KIDDUSH HASHEM IN THE ELECTIONS
When the results of last Tuesday’s election rolled in, the chareidi community was pleased. United Torah Judaism and the Shas party had won eight mandates each. It was a victory for the gedolei Yisroel; the Shas party had become the third largest party in the Knesset, followed immediately by UTJ. Who would ever have believed such a thing could happen? Almost all the other parties were wiped out entirely, or else reduced to a minuscule size. About 250,000 votes were received by each of the two chareidi parties (with Shas receiving slightly more). With their actions at the ballot box, half a million Jews had effectively declared their allegiance to Hashem and belief in Him as the sole Power in the world.
It was a kiddush Hashem, plain and simple. They heeded the call of the gadol hador and went out to fulfill their obligation, as he had ordered them to.
FEIGLIN’S SURPRISING LOSS
Among the losers in this election were the pollsters. One of the inevitable conclusions that emerge from this election is that we cannot rely on polls. All the most recent polls showed Likud and its rival, Blue and White, hovering around 30 mandates each, with Blue and White receiving the larger number of mandates. In general, the expectations were that the new Blue and White party would receive 32 mandates, while Likud would win 28. The results, of course, are completely different.
The gap between the pollsters’ predictions and the performance of the other parties, as well, was significant. There wasn’t a single poll that indicated that Naftali Bennett’s New Right party would not pass the electoral threshold. Almost all of the polls predicted that he would win between six and eight mandates. Moshe Feiglin, as well, was expected to be the surprise performer of the election, with an estimated seven to eight mandates. No one dreamed that he, too, would fail to make it across the threshold. Feiglin had already declared in an interview that he would be the one to decide whether Netanyahu or Gantz would be the next prime minister; the presumption was that his decision would tip the scales in the Knesset. My reaction was that the polls were actually correct in one sense: Feiglin’s Zehut party was indeed the surprise of the elections, but not because of its success. Rather, it was the party’s failure to cross the electoral threshold that surprised the entire country.
To be honest, the chareidi community celebrated Feiglin’s loss. There was great concern about Feiglin himself, who is obsessively preoccupied with building the Beis Hamikdash and would have agitated for Jews to be permitted to visit Har Habayis. Even more than that, though, the chareidim were concerned about the man in the second spot on Feiglin’s list – Chaim Amsalem, who calls himself a “rabbi.” Amsalem was once a member of the Shas party, but he has been corrupted to the point that he sometimes talks like a representative of the Reform movement. The chareidim are deeply grateful to have been spared from his designs.
Then there were the exit polls, in which the respondents were asked to “vote” again in ballot boxes maintained by the polling institutes. The results of those polls were published immediately after the election, in the hope that they would reflect the results of the election itself. Of course, at 10:00 at night after the election, the entire country was riveted by the three exit polls conducted by the various news stations. But those surveys, as well, did not manage to predict what would actually take place. The expert on the subject, Dr. Minna Tzemach, announced angrily that she believed she had been tricked; people had clearly voted one way in the polls, and then had voted differently in her mock polling booth. Tzemach furiously declared that she would no longer conduct this type of poll, in light of the unreliable results.
UTJ LOSES VOTES TO HUMAN ERROR
I actually ran into Chaim Amsalem in the corridor outside my office. He was pacing like a caged lion and speaking on a cell phone in a state of great agitation. It seemed to me that he was speaking with Moshe Feiglin, his superior in the Zehut party. “Yes! No!” Amsalem was saying, in response to whatever the other man was saying. “Then it won’t help…. Yes…. Yes…. Then it won’t change the result.” His distress was clearly evident.
“I hope you didn’t lose money on this campaign,” I said to Amsalem after he had ended his conversation. We are acquainted; after all, he was a member of the Knesset on behalf of the Shas party during the Nineteenth Knesset. For the Twentieth Knesset, he ran with the Am Shalem party and was confident that his party would cross the threshold. That is the type of mistake a person can make when his pride overcomes his common sense. Of course, he failed to make it into the Knesset, but Am Shalem managed to siphon off enough of the Shas party’s votes that Shas lost a mandate. And now he was holding the second slot on Feiglin’s list.
