Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

My Take On The News


Viewers Stunned by Horrific Images

It has now been slightly more than a month since the Simchas Torah that changed the face of the State of Israel. Almost every passing day has seen the release of previously unseen videos of the horrors perpetrated by the Hamas terrorists, sending new waves of shock and outrage throughout the country. Those videos have been collected from the body cameras worn by the wicked terrorists or, l’havdil, from the cameras worn by soldiers and police officers. Many such cameras have been collected from dead bodies, both terrorists and Israelis, and the images retrieved from the devices are utterly horrifying. The images recorded by the terrorists themselves are especially shocking, revealing the sickening depths of their evil. These are things that any normal human heart is incapable of assimilating.

The video evidence of the atrocities is being collected by the IDF spokesman’s office and compiled to show the world that Israel is dealing with terrorists on the level of wild beasts. The IDF spokesman recently produced a 40-minute video presentation combining a large number of still images and videos from that dreadful day. Everyone who watched that presentation was shaken to the core. The video was screened two weeks ago for a large group of foreign journalists, who were shaken to the depths of their beings. While the video was playing, a number of the journalists broke down in tears.

The same video was later screened in the Knesset auditorium for the government ministers and members of the Knesset. No one else was permitted to enter the room during the screening, and the audience members were asked to deposit their cell phones outside and were forbidden to take pictures. Some of the ministers and MKs walked out after a few minutes, saying that it was impossible for them to continue watching. Some dissolved into tears. Everyone agreed that the video demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Hamas terrorists are nothing short of Nazi beasts.

Last Thursday, the video was screened at the IDF spokesman’s office in Tel Aviv for the Israeli press. I was invited to attend the screening, but I decided not to go. I have no interest in seeing it; I have already seen glimpses of the content here and there, and that is enough for me.

The IDF spokesman has chosen not to release this video to the Israeli public, since he does not want to create feelings of despondence or to traumatize the public.

Global Backing for Israel Continues as Anti-Semitism Mounts

There is very much to write about all these events, but I also do not want this column to focus exclusively on the war. Nevertheless, I must mention the pro-Palestinian protests in Europe. These demonstrations are not limited to a handful of agitators; on the contrary, they are attracting large crowds of people numbering in the tens of thousands. This is happening even in Germany, where it is prohibited by law to publicly support Hamas. The Israelis find this trend utterly incomprehensible.

In a similar vein, countries such as Turkey and Jordan have declared their support for Hamas (even if it is only indirect support). These countries recalled their ambassadors from Tel Aviv. And Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, condemned the air strike on an ambulance near Shifa Hospital in Gaza, decrying the sight of bodies strewn in the street and calling for a ceasefire. This was infuriating to Israel, since it has already been proven that the ambulance was actually carrying terrorists who wanted to take advantage of the understanding that the IDF does not fire on medical vehicles. This wasn’t the only case in which Guterres saw fit to vilify Israel unjustly; even though it is now clear that the missile that hit a hospital in Gaza was actually fired by the Arabs and landed in their own territory for unknown reasons, Guterres spoke out against Israel without taking the facts into consideration. Even more outrageous is the fact that although the Hamas terrorists fired on Israeli ambulances arriving to evacuate the wounded on the day of the massacre, not a single peep was heard from the UN in protest over their actions. Israel is clearly being held to an egregious double standard.

At the same time, Israel is still receiving the backing of world leaders, at least for now. (To be honest, though, I don’t particularly like using the word “leaders,” when we all know Who is really managing the world.) Many politicians and diplomats, especially those who saw the videos of the horrific massacre, are still speaking out in favor of Israel and insisting that it has the right to crush Hamas. Much of the world agrees that Hamas is exactly the same as ISIS and al-Qaeda, against whom the entire world has already declared war. Last week, three former heads of state spoke out in support of Israel as well: former president Trump of the United States, the former prime minister of England, and the former prime minister of Australia. The latter two, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, came to Israel to show support and solidarity for the country, and both men were shocked by what they learned. “It is important and critical for us to show support for Israel in the face of cruel, inhuman attacks against innocent people, and to emphasize that in the face of an atrocity on this scale, the government has no choice but to defend the people of Israel,” Johnson said.

