Sunday, Sep 19, 2021

My Take On The News

Hamas Threatens to Renew Rocket Fire

These are difficult days in Israel. Almost every day brings reports of new attempts on the lives of Jews. This Sunday, another terrorist was killed by IDF soldiers while attempting to murder a Jewish motorist. These incidents have become so commonplace that they are barely reported in the press.

On a related note, the Supreme Court decided this week to block the demolition of the home of the terrorist who murdered Yehuda Guetta last month at the Tapuach Junction, which has been the site of weekly attempts to murder Jews.

Meanwhile, Hamas is threatening to resume its rocket fire. One of its pretexts is the fact that the funding that is regularly transferred to Gaza from Qatar has been frozen since Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel’s latest battle against Hamas. The Qataris explained that some of the clauses of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt specified that their funding should be frozen (in addition to calling for negotiations for the return of the remains of Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas). Hamas announced in response that if the funds are not released, they will renew their rocket fire.

Another complicated issue is the annual flag parade. The Israeli right wing customarily holds a march around the walls of the Old City of Yerushalayim and to the Kosel on Yom Yerushalayim. This year, due to the sensitive security situation, the march was postponed until Thursday. For the time being, the police have refused to issue a permit for the march, fearing that it might cause an escalation in tensions.

In Israel, there are differences of opinion on this subject. The right wing believes that canceling the parade would be seen as a reward for terrorism, whereas the left views the march as an unnecessary provocation. Last motzoei Shabbos, Defense Minister Benny Gantz conducted a situation assessment along with the IDF chief of staff, the police commissioner, the attorney general, the director of the Central Command, the commander of COGAT (the unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), and other officials. After the meeting, the participants decided to demand that the parade be canceled. Also, the American government called on Israel to refrain from taking steps that would “inflame passions in Yerushalayim.” The topic was even raised during Gantz’s meetings in Washington last week.

Meanwhile, tensions continue to flare in mixed cities such as Lod, Acco, Yaffo, and Haifa. The government decided Sunday to station additional police forces in those cities; hundreds of officers are to be recruited for this purpose. The Jewish residents of the cities are still frightened, and for good reason.

There are many other topics to discuss this week, and I will try to cover as much as I can. The latest political developments and the emerging government will be discussed in a separate article.

Miracles Every Day

We have witnessed innumerable miracles in recent times, and it is high time for us to take notice of them. True, the tragedies in Meron and Karlin were messages from Shomayim to all of us, and we must all engage in cheshbon hanefesh and self-improvement in response. But it doesn’t have to take a tragedy to spur us to action; the miracles that have been performed for us are equally powerful messages, designed to remind us of Hashem’s constant protection.

The ordeal that Israel has faced over the past month is a perfect example. Here are the statistics: During Operation Guardian of the Walls in the month of May, over 4360 rockets and mortars were fired into Israeli cities. Over 1660 rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome missiles, over 1820 rockets fell in open areas, and over 640 rockets that were launched in the direction of Israel missed their targets and fell in Gaza!

The terrorists in Gaza managed to kill nine Israeli civilians, one soldier, and three foreign workers. Of course, every individual life is an entire world unto itself, and we are obligated to do everything in our power to save even a single life. But while I do not belittle the loss of life, the death toll is astonishingly low, considering the sheer number of rockets with which Israel was bombarded. Every time a rocket fell in an open area, it was nothing short of miraculous. And that is to say nothing of the rockets that landed in shopping centers that “happened” to be empty, in nursery schools after the children had gone home, or in homes whose residents had just entered their secure rooms, where they were shielded from the blasts. Shachar Zaguri of Netivot, who owns a gas station, related that a rocket had fallen between a supermarket and the tanks of flammable gas. Had it landed slightly off to the side, the results would have been tragic. Just three weeks ago, planes arriving in Israel were directed to land near Eilat instead of at Ben Gurion Airport due to the danger posed by rockets. Our very survival is a sheer miracle!

And there is another miracle for which we must give thanks to Hashem: the end of the coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions in Israel are steadily being lifted, to the point that there is talk of removing the requirement to wear masks in enclosed areas on June 15. This week, there was even a day when no new cases of coronavirus were detected. The vaccination of children has already begun, and the adults in the country have already been inoculated.

These are only the miracles of which we are aware. We can never know how many other miracles have been performed for us without our knowledge. But we must certainly praise Hashem for His endless kindness.

