Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

My Take on the News

 

Hard Times for Israel

These are hard times. In fact, these are very hard times. When I returned from Maariv on motzoei Shabbos, I was pained to find out about the large number of soldiers who were killed in Gaza on Friday and Shabbos. It is excruciating. In the Knesset, we receive daily updates on the names of soldiers who have been killed and the locations of their funerals, and the Knesset members are asked to report if they will be attending any of the funerals. This Sunday, the list of murdered soldiers was very long; twelve members of the IDF had lost their lives. The government procedure is for at least one member of the Knesset or minister in the government to attend every levayah on behalf of the government.

Meanwhile, we were informed that yet another Israeli hostage was murdered in captivity. This victim was Gadi Chagai, a 70-year-old man who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with his wife, who is still being held by Hamas. Of course, this news added to the general mood of despondence throughout the country.

Another bit of sobering news, although it isn’t official, is that the IDF is suffering from a shortage of ammunition. According to people in the know, that is the reason that the fighting in Gaza has lessened in recent days. Some believe that the low supply of ammunition is because America has chosen to take a tight-fisted stance. If that is true, then we would be witnessing a repetition of the events of 1973. In any event, there is one thing that no one denies: At the same time that America has been giving its full backing to Israel, it has also been pressuring Netanyahu and the cabinet to moderate the fighting in Gaza and even perhaps to announce a ceasefire. There is obviously a reason that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense rushed to visit Israel in recent days.

It has also been reported that the army chief of staff has been avoiding cabinet meetings. At the regular cabinet meeting this Sunday, some of the ministers criticized him fiercely. The political left is also continuing its relentless battle against Netanyahu. In short, there discord and rancor are permeating the political establishment everywhere we turn. It is no wonder that President Herzog spoke out on Sunday night, calling on the country to put a halt to the incessant infighting. Herzog insisted that the worst thing that could happen now is for the enemy to see internal divisions within the people of Israel. And he is absolutely right.

During these painful and trying times, all we can do is daven and hope for Hashem’s salvation.

America, the War, and More

I must touch on a number of important topics. First, the conflict between Biden and Netanyahu deserves some mention in this column. I should also mention the fierce debate over whether Israel should pursue a deal with Hamas to secure the release of the remaining hostages. That is the topic of greatest interest to every person in Israel today, but while this particular issue is being hotly debated, the vast majority of the Israeli public believes that there is no justification for stopping the war. The consensus is that Hamas must be eliminated, and as for the hostages, we can only hope that the increased fighting will help them rather than harming them. Hamas senses every show of weakness on Israel’s part, and it exploits those weaknesses to raise the cost of releasing the hostages. It is sad, but that is the reality. Perhaps, then, it is in the hostages’ best interests for Israel to feign disinterest in a prisoner exchange.

Another topic that bears mentioning is the plight of the evacuees from the south. I have written several times in the past that the Israeli government seems to have failed to properly provide for the families who were evacuated from their homes. I focused primarily on the chareidi evacuees, but this applies to all of them. Last week, this failure was officially acknowledged when state comptroller Mattisyohu Engelman asserted in a report, “The failure to implement a plan for economic aid at the beginning of the operation, at the same time that the residents were evacuated from their homes, created a situation in which hundreds of thousands of citizens became a population in need. The government of Israel has failed in its handling of the home front.”

There are other topics that have nothing to do with America or Hamas that also deserve mention. For instance, there is this past week’s rainfall. If you are wondering what makes the weather newsworthy, the answer is that the State of Israel is always taken by surprise when the winter weather begins, which leads to many problems that arise when the rain begins to fall. The country lacks proper drainage for the rainwater, streets become flooded, and traffic lights malfunction, all because it has begun to rain.

If I had more space, I would write about the tefillah in the Gra shul in Bayit Vegan on Zos Chanukah. This was one of the most incredible events that I have attended in recent years. The participants engaged in two hours of uninterrupted learning while maintaining a taanis dibbur, followed by half an hour of Tehillim (following an order formulated by the late Rav Yaakov Edelstein) and then a tefillah for the well-being of the hostages and the soldiers of the IDF. It was deeply moving.

