Wednesday, Jul 17, 2024

My Take on the News


Terror and Missiles Start the Week

Here in Israel, this week began with a rough start.

On Sunday, every newspaper in the country ran the same headline: “One Hundred Days!” I doubt that this was a coordinated effort; it is simply the subject that is occupying everyone’s minds. Everyone in Israel is keenly aware that the hostages in Gaza have already spent 100 days in Gehinnom on earth. On motzoei Shabbos, a rally was organized in Tel Aviv by the Hostages’ Forum, where the crowd was addressed by several of the hostages released from captivity. Their stories were saddening, painful, and shocking. There is no question that the rally brought major pressure to bear on the government and the cabinet. The big question is whether the rally will help bring the hostages home or, chas v’sholom, will cause damage to their cause.

On Sunday morning, there were six missile launches into Israel, including a missile that fell in Kfar Yuval in the Galil with tragic results. Barak Ayalon, a 40-year-old member of the local security patrol, and his mother, 76-year-old Mira, were killed by the missile when it struck their home. Initial reports stated that a 74-year-old man suffering from anxiety was evacuated from the scene. After an assessment of the situation by the army, several roads near the northern border were closed to civilian vehicles. The community administration wrote, “There is a war going on in the north, with all that that entails. The farmers such as Barak, who haven’t left their homes, are constantly exposed to enemy threats and are serving as civilian soldiers by being here and protecting Israel’s national territory on the northern and southern borders. May the victims’ memories be blessed. We daven for the recovery of the father of the family, who was wounded in the incident.”

Other missiles fired into Israel from Lebanon fell in open areas in the settlements of Misgav Am and Goren, and additional launches were detected targeting the settlements of Zarit and Shomera. In response to the missile attacks, for which Hezbollah claimed responsibility, the IDF attacked a number of Hezbollah targets in Lebanese territory, including terror infrastructure, an operational command center, and a military target.

Along with the missile fire, this Sunday was also marred by an attempted terror attack in eastern Gush Etzion, where two terrorists opened fire on a farm. It isn’t very difficult to cross over from the Palestinian Authority into this area; that is why checkpoints are ubiquitous in the vicinity, and it also makes it hardly surprising that the terrorists infiltrated the area. The two terrorists tried to kill the soldiers who came running to the scene, but the terrorists were shot by the soldiers instead. One terrorist was eliminated, and the other was wounded; the IDF forces did not suffer casualties. The incident began when a civilian lookout at the farm spotted a suspicious vehicle and notified the army. The terrorists’ vehicle broke through a checkpoint that was 400 meters south of the farm, and the two terrorists opened fire on the soldiers. Another group of soldiers arrived at the location and helped neutralize them. This incident was especially jarring for the chareidi community since it occurred in very close proximity to the chareidi settlement of Meitzad, which is also the location of a highly regarded yeshiva.

In yet another incident, three terrorists belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigade in Lebanon, which is part of the military wing of Hamas, infiltrated Israeli territory on Friday night in the vicinity of Har Dov. The Arab media quoted the organization as announcing, “A group of our soldiers broke through the border fence at Har Dov and clashed with an Israeli patrol. This operation was a response to the assassination of Salah al-Arouri and is a warning to Israel to cease its aggression against Gaza. Two of our people returned in peace from Har Dov, while three others died.”

A Fatal Accident

Another tragedy took place this weekend in Israel, and while it has nothing to do with Arab terror, it is connected to a different scourge that has claimed many lives in Israel: the horrific phenomenon of road accidents. This accident cost the life of Nehorai Vaknin, a 22-year-old yeshiva bochur from Migdal Ha’Emek and a talmid in Yeshivas Birkas Ephraim in Bnei Brak. Nehorai was killed on Sunday morning in a fatal car accident while returning from the hillula of the Baba Sali in Netivot.

