My Take on the News

An Attempted Lynching in the Shomron

This week, we will begin our rundown of the news with the latest actions of our enemies here in Israel. On Sunday afternoon, a band of about 100 Arabs attacked a group of Jewish farmers near Maaleh Shomron. The Arabs were armed with clubs and threw stones. One of the farmers opened fire and succeeded in repelling the rioters. Yossi Dagan, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, hurried to the police station in Ariel in order to give his backing the farmers who had been attacked. Dagan applauded the Jew who had opened fire on their attackers. “If not for the quick thinking of one of the farmers, who used his firearm in order to protect his own life and the lives of his companions, there would have been a terrible lynching, chollilah, and all seven farmers would have been murdered in cold blood.” The incident had the potential to end in tragedy, he insisted. Dagan added, “I expect the police to relate to these men as heroes who defended their lives, and to begin criminal proceedings immediately against the terrorists who attempted to lynch and murder seven men in broad daylight.”

There is a general impression that security in this country is eroding. The Arabs are threatening to launch a third intifada in response to the extension of Israeli sovereignty in Yehuda and the Shomron, and even the Americans seemed to have developed cold feet about the prospect. I have often written in the past about the audacity of the members of the Joint Arab List in the Knesset. Last weekend, MK Ayman Oudeh of the Arab party even had the temerity to participate in a joint virtual conference of Fatah and Hamas. The conference, which was based in Ramallah, focused on the Palestinian Authority’s plans for opposing the imposition of Israeli sovereignty in the area, and the participants discussed the armed struggle against the State of Israel. The fact that a member of the Israeli Knesset joined a conference of that nature evoked outrage throughout the country. But MK Boogie Yaalon, a former IDF chief of staff, was tepid in his criticism: “Arab members of the Knesset, your participation in conferences held by enemies of the State of Israel does not contribute to the integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society.” Those lukewarm words of protest evoked a cascade of indignant reactions in their own right. MK Betzalel Smotrich appealed to Yariv Levin, the Knesset speaker, and asked him to begin the process of dismissing a member of the Knesset, for the first time in the country’s history. Smotrich argued that Oudeh’s actions fit the criteria for dismissal specified by the law: “No person may serve as a Knesset member if he has acted to negate the existence of the State of Israel or has supported the armed struggle of a terror organization against the State of Israel.” Smotrich will have to solicit the signatures of 70 members of the Knesset in order for the procedure to be implemented. It will be interesting to see if he succeeds.

Meanwhile, quiet hasn’t yet returned to the Israeli settlements along the Gaza border, but with all the panic surrounding the coronavirus and the sovereignty issue, no one is paying any attention to their plight. Even the question of sovereignty—along with the concern that Trump may not retain the presidency for much longer—has been displaced from its position in the newspaper headlines. In any event, July 1 has come and gone without the slightest sign of annexation of any kind.

More Cases or More Tests?

Of course, the main subject of interest has been the coronavirus. There has been a sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases of Covid, that is, individuals who were tested for the virus and were found to be positive. The media is announcing that a second wave of the virus is underway, and that there will be no choice but to make difficult decisions that will bring back the days of closure and severe restrictions (a process that began on Sunday). Nevertheless, a pivotal question has been raised: Are we really seeing a spike in infections that is overshadowing even the first wave of the virus, or is there an entirely different reason for the figures—namely, the simple fact that the government has ramped up its testing? If the second explanation is true, then our situation is not at all what it seems. We might not be experiencing a second wave after all, and even if we are, it would be no worse than the first.

The logic is simple. During the first wave of Covid infections, it wasn’t possible for everyone to be tested for the virus. Only a person who had symptoms such as a fever, the loss of the sense of taste or smell, or breathing difficulties would undergo a test. A person suffering from any of those symptoms was entitled to be tested at his or her local health fund, or to call Magen David Adom to take a sample for laboratory testing. A person who did not feel ill could not be tested for the virus even if he wished to do so. Therefore, it is quite possible that there were hundreds or even thousands of people in Israel who were actively infected with the coronavirus and did not experience symptoms, and therefore were never tested and never discovered to be carrying it.

