Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

My Take On The News

 

Pidyon Shevuyim: Is the Price Too High to Pay?

Aryeh Deri recently told his colleagues in the Shas party that no one should envy the members of the cabinet for the weighty responsibility that rests upon them. I believe I mentioned this comment to you in the past, but this week the members of the Shas party saw a very clear illustration of the challenges facing the cabinet members at this time, when a group of family members of hostages met with the party members to share their thoughts and feelings. Devorah, the mother of Tzachi Idan, sat beneath a huge sign bearing the slogan “Proud to Be Jews” and wept bitterly as she spoke. “My grandson was murdered. My son, Tzachi Idan, is still in captivity. I need him back!” she exclaimed.

Others were present as well: parents, siblings, children, and even grandchildren of the hostages in Gaza. Dekel Lifschitz, an eloquent and imposing young man, spoke longingly about his grandfather, Oded. His father, Yizhar, was present as well. The 83-year-old Oded Lifschitz is a longtime peace activist, journalist, and publicist who has worked for Al Hamishmar and Hadaf Hayarok and was part of the founding nucleus of Kibbutz Nir Oz. Oded and his wife, Yocheved, were in their home on the day of the dreadful massacre; their home was destroyed by the fires set by the terrorists and the couple was taken to Gaza. Yocheved was released from captivity, but Oded is still there, and his family fears for his life.

The hostages’ families begged the government to do anything necessary to secure their freedom. “Yes, at any price!” they repeatedly shouted. Everyone in the room was nearly moved to tears by Devorah Idan’s show of emotion. “My son is being tormented in Gaza, and I am living through torment here,” she told her listeners. “I have no life. If you ask me,” she added, looking at Aryeh Deri, “the answer is yes. Any price must be paid to prevent them from coming home in coffins.”

In the corridors of the Knesset building, there are representatives of both extremes—the Tikva Forum on the one hand and the Hostages Forum on the other—both sobbing with emotion. One group insists that Israel must agree to a prisoner exchange at any price. The other insists that the fighting must continue. Efrat Mor, the mother of hostage Eitan Mor, told the media, “Freeing the murderers will only invite the next tragedy.” Meanwhile, Devorah Idan had the opposite message: “We must do anything it takes to prevent them from coming home in coffins.” One group reminds us constantly that there is no greater priority than pidyon shevuyim. The other reminds us that it is prohibited to pay an exorbitant price for the release of captives. Both are motivated by the gravest of concerns: the life-threatening danger posed by the terrorists to the hostages and to others.

A Deal Emerges

As I have written many times, the hostage crisis is holding the entire country’s attention. Of course, that is only to be expected. Everyone has a different opinion about how to address the issue. But the debate has now moved from the theoretical plane to the practical. Israel has been pushing hard for a deal that will secure the hostages’ freedom, mainly through the Americans and Qatar. The question, though, is what the terms of that deal will be. The discussions are officially being kept under wraps, but there are always leaks, and the latest report has it that the cabinet discussed a potential deal on Friday that would call for the IDF to stop fighting for a full day in exchange for every released hostage. Two of the ministers in the cabinet, according to the leaker, objected strenuously to the idea. Itamar Ben-Gvir protested that it would provide invaluable oxygen to Hamas, and Dudi Amsalem insisted that such a long pause in the fighting would be akin to surrendering. I will mention only that the people who are quoted by name in leaked reports are generally likely to have been responsible for the leaks….

In any event, according to the unnamed officials who were present at the cabinet meeting, the political-security cabinet received an overview of the deal for the release of the hostages that is currently taking shape. These sources claimed that according to the outline presented to them, the ceasefire is expected to be extended over the course of 142 days, even though the negotiators involved in the process have asserted in other forums that it will not be longer than two months. One official who was present at the cabinet meeting claimed that according to the outline presented there, Hamas will first release 35 female, elderly, or sick hostages. The releases will be spread out over the course of a 35-day ceasefire, meaning that there will be one day of ceasefire for every hostage released. This will be followed by further talks in preparation for another round of releases. Those negotiations are expected to last seven days. Since the agreement calls for a day of ceasefire for every hostage released, and there will be about 100 hostages remaining after the first wave, it takes only a simple calculation to conclude that the exchange will span a number of months.

