Page 139 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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Zalman Shazar
u st ice
w ro te
t h a t
every man had a “stream of tend­
ency” in his character and actions, derived from his education
and experiences. Zalman Shazar was the first to admit that his
“stream of tendency” had been formed by the rivulets of his
childhood experiences. Born in Mir, Russia in 1890, Schneor
Zalman Rubashov was three years old when his family moved
to the small neighboring town of Steibtz after a disastrous fire
destroyed much of Mir. As he declares in his autobiography,1
the next eleven years were crucial to Israel’s future third Presi­
dent: “What I absorbed then was sealed in my spirit by the fire
of love and the inspirations of those first days has been with me
ever since.” The first source of his upbringing was his family.
Shazar was related to famous rabbis and scholars on both sides;
son of Yehuda Leib Rubashov, whose father and grandfather
were distinguished members of the Chabad movement, he was
named after the founder of the Lubavitch dynasty. The second
source was the town itself. As Shazar lovingly recounted in
ing Stars,
Steibtz was pervaded by the traditional erudition,
naivete and aspirations of the classical East European Jewish
shtetl. It also had the good fortune to boast of several excellent
teachers and scholars, from whom Shazar learned Bible and
Talmud. My grandfather, the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak,
Maskil-leEtan, of sainted memory, was then its rabbi for a short
time. When my father, Reuven Katz, of blessed memory, the late
chief rabbi of Petah-Tikvah, came to my grandfather’s home as
his son-in-law, husband of his daughter, my mother, Rachel, may
she rest in peace, Shazar studied Talmud under him in the great
synagogue. Although the Jews of Steibtz were mostly impover­
ished laborers with large families, “these simple, unlearned
1 Zalman Shazar,
Morning Stars
(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society,
1967), p. 3.