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19 Kislev 5768 - November 29, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Motzei Shabbos at This Year's Agudath Israel Convention

by DvD Staff

At the Keynote Session of Agudath Israel of America's 85th National Convention on motzei Shabbos parshas Vayishlach, the words of two Gedolei Yisroel and of Yerushalayim's mayor about the future of the Holy City stood out.

The evening was dedicated to the topic "The Threat to Divide Yerushalayim," and the thousands in attendance at the Westin Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut, or participating through one of the many satellite hookups or by telephone, were eager to receive guidance from the "einei ho'eida."

Noting how the evening's topic "touches our very hearts" and "requires great clarification," Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and Rosh Agudas Yisroel of America, stated the facts of the times starkly: "There are forces at work in Eretz Yisroel and among the nations . . . that want to separate us from Yerushalayim . . . "

Short Trip, Stirring Words

Citing the longstanding policy of the American Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah to defer in matters of Eretz Yisroel to the Gedolim of the Holy Land, the Rebbe recounted how he undertook a short trip to Israel two weeks earlier to consult with Gedolei Eretz Yisroel. He met with HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, shlita and HaRav Aron Leib Shteinman, shlita. HaRav Eliashiv, Rabbi Perlow recounted, opposes "in all strength" plans being discussed to relinquish control of parts of Yerushalayim. He added that doing so will do nothing to bolster security and could lead to "a Jew needing a permit to visit the Kosel."

Rav Shteinman spoke similarly to the Rosh Agudas Yisroel of America, saying that plans like those being floated in Israel "will make things worse" from a security perspective. The Rosh Hayeshiva also spoke of the importance of putting the issue on the agenda of the Agudah convention, recounting the Brisker Rov's statement some 70 years ago that, while a kesher resho'im has no power, stances taken by "ehrlicher Yidden have impact on Shomayim."

The Novominsker Rebbe noted that he had spoken by phone with the Gerrer Rebbe as well (who was in America at the time of the Novominsker Rebbe's trip to Eretz Yisroel) and that he too had expressed similar sentiments. Rabbi Perlow pledged that Agudath Israel of America "will find appropriate ways of expressing" its opposition to "peace" plans that erode Jewish control of Yerushalayim.

No One To Trust

The Rebbe also bemoaned the lack of trustworthy players regarding the issue. "Whom shall we trust?" he asked, "The kesher resho'im who brought a half-million [Russian] non-Jews to Eretz Yisroel?"

He went on to detail how endangered Torah schools and yeshivos are as a result of government policies in Israel. "It is not for lack of money," he asserted. "They have money; it is our growth that they cannot stomach."

Rabbi Perlow also spoke emotionally of the terrible plight of those expelled a year-and-a-half ago from Gush Katif and other parts of Gaza, how "their lives were broken," how they were not adequately provided for afterward and how no security in any event came of the withdrawal.

Facing Toward the Holy

And then the Rebbe spoke at length and in depth of the spiritual essence of Yerushalayim, the combination of yir'oh and sholom that defines the Holy City. He talked movingly of Yerushalayim shel Ma'aloh, and of how we may not create a "partition" between that ethereal Yerushalayim and the earthly one to which it is wedded that unifies Jews the world over as they daven facing it.

He concluded his address with the tefilloh that "Vesechezeno eineinu beshuvecho leTziyon berachamim . . . "

A "Mayor" Einayim

Another highlight of the Motzei Shabbos session was an address by the mayor of Yerushalayim, Uri Lupoliansky. The Mayor spoke eloquently and forcefully about both the wonder that is Yerushalayim and "the dark cloud on the horizon." And the danger, he said, is not only from "the people Condoleeza Rice and your State Department call our `peace-loving cousins' . . . but from within our own ranks."

By that, he explained, he meant those who arrogate to themselves the name "Zionist" while considering Jews who pray three times daily that Hashem return His presence to Yerushalayim to be "anti-Zionists."

"Yerushalayim," Mr. Lupoliansky continued, "is the city that unites Jews. But what do we hear now? Government ministers are speaking openly about slicing up Yerushalayim like a salami and serving slices to the Palestinians."

"And this," he asked incredulously, "will bring us peace?

The Mayor then recounted what happened "when we gave away Gaza," pointing out how the result has been "innocent men, women and children liv[ing] in terror, waiting day and night for the siren that will give them fifteen seconds — fifteen seconds! — to run to shelter."

"Is that," he asked, "what we want for Yerushalayim?"

The Yerushalayim mayor stressed that "I do not speak in my own name. I speak in the name of the Gedolei Yisroel, the Ziknei Hador. I bring you their message that we chareidi Yidden must speak out as strongly as we can against this chillul hakodesh."

Mayor Lupoliansky then called on his listeners — "You have enormous influence and you must use it" — to do all they can to make clear their opposition to the pipe dream that relinquishing parts of Yerushalayim will bring greater peace to Eretz Yisroel, or the world. Mr. Lupoliansky then quoted the Targum on the posuk (Yeshayohu 62) "For the sake of Tzion, I will not be still," which describes Hashem's declaration as, "Until I bring the ge'ula to Tzion, the entire world will not be still." We must, he exhorted the crowd, be mispallel that, in the zchus of our protecting Yerushalayim, "Hashem Yisborach will bring us the Ge'ulah Shleima, bimeheira beyomeinu."

