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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Klal Yisrael’

The Twelfth Siyum HaShas Of Daf Yomi

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

This coming Wednesday evening, August 1, will see the largest convergence ever of American Jewry at a daf yomi Siyum HaShas celebration. The event, the Twelfth Siyum HaShas, to be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford in the New Jersey Meadowlands, is sponsored by the Daf Yomi Commission of Agudath Israel of America.

The concept of daf yomi, a daily daf study of each of the 2,711 folios of the Babylonian Talmud, was the brainchild of the Lubliner Rav, Rabbi Meir Schapiro, zt”l, and was both unique and historic when it was first proposed at the Knessia of Agudath Israel in Vienna, August 16, 1923. It meant to unite Jews worldwide in a daily study regimen that would reach its completion every seven years and five months. Needless to say, the project received the overwhelming support of the delegates, who saw this as an opportunity not only to unite world Jewry in one study program but also to assure that all tractates of the Babylonian Talmud would be studied.

While previous siyumim were held on a somewhat grand scale in Eretz Yisrael, in America it would only be in June of 1975 that the first large gathering, the Seventh Siyum, was held in New York’s Manhattan Center with an attendance of 5,000. Realizing that daf yomi was fast taking hold, the Daf Yomi Commission began planning for a larger venue that would accommodate the expected larger crowd at the next scheduled Siyum event.

In reporting on the subsequent siyumim, we cull from archives of The Jewish Press. The Eighth Siyum HaShas was held Sunday, November 14, 1982, in New York’s Felt Forum, where 10,000 people assembled in the presence, and with the participation of, gedolei haTorah, to complete Shas, studying the last folio of Tractate Niddah and then starting the next daf yomi cycle by studying the first mishnah in Tractate Berachos.

The Torah personalities participating in the program were the late Bluzhever Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Spira, zt”l, who said that limud daf yomi serves as a link to the nearly decimated Polish Jewry; Rabbi Shimon Schwab, zt”l, rav of K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, NY; Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, zt”l, Rosh Hayeshiva Telshe (Wickliffe, Ohio), who referred to daf yomi as the hatzalah of Klal Yisrael; the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, zt”l, who delivered the hadran (completion) of Shas; and Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, the patriarchal rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Torah Vodaath, who began the ninth cycle of daf yomi by reading the first mishnah in Berachos.

The program concluded with Cantor David Wedyger’s recitation of Kel Malei for all the kedoshim brutally murdered by the Nazi beasts during the Holocaust. He then led the singing of “Ani Ma’amin.”

The Jewish Press also reported on the new innovation by Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum, zt”l, the Dial-a-Daf program, a telephone subscription service that became a very popular aid for daf yomi learners.

A portion of the crowd from the 1990 siyum at Madison Square Garden, in the May 10, 1990 issue of The Jewish Press. (Photo by Sender Schwartz UMI)

In 1990, with an even larger crowd anticipated, the venue was changed to the Madison Square Garden Arena in Manhattan. Indeed, on April 26, 1990, 20,000 people gathered for an event that Rabbi Chazkel Besser, zt”l, described as reminiscent of ma’amad Har Sinai.

Torah personalities participating in this program were the rav of New Square, Rabbi Moshe Neuschloss; the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow; Rabbi Shimon Schwab, one of the few to speak in English; Rabbi Yosef Harari-Raful, Rosh Yeshivat Ateret Torah (representing the ever-growing Sephardic community); the Phladelphia rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Elyah Svei, zt”l; Rabbi Osher Greenfeld, rav and rosh kollel, Imrei Chaim Vizhnitz in Montreal; Rabbi Aharon D. Dunner, dayan of Hisachdus Ha’kehillos in London; Rabbi Elyah Fischer, rosh kollel of Gur; and Rabbi Zvi Spira, Bluzhever Rebbe.

The Tenth Siyum HaShas, Sunday, September 28, 1997, saw a large assemblage re-converge not only at Madison Square Garden but at a second location as well, the Nassau Coliseum, with 25,000 people at the former location and 20,000 at the latter.

