Perushim

Perushim

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The Perushim were disciples of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 Elijah ben Solomon Zalman
Vilna Gaon
Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna and simply by his Hebrew acronym Gra or Elijah Ben Solomon, , was a Talmudist, halachist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries...

, who left Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 at the beginning of the 19th century to settle in the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

, then under Ottoman rule
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. They came from the section of the community known as mitnagdim (opponents of the Chassidic movement
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

) in Lithuania.

The name perushim comes from the parash, meaning "to separate", because this ascetic group attempted to separate themselves from what they saw as the impurities of the society around them. This was the same name by which the Pharisees
Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...

 of antiquity were known.

Influenced by the Vilna Gaon
Vilna Gaon
Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna and simply by his Hebrew acronym Gra or Elijah Ben Solomon, , was a Talmudist, halachist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries...

, who wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael but was unable to do so, a large group of his disciples and their families, numbering over 500, were inspired to follow his vision. Enduring great hardships and danger, they traveled to and settled in the Holy Land, where they had a profound effect on the future history of the Yishuv haYashan. Most of the perushim settled in Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

, Tiberias and in Jerusalem, setting up what were known as the Kollel Perushim, and forming the basis of the Ashkenazi
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 communities there.

Journey to the Holy Land


The perushim began their journey from the city of Shklov, about 300 kilometers southeast of Vilna in Lithuania. The organization they formed was called Chazon Tzion ("Prophecy/Vision [of] Zion
Zion
Zion is a place name often used as a synonym for Jerusalem. The word is first found in Samuel II, 5:7 dating to c.630-540 BCE...

"), and was based on three main principles:
  1. Rebuild Jerusalem as the acknowledged Torah
    Torah
    Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

     center of the world,
  2. Aid and speed the ingathering of the Jewish exile, and
  3. Expand the currently settled areas of the Land of Israel.


The perushim migrated in three groups. The first group left in 1808 led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov, and the following two in 1809, led by Rabbi Sa'adya Ben Rabbi Noson Nota of Vilna, and Rabbi Israel of Shklov.

They traveled via Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 on foot and by horse and wagon, and then sailed by boat to Acre. The trips lasted about fifteen months, and the travelers suffered many hardships, including starvation. The journey was made all the more dangerous because of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 that were raging across Europe.

Safed



Reaching the shores of Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, however, was not the end of their journey. When the perushim first arrived, they faced a ban on Ashkenazi Jews settling in Jerusalem. The ban had been in effect from the early 18th century when, as a result of outstanding debts, the Ashkenazi synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s of the Old City had been forcibly closed and many Ashkenazim were forced out of the city and barred from returning.

While some managed to evade the ban by entering Jerusalem disguised as Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the Spanish Inquisition. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy or would otherwise define themselves in terms of the Jewish customs and...

, most of the perushim journeyed on to Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

, where they joined a strong Sephardi community that was already there. Besides the Sephardim, the community included many Hasidic Jews
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

, with whom the perushim had an ongoing feud. However, the two groups set aside their ideological differences and worked hand in hand to settle the land and develop their community and eventually intermarried.

Because flourishing agriculture was seen as a sign of Redemption, the immigrants had brought agricultural implements with them, so that they could observe the biblical commandments
Mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 connected to working the soil in the Holy Land.

Safed in the first quarter of the 19th century was a bustling town of over five thousand Jewish inhabitants, but was still struggling to recover from the devastating Near East earthquake of 1759
Near East earthquake of 1759
The Near East earthquake of 1759 was a devastating earthquake that shook a wide region in November, 1759.-See also:Historical earthquakes...

. The physical and economic conditions under which its inhabitants lived were extremely harsh. The community was nearly destroyed by a horrific plague in 1812, and they continued to suffer murderous attacks by Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s and Druze
Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

. The community was further diminished by the catastrophic Galilee earthquake of 1837
Galilee earthquake of 1837
The Galilee earthquake of 1837, often called the Safed earthquake, was a devastating earthquake that shook the Galilee on January 1, 1837.-Impact:...

