Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023

My Take On The News

An Attempted Home Invasion in Nofei Prat

We have no shortage of news this week. For one thing, Jake Sullivan is due to arrive in Israel this week, followed soon by Anthony Blinken, and Binyomin Netanyahu will then be visiting the White House. In other news, Yitzchok Pindrus has joined the ranks of the members of the Knesset once again this week, under the provisions of the Norwegian Law. But let us put those matters aside for a moment and take a look at some recent disturbing events.

Tragically, Arab terror has not let up. It sometimes seems as if we are simply growing accustomed to the phenomenon, as unthinkable as that should be. This Sunday, a terrorist armed with a knife charged toward a group of IDF fighters near the settlement of Ofra, but was liquidated by gunfire before he could attack them. The incident began when a group of Palestinians threw stones at several IDF soldiers. At a certain point, the terrorist detached himself from the group and began running toward the soldiers with a knife, at which point he was shot.

This incident followed another episode in which two terrorists were liquidated near Jaba in the northern Shomron on Friday night, after they fired from a passing car on a group of IDF soldiers. The Israeli forces did not sustain any casualties. The terrorists’ car was searched and weapons were confiscated. After the terrorists were neutralized, Hamas announced that their deaths would be “fuel for the victory and liberation.” The Islamic Jihad declared, “This pure blood will infuse new strength in our people.” Needless to say, all of this is quite unsettling.

Incidentally, the Palestinian media reported on an additional Arab death. This terrorist was actually wounded earlier this month during an exchange of gunfire, which began during the destruction of a terrorist’s home. He ultimately died of his wounds in the hospital.

Then there was a frightening incident in Nofei Prat, a settlement in eastern Binyomin near the city of Maale Adumim. This settlement, which was founded in 1992, is officially part of the Mateh Binyomin Regional Council. At 11:00 on Friday night this week, security forces received reports about a masked man attempting to break into one of the homes in the community. A siren was sounded, and the residents were instructed to remain in their homes and lock their doors. In the nearby villages of Kfar Adumim and Alon, residents received similar warnings and were asked to prepare for the possibility of an intrusion. Security forces searched the community for several hours, but the intruder seemed to have escaped. Still, it does not take much effort to imagine what might have happened if the break-in hadn’t been detected in time. There have been similar incidents in the past that ended with the murders of entire families.

Stabbing in Har Chevron Ends with Terrorist Eliminated

Another incident that ended miraculously last week was a terrorist stabbing on a farm on Har Chevron. In this incident, a terrorist entered a home while the mother and children were away; the only person present at the time was the father, Elyashiv Nachum. When he heard someone entering his house, he called out, “Who’s there?” The terrorist replied, “I came to get a drink of water,” and then he approached Elyashiv and shot him. The terrorist was also armed with a knife and began stabbing his victim. An armed civilian was performing renovation work nearby, and when he heard the gunshots, he hurried to the house and managed to kill the terrorist.

Elyashiv’s father-in-law, Noam Arnon, is a prominent figure in the Jewish community of Chevron. After the incident, he announced in an interview with the media, “Boruch Hashem, it was a miracle. It could have been much worse. We are all davening intently for the victim’s recovery. Their farm has long been suffering from Arabs and anarchists, and the situation escalated to the point of a terror attack today.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the National Security Minister, is an acquaintance of both the victim and the civilian who neutralized the terrorist. When he spoke to the latter after the incident, he declared, “You are a hero. Without you, this could have ended in a much more tragic way.” Ben-Gvir also conveyed his best wishes for a speedy recovery for the victim.

A paramedic from the nearby community of Asahel related, “I was near the farm when we received word of a stabbing attack. When we arrived, the victim was sitting on the floor and the terrorist was beside him, already neutralized. The victim had sustained injuries to his head, neck, and torso. We worked to stop the bleeding first, and then we transported him to the hospital. Elyashiv had just gone down to a sheep pen with his wife and children. This was a great miracle; he returned home and found the terrorist waiting for him at the entrance to his house, where he pounced on him and began stabbing him. He fought against the terrorist until someone else arrived and neutralized him.”