Speaking of the coronavirus, a group of 22 students in a high school in Yerushalayim recently tested positive for the disease. One can only imagine the furor that would have erupted if this had happened in a chareidi school or yeshiva. But since it was a ninth-grade class in the Teddy Kollek school in Givat Zeev, no one made much of a fuss about it. That is the reason you haven’t heard about it.

Gaza Warfare Triggers Spike in Anti-Semitism

Operation Guardian of the Walls seems to have brought out many anti-Semites who generally hide their hatred for Jews. During the Israeli military operation in Gaza, there was a major upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and America.

In Israel, one of the government ministries is known as the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. It became a separate office during the previous government’s term, when there weren’t enough portfolios to hand out to all the ministers designated by the coalition agreement. The current minister, who will hold her position for the next few days, is Omer Yanklewitz. Every year, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs releases a report on global anti-Semitism. This year’s report, which was publicized last week, was utterly chilling.

The report revealed that throughout the western world, Jews have been suffering from a wave of anti-Semitic attacks. A few examples should suffice: Toward the beginning of the IDF’s operation in Gaza, German protestors yelled racial slurs at Jews during a protest outside a shul in the city of Gelsenkirschen, which has a population of about a quarter of a million people. During the same week, pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Belgium shouted anti-Jewish slogans in Arabic. Two Jews were attacked in a restaurant in Hollywood by a group of assailants carrying Palestinian flags; the attackers shouted “Death to Jews!” and “Free Palestine!” Before carrying out the assault, the perpetrators asked the patrons, “Who here is Jewish?” Last week, pro-Palestinian protestors in London called to “murder the Jews.” In New York, violent demonstrators set off firecrackers and injured a 45-year-old woman. A man wearing a yarmulke was attacked in New York on the same day by a group of assailants wearing keffiyehs. In addition to the physical violence, there were incidents of online intimidation; a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor in London reported that after she joined the social media network TikTok, she received dozens of abusive messages, including “Happy Holocaust” and other anti-Semitic slogans. Meanwhile, a religious Jew in Los Angeles was pursued by a car occupied by pro-Palestinian activists; the victim managed to escape from his pursuers on foot.

The horrific reports do not end there. The BBC announced that it would investigate a reporter employed by the network who was found to have posted the message “Hitler was right” online in 2014. The post attracted attention only recently, probably because the message has been parroted with rising frequency in recent days. In a letter to President Joe Biden, the Anti-Defamation League reported that it had identified about 17,000 uses of the same phrase or similar statements in the week from May 7 through May 14. A car decorated with the slogan was spotted several days ago at a pro-Palestinian protest in Miami, where the demonstrators loudly called for Jews to leave America. The Jewish organization in England known as the CST (Community Security Trust) reported a fivefold increase in the frequency of anti-Semitic incidents in the country during the fighting between Israel and Hamas. The list of countries where anti-Semitic violence was reported included Holland, Canada, and Italy. Many incidents of violence were also reported in Ukraine.

Viciousness in Vesti

Hatred of Jews also reared its head in Israel—albeit not in response to Operation Guardian of the Walls, but rather in the aftermath of the tragedy in Meron.

The disaster in Meron revealed many things to us. We were exposed to many extraordinary tzaddikim in our country, and we learned that our society has the capacity for remarkable displays of loyalty and brotherhood. The beauty of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel was revealed, as the vast majority of the Israeli populace rallied together to support the religious community in its time of pain and grief. In spite of the differences that divide us, virtually all Israelis shared the mourners’ pain. But the tragedy also revealed some of the uglier sides of this country. For instance, as I have written in the past, there were certain elements in the media who rushed to lay blame for the disaster. The victims’ blood was still fresh, yet they busied themselves firing off accusations. Of course, many of them saw fit to blame the chareidim for “crowding together like animals.”

Even worse, the incident also exposed some of the heartless evil that exists in certain pockets of Israeli society. I received a copy of some of the comments that were posted on the website of Vesti, a Russian-language newspaper published by Yediot Acharonot, and was shocked by the inhuman reactions. One person wrote, “This was only to be expected. Religious zealotry turns a crowd into a wild mob.” Another person posted, “Look at this picture [of the people in Meron]; it’s like a cloud of black locusts.” Another appalling comment read, “To be honest, I am not sorry. It’s too bad that thousands of them didn’t die. That would be a lesson for them!”

These shocking lines were written by anti-Semites who live in the State of Israel, non-Jews who were brought to Israel by the Israeli government itself. And it gets even worse, as another commenter wrote, “Who cares? They were peyotnikim [a derogatory Russian term for Orthodox Jews] and not normal people. Would you care about an anthill that was crushed?” The news site shut down its comments section after a while, but that does not change the reality. The depth of anti-Semitic loathing in Israel has been revealed.

