Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

My Take On The News

Mimouna Has Become a Political Holiday

By now, it seems that a long time has passed since Pesach. However, we were all celebrating Pesach just one week ago. In Eretz Yisroel, Yom Tov ended on Wednesday night, and I had the opportunity to visit a few Moroccan neighbors who were celebrating Mimouna.

I am not sure how many of my readers in America are familiar with Mimouna at all. The name of this holiday is a word in the Moroccan language that denotes emunah. Moroccan Jews celebrate Mimouna at the end of Pesach; according to Moroccan tradition, it is a holiday that signifies both emunah and unity. Why is the conclusion of Pesach a fitting time to celebrate unity? Of course, it is always a good time for achdus, but the significance of Mimouna runs deeper. The Jews of Morocco were always extremely meticulous about the halachos of Pesach and painstakingly refrained from eating outside their own homes during the holiday. (This is a common practice today as well.) During the holiday of Pesach, a Moroccan Jew would never eat in anyone else’s home, even the home of his own brother. The celebration of Mimouna signifies the fact that their refusal to accept each other’s hospitality did not stem from ill will; it became customary for Moroccan Jews to host each other immediately after the end of Pesach and thus to demonstrate that they were willing to eat in the homes of their friends and neighbors when the laws of Pesach were not in play.

In Israel, Mimouna seems to have become a political holiday as well as a religious one. The chareidi Moroccan community as a whole doesn’t relate to this holiday with much exuberance; many are concerned that some people might not be sufficiently careful about the halachos governing chometz owned by a Jew over Pesach, and the more scrupulous among them will not accept Mimouna invitations indiscriminately. Nevertheless, there are certainly many chareidi Moroccan families who observe Mimouna with the highest standards of kashrus and invite friends, neighbors, and family members to their festive meals. Many of these families do not serve chometz at their Mimouna meals at all, or else they opt to serve products baked after Pesach. As for the politicians, they have turned Mimouna into a time to try to ingratiate themselves with the Sephardic community; thus, Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared at a Mimouna meal in Chadera, while Benny Gantz showed up at a celebration in the settlement of Shoham, and President Herzog, Yoav Gallant, and others also made appearances at various Mimouna events. Only Yair Lapid failed to capitalize on the holiday; instead, in a typical move, he was on vacation overseas.

A Feast for the Soul at the Ben Amram Home

Mimouna was also celebrated in the Knesset this year, for the first time in the history of the State of Israel. This is probably due to the fact that the Knesset, for the first time, has a Moroccan chairman. Amir Ochana, who holds the position of Knesset speaker, is Moroccan. Thousands of citizens signed up before Pesach to attend the event and showed up at the Knesset to join in the festivities.

I am sure you will not be surprised if I reveal that, although I was invited, I was not among the attendees. When I asked in advance how they would be able to serve chometz to the participants immediately after Pesach, one of the organizers replied proudly, “It will all be stored in locked closets, and only the rov of the Knesset will have a key.” In other words, the food was bona fide chometz that had been stored over the course of Pesach. Even though it was sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday, there are many people who refrain from consuming genuine chometz after Pesach even if it was sold.

While I didn’t attend the Mimouna feast to which I was invited, I did attend a different Mimouna celebration, although in this case, I was an uninvited guest. In my personal view, the most traditional, kosher, and authentic celebration of Mimouna was the one held by my neighbors in Givat Shaul, the family of Rabbi Yosef Ben-Amram. Reb Yosef teaches in a Talmud Torah and is considered one of the leading talmidei chachomim in our neighborhood. (He is not related to a different Rav Yosef Ben-Amram, who is the rosh yeshiva of a prominent yeshiva in the neighborhood.) His wife is the manager of several of the clothing stores in the Junee chain, which has branches in America as well. The family hails originally from France and lived in Flatbush for several years before coming to Israel. Givat Shaul is home to many French Jews, and it was only natural for them to settle here.

This Mimouna celebration was highly enjoyable not only because all the food was absolutely kosher and homemade (and tasty, of course), and all of it was baked after Pesach. More important was the fact that I had the opportunity to hear magnificent divrei Torah at the meal. Next to Rabbi Yosef Ben-Amram sat a distinguished-looking man whose name, I discovered, is Rav Chai Cohen. This distinguished guest is the son of Rav Don Mordechai Hakohen, the late rov of Tunis. Rav Chai lives in Yerushalayim, having made his way to the city after the government initially placed him in Chatzor, from which he moved to Kiryat Gat before finally managing to settle in Yerushalayim. Rav Chai is the founder of the institution known as Yad Mordechai, which is located at the entrance to the city and bears the name of his rebbi, Rav Mordechai Meiss Hakohen.