The policy has now changed, and anyone who wishes to be tested may do so. The government is even encouraging people to be tested, so that any person who has contracted the virus, even without experiencing symptoms, can be placed in isolation rather than infecting others. And many asymptomatic people have been tested and found to be positive. Therefore, it is completely possible that the virus is no more widespread now than it was during the first wave, and that we were simply unaware of the large number of asymptomatic carriers at the time.

Hotels for Chareidim Open Again

The problem is that a large number of the confirmed cases in the current wave have been detected in the chareidi sector. A report released by the National Knowledge and Information Center for the Battle Against Corona claimed last weekend that the latest wave of infections in Yerushalayim was concentrated mainly in chareidi neighborhoods, especially Ramot, Kiryat Sanz, Kiryat Belz, Geulah, Neve Yaakov, Mea Shearim, Tel Arza, Machanayim, Ramot Bet, Har Nof, Bucharim, Mekor Boruch, Mattersdorf, Givat Hamivtar, and Sanhedria Murchevet. According to the report, about 17 percent of the coronavirus tests were found to be positive in those areas, in contrast to the much lower rate of 5 percent elsewhere in the city. The report also notes that out of the 160 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Yerushalayim on Wednesday, 72 of the patients—45 percent—were residents of chareidi neighborhoods. The Ministry of Health announced on motzoei Shabbos that as of 8:44 p.m., the number of confirmed cases of corona in Israel since the beginning of the pandemic had reached 29,032 (although many of the patients have already recovered). The number of fatalities had increased to 330, while 84 patients were hospitalized in serious condition, including 32 who were attached to ventilators (an increase of 14.3 percent). The Health Ministry also reported that tens of thousands of Israeli citizens were placed in isolation this week.

Once again, the media has decided to demonize the chareidim, especially the yeshiva bochurim, by portraying them as responsible for the outbreak. Then again, it is hard to fault the secular media for focusing on the chareidim this time, since many cases of corona were indeed discovered in the yeshivos. These were not yeshivos that followed the capsule program meticulously; instead, they decided simply to keep all of their talmidim together, without allowing anyone to leave. The result was that a single talmid who had contracted the virus could infect dozens of his peers. The headlines were dominated by the case of Yeshivas Bais Mattisyahu, where almost 200 talmidim were diagnosed with the coronavirus. The yeshiva’s entire student body has since been transferred to the coronavirus hotel in Kfar Tavor.

Do you remember Yehuda Avidan, the man who was assigned by Aryeh Deri to oversee the coronavirus hotels? I wrote about him at the time, and he has been recruited to join the battle once again. With no alternative, he has begun opening hotels that will exclusively host the hundreds of yeshiva bochurim who have contracted the virus. In addition to Yeshivas Bais Mattisyahu, the coronavirus has been detected in another eight yeshivos. Avidan informed me that he plans to open another two hotels this week for yeshiva bochurim who have tested positive for corona.

In Defense of Bais Mattisyahu

I was somewhat involved in Bais Mattisyahu’s evacuation to the coronavirus hotels, thanks to my connections both to the yeshiva and to Yehuda Avidan. I have been deeply pained by the lies that were promulgated about the yeshiva. I used some of my connections in the secular media in order to keep the reporting balanced, and particularly to make sure that they did not keep repeating the lie that the yeshiva had instructed bochurim to avoid being tested even if they were having symptoms. The truth is that this wouldn’t have been a terrible thing even if it were true; if the boys had all decided to remain in the yeshiva and not to leave, and they had willingly accepted the risk that they would all contract the virus if any of them became sick, then what would be wrong with that? Nevertheless, it wasn’t true at all. The yeshiva simply became the target of incitement, and the media claimed that the administration had callously ordered the bochurim to refrain from being tested, even though no such directive was actually given. What’s more, some bochurim were even asked to be tested, and if the results were positive, they were given the choice of isolating themselves at home or in specific rooms in the yeshiva.

The yeshiva as a whole was extremely conscientious, and the rosh yeshiva, Rav Boruch Weisbecker, who is ill with cancer, is the last person in the world who would be apathetic about medical guidelines. Rav Weisbecker himself took every possible precaution to avoid infection, and he is by nature extremely cautious and responsible. That is why I am outraged by the false accounts about the yeshiva. Unfortunately, both Rav Weisbecker and his rebbetzin have also tested positive for the virus.