The Speech from Lebanon

On Friday, the country tensely awaited the speech due to be delivered by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. The tension was due to the perceived likelihood that Nasrallah was about to open a second front in the north. Nasrallah has a close connection to Iran, which has been fanning the flames of hostility and doing everything in its power to force the situation here to explode into a world war. There is a big picture here, and everything is interconnected; Iran and Yemen are both opposed to America, but it seems that Israel is paying the price. For two full days, Nasrallah’s expected speech was a topic of conversation everywhere, and everyone was anxious to hear if he would call for hostilities and urge his people to try to invade Israel from the north.

Meanwhile, the IDF was on high alert. The army has been deployed along the northern border for two weeks already, and additional forces were brought to the area in advance of Nasrallah’s speech. With rockets and anti-tank missiles having been fired from Lebanon since the beginning of the war, the IDF conveyed a clear message to Hezbollah by having its troops mass in the area. The IDF spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, announced that the army is maintaining a state of high alert in the north. He also said, “Iran is continuing to engage in subversive, negative activities and is trying to distract us from the war in Gaza. We will continue focusing on dismantling Hamas, and we will know how to respond in any arena and to any threat if the need arises for us.” Earlier in the day, terrorists in Lebanon had fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF position near the settlement of Matat in the Upper Galilee; it resulted in no injuries, and IDF forces responded with artillery fire aimed at the missile’s point of origin. In addition to that, IDF troops have eliminated Hezbollah terror cells and have damaged the organization’s terror infrastructure. An IDF tank attacked a group of terrorists who attempted to fire a missile from Lebanon into Israel in the area of Har Dov.

Most of the media stations in Israel decided not to broadcast the speech, to avoid giving Nasrallah a platform to address the citizens of Israel directly. In the end, the speech turned out to be flimsy and colorless. Nasrallah was very cautious. Hezbollah had announced in advance that he would speak in front of a crowd of thousands, but he ended up speaking from an underground bunker. He referred to the Hamas murderers who were killed as “holy martyrs.” He thanked Yemen and Iraq for joining the battle, and while he did not declare war against Israel, he threatened that he might do so at any moment, warning that “all options are open.” Addressing the United States, he added, “We are not afraid of your ships and planes.” He demanded a halt to the American attack on Gaza, and he mocked Israel: “The attack caused a security, military, political, and psychological earthquake in Israel.” But what Israel feared most—that he would openly declare war in the north—did not happen, boruch Hashem. On the other hand, we certainly cannot be complacent. We have already seen what can happen when the country isn’t prepared for a war and believes that the enemy has already been deterred.

Citizens Flee from the North

As I wrote last week, the residents of the north have already been leaving the cities near the border. In the south, the Home Front Command gave an order for the residents to leave their homes, and the evacuation has been proceeding in a fashion that is more or less orderly. Thousands of families have been relocated to hotels (or, in some cases, to simcha halls in Bnei Brak). In the north, on the other hand, the evacuation is taking the form of a private initiative at this moment, rather than a government order. The citizens have simply discovered that they are in danger and have decided to flee. Two weeks ago, I was told by an askan from Nahariya that over 35 percent of the residents of the city left.

80 percent of the residents of Kiryat Shemonah have left the city. There are now 3000 civilians remaining in the city, out of its original populace of 24,000. The evacuation became a government initiative, and most of the citizens who left the city have been placed in dozens of hotels, including some upscale hotels in Tel Aviv, on the direction of the Home Front Command and government ministries. Unfortunately, this isn’t working very well. One woman told me that she was told to go to the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv, but the staff informed her when she arrived that there was no room available for her.

There is also a psychological hardship involved: It is not a simple matter for the State of Israel to call for the evacuation of Kiryat Shemonah. This city is a symbol of sorts, and that is why the residents of the city were the last to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, recent events have supported the residents’ decision to flee. On Thursday, a building in Kiryat Shemonah sustained a direct hit from a rocket, which caused a fire. Four firefighting teams arrived on the scene and worked to bring the fire under control while searching the building for occupants who were trapped. A 25-year-old man was lightly wounded in the abdomen by shrapnel, and a man in his forties was lightly wounded by the impact. Both victims were evacuated to Ziv Hospital for medical treatment. Dozens of rockets were fired toward northern Israel last week. In another case, a rocket landed at the entrance to a shawarma store in Kiryat Shemonah while the store was packed with customers. Footage from the security cameras show the customers racing toward a sheltered area when the alarm sounds. At the last possible moment, a father can be seen running into the store with his children, narrowly escaping a direct hit on his car. Such is the experience of living in a country at war.