According to the same source, the proposed agreement came under heavy criticism from several members of the cabinet, who were opposed to the long break in fighting and to allowing a gradual release of the hostages. The source claimed that Justice Minister Levin insisted that the deal should be an all-or-nothing proposition. “It isn’t ethical to release only some of the hostages and then to engage in negotiations,” he said. He added that Israel should ramp up the military pressure on Hamas, which is likely to bring about the hostages’ freedom. Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet, also said, “We should not be agreeing to a gradual deal. It should be done all at once, rather than two rounds of releases with only 35 hostages coming home at first.”

Dissension in the Cabinet

We have already grown accustomed to hearing leaked reports from cabinet meetings that are supposed to be conducted in secrecy, and plenty of information has reached us this time. Here is another quote from Ben-Gvir: “This deal will give oxygen to Hamas. They will beef up their ranks and rebuild themselves. Have we gone crazy? We are freeing mass murderers, murderers of children, and terrorists who have beheaded innocent people. What will they do now? Will they start directing traffic? Haven’t we learned anything from releasing Sinwar?” Ben-Gvir was implying, of course, that the terrorists who are freed from Israeli prisons are bound to resume murdering Jews, chas veshalom. In other words, even if the deal results in the hostages’ freedom, it is liable to lead to many more abductions and possibly murders as well.

“How else will we bring the hostages home?” someone asked him.

“With a military operation, halting the supply of fuel to Gaza, and making humanitarian aid conditional on humanitarian actions,” Ben-Gvir replied. “That will increase the pressure on Hamas.” He called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to reopen the subject of humanitarian aid for Gaza for renewed discussion.

Netanyahu reportedly said at the cabinet session, “There are three conditions that we will not accept. We will not allow an end to the war; we began this process for the purpose of defeating Hamas, and we must see it through. We will also not allow thousands of terrorists to be freed; we all know the ramifications of that move. Finally, we will not remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip. Our strength is in our unity,” Netanyahu added. “I hope that everyone will remain here [i.e., as part of the government and cabinet]. If not, we will all be harmed.” This was a response to Ben-Gvir, who had threatened to bring down the government if it enters into a deal whose terms are unacceptable to him, as well as to Gantz and Eizenkot, who have constantly been threatening to resign from the government if a deal for the hostages’ release is not made immediately.

The cabinet also discussed the humanitarian aid that is being transferred to Gaza in response to American pressure. Many Israelis, including families of the hostages or victims of the massacre, have been protesting at the Kerem Shalom crossing and have been trying to block the transfer of aid. The police have been dispersing the protestors, sometimes using violence to do so. The army recently declared the area a closed military zone to make it possible for the demonstrators to be removed. Minister Yariv Levin and Transportation Minister Miri Regev denounced Police Chief Kobi Shabtai for the use of force against the demonstrators, accusing the police of selective enforcement targeting the right-wing protestors. The police chief responded by reminding them that the aid to Gaza was approved by the cabinet, of which they are members, and that the police have merely been doing their jobs by enforcing the cabinet’s decisions.

Wine for Kiddush Becomes Grounds for Incitement

The Marker, a financial newspaper with a habit of maligning the chareidi community at every possible opportunity, recently found a way to capitalize on the hostage crisis to foment more incitement. There is nothing new about that. It seems that they always find fodder for hatemongering in anything and everything that occurs in this country. This time, one of their writers came up with the following line: “Netanyahu’s trolls put in some work, but instead of bringing back the hostages, we can now buy wine at night.” The writer was mocking MK Moshe Roth, who introduced a law that would permit the large supermarket chains to sell wine after 11 p.m. on Thursday nights. This law was first drafted by Uri Maklev, who has a talent for translating the needs of various individuals into bills with the potential to benefit the entire country. The bill was paired with two nearly identical bills, one drafted by Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher and the other by MKs Mashriki and Illouz, and all three were submitted together, as is the standard procedure in the Knesset. All of this is fairly par for the course in the Israeli legislature, but The Marker saw fit to frame it as a story about ignoring the plight of the hostages.

