These photos of gedolim (world-class Torah luminaries) in their younger days should not be missed. They range from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th, and contain several dimensions of surprise. Some of the subjects are smart, rakish dressers. Some are members of a Zionist organization operating within a great Lithuanian yeshiva. Some display an informality rarely seen later in life. Many are clean-shaven.
The set will serve as a Rorschach test of attitudes towards change within the yeshiva world. Depending on their own leanings, some people will bemoan the increased uniformity and regimentation of later times. Some will see the intrusion into the Lithuanian orbit of Chassidic modes of thought, with its greater emphasis on demonstrable separateness. Others will see the opposite: a healthy decision to oppose the openness of more Westernized societies with a conscious decision to circle the wagons and protect what is inside.
Whatever your orientation, these pictures are a delight, and may very well change your view of life in the “holier” days of old. They will certainly inspire much discussion. [Thanks to Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat for mailing the link.]