Shimon Gershon Rosenberg
Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg, ( שמעון גרשון רוזנברג ) (13 November 1949 - 11 June 2007), known by the acronym הרב שג"ר HaRav Shagar, was a Torah scholar and a religious postmodern thinker. His thought was characterized by Neo-Hasidism and postmodernism. In 1996 he established Yeshivat Siach Yitzchak, in Efrat and was the head of the establishment until his death.
He was born and raised in Jerusalem, to Shalom Zelig and his wife, Holocaust survivors. He learned in the grade school, Neve Etzion, in the neighborhood of Bayit Vegan and continued his studies in the high school, Netiv Meir, and in the Hesder yeshiva Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh. In 1973 he began to learn in Mercaz HaRav Kook, as well as with Rabbi Shlomo Fisher and Kabbalists. In the same year he married Miriam Ziv. After his wedding he began to learn in the Kollel of Yeshivat HaKotel. He received his nickname Shagar in high school when one of his rabbis saw the first letters of his name on his Tallit bag and was meant as a joke.
Harav Shagar was badly injured during the Yom Kippur War in the tank battles in the Golan Heights. His tank took a direct hit and two of his comrades who were also with him in yeshiva were killed instantly. He himself was badly burnt and with great difficulty was saved. After recovering from his injuries he returned to his studies. He received rabbinical ordination in the beginning of 1976.
In the 1980s he was a dominant figure and teacher in Yeshivat HaKotel and even filled in for the head of the yeshiva, HaRav Yeshayahu Hadari, for a year (when HaRav Yeshayahu Hadari took a sabbatical). Due to the uniting of a group of students and internal politics he quit his job teaching at the yeshiva. In 1984 he established the higher yeshiva "Shefa". At the head of the yeshiva stood together with him Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and Rabbi Menachem Froman. It was established with the goal to make room for newer understandings in Judaism. With him came a group of his students from Yeshivat HaKotel. In a later stage the yeshiva helped establish the high school yeshiva Makor Haim. Yeshivat Shefa closed with his leaving in 1988. In 1989 he was for one year the head of the Beth midrash Ma'ale - the Center for Religious Zionists together with Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun and Professor Shalom Rosenberg. In 1990 Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom established the Beit Midrash of Beit Morasha and appointed HaRav Shagar to lead it together with Rabbi Eliyahu Blomenzweig. At the end 1996 he established Yeshivat Siach Yitzchak together with Rabbi Yair Dreyfus, he was the head of the yeshiva until his death. Also at the same time he functioned as the head of the Beit Midrash "Uri" and taught at Midreshet Lindenbaum. He lived in the community Kiryat Moshe in Jerusalem, he was also married with six children. In February 2007 it was discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. This caused him to have to leave the yeshiva in order to undergo treatments. He and his wife moved to live in the moshav Givat Yeshayahu, in so doing they actualized a dream of many years. His writings he gave to his friend and head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yair Dreyfus, in order that they may be gotten ready to be printed. In an evening that was held so that his health would improve on the 21 of May 2007, an institution was established in order to bring his writings to light. HaRav Shagar died a month later on the 25th of Sivan 2007, and was buried in the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery. In 2012 a movie came out by Rabbi Mordechai Verdi entitled, "To Chase After the Shadow", that dealt with the figure of Harav Shagar.
Thought and perception
HaRav Shagar was a spiritual figure with his origins in the thought of Religious Zionism. His book Broken Vessels: Torah and Religious Zionism in Postmodernity was an attempt to give a religious response to postmodern trends in today's world, claiming that they can be included within a Torah worldview. HaRav Shagar accepted parts of the postmodern claims and identified in them ideas and contents that appear in the Kabbalah and in Hasidism. He claimed that specifically the Deconstruction, that he identified as the "breaking of the vessels" as found in Kabbalah, opens up for people a religious option, for it gives man the ability to freely create his religious world. This stance brought much criticism from those[who?] who saw postmodernism as alien to Judaism and therefore opposed letting postmodernism into the Beit Midrash.
According to him, optimism is a giving up and escape from accepting life as it is. He doesn't hide his shaking faith that he lives with and in light of this he sometimes reformulates main traditional beliefs. He sees this as part of the progress and improvement of religious devices seeing their flexibility (breaking the vessels), as he portrays in his book Broken Vessels".
HaRav Shagar's understanding emphasizes the individual-spiritual aspect of life in Israel. and not just the national aspect. He saw a need that people learning in yeshivot will integrate their lives in many other areas, and not just the army or their jobs. HaRav Shagar encouraged his students to engage in the arts and he himself wrote and published poetry. HaRav Shagar drew a lot from Hasidic teachings. This relation to Hasidism characterizes most of his students.
In 2005, with the background of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, he signed together with many rabbis from the Religious Zionist denomination a letter which expressed opposition to the plan. He did, however express clear opposition to the disobeying of orders by soldiers. He actively participated in the organization B'Magale Tzedek. In the political spectrum HaRav Shagar opposed withdrawing from the Samaria and Judea. At the same time he recognized the "Messianic Occupation" and the firm need to make peace. He said of himself, "I don't define myself as a rightist or leftist, rather as a practicalist". As a continuation of historiosophy from the school of HaRav Kook, in his sermons for Independence Day, "On this Day" HaRav Shagar identified the development Israeli democracy to be a multiculturalism and multi-national democracy as the next stage in the redemptive process. The multiculturalism and multi-nationalism are for him an entry for a mystic consciousness of containing plurality and divisions. Because of this he wished for the breaking of the binary thinking between the left and right in Israeli discourse.
His students and influence
His books and his ideas are mostly in the area of new Hasidism developing in the Religious Zionist community. His books are learnt mostly in the yeshivas that are thought to be more progressive, and his thought has not extensively broken into the nucleus of the Religious Zionist yeshivas. His language and areas he dealt with have gained appreciation from academic and artistic institutions, and many of his students engage in these areas.
- Rabbi Benni Kalmanzon, and Rabbi Amiram Olami - founder and heads of Yeshivat Otniel
- Rabbi Dov Zinger head of Yeshivat Makor Haim
- Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandeis head of Beit Morasha
- Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman - Rabbi of Congregation "Yakar" in Tel Aviv
- Rabbi Benny Perl
- Rabbi Ohad Teharlev - Head of the Israeli program at Midreshet Lindenbaum
- Ohed Ezrachi - Teacher and spiritual guide
- Rabbi Dr. Naftali Moses - Translator of Two of Rav Shagar's Books into English
- Rabbi Dr. Zvi Leshem - Director of the Scholem Collection at the National Library of Israel
- Dr. Zohar Maor - Lecturer in History at Bar-Ilan University and Editor-in-Chief of Rav Shagar's Books
- Professor Zvi Mark - Hasidic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
- Dr. Ze'ev Kitzes- Zusah Hasidic Stories Research Project
- בצל האמונה, בדרה באספך מעשיך
- למשל מושג ההשגחה בספרו צל האמונה בדרשה מרחב לאמונה, ובספרו ביום ההוא בדרשה לזמן הזה
- הרב שג"ר, קידוש השם ומאורעות זמננו, בתוך מים מדליו, ביטאון מכללת ליפשיץ, ה', ירושלים תשנ"ד, עמ' 62.
- ביום ההוא: דרשות ומאמרים למועדי אייר, בדרשה והיה ביום ההוא
- שם, בדרשות 'חוק ואהבה' ו'שלום ירושלים'
- Ephraim Chamiel, Between Religion and Reason - The Dialectical Position in Contemporary Jewish Thought, Academic Studies Press, Boston 2020, part I, pp.168-176.