Tuesday, May 28, 2024

My Take On The News

Crowds at the Shiva for Rav Chaim Kanievsky

Many things have been happening here in Israel. In fact, on my way to the Knesset I encountered a convoy of cars escorting Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to the Foreign Ministry, which is located near the Knesset building. There were two horrific terror attacks in Israel over the past week, and the country is also living in rapidly growing fear of the polio virus (which I mentioned last week, but the concern has been mounting).

But even before we discuss those concerns, there is one recent event that still holds us all in its grip. The religious community in Israel is still reeling from the shock and sorrow engendered by the sudden passing of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. The tragedy still seems impossible to grasp. I visited Rechov Rashbam last Thursday night, and I found the street barely recognizable. Thousands of people were congregating outside Rav Chaim’s home and the Lederman shul, forming a massive crowd that filled the entire area. A few huge tents had been erected on the street, although I couldn’t discern the purpose of these structures, since Rav Chaim’s family was sitting shiva inside his home. Dozens of mourning notices were plastered all over the surrounding walls. Indeed, all of Klal Yisroel was mourning.

Throughout the past week, from the time of the petirah until the mourners visited the kever on Sunday, hundreds of hespedim took place throughout the country. There was hardly a shul or yeshiva anywhere in Israel where a major hesped was not held. Many organizations also held hespedim. Of course, all the newspapers in the country carried lengthy tributes to the gadol hador; several newspapers dedicated supplements to articles about Rav Chaim. Many of the publications about the weekly parshah also dealt extensively with tributes to Rav Chaim. Perhaps I will share some interesting material from these publications with you in a future article.

Knesset Speaker to Meet with Reform Leaders

Knesset speaker Mickey Levi will be visiting America next week, where he plans to meet with Reform clergymen and to join the congregation of Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation in New York, on Shabbos. Naturally, Levi’s plans have already sparked a firestorm of outrage. Even his partners in the government—the members of Naftoli Bennett’s Yamina party—expressed displeasure with his decision. The chareidi parties, along with the rest of the opposition, argued that it is improper for Levi to conduct such a controversial and provocative visit in his official capacity as a representative of the Knesset (which, in principle, includes the chareidi parties). In response to their objections, Levi’s office released a laconic statement: “The Speaker of the Knesset will visit and meet with representatives of all the streams of the Jewish people. He sees great importance in this. The State of Israel is the state of the entire Jewish people, and it is our job to embrace all of our brethren in all Jewish communities.”

United Torah Judaism released a withering statement: “The Knesset speaker, MK Mickey Levi, whose official position has him represent all the members of the Knesset from all political parties, has decided to meet with Reform leaders in the United States and to visit the places where they gather. This is a serious and painful affront to the chareidi, religious, and traditional communities.”

The UTJ statement continues, “It should be unthinkable that a person who is supposed to represent all of the parties in the Knesset should make the unprecedented move of providing support, a stage, and a voice to organizations of the Reform movement, which is destroying Jewish halacha and tradition and is responsible for terrible assimilation and the loss of Jewish identity throughout the world. As representatives of United Torah Judaism, we are dismayed by his decision to attack us in such a painful and egregious way, in an assault on our values and on Judaism. This heinous, defiant, and offensive visit was planned after a press release emerged from the Speaker’s office that offended hundreds of thousands of participants in the levayah of Maran Sar HaTorah, a statement that was excused with the claim that the message did not come from the speaker himself but rather from his aide. That aide has also retained his position, which is fairly indicative of where his employer’s sympathies lie.”

This was referring to a deplorable statement that emerged from Levi’s office in response to a message from Bnei Brak touting the chessed performed by the local residents, who allowed strangers participating in the levayah to enter their homes and avail themselves of food and drink. Mickey Levi—or someone using his name—responded snidely that the chessed of the people of Bnei Brak was meaningless unless they enlisted in the army. This message was later attributed to an aide rather than to Levi himself.

“Unfortunately,” UTJ’s statement continues, “the Knesset speaker has brought the Knesset down to unprecedented depths, with his blatant and embarrassing inability to manage it. As a result of his failures, some of the members of the Knesset do not participate in committee discussions, and vital committees are not being formed. The current Knesset speaker does not have the ability to accomplish anything, since he is subject to the dictates of other forces. The representatives of United Torah Judaism, who participate in the committees, are the ones who absorb his insults and insensitivity to the Torah of Israel and the observance of its mitzvos. Unlike other people in the government, who are constantly working to lower the artificial flames of conflict stoked by the Reform movement, Mickey Levi is fanning those flames. We will remember this!”

