Thursday, May 16, 2024

My Take On The News

All Eyes on America

As I write this, all eyes are on America. There is one question on everyone’s mind: Will the election be won by Trump or Biden? The American election affects every American citizen, but it affects every Israeli citizen to the same degree.

An old joke, which is decidedly not amusing, has it that Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was once warned by Israel’s scientists that they were expecting a drought during the following year. The scientists hoped that the prime minister would assemble a team of experts to determine how the country would handle the imminent crisis. But Eshkol simply asked them, “Where do you expect there to be a drought?”

“Where?” the scientists repeated in puzzlement. “Here in Israel, of course!”

Eshkol heaved a deep sigh of relief. “Here?” he repeated. “That isn’t so terrible! I was afraid that there would be a drought in America!”

But this is no laughing matter; Israel is truly dependent on America. The country’s military capabilities come from the United States; a study has revealed that if America hadn’t sent urgent military aid during the Yom Kippur War, Israel would have been in dire straits. Incidentally, it was Henry Kissinger who tried to dissuade the American president from sending that aid to Israel; Kissinger argued that the country should suffer a serious defeat and be forced to change its intractable (in his view) stance regarding peace with the Arab world.

Israel needs America; there can be no denying that fact. Rav Shach (whose nineteenth yahrtzeit falls this week, on the 16th of Cheshvan) used to refer to America as a “malchus shel chessed” and called upon Israel to refrain from antagonizing the United States. So as we await the results of the election, we are certainly tense. At the same time, we know that there is no reason to worry; everything that happens is decreed by Hashem, and the hearts of kings are in His hands to control as He pleases. Nevertheless, we are all monitoring the news and we are davening. Believe it or not, a tefillah gathering was held at Meoras Hamachpeilah this Sunday to daven for Trump’s success.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has managed to make another small gesture to Israel. Until now, any American who was born in Yerushalayim could not receive a passport identifying his birthplace as Israel. As far as the United States government was concerned, Yerushalayim was not an official part of Israel; it was an international entity of some kind. This week, all of that has changed. The holder of a passport now has the right to choose whether it will identity his place of birth as Israel or Yerushalayim. An 18-year-old American citizen became the first person this week to receive a passport from the American embassy in Yerushalayim identifying his birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel.” It was a historic moment. Ambassador David Friedman, who granted the passport to the young man, announced that he was pleased to be presenting the first passport issued in accordance with the new policy and with common sense. Of course, the ambassador thanked President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo for the shift in policy, which he had personally advocated. Just five years, ago, this issue was the subject of a ruling of the United States Supreme Court.

The Media Has Lost All Shame

Let one thing be made clear: We cannot trust the media, whether it is in Israel or in the United States. Every newspaper or television station has aligned itself with one of the two candidates in the American election, and the news coverage is blatantly biased. Every news article is driven by a clear agenda; there is no balance and no impartiality. Even more than that, there is no accuracy either.

In Israel, this is very clear. There are two leading newspapers in Israel. One is Yediot Acharonot, which is blatantly and unequivocally anti-Netanyahu. The newspaper’s publisher is Arnon “Nuni” Moses, who is facing charges in one of the criminal cases against the prime minister. The two have been accused of making a deal whereby Netanyahu would support laws that would limit the distribution of Yisrael HaYom, Moses’s competitor, in exchange for fairer coverage for Netanyahu and his wife in Yediot Acharonot (and on its internet site). The prosecution decided that this constitutes bribery.

The other leading newspaper, Yisrael HaYom, is unabashedly in favor of Netanyahu. In fact, Yisrael HaYom was founded by Sheldon Adelson to counter its competitor’s relentless hounding of the prime minister. This is the same Sheldon Adelson who has contributed heavily to the Trump campaign.

What makes this much worse is that the publishers and reporters have no shame about this fact. The staffs of both Yediot Acharonot and Yisrael HaYom have no compunctions about their respective agendas; they do not even feel the slightest need to provide unbiased news coverage. In my mind, that is an absolute disgrace.

In addition, the newspapers’ biases regarding Netanyahu have a direct impact on their coverage of the elections in America. Yisrael HaYom has been promoting Trump vigorously, even though it is doubtful that there is a single American voter who reads this newspaper, and Yediot Acharonot has been doing the exact opposite. It is simply astounding to read what is written in these papers. The editor of Yisrael HaYom is apparently a sworn admirer of Donald Trump; he has even managed to secure exclusive interviews with Trump that infuriated Yediot Acharonot. Last week, he was seen next to Trump at one of the president’s rallies.

