‫ב"ה‬

 ‫תשע"ה‬ ‫יתרו‬ ‫פרשת‬ ‫ערש"ק‬

“​
Radicals, Rebels, & Rabblerousers​
”: 3 Unusual Rabbis
#1 - Rabbi Shmuel Alexandrov (Bobruisk, 1865 - 1941)
jrosenfeld@lss.org 
 

 
 

1. Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism, ed. Yitzhak Raphel; vol. 1, pp. 127-131

From his father, Rebbi Hillel’s side, he was a descendant of the Maharal of Prague. He was
distinguished by an deep, incisive mind and a phenomenal memory. Already in his youth, his great
knowledge and expertise were well known. He learned from the Torah giants in his city and then later
in the Volozhin Yeshiva. He also delved deeply into secular wisdom, especially science, philosophy,
and history. In 1887, he moved to Minsk, and there many possibilities for broadening the horizons of
his pursuit of knowledge. He followed in the footsteps of many of the great thinkers and enlightened
(​
melumadim​
) of his generation and reached the pinnacle of wisdom in his age.

2. ​
Esh Da’at ve-Ruah Le’umi​
; in “ha-Maggid”, Issue #19 (1891)

At the heart of the matter, the majority of our nation are nothing but ‘dry bones’. Our religion
has dried out so much in the heart of the nation, to the point where it almost has no spirit left,
most don’t understand their personal heritage, and certainly not the heritage of our Nation on
its land… while it is impossible for the National spirit to exist without religion, so too religion
itself does not have the power to revive these dry bones; it is impossible for us to rehabilitate
the spiritual and physical state of our nation without the synthesis of religion and nationalism.
3. ​
Hegyonot Ketzarim l’Pesah u-le’Mitzvot ha-Omer​
; in “ha-Maggid”, Issue
#17 (1891)

Chatam Sofer: “The new (​
hadash​
) is forbidden by the Torah”
R. Alexandrov: “From the time the sheaves offering (​
‘omer​
) is brought, the ‘new’ is immediately
permitted… once one has paid his dues and invested in God completely, he may tread the path
of the freethinkers with complete self-assuredness…

‫ שמירה מדוקדקת על מצוות הדת‬:‫ קבע אלכסנדרוב את אורח חייו‬,‫בהתאם לכך‬
‫ תוך השתדלות למצוא אסמכתא לכל‬,‫ בלימוד ובחקירה‬,‫ וחופש גמור בקריאה‬,‫ומנהגיה‬
.‫רעיונותיו החדשים בתלמוד ובספרות הרבנית הרחבה מני ים‬

‫​ ‪4. Frontispiece of R. Dov Ber Ginsburgh (1824-1894),‬‬
‫‪Emunat Hakhamim‬‬
‫]‪[Vilna: 1892‬‬

‫החרדים השמרנים הסתייגו ממנו וראו בו מעין קוצץ בנטיעות‪ .‬המשכילים ובני דורו‬
‫החדש ראו בו את השמרן שאינו יכול להיחלץ מעולמו של בית‪-‬המדרש‪ .‬אלה ואלה‬
‫התיחסו בכבוד לידיעותיו הרבות‪ ,‬אבל רחקו ממנו‪.‬‬

‫‪3 ‬‬

5. ​
Mikhtevei Mehkar u-Bikkoret​
; vol. 1, p. 36

To Mr. Asher Ginsburg, AKA “Achad ha-Am” For a long time, I have felt a sense of spiritual affinity/brotherhood with you, and I am
almost completely in consonance with your views on all that appertains to Torah and Israel, if
not for the fact that regarding God, our outlooks are diametrically opposed… and that is not
all; at times I feel that your written words emanated from deep within my own heart, and even
if the matters are distant and obscure to the masses, I’d imagine that in our own eyes they are
self-evident, as according to your views, even a complete heretic can be called a Jew, if only he
‘feels’ that he is a Jew, and that he retains some connection and natural affinity to the organic
entity of Judaism...
6. ​
Mikhtevei Mehkar u-Bikkoret​
; vol. 2, pp. 10-11

Just as the sacrifices were only instituted for their own time as a temporary measure, and as a
tool to distance us from idolatry - which itself was difficult to eradicate directly completely in
ancient times - so too, the majority of the Mitzvot are to guide us along the proper straight
path, and only thusly were needed in early times until the days of the Messiah, in order for us
to be healthy in spirit - and then all these means that were rendered holy, only for their time,
and not for the future, will be obsolete.

