Record Internal Strife
This time of year, when the State of Israel observes its national holidays, is a trying time for the religious community. This year, it seems likely to be more challenging than ever.
The awkward transition between the two days—when the somber mood of Yom Hazikaron gives way to Yom Haatzmaut with its barbecues, plastic hammers, and ubiquitous festive music—is bound to be wrenching for anyone. There is also an inconsistency between the respective moods of these legal holidays and the days on the Jewish calendar when they are scheduled: The Israeli government inexplicably decided to schedule Yom Hashoah, the official day of remembrance for the Holocaust, in the month of Nissan, when hespedim are prohibited, while the country celebrates its independence during sefirah, at a time when music and dancing are forbidden.
This year, however, the usual challenges of this time of year were compounded by the internal strife that is dividing the country. The demonstrations against the judicial reform and against the right wing turned into protests against the presence of Knesset members and government ministers, as representatives of the government, at the memorial ceremonies held in every military cemetery throughout the country. The conflict heightened to the point that a number of government ministers withdrew from attending the ceremonies. At first, the protests targeted all the government ministers and anyone associated with the government or coalition. In recent days, however, the pressure intensified specifically against chareidi ministers, who were purportedly singled out for the fact that they did not serve in the army. A number of newspapers carried vitriolic advertisements targeting the chareidi community in an effort to whip up public hostility toward them.
In response to the pressure exerted on him to refrain from attending a memorial ceremony, Housing Minister Yitzchok Goldknopf wrote to the mayor of Kiryat Gat, “As a member of the government, I was scheduled to participate in the Yom Hazikaron ceremony in Kiryat Gat. I strongly desired to honor the memories of the fallen soldiers by reciting Tehillim and to address their families in honor of the day. However, I discovered that while some of the bereaved families were interested in my presence as a representative of the government, there were other families who felt that it would cause them discomfort. I don’t agree with them, but I do not wish to offend their sensibilities…. Therefore, I will visit the Kosel Hamaaravi in Yerushalayim instead, and I will recite a few perokim of Tehillim there in memory of the deceased.”
Goldknopf received a letter from a group of bereaved parents who asked him not to attend. At the same time, he received a different letter from the chairman of the Kiryat Gat branch of Yad Labanim, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the memories of fallen IDF soldiers, who urged him to attend in spite of their opposition. And this was only one of many such cases. For several days, the country was roiled by the debate over whether the ministers of the government, and the chareidim in particular, should be invited to the Yom Hazikaron events.
Several years ago, the government decided that Yom Hazikaron would be dedicated to the memories of the victims of terror as well as the soldiers of the IDF who have fallen over the course of Israeli history. Every year, the Ministry of Defense publishes the number of fatalities since the establishment of the State of Israel. This year, the number of soldiers killed by Israel’s enemies has risen to 24,213. There have been 59 new fatalities over the past year, and 86 disabled army veterans who died due to their disabilities were recognized over the course of the year as fatalities from Israel’s wars. Thirty-one Israeli civilians were killed by enemy hostilities over the course of the year; this figure includes two terror victims who were injured by terrorists several years ago and succumbed to their wounds this year. Among the fatalities of the past year are Sergeant Noa Lazar, a member of the Erez battalion of the military police, who was killed in a shooting attack in October at a checkpoint near Shuafat in East Yerushalayim, and Staff Sergeant Asil Suaed, who was stabbed by a 13-year-old terrorist at the Shuafat checkpoint and was killed in the crossfire when a security guard opened fire on the terrorist.
The number of Israelis killed in terror attacks saw an increase this past year; in 2022, 28 civilians were killed by terrorists, while there were 23 fatalities in 2021 and four in the year 2020. This Yom Hazikaron also took on added meaning because this year marks the twentieth anniversary of a number of extremely deadly attacks carried out in the year 2003, including the massacres at the Maxim café in Haifa, Café Hillel in Yerushalayim, and the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. The year 2003 saw the deaths of 157 Israeli civilians at the hands of Arab terrorists. A total of 4255 civilians have been murdered in terror attacks since 1851, the year when the Jewish yishuv was founded in Eretz Yisroel. Since the founding of the State of Israel, terrorism has claimed the lives of 740 children and youths below the age of 18, 120 Israelis overseas, and 135 foreign citizens in Israel. Terror attacks have left 3420 children orphaned, including 118 children who lost both parents, and have resulted in 800 widows, 851 bereaved parents, and 250 families that sustained the loss of more than one family member.
