Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Shevat 5763 - January 8, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Yated Ne'eman: The Unknown History

by Betzalel Dickman

There is no doubt that one of the keystones to the Rosh Yeshiva's influence on our generation was set during the long exhausting days preceding the establishment of Yated Ne'eman. At this time of the year we mark the anniversary of the establishment of the English edition 14 years ago. On that occasion we thought it would be appropriate to publish this account of the establishment of the Hebrew paper about three-and-a-half years prior to that.

In this article, the reader will become acquainted, for the first time, with some of the facts and the conditions forming the background for the emergence of the newspaper, together with Rav Shach's involvement, which actually steadily increased as the obstruction to the emerging newspaper grew.

This article was not easy to write. Those who aided HaRav Shach in this area shared one strong, common characteristic: loyalty with no anticipation of reward and with no expectation of gaining power. These are the silver threads interwoven throughout their activities. The only thing motivating them was the fact that they were paving the path towards the Rosh Yeshiva's leadership of Klal Yisroel.

This includes the rabbonim who were his close confidants or the members of the Vaada Ruchanit who enjoyed his confidence and who witnessed the fruits of his blessing in everything they did for the success of the newspaper, or other activists who put every possible effort into establishing the newspaper. We also heard this at first hand from Rabbi Shmuel Chasida, the first editor of the newspaper.

This article focuses on the period in which the newspaper was founded with the active and personal intervention of the Rosh Yeshiva. We are obviously not intending thereby to diminish the achievements of other individuals' contributions to the newspaper and its establishment.

The Social Place of the Newspaper

The newspaper is undoubtedly the keystone of the Rosh Yeshiva's influence and leadership. Every issue is read by thousands of bnei Torah. If Maranan Verabonon have a message to get out, the fastest and most reliable way they have is Yated Ne'eman.

Contrary to what it seems, the establishment of the newspaper was a thoughtful step-by-step process that was followed in order to ensure the viability of the newspaper and the spiritual leadership of the Rosh Yeshiva.

As was the case with his general leadership, the intervention of the Rosh Yeshiva was part of a process involving all the parties concerned and he was keenly attentive to all the developments taking place in the matter.

Rav Ch. told us the following:

"The Rosh Yeshiva intensely desired the establishment of the newspaper [for some time], but for various reasons he did not reveal his close intervention in the process leading to the emergence of the newspaper. He also points out in a letter, which we will cite below, `The Steipler encouraged the founding (of the newspaper).' But we knew the truth. There was a period when no progress took place. One chol hamoed Pesach he met me and asked: `Vos is mit dem tzeitung? (What is happening with the newspaper?)'

"One day I went to him and told him, `Boruch Hashem, today we opened a bank account for the newspaper.'

"HaRav Shach was very happy. He assumed I wanted a donation. He took his purse from the closet and spilled out all the money inside it, which amounted to almost $100. The Rosh Yeshiva smiled and said, `You expected more . . .'

"I said, `Chas vesholom! I just wanted to let the Rosh Yeshiva know of this development.'

"I saw the happiness of the Rosh Yeshiva with every new development in the publication of the newspaper.

"As the activities towards publication of the newspaper progressed so did the efforts to stop it increase. These efforts were so powerful, that one of the respected members of the Agudas Yisroel of America was planning to come to Eretz Yisroel to stop its publication. HaRav Shach knew of this and told me to hasten setting up a `dummy' [a mockup of an issue of the proposed paper - Ed.] so it would be a irreversible fait accompli . . . and so it was.

"He did not rely on mere promises. Only when he saw the determination, reliability and alacrity of those who cleaved to the mission, did he express his ardent wish for the existence of this newspaper and his intervention progressively grew.

"When it was finally published, there was great surprise about the extent of the Rosh Yeshiva's dedication towards the consolidation and realization of the idea. Day after day people came to see him -- not to hear answers, on the contrary they did "not ask questions" -- they came to hear his daas Torah and to fulfill his will. It seems that the Rosh Yeshiva's actions were very personal [and unusual], as we heard from one of the rabbonim on the spiritual committee: "HaRav Shach did things which were not typical of him at all, because of his intense wish for the newspaper to succeed."

