Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Where to Go From Here

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Israel continues to be pushed into a corner, and the corner keeps on getting smaller. Its enemies and friends who force them there keep on getting stronger. Last week, the noose around its tiny, though stiffened, neck tightened a little more.

It is an eis tzarah leYaakov, a very dangerous time for Jews. Ever since the announcement of the founding of Israel, Jews there have been in danger. Ever since Israel came into being, its neighbors have been determined to wipe it off the face of the map. Prime ministers come and go. They plot and plan, negotiate and speak in rising oratory. They pledge fidelity to Western culture and democracy. They are drawn to battle and fight heroically. They seek peace in every way possible. They wonder why it proves elusive.

Being a Yid is a two-sided coin. The lamb that dwells amongst seventy wolves benefits from the remarkable love of her Shepherd, but has to deal with the open animosity and blood-lust of the wild beasts that encircle it.

The posuk at the beginning of Parshas Yisro states that Yisro heard and decided to join the Jewish people. What, asks Rashi, did he hear? Rashi answers that Yisro heard of two confrontations. It was his comprehension of the current events that drew him close. When he heard what transpired at Krias Yam Suf and milchemes Amaleik, he decided that he had to change the trajectory of his life.

Yisro heard about the extraordinary fashion in which Hakadosh Boruch Hu showed that His beloved children were above the laws of nature. He heard that Hashem had demonstrated that the most powerful force in creation, the raging sea, was there to serve His children. But Yisro also heard something else. He heard about the passionate hate and the hostility the nations of the world unleashed toward Klal Yisroel and the inexplicable campaign mounted against them when they were at their strongest.

Yisro understood that there are two indications of truth: the love from the Source of all truth and, inevitably, the hatred by people of deceit. They go hand in hand. They always have and they always will.

Given the historical context, we should never be surprised when the world’s superpowers foist upon tiny Eretz Yisroel illogical and totally unreasonable demands. This has been the historical, oft-repeated pattern.

Now, in 2011, the American president has reminded us of this timeless lesson. Israel should give up its buffer areas, such as the Golan Heights, he says loftily, speaking of compromise when, in fact, what he is asking for is a form of political suicide. It’s puzzling how the president, a supposed man of eloquence and depth, can say the words with a straight face, when the Palestinians and each and every country that surrounds Eretz Yisroel are committed to its destruction. What responsible world leader would urge a country to expose itself to potential genocide?

The wave of anti-Israel sentiment spreading across the new Middle East is a force that the president is well aware of, yet he seems to be facilitating it, rather than fighting it. He pledges, with his sweeping rhetoric, to help the poor Arabs in their quest for democracy and to assist them in their so-called “Arab Spring,” which will supposedly result in a more Western-friendly flow. In fact, what is raging through the Arab world is not a tsunami of democracy, but Islamic radicalism. Instead of fostering the cause of liberty throughout the Arab world, what has been accomplished is the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood, the parents of Hamas. Every government in the new Middle East is anti-Israel. It may not be conspirational and strange to conclude that the president is attempting to placate and reassure Muslims in an attempt to over-compensate for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

In his response to the president's speech on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sounded like a teacher chiding a hot-shot student, informing him of some basic facts that he seems to be ignoring. The well-educated president seems blind to the reality that Israel’s neighbors aren't interested in peace, but in the subjugation of Israel. His grasp of history seems weak. Doesn’t he know that Israel has already been there and done that, exchanged land in the hope of genuine peace, only to be disappointed? Doesn’t he know that all they’ve gotten in exchange for their good intentions is more danger?

In his remarks at the White House Friday, Netanyahu really said nothing new. He simply laid out the facts as they are. One could be forgiven for having believed that the president would have known those oft-repeated and studied facts without having to be lectured about them by the visiting prime minister. Netanyahu summed it up stating succinctly, “Mr. President, it’s not going to happen.”

In his remarks, President Obama created a moral equivalence between Israel and its neighbors, though Israel is a democracy which has repeatedly demonstrated that it desires peace. At the same time, the Palestinians have repeatedly shown in every way they can that they are not interested in peace. Their goal remains what it has been since 1948, namely to erase Israel from the map. They say so in their manifests and in their charters. They say so in their speeches. They say so in their school textbooks and they say so at every opportunity, yet the world chooses to ignore the obvious.

Despite the fact that the Palestinians don't disguise their agenda with nice platitudes, the world hides behind a blanket of blissful unawareness. It is morally repugnant for an American president to allow the ones engaging in this travesty the comforting notion that they have a friend in the White House.

What our president did, was invite his only real ally in the Middle East for dinner and effectively make sure that there was no place-card for him when he arrived. While Netanyahu was en route to America, the president very ungraciously undermined his position, making it ever more difficult for the prime minister to make serious diplomatic progress during his visit.

Instead of doing the proper thing and first discussing his position with the leader of an ally country, the president rushed to announce and deliver the speech which robbed Israel of its negotiating position, while equating their legitimate positions with those of a fictitious people bent on their destruction.

The lamb is all alone, again.

Now Israel is faced with danger from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Barack Obama. Egypt is about to be taken over by radical Islamists. Hezbollah has 50,000 rockets pointed at Israel from land Israel abandoned in Lebanon, because the world promised to send peacekeepers to the area and keep it weapons-rein. Bashar Assad of Syria is murdering protesters. Iran is going nuclear, locking up opposition figures, and hanging people.

The Gaza Strip, which Israel left at the urging of the United States and the rest of the world, and upon receiving written promises from the United States government that this would be their final sacrifice for peace, was supposed to be a test to demonstrate what would happen if the Palestinians got what they were asking for. Would the Palestinians prove worthy peace partners and create a democratic, peace-loving, productive, industrious area, which could lead to a successful state? Any objective observer would have to conclude that the experiment failed. Gaza has become an autocratic terrorist launching pad.

The big winner in all this positioning is the Muslim Brotherhood, who are committed not just to Israel’s destruction, but to the genocide of Jews. They are prepared to inherit Egypt and are active throughout the Middle East. If they are not stopped, they will take over the Arab world, and radicalism will flow, unchecked.