A Conviction in France

One of the countries suffering most severely from anti-Semitism is France. Not long ago, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Paris against the decision of a French court to cancel the trial of Kobili Traore, the Arab who murdered Sarah Halimi, a Jewish doctor, in April 2017. Her son, Yonasan Halimi, traveled to France from Israel to speak at the demonstration.

The efficacy of such protests may have been demonstrated last week, when a criminal court outside the city of Vichy, France, convicted Ahmed Mualek of making death threats in a number of videos posted on social media. The postings included threats against the life of Meir Habib, a Jewish member of the French parliament, and against Jews in general, along with statements denying the Holocaust and expressing profound loathing for Israel.

Another piece of news related to France is a bit more pleasant. On Sunday, Rabbi Chaim Korsia was elected for another term as the chief rabbi of France. Rabbi Korsia, who enjoyed the support of rabbonim throughout the Jewish world, received 189 votes within the electoral body, which includes about 300 French rabbonim and other public figures in the Jewish community. Rabbi Korsia’s aide, Rabbi Moshe Levin, related that according to the official statistics held by the French interior ministry, the Jewish community in France consists of about 600,000 people, making it the largest Jewish community in Europe. The Conference of European Rabbis, in which Rabbi Korsia holds the position of vice president, welcomed his election. The chief rabbis of Israel also congratulated him on his election.

A Landslide for Herzog

Last week, I predicted that the Israeli presidential election would be determined by the personal connections between the Knesset members and the winning candidate, and that Yitzchok Herzog would emerge as the winner. My prediction was a bit of a gamble, but I was fairly certain that I would be proven correct. Sure enough, Yitzchok Herzog was elected last Wednesday to the office of president of the State of Israel. Herzog, the eleventh president of Israel, made history by receiving 87 votes, the largest number of votes ever received by a candidate for the presidency.

The president of Israel is elected in the Knesset by secret ballot. The members of the Knesset take turns selecting their ballots behind a partition erected at the back of the room. Each ballot is sealed in an envelope and deposited in a large box, which is taken under guard to a room where the votes are counted; the results are announced in the Knesset shortly thereafter. Herzog received more votes than any other candidate in history, even those who ran unopposed. The only other contender in this race was Miriam Peretz, a teacher and bereaved mother who has become a renowned figure in Israel.

At 12:40, after the results of the counting were received, Knesset speaker Yariv Levin entered the room and reopened the Knesset sitting. “I have received the results of the counting of the votes from the Knesset secretariat,” he announced. “Ballots were submitted by 119 members of the Knesset, with all 119 envelopes found to be valid. There were no disqualified envelopes and no empty envelopes. There were three blank ballots, and three other disqualified ballots, leaving a total of 113 valid votes. The candidate Yitzchok Herzog received the votes of 87 members of the Knesset; the candidate Miriam Peretz received 26 votes. Therefore, I am announcing that Mr. Yitzchok Herzog is the newly elected president of the State of Israel. On behalf of this entire house, I congratulate President Herzog. I would like to ask the members of the Knesset presidium, my deputies, to join me, as we officially present the results to the elected president.” Levin proceeded to end the Knesset sitting (which was reopened one hour later in order to continue with the day’’ agenda).

Incidentally, I was able to find out that the only Knesset member who didn’t vote was Mansour Abbas. During previous presidential elections, most of the Arabs abstained from the vote since they do not recognize the state. Apparently, that has changed. I also discovered that the three ballots that were disqualified were envelopes that contained two ballots for Herzog. According to the rules, an envelope containing more than one ballot is automatically disqualified. (It is possible that the double ballots were inserted in the envelopes deliberately….) Thus, in effect, Herzog actually received 90 votes.

In his acceptance speech, Herzog intoned, “With awe and great excitement, I, the man impoverished of deeds, hereby accept the Israeli Knesset’s election of me as the eleventh president of the State of Israel. I accept the privilege of serving the entire Israeli public in this lofty and elevated position. I intend to be a president for everyone and to respect all people.”

Herzog will be sworn into his position next month, succeeding Reuven Rivlin for a seven-year term. The office of president has been previously held by his father, Chaim Herzog. His grandfather, Rav Yitzchok Issac Herzog, was the first chief rabbi of Ireland and later of Israel.