The Medias Chareidi Obsession

The media’s obsession with the chareidi community is becoming utterly repugnant. The IDF is bleeding on the front lines, the nation is suffering from anxiety, and people are consumed with worry for the hostages and the soldiers who are fighting the enemy. To make matters worse, the state comptroller has validated the accusations that the government is failing to tend to the needs of the evacuees. These are very painful days for Israel, but a handful of provocateurs in the media can find nothing better to do than to continue to rail against the “coalition funds,” as if that were the greatest problem facing the State of Israel today. Enough already!

This Sunday, while the rest of the country was watching the mounting death toll in Gaza with deep concern, The Marker ran a front-page story with the headline, “Netanyahu and Smotrich want to have it both ways, but you can’t spend money without raising taxes.” What do they mean by “having it both ways”? The following excerpt should make that clear: “The government intends to spend money on security, on the evacuees, on rehabilitating the communities that were destroyed, and on the chareidim and settlers as well, with a price tag of tens of billions of shekels, all without increasing the state’s revenues. They will soon discover that this is impossible.”

The writer is clearly complaining about the situation, but it is unclear what he expects. Is he bothered by the government’s intention to spend money on security, on the evacuees, or on rehabilitating the communities? Or is it the fact that the government intends to allocate funding to the chareidim and the settlers? Or is the problem that it is impossible to pay for all these things without raising taxes? Why can’t he simply leave the chareidim alone?

I must point out that the funding for the chareidi and national religious sectors would never have attracted any attention, nor would it have entered the headlines at all, if it hadn’t been left outside the framework of the regular budget. As long as the funding for the religious community’s needs remains classified as coalition funds, despite the fact that this is the same funding received by every Israeli citizen, the chareidim will continue being vilified simply for receiving their due. The only difference between a chareidi and an ordinary citizen is that the latter’s needs are covered by the state budget, whereas the very same needs must be covered by coalition funds for the former. And it is about time for that to change.

A Few Thoughts About the Hostages

Allow me to share a few of my pained musings about the hostages, both those who are still being held in Gaza and those who were killed inadvertently by Israeli soldiers.

The Islamic Jihad terror group recently released a video in which two Israeli hostages can be seen speaking. Of course, the hostages were filmed insisting that Netanyahu must stop the fighting in Gaza to secure their release and the freedom of the other Israeli prisoners as well. Analysts believe that this video is a sign that Hamas is desperate, but there is no way to be certain if that interpretation is correct.

In any event, here are my thoughts. First, I never cease to be amazed by the divisive rhetoric emanating from the anti-Bibi camp. The leftists of Tel Aviv are continually calling on the government to have the army lay down its weapons and retreat from Gaza, and to release all the terrorists being held in Israeli prisons—in short, to do whatever it takes to secure the freedom of the hostages in Gaza. The right wing, meanwhile, takes the opposite position: that Israel must continue fighting Hamas until the terror group has been completely destroyed, that Gaza must not be allowed to receive fuel, water, or any other aid, and that it was the relentless bombardment from the IDF that prompted the previous round of hostage releases. Personally, I am haunted by a deeply troubling thought: If the second group is correct, then the first group is clearly endangering the lives of the hostages with its rhetoric. That should make anyone think twice before airing such views.