“Who would have believed that you wouldn’t cross the threshold?” I asked him. “All the polls showed you receiving between six and nine mandates!”
As far as Amsalem was concerned, the answer was clear: Someone had stolen the party’s votes. He was certain that some of the ballots cast for Zehut had been recorded incorrectly when the votes were tallied. Incidentally, Meretz is making a similar claim regarding its own votes. I have a feeling that this issue will not be resolved very quickly. There will be demands for a recount of the votes in many polling stations. In fact, there may even be a repeat of the entire election.
For the chareidim, too, this has been an issue. After the results were publicized, it was revealed that many votes that were cast for UTJ were mistakenly recorded as votes for the Zionist Camp. This wasn’t because of any foul play, but simply because the parties are listed adjacent to each other. The Zionist Camp’s legend consists of the letters aleph, mem, and tav, while United Torah Judaism is represented by the letter gimmel. On the charts, the two parties were listed adjacent to each other, and the people recording the votes accidentally typed in the letters of the Zionist Camp rather than the legend of the chareidi party. This was revealed when it was discovered that hundreds of votes were registered for the Zionist Camp in chareidi neighborhoods such as Geulah, while only a few votes were received for UTJ in those areas. That was impossible, and an investigation of the records from the tally conducted at the polling station itself, on the night after the election, showed that hundreds of those ballots were actually cast for UTJ. That is, hundreds of ballots that were cast for the chareidi party were recorded in the computer as votes for the Zionist Camp. That was clearly an error, but it was only part of the colossal havoc that ensued after the election.
NOW THE INCITEMENT BEGINS
There is no doubt that this is when the incitement will begin. After all, the next government will be a right-wing government that includes the chareidim, and there are plenty of people in this country who cannot tolerate such a scenario. They will feel that the state has been “stolen” from them. Just to give you a taste of the invective that is in store for us, here is an excerpt from an article that was published just two days after the election:
“In the expected coalition, Kulanu and Yisroel Beiteinu will be weakened, while the chareidim and chardalim will become stronger. In this situation, it is very possible that the most effective way for secular forces to exert influence in the future on matters of religion and state will be to follow the path that has been suggested by the new Likudniks – by joining the Likud and exerting pressure from within. There is a reasonable chance that the outcome of the election will bring about a resolution of one of the longest-running struggles in the history of the state – the conflict over equality in sharing the burden. A coalition of the right and the chareidim, with an unchallenged majority, will be able to decide on any draft evasion law [sic] that it desires. It can permit itself even to allow Yisroel Beiteinu the freedom to vote as it chooses. The most significant announcement of the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, MK Moshe Gafni, in his victory speech on the night following the elections was that the time had come to end the charlatanism in which a party with four mandates [a reference to Yisroel Beiteinu] can dictate what will not be allowed. According to him, in this case, that will no longer happen. And what about after the Supreme Court invalidates the law? With the help of the Override Clause, the Knesset will approve it again and it will be in force. Will the chilonim take to the streets to protest the inequality in sharing the burden? It is reasonable to assume that they won’t. Over the past few years, the battle for equality in sharing the burden has been quelled by despair. It is reasonable to assume, however, that this will lead to a significant drop in motivation for enlistment, and in an increase in attempts to evade the draft.”
The writer then continues, “The battle for Shabbos that the chareidim see as a burning issue today is not over the Supermarket Law. Rather, it is about whether infrastructure work performed by the railway company (and other bodies) will take place during the week, rather than on Shabbos. The chareidim will insist on limiting the work that is performed on Shabbos to matters of pikuach nefesh, but the question is how we define pikuach nefesh. In reality, any traffic jam that prevents the passage of an ambulance creates a serious problem of pikuach nefesh. In any event, it is expected that there will be many instances in which the entire country will be stuck in a traffic jam on account of construction work that could have been carried out on Shabbos but was performed on weekdays instead. This is liable to evoke public outrage among the voters for the Likud and the right as well.”