Israel and America at Odds

We cannot let a week go by without political news, so let us begin with the topic of the diplomatic summit that began on Sunday evening. This summit seems to be the work of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is trying very hard to find a way to inject meaning and substance into himself and his position. At first, it actually seemed that this particular summit provided him with a certain measure of success. The event was held in Sde Boker in southern Israel, and was attended by the American Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, as well as the foreign ministers of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Egypt. All of the diplomats arrived on Sunday and hurried to the Isrotel Kedma hotel in Sde Boker. The discussions focused primarily on Iran, and while the participants disagreed about many things, there was unanimous agreement on one subject: Iran’s nuclear program is a serious threat. The Foreign Ministry in Yerushalayim is convinced that the summit represented a serious blow to Iran.

The first participant to arrive in Israel was Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State of the United States. On Sunday morning, he met with Lapid at the Foreign Ministry in Yerushalayim, and the two officials then held a joint press conference. Lapid announced, “Israel will do everything that it believes necessary in order to stop the Iranian nuclear development. We [Israel and America] have some disagreements, but that is part of genuine, sincere discourse. From our point of view, the Iranian nuclear threat isn’t theoretical; its goal is to destroy Israel.” Indeed, there are some substantial differences of opinion between Israel and America. Although the administration in Washington is likewise concerned about the Iranian threat, there is a dispute between Israel and America over what the latter country should be doing about it. This past week, Israel went so far as to release a very sharp statement against President Biden himself.

After Lapid spoke, the reporters focused their attention on the visiting Secretary of State. “The United States supports all of Prime Minister Naftoli Bennett’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Blinken said. “The United States and its allies will provide military aid to Ukraine in order to enable it to defend itself. We had the opportunity to meet with our colleagues from Ukraine, and it was good to see them face to face. Bennett has been investing energy in finding a diplomatic solution, and we support that.” Regarding the Iranian nuclear program, Blinken said, “The United States will continue strengthening its ties in the area and contributing to stability in the Middle East and Africa. On the important issues, we see eye to eye. We are determined that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. The United States believes that a return to the nuclear agreement is the best possible plan to prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms.”

Anthony Blinken first landed in Israel on motzoei Shabbos after visiting Warsaw along with President Biden, in the shadow of the war in Ukraine. During his stay in Israel, he met with President Yitzchok Herzog, Prime Minister Naftoli Bennett, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Blinken also visited Ramallah and met with Chairman Abu Mazen of the Palestinian Authority.

Tensions Roil the Government

The issue of diplomatic summits has made its way into the headlines this week on account of two incidents that created friction in the government. The first was a meeting planned to take place in Ramallah at the behest of Defense Minister Benny Gantz. This was intended to be a three-way conference involving Gantz himself, President Abu Mazen of the Palestinian Authority, and King Abdallah of Jordan. Prime Minister Bennett reacted with fury to Gantz’s plans, claiming that he had been apprised of the conference only by an Arab source. For the time being, Bennett didn’t want Gantz to participate in the meeting at all; the defense minister is not legally permitted to travel to Ramallah without the prime minister’s approval. In response to inquiries about Bennett’s plans, the Prime Minister’s Office sardonically told the media, “When the issue is presented to the prime minister by the Minister of Defense, he will make a decision.” Aside from the fact that Gantz tried to bypass him, Bennett also feared that the meeting in Ramallah will irk Lapid, since it would overshadow the latter’s summit in the Negev with the visiting diplomats.

The latest spat between Bennett and Gantz comes at a time when the two men seem to be on steadily worsening terms. And the widening rift between them is partly because of India. What does India have to do with anything, you ask? About two weeks ago, Benny Gantz announced his intention to make an official visit to India. At first, Gantz’s visit was called for the first week of April, but then Bennett received an official invitation of his own from the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, which he accepted. The Prime Minister’s Office then announced that Bennett would be making an official visit to India on April 2.

Irritated by Bennett’s plans to visit India a couple of days before his own trip, Gantz decided to move up his visit to the end of March. In a classic display of one-upmanship, the Ministry of Defense then released a public statement announcing that Gantz would be visiting India on March 29, four days earlier than the prime minister. If you think that this petty squabbling seems more typical of preschool children than government officials, you are absolutely right.

