AN EARTHQUAKE AND A CHALLENGE TO NETANYAHU
Last weekend, before the dreadful terror attack in Yerushalayim, the Israeli media was focused on three main topics: the earthquake in Turkey, the plan to overhaul the judicial system, and the proposal to declare Prime Minister Netanyahu unfit to continue serving in his position.
The first topic was actually the talk of the entire world. The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria became a topic of international interest and concern. Over 36,000 people were killed in the quakes, and the images of buildings lying in ruins shocked everyone who saw them. The stories emerging from the disaster zone affected everyone. Of course, every Jew was saddened to hear that the bodies of the leader of the Jewish community in Turkey and his wife, Saul and Fortuna Cenudioglu, were found in the rubble. The local shul was damaged in the series of powerful earthquakes that shook the center of the country, and the sifrei Torah were removed from the building.
The story had another Jewish angle as well: Israel sent a team of highly trained army personnel to Turkey to help with the rescue efforts (the same group of experts who traveled to Miami in the wake of the Surfside collapse), along with a large group of United Hatzolah volunteers. The team created a tremendous kiddush Hashem in Turkey. Nevertheless, the United Hatzolah team returned to Israel in a hurry this Sunday after receiving threats to their lives from undisclosed sources. They were transported back to Israel on the private plane belonging to Sheldon Adelson.
Meanwhile, the judicial reform plan is still in the news due to the ongoing protests and the dire warnings of an imminent economic collapse, along with the reports that President Biden (not to mention the New York Times) is continuing to warn that Israel will lose its status as a democracy. The conflict within Israel itself seems to be rapidly evolving into an all-out civil war.
The third focus of public attention is an issue that I mentioned last week, when I reported that the attorney general was entertaining the idea of declaring Netanyahu unfit to hold office. At this point, the question is being brought to the Supreme Court for discussion. The court has received a petition to instruct the attorney general to rule that Netanyahu must be removed from office; amazingly, the Supreme Court went so far as to order the government this week to respond to the petition. The fact that it was even accorded this much validity was enough to send shock waves of outrage through the government (more on that below).
BEN-GVIR MUST BRING SOLUTIONS
The entire focus changed when the murderous terror attack in Ramot took the country by storm. Suddenly, all the top news stories seemed utterly irrelevant, as the heinous attack and the security of Israel’s citizens became the most important issues of the day. Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who used to show up at the scene of every terror attack as a member of the Knesset opposition, arrived this time as a sitting minister in the government. It is to his credit that he showed up; however, unlike in the past, he is now in a position of influence and is expected to achieve results.
Ben-Gvir’s response to the attack was to promise to launch a new “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in East Yerushalayim, a pledge that earned him widespread derision, considering that he does not have the authority to call for such an operation. In the interim, the commissioner of the police force has been exposed as relatively powerless. The police simply do not listen to him; he calls for them to respond with force to the anti-government protesters, but they simply stand on the sidelines and take no action. This is what happened in Yerushalayim when the demonstrators blocked the light rail, and the same thing occurred when they blocked a highway in Tel Aviv. The contrast to what was done to the chareidi demonstrators who blocked the light rail in Yerushalayim is striking.
Ben-Gvir has been losing his standing and his points with the public, as have the other ministers who serve beneath him in the government. At the cabinet meeting this Sunday, Ben-Gvir and his allies made a few comments here and there, but most of the cabinet members, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, hurried to silence them. Minister Yitzchok Wasserlauf demanded, “Why haven’t we responded to the rocket that was fired last night?” Netanyahu replied, “That will be discussed in the cabinet.” Mickey Zohar of the Likud insisted that the government must implement a policy of deporting the family members of terrorists immediately, and Netanyahu rebuked him sharply, “I spoke about that at the beginning of this meeting. You missed it because you were late, and now you are interjecting criticism.”
