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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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The View From The Beis Medrash


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 Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan: A Day Of Tefillah

Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan has become a day of yom tefillah, when klal Yisrael davens for various, diverse things.

There is a famous tefillah composed by the Shelah, comprised of several tefillos ensuring that our children continue on the path of kedushah, that many people recite on that day. The organization Ichud HaKehilos has arranged for this day to be one whereby many people can come together to daven for the sanctity of our homes and communities.

This effort began a year ago on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan with a large asifa at Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens. Approximately sixty thousand men attended that asifa, and thousands more listened via hookups. It successfully raised awareness of tens of thousands of people about the dangers of the Internet and other relatively new social devices that many people in society deem harmless. It was made clear at that event that if one does not absolutely need to have access to the Internet in one’s home, it should not be there. It was espoused that searching for shopping sales is not a legitimate reason to have the Internet in one’s home, and that its dangers far outweigh the few dollars one might save on a sale. Finally, anti-Internet proponents said, if one decides to have Internet use in his home, a filter must be installed.

Since that asifa, there have been several smaller events held in different communities and schools. Ichud HaKehillos has organized several asifos this past week in numerous cities in order to raise awareness about and to daven for the sanctity of our communities. These asifos have been called “Haddar Kibulah,” referring to the Gemara in Shabbos that describes that at Mattan Torah the Bnei Yisrael were coerced into accepting the Torah and that in the time of Mordechai and Esther they reaccepted it willingly (haddar kibulah).

The crowd at last week's asifa.

The crowd at last week’s asifa.

An asifa was held at two Lakewood, New Jersey banquet halls, Ateres Chana and Lakewood Terrace. Words of hisorerus and guidance were offered, in light of the spiritual challenges presented by technology – specifically the Internet.

At this event, tehillim were led by Rav Aharon Schustal. Speakers included Rav Malkiel Kotler and Rav Matisyahu Salomon, rosh yeshiva and mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood; Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, rosh yeshiva, Telshe and Mesivta of Lakewood; and Rav Elya Brudny, rosh yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva, Brooklyn. Thousands of men attended while thousands more joined this event via live hookup.

Another asifa attended by thousands of men was held last Thursday night in Boro Park at the 18th Avenue Park on 57th Street. The crowd heard words of inspiration from a number of speakers, including the Skulener Rebbe; Rav Dovid Olewski; Rav Yosef Laufer; and Rav Kalman Halberstam. Rav Moshe Wolfson led the recitation of tehillim, and the Rachmastrivke Rebbe led Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shamayim.

Following in this effort, the organization Venishmartem arranged for a “filterthon” this past Sunday in Rabbi Landau’s shul on the corner of Avenue L and East 9th Street in Brooklyn. Professionals were available all day to assist with the installation of computer filters.

Also on this past Thursday night, an asifa raising awareness of the Internet’s dangers was held at the Rockland Boulders Stadium in Pomona, in Rockland County, New York. Rav Ephraim Wachsman, considered by many to have been the most effective speaker at last year’s Citi Field gathering, addressed the male crowd of thousands. The attendees davened for klal Yisrael’s ability to maintain kedushah during these times of moral impurity.

 Haredi And Dati Rabbanim Unite On Kosel Controversy

In a move to counter Women of the Wall, a Reform women’s group that dons talleisim and tefillin on Rosh Chodesh while carrying the Torah at the Kosel HaMa’aravi, a new group of women – Women for the Wall – have been working to restore the sanctity of the holy site.

This new group called on all women who value the Kosel as a holy site, and who value the thousands of years of Jewish tradition, to go there at 6:30 a.m. on Rosh Chodesh for the purpose of davening and saying tehillim for klal Yisrael. This action would counter the great dangers to Torah and Judaism posed by the Reform women’s group. The goal is for these Bnos Yisrael to arrive before the Women of the Wall, and show the Israeli government and world media that the vast majority of women who wish to pray at the Kosel oppose any changes to tradition.

On April 24 an Israeli court reinterpreted existing laws, ruling that these Reform women can perform their own customs, such as wearing prayer shawls and tefillin without fear of being arrested. In light of this ruling, the Women of the Wall were allowed for the first time, this past Friday, to wear talleisim at the holy site. Prior to that legal decree, the Women of the Wall had been arrested for causing unrest, provocation and disruption, and for violating Orthodox traditions at a holy site.

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, approached HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, about this new initiative. Both gedolim lauded its importance, with Rav Shteinman adding that this must be done under the strict condition that there be no violence, chas v’shalom.

The Women for the Wall have received the endorsements of many leading rabbanim representing the haredi and dati leumi communities. They include HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America; Rishon LeTzion HaRav Shlomo Amar, shlita; Rav Yitzchak Berkovits; Rav Shmuel Eliyahu; Rav Zev Leff; and Rav Dov Lior.

While haredi and Mizrachi leaders have many disagreements regarding the “equal share of the burden” military draft issue and overall relations with Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid, they have formed a united front against the practices of Women of the Wall. (It is unfortunate, in the view of many, that it takes a crisis like this for both camps to realize the importance of achdus.)

This unprecedented unity among these rabbanim against the Women of the Wall’s tactics has included the issuance of a letter calling for the disallowance of liberal female worshippers to daven at the Kosel. The letter, signed by Rabbis Zalman Melamed, Chaim Druckman, Shmuel Eliyahu, Shlomo Aviner, Zvi Tau and Avigdor Nebenzahl, includes a “holy call” on public figures in Israel and abroad to not permit a small group to offend the thousands of worshippers who regularly pray at this sacred place. The rabbis have ruled that “the Kosel belongs to every single Jew wherever he is, but we must all know that like every public place, the Kosel also has conduct and prayer orders – both in the men’s section and in the women’s section.”

HaRav Shteinman asked schools to allow haredi schoolgirls to protest peacefully at the Kosel by filling up the women’s section with those women who adhere to the customs of religious Jews. Following this call, teachers and students from yeshiva high schools and girls’ schools went to the Kosel on Friday. The United Torah Judaism faction called on haredi schoolgirls to recite their prayers in honor of their first trip to the holy site’s women’s section on Rosh Chodesh Sivan.

The haredi/dati leumi plan was for haredi men and women to flock to the Kosel on Rosh Chodesh Sivan (last Friday) before 7 a.m. for a mass prayer. The hope was that this would block the site (including the women’s section), in a “natural manner,” for the Women of the Wall to enter the premises.

However, Israeli police held back the thousands of religious Jews who tried to drive the liberal women worshippers from the Kosel. This marked a shift in the authorities’ handling of this situation. Friday’s prayers were the first in weeks in which police avoided any showdown with Women of the Wall, whose members have been detained in the past.

 

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