I first met Hersh Rasseyner in Jerusalem in 1994. (Of course that wasn’t his name, but that hardly matters. A Hersh Rasseyner is a Hersh Rasseyner.) He and I were both students in the Bronfman Youth Fellowship, a Jewish text study program for teenagers that, like the Novaredok yeshiva of old, gave special importance to ethical elements of Judaism—in particular the idea of maḥloket leshem shamayim, argument for the sake of heaven. Students, selected for their passion for Jewish study and their divergent religious outlooks, were encouraged to hone their middot, character traits such as humility and patience, by debating their theological differences with profound respect. We did, like the Lithuanian Musarnik Hersh Rasseyner in Chaim Grade’s story, at all hours.
An Immortal Character in Jewish History
Hersh Rasseyner is inescapable. The guy-yelling-at-you figure reappears in each generation, going back to when even Moses pulled a “Hersh” for the entire book of Deuteronomy.