There is no question that the government will indeed begin deporting the families of terrorists as part of its war against terror. The only question is whether this strategy will actually accomplish anything. On Sunday, the IDF and the Shabak released a joint statement: “After a collaborative effort on the part of the Shabak, the undercover operatives and combat officers of the Border Guard, and IDF soldiers in the city of Jenin, Israeli forces today arrested Jibril Zubeidi, a military operative from the city of Jenin, on the basis of intelligence received by the Shabak. Zubeidi has been involved in terror activities against our forces and in the planning of terror attacks, and he is suspected of involvement in the abduction of the body of Tiran Faro. Zubeidi surrendered to the Israeli forces when they arrived at the building where he was staying. During the operation, Israeli forces fired on gunmen who shot at them. During a sweep of the area, ammunition was also discovered in a car. In addition, various suspects threw stones and explosives at our forces.”
TREMORS IN ISRAEL
Israel is not far from Turkey and Syria, the countries that were struck by earthquakes last week. The three earthquakes were also felt in Israel, and while the tremors were mild, it was enough to frighten many people. On Wednesday evening, the north of Israel was hit by an earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale, which was centered on the Syrian and Lebanese borders. Reports about the earthquake were received from Nahariya, the Krayot, Haifa, Nesher, Tzfas, Migdal HaEmek, and even Raanana, which is located in the center of the country. The Ministry of Energy, which oversees the Geological Institute, confirmed that an earthquake had taken place.
A resident of Nahariya related, “I live on the ninth floor of a high-rise building. In a split second, everything in my apartment suddenly began moving. ‘Another earthquake?’ I said to myself. When the chandelier in my living room began swaying, I realized that it was a sign of an earthquake in our area, this time in Nahariya.”
A resident of Kiryat Atta related, “Around 9:00 in the evening, I felt the third earthquake, which caught me in the middle of a party in honor of my birthday. It was very frightening. The past few days have been disturbing and frightening. Unfortunately, I do not believe that Israel is prepared for a more powerful earthquake.”
Another quake, which extended across a wider area, was experienced in the city of Ariel. There is mounting concern about the prospect of additional earthquakes in Israel, and it is widely agreed that the country is not prepared to deal with such a calamity. To make matters worse, there are many houses in Israel that are not constructed with sufficient stability to withstand a powerful quake.
WHY DO CATASTROPHES STRIKE?
But let us take a deeper look at the subject of earthquakes. When an earthquake occurs, most people in the world tend to focus their attention on the ground, wondering what caused it to shake, and on the ruined buildings. A Jew, on the other hand, turns his attention upward, with the understanding that such events are ordained in Shomayim. And, of course, every calamity should inspire a Jew to draw a constructive lesson. In fact, the Gemara asks, “Why do earthquakes come to the world?” To this, it responds that such disasters occur “when the Jews do not do the Will of Hashem … ‘Who gazes at the earth and makes it tremble.’” Chazal also teach us that earthquakes occur “when Hashem looks at the theaters and circuses where the people sit in security and tranquility while His Bais Hamikdosh lies in ruins….” Another explanation is that “when Hashem remembers His children who are in distress among the nations of the world, He sheds two tears into the Great Sea and His voice is heard from one end of the world to the other.” Finally, the Gemara adds that when the earth trembles, it can also be attributed to the sin of machlokes (strife). In any event, one thing is clear and unanimously agreed: Everything that occurs in this world is ordained for the sake of the Jewish people.
An earthquake has a unique capacity to rob a person of his sense of security. Every human being instinctively feels that he will remain alive at least by virtue of inertia; many people subconsciously feel confident that they will live forever. (That is why a kindness performed for a nifter is viewed as a chesed shel emes; the average person can imagine himself suffering from poverty or illness but cannot conceive of his own death, and therefore he never expects the favor to be returned by anyone.) A person who drives carefully, undergoes routine medical tests, and otherwise looks out for his own health and well-being tends to have a certain sense of security, as if nothing can undermine his grasp on life. But what can a person do to protect himself from a possible earthquake? We all know that we have no way to ward off such a calamity, which is why the news of an earthquake tends to evoke panic and fear, making us feel insecure and unsettled.