The two events, which were connected via large screens in live hookup, featured the following Torah personalities; Rabbi Chazkel Besser; Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, the evening’s chairman; Rabbi Yosef Frankel, Violepolla Rebbe; Rabbi Moshe Sherer, the late president of Agudath Israel; the Novominsker Rebbe; Rabbi Mechel Silber, rosh yeshiva, Zhvil in Eretz Yisrael, who was honored with the hadran; Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, rav of the Telzer Minyan in Boro Park; Rabbi Portugal; the Skulener Rebbe; Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Rosh Yeshivas Tifereth Jerusalem; Rabbi Herschel Schachter, rosh kollel, Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan; Rabbi Kassin, chief rabbi of the Syrian Sefardic community; Rabbi Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, the Matersdorfer Rav; Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh Yeshivas Ner Yisroel; Rabbi Elyah Svei; Rabbi Nosson Scherman, general editor of the ArtScroll Talmud, which has proven to be quite instrumental in the learning of daf yomi; Rabbi Avrohom Pam, Rosh Yeshivas Mesivta Torah Vodaath, who began the 11th cycle; Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Halberstam, the Klausenberger Rebbe; Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon, mashgiach, Beis Medrash Govoha, Lakewood; Rabbi Yissachar Frand of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore; and Rabbi Eliezer Ginsberg, rosh kollel Mirrer Yeshiva and rav of Agudas Yisrael Zichron Shmuel in Flatbush. Cantors BenZion Miller and Yisroel Wulliger also graced the session with their heartfelt renditions.

HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, ZT”L

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

The Jewish Press joins Klal Yisrael in mourning the death last week of HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, widely recognized as the Torah world’s foremost authority on Jewish law for nearly three decades – a scholar who set the tone and direction for resolving its most complex issues and who in many ways defined an era.

Formerly a senior official in the Israeli religious court system, he eventually became recognized as the Ashkenazi posek hador. Even seasoned and accomplished authorities came to appreciate and rely on his vast scholarship, extraordinary intellect and analytic gifts. He was known for directing a penetrating gaze at visitors, resting his head on his hand, attentively listening to questions and delivering short and sharp answers.

Following the passing of HaRav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach in 2001, Rav Elyashiv began to assume a leadership role in the secular affairs of the haredi community in Israel. He served as the spiritual leader of the Degel HaTorah/United Torah Jewry Party which sought to further the interests of Israel’s haredi population through concessions from the government in return for its often key political support.

May his memory be a blessing.

The Draft Controversy In Israel

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

A comment by Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz the other day set us thinking about an element in the draft debate that could only manifest itself in an Israeli context.

Mr. Mofaz spoke at length on the issue to Israel TV’s Channel 2 , saying he believed the government could successfully put together a bill to replace the Tal Law, which largely exempts most full-time adult yeshiva students from army service but which the Israeli Supreme Court recently struck down. Then, in a follow-up interview with Channel 10, he added that service “is part of our DNA as Jews.”

Surely he was referring to the obligations citizens in a democracy have to their government and its institutions, particularly its military component. But non-Jews also bear that trait as well. Could it be that the devoutly secular Mr. Mofaz thinks the Jewish version is special?

Many are aware of the Jewish concept of areivus, which is loosely translated as the visceral tendency of Jews to take care of one another. In fact, it is more than that.

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah says a person who keeps all the mitzvos but doesn’t share in the travails of Klal Yisrael “will have no portion in the World to Come.”

The famed Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, alluded to that in a discussion of why someone who had already made Kiddush on Shabbos was still able to make it for someone else who had not yet heard it. It is not, he said, a berachah levatalah – a superfluous berachah – because all Jews are interconnected parts of a whole, so that the failure of someone to hear Kiddush constitutes an original obligation on the part of the person making Kiddush for him.