Moreover, all of this comes against the backdrop of another conflict between Gantz, Lapid, and Bennett, this one concerning Israel’s dealings with Washington. As I mentioned, Bennett and Lapid issued a joint statement against President Biden, expressing fierce public opposition to America’s willingness to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from the list of terror organizations maintained by the State Department in Washington. (This is contingent on Teheran reining in their activities.) In the same statement, Bennett and Lapid also called on America to reject the empty promises of the terrorists in Iran, and Gantz responded by slamming them for the statement—both its contents and the fact that it was released to the media.

Terror Attack in Beer Sheva Claims Four Lives

All of this is overshadowed by a recent event that was must more devastating to the people of Israel: the murderous terror attack in Beer Sheva. The citizens of the State of Israel are less interested in international affairs and are more concerned with living in peace and tranquility. For now, this goal seems elusive, and that is what they find more troublesome than anything else.

Of all places, terror reared its head last week in the south—the area in which the government decided to invest so many resources, under pressure from Mansour Abbas. One would have expected relative quiet in the south in response to the government’s generosity, but this terror attack upended everyone’s expectations. We have grown accustomed to seeing Palestinians commit murder; terror committed by Bedouins, on the other hand, is new to us.

The terror spree began last Tuesday shortly after 4;00 p.m., at the gas station at the entrance to Beer Sheva, where a Bedouin named Abu Al-Qian stabbed 43-year-old Laura Yitzchak to death. The terrorist then drove away from the gas station and rammed his car into Rabbi Moshe Kravitzky, a Beer Sheva resident who was riding a bicycle when he was attacked. Next, the terrorist drove up to a shopping mall and stabbed Doris Yachbas, a 49-year-old resident of the moshav of Gilat. He then returned to his car, crashed it into another vehicle, and then emerged and stabbed 67-year-old Menachem Yechezkel. Throughout this murderous spree, the police were nowhere to be seen. (Their failure to respond quickly is currently under investigation.) The police arrived at the gas station long after the terrorist had left it and set out to hunt for his next victim.

A bus driver who arrived at the scene with a gun tried to stop the terrorist in his tracks, and Al-Qian confronted him and tried to stab him. During the altercation between the two, another armed civilian from the settlement of Asahel arrived at the scene. As the media put it, the bus driver and the other civilian managed to shoot and “neutralize” the knife-wielding terrorist together. As I have mentioned in the past, the word “neutralize” is used as a euphemism; to put it in plainer terms, the terrorist was killed in the middle of his rampage.

Al-Qian was found to have been a Bedouin resident of Hura, a former teacher who had already served time in prison between the years 2016 and 2020 for incitement and supporting the Islamic State terror organization. After he confessed to his crimes at the time, expressed remorse, and pledged not to return to his violent ways, he was given a relatively light sentence for the severe crimes with which he was charged. Once again, we have been shown the error of showing mercy to the cruel.

An Attack in Chadera

At the same time that the foreign ministers from multiple countries were busy having their pictures taken in Sde Boker, Israel was rocked by another terror attack, this time in Chadera. Chadera is a city located on the border between northern Israel and the center of the country. The attack was perpetrated by two Arabs who armed themselves, removed their jalabiyas to reveal that they were wearing shirts with the logo of ISIS, and then began firing at innocent civilians. They managed to murder two police officers and wound five others, and they prepared to continue their murderous spree. However, a group of police officers who were celebrating an event at a nearby restaurant hurried outside and killed the terrorists. Their car was found to be loaded with a massive quantity of guns, knives, and ammunition. Without a doubt, this was an enormous miracle. If the terrorists had continued their rampage, there is no telling how many Jews could have been murdered.

Once again, when the terrorists’ origins were revealed, the country was thrust into panic and shock. The terrorists were identified as Ibrahim and Ayman Ighbariah, two cousins from Umm el-Fahm, an Israeli city populated by Arab citizens of Israel. The fact that the attack was committed by Israeli Arabs is highly unusual, and the location of the attack—almost in the center of the country—was also unusual. And these departures from the norm were deeply unsettling.