On the table sat a copy of Divrei Mordechai on Bereishis, the sefer authored by Rav Don Mordechai Hakohen of Tunis. Rav Chai Hakohen spent much of the meal quoting his father’s divrei Torah, while all the participants, including the Ben-Amram family, listened raptly. At some point, the family’s neighbor, Rav Boruch Tzvi Greenbaum — the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Derech Hashem, a dedicated activist for youths at risk, and the man behind the idea of founding communities of bnei Torah in many locations — arrived and began offering his own divrei Torah. The words of Torah proved to be the mainstay of the meal, as the plates piled high with delicacies would have remained largely untouched if not for my efforts to see to it that the other guests partook.

A Missed Opportunity

The holiday of Pesach was an eventful time for all of us in Israel. This year, it had some uplifting moments but also some moments of tragedy. On the uplifting side of things, there was the convergence of huge crowds at the Kosel Hamaaravi. In spite of the security situation, and in spite of the fact that the month of Ramadan drew tens of thousands of Arabs to the area of Har Habayis overlooking the Kosel, about half a million Jews visited the Kosel during the holiday. That is a staggering number. Of course, there was also the traditional massive birkas kohanim; it is always an emotional experience to hear hundreds of kohanim blessing the Jewish people together.

On another positive note, I have written in the past about the veritable industry of Torah learning and shiurim in Jewish communities throughout the country on every Chol Hamoed. There are hundreds of yeshivas bein hazmanim programs and other learning initiatives on Chol Hamoed, not to mention hundreds or even thousands of shiurim. Every self-respecting shul organizes shiurim in honor of the Yom Tov that draws large crowds.

There are some speakers to whom I feel particularly drawn, and I make a point of attending their shiurim even if they are held outside the city. This year, I suffered one disappointment. The Israeli Yated Neeman publishes a list of dozens of shiurim organized by Todaah, the shiur network of Degel HaTorah, throughout the country. I checked the list before Pesach began and made a note for myself to attend a shiur at the Ohel Dovid shul on Rechov Heller in Givat Mordechai, near the Chevron yeshiva, at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. The speaker was Rav Aryeh Zolty, who has a reputation as an excellent and brilliant orator and whom I would be hearing for the first time. I have been told that Rav Zolty is confined to a wheelchair due to the amputation of a leg, and I was already imagining myself writing dramatically about the shiur he delivered from his wheelchair. Rav Aryeh Zolty is the son-in-law of the legendary menahel of Yeshivas Chevron, Rav Yitzchok Chevroni, whose son, Rav Yosef, presides over the yeshiva today. Rav Aryeh heads a very successful kollel that operates alongside the yeshiva. I recently wrote an article about his father, Rav Betzalel Zolty, and I heard a good deal about Rav Aryeh as well at that time; consequently, I was looking forward to seeing him in person. However, when I arrived for the shiur, I discovered that I had misunderstood the timing; it had been listed as taking place on “yom rishon,” which I took to mean Sunday, but it was actually held on the first day of Pesach, three days earlier. The notice posted in the shul made it clear. Unfortunately, that meant that I had missed the shiur. B’ezras Hashem, I will have to find another opportunity to see this great man.

The Defense Minister Will Retain His Post

Once again, it seems that a week does not go by in Israel without some newsworthy political event. I am sure that we are all tired of politics by now, but I cannot help but report on these developments.

The negotiations over the judicial reform are continuing in the President’s House, as the various parties attempt to reach a compromise that will be acceptable to everyone. At the same time, everyone knows that it is unlikely for the two sides to find common ground. Meanwhile, the anti-government protests are continuing in the streets of Israel, but there has been a new development: The right wing has begun protesting as well. And you may recall that Netanyahu announced that the Minister of Defense would be dismissed from his position after he made public comments against the judicial reform. Well, Netanyahu has now decided to cancel his dismissal.