On another topic, when I think about the three hostages who were mistakenly killed by the IDF, I find myself pondering the massive wave of rejoicing that would have taken place if they had been brought home alive. Half the country would have begun dancing in the streets to celebrate their freedom after their interminable ordeal. In truth, we have no way of knowing what they experienced during their long weeks of captivity, and how they ended up roaming free in the area where they met their deaths. Did their captors simply abandon them while fleeing from the IDF to save their own lives? If so, why didn’t the terrorists kill the three hostages? Or did the hostages manage to escape on their own? After their deaths, a handwritten sign was discovered that bore the words, “Three hostages are here. Help!” It has also been reported that the soldiers were ordered by their commander to refrain from shooting the threesome, but there was a mishap and the soldiers failed to follow that order. The three hostages came out into the street when they heard the Israeli soldiers approaching, which was clearly the moment for which they had yearned for so long, but then they were killed. The tragedy is simply unfathomable. There was clearly a gezeirah in Shomayim for them to be killed, and it was clearly decreed that the people of Israel would not be able to celebrate their liberation. Instead, the country was plunged into overwhelming grief.

Meanwhile, some new details have come to light which illustrates that when a decree is made in Shomayim, it is utterly inescapable. We now know that the IDF was aware that there were hostages who had managed to escape their captors and who were alive and in the area. For some reason, though, that information was not relayed to the soldiers in the field. That was a very severe lapse. In addition, a dog from the IDF’s Oketz unit had entered the building where the hostages had taken refuge. The hostages were familiar with these dogs and were aware that they were equipped with cameras, and they shouted to the camera (in Hebrew, of course) that they were Israeli soldiers and were in the building. Nevertheless, the footage was discovered only after their deaths.

Video Terror

The video released by Islamic Jihad, which I mentioned above, features 79-year-old Gadi Moses and 47-year-old Elad Katzir, both from Kibbutz Nir Oz. Gadi Moses is the husband of Efrat Katz, who was murdered on October 7, and Elad Katzir is the son of Chana Katzir, one of the hostages released last month. Elad’s father, Rami, was murdered on October 7 as well. In the video, Gadi Moses appears exhausted, and his hands are not visible. Either he was keeping his hands behind him, or they were bound by his captors! Yair Moses, Gadi’s son, remarked after the video’s release, “On the one hand, we are happy to have seen the first sign of life from my father. On the other hand, he looked very gaunt and tired, which is very worrying and highlights the need for a deal that will see him released as quickly as possible.”

Yair Moses continued, “Based on what we have heard from the hostages who were freed and what we have seen over the past two days, it is clear that the captives in Gaza are being held under very harsh conditions, which is especially difficult for the elderly among them. And that is only as far as their physical condition is concerned; we still do not know what they are experiencing mentally. So we are certainly very worried. My father also requires medications, and we have no idea what he is receiving and what is being withheld from him.

“My father always had a broad smile and tremendous vitality,” he added. “Yet in this video, he appears to be exhausted and struggling. This is far beyond ordinary fatigue. His words are not his own; you can see that he is being instructed about what to say. We can only hope that this will end as quickly as possible.”

The video was released on the day after Hamas aired another video showing three more hostages, also from Kibbutz Nir Oz—Yoram Metzger, Chaim Peri, and Amiram Cooper—with the song “Al Tashlicheini L’Eis Ziknah” playing in the background. Chaim Peri is a 79-year-old father of five, and Cooper is an 85-year-old father of three and the husband of Nurit Cooper, who was released from Hamas captivity on October 23. Metzger, who is 80 years old, is a father of three and is the husband of Tamar, who was released by Hamas on November 28.

In another development related to the hostages, Prime Minister Netanyahu met last week with several of the families, amid mounting expectations that the government would begin working on a new deal for the release of additional captives. According to Palestinian and Arab sources, a Hamas delegation will be traveling to Cairo in the coming days to discuss the matter with senior Egyptian intelligence officials. These sources claim that Egypt has been exerting pressure on Hamas to accept a deal similar to the previous arrangement: the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Nevertheless, Hamas has been insisting on making any release of Israeli hostages contingent on a permanent ceasefire. Netanyahu is unwilling to accept that stipulation, and he is not alone in that respect. The IDF brass, the soldiers in Gaza, and even the families of soldiers who have been killed are unwilling to see the fighting come to a halt. Last week, Netanyahu visited the wounded soldiers who are being treated in Sheba Medical Center, and they insisted to him that Israel must not surrender to Hamas.