To those of us who believe that “Jewish DNA” is reflective of the Torah in every respect, we must accept that all Jews are entitled to each other’s protection. To be sure, part of the continuing draft conflict in Israel is the lack of universal acceptance of the notion that learning Torah provides protection for Jews even as does serving in the IDF. But both sides of the divide accept the obligation of areivus. And that is certainly notable.

It is interesting, and perhaps not coincidental, that the outlines of the agreement being seriously considered calls for a five-year draft deferment for all haredi young men learning in yeshivas with an additional delay or even a lifetime exemption available for exceptional students. One cannot fail to note how closely this formula tracks the typical conversation that prospective mechutanim have about how long their son or son-in-law will be supported in kollel.

This is an important development in terms of addressing the conundrum of dealing with the prospect that a Jewish state would institutionally limit the time a Jew can spend learning Torah. Relatedly, we hope it also reflects a willingness to provide full accommodation of the religious needs of haredim and others who are observant.

Balak: The Attempted Takeover

Friday, July 6th, 2012

We often sit through the haftorah wondering, “Why do we read the haftorah anyway?” Krias HaTorah of the parsha makes sense—we read a portion of the Chumash each week so that we finish the entire Torah over the course of the year. But we’re not reading a portion of Navi each week so that we can finish all of it on some kind of schedule.

The purpose of the haftorah is for us to become familiar with insights and themes from the Navi. The goal of this column is to enhance that familiarity.

Let’s play a bit of word association.

I will mention a word and you will relate (to yourself) the first words that come to your mind.

Micha.

Can I guess what you thought of?

Wicked? Idolatrous? Story of Jews’ failure at the time of the Shoftim?

Something like that, right?

Well, all that is true. There was an idolatrous man during the Shoftim era with a famous idol, pesel Micha, that many Jews worshipped. But there was another Micha as well, the Navi Micha in Trei Asar, the Twelve Prophets. This Micha lived at the time of the more famous prophet, Yeshaya, at the time of the first Beis HaMikdash.

We read from the 5th and 6th perakim of Micha for this week’s haftorah and while sometimes the link between parsha and haftorah is not perfectly clear, here Micha mentions the episode of Balak and Bilaam attempting to curse Klal Yisrael and Hashem thwarting their plans. In fact, Micha helps us understand the true gravity of the threat a potential curse from Bilaam posed.

We may be tempted to read Parshas Balak as a quaint, if not comical story of two classic, almost cartoon-like characters trying to accomplish something and things never seem to go their way. But the way Micha describes the event, Klal Yisrael was in great danger and needed Hashem’s special salvation to escape the wrath of Bilaam.

Micha reports what HaKadosh Baruch Hu told him to tell Klal Yisrael as to why they should strengthen their service to Him. What are the “talking points” G-d wants mentioned? The miraculous splitting of the Yam Suf? The manna? Revelation on Har Sinai? The sun stopping in Givon? Nothing of the sort.

“I brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slaves. I sent Moshe before you [to lead you] and Aharon and Miriam with him. My people, please remember the terrible things that King Balak of Moav planned to do. And remember what Bilaam, Beor’s son, answered him. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal. Then you will know [and remember] the righteousness of Hashem.” (Micha 6:4-5)

Apparently, from all the varied events Hashem could have wanted Klal Yisrael to recall the most powerful is the story of Bilaam’s curse.

Why? Aren’t the follies of Balak and Bilaam a harmless and almost entertaining event?

Apparently not.

Though it may not appear this way on the surface, Bilaam had a strong relationship with Hashem. As the midrash writes (paraphrased from Tanna d’bei Eliyahu, Rabbah, Chapter 28): “In one regard, Bilaam’s prophecy had an advantage which Moshe Rabbeinu’s did not. He saw Hashem’s ways more clearly.” In addition, Berachos 7a tells us Bilaam knew how to calculate when Hashem would be “angry” and more susceptible to the midas hadin which could be utilized against Klal Yisrael.