The Circumstances, Conditions, and Goal

As soon as the newspaper became a fait accompli, its purpose was evaluated anew and all the specific circumstances that brought about its publication were ignored completely.

One of the circumstances [that was a reason for its publication] was the lack of consideration for a whole community and its rabbonim in what was published. The newspaper that previously existed and was supposed to be the mouthpiece of daas Torah for the whole chareidi public, was completely dominated by a handful of editors who decided, essentially on their own, what is daas Torah and what is not.

Although these circumstances brought about the development of the idea for the new newspaper, however as soon as the decision was finally taken to establish the newspaper, the perspective changed to meeting the general needs of Klal Yisroel. The goal of Yated Ne'eman, according to countless conversations and constant guidance from the Rosh Yeshiva, was the same goal as of all the gedolim in the previous generations. They saw the necessity for a forum for publicizing daas Torah on contemporary issues, and also to offer an alternative newspaper based on taharas Hakodesh.

The writer of this article was told by rabbonim of the Vaada Ruchanit that every time they discussed the design and character of the newspaper, the decision was always made to format it in a way that would have the broadest appeal and meet the demands of the widest public for a newspaper. The Steipler said, "It should not be an Oz Nidberu sheet, but a newspaper!" Of course, everything was to be according to Torah hashkofoh, and expressing the gedolim's position on contemporary issues [even when this conflicts with the goal of reaching the widest public that is not always interested in hearing such things].

The first editor, Rabbi Shmuel Chasida, tells us about the guidance he received from HaRav Shach. He adds that there was even an attempt to attract a large and well- known Chassidic group to read the newspaper.

In Shvat 5746 [1986], still during the early months of the newspaper's publication (it had started in late 5745), Rav Shach wrote a letter that was directed to an assembly called for the founding of the newspaper. Maran zt"l describes the dangers existing in most of the other newspapers "which imbue poison, heresy and apostasy." Towards the end of the letter he writes about the "better newspapers" where the journalists still do not express daas Torah and its hashkofoh and "who dominate what should be common property (the newspaper of the movement)."

He then goes on to praise, "Yated Ne'eman whose establishment was encouraged by Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky ztvk"l and is under the supervision of talmidei chachomim."

The Establishment of the Vaada Ruchanit

One of the rabbonim of the Vaada Ruchanit, who was known to be very faithful to Maran zt"l, told us: "One Shabbos afternoon, a famous talmid chochom knocked on my door and told me that HaRav Shach had sent him to me. He had been to see the Rosh Yeshiva and had argued that a newspaper for bnei Torah would cause more harm than good. So HaRav Shach sent him to me to present his points."

It was at that time that HaRav Shach had spoken with the above rov of the Vaada Ruchanit and discussed with him the necessity of establishing a Vaada Ruchanit that would be responsible for and charged with overseeing the newspaper's activities.

He saw this as the crowning jewel of the enterprise and an essential prerequisite for the newspaper's existence and ensuring that it would be a realization of his expectations.

For this reason he chose the Vaada Ruchanit's members carefully and took rabbonim upon whom he relied and felt he could trust and he spent [or had spent] a lot of time with them. There is a letter that the Rosh Yeshiva signed from erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5748 (1988) that reads as follows:

"It had been absolutely fixed that the Vaada Ruchanit (this is followed by a list of their names) are the sole owners of the newspaper, in everything that is connected with its spiritual path, its political direction, and dei'os and hashkofos. They are to decide what is to go in and what not, and they are appointed above all the editorial staff. No one but they has any right or authority on this. Others may only advise . . . "

The Rosh Yeshiva did not see the committee as simply a hechsher for the newspaper but an essential prerequisite for implementing the concept of a "Torah newspaper" in our time. The editorial staff is naturally worn down by the goals set for it and the weekly demands of publication. The fact that there is a Vaada Ruchanit made up of talmidei chachomim who are [principle-centered], is a guarantee that the newspaper will stick to its aims and be nothing other than the agent of the gedolim shlita.

