Short history of
Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim
A general overview of the development of our holy Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim of Lubavitch
by the editors of HaTamim
(on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary)
Forty years (5657–5697 [1897–1937]) have passed since the international holy institution, Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim, was first established in Lubavitch by our holy master and rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn (of holy and blessed memory).
The history of the holy yeshivah may be divided into two general periods: a) the period when the yeshivah was located in Russia, between the years 5657 and 5681 [1897–1921]; b) the present period, since 5681, when the yeshivah is located in Poland.
Under the influence of the holy yeshivah’s great founder, and later under the influence of the founder’s son, the Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn) shlita, the present leader of Chassidei Chabad, the yeshivah has grown and developed. The student body now numbers four or five hundred.
During its first twenty-four years [in Russia] our holy yeshivah shone with twofold brilliance: the revealed aspects of Torah, and the teachings of Chabad. It was an ever more powerful source, from which thousands of students drew their spiritual sustenance. During this first period, the yeshivah produced hundreds of rabbis and geonim, expert shochtim, and thousands of Torah scholars who excel in learning and in fear of Heaven. Some of them are businessmen, and others are simple laborers, but all have spread their wings in the fields of Torah and avodah. The influence of their spirit extends to those around them. They do honor and glory not only to their spiritual source, Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim (which raised such distinguished sons), but also to traditional Jewry at large.
The yeshivah suffered many upheavals and exiles under the Soviet regime. At the same time, it also suffered under the wicked decrees and persecutions of the Yevsektzia. But the Rebbe shlita stood constantly on guard, using his utmost powers to fortify and support the yeshivah. With G‑d’s help, he succeeded in preserving the yeshivah’s existence, so that it could continue to disseminate the Torah and to enroll large numbers of students.
In the year 5681, on the yahrtzeit of its founder (whose soul is in Gan Eden), the yeshivah moved to Poland, where it could expand. Multitudes of students from all parts of Poland and neighboring countries began pouring into Warsaw, the yeshivah’s new headquarters. They had come to bask in the glory of this famous institution.
The yeshivah moved to new quarters several times, to provide the ever-increasing number of students with more spacious and comfortable accommodations. The yeshivah also opened branches in several other cities of Poland and abroad. In 5696 , the central yeshivah (with its older students) moved to Otwock (leaving the three youngest classes in Warsaw).
Otwock is a famous resort town and health spa, not far from the capital. Here, the yeshivah has at its disposal several buildings (each with many rooms), located in a large park with cedar trees, affording a healthful environment. It goes without saying that the fresh clear air and the quiet and restful surroundings, far away from the noise of the capital city, instilled a fresh spirit into the yeshivah. This raised the spirits of the students, and it had a beneficial effect on both their health and the progress of their studies.
There are now seven additional branches in various cities, all under the umbrella of the central yeshivah in Otwock-Warsaw. The total number of students in the central yeshivah and its branches comes to many hundreds (may their numbers increase). They are delightful students, possessing acute mental faculties and perfect fear of Heaven. Whoever sees them knows them for “the children blessed by G‑d.”
The holy Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim is one of the largest yeshivos in the world, both in size and in stature. However, its nature and character as a Chabad yeshivah make it unique among all other yeshivos: [to use a metaphor,] the orchard is special, the trees are special, and the one who planted it and cares for it is special. Tomchei Temimim is not merely an academy for study and teaching; it is also a training facility, where Jewish youth are trained in Torah and avodah, so that Torah study and fulfillment of the mitzvos may be done with relish and inner vitality, and not merely by rote.
In a letter written to Anash on the occasion of the founding of our holy yeshivah, our holy founder described the yeshivah’s goals, to serve as:
A place where bochurim who desire to study may do so, and they may pursue diligent study of Gemara-Rashi-Tosafos. However, all this should be under proper supervision, so that the seeds of faith and piety may be implanted in their hearts. Their eyes should be lit up with the light of knowledge, so that they may understand G‑d, and know what G‑d demands of them: to serve G‑d and to follow in His ways. May the light of Torah, mitzvos and avodah shine within them, so that they gain merit both for themselves and for society at large.
The yeshivah adopted this as its goal, bringing up Jewish youth according to the spirit of the Torah as a complete entity, and the ways of Chassidus. This implies that in addition to studying the revealed aspects of the Torah, Gemara and Poskim, a special session was instituted each day for studying the Chabad approach to the teachings of Chassidus.
This study of Chabad Chassidus implants a firm foundation of love of the Torah and fear of Heaven in the student’s heart, through understanding and inner appreciation, and based upon their intellectual endeavors through wisdom, understanding and knowledge.
Thus, the student’s mind acquires broad knowledge and proper understanding of the essence and the inner meaning of Judaism. This also gives him the strength and fortitude to withstand the attractions of other ways of life, without even the slightest deviation from the straight path. Furthermore, through the inner strength of his soul, he also has the power and fortitude to influence his neighbors, and to prevent these foreign influences from gaining a foothold among them.
During the two generations of its existence, the yeshivah has fulfilled its great mission on the highest plane. Hundreds, even thousands, of exceptional Torah scholars, Temimim, are distributed throughout many countries. Wherever they live, they are recognized for their outstanding Torah study, their piety and their holy ways. Many also distinguish themselves by serving important and prestigious congregations in Europe and America as rabbis, roshei yeshivah, shochtim, and even influential businessmen who provide spiritual benefit to the public.
Thank G‑d, the holy yeshivah continues to grow from strength to strength, and the student population is continuously enlarging. Many great rabbis and rebbeim shlita who have visited our yeshivah have heaped acclaim and praise upon it and its eminent students, saying that the holy Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim is the pride and glory of traditional Judaism in general, and of all Anash in particular.
The yeshivah also sees to the physical needs of the students: bread and condiments, clothing and shoes, medical care and rehabilitation. The students receive all this in the most honorable way, and in the most cheerful spirits . . . [The article concludes with an appeal for funds.]