Ofer Ochana Released from Hospital

Remember Ofer Ochana? A couple of months ago, in October, Ochana was seriously injured in a terror attack in Chevron. The attack claimed the life of Ronen Chananya, a resident of Kiryat Arba who was killed outside a Palestinian-owned grocery store in the area between Kiryat Arba and Chevron. Chananya was murdered by a Palestinian gunman, Mohammed Jabari, while his son, who was accompanying him, was injured. Ohana, a medic who has been working in the area for 34 years, rushed to the scene along with a local security guard, and the terrorist then shot at them as well. Ohana was severely wounded, and the guard who was accompanying him was lightly injured. A security guard from Kiryat Arba arrived afterward and rammed into the terrorist with his car. The terrorist was finally liquidated by a soldier in civilian garb who was on leave from his duties in the army.

Boruch Hashem, Ofer Ochana was recently released from the hospital. This was an extremely moving event. At the beginning of this week, Ochana appeared at a hearing in the Supreme Court and demanded that the demolition of the home of the terrorist who wounded him be allowed to proceed. The hearing was held in response to an appeal from the terrorist’s family to prevent the destruction of their home (which has recently been the army’s standard response to terrorists). Ochana said, “This is a family of terrorists with blood on their hands; they are a Hamas family. This isn’t the first terror attack perpetrated by this family. This terrorist’s brother murdered Rina Didovsky and Eliyohu Ben-Ami. He was arrested and freed in the Shalit deal. As a medic, I treated Rina and saw her die in our hands. Eliyohu later died on the way to the hospital.”

In addition to Ochana, the hearing was attended by the family of Ronen Chananya, who was killed in the terror attack. The family was accompanied by Ofir Steiner, an attorney for the Honenu organization (which I have written about in the past). “We will stand by the side of the victims of terror and ensure that their voices are heard,” Steiner said. “We hope that the Supreme Court will put the victims of terror and their families, and deterrence of further terror attacks, at the top of its list of priorities.” Steiner explained that demolishing the homes of terrorists has been proven to be an effective tool for the prevention of further acts of violence and murder. “The victims are here in order to remind us of the pain of bereavement,” he said, “in the hope that that consideration will influence the judges’ decision.”

How Many People Can Fit in Rabin Square?

Last week, I commented that the conflict between the Knesset and the High Court seems to be reaching the proportions of an all-out war. Well, it seems that I wasn’t even aware of how prophetic those words would turn out to be. The war is here, and it seems that we have witnessed its opening shots this week.

It began with a speech from Chief Justice Esther Chayut of the Supreme Court. Chayut took advantage of a previously scheduled speech, which she decided to use as an opportunity to broadcast her objections to Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reforms. As you may remember, Levin presented his plan to reform the judicial system in the Knesset on Wednesday, January 4, just one day before an expanded panel of eleven Supreme Court justices was due to discuss the petitions against the appointment of Aryeh Deri as a minister in the government. The next volley was the allegedly massive protest held in Tel Aviv on motzoei Shabbos. Liberal activists claimed that the demonstration was attended by tens of thousands of participants and marked the beginning of the fall of the new Netanyahu government. However, a few objective sources calculated that Rabin Square, where the protest took place, cannot hold even a quarter of the number of people the left claimed were present.

Esther Chayut’s speech was delivered last Thursday, at a relatively minor event in Haifa held by a legal association. Of course, everyone was eager to hear her take on Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reforms, which he has described as a bid to strengthen the judicial system. Chayut’s response can be effectively summed up in one line from her speech: “This isn’t a plan to strengthen the judicial system; it is a scheme to crush the system.” She proceeded to read through every clause of his proposed reform and to explain why she believes that he is fundamentally mistaken about every one of them. Of course, I won’t quote everything she said, but just to give you a taste of her rhetoric, here is how she began her remarks: “A few days ago, the new justice minister presented a rapid plan to make far-reaching changes in the judicial system. This is actually an unrestrained attack on the judicial system, as if it were an enemy that must be attacked and subdued. The architects of this plan refer to it cynically as a plan to ‘fix’ the judicial system, but I say that it is a plan to destroy the judicial system. It is designed to deal a mortal blow to the independence and autonomy of the judicial branch and to turn it into a silent arm of the government.”

Perhaps I will devote a separate article to discussing the crux of the controversy between the justice minister and the chief justice. At this point, I will say only that Yariv Levin managed to respond very quickly to Chayut’s attack on him. On that same evening, he said sardonically, “We have now discovered a new political party that places itself above the Knesset and above the people,” and he accused Chayut of trying to stoke conflict in the streets. Levin added that Chayut had adopted the opposition’s views as her own. “We have heard rhetoric tonight that we remember from the black flag protests,” he said. “I heard no neutrality, no balanced legal positions. Chief Justice Chayut’s automatic echoing of Yair Lapid’s words, with the very same phrasing, is the best possible proof that the justice system has lost its way.”