Stability in the Mideast does not begin by squeezing Israel into untenable borders and creating a new beachhead in that space. Stability will come when Iran and all its radical followers are stopped. Peace will arrive when reciprocity becomes the norm. Peace can only come when and if the Arab nations get used to the idea of a non-Islamic state on a small piece of property abutting theirs. It will only come when they recognize that they will not gain by constantly moving the goal posts without offering any concessions in return. Regrettably though, their strategy seems to be working as their tactics continue to bring them closer to their ultimate goal. Without any compromising, they have advanced from being exiled international pariahs to their current position on the precipice of receiving a recognized state.

Obama, on Sunday, tried to dial back what happened on Thursday and Friday. He said, “When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the Children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland.”

To the cheers of the receptive AIPAC crowd, who wanted to believe that Obama really is the friend of Israel they hope he is, the president went on to describe himself as an unshakeable, dependable friend, just asserting friendly candor, telling a friend the necessary, though bitter, truth.

Obama said some nice and important things, among them that "While we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.

"A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests… simply because we face common dangers."

America has "a profound commitment to Israel's survival as a strong, secure homeland of the Jewish people,” said Obama. “We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood.

"Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority... Make no mistake; we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge... Let me be absolutely clear - we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

"You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As I said at the United Nation’s last year, 'Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,' and 'efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.

"I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict… The United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate… the US will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric."

Obama reassured Israel and its American friends by saying, “No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements.”

He didn’t speak about land Israel has given up unilaterally since 1967 for which they have received nothing in return. He didn’t apologize for pulling the rug out from one of their last negotiating points, now that they are left with less to bargain with. He didn’t say that the Arab dream of dumping all the offspring of the Arabs who ran from Israel in 1948 into the Jewish country is an unrealistic demand which he cannot give credence.

He didn’t say that there is nothing at all sacrosanct about the pre-1967 borders, which were armistice lines never recognized as legal borders. He didn’t slam the proposed Palestinian peace partners for not abiding by the terms of the vaunted Oslo accords, which returned the murderous Arafat from exile and put him in charge of the West Bank and Gaza. He didn’t condemn the PA for indoctrinating its young and old to hate Israel and Jews, instead of preparing them for peace.

He didn’t say that the Arab states occupy land 650 times the size of Israel. He didn’t say that Israel requires the mountain ridges along the Jordan Valley to protect it against nations on the east who have invaded it in the past. He didn’t say that the country is entitled to borders with which to defend itself against its many enemies.

He didn’t speak about the repeated changes of his Thursday speech, and its timing, as Netanyahu was about to depart for a Friday meeting with him to discuss the very touchy topics between friends. Why did the president feel the need to rush out to the State Department and deliver that speech? Israel fought mightily with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to modify the president’s remarks. If this is essentially a dispute between friends, why the resistance to temper the affronting comments?

The real question for us should be: Where does all this leave us, Torah Jews?

By now, it should be painfully obvious that we do not have a friend in the White House. Additionally, the Jewish politicians, those liberal Democrats who seem so proud of their Jewishness and smilingly accept the awards bestowed upon them by fawning Jewish organizations, will do nothing to help the situation. Sure, they will fire off a ceremonial letter and maybe issue a quote to the media to placate their Jewish donors, but that’s it. They will never jeopardize their relationship with the president or dare challenge him behind closed doors. It is al tivtechu binedivim time all over again.

So that leaves us back where we started. Ein lanu al mi lehisha'ein...

The hate has no logical basis and is not grounded in reason, so reasoning with it will get us nowhere. We are alone, with neither friends nor allies. But we are not G-dless. With our eyes raised heavenward, we know what path to take. We know how to make Eretz Yisroel stronger - by strengthening the real Eretz Yisroel.

We know that this is done by seeing past the infrastructure, the shell of political Israel, and investing its inner core, Eretz Yisroel, with meaning and power. We accomplish that by injecting the spiritual nerves which run under the façade of the physical levush with new life. We achieve that by focusing on the tzurah of the holiest of lands and seeing past the chomer.

In Rav Shlomo Wolbe's classic work, Bein Sheishes Le'asor, he relates a conversation he had with the great Telshe gaon, Rav Mottel Pogromansky.

“I shared with him one of the last sichos I heard from admor Rav Yeruchem, the mashgiach of Mir, who had a deep love for Eretz Yisroel and would follow developments from there with great interest. In 1936, the mashgiach said that sinners would never succeed in building Eretz Yisroel [and] that Eretz Yisroel can only be built in a spirit of kedushah and with commitment to halacha,” writes Rav Wolbe.

“Rav Mottel responded, 'It's true. 'Oiffboi’en kennen zei nisht,' they cannot build it up, 'ubber boi’en, kennen zei,’ but they are still able to erect its physical shell. Now Hashgacha must sustain it.’”

These are remarkable words. Eretz Yisroel isn't the United Nations’ to negotiate, and not even Obama's to dictate to from the security of his fortress. It's ours oifftzuboi’en; no one else has that ability.

The lesson of Parshas Bechukosai which we read this past Shabbos rings in our ears. True peace, “Vehishbati chaya ra'ah... ushechavtem ve'ein macharid, and true serenity occur as a result of “Bechukosai teileichu. The blessings of peace are ours to earn.

So even while we daven for the success of those charged with representing political Israel, the shluchim for the 'boi’en', we focus inward, reaffirming our own commitment to strengthening the Torah infrastructure in that country, helping yeshivos, kollelim and organizations dedicated to spreading Yiddishkeit.

It is up to us and our maasim tovim to bring about change in the Middle East. Peace in the city we turn to thrice daily as we pray Shemoneh Esrei depends upon us and our dedication to Torah and its ideals.

No president, prime minister or terrorist, nor any of their trusted confidantes, has the power to effect change in Eretz Yisroel. They cannot impact the lives of anyone within any of borders of Artzeinu Hakedoshah by themselves. They might stand at podiums and nod sagely at press conferences, but the real Eretz Yisroel is only in their reach if we allow it to be by shirking our responsibilities as laid out in the Torah.

It's up to us. Yerushalayim is the light of the world, and the light of Yerushalayim is Hakadosh Boruch Hu. And we know where and how to find Him.

