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A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman and the Novominsker Rebbe Address Lev L'Achim Rally in Israel's South

by Moshe Schapiro

Hundreds of yungeleit filled the main Beis Medrash of Yeshivas Hanegev in Netivot last Monday night to hear a joint address by Maran HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman and the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow. The two gedolim undertook the long journey to this remote town in the south of Eretz Yisroel as part of P'eylim / Lev L'Achim's nationwide effort to recruit additional participants for its kiruv program.

The purpose of the rally was to bolster the ranks of the 1,500 individuals who are currently participating in Lev L'Achim "Door-to-Door" Program. Yungeleit dedicate one evening per week to visit nonobservant Israelis who have expressed an interest in finding out more about religion.

Demand for outreach workers has increased exponentially in recent months as a result of last summer's school enrollment drive, when Lev L'Achim enrolled 6,500 nonobservant children in the religious school system. The Nesivos Moshe Development Fund for Torah Chinuch in Israel played an important role in this endeavor by providing seed money for the establishment of five new schools and several kindergartens.

As the campaign's planners had expected, the newly enrolled children's exposure to Torah values sparked a sudden interest in religion among their parents and family members. Lev L'Achim's offices and Torah centers throughout the country are now inundated with requests from such parents for more information about Yiddishkeit. Rav Steinman and the Novominsker Rebbe came to Netivot to urge the city's yungeleit to participate in Lev L'Achim's effort to spread the light of Torah among the people who so desperately seek it.

The Novominsker Rebbe's address was historic in that it was the first time a central leader of North America's Torah community personally addressed an assembly of Israeli yungeleit and urged them to undertake a more active role in kiruv work in Eretz Yisroel. His physical presence at the rally itself conveyed a powerful nonverbal message to the audience -- namely, that the spiritual future of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisroel is an issue that concerns all Torah- observant Jews, regardless of where they may live. Many of the yungeleit who attended the rally later commented that they were deeply moved by the realization that the Torah community of Eretz Yisroel is not alone in its battle.

The first speaker was the venerable rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Hanegev, Rav Yissochor Meir. He began by recalling the hardships that he and his associates experienced in the early years of the Yeshiva, when the south of Eretz Yisroel was a desert in both the physical and spiritual sense. Today, they are finally seeing the fruit of their labor. The desert is beginning to bloom -- entire communities of newly observant individuals are sprouting up amid the wasteland, and striking roots.

This demonstrates, Rav Meir explained, that a person can never foresee the effect of his efforts. Man's obligation is to strive to spread knowledge of Hashem through every means at his disposal; Hashem will do the rest. Therefore each and every one of us has an obligation to join Lev L'Achim and reach out to our brothers. Rav Meir concluded by calling on the Torah community of Netivot to respond enthusiastically to the call of the gedolim to participate in Lev L'Achim's kiruv activities.

Rav Steinman spoke next. He explained that even though the spiritual stature of our generation is much lower than that of previous generations, the opportunities that we have are much greater than ever before. In the past only tzadikim had the means to fulfill the mitzvah of mezakeh horabim (promoting Torah-observance among the populace at large), whereas today every single yungerman has the ability to fulfill this mitzvah. Rav Steinman cited the Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu which says that the Torah scholars of each generation have a personal responsibility to teach the laws of the Torah to the populace, and that if they should fail to live up to this obligation, they will be held accountable.

Rav Steinman recalled that prior to the Yom Kippur War it was next to impossible to even discuss the subject of religion with nonobservant Israelis. This prompted many members of the religious community to exempt themselves completely from the obligation to do kiruv work. Today, however, things have changed, and this line of reasoning is no longer valid. Now the people of Israel are thirsting for knowledge -- they are clamoring for it. Therefore no one has justification to exempt himself from the obligation to bring his fellow Jews closer to the Ribono Shel Olom. Every one of us must do his share, and just as the responsibility is great, so too is the reward.

The Novominsker Rebbe began by apologizing ahead of time for his limited command of the language, but then he went on to speak in flawless and deeply expressive Hebrew that penetrated the hearts and minds of the people in attendance.

"It is a great zechus," he said, "to speak before this esteemed audience concerning such an important issue as the kiruv work being carried out by Lev L'Achim. Thousands of families have come back to Hashem as a result of Rav Steinman's guidance and Lev L'Achim's relentless efforts. Today we have an opportunity to bring about a complete turnaround in Israeli society. That is why the gedolim are calling out to the Torah community to join Lev L' Achim and take advantage of this historic chance."

The Novominsker explained that on a deeper level, the mitzvah of returning a lost object alludes to the mitzvah of kiruv. The souls of Jews who have gone astray are Hashem's lost objects, and we -- members of the Torah community -- have the ability to find them and to return them to their Rightful Owner. Lev L'Achim has proven that it can be done, the Novominsker stressed, and thus everyone must take part.

On the day before the rally the Novominsker Rebbe visited a new Torah school in the city of Tzoran, which was established with the assistance of the Nesivos Moshe fund. The Tzoran school is one of 51 new Torah institutions that were established as a result of Lev L'Achim's summer enrollment campaign. The school was recently vandalized by anti- religious residents, who have been harassing pupils and parents ever since the school's opening on 1 September 1998. The Novominsker Rebbe was met by: Rabbis Tzvi Boymel and Mordechai Lev, two senior officials of the Nesivos Moshe fund; Rabbi Avraham Sa'ada, Lev L'Achim's regional activist, who enrolled the children and spearheaded the establishment of the school; and the principal of the besieged school.

The Novominsker Rebbe spoke with teachers, students and parents and encouraged them to remain strong in the face of opposition.

Rabbi Tuvia Levinstein, Lev L'Achim's southern regional supervisor, reports that 60 additional yungeleit have joined the "Door-to-Door" Program in the wake of the Monday night rally. These new recruits will now undergo intensive training and will be given their first assignment sometime next week.

The Novominsker shares much of the credit.


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