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22 Iyar, 5784 - May 30, 2024 | Mordecai Plaut, director | Vayishlach - 5782 Published Weekly
Stories - Fiction

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HaRav Nosson Zochovsky shlita: The Story of his Family and Inspiration for Sefiras HaOmer

With the eruption of World War II in Elul 5699, and later, when the Russians invaded Lithuania, whoever was able to flee, did so. One of the mashgichim of Slobodke, HaRav Dov Zochovsky zt"l, who came to had come to Slobodke from Eretz Yisroel, possessed a Palestinian passport. A relative sent him an American passport, so that he could flee to that country, but he refused to use it. Instead, he decided to return to Eretz Yisroel with his family.

They traveled from Moscow to Odessa by train and from there, would connect to a boat crossing the Black Sea to Turkey and from there sailing to Eretz Yisroel. Moments before the shaky ship left the port, it was discovered that a woman was missing. Accompanying the Zochovsky family, she had been detained by the authorities.

"If that is the case," declared the Rav, "we are all remaining behind and I will do my best to straighten things out for her."

People on board tried to dissuade him. It was wartime, they said, and this was the best chance of survival for the entire family. Everyone was aware that this was the last boat to leave for Turkey and from there, to Eretz Yisroel.

But Rav Dov had already debarked and was on land...




Jewish Money for Palestinian Causes

According to a report in The Daily Beast, the Bafrayung Fund, based in Covina, California, is one of the largest supporters of the Palestinian Youth Movement, which played a major role in the pro-Palestinian protests in U.S. colleges this year. The Fund has also contributed substantially to two of the Palestinian Youth Movement's allies: the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and Critical Resistance.

Behind the Bafrayung Fund is Rachel Gelman, from the family that founded the Levi Strauss company. The money for the Bafrayung Fund comes from just two sources: Gelman herself, and the Morningstar Philanthropic Foundation, the personal charity of her parents, who have long been active in organizations promoting American-Israeli relations.

Rachel Gelman's great=grandfather was Walter Haas, the businessman who built up Levi Strauss from a small San Francisco wholesaler into a global denim brand.




A Reiner Mentsch, A Reiner Torah: HaRav Moshe Soloveitchik zt'l

Part IV

This multi-part essay was originally published in honor of the first yahrtzeit. He was niftar 19 Iyar, 5755. This was first published in 5756 (1996).

The Torah of Chesed

Reb Moishe taught that the guarantee that one's Torah learning would not suffer from doing chesed came with a condition. It applied only if one's intentions in interrupting learning were correct i.e. one only wanted to be of benefit to another Jew and was not seeking a pretext to take a break from learning.

The extent to which Reb Moishe himself fulfilled this condition can be judged from the way he would return after a phone call or consultation to the very same spot in his learning as before, picking up the discussion as though there had been no interruption at all.

Though he could hardly have considered this an ideal way to learn, he did not agree to stop the calls. When those he was learning with complained that the telephone's periodic ringing was disrupting their learning and asked him to disconnect the line while they were learning together, Reb Moishe refused. "Perhaps someone needs me," he stated simply.

The most he would concede was that his rebbetzin take the calls and refer to him only those that could not wait.

Reb Moishe once sat with another talmid chochom, immersed in the depths of a difficult sugya, when the telephone rang. The caller sounded troubled and confused. He asked Reb Moishe a question about running a business. From the way the man was talking, Reb Moishe understood that the man had no idea of how to keep the business accounts. Within a few minutes, Reb Moishe had explained the principles of book keeping and the conversation ended.




Questions for US Secretary Blinken

Scott Perry, representative in Congress, a Republican from Pennsylvania, presented critical questions to Anthony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, when he was required to testify in the House of Representatives.

He began by asking if there was a difference between the aid America was supplying to the Ukraine and the aid they supplied to Israel. Blinken replied that ostensibly, there was no difference and that both nations are friends of the U.S. Perry persisted, asking if when the U.S. sends arms to the Ukraine, it makes certain conditions, such as limiting its use in urban areas so as to lessen damage. Why must Israel present to the U.S. detailed plans where the arms will be used whereas no such conditions are made to the Ukrainians?

Blinken shilly-shallied by avoiding a direct answer and insisting that America was helping Israel exceedingly. Scott persisted: "I am not saying that the U.S. was not helping Israel, I am only studying the documents and reading the bare facts which indicate that the U.S. sends arms to the Ukraine without strings attached, enabling that country to use them as they see fit, but when it comes to Israel, that country must present plans in advance and abide by the conditions dictated by the American government. What is the difference between Israel and the Ukraine?"