Two Fathers at Odds

When the media reported on the accidental killing of the three hostages in Gaza, the entire country was deeply traumatized. Klal Yisroel has suffered from internal divisions throughout its history, but when it comes to human life, and certainly the lives of our fellow Jews in captivity, all Jews share the same deep feelings of concern. Unfortunately, the families of the hostages are divided on the question of how best to go about securing their freedom, and one of the two groups is much more vocal and is waging a determined fight against the government.

The members of this forum certainly have the right to their own opinion; however, they do seem to be crossing a number of red lines, and it is very likely that they are mistaken on a practical level as well. Israel’s senior defense officials disagree with their position; they maintain that giving in to Hamas’s demands will not accelerate the release of the hostages in any way. On the contrary, they insist that the only way to hasten the hostages’ release is to ramp up the pressure on Hamas! Military officials believe that it was only the pressure from the IDF offensive that resulted in the releases of other hostages. Again, the parent of a hostage certainly has the right to disagree with this assessment (although he may cause harm to others by agitating for his position to be accepted), but it is also important to weigh the potential harm. It is very possible that the broad and highly publicized struggle on behalf of Gilad Shalit caused significant damage. It took a very long time for Shalit to be brought home (five and a half years), and the cost of his freedom—the release of 1,027 security prisoners—was unbearable.

An incident that occurred this week moved many people in this country to tears. This was a fierce argument between two fathers. One of those fathers was Alon Nimrodi, the father of Tamir Nimrodi, who is currently being held hostage in Gaza. Alon Nimrodi has only one interest at this time: securing his son’s freedom, along with the release of all the other Jews who are suffering in Hamas captivity. But, again, the crucial question is how to go about doing that. Should Israel reveal all of its cards immediately? Will the hostages come home sooner if the government enters into negotiations with Hamas, or will it actually be more effective to ignore them and continue bombarding the terrorists in Gaza? These are questions that are not to be taken lightly, and that have nothing to do with the desire to see the hostages freed. Even those who disagree with the hostages’ forum, with its firmly entrenched Tel Aviv ideologies and animosity toward Netanyahu, are driven by a passionate desire to see the captives freed. They argue with the forum’s methods, not with its goals. Moreover, they believe that the Tel Aviv approach will not only fail to secure the hostages’ freedom but will actually delay their release and endanger their lives. Of course, the members of the hostages’ forum strongly believe the opposite, but one must keep in mind that there are parents on both sides who are living with torturous fear over the fate of their loved ones.

That is why the bitter argument between Alon Nimrodi and Tzvika Mor—the father of Eitan Mor, another hostage in Gaza—elicited tears in everyone who witnessed it. In this conversation, which was broadcast in the media, Tzvika gave voice to the right-wing view. He did not suggest giving up on their sons’ lives; all he said was that he believed that Alon’s approach was endangering the hostages by prolonging their captivity and raising the cost of any deal that would result in their release. He pointed out that any negotiation must be conducted with wisdom and care, and that the Israeli negotiators must present an air of indifference to the hostages’ fate to prevent Hamas from taking advantage of their desperation. At the same time, he added, intensive efforts must be made behind closed doors to secure their release.

Alon Nimrodi, who was unaware that Tzvika’s son is also being held by Hamas, was outraged by the position that the latter expressed. At one point, he demanded, “Tzvika, if your own son was in captivity there, would you respond in the same way?” Of course, when Tzvika revealed that he, too, was the father of a hostage, Alon was momentarily speechless. After he recovered from his shock, he said, “I am sorry to say this, my friend, but even if you have given up on your son, I haven’t given up on mine.” At that moment, he lost the sympathies of his listeners. The audience was shocked. Tzvika Mor burst into tears, and I believe that the rest of the country wept along with him.