The writer, who worked for the Reform movement until recently, goes on to bemoan the movement’s failure to attain its goals. “American Jewry is heavily involved in two different religious struggles – over giyur and over the Kosel agreement. It is reasonable to assume that the prime minister understands that there is a limit to his ability to burn his bridges with American Jewry. Therefore, he will probably desire to maintain the current status quo. At the Kosel, that means that the current small prayer area will continue to exist but will not be expanded. In the area of giyur, it means the recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions that were performed overseas, but not in Israel. The Reform and Conservative movements will have to make a difficult strategic decision: Should they continue their battles when the balance of power is not in their favor, or should they attempt to preserve what they have?
We have reached the period of time when we derive lessons and draw conclusions from the outcome of the election. There are many things to be learned from this election: the extent to which the pollsters and political pundits truly had no idea of what would happen, the inevitability of defeat for anyone who seeks to oppose the Torah, the fact that the chareidi parties are not bound by the ordinary laws of probability, the wisdom of the decision of the two factions of United Torah Judaism to run as a single party, and many more ideas. Most important of all, the election demonstrated the sheer scope of the influence of the gedolei hador.
There is no question that Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s travels, which spanned the country from Teveria to Beer Sheva, were instrumental in bringing in the eighth mandate for United Torah Judaism. His unusual and remarkable appearances at the rallies in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak certainly moved every religious Jew to do everything in his power to promote the party’s success. And then there was Chacham Shalom Cohen, who also traveled the length and breadth of the country, in spite of his own physical frailty. His tearful pleas to promote kavod shomayim penetrated countless hearts. But the chareidi community cannot afford to become self-satisfied on account of its success. Now that the election has ended, our representatives must contend with enormous responsibility.
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK…
Polling station 831 is located on Rechov Tirosh, in the neighborhood of Gilo in Yerushalayim, a neighborhood that Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Likud activist Ofer Ayubi often visit to drum up support for their party. My son, who was an observer at the polling station, related that a young man who looked like a typical Meretz supporter arrived on Election Day to cast his vote. As he passed by the workers at the polling station, he remarked casually, “In spite of the way it looks, I am actually voting for Gimmel.”
The workers stared at him in surprise. “Gimmel?” someone asked. “Why?”
“I’m crazy about Maklev,” the young man replied.
Here is another interesting tidbit from Election Day: At 8:22 p.m., I received a call on my cell phone from the number 055-6778004. When I answered the phone, a recorded message began to play, beginning with the words, “Achim yekarim, this is Moshe Gafni speaking.” I immediately severed the connection. Throughout the day, I had already received nine calls from UTJ’s campaign headquarters to inquire why I hadn’t voted yet – and I told each caller that I had indeed voted! There was clearly some sort of technical mistake at the campaign headquarters; they are supposed to be informed of everyone who has already voted, and to call potential supporters who haven’t yet been to the polls. Yet I received nine phone calls! That is what I would consider misplaced efficiency…. Interestingly, when Gafni’s recorded message arrived, my phone identified the caller as “leitzanei hador”!
Allow me to make one more observation: The Arab parties do not employ polling station workers or observers in neighborhoods such as Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Yaakov, or even Gilo. This is in spite of the fact that they are legally entitled to be represented at the polling stations, and their representatives would enjoy significant remuneration for their services – 1200 shekels for a member of a polling station committee, and 700 shekels for an observer. The reason they refuse to exercise that right is that they do not recognize the “occupied” territories as part of the State of Israel. On the other hand, they have no objection to being members of the Israeli Knesset….