It is He Who has always been our only true friend in a lonely world; then and now.

Eis tzarah hee leYaakov, umimenah yivashei’ah… Ki Elokim yoshia Tzion.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ashreichem Yisroel

Ashreichem Yisroel

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Life is full of changes. There are always people and ideas pushing us from all sides, trying to goad us to deviate from the words we heard at Sinai. The yeitzer hara engineers countless temptations in an attempt to cause us to veer from our Divine mission. The tests vary in every generation; the tug urging us to deviate from Torah is felt differently in each time period.

Sometimes, the urge is propelled by spiritual forces. At other times, it is by those of a physical nature. Sometimes, they seek to kill us, to arrest us, and to throw us in jails or ghettos, while at other times, they overtly temp us to abandon the path of Torah for a life led by false prophets or messiahs. There are financial inducements and there are those which promise a happier and more blissful life.

There are those thrown at us by people from within and those that come from people outside of the community. They say that the Torah is old-fashioned, that it won’t work here, and that it will hold you back. They threaten that if you stick with the Torah, you won’t be able to advance in your career, you won’t get a good job, and you won’t be able to provide for your children.

They tell us that we aren’t clean enough or honest enough, and that we don’t treat our workers properly. They say that we need them, the apikorsim, to set us straight. They seek to throw us off the path of the mesorah.

When we are confronted by those who propose deviating from our mesorah and traditional practices, we must be strong. When we are tempted by the glitz that the yeitzer hara throws in our path to entice us to sin, we have to remember that we are not only bearers of a glorious chain of tradition, faith and observance, but people who study G-d’s word, exactly as our parents, grandparents and millions of others who preceded us did, stretching back to Har Sinai.

From where does Am Yisroel derive the strength to remain loyal to the truth of the Torah? After spending the weekend at the Torah Umesorah convention, which you will read about in other pages of this newspaper, I have an answer.

To be sure, there are nisyonos, which need to be studied so that we may rise above them, but every so often it behooves us to focus on the other side of the coin, to look through an ayin tovah and contemplate the awesome accomplishments of our mechanchim, and our mechunachim; the givers and recipients of the oxygen of Yiddishkeit, our mesorah.

Under the layers of societal problems so often spoken and written about, there is a healthy, vibrant Klal Yisroel, proudly following the mesorah as charted by our rabbeim back to Sinai.

Chazal teach us that all Yomim Tovim require hachanah, preparation. Shloshim yom kodem hachag, the intense spiritual preparation begins. Just as one wouldn't set out on a trip without the necessary supplies, so too, Chazal teach us, one cannot enter the dimension of Yom Tov without the supplies. Yom Tov is a journey and one must be ready to travel to wherever the chag takes him.

Lag Ba'omer isn’t a Yom Tov per sé, but Klal Yisroel, through the generations, have accepted it as a great day of prayer, rejoicing and salvation. It even has certain halachos of a Yom Tov in that there is no recital of Tachanun or fasting on Lag Ba'omer. It is a great day and it thus stands to reason that it requires advance preparation.

A most appropriate way to prepare for this day would be to spend four days surrounded by fifteen hundred mechanchim united by shared purpose and sense of commitment. From different locations, of different age and affiliation, they are all joined by their shared love: chinuch. The convention was one long, resounding cry of “Ashreichem Yisroel,” a powerful reminder of how fortunate we are. Seeing how those charged with the sacred mission of transmitting the one truth of this world throb with enthusiasm at their mandate, how they exude the simcha and passion of “Ashreichem Yisroel,” is witnessing an assurance that the golden chain we call the mesorah will go on.

The colors of this great convention are the perfect backdrop to the fires of Lag Ba'omer. The sounds of the long weekend reaffirming the responsibility to our children blend in perfect harmony with the clarinets of Meron.

For the convention is about loving, treasuring and protecting our mesorah, the inner theme of Lag Ba'omer's joy. The convention is about learning to see with an ayin tovah. It is about rabbeim and moros who toil to view their students through eyes filled with love and to teach their students to see not with the cynicism so prevalent, but with optimism and faith, the resounding lesson of Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai.

It is heartwarming to watch a young man who has a family of young children, a lease on his van, and perhaps a mortgage to pay. He also wants to send his children to sleep-away camp, and maybe dreams of buying his wife a new shaitel. Yet, his excitement is generated by an innovative new idea he's just heard that will help him teach Rashi to little Yanky, who has problems with kriah. Morah is ecstatic, because she found new tools to deal with Rochel, who tends to get distracted easily and has a hard time focusing.

These devoted ones, inspired by the lessons of Lag Ba'omer, have chosen to invest in our mesorah.

Rabi Akiva was the greatest sage of his generation. It is said that he was the shoresh of Torah Shebaal Peh. The line of transmission of the Torah from Sinai to future generations ran through him and his talmidim. When his 24,000 students were wiped out, the urge to say that it’s all over must have been overwhelming.

But Rabi Akiva recovered from his devastating loss to transmit the Torah through a new group of talmidim. It was on Lag Ba’omer that Rabi Akiva began teaching Torah to them. The seeds he planted that day, which ultimately produced a massive rejuvenation of Torah, are what we celebrate on Lag Ba’omer.

On this day, we commemorate the renewal. We celebrate the determination. We cheer the cessation of the plague. We foresee the future, bright with hope and determination.

Throughout the generations, our great people have appreciated the value of the mesorah, giving their lives to assure a future for Klal Yisroel by continuing the transition of the mesorah through teaching Torah.

When my son Yishai was learning in Eretz Yisroel, he visited Rav Leizer Kahaneman, grandson of the Ponovezher Rov. Rav Kahaneman told a story about his revered zaide.

A year after his arrival in Eretz Yisroel, the Ponovezher Rov was struck by a mysterious ailment and was unable to speak. The voice that had delivered so many brilliant shiurim and eloquent drashos was stilled. The prognosis was grim. The doctor didn’t mince words.

“Rabbi Kahaneman,” he said, “we now know why you have been unable to speak. The tests show that you have an advanced stage of throat cancer and only a short time left to live.”