Obviously, the fact that Hashem revealed Himself to Bilaam was not some random act. Think about the following.

The Rambam says (Hilchos Yesodei Torah 7:1): “Prophecy can only be received by one who is extremely wise and learned, has mastered proper character traits, never lets his evil inclination overpower him in any matter in the world, and battles and defeats his evil inclination constantly.”

This must be true for Bilaam as well. Otherwise, he could not have merited prophecy. The Bilaam we know of is post-prophecy. Before Bilaam became a prophet, he was super-righteous, holy, kind, and godly. He would analyze and criticize his own actions and continually work to grow spiritually. However, once granted prophecy, Bilaam was unable to handle it. Prophets are not created in a vacuum; the only reason Moshe became the greatest of all prophets was because the spiritual genetics of the Avos, Imahos, and the entirety of Klal Yisrael produced a Moshe. Lacking a solid spiritual structure, Bilaam was not able to deal properly with prophecy and became corrupt and wicked.

My Machberes

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky Welcomed
At Torah Vodaath Dinner

On Sunday, June 17, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath celebrated its 93rd annual dinner at The Palace in Boro Park.

Having miraculously survived major medical emergencies, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky had been joyously welcomed by roshei yeshiva at his home, at the yeshiva, at the kashrus office of the OU, and now, dramatically, at the YTV dinner.

Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky

His voice strong, Rabbi Belsky movingly told of Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Heshel Twersky, zt”l (1895-1987), Machnovka Rebbe. For many years in Russia he defied the Communist authorities by teaching Torah and chassidus. After World War II, he was asked by Soviet authorities to be the chief rabbi of the Soviet Union. He refused and was exiled to Siberia. In 1965, being the last chassidishe rebbe there, he received permission to leave the Soviet Union and emigrated to Bnei Brak in Israel.

Upon his arrival, thousands of chassidim welcomed him and joined with him in tefillah. At the repeat of Shemoneh Esrei, he turned toward the mispallelim. A chassid whispered to him that chassidishe rebbes, as opposed to ordinary shul rabbis, face the mizrach (Eastern) wall during tefillah. The Machnovka Rebbe whispered back that after 30 years of not having seen Jews praying, he would not be denied that pleasure.

Machnovka Rebbe, zt”l

Rabbi Belsky emotionally shared that he now knows how the Machnovka Rebbe felt. The spellbound audience of more than 1,200 people at the Dinner then knew exactly what Rabbi Belsky felt.

 

Fountainhead of Torah in America

With its long and distinguished history, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath stands out among the growing number of citadels of Torah learning in America. The yeshiva was established in September 1918 by a small group of observant immigrant parents in Brooklyn, led by Reb Binyamin Wilhelm zt”l (1886-1974), who were deeply concerned about Torah education for their children in their new country.

The United States was a true haven for the industrious, pioneering immigrants, offering every liberty and opportunity except that of a Torah education. The parents desired that their sons have the same opportunity to mature in traditional Torah learning as their counterparts in their old European hometowns and shtetls. Twenty students comprised the opening class. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, joining in 1920, served as the yeshiva’s first menahel.

As Jewish immigration to America continued, Rabbi Shraga Feivel worked ever harder. The yeshiva quickly outgrew its temporary home at a small shul on Keap Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Other short-term lodgings were quickly outgrown until a new building was erected at 206 Wilson Street. In the years since the Yeshiva has become a true citadel of Torah in every sense of the word – with a campus on East Ninth Street in the Kensington area of Flatbush, a beis medrash facility in Monsey, an elementary school division in Marine Park, and two summer camps all serving a student body, from nursery to postgraduate kollel, that numbers nearly 2,000 students.

Since its inception YTV has had a profound effect on American Jewry. Its alumni continue to be found in every facet of life, as spiritual leaders of congregations, teachers in yeshivas, officers of religious organizations and businessmen and professionals. It continues to serve Klal Yisrael with its superlative Torah learning, led by gedolei Torah, as well as its superb elementary and high school departments of secular studies.

