To Rise Above
To Rise Above is the incredible, true story of a young thirteen-year-old American boy brought by his mother surreptitiously to Eretz Yisrael in the 1920s to fulfill a dream - that he become a Talmid Chacham.
Alone, little Benny faces the daunting challenge of growing in Torah in an environment far different from his native home. In the telling, history comes alive: the shtetls of southern Lithuania; Seattle, Washington in the 1920s; Chevron Yeshiva, the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, and Rav Leib Chasman.
Step by step, Rav Dov Cohen rises in greatness to become a Gadol b'Yisrael and an influential builder of Yiddishkeitin the nascent Jewish state.
Based on personal interviews and writings, extensively indexed, and with over 600 rare photographs and documents, here is a unique, fascinating and inspiring tale of spiritual triumph in the face of adversity.
|Number of pages||750|
|Binding type||Hard Cover|
- American born Jews becomes a Yerushalmi Talmid ChachamThe greatness of Klal Yisroel, the Jewish nation is epitomized by the life story of Rabbi Dov Cohen, a remarkable but mostly anonymous talmid chacham (Torah scholar) who in the course of his own long life did not seek public renown. In a note to the reader at the beginning of the book, an unnamed family member writes:
“Our father, Moreinu HaRav HaGaon Rav Dov Cohen, zt”l, author of Seder HaShulchan (three volumes) was a living repository of Torah, wisdom, mussar, and yiras Shamayim. He was like a brimming pitcher of wine that overflowed, filling up its environs. He constantly showed us how to live a Torah life with integrity, based on his own life experiences and what he had learned from his great rabbanim.”
“To Rise Above” not only tells the fascinating story of a dedicated Torah scholar who successfully raised his sons to follow in his derech haTorah, faithful Torah lifestyle, but also deeply explores in great detail the Litvak background and heritage of Rabbi Cohen’s parents and ancestors. The children and grandchildren of the biography’s subject did detailed research on life in Lithuania at the turn of the 20th Century, a small community when compared to Poland or Russia’s Jewish communities, but nevertheless rich in great Torah luminaries, including the Vilna Gaon, Rav Chaim of Volozhin and Rav Yisroel Salanter.
Like most of the 2,000,000 Jews who immigrated to America between the deadly Russian pogroms of 1881 and till 1924, when new U.S. immigration laws closed our shores as a safe refuge for our co-religionists; Rabbi Cohen’s parents came to America, first stopping off in South Bend, Indiana before arriving at Seattle, Washington.
And it was there in Seattle, that Dov or Benny as he was called by his family and friends grew up and was raised until shortly after his bar mitzvah. Dov’s mother wanted so much for her children to remain true to the Torah heritage she remembered and respected from Lithuania. And it just wasn’t happening because of the great allure of the American melting pot.
A rabbi in Seattle recommended to his mother that Benny be sent to study in a top yeshiva in Yerushalayim. Mind you, this was back in 1925 before the advent on jet plane travel and the average ocean voyage on a ship was measured not in days but weeks. Dov’s mother with her husband’s consent embarked on what probably everyone in Seattle considered to be an insane journey.
An insane it was. When the mother and son arrived in the Holy City after a long and exhausting sea journey, the truth of how ridiculous the suggestion was became a bitter pill for the mother. Her son was in no up-to-par and able to fit into that yeshiva. However, Hashem made miracles possible and Benny or Dov wound up being enrolled in Yeshivas Chevron, an offshoot of the famed Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania.
From his memoirs, the children and grandchildren record the amazing and life changing episodes of how Dov despite great difficulty adapted to life in the Chevron yeshiva and overcame the challenges of being the youngest student and the pains of loneliness to make the changeover from pampered American teenager to an incredibly dedicated Torah scholar who probably was much more like a Torah scholar of his period who had been born in either Europe or Eretz Yisroel.
Perhaps the most fascinating and indeed the most painful section of the book are his memoirs of life in the Chevron Yeshiva and how he survived the deadly Arab massacre of Jews in the holy city where our Avos (Patriarchs) and Imos (Matriarchs) are buried.
Afterwards, he records how despite the great hardships of the War of Independence when Jews in Jerusalem were under deadly siege and afterwards the challenge of supporting a family, he and his wife persevered and in the golden years were able to enjoy nachus, pleasure from the children, grandchildren and even greatchildren. The biography also records his four years as first Chief Chaplain of the Israel Air Force when he went head-to-head against the secular generals to demand that the kitchens on the Air Force bases be truly kosher.
“To Rise Above” is full of documentation, which the average reader might just choose to skip over. If you are a buff of Jewish history, this easy-to-read book will give you many valuable insights into Pre-War Jewish life in Lithuania, the United States and in Eretz Yisroel. One comes away today with a greater appreciation for just how much easier it is to live a frum Torah life in a style that our grandparents and great-grandparents could never have imagined possible when they were growing up.