Sadly, there have been several tragic car accidents over the years that were somehow connected to the Baba Sali or his hillula. If you are old enough to remember this, you may recall that there was a tragic accident at the end of the Baba Sali’s funeral, which claimed the lives of several people returning from the levayah. That accident was one of the most painful tragedies experienced by the chareidi community. It occurred when a truck veered out of its lane on the highway and hit a small car with great force, killing all but one of the car’s occupants. The fatalities were four Spinka chassidim: Rav Yaakov Berkowitz, the Spinka rosh kollel; Rav Yehoshua Margalit, one of the founders of the Yad Ezra organization; Rav Yehoshua Blass; and Rav Yitzchok Isaac Weiss, the rov of the Spinka community in Eretz Yisroel and son of the Spinka Rebbe in America. Rav Weiss’s eldest son, Rav Meir Abish Weiss (today the Spinka Rebbe of Ramat Aharon), was also in the car and was severely wounded; he was taken to the hospital, where the doctors declared that his odds of surviving his injuries were nil. At that time, the Spinka Rebbe of Eretz Yisroel traveled to Barzilai Hospital together with Rabbi Yitzchok Shiya Weiss, the gaavad of Neve Achiezer, to sit at the bedside of the wounded child; they also traveled to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute to identify the bodies of the deceased victims of the accident. The following day, all four levayos set out together from Yeshivas Spinka in Bnei Brak; Rav Yitzchok Isaac was buried in the section of the cemetery in Petach Tikvah belonging to the Spinka Rebbes.

The terrible news of the accident traveled far and wide, but the late Spinka Rebbe in America was only told half the story. He was informed that his son had been injured in a car accident and that he needed to travel to Israel to visit him; the chassidim believed that the Rebbe’s heart would not be able to cope with the news that he had been bereaved, and they hoped to break it to him gradually. Nevertheless, when they sat on the plane on the way to Israel, the Rebbe observed through his tears that his other sons were not wearing tefillin, and he immediately grasped the reality of the situation. This, he realized, wasn’t a bikur cholim visit; he was being brought to Israel for a funeral. As soon as the realization dawned on him, he tore keriyah and recited the brocha of dayan ha’emes.

Eight years ago, Rav Shalom Arush, the leader of the Shuvu Bonim community, suffered the tragic loss of his granddaughter, who perished in another car accident while returning to Yerushalayim from the hillula of the Baba Sali in Netivot. The girl’s parents and two sisters were severely wounded in the accident as well. In 1985, Miriam Abuchatzeirah, the Baba Sali’s wife, was killed in a car accident in Ashdod. And in 1970, the Baba Chaki—Rav Yitzchok Abuchatzeirah, the rov of Ramle and the brother of the Baba Sali—was killed in a car accident while returning from Netivot after visiting his brother.

The Torment Continues

But let us return to the headlines in this weekend’s newspapers, which solemnly informed the public that the hostages in Gaza have been held in captivity for 100 days. The Israeli people are suffering profoundly from this entire chain of events. Pictures of the hostages are on display in every possible place, and one cannot help but daven and cry upon seeing the images of their faces. The released hostages were silent about their ordeals at first, but now that several weeks have passed, they have begun to talk and have revealed that they suffered through unspeakable torment. The hostages who are still being held in Gaza, then, are still suffering through the same Gehinnom.

When I arrived in the Knesset on Sunday, I saw a sign posted at the Palumbo Gate featuring the emblem of the State of Israel and two Hebrew words: “Meah Yamim” (“One Hundred Days”). According to the National Insurance Institute, which maintains detailed statistics based on the requests for aid that it receives, these are the sobering numbers that emerge from the past 100 days: There have been 779 civilians murdered, 52,571 people hurt, and 1,962 repeat victims of terror. The institute has dealt with 99 families of hostages and 109 civilian hostages who were freed. The Ministry of Welfare also posted its own statistics on the civilians who returned from Hamas captivity: 54 civilians who were freed from captivity are under the care of professionals such as psychiatrists or therapists, 85 are under the supervision of community nurses, and two are still hospitalized. Twenty-one children have returned to the school system, 27 hostages have been placed in hotels, 26 moved in with family members, 18 returned to their homes, and nine former hostages rented apartments, while three senior citizens moved in to assisted living facilities.

