My Take on the News

Looking Forward to Pesach

Another year has gone by and we are heading toward Pesach and the Seder night again. May Hashem perform miracles for us again, just as He did in the days of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Once again, we will recline at the Seder, absorbing the unique and uplifting atmosphere of the night. And on Chol Hamoed perhaps we will derive simchas Yom Tov from the numerous shiurim delivered during this festive period.

Allow me to share an incredible piece of information that I discovered in the sefer Mishnas Ish. The word “ish” in the sefer’s title is an acronym for the name of Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv zt”l. It is a short sefer, but every word is priceless. Mishnas Ish was published by Rav Yaakov Yosef Waldstein, who lived in my apartment building in Givat Shaul until not long ago and has since resettled in Kiryat Sefer. Rav Waldstein was a close associate of Rav Elyashiv and a constant presence in the famed “caravan,” otherwise known as the Tiferes Bochurim shul. He had unfettered access to Rav Elyashiv during the latter’s lifetime and is one of the foremost experts on Rav Elyashiv’s teachings, a fact that is noted in the haskamos for the sefer written by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, and Rav Avrohom Elyashiv.

Did you know that for many years, Rav Elyashiv ate only machine matzos? His son, Rav Avrohom, related that a group of workers from a matzah bakery had once approached Rav Elyashiv with some shailos, and he had been appalled at the degree of carelessness they had shown. In spite of the bakery’s hechsher, he was concerned that its products might not have been produced appropriately.

When did Rav Elyashiv change his practice? The author relates, “This was true until his son-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, began bringing matzos on a high level of hiddur from his own chaburah to his home. Apparently, the Steipler Gaon himself was a member of that chaburah. Until the end of his life, the rov accepted handmade matzos from his son-in-law’s chaburah…. Since that time, he ate only handmade matzos on Pesach. This was his practice for over half a century. The kneidlach and fish balls that he ate were also made with hand matzos…. Nevertheless, there were machine-made matzos in his home as well, and his family members used to eat them. His son, Rav Moshe, explained that his father was not concerned that there might have been chometz in the machine matzos. The reason he ate handmade matzos was that he wished to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah every day, in accordance with the Vilna Gaon’s view that one can fulfill the mitzvah of matzah on every day of Pesach, and he wished to perform the mitzvah specifically through the consumption of handmade matzos.”

The kuntrus includes a long list of Rav Elyashiv’s chiddushim drawn from his regular shiurim on Shas, as well as his annual drashos at the siyumim he conducted on Erev Pesach, and an assortment of divrei aggada. I will be quoting from the section that describes Rav Elyashiv’s unique practices on the Yom Tov of Pesach.

Chometz on Erev Pesach

Here are a couple of other interesting snippets of information:

“Rav Elyashiv made a point of eating chometz both on the night of bedikas chometz and on the morning of Erev Pesach in order to differentiate between the respective times for chometz and matzah. Even in the years when he limited his meals requiring netilas yodayim to Shabbos, he would make sure to have a meal including bread both on the night before Pesach and on the morning of Erev Pesach.

“On Erev Pesach, he would don his kittel before the night began, and he would sit and learn at the Seder table. He would then go to Mincha and Maariv while wearing his kittel.

“He would set up his own Seder plate in accordance with the minhag of the Arizal.

“He made sure to sit or recline on a bed at the Seder. His family would place several pillows beside him on the bed. Before the Seder, he would check to make sure that he could recline in the manner that he considered proper. At times, he would ask for a pillow to be added or taken away, in accordance with his needs.

“He did not lean on the pillows while reciting the Haggadah. He would sway back and forth in his seat and recite the words of the Haggadah in a pleasant melody. The participants in his Seder attested, according to his son-in-law, Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, that he had the appearance of an angel at that time. There are no words that can describe it, nor is there any pen that can produce a written depiction of the sight…. He would lead the Seder and recite the Haggadah aloud, and his family members would read it along with him in an undertone.”

Once again, I wish you the best in advance of the upcoming Yom Tov. And in light of the circumstances, I wish you the best of health.

We Survived Paroh; We’ll Survive This

Almost every night, Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu addresses the entire nation in their homes. Every television and radio station in the country carries every speech in its entirety, at a time announced in advance by the prime minister’s office. The broadcasters understand that the people want to hear him and that the media has no choice but to accommodate that desire, in spite of their own deep-seated antipathy toward the prime minister.