The first victim of Arab hostilities to be commemorated on the state memorial on Mount Herzl is Avrohom Shlomo Zalman, who was active on behalf of the Jewish yishuv in Yerushalayim. He was once saved from death when a bullet that was shot at him missed its mark, and the shooter fell into a pit full of water and drowned. Nevertheless, he became a victim of terror at a later time, when he was struck in the head by a sword while walking to shul. He passed away in the year 1851, leaving behind a wife, three sons, and a daughter. His children later changed their surname to Solomon; his grandson Yoel was one of the first Jews to settle outside of the Old City.
Yom Hazikaron—Israel’s equivalent to Memorial Day—officially began on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. The main ceremony took place, as usual, at the Kosel plaza in Yerushalayim and was attended by President Yitzchok Herzog, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halei. The official memorial ceremonies were held on Tuesday morning at 11:00 at 52 military cemeteries and various other sites throughout the country, with the main ceremony held on Mount Herzl in Yerushalayim. At 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, Yom Haatzmaut began with a festive ceremony (which was also the subject of a good deal of conflict this year) on Mount Herzl.
The Dogs of Auschwitz
With Yom Hashoah just a few days behind us, I would like to revisit a passage I once wrote about my mother, who was a survivor of Auschwitz:
My mother did not observe Yom Hashoah, for a simple reason: She remembered the Holocaust every day. She may have left Auschwitz, but Auschwitz never left her. We saw how she fought Nazi thugs, trembled in fear at the sounds of train whistles, and choked on the smoke from the crematoria in her never-ending nightmares. Her young parents and her siblings, including a baby brother whose name was given to me, were killed in that nightmarish place.
I really had two mothers: one who lived through Auschwitz and remained silent, and another who took her revenge on Hitler by leading what seemed to be a normal life. My siblings and I grew up with a mother who embodied the noblest attributes of Jewish mothers and the Jewish people. We knew that she had fought with Mengele three times: once to save herself and twice more to save two of her friends. She was larger than life, and she was certainly larger than death.
In her later years, we took turns visiting her in Beer Yaakov. I always tried to bring things that would interest her and help pass the time pleasantly. Most often, that meant bringing pictures of her grandchildren. I once brought a jigsaw puzzle with me, but when she saw the picture on the box, she turned pale. “This isn’t appropriate,” she whispered in a horrified tone.
I was taken aback. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“How can you bring that picture into my home?” she demanded.
I looked at it and could not understand what was wrong. “Ima, what’s the problem with this?” I asked. My only conjecture was that the large dog in the picture was a treif animal. However, it turned out that she had an entirely different objection.
“Don’t you know,” she said, averting her gaze, “that this was the type of dog used by the Germans in Auschwitz?”
There Is No Independence Without Torah
Chacham Yehuda Tzadkah, the rosh yeshiva of Porat Yosef, once gave his talmidim a fresh perspective on the secular “holiday” of Yom Haatzmaut. “The Gemara in Maseches Nedorim states that Rabi Yehuda bar Ilai suffered from headaches from Pesach until Shavuos after drinking the four kosos,” he related. “How did he have a headache for exactly seven weeks every year? What happened to make it dissipate when the Yom Tov of Mattan Torah arrived?” Rav Tzadkah proceeded to answer his own question: “The arba kosos, which represent the four terms used in the Torah for redemption, were four promises made to Klal Yisroel. As the Gaon explains, they represented four stages in the process of geulah. First there was ‘v’hotzeisi,’ when the Jews were released from actual slavery, and then ‘v’hitzalti,’ when Bnei Yisroel were transformed in their essence from slaves to free men. The third expression of geulah, ‘v’gaalti,’ represents the fact that the Jewish people left Mitzrayim in broad daylight, not like thieves sneaking out in the middle of the night. Finally, there is the fourth expression of geulah, ‘v’lokachti,’ which indicates that Hashem took us as His people. This was fulfilled at Mattan Torah, when the posuk states, ‘On this day you became a nation.’ At the Seder night, we celebrate the fulfillment of the first three expressions but not the fourth, since the promise of the fourth cup is fulfilled only seven weeks later, on Shavuos.