In other news, Moody’s, the American credit rating agency, decided to downgrade Israel’s credit outlook from “positive” to “stable.” This evoked a new wave of scathing criticism from the opponents of the judicial reform, who trumpeted it as further evidence of the damage being caused to Israel in the international arena by the judicial overhaul. Anyone who took a closer look at the issue, however, would have discovered that there was no real damage to Israel at all, and the change in the rating merely reflected a forecast concerning the future. When the same thing happened during Lapid’s tenure as finance minister, he explained that there was nothing dramatic or personal about it.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s interminable criminal trial is getting back into gear, as the prosecution and the defense reached an agreement to reduce the number of witnesses to be called to the stand. It is now possible that the prosecution will finish calling its witnesses by the end of the civil year, and then the defense will call its own witnesses, the first of which is Netanyahu himself. All in all, we are still far from the end of this saga.

The Draft Law Is Back on the Table

Once again, the draft law is up for discussion. Thanks to a ruling from the Supreme Court, the current law that grants a draft deferment to yeshiva bochurim will expire in July 2023. At the time of this ruling, the court ordered the Knesset to formulate a new law that will be acceptable to the judges. About a month ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant notified the court that the coalition plans to advance “an alternative arrangement to the Defense Service Law,” and that the coalition agreements include a pledge to enact a bill known as the Basic Law: Torah Study, which will make it possible for talmidim in yeshivos to receive a deferment.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Gallant and Finance Minister Smotrich to discuss a new outline for the draft that will be submitted by the army. The plan is for the age of exemption from the draft to be lowered; today, a yeshiva bochur or kollel yungerman must repeatedly obtain a deferment from military service until the age of 26, at which point he receives a permanent exemption. The new law would lower the age of exemption to 21 or 23, which would effectively mean that the army is giving up on drafting chareidim. For the chareidi community, it would mean that the number of deferments issued each year would drop by a very large percentage. If the army submits this bill, then the Supreme Court will not be able to disqualify it, nor will it be necessary to enact an override clause to prevent the court from striking it down.

I am deliberately refraining from discussing the details of the law or the various arguments for and against it, since the matter hasn’t yet been discussed by the gedolei Yisroel. B’ezras Hashem, I will return to this topic at the next opportunity. At this point, I will say only that one good thing has come of the public attention drawn to this story: The chilonim have begun complaining about the prospect of mass conscription of yeshiva bochurim (which, with Hashem’s help, will not actually happen), which they fear would cause the army to become chareidi in character. This is a scenario that they cannot tolerate. This has shown us once and for all that most secular Israelis are actually opposed to drafting yeshiva bochurim.

A Volatile Situation

You probably recall the recent car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv, which was labeled by Hamas as “a reaction to Israel’s crimes against al-Aqsa.” The issue of Har Habayis is still a highly volatile subject that continues rocking the entire Middle East. The Muslim month of Ramadan is nearing its end, and we all know that it is generally a very tense time. Many Muslims visit Har Habayis during this month, and some of them tend to lapse into violent behavior, prompted by the incitement purveyed by Muslim clerics who claim that Jews are attempting to take control of Har Habayis. As evidence of their spurious claims, these clerics have pointed to the fact that thousands of Jews visit the Kosel; this is pure slander on their part, of course, since the Jewish worshipers at the Kosel have no interest in controlling Har Habayis at all. However, the Muslims also point to the extreme right-wing activists who insist on visiting Har Habayis in spite of the halachic prohibition on doing so.

After the Muslims aired these accusations, the Israelis hastened to send anyone who speaks English to be interviewed by the foreign media to debunk the claims that the Jews are seeking to change the status quo on Har Habayis. This is a very dangerous misconception; not only does it cause diplomatic tensions between Israel and the Arab states, but it also tends to spur the Arabs to commit acts of murder out of a desire for vengeance and in a bid to “defend al-Aqsa.” As part of the effort to restore calm, the prime minister decided to ban Jews from Har Habayis until the end of Ramadan. The Prime Minister’s Office reported that this was based on wall-to-wall recommendations from the defense minister, the IDF chief of staff, the director of the Shabak, and the chief of the police force. The statement added, “The prime minister praised the Israel Police Force for their operations on Har Habayis and at the Kosel on the holiday of Pesach, and the security services for thwarting a series of terror attacks and for their actions in defense of Israeli citizens, which saved many lives.”