Aharon Barak Speaks Out

Last week, Professor Aharon Barak, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court and father of the judicial revolution, was also spurred to action once again. I won’t quote him, since he doesn’t deserve it, but I will make some comments in reference to his reactions. First, this is what the finance minister had to say about him: “The irresponsibility of retired Justice Barak, who threatened a civil war last night, should trouble every person who values democracy and unity among the people. Justice Barak, it would be appropriate for you to apologize and to retract your dangerous statements. You have caused enough damage to the State of Israel, and we are fixing it now. Do not add to your crimes.”

To put Barak’s position in perspective, let me share a personal experience. Many years ago, Barak had an intern named Ilan Jonas, who had previously worked as a correspondent on chareidi affairs for the Galei Tzahal radio station. “You have to understand,” Jonas said to me, “Barak is a genius. You have your gedolim, and we have ours.”

My response is that there is no comparing the two. The “gedolim” of the secular community are people who spend their lives chasing profit and power, who attach importance to no one and nothing in the world other than themselves. With their black robes, their hefty salaries, and their inflated egos, they insist on crowning themselves the leaders of the country. And as Aharon Barak’s credo puts it, they feel that their judgment deserves to fill the world. They are also conniving: Anyone who reads Uriel Lynn’s books will be horrified to discover that Israel’s Basic Laws, for instance, came about through deception engineered by Barak. The Knesset and the Constitution Committee were tricked. And now, in his old age, Barak has the gall to preach to others! In fact, there is no other field—economics, security, education, diplomacy, or any other area—in which the elderly former leaders of the field insist on continuing to push their opinions and agendas on others long after they have retired. This seems to be a tendency reserved for former members of the judiciary.

The gedolim of chareidi society, lehavdil, are an entirely different story. Someone once approached Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman with some justified grievances against the head of a large institution. The visitor asked Rav Aharon Leib to summon the man to his home and to tell him about the changes that should be made in his behavior. Rav Shteinman replied, “I have never interfered in a matter that I wasn’t asked about, and I have never summoned anyone to give him instructions of any kind. If you are able to create an impetus for him to come and ask my opinion, I will tell him what I believe is appropriate for him to do.”

The difference couldn’t possibly be more striking.

Let Them Fix Themselves First

There is a good deal of criticism being leveled against kollel yungeleit by the members of the general society, but I cannot help but feel that the critics would be better advised to take a long, hard look at their own imperfections. People of low character who lead empty, meaningless lives somehow have the audacity to rail against bnei aliyah who live on a lofty level of ruchniyus. It is outrageous that people whose lives are dedicated to banal indulgence can dare to criticize those whose worlds revolve around the Torah and avodas Hashem. It is the height of arrogance for people who live in darkness to excoriate those who fill the world with light.

Just by way of example, here is a story I heard this week: A chareidi man named Yitzchok Witberg was shopping in a branch of the Osher Ad supermarket chain in Raanana when he slipped on a puddle of spilled oil. He was summoned to the office of the deputy manager, who feared that the customer had been injured and would hold the supermarket responsible. While I can’t tell you exactly what happened in that private conversation, I can tell you that the deputy manager was impressed enough by the customer’s attitude that he eventually became a talmid in Yeshivas Ashrei Ha’Ish, a yeshiva for baalei teshuvah.

Another story I heard this week concerned a yungerman who was injured in a hit and run accident. The police asked him for the phone number of his chavrusa, who had witnessed the accident, and the yungerman called a rov to ask if he was permitted to provide the phone number to the police officer. After all, he would be potentially subjecting the driver to prosecution…. I do not know what response he received from the rov—although I presume that he was told it was okay to give him the number—but this story is another testament to the profound yiras Shomayim that characterizes the typical kollel yungerman.

