The story goes that when the first group of shochetim
sent by Shearis Yisroel to South America came back to Eretz
Yisroel, one of their first moves was to visit the rabbonim
with a report of their work. Nothing of the sort had been
done up to then by a mehadrin hashgochoh: to go into a
non-Jewish meat factory overseas and shecht meat
according to the highest mehadrin standard.
Understandably excited, the rabbonim gave one Shearis rov a
detailed report of all the halachic issues and answers that
had taken place. After listening patiently to their report,
his first response was: "Yes that is all fine. But will it be
When Maran HaRav Shach zt"l founded the organizations
that serve the Torah community today — Yated
Ne'eman (Hebrew and English), Degel Hatorah, Shearis
Yisroel — he certainly did it all only because he felt
that it was necessary for Klal Yisroel and for kvod
Shomayim. Rabbenu described his approach in his
introduction to the fourth edition of his Avi Ezri: "
. . . therefore our task is but to do what we have to do: to
increase Torah and yir'oh, Torah in its purity, its
wholeness and its true image, and Hashem will do His part, so
that Torah is not forgotten among people, as He promised us .
. . "
No doubt the most important result is the continued
flourishing of Torah study, and in general the advancement of
the borders of kedushoh, the exemplary, holy
communities that are expanding all over Eretz Yisroel as
discussed elsewhere in this issue. Nonetheless, there is a
lot to do and a lot that has so far been left undone in the
spiritual revolution — especially compared to the high
hopes that many had when it all began.
Yet the revolution has not been only in the areas that are
overtly identified with holiness, as many think. It extends
to many other areas as well — great and small,
political and economic. When assessing the results of these
initiatives, these accomplishments cannot be ignored.
The battles ranged from the arcane — such as the
struggle to push the government financing for chareidi
education into the regular budget instead of making it a
"special allocation" that had to be approved yearly but was
under the control of the politicians, both chareidi and
secular — to the mundane, like the trail-blazing trips
to South America to slaughter meat. This approach, which has
since been emulated by all sectors of the chareidi community,
brought in meat that was a third (!) of the price of the
mehadrin meat that had been available previously.
Obviously this innovation was of great benefit to the entire
Yated Ne'eman also is an institution whose innovations
have not been only in purely spiritual issues; its function
is to present the position of daas Torah in all areas
of modern life.
One of the major expenses of every chareidi family in Eretz
Yisroel is housing — for itself and for its children.
In this Degel Hatorah has again been at the head of
initiatives that made a major difference.
The Ramat Shafat project in the Ramat Shlomo (Shuafat)
neighborhood of Yerushalayim is a shining example. The entire
neighborhood was built at the initiative of Rabbi Avrohom
Ravitz when he was deputy housing minister some 13 years ago.
The Ramat Shafat project encompassed about 30 percent of the
entire neighborhood. It originally offered the apartments at
about the same price as an apartment cost in one of the
outlying areas like Kiryat Sefer. Later, after all the
accounts were settled, it refunded 12.5 percent of what the
surprised homeowners had paid.
Binyan Shalem, a building company founded by the Yerushalayim
branch of Degel Hatorah, has built and sold some 3,000
apartments in Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Modi'in Illit and
Elad. Though organized as a company, its goal is not to
provide a profit for its owners but housing for the Torah
community. It has acquired a reputation for success in
meeting this goal.
Now it is undertaking a mammoth project in Yeruchom that will
more than double the number of apartments it has built so
far. It is a well-thought-out project, put together by people
who know what our community needs and who are driven by a
goal of public service and not economic profit. If
successful, it will undoubtedly draw other imitators, and the
low prices will directly help struggling avreichim to
marry off their children with dignity, and the alternative
that it presents will restrain housing prices for the
chareidi community throughout Israel.
One could not ask for a more literal interpretation of the
Chazal (Megilloh 31b): Setiras zekeinim binyan
— [even] the destruction of elders is constructive.