The patient headed home, lost in thought. He had left behind his town, yeshiva, and beloved family as a representative of the Lithuanian government, armed with a diplomatic passport, to lobby on behalf of the Jewish refugees massing in Lita ahead of the advancing German and Russian armies. Fearing for the fate of his loved ones, he was now confronted with his own death sentence, now that he had arrived in Eretz Yisroel.

Upon his arrival home, the voice that had inspired many was stilled, yet in his heart his dream to build a yeshiva burned stronger than ever. Told by the doctors that speaking would advance the cancer, he wrote a letter to a brilliant alumnus of the Grodno Yeshiva named Rav Shmuel Rozovsky.

The Rov’s tone was serious. He explained that he was nearing the end of his earthly journey and there was something that he needed to do before his time was up. He needed to build a branch of the yeshiva he left behind in Ponovezh, now.

He had often spoken of his dream to build a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, though often mocked and ridiculed as a hopeless dreamer, badly affected by what was going on in Europe and separation anxiety from his town and talmidim.

He had spoken to Rav Shmuel previously about his idea, but Rav Shmuel was completely shocked when the Rov said that the time to open was now. He offered Rav Shmuel the job of rosh yeshiva, promising to use whatever time he had left to establish the institution.

Rav Shmuel believed. He accepted the job. He opened the yeshiva in a small shul with eight talmidim.

The Rov, not knowing which day would be his last, immersed himself in the project, laying the groundwork for the new yeshiva, one that would carry the name of his hometown, Ponovezh.

On the 28th day of Iyar in the year 1941 a small Hanochas Even Hapinah ceremony took place on an empty hill in the Zichron Meir section of Bnei Brak. There were some refreshments set up, but no one partook of them, for the attendees were ensconced in tears. Tehillim was recited and then Rav Kahaneman bent down with a small trowel of cement. He was overcome with emotion, he began shaking and shivering, his tears reached the ground, soaking the cornerstone.

As the few people who were there tuned to leave, the Chazon Ish said to the Rov, “When a project such as this begins with shnapps and mezonos, sometimes the project succeeds and sometimes it doesn’t, but when the seeds are sown with tears, there definitely will be a joyful harvest.”

One month later, on the 27th day of Sivan, the Nazis captured Lithuania and began killing Jews. Within a couple weeks the 14,000 Jews of Ponovezh, including 1,000 young people who studied in the yeshivos and mosdos of the Rov, were dead.

Subsequent tests showed that what ailed Rav Kahaneman was not cancer at all. Rather, he had given so many shiurim and drashos and spoken so frequently and emotionally about his dream, a yeshiva that would capture the greatness of the Ponovezh which he had left behind, that his vocal chords had become severely aggravated.

With his new lease on life, he merited seeing the realization of that dream, and the yeshiva that he built on a hilltop in Bnei Brak evolved into a citadel of Torah like no other.

When the Rov built the yeshiva, he thought that each brick would be his last and each tear that he shed in prayer would be his final one. He thought that any benefit, emotional, financial or social, would not be his. He would be long gone.

That is what it means to protect the mesorah above all, to see matters through eyes of eternity.

The Shulchan Aruch (428:1) states that Purim and Lag Ba'omer fall out on the same day of the week, Sunday in this year's case. What is the significance of this?

Purim is the day when secrets are revealed, when the depths come forth. It's the day of yotzah sod, when the hidden core shows itself.

It's a day of revelations.

Lag Ba'omer is the day when we celebrate the master of penimiyus haTorah, for it was on this day that Rabi Shimon bar Yochai revealed the splendor of Torah's inner dimension.

But Rabi Shimon bar Yochai did something else as well. He revealed the inner splendor of the Jewish people. He taught that “kol Yisroel bnei melachim heim,” seeing past the externals and the superficial to perceive the brilliant light within every Jew. Thus, it is he who defended the Jews of Shushan and their seeming servitude to the statue, by saying that their bowing was only external (Megillah 12).

When his years of solitude forced on by the Romans who sought his demise had ended, his holy son Rabi Elazar was unable to perceive the value of the simple Yid running to greet Shabbos with two twigs in his hands. Rabi Shimon, with his vision, saw otherwise. “Look at the preciousness of this Yid, of his love for mitzvos,” he said.

A Yid is special, his actions testimony to something higher.

Thus, the Rishonim tell us, there is an intrinsic connection between Purim and Lag Ba'omer. These joyous days are when the hidden becomes revealed, when the depths burst forth.

These are days when our eyes become uncovered.

Seforim refer to the posuk in Tehillim (119), “Gal einai ve'abitah niflaos miTorasecha,” as a hint to Lag Ba'omer, since gal contains the letters of lag. Open my eyes so that I may perceive the wonders of your Torah.

On Lag Ba’omer, our eyes should be opened and grant us a new, heightened and loftier view of each other, and of the potential of each individual.

As the centuries pass, and as the Romans of every period seek our destruction, Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai provide us with inspiration. They ensured that Am Yisroel, Torah and mesorah remain alive and flourish to this very day. In the wake of a tragedy which would have felled lesser people, Rabi Akiva strengthened himself and set about ensuring that the chain remains unbroken.

As the golus continues and the nisyonos become stronger, with no shortage of enemies from within and from outside; those charged with transmitting the torch of the mesorah, such as the Ponovezher Rov in his time and the mechanchim and mechanchos in ours, can look to Lag Ba’omer as a beacon which proclaims that the chain of greatness will never be allowed to break. The fires of Lag Ba’omer burn brightly and proclaim that the mesorah will continue uninterrupted.

And in the tradition of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, mechanchim and mechanchos enter classrooms every day to bring out the p’nim of the neshamos of Yiddishe kinder. They dedicate their lives so that “Ashreichem Yisroel can be said about the future generations.

Ashreihem, ve’ashreinu. Ashreichem Yisroel to be so blessed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Can You Love If You Don’t Hate?

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The New York Times reports that in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, people are questioning “whether ‘justice’ was done… and whether the American troops made any effort to capture bin Laden alive or simply executed him. And some think that the scenes of celebrating Americans were indecorous at the least…

“The disquiet is mostly among those on the left and among the elite in the news media,” the article continued, “but it is reminiscent of the atmosphere during the Bush administration and the war against Iraq, when the United States was criticized for unilateralism, arrogance, disrespect for international law, triumphalism and recourse to overwhelming military force.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel got in trouble when she said that she was happy that the effort to take out bin Laden was successful. She came in for some heavy criticism. Even a member of her own conservative party told the media that he “wouldn’t have used those words. That is a vengeful way of thinking that one shouldn’t have; that’s medieval.”

