Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Story from Old Lithuania

This is a true story. My father zatzal knew the people involved. Make of it what you want.

There was a Rov in the small town of Pompian, known in Lithuanian as Pumpenai (, and he was called the Pompianer Rov. He had only one daughter, an intellectually gifted young woman, and it was a very small town, with little to do or with whom to do it, and so, he learned with her. She was a diligent and talented student, and she developed into a talmidah chachamah by Lithuanian standards, which means a great deal indeed.

The time came, as it does, for shidduchim. When shidduch time comes, people realize that, like it or not, they can't always do just as they please, because shidduchim, by their very nature, involve "other people," and inevitably, they will be judged by other people's standards. Bachurim knew that this Rov was a great talmid chacham, and they heard that the daughter was also a melumedes, and so shidduchim were proposed, discussed and presented. Bachurim would come in to the Rov, and he would talk in learning with them, and as often as not, the bachur would say something, and the girl would interject and say "es iz nit emes! Shteit fahrkehrt...." or, "stahm ge'dreit ah kop," or some other frank and forthright assessment of the young man's scholarly attainments.

Many suitors did not find this endearing. As time passed, her reputation among the Bnei Torah in the Yeshivos ensured that fewer and fewer prospects were willing to step into the line of fire.

Eventually, she and her father had to accept the realities of the situation, and she married the only man that wasn't intimidated by her gadlus batorah-- a Karpuln macher, a man who made lasts for cobblers. He was a total am ha'aretz, (although that, too, was by Lithuanian standards, and in America, maybe he would be the Rabbi of a shul or say a daf yomi shiur,) and when bachurim would come into their home to talk to his wife in learning, he didn't understand a thing that was being said, but he was proud that his wife was so respected and sought after, and he would sit on the side and smile.

The end.
Some facts have been changed just in case someone from the family survived and would be offended by the story. For example, there actually were two daughters, but only one learned with the father. Also, Pompian was not really that small, it was just not far from Ponevezh, so all the action was out of town.


  1. "Say a daf yomi" indeed. Perhaps say a shiur in some yeshiva gedolah. Maybe even be a Rabbi. However, to be a Rov requires a much more extensive and varied skill-set than what is necessary for the above. Therein lies the abysmal parochial ignorance of the yeshiva-trained who have absolutely no shimush in common sense - i.e., the interface between da'as torah and da'as ba'alei batim.

  2. Good point, as always. I will change "Rov" to Rabbi. Daf Yomi stays in.

  3. I think so because She told the fundraiser about the KUTACH with the fish

  4. Knowing his Mother, I can say that
    a) the man she married, i.e., his Father, was not a Lithuanian am ha'aretz, but rather one of the greatest lamdanim of the last generation
    b) his Mother could not only take on the lady of the story, but probably that lady's father as well. Many a Rosh Yeshiva has barely escaped an encounter with her, singed and bruised by a subtle lomdeshe comment.

  5. No, gentlemen, it is not my mother. My mother had siblings, for one thing, and I don't think my grandfather learned with her, she just picked things up in the air of the house and talking to her brothers and her sister's brother in law, Reb Mottel Pagremansky, before going to Yavne seminary in Telz. Although my father did once remark to, tibadel le'chaim, my mother, that maybe she should have married a karpoln macher.

    The phenomenon of Litvishe Nashim Melumados is not that unusual; A young chassan that stayed in my house recently, Chuni Stern, who learns bechavrusa with Reb Chaim Stein, told me that in Telz Cleveland, Rebbitzen Ausband still says shmuessen for the bachurim in her house. Try that in New York.

  6. How insular and non-Litvish. Why does the distinguished author of this site assume that all of the commenters are "gentlemen?"

    Perhaps some of us come from that selfsame pool of Litvishe Nashim Melumados who can learn - and drink - today's "lamdonim" under the table.

    As penance, I suggest swearing off of gribenes for Lent.

  7. I haven't eaten gribenes for months; last time they were brought to the table, my niece and nephew, and their little Adamses, my great nieces and nephews, didn't have the decency to defer to this old geezer.

    I will swear off gribenes aroudn the same time we declare Capybara fish.

  8. This year you have to do Torah for Purim we are all wating with baited breath

  9. Purim Torah? I guess you didn't read what I wrote on the Urim VeTumim all the way to the end.

    The problem is that when I start with serious Torah, people don't always realize when it slides mei'igra rama le'bira amikta, or from the sublime to the ridiculous.

  10. As A masmid like you should have noticed I wrote torah FOR purim to be Mimayet Purim torah but I am still waiting and I would not mind purim torah either esspecialy the one with reb chaim Abov hamans daughther pouring the garbage on her head with the Gemara in baba ka,ma I cant remeber it i just remeber liking it and hearing one of my rebbeim saying its wrong?

  11. What they say from Reb Chaim is that aveil vechafui rosh is backwards, since he was chafui with garbage, and only afterwards aveil when his daughter jumped off the roof. Answer- she jumped before the garbage hit his head, and as soon as she was in the air, we go basar mei'ikara, so she was like dead. But as far as the garbage, you go basar tvar mana, according to Tosfos that when you throw the thing its like broken, but when you throw at the thing, you don't go basar mei'ikara.

  12. Does anyone Know whereit is written up?(and did Reb Chaim Actualy Say it?)

  13. I'm glad I brought you joy, Chaim. I enjoyed your post on Hadlaka. I am annoyed, however, that what I humbly thought was a singularly brilliant observation, in my piece on the Urim VeTumim directly below this post, went utterly unnoticed.

  14. Fascinating story. Regarding the female term for Talmidim chacham, I think talmidah chachama is inaccurate (although grammatically correct) for the following reason. Talmid chochom could either mean a talmid who is a chochom or the talmid of a chochom. From the fact that in the plural we say talmidei chachamim instead of Talmidim chachamim we see that the second pshat is the correct one. Accordingly, the female form would be talmidas chochom. YO

    1. I thank you. And while that wasn't the case here, what if her teacher is also a woman?

  15. Talmidas Chachama, I suppose.