Wednesday, Jul 10, 2024

My Take On the News

 

 

Hostages’ Families Protest Political Exploitation

The hostages are on everyone’s minds. At this point, it is clear that Hamas is in no hurry to release them, and that the terror group is working very sluggishly, if at all, on a deal for their freedom. According to experts, the leaders of Hamas do not feel the slightest urgency. Meanwhile, the protests in Israel against Netanyahu are intensifying, and some of the protestors are accusing the prime minister of dragging his feet on a deal for the hostages’ release for political reasons. I am sure you will agree that this is an extremely heinous accusation. The protestors are demanding that Netanyahu be removed from power, as if there is any logic in maintaining that a different prime minister would make a greater effort to secure the hostages’ release. One can only imagine how Netanyahu feels in the face of these vicious allegations. (Incidentally, Netanyahu was out of commission for a day due to a hernia operation.)

On that note, let me update you on one unfortunate detail of the hostage situation. You may remember that I wrote an article last November about a hachnossas sefer Torah in Givat Zeev that was held as a zechus for Uriel Baruch, who was being held captive by Hamas. Unfortunately, the army informed Uriel’s family this week that he was murdered in captivity. It was a deeply saddening revelation.

But let us return to discussing the protests. The demonstrators who are calling for Netanyahu to be ousted are people who would probably have made the same demand even if there were no hostages in Gaza; they are simply opposed to Netanyahu under any circumstances. Many of the hostages’ families do not agree with their demands for the prime minister to be removed and for the country to head into elections once again. Some of those families even protested against the leftists who held a demonstration while holding pictures of the hostages. One mother shouted at them, “Don’t you dare use my son’s picture for political gain!” The families have been silent until now, but they have decided to break their silence.

Eliyohu Libman, the head of the Kiryat Arba Regional Council, whose son Elyakim is being held captive in Gaza, told the media this week, “We all want the hostages to return home, and we also understand that this [the massacre on October 7] was a major event. The leaders of the country and of the defense establishment must take responsibility, and when the opportunity arises, they must allow the people to choose their leaders and to determine the country’s course anew. At the same time, it is unacceptable for the people who have been aiming to topple this government for years to exploit the hostages’ plight to achieve their goals. Even if ten percent of the hostages’ families are in favor of setting the entire country on fire, the other ninety percent do not agree.”

Libman added, “No one is suggesting that we should go easy on the prime minister. He needs to go on the offensive and conquer Rafiach and the Philadelphi Corridor. But from the families’ perspective, an election will not bring the hostages home sooner. Plunging the country into chaos will only give the enemy reason to rejoice. It is also unacceptable to free murderers and terrorists and behave as if we were defeated, which will only spur them to further kidnappings and terror attacks. I understand that many of the families want a hostage deal in a single wave, but they certainly do not want to burn down the country. Many of the protestors are exploiting the hostages’ families for an undemocratic purpose. If the right is elected and a right-wing minister becomes the prime minister, they will simply find another excuse. The Kaplan protestors [the leftists protesting on Rechov Kaplan in Tel Aviv] have no interest in the hostages; their only goal is to bring down the government.”

Do Not Burn Down the Country

Once Libman had spoken his mind, putting the feelings shared by many of the families into words, the floodgates opened. Talik Gvili, mother of Yassam soldier Ran Gvili who was murdered on October 7 and whose body is being held in Gaza, added, “We knew the approach that some of the families were expected to take. We had a joint Zoom call in advance, and we did not agree to this. When I woke up today, I was shocked. Before my son was abducted, he was a security guard protecting the Kaplan protestors. Today, I felt that they had spit on him again. This is not the way to act. I do not think that an election now will bring the hostages home. This country is not in a state for elections. We knew that some of the families wanted to step up the struggle, but I did not agree with this approach. I think that we absolutely must make our voices heard, but I am not in favor of these protests and of setting the country on fire. It is clear that the Kaplan protestors and others are taking advantage of some of the bereaved families, and that is not correct.”