Dr. Bernard Fryshman, a professor of physics at Pratt Institute and the executive vice president of the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS) Accreditation Commission (he was the first university professor to wear a yarmulke during his lectures) reported, in a now famous letter to Rav Pam, zt”l, that YTV alumni were found in the leadership of almost every observant Jewish organization in America.

The Legendary Rosh Yeshivas

The succession of roshei yeshiva that have taken part in YTV’s Torah glory, forming a golden chain of tradition, is truly impressive:

● Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanow, zt”l (1885-1960)
● Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l (1886-1948)
● Rabbi Nesanel Quinn, zt”l (1910-2007)
● Rabbi Dovid Lebowitz, zt”l (1889-1941)
● Rabbi Yaakov Kantrowitz, zt”l (d. 1945)
● Rabbi Moshe Dov Ber Rivkin, zt”l (1895-1976)
● Rabbi Nosson Eliyahu Gertzulin, zt”l (1919-2006)
● Rabbi Gedalia Schorr, zt”l (1910-1979)
● Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, zt”l (1892-1945)
● Rabbi Mordechai Wulliger, zt”l (1895-1995)
● Rabbi Moshe Steinmetz, zt”l (1912-2009)
● Rabbi Avrohom Pam, zt”l (1913-2001)
● Rabbi Elazar Kahanow, zt”l (1917-2002)
● Rabbi Aaron Yeshaya Shapiro, zt”l (1910-1981)
● Rabbi Simcha Sheps, zt”l (1908-1999)
● Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky, zt”l (1896-1956)
● Rabbi Elya Chazan, zt”l (1908-1982);
● Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l (1891-1986)
● Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Yoel Traube, zt”l (1918-2008)
● Rabbi Asher Katzman, zt”l (1916-2004);
● Rabbi Moshe Rosen, zt”l (d. 1957)
● Rabbi Shmuel Kushelevitz, zt”l (d. 1963)
● Rabbi Elya Moshe Shisgal, zt”l (d. 1973)
● Rabbi Reuven Fain, zt”l (1924-1993)
● Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Waintraub, zt”l

The names of these preeminent roshei yeshiva reverberate wherever Torah is treasured. Many of them authored sefarim that are ever present on the shtenders (book holders) of roshei yeshiva and Talmudic students around the world

They were the predecessors to and colleagues of Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky, Rabbi Elya Katz, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rabbi Yosef Savitsky, Rabbi Yitzchok Sekula, and Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, today’s roshei yeshiva at Torah Vodaath.

Honorees

The dinner’s honorees included Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Cywiak, Guests of Honor (in tribute to Mr. Cywiak’s mother, Mrs. Chana Cywiak, and in memory of his father R’ Elchonon Cywiak and Mrs. Cywiak’s parents, R’ Shlomo and Pessel Snow, z”l); Mr. and Mrs. Moti Davis, Parents of the Year; Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Feit, Shearith Haplaitah Award; Mr. and Mrs. Avrumi Haas, Moreinu Harav Pam Ohev Torah Award; Rabbi Zalman Leib Hollander, Harbotza Torah Award; Dr. and Mrs. Harvey Rosenfeld, Professional Alumnus Award; Rabbi and Mrs. Joel Skurnik, Rabbinical Alumnus Award; Mr. and Mrs. Moshe Dovid Stahl, Alumnus of the Year Award; and Rabbi and Mrs. Shlomo Wilhelm, Moreinu Horav Yaakov Kamenetsky Memorial Award.

Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, rosh yeshiva Kaminetz in Jerusalem and member of the Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Israel, received the Kesser Torah Award.