There is something to be learned from this: It seems that this government is being opposed by Hashem Himself. A diplomatic summit attended by multiple foreign ministers is usually a very important and respected event, yet this particular summit was spoiled by a murderous attack that took place while the dignitaries were meeting. And this Monday, another stroke of hashgocha made matters even worse for this evil and anti-religious government, as Prime Minister Bennett tested positive for Covid. Bennett had met with all the foreign dignitaries, including Blinken, the night before, and he later came to Chadera to have himself photographed at the command center that was set up immediately following the terror attack. The chief of the police also tested positive for Covid on Monday morning; it is possible that he was infected by Bennett. It is also possible that the foreign ministers likewise caught the virus from Israel’s premier. Incidentally, the American Secretary of State decided, for some reason, to speak about settler violence as soon as he landed in Israel—and on that very night, the two Arab terrorists committed their murderous attack. Blinken emerged from this incident looking rather foolish, as it was clear that he had pointed the finger of blame in the wrong direction. May Hashem protect us.

Dangerous Folly in the Government

The funeral of Doris Yachbas, one of the victims of the terror attack in Beer Sheva, was attended by Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. “This is a very difficult time for this family and for all the citizens of the State of Israel,” Bar-Lev said at the levayah. “We have just been through a fatal terror attack committed by a despicable murderer who was driven to this crime by the hatred that burned within him. We will not rest until the terrorist is brought to prison and punished with the full force of the law. That is the only way that we can and must fight against murderous, criminal terror. We will deal with it, and we will defeat the terrorists. We will come to their homes and their families, and we will bring anyone who raises a hand or a knife against the citizens of Israel to justice.”

Did you catch Bar-Lev’s error, which has become the talk of the country? Remember, the murderer was killed! How could anyone promise not to rest until he is captured and brought to justice? How could the Minister of Public Security, who should certainly be familiar with the details of a terror attack, make such a mistake? And that wasn’t all; Bar-Lev also angered the participants in the funeral by failing to mention that Yachbas was killed because she was a Jew. People pointed this out to him, and he replied, “Yes, you are right.”

Unfortunately, Bar-Lev isn’t the only government minister who missed a very important point this week—and in the case of Yair Lapid, the foreign minister, his lack of understanding may actually be dangerous.

We are now reaching the beginning of the monthlong Muslim festival of Ramadan. This is a month that always comes with heightened fears of terror attacks, especially because the Arabs regularly accuse Israel of trying to wrest control of Har Habayis from their hands. Yair Lapid, as the country’s foreign minister, recently met with King Abdallah of Jordan. This was presented as an accomplishment on Lapid’s part: The king of Jordan had invited him to his country. However, it is a mistake to consider this a victory scored by Lapid; it was actually a ploy on the king’s part to prove to the Palestinians that they should look to him to protect their claims to Har Habayis. In general, Jordan feels that it has a greater claim to Har Habayis than Israel.

The Jordanian king asked Lapid to bar Jews from entering Har Habayis during the month of Ramadan. (Of course, it is halachically prohibited for a Jew to enter Har Habayis in any event, but that isn’t the issue now.) Lapid is interested in accommodating the king’s request, in the hope that it will lead to a diplomatic breakthrough for which he can take credit. Benny Gantz also hoped to make some sort of concession to the Arabs during his own three-way meeting in order to restore quiet to the area; the Defense Ministry has made no effort to hide the fact that the meeting was intended to prevent terror attacks planned for this month, according to the Shabak. But the ministers do not seem to understand the risky undertaking that they have chosen to pursue. If the Palestinians see that the threat of violence achieves their interests, then they might carry out even more attacks in order to wring even more concessions out of Israel. The type of strategy being pursued by Lapid requires tremendous responsibility and careful consideration, and I am frankly not certain that the foreign minister possesses those qualities.

The recent terror attacks in Beer Sheva and Chadera have certainly shown that Israeli concessions do not help to prevent Arab violence—whether the perpetrators are Palestinians from East Yerushalayim, Bedouins from the Negev, or Arab Israeli citizens.