But that is not all. The images of buildings reduced to rubble tend to undermine our sense of confidence in the one thing that gives a person a genuine sense of security: his home. A famous English jurist once said that a man’s home is his castle. Well, if a man’s home is revealed to be vulnerable to natural disasters, then his personal sense of security is bound to be shaken to its core. Yosef Hatzaddik revealed this in his wisdom when he decided to “transfer the people to the cities,” which Rashi explains to mean that he forced the people of Mitzrayim to move out of their own cities and to take up residence elsewhere. This stripped his subjects of their sense of independence and confidence, making them feel completely dependent on his good graces. An earthquake tends to have the same effect, and the recent disasters should remind us to place our faith only in Hashem.
TENSIONS SHAKE THE COUNTRY
But the physical earthquakes weren’t the only upheavals to afflict this country in recent days. If a retired air force pilot can declare that Prime Minister Netanyahu deserves to die, an attorney can threaten that he might take up arms against the government, and a mayor can warn the public that he will soon take action rather than being content with words of protest, one can be certain that the earth itself is trembling beneath all of our feet, at least in a figurative sense. Perhaps it would be wise for the government to investigate these individuals; in any event, these threats should not be taken lightly. Indeed, the Close Protection Unit, which supplies bodyguards for government officials, has recently stepped up its recruitment.
The attitude of the judiciary is another sign that this country is in trouble. Where else in the world would the attorney general of a country issue a legal opinion opposing its government? I would advise you not to be surprised if the so-called guardians of the law decide to disqualify both Prime Minister Netanyahu and David Bittan from voting on the judicial reform based on a “conflict of interest.” And if they find it necessary, they will probably find a way to fabricate criminal charges against another two or three members of the Knesset.
Meanwhile, the media is avidly fanning the flames of incitement. The entire press has been enlisted for this purpose, and they are channeling all their energies into subtly manipulating the public mindset. If you want evidence of this, take a look at the following headline from last Sunday: “About 60,000 people took part in protests throughout the country yesterday against the plan to weaken the judicial system.” This headline was disingenuous for more than one reason. First, most experts believe that the total number of protestors throughout the country fell short of that number; the figure was inflated for the purpose of adding legitimacy to the protests. In addition, the media subtly conveyed its bias merely by labeling the judicial reform “the plan to weaken the judicial system.”
One of the demonstrations was attended by Yair Lapid, displaying the hubris that he has clearly inherited from his father. Lapid announced with conceit, “They [the protestors] do not want to live in a country where people who work are less important than people who do not work, where those who enlist in the army are less important than those who do enlist [sic], and where people who do not observe the law are more important than those who do.” This was a blatant effort to generate hatred for his political opponents using totally irrelevant slurs. After all, judicial reform has nothing to do with participating in the workforce or serving in the army. But Lapid is a master of incitement, which even pervades his speeches in the Knesset on festive occasions, and he knows how to rile up his audiences. As usual, he couldn’t even get his words straight, with his incomprehensible statement that “those who enlist in the army are less important than those who do enlist.” Then again, everyone knew exactly what he had in mind.
HERZOG CALLS FOR CALM
The civil uprising against the judicial reform shows no sign of dying down, although all the demonstrators together would not be able to earn a mere four mandates in the Knesset by pooling all of their votes. Despite their small numbers, they are managing to create a huge amount of noise together with their willing accomplices in the media, and they may even be intimidating Netanyahu. On Sunday evening, President Herzog delivered a speech calling for reconciliation, understanding, and dialogue, urging the people to put an end to the mounting tensions. There were some cynical reactions to his speech, as some astute observers pointed out that on past occasions when the political right anticipated a national tragedy — for example, at the time of the Disengagement, before the Oslo Accords were signed, or when the Lapid-Bennett government was established — no one called for the left to soften its position and to try to appease its opponents. In any event, it is unclear whether Herzog’s words will actually have any impact now. Yariv Levin is determined to carry out his reforms, and he will be prepared to engage in dialogue only after the legislative process has begun. Netanyahu, on the other hand, might feel differently.
