Harav Shagar, z”l

Harav Shagar (Shimon Gershon Rosenberg) passed away last might at the age of 57, after a battle with illness. He was the head of Yeshivat Siach Yitzchak, a Hesder Yeshiva in Efrat affiliated with Ohr Torah Institutions. The funeral is taking place as I write these words, and he will be laid to rest on Har Ha-Zeitim.

Rav Shagar was known as a very innovative Rosh Yeshiva. That he was one of the first to bring academic Talmud into the Beit Midrash masks the fact that his goal was for students to be able to “feel” the Gemara – to get at the ethics and values which underlie the sugya, that he was trying to find the soul of the text. In general, he brought a very personal type of spirituality into Torah study and personal development. His yeshiva was one of the first in the ‘kipa serugah’ world to incorporate elements of Chassidut, meditation, and introspection.

Several volumes of his works have been published. For the most part, they consist of lectures that he delivered in his yeshiva, which his students later reworked into book form. I own and have read part of the book ‘Keilim Shevurim’ (broken vessels). The book is exciting because it looks honestly at the at the postmodern condition as it relates to Israeli society and the ‘Dati Leumi’ community in particular, and sincerely attempts to construct a religious alternative within that world. It may be several generations before the mainstream catches up with him.

An article that Haaretz did on him a few years ago emphasized the fact that he did not allow politics to become a core part of his religious personality. He had his political views and opinions, and they may have even been informed by his religious sensibilities, but he adamantly refused, and considered it dangerous, to look at political dilemmas under the rubric of issur ve-hetter. See here and here for other English-language descriptions of his unique approach.

Yehi Zikhro Baruch.

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