Shema Is Heard in a Mosque

A religious reservist in the IDF—a young man with a black yarmulke and a beard—recently entered a mosque and used its loudspeaker system to cry out the words of Shema Yisroel. This young soldier apparently felt that his actions would accentuate the victory of the Jewish spirit over the evil of Yishmoel. In response, the army chose to discharge him from reserve duty. (The soldier was actually a volunteer; he was not obligated to serve, but he came to join the forces in Gaza on his own accord.) Was this the right thing to do? The army accused the soldier of egregious misconduct, which may be what led the chief rabbi, Rav Yitzchok Yosef, to call on the soldiers to refrain from offending the enemy’s religious sensibilities.

Parenthetically, I was struck by the way the Israeli secular media reported on this incident. Once again, I was reminded of the journalist who once reported on a shortage of pears in advance of Sukkos. Having heard that hadassim were in short supply, this reporter, who had never heard of hadassim before, confused it with agasim, the Hebrew word for pears. In this case, as well, the secular reporters seemed to lack understanding of exactly what the soldier had done. They were evidently told that he had said Shema Yisroel, but every news outlet had its own interpretation of what that meant. One secular web site (Ynet) reported that the soldiers of the IDF had been “shouting cries of ‘Shema Yisroel.’” Yisroel Hayom reported that “soldiers in the IDF were filmed singing Shema Yisroel.” And the Walla news site reported, “The soldiers of the IDF were seen carrying out the reading of Shema Yisroel.” But anyone who is religious will understand immediately that the soldiers were reciting Krias Shema.

In any event, everyone agreed that the IDF’s response was extreme. In an official statement, the army declared, “After the videos were retrieved and an initial review of the incident was conducted by the commanding officers, it has been determined that the behavior of the soldiers in this footage was very severe and was in complete violation of the values of the IDF. The soldiers will be disciplined accordingly.”

The army may believe that the soldiers’ actions were severe, but it seems to me that it is the army itself that is guilty of unreasonable behavior. For the benefit of Arab listeners, the IDF issued a clarification in Arabic: “The soldiers were removed immediately from operational duty, and the commanders conducted a preliminary investigation of the circumstances of the incident. The behavior of the soldiers as it is seen in these videos is dangerous and completely opposed to the values of the IDF. As a result, the soldiers will face disciplinary action.”

According to some figures on the right, the real problem is the army general who has been expressing anti-religious views, General Yosef Fuchs of the Central Command, who is a staunch leftist. They believe that his personal leanings have led him to take a rigid stance against the right-wing and religious soldiers in the army. To make matters worse, as a former military attache in Washington, Fuchs also seems to have been swayed by American views. This is a very interesting aspect of the situation.

Clash in the Cabinet

But the story did not end there. The first sign of the trouble to come was Minister Ben-Gvir’s harsh response. He announced indignantly, “There is no room for a disciplinary hearing for soldiers who have been risking their lives for the sake of the Jewish people in the heart of the inferno in Jenin, and whose only crime was reciting Shema Yisroel in a place that has become one of the main focal points of terror against Israel. We should be giving full backing to our wonderful soldiers rather than dealing with a disciplinary hearing over things that should not interest the IDF, certainly at a time of war.”

The next chapter in this saga was a contentious debate in the cabinet, where Ben-Gvir and Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi were present. Halevi was quick to declare that the army has the exclusive authority to decide whether the soldiers involved in the incident would return to active duty. This was a response to Ben-Gvir, and possibly to others who had criticized him privately as well.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev asked if the soldiers had been removed from duty, and Itamar Ben-Gvir argued that the incident could not be deemed an internal IDF matter since it has already been publicized. “If the soldiers had been disciplined without the media being informed, it could have been an internal matter,” he told Halevi. “From the moment it was reported in the media, it became a public matter. It affects the morale of the soldiers, and the other side is also watching.”

The chief of staff responded, “We are the ones who make all decisions concerning soldiers, and these men are soldiers in the IDF. We are the ones who will decide about them. It is not a matter for the cabinet.”