Yeshiva Bochurim Return

There are a number of yeshivos in the south that have relocated due to the war. The Tifrach yeshiva, for instance, has hundreds of talmidim. These bochurim spent Simchas Torah in the yeshiva and later marveled at the miraculous fact that the terrorists passed the community and did not enter it at all. Yeshivas Sechar Sachir in Netivot, which was founded by Rav Yissachar Meir, has moved into the building of Rav Tzvi Kushelevsky’s yeshiva in Har Nof, Yerushalayim. Yeshivas Ofakim, with several dozen talmidim, has moved into a building in Kiryat Sefer. Yeshivas Ner Zoreach in Otzem moved out of its location temporarily but has since returned. The logistical considerations involved in all these relocations are extremely complex.

The war has also affected American bochurim in yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel. After Simchas Torah, a number of yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel, especially the Mir yeshiva, opened satellite branches in Europe and America. However, the yeshivos decided to close those extensions and to advise the bochurim to return to Eretz Yisroel, especially those who are learning in Yerushalayim (such as the talmidim of Mir and Brisk). And we are glad to see them return.

Pay for Slay Continues

I would like to mention two other subjects that are connected to the war but also important in their own right. The first issue is the question of the funds that Israel is compelled to transfer to the Palestinian Authority due to certain binding agreements. One of the terrorists killed by the IDF was found to be carrying a salary stub from the PA for wages that he received for a terror attack carried out in the past. This brought up a longstanding issue: Why is Israel continuing to transfer funds to the PA? After all, even if the Palestinian government is technically entitled to those funds, the money is being used to pay people for killing Jews!

Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich announced that he will refuse to sign on the next transfer, but the cabinet later forced him to approve it. Still, Smotrich isn’t the only person outraged by Israel funding the Palestinians. I have written in the past about Sander Gerber, a Jewish man who has been combating this phenomenon from every possible angle. Gerber has already pushed two laws through the Israeli Knesset in an effort to put an end to the pay-for-slay payments. Every new tragedy that occurs in Israel drives home the fact that he is absolutely right.

Speaking of government funding, there are mounting calls for the government to suspend its budgetary allocations for chareidim, despite the fact that the funds were promised to them. As a result of this, the teachers in the Chinuch Atzmai and Shas school systems (and possibly Shuvu as well) are not receiving their paychecks at this time. This is a deplorable injustice: On the pretext of withholding funds from “the chareidim,” the government is actually depriving salaried employees of their rightfully earned wages. This isn’t a matter of canceling a government handout; it is an act of depriving Israeli citizens of their true entitlements. But for some reason, the government relates to every payment to chareidim as if it were an act of charity and a favor. Rav Shach was absolutely right.

It is also important to make note of the shooting attack in the Shomron that took the life of Elchonon Klein, a 30-year-old resident of Einav, last Thursday. Klein was shot while driving home from performing his reserve service. He is survived by his parents, Yael and Yehuda, his wife, Hila, and his three children. The terrorists who killed him cut off his car near Beit Lid and then fired in his direction; Klein lost control of his vehicle, which overturned and fell into a ditch on the side of the road. A team of MDA paramedics who were called to the scene of the accident pronounced his death.

Many people in Israel were already familiar with Elchonon Klein’s name from a previous incident. A year and a half ago, while he was driving in the vicinity of Beit El, Klein spotted a terrorist throwing a concrete block at an Israeli car. After stopping the car, the terrorist tried to open its doors and attack its occupants, but Klein stopped his vehicle and managed to kill the terrorist, thus preventing a more serious attack. He received a certificate of recognition at the time from Brigadier General Avi Bluth, commander of the Yehuda-Shomron division of the army. Tragically, the onetime hero has now lost his own life to a bloodthirsty terrorist. May Hashem avenge his blood.

Amichai Eliyahu Sets Off a Storm

Every week, it seems that it is someone else’s turn to ignite a furor that rocks the entire country. This week, the impetus for the uproar was provided by Minister of Heritage Amichai Eliyahu, the son of Rav Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzefas. Rav Shmuel is the son of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, the former chief rabbi and Rishon Letzion. During an interview on Radio Kol Chai, Minister Eliyahu was asked if it is necessary to drop an atom bomb on Gaza. He replied, “That is one option.”