The Fruits of Dedication
The wild success of both the Shas party and UTJ in the election are, in my view, the product of their absolute dedication to achieving their goal. On a personal note, I visited the respective headquarters of both parties in Givat Shaul on Election Day. The UTJ headquarters was located in Yeshivas Ohr Elchonon on Rechov Alkabetz, while the Shas party had its electoral council in a Sephardic Talmud Torah on Rechov Givat Shaul. Both of these veritable command centers were manned by a wide array of volunteers, ranging from yeshiva bochurim who were beginning their bein hazemanim vacations to yungerleit who were in the process of learning dayanus, and including baalebatim and working chareidim as well. Their efforts were fueled by the awareness that the parties’ success in the elections could hinge on even a single vote; they envisioned discovering that their parties had fallen short of an additional mandate by only a handful of votes, and the profound regret that they anticipated feeling was enough to spur them to pour all of their energies into their efforts.
The feelings that gripped all of us on election day cannot be fully expressed. There was tremendous trepidation – the fear that complacency might prove to be the chareidi parties’ undoing, that the parties might lose some of their seats in the Knesset and perhaps even slip below the electoral threshold. The claims that Netanyahu was “siphoning off” votes from the right-wing parties (which turned out to be true) as well as from the chareidi parties (which turned out to be untrue) definitely had an effect. UTJ certainly seems to have maximized its benefit from its constituents, and Shas appeared to have retrieved the votes of various traditional Israelis who had ceased supporting the party in the past.
A REFUAH SHELEIMAH FOR MICHAL BAS GITTEL LEAH
We will wrap up our discussion of the election with one more story, which is slightly connected to it.
There are two people – a husband and wife – who were unable to vote in the Israeli election because they are overseas – at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Their daughter, unfortunately, was diagnosed with a tumor, and an operation was scheduled for a month from now, but then her situation took a turn for the worse. Fortunately, someone intervened to have the surgery moved up, and on Monday, the day before the election, the parents rushed to have their child undergo the requisite presurgical scan. This scan will reveal what has already been accompanied by chemotherapy, and whether an operation is still possible. Their goal at this time is to remove the tumor altogether, not merely to limit it.
The sudden trip abroad was a logistical and emotional upheaval for the family, as everything happened with dizzying speed. It is not easy for parents to leave their home on the spur of the moment, making emergency arrangements for the four children who will be remaining behind as they scramble to gather their daughter’s medical records and to board a plane for an international flight after receiving notice only a day and a half in advance. They knew that as soon as they arrived at Kennedy Airport, they would be embraced by the chessed organizations that would continue supporting them throughout their daughter’s journey until she made a full recovery. These altruistic people do not overlook a single detail; even toys for the child would be provided. At the same time, they were pained by the fact that they would not be in Israel to vote, and that they would lose the brachos that had been promised by the gedolim to those who cast their ballots for the chareidi parties on Election Day. Still, they had no choice in the matter; they were in the middle of a war for their daughter’s life.
The young girl’s father is a kollel yungerman, while her mother teaches in a special education preschool catering to autistic children. To her students, she is virtually an angel in human guise. Her dedicated efforts have made it possible for those children to make enormous strides. On the Sunday before her departure, in spite of the whirlwind preparations for her trip to America, she came to school to bid farewell to her students and to explain to them that she would have to be gone for a while; she did not want them to suffer emotional damage as a result of an unexpected departure. When I heard about this, I was deeply impressed by the emotional strength that she had displayed; in spite of her own suffering, in spite of the fact that her daughter is fighting for her very life, her thoughts remained with her students.
I managed to contact the woman as she was about to board her plane. “The fact that you went to the school to say goodbye to your students can mean only one thing: You are a tzaddeikes,” I told her.
“What it means,” she replied, “is that I feel a connection to my students.”
“Would you like me to publicize your daughter’s name in the newspaper, so that people can daven for her?” I asked.
The mother was happy to accept that offer. Her daughter’s name is Michal bas Gittel Leah.