The Chareidi Cities Turn Green

Of course, the coronavirus has continued to be the top story of the day. At the beginning of this week, I read that over one and a half million cases of coronavirus were diagnosed around the world in the span of three days. In Israel, on the other hand, the picture is more encouraging. Over 300,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus in Israel. Although new cases are constantly being diagnosed, ranging from 150 to 650 every day (with the fluctuation probably based on the varying number of tests being performed), and the death toll has almost reached 3000, there are still some other positive signs. For one thing, the daily death rate this past week has been much lower than during the previous two weeks. While every death is tragic, this decrease is encouraging. This is the reason that the government decided to relax several of the restrictions imposed on business owners and gatherings.

Back to the statistics: There has also been a drop in the number of seriously ill Covid patients (i.e., those who are sedated and intubated). The number of hospitalized patients has also decreased. Most astounding of all is the fact that the chareidi cities, all of which were labeled red cities just last week, have since become green. It is not clear how this happened. If fewer tests had been carried out, that would account for the corresponding reduction in confirmed infections; however, that is not the case. Testing has been continuing at the same rate, yet the number of coronavirus cases has decreased dramatically. It is simply a chessed of Hashem. All the dire predictions issued by the Health Ministry and the coronavirus project manager have turned out to be false, boruch Hashem—in spite of the fact that the chadarim resumed their operations, following Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s instructions, and that the winter zman has begun in the country’s yeshivos.

Parenthetically, many of the chareidi sector’s political leaders have decided to stand up for their constituents’ honor. They sent a simple message to the secular media and the country’s chiloni politicians: “You defamed us, you accused us of spreading disease, and you disparaged us. Now you must apologize.”

Meanwhile, Israel has begun human trials of a coronavirus vaccine. Perhaps Israel will be the source of the breakthrough awaited by the entire world.

Twenty-Five Years Since the Rabin Assassination

Moving past the discussion of these lofty matters, we must unfortunately turn our attention to a much lowlier subject: the Knesset.

This Wednesday, a major event is scheduled to take place in Malchei Yisrael Square—which has been renamed Rabin Square—in Tel Aviv. Wednesday, November 4, marks the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzchok Rabin. The country’s left wing seems to hope that the event will turn into a mass protest that will serve primarily as a demonstration against Netanyahu and his government.

Although the public will commemorate Rabin’s death on the secular date of his assassination, the Knesset already marked the occasion last week, on its Hebrew anniversary, the 11th of Cheshvan. I was present for the occasion, and I found it shameful that the speakers exploited the subject of the day for their own personal agendas. Netanyahu was somewhat reasonable, but Yair Lapid, if you will forgive me, was utterly repulsive.

At the very least, the Knesset speaker, Yariv Levin, maintained the dignity of his office. He bemoaned the trend of verbal violence and the horrific incitement that plagues the discourse in Israel today, phenomena that presumably were partly to blame for the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin as well. At the same time, he pointed out that all sides are to blame for the current situation. “The murder of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin obligates us to derive and implement lessons even today,” Levin declared. “Even 25 years after that horrific murder, our world hasn’t yet rid itself of the hatred, the wild incitement, the hostility, and, yes, even the violence. Perhaps the opposite is true: Today we are witnessing polarization, rising passions, and an atmosphere that should not exist even when there are profound differences of opinion. Terms such as ‘traitor,’ ‘criminal,’ ‘thug,’ and ‘commissar’ are just a few examples of the verbal abuse, the imprecations, and the incitement directed almost every day at the prime minister, at other ministers of the government, at the members of the Knesset, and at other public figures. This type of vitriol is flowing freely in the streets, and, unfortunately, no one is innocent of it.”

Levin spoke harshly, but he studiously avoided laying blame on any one camp. Neither the right nor the left was singled out as being exclusively at fault. Yariv Levin himself is a staunch right-winger and a devout member of the Likud party who has been known to make the most scathing public statements, even against the Supreme Court, but he is always honest and fair.

President Rivlin was also present at this event—although he sat in the VIP gallery, since he was not scheduled to speak—along with Chanan Meltzer, the deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court, and various other dignitaries. In advance of the event, the Knesset sent many e-mails and other reminders to its members and their aides in order to make sure that everyone would attend. They were concerned that the event would be sparsely attended, and indeed, there were very few officials in attendance. The event was also broadcast live and received extensive coverage in the news, all of which meant that the speakers needed to think carefully before making unwise remarks.