“What about the hostages?” the interviewer asked. “An explosion like that would kill the Israeli hostages as well.”

“We daven and hope for peace, but war has its costs,” Eliyahu replied.

This exchange ignited a major uproar, and Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he is suspending Amichai Eliyahu from cabinet meetings until further notice. The prime minister distanced himself from Eliyahu’s comment, declaring that “Minister Amichai Eliyahu’s words are utterly detached from reality. Israel and the IDF operate according to the highest standards of international law to prevent harm to the innocent. We will continue doing that until we emerge victorious.”

Of course, this served as fuel for the opposition’s rhetoric. Yair Lapid called on the prime minister to dismiss Amichai Eliyahu from his position altogether. “This was a horrific and deranged statement of an irresponsible minister,” he declared. “He has offended the families of the hostages, he has harmed Israeli society, and he has harmed our international standing. The presence of extremists in the government endangers us and jeopardizes the goals of this war: defeating Hamas and rescuing the hostages. Netanyahu must fire him this very morning.” Other calls were heard for Eliyahu to be dismissed; however, there were those who pointed out that the United States used atomic weapons in its own wars.

In response to the wave of outrage, Amichai Eliyahu said, “It is clear to every intelligent person that the talk of an atom bomb was metaphorical. However, we certainly need a powerful response to terror, not one that is proportional. It must be made clear to the Nazi terrorists and their supporters that terrorism does not pay. That is the only approach with which democratic countries combat terror. At the same time, it is clear that the State of Israel is required to do everything in its power to recover the hostages and keep them healthy and safe.”

The Breaches in the Fence

At this point, a fierce debate has been raging over whether the political echelon in this country was warned about the attacks in advance. These accusations are part of a much larger campaign to destroy Prime Minister Netanyahu. It seems likely that the IDF was aware of something taking place, as they were warned that Hamas was conducting exercises, and one can assume that the intelligence services saw some red flags as well. The problem, of course, is Netanyahu. His critics might indeed be correct, and Netanyahu might have overlooked some glaring warnings. But then again, the general procedure has been to turn a blind eye to the government’s failures to fulfill its duties, as the state comptroller’s regular reports clearly indicate.

By way of example, let us examine the state comptroller’s report in the year 2023. His report on the defense establishment begins with three items: the relocation of IDF camps, the effectiveness of the barrier along the Seam Line, and the army’s handling of a plan for surveillance satellites. The report goes on to criticize the IDF and defense establishment on several other topics, but we do not need to look further than these three items. The first topic isn’t very interesting to us, although the comptroller found some deficiencies in the army’s actions. The third issue is one that I do not know much about, although the comptroller identified some problems in that regard as well. But the second issue, which has to do with the barrier erected to keep Arab terrorists out of Israel, is deeply alarming. The comptroller’s report paints a picture of a complete lack of oversight and atrocious mismanagement of a critical area of the country’s defense.

“By the end of 2021, Israel had spent 8.3 billion shekels on building the seam zone, with 161 million shekels spent on its upkeep in the year 2021,” the comptroller reveals. “In April 2022, the security cabinet allocated 360 million shekels for the establishment of a 40-kilometer wall that would replace the fence at the seam line…. As of the end of 2021, 48 percent of the barrier wasn’t properly constructed. Out of the 554 kilometers that form the length of the seam line, there is a wall spanning 124 kilometers, a fence along 364 kilometers, and 66 kilometers with no barrier at all.” I imagine that the absurd mismanagement of the endeavor speaks for itself.

In fact, the sloppy handling of the seam line costs lives. The state comptroller reveals that 11 people were murdered between the months of March and May in 2022 in three separate terror attacks carried out by terrorists who infiltrated Israel through gaps in the barrier. And I must quote another two appalling revelations in his report: “In 2017, the IDF decided, through the Central Command, to stop repairing the breaches in the barrier…. Over the years, the army presence in Yehuda and Shomron has also been reduced. By March 2022, it had been diminished by about 70 percent.”

Considering this record of negligence, it is distinctly possible that there were warnings in the south that simply escaped the army’s attention.