To Netanyahu’s credit, it should be said that his speeches are always on target. He is intelligent enough to speak almost exclusively about the coronavirus crisis, although he will occasionally conclude his addresses with a brief political statement. And he always repeats the same sentiment: “We are in an emergency situation, and I call on Gantz to join forces with me.” But that call largely fell on deaf ears.

Last Wednesday, when Netanyahu praised the public for beginning to understand the vital importance of staying at home (in keeping with the Health Ministry’s new slogan, “Stay at home; stay alive”), he also managed to surprise us with some unprecedented statements. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has declared in the past that he is an atheist—although there are some members of his family who would never describe themselves with that term—quoted a couple of maamarei Chazal and once again used the words “be’ezras Hashem,” an expression that he has never uttered in the past.

“Citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu announced, “you have heard the expression, ‘Any person who saves a life is viewed as if he saved the entire world.’ With regard to the coronavirus, there is a terrible flip side to this statement: For anyone who infects one person, it is as if he infected the entire world. But it is not even ‘as if.’ The reality is that he did infect the entire world.” Netanyahu cited the official statistics concerning the spread of the coronavirus at that time, both in Israel and in the rest of the world, and he noted that many other countries had begun to adopt the policies that he had instituted three weeks earlier. “It is vital for everyone to remain at home!” he continued. “Remaining at home is remaining alive. The danger lurks in the shadows for everyone; it does not distinguish between a person who is bareheaded and one who wears a yarmulke, or someone who wears a yarmulke and a person who wears a keffiyeh. Everyone must obey the instructions; there are no leniencies. ‘Venishmartem me’od lenafshoseichem…’”

The prime minister went on to report on the efforts to increase the number of coronavirus tests performed every day and to purchase new ventilators, and he confessed that no one can predict when the crisis will end. He also revealed that he has already put together a team to deal with the economic crisis (whenever our lives return to normal), and he called for unity. Then he concluded, “The month of Nissan, which begins tonight, the month of spring and of Yetzias Mitzrayim, reminds us that our nation has lived through many terrible ordeals. It gives us strength and hope. We survived Paroh, and even though the upcoming battle will be fierce and difficult, we will also survive the coronavirus, with Hashem’s help and with your help, citizens of Israel. Thank you very much.”

A Supreme Court Ruling at Midnight

Then there was another speech that certainly qualified as historic in nature. Last week was the first time in the history of the State of Israel that the Knesset speaker resigned his post. Yuli Edelstein had been placed in an impossible situation and he resigned in response.

Here is what happened: The Supreme Court ordered Edelstein to convene the Knesset in order to elect a new Knesset speaker after 61 members of the Knesset requested it. Edelstein refused, claiming that precedent has shown that a Knesset speaker is elected only after the identity of the prime minister is clear, and that the speaker must come from the same party as the prime minister. This is to prevent a situation in which the Knesset speaker is a member of the opposition. Who could ever have dreamed that this policy would one day be proven to be eminently justified?

As of last Wednesday, even though Benny Gantz had been given the mandate to form the next government, he hadn’t yet succeeded in doing so. In fact, there was every indication that he would not succeed. Edelstein therefore insisted that the election of the next Knesset speaker should be delayed until it was clear if Gantz or Netanyahu would form the government, or if there would be no government at all. But his decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, and the court ordered Edelstein to convene the Knesset and allow the vote to proceed. Of course, this was the Supreme Court’s most far-reaching encroachment on the Knesset’s authority. A political cartoon illustrated the event by depicting Chief Justice Esther Chayut driving a bulldozer and demolishing the Knesset building.

Edelstein felt that he was left with no choice other than to resign. He was advised by several Likud leaders simply to announce that he would not comply with the court’s ruling, but as anyone who knows Yuli Edelstein can attest, that would have been completely out of character for him.

The events of last Tuesday and Wednesday were completely unprecedented. The Supreme Court asked for a response from Edelstein, and he spent an entire day working on it. The court announced its ruling only one hour after receiving his answer, implying that the ruling had already been written even before his response was received. After his resignation, the court was petitioned again to force him to convene the Knesset in spite of his resignation, which would not take effect for 48 hours. Another petition argued that the most senior member of the Knesset should be appointed as a temporary speaker in his place and be ordered to convene the sitting. In this case, that would have meant that either Amir Peretz or Moshe Gafni would be given the task.

