox, a devout fanatic. Never would it occur to you that I am different from all around me, and that under this showy trumpery of clothes hides a beautiful soul, dreaming, longing, and pining, just as it would never occur to any of those who know me—with the exception of those of my young friends of like mind—and who consider me to be a Haredi.

What is this? What am I? Is it possible that I am naught but a hypocrite, a sham? Am I permitted thus to deceive people? Thus do I live out my life here, a dark, gloomy life, without a spark of light, without a shadow of hope, all darkness about me.

At times of leisure, free of my environment and its obligations, I repair to the “left wing” of our home, to my sisters. Then does a new world open up to me. I cast off the dust covering me, distance myself from the filth, from the grime in which I am immersed all day…There I meet young friends and acquaintances, and we read and speak of life and literature. In brief, there I live my real life, there I remove the mask from my face, to be what I really am…

But what a terrible thought, to think now where I am going. To the blessed town of Belz in Galicia! For I have to settle there, in their “harem.” I underline that word to emphasize my intention, that I am being married by coercion, against my will. For me [to marry] a woman from there—my gloomy life here, with all its black darkness, will pale in comparison with the life awaiting me there. First, I am marrying a woman from there, a woman who has been destined these six years to be my bride, but even so I have never ever had sight of her face and I have not the slightest idea of her, her beauty, intelligence, and understanding. And with such a maid, of whom I know absolutely nothing, I am now being led to the bridal canopy! Can your honor, a cultured person, living in the twentieth century, possibly understand and conceive of this?

At best, however, what might I expect of a “Belzian” maid? What spiritual development could she have had in such an environment, in such an atmosphere, where such a simple, innocent thing as learning to write is a serious offense in a young maid, at most a luxury. “A woman’s wisdom is confined to the spindle”...!

If ten measures of extreme religious fanaticism, ignorance, and vulgar stupidity came down to the world, Belz has received nine, and one the rest of the world….

Let me tell you now a little of their capers, a drop in the sea of their deplorable ways of life, for my feeble pen is powerless to provide a faithful, complete picture of their doings…and you will think that I am leading you far, far away, from the cultured lands of Europe to the uncivilized lands of China or India, for there, only there, can one view other pictures like these. In addition to the stringent and precautionary measures that every Jew has around him, Belz have adopted further such restrictions that have no sanctified source, nor have they issued from the legal decisors, they originate solely in “ancestral” customs. Left and right, upon one’s every step, one finds and stumbles over a custom established by “the ancestors.” So uncivilized, so obstructing and disturbing the free course of life are these customs, that one cannot imagine how a person…could survive in such a stifling atmosphere…

Here are some examples. The bridegroom on his wedding day must shave his head with a razor. And the bride? That goes without saying, for all women there have shaved heads, for that has been decreed by custom. And a wig…is considered there a greater abomination than swine. In all the town of Belz you will not find even one woman wearing a wig on her head, but all wrap their shaved heads in a kerchief. And on Sabbath days and festivals they wear a kind of old-fashioned veil…

Picture, your honor, if you will, the following scene. Imagine that myself and my “intended” are being pictured. A young couple—“He” has his head shaven, and “She” has her head shaven. He wears a shtrayml and a skull-cap on his head, with all the other finery…and she wears a magnificent scarf on her head with all other female trumpery from Chmielnitzki’s times. A nice caricature! Good candidates for a museum of antiquities! Were it not that this matter concerns myself, I could laugh most heartily at the sight of such a picture.

Unfortunately, however, the matter is so close to me, so relevant to me, that it may arouse in me not laughter but only tears, tears over my ill fortune, the fortune that fate has declared for me in this inhospitable land. Trousers are now fashionable, but anything fashionable is strictly forbidden there. So the men wear long kapotas down to their feet…And their ear locks are long, O how long— down to the navel and more, for that is an immutable decree: “It is forbidden to cut the ear locks of the head and to shorten them, from day of birth till day of death!” And those long, thick, ear locks, spread over the face and swaying here and there, wherever the wind blows them, and they seem as if attached by glue to the white, shaven, head—and why is that?—To mar man’s handsome visage, “God’s image.” And in this beautiful costume one has to go about all day, not only during prayers, girded with a sash.

No lamp will you find in their houses, only candlelight to illuminate the dark. Now in this generation of ours, a generation of great technical discoveries, a generation served by electricity day by day, when the human spirit, unsatiated, is blazing new trails and new paths, striving hard to find new inventions. In this generation, at this time, there is a dark corner, in the heart of Europe, where even a simple lamp is not yet used, even one that might today be considered an antique, and the dark light of a tallow candle satisfies them…

 A mirror is considered as leaven [on Passover], to be banished from the house…A newspaper, even in Hebrew, or in Yiddish—not to speak of a volume of the new literature—is condemned to be removed and banished…

And these customs are supervised by my future father-in-law, the Grand Inquisitor, who watches over the slightest move of the members of his family, his town, and his Hasidim in general. And woe betide any person who dares to infringe even one of all these “customs,” who deliberately disregards one of them. He will be pursued and beaten with cruel wrath, with all their burning, wild, fanaticism. They have one refrain: “Eat and drink, study and sleep,” for that is the whole man! They are far from the world and from life…

They are frozen, fossilized, standing constantly on the same level as our ancestors in Poland three hundred years ago. And if they have developed, if they have taken a step forward and gone farther than their ancestors, they have done so only in the sense that they have heaped more restrictions on their ancestors’ restrictions and added stupidity to their stupidity. That is the blessed Belz, such is its visage…In that Belz, in that locality, am I to settle now…

Even now I drown in mud up to my neck, and now I am being dragged to drown entirely in mire, in a pool of sewage. Indeed, a terrible idea, and the reality is seven times worse!