This week, Bais Medrash Torah U’Tefillah of Neve Yaakov launched a campaign called “Bayis L’shmi.” The campaign managed to rake in 843,000 shekels in contributions from 2,318 donors, most of them yungeleit who barely have a penny to their own names. With very little in the way of publicity or overhead, the campaign was driven largely by passion and dedication. Its goal was simple: to build a shul that would serve as a place for local yungeleit to daven and learn. The community members joined the effort and made a flurry of phone calls to their friends and neighbors, who were equally penniless but made up for their empty wallets with their full hearts. The rov of the bais medrash, Rav Yisroel Yitzchok Zilberman, was the first donor and visited the campaign’s headquarters to provide moral support for the fundraisers. Rav Tzvi Weber, the mara d’asra of the neighborhood, also participated in the effort, quoting the Chofetz Chaim to assert that everyone who donated or raised funds for the cause would have a share in the merit of the shul’s construction. The gabbaim, Rabbi Shimon Sheinfeld (who is also a coordinator for Lev L’Achim) and Rabbi Yisroel Hirschprung (of the famed seforim store next to the Mir yeshiva), were able to celebrate a remarkably successful effort, thanks to their investment of passion and altruism. And these are the types of tzaddikim who are derided and vilified by the secular media. That disdainful attitude toward those who learn Torah and lead lives steeped in kedushah is utterly appalling. The only conclusion I can reach is that we are clearly in the period of the chevlei Moshiach.

The Government Has Changed Hands

On a more positive note, the religious community in Israel is constantly grateful for the outcome of this past election. It is delightful to see the failed and flawed decisions of the previous government being repealed and cast away, one after another. The kashrus reform, the cell phone reform, and the tax on disposables are all fading into oblivion. Finally, the religious citizens of Israel can wake up in the mornings without wondering what sort of blow will hit them as the new day progresses.

The turnaround has become visible in many settings. This week, I entered the room where the Knesset presidium was meeting, and I took in the sight of the people who sat at the front table: the Speaker of the Knesset, Amir Ochana; Yoav Kisch, the official liaison between the Knesset and the government; and the various deputy speakers of the Knesset. Behind them sat Yisroel Eichler of Agudas Yisroel and Yosef Bosso of Shas (a grandson of the Baba Chaki, who was the rov of Ramle and brother of the Baba Sali).

During a debate over a motion of no confidence in the government, I listened to Yair Lapid, as the leader of the opposition, addressing the Knesset with his usual conceit and gall. Dudi Amsalem began lambasting Lapid for his pitiful service in the military, and Bosso, who was chairing the sitting, had to ask Amsalem to allow Lapid to finish his speech. I also dropped in on a meeting of the coalition leadership in the Likud party office, where I found Yinon Azulai, the official chairman of the Shas faction, sitting close to the head of the table, next to Amitai Shulman, the director of United Torah Judaism. Once again, it was a pleasure to see the chareidi parties restored to a position of power.

I also peeked in on a session of the Knesset Interior Committee, which was discussing the hardships facing Israeli citizens who wish to obtain passports. There is no logical reason for this, but as of now, one must schedule an appointment for a new passport half a year in advance, and then it takes even more time for the passport to arrive in the mail! This important committee session was led by Yaakov Asher of Degel HaTorah, and the government’s response was delivered by Moshe Arbel of the Shas party. (You are probably familiar with his name, since we have interviewed him here several times about various legal and parliamentary issues.) I couldn’t help but relish the sight of these two men in their respective positions of authority.

Last Wednesday, the Knesset discussed a series of proposed laws that would prevent terrorists who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority from receiving Israeli citizenship. Aryeh Deri, as the Minister of the Interior, was originally scheduled to represent the government; however, since Rav Shimon Baadani’s funeral was held at the same time, he was ultimately forced to allow Minister Regev to take his place. This issue was brought up, incidentally, due to the celebrations in the Arab village of Ara following the release of Karim Younis, a terrorist who was released after spending 40 years behind bars for the murder of an Israeli soldier named Avrohom Bromberg.

A Road Prone to Misfortune

Also on Wednesday, Yonah Mashriki, a new member of the Knesset from the Shas party who entered the Knesset by virtue of the Norwegian Law, submitted an urgent parliamentary query. Interestingly, it was actually approved. Only two urgent queries were approved this week, one of which was the question filed by Mashriki, which dealt with the frequent traffic accidents on Golda Meir Boulevard in Yerushalayim. Mashriki presented his question, which was answered by Deputy Transportation Minister Uri Maklev, and then Mashriki took advantage of his right to pose a further question.

