Jan 20, 2011

Dr. Shach Talks About His Father Rav Shach

Srugim has an interesting interview with Dr. Ephraim Shach, the only son of Rav Shach zt"l the former Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezsh and one of the gedolei hador.

Dr. Shach says a number of interesting things in his interview. These are the points I found partivcularly interesting to me:
1) Dr. Shach talks about his relationship with his father. Dr. Shach was famous for having abandoned the haredi community, going to get an education (in the days where there was no such thing as a machon for vocational training for haredim, going to the army and becoming Dati Leumi.

There was a period of time where Dr. Shach and his father had a falling out and were not talking to each other. Dr. Shach says that despite what people thought at the time, it was not because of the way he chose to live his life with Rav Shach bing disappointed and hurt. It was because of a spat between them when his mother died. At the time he was abroad, and his father told him he need not travel back, as they wanted to hold the funeral immediately and Dr. Shach would therefore miss it even if he got the next flight. Dr. Shach was hurt because he wanted to be there, and he was the only son (there were daughters as well). Rav Shach insisted because not having the funeral right away would cause a tremendous amount of bittul torah, as many students were saying tehillim around the body rather than learning.

Dr. Shach says he did not accept that at the time, but a year later he realized that his father only looked at Torah and nothing else was of importance to him in the place of Torah. While he knew that all along, it was only impressed upon him when his farther was sick with cancer and he still insisted on being taken home because at home he could learn while in the hospital he was not able to learn much.

When he saw that, he understood his father's position regarding the funeral a year or so earlier, and then they got back together.

2) Dr. Shach says that today the haredi community has portrayed his father as being keetzonee, holding extreme positions - it would be called today FRWO - far right wing orthodox. He says that perception that has been created is false and his father was really super-liberal. I dont think particularly much of the example he gave, of an avreich who was offered a job in a yeshiva in Afula and it would have required him at the time to be in Afula, away from his family, from Sunday until Thursday. Rav Shach told him not to take the job because his wife needed his help taking care of their 8 children. I don't think that shows him to be super-liberal, but ok.

I actually think something else he says later does show him to be more liberal than portrayed. He says regarding the army, his father thought boys should be in yeshiva. His father was of the opinion that to come out with a commando unit of top notch yeshiva students, one had to get thousands into yeshiva, and then a small group of those would be great. It even sounds like the rest of them, thousands of boys, were being sacrificed as casualties of war, in the attempt to get a small number of top notch talmidei chachomim.

However, Dr. Shach says, his father considered anybody who was in yeshiva who was not learning as a thief, and he would tell such a person to leave yeshiva, go to the army and get a job.

That says more to me than the example of the guy who he told not to go to Afula.

3) Dr. Shach says he made a mistake in the education of his own children, as some of them have gone off the derech and are not frum. He says he failed, while his sister, whose children are all frum in the haredi community, were successful. He still believes his path was correct, mixing ruchaniyus with general studies, as looking at the secular education system you see terrible things going on, but on the other hand you cannot live in the 21st century without using the tools that are available in the world.

While some may gloat and say he failed because he chose a bad path, I would say it has nothing to do with the sector he associated himself with. Unfortunately children go off the derech in every sector, and while our greatest hope is to perhaps see validation of our choices by seeing our children follow in our paths, no commuity and no house is immune from families seeing children going off and seeking their own way. One might even say that Rav Shach failed because his son chose a different path. So nobody is immune and there is tremendous heartache in every community equally, from DL to Haredi to MO to Secular, when parents see their children choose different paths.


  1. 2 points.

    1) Did you know that Rav Shach's Yeshiva Ponovitz used to fly the Israeli flag on Yom Haatzmaut?

    2) He had a grand-daughter (from Dr Shach), who was a soldier, and she once appeared in uniform at the entrance of Yeshivat Ponovitz. Some of the students were shocked and astounded to see her barge in, and walk through the Yeshiva up to see her grandfather, who greeted her very happily.

  2. 1. that was based on Rav Kahanemans insistence. As far as I know, they still wave it on Yom Haatzmaut

    2. interesting story. He says in the interview that his father had a good relationship (as much of a relationship as he would have with anybody I guess, as he also says his father had just about nothign to do with anyone because he was always learning) with all his grandkids eve the secular ones..

  3. Check out this blog for some links to great articles about Rav Shach ZT"L:


    And here's divrei Torah and mussar from Rav Shach ZT"L:



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