Even harsher words were heard from Chaggai Lober, father of Yehonasan Lober, an IDF soldier who was killed in battle in the northern Gaza Strip. “Yesterday, when I saw the protests, I saw a lot of pain,” Lober wrote. “I identify very much with this grief after the loss of my Yehonasan. I also saw a lot of frustration over the fact that the hostages still haven’t returned, and I feel frustration as well. I saw a lot of longing, and I can identify with that as well, sine I miss my son. But some things were said during these days that cross a red line. We are not calling for anyone to burn down the country, because this country does not belong to Bibi or to Gantz. This country belongs to me, to you, and to them. I am vehemently opposed to statements that disparage the elected representatives of the public for whom my son Yehonasan voted. All opinions are acceptable, but there must be limits on how these things are said. Even if people are suffering, that does not give them the right to offend me or my son.”

In a comment to one of Israel’s newspapers, Lober said, “The protests yesterday felt like a second knock on the door, after the first knock from the officials who had come to tell us that our son had fallen. A call to ‘burn down the country’ is a clear red line that we must never pass. Bereavement and pain do not give anyone the right to say anything they desire.”

Shimon Ohr, uncle of Avinasan Ohr, who is being held captive in Gaza, said, “Avinasan’s blood is being used against the family’s wishes. The protests yesterday were political protests. We swore that we would not bring politics into the issue of the hostages. Most of the families are opposed to these protests, which might even lead to the hostages’ deaths.”

The Purim Attraction on Rechov Sorotzkin

Before I continue on this subject, I would like to digress to discuss a topic that I neglected to mention on Purim. I would like to make an observation about the yeshiva bochurim who made the rounds of homes in Yerushalayim, including my own home. These bochurim are not comfortable soliciting funds, but they do not realize the degree of joy that they bring to the people they visit. Purim affords us the opportunity to observe the world of difference between the “drunks” in our community and the drunkards who populate the outside world. The difference is obvious and dramatic. Every year, the two days of Purim bring a host of inspiring sights and sounds from the bnei Torah of Eretz Yisroel, whether in Bnei Brak or in Yerushalayim, at night or during the day, in the heat or in the cold. When these young men imbibe the Purim wine, the secrets that emerge are the testaments to their yiras Shomayim. Every year, we observe young men emptying their cups and dazzling everyone around them with their Torah knowledge and wisdom. Chazal tell us that a person can be gauged based on his kos (cup), and I have heard two different interpretations of the statement: A person reveals his true colors when he is drunk, and he also reveals his character in the way that he eats and drinks. One person may drink like a hedonist, while another drinks like a yorei Shomayim. And this is another barometer of a person’s spiritual caliber. Once again, the bochurim who appeared on the streets of Yerushalayim this year did not disappoint us in any way.

As you may be aware, it is impossible to drive on these streets on Purim. Traffic is virtually at a standstill, as the streets are filled with vehicles. But it is worth it to visit the area anyway, simply for the purpose of watching the bochurim and yungeleit who spend the entire year in the bais medrash and who display their innermost selves on Purim. I am sometimes reminded of the old joke about the woman who complained to her rov, “Rabbi, my husband doesn’t know how to drink.”

“But that’s wonderful!” the rov replied.

The woman shook her head. “The problem is that he drinks anyway,” she replied.

In the case of these bochurim, while they do not know how to drink, their drunkenness triggers an outpouring of purity and spiritual beauty.

Incidentally, the bottle in this picture isn’t real; it is a balloon. It became an exciting attraction on Rechov Sorotzkin on Purim this year.

The Hole in the Sefer Tehillim

In Cheshvan 5783/November 2022, we were shocked by a terror attack that took place at the entrance to Yerushalayim, which took the life of Aryeh Schupak, a 15-year-old talmid in Yeshivas Harei Yehuda. At the time, we had an interview with Aryeh’s father, Reb Moshe Schupak, and asked the readers to daven for the recovery of Elchonon ben Livnat, a yeshiva bochur who was wounded in the attack, and of Chaim Nochum ben Faiga Rivka, a 60-year-old man who was seriously injured and was in serious condition. Elchonon was a friend of Aryeh, and Chaim Nochum, otherwise known as Rav Chaim Nochum Baumel, was a resident of my neighborhood of Givat Shaul. Our entire community davened fervently for his recovery and monitored his condition with great concern. Rav Baumel hovered between life and death for many days, undergoing a number of major operations, while we all held our collective breath. As soon as he regained some of his strength, he made sure to locate the ambulance drivers who had brought him to the emergency room and to thank them. He also asked them for mechilah for the blood that had stained their stretcher. He is a genuine tzaddik in every sense.