That was the way people spoke and thought in the olden days, came the rebuke. We, modern, thoughtful people, don’t think or speak that way.

Modern liberal man seems to think like President Barack Obama. His predecessor, George W. Bush, set out to bring democracy to Arab countries. But Obama, speaking in Cairo in June 2009, said, “I know there has been a controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years…” He went on to talk about the war in Iraq, started by Bush, and then said, “So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed [on] one nation by any other.”

Does that make any sense to you? The leader of the free world apologizing for American attempts to foster the best system of governance known to man upon other countries? Why was he apologizing?

In 1981, when there was an opportunity to institute democracy in Poland, then-President Ronald Reagan jumped at it, as he did when he sensed his bully pulpit could give a final death knell to Communist Russia and he told “Mr. Gorbachev” to “tear down this wall.”

Bush so believed that democracy would solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem that he forced Israel to permit Hamas to run in the elections for Gaza, after Ariel Sharon made the mistake of pulling Israel out of the strip of land in a misbegotten attempt to bring peace there.

But his successor stood by as the Iranian people tried to rid themselves of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, much as he is doing now, as the people under the rule of Iran’s best friend, Bashar al-Assad, try to stand up to him.

Make no mistake about it. Lev melochim vesorim beyad Hashem. The fact that such a monumental change of leadership can occur in a country, as happened with the transfer of power from Bush to Obama, is indicative of this. For years, there was one hanhagah. Then it changed. Until last week, bin Laden was able to hide out in the open. Then, the man who begrudgingly took over the war on terror and shut down much of its “distasteful apparatus” was forced to give the go-ahead to have bin Laden killed.

We don’t understand why the hidden Hand of Hashem guides history this way. It will only become apparent in hindsight, when the last chapter of the story is written, but there are lessons we can study now. Foremost among them is how we should react to what transpired.

The sefer of Tehillim represents a rushing flow of ahavas Hashem and d’veikus, expressing Dovid Hamelech’s yearning for the Creator. In his song, he tells us one of the definitions of a person who loves Hashem.

Ohavei Hashem sinu ra.” Those who love Hashem hate evil. They revile and abhor wrongdoing and falsehood, because really loving an ideal means hating its opposite; and Hashem is the essence of good; His Torah is the essence of Truth.

Thankfully, it has become fashionable to wax poetic about the ahavas Hashem part. The sinu ra portion is a little less fashionable. It doesn’t appeal to the current liberal mindset or to the modern world’s preoccupation with being broadminded and accepting.

Underneath the hyperbole and spin, many people across the world who consider themselves thoroughly modern and cultured are a little queasy about the shooting of bin Laden. They don’t feel the “rinah,” the joy that a pure heart experiences “ba’avod reshaim,” because political correctness has laid claim to their consciences and attitudes.

It’s a condition that goes way back, almost to the first page of our history.

Avrohom Avinu was not only the father of our people. He mastered the art of compassion. It was he who asked Hashem to wait while he cared for a group of hot, hungry, thirsty nomads. Yet, the same Avrohom who prayed for the city of Sedom had little compassion for fictitious pursuits. When the opportunity presented itself, he took hammer in hand in an attempt to destroy the falsehood around him. His efforts earned him a death sentence. As his family looked on, he was thrown into a fire.

Avrohom’s brother, Haran, looked on with a mixture of horror and uncertainty, unable to resolve his respect for his saintly brother with the clear evidence of the fact that his was the losing cause.

Im Avrohom menatzei’ach ani mishelo. Im Nimrod menatzei’ach ani mishelo,” Haran proclaimed. “If these flames consume Avrohom, then I am with Nimrod, but if Avrohom is saved, then I am with him.” He didn’t bear a moral compass or value system. He thus couldn’t bring himself to take a side. All he wanted was to emerge a winner.

Like a typical modern man, he called out, “Sign me up for the winning team.”

Avrohom emerged unscathed, but Haran wasn’t as fortunate. The fire which had grown cold and powerless around Avrohom Avinu, returned with a fury around Haran, consuming him and his inability to take sides.

The Maharal teaches that the name of this unfortunate figure reveals his essence. The letters of the name Haran - Hey, Reish and Nun - have something in common: each is a middle letter. Hey is the mid-point between one and ten, Reish is the mid-point between Alef and Tov-one and four hundred, while Nun is the halfway mark between one and one hundred. Haran’s place was in the middle.

Spiritual people who are truly honest and G-d-fearing don’t take a poll before aligning themselves with the truth in any given argument or battle. They aren’t afraid to take sides. They know that there is only one correct way and one right answer.

This, says the Maharal, is hinted to in the name of the oheiv Hashem, Aharon the kohein gadol. His name is composed of the same letters as Haran’s. There is one difference, however. His name begins with the letter Alef. This is a sign that his ability to seemingly walk both sides, as the oheiv shalom and oheiv ess habrios, is a reflection of following the word of Hashem at each juncture. The correct path is neither the one on the right nor the one on the left. It is the one that the Torah calls for in each situation.

As followers of the divinely written Torah, we recognize that there is an absolute truth, and thus we know that there are positions - and people - that are either right or wrong.

We, bearers of a royal torch, who were bequeathed the Toras Emes, have an obligation to rejoice when evil is eradicated from the world. We are obligated to work towards the goal of minimizing the ra in the world. Our chinuch inculcates in children a love for the truth and a drive to seek out the truth. We teach our children and remind ourselves to always be truthful and never lie, cheat or steal. We are charged to hate sheker and be committed to do what we can to rid the world of it.

When sheker receives a blow, as it did last week, we should rejoice. This is not a physical joy. It is not a joy that an evil person was killed and not a joy that blood was spilled. It is a joy that a personification of evil, ra, was silenced.