Shortly before Herzog’s speech, the Knesset opposition released the following statement: “This is a joint announcement of the heads of the opposition parties: the opposition leader and chairman of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid; the chairman of the National Unity Party, Benny Gantz; the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman; and the chairwoman of the Labor party, Merav Michaeli. This is a time of national emergency, and we will not allow the State of Israel to be destroyed. We will all gather tomorrow [Monday] at 1:30 p.m. at the Knesset for a joint declaration. Details will be released tomorrow morning.” In other words, the opposition leaders planned to announce their response to the president’s public statement on Monday, during a massive protest that was planned at the Knesset at that hour.
The demonstration at the Knesset on Monday is expected to be so intense that the employees of the Knesset received a message from the Knesset Sergeant-at-Arms on Sunday advising them of alternate routes to the building. This indicated his belief that the protests would draw large crowds of participants. Mayors and school administrators throughout the country informed their employees that they were permitted to take off from work to participate in the demonstrations. The major question now is whether Netanyahu will become frightened by the protests and the deluge of fury, and will force Justice Minister Levin to reach a compromise or at least open a dialogue with the opponents of his reforms.
A VERITABLE COUP
Last Motzoei Shabbos, the leaders of the coalition released a sharp, possibly even unprecedented statement. (Yes, the coalition leaders have a forum of their own; that privilege is not limited to the opposition.) The target of their statement was none other than the Supreme Court. Their announcement was a response to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who ordered the government to respond within a month to the petitions demanding that Netanyahu be declared unfit for office. The petitioners argued that Netanyahu’s involvement in the judicial overhaul is a violation of his agreement to avoid a conflict of interest since the attorney general ordered him in the past to refrain from participating in the reform plan due to his own criminal trial. The Supreme Court’s decision hit the country like a bombshell.
In their statement, the coalition leaders likened the chief justice’s decision to “a military coup, an illegal attempt to overthrow the government by those who lack the authority to do so.” The declaration was signed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin on behalf of the Likud party, Aryeh Deri on behalf of Shas, Betzalel Smotrich as the leader of the Religious Zionism party, Itamar Ben-Gvir as the head of Otzma Yehudit, Yitzchok Goldknopf as the leader of Agudas Yisroel, Moshe Gafni as the chairman of Degel HaTorah, and Avi Maoz, the chairman of the Noam party.
“We forcefully reject the illegitimate discussion in the Supreme Court regarding declaring the prime minister unfit for service,” the party leaders wrote. “This is an illegal attempt to oust a sitting prime minister, which is no different from a military coup. No judicial entity, even the Supreme Court, has even a single iota of authority for such an action. Only the people may choose the prime minister, and only the people, through their representatives in the Knesset, may decide that he should be removed from office. The people and their representatives will never accept a judicial hearing about the possibility of overthrowing the government. They will never accept the judicial system illegally canceling the elections and the rule of the people. This assault on Israeli democracy raises a black flag even when it is done by individuals cloaked in judges’ robes.” The coalition leaders insisted that the Supreme Court should have thrown out the petition the moment it was received.
DISCORD IN THE KNESSET REACHING RECORD HEIGHTS
There is no arguing with the assessment that the Supreme Court has truly crossed a red line and essentially declared an all-out war against the government. This is an utterly unprecedented situation in the State of Israel, which is why President Herzog has tried to call for an end to the conflict. Justice Minister Yariv Levin, meanwhile, refuses to halt his initiative. This was his response to the Supreme Court’s ruling: “The judges of the Supreme Court are a group of jurists who do not respect the results of an election…. It is no wonder that their partners in this process are those who are leading the opposition to the judicial reform: a left-wing organization known as the Movement for Quality Government, the attorney general appointed by the previous government, and a judge on the Supreme Court.” The justice minister added, “An attempt to unlawfully remove the prime minister while ignoring a democratic election is no different than a revolution carried out with tanks.”