The Prime Minister Decries Incitement

Netanyahu’s speech, as I mentioned, was not too extreme. He decried the claims that are often made that he himself used to heckle Rabin during his speeches and brand him as a traitor, which would mean that Netanyahu himself contributed to the toxic atmosphere that led to Rabin’s murder. No matter how much Netanyahu argues that this story is untrue, it does not seem to do him any good. He asserted that while he did criticize Rabin, it was always kept within legitimate bounds. “Woe to us if we are to be prevented from arguing with him today,” Netanyahu declared. Incidentally, I can’t help but point out that everyone has been speaking about Rabin’s “heritage,” but I am not aware of any particular heritage that he left to the people of Israel.

Netanyahu went on to say, “The essence of what I am saying is that it is forbidden for us to destroy the freedom of speech, but at the same time, we must not tolerate incitement to murder from any direction, whether it is against one community or another, against Jews or Arabs, or against demonstrators or their leaders. Today, 25 years after the Rabin assassination, there are explicit calls every day to murder the prime minister and his family, and barely anyone has uttered a peep in protest. Members of the Knesset, I can provide you with quotes if you wish, but this is above and beyond anything that can be described.”

MK Yair Golan (a general in the army reserves and member of the Meretz party) called out, “What incitement is there against you? Who is calling on anyone to murder you?”

“What are you talking about?” Tamar Zandberg interjected at the same time.

Yariv Levin pleaded with the hecklers to respect the dignity of the event. He proceeded to call each of them to order by name; this was the first warning that they would be ejected from the room if they continued disturbing the proceedings. Silence returned to the room, and Netanyahu responded to their outburst.

“Since I do not want to take up too much of your time, I will send you the quotes and their sources,” the prime minister said. He then returned to his main topic. “Yitzchak Rabin deserves the entire nation’s gratitude for the peace agreement with Jordan, which opened a very important crack in the wall of Arab hostility. In October 1994, in the Knesset, I said to him, ‘As the leader of the opposition, Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you on this momentous step that will unite the vast majority of the people, for we are all united in war as in peace.’ Members of the Knesset,” he continued, “when the state of war between Israel and Jordan drew to a close—and I must parenthetically mention Yitzchak Rabin’s dedicated chief of staff, Eitan Haber, who recently passed away and was one of the instrumental figures in this process—Yitzchok Rabin quoted the possuk in Melochim I, ‘And he had peace on all sides, all around.’ Then he added two words: ‘If only.’ Twenty-six years later, the vision recorded in Tanach is progressively coming true before our eyes. No, we are not being deceived by illusions, nor are we falling into complacency. There are many challenges before us with regard to national security, the economy, the fight against the coronavirus, foreign relations, and developing the country. But just as we overcame challenges and hardships in the past and achieved enormous success, we will do the same, with Hashem’s help, in the future as well. We will continue making advancements for the State of Israel, which was so precious to Yitzchak Rabin and for which he worked throughout his life. May his memory be blessed.”

As you can see, while Netanyahu was ostensibly speaking about Rabin, he had plenty to say about himself as well. It is reminiscent of the joke about the man who delivered a hesped for a distinguished rov that was replete with statements such as: “He always knew how to answer every question I asked him. Whenever we learned together, he always demonstrated his brilliance.” Such a hesped tends to be even more of a compliment to the speaker himself than to the deceased….

Lapid’s Pointed Address

This brings us to the third speaker, MK Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, the man who seems to be convinced—or at least outwardly professes to believe—that he is fit to become the next prime minister of Israel. Why did Lapid have the privilege of speaking at the memorial event? Well, according to the Knesset regulations, whenever the prime minister addresses the Knesset, the leader of the opposition has the right to deliver a speech of his own. And Yair Lapid, the opposition leader, is not the type of person to forgo an opportunity to speak, especially when he has the chance to verbally assail his prime political rival.

Like his father, Yair Lapid is a man of words. Before he entered the world of politics, he worked as a correspondent both in the written media and on television. There is no denying that he was intelligent, but he was often wicked and cruel as well. His father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, was precisely the same; he used his own television career to gain popularity as a populist and demagogue, which enabled him to launch his career in politics. When Yair Lapid spoke about Rabin this Thursday, it was very easy to discern that his speech was actually directed against Netanyahu. And he harnessed all of his talents and his innate cruelty to do that.