As a final note, I should add that the Vaad HaYeshivos announced this week that in every yeshiva where the capsule program was followed, there were no infections!

The Oblivious Minister

In Israel, as in the rest of the world, many businesses are collapsing, and many people have become impoverished to the point of starvation. This week, I attended a wedding in the courtyard of the Ganei Yerushalayim hotel, near the Knesset. The father of the chosson, Rav Reuven Pol, is a prestigious resident of Givat Shaul and the head of an emergency services organization in Yerushalayim. There were relatively few guests at the wedding, which took place when the cap on attendance at a wedding was set at 250 people; as of Sunday, it was limited to 50 guests once again. In spite of the small crowd, it was a dignified and festive occasion. The kallah’s family is from Boro Park, and her father, a highly affable fellow named Aharon Nussbaum, informed me that he had received special permission, as the father of a bride, to enter the country along with his family. There were many gedolei Torah in attendance; the eidim were Rav Zevulun Schwartzmann and Rav Eliyohu Pincus. The rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Yad Aharon, Rav Yehoshua Eichenstein, was present, and I also noticed one of Rav Berel Povarsky’s sons in attendance. Rav Aharon Chodosh performed the siddur kiddushin.

The photographer was Ronen Stalzer, a well-known professional in the field, and I remarked to him that I was glad to see that he still had some business. He laughed. “If not for the coronavirus, I would have been busy day and night during this season,” he said. He is one of the many people who generally make a good living, but whose livelihoods have been severely curtailed by the corona crisis. It is a plight that is shared by many other people with a wide range of occupations—from restaurant owners to clothing store proprietors, and certainly anyone who is involved in the simcha industry.

Precisely now, as thousands of business owners are suffocating due to the coronavirus crisis and a million Israelis have joined the ranks of the unemployed, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi decided to make the following comment to the media: “The ridiculous claims that people have nothing to eat are complete nonsense! There are a million unemployed people, almost all of whom have received unemployment benefits to this day, and now we must bring them back to work. There are businesses that have been harmed and are in dire straits, but claiming that people do not have food is mere populism.” Hanegbi, who is a minister without portfolio, added. “As someone who lives with the people, I can tell you that it is an exaggeration to say that anyone does not have food.”

Hanegbi’s comments sparked such a fierce outpouring of indignation that Prime Minister Netanyahu was forced to dissociate himself from his remarks. At the beginning of the cabinet session on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “I am disturbed by statements that imply that the distress caused by corona is not real…. As in the rest of the world, the coronavirus has cost lives and has taken a heavy toll on people’s health and livelihoods in Israel. The suffering is real, and I am toiling around the clock in order to find a solution, including financial aid and rapid infusions of cash for businesses and private citizens alike.”

Other government ministers added their own voices to the condemnations. Of course, both the opposition and the media pounced on Hanegbi’s comments as evidence that the government is detached from the needs of its citizens. Finally, Hanegbi himself was forced to apologize. “I regret the harsh statements that I made during an interview yesterday,” he said. “I meant to tell the interviewers that their extreme criticism of the government creates anxiety in the public rather than hope. I wanted to say that the government of which I am a part is working day and night in order to help Israel rebuild a healthy, thriving economy. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, I expressed myself in a way that offended the sensitivities of the public. That was not my intention, and I retract my words.”

What Will People Think in Ten Years?

I have been wondering what people will think ten years from now, when they look back on this period in history. What will people say in the year 2030, when the chareidi media publishes articles under the title “Ten Years Since the Corona Pandemic”? I imagine that this will be the subject of the Pesach supplements in the year 5790. And I can picture the readers, young and old alike, raising their eyebrows and scratching their heads. “Can it be?” they will ask. “Is it really true that ordinary citizens were ordered to wear masks and were fined if they failed to comply?” And then will come the biggest question: “How can it be that two citizens would be walking in the street without masks, and the chareidi would be fined while the chiloni would be ignored?” Perhaps this article will be accompanied by a sidebar with the title, “Where Were the Members of the Knesset?” There will be accounts of the first wave and the second wave of the virus, and veteran kollel yungerleit will share their recollections of the capsule program. The hotels for coronavirus patients will be remembered with admiration, and Yehuda Avidan will probably be interviewed about his memories of the corona crisis.

