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My Machberes

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Rav Belsky’s Homecoming

On Thursday, May 31, a joyous event unfolded in front of a modest home in Kensington, Brooklyn. The roshei yeshiva, administrative staff, and students of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath gathered to welcome home Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky, shlita, revered rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaath; kashrus authority for the OU; one of America’s foremost poskim (to whom questions of halacha are directed from all over the world on a daily basis); author of Shulchan Halevi, Einei Yisroel, and Piskei Halachos; and rav of Camp Agudah.

Roshei yeshiva waiting at Rabbi Belsky’s home.

His recovery from a serious illness had been accompanied by the earnest tefillas of all of Klal Yisrael. The crowd burst into song and dance upon Rabbi Belsky’s appearance.

On Monday, June 4, at 11 a.m., the roshei yeshiva, maggidei shiur, chavrei hakollel, bachurim and young talmidim were all in front of the yeshiva to greet Rabbi Belsky with music and dance as they escorted him back into the beis medrash. The intensity of emotion was overwhelming. Many cried tears of joy as they sang and danced.

* * * * *

Late Motzaei Shabbos Yisro, February 11, Rabbi Belsky had undergone corrective surgery for a ruptured esophagus and collapsed lung. Tehillim and tefillas were recited for Yisroel ben Chana Tzirel.

Thursday, February 16, was designated by the yeshiva as a day of learning dedicated to the recovery of the rosh yeshiva. Due to complications, additional surgery had been scheduled for that day. The special learning seder in the yeshiva that had been designated for that evening as a zechus l’refuah now assumed even greater importance. A special phone line was set up for information regarding the rosh yeshiva’s recuperation.

Talmidim at the steps.

On February 22, based on the news that Rabbi Belsky’s condition had become critical, an emergency call to all of Klal Yisrael was issued for everyone to immediately be mispallel. The 24-hour period that followed was critical and carefully monitored.

On Thursday, February 23, the Torah world was gratified to learn that the rosh yeshiva had experienced a stable night. His condition remained critical and everyone was urged to continue davening and to perform mitzvahs as a zechus for a complete and immediate refuah.

On that Thursday morning, at kriyas haTorah, the name Chaim was added as the traditional hoped-for harbinger of a full recovery. Tehillim and tefillas were thereafter continuously recited for Chaim Yisroel ben Chana Tzirel in yeshivas and shuls throughout the world. Every step of recovery was shared and celebrated.

That evening, a special Tehillim teleconference was arranged through the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. An urgent kinnus Tehillim was held at Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin (Agudah of Avenue L). Immediately prior to the Tehillim recital, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, rav of the shul, and Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, rosh yeshiva Torah Vodaath and rav of Agudas Yisroel Zichron Chaim Zvi of Madison, delivered messages of inspiration.

In Israel, talmidim of the yeshiva gathered together on Friday morning, Rosh Chodesh Adar, February 24, at the Kosel HaMaaravi to recite all of Tehillim for a refuah for Rabbi Belsky. A call was issued for as many people as possible to join the Tehillim event. Rabbi Efraim Glassman, s’gan menahel of the yeshiva, was in Israel at the time and helped organize the kinnus. Simultaneously, Lakewood alumni of Torah Vodaath gathered for Tehillim and learning.

The rosh yeshiva speaks to well-wishers.

On Motzaei Shabbos Terumah, February 25, Khal Bnei Torah (Rabbi Benzion Schiffenbauer’s shul) held a Tehillim kinnus and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation had a Tehillim teleconference led by Rabbi Lazer Ginsberg. In addition, kinusei tefillah for a refuah shelaimah were held at Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin (Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, rav); Beis Medrash Ohr Gedalyahu (Rabbi Dovid Stamm, rav); Khal Bnai Avrohom Yaakov (Rabbi Moshe Bergman, rav); Khal Bnei Torah (Rabbi Benzion Schiffenbauer, rav); and Kollel Bnei Torah (Rabbi Yosef Eisen, rav)

On March 2 a report circulated concerning real progress in Rabbi Belsky’s condition. The community was encouraged to continue being mispallel that the rosh yeshiva would have a speedy and complete recovery.

The yeshiva’s Purim chagiga, ordinarily a lively affair, was held after Ta’anis Esther instead of Purim night, “reducing somewhat the level of simcha in light of the medical condition of the rosh hayeshiva.”

On Shushan Purim, encouraging news emanated from the hospital and was widely embraced: The rosh yeshiva was “breathing more or less on his own with very limited use of the ventilator.” In addition, Rabbi Belsky was “also getting out of his bed, sitting in chair, and even starting to walk a little bit.”

On Sunday, March 11, Rabbi Belsky was breathing on his own and feeling stronger.

On Wednesday, March 11, the Torah world learned that the rosh yeshiva had been taken off a ventilator and was out of the bed for several hours at a time. Hospital visits to Rabbi Belsky were possible but had to be pre-approved and prearranged.

Two days later Rabbi Belsky was transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit and assigned a private room. The steady progress was heartening.

Improvement continued. Deluged by requests for visits, the family, on March 20, advised that those wishing to see the rosh yeshiva should wait until individually asked. The volume of calls was impossible to handle. Rabbi Belsky’s improving condition led to speculation of a release date. A need for a period of rehabilitation was anticipated.

On April 4, a slight fever interfered with a possible discharge to a rehabilitative facility.

Shortly afterward the rosh yeshiva was transferred to the Kessler Institute, a superlative health institute in West Orange, New Jersey. A minor setback forced Rabbi Belsky to return to an intensive care unit for observation. On Wednesday, April 25, the rosh yeshiva, carefully monitored, returned to the rehabilitation center.

At every step of recovery, Rabbi Yitzchok Gottdiener, executive director of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, shared news about Rabbi Belsky and his recuperation with Klal Yisrael.

In the weeks immediately prior to his discharge, though still weak, Rabbi Belsky resumed giving shiurim to a select small group. At the last shiur at the Kessler Institute he profusely thanked West Orange residents who walked almost an hour on Shabbos to ensure a minyan and to daven with him.

The news of Rabbi Belsky’s homecoming was celebrated by b’nei Torah throughout the world who had devoted so much prayer and performance of mitzvahson his behalf.

Torah Vodaath 93rd Annual Dinner

With the festive homecoming of Rabbi Belsky, this year’s annual dinner for the yeshiva becomes a really special event, to be attended by thousands who will come to share in the great joy.

An outstanding group of alumni, parents, and good friends of the yeshiva will be honored at the dinner, to be held June 17 at The Palace Hall in Brooklyn.

The theme of the evening, “Where Legendary Leadership Begins,” will feature awards to a select group of distinguished alumni who have made, and continue to make, a real difference in their communities.

The Kesser Torah Award will be bestowed on Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner, one of the world’s leading Torah personalities, who will be coming from Israel specifically to grace the dinner.

Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Cywiak will be the Guests of Honor, having accepted the tribute in honor of their parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Moshe Dovid Stahl will serve as Honorees.

Rabbi Zalman Leib Hollander will accept The 25 Year Tribute to The Class of 1987.

Sixty years of service to Klal Yisrael will be acknowledged as tribute is paid to the class of 1952, represented by Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Feit, Dr. and Mrs. Harvey Rosenfeld and Rabbi and Mrs. Joel Skurnik.

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