Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin (The
The Netziv was Rosh Yeshiva of the famed
Volozhin Yeshiva for almost 40 Years until it was closed by the Russian
government in 1892. Founded by R. Chaim of Volozhin, the Yeshivah
flourished, increasing from 100 to 400 students.
As a young man the Netziv was
undistinguished, but by virtue of his extraordinary diligence grew to
become one of the greatest scholars and leaders of his time. The prevalent
method of Talmudic study was that of deep analysis of the "sugya"
(topic) at hand. The Netzivs approach was to immerse himself in all the
relevant passages from the entire Tannaitic
literature, always striving to go back to the earliest sources. Similarly,
he paid special attention to the Gaonic literature and the earliest
Rishonim, who were closer to the Talmudic period. He believed only in this
manner could the text being studied be properly understood. His approach
was strongly encouraged by R. Dovid Luria.
The Netziv emphasized study of Chumash and
Nach and gave a shiur on the weekly parsha every day after morning
prayers. He was an early supporter of the Chovevei Tzion movement and
strongly supported the resettling of Eretz Yisroel. However, he was
opposed to the selling of the Land for the Shemittah year. Contrary to the
view of Rav Hirsch he opposed separate communities.
During the Netzivs time in Volozhin the
Yeshiva produced great scholars, including R. Issur Zalman Meltzer, The
Dvar Avrohom, Rabbi A. Shapiro, R. Avrohom Y. Kook,
R. Moshe M. Epstein and R. Zelig R. Benges.
The Netzivs works include his famed
commentary on the Sheiltos of Rabbi Achai, his Commentary on the Song of
Songs and Meishiv Davar, a collection of his Responsa.
The Maskilim could not bear the success of
the Yeshiva and constantly sought its demise. Their continuous barbs were
noted by the government who demanded that the Yeshiva curriculum and hours
of study be completely revamped. It is often said that the Yeshiva was
closed because of the Netzivs refusal to permit secular subjects to be
studied. The fact is that the governments demand were such that if
adopted the Yeshiva would have totally lost its character. For example,
one of the demands was that secular subjects be studied until 3:00 PM and
that night study cease.
Left with no choice the Netziv felt compelled to close the Yeshiva. His entire existence was linked to the Yeshiva and after its closing his health began to decline. He passed away less that two years after the closing. His two sons were Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan.
(Based on a biographical sketch, by Matis Greenblatt)
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.