Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Ellul 5766 - September 13, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Minyon
by R. Mendel

It was a small shul with very few members. The regulars were only seven elderly men, and every day, the gabbai, Elimelech, had to go out to find three extra men to make up the minyon.

One day, Elimelech went to a family simchah. The conversation turned to the proliferation of public shiurim and how it was now possible for everyone to attend one. "Who gives the shiur in your shul?" asked Elimelech's cousin, Pinchos.

"We don't have a shiur in our shul," answered Elimelech. "It's all I can do to get a minyon each day."

"Not even between minchah and maariv?" wondered Pinchos.

"When I coax three men to join us, we daven maariv as soon as possible after minchah so that they are free to leave. There would be no time for a shiur."

"Who says the shiur has to be between minchah and maariv? You can have it afterwards. A shul has to have a shiur." The two chatted a little longer until the band struck up deafeningly, and they joined the dancing for a while.

When Elimelech returned home after the wedding, he thought about what his cousin had said, and decided that his shul, too, would have a shiur. He discussed it with the six other members and they decided that they would like a shiur after maariv each day, but not a gemora shiur; that was too difficult for them to understand, they thought. Now who was going to give this shiur?

"I found someone," announced Elimelech triumphantly, "he is a young kollel man who is prepared to do it on a voluntary basis. He suggests that we learn Ein Yaakov, which is easily understood, for half an hour each day."

Every evening, the young man, Reb Ezriel, explained every topic clearly to the seven elderly men. Occasionally, some of them dropped off for a while, and more than occasionally, they started chatting amongst themselves. Reb Ezriel could not reprimand them, and asked himself what he was doing there.

"They are not learning Torah and you don't get paid; you're just wasting your time," he told himself. Matters came to a head when some silly argument broke up among the oldsters, about the diameter of the world and its distance from the sun. Reb Ezriel tried to silence them and even Elimelech shouted, "Enough, gentlemen, we came here to learn Torah." After this rebuke, silence reigned for about two minutes, before the argument was renewed with full vigor. That evening, Reb Ezriel poured out his heart to his mentor, a well known Rov. "I am wasting my learning time, and perhaps even their learning time, because it is not right to sit in front of an open sefer and chat."

The Rov asked him gently, "Do they chat or argue every single day? Are there maybe just a few minutes when they do listen? Is there not one single individual who does listen to the shiur?" Reb Ezriel had to admit that there were about two or three individuals who did not join in the conversation, and yes, there were some evenings when nobody talked at all during the shiur.

The Rov told him to continue, for even if it is only for one man, or only for a two minutes, it was worthwhile. He then concluded with a quotation from Yeshaya (60:22), "The smallest shall become a thousand, and the least, will be mighty."

So Reb Ezriel continued giving the daily shiur.

One evening, a famous rosh yeshiva, Rav Kirsh, came into the shul. His little daughter had meningitis: she would be hospitalized for several weeks. They never left her alone, and Rav Kirsh did his stint between eight and eleven at night, until someone from the family relieved him. As the hospital was nearby, Rav Kirsh popped in there for maariv. By the time he had finished, Reb Ezriel had already begun the shiur. Not wanting to seem rude, Rav Kirsh sat down at the table, took an Ein Yaakov and listened to Reb Ezriel, who stood up immediately when he saw him. But Rav Kirsh motioned to him to continue. After some initial stammering, Reb Ezriel gained confidence and elucidated the material clearly, as always.

At the end of the shiur, before hurrying back to the hospital, Rav Kirsh turned to Reb Ezriel and said, "Thank you so much; it was most enlightening and I really enjoyed it." The next evening, Rav Kirsh came again, and again he stayed to listen to the shiur. He became a regular member of the shul in the evenings.

One evening, a student from his Yeshiva noticed Rav Kirsh going into the shul for maariv. The student thought that this was an ideal opportunity to speak to the usually busy Rosh Yeshiva privately, so he too went too. He waited for Rav Kirsh to finish davening, then approached him quickly. To his surprise, Rav Kirsh handed him an Ein Yaakov, as he himself sat down to concentrate on what Reb Ezriel was saying.

The next day, the news spread like wildfire in the yeshiva. Rav Kirsh goes to a tiny shul each evening, especially to listen to some obscure young man giving a shiur. Ten bochurim were prepared to forgo their supper the next evening, in order to ascertain whether their Rosh Yeshiva was indeed participating in a shiur. In the evenings that followed, there were about thirty-five participants in the shiur. A few sat round the table, the rest were wedged against the walls.

Many asked questions, which Reb Ezriel answered. In fact, sometimes Reb Ezriel had to call out, "Enough, gentlemen. We are simple folks here; we do not need these complicated questions." This nightly influx did not escape the notice of the locals, the neighbors of the shul.

The word spread that "it is well worth going to hear the great talmid chochom, Reb Ezriel, speaking." Each day more and more people crowded into the shul for mincha-maariv. The gabbai could not believe his eyes: even the Yomim Noroim never had more than sixty participants. Now, every evening, there were no less than eighty-six men. All because of the shiur he had started, a year ago.

Rav Kirsh's daughter recovered after ten weeks, and was discharged from the hospital. Rav Kirsh said to Reb Ezriel, "I will not be coming anymore but I cannot tell you how much I learned from you, and how I will miss your nightly shiur."

One cannot turn the clock back, and the people kept on coming every evening and staying for the shiur. Three years later, the place was transformed. It had been enlarged, and they had bought new furniture. The shiur in Ein Yaakov was as popular as ever and a Daf Yomi shiur, also given by Reb Ezriel, was added before minchah. One day, Reb Elimelech met his cousin Pinchos in the area, and invited him to see the shul. Pinchos was amazed at the change, and Elimelech told him that it was all because of him, of the advice to start a shiur. Pinchos answered, "One piece of advice follows another . . . You need a Rav. After hearing Reb Ezriel, I don't think you will have a problem appointing someone." When he was approached with the offer of a position, Reb Ezriel understood his Rov's words from over three years ago. "The smallest will become a thousand, and the least will become mighty."


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