“Until the fourth cup,” Rav Tzadkah continued, “we may have had ‘independence,’ but we did not have the Torah. When we drink the fourth cup at the Seder, it is like receiving a check that we will be able to cash only seven weeks later. Rabbosai,” he declared, “we have independence, but we haven’t yet received the Torah. And as we see in the Gemara, independence without Torah is a giant headache! Who needs such independence? Today we have freedom and democracy, and look what is happening in the streets! That is why Rabi Yehuda suffered from a headache for seven weeks and felt relief only at the time of Mattan Torah. The goal of redemption is achieved only when we receive the Torah, which gives us something to strive for and to accomplish.”
Knesset Summer Session to Begin
The outpouring of rage that we are witnessing today against the government is probably unprecedented in Israeli history. The lawless behavior of the government’s opponents has probably set a historic record. We have never seen such steps being taken against government ministers in general and chareidim in particular. You may remember that I predicted in the past that the public rage would be turned against the religious public. On Yom Hashoah, MK Boaz Bismut of the Likud party showed up at a shul in Tel Aviv to deliver a speech. He was greeted by a group of enraged protestors who demonstrated against him until he was forced to leave.
At the beginning of this week, I heard three religious ministers discussing among themselves whether they should go to the military cemeteries where the cabinet secretary had assigned them to attend events on Yom Hazikaron. In spite of their fears, they agreed that they would attend the ceremonies as they had been asked to do, and their discussion then turned to the question of how they should react if they were assaulted.
This should give everyone pause. There certainly seems to be a lesson to be learned from the fact that this discussion took place at all. Are we at the beginning of a frightening new era in which violence against government officials can be expected? Meanwhile, the public umbrage against chareidi government ministers who haven’t served in the army is reaching astonishing levels, but did anyone give a thought to the chiloni ministers who held desk jobs in the army or who were exempted for various reasons? And now the leftists have begun targeting diplomats as well (more on that below). It seems that every possible norm has been violated by the Israeli left.
Next week, the 24th Knesset will begin its summer session. If this atmosphere of conflict continues, everyone will suffer. I am sure that many of the protestors are acting out of hatred toward Netanyahu and an inability to accept the outcome of the election, but what about the others? Are they all motivated by the same feelings? What is fueling this massive outrage? I can only conclude that we are living in the era leading up to the final Geulah.
Not long ago, I recited birkas ha’ilanos together with a group of Knesset employees. We stood outside the building, facing the carob and fig trees, and I discovered that the tefillah recited in nusach Sefard together with the brocha is quite long, rich, and Kabbalistic in nature. This lyrical tefillah states, “May this brocha be valued, accepted, and desired before You, to expose and elevate all the sparks of kedushah blended with plant life and all the spirits and souls reincarnated in it.” The tefillah goes on to beseech Hashem to have mercy on us and to rule over all of His creations. We are surely all in need of Heavenly mercy at this time!
Leave the Disputes Outside the Cemeteries
The polarization in this country reached the point that Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech addressing the issue. In addition, Netanyahu released a joint letter written with Defense Minister Gallant and signed by Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz as well, in which the four of them called on the public to “leave the controversies outside the military cemeteries on Yom Hazikaron.” They added, “It is forbidden for us to desecrate the sanctity of Yom Hazikaron. This is a day when controversy must fall silent as we open ourselves to pain and remembrance. Respect for the victims and for the families united in bereavement must connect all of us to each other. At the graves of our loved ones, we are all brothers.
“Over the 75 years of the existence of the State of Israel,” the letter continues, “Yom Hazikaron has always been symbolic of unity and of love for the nation and the land. This is a day when we have always joined together with the fallen and embraced the bereaved families. This year must be no different. With their deaths, the deceased have given a mission to us, the living.”