I know that…your honor will think of many questions…[such as]: “If you are so remote from and abominate the life that you live… who is it, what is it, that forces you to persist in that miserable life? Sever, in one blow, the bond that binds you to it, break out into the great, wide, world, that you so love, for which you so yearn and pine!”… That is the question I am asked by many of my young friends, who cannot understand my mind, to whom my psychology is foreign, who only see the terrors of my outer life…But before your honor I shall bare my soul…With my last remaining strength I would cast off these shackles, abandon my home, my family, my place of birth, all the habits I have accumulated since my youth, and travel to a big city, to study there, complete my education, to live another life…Nothing would prevent me—save just one hidden power in my soul which is stronger than all these combined, which holds me back with tremendous force and will not loosen its grip—the power of compassion….my compassion for my beloved mother…

This wretched soul, who has had nothing in her life, all of whose life is one terrible tragedy, and I, I alone, am her only hope, her heart’s desire, I am her comforting salve. My sisters have never given her much pleasure, only in me does she put her trust, I am her sole support in her life.

Why do I have to settle there [in Belz], of all places? Why can I not live here even after my marriage? For a very simple reason: My parents lack the means to support me, to sustain me and my wife in their home, to supply all our needs. So I have no choice but to live there…

[T]here are only two roads open to me: To be a [Hasidic] rebbe, or to be a rabbi…to be a rabbi I would need authorization from my future father-in-law— who by then would be my father-in-law—[But] he is stronger and more influential than I, and no community would accept me against his will. But I would never receive such authorization, because he wishes to keep me under his wing for a few years, who knows how many? And even were he to grant me authorization, I would then have to be a “rabbi” according to the Belz style, so what would I gain? Once again the same slavery, the same wretchedness and the same ugliness. So I have absolutely nothing to hope for, there is not a single glimmer to light my way, the way of my future, only darkness, awful darkness, profound gloom await me...

My mother herself knows and senses the great difference between myself and Belz, and however much she does not know me in all respects, she knows me more than others and is therefore aware, how different I am from Belz and its life. Moreover, she is worried lest I dislike my bride, since she is not very good-looking and may also not be to my taste in other respects, and so think many other townspeople as well[7]

I have been writing… [this letter] for a very long time, one quarter-hour each day, and upon beginning to write I have been forced to stop midway, obliged to hide the letter for fear it might be seen by someone. Your honor will realize from my unclear writing in what state it has been written. A word here, a word there, page put together with page, until the letter was complete. Were I able to write my letter with the requisite peace of mind, it would be different, more solid and coherent, from beginning to end, one continuous narrative. But since I have not been able to do so, it consists only of disconnected ideas, fragments, convulsions of my mind.

And now, if your honor should wish to reply, I beg you to reply quickly, to reach me immediately during the first week of my wedding. You may send the letter care of my sisters, and they will send it on to me. With admiration and respect, hoping against hope for your answer,


Yitzhak Nahum Twersky.”


Further reading

For more on R. Asher Perlow, the musicologist, see Kotzk Blog: 307) SEFER HATZOREF AND THE STORY OF THE ‘LOST’ STOLIN GENIZA:

See also the references to the more recent R. Isadore Twersky, a Rebbe and a Harvard professor, in Kotzk Blog: 068) Outspoken Rabbinical Views Claiming That The Torah Recorded Superstitions Of Its Day: (Footnote 3.)

[1] Assaf, D., 2006, ‘‘My tiny, ugly world:’ The confession of Rabbi Yitzhak Nahum Twersky of Shpikov’, Contemporary Jewry, vol. 26, 1–34.

[2] Dineson collection at the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Department of Manuscripts, V.879/ 17.

[3] Meir Wunder, Meorei Galicia, III, Jerusalem, 1986, 14-16; Isaac Lewin (ed.), Eleh Ezkerah, IV, New York, 1961, 133.

[4] Sefer Zikaron le-Kehilat Rawa-Ruska ve-ha-Sevivah, Tel Aviv, 1973, 79.

[5] Yochanan Twersky, heChatzer haPnimit, Tel Aviv, 1954, 234. Yohanan Twersky (1900-1967) was Yitzchak Nachum’s nephew.

[6] Parenthesis is mine.

[7] Asaf points out that, “in complete opposition to his expectations, the match was a success; he was fond of his bride and she was of him.”

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