Of course, the dilemma of how to secure the remaining hostages’ freedom still stands. This is a matter of life and death, and no one can really claim that they know best how to handle the situation. A former senior official in the Shabak, who previously headed the intelligence agency’s southern section, told the media this week, “Sinwar sees our weakness and the pressure for us to make a deal.” In other words, the public pressure being exerted on the government and the cabinet to retrieve the hostages is causing Hamas to harden its negotiating positions. “The same official added, “It is crucial to keep fighting and putting pressure on Hamas; otherwise, Sinwar will not budge.” These comments were made in response to a report claiming that Hamas had announced that it will not discuss a deal for the release of the hostages until the IDF ceases its operations. According to this report, Hamas claimed to be making this statement on behalf of all Palestinians.

American officials have confirmed that Hamas has been adopting a more rigid stance. President Biden admitted that there is no expectation for a deal to be reached for the hostages’ freedom, although he added that the United States is still pressing for such a deal to be made. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who has visited Israel several times recently and has also visited Arab countries, commented last weekend on the war and the efforts being made behind the scenes to broker a ceasefire. “Hamas is the party responsible for torpedoing the deal at this time,” he said. “We believe that Israel does not have to choose between removing the threat of Hamas and limiting harm to civilians; they are able to do both. We want to make sure that this tragedy will give rise to an opportunity for a lasting peace for Israel, the Palestinians, and the region.”

John Kirby, the White House spokesman on national security, said that there are serious discussions underway concerning an additional hostage release deal that would also include a break in the fighting. “That is something on which we have been working since the last ceasefire ended,” he said.

Netanyahu Opens Up About Talks with Blinken

Prime Minister Netanyahu, along with other high-ranking officials in the cabinet, the army, and the Shabak, believes that accepting a ceasefire and providing extensive humanitarian aid will only cause Hamas to become more obstinate. He is confident that the correct course of action is to increase the Israeli offensive and intensify the bombing of Gaza, forcing Hamas into a state of distress so that the terror group will actually ask for a deal for the hostages’ release. The officials in the government who favor this plan insist that the previous hostages were released only because of Israel’s massive bombardment of Gaza. The extensive strikes caused the Gazan populace to turn their backs on the Hamas leadership and to recognize the terror group as the source of their miserable situation. This week, many Gazans were heard cursing the leaders of Hamas, who are living in the lap of luxury in various world capitals while the ordinary citizens of Gaza are suffering due to their murderous machinations.

Last week, I quoted Netanyahu’s statements in the Knesset, where he asserted that no one will prevent Israel from continuing this war. On motzoei Shabbos, he repeated this position at a press conference and discussed the subject of the hostages, as well as the court case that has been filed against Israel in the Hague (see below).

“We will continue this war until the end, until absolute victory, until we achieve all of our goals—liquidating Hamas, recovering all of our hostages, and guaranteeing that Gaza will never pose a threat to Israel again,” Netanyahu declared. “We will restore security to both the south and the north. No one will stop us—not the Hague, not the axis of evil, and not anyone else.”

The prime minister added that he plans to increase the budget for the war effort. “I believe in the people, in our soldiers and their commanders, and I know that we will not settle for anything less than total victory after the massacre,” he said. “I have been telling this to all the world leaders with whom I speak. We will not compromise and we will not stop; we will continue until we have won.” Of course, these remarks were openly directed at Blinken. Netanyahu went on to be even more explicit on that point: “I told him [Blinken] that this is [America’s] war as well. It is the war of the children of light against the children of darkness, against the axis of evil, against the three H’s: Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis. I do not forget for a moment that in addition to the war in Gaza and the recovery of the hostages, we are in the middle of an existential battle to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That is my mission, and I told Blinken that this should be their mission as well.”

Netanyahu also reacted to comment made by the various commentators in Israel’s news studios: “I have heard that the pundits in the studios are saying that this isn’t possible and isn’t necessary, but you and I can tell them that it is very possible and it is absolutely necessary, and we will do it. Over the past few weeks, we have demonstrated that every terrorist is a dead man, wherever he is. We are continuing to eliminate many terrorists, but it takes time.”