Netanyahu spoke about the same issue in his speech, in which he called on elected officials from the right and left alike to set aside the controversy over the judicial reform and to focus on the theme of Yom Hazikaron. “In the coming days,” he said, “we will all turn our attention to the military sections of the cemeteries in this country. Every tombstone there tells the story of a life cut short in its prime. The unified silent mourning in these cemeteries cries out to us during these days. Our loved ones who fell, who paid with their lives for our survival, have made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and we must stand together for their sake, in unity, to be worthy of their sacrifice. On the eve of these sacred days, peaceful coexistence is the call of the hour. Over the past months, there has been a very important dispute over the nature of our democracy, but during these days, I ask all the elected officials to put aside that dispute. We all deserve to experience these days with the entire nation of Israel standing united behind our heroes, without any controversy. Let us hope that we will be worthy of the great sacrifices made by our loved ones and our heroes.”
As everyone knows, Binyomin Netanyahu has personally tasted bereavement. His brother Yoni was killed in July 1976 while storming an Air France plane in Uganda in a mission to rescue a large group of hostages.
Venom in the Israeli Media
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz committed an outrageous injustice last week when the cover page of its Friday supplement featured a list of what were presented as terrible decrees enacted by the government and the chareidim. Someone worked very hard on this document, but some of its elements were reminiscent of the worst anti-Semitic canards. “The authority of botei din will be expanded,” the newspaper warns ominously, “and they will be able to rule on civil matters based on the laws of the Torah. Every year in April, hospital patients will not be permitted to eat bread for an entire week. The chilonim will transfer billions of shekels in funding to chareidi yeshivos, and the chilonim will transfer billions of shekels to chareidi nursery schools. The chilonim will finance the Law of Jewish Identity and Integrity of the Family Unit. The chilonim will finance the establishment of a national network of rabbis who will answer questions from the public about halacha.”
Aside from the blatantly biased language and one-sided perspective, this reeks of hatred and prejudice. Just as the writers of Haaretz warn the chilonim that they will be financing chareidi causes, one could just as well make the counterclaim that chareidi taxpayers are being forced to provide funding for secular cultural events, including anti-religious programs that violate the principles that religious Jews hold dear. What makes it acceptable for public funds to be used for the things that chilonim value but not for those that are important to chareidim? But the secular Israeli media excels at promulgating malicious, venomous lies.
Consular Appointment in Jeopardy
The gaping chasm within Israeli society has affected Israeli foreign affairs as well. Last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his intention to begin weighing two new political appointments for the Foreign Ministry. The ruling party has the power to designate several ambassadors and consuls who are close to the governing powers, and Netanyahu announced that he was considering appointing MK Boaz Bismut as the Israeli ambassador to France (a position previously held by MK German of Yesh Atid, which was a political appointment made by former Foreign Minister Yair Lapid) and that his candidate for the position of Israeli consul in New York was May Golan (who would replace Assaf Zamir of Yesh Atid, another Lapid political appointment). His goal was for at least one of them to receive a position so that a seat in the Knesset would be vacated for the next individual on the Likud slate, who is Druse; the Likud has always had a Druse representative in the Knesset. Golan’s appointment was immediately opposed by the leading anti-government protestors, who trumpeted the fact that she did not serve in the army. This is an argument that has never been heard in Israeli political discourse before. In fact, even Yair Lapid didn’t serve in the army in any traditional sense; his only service was as a correspondent for the IDF magazine.
Even America has become involved in the controversy over Golan’s appointment. Vedant Patel, the deputy spokesman of the American Department of State, was asked how the State Department would react to Golan in light of certain controversial (i.e., strongly right-wing) statements that she has made in the past. Patel responded, “We condemn this rhetoric, and we believe that these comments are liable to be destructive when they come from a person in a position of power.”
To make a long story short, the discourse in Israel is becoming increasingly mean-spirited, tough, tense, and extreme. Which is why I anticipate a difficult situation if this continues in the Knesset’s coming summer session.