As for you, Michal’s mother, if you are reading this in New York, allow us at the Yated to send you brachos and best wishes. I hope that you will return to Eretz Yisroel soon, with your daughter having returned to health and bearing the good news that the disease has been purged from her body. Your students – including Moishy, who misses you very much – are eagerly awaiting your return. And if the people of the wonderful organizations in New York who are assisting this family – Bikur Cholim, which I have heard about, and Kapayim, which I am hearing about now for the first time – are reading this article, then let me applaud you for your efforts. You are the embodiment of the idea that all Jews are responsible for each other.
SEDER NIGHT WITH MY GRANDFATHER
One of Israel’s newspapers recently published a special feature in which various writers were asked to write about a specific individual with whom they wished they could spend the Seder night, and what they would request from that person for an afikoman gift. I was asked to participate in the project, and I would like to share my contribution with you.
My grandfather, Rav Avrohom Pollack, was a chossid. Neither of his daughters was able to tell me whether he was a Vizhnitzer chassid or a Seret-Vizhnitz chassid; it is possible that the latter category didn’t even exist at the time. They remember, though, that when the rebbe – whether it was the Vizhnitzer Rebbe or the Seret-Vizhnitz Rebbe – visited their town, he stayed in their home, which was the largest house in the community. Their father – my grandfather — was a community leader. He was also fairly affluent, especially by the standards of his town near Sighet. On Shabbos, he wore a bekishe and a shtreimel.
When he was 35 years old, slightly older than my eldest son, Binyomin Zev, he was murdered by the Nazis – not because he committed any crimes, but simply because he was a Jew. I have been told that he was an outstanding tzaddik. My father once quoted Rashi’s statement about Noach, “If he had lived in the generation of Avrohom, he wouldn’t have been considered anything.” In some ways, my grandfather Avrohom embodied the same height of spiritual grandeur and mesirus nefesh to which Rashi alludes in describing the “generation of Avrohom.” In all likelihood, my grandfather’s generation experienced the greatest nisayon in Jewish history. But even as he stood at the entrance to the Gehinnom manufactured by the Nazis, my grandfather exuded emunah. My grandmother, too, was murdered – before the eyes of her daughters and along with her two sons, Zev (Velvel) and Yaakov Aryeh (Leiby). There were actually four girls in the Pollack family, but two were murdered along with their parents, while the other two, Gitza and Malka, survived the war. The former was my mother; the latter is her sister.
Those two sisters survived the horrors of the Holocaust together, somehow keeping each other alive. They had given their word to their father that they would survive and see to it that a new generation was born, and they remained at each other’s sides even as they faced the accursed Mengele. They emerged from Auschwitz alone and utterly isolated, devoid of a support system of any kind and wondering what reason they had to continue living in a world filled with death. But then the Red Cross brought them to Sweden, where they discovered Lidingo. The two girls, along with 83 others, found consolation and comfort under the devoted care of Rav Binyomin Zev Yaakovson and his wife, Rebbetzin Baila, along with Rav Shlomo Wolbe. My grandfather later personally married off all the students of Lidingo. One of the girls (my mother) married his son (my father), while her sister, my Aunt Malka, married his brother’s son, my Uncle Tzvi. The two sisters went on to build wonderful Torahdik homes, one in Beer Yaakov and the other in the neighborhood of Bayit Vegan in Yerushalayim.
Throughout her life, my mother maintained a strict policy of silence regarding her experiences earlier in life. In effect, I had two mothers, one at home and the other in Auschwitz, with an impenetrable wall separating them from each other. I often begged my mother to speak about my grandfather, about the home he built and his way of life, as well as about my grandmother and her siblings, my aunts and uncles, who had likewise been martyred during the war. But there was very little that she agreed to tell me. She was overwhelmed by the fear that if even the tiniest gap was opened in the barrier protecting her from her memories, her entire world would be washed away by the deluge of recollections. She once told me that whenever she held one of her grandchildren in her arms, the image she saw was that of her brother Leiby, who was brutally murdered in Auschwitz. She also once told me that it was my father’s job to clean the fish that were purchased for Shabbos and, of course, for Pesach, for a dreadful reason: The fish were alive when they were purchased, and they tended to convulse while they were cleaned. This reminded her of the human bodies that were strewn on the ground outside her barracks in the concentration camp. From time to time, she would inadvertently step on one of those bodies, and it would convulse….