Recklessness and Raw Emotion

As I mentioned, the hostages’ plight in Gaza is weighing heavily on everyone in Israel, as is the fierce debate regarding the correct course of action to secure their freedom. Some of the hostages’ families have been working with Ronen Tzur, a very successful and prominent public relations professional in Israel who identifies with the left. Tzur has been doing his job very well and has been organizing major rallies with extensive media coverage. He has also been organizing an assortment of other events, including some in the Knesset. At every debate, he makes sure that some of the hostages’ families are present, to stir the emotions of their listeners. But I must point out once again that it isn’t clear that this is the right thing to do. If anything, they might be harming their own cause!

Last week, one of the Knesset committees was addressed by MK Mickey Levi (Yesh Atid), the former Knesset speaker who served as a police superintendent and commander of the police force in Yerushalayim. Levi spoke tearfully, nearly losing his composure, as he called for the release of all the hostages at any price. “I have been personally invested in this situation since the moment it began,” Levi said. “Aviva, who is sitting here and whose husband is still in Gaza, was my grandson’s preschool teacher in Kibbutz Alonim. We have a personal connection, and I have been emotionally involved all along. I am saying here on behalf of my party that we must pay any price for the hostages to be brought home. I have said this since the first day: It is worth anything to bring them home now. Nothing is more important.”

Mickey Levi’s speech was extremely heartrending, but it also showed a colossal lack of responsibility. Just as the camp in favor of paying any price for the hostages has a public relations expert, the opposing camp, which favors continuing the war at all costs, has its own master of the media, Uri Igra, who responded sharply to Levi’s appearance in the committee: “We all want to see our loved ones return home immediately. With his irresponsible comments, knowing full well that he was on camera, Mickey Levi has shown all of his cards to Sinwar. His statements endanger the hostages and strengthen Hamas. In addition, Mickey Levi is advocating the release of hordes of murderers and other violent criminals, who will go directly to the jubilant celebrations awaiting them, and he is thereby endangering the lives of the citizens of Israel. This type of pressure is only keeping the hostages far from home. Such words cannot be allowed to come from a senior member of the Knesset and to be spoken in the Israeli parliament. We expect all the members of the Knesset and commanders of the IDF to distance themselves from the irresponsible statements made by a man who used to be a senior commander of the security and rescue forces. This is sheer recklessness. To see our loved ones return home, we must put pressure on Hamas; we must not give them gifts.”

Mickey Levi’s speech was condemned from other quarters as well. Attorney Nati Romm said, “There isn’t even a single person who sees any benefit in this behavior. If you are emotionally shattered, don’t come to the Knesset and stand in front of the cameras. How can we win this way?”

Idan Yosef, an Israeli journalist, wrote, “Hamas is applauding now as well. It is a good thing that Mickey Levi, who is driven by emotion rather than intellect, is sitting in the opposition.”

And an ordinary citizen wrote, “Knesset members with no responsibility are playing sensitive games for political gain and attention.”

The Malicious Court Case in the Hague

As you are undoubtedly aware, South Africa has filed a complaint against Israel in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, accusing the country of committing the crime of genocide. Part of its evidence was drawn from statements made by Israeli politicians who spoke about the notion of “wiping out Gaza.” The South African prosecutor claimed that he was refraining from showing horrific images of the carnage in Gaza, to avoid exploiting the horrors for public relations purposes. Of course, this was a backhanded criticism of Israel, which has used pictures and videos of the Hamas atrocities to make its case and has invited journalists and other guests from all over the world to view the horrific footage of the massacre on October 7.

Israel has sent a number of international lawyers to deal with the case, led by Professor Malcolm Shaw, a British expert on international law with experience dealing with the court in the Hague. The Israeli legal team includes Dr. Tal Becker, Dr. Galit Rajuan, Dr. Omri Sender, Dr. Christopher Staker, and Dr. Gilad Noam. The Israeli team is led by Professor Aharon Barak, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court. Barak was chosen by Netanyahu for this purpose, on the recommendation of Ron Dermer.