Reb Chaim Nochum is a man of enormous spiritual fortitude, but he was robbed of a good deal of physical strength by the attack that weakened him and left him in pain. I daven in the Zupnik shul every Shabbos together with him, and I see that he is still suffering from residual pain to this day. Rav Baumel is an outstanding talmid chochom and is a beloved and highly respected member of our community. Several months ago, he held a major kiddush to celebrate the first anniversary of his salvation. His survival was unquestionably miraculous; given the severity of his injuries, it is clear that he very narrowly escaped death in the bombing.

Since Reb Chaim Nochum is originally from America and is now a survivor of a heinous act of Arab terror, I made several attempts to convince him to submit to an interview for this newspaper. However, I haven’t yet succeeded in persuading him. Rav Baumel is exceptionally humble, and he has no interest in public attention. I am still trying to convince him by urging him to give thanks publicly for the miracle that saved his life, and I have been trying to persuade him that there is no better public forum for that purpose than the pages of Yated Neeman. Nevertheless, he has remained firm in his refusal. I did manage to find out a little bit about him, though: He is a talmid of Rav Abba Berman, having learned under him in Yeshivas Iyun HaTalmud. He once shared some of his recollections with me about his time in the yeshiva, where he learned under the tutelage of the illustrious rosh yeshiva.

This leads me to my current story. This Purim, I arrived at the Zupnik shul for Maariv and noticed a commotion at Rav Baumel’s home, which is adjacent to the shul. I soon discovered that he was holding a tish of sorts. Many dozens of people were coming to his home while Rav Baumel sat at the head of the table, wearing a shtreimel and regaling his listeners with divrei Torah. I hurried into the apartment, seizing the opportunity to make a single request: “Please show me the Tehillim with the hole!” Rav Baumel had been carrying a sefer Tehillim in his pocket at the time of the terror attack, and a piece of shrapnel hit the sefer and became embedded in it. If the volume of Tehillim hadn’t been there, he might have been mortally injured.

Rav Baumel, who was in a buoyant mood, agreed to my request and asked one of his family members to show me the sefer. He pointed out the hole in the binding and told me to turn the pages. “Look at where the hole ends,” he said. I complied, and I discovered that the last damaged page of the sefer was in kapitel 124. “Now read the posuk where the shrapnel penetrated it,” he said. I read aloud, “Our soul escaped like a bird from the hunters’ trap; the trap broke and we escaped. Our help is in the name of Hashem….”

Rav Baumel had grown emotional. “Look at the brief summary before the perek,” he said. Amazingly, the synopsis read, “[This perek] is a lament about the Yishmoelim, who desire to swallow us alive, and gives thanks to Hashem that He did not deliver us into their hands.”

“You see?” Rav Baumel exclaimed. “These introductions are presumed to have been written by Rav Chaim Vital,” he added.

Confusion on the Left

Terror continues unabated. Acts of terror have become so routine that they are barely reported in the media anymore, even though some of the terrorists are residents of Israel. Meanwhile, the war in Gaza is continuing to exact a heavy price, and the attacks in the north have already led to Israeli fatalities. And at the same time, the IDF is continuing to exterminate terrorists wherever they can be found.

Sometimes, a terror incident can even lead to a mussar haskel. A few days ago, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on a group of Israelis on Route 90 in the Jordan Valley, which runs from Yerushalayim to Teveria. The two wounded victims of the shooting were leftist activists who had come to the area for an activity to benefit the Arabs. The anarchists were on their way to show solidarity with Palestinian shepherds in the area and to make a show of “protecting” them from Israeli settlers. However, the Arabs shot at them, and the anarchists were rescued by the settlers.

