Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Iyar 5762 - May 8, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








The Chavrusa

by S. Lavi

I sat in my room in the yeshiva and waited until the next applicant entered.

It was the season of registration for yeshivos ketanos, and as a maggid shiur in my yeshiva, I had been assigned the task of testing the bochurim who applied for entry.

I leaned back in my chair and, while sipping a cup of tea, tried to mentally arrange the questions I wanted to ask the next bochur on line.

A hesitant knock was heard.

"Come in," I said. As soon as I saw the bochur who stood in the door, a red light turned on in my mind. He was a tall, black-haired boy, with a fair, clear complexion. His dark eyes surveyed me anxiously.

"What is your name?" I asked.

He told me his name, and a broad smile spread across my face. I understood why he had seemed familiar to me and why my mental red light had flashed on.

"Ready to begin, Dovid?" I asked, as I motioned to him to sit down.

Dovid nodded affirmatively and sat down. I noticed his tense expression. Beneath his hand, which lay on the table, were beads of perspiration. I knew that he was nervous and I tried to speak calmly, so that he would feel at ease and be able to concentrate.

He listened to my questions alertly and shot back precise and pointed answers.

We spoke in learning for about fifteen minutes and then I asked him about his aims, his social standing and his expectations from the yeshiva. He impressed me as being an excellent student, a ben aliyah, with the potential for becoming an outstanding talmid chochom if he continued that way.

"We're through," I told him. "I enjoyed talking with you."

I extended my hand to him. But as he got up to leave, I decided to detain him a bit longer.

"Sit down, Dovid," I said. "I want to tell you something. You're my last applicant today and I have time now."

Dovid sat down and I began my story:

"Many years ago, I studied in a yeshiva in Yerushalayim. It had hundreds of students and echoed with the sound of Torah day and night. One of the bochurim in my shiur was an orphan. He had no mother and no father. He was a fantastic boy -- a gem.

"He was well known for his hasmodoh and was also considered an outstanding lamdan. Quite often, a long line of students would queue up before his shtender, waiting to speak with him in Torah and to ask him questions. He had good middos, a golden heart, and was always willing to listen to the problems of boys in distress and ready to help them. I'm not ashamed to admit that I desperately wanted to be his chavrusa, and I begged Hashem to grant me that zechus. I knew that if I studied with him, I would advance in Torah.

"My prayer was answered and, after bein hazmanim, with the induction of a new shiur alef, we were assigned new roommates. I was fortunate and merited him as my roommate. As a result, we became friendly and decided to study together every morning.

"At that time, I was the happiest bochur in the world. I learned, firsthand, the meaning of the Chazal: `It's good for the tzaddik and good for his neighbor.' When in that bochur's presence, it was impossible to waste time, to speak loshon hora or to get angry. The atmosphere he created was so positive, that whether you liked it or not you were swept into it.

"Thursday night mishmar, which starts Thursday night and lasts until early Friday morning, is a long- standing tradition in yeshivos kedoshos. In addition to studying together in the mornings, my new chavrusa and I decided to study together at the Thursday night mishmar too. Those were the best hours of my youth.

"We studied into the wee hours of the morning, when many people still slept. At that time, the yeshiva was like an island of light and kedushah amidst the darkness. In the warmth and pleasantness of the yeshiva's large study hall, the sweet gemora niggun enveloped us from all sides. And then, in the last period before night gives way to a new day, we studied mussar together. Those were special moments during which we probed the recesses of the human soul, and had deep discussions -- sublime hours, in which we decided to improve ourselves. Nothing in the world may compare to that experience. Every time I recall those moments, I am filled with deep longing for those days.

"I studied with my roommate for a few years and the two of us were very pleased with each other. One day, my friend told me that he had been offered a shidduch: the daughter of one of the roshei yeshiva. A few days later, the yeshiva buzzed with the news of the important shidduch which had just been made. The wedding was held a few months later. I danced vigorously at the wedding and was genuinely happy, even though, I must admit, that those moments weren't easy for me, because I knew my life in the yeshiva would be different from that point on and that the good old days were gone.

"During the first weeks after my friend's wedding I had to adjust to the reality of finding a new roommate and another chavrusa for the first seder. It wasn't easy. But somehow I managed. However, I couldn't reconcile myself to the loss of my Thursday night mishmar chavrusa. I didn't even want to try to study with someone else during that special seder.