The court convened on Friday, and the prosecution asked the judges to issue an injunction ordering Israel to cease its operations in Gaza immediately, based on the claim that Israel is committing genocide. The Israeli representatives argued that the country’s actions are a necessary response to the murderous attack on October 7, that Israel is using all the means required by international law to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians, and that the Israeli judicial system is addressing any mistakes that are made. Of course, the Israeli spokesmen pointed out the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, but they also had no choice but to address the legal arguments directly.

During his press conference, Netanyahu spoke about the proceedings in the international court, decrying “the hypocritical attack in the Hague against the Jewish state that is defending itself against those who wish to perpetrate a second Holocaust.” Netanyahu backed up his statement by explaining, “Our forces found copies of Mein Kampf in Gaza, as well as a girl’s tablet with a picture of Hitler as the screen saver. There was good reason that the chancellor of Germany said that the Hamas terrorists are the new Nazis. The supporters of these new Nazis have the audacity to accuse us of genocide, but whom do they support? Murderers who behead and burn babies? What a disgrace! The State of Israel, the IDF, and our security services are fighting a just and ethical war beyond compare against the monsters of Hamas, the new Nazis.”

A reporter challenged Netanyahu to explain why he did not condemn the statements of certain coalition members that were cited by the South African prosecutor as evidence of the country’s claims against Israel. He replied, “Their words have no significance. The government policy is the determining factor.”

The case in the Hague is being heard by fifteen judges whose opinions are already known and whose hatred for Israel is implacable. It is impossible to overlook a striking parallel: This is the same as the number of judges on the Israeli Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Israel wields its own power as it sees fit, overriding the will of the public and its elected representatives and trampling on the rights of Israeli citizens, especially the chareidi community, while ignoring the cries of the poor and oppressed. The rulings of the Supreme Court are sometimes completely infuriating, as they are the product of blatant injustice and torturous distortions of the law. But it seems that the Israeli elites will now be on the receiving end of this same outrageous treatment. The fifteen judges of the Hague will presumably set their own hypocritical standards, ignoring the slaughter on Simchas Torah, the cries of the Israeli victims, and the suffering of the hostages while ruling that Israel is guilty of genocide. Furthermore, Israel will be represented by Aharon Barak, the father of judicial dictatorship and the archetype of judicial hubris. For decades, Barak coldly ignored the logic and reasoning of lawyers who stood before him in the courtroom; now he will experience their frustration for himself. The government that has oppressed its citizens will now get a taste of oppression. It is pure middah k’neged middah.

Impeachment in the Knesset

The story of the case against Israel in the Hague leads us to another recent incident, this one involving the Knesset. There is a man named Ofer Cassif who is a member of the Knesset; although he is Jewish, he serves in the Knesset on behalf of the Joint Arab List. The Joint List is actually a confederation of different Arab parties, one of which was originally known as Rakach but is called Chadash today. This Arab faction traditionally includes a Jew among its members. The first Jewish member of the party was Meir Vilner, who was one of the signatories on Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The position was later held by Charlie Bitton, who was known for his involvement in the Black Panthers, and later by Dov Khenin. In the Knesset’s last three terms, Ofer Cassif has taken over the position. The chareidi parties do not have a problem with Cassif, who does not oppose them in any of the religious battles in the Knesset; in fact, he often sides with the chareidi sector. They part ways with him only on political issues; his views are extremely dovish, and he is associated with the far left. The chareidi parties generally do not involve themselves in such matters, but this situation left them with no choice.

What happened now is that Ofer Cassif decided to join the lawsuit against Israel in the Hague, which crosses every red line imaginable. No other member of the Israeli parliament has ever gone so far. By participating in the international prosecution of Israel, Cassif is essentially accusing his own country of genocide. This move earned him wall-to-wall condemnation, as well as an effort to have him impeached. There is an official process for impeaching a member of the Knesset, which has never been used in the past. Those proceedings have now been initiated for the first time by MK Oded Forer of Yisrael Beiteinu.