Please, Hashem, avenge the spilled blood of Your servants!
MY COVETED AFIKOMAN GIFT
My ruminations did not end there.
I added that I had always wished that I could have met my grandfather, Zeidy Avrohom. I still wonder about him: Am I similar to him in any way? Are my own children somehow reminiscent of him? I am sure that he would have rejoiced if he could meet his many descendants. If only I could see him just once and inform him that I am his grandson, the son of his daughter Gitza….
I know very little about him. I have been told that he was a highly refined person, a congenial and kindly man whose home was open to the poor and needy of his community. He lived in a house with a yard bordered by a hedge of fragrant shrubs, and with a large porch where the visiting rebbe often sat, immersed in his holy thoughts. The house had two stories, and it witnessed a constant influx of poor guests seeking his hospitality – especially in the days leading up to Pesach.
If only I had the opportunity to meet such a person, I would undoubtedly be like the proverbial child in the candy store. I am certain that I would revel in interacting with him, listening to him and peppering him with questions. What wouldn’t a person give up for a chance to spend time with the Chofetz Chaim, or to enjoy a Seder with the Baal Shem Tov? My own aspirations are probably less grandiose, but I yearn for a single Seder night with Zeidy Avrohom in his town near Sighet. I can only imagine the sight of the white tablecloth, the red wine, and my grandparents presiding over their Seder, with Leiby and all the other children surrounding the table.
And if I were there, I would certainly have stolen the afikoman. After all, if there would have been anyone at that table with an inclination for thievery, I would have been that person. And what would I have demanded in exchange for it? A bicycle for the summer? A pair of rain boots? Such trivial things wouldn’t have concerned me. What about a set of the Chofetz Chaim’s seforim? I have to imagine that the set didn’t even exist in their small town. Would I have asked for a chance to learn chassidus with my grandfather? No. Today, at my age, I know exactly what I would have asked for, if I had been able to spend a single Seder with my grandfather 80 years ago: I would have asked him for the bekishe and shtreimel that he wore on Shabbos.
SOMEONE ELSE’S MISTAKE
Last week, in one of the many publications distributed in various shuls in honor of Shabbos, I read the following: “Rav Chaim Kanievsky tells an incredible story about the tzaddik Rav Aryeh Levin zt”l, who was known as the ‘rov of the prisoners.’ … Rav Aryeh used to collect money for kimcha d’pischa every year before Pesach. Life in Yerushalayim was not easy at the time, and most of the people lived in abject poverty…. One year, during the springtime, the situation was unusually dire. It was a time of war, and many people were starving. Rav Aryeh was unable to raise the necessary funds for the poor people of the city to celebrate the holiday with joy, with matzos, wine for the arba kosos, and potatoes. Rav Aryeh Levin was terribly distressed by this, but he refused to give up. He decided that he would go to the Kosel to daven for success. Where could his salvation suddenly come from? He did not know, but he knew that Hashem is capable of anything. Rav Aryeh Levin made his way to the Old City, where an Arab suddenly approached him. ‘Take this!’ the Arab said, handing him a newspaper. Rav Aryeh Levin took the newspaper and opened it, and to his great surprise, he discovered that it was filled with money. When he looked up to thank the Arab, the man had disappeared. Rav Aryeh Levin counted the money and found that it was precisely the amount that he still needed for his annual kimcha d’pischa distribution.”