To Fear and to Be Strong

Even in the midst of all this darkness, the workings of Divine hashgocha have been evident. One need only take a careful look at the events to find it.

As we reflect on the overt miracles that saved many people from death, as well as the terrible tragedies that had a particularly noticeable impact on the left-wing peace activists, I would like to comment a statement made by the Sanzer Rebbe: “We must ponder the fact that even during these days, in the midst of this terrible darkness and disaster, we have seen demonstrations of Hashem’s unmistakable control of the world. All of this came from Hashem: When there was a decree in Shomayim for someone to die, the accursed terrorists were able to murder him, Rachmana litzlan, and he was removed from the world, but for anyone who wasn’t subject to such a decree, it was clear that the evil ones were stricken with blindness and were unable to harm him, and he remained alive during that torturous nightmare. We have seen with our eyes that even though it seemed to mortal beings that these places were protected and fortified with walls, fences, and various other implements, all of those things were completely meaningless when a decree was made in Shomayim.”

Another comment came from Rav Yisroel Peretz, a gifted mechaneich and darshan who has been speaking publicly about fundamental principles of emunah ever since the massacre. He quoted the Baal HaTurim’s comment on the posuk in which Hagar is instructed to name her son Yishmoel. The word “v’karas,” which denotes calling him by a particular name, is identified by the Baal HaTurim as appearing in three other pesukim in Tanach, with a different meaning in each place. In Sefer Devorim, the Torah warns us, “V’karas eschem haraah—The evil will before you.” In Sefer Yeshayahu, the novi states in one posuk, “V’karas es shemo Imanueel—She shall call his name Imanuel [literally, G-d is with us].” Elsewhere, the novi states, “V’karas yeshuah chomosayich—You shall call salvation your walls.” Rav Yisroel remarked that there is a profound message in the connection between these three pesukim: “When we speak in the language of Yishmoel, then evil befalls us: We are blinded to the dangers surrounding us, and no ‘iron swords’ or even aircraft carriers can help us. But when we speak the language of ‘imanu Kel,’ remembering that we rely on Hashem, then we will indeed be saved.”

On Shabbos Rav Yisroel made an incredible statement: “When Hashem hides Himself, that is also a revelation. In fact, it might be the greatest revelation.”

Let me conclude with one more thought from Rav Yisroel Peretz: “The purpose of emunah isn’t to keep us calm. Its purpose is to cause us to undergo internal processes that will bring us closer to Hashem, that will lead us to recognize Him, and that will foster a true bond with Him. Let us daven that we will be able to deal with this situation properly, to feel the pain and fear properly, to fall apart properly, and then to strengthen ourselves and regain our calm properly. Let us daven that we will have proper emunah and will engage in proper teshuvah. It is better for us to reach this state of submission through tefillah, not through having it forced on us as it was on the morning of Simchas Torah.”

Russian Hypocrisy

How often does the Israeli radio report that heavy damage was caused by a missile, but there were no injuries? We often don’t even realize this, but it happens quite frequently. We also frequently hear reports such as this one: “The Iron Dome intercepted two missiles, and a third fell in an open area.” We barely pay attention to these reports; these things aren’t viewed as especially newsworthy, since there were no injuries. Boruch Hashem, we tell ourselves as we go about our routines, there was only some damage to property, and no one was harmed.

But the truth is that we are constantly surrounded by miracles. We are used to living with miracles happening all the time, to the point that we don’t even realize it! When the newscaster on the radio speaks about “heavy damage,” it means that an entire floor, or perhaps half a building, or possibly an entire business sustained a direct hit from a missile and was partially destroyed or worse. If you think about that type of situation, you will realize that it is an event that could easily have led to the deaths of many civilians. The people who lived in the apartments that were struck, or the customers in the store that sustained a hit, could have been killed by the missiles. And when a rocket falls in an open area or in the sea, we must remember that it had the potential to cause tremendous damage by landing in a densely populated area. Just look at the number of casualties and fatalities that result from a single air strike in Gaza! We must give tremendous thanks to Hashem for the miracles that are constantly with us.