In fact, Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz would say that the method for a person to determine his level of ahavas Hashem is to test his hatred of ra. The degree to which a person is able to tolerate ra and not totally despise it is indicative of how much he is lacking in ahavas Hashem. Of course the hatred must emanate from his ahavas Hashem and not be based upon other considerations.

My colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Besser, recounts in his biography of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld that a searching young soul once explained to Rabbi Freifeld that his worldview called for unconditional love of all people and ideas, and that he couldn’t bring himself to hate anything or anyone.

“If you don’t hate,” replied Rabbi Freifeld, “then it means you don’t love either.”

We just read this past Shabbos, in Parshas Emor, of the “ben isha Yisroelis vehu ben ish Mitzri” who committed a cardinal sin. The people hurried to Moshe Rabbeinu, who locked up the mekallel as he awaited Divine instructions.

Hakadosh Boruch Hu instructed Moshe Rabbeinu that the mekallel was to be killed in the public square. It was, as Rashi says, a “maamad kol ha’eidah,” a public event.

Yet, it was an event with an introduction. The Torah breaks its account of the mekallel as Moshe teaches new halachos about protecting human beings from harm and delineating the punishment of one who strikes and maims another person.

Before we eradicate evil, the Torah is saying, we have to ensure that our own appreciation of the value of a human being is perfect and that we are sensitized to the danger of harming another person.

Then, against the backdrop of this awareness, the Torah continues with the fate of the wicked person. “And the bnei Yisroel did as Hashem commanded them.”

Committed anew to the sanctity and purity of human life, they could march as one in fulfilling the task of eliminating evil.

In his book, Decision Points, former President George W. Bush recounts a very emotional trip he made to lower Manhattan immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001. He relates the raw pain he felt as he was driven through the smoldering remains of buildings and the jarring anguish of seeing emergency workers covered head to toe in ash as they searched relentlessly for evidence of human life, fighting against reality in their search for survivors.

He describes his approach to Ground Zero, and the lack of light in the nightmare zone, the air an eerie gray curtain of ash, smoke and debris, the ground a trail of shattered glass and puddles from the sprays of water used to fight the fires.

The president of the United States walked up to the workers, their faces lined with fatigue and resilience. One soot-covered fireman told him that his station had lost many good men. Bush writes how he tried to comfort the man but was unable to, as “that was not what he wanted. He looked at me square in the eyes and said, “George, find the ones who did this and kill them.”

“It’s not often that people call the president by his first name, but that was fine by me,” writes the president. “This was personal.”

The president perceived that decorum and propriety dictated that he be addressed as Mr. President by every citizen. Yet he recognized the raw, authentic pain of the fireman, so he looked aside from the breach of protocol. The firefighter’s hate for the enemy was a result of his love for his country and his fallen comrades.

We need to remind ourselves of the firefighter’s message: It’s personal. Really caring about the world around us means that we rejoice when it becomes a better, safer place. It means that we aren’t apologetic about admitting the truth: Osama bin Laden was more animal that human. The world is a better place without him in it.

Navy SEALs are very much in the news, as they are the ones who were given the task of apprehending and killing the world’s most wanted man. Lt. Cmdr. Eric Greitens, of the Navy Reserve, wrote in this past weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal about what it is that makes a SEAL:

“What kind of man makes it…? That’s hard to say. But I do know – generally - who won’t make it. There are a dozen types that fail: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength, the kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are, the preening leaders who don’t want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars but have never been pushed beyond the envelope of their talent to the core of their character. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show.

“Some men who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training… made it. Some men who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean also made it. Some men, who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it too.

“Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear, and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the ‘fist’ of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.”

Those who love others, those who have giant hearts, are the ones who have the ability to persevere in the most difficult situations and fight the forces of evil. They have the ability to look evil in the face and take the shot, ridding the world of the menace that person represents.

So while the liberal thinkers on the left race to find the platitudes to express their enlightened views and engage in differing forms of moral equivalency, affording respect to those who engage in what can only be described as evil, we say the opposite.

The Torah lights our path, telling us that the truth brooks no falsehood. There is a complete, whole truth, and when something is anything but that, it is a lie. As Torah observant people, we must abhor anything that is not the truth. We must endeavor to engage in a truthful, pure, way of life, displaying a complete aversion to anything impure or dishonest in any facet of our lives.

“Ohavei Hashem sinu ra.”

We strive to be ohavei Hashem, and thus, by extension, we hate ra. It’s personal.

And with hearts filled with gratitude to the Ribbono Shel Olam, with rinah over the downfall of the one of the most prominent symbols of evil in our age, we ask “Kein yovdu kol oyivecha Hashem,” as we pray to soon witness the day when the ultimate truth will be apparent to all. Amein.

A Historic Day

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Sunday was a historic day. That word is over-used almost to the point of rendering it meaningless, yet everyone who joined in the chanukas habayis of Yeshiva Darchei Torah’s new campus will admit that Sunday’s date will long be remembered. Reflecting back on the events of the day, it is not far fetched to say that it was a case of “Ka’asher zeh nofeil zeh kom, referred to by Rashi in Parshas Toldos (25:23).

Who knows if it wasn’t the zechus of the chanukas habayis and Yeshiva Darchei Torah’s dedication to Torah - its study and support, and the respect for those who excel in both - that the event signified which caused the scales of Shomayim to tip in favor of Bnei Yaakov and against the Yedei Eisav and Yishmoel.

Even ignoring what was taking place at the same time at the other end of the world, what transpired Sunday in Far Rockaway stands out from what has thankfully become a steady parade of Torah celebrations, including groundbreakings, chanukas batim, gala siyumim, and yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs bursting at their seams, as well as a never-ending stream of brisos, bar mitzvos and weddings.

Sitting at the chanukas habayis for the magnificent new campus of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, I am sure that I wasn’t the only one who felt that I was participating in something historic.

The story of Darchei Torah is that of a small cheder in a quiet suburban community, which led to the founding of a mesivta, and then a yeshiva gedolah, and ultimately a vibrant unit comprising a kollel as well, with the community around it having flowered into an ir ve’eim b’Yisroel in the process. In the story of Darchei Torah, we see the story of our nation’s history and a reflection of its destiny.