“It certainly is a matter for the cabinet,” Ben-Gvir shot back. “If the army had handled this quietly or reprimanded them lightly at the most, we could have understood it. You have made a mountain out of a molehill,” he added. “You have created a sensational news story for no good reason, and it is harming the soldiers.”

According to someone who was present for this argument, Halevi responded, “Don’t talk to me like that. We will do anything we desire with the soldiers.”

“In a democratic state, the army is subject to the authority of the political echelon, rather than the reverse,” Ben-Gvir insisted. “When the IDF releases a public statement about reservists who were removed from duty during wartime simply because they recited Shema Yisroel in a mosque, a place that we all know served as a hornets’ nest for terror, it is no longer an internal matter.”

The chief of staff dug in his heels and asserted, “I am the only one who will decide about the values of the IDF.”

Rav Shimon Baadanis Humility

This week marks the first yahrtzeit of Rav Shimon Baadani, who passed away on the 18th of Shevat, 5783. Rav Baadani was a rosh yeshiva and rosh kollel, a close talmid of Rav Shach, a member of the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah of the Sephardic community, a supreme authority on chinuch, and the founder of numerous Torah institutions in Eretz Yisroel and abroad. He was also the spiritual leader of many Jewish communities in Argentina and Mexico, where he traveled frequently, and he was a leading figure in the Syrian community of New York as well. Over the past few days, I spoke with several rabbonim from abroad who were acquainted with him: Rav Tzeruyah of Argentina, Rav Shavot of Mexico, and Rav Meir Yedid of New York. I hope to develop an interesting article for next week’s newspaper based on my conversations with them. In the meantime, I would like to share three stories that illustrate Rav Baadani’s extraordinary humility.

Rabbi Naor Tehomi, who enjoyed a close relationship with Rav Shimon Baadani, related that he often drove the rov to the Kosel. “In earlier years, when Rav Baadani still had his strength, he insisted on having me park outside the Dung Gate, since it was important to him to walk on foot for at least a short distance to get to the Kosel. One day, when I drove the rov to the Kosel, I dropped him off outside the gate and then drove off to park at a distance from the Kosel as he had asked me; however, I found myself stuck in a massive traffic jam. I was unable to move forward or backward, and I remained stuck in that spot for thirty minutes. While I sat there, the rov finished davening and left the Kosel plaza, and then he called to ask where I was. It was the yahrtzeit of the Ohr Hachaim, and Rav Baadani wanted to daven at his kever on Har Hazeisim. I told him that I was stuck in a traffic jam, but that I would find out if one of the Kosel workers would be able to drive him to Har Hazeisim. Nevertheless, the rov told me that he would manage on his own.

“About an hour later, I finally managed to drive to Har Hazeisim, where I met him at the kever of the Ohr Hachaim. When he finished davening, I brought him back to my car and I asked how he had gotten there. He replied, ‘I began walking toward the road, and I saw two young men standing near the Kosel and asked them if they were going to the Ohr Hachaim’s tziyun and if I could accompany them. They probably decided to do a favor for an old man, because one of them quickly told me that he was planning to drive there and would be happy to take me.’

“I laughed and said, ‘They didn’t see an old man. They recognized the rov, and they were pleased at the opportunity to drive him to the site.’

“Rav Baadani looked at me in puzzlement. ‘How would they know who I am?’ he asked.

“‘The rov is the gadol hador,’ I replied.

“‘Tehomi,’ he said, ‘sometimes you say ridiculous things.’

“I always used to bring a cup of tea for him on our travels,” Rabbi Tehomi continued. “Once, I noticed that the rov had left some tea in his cup when he finished drinking, and I asked for permission to drink the shirayim of a tzaddik. He laughed and replied, ‘The shirayim aren’t mine. They belong to the cup.’”