Now, how do you think the leftists reacted to this incident? This is what they wrote: “We are witnessing a rise in the intensity and scope of the oppression of Palestinians throughout the occupied territories. Human rights activists operating under these violent conditions are also vulnerable to harm, as we saw this morning. This incident will not prevent us from continuing to work to protect the Palestinians and to demand liberty and equality for all the residents of this land. Only a solution to the conflict will bring peace and security to the entire country.”

Parenthetically, the activists had been driving a new car, since their previous vehicle was stolen from them by armed robbers about a month ago. And as you may have guessed, the carjackers were Arabs.

A few days after the shooting attack, MK Tzvi Sukkot was touring the region when he met a group of left-wing activists from an organization that calls itself Looking the Occupation in the Eye, who had come to the area to harass Jewish shepherds. “This is absurd,” Sukkot exclaimed. “These anarchists have come here to harass the people who saved them!” Turning to a woman in the left-wing group, Sukkot said, “Two weeks ago, your car was stolen, and now you were shot at. Do you still not understand who the enemy is and who your friends are? You come here to harass shepherds, and Arabs shoot at you and steal your car. Don’t you get it?”

The left-wing activists proceeded to block Sukkot’s path, and he said, “This is a very strange incident. Turning your back on other Jews is a sign [of madness].” Sukkot asked a local resident, “Who came to the aid of the leftists when their car came under attack?”

“The same people whom they are attacking,” he replied.

The female left-wing activist immediately called the police to report that “violent settlers” had arrived to attack her. As the confrontation drew to an end, Sukkot said, “I am asking you this question in all seriousness. Last week, the Arabs shot at your activists and the Jews who live here came to help them, yet you come here to harass the Jewish shepherds. Why? After you were robbed and shot at, you are harming the same people who rescued you!”

The Draft Law Is Back on the Agenda

The draft law is back on the public agenda, and it has brought all the pompous left-wing professors, spiteful cartoonists, and slanderous spin writers out of the woodwork. One recent cartoon portrayed the draft deferments as coming at the expense of the hostages in Gaza! For now, the Supreme Court has given the government a one-month extension to pass a law that seems to be the only way to prevent mass conscription of all the bnei yeshivos in the country.

What makes this situation even more ludicrous is the fact that the army does not actually want bnei yeshivos in its ranks. It is not capable of absorbing them, it is not interested in doing so, and it has no need for them. However, since the IDF has reported a manpower shortage, all the enemies of Judaism have come forward to insist that adding chareidim to the army’s ranks will rectify that problem.

This week, I received a phone call from an eloquent and insightful baal teshuvah who once served in an elite unit in the IDF. “What needs to be done now is to promote the idea of a professional army,” he said. “I don’t mean that this should be done to remove the pressure from the chareidim; I mean that it is in the best interests of the IDF. Today, the army drafts everyone and then invents jobs that it doesn’t really need. There are large numbers of soldiers in the army today who are doing absolutely nothing. Thousands of people are wasting three years of their lives for no reason. Do you know why the Yamam counterterror unit is so professional?” he added. “Because the men in that unit serve for many years. Many of them are between the ages of 35 and 40. Having every citizen serve for three years in the army is a waste. Anyone who talks about the importance of an ‘army of the people’ is not speaking in professional terms at all. We need to fight for a professional army,” he concluded vehemently, “and that battle must be fought by the secular public!”

The draft law has once again taken center stage in the public eye, and that means that anti-chareidi incitement has returned as well. This week, a headline in Haaretz proclaimed, “Supreme Court Rules: No Funds for Yeshivos Whose Students Do Not Enlist Beginning Next Week.” Let’s ignore the confusing wording of the headline and move on to the lead, where the writer relates, “Netanyahu asked for a 30-day extension to craft an outline for the draft exemption law.” But it wasn’t Netanyahu who described it as a “draft exemption law”; that terminology came from the Haaretz writers.