It takes a request signed by 80 members of the Knesset to initiate impeachment proceedings, and a vote of 90 members of the Knesset is required for the ouster to take place. Once the initial request is received, the issue is first debated in a committee that includes fifteen Knesset members. If two thirds of the committee members support the impeachment, the case is transferred to the full Knesset for further discussion. Although Forer has succeeded in getting over 80 legislators to sign the request for the proceedings, it remains to be seen whether the requisite majority will be mustered in the Knesset committee (which includes two Arabs) and then whether 90 votes in favor of impeachment will be registered in the Knesset. If that happens, it will be the first time in Israeli history that a member of the Knesset has been expelled by his colleagues.

Economic Fallout of the War

As always, I have much more to write about, but I am running out of space. One major issue that deserves attention is the subject of the looming economic decrees, which are largely intended for the purpose of funding the war. In addition to the costs of the IDF’s operations, which come with an exorbitant price tag, there are many other expenses that have been generated by the war, such as medical care for the injured and funding for the renovations required for their homes. The Israeli government must find a way to cover these costs, and the obvious source of funding is the wallet of the average citizen. Every citizen of Israel is worried about the expected impact on his personal finances, and the ministers of the government are already gearing up to fight to protect their respective budgets.

Meanwhile, the law enforcement system, with the aid of the police and army, are continuing to demolish illegally built homes in Yehuda and Shomron, some of which belong to people who are fighting on the front lines at this time. With all due respect to law and order, it is incredibly insensitive for the government to be taking this step in the current circumstances. In fact, Netanyahu has since ordered the authorities to refrain from demolishing homes belonging to people on active duty in the war zone.

The country is also struggling to contend with the scourge of traffic accidents and work accidents. In the year 2023, there was a 90 percent increase in the number of people killed in the course of work accidents. Unfortunately, the war is continuing to claim new victims as well, and new revelations are also coming to light about the horrific lapses that led up to the disaster of October 7. At the same time, new stories of heroism are constantly coming to light, and we are inspired by the stories of soldiers on the front lines who refuse to give up Krias haTorah or davening with a minyan in spite of the circumstances.

Another Outrageous Supreme Court Ruling

I know that we are approaching Tu B’Shevat, not Purim, but I fear that the judges of the Supreme Court have confused the two days, since their recent ruling sounds like a pathetic attempt at a joke. To wit, one of the female justices on the court ordered the chief rabbis of Israel this week to weigh the possibility of appointing woman to the official body charged with electing their successors.

The chief rabbis of Israel are elected by an assembly of 150 people that includes 70 public representatives and 80 rabbonim, including ten rabbonim appointed by the outgoing chief rabbis in consultation with the prime minister and with the government’s approval. The Supreme Court was responding to a petition complaining about the fact that the chief rabbis always appoint male rabbis, rather than women, for this purpose. And the court accepted the petition.

The judge wrote in her ruling that the law does not specifically define the title of “rabbi” as it pertains to the assembly that elects the chief rabbis; therefore, she argued, there is no requirement for the members to be fit to serve as rabbonim, and the broadest possible criteria should be applied instead, with a focus on Torah knowledge and communal standing. Until 2018, when the petition was first filed, there wasn’t even a legal requirement for a member of the Chief Rabbinate to hold semicha; even the chief rabbis themselves were not required to be officially ordained. The judge went on to argue, “Today, even in the Orthodox community in the State of Israel, the term ‘rabbanit’ is used not necessarily in reference to the wife of a rabbi but to describe a woman who is educated on halacha and who holds a religious position in her community.” She felt that this was ironclad evidence that when the law refers to a rabbi, it can include a person who does not hold semicha, and even a woman. This type of argument would probably qualify as the work of a Purim rov—or, in the spirit of the judge’s ruling, a Purim rabbanit.