The new petitions were accepted by the Supreme Court, in a ruling issued at midnight on Wednesday. Their eagerness was a blatant sign that the rulings were politically motivated. On Thursday morning, the atmosphere was grim. The Supreme Court was blatantly meddling in the work of the Knesset and violating the principle of the separation of powers. The members of the Knesset were informed that the legislature would convene on Thursday for a highly unusual emergency sitting. The Knesset secretariat even called me at home at 1:00 in the morning to confirm that I had seen the notice and had informed the party members. It was completely unprecedented.

A Historic Resignation

Let us turn back the clock to 11:00 on Wednesday morning, when the Knesset convened. There had been some signs that Edelstein was about to announce his resignation, and everyone was waiting anxiously for the Knesset to be in session. Edelstein entered the room, sat down heavily in his chair, and read his statement aloud: “Members of the Knesset, today is the 29th of Adar 5780/March 25, 2020. I am honored to open this sitting of the Knesset. Members of the Knesset and dear citizens of Israel, on Monday of this week the Supreme Court ruled that the speaker of the Knesset must announce a vote for a new Knesset speaker before the end of the week. This ruling of the Supreme Court is not based on the wording of the law; it is an extreme, one-sided interpretation. The ruling of the Supreme Court contradicts the bylaws of the Knesset and will destroy the work of the Knesset. The ruling of the Supreme Court is an arrogant, domineering interference of the judicial branch in the work of the elected legislative branch. The Supreme Court ruling is an unprecedented assault on the authority of the people and the authority of the Knesset. The Supreme Court ruling undermines the foundations of Israeli democracy. As a democrat, as a Zionist Jew, as a person who fought against dark regimes and as the speaker of this house of elected representatives, I find that the Supreme Court’s ruling is a grave mistake that exposes a dangerous decline.”

Edelstein’s expression was grave as he read aloud from a prepared script. Although he was officially addressing the Knesset, his remarks were also directed at the people of Israel and the justices of the Supreme Court. “Members of the Knesset,” he continued, “as a person who paid a heavy personal price of years of imprisonment and forced labor for the privilege to live as a citizen of the State of Israel, I do not see the need to explain how much I love the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Therefore, as a democrat, a Zionist Jew, a person who fought against dark regimes, and the speaker of this house, I will not allow Israel to degenerate into anarchy. I will not lend my hand to a civil war. I will work in the spirit of Menachem Begin, who prevented a civil war in June 1948, during the episode of the Altanena. Members of the Knesset and citizens of Israel, at this time the people need unity; they need a unity government. At a time when an epidemic threatens us from without and division tears us apart from within, we must all act like human beings; we must lift ourselves up and be united. Therefore, for the sake of the State of Israel and in order to restore the spirit of dignity to Israel, I hereby resign from my position as the Speaker of the Knesset. Let us pray and act to bring about better days.”

As soon as he finished speaking, Edelstein left his seat. The Knesset sitting that began at 11:00 in the morning came to a conclusion at 11:05. There was an air of sadness in the Knesset and throughout the country. After serving for seven years in his position, Edelstein was packing his bags. But that did not temper the aggressive approach of the Supreme Court or the Blue and White party (or, to be more precise, Yair Lapid and Bogie Yaalon). MK Amir Peretz, the temporary Knesset speaker, called for the Knesset to convene again on Thursday afternoon at 4:00 in order to elect a new Knesset speaker. The temporary Knesset Committee, headed by Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White party, approved Peretz’s request.

Davening for Salvation in the Knesset

The Knesset is probably the safest place in the world today. There is hardly a soul in the building. But in truth, the rampant hatred frightens me more than the coronavirus. As I was heading toward the Knesset, I came across dozens of angry people standing at an intersection and holding signs of protest against the Likud party. Hatred blazed in their eyes, but I could not understand why. The same phenomenon was evident when Moshe Gafni was ousted from the chairmanship of the Finance Committee and Oded Forer of Yisroel Beiteinu was appointed to replace him. Forer and two other members of his party publicized an image celebrating their victory, in which their venomous hatred was also evident. “The Finance Committee is in our hands,” they proclaimed, paraphrasing Mota Gur’s famous declaration in 1967 that “the Har Habayis is in our hands.” They seemed to have forgotten that there was a different member of Yisroel Beiteinu who held the same position in the past. His name was Stas Misezhnikov, and today he is in prison…

Forer announced that the Finance Committee under his aegis would give priority to the sectors that “contribute” to the state. This was a very real threat, and the media explained it for anyone who did not understand his meaning: The era of the yeshivos, they proclaimed, was over, and a new era was beginning for the state budget. Within the chareidi community, there was a crushing sense of despondence. The atmosphere of gloom was so intense that it nearly led to dancing after the sudden turnabout on Thursday night.