In a similar vein, Calcalist published seven pages of coverage on the draft law last week, repeatedly invoking the Hebrew term for shirking responsibility. “The draft shirking law is the worst of all,” the newspaper reported on the first page. The second page added, “Netanyahu is cooking up a draft-shirking deal at the expense of those who are serving.” On the fourth page, this is reiterated: “The chareidim will continue shirking [the draft] and the burden on those who are serving will grow.” On the fifth page, it adds, “It would be impossible to come up with a worse law for shirking the draft.” Then on the sixth page, the writers further charge that “the draft law offers opportunities to shirk the economy as well.” How much hatred and bias can be packed into a single newspaper? There isn’t an iota of objectivity in all seven pages, nor is there the slightest effort to present the opposing view. The writers of Calcalist are trying to subtly shape the perceptions of their readers with their skewed, one-sided coverage of the issue.

That is even aside from the advertisement sponsored by “the soldiers of Yom Kippur 1973,” which accused the chareidim of “dodging the draft with the help of a guilty man [Netanyahu].” These words appear in large red letters, accompanied by pictures of the leaders of the chareidi parties. “Next week,” the advertisement warns ominously, “Netanyahu’s government of shirkers will vote for a corrupt evasion deal that will exempt chareidim from military service.” In smaller print, the writers describe the government officials as “the coalition’s shirkers of full military service.” The Hebrew word for shirking thus appears four times in this advertisement, which consists of very little text but abundant malevolence.

Rav Ovadiahs Anguish

These are difficult days for Klal Yisroel and for the State of Israel. The Torah world is under siege here and Eretz Yisroel is coming under attack throughout the world. We know that the Torah is truly all that we have in this world, and when we encounter hostility to the Torah, we must appeal to Hashem to protect us.

I can never forget the tears that Rav Ovadiah Yosef shed while sitting shiva for his eldest son, Rav Yaakov Yosef, in Iyar 5773, about a decade ago, when he received a visit from Prime Minister Netanyahu. “I am deeply pained about the yeshiva bochurim,” Rav Ovadiah told the prime minister. “We believe that the Torah safeguards the world’s existence. We are surrounded by enemies; may their swords pierce their own hearts. The Torah protects and saves us, and if the yeshiva bochurim are taken to the army, chas v’sholom, they will not be learning Torah. Without the Torah, who will protect us?” Rav Ovadiah showered Netanyahu with praise and implored him to stand firm against the efforts to impose a draft on the bnei yeshivos.

“This is the reason that you were placed in power,” Rav Ovadiah told him. “Hashem will help you as well. A king’s heart is in Hashem’s hands; he will help you impose your will on those who are scheming against the Torah.” As he appeared to be on the verge of bursting into tears, Rav Ovadiah added a few words that made an indelible impression on all of us: “I am in great pain and in mourning. My son was a wonderful man, a precious talmid chochom, and I am in pain over this loss. But more than anything else, I am pained about the yeshivos. You know that it is up to you; do not be fearful or weak…. May you see Hashem’s salvation.”

Rav Ovadiah’s son, Rav Yitzchok Yosef, recently declared during his shiur in the Yazdim shul that if the draft is forced on the bnei yeshivos, the chareidim will leave the country. These comments evoked a firestorm of fierce responses, including a demand for the rov not to receive the Israel Prize, which was due to be awarded to him for the Yalkut Yosef series of seforim. Rav Yitzchok Yosef subsequently visited Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman, who said to him, “I would like to encourage the rov. What the rov said is the truth. How can anyone say anything different? This is the foundation of everything.” He added, “The sentiment that you expressed was also voiced by my father-in-law, Rav Shach, in 1988, at the beginning of the yarchei kallah. He announced at that time, ‘If there is a decree against the bnei yeshivos, I will raise my hands up to Shomayim and declare, If I forget you, Yerushalayim, may my right hand be forgotten, and then we will take our suitcases and leave.’”