Today, after the newspaper has been in existence for a good while, we see how essential it is, so much so that others have imitated it -- although the imitations are generally only partial and/or superficial.

The Difficulties and Deliverance

People who brought the newspaper into their homes for the first time had no idea under what conditions it was published. It was a period of uncertainty. Every day the newspaper went out only due to its own miracle. The concept "daily newspaper" took on a new meaning: every day they thought that they would have to give it up the next day.

The war waged by some parties against the newspaper took on frightening proportions. Any business advertising in the newspaper got a treatment: telephone harassment and even loud demonstrations outside the store. A buyer would come into the store and "suddenly remember" that the business was advertised in the Yated and then he would demonstratively leave the store.

Government offices methodically avoided the new and "hopeless" daily newspaper. Any rational person could see that the newspaper was a fleeting adventure -- here today, gone tomorrow. Based on rational data, advertisement agencies published dire forecasts for the prospects of the newspaper.

"They had no idea how right they really were," the administrative staff tell us. They had no idea -- and it is a miracle that they did not know.

Rav H.B.R. gives us a concrete example of the situation then, that typifies the atmosphere and the conditions during that period:

"One night the night staff at the printer (Al Hamishmar) called me to tell me that the grid of one page of the newspaper was missing. A "grid" is a page as it is prepared for printing by the editorial staff. The printing staff was impatient and wanted to go ahead and just print a four page newspaper with one blank page and only three pages of text.

I quickly got up, took one of the old newspapers in my house, ran to the printing house, and stuck an old grid with old articles and advertisements on to the machine. The main thing was that there was no blank page . . . Only after I saw the printed newspaper come out did I return home.

The next morning I received angry phone calls from store owners who were furious that we printed their adverts again. It seems that early that morning they began to be harassed and did not understand why, until they saw their adverts again in the newspaper. They called me and yelled at me for doing them the "injustice" of giving them free advertising.

"I will never forget motzei Simchas Torah of 5746 (1985). [This was the first break since publication began the previous summer.] You could say, `If not for that day the newspaper would have ceased to exist.' As we said, the newspaper had managed to come out day by day on its own steam. Chol Hamoed Succos came and we all breathed a sigh of relief. For seven days we would not have to worry about putting out a paper.

"On motzei Simchas Torah I realized that no one was planning to come in that night to put out the paper! I called the night editor Rabbi Freilich, and informed him that I was coming to pick him up in a cab on the way to the office. I had a feeling that if the newspaper would not get printed that night, it would cease to exist. We drove to Shefa Tal (the old Tel Aviv address of the paper), and the dark and frightening atmosphere there reflected our feelings.

"We went into the office and the sight greeting us was complete devastation. The furniture was upturned, there was mess everywhere -- it looked like the last place on earth to produce a newspaper. I began to despair; my will to succeed began to fade. Suddenly I heard the Teleprinter, printing out news items from the Ittim agency, spewing news as if it were in an organized, working editorial office. I felt like a paramedic who discovers a heartbeat in a clinical death situation.

"The editor and I took the news and somehow managed to print a four page paper. This edition was important for the revival of the newspaper. It was an artificial resuscitation for the newspaper.

"In the course of that night we saw a new light at the end of the tunnel. Two future editorial staff, whom the Rosh Yeshiva saw as the `saving angels' of the newspaper, came to see the office and were not encouraged with the confused atmosphere. In praise of them it must be said that their feeling for the Rosh Yeshiva and the faith he put in them, together with the Vaada Ruchanit, brought the eventual success.

The Secret Trip to the United States

As we said, the harassment was at its peak. Also there was no income, only expenses. How were we to continue? Rabbi C.B. paid the first salary from a loan he took out. The printer refused to continue working without a second payment. The administration members paid part of what was owed out of their own pockets and the printer agreed to continue, for the moment. Rabbi C.B. took out another loan and then another. His brother, who was on the Vaada Ruchanit, came to his aid and also took out a large loan. By now the loans added up to tens of thousands of dollars and still there was no hope on the horizon.