Desecration of Shuls Ignored by the Authorities

Last week, I wrote about the torching of shuls in Lod by Arab rioters during a spate of violence in the city. But let us not forget that shuls in Israel are desecrated and vandalized even during ordinary times. This is a horrific reality, but it is sadly the case. And there is a general sense that the police don’t pay enough attention to the desecration of shuls or to the scourge of thefts of sifrei Torah. There are many important questions whose answers remain unknown: How many sifrei Torah were stolen over the past five years, and how many of them were retrieved? How many of the thieves were captured, and how many were brought to justice? Moreover, what sentences did they receive? The exact statistics are not clear, but there is no question that many sifrei Torah have been stolen by miscreants. And there is nothing more disheartening than the fact that the police aren’t doing much to put an end to the phenomenon.

Two years ago, the Siach Yisroel shul on Rechov Zangvill in Yerushalayim was ransacked. The Israeli public was appalled at the pictures of the torn sifrei Torah found lying on the shul’s floor. Nevertheless, the case was closed, and the perpetrators were never found. Several months ago, three shuls in Yeruchom were vandalized, and the Minister of Internal Security was questioned in the Knesset. “How many complaints were filed about the thefts of sifrei Torah and the vandalism of shuls in Yeruchom?” he was asked. “How many investigations were conducted, and what were the findings? How many sifrei Torah have been stolen in Israel over the past five months, and how many were retrieved?”

The minister, Amir Ochana, replied, “I can tell you only that the penal code does not include a separate category of crimes involving the theft of sifrei Torah. Since these crimes are not recorded separately, I can’t give you any specific figures in this respect.” This is utterly absurd: Stealing a sefer Torah and vandalizing a shul are not considered different from any other crime in the State of Israel. The theft of a sefer Torah is viewed like any other theft, and the desecration of a shul is classified as mere property damage. When these heinous crimes are not singled out for condemnation in the eyes of the law, the apathy infects the entire police force, from the commissioner himself to the lowest ranking investigator.

I have a habit of collecting newspaper clippings dealing with interactions between the police and chareidim and with crimes affecting shuls and sifrei Torah. (Everyone is entitled to a hobby….) This week’s newspapers yielded three clippings. The first article related that an Arab policeman had been indicted for harassing a yeshiva bochur on a light rail, while the second described criminal charges that had been brought against an Arab for harassing chareidim in East Yerushalayim. The third article revealed that a man had been arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a shul in Bnei Brak. It will be interesting to check the news again in a few months and to see the outcome of these cases. I would not be surprised if nothing comes of them….

I cannot name a single civilian or police officer who was handed a prison sentence for assaulting a chareidi, nor have I heard of any criminals who served time for damaging shuls or stealing sifrei Torah. I am not even aware of a criminal sentence imposed on an offender for forging a hechsher. The courts’ tolerant attitude regarding these crimes is perhaps the greatest cause of repeat offenses. Just last year, newspapers reported that a police officer who was accused of assaulting chareidim during a protest had been suspended until the conclusion of the investigation. The officer violently punched a chareidi protestor in the head at a motzoei Shabbos demonstration. But what happened since then? Nothing has been reported. Half a year ago, the news reported on the arrest of suspects who were found with parchments from an antique sefer Torah in their possession; according to the reports, the fragments of the sefer Torah were transferred to the Antiquities Authority. But what happened since then? Are the parchments still being held by the Antiquities Authority? What happened to the suspects themselves? Were they prosecuted for their crimes? Were they sentenced? The case seems to have dropped off the authorities’ radar….

The Knesset Speaker’s Strange Choices

I have written in the past about the institution of urgent parliamentary queries, which require the approval of the Knesset speaker. The speaker receives about 20 such queries every week, of which he approves only four or five for discussion in the Knesset. When a query is approved, a government minister is required to respond to it on Wednesday at the beginning of the Knesset’s sitting, in what amounts to a miniature debate. The Knesset member who submitted the query presents his question, and after the minister responds to it, the MK is permitted to ask an additional question. The same right is given to two other members of the Knesset, and the minister must respond to all of them. The charming discussion between Yoav Kisch and Ofer Cassif (an exchange in which they traded invective including such gems as “you are a disgrace,” “this is pure treachery,” “you are a complete zero,” “absolute lowlife,” “war criminal,” “demagogue,” and “you belong in an insane asylum”) took place in the context of a parliamentary query, when Kisch responded to a question from Cassif.