The new coalition was fierce and aggressive. Six temporary committees were established, none of them headed by the Likud. Two of the committees were placed under the control of the Joint Arab List, including the Labor and Welfare Committee, which is responsible for the government stipends for wounded IDF veterans and terror victims. Who would ever have imagined that we would see a coalition formed by Yisroel Beiteinu and the Joint Arab List? The power of hatred is incredible!

The emptiness was felt in the Knesset shul as well. The mispallelim had already divided into minyanim of ten men each, but it was difficult to find even a single full minyan. We recited Avinu Malkeinu, and when some of the mispallelim expressed puzzlement, the gabbai showed them a letter from Rav Yitzchok Yosef calling for the recitation of the tefillah. Of course, the chief rabbi had intended it as a measure to combat the coronavirus, but one could not help but think that we were also davening to be saved from a rabidly secular government.

Toothpicks in the Elevator

Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Toledano zt”l, the onetime Minister of Religious Services, once commented that politics is a hybridization of hypocrisy and lies. Today, the Knesset is a hybridization of two other phenomena: recess and closure. But I was still able to make some entertaining observations in the building. For instance, outside every elevator in the new wing of the building was a small box of toothpicks. Passengers in the elevator were supposed to use the toothpicks instead of pressing the buttons with their fingers. In the main building, though, there were no toothpicks outside the elevators. Perhaps the well-being of the passengers in those elevators was not important…

The Knesset also prevented the main room from being occupied by more than ten people at a time, but dozens of Knesset members congregated outside the doors along with the ushers, waiting for their names to be called, before the votes on each of the four committees. Moreover, the entrance from the parking lot was locked, forcing all the members of the Knesset to come into the building through the same entrance, which is highly inadvisable during the days of corona. This is a difficult time in Israel.

Last Thursday, when I arrived at the Knesset, I found myself in the middle of a sea of cars bearing black flags, whose drivers were screaming as if their entire lives had been ruined. One elderly man wore a face mask and a shirt bearing the words “sarayich sorerim” (“your officers are rebels,” a quote from Yeshayahu 1:23). The contempt and hatred for Bibi has risen to a crescendo, and just like a virus, it has been passed along from person to person.

I have often been perplexed by the fact that certain people seem outwardly normal yet manage to act in a despicable fashion. Yair Lapid looks like a normal person, and Avigdor Lieberman even looks like a pleasant man. How could they have committed such heinous deeds? Recently, I came to an understanding of this. The Chazon Ish famously teaches (Kovetz Igros 1:13) that a person who attains Torah knowledge walks among other people and looks no different from them, but he is actually like an angel among men, a lofty creature who exists on a plane far above his fellow human beings. By the same token, we can say that the people who battle against the Torah likewise look like ordinary human beings, but they are actually creatures of evil who lead lives of complete depravity and are deserving of every possible form of shame.

A Bombshell on Thursday

At 3:00 in the afternoon on Thursday, everything turned upside down. The political right was boycotting the election of the new Knesset speaker. After all, why should they participate when they were guaranteed to be defeated? Meir Cohen, a partner of Yair Lapid, was poised to become the next Knesset speaker, and his party controlled all the Knesset committees. They were in a position to pass any law that they desired to implement. Netanyahu and the Likud warned that if Cohen was elected as the Speaker of the Knesset, it would put an end to any efforts to establish a unity government (or an emergency government). But that did not seem to deter Lapid. Of course, there was still hope that Gantz might fail to assemble a coalition, or that he would think twice at the last minute about relying on the Arabs and that something would change. But we did not know what that change might entail.

The contenders for the position of Knesset speaker were supposed to submit their candidacies no later than 3:30 p.m. so that the Knesset could discuss them and vote. Edelstein did not even bother submitting his name; there was no need for him to waste his time or endure any further embarrassment. The question was whether anyone else would vie against Meir Cohen, Yair Lapid’s chosen candidate, who was ostensibly supported by Blue and White and the entire group of 61 MKs from the left and center, including Lieberman. And then the news suddenly arrived that Benny Gantz himself had submitted his candidacy as well.

Ripples of shock ran through the Knesset. It was a political bombshell that threw the entire legislature into turmoil.

Soon enough, Gantz’s puzzling move was explained. Under pressure from his partner, Gabi Ashkenazi, Gantz had severed his ties with Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid, informing them that he planned to join Netanyahu regardless of whether they would support him. Naturally, that meant that they would not support Meir Cohen for the position of Knesset speaker. Lapid was shocked, as were the Meretz and Labor parties, as well as the Arabs. Lieberman was stricken; it seemed that it was a more painful blow to him than to anyone else.