Yeshiva Torah Vodaath’s 93rd Dinner

Born in 1922 in Pittsburgh, which at the time had no yeshivas, Talmud Torahs, or other organized Jewish education, Rabbi Scheiner was a student in the city’s public schools. Sent to the Catskills for health reasons, he was introduced to the yeshiva world at Camp Mesivta. He “enlisted” in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and became a student of Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, zt”l, and Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky, zt”l. Rabbi Grozovsky was a son-in-law of Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz, zt”l (1864-1939), rosh yshiva Kaminetz. That relationship ultimately brought Rabbi Scheiner to his present position as rosh yeshiva Kaminetz in Jerusalem, which has an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, kein yirbu.

In addition to the recognition bestowed on the honorees, appreciation was given to YTV’s graduating classes of 1952 (60th Anniversary), 1962 (50th Anniversary), and 1987 (25th anniversary) with many graduates serving today as rabbis, rosh yeshivas, professionals, and dedicated laymen.

Gedaliah Weinberger, renowned Torah activist, served as Dinner Chairman, and Rabbi Yoel Ehrenreich served as Dinner Coordinator. Chaim H. Leshkowitz is YTV’s chairman of the board. Shiya Hollander, Gedaliah Weinberger and Moshe Zafir comprise the executive committee. Rabbi Yitzchok Gottdiener heads the YTV administration and is outstandingly assisted by Rabbi Moshe L. Shochet and other important staff members.

Stereotypes And Responsibilities: A Ben Torah In Two Worlds

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

I have tried to lead a life in which the core values are Ahavas Torah and Ahavas Yisrael. To the extent I have succeeded I did so by taking an unusual route – one I do not generally recommend. I moved into the Torah world and Torah learning after I already had a sophisticated secular education and a clear path to a wide choice of prestigious professional opportunities.

I struggled mightily – I hope with some success – to crack the barriers of Talmudic text after I had a drawer full of Ivy League honors.

I write this not to make sure readers know my individual history, but as a preface to the message I’d like to convey – basically, that life and people are complex and in our day there is too much stereotyping to reflect the true complexities of whom we really are and the challenges we face.

Many of us understand the need to navigate the outside world, which includes making a living that enables one not only to support his or her family in dignity, but hopefully also to help others and to sustain our institutions.

What I’ve learned is that you don’t have to drag along either part of life in mediocrity. You can be truly excellent and committed in both parts of your life – the learning of Torah and the living of a Torah life (surely the first priority) and the conduct of a business or professional career.

Today there are role models all over the place: Great lawyers, doctors, bankers, builders of businesses, academics who at the same time are serious talmidei chachamim – individuals who make serious contributions to the Jewish world and live exemplary Torah lives.

There is no inconsistency between being a true ben Torah and having an outstanding career.

I want to make another suggestion about the avoidance of stereotypes and the responsibilities of bnei Torah.

Miracles are everywhere to those who see. And in my lifetime at least two very profound miracles have occurred to Klal Yisrael.

Seventy years ago the Jewish people helplessly stood by during the slaughter of forty percent of our population, which included a much higher percentage of the Torah world. Many of those not caught in the storm, especially here in America, were in denial, and those who weren’t seemed to have no idea how to stop the horror.

The infinitely rich Torah life of Eastern Europe appeared to have been obliterated. I am old enough to remember a time in America when the vast majority of Jews assumed that the Judaism we call Orthodox was inevitably flickering out, to be replaced by a new and totally assimilated and artificial form of Judaism.

Even in Israel, Ben-Gurion assumed that so few men would choose yeshiva deferments that he had no problem giving them.

Seventy years is a big part of our lives, but a fleeting moment in Jewish history.

Today, the reality confounds every prognosticator of seventy years ago. The number of people learning in major yeshivas in Israel, America and other parts of the Jewish world is staggering. Orthodoxy is by far the fastest growing segment of Jewry all over the world and the general Torah educational level of Orthodoxy is astounding.

Our young people are incredibly fortunate to have been brought up in this Torah world, and many of our ancestors who lived in immediate postwar America stare down from heaven in disbelief.

Second miracle: The Jewish people are helpless no more.

A Jewish government and a Jewish army control the Jewish homeland where every Jew has the right to live. And ultimately that army and that government protect every Jew in the world.