Let me explain. A few years ago, the Knesset enacted a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 11:00 at night. The purpose of this law was to prevent young people from becoming drunk late at night and behaving in an unruly and disruptive fashion. The idea was inherently a good one, but no one took into account the religious people who make their purchases for Shabbos in grocery stores that remain open until midnight or later on Thursday nights. These men found that when they arrived at the cash registers to make their purchases, the bottles of wine they had chosen for Kiddush could not be rung up. The computers were programmed to automatically reject alcoholic beverages at that late hour. Months ago, Uri Maklev drafted a bill that would exclude Shabbos purchases from the law, making it possible to buy wine (but not whiskey or vodka) late on Thursday nights. When Maklev became a deputy minister, all of the bills he had submitted were cancelled. A minister or deputy minister, as a member of the executive branch of the government, is not permitted to introduce new pieces of legislation. His colleagues in UTJ then adopted the bills as their own, and Moshe Roth submitted a bill that replicated Maklev’s measure, as did Gafni and Yaakov Asher.

The article in The Marker, however, exploited the bill to cast aspersions on the chareidi community, accusing them of being preoccupied with petty concerns and showing indifference to the hostages’ suffering. But this was nothing but cheap demagoguery and cynical defamation. For one thing, the opposition recently decried the fact that the Knesset insists on dealing only with issues associated with the war. They insisted that the Knesset should be engaging in other legislative work at this time, although the coalition justified their actions by arguing that they were avoiding unnecessary discord by postponing the discussion of any other laws. There is indeed some logic to that argument, although the opposition’s counterargument—that it is impossible to halt the work of the Knesset altogether—has some sense to it as well. Based on the opposition’s stance, in any event, there should be no logical basis for objecting to the Knesset’s dealing with this law during a time of war.

Moreover, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation reviewed several bills together with this one, and while most of the other bills dealt with the immediate issues of the war, soldiers, or terrorism, those weren’t the only subjects of concern. There was also a bill concerning illegal immigrants, a bill that dealt with investment funds, a law calling for internet sites to be made accessible to the disabled, and a bill imposing limits on the liens that may be placed on a debtor’s bank account. Thus, the Knesset gave attention to many topics that were not connected to the war, and it was disingenuous of the newspaper to single out this particular issue.

On that note, since the Knesset is making an effort to resume its usual routine at least in part, urgent motions for the agenda were heard as well. This week, the Knesset heard motions concerning the wasteful spending of a government corporation. But for some reason, that story, with its major financial ramifications, did not interest The Marker at all. They were bothered only by a simple law that was designed to help ordinary citizens with their weekly grocery shopping.

State Budget to Be Reviewed by Knesset This Week

This Wednesday, the Knesset and the government will be facing one of their greatest tests: the state budget for the year 2024, which must go before the Knesset for approval. The budget was held up by some snags over the past few weeks, since the finance minister had to face numerous hurdles before the government would approve it for the Knesset’s review. Every minister worked hard to protect his or her own ministry from budget cuts, but it is always necessary to cut spending somewhere, and this year the need is greater than ever. The war is costing the government millions of shekels, and there are plenty of ancillary expenses as well, such as the staggering number of newly disabled army veterans who have entered the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation programs or the massive sums that had to be forked over to the hotels where evacuees from the north and south were provided with temporary accommodations. (On that note, there is some good news: The evacuees are now beginning to return to their homes, including those in the Gaza envelope.)

Now that the government has finally approved the budget, it must be brought before the Knesset for its first reading. The next step is for the budget to be transferred to the Knesset Finance Committee and to several other committees (each dealing with its own specific area of jurisdiction) for review before it is returned to the Knesset for its second and third readings. Ostensibly, there should be no impediment to the budget’s passage this week, since the government and the coalition have a solid majority. However, one can never really know what will happen until the end. We must keep in mind that the Lapid-Bennett government was toppled due to internal friction over the budget, even though that government likewise seemed to have a majority.

Unfortunately, the budget for 2024 will include a number of measures that will impose economic hardship on the public, in addition to sweeping cuts in the budgets of all the government ministries. The Finance Ministry is promoting a travel tax on electric cars at a rate of 15 agurot for every kilometer of travel. The number of kilometers traveled by a car will be assessed annually when its registration is renewed. The tax on cigarettes and tobacco will be increased by about 18 percent, and the tax on electronic cigarettes will be raised dramatically from 4.8 shekels per milliliter to 6.3 shekels per milliliter. According to the Treasury, this tax hike is expected to increase the government’s revenues by about 600 million shekels and to decrease the number of smokers in the country. The explanatory notes for the bill claim that as of 2020, the number of smokers in Israel was about 20.1 percent of the population above the age of 21. Now, I am not an economist, but it seems to me that if the number of smokers decreases, the tax collected by the government will naturally be reduced, so I am not certain how this will represent a financial gain for the state coffers.