Gantz and Ashkenazi are now poised to receive the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry; they will divide the positions between them. They will also be awarded several other posts to hand out to their party members. Gantz’s party, Chosen L’Yisroel (the Israel Resilience Party), will join the unity government, without Yesh Atid and Yaalon’s Telem party, although a couple of members of Telem are likely to join the government without Yaalon himself. The announcement was met with shock, followed by tears of joy. Everyone was in a rush to join forces, largely due to the battle against the coronavirus. True, it was unthinkable that an anti-religious government supported by the Arabs would be formed, but this was a turnabout that no one had ever imagined.

“I Did It for Am Yisroel”

The announcement was followed by a debate. The members of the right hadn’t registered to speak, and all the speeches were therefore delivered by the left and by Blue and White’s representatives. Most of them attacked Gantz. Lapid, Lieberman, and their cohorts were nowhere to be found; they were clearly hiding. Lapid and Lieberman were the biggest losers in this story—along with the Supreme Court, of course. Lapid submitted an official request for his party to be dissociated from Gantz; he also asked to keep the name of the party as his own. At a special press conference on Thursday night, Yaalon and Lapid unleashed every insult in their respective arsenals at Benny Gantz. But he did not seem to be fazed in the slightest.

The debate in the Knesset came to an end, and Amir Peretz, who was chairing the sitting, announced the vote. One after another, the members of the Knesset entered the room and voted. The result was that Gantz was elected by a majority vote of 74. He was immediately offered the speaker’s gavel and the opportunity to deliver the first speech. In the corridors of the Knesset building, people were rejoicing over the unexpected turn of events. It wasn’t even clear how he should proceed: Should he inform the president that he had succeeded in assembling a government and that it would be headed by Netanyahu? Or should he ask for the mandate to be transferred to Netanyahu? We will have to wait and see how the procedure is handled.

Still, it should be noted that in politics, nothing is over until it is over. I do not wish to invite trouble, but just as a last-minute miracle spared the country from a grim fate, it is always possible that there will be another reversal. We will have to daven that the agreement is finalized.

Meanwhile, an internal notice arrived announcing that Maariv would be held at 6:10 p.m. on the balcony outside the Knesset members’ cafeteria. I found Gadi Ashkenazi sitting on a chair nearby and I remarked to him, “There are probably millions of people who would not only like to shake your hand at this moment, which is forbidden because of the corona restrictions, but actually embrace you.”

“I did it for Am Yisroel,” Ashkenazi replied. “We are all brothers, after all.”

“You did a great thing,” I said. “You have earned the gratitude of Bibi’s supporters and of everyone else who has been living with anxiety for many days.”

“You have no idea how much I fought for this,” he said.

And there is your inside scoop. With that, I made my way to the balcony for what amounted to a festive Maariv.

Pesach Without Olive Oil?

Now we can move on to the preparations for Pesach and the Seder. We have never had a Seder night like this one before, and we all hope that nothing like it will ever happen again. Most of the stores in the country are closed, and the government has instructed citizens not to hold Sedarim with large numbers of participants. Tens of thousands of families will have to organize small Sedarim. This includes many elderly people who are no longer capable of making their own Sedarim, as well as people who are accustomed to spending Pesach in hotels.

The difficulties have already begun. My rebbetzin generally prepares homemade mayonnaise for Pesach, which is a delicacy for which the entire family waits eagerly throughout the year. But the recipe calls for olive oil and there is none to be found. I searched for it in many stores and I could not find a single bottle. It seems that there is a large shipment of olive oil that is supposed to be brought into the country and it has been delayed in a port somewhere. And that is only one example. There is also a major shortage of disposable goods, and no one can even be certain that there will be fruits or vegetables. There are no eggs in the market at all, and the major neighborhood sales of Pesach goods obviously cannot take place this year.

Then there is the issue of hagolas keilim. In an ordinary year, yeshiva bochurim can be found on every street corner earning some money by performing hagolas keilim. This year, however, it is not certain that that will take place. But how can anyone prepare for Pesach without kashering utensils? Then again, perhaps it would be a good thing if, for once, we learned how to manage with less, without all the things that we are accustomed to buying every year.

The Scientist Who Refused to See the Truth

Still on the subject of the coronavirus, I must mention the following: I will never forget my encounter with Professor Ephraim Katzir, the fourth president of the State of Israel. Katzir was a scientist first and foremost; he was a biophysicist. He was a mediocre president, but he was a highly respected professor. I once conducted an interview with him; perhaps I will eventually publish it here in full.