Primarily for this reason, the attitude of Diaspora Jews – including those of us in America – about our rights and our power to advocate for the protection of ourselves and of Jews in Israel and the rest of the world is completely different from what it was seventy years ago. We feel entitled and at ease arguing our case as a united Jewish community in the highest halls of government and power.

These two miracles, the revival of Torah and the control by Jews of our own homeland, are intrinsically related phenomena.

Storming The Gates Of Heaven For A Miracle

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

On January 31, my family’s world was turned upside down. I received a phone call from my mother early in the morning. “Go to Baltimore, your sister is sick. Daddy and I are flying up today [from Florida]. Her organs are shutting down. It’s bad.”

My mother had no other information. My sister had been sick for a couple of days. She thought she had the flu. My brother-in-law had taken her to the hospital the previous evening and she was receiving IV antibiotics.

I now packed for a trip I was afraid to take. I didn’t know what I would find once I arrived in Baltimore. A place that had always been a joy to visit, to see my sister and her family, now held the unknown and possibly my worst nightmare.

I sent a text to my cell phone contacts: “Please say Tehillim for my sister Chaya Esther bas Faiga Yenta – mother of 4 who was admitted to the hospital with flulike symptoms and now has multi organ failure.” I drove the three hours from New York City to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore saying Tehillim and crying. It was a miracle I arrived safely.

I will never forget sitting in the hospital with my parents and my brother-in-law and his family when the doctors told us my sister had been diagnosed with strep pneumonia, meningitis, DIC, endocarditis and multi-organ failure. They said she might not make it. I went to bed not knowing if I would be attending a levayah the next day.

For two weeks my sister was in the MICU. She was sedated, unaware how Klal Yisrael was davening for her complete refuah. We received dozens of texts on a daily basis from friends, family and people who had heard of my sister’s machlah and were davening for her. I received messages on Facebook from strangers in other countries who were praying for her.

Women baked challahs, shuls held Tehillim groups, children learned Torah – all in the hope my sister would recover.

Much of those two weeks are a blur now. I would sit at my sister’s bedside for roughly eleven hours each day reciting Tehillim, talking to her, rubbing her hands. My parents and brother-in-law would sleep at the hospital during the night while I went to my sister’s home to sleep. I told my sister numerous times while she was sedated, “You’ve gone viral! Thousands are saying Tehillim and davening for you! Please come back to us.”

Our prayers were answered. Two weeks after my sister was admitted to the hospital, she emerged from her sedation. At first we didn’t know if her illness would affect her brain; Baruch Hashem, it hadn’t. Days after the infectious disease doctor informed us my sister had a growth on her heart (the endocarditis), she came back and told my family, “I can’t find it. I just don’t know where the growth went.”

Slowly my sister’s kidneys and liver began to function again. When the top pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins came to drain fluid from my sister’s lungs, he told the family the fluid had basically drained itself. Nissim – miracles – were happening.

One morning I quietly stood behind the doctors in the MICU as they spoke of my sister. The wonderful resident who had been treating her from the moment she’d been admitted said, “The family is what’s pulling her through. They are here 24/7 and encourage her so much.” She had no idea I was standing close by but in my mind I said to her, “The family is Klal Yisrael. We are storming the gates of Shamayim.”

Storm the gates we did. My family and I continue to receive calls, texts and e-mails from people telling us they are davening so that my sister recovers b’karov. The frum community of Baltimore came together with offers to cook dinners, watch my nieces and nephews, clean for Pesach, drive carpool, and more. Friends of the family sought out gedolai hador to ask for berachos for my sister’s refuah.

Baruch Hashem, my sister is doing well, recuperating at home with her family. Every time I look at her I see a miracle. The doctors gave her hours to live and here she is speaking, eating, visiting with friends and family. All because of Klal Yisrael’s tefillahs and Hashem’s chesed.

My Machberes

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/my-machberes/my-machberes-20/2012/06/07/

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