The Treasury is also recommending a reduction in the basket of medications subsidized by the government, which will decrease government spending by 108 million shekels. Another recommendation calls for a 15-percent reduction in a number of government programs, including a program designed to close socioeconomic gaps in the Arab sector by the year 2026 and another program that aimed to reduce violence and crime in the Arab population. The Treasury is also recommending reducing the budget of the Transportation Ministry by 7.4 billion shekels over the next three years by canceling Transportation Minister Miri Regev’s initiative to bring down the cost of public transportation and by postponing many infrastructure projects. The budget also includes a number of measures that will create financial hardship for the chareidi public by reducing government subsidies for day care programs and possibly reducing property tax discounts as well. Of course, government funding for yeshivos and kollelim has also been slashed.

A Judges Double Standard

We must give credit where credit is due, but at the same time, let us not give it to those who are not deserving of it.

The following paragraph, minus a couple of tiny adjustments of my own, was recently written by Elyakim Rubinstein, a former Supreme Court justice and onetime advisor to Moshe Dayan (and onetime cabinet secretary and petty politician): “I do not presume to declare myself an expert on the intricacies of the new budget, but I sat at the government table for many years and watched the constant negotiations surrounding it. I will respond to two things. First, the huge cut in funding for the chareidi community, if it takes place, is a mistake. We all have a vested interest in promoting partnership between chilonim and chareidim in Israel, and a budget for bridging the gaps between the communities is one of the ways to achieve that. Cutting that funding represents the opposite. It would be wise to consider the effects of these actions before they are taken.”

That sounds very good, doesn’t it? Rubinstein makes a heartwarming and highly rational argument on behalf of the chareidi community, and it is quite encouraging to see the judge finally demonstrating compassion in the right place. At long last, someone is finally promoting partnership with the chareidi community and seeking to rectify the discrimination against this sector.

The only problem is that this isn’t really what he wrote.

Remember that I mentioned that I was making a couple of small adjustments in this quote? Well, Rubinstein was actually writing about the Arab sector rather than the chareidim. I replaced the word “Arab” with “chareidi,” and I emended the next sentence to refer to partnership between chareidim and chilonim, whereas Rubinstein was actually advocating collaboration between Jews and Arabs. Now we see where his sympathies truly lie. All of this begs the question of why he didn’t make the same statements about the chareidim.

Netanyahu Rebukes the Press

The media was up to its old tricks once again at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s press conference on Motzoei Shabbos. Reporters never seem to hesitate to ask the most bizarre, embarrassing, and downright senseless questions, and this one was no exception. One question came from a reporter for Calcalist who had just completed 100 days of reserve service and challenged the prime minister, “How should parents feel when they are sending their children to the army while the government provides funding for an organization that encourages draft dodging?”

With all due respect, I must say that this question was a distortion of the truth. The reporter was referring to the Vaad Hayeshivos, which helps bnei yeshivos process their draft deferments but does not encourage dereliction.

Netanyahu responded, “That is another tendentious question. If you are referring to the chareidim, I must remind you that the leaders of the opposition once promised them a blank check.” That is, in the previous government, Lapid and Gantz offered to sign on any agreement that the chareidim wished to formulate; they had no qualms about giving in to any of the chareidi parties’ demands. “I have seen the chareidim flocking to volunteer for civilian service,” Netanyahu added. “You are ignoring that because you are interested only in creating division. You are here on a mission that is different from mine. I am focused on fighting Hamas, and you are busy fighting me while I am doing that.”

The chareidi community has also been intensely preoccupied with the preparations for the upcoming local elections throughout Israel. This, too, has become fodder for incitement against the chareidim, who are vilified for showing concern for municipal affairs at a time when the rest of the country is at war. Nevertheless, many others are also heavily involved in local politics at this time.

Media Praise for Legislative Subterfuge

Professor Amnon Rubinstein is one of the few people in the world who have “died” twice.