7. “Torah, Language, & the Practical Mitzvot” [Heb.]; in “Ramah”,
Tevet-Adar ​
(1938) Issue, p. 474

8. R. Avraham Yitzhak ha-Kohen Kook, ​
Iggerot ha-ReAYaH​
; vol. 1, pp.
173-4, 176

‫ כשהוא מחליף‬,‫ עולם הספרים והרעיונות‬,‫אלכסנדרוב היה חי בעולמו המיוחד לו‬
‫ שכיבדוהו אבל היו רחוקים ממנו בדעותיהם‬,‫מכתבים עם חוג צר של אנשי דת ומחקר‬
9. ​
Mikhtevei Mehkar u-Bikkoret​
; vol. 2, p. 73

...God wrapped Himself up in the cloak of Materialism, and emanated forth a glowing beam of
light, which was passed from one end of the universe to the other; However, for the time being,
many are those to only see the surface physical layer, but days will come and the Land will fill
with the knowledge of God, and Humanity’s eyes will ​
open to see the spiritual core of ethical
Godliness that is hidden in this process​
; and this core is none other than Judaism, the Torah and
God Himself as one, as is understood on its own...
10. ibid. [selections]
(a) p. 25

And I have already written to you that it is incumbent upon the upstanding Rabbis of our Land
to nudge their coreligionists in the path of love for Torah and fear of God; However, as is
self-evident, they mustn’t just be fine public expounders [of Torah], but also must be upright
fulfillers ​
[of Torah], in the sense that the learning is not the only goal, but also the action…
(b) p. 64

And there are very few Haredi Rabbis left whose Godly spark of Torah has not fizzled out - admit these words and promise me to do your utmost on behalf of the love of Torah and fear of
God; and not only this, but admit to my words as they are stated according to the struggles and
challenges unique to our time, in that we should not ‘nitpick’ when it comes to the practical
Mitzvot, but rather we must endeavor for the time being to at least, according to our energies,
save the Torah and God’s honor… and when it comes to the practical Mitzvot, all is according
to the nature of the person, the time, and the place… in short, the Torah and Godliness are
themselves above all time and place, which is not so with regards to the practical Mitzvot,
which are mostly tied in to time and place, and therefore according to each individual…
(c) p. ?

In our times, one who renounces Materialism (as the foundation of everything) and is instead
loyal to the path of spirituality, is considered like one who announces the truth of the entire
Torah, and is called ‘​
ish Yehudi​
’; however, all this is predicated upon the fact that this ‘​
ish
Yehudi​
’ is ready to sacrifice himself for the holiness of this idea.
11. Mikhael Agursky, ​
Universalist Trends in Religious Jewish Thought​
;
Immanuel 18 (Fall 1984), pp. 49–51

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Further Reading and Sources
Prof. Yehuda Slutzky, ​
Sefer Zikkaron Boibrusk​
[Tel Aviv: 1967] pp.
319-323
Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism [Jerusalem: 1958], ed. Dr. Yitzhak
Raphael; “Shmuel Alexandrov”, by Geula bat-Yehuda; pp. 127-131
Mikhael Agursky, ​
Universalist Trends in Religious Jewish Thought​
;
Immanuel 18 (Fall 1984), pp. 49–51
Ehud Luz, "​
Spiritualism and religious anarchism in the teaching of
Shmuel Alexandrov​
" [Heb.] Daat, no. 7 (Summer 1981): 121-138
R. Alexandrov’s books - ​
Mikhtevei Mehkar u-Bikkoret ​
vols. 1-2; ​
Tal
Tehiya​
;​
accessible on Hebrewbooks.org

R. Alexandrov’s articles - can be found at Israel National Library
database of fin de siecle Jewish newspapers and ​
Kitve Et​
; esp. Issues
of “ha-Maggid” from 1890-1905