Polio Surfaces in Yerushalayim

What else is in the news? First of all, there is the coronavirus. Boruch Hashem, the pandemic has subsided somewhat, but we haven’t yet achieved a state of total calm. But even before the battle against Covid ends, another disease has reared its head—the polio virus. The mere mention of polio evokes traumatic memories in Israel; the virus infected many children during the state’s early years, and many of its victims suffer from lifelong disabilities as a result. The first case of polio in Israel since 1989 was diagnosed at the beginning of March in a four-year-old child in Meah Shearim who was not vaccinated against the disease. The Ministry of Health immediately called on parents throughout the country to vaccinate their children against polio, and the district health office in Yerushalayim launched an epidemiological investigation. Individuals who came in close contact with the affected child will be apprised of specific instructions. However, since that time, additional cases of polio were diagnosed in Yerushalayim, and the virus was also found in water reservoirs. This week, it was reported that contaminated water sources were also discovered in Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit, and Beit Shemesh.

This is certainly beginning to become frightening. Rabbonim have issued a call for children to be vaccinated, and many parents have complied. As of the end of last week (on Purim) about 15,000 children had received the polio vaccine in Yerushalayim.

A Disaster Unfolding

Meanwhile, refugees from Ukraine are streaming into Israel. At the cabinet meeting this week, it was reported that 13,000 refugees from Ukraine have already entered the country, at least half of whom are not Jewish. And those are only the official numbers. When the government says that non-Jews have entered the country, it is referring to people who have no Jewish blood at all; even among the other 50 percent of the refugees, there are certainly many who are not halachically Jewish. As far as the government statistics are concerned, any child of a Jewish parent—even the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother—is officially counted as a Jew and is granted citizenship under the Law of Return. This means that a demographic disaster is unfolding here in Israel; we are being inundated by thousands of non-Jewish immigrants! These people are being settled in certain cities that were designated for them, and within a year or two, they will be viewed as Jewish citizens of Israel, with no one the wiser as to their origins.

Meron Investigation Resumes

As you may recall, former Chief Justice Miriam Naor, who was heading the official commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster, passed away not long ago. She was replaced at the helm of the committee by another female judge named Devorah Berliner. The committee ceased its operations after Naor’s death; last week, it resumed its work for the first time since her passing. In its latest session, the committee heard the testimony of police commanders from the northern district, whose accounts painted a fairly dismal picture of the situation. It became clear that these police officials have very little understanding of the hillula on Lag Ba’Omer, to put it mildly. Worst of all was the fact that after nearly a year has passed since the tragedy, the police still haven’t conducted any research of their own. It was also quite disheartening to hear the proposal of Shuki Tachouka, the commander of the police in the northern district, who suggested that the government should “close the Meron compound for three years and rebuild everything from scratch.”

“What we need in Meron,” Tachouka said, “is courageous leadership on the part of the government, which should close Mount Meron for a period of two years in order to demolish the entire area, except the tziyun, and build a sort of stadium that can hold a specific number of people who can come and celebrate the hillula.”

Meanwhile, Tachouka’s answers were far from impressive when Judge Berliner challenged him to explain the police response to the disaster on Lag Ba’Omer. “Why did it take you such a long time to identify the site of the incident and to rescue the victims?” she asked. He tried to defend the police, but the general impression that was created, both by his testimony and by the accounts of his colleagues in the police force, was not at all flattering to Israel’s men in uniform.

Another member of the commission, General Shlomo Yannai, was overheard whispering to his colleagues, “This man doesn’t know what he is talking about.” This comment wasn’t meant to be overheard, but they did hear it. But what can we say? Yannai was absolutely correct!

A Memorable Meeting of Two Gedolim

I would like to share a fascinating personal experience with you. I may have told you this story in the past, but I see nothing wrong with telling it again, in greater detail this time.

The Torah was the essence of Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s pure soul. The mere sight of him was a vivid illustration of the famous words of the Chazon Ish: “A man who merits knowledge of the Torah will walk among people and look like a human being, but the truth is that he is a malach.”

I have my own special photograph of Rav Chaim that I treasure. Like many others, I visited Rav Chaim’s home and observed him in his own domain. Standing in his presence, I was awed by him. It seemed obvious that the Shechinah hovered over him at every moment.

Even writing about this now, I can’t help but feel a pang of yearning for the days when Rav Chaim still walked among us. When the Chofetz Chaim passed away, many people commented that the world without the Chofetz Chaim cannot possibly compare to a world with the Chofetz Chaim. A similar comment was made after the Chazon Ish passed away, and it seems obvious that the same applies today. After Shushan Purim of the year 5782, the world has been irrevocably changed.