Of course, the opposition is pleased with the court’s decision. They are also in the process of considering various moves that would lend backing to the protests. As could be expected, they were furious when the first bills in the judicial reform package were brought to the Knesset this week. The opposition is gearing up for many long Knesset debates, in which they hope to delay the passage of the laws with a filibuster. According to the plan as of this writing, the Constitution Committee will begin voting on the proposed reforms on Monday, and two important pieces of legislation will be brought to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday: a bill to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee and another measure that would reinforce the Basic Laws. In addition, the second “Deri Law,” which is intended to pave the way for the Shas party chief to return to the government, will be brought for a preliminary reading.
This is expected to be one of the stormiest weeks in the history of the Knesset. At this point, all the opposition members are planning to march out of the Knesset in protest on Monday, and even to support a strike. The Likud party has been growing concerned about the stiff opposition to the judicial overhaul, especially within the hi-tech, economic, and diplomatic sectors. Senior officials in the party admit behind closed doors that Netanyahu is very concerned about the groundswell of opposition, but they insist that he still does not intend to compromise at least on the first two issues. At the same time, the more the protests grow, the more likely it will be that the legislative process will be slowed and the entire initiative will be weakened by the delay.
Regarding the attorney general’s claims that Netanyahu’s support of the judicial reform represents a conflict of interest, the prime minister has informed the Supreme Court that he does not accept her position and has asked the court to allow him a period of 14 days to submit a separate response, partly to accommodate his planned diplomatic visit to Paris. At this time, the Supreme Court’s ruling requires him to respond within a month to the claims that he should be barred from serving in office. It will be interesting to see if Netanyahu musters up the courage to reply that he will not respond to the petition because the issue isn’t within the court’s purview. Interestingly, legal experts have claimed that there is actually no law in Israel that makes it possible to declare the prime minister unfit to hold office, unless the decision is made due to illness or some other physical or psychological issue that prevents him from functioning properly.
THE KOSEL LAW
Another issue that grabbed the attention of the entire country surfaced last weekend. This week, the Knesset will begin debating laws introduced by the members of the Knesset. A 45-day waiting period is required after a law is placed on the Knesset table before it can be brought up for discussion, and the Knesset has therefore been unable to discuss any new laws until this point. Now that the first 45 days are up, the time has come to begin reviewing all the new legislative proposals. In advance of this moment, Aryeh Deri instructed his colleagues in the Shas party to bring a bill known as the Kosel Law to a debate in the Knesset. This was a savvy maneuver on Deri’s part, since the Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing the petitions concerning the Kosel next week. Deri hoped to prevent the court from following its usual progressive agenda by letting the Knesset have its say in advance.
This move led to a fierce outcry since the proposed law specifies that violators will be subject to a six-month prison sentence, and one of the clauses of the law requires visitors of the Kosel to dress appropriately. The left wing and the anti-religious sector were enraged by the notion that a person who appears at the Kosel in revealing garb could be thrown into jail for six months. The virulent reactions in the media and from the leaders of the opposition parties were utterly astounding, to the point that Netanyahu was forced to announce that the law would be removed from the agenda. He added that the government would ask the Supreme Court not to rule on the situation at the Kosel, which is outside its purview. One can therefore presume that Deri received exactly what he wanted….