Beaten, bruised, and fighting for breath, Am Yisroel rises from the dust and yearns for rebirth, providing the opportunity for heroic talmidei chachomim to transmit the Torah in the bleakest of landscapes, and in the most trying of times and circumstances, for they know that without Torah, there is no life. Inevitably, the Torah takes root in its new, hardscrabble surroundings, Yiddishkeit returns to life, and bare branches spared from the fire of Eisav begin to blossom.

Seventy years ago, when Jews who were about to die al kiddush Hashem scratched with their blood words of faith, they proclaimed, as they were b’gei tzalmovess, their belief that one day Klal Yisroel would witness events such as the one which took place on Sunday. Though they were being led to slaughter, they believed that, one day, Yiddishkeit would rise again. Yidden would survive, marry, and have children, and with mesirus nefesh, families would establish communities with a Torah infrastructure, Netzach Yisroel lo yeshakeir.

The fact that we merited gathering around a Torah structure of such splendor, in such a wonderful community of Torah and chessed, is a resounding cry of the realization of prophecy and belief. It is the storyline of our history, up until that ultimate revival, b’meheirah b’yomeinu.

Yes, the world around us shudders in revolution. The economy teeters. Leadership is wanting. Evil and terror bare their tentacles. Our enemies do not rest from seeking to annihilate us, but Klal Yisroel is no longer in the dust. The Torah world has bounced back. We work at preparing the world for the geulah.

Sitting amongst throngs of warm-hearted Yidden at the chanukas habayis, I found myself contemplating a way in which the festivities differed from many others. Most public events, particularly of the institutional sort, feature guests of honor. At this event, there was an outpouring of chizuk and joy, and everyone there was a baal simcha. Everyone with a child in the school was a baal simcha. Every rebbi or morah in the school, everyone who is lucky enough to be a student in that school, everyone who merits to live in that beautiful community, and everyone who believes in the truth and permanence of Torah - they were all the baalei simcha on Sunday.

There were other baalei simcha, other guests of honor, at the festivities. It was a tribute to Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz and a celebration of all those who gave their lives to establish proper Torah chinuch in America.

You see, many of us, members of American Jewry, are relative newcomers to these shores, perhaps two or three generations removed from the blood-soaked soil of Europe. Our ancestors fled to this country to stay alive. They arrived here, in most cases, broken, poor, hungry, lost, and mourning the life left behind in the old country. They worried about their present and their future. They worried about whether they would be able to hold onto their children. They worried about how they would make ends meet. They feared that Yiddishkeit as they had known it would never survive in the treifeneh medinah of America.

Following the war, Torah Judaism was given little chance of survival. Although there were a couple of yeshivos, most Jewish children were educated in public school and became lost to their people. Not everyone was ready to give up, and many people fought hard, with great mesirus nefesh, to continue the glorious chain. They scraped together pennies and established yeshivos and day schools for their children. When frum elementary schools only existed in New York City, giants such as Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz burst forth on the scene and dreamed of opening schools across the country.

The scoffers scoffed, but the dreamers and the die-hards did everything in their ability to recreate a lost world. They weren’t given much of a chance and the going was very rough.

In order for Torah and avodah to prosper, you need gemillus chassodim. You need people who will subjugate their own wants and desires to that of the community and to the growth of Torah and avodah. You need people who are selfless in their pursuit of educating the masses on the benefits and beauty of Torah and avodah. Thankfully, this country has been blessed with such people, and it is because of them that Torah Judaism flourishes once again, mere decades after having come so close to decimation.

When others were apathetic and despondent, these heroes refused to be affected by the melancholy of the moment and devoted themselves to rebuilding what had been destroyed. Some laid the groundwork, others provided the financial wherewithal to make it possible, while yet others inspired people to believe it was possible and not to lose faith.

The culmination of this dream, a yeshiva campus that can rival those of Ivy League universities and prestigious institutions, and one bursting with enthusiasm for Torah and Yiddishkeit, is a confluence of so many facts and the gifts of so many. Chief among them, however, was the architect of it all, Rav Shraga Feivel, the innovator who saw the sum total when others could barely visualize parts.

What Rav Yaakov Bender, fueled by the visions, hopes and dreams of many cholmim and baalei mesirus nefesh who preceded him, shows us is that optimism overcomes negativity and cynicism. Like others who have succeeded, he demonstrates through what he has been able to accomplish that one who sets himself on the proper path and works without ulterior motives, but rather l’sheim Shomayim, can tap into the blessings Hashem has provided us. And look how far we have come. With the siyata diShmaya that our community has been blessed with, we not only have the talmidim to fill the huge botei medrash and multiple classrooms, the rabbeim who invest their very beings in filling those rooms with light, and the roshei yeshiva and administration members to lead the flourishing operation. We are blessed with another gift as well: the baalei batim, the lay leadership, with hasagos and spiritual dimensions, to appreciate that the surest way to invest in Klal Yisroel is to invest in Torah chinuch.

The event on Sunday was a celebration of those roshei yeshiva who believed, who worked assiduously to create an infrastructure, an American yeshiva world, to replace the one that had been snuffed out. It was a celebration of maggidei shiur who toiled late night after late night, committed to giving the American yeshiva bochur the same depth and breadth of Torah learning as his European predecessors.

It was a celebration of an ideal, one which marked Darchei as unique from the start. An early supporter and friend, Mr. Lloyd Keilson, recalled joining Reb Yisroel Bloom and Rabbi Mendel Goldberg when they went to offer Rabbi Bender the job of menahel.

Rabbi Bender insisted that Torah and chessed aren’t mutually exclusive, and that we could produce real talmidei chachomim who are also genuinely compassionate, responsible people. Reb Yisroel was convinced and he gave it a chance. That was the day that Darchei became what it is.”

True to his mandate, Rabbi Bender created an island where Torah was made accessible to all. The gifted student and the budding scholar were provided the finest, most dedicated rabbeim. The weaker students weren’t forgotten, nor were those broken in body, but whole in spirit, who wished only to be taught Torah, despite their wheelchairs or hearing aids or poor communicative abilities.

