Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5766 - March 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








"He's Like A Father To Me

By Binyamin Y. Rabinowitz

It's been a long time since we've participated in such an emotional Bar-Mitzvah—not only for us, but for the hundreds of people who were there, including roshei yeshivas, rabbonim and a number of public personalities. Most important of all however, were the Bar Mitzvah boys and their families, who could not hold their emotions in check during this uplifting event. They were celebrating the day these boys would become fully obligated to Torah and mitzvos.

Golden Crown Halls in Ashdod might never have seen a joyous occasion such as this Bar Mitzvah for 16 students of Kiryat Chinuch LeBonim. How can you not get caught up emotionally seeing 16 children sitting next to each other, all loving, caring and expressing their gratitude to those who worked so hard to bring them to this milestone?

Moments before the reception, we spoke to several Bar Mitzvah bochurim. For them, Rabbi Shaul Dolinger is not only the rosh yeshiva, he is the one who smooths their path to a life of Torah and yiras Shomayim. He is in contact with them daily—helping them overcome major obstacles—and minor details. "To me, he's like a real father," a number of them said sincerely—and the evening proved it. Rabbi Dolinger has so many children; all of them are his sons, in a very real sense.

For nearly 25 years, a beautiful garden of blossoms has been growing in the heart of Ashdod. In 1982, when the only colors in this part of Ashdod were the brilliant blue of the sky and the barren beige of the sands, the first seeds of this great Torah undertaking were sown. From the very beginning, life took hold and there was evidence of fruits—the fruits that grow on the tree of life, the tree of Torah.

"Pri Eitz Chaim" is the name that Rabbi Shaul Yehoshua Dolinger chose for the yeshiva at Kiryat Chinuch LeBonim— signifying the continuation of the Telshe derech. This method was originated by the Telshe roshei yeshivas of Yeshiva Eitz Chaim in Telshe, Lithuania—which rose from the ashes of the Holocaust and was replanted in Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States by HaRav Elya Meir Bloch zt"l and HaRav Chaim Mordechai Katz zt"l.

Rabbi Dolinger is a talmid of the American Telshe roshei yeshiva: HaRav Chaim Mordechai Katz zt'l, HaRav Boruch Sorotzkin zt'l, HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt'l, and ylct'a, HaRav Chaim Stein. Rabbi Dolinger studied and taught in the Yeshiva in Cleveland for more than 20 years before moving to Eretz Yisroel and joining HaRav Yissochor Meir in Yeshivas Hanegev in Netivot.

A few years later, Rabbi Dolinger was sent by his rabbeim to build a Torah institution in Ashdod. At that time there was a great need for a boarding school for students from underprivileged homes, whose parents were looking for a Torah true education, as well as a warm and loving environment for their children. With tremendous love and a true sense responsibility, Rabbi Dolinger took up this great burden and, meeting the many challenges, Eizor Ches of Ashdod blossomed into a center of Torah education.

Within a few years, the original campus was too small for the two hundred plus students that called it home—a physical and spiritual home. With unflagging energy Rabbi Dolinger has been able to add two new splendid buildings, in addition to the two original ones. The well-kept landscaped grounds also add to the pleasant environment.

The Mesivta is managed by a staff of experienced yirei Shomayim, along with skilled professionals who are highly regarded. In order to further develop their knowledge, the boys have been encouraged to produce several educational exhibitions illustrating a variety of halachic issues, which have become major attractions to neighboring schools.

The Rosh Yeshiva sees his main mission as bringing his students closer to Hashem and educating them in the path of our Sages. The outcome of this tremendous undertaking is clearly seen in the wonderful homes of the alumni. The most heartwarming sight of all is seeing former students coming to invite the Rosh Hayeshiva to their weddings, sitting together for a long time — not as a teacher and student, but more like a father and son.

The Yeshiva Ketanoh Beis Medrash

Entering the building, we find ourselves among a group of avreichim learning with young boys. With endless patience and love they teach and review the gemora, helping the boys to develop a living bond with the Torah.

One of the avreichim of the Kollel told us that Rabbi Dolinger established the Kollel in order to emphasize the concept of toiling in Torah — giving the young students an opportunity to see a real ben Torah, his way of life and his middos. The avreichim learn most of the day in the strong Torah environment characteristic of a Kollel, hearing shiurim from Rabbi Dolinger in the Telshe tradition, and discourses from Rabbi Asher Zelig Rubinstein in the unique style of his rebbe, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein zt'l.

After a long day of toil trying to reach the ultimate understanding of the gemora, rishonim and acharonim, it is a real inspiration to see these young Kollel fellows return to the Yeshiva to learn with the Pri Aharon high school students, giving each one personal attention.

Another picture: a single beam of sunshine shines through the clouds, lighting the scene and warming the heart. A young man is strolling though the grassy areas between the buildings during the lunch break, his arms on the shoulders of a young boy. He leans down to hear the child's whispered questions— and although this is seen only from a distance, the eyes reveal it all. The child's desperate need for feeling cared for—of having a place in someone's heart, is filled. It's not exactly part of the job. It's just part of the environment of KCL. It is impossible to miss the warm relationship between the two.