The move elicited two conflicting reactions. One was from Rav Yitzchak Yosef, the Rishon Letzion — who will be completing his term in another half a year — who wrote, “The government should be applauded for closing Har Habayis to Jews. Aside from the serious prohibition of entering Har Habayis, we must also act to prevent unnecessary incitement or provocation. The Chief Rabbinate has always held that according to Jewish halacha, it is categorically forbidden for Jews to venture onto Har Habayis.” In contrast, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir decried the government’s decision. “The prime minister’s decision to close Har Habayis to Jews due to the wave of terror is a terrible mistake that will not bring peace,” he wrote. “It is liable only to further escalate the situation.”

On a related note, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Nides visited Rav Gershon Edelstein in Bnei Brak on Monday, the fourth day of Chol Hamoed. During their meeting, Rav Gershon presented the view of daas Torah concerning Jews visiting Har Habayis. “In addition to the halachic prohibition to enter Har Habayis altogether,” he said, “it is especially problematic during this sensitive and volatile time.”

Is the Mossad Encouraging the Protestors?

America is taking far too aggressive a stance on meddling in Israel’s internal affairs. Someone recently sent me a translation of an op-ed in the Washington Post (or perhaps the New York Times) about Israel’s judicial reform, and I simply cannot understand why the Americans are interfering so blatantly in internal issues in Israel.

On that note, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported that among a batch of classified documents that were leaked (embarrassing America and several other countries) was a sensitive intelligence document from the United States that claimed that high-ranking officials in the Mossad “encouraged the functionaries in the Mossad and the citizens of Israel to protest against the government’s reform of the judicial system, including explicit calls to act against the government.” The report is denied by the Mossad. However, if it is true that Israel’s intelligence agency actively encouraged the protests against the judicial reform, it would be a highly unusual act of interference in Israeli politics and opposition to a sitting government. In response to the report in the New York Times, the Prime Minister’s Office, which has the Mossad under its jurisdiction, announced that it would probe the allegations.

Meanwhile, Naftoli Bennett (remember him?) released a public announcement last week: “I am beginning a public relations campaign in the United States, starting with CNN. I will meet with newspaper editors, influencers, and members of Congress and the Senate. Israel’s diplomatic situation is not good. Israel is in a very sensitive place in terms of its security, and it needs international backing and the support of its friends. I have quite a lot of criticism for the government’s actions, which I voice within Israel, but on this subject and at this time, I am an Israeli soldier facing the world.”

Of course, the Israelis scoffed at Bennett, remembering how ineffective he was as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, some believe that Bennett is sensing the impending end of this government and is already trying to stage a comeback.

A Magnificent Industry of Chessed

This Pesach, I had the opportunity once again to witness the outstanding work of the world of chessed within the chareidi community in Israel. Tens of thousands of families received distributions of food products with a total value of millions of shekels. Organizations operated in every city and community, actively seeking out families in need. I have a son who learns in Yeshivas Be’er Yaakov and lives in the neighborhood of Bayit Vegan in Yerushalayim. While some people might consider Bayit Vegan an upscale neighborhood, my son lives in a rented apartment and is far from affluent. He told me that he was learning in the Gra shul in his neighborhood before Pesach when he was approached by a local askan who wanted to know how many children he had. When my son answered him, the askan said, “In that case, you are entitled to receive a chalukah.”

Before Yom Tov, he received a phone call instructing him to come to the large square outside the Amshinov shul. The caller informed him that he would need to bring two strollers or carts to haul the large quantity of products he would be receiving. Sure enough, he received an abundance of products for Yom Tov. The distribution was associated with the famed Reb Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz; the packages bore printed Yom Tov greetings from him. My son also received a very nice delivery of goods courtesy of Rav Eliyohu Yaffe, head of Kollel Zichron Dov. Rav Eliyohu is the son of Rav Mordechai “Motti” Yaffe, and the kollel is dedicated in memory of Rav Mordechai’s father, the famed mashgiach Rav Dov Yaffe. In addition, the kollel provided him with vouchers for purchases at local supermarkets and for a clothing store where he could purchase a new suit (at a discount) in honor of Yom Tov.

Another of my sons, who teaches in Yeshivas Ohr Elchonon, told me that he received a huge delivery of products at his doorstep, evidently worth a large amount of money, from a distribution organized by Rav Yaakov Kanievsky. Yet another son, who lives in Neve Yaakov, told me about a distribution of chicken for kollel yungeleit that was organized by a tzedokah fund headed by Reb Yossel Tabak of Flatbush. And this is only a sampling of the chessed performed throughout the country; keep in mind that I have told you only about my own children’s experiences!

