יום חמישי כ"ג בחשון תש"פ 21/11/2019
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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In I got It!

Rav and ‘Aluf’

The biblical understanding of the word 'Aluf' differs from the usage today.

N. Lieberman 18/10/2009 09:00

The word ‘aluf’ is used today to denote a commissioned officer in the armed forces; historically, and in the written Torah, it has had other similar and also more disparate meanings.

Where the word ‘aluf’ first appears in recorded history, it is in fact used in a similar way to that in which it is used today. This is in Chumash Bereishis, chapter 36, verse 40 and onwards; “And these are the names of the chieftains of Eisav according to their families and the places of their residence; the chief of Timna, the chief of Alva….” Here the title ‘aluf’, translated as ‘chief’, denotes the head of a tribe, (here those descended from Eisav,) the one who held power over his tribe and region.

By around 1500 years ago, the title ‘aluf’ had altered in its meaning. From having been used in a specifically materialistic sense, to denote a physical leader of people, it had evolved to its new usage as a spiritual leader. Thus in Babylon at this time, ‘aluf’ suggested a great talmid chacham, whose position of authority in the yeshiva was third, after the Rosh Yeshiva and the deputy Rosh Yeshiva.

The role of the ‘aluf’ in the yeshiva was that of transmitting the words of the Rosh Yeshiva to the students, and as such, the ‘aluf’ was also the ‘Rosh Kalla’ in the ‘Yarchei Kalla’, the bi-annual months of learning for those who could not learn full-time all year long. This institution was established by Rav in the Sura Yeshiva in Babylon, a tradition which is also in existence today.

In Babylon, seven ‘alufim’ would sit opposite the Rosh Yeshiva, in the front row, and the three deputies would sit at their side. The Rosh Yeshiva gave his shiur and the ‘alufim’ would engage him in debate, and after the shiur was over, they would explain and dissect the material for the students.

The position of ‘aluf’ was one that was inherited from father to son, and the holders of the title were according great honour, honour such as that given to other talmidei chachomim, and not by virtue of any material sense of the position. HaRav Saadia Gaon (4642 – 4702, 882 – 942 ce) was one of the ‘alufim’, in the yeshiva of Pumbedisa.

Today, the title has reverted to its original more prosaic sense of physical leadership, its spiritual connotation having been mostly lost. As such, ‘aluf’ denotes an army officer, and also carries the sense of a ‘champion’, for instance, as ‘world chess champion’ etc..