The two rabbonim went on to discuss the Lomza yeshiva, and Rav Bergman recalled, “I learned in Lomza together with Rav Chaim Kanievsky. I believe that we learned 21 masechtos together. When I was in the Lomza yeshiva, it was during the period before the state, when people were fighting in the underground movements. These men would come to the yeshiva regularly and urge the bochurim to go out and defend the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel. They told us that it was an emergency situation and we needed to close our Gemaras. It was very difficult to deal with them; they used to sit down next to us in the bais medrash and give us no rest. I went to the Chazon Ish and asked him how to respond to them, and he told me to say only one thing: that I would not agree under any circumstances, and that I wanted only to learn Torah! ‘Do not add a single word,’ he said. ‘There should be no explanations. If you start trying to explain things to them, then they will catch you on something. That is how people fall prey to them. Just tell them no, and that is all!’”

“We weren’t to answer them or respond to them in any way. All we were to say was that we would do nothing but learn Torah.”

Avi Maoz Calls Out Hypocrisy

Speaking of the calls for conscription of yeshiva bochurim, I quote an excellent speech delivered by MK Avigdor “Avi” Maoz in the Knesset last week. I will omit most of the interjections that were called out by other members of the Knesset while he spoke.

“I would like to address my brothers who are leading the campaign for equality in sharing the burden. I’m sure that you are in favor of this equality, but for some reason, you had no problem with the threats of the IDF pilots and the members of Brothers in Arms to refuse to serve when it suited them. I’m sure that you are in favor of equality in sharing the burden, yet it doesn’t bother you that the Arabs have rights without obligations. I’m sure you are in favor of equal sharing of the burden, but you don’t even raise a finger to prevent the burden of reserve service from falling on a very small percentage of the population, mainly people from very specific sectors. Yes, you are in favor of equal sharing of the burden, and that is why Lapid managed to stop the trend of increased chareidi enlistment eleven years ago with his campaign to promote that equality. You are in favor of equal sharing of the burden, but you would never want to see chareidim reaching positions of significant influence in the army, just as there is a glass ceiling that blocks anyone whose nationalistic or Jewish attitudes are too much for your taste. What was it that the senior officers in the education corps said to Rav Yigal Levenstein, the head of the Bnei Dovid institutes in Eli? Let me quote them: ‘We love your motivation, but we do not tolerate your ideology.’ End quote. And you are in favor of equal sharing of the burden, as long as it doesn’t impact the radical progressive revolution that has been taking place in the army for over twenty years.”

The left-wing Knesset members were furious. Mickey Levi screamed, “There is something wrong with your head!” But Maoz wasn’t fazed. “Of course you are in favor of sharing the burden,” he continued, “on the condition that all the new recruits remain subservient to a monolithic General Staff. You are in favor of sharing the burden equally, but if the IDF becomes a chareidi army, then there isn’t the slightest chance in the world, MK Mickey Levi, that you would send your children to serve in it. You would fear that they might become baalei teshuvah. Of course, you are in favor of equal sharing of the burden, but only if it supports your true goal: bringing down the right-wing government. You are in favor of equal sharing of the burden, but the truth is that you are quaking in fear of the chareidim joining the army, both because of their potential influence on the army and because you would no longer be able to exploit this issue to serve your own interests.

“Mr. Chairman,” he continued, “I served in the army both in regular service and in the reserves as a combat soldier until the age of fifty. I believe that army service is a mitzvah of unparalleled importance. But the current campaign is the quickest and surest way to block any progress toward equality in sharing the burden.”

Ayman Oudeh Accuses the Army of Butchering Arabs

Since I am quoting speeches in the Knesset, you might as well hold onto your seats while you read the next one. This speech comes from the opposite end of the political spectrum; it was delivered by MK Ayman Oudeh, who took advantage of a debate over a law dealing with transportation and took the podium ostensibly to voice his opposition to the bill. But instead of speaking about the subject at hand, he decided to talk about Gaza.

“Mr. Chairman and my colleagues in the Knesset,” he said, “before I discuss the proposed law, it is important to me to make you aware of what was written a short time ago by the former health minister and Israel’s ambassador to France, Yael German. I am addressing all of you, but mainly members of her party. She wrote that the starvation in Gaza is a war crime. This is the message written by Yael German, who served as health minister in the government of national rehabilitation: ‘I call on the government of Israel to halt the policy of starving the residents of Gaza. In an investigation conducted by experts, it has been revealed that the quantity of food being supplied to Gaza is insufficient and that malnourishment is taking a toll on the health of hundreds of thousands of people, in violation of the principles of ethics and the rules of international law. Starving a population is a war crime in every respect, and we must say this loudly as a shadow government seeking to rehabilitate Israel.’