“The heritage of Yitzchok Rabin teaches that you must define our truth and to be prepared to fight for it,” Lapid declared. “Fighting for your own truth is the only type of life that is worth living. If you promise something, you must fulfill it. If you define what is good for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, that is more important than what is good for you and your own political survival. There will be difficulties along the way, because great goals create tremendous difficulties, but you must withstand them. To continue the fight—that is the way. You must continue that fight because it is your task. The nature of your task is resisting pressure. What does resisting pressure mean? It means not to become confused; it means to remain focused and not to constantly seek places to cast blame…. Rabin’s legacy is his model of leadership. His legacy is about doing the right thing even when it is challenging. That is his standard. We look at him, and we look at the people who are leading the state today, and it is impossible to miss the difference. His legacy is what enables us to tell the difference between leaders who care about the state above all and those who care primarily about themselves. He believed in the common good, not in what was good for him.”

As I said, his praise for Rabin amounted to little more than a thinly veiled attack on the current prime minister of Israel.

In Defense of Mandelblit

Avishai Mandelblit, the attorney general of Israel, was at the center of a tempest this week. Why was that? Because a few people who had made disapproving remarks to him while he was walking home from shul on Shabbos were interrogated by the police as a result, on Shabbos itself. Many people were infuriated by this, and Mandelblit was roundly criticized from every possible direction. But that criticism was unfounded. Mandelblit, who wears a yarmulke, had no connection to the fact that these people were summoned for questioning. He certainly had nothing to do with the decision to interrogate them on Shabbos. That was a mistake made by the police, and the responsibility is theirs alone.

Actually, Mandelblit has been suffering from public loathing and abhorrence for many months already. And if you want my opinion, this makes no sense. The “anyone but Bibi” crowd should be practically worshiping him, since he filed a series of indictments against the prime minister, legitimized the corrupt investigations against him, supported the recruiting of state witnesses against Netanyahu through disingenuous means, and often obstructed Netanyahu’s efforts to protect himself. And I certainly do not understand the pro-Netanyahu camp’s fierce antagonism, since Mandelblit recently closed the submarine case, which was the most serious case against the prime minister. According to Moshe Yaalon and other high-ranking military officials, the submarine affair was the source of Netanyahu’s greatest illicit profit.

Mandelblit himself is actually living in the shadow of the Harpaz-Ashkenazi affair, a scandal in which, during his tenure as the chief military prosecutor, he allegedly covered up the crimes of then-IDF chief of staff (and current foreign minister) Gabi Ashkenazi. In my view, that should only serve to make him sympathetic to Netanyahu, since Mandelblit himself has experienced the same type of judicial persecution that is being inflicted on the prime minister. If I were a fan of conspiracy theories, I might even suggest that Netanyahu and Mandelblit have been working together in an extremely complex scheme, and that they conspired for the attorney general to indict the prime minister on all the trivial charges against him while closing the only case that actually threatens his future. In other words, the charges that have been brought against Netanyahu might be viewed as a smokescreen to spare him from a much more damaging criminal case. In order to prevent the appearance of a conspiracy, the two could pretend to be locked in mortal enmity for the public’s benefit…. But even without venturing into such outlandish speculation, we can certainly say that Netanyahu ought to be grateful to Mandelblit.

Mandelblit was widely condemned for the chillul Shabbos forced on the people who made snide remarks to him in the street. But as I said, Mandelblit himself does not decide whom the police interrogate and when they conduct their questioning. The attorney general himself did not testify against the people who were questioned, nor did he even file complaints against them. Mandelblit is not even responsible for the harsh stance taken toward anyone who makes an offensive comment toward him.

From the chareidi standpoint, Mandelblit has actually been good for this country. Although he works in a bastion of anti-religious sentiment and is surrounded by pressure to show hostility to Yiddishkeit, Mandelblit hasn’t caused any hardships for religious Jews. This sets him apart from his predecessors, Michael Ben-Yair and Meni Mazuz, who have since become justices on the Supreme Court. Those two men, as well as Elyakim Rubinstein, another former attorney general, were blatantly anti-religious. Mandelblit does not have much time left in the position, and I am almost certain that the religious community will miss him after he leaves it.

The Police and the Chareidim

The police are continuing to run wild. On Sunday, police officers pounced on a maggid shiur whose mask, according to their claims, was not covering his nose. The exact sequence of events is unclear, but a video of the incident shows the police officers behaving like barbarians. One day earlier, a police officer was seen using brass knuckles to strike a chareidi man who was demonstrating against excavations on Har Tzion. In fact, regardless of the victim’s identity or his crime, the use of brass knuckles by a police officer is utterly appalling!