During our conversation, we discussed the scientific evidence of the creation of the world. I remarked to him, “Rav Shach says that an orange shows us that there is a Creator of the universe. You are a scientist and you see the wonders of creation. How is it that you don’t wear a yarmulka and daven? After all, it is clear as day that there is a Creator of the world.”

Katzir was an elderly man at the time. We met in his home at the Weizmann Institute, where he had a foreign caretaker. It was a charming and modest apartment. He still suffered from a degree of presidential pretentiousness, but it was within reason. In fact, when I initially called to request the interview, I was surprised when he answered the phone himself. I was also pleasantly surprised that it did not require much convincing for him to agree to meet with me.

After thinking for a short time, Katzir replied, “As scientists, we do not believe in anything that we cannot see in a microscope. A scientist believes only in things that are visible.”

What could I have said to that bizarre response? Here was a man who understood with absolute certainty that the world must have a Creator, yet he refused to accept His authority and all that it entailed—because Hashem is not visible to the eye. We both knew that his argument was illogical, but I had nothing to say.

This week, I came across a powerful answer to his claims in a shmuess delivered by the Sanzer Rebbe. “Just as the coronavirus cannot be seen by the eye, yet it has created a major upheaval in the world, we must recognize that even though Hashem cannot be seen, He is also managing the world,” the Rebbe declared. “And for those who will argue that one can see the virus with the proper equipment, the answer is that if a person had the necessary tools, he would also be able to ‘see’ Hashem.”

The rebbe went on to make a number of other powerful statements: “When it is said that punishment comes to the world only for Klal Yisroel, it means that it is for the sake of elevating Klal Yisroel…. It is forbidden to say that anything happened by chance; we must contemplate the reason that Hashem would do such a thing. People have given all sorts of explanations for it, but we have a tradition from my father, which is one of the most fundamental principles of chassidus, that we should not look to place blame on others…. The first thing that we must resolve to do is to be joyful, to be calm with ourselves and with our children, and to devote time to our children, even more than under ordinary circumstances.

“I must say this,” the rebbe went on. “Even though righteous women have always poured all of their energies into preparing their homes for Pesach, I heard from my father several times that the festival of Pesach was not given to us in order to renovate or clean our homes or to rid them of dirt. All that we need to do for Pesach is to remove the chometz…. The yeitzer hara wants to introduce tension, pressure, frustration with the children and friction between spouses into a home…. It is important to remember that a single moment of anger or tension is worse than having chometz in the home.”

The rebbe went on to speak about the obligation to engage in Torah learning even under the unusual circumstances of our times.

How Old Was Dovid Hamelech?

You may remember “Reb Abish” (Avrohom Abish Mordechai Halevi) Eisen of Givat Shaul. I once interviewed him for an article in this newspaper. He is an incredible and fascinating man. This Shabbos, as usual, he visited the patients in Herzog Hospital in Yerushalayim. Reb Abish does not fear the coronavirus any more than he fears inclement weather. But this time, he was shaken by his visit, where he witnessed the ravages of the virus. “People who have always been strong and resilient are lying in their beds with no vitality,” he related. “They wouldn’t even react if a missile landed right next to them!”

Reb Abish is considered an honorary member of the hospital’s staff and was permitted to enter despite the coronavirus. “I was the only one who was allowed to enter the hospital,” he related.

“Weren’t you afraid of being infected?” I asked him.

“I was more afraid of infecting others,” he replied. But he had checked himself on Friday to make sure he would not pose a danger to the patients. Since we were discussing weakness and old age, he recalled his mother’s passing. “She died at a ripe old age—of crib death,” he quipped. “She left behind ten small orphans, the youngest of whom was 65 years old.

“You know,” Abish continued, “the novi says that when Dovid Hamelech was 70 years old, he was very old and his clothes did not provide him with warmth. Someone once asked me why he was considered so old at the age of 70. After all, people today are still considered young at that age.

“I explained to him that Dovid Hamelech originally did not have an allotment of years at all,” Abish said. “He received the seventy years of his life from Adam Harishon, who died at the age of 930 rather than 1,000 because he had given those years to Dovid. Now, which 70 years did Adam give to Dovid Hamelech? The last 70 years of his life. So when Dovid Hamelech was one year old, he had really reached the age of 931….”

May all of us have a chag kosher vesomeiach.