The only problem with urgent queries is that they require the Knesset speaker’s approval. Personally, I often find myself scratching my head in response to his decisions. He seems to approve questions on certain topics that are much less pressing, while the more important and timely subjects do not receive his approval. How do I know this, you ask? Well, I am aware of all the questions submitted by the chareidi Knesset members from both Shas and United Torah Judaism, many of which are not approved, and I witness the questions that are actually presented in the Knesset on Wednesdays. Believe me, there is no rhyme or reason in his decisions!

Here are a couple of queries that did not receive the speaker’s approval. The first question read, “Munir Anabtawi of Haifa, a mentally disturbed individual, was shot by police officers. After the case of Tzvika, the mentally disabled chareidi boy who was beaten by police officers, it was promised that the officers would receive training to identify disabled or mentally injured civilians. The Psychiatric Association is repeating this demand. My question is: What will be done to raise awareness of this issue among the police officers?”

The second query was the following: “The law will now require car owners who transport children in their cars to install a device that will prevent the children from being forgotten in the cars. This expense will be a burden to many people. I would like to ask: Will there be assistance provided for those who purchase the system? Why shouldn’t there be a subsidy for the purchase of this system, similar to the reduction in annual car registration payments for car owners who install the Mobileye system?”

And here is a third: “The police announced yesterday that in a probe into the Meron tragedy conducted by Lahav 433 [the National Fraud Investigation Unit], seven searches were conducted and 17 individuals were questioned, eleven of them under warning. My question is: Were any of those people members of the police force? Do you consider it ethical and appropriate for the police to investigate an incident in which police officers themselves are likely to be suspects? Why shouldn’t it be probed by an external body, which would also have the authority to decide on changes to be made on the mountain itself?”

All of these were important and worthy questions. And none of them were brought up for discussion in the Knesset.

Knesset Speaker Recoils After Pushback

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was perturbed by some of the Knesset speaker’s decisions. Two weeks ago, Speaker Yariv Levin was accosted by a couple of outraged members of the Knesset. The first was Nira Shpak of Yesh Atid, who informed him, “I submitted an urgent query. I wrote that the lessons of Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, and Protective Edge have led to the decision that there needs to be a program for providing shelter on the home front. The question was never approved. Good morning!” she exclaimed sardonically. “I am embarrassed, in this Knesset that is such a source of pride for me, to call this a disgrace, but that is what it is.” Shpak is new in the Knesset and might not have appreciated the audacity involved in accosting the Knesset speaker in that fashion. But Levin could not allow her tirade to go unanswered.

“I can only tell you that there is quota of urgent queries that can be permitted in the Knesset,” he said.

“Even worse!” Shpak exclaimed. “There is a war going on. Do you want more people to die because we couldn’t make the quota?”

“You know,” Levin said, “everyone thinks that their particular question is more important than any other.”

“I was raised to appreciate the value of human life,” she shot back. “Are you telling me that children have to be wandering the streets because of a quota?”

“MK Shpak, all the questions presented here are about important topics,” Levin said.

“My apologies,” Shpak hissed sarcastically. “You are right; this isn’t important.”

“Most of them have to do with issues that touch on life and death,” Levin continued. “There is a limit to the number of urgent queries that can be approved every week, and it is very low.”

“Then when the next person dies, you can write on his tombstone, ‘Sorry, but you didn’t make the quota,’” she said.

“MK Shpak, there is a system in place in this building, and there are regulations,” Levin replied. “I would advise you not to be too quick to declare it a disgrace. I suggest that you learn a bit of patience, which can do no harm in this building, and that you refrain from being so quick to find fault.”

Another outraged Knesset member was Yisroel Eichler, whose query regarding reinforced rooms in residential homes was also not approved. “I can’t understand why my question was rejected, at a time when we are more in need of secure rooms than ever,” he complained.

By now, Yariv Levin was rattled. “MK Eichler,” he said, “There were two urgent parliamentary queries for the Minister of Defense that were approved last week. We were asked to allow him to postpone his responses by two weeks, since both ministers [Benny Gantz and Michoel Bitton] were busy with matters pertaining to national security. Therefore, we wouldn’t have received an answer to your question this week in any event. I certainly agree that it is an appropriate and important topic for discussion. I advise you to submit your question again. I presume that we will find an opportunity to approve it and to facilitate a discussion.”

Last week, in an amazing “coincidence,” both Nira Shpak and Yisroel Eichler discovered that their urgent queries were suddenly approved….