Rabbi C.B. recalls, "One day I went to see HaRav Shach, who knew the situation. With great joy he told me about a certain amount of money he was able to give me for the newspaper.

"For us this was a breath of fresh air, but the sum was just the tip of the iceberg that we needed. I told HaRav Shach about a wealthy man whom I knew would give generously if the Rosh Yeshiva would ask him. He replied `Du vest mir keilenen. Ich hel nit betten fun a anderen a toiva. (You will kill me. I cannot stand to ask someone for a favor.)' "

Here HaRav Shach began to tell me of the time he was a bochur and he used to eat his Shabbos meals at one family's house, as was customary in those days. His friend, who also ate those meals with him at that family, said to him, "Look, you walk around in torn trousers. Why don't you ask the family to give you a pair they don't need? Whatever their condition at least they will not be torn."

"HaRav Shach said, `I told him, "I do not want to do it. I cannot ask someone for a favor. That is ten times harder for me than to continue walking around with worn and torn trousers." '

"Then he turned to me and said, `And now you want me to ask for a favor?'

"I understood Maran zt"l . . . and I left."

"He never ceased giving us encouragement and reassurance. He would say about the harassment and the pressures `S'vet ariber gei'in -- It will pass!' When we reflect today it seems like it was a mountain but for him it was a mere thread of hair."

Rabbi Shmuel Chasida told us that Rav Shach would tell him about the Chofetz Chaim when he wanted to publish his peirush on the Yerushalmi but was worried that people would not buy it. The Ridbaz almost became bankrupt because of his commentary on the Yerushalmi. But today people publish and there is not enough to satisfy [the demand]. This teaches us that today there is a special shefa and anyone who wants to strengthen Yiddishkeit sees wondrous things.

The critical factor was of course the existential one, namely the budget. The two abovementioned administration members, upon whom HaRav Shach pinned his hopes, opened up a new window of opportunity for the newspaper. The trust he placed in them led to his participation in activities he would not normally have taken a part in. The organization had many aspects but at its center was the secret mission to America.

With the advice and blessings of the Rosh Yeshiva, the two set out to America in order to clarify the newspaper's situation and to collect funds. Those chosen to appeal to were also selected with the Rosh Yeshiva's advice. The trip included meetings with the heads of Agudas Yisroel, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and the Satmar Rebbe (who gave a very generous donation). It was not an easy mission. The American community did not completely understand the Israeli system.

This mission received a supporting letter from HaRav Shach that said the following:

"Erev Shabbos kodesh Lech Lecha, 10 Cheshvan 5746 (1985)

"I have come with this letter to make known where they are not familiar the special, honorable gentlemen who are involved in community work shelo al menas lekabeil pras. They do all they can to strengthen Yiddishkeit in our Holy Land, with love. These two are Rabbi Shmuel Epstein sheyich' and Rabbi Shlomo Eisen sheyich' who have, even now when traveling on private business, agreed to do something for a great need in tzorchei tzibbur.

"I request that each person help them as much as he can and may all those who help and aid them, be blessed in this merit.

"From me, Elozor Menachem Man Shach"

It is interesting to note that the letter is very delicate and obscure. The Rosh Yeshiva described the aim of this mission in hints, and only gave the impression that he was merely lending a helping hand to an independent effort. This was clearly a deliberate approach.

It is worth noting that onto this letter, ylct"a HaRav Chaim Kanievsky -- who was then within the first year of mourning over the passing of his father zt"l -- added the following:

26 Cheshvan 5746 (1985)

"Our friend Rabbi Shmuel Epstein is on a mission for a dvar mitzvah, as explained in the letter from my Rebbe Maran HaRav Shach. I request, as a truly superfluous addendum, that anyone who can help him should do so, and it will certainly be considered a great merit for him and he will be blessed from heaven with all good."

(signed) Chaim the son of Aomv"r Hk"m Kanievsky

With these letters the mission was a great success. During the mission there were meetings with most of the members of the Agudas Yisroel Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, and with most of the well known roshei yeshivos in America. HaRav Gifter zt"l arranged a special evening meeting for the paper.