The Kollel Pri Avrohom is a magnet attracting the finest of Ashdod's Torah community. Many talmidei chachomim and mechanchim started out learning here, and today the Kollel has published it's fourth volume in its series Eitz HaChaim — Torah chiddushim. This "tree of life," the sefer, bears the "fruits"—the chiddushei Torah of the Kollel—and it is the fruits of these fruits who are celebrating their Bar- Mitzvah.

The Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Avrohom Zelig Dolinger, also a Telshe talmid and Rabbi Shaul Dolinger's son, compared the beginnings of Pri Eitz Chaim-Kiryat Chinuch LeBonim to a dry field. Slowly the field — once a forgotten dried corner in Ashdod — came to life. As its physical aspect was being cultivated, so was its spiritual aspect nurtured. "Little by little, the yeshiva became an oasis, and with time and care, the fragile blossoms developed into fruits which, in time, bore further fruits."

The Pittsburgher Rebbe , in his divrei Torah vechizuk to the boys that evening, used the words "... ki ho'odom eitz hasodeh ..." and spoke of the beautiful fruits that will come from the trees if they continue on the path they have embarked upon. "When you see Rav Dolinger's talmidim, you can see that here are boys who are learning Torah, who are working on perfecting their middos. The parents should be proud of their children—and the rebbeim, proud of their students."

It came as no surprise that Rav Dolinger was very emotional when he spoke of the element of hakoras hatov that we must have—not to any individual, but to the Borei Olom. He spoke of the importance of not taking things for granted, which is one of the major ingredients of a Torah life. He emphasized the importance of thanking Hashem Yisborach who redeemed us from Egypt, split the Yam Suf, and gave us the Torah. We must accept upon ourselves the yoke of Hashem's kingship throughout our lives. And then, gazing at each one of his Bar-Mitzvah sons sitting at their special dais, he saw that they all absorbed his words—the words of a caring and loving father.

Third Picture. On the main dais, the Pittsburgher Rebbe, Rav Michel Dov Rozovsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Vilkomere- Ashdod, Rav Shmuel Dovid Hacohen Gross, rav of Chassidei Gur- Ashdod, Rav Yitzchok Yehuda Abramovitz, rosh kollel Pri Avrohom and dayan of the Torah community in Ashdod, Rav Avrohom Zelig Dolinger, rosh kollel Pri Avrohom, Rav Chaim Kalmanovitz of Ashdod, Rav Meir Chaim Moyal, rosh yeshivas Zohar HaTorah-Ashdod, and others.

The eyes of the hundreds of guests were wide with amazement, as they watched the avreichim dancing with the Bar Mitzvah bochurim. A small hand was enveloped in a large one, like a golden chain, each link locked into the next—a chain not easily broken. The older generation gave over to the younger, and carried them on their shoulders—broad and solid shoulders of the living tree of Torah.

Suddenly, spontaneously, the rabbonim arose and joined the joyous dancing. The happiness was real — it flowed from heart to heart, and it was clearly felt throughout, as a large screen conveyed the boys' palpable joy to their mothers and sisters. Roshei Yeshivas, rabbonim, Chassidishe Rebbes, and hundreds of guests and family members danced together. It was not to the beat of the music that they danced—but to the heartbeat of true Jewish joy. All hearts quickened at the sight of these 16 young boys who had found a home, a family and above and beyond all that—they had found a future—the future of a Torah life.

The man of the hour was the Rosh Hayeshiva Rabbi Dolinger. It is hard to imagine the amount of effort required to orchestrate a bar mitzvah like this—so essential in order to impress, and to ensure that these boys continue down this path. It is now incumbent upon them to work and toil in Hashem's Torah on their own—and to eventually found a home, based on a Torah life.

Visitors and Letters Over the Years

The Torah institutions of Pri Eitz Chaim have been visited over the years by the great leaders of Torah Judaism. A rare and special visit by the Rosh Yeshiva, Maran HaRav Shach ztvk'l in still engraved on the hearts of Rabbi Dolinger and all those who were present at the time. Over the years, the Rosh Yeshiva would always inquire into the yeshiva's welfare. The students used to visit him at his home in Bnei Brak at the beginning of each new zman, to hear an encouraging and strengthening shmuess.

The staff alumni and bnei Torah of Ashdod still remember Rav Sholom Schwadron zt'l's regular visits during Elul and his inspiring words. His support and encouragement accompanied the yeshiva from the time it was founded. His involvement with the yeshiva, in fact, was based on a close friendship that had its beginnings many years earlier when Rav Sholom used to go to America for Pe'eylim and would stay there for weeks and sometimes even months at a time. His regular lodgings were at the home of Rabbi Avrohom Zelig Krohn zt'l, the father-in-law of Rabbi Shaul Dolinger.

Rabbi Dolinger's own rebbe, HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt'l, took the time and effort to come to Ashdod, to visit his student and deliver shmuessim to the bnei hayeshiva.

The letters that the gedolim wrote speak for themselves. In one of the letters, HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman wrote, "Since [Kiryat Chinuch LeBonim in Ashdod] has been working to teach Torah to our Sephardic brethren of disadvantaged backgrounds, and has succeeded in saving many lives and bringing them closer to Torah and yiras Shomayim . . . it is definitely a great mitzvah to help and support them. All those who help them will be blessed by the Possessor of all Blessings, and will merit all good things."

This letter was also signed by Maran HaRav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv and by HaRav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, and by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky.


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