The Chazon Ish’s Consolation

This week, all the chareidi newspapers in Israel dedicated many pages to the life and accomplishments of Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, in honor of his tenth yahrtzeit. On Sunday, large crowds of visitors traveled to the Ponovezh cemetery in Bnei Brak, and public shiurim were delivered in his memory. On Monday, a major event took place on behalf of Kollelei Taharos, including a siyum on Shas conducted by the yungeleit of the kollelim in honor of the yahrtzeit of Mrs. Mattel Leah Sharon, who passed away last Tammuz. Several seforim about Rav Michel Yehuda’s life, as well as seforim featuring his Torah teachings, have also been published.

Allow me to share a fascinating story of my own. For several years, I used to visit my parents every week in Beer Yaakov, where I davened Maariv in the yeshiva. This gave me an opportunity to interact with the mashgiach of the yeshiva, Rav Moshe Dovid Lefkowitz, on a weekly basis; I often made sure to arrive early for Maariv in order to attend his shmuess, in which he quoted both his illustrious father, Rav Michel Yehuda, and his rebbi, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein. One night, I was on my way to Kiryat Sefer to pay a visit to a young couple who had tragically lost a small child. After Maariv, I approached Rav Lefkowitz and asked him, “What can I say to comfort a couple who are sitting shiva for their one-year-old child?”

Rav Moshe Dovid replied, “You can tell them the same thing that I told Rav Avrohom Genichovsky when he lost a son.”

I was shocked; I hadn’t been aware that Rav Genichovsky had suffered such a loss. “What did you tell him?” I asked.

“I comforted him in the same way that my father consoled me when my own son passed away,” Rav Moshe Dovid said.

Now I was even more distraught, as I hadn’t been aware of this tragedy either. Rav Moshe Dovid was surprised to learn that I hadn’t known about the death of his son Eliyohu Yosef, who had drowned in the sea. “How is it possible that you didn’t hear about it?” he demanded. “All of Bnei Brak was in turmoil when it happened.”

“How did your father comfort you?” I managed to ask through my distress.

“In the same way that the Chazon Ish comforted him when he lost his daughter.”

Once again, I gasped in shock. And once again, Rav Moshe Dovid was surprised to learn that I had been unaware of the incident. He explained that Rav Michel Yehuda had been preparing soup on a stove when his young daughter, Rivkale, had pulled on him from behind, startling him and causing him to spill the boiling soup on her small body. She passed away a few days later, on 22 Teves 5711. Rav Michel Yehuda had stormed the heavens with his tefillos, and he was shattered when his daughter passed away.

“My father was utterly broken,” Rav Moshe Dovid related. “The Chazon Ish came to visit him, and my father said that he felt that he might be required to go into golus. The Chazon Ish made a dismissive motion with his hand and began speaking in learning with him. Before he left, he told him to go and deliver his shiur in Ponovezh. That gesture was his way of comforting my father. It was as if he was saying, ‘It isn’t your fault. Go back to learning, and don’t dwell on this!’”

I was surprised to hear that the Chazon Ish had told Rav Michel Yehuda to deliver his shiur during the shiva. When I shared this story with other people, they surmised that Rav Moshe Dovid hadn’t remembered it correctly. Nevertheless, a grandson of Rav Michel Yehuda assured me that the story was accurate. Another grandson, however, claimed that the incident took place after the shiva, at the Chazon Ish’s home. “My grandfather went to see the Chazon Ish,” he related. “Before he could utter a word, the Chazon Ish opened a copy of Bava Kamma, turned to the Rosh, found a specific passage in the Hagahos Ashri, and asked a powerful question. An intensive debate erupted regarding the sugya. Finally, my grandfather brought up his feelings of guilt, but the Chazon Ish ignored him and resumed the discussion of the sugya. At the end of his visit, the Chazon Ish urged him to resume delivering his shiur.”

Rav Yitzchok Kurlansky, the director of Kollelei Taharos and another of Rav Michel Yehuda’s grandchildren, told me that both versions of the story are true. “The Chazon Ish came to visit my grandfather during the shiva and told him to deliver his shiur at that time, since his talmidim needed him. My grandfather accepted that ruling, but he said that it was impossible to deliver the shiur without preparing it in advance, and that he wasn’t capable of preparing it due to his overwhelming grief. After the shiva, he visited the Chazon Ish in his home. That was when the second incident took place.”

When Rav Moshe Dovid’s son passed away, Rav Michel Yehuda said to him, “The Chazon Ish taught me not to think too much about these things and become enveloped in sorrow, and instead to be completely absorbed in learning and to forget everything else. And I did as he told me.”

When I shared this story with the bereaved parents, they found it highly comforting.

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