Tragedy on the Kinneret
I have many more things to report to you, but I am running out of space. Nevertheless, I will give you a brief overview of a few other important stories.
This week, two families of victims of the Meron tragedy of 2021 filed a lawsuit against the State of Israel. The Morris family of New Jersey, who suffered the loss of their 19-year-old son Doniel, and the Koltai family of Yerushalayim, who are originally from New Jersey and lost their 13-year-old son Elazar Yitzchok, joined together to file the suit. Elazar Koltai’s parents said in their statement to the press, “Elazar was a gift from Hashem. He had a pure heart and was filled with love for the Torah and his family. We miss him every day. Our goal in this lawsuit is to make sure that a collective tragedy for all of Klal Yisroel like this one will not take place due to negligence of the authorities again.” Doniel Morris’s parents added, “In the two years that have passed since Doniel was taken for us, there hasn’t been a single moment when we haven’t thought about him and missed him. Doniel set an example for all of us by making every moment of his life count, and his example continues to influence people all over the world.”
In another piece of sorrowful news, this bein hazemanim vacation ended with a terrible tragedy. On Shabbos, after an extensive search, the body of Reb Yisroel Kuessous, a yungerman who had been missing for four days, was located in the Kinneret. The missing man had been kayaking when he jumped into the water to swim and vanished. The 22-year-old yungerman, a resident of Elad, was a former talmid of Yeshivas Torah B’Tifartah, which is located in the same city. He is survived by his wife, who is due to give birth soon, and a baby girl about one year old. During the search, the police and rescue personnel employed every means at their disposal to find him, including advanced technologies, a police helicopter, and various boats. The search effort was joined by volunteers and IDF forces in addition to the police. The body was ultimately found using special equipment belonging to the army that is capable of searching the bottom of the sea. The niftar was buried on motzoei Shabbos.
A Ramming Attack in the Heart of Yerushalayim
On Monday afternoon, a few hours before thousands of Israeli families would be visiting the graves of their loved ones and reciting Tehillim in their memory on Yom Hazikaron, terror struck in the heart of Yerushalayim.
The terror attack occurred on Rechov Agripas, the street that runs parallel to Rechov Yaffo behind the Machaneh Yehuda market, at its intersection with Rechov Kol Yisrael Chaveirim, which leads from Agripas to Davidka Square. This is an area that is often packed with people. The Arab terrorist was an Israeli citizen and a resident of the Beit Tzafafa neighborhood of Yerushalayim, who plowed his car into a group of Jews crossing the street at a crosswalk. Eight people were injured, including a 70-year-old man who is currently in life-threatening condition. An investigation has revealed that the terrorist first struck one pedestrian crossing the street, then drove into another group of people, and then finally crashed into a fence. A civilian shot and killed the terrorist while he was still in the driver’s seat of his car.
Two seriously wounded victims were rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center while others, some of whom were suffering from hysteria, were taken to Hadassah Hospital. On Tuesday morning, Shaare Zedek released an update on the two patients: The 70-year-old man was sedated and intubated in the intensive care unit, while the other victim, a 30-year-old woman, remained hospitalized in moderate condition. Dr. Alon Schwartz, the director of the trauma unit in Shaare Zedek, informed the press that the male victim’s life is still in danger.
The news of a terror attack in the heart of the capital sparked outrage throughout Israel. The images from the scene were painful to behold. Not far from the intersection are the facilities of Beit Yad Labanim and Beit Hachayal, where the opening Yom Hazikaron event was about to get underway. Prime Minister Netanyahu received reports about the terror attack and discussed it in his speech at the event. “Just a few minutes ago,” he said, “not far from here, another attempt was made to murder Israeli citizens. This attack, in this place and at this time, reminds us that Eretz Yisroel and the State of Israel have been and still are acquired through great suffering.”
The response from Hamas was only to be expected; they welcomed the terror attack and added, “The Zionist occupation will continue paying the price for its crimes and its invasions of the Al Aqsa mosque, and will never enjoy security or stability.”
