Page 129 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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Meir Bar-Ilan
On the Occasion of the Centenary of His Birth
c io n
o f
t h e
m o st
illustrious of rabbinic families in Russia, Meir
Bar-Ilan (Berlin) was born on April 10, 1880, to the head of the
Volozhin Yeshiva, R. Naftali Zvi Berlin (1817-1893), known as
Ha-Netziv, when the latter was 62 years old. Though he was
orphaned at 14, Meir was infused with the spirit of his sire
throughout all of his lifetime, for his father was not only a Rosh
Yeshiva, a talmudic genius who devoted himself to gaonic lit­
of R. Ahai Gaon) but one who was also concerned
with incisive biblical interpretation (in his
H a ’amek Davar).
Netziv was also close to the Hibbat Zion movement and encour­
to Palestine. When the Russian government shut the
Volozhin Yeshiva in 1892, he even hoped to settle in the Holy
Land but his health prevented the fulfillment of his plan. Meir
Bar-Ilan carried forward his father’s love for learning and educa­
tion, and his devotion to communal affairs and Zion. He was
therefore often called
ha-nasikh le-vet Volozhin,
the prince royal of
the Volozhin dynasty.
Meir studied at Volozhin, Telshe and Brisk, where he came
under the influence of R. Hayyim Soloveitchek, and then in
Navaredok where his maternal grandfather, R. Jehiel Michal
Epstein, the author of the
Arukh ha-Shulhan,
the latest halakhic
code, was Rosh Yeshiva. Very early Meir dedicated himself to
religious Zionism, and in 1905 at the 7th Zionist Congress he
expressed strong opposition to the Uganda proposal. He then
devoted full attention to the Mizrachi movement, becoming gen­
eral secretary at the world headquarters in Berlin. There he
edited the journal
Ha -lvri
(from 1910-1914; continued later in
America, 1916-1921).
Following the principles laid down by the first head of Miz­
rachi, Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines, and by Zev Jawitz, Meir Bar-Ilan