Another of my sons learns in the kollel of Yeshivas Mir, while yet another is a yungerman in the kollel headed by Rav Moshe Wolpin. Both of these sons received vouchers worth several hundred dollars to be used in the Yesh Chessed supermarket chain. I can certainly attest that this was invaluable to them; the average kollel yungerman’s monthly stipend isn’t nearly sufficient to cover the enormous costs of Pesach.

Weeding Out the Inferior Products

Our communities owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the indefatigable organizers of the many initiatives that benefit all sorts of people in need. We are also indebted to the people behind the neighborhood sales that enable us all to purchase many quality products at low prices. Thanks to their efforts, we are saved from many products that tend to generate endless aggravation, such as the shampoo that is reminiscent of motor oil and has no fragrance, no color, and no cleansing properties, or the plastic tablecloths that are so thin that they provide a miniature reenactment of Krias Yam Suf whenever one attempts to stretch them across a table. At the supermarket, these roles of plastic appear sturdy and durable; once they are brought home, that illusion falls apart along with the tablecloth itself. The vendors of these products rely on the chareidi consumer to accept being cheated out of his meager funds by the sale of defective products that aren’t worth the few shekels for which they are sold. At the special neighborhood sales in advance of Pesach, someone checks to make sure that the merchandise is not defective or substandard.

Sadly, there are many manufacturers who take advantage of the public by marketing products that are so poorly made as to be unusable. The supermarkets offer garbage bags that are guaranteed to open at the top and bottom, as well as disposable cups that appear solid and strong within the packaging but that completely justify their low price when they release their contents from the bottom as soon as they are filled. Pick up one of those cups, and you will find that it folds like Netanyahu in a battle of wills against Erdogan. But what is the average chareidi consumer to do? No one expects him to file a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers.

The manufacturers of these products are guilty of more than just relating to their customers with contempt; this is outright theft and fraud. But they know very well that they have nothing to lose. They expect a rash of one-time purchases, and then they will have made their profit. The packaging doesn’t even clearly identify who is behind the products, and when they release another batch of their defective wares for the following Pesach, they will simply change the packaging. It will be the same thief in different clothes. If the organizers of neighborhood sales managed nothing more than to spare their customers from the grief caused by these unscrupulous manufacturers, they would deserve to be applauded for it. Fortunately, they use the power of group purchasing to ensure lower prices as well.

Poverty is a constant in Klal Yisroel. The Torah tells us that there will always be paupers, and Chazal explain that this is for the Jewish people’s benefit. If we open our hands to give tzedokah, then Hashem will bless us in all of our endeavors. This is true at any time of year, and it is even more relevant in the period before Pesach, when Chazal instruct us to provide arba kosos even for the poorest among us. There are many families who lack the wherewithal to purchase wine and matzos for Pesach; the only thing they have in abundance is the bitterness of maror. But we must all give thanks for the many chessed organizations that work tirelessly to benefit the poor among us.

On that note, I came across a yungerman in Givat Shaul on erev Pesach who was hauling a large assortment of bags bulging with all sorts of products, which he had clearly received from a chessed distribution. “You must write in the newspaper about Rabbi Eliyohu Cohen of Ohr Leah,” he declared as soon as he spotted me. “He has made my Yom Tov!”

Thirst for the Word of Hashem

After Merav Michaeli pushed a bill that would prohibit the government from invalidating a giyur performed under false pretenses, I came to a realization. Michaeli and her ilk do not understand the meaning of many things: giyur, gittin, and all other aspects of Yiddishkeit. To them, it is all superficial and meaningless: chometz, Shabbos, the Kosel, giyur, and everything else. But then I saw a video of a leftist protestor in Bnei Brak wrapped in an Israeli flag who dissolved into tears upon hearing the tune for the Friday night Sholom Aleichem. At that point, something else dawned on me: We might be facing an opportunity to bring many of our lost brethren back to Yiddishkeit. This may well be a time that has the same potential for teshuvah as the period after the Yom Kippur War.