In addition, another terror attack took place on Tuesday —— on Yom Hazikaron — at 9:30 in the morning in the Binyamin region, where shots were fired from a passing vehicle at two joggers, one of whom wore the Israeli flag on his back. One jogger was wounded in his arm and rushed to the hospital. Security forces rushed to begin canvassing the area with the hope of catching the perpetrator before he could escape back to Palestinian territory.
No Insurance for Lag Ba’omer
With only ten days remaining until the hilula in Meron on Lag Ba’omer, it has been revealed that there is no insurance coverage for the visitors to Meron or for the workers preparing the area for the festivities. This astonishing fact was revealed at a meeting of the National Security Committee in the Knesset on Monday. The committee chairman, MK Tzvika Fogel, informed the government that he expected the issue to be resolved immediately. “This is a national event, and the government is obligated to find a solution,” he insisted. Yated Neeman has been informed that the workers and the visitors to Meron were insured in previous years by Lloyd’s of London.
Yosef Deutsch, the Meron project manager, informed the committee, “I have been working without insurance coverage for the past three months. This is the largest civilian event in Israel, and it is untenable for everyone to be renouncing responsibility for it. The State of Israel must take responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of participants in the hilula.”
Erez David, the attorney for the National Center for the Development of Holy Sites, confirmed to the committee that all the preparatory work in Meron is being performed without insurance coverage. The comptroller of the Ministry of Yerushalayim Affairs and Jewish Heritage informed them, “Until last night, we were negotiating with an American insurance company to cover the event; however, our insurance advisors have told us that the policy they are offering would not be sufficient.”
The committee was also told that according to the plan established for the Lag Ba’omer events in Meron, the number of visitors permitted in the area will be increased. According to the current estimates, about 52,000 people in total will be permitted to visit Meron, with each visitor permitted to remain there for five hours. Every hour, 8000 people will be granted access to the mountaintop. A new large area of 110 dunams has been prepared to provide added space for the hilula, including 50 dunams of new parking lots and another 60 dunams of space for public gatherings. The one traditional hadlokah, however, will take place on the rooftop of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai’s tomb. In addition, a separate area for public gatherings will be set aside at the Bnei Akiva site. Hundreds of ushers from the chareidi community will be stationed in Meron to maintain order and ensure that safety instructions are followed. In addition, emergency routes and access paths to the mountain have been prepared.
Kevin McCarthy to Address the Knesset
The Knesset House Committee, which is responsible for approving any unusual event to be held in the Knesset, gave its stamp of approval this week to Knesset speaker Amir Ochana’s request to invite the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Keven McCarthy, to address the Knesset. Every guest speaker, however distinguished he may be, must receive special permission to appear in the Knesset.
During McCarthy’s visit to Israel, he will address the Knesset on Monday, May 1, the first day of its summer session. He will be followed at the podium by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Rebbetzin David’s Last Seder
This year, the Seder night in the David home was a very unique experience, in part because it was the first time that the family has been in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach since the year 1968, if I am not mistaken. Of course, it was also due to Rebbetzin Bruria David’s medical condition. Before Yom Tov began, it seemed likely that her illness would cast a pall over the Seder. By then, the rebbetzin’s illness had sapped much of her vitality, and she was little more than a soul maintaining its last tenuous grasp on a severely weakened body. Nevertheless, the Seder defied everyone’s expectations. At the table sat the rov and rebbetzin, a few of the rov’s talmidim, and the entire Litov family: Shmuel, his wife (who works as a nurse), and their children.
One of the participants in the Seder shared the following account with me:
“We didn’t feel an iota of pressure at that Seder. There wasn’t even the slightest trace of sorrow. It was just like any other Yom Tov, with its unique and elevated atmosphere. The rebbetzin greeted us graciously when we arrived, inquiring about everyone’s well-being and showing respect to all of us. In our position as talmidim, it wasn’t up to us to create the atmosphere in any way, but she was the one who fostered a positive mood.