“Thank you for your answer,” he said, addressing Maklev. “Of course, this is an opportunity for me to congratulate you upon taking office in this important position. You are the right man in the right place. As for Golda Meir Boulevard, it doesn’t take an expert to understand that something is wrong there. Everyone in Yerushalayim understands that. It is a very busy area, and this road is one of the two roads with the highest rate of fatalities in the city. The many accidents that occur on this road have been addressed by the Knesset on many occasions. Time after time, my predecessors have always received the same answers: It is a road that is prone to accidents, the Ministry of Transportation plans to invest resources in it, and the light rail will solve the problem. They also promised to run a public relations campaign to help people remember the public transportation lane between the two regular lanes, which seems to be one of the causes of the accidents. Now, I wouldn’t presume to give you advice,” he went on. “After all, you are a resident of Yerushalayim just as I am, and you are no less familiar with the area than I am; you live in the vicinity. I certainly expect you to have good tidings for us soon, so that we will see no more tragedies occurring on that road. My question is whether you have anything to tell us regarding the reasons for the frequent accidents, the government’s schedule for correcting the problems, and the allocation of funds and resources for this purpose.”

Unintended Comic Relief

This past week has been a time of joy and gratitude to Hashem in the Knesset, but it has also been a serious time. Everyone knows that plenty of hard work lies ahead of the Knesset; the previous government left the country in a shambles, and the current government will have to work hard to correct the damage it caused. Just imagine the mess left behind by Nitzan Horowitz in the Ministry of Health and Merav Michaeli in the Transportation Ministry, to say nothing of Matan Kahana’s damage in the Ministry of Religious Services. Corrective measures must be taken in all of the government ministries, and the spiking cost of living must be addressed. But if anyone was looking for some comic relief in the Knesset, it can be found in some of the supporting documents accompanying the no-confidence motions filed by the opposition.

Any party that wishes to submit a motion of no confidence in the government is required to include several documents: a notice identifying its candidate to take over as prime minister in the event that the motion receives a majority vote (which is almost impossible), a letter from the candidate himself conveying his consent, a list of the basic principles of the proposed replacement government, and a roster of government officials to replace the ministers in the existing government.

Yesh Atid’s list of founding principles for its proposed government is appalling. Its candidate for prime minister is laughable, and its list of would-be government ministers consists of people who are relatively unknown and lack experience: MK Barbivai is listed as the defense minister, Mickey Levi would be the foreign minister, Mati Tzarfati Harkavi would be the interior minister, and Ram Ben-Barak would be the agriculture minister. This is so ludicrous that it doesn’t even qualify as a joke! Another amusing list came from the National Unity Party; their proposal stands out for their seeming inability to find suitable candidates, which resulted in their assigning multiple ministries to each candidate. (Of course, they feel free to excoriate the chareidi and right-wing parties for doing exactly the same thing!) Their fanciful lineup has Benny Gantz serving as prime minister and defense minister, Gideon Saar as justice minister and foreign minister, Yifat Shasha-Biton as education minister and Minister of Social Equality, and Chili Tropper as the Minister of Health and the Minister of Culture and Sports. As for Zeev Elkin, he would serve as finance minister, Minister of Housing and Construction, and Minister of Yerushalayim Affairs and Heritage, all at once. Matan Kahana is also listed as a candidate for the positions of Minister of Religious Affairs and Minister of Communications. For the time being, however, all of these people will simply have to prove themselves on the benches of the opposition.

Lieberman’s Team

But wait—it doesn’t end there. Yisroel Beiteinu submitted its own motion of no confidence in the government, and the party was therefore required to file its own list of potential government ministers. This time, I wouldn’t call the list amusing; it is both very sad and utterly ridiculous. As far as Yisroel Beiteinu is concerned, its government would consist of only six ministers. (That might be because the proposed ministers must come from the party’s list, and Yisroel Beiteinu holds only six seats in the Knesset.) Of course, Lieberman is the party’s chosen candidate for the office of prime minister, followed by Oded Forer (who is actually quite talented and likable) as Minister of Finance and Minister of the Economy, and Yevgeny Sova as the foreign minister, Minister of Energy, and Minister of Immigration and the Diaspora. MK Sharon Nir, a new Knesset member, is listed as the proposed Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport, as well as the Minister of Health. (Again, this is the same party that denounces Aryeh Deri for holding the interior and health portfolios simultaneously.) Yulia Malinovsky, meanwhile, would serve as Minister of Welfare and Minister of Housing, while Hamad Amar would be the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Transportation. I imagine that you are either laughing or crying as you read this roster of positions.

