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1 Kislev 5767 - November 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Supporting Torah — an Obligation

by B. Re'em

"The hollow (kaf) of his thigh — this represents those who support Torah." The explanation is as follows: Eisov's angel wrestled with Yaakov Ovinu over the blessings. Yaakov argued that they rightfully belonged to him, since it was his sons who would receive the Torah and study it. Eisov's angel could not refute this, which the Torah testifies as, "And he saw that he could not best him." But he did say that at the end of the exile, that is, right before the dawn, there would come a time when the majority of the Jewish people would grow very lax in their maintenance of Torah scholars and correspondingly, Torah study would weaken.

Why is this likened to the hollow of the thighbone? Because just as the thigh holds up the entire body, so do those who financially support the scholars enable them to continue studying.

The deeds and experiences of our Ovos are signposts for what will happen to their descendants. Yaakov's victory shows that Torah will never altogether budge from amongst the coming generations, despite all the affliction and torture. On the contrary, Yaakov emerges victorious and even rises to a higher status (Chofetz Chaim al haTorah, Parshas Vayishlach).

"And a Man Wrestled with Him"

What is good for the evil angel Sam. [we are not allowed to mention his full name, so evil is he] is bad for tzaddikim. This advantage of his comes from the malicious blow he inflicted upon Yaakov, intending to incapacitate him, as it is written, "And Yaakov's thighbone became disjointed when he wrestled with him." Not when Eisov embraced Yaakov, but when he fought with him.

Hashem accepted the self-imposed restriction of the descendants of Yaakov not to eat the thigh section of an animal which contains the sciatica, the site where Yaakov was injured. Its supernal application is to teach us, for all generations to come, not to benefit from the so-called favors of this guardian angel of Eisov which cause Yaakov to limp and whose source is self-interest, to cause the Torah fall into disuse and to be forgotten among his descendants. (HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin: Hadei'oh veHadibbur)

The Regulations of `Shekel Hakodesh'

On Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul of 5685 (1925), the Chofetz Chaim and HaRav Chaim Ozer ztvk'l issued a public declaration regarding the charity boxes of Vaad Hayeshivos. In order to ease the payment of the sum, it was agreed that pushkes would be installed in every beis knesses so that Jews everywhere could give their respective donations. By steady donation of small sums, especially before candlelighting on erev Shabbos and erev Yomtov, these charity boxes would fill up the coffers of the Vaad Hayeshivos.

At the end of each half year, on Purim and on Erev Yom Kippur, these would be opened by the local representatives and the one in charge of the boxes. The sums would be duly recorded, determining what amount was still lacking, if any, from the overall communal commitment, which would then be filled.

Maran HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin addressed this takonoh in one of his public addresses, saying, "According to the directive instituted by the leaders of our times, headed by Maran the Chofetz Chaim shlita, a duty [head tax] amounting to two dollars a year per capita has been imposed for the maintenance of the Vaad Hayeshivos. And what do we see? That even this paltry support is difficult to collect, all due to the struggle against the angel Sam-l . . . The yeshivos are at the brink of actual starvation. Woe unto us that this is the situation! Woe unto us if the dictum of `If there is no flour, there is no Torah' is realized here and now!"

How Does One Collect Tzedokoh?

Maran R' Eliyohu Dessler zt'l writes: There exists a very prevalent and practical problem: how should a person successfully solicit funds for any given charitable cause or for the support of Torah?

The fundraiser should be very careful that his efforts be purely for the benefit of the giver, that is, that the donor should acquire the merit of support for Torah. He must be careful at all times to benefit the donor with the spiritual rewards of his gift. If he acts accordingly and his intentions are the best, surely Hashem will assist him in achieving this goal (Michtav MeEliyohu).

Legions for the Sake of the Yeshiva

The financial circumstances of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin were critical. HaRav Meir Shapira worked on negotiating a loan of fifty thousand guldens to extricate the yeshiva from its desperate condition but the situation was precarious: would the loan be approved or not? Meanwhile, the creditors were pressing with increasing force and R' Meir was greatly concerned.

He decided that three options lay before him: Either to collapse and to die chas vesholom, to closet himself in a room and weep, or to flee across the ocean and go begging for help. Actually, he had previously decided not to travel again to raise funds since he had already exhausted himself in the past, and who would stand at the helm of his precious yeshiva in the interim?

Said R' Meir: "I wish to be with my talmidim. When the yeshiva was being constructed and it encountered terrible financial difficulties, I said to myself: How can I die at this point? And now that the yeshiva stands and operates, I say to myself in moments of hopelessness and despair: How can I live this way?"

In the end, the crisis passed, the loan was approved and R' Meir wept and said that he had lived through the posuk, "`For You have succored my soul from death, my eyes from weeping, my soul from oppression' (Tehillim 116:8). I have been spared all the three options and live on . . . "

Three Weddings in One Day

A rich man once came to visit HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky zt'l, who asked him if he had come to Eretz Yisroel for a special reason.

"Yes, for the wedding of a close relative," was the reply.

"Where is the wedding taking place?"

"In the So-and-so hall."

"How many guests were invited?"

The visitor quoted a number.

"How much does each portion cost?"

The visitor named a sum. The full total came out to an astronomical figure.