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Outstanding Articles From Our Archives

Opinion & Comment
Might and Joy in His Place

A Shmuess from the Mashgiach HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, zt'l

In this previously unpublished shmuess, the Mashgiach carefully builds a panoramic exposition of some fundamental lessons. It contains many profound yet practical ideas. A word of advice - it is not casual reading; each section should be read slowly and carefully and digested before continuing.

Part I

The Paradox of Matan Torah

"`Your neck [is comely] with strung pearls' (Shir Hashirim 1:10).

"When they discussed a sequence of divrei Torah, going from divrei Torah to Nevi'im and Kesuvim, fire burned around them and the discussion was as joyous as when the Torah was given at Sinai. Was there not fire when the Torah itself was given from Sinai, as it says (Devorim 4:11), `and the mountain was burning with fire to the heart of the Heavens?' " (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1)

When Chazal threaded together divrei Torah, burning fire appeared around them and their discussion filled them with great joy. Matan Torah is identified as the source of both the joy and the fire. It was a supremely joyous occasion and fire burned all around.

Chazal cite a further manifestation of the joy at matan Torah. "Every utterance went around to each and every member of Yisroel . . ." As soon as the Israelite accepted it, the utterance kissed him on his mouth (para. 2 of Shir Hashirim Rabbah on posuk 1:2, `He will kiss me . . .')."

The pesukim in the Chumash reveal a very different picture however. "And the people saw and they moved and stood far away. And they said to Moshe, `You speak to us and we will listen but let Hashem not speak to us lest we die' "(Shemos 20:15-16). The Mechilta adds that they recoiled, retreating a distance of twelve mil, the entire length of their encampment.


Opinion & Comment
Sefirah as Preparation for Jewish Unity: Preparing for "And Israel Camped There" -- Kabbolas HaTorah

by HaRav Moshe Samsonowitz

The Sefirah days are preparation for the day when "Israel camped there, opposite the mountain [at Mount Sinai]" (Shemos 19:2). The people achieved total unity at that revelation, as Rashi explains, "Like one man with one heart."

Our task during Sefirah is similarly to achieve unity. This is all the more relevant during a year of elections, which inevitably brings conflict and controversy. Our people's disunity cannot only be laid at the door of the secularists who malign the Torah world and Jewish values. We must also accept our responsibility for the fragmentation and internal politics that plague religious society.

Let us therefore study the words of the Gaon HaRav Yitzchok Eizik Chover, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon's close student, Rav Menachem Mendel of Shklov. In his sefer Pischei Shearim (p. 54), he explains the meaning of collective unity:

"An orderly structure reveals the will [behind it] to obtain a specific outcome. After you see the final product, you can understand how each part made a necessary contribution leading to its perfect functioning. Similarly, the verse says, "G-d made a man straight (to know his responsibilities in this world) but they seek many schemes (their desires pull them into selfish directions)." (Koheles 7:29)

"This is the core of all controversies and unwarranted hatred, whose deleterious affect on the world is greater than all sins combined, as it says, "If Ephraim's nerves are connected, he will be fine." (Hoshei'a 4:17) (according to one interpretation of the Radak) but, "If the heart is divided, then they are doomed." (Hoshei'a 10:2)

"For the Jewish people is like one body and each Jew is responsible for all the others. They are like a body which has many limbs through which the blood circulates, and all share in the pain impulses sent from the brain. If one limb experiences pain, it affects all of them. Furthermore, the circulatory system not only connects all the limbs, but each limb contributes to the welfare of the others. For instance, the ability of the eye to see helps the entire body - and similarly for the ear and hand. Each limb individually contributes to the improved functionality of all the others, enabling a person to live a better life. The individual limbs all contribute to the same purpose, which is to enable a person's optimal existence."

Rav Chover continues, "So it is with every Jew. Each one was created to help rectify his friends. Each Jew has individual traits to help him rectify the entire world and the collective Jewish body. This can be seen in the gemora (end of Oktzin 3:12), `Hakodosh Boruch Hu found no vessel to contain blessing for Israel other than peace . . . ' The inverse is true: if Jews do not seek to perfect each other, then there will be no blessing among them."

Rav Chover's words give a clear picture of the meaning of "Israel camped there like one man with one heart." When each individual feels that he is a member of a united group, when all the limbs share the same goal of optimally maintaining the body, then they have achieved supreme perfection and unity. Similarly, when each Jew sees himself as a member of the Jewish collective and recognizes the necessity to serve the community and care for its well-being, then the Jewish people has reached a state where they are free of controversy, and blessing rests upon them.

"A Banished Person Will Not Remain Estranged from Him"

Rav Chover's idea of all Israel being one body has other implications. Just as no person would give up any of his limbs, we cannot give up on any Jew!


These links were fixed, Tammuz 5781