Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rav Yisroel Salanter's Non Descendants - A Lesson In Caution

Earlier this week, a prominent Israeli, former chief of staff General Amnon Lipkin Shachak passed away. In one news report that mentioned it that passed by me, it was stated that he was a descendant of the great gaon and tzaddik, Rav Yisroel Salanter zt"l, whose surname was Lipkin as well.

I felt immediately that something was wrong, as a number of years back, perhaps when he became רמטכ"ל, I recalled that the same claim was made, but was then corrected by someone who pointed out that he was actually of Chassidic descent. Doing some quick research earlier online brought this out clearly. I will lay it out right here, for all to see.

1) Go to the Hebrew Wikipedia page of General Shachak - http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/אמנון_ליפקין-שחק

In the beginning there, in the biography section, you will see that he was descended from Yitzchak Lipkin, a builder of neighborhoods in Yerushalayim.

Click on Yitzchak Lipkin's name there, which will take you to his Wikipedia page, http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/יצחק_ליפקין

It says clearly there, that he was the son of a Chassid of R. Aharon of Karlin. And that he married a woman from the Chassidic settlement in Chevron (which I think was Lubavitch, but not 100% sure).

So we see that he was of Chassidic descent, not descended from R. Yisroel Salanter.

In addition to the assertion that he was descended from R. Yisroel not being correct, we also have to be careful before making such claims, as it is not a kavod, an honor to the great Gaon and Tzaddik, R. Yisroel, to be associated with someone who was, lo aleinu, as far as I know, not considered 'dati', although he did do great mitzvos, like fighting to protect Yidden, which he of course deserves much credit for.

I am reminded also of a somewhat similar case from a few years back, in which it was claimed that a famous person in the frum community, a choshuve Yid who goes around inspiring people to live lives of Torah and Yiddishkeit, who grew up not-religious, may he be well and have koach to continue his important work for many years, was also descended from Rav Yisroel, based upon the fact that his mother's maiden name was Salant. Some people assumed that if her name was originally Salant, and she came from that town, she was descended from Rav Yisroel Salanter zt"l. But actually that claim fell apart, when it was pointed out that Rav Yisroel Salanter's surname was not Salant, but rather Lipkin, in addition to other difficulties with it.

The lesson from this is that there is a temptation at times to connect people to gedolim, especially such giants like Rav Yisroel. But one must be careful, as it possible to make great errors while doing so, unwittingly.

Update: This post was written the other day. At that time, the Hebrew Wikipedia page, did not, as it does now, state that Gen. Shachak was descended from R. Yisroel. It seems that someone has just added that info to that Wikipedia page, as well as to the Hebrew Wikipedia page of R. Yisroel. However, note that they have no source for the claim! They write it and then it says דרוש מקור (source needed)! It seems to me to contradict the other info given there earlier (which remains posted along with the new addition) actually, so I am maintaining my skepticism at this time, and will try to clarify the matter further.

Further update, the next week: I see now that the dubious claim of descent from Rav Yisroel was removed from the Wikipedia page. ב"ה. Whoever corrected it, thank you.

P.S. See also subsequent post, which elaborates on the first part of this one, Why Amnon Lipkin-Shahak Was NOT A Descendant of Rav Yisroel Salanter

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