Along with the coronavirus itself, there are many questions floating in the air: Who decided to implement the recent closures in Elad, Teveria, and Ashdod? What was the reason, and who was consulted before the order was given? On Monday, the Minister of Health admitted openly that the closures in Teveria might have been a mistake. But the most piercing questions, the questions to which there will be no easy answers, will deal with the selective enforcement of the law and the arbitrary distinctions drawn between different citizens. How could it be that a chiloni would commit an infraction and be easily forgiven, while a chareidi would be punished with a fine for the same offense?

If we are truly heading into a second wave of the virus, chas v’sholom, then we must loudly raise the question of whether Israel’s decision makers truly know how to make correct decisions. Will this be a second wave of mistakes as well? This time, the same missteps cannot be allowed to happen. In the first wave, all of us—the government and the public alike, including the chareidi community—were caught unprepared, and the chareidim were the last to grasp the situation. At a certain point, Aryeh Deri took command—or perhaps he was given the authority—and tapped Yehuda Avidan to oversee the coronavirus hotels. At that point, we felt that there was finally someone with his finger on the pulse of the situation. Today, everyone is wondering if there is anyone truly in charge. The government seems to have lost control; when the prime minister addressed the country on motzoei Shabbos, he was stammering and uncertain.

Tzvika Hauser is a member of the Knesset who serves as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is a very important position. This week, he confessed, “There is a sense that no one is in charge.” Frightening, indeed.

Discrimination Against Chareidim

Let me say it openly: The chareidi community in the State of Israel has the sense that it is the victim to discrimination. It is impossible to ignore the signs. In fact, it is not merely a sense; it is a fact. Police officers lie in ambush for chareidim like hunters waiting for prey to fall into their traps. Two people might be walking down a street and violating the same rule, yet the chiloni will be forgiven while the chareidi will be fined. In Tel Aviv, thousands of people flagrantly ignore the government’s directives, but a person who is caught by the police without a mask will be given … a mask to wear. In Elad, on the other hand, fines are being handed out wholesale. Several of the chareidi MKs have protested this practice. One of them announced sardonically in the Knesset, “Once again, there is someone to blame for the problem—the chareidi community…. Why were there closures specifically in Elad and Teveria? Because the people in Tel Aviv have better immune systems? I won’t tell you where to impose a closure; I ask only for the closures to be equal. The closures have been a serious economic blow to these cities….

“In Elad, there were 23 corona patients,” he continued. “Is that a reason to seal off an entire city? And just so that you understand how harmful this is, consider this: Our deputy mayor made a bar mitzvah in Elad yesterday. He invited us, and to tell you the truth, I was already on my way there when my wife heard that there was a closure. ‘Don’t go,’ she said to me. ‘You won’t be able to get out.’ It creates a psychological barrier; it prevents people from going there. It is destructive.”

He went on to illustrate the power of connections within the government. “Yesterday, one of the government officials called the mayor of Tel Aviv and Yaffo, Mr. Ron Huldai, and said to him, ‘It seems that your city will be placed under a closure tomorrow.’ Now, listen to what the mayor of Tel Aviv said to him: ‘You don’t have the authority. Let the person who is authorized for this—the minister or the director-general of the Health Ministry, whoever it is—call me instead.’

“Do you think they called him?” he concluded. “No one called him! Do you think anyone called the mayor of Bat Yam? Perhaps he called the government to ask them not to impose a closure. But the city of Elad was shut down, and there was a closure in certain neighborhoods in Teveria as well. How long will this continue? Do you want us to return to the days when people would beat chareidim? We won’t allow it. The time has come for us to say our piece, as well. Thank you very much.”

No More Blame for American Visitors

Do you remember when frum visitors from New York were accused of bringing the coronavirus to Israel? Today, it seems that we have entered a second wave of the virus. It is frightening, it is sad, and it seems to imply that the public failed to internalize the danger and to exercise due caution, as hard as that is to imagine. After all, everyone was aware of the virus’s effects; the proverbial handwriting on the wall was visible to everyone. Nevertheless, it is clear that the virus has begun spreading indiscriminately throughout the country. It has reached Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv, and it has infiltrated even the most staunchly secular nursing homes. And yes, it has also penetrated the chareidi community. But the spread of infection cannot be blamed on visitors from abroad, regardless of whether they came from America or from India. Nor can the chareidim be blamed for it. But then who is to blame? And in light of this, will anyone admit that the accusations against the chareidim during the first wave were sheer, unfounded incitement? Let us hope that someone will give some thought to these questions.