Rabbi Tehomi went on to share one more story: “Rav Baadani received a phone call while we were driving. The caller was the organizer of a very important event, and he tried very hard to convince the rov to attend the event. He tried all sorts of different arguments, but Rav Baadani felt that there was no need for him to be there. The caller tried pointing out that there would be many rabbonim there, and Rav Baadani replied, ‘In that case, why do you need another one?’ The caller was not dissuaded, and he continued pleading and remonstrating with the rov, mentioning the names of other distinguished rabbonim who would be present, but this simply led Rav Baadani to say, ‘In that case, you certainly don’t need me.’ The conversation continued for a long time, as Rav Baadani repeatedly evaded his request. Finally, the caller said something that impelled Rav Baadani to end the call. He said, ‘Please come to the event, and I promise that you will receive a good deal of kavod.’ Rav Baadani was silent for a moment and then exclaimed, ‘Kavod? I am repelled by kavod! It makes me sick! I do not want honor!’”

The Shechinah at the Brisker Rovs Home

Another important yahrtzeit this week is the third yahrtzeit of Rav Shalom Povarsky, son of Rav Dovid Povarsky. Rav Shalom passed away on the 11th of Teves, 5781.

Rav Shalom Povarsky was a highly respected maggid shiur in the Yeshiva of Beer Yaakov during my younger years. He later went on to teach in Yeshivas Kol Torah in Yerushalayim, where one of his most prominent talmidim was Reb Tzvi Fligelman, a man who has been suffering from a debilitating medical condition for many years and is a paragon of mesirus nefesh in spite of his challenges. I have written several times in these pages about the shiurim delivered in his home in Givat Shaul, in the context of the Bais Vaad program. Despite his physical limitations, Reb Tzvi has been involved in extensive harbotzas Torah, publishing numerous kuntresim and offering significant chizuk to those in need of encouragement. In his introduction to Eretz HaTzvi—Michtavei Chizuk, Rav Shalom wrote, “I have never seen anyone with such major hardships who has nonetheless attained such greatness in Torah and middos…. I know that you, my friend, toil above and beyond the limits of your abilities, and that is why your siyata d’shmaya is far beyond the grasp of an ordinary human being.” Rav Shalom was particularly fond of his talmid, to whom he demonstrated great affection.

In one of his essays in that particular kuntres, Reb Tzvi describes his experiences spending Shabbosos at his rebbi’s home. After citing a number of Rav Shalom’s chiddushim, he adds several edifying stories that Rav Shalom recounted. In one place, Reb Tzvi writes, “My rebbi related that Rav Meir Soloveitchik told him the following story: The Chazon Ish was once honored with the position of sandak at a bris in Yerushalayim. He left Bnei Brak immediately after neitz, and when he arrived at the simcha, he discovered that there was still some time before the bris was to begin. While he was waiting, he decided to visit the Brisker Rov. When the Chazon Ish arrived, Rav Meir opened the door and told him that the rov was in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei. The Chazon Ish sat down in the entryway to wait, and when the Brisker Rov finished davening, Rav Meir informed him that the Chazon Ish was there. The Chazon Ish began walking toward the room, and the Brisker Rov came out to greet him. After the Chazon Ish left his home, he commented to his companions, ‘One can see the Shechinah in that house.’ Rav Meir later repeated this comment to the Brisker Rov, who made a dismissive motion. ‘Nu,’ he said, ‘when the Chazon Ish is here, of course the Shechinah is here.’”

Reb Tzvi continues, “He also related that while he was teaching in the yeshiva in Beer Yaakov, Rav Yechezkel Abramsky once came to the yeshiva to visit his grandson, who was a talmid there. Rav Wolbe greeted the visitor in the presence of the other rabbeim, and Rav Abramsky asked about the pace of iyun in the yeshiva. ‘We cover two blatt per week,’ Rav Wolbe replied. Rav Abramsky replied that that was not sufficient. ‘When I learned in Telz,’ he related, ‘we did not have seforim at all. Even the Rambam, if we had it, was only in the otzar seforim, not in the bais medrash. We therefore learned only Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, the Rosh, and the Ran, all of which are in the volumes of the Gemara.’”

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