But let me add one more comment on this subject. Sometimes, I have the distinct impression that the human capacity for hypocrisy knows no bounds. Vladimir Putin, the Russian premier who launched a war against Ukraine and has been slaughtering its citizens mercilessly and indiscriminately, released a very interesting statement this week in response to the IDF’s air strikes on Gaza. “In the Middle East,” he wrote, “instead of punishing terrorists, they have begun taking revenge under the principle of collective responsibility. When you look at the children dying bloody deaths, at the suffering of the elderly, and at the deaths of doctors, your fists clench but you know that your feelings are not accepted by others. Nothing can justify the bombing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza.”

Putin seems to have a sense of humor. The problem is that this joke is being made at our expense.

The Future Tense

Here in Israel, we changed the clocks a week ago, but I know that you ended Daylight Savings Time last Motzoei Shabbos and that leads me to make the following observation. As soon as the clock change was made here, some concerned individuals began working hard to remind the public to take extra care to be on time for Shabbos, which begins very early during the winter months. I must give full credit to the people who take on the responsibility of alerting others to such things. Sometimes they even take out advertisements in the newspapers at their own expense for this purpose. They are a credit to Klal Yisroel.

Speaking of Shabbos, I am amazed to see how some people are able to carry on during these times as if nothing is out of the ordinary. I am not even referring to the people who are continuing to hound Prime Minister Netanyahu. They have seen that Israelis have been slaughtered by the murderers regardless of their political affiliations, and that Jews are being persecuted simply for being Jewish; it is sheer insanity for them to continue openly opposing the prime minister at a time like this. But I am actually referring to the petition submitted to the Supreme Court in a bid to force El Al to fly on Shabbos. Yes, the Supreme Court heard that petition last week and ultimately rejected it, albeit for tangential reasons that had nothing to do with the honor of Shabbos. Personally, I was astounded by the petitioners. Can’t they see that Hashem is prodding all of us to change our ways? Is this really the time for a battle against Shabbos?

Finally, here is one more relevant idea: I believe I have told you in the best about Reb Nissim Chajaj, perhaps better known as Nissim the barber, who regales his customers with Gemaros, maamarei Chazal, and midrashim while trimming their hair. It is worth it to go to him for a haircut solely for the purpose of hearing his stories. The last time I was there, Nissim was joined in his barbershop by his good friend Chaim Messika, who turned out to be a master of midrashim as well. “Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer states that there were six people who were given their names before they were born,” he told me. “Those people were Yitzchok, Yishmoel, Moshe, Shlomo, Yoshiyahu, and Moshiach; may Hashem bring him speedily in our days. You will find this in perek 32, on the right side,” he added. “In the Torah, the malach tells Hagar that Yishmoel was given his name ‘because Hashem heard your affliction.’ But if that is the reason, then why wasn’t he named Shmael, indicating that Hashem heard something in the past, rather than Yishmoel, which is in the future tense? The Midrash tells us the answer,” he concluded. “Chazal explain that he was named Yishmoel because Hashem will hear the cries of the Jewish people in the future, in response to the atrocities that Yishmael will commit against them. Do you hear?” he added with great emotion. “Yishmoel’s name was given to him because of his descendants’ future heinous crimes!”

Rav Nosson Tzvi’s Keen Eye

Let me conclude the column with a story that came to my attention very recently, on the yahrtzeit of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel. A yungerman came to Rav Nosson Tzvi’s home to be tested for admission to the yeshiva. The rosh yeshiva greeted him graciously and offered him some refreshments before beginning the interview. That yungerman successfully passed his test and was accepted to the yeshiva. A few months later, he returned to the rosh yeshiva to ask a question, but before Rav Nosson Tzvi listened to him, he began inquiring about the young man’s financial situation. The yungerman was flustered but admitted that he was suffering from severe financial difficulties. I won’t reveal here how the rosh yeshiva reacted; you are certainly aware of the voluminous chessed that he performed for the talmidim in the yeshiva. The most striking aspect of this story is different: After the yungerman left, someone marveled at the rosh yeshiva’s unerring grasp of his situation. “Did the rosh yeshiva have some ruach hakodesh that told him that this young man fell on hard times?” a talmid asked.

Rav Nosson Tzvi laughed at that question. “When he came to be tested for admission to the yeshiva, I noticed a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in his pocket,” he explained. “Today, I saw that the same pocket contained a pack of Time cigarettes, an inferior brand. I deduced that he could no longer afford to keep up with his original habit. That is all.”



The Root Cause

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