The Shas party responded by releasing the following statement: “We welcome the prime minister’s decision to preserve the status quo at the Kosel. The Kosel does not require any laws. The majority of the people of Israel respect the sanctity of the site, with the exception of the provocateurs who do not cease turning it into a political battlefield with the approval of the Supreme Court. The law would essentially preserve the existing situation. We were forced to submit it after the Supreme Court announced that it would not permit any delay of a hearing on this matter. After the prime minister informed the party leaders today that he plans to submit a response that would indeed delay such a hearing, we agreed to remove the bill from the table. The Shas party never intended to impose criminal penalties for any form of dress or the use of musical instruments at the Kosel. Any claims otherwise are nothing more than cheap demagoguery. The provisions of this law are an exact copy of the Kosel regulations instituted in the year 1981 and were reviewed by a committee. Every intelligent person understands this. Shas will continue standing up for the kedushah of the Kosel and the right of every Jew — chiloni, traditional, religious, or chareidi — to daven at this holy site in accordance with its customs.”
THE CHAREIDI COMMUNITY’S WORLD OF CHESED
Last Tuesday, the newly appointed MK Simon Moshiashvilli addressed the Knesset during the context of the weekly round of one-minute addresses. “Since the beginning of 2023,” he said, “twelve elderly people who were living alone have been found dead in their homes in an advanced state of decay.” I later asked Moshiashvilli if he was certain of that statistic, but he insisted that it was correct. In his speech, he advised people to look out for the well-being of neighbors who live alone. “We owe it not only to these unfortunate people,” he said, “but to ourselves as well.”
Personally, I found this phenomenon horrifying. In the chareidi community, there is virtually no such thing as a person who lives abandoned and alone. An elderly individual who lives in solitude will be cared for by relatives, friends from the community, or local askanim. In my own neighborhood of Givat Shaul, for instance, there is an organization known as Lev Tov, whose administration is aware of every person in need. The local tzedokah fund actively searches for needy local residents, and another organization, Ohr Leah, makes every effort to find people suffering from hunger. The chareidi community will not allow people to go hungry or to be abandoned in its midst. There is also an entire world of chesed organizations that envelop every person who is struggling with illness with warmth and support, including Osim Sameach at Shaare Zedek, B’lev Echad at Hadassah Ein Kerem, the Ezer Mizion organization with its distribution of hot meals in hospital wards, the various organizations that provide hospitality to visitors in the hospitals, and Mesugalim (headed by Avi Mimran), among many other such entities.
This week, the volunteer drivers for the Darchei Miriam organization received their parking stickers for the year 2023. The accompanying letter noted that there has recently been a mounting need for transportation for patients heading from Yerushalayim to the center of the country and back. I found it disconcerting to learn about the growing need for the organization’s services. Darchei Miriam offers a wide range of services to the ill (a courier service for medications, coffee stations in hospitals, assistance with domestic chores, and mass tefillos) but its transportation network is the organization’s leading feature. The network of drivers providing free rides to and from the hospital spares patients from the need to shell out large sums of money for taxis, but even more importantly, it gives them a sense that someone else is sharing their burden, especially when the organization’s drivers are skilled at relieving some of the anguish experienced by their passengers through gentle conversation during their travels.
On the recent yahrtzeit of Rav Yisroel (ben Rav Yechiel Fishel) Weingarten, the organization held its annual trip to the kevorim of the Rambam and the Shelah, the Lavi hotel, and Meron. One of the participants, whose body is regularly being pumped full of chemotherapy drugs and steroids, wrote a brief letter to the Weingartens, the indefatigable heads of this organization. “The last time I visited Meron was on your previous trip,” he wrote. “The wonderful experience of being with you envelops us with warmth and love. Thank you very much.” Let us daven that this man will be able to join next year’s expedition in complete health.
At the Lavi hotel, one of the brothers related, “Our father was once visiting the home of a philanthropist together with a friend, and the wealthy man was very abrasive toward them. When they left, his friend said to him, ‘Let us forget this experience.’ My father exclaimed, ‘Forget it? Absolutely not! If he could act in that way, it is a sign that he is having a very difficult experience. We must find out what is happening and provide help for him.’ And that is exactly what he did!”