The Hillula in Netivot

I attended the Baba Sali’s hillula in Netivot this motzoei Shabbos. I am ashamed to admit it, but this was the first time in my life that I have visited the Baba Sali’s kever. Forty years after his passing, I felt that the time had come.

It wasn’t easy to make it to the kever that night. I arrived in Netivot at midnight on motzoei Shabbos, when the event seemed to be at its height. The drive from Yerushalayim to Netivot took us an hour and fifteen minutes, while the walk from our parking spot to the kever, which wasn’t far away, took us an hour and a half. The area was severely crowded, and we were asked three times to stand and wait, each time for twenty minutes, to allow the crowd to dissipate before we continued on our way. I found it a fascinating experience; perhaps I will write about it at greater length at a future date.

Of course, I cannot mention the Baba Sali’s yahrtzeit without writing about some of his wondrous deeds. I heard many firsthand accounts of the Baba Sali’s wondrous deeds from Rav Eliyohu Elfassi, the late gabbai of the Baba Sali, and from Rav Elfassi’s wife, Rabbanit Sima, who is a former student of the Beer Yaakov seminary and later became a member of the school’s faculty. She once told me the following story: “The rov used to eat cabbage soup on Friday nights, but since there were no pre-checked vegetables at the time, it was necessary to examine the cabbage leaves very carefully to ensure that there were no insects. It was my job to check every leaf individually by holding it up to the light. The rabbanit said to me, ‘Sima, I can’t trust anyone else.’ One day, I put the cabbage in water with salt as usual and left it in the refrigerator, intending to examine the leaves later in the day. Meanwhile, I left the neighborhood. Before I returned, the young girl who assisted the rabbanit arrived, and when she saw the cabbage in the refrigerator, she assumed that it had already been checked for insects, and she poured out the water and gave it to the rabbanit. The rabbanit chopped up the cabbage and prepared her soup as usual, and it was served to the rov on Friday night. To everyone’s surprise, the rov announced, ‘This Shabbos, I am not eating soup!’ This was especially shocking since it was the only thing that he ate. On Shabbos morning, I ran to the rov’s home and told the rabbanit that I hoped that they had inspected the cabbage leaves, since I hadn’t done so. The rabbanit was astounded. ‘I begged the rov to eat the soup, but he refused to do so,’ she told me.”

Mrs. Elfassi went on to relate another story: “A pipe once burst in our home, and my husband went out to find a plumber to fix it. While he was out, he decided to visit the rov’s home. Of course, he completely forgot about the pipe and remained there for hours. When I returned home in the afternoon, I discovered that the house was flooded with water. I hurried for the rov’s home and asked for someone to call my husband to come out. He emerged, but before I could even open my mouth, I heard the rov’s voice calling my husband’s name inside the house, and he raced inside to find out what the Baba Sali needed. I heard the Baba Sali murmuring to himself, ‘Boruch podeh u’matzil.’ My husband asked the rov if he needed something, but the Baba Sali asked him, ‘Who is that woman?’ Reb Eliyohu replied, ‘It’s my wife.’ The Baba Sali said, ‘Did she come to reprimand you for not helping her at home? Take these cookies and give them to her and tell her that it was my fault.’”

She went on to share one last story: “I personally witnessed the incident of the cripple who suddenly began to walk. This man was brought to the Baba Sali’s home from Tel Hashomer Hospital. He needed four other people to lift him and carry him into the rov’s room. The rov asked him if he observed Shabbos, and he replied that he didn’t. The rov said, ‘Promise me that you will observe Shabbos, and I promise you that you will be healthy.’ He replied, ‘I promise.’ Then my husband said to him, ‘Stand up and kiss the rov’s hand,’ and the man replied, ‘I’m not able to walk; how can I stand?’ But then he suddenly found that he was able to stand, and he became so startled that he ran out of the house and raced to Rav Yissochor Meir’s yeshiva, where the bochurim danced with him. They brought him back to the Baba Sali’s home, and everyone rejoiced. The Baba Sali reminded him, ‘You promised me that you would observe Shabbos, and you must keep that promise.’ This was very difficult for the man, but he took great care to keep his promise.”




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