We Belong to Yerushalayim

At the end of the evening's program, the gathering was addressed by Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, the Lakewood Mashgiach. Focusing on the posuk in Yirmiyohu (2:2) in which the Novi is exhorted to, "call out to the ears of Yerushalayim" Hashem's assurance that "I have remembered for you the chesed of your youth . . . [how] you followed me in the desert, a land unsown," the Mashgiach explained that the earthly Yerushalayim is where, as it states in Tehillim (122:3), the shevotim were unified, where they gathered "lehodos lesheim Hashem," to praise the name of Hashem. And Yerushalayim shel Ma'aloh, he explained, citing a statement of Rav Chaim Volozhin, is the "mokom hiscalelus neshomos kol Beis Yisroel" — the place where the souls of all of Klal Yisroel are joined together. The zchus of Klal Yisroel in the midbar in overcoming its desire after receiving the Torah to return to the beautiful land of Mitzrayim, where they could have established "a Yiddishe medina," the Mashgiach said, lay in their appreciation of the prospect of entering Eretz Yisroel and building a Bais Hamikdosh in Yerushalayim. That, he explained, was the "chesed of your youth" that was to be called out to "the ears of Yerushalayim."

Rabbi Salomon went on to declare that "we are not gathered together to raise the slogan that Yerushalayim belongs to us, but we must all accept a new slogan, that we belong to Yerushalayim." We do not adequately feel the pain we must at the state of Yerushalayim today, he continued. "We hang photographs of the Kosel and the centerpiece of the pictures, the dome of a mosque, doesn't hurt us!" Perhaps, said the Mashgiach, by the current political developments, Hashem wants to awaken in us a feeling of just what Yerushalayim is, why we are strangers in its streets.

Rabbi Salomon concluded by stressing the pertinence of the convention theme, "American Jewry at Cliff's Edge: Our Role in Bringing Jews Back to Torah," which he said is really about areivus, the interrelatedness of all Jews, that which allows us to daven for the growth of another Jew — although the other may not even be davening for himself. The Mashgiach explained in the name of the Chazon Ish that, although improvement requires the exercising of free will, the free choice of the one doing the davening can be the zchus that will help another. How? Because the davener and the one he davens for are part of one neshamah. "We can do the best kiruv," he said, "by caring, by davening that others do teshuva — even by davening for resho'im."

"We have come together here," the Mashgiach declared, "to change — and to change Klal Yisroel."

In The Merit of Shmittah . . .

At the opening of the Motzei Shabbos session, Mr. Shalom Shoshana, a Shmitta-observing farmer from Naot Makir, south of the Dead Sea — where, he said, through Hashem's miracle, "salty water yields sweet fruit" — spoke of the privilege he feels to till the soil of the Holy Land.

He related how, when he first decided to observe Shmittah kehilchosoh, he received guidance from Moshav Kommemiyus. He spoke, too, of the ongoing support and aid granted him and other Shmitta-observant farmers by Keren Hashevi'is. Movingly, Mr. Shoshana described the challenges inherent in his work and in shemiras Shmittah. In the name of himself and his fellow Shmittah-observant farmers, he warmly thanked all who have supported, and continue to support, Keren Hashevi'is. "All of us together," he said, "are fulfilling the mitzvah." The conclusion of his short but heartfelt message was immediately followed by a long, loud standing ovation.

Making Differences

Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, executive vice president of Agudath Israel, also offered remarks to the gathering, beginning with words of tribute to the memory of Rabbi Yehuda Meir Abramowitz, a former member of the Knesset who served for nearly 30 years as co-chairman of the Agudath Israel World Organization.

Then Rabbi Bloom, carrying the convention theme, "American Jewry at Cliff's Edge: Our Role in Bringing Jews Back to Torah" — which had been explored at Thursday night's plenary session — into Motzei Shabbos, turned his attention to how individuals can make real differences in Jewish life and the Jewish future. He cited by name several dedicated members of the community who chose to do seemingly simple things — undertaking a Partners In Torah telephone chavrusa with someone not yet observant, opening a family's Shabbos table to Jews who have not experienced a true Shabbos, establishing a kiruv project, a summer camp or a youth group — and thereby truly "made a difference." Kiruv "professionals," he asserted, "are not enough." We need, he said, "an army of people" to reach our fellow Jews. Toward that end, Rabbi Bloom announced the formation of an executive committee charged with creating a plan to harness the good will and energy of tens of thousands of observant Jews to more effectively reach out to the large number of American Jews currently estranged from Torah.

A special presentation of a beautiful framed klaf containing a stirring tribute and brochoh was made to Mr. Elly Kleiman, who, along with his eishes chayil, have undertaken to underwrite the Daf Yomi Commission in honor of their parents and in memory of those in their families who died al kiddush Hashem during Churban Europe. Mr. Kleinman spoke about Rav Meir Shapiro's vision of unifying Klal Yisroel through Torah, and of his personal joy at having merited to be part of furthering that goal.

The chairman of the Board of Agudath Israel, Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, extended greetings to the crowd, engagingly showing how so many Jews are, whether they realize it or not, beneficiaries of the work of Agudath Israel. Conjuring a hypothetical child, Rabbi Weinberger took the audience through a chronology of his life (from even before his birth!) to his sunset years, demonstrating how frequently and meaningfully the accomplishments and ongoing efforts of Agudath Israel help Jews at every stage of their lives.

Two ziknei ho'eida who overcame great obstacles to attend the session were acknowledged by the crowd with great enthusiasm: the Bostoner Rebbe, shlita, and Agudath Israel executive director, Rabbi Boruch B. Borchardt, shlita. Their presence at the convention added a special element to the gathering.

Agudath Israel vice president for finance and administration Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin expressed the organization's gratitude to a number of individuals who have come forward to provide generous support for the writing of a sefer Torah in memory of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, zt"l, a project that had been announced — and the Torah's writing begun — at the Thursday night session.

The chairman of the Motzei Shabbos session was Mr. Jacob (Yati) Weinreb.


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