On a similar note, we all remember the video that emerged from Mea Shearim last spring, which showed young Zissy Margaliot being hit by a stun grenade. No one understood the reason that the stun grenade was thrown; after all, no one had been chasing the police officers from that area. A group of women and children had simply been standing there and watching as the police officers went on their way; the policemen themselves were clearly inexperienced and careless. There is little doubt that these police officers, who tend to be brutal in any event, were influenced by the waves of incitement against the chareidi community. After all, they had been sent to Mea Shearim to enforce the coronavirus restrictions, and they were undoubtedly taken in by the slander that the chareidim were at fault for the disease’s spread. In any event, this case was referred to the Machash (Police Internal Investigations Department), where it was closed—meaning that the perpetrators were not brought to justice.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn recently responded to a member of the Knesset who demanded an explanation. Nissenkorn’s response consisted of quoting the answer relayed to him by the state prosecutor, who oversees the Machash: “Based on a probe conducted by the Machash and the evidence it gathered, it has been determined that due to disturbances of the public order, which included an assault on the police forces, and after the attempts to deal with the rioting and disperse the gathering were unsuccessful, the officers decided, with the approval of the relevant authorities, that the police would use stun grenades. One of the stun grenades hit the sidewalk, rolled to the other side of the street, and lightly wounded an eight-year-old girl who was passing through the area. After examining the circumstances in full, the Machash decided to transfer the case to the police force for disciplinary action and to review the regulations concerning the use of stun grenades among civilians.”

My response: The video evidence is irrefutable. The grenade was clearly not thrown at any illegal gathering or riot; it was hurled into an empty street while the police officers were moving away. Moreover, what is the meaning of their claim that the grenade’s use was approved by “the relevant authorities”? Did someone actually call a higher-ranking official before using the grenade? Why, if it was truly authorized, did anyone approve it? And was the official who approved its use subjected to questioning? How does the Machash account for this?

In short, the video proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a massive cover-up. And that does not bode well for the future behavior of the police. If a police officer knows that he will not encounter any reprisal, what is to stop him from beating chareidi citizens?

The Passing of Reb Shimon Brecher zt”l

We were all saddened and dismayed this week to learn about the passing of Reb Shimon Brecher of Lakewood. I wasn’t personally acquainted with him, but I was davening for his recovery, since his name appeared in the past few issues of Divrei Siach, the weekly newsletter published by my good friend Rav Yitzchok Goldstoff, which contains an assortment of divrei Torah and anecdotes collected at the home of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. The readers of Divrei Siach were asked to daven for a refuah sheleimah for “our distinguished friend, Rabbi Shimon ben Henya Raizel,” and I dutifully davened for him. In one particular issue, the publisher mentioned that the man in need of tefillos was an avid practitioner of tzedakah and chessed with a close connection to Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

The funeral procession departed on Sunday from the Lederman shul on Rechov Rashbam, the building adjacent to Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s home, and made its way to the cemetery in Bnei Brak, where Reb Shimon had purchased a burial plot near the graves of the Chazon Ish and the Steipler. Rav Chaim left his home—seemingly for the first time in a very long time—in order to participate in the levayah. Shortly after the levayah, I learned more about the niftar from Rabbi Yitzchok Goldstoff, who is himself a close associate of Rav Chaim Kanievsky.  “I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude toward Reb Shimon Brecher,” Rabbi Goldstoff said. “He helped sponsor our publication, and he donated to many causes that I asked him to support.”

Rabbi Goldstoff went on to relate, “When the furniture in the Lederman shul was changed, Reb Shimon donated all the new furnishings, and he asked to be given the old bench on which Rav Chaim used to sit. We asked Rav Chaim for permission, and he agreed. The bench was shipped to Rabbi Brecher’s home in America, but a shailah arose: The bench had been used in a shul, but when it was placed in his home, it seemed that it was lowered from its previous level of kedushah. Because of this issue, Rabbi Brecher moved the bench to his office and made a point of sitting on it every day to learn.

“Rav Chaim once raised the brim of Reb Shimon’s hat, as he often did when people visited him,” Rabbi Goldstoff continued. “Most people would react either by leaving their brims up or lowering them again after they left. Reb Shimon had a different reaction: As soon as he left Rav Chaim’s home, he traveled directly to a hat store in Yerushalayim and bought a round hat, understanding that this was the way the rov wished for him to dress.