“I would like to address you with this comment,” Oudeh continued. “There is blindness of the heart, and there is blindness of the conscience. I call on you to be a true opposition to this government and its crimes in Gaza. That is the role of an opposition. What the army is doing there is criminal; it is destruction, it is murder, and it is slaughter.”

Ofir Katz (Likud), who was chairing the session, ordered Oudeh to leave the podium, but he continued railing against the government as he walked away. “This is slaughter. The residents of Gaza are being butchered. That is what they are doing there,” Oudeh insisted. “They are slaughtering children and babies. That is what you are doing in Gaza.”

“Get out! Get out! Outside!” the chairman shouted at him. “You are a terrorist!”

MK Aida Touma-Sliman, another member of the Arab party, called out, “Why? What regulation makes you entitled to take the floor away from him?”

Ofir Katz replied, “The rule that he is not allowed to accuse the soldiers of the IDF of slaughtering innocent people!”

Touma-Sliman ranted angrily until she, too, was expelled from the room, and then Ofer Cassif joined the chorus of shouts against the chairman, who called him to order.

“Stop calling us to order!” Cassif shot back. “You are a thug, not a member of the Knesset.”

“I call you to order for the third time,” the chairman replied, and the ushers were ordered to remove Cassif from the room.

Rav Chaims Instructions

Let me end this week’s column with a charming story about a telephone call I received from a bochur some years ago. As soon as he identified himself, I said, “Are you collecting for your yeshiva?”

The young man laughed. “I see that you remember me,” he said.

“How can I forget?” I replied. Three years earlier, I had met this young man while he was hitchhiking outside the Coca Cola factory in Bnei Brak, and I offered him a ride to Yerushalayim. Taking in his long peyos, I assumed that he was a Breslov chassid, but he revealed that he was not. “We’re an ordinary Litvish family,” he said. “We live in Ramat Shlomo, and I learn in Bnei Brak.”

“Why do you have such long peyos?” I asked him.

“Because Rav Chaim told me to grow them,” he replied.

It was a fairly simple answer to the question. The young man revealed that he had gone to Rav Chaim to request a brocha, and the rov had asked him, “Why do you cut your peyos?” After that encounter, the boy stopped trimming his peyos altogether.

During our drive, he told me that he was about to enroll in yeshiva gedolah, and he planned to begin trimming his peyos again, since the yeshiva administration had instructed him to adjust his appearance to be like the other bochurim. I was shocked. “You’re going to cut your peyos?” I exclaimed.

“Yes. Rav Chaim told me to do so,” he replied.

The boy explained that when he had received those instructions from the yeshiva he wished to attend, he had returned to Rav Chaim to ask what to do. Rav Chaim had told him to abide by the yeshiva’s rules.

A few months later, there was a tragedy in the yeshiva, and the bochurim began undertaking various kabbolos in response to the incident. This bochur, who had taken my phone number, called me to solicit funds for one of the programs. When he called me again after some time had passed, I presumed that the yeshiva was running another fundraising campaign. As it turned out, I was mistaken.”

“I am actually calling to invite you to my wedding,” he said.

“Your wedding?” I repeated. “If I am not mistaken, you are barely nineteen years old!”

The caller chuckled. “That’s true,” he said, “but Rav Chaim told me to get married.”

Well, I made sure to show up at the wedding, and I arrived when Rav Chaim’s son was being honored with the final brocha of the sheva brachos. The Kanievsky family was heavily represented, and I couldn’t help but notice the chosson’s father, a distinguished-looking man with a very long beard, most of which was covered by his buttoned jacket. I asked someone about the father’s beard, and he laughed.

“He went to ask Rav Chaim for a brocha many years ago,” he explained, “and Rav Chaim told him not to trim his beard.”

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My Take on the News

  New Hostage Deal in the Works Much has happened over the past week. There have been more fatalities among the IDF forces, and over

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