WHEN IT’S DARK INSIDE
On the night of Tu B’Shvat, Rav Elimelech Biderman was traveling in a car in Yerushalayim. At one point during the drive, he decided to turn on a flashlight in order to learn from a sefer, but his driver asked him to extinguish the light. “When it is dark in the car, it is easier for me to see outside the car,” the driver explained.
Rav Biderman found this seemingly mundane exchange to be a powerful source of inspiration. “Do you understand what this means?” he exclaimed to his audience after repeating the story. “When there is darkness inside, it is easier to see what is happening outside. If you don’t want your children to slip away into the outside world, you must make sure that there is plenty of light in your home!”
A REFERRAL FROM RABBI FIRER
I recently noticed that Ezra Lamarpeh, the organization headed by Rabbi Elimelech Firer, the top expert on medical referrals in Israel, is in the middle of a fundraising campaign on behalf of children suffering from cancer. And that led me to a recent insight. Just this week, Rabbi Firer sent a frightened yungerman to Dr. Tali Zamar-Landau, the head of the clinic for speech and swallowing disorders at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, after something was discovered in his vocal cords. (It bears mentioning that the yungerman also benefited from the assistance of Rabbi Binyomin Fisher of Magen Lacholeh, whose power and influence over the doctors in Hadassah are astounding.) The patient discovered that the doctor is both an expert in her field and a compassionate human being. She examined him and decided that surgery was necessary, and Rabbi Firer advised him to hire her for the operation. When the patient revealed that he had been sent by Rabbi Firer, the doctor surprised him by responding, “He sends me many patients, but we have never met.”
This story provided me with some insight into Rabbi Firer’s tzidkus. He has been sending men, women, and children to this doctor for years after he discovered her expertise and proficiency, yet he has never expected a single word of thanks or appreciation from her. In fact, he has never even met her. His recommendations are informed only by his knowledge of medicine and the skills of various medical professionals.
This anecdote reminded me of a famous dvar Torah about Manoach, the father of Shimshon: The posuk relates that after the malach disappeared, Manoach realized that it had been an angel sent by Hashem. What led him to that realization? Some explain that it was the fact that the angel departed without even waiting to be thanked by Manoach and his wife, something that no human being would do.
RAV URI ZOHAR’S EARTHQUAKE PREPARATIONS
Everyone has been talking about earthquakes lately. When the ground trembled in Turkey, the people in Israel trembled as well. What if an earthquake happens here? The Home Front Command has warned the public not to stand in a doorway or to enter an underground shelter in the event of an earthquake. But then what should they do? Perhaps the Home Front Command should be told to advise the people to daven!
I was once learning with Rav Uri Zohar when the subject of earthquakes came up, either because it was mentioned in the Gemara or because we actually experienced an earthquake at the time. Rav Uri was living in a third-floor apartment on Rechov Ponim Meiros at that time, and we asked him what he would do if an earthquake struck.
Rav Uri replied evenly, “I would stand up, put on my hat, and recite the brocha.” We quickly realized that he had indeed been preparing for an earthquake — not to ensure his physical safety but rather to be ready with the appropriate halachic reaction — as he continued, “I saw that the Shulchan Aruch says that the brocha of oseh maaseh bereishis should be recited, but that one may recite the brocha of shekocho u’gevuraso malei olam. However, I am not certain if it is permitted to recite both brachos,” he added.
During that conversation, Rav Uri shared another powerful story with us: There was a certain elderly tzaddik in Yerushalayim with whom he was closely acquainted who kept a special Shabbos suit in his home that he planned to wear to greet Moshiach. One day, when the tzaddik heard an air raid siren, he hurried to don this suit, believing that the sound heralded the arrival of Moshiach. Rav Uri was filled with admiration for that great man.
One of Rav Uri’s sons later revealed to us, “Our father also prepared a suit of his own to greet Moshiach.”