“The rov explained why the minhagim of the Seder are presented as simonim,” he continued. “He told us that these are simonim—omens—of the future. Every act that we do here, in this world, encompasses some portion of the future as well. We did not do heseibah at first, out of respect for our rebbi, but then he told us the Maharal’s chiddush that even though a talmid is permitted to recline in his rebbi’s presence, he is also permitted to forgo the heseibah and he is not required to perform it. We inferred from that comment that we were given permission to recline. The rov also explained that the reason we take the larger half of the matzoh for the afikomen is that it alludes to the future reward for the tzaddikim, regarding which the posuk states, ‘How great is the good that You have hidden for those who fear You.’
“Our rebbi, Rav Yonosan David, told us that the mah nishtanah should be recited by the youngest person present because he is likely to be most troubled by the questions. We asked him why a child deserves to be praised for asking questions that he is instructed to recite, and he told us that it does not detract from the significance of the questions. He spoke about the chiddush of Rabi Elazar ben Azariah’s presence at the seder of the Tannoim: Even though he personally held that the mitzvos of the Seder are in effect only until midnight, he remained with his colleagues until the morning. He also explained that the purpose of sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is to achieve the acceptance of Hashem’s Kingship that is represented by Krias Shema.
“Rav David pointed out that when the Haggadah lists the four sons, it introduces each of them with the word echod (one). The Haggadah could have stated instead that one is the chochom, the second is the rosha, the third is the tam, and the fourth is the son who does not know how to ask, but that is not how it is written. He explained that the wording is meant to stress the fact that each of the sons is unique in his own right and is therefore addressed individually. He also spoke about the rosha, commenting that when the Haggadah tells us to blunt his teeth, it indicates that there is a way for him to mend his ways and to reconnect to Klal Yisroel. In addition, he explained that the rosha is faulted for excluding himself from the people and denying the fundamentals of emunah because Yetzias Mitzrayim is at the core of Klal Yisroel’s emunah. Anyone who denies Yetzias Mitzrayim is denying the essence of Klal Yisroel’s faith, which means that he is both excluding himself from the nation and rejecting the basics of emunah.
“He also discussed the reason that we begin reciting Hallel and then interrupt it to eat matzah and have the seudah. He explained that the matzoh and the Shulchan Orech are meant to be considered part of Hallel. In addition, we divide Hallel into two sections, with the first part, at the conclusion of Maggid, referring to the events in Mitzrayim, while the second portion of Hallel deals with the future.”
This was only a portion of this talmid’s account of an extraordinary Seder night, at which Rebbetzin David sat at the table and appeared very much like a malach. She passed away a couple of days later.
“He Is My Rebbi!”
Over the years, I have made a number of attempts to convince Rav Yonosan David to allow me to interview him for one of the Yom Tov editions of Yated Ne’eman. To my chagrin, he has never agreed. I feel that I have a certain connection to the Pachad Yitzchok family on account of my mechutan, the late Rav Shmuel Dovid Wolman, who was very close to Rav Yitzchok Hutner for many years. Whenever I needed a piece of information about Rav Hutner that could not be supplied by one of his talmidim, I always knew that I could turn to Rav Wolman to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. At the same time, he did not have the audacity to tell stories about his rebbi; his awe and reverence for Rav Hutner were simply too great.
During Rav Shlomo Wolbe’s lifetime, I had many opportunities to put my personal car—and my services as a driver—at his disposal. There were a number of occasions when I drove Rav Wolbe to Rechov Shaulson in Har Nof, to the home of Rav Yonosan David. I always wanted to accompany Rav Wolbe to the door of Rav David’s home in order to ensure that he arrived safely—after all, he was getting on in years at the time—but he never permitted it. On one occasion, I brought him there during a torrential rainstorm and I insisted on opening the car door for him and escorting him into the building. Nevertheless, Rav Wolbe would not hear of it. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “I know exactly how many stairs lead up to the front door and how many steps it takes to get to his apartment.”
I once mustered up the courage to ask Rav Wolbe why his regular chavrusashaft was always held in Rav David’s home rather than in his own home in Givat Shaul. After all, I pointed out, Rav Wolbe was many years older than Rav David. Rav Wolbe was appalled by my question. “Chavrusa?” he exclaimed. “He is not my chavrusa!”
“Then what is he?” I asked.
“He is my rebbi!” he replied.