Rubinstein, who was a member of the Knesset for many years and served as a government minister from time to time, passed away last week. In the month of Av 5759/1999, long before his actual death, he was eulogized in the Knesset while all of its members stood in silence out of respect for him. This was the result of a prank. Someone had decided to play a practical joke on the Knesset and placed a call to Israel’s parliament while impersonating a hospital director. The prank caller solemnly claimed that Rubinstein had died, and the Knesset speaker accepted the story a bit too hastily and proceeded to eulogize Rubinstein and to call for a minute of silence out of respect for his memory. The Knesset was shocked by the (fake) news of his death, but it was soon revealed that he was actually still alive.

As I mentioned, Amnon Rubinstein passed away this week, and the media praised him mainly for his involvement in formulating Israel’s Basic Laws. Nevertheless, that supposed accomplishment should actually be a source of shame for him. The passage of the Basic Laws in the Knesset came about through one of the most blatant acts of deception ever committed in the Knesset, in which the chareidi and religious parties were maliciously misled. The men who openly spearheaded the Basic Laws, Justice Minister Meridor and Uriel Lynn, chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, claimed that the Basic Laws would not endow the Supreme Court with any additional power and that the laws would actually benefit the chareidim. These claims proved to be false. Behind the scenes, two left-wing members of the Knesset, Mordechai Virshovsky and Amnon Rubinstein, were also playing a leading role in the laws’ enactment. However, both men deliberately refrained from being associated with the laws in the public eye. In the committee chambers, they managed to deceive the chareidi representatives.

Uriel Lynn unabashedly describes the campaign of deception in his book, The Birth of a Revolution. In the foreword to the book, Justice Aharon Barak, who knew in advance that he would exploit the Basic Laws to overturn legislation passed by the Knesset, heaps praise on Amnon Rubinstein, whom he considered a close friend. “I believe that Uriel Lynn and Amnon Rubinstein were the two central figures in the story of the establishment of these Basic Laws,” Barak claims. “Without their leadership, their vision, their dedication, and their parliamentary capabilities, these two Basic Laws would never have seen the light of day.” Rubinstein was the one who advised Meridor and Lynn to split the proposed constitution of the State of Israel, which no one had managed to pass since the Knesset’s establishment, into several Basic Laws that would be easier to dupe the lawmakers into passing. Woe to us all if his deceit has earned him praise from the Israeli media!

Copying Bills Is the Norm

I derive a certain measure of enjoyment from examining the bills placed on the Knesset table by various legislators. Every week, the offices of the Knesset members and their teams of advisors (with their varying degrees of talent) come up with bills that are sent to the Knesset’s legal department for review. Once the bills pass muster there, they are relayed to the Knesset presidium, which gives its approval for the laws to be placed on the Knesset table. This kicks off a mandatory waiting period of 45 days, which is officially meant to allow the laws to be perused by anyone who might be interested in challenging them before the bills can be presented in the Knesset. In general, the chances of an ordinary bill making its way to the Knesset are virtually nil. For one thing, there is a quota of bills that may be introduced by every party. UTJ and Shas, for instance, are each limited to a single proposed law each week. And if the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is opposed to a particular bill, then the Knesset member who authored it will be asked to remove it from the agenda. Even if this member of the Knesset is part of the opposition and isn’t bound by coalition discipline to withdraw it, the coalition is bound to defeat the bill by a majority vote. That means that even if a bill manages to make it to the Knesset floor by some astronomical chance, it will inevitably be shot down. But regardless of the slim to nonexistent likelihood of a bill being passed into law, over 4,200 bills have been placed on the table in the 25th Knesset thus far.

Personally, I find it entertaining to explore the thinking of Israeli parliamentarians and to read some of the bizarre or even disgraceful bills that are submitted. On the other hand, there are some times when my impressions are positive. I am astounded by the ideas and find myself wondering why no one else came up with them in the past. Two of the laws that were brought to the Knesset this past week, with the support of the government, fell into the latter category. First, MK Eliyohu Bruchi presented a law that would prohibit employers from deducting vacation days from employees who take off for volunteer service. Second, MK Erez Malul presented a law that would bar unscrupulous lawyers from charging exorbitant fees to represent victims of the Hamas massacre on October 7.