Parenthetically, I do not understand why the coalition is paying any attention at all to the motions of no confidence in the government. There is really no reason to muster up a majority in the Knesset and to force the coalition ministers and MKs to be present in the building for the votes, since the opposition can never really win a vote over a motion of no confidence. In order for such a motion to pass, it must receive a majority vote of over 60 members of the Knesset, which the opposition cannot achieve. Even if no one votes against the motion, it is impossible to topple a government with fewer than 61 votes. Technically, then, the opposition should be able to do as they please without causing the coalition any concern.

Praise for an Informer

The press has been focusing heavily this week on Yair Lapid and his father, Yosef Lapid. Much was written about the similarities and differences between the two men, such as the fact that one was educated while the other is ignorant. The common denominator between them is their shared penchant for brutality. For instance, Yair Lapid once described a prison cell to Netanyahu in a speech in the Knesset, in an unmistakable and lowly jab. The senior Lapid, for his part, used to cause people to cry on his television program, Popolitika, where he first became famous. And in one of his speeches in the Knesset, Tommy Lapid told Amir Peretz that his mustache was reminiscent of Stalin. Peretz left the room in tears!

After a period of a year and a half of relative restraint, Yair Lapid fiercely tore into bnei Torah this week. He is like the cat that forgot all of its poise and training as soon as it spotted a mouse; in Lapid’s case, it was the thought of yeshiva bochurim and kollel yungeleit that robbed him of the slightest pretense of civility.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of an old story: In a certain town, it was customary to refrain from burying any deceased person until someone delivered a hesped praising him. One day, the town informer passed away, and his body lay in the cemetery untouched while the community members waited for someone to say something positive about him. Unfortunately, no one could find anything complimentary to say about the niftar, until someone stood up and elated the community by proclaiming, “I have come up with one reason to praise him: He was better than his son!” With that, they were able to bury the deceased.

Years later, the day came when the informer’s son passed away, and the chevra kaddisha found themselves in an even greater quandary than before. This time, even the type of hesped given to his father would not be serviceable, and the body remained unburied while the people waited for someone to come up with a single word of praise for the niftar. Finally, one of the members of the community said, “I have something positive to say about him.”

A few other men looked at him in surprise. “Are you sure?” they asked. “You have something positive to say about this niftar? What could it possibly be?”

“Don’t worry,” the man replied confidently. “Let me be maspid him, and we will send him on his way to where he belongs.”

The other community members motioned to him to proceed, and the man stood before the crowd and announced, “One thing can be said to this niftar’s credit: He made it possible for his father to be buried!”

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Let me end this week’s column with two stories that highlight the importance of giving others the benefit of the doubt even in the most suspicious-looking circumstances.

The first story concerns a shaliach tzibbur who asked to be allowed to lead the davening because he was a chiyuv. Just before chazaras hashatz, the other mispallelim were surprised when he left the amud and approached an electric outlet in the corner, where he appeared to be plugging in a cellular phone to recharge. The people looked at him critically, some of them even quietly making sounds of disapproval. After all, what could be so urgent about charging a cellular device that justified doing so during davening? In the middle of Tachanun, he rushed to the corner again to make sure that the device was charging, which only served to evoke further disapproval from the other mispallelim.

At the end of davening, the man hurried to retrieve his device—and then the truth of the matter became clear. As he attached it to his arm, the onlookers realized that it wasn’t a cell phone at all; rather, it was an advanced medical device used to monitor his blood sugar levels.

The second story relates not to a shaliach tzibbur but to a different member of a minyan—the tenth man. In this case, nine men who had arrived on time for a minyan were waiting at great length for the davening to begin. When a tenth man walked into the room, the other members of the minyan sighed audibly in relief, and the chazzan immediately began davening. One of the men, however, could not hold himself back from whispering to the newcomer, “What’s the matter? Couldn’t you have come on time so we could start?”

This was a regular minyan held in their place of work, which usually attracted a large number of mispallelim. For some reason, though, on that particular day the minyan was very slow in forming. It did not take long for the men to realize that someone else had organized a slightly earlier minyan, which had siphoned off most of their mispallelim.

When the other men stood up for Shemoneh Esrei, the tenth man remained in his seat, quietly reciting Tehillim; it was clear that he had already davened Maariv. After davening, the man who had reprimanded him approached him contritely. “I am so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t realize that you had come only to help us complete the minyan. I rebuked you, but you came only to do us a favor.”

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