"Now you understand what a great financial burden a rosh yeshiva is faced with. He must pay for the cost of three weddings a day, so to speak, to feed his hundreds of talmidim . . . " (Pninei Rabbenu Yechezkel)

"Borrow from Me and I Will Pay You Back"

Maran the Ponovezher Rov zt'l was not fazed by the burden of the millions of dollars which were needed to meet the budget for all his many communal activities. He continued to borrow huge sums without any concern.

His son, R' Avrohom, once asked him, "Are you relying on the famous bottomless and miraculous cruse of oil to refill itself all the time, just like with Ovadia's widow?"

"Yes!" was the emphatic reply, and he added, "Anyone who is incapable of relying on the quote, `Borrow on My account and I will repay you,' will never build a yeshiva. If this is what Hashem declares, the money is as good as deposited in the bank, in your very account!"

How Can the Yeshivos Continue to Exist?

HaRav Eliyohu Dessler zt'l relates that at one major meeting someone got up and suggested that the yeshivos could not possibly continue to exist. They would have to collapse at some future time since they had no natural financial basis to carry on. Their survival is always tenuous and precarious.

His uncle, HaRav Chaim Ozer zt'l, replied in his stead, "Don't worry! In fact, this is precisely how it has to be! The Torah must perforce exist by way of miracle; it has no natural, normal basis in this world."

Maran the Chofetz Chaim also came to the defense and was uneasy about the idea of establishing a standing fund which would provide ongoing dividends to keep the yeshivos going. He said, "On the contrary, the very money that you wish to seal off as the principal so as to provide a constant income can be put to far better use in increasing Torah immediately, here and now!"

Would You Like to Transform an Apikores into a Believer?

At the dedication ceremony of Yeshivas Ohr Yisroel in Petach Tikvah, HaRav Yaakov Neiman zt'l announced: "If you would like to transform an apikores into a believer, bring him and install him as the administrator of a yeshiva! The continued existence of any yeshiva, from the day it is founded and ever onward — is a living example of Hashem's continued Providence. It is a pure miracle."

When R' Yaakov once needed a large sum of money to cover a debt, there suddenly came a knock at the door. In walked a stranger who said, "I am interested in donating money to the yeshiva." Occurrences such as this were a common feature of R' Yaakov Neiman's daily life!

A Delay before the Chuppah

One of the major contributors to Yeshivas Torah Vodaas in America was about to marry off his daughter. Several moments before the chuppah itself, the father said that he was not yet ready to proceed with the ceremony. He summoned several members of the yeshiva's board of trustees to a side room and said to them:

"How dare I lead my daughter under the chuppah at a time when the maggidei shiur of the yeshiva have not yet received their salary?" The trustees were astonished at his sensitivity and concern at this very momentous occasion in his life. On the spot, they determined between themselves to donate the missing sum to cover those wages.

To Whom Does the Yeshiva Belong?

We pray, "May we not have to rely on the munificence of mortal man, nor on their loans."

"This," said HaRav Mordechai Shulman zt'l, "refers to monetary gifts and loans within the parameters of Torah laws, according to all the halachic rules of chessed. And of this did Chazal say that it is a sign of disgrace and indignity forever after."

Thus there is a terrible discredit and humiliation involved in being on the receiving end in any case. How much more so for one who needs to `beg' for help.

A need, a lack, is a decree from Heaven. Is it, then, any wonder that when one needs the help of mortal man to complete what Hashem, Himself, has not provided it is, indeed, an eternal source of shame? And how much more so if one actually has to go and `beg' for that help, to announce his lack and show it to all.

The Spiritual Mother of Knesses Yisroel

There is one aspect of our personal avodas Hashem which is the most ignored, and that is activity for the sake of Torah, concern that Torah be planted everywhere. The dissemination of Torah is almost totally ignored. Why is this so? Why is it that a call to arms for any other cause arouses an active public response — but not for the strengthening of Torah study?

However, it is precisely this sad state of affairs which produces hope, for we always see that there do exist among the ranks of the Torah-true Jewry those who are blessed with financial means, who do rally to this cause and feel the pain. They are few, but their hearts ache for Torah and they understand why Hashem blessed them with their wealth. They regard their success in life as an obligation to support the prime cause of Torah study. They realize that this is their purpose in life and the goal of their wealth.

Does no one within our ranks care for this spiritual `Mother of Knesses Yisroel'? The Torah is the virtual Tree of Life to all those who support it, and these benefactors are blessedly fortunate! (HaRav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch zt'l: Maagolei HaShonoh II 148;155)

Watch Out for the Poor

HaRav Yechezkel Sarna zt'l writes: I know that Torah is not to be considered a luxury that one can afford only when one has the means. On the contrary, always, throughout all the generations, it was the poor who supported Torah. They respected our rabbis and teachers and aided them to their best ability; likewise, worthy women scrimped and saved from their daily expenses to support Torah.

Look out for the poor, since they are the supporters of Torah. It was not the fattened purses which supplied support, but the open pulsing hearts. It may be that the purses of those hearts suffered, but the hearts gave willingly.

Torah is compared both to vintage wine, to bread and to water. Torah maintenance is similar. One finds support for Torah from wealth and expanse, which is like wine. There is support coming from the poor, who must stint from their own expenses, but give willingly for Torah. That is like bread. Then there are those who give in the worst financial condition, whose support is compared to water, which is the basic staple for all life.

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