, which killed thousands of people throughout the region. It leveled the city of Safed and seriously damaged Tiberias. Over 4,000 people perished, including about 2000 Jews and 200 members of the perushim community in Safed.

Jerusalem


Believing that the catastrophe was a direct product of their neglect of Jerusalem, the surviving members of the perushim community in Safed decided that the only hope for their future in the Land of Israel would be to reestablish themselves in Jerusalem. However, entrance to the Jerusalem could only be gained once the decree against Ashkenazim had been annulled. The perushim could then reclaim ownership of the Hurva Synagogue
Hurva Synagogue
The Hurva Synagogue, , also known as Hurvat Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid , is a historic synagogue located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem....

 and its surrounding courtyard and homes, sites that were historically Ashkenazi property.

The refugees succeeded in renewing the Ashkenazi presence in Jerusalem, after nearly a hundred years of banishment by the local Arabs. The arrival of the Perushim encouraged an Ashkenazi revival in Jerusalem, which until that time had been mostly Sephardi.

By 1857, the perushim community in Jerusalem had grown to 750 people. Rabbi Yisroel of Shklov, who had moved to Jerusalem in 1815, became one of the leaders of the new community. In the interests of strengthening the Yishuv
Yishuv
The Yishuv or Ha-Yishuv is the term referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel...

("settlement") and its economic base, Rabbi Yisroel corresponded with and met Moses Montefiore
Moses Montefiore
Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, 1st Baronet, Kt was one of the most famous British Jews of the 19th century. Montefiore was a financier, banker, philanthropist and Sheriff of London...

 regarding the establishment and funding of agricultural settlements in the vicinity of Jerusalem. As a result, members of the perushim community were among the first to settle in the new neighborhoods of Nahalat Shiv'a and Mishkenot Sha’ananim
Mishkenot Sha’ananim
Mishkenot Sha’ananim was the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, on a hill directly across from Mount Zion...

, the first Jewish areas established outside the old walls of Jerusalem.

Influence


The aliyah
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

of the perushim had a widespread and ongoing effect on the Jews in Palestine. They spread the teachings of the Vilna Gaon, which had a considerable influence on Jewish thought and religious practice amongst the Ashkenazi community. They also set up several kollel
Kollel
A kollel is an institute for full-time, advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature. Like a yeshiva, a kollel features shiurim and learning sedarim ; unlike a yeshiva, the student body of a kollel are all married men...

s, founded the first dozen or so neighborhoods in the New City of Jerusalem, including the neighborhood of Mea Shearim
Mea Shearim
Mea Shearim is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Israel. It is populated mainly by Haredi Jews and was built by the original settlers of the Yishuv haYashan.-Name:...

, and were instrumental in rebuilding the Hurva Synagogue
Hurva Synagogue
The Hurva Synagogue, , also known as Hurvat Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid , is a historic synagogue located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem....

, which had lain in neglected ruin for 140 years.

See also

  • Edah HaChareidis
  • Haredi Judaism
    Haredi Judaism
    Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

  • Neturei Karta
    Neturei Karta
    Neturei Karta is a Haredi Jewish group formally created in Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine, in 1938, splitting off from Agudas Yisroel...

  • Hastening Redemption
    Hastening Redemption
    Hastening Redemption: Messianism and the Resettlement of the Land of Israel is 1997 history of on nineteenth century Haredi migration to Palestine prior to Zionism by Israeli historian Arie Morgenstern.-Scholarly impact:...

  • Mitnagdim
  • Avraham Wolfensohn
    Avraham Wolfensohn
    Rabbi Avraham Wolfensohn was a Jewish rabbi, Talmudic judge and leader of the Askenazi community in Safed, Palestine in the middle of the 19th century.-Biography:...