"One day, I reached a decision, and rushed to carry it out before my hesitations got the better of me. Early that evening, I visited my friend who lived in one of Yerushalayim's old neighborhoods, and diffidently knocked on his door. How happy I was that he himself opened it. When he saw me, he was overjoyed. Pulling me inside, he shook my hand vigorously and barely let me breathe.

"`Where have you been?' he asked. `I went to the yeshiva twice in order to see how you were doing but didn't find you. It's great to see you! Sit down and tell me everything. Who is your chavrusa? Who's your roommate? How's your learning?'

"`It was very hard for me in the beginning,' I replied. `But boruch Hashem things had gotten easier. Sometimes I really miss you. But I've gotten used to the changes. Nonetheless, I still haven't found another chavrusa for the mishmar session. But the truth is that I also don't want another chavrusa. Since your wedding, I study alone on Thursday nights. It's hard for me to believe that anyone else will provide me with the same geshmak you did, at that very special seder. Do you think that we can resume it?'

"My friend listened to me attentively and replied: `Not a bad idea. To tell you the truth, I also miss studying with you at that seder. But I have to ask my wife how she feels about it. Be'ezras Hashem, I'll have an answer for you in a few days.'

"How happy I was when the next day, he came to the yeshiva and told me that his wife had consented on the condition that the mishmar take place at their home.

"I readily agreed to that condition, and every Thursday night I was the happiest yeshiva bochur in the world.

"The two of us would study together in his small, domed house in an old Yerushalmi neighborhood. Over a cup of steaming tea, which warmed our bodies and our souls, the two of us steered through the pages of the gemora, and cruised amidst the debates of Abaye and Rovo, asking questions and suggesting solutions until dawn.

"The months flew by, and one Thursday night, I knocked on his door and waited for someone to open it.

"At first no one answered. But I knocked again and again, because I had heard my friend's voice coming from inside. He was studying aloud. When no one answered me then, I opened the door myself, hesitatingly of course.

"When I entered, I saw an amazing and unusual sight. My friend was seated beside the table, reciting Tehillim. His face was covered with tears, which wet the pages of the sefer. I was puzzled, especially when a glowing smile crossed his face the moment he noticed me. He motioned to me to sit down and, by means of sign language, explained that I should wait for him a bit because he didn't want to stop in the middle.

"I was very curious to know what had happened and why my friend was so agitated. But I waited patiently until he had finished davening. When he finished, he got up and hugged me. Then he excitedly said:

"`Are'le, I get a mazel tov! My wife had a baby boy!'

"`Mazel tov! mazel tov!' I heartily cried, returning his hug. `I'm so happy for you.'

"`But tell me,' I hesitated. `Why were you crying and saying Tehillim? Is everything OK? How is the baby? How is your wife?'

"`Boruch Hashem, everything is fine.'

"Then, with a somewhat embarrassed glance, he explained:

"`When I came home from the hospital, I sat down and tried to digest the good news. I opened a gemora, and wanted to study. Suddenly, all sorts of thoughts raced through my mind. On the one hand, I was happy, because Hashem had given me a special gift. On the other hand, thoughts about the baby's future began to disturb me. What nisyonos would confront him in his life? What kind of friends would he have? Would he have good middos? Would he succeed in his studies? The yetzer hora lies in ambush in every corner, and tries to trap people with every step they take, and to divert them from their avodas Hashem. Suddenly, I grew melancholy. But then I shook off those feelings, and told myself: What are you sad about? I even rebuked myself, saying: It's not a time to be sad, but a time to be happy. It's not the time to worry, but a time to daven, to entreat and to cry out to Hashem!

"Then and there, I decided to recite the entire Tehillim without pause, and to entreat the Ribono Shel Olam that this child succeed in overcoming life's obstacles, because the way is rocky and jagged, and without siyata deShmaya it is impossible to reach the ultimate goal."

The young man who sat opposite me seemed very moved by my story. I, too, was mesmerized by the recollection of the incident which had surfaced from my mind's recesses.

"`Dovid,' I then told the bochur. `Do you know who my chavrusa was? He was your father. That Thursday night, he davened and pleaded with Hashem that you would succeed in your Torah study. Dovid, you are my chavrusa's oldest son.' "

Dovid's eyes glistened with tears of excitement. I saw that he couldn't express his feelings in words. I also did not want him to speak, because words would only lessen the impact of the story he had just heard.

He got up, and I accompanied him to the door, my arm around his shoulder.

"`Behatzlochoh, Dovid,' I said as I shook his hand in parting. `Tell your father that I will be happy to see that his prayers and tears weren't in vain.' "


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.