Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar 5766 - March 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











BeHeichalei HaTorah
"Today Was like a Chag for Me"

by Binyamin Y. Rabinowitz

The Chief Rabbi of Tunisia, HaRav Chaim Bitan, paid a special visit recently to the homes of maranan and rabbonon gedolei Yisroel, a visit that was organized by HaRav Chaim Cohen, the rosh hayeshiva of Yeshivat Orchos Moshe in Moshav Berachiya. The Chief Rabbi summarized the visit, saying: "Today was like a chag for me."

The Chief Rabbi of Tunisia came in Teves for a visit in Israel. Immediately after he got off the plane he became a source of great interest in light of the fact he serves as the Chief Rabbi of an Arab state that doesn't have diplomatic relations with Israel.

HaRav Chaim Bitan is known as an honorable and important rav, who leads the small Jewish community left behind in Tunisia, and guides the community in pure Torah hashkofoh. He enjoys complete support from the ruling authorities, due in large part to his special personality, and is able to direct all the religious affairs throughout the country without any interference from the authorities.

The rov of Tunisia came to Israel in order to visit the homes of maranan and rabbonon, amongst other things, and to present to them a report about the wonderful Torah developments that the Tunisian Jewish community has enjoyed in the past years. Rav Chaim Cohen, the rosh hayeshiva of Orchos Moshe in Moshav Berachiya, hosted him and arranged for his visits in the homes of maranan and rabbonon.

Yeshivas Orchos Moshe in Moshav Berachiya has enjoyed great success, and attention was directed towards it on the occasion of the recent visit of HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman. The rov of Tunisia solicited the help of Rav Chaim Cohen, as an expert in chinuch, in order to help him on his visit to Eretz Yisroel, and the two of them arrived at the homes of gedolei Yisroel in order to discuss all the issues connected to religious life in Tunisia.

The visit began with HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, who sat with the rov of Tunisia for an hour, showed interest in each detail of the religious life of Tunisia, and expressed his opinion on various issues raised by HaRav Bitan. HaRav Bitan explained that all the Jewish educational institutions in Tunisia teach only al taharas hakodesh, and have no secular studies.

"In the talmud Torah there are 150 students, learning in loshon hakodesh. They learn alef-beis from the sefer Hamesorah, as the children do in talmudei Torah in Eretz Yisroel. They learn only limudei kodesh, and in yeshiva ketanoh they learn according to the Tunisian traditions in iyun—the analytic approach—Rashi and Tosafos with the Maharsha, as we've been accustomed to do all the generations in Tunisia. We accept students in the yeshivos ketanos only on condition that they will not learn secular studies in the local schools, and we're very particular about this condition," HaRav Bitan said.

A central point of the discussion was the issue of a Bais Yaakov for girls who have completed their elementary school education. Rav Bitan sought advice from HaRav Steinman about whether to establish a Bais Yaakov high school. There is a serious problem in the community, he said, because when the girls finish elementary school they have nowhere to go and the fear is that they'll go to the local schools.

HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman expressed his opinion in great detail about this issue, and guided HaRav Bitan in the principles upon which he should base the chinuch for the girls in order that it will be al taharas hakodesh. He advised Rav Bitan to take an older couple from Europe or Israel who no longer have children living at home to implement this important undertaking.

He further proposed that Rav Bitan should consult with organizations familiar with the field of chinuch, such as Lev L'Achim, in order to learn practical techniques of opening the new school and so that they'll be able to advise him in future developments. At the conclusion of the meeting Rav Bitan asked for a brochoh for himself and the entire Tunisian Jewish community that they should be able to continue to strengthen themselves in Torah and yiras Shomayim.

Next, HaRav Bitan visited HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, and told him at length about all the Torah developments and events of the Tunisian Jewish community, which doesn't include even one non-religious Jew, in the merit of an educational system that operates entirely on the principles of al taharas hakodesh. HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz expressed his amazement about the pure Torah education that the Jewish children of Tunisia receive, and warmly encouraged Rav Bitan to continue in his holy work with Tunisian Jewry.

HaRav Bitan spoke about one of his visits to Israel, when he witnessed the special initiative of Ovos UBonim and how he brought the idea to his unique community in Tunisia. In his conversation with HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz he mentioned the extra stringency his community keeps in all matters of tznius.

For example, the Jewish Agency recently brought a group of Jews from Tunisia to Israel to check the possibility of making aliyah, and HaRav Bitan was successful in insisting that the participants in the trip be only families and not singles. Lately, a group of 100 families arrived and examined the communities in Ashkelon and Netivot as possibilities for settling in Israel.

The visit ended in the home of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, who encouraged HaRav Bitan and blessed him and the entire Tunisian Jewish community very warmly. After the visit with the gedolim, Rav Bitan toured Bnei Brak briefly. He showered praises upon Rav Chaim Cohen, in whose merit he was able to enter the homes of maranan and rabbonon gedolei Yisroel and seek their advice.


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