HaRav Shach's Live Broadcast to America

The climax of the mission was a meeting at the home of the well-known philanthropist Rabbi Dov Friedberg, at which HaRav Shach had agreed to speak via telephone to those present. The time of the meeting was 5 a.m. Israeli time.

This is a transcript of some of the things he said:

"I wish to speak in praise of these reliable people, who are baalei batim and bnei Torah, receive no wages, and are doing all this only lesheim Shomayim. This is a very great thing. This I can tell you, there was always a tradition of gedolim who always tried to make sure there was a clean newspaper which would make it possible to express the hashkofoh of daas Torah. May Hashem help us to succeed.

"Did they hear what I said?"

(In the background) "Yes, yes we all heard."

"So, may Hashem bless you with success."

(In the background), "Amen!"

One of the largest donations, and perhaps the main one, came from a loan from a wealthy man that Maran zt"l asked of him in the course of a well-planned visit to him. The man asked, "Who will guarantee the money?"

To which the Rosh Yeshiva replied "I will!"

Everyone assumed that this was a loan which would eventually turn into a donation. But HaRav Shach did not think this and always said that he did not want to pass away until he had repaid the debt in full! He was very happy when the management of the paper informed him that his desire had been completely fulfilled.

The "Meeting" in Bnei Brak

Parallel to the mission to the United States, it was decided to arouse the bnei Torah in Eretz Yisroel who were loyal to the rabbonim to support the newspaper and to stand up against the harassment and persecution.

Notices were put up on the billboards in the yeshivos and shuls saying:

16th Shvat 5746 (1986)


All the bnei Torah are hereby invited to an important meeting of roshei yeshivos, roshei kollelim and bnei Torah, in order to strengthen the position of the Rabbonim on certain burning issues. The meeting will take place iy"H on Tuesday 25th Shvat, 5746 at 9.30 p.m. in the Kreusehar Hall, Saadia Gaon Street, Bnei Brak.

With Torah Blessings

Aharon Leib Steinman

Nissim Karelitz

Chaim Kanievsky

Even this notice already gave tremendous support to the paper, since everyone saw that the gedolim backed the newspaper, considered it a holy necessity and were willing to come out in public in support of the newspaper.

So the gathering had a huge turnout and at the end of the assembly a protocol was read out.

"The resolutions of the meeting of roshei yeshiva, roshei kollelim, rabbonim and morei horo'oh:

This day, Tuesday 25th Shvat, week of parsha Ve'anshei kodesh tihiyun Li 5746 (1986).

1. The assembly proclaims -- in the sense of kiyemu vekibelu -- complete adherence to rabbonim and gedolim in whose ways we will walk until the coming of Go'el Tzedek may it be soon.

2. Because of the spiritual situation in our Holy Land and also degeneration within our midst -- we have no one to rely on but our Father in Heaven, to strengthen ourselves in tefilloh and Torah learning. We must realize that a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.

3. With a broken heart and public protest we gravely condemn the constant poisonous offenses, and libelous publications of nonsense and wickedness, against daas Torah and those who uphold it -- Maranan Verabonon shlita.

4. The assembly strongly condemns violence, threats, and harassment, hasogas gevul and hurting another Jew covertly. We call upon all those who have yiras Shomayim in his heart not to be dragged in any way into any such acts, vehoyo machaneinu kodosh.

5. The assembly encourages and blesses Yated Ne'eman, which was established with the advice of the Rabbonim, as a platform to express daas Torah to bnei Torah and not in order to denigrate anything or anybody, and calls upon whoever can to be of help in this matter, each according to his ability, whether himself or through others.

And in the derech of our holy Torah -- "whose ways are pleasant and all her paths are those of peace" -- each person should follow his own way and not dictate his views upon others. And everyone should love truth and peace.


This is a summary of the history of the founding of the newspaper Yated Ne'eman and the conditions within which it was created by the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l.

In Shvat 5749, the Rosh Yeshiva insisted that an English language edition also be put out. It started then and today appears regularly in Eretz Yisroel, the U.K., South Africa, Australia and in Europe.


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