Bein Sheshes L’Asor is a sefer consisting of the shmuessen delivered by Rav Shlomo Wolbe at various kibbutzim and army bases during the period between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. At that time, Rav Wolbe felt that kiruv was the call of the hour. The Jewish people were thirsting for knowledge and for a connection to Hashem. “The Yom Kippur War added a new level to this inner change,” he wrote. “It suddenly revealed the negligence and carelessness of the leaders who had crowned themselves with the aura of strength and triumph. The shattering of the idols continued. Widespread disillusionment with secular values and principles was broadening, and the ethical, cultural, social, and ideological disintegration [of Israeli society] was shaking the foundations of the State of Israel, whose future was shrouded in uncertainty. Leading figures were troubled by a nagging question: Could a state devoid of all meaning, a state divided and shaken by one outrage after another, be able to endure?” These words, written in 1979, might well be applicable to the disappointments and challenges of 2023 as well.

Rav Wolbe also wrote, “I believe with complete faith that a quiet but deep revolution is taking place in our midst. It hasn’t reached the surface, the political parties are ignoring it, and the media is working hard to silence it, but it is a fact…. This revolution will bring to the fore a renewed Jewish nation, strengthened in the belief in our Torah and the observance of its mitzvos. The Hand of the G-d of Israel has done this.” Rav Wolbe added that his encouragement of kiruv activities wasn’t on his authority alone; rather, he had asked Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, whom he described as “the greatest baal mussar of our generation.” Rav Levenstein had replied, “As long as it doesn’t interfere with their work in yeshiva, anyone who is capable of kiruv is obligated to engage in it.”

The mashgiach also made an illuminating comment: “The masses are waiting for the talmidei chachomim, not for the politicians. The people are tired of hearing ideologies tailored to fit the voting booths. Only bnei Torah who have no involvement in politics should be involved in kiruv and in revealing the light of the Torah.” Again, I must point out that much of the atmosphere of that period is echoed in our own days. The same questions are continuing to plague Israelis today, with even greater intensity. And if the same opportunity for teshuvah exists, then kiruv is once again our communal responsibility.

Nadav in Yeshivas Mir

“You are accepted,” Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshivas Mir, said to the bochur who stood before him.

“But I haven’t been tested yet,” the young man, who was equally pleased and mystified, pointed out.

“You have been accepted nonetheless,” the rosh yeshiva replied.

A few years ago, Nadav joined a local youth group in his community in Zichron Yaakov. In recent years, he has made a name for himself as one of the bnei aliyah at the midrashah of Lev L’Achim. Under the guidance of Rabbi Dovid Berns, the principal of the midrashah, he has slowly but surely blossomed into a ben Torah, and he finally reached the point at which he was ready to attend a yeshiva gedolah. It didn’t take him long to set his sights on his next destination: Yeshivas Mir, one of the premier yeshivos in the country.

At first, Nadav’s parents weren’t pleased with his transformation; however, he eventually won their approval. They discovered what we all know: that the Torah makes a person more refined and noble of spirit. Nadav’s mother worked with a volunteer from Lev L’Achim, a kind woman who encouraged her to join her son on his journey and to follow the path toward Jewish observance along with him. This woman taught her, encouraged her, and used her wisdom and insight to help the bewildered mother understand the changes taking place in her son and the light that the Torah brought to his life. With constant support from the woman over the course of many phone calls, Nadav’s mother eventually became an ardent fan of her son, who was developing into a genuine tzaddik. She agreed to allow him to learn in Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, and when Nadav surprised her by announcing his desire to join Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim, the flagship yeshiva of the Torah world, his mother informed her friend that she was davening for his acceptance. The volunteer educated her about the nature of the yeshiva, the meaning of its status as a bastion of Torah, and what to expect as her son moved into the world of kedushah. Nadav, for his part, continued learning with great intensity and preparing for the interview in which he would be tested by the rosh yeshiva, who would evaluate his progress and proficiency in learning.

When Nadav arrived for his interview, it was with no small degree of trepidation. His heart fluttered with apprehension as he appeared before the rosh yeshiva, who shook his hand and smiled graciously at him. “My name is Nadav,” the boy said. “I am from Zichron, and I have come here to be tested for admission to the yeshiva.”

That was when the rosh yeshiva replied simply, “You are accepted.”

Nadav was surprised. “But the rov didn’t test me and doesn’t even know me,” he said.

“I have heard a lot about you,” Rav Eliezer Yehuda replied with a smile.

“About me?” Nadav repeated, dumbfounded.

“Yes.” The rosh yeshiva lowered his voice conspiratorially and said, “The volunteer who has been guiding your mother is my own wife.”

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