Over the past two months, the aide to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has had his hands full fielding thousands of requests for assistance. He certainly deserves high praise for his diligent and industrious work. The mere fact that thousands of yungerleit were able to return to their botei medrash has undoubtedly been a source of enormous zechuyos for him, and for Deri himself as well. And it is worth noting that over the past couple of months, many hundreds of yungerleit, along with their wives and children, have arrived from America. These are serious and responsible people, and there wasn’t a single case of coronavirus detected among them. Perhaps that, too, should be a message to those who were quick to find fault with the religious community.

Moving Mountains in Modiin Illit

The Knesset has its moments of amusement. Last Wednesday, Deputy Interior Minister Yoav Ben-Tzur was delivering a response in the Knesset to his colleague in the Shas party, MK Yinon Azulai, who had raised the issue that the city of Modiin Illit, with its tens of thousands of residents, has only one entrance—a situation that creates life-threatening danger. Azulai overflowed with praise for the mayor of Modiin Illit. “When Mayor Gutterman wants something, he is capable of moving stone walls or even entire mountains,” he asserted. “I call out to him from here, and I assure him that we will help him. Mayor Gutterman, do not give in even for a single day. The city is under daily siege. When there is an incident of any kind, children cannot travel; they cannot leave the city to go to school, or they cannot return home. The same is true of people who leave the city to work, or for kollel, or for any other purpose. Let us allow the people there to live. They should not have to feel that they are living their entire lives in the world of corona, that they are constantly facing a closure. And when I refer to Modiin Illit, I am referring to the residents of the adjoining areas as well, to the entire western Mateh Binyomin. Come, let us do this together.” Finally, Azulai concluded, “Therefore, after we receive the response of the deputy minister, I ask you to transfer this matter to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for discussion. That is where it should be handled.”

Now it was Yoav Ben-Tzur’s turn to speak. Ben-Tzur made his way to the podium while MK Eliyohu Bruchi of Degel HaTorah stood on the side of the room with his colleagues, waiting to be sworn in. Before he began, the Knesset speaker, Yariv Levin, asked him to stall. “We are waiting for a proposal from the Knesset Committee, and we must hold off until it arrives,” Levin explained.

Ben-Tzur looked at his audience and asked, “Would you like to hear something about the parsha?” A moment later, he turned to the group of MKs from Degel HaTorah and said, “Yaakov Asher, you are distracting me. As it is, I don’t exactly know how to continue.”

“We are very excited about Eliyohu Bruchi,” Asher replied.

“If I can’t figure out what to say, I might remain here for an hour,” Ben-Tzur said.

He proceeded to speak about the instructions he had been given by Rav Ovadiah Yosef when he first joined the Knesset, and then expounded on the importance of Modiin Illit’s traffic concerns. Finally, Levin gestured that he could conclude his speech, and Ben-Tzur announced, “Since the time has come for MK Eliyohu Bruchi to be sworn in, I would like to end here.”

Suddenly, Yisroel Eichler asked for another delay, and Ben-Tzur quickly added, “Actually, it seems that there was a specific moment that was chosen in Shomayim, and it has been decreed that I must speak for another minute.”

Later in the day, there was another humorous episode. Moshe Arbel, who was chairing the session, invited Minister Yuval Steinitz to present the bill concerning the Shin Bet’s use of cell phone tracking to locate coronavirus carriers. “Minister Steinitz, as usual, will present the bill at length,” he said, alluding to Steinitz’s penchant for speaking at great length.

“Wait a minute,” Steinitz said. “I forgot my eyeglasses. Can you hand them to me, please?”

“Of course!” Dudi Amsalem exclaimed.

“Wait!” Steinitz protested. “I was speaking to the usher, not to you.”

“Minister Amsalem is the liaison between the government and the Knesset, and he facilitates the connection in every way,” Arbel said. “Do you know the famous story about the rov and the false teeth?”