I am sure that the coming months will see a deluge of stories about Rav Chaim, as many people share the details of their personal encounters with him. Here is my own modest contribution: It was erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan of the year 5764/2004, a year before the passing of the mashgiach, Rav Shlomo Wolbe (who passed away on Chol Hamoed Pesach of the year 5765). Rav Wolbe was traveling to Bnei Brak in order to deliver a hesped for his brother-in-law, Rav Boruch Rosenberg, who had passed away on erev Rosh Chodesh Adar just a month earlier. I drove Rav Wolbe to Bnei Brak, and the mashgiach sat beside me in the car, while his rebbetzin and two of his grandsons, Reb Yitzchok and Reb Avrohom (the latter, of course, named for Rav Avrohom Grodzinsky, the rebbetzin’s father), occupied the back seat. When we drove into Bnei Brak, I offered to take the mashgiach to Rechov Rashbam. The mashgiach, as usual, was immersed in thought and did not respond. Knowing that he was hard of hearing, I raised my voice and called out, “Does the mashgiach want to ask Rav Chaim for a brocha?”

This time, Rav Wolbe heard me. He thought for a moment and then said, “No.”

“Has the mashgiach ever visited Rav Chaim’s home?” I asked.

“I don’t believe so,” he replied.

“Then why shouldn’t we visit him now?” I said.

Again, he thought for a moment and then repeated, “No.”

“When the mashgiach decides something, nothing can change his mind,” the rebbetzin commented.

“Perhaps if we understood his reason, we could convince him to change his mind,” I said. I turned to the mashgiach and asked, “Why not?”

“I don’t have the audacity to disturb a gadol b’Yisroel,” he replied.

I explained to Rav Wolbe that Rav Chaim had designated hours for kabbolas kahal when many people came to see him, and it would not be considered disturbing him to visit him during those times. Now it was Rav Wolbe’s turn to be shocked. “How can they disturb him during his learning?” he demanded.

“They come to ask him for brachos or yeshuos,” I replied. “The mashgiach is also permitted to go to a chochom and ask for him to daven for his recovery,” I added, alluding to the fact that Rav Wolbe was at the beginning of what would become his final illness. I offered to drive Rav Wolbe to Rav Chaim’s home and to find out if we had arrived during his hours for the public. When we arrived, I parked the car and went up the steps. When I returned, I reported that Rav Chaim’s family was eagerly awaiting Rav Wolbe’s arrival.

We all climbed the stairs together. Rav Wolbe was visibly awed and began to tremble as he approached Rav Chaim’s inner sanctum. We all waited for Rav Chaim to enter the room, and while a member of the Kanievsky family offered Rav Wolbe a seat, the mashgiach remained standing. When Rav Chaim arrived and took his own seat, he wore a broad smile as he motioned for Rav Wolbe to sit down, and he complied. We were surprised when they revealed that they had learned together in the Lomza yeshiva and had even shared a room in the dormitory. But even though they were roommates, it seemed that they hadn’t actually become acquainted with each other. “I know that we slept in the same room,” Rav Chaim said, “but I don’t remember seeing you in the room.” The two great men took leave of each other with great fondness; the mashgiach was clearly moved by the encounter.

When we returned to the car, I asked Rav Wolbe, “What did Rav Chaim mean when he said that you didn’t see each other in your dormitory room?”

“He was never in the room!” Rav Wolbe replied.

An Expected Visitor

In conclusion, let me share an incredible story about Rav Chaim that was told to me this week. Rav Natan Chefetz of Yerushalayim is one of the leading figures in Lev L’Achim and serves as a liaison to the organization’s supporters in America. His father, Rav Noach Chefetz, was one of Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s closest friends. One day, Reb Natan visited Rav Chaim along with a patron of Lev L’Achim who goes by the name Nachi. When they arrived, they were told that Rav Chaim was resting and that they should return an hour later. Of course, the visitors received this response with complete understanding; they had come directly to Rav Chaim’s home from the airport for an unplanned visit, without giving the family advance notice. But before they could leave, Rav Shaul Kanievsky suddenly shuddered. Turning to Reb Natan, he said, “Please ask your companion, Nachi, if his full name is Menachem Mendel.”

Nachi confirmed that it was, and Rav Shaul said, “Now I understand…. Over the past half hour, my father asked us several times to let him know if Menachem Mendel arrived. We didn’t understand what he was talking about!”

Somehow, even though the visit was a surprise to the rest of his family, Rav Chaim Kanievsky was expecting it…



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