Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Sivan 5761 - May 23, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Kiddush Shem Shomayim in Beit Shemesh
by Betzalel Kahn

Thousands of chareidi and religious Jews assembled on Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai for massive, outdoor musaf services at the entrance to the city of Beit Shemesh, in protest at the opening on Shabbos of a MacDonald's restaurant in the city. The services were held at directives of the Beit Shemesh neighborhood rabbonim, whose call was joined by maranan verabonon, the gedolei Yisroel. Unprecedented in the history of Beit Shemesh, the event was a kiddush Shem Shomayim.

From 10 AM, minyan after minyan, numbering altogether thousands of people, began to stream to the road at the entrance to Beit Shemesh to daven musaf. Having davened shacharis, read the Torah and said Bircas Hachodesh in the individual synagogues, the groups then set out to the massive musaf services. Many made kiddush before leaving.

The sight of thousands of Jews who had walked a number of kilometers from distant city neighborhoods wrapped in talleisim to the entrance to Beit Shemesh was a moving experience. They walked in large groups, headed by roshei yeshiva, neighborhood rabbonim, community heads, roshei kollel, and morei horo'oh from all sects and circles in Beis Shemesh. Sephardim joined Ashkenazim, singing Shabbos melodies. The lively strains of Shabbos songs aroused many Jews who were in their homes, spurring them to join the crowds marching to musaf in front of the restaurant that desecrates Shabbos Kodesh.

In order to avert problems of carrying on Shabbos, the Beit Shemesh rabbonim had suggested that enlarged copies of musaf be posted on fences near the city entrance.

The flow of people continued for more than an hour. As Shema Yisroel, Kedusha, and Bircas Kohanim resounded from each minyan, the prevailing feeling was of a great kiddush Shem Shomayim.

At the end of the musaf prayers, recited by each minyan according to its nusach, everyone joined together in song and dance, forming a lively circle encompassing the entire area. Then everyone headed for home under the beating sun. Along the way, many Torah-observant residents handed out cold drinks.

The few policemen stationed at the site of the demonstration were idle. A larger police force, stationed further away to forestall what was expected to be inevitable provocation, also stood by idly, because the entire event proceeded remarkably peacefully. Ushers whose job was to maintain order so that the crowd would not overflow onto the main road due to pressure on police barricades managed to maintain order without police intervention.

Chareidi members of the city council also participated in the huge service. However the absence of the kippah- wearing mayor of Beit Shemesh, Daniel Vaknin, who had chosen to spend Shabbos away from Beit Shemesh, was acutely noted.

Exemplary order was maintained at the event, far from the dire predictions of the secular media. About twenty counter demonstrators stood in front of MacDonald's, opposite the Shabbos demonstrators. The small numbers were especially conspicuous, considering the publicity campaign the treif food chain has been waging recently. A few secular drivers tried to drive into the throng, both as it headed to the prayer site and on its return home. Miraculously, there were no accidents.


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