“In his mind, Rav Chaim’s word was sacrosanct. Rav Chaim once told him to grow a beard, and after that day, he never shaved again. He was a businessman, and this was highly unusual; no one understood the reason for the change in his appearance. But as far as Reb Shimon was concerned, there was no question that this was what he had to do. Rav Chaim had spoken, and his job was to obey.

“Reb Shimon spent many hours learning together with Rav Chaim. He always used to come with a list of questions on halacha or other topics in learning. When he visited Rav Chaim, their conversations were about Torah. He also joined Rav Chaim to bake matzos before Pesach. I don’t know if you ever saw the scene; Rav Chaim would watch the proceedings with rapt attention, and no one would disturb him. The only person who was permitted to sit next to him and ask questions about the matzah baking was Reb Shimon, who would make the trip from America exclusively for that purpose.”

Supporting The Lederman Capsules

My conversation with Rabbi Goldstoff was conducted over the phone; I was in Yerushalayim while he was standing on Rechov Rashbam. Yet even though I couldn’t see his face, I could sense his profound grief through the telephone line. I continued prodding him to share his memories of the niftar, hoping that it would serve almost as a hesped of sorts for the deceased tzaddik.

I presume that he was an excellent source of material for Divrei Siach.

“Surprisingly, I didn’t receive material from him,” Rabbi Goldstoff admitted. “I asked him quite a few times to share information with our readers, but he always replied, ‘I would give you material, but I am afraid of the responsibility. I am always fearful that I didn’t understand the rov correctly.’”

Rav Chaim was notified when Reb Shimon became ill. The gadol hador gave a brocha to Reb Shimon, davened for him, and, if I am not mistaken, even added a name. Until he was sedated and intubated, Reb Shimon constantly inquired about the events in Rav Chaim’s home.

“He had very warm feelings toward kollel yungerleit,” Rabbi Goldstoff added. “You probably know that some yungerleit in the Ponovezh kollel learn in the Lederman shul today, in a capsule arrangement of sorts. They learn on the upper and lower floors and in the adjoining rooms. There are hundreds of yungerleit there, and Reb Shimon paid for all the expenses involved.”

When was the last time you spoke to him?

“On Tzom Gedaliah. I told him that I was putting out a special kuntres about all the seforim that have been published with Rav Chaim’s Torah, both his own seforim and the compilations of his teachings published by his talmidim. I asked him to help us defray the costs, and he answered without hesitation, ‘Go to Reb Shaya Epstein; he will have money waiting for you.’ I asked if he wanted a dedication, but he declined the offer. I think this was one of his final donations; he was intubated shortly thereafter.

“Whenever I asked him for anything, he always agreed. Hundreds of authors of seforim received donations from him, but he always refused to have his name appear in the seforim. He once told me about a dispute he had with the author of a sefer. He had insisted, as always, on anonymously helping sponsor the publication of a sefer, but the author insisted that Reb Shimon’s name should be printed in the sefer. The author argued that this would inspire others to follow his example. Rav Chaim Kanievsky listened to both sides and told Reb Shimon, ‘You can allow your name to appear in the sefer; do as you see fit.’ Reb Shimon still decided that his name should be omitted. ‘I simply can’t do it,’ he said.

“All three of his sons spoke at his levayah and attested that their father never told them anything about his contributions to tzedakah. He would simply adjure them to work on their middos, especially their trait of emes.”

It was a very special levayah.

“Yes, especially since Rav Chaim was present. There was tremendous emotion in the air, and the hespedim were very powerful. Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch delivered a hesped, presumably because Reb Shimon was a donor to Slabodka. Another maspid was Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein; Reb Shimon had been a prolific donor to his kollel in Cholon. Reb Shimon would frequently call the kollel and announce that he had made a deposit into their bank account, often without even being asked. Once, he even told them that he had increased his donation a bit because the dollar was low. A third hesped was delivered by Rav Yehoshua Tzivyon, Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s son-in-law, who was very close to Reb Shimon. Rav Yitzchok Kolodetzky, another son-in-law of Rav Chaim, also delivered a hesped. Because of the coronavirus, it was impossible for him to have a large, heavily attended levayah, but everyone said that that was clearly a stroke of hashgochah, since he wouldn’t have wanted such a large funeral.”




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