I was somewhat piqued when I read this. I had personally publicized this story in honor of Rav Aryeh Levin’s yahrtzeit last year, in the pages of this very newspaper. I quoted it from an article written by Yehoshua Sitler, the commander of Lechi in Yerushalayim, in Yediot Acharonot in 1968. Sitler had heard the story from Rav Aryeh Levin himself, but Rav Aryeh had told it differently. He related that he had gone to the Kosel with his son and was suddenly approached by “a bareheaded Jew dressed in a modern style, who handed me a sum of money and asked me to distribute it to the poor.” There was no mention of an Arab or a newspaper, nor did the man run away. Instead, when Rav Aryeh tried to question him, he said, “It is being given to you; take it and do as I said.” Now, I have no problem with the story being repeated elsewhere, but why should it be embellished with details that are incorrect?
Rav Yechiel Sternberg (whom I interviewed last week regarding his sefer about Rav Aryeh Levin’s life) revealed to me, though, that my ire was misplaced. The version of the story that I read last week was printed in the sefer Beis Imi, and was attributed to Rav Chaim Kanievsky. At the time that the book was published, Rav Yechiel related, he objected to the inaccuracies. But from my perspective, the lesson was clear: I was wrong to find fault with the writer of the pamphlet that I had come across, who was merely quoting someone else’s mistakes. A person must always be careful about where he places blame.
REB ELAZAR BLASS ZT”L
A few weeks ago, I attended the levayah of Elazar Blass zt”l. The hespedim described the niftar as a remarkable person who had excelled in every area. He was in equal parts a man of Torah, a man of chesed, and a man of greatness. His son Mordechai, a resident of New York, tearfully spoke about his father’s kindness to every Jew. At the conclusion of his hesped, he related that a great man had made a powerful comment about his father: “Reb Elazar was an adam gadol. He possessed 20 percent of the physical abilities of an ordinary person, yet he performed acts of chesed and learned Torah like 100 men with full physical capabilities.”
During the shiva, more than ten visitors repeated an identical story: Each of them related that one of his own sheva brachos had been held in Reb Elazar’s home. All of them had contended with various problems during their younger years, and Reb Elazar had somehow become aware of their situation and had assisted them. Finally, when they celebrated their marriages, Reb Elazar had announced that he was interested in hosting a sheva brachos.
In general, Mr. Blass derived the greatest pleasure from an inspiring dvar Torah. At every opportunity, he would ask everyone he spoke with to share “a good vort.” The Torah was truly an elixir of life for him. It may very well have been the only thing that took his mind off the terrible suffering that accompanied him through the final years of his life.
At his levayah, there was much discussion of the fact that he was a baal yissurim, yet his profound suffering did not affect his personality. The participants included numerous roshei yeshivos and prominent askonim. The rov of the shul, Rav Yaakov Rabinowitz, was present as well, as was the rov of the neighborhood, Rav Yehoshua Meir Rosenthal.
Reb Meir Rosenthal, a friend of the niftar, related that Reb Elazar Blass never turned down a request for aidt. When he gave, it was always with generosity and good will. “I once introduced him to one of the destitute residents of Shaarei Chesed,” Reb Rosenthal related, “and since that time, he made that man his personal project. It was because of his intervention that the man, who was ill, did not deteriorate further. Reb Elazar was the light in his life. Every Shabbos, he made sure that the man received a carton containing everything that he would need. On Yom Tov, he gave much more. When Elazar Blass sent food to someone, both the quality and the quantity were indescribable.”
Reb Elazar Blass was very fond of seforim. For several years, he was a regular presence in Otzar HaSeforim, a store in Geulah. He was an excellent customer: He would avidly browse through the merchandise and make many purchases. One of the store workers was hearing impaired, Mr. Blass once came with his close friend, Dovid Pines, and asked the proprietor if they could “borrow” that employee for a short time. The storeowner, of course, could not turn down a request from such a loyal customer.
Elazar Blass brought the employee to an audiologist and then to a store where he purchased the most advanced hearing aid available. He then returned to the audiologist to make sure that the device was working properly and had been placed correctly on the man’s ear. Three hours later, Reb Elazar brought the employee back to his place of work and departed without another word. The family learned about this story only at the shiva, when the beneficiary himself shared it with him. “Your father saved my life,” he related. “My entire life has been transformed since the day that I began to hear.”