In the process, the trailblazers at Darchei taught the American Torah world an important lesson. Not only did those stronger students, the metzuyanim, not lose out from the presence of the weaker students, but they gained from it. The Darchei talmid was possessed of a certain empathy and sense of achrayus that marked him as unique, having incorporated not just havonas haTorah, but also the ruach of Torah, into his heart.

The Darchei talmid would develop a respect for every single Yid, despite impairments or limitations, perceiving that, underneath we are all the same and deserving of the same treatment.

Darchei had succeeded, just as Rabbi Bender had predicted, in creating real bnei Torah, who were also compassionate, responsible Yidden.

And the Torah world took note. In fact, it was the Novominsker Rebbe, in his remarks at the chanukas habayis, who said that it may very well be that the Hashgacha Elyonah caused such amazing accomplishments for this mosad because of its dedication to chessed as well as to Torah, as the posuk states, “Ki omarti olam chessed yiboneh.” He said that the school’s success “strikes a chord of chizuk in emunah.” Indeed, it does.

The outpouring of love and appreciation at Sunday’s simcha, and the resounding expression of hakoras hatov from the throngs of attendees, were thus no surprise.

Celebrating also were Rav Shmuel Berenbaum and Rav Elya Svei, zichronam livracha, who inspired and fueled the efforts that went in to making Darchei the mosad it is. Rav Bender and Rav Shlomo Avigdor Altusky, both talmidim of Rav Shmuel, never stopped consulting their rosh yeshiva and continuously conducted themselves as talmidim do, until his last day.

Rav Elya loved what Rav Bender was doing for Far Rockaway and, when in the neighborhood, would use the opportunity to visit the ever-growing yeshiva. As one who remembered that first generation and had learned under Rav Dovid Bender in Mesivta Torah Vodaas, he was equipped to explain the extraordinary success of the mosad. “It is zechus avos,” he said, with the clarity of a gadol and the perception of an early observer of the American Torah scene, seeing the development of the yeshiva and community around it as an outgrowth of the efforts of Rav Dovid and Rebbetzin Basya Bender, a new chapter in the book they had helped author: American Torah life.

On Sunday, we celebrated Rav Shlomo Freifeld, who arrived in Far Rockaway armed with boundless optimism, determined to plant Torah beyond the avenues of Brooklyn. It was he who encouraged Reb Yisroel Bloom in Darchei’s early days and, in fact, it was he who, appreciating the many ‘drachim’ necessary to teach Torah to different types of people, coined the name Darchei Torah.

Surely, all those mechutanim looked down from Shomayim and shared nachas at how far we’ve come and how the work they started is being carried on.

And from another angle, it was a celebration of many who are among us, including Rav Binyamin Kamenetzky, who arrived in bucolic Long Island not just as a summer guest, but as an envoy of his own great father, determined that there, too, Yidden would have a school where their sons could receive a proper chinuch and upbringing. Undaunted by the odds, he ventured beyond comfortable Brooklyn on his own, knowing that Torah is a morashah kehillas Yaakov.

It was a celebration of the early Torah Umesorah pioneers, Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky and Rabbi Bernard Goldenberg, hardy souls who traversed this country from east to west and north to south, pied pipers promoting a dream.

It was a celebration of Darchei’s baalei batim, their stamina and drive, with their eyes and hearts focused on the development of a wonderful community crowned with the kesser of Torah. It was a celebration of the great machzikei Torah who have made this mosad their passion and their priority, carrying the legacy of Torah-supporters through the generations.

It was a celebration of Darchei’s talmidim, from the metzuyanim learning in Lakewood or Eretz Yisroel, to the good, ehrliche baalei batim who have taken their place in communities across the globe, to the other type of talmid, the one who was ignored or even shunned by other institutions. The learning-disabled and physically impaired, the socially or academically stunted, and the ones with difficult family situations all found a warm and welcoming home between Darchei’s walls. And on Sunday, they all danced as one, for that is what we are. One.

And so I close with a personal note to my dear friend, Rav Yankel Bender...

We’ve watched you work relentlessly for more than two decades. We looked on with admiration and awe as you showed no signs of weariness or pessimism. We rejoiced in the successes of Darchei as a successful cheder became a successful mesivta and eventually a world-class yeshiva with a distinguished rosh hayeshiva and maggidei shiur.

You worked with a goal in mind: to invest your parent body with an appreciation for rabbeim and moros. You were a steady and outspoken voice - at times a lone voice - in the campaign to ensure that rabbeim were being treated with respect. You made us all realize that they are the heroes of today. You called us all to the carpet, pointing out that our best and brightest are dedicating themselves to Klal Yisroel’s future and that we should learn from their example, dedicating ourselves to partnering with them.

We are gratified to feature you in these pages, week after week, to espouse your message, never shying away from an opportunity to remind our readers of this truth. We, too, rejoice in your simcha, not only because we cherish your friendship, but because we cherish your message - a message that, thanks to your call and example, is being emulated throughout Klal Yisroel.

So mazel tov, Reb Yankel. Mazel tov to you, to the rosh yeshiva, rabbeim and staff at Darchei, to the talmidim, to their parents and the lay-leaders of the Darchei family, to the community which has become synonymous with the yeshiva, and, of course, to those who came before us.

By their light we walk and in their footsteps we tread.

And yes, we must remember that they, the Jews in bunkers and camps seventy years ago, who testified with their last breath that Torah would rise; they were Sunday’s true mechutanim.

As I was preparing to leave my home for the drive to Far Rockaway on Sunday, I tried explaining to a Yerushalmi Yid who had come to visit me, the importance of the celebration. He wasn’t convinced until I showed him a picture of the building. I said to him, “Git ah kook oif der binyan. Look at that building. Would you ever believe that there is Torah on that scale in America, and not only in America, but in Far Rockaway, a place you have never even heard of?”

With a glint in his Yerushalayimer eye, wizened by decades of breathing the avirah demachkim, he responded, “Ye, ye. Es iz a sheineh binyan. Es balangt in Yerushalayim. You’re correct. It is a beautiful building. It belongs being in Yerushalayim.” And then we both blurted out together, “Balt, balt, soon Moshiach will come and transport it there together with us.”

May our dedication to Torah and its ideals lead to the ultimate triumph of the kol Yaakov, bimeheirah biyomeinu. Amein.