“No,” Steinitz confessed. “I have never heard it.”

“The rov once forgot his false teeth at home, and he asked someone to bring them to him. A couple of congregants went to his home, found a glass with the teeth in them, and brought them to the rov. After he had inserted them in his mouth, the rov began talking ceaselessly. Finally, his congregants asked, ‘Rabbi, when are you going to stop?’ The rov looked at them and said, ‘I can’t. Someone brought my wife’s teeth to me by mistake!’

“I hope that the eyeglasses are yours,” Arbel concluded.

“Well, in my case, if they had brought my wife’s eyeglasses, it would have helped me be brief,” Steinitz replied.

“Let’s just decide that if he reads something wrong, we will give him a different pair of glasses,” Amsalem interjected.

And then there was one more humorous interlude: As Eli Avidar of Yisroel Beiteinu took his place at the podium to address the Knesset, Yaakov Margi was stepping down after concluding his own speech. “The chairman always interferes with my speeches,” Avidar remarked to Margi. “I noticed that he never interrupts you.”

“If your speeches were sound and relevant, he wouldn’t interrupt you either,” Margi replied.

All Talk and No Elevator

For three years, there has been talk of building an elevator to make Meoras Hamachpeilah accessible to the disabled and of refurbishing the site and adding a proper ceiling. Even after all this time, though, the disabled visitors to the site have been forced to stumble along, much as the government itself has been doing.

In February, Attorney General Mandelblit approved the expropriation of land at the Meoras Hamachpeilah for this purpose. Naftoli Bennett approved the work before his departure from the position of defense minister, and Netanyahu promised in his most recent visit to Chevron that he would see to it that the elevator was built. Four months ago, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussed the issue, and the representatives of the government and the military administration agreed to put an end to the saga. In an earlier meeting of the committee, in October 2018, the defense minister’s aide had promised that if the Palestinians did not cooperate, Israel would carry out the project unilaterally. Two years ago, the defense ministry’s representatives on the committee promised to resolve the matter “by the end of the year.” They later bought some extra time by claiming that they had been referring to the end of the Jewish year. Meanwhile, all these promises and guarantees have proven to be nothing more than mere words. After all these years, the work still has not begun….

The Battim Macher of Bnei Brak

It happened in the Satmar shul on Rechov Meltzer in Bnei Brak.

The impact was not loud, but it made his heart skip a beat. His tefillin had never slipped out of his hands before, and even though they had fallen only on the table, and he was still holding the straps in his hand, he felt that it was sufficient reason to fast, and certainly to express sorrow. His eyes brimming with tears, he examined the bayis and discovered that the corner had been slightly dented. He was immediately enveloped in sadness.

Our protagonist is a wonderful, responsible, serious yungerman who hails originally from Yerushalayim. On a typical day, he davens in the Satmar shul due to its convenient location and then hurries to his kollel. This morning’s incident threatened to turn his day upside-down. He would now have to find a battim macher somewhere in the city, although he had no idea where to look for one. He would arrive late to kollel, and he would have to apologize to his chavrusa for his tardiness. Then he would have to pick up his tefillin at night, and he shuddered to think how much the repair would cost….

He stood there, clutching his tefillin shel rosh, as tears clouded his eyes. An elderly gentleman who was seated beside him noticed his distress and leaned over to whisper in his ear. “Do you see the man sitting in front of us?” he asked.

“Yes….”

“That is Leibush Friedman, the most prominent battim macher in all of Bnei Brak.”

The young man wasted no time approaching Reb Leibush and showing him his tefillin. “Come with me,” the batti macher immediately ordered him. The yungerman dutifully followed Leibush down the block, to a basement room where a group of men were busy working on new battim. This was Leibush’s workshop. The guest tried to fix the damage himself with the tools available there, but then decided that it required a skilled repair. He hurried over to one of the workers and asked if he could repair the damage, and the man immediately consented. The bayis was reshaped and within ten minutes the tefillin had been restored. Leibush handed the repaired tefillin to his visitor with a flourish.

“Thank you very much,” the yungerman said. “I don’t have any money with me now, but I can pay you at Shacharis tomorrow morning, or I can bring the money here.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Leibush replied graciously. “There is no charge. Just hurry to kollel!”