I also found it amusing to observe the copying of other bills. This is a routine phenomenon that no one bothers to conceal. It is very easy to identify the laws that were copied from previous bills, since every MK is required to give credit in the explanatory notes of a bill to anyone who previously submitted a similar law. This week, for instance, three identical versions of a single law were submitted under the title “Proposed Law: National Firefighting and Rescue Service Authority (Payments for Firefighters and Employees).” One of the bills was drafted by a group of Knesset members led by Penina Tamano, another was written by Efrat Raitan-Marom, and the third was penned by Ofir Katz. However, it was clear that all three bills had been copied from the same source. Indeed, two of the bills acknowledged that the same law had been submitted in the 25th Knesset by Tzvika Fogel (who was also mimicked by Merav Ben-Ari, Naama Lazimi, and Oded Forer). The third bill revealed that the idea had a much earlier origin: The first draft of this law was submitted in the 20th Knesset by Nava Boker, who was motivated by her own personal experiences. Her husband, Superintendent Lior Boker, was killed while trying to evacuate a group of people trapped in a burning bus during the tragic fire in the Carmel five years earlier.

Some bills, which are not attributed to an earlier source, are actually original. Even this week, there were some original laws that appeared, such as a proposal drafted by Yinon Azulai and signed by 35 of his colleagues in the Knesset that grants special rights to siblings or children under the age of 21 of people who were abducted or disappeared on October 7. Another such bill was presented by Yehonasan Mashriki and requires Israel’s health funds to provide detailed explanations when they reject requests.

The Singers Kindness

Here is another fantastic story that took place this week. A wonderful yungerman called me several days ago with a request that I could not turn down. His mother is a cancer patient and has been spending a good deal of time in the oncology ward in a hospital in Yerushalayim. This virtuous woman has been suffering immeasurably, and her son wished to bring her some joy, at least to a small degree, in the midst of her suffering by arranging a party for her birthday on Motzoei Shabbos. “I want to organize a musical evening in her home,” he explained, “and I need a keyboard player and a singer. I am sure that it will lift her spirits.”

“I am not exactly up to date on musical performers,” I told him. “I can speak to a couple of people, but it would be a good idea to try someone who is more knowledgeable and well-connected than I am.” We decided to consult with Ahrele Weingarten of Darchei Miriam and with Dovid Tzarfati of Osim Sameiach. The two men agreed to take responsibility for the project and instructed me to have the yungerman call them directly. I did as I was told, and that was the end of my involvement.

On Motzoei Shabbos, I called the yungerman to ask about his initiative. “Did you manage to find a singer and a keyboard player?” I asked.

“Very much,” he replied in a tone that indicated that he was in a buoyant mood. “Actually, I managed to take care of the matter myself. The singer is on his way now.” He proceeded to name one of the top singers in the Jewish world. “When I reached him and told him the story, he agreed to come without a moment’s hesitation.”

I was stunned, and since the singer is a personal acquaintance of mine, I called him to confirm the story. He acknowledged that he had performed at the event. “I hope everyone enjoyed it,” he said. “I put in effort to make it a success.”

“You are a tzaddik,” I told him. “Can you send me a picture of the event? I’d like to write about it.”

“I don’t have any pictures,” he replied. “In general, I prefer for these things to go unpublicized. I wouldn’t want to detract from my share in Gan Eden.”

The Power of a Dollar

Let me end this column with an incredible story that was shared with me by Rav Eliezer Sorotzkin, the director of Lev L’Achim. “One day,” Rav Sorotzkin told me, “I received a phone call from someone who wanted to increase his standing monthly donation to Lev L’Achim. I was about to give him the phone number of the office, but my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to ask him about the details first. ‘I donate ten dollars every month,’ he explained, ‘and I want to increase it to eleven dollars.’

“Naturally, this piqued my curiosity even more, and I asked him about the reason for his decision. ‘Until now, I have always given maaser from the stipend that I receive at night kollel,” he said. “I used to receive 100 dollars a month, and I gave ten dollars to Lev L’Achim out of that sum. The kollel has now decided to introduce a shemiras hasedorim initiative, and anyone who attends the sedorim from beginning to end will receive an additional ten dollars every month. That is why I want to increase my maaser payments by a dollar.’

“Some time after this incident, I traveled to America with Rav Uri Zohar,” Rav Sorotzkin continued. “We had breakfast in Flatbush with one of our patrons, who gave us a donation in honor of Rav Uri. After the meal, I happened to mention this story to Rav Uri and to our host, and the donor was deeply moved by it. He immediately asked for me to hand him back the check he had written, which was for the sum of five thousand dollars, and he ripped it up and replaced it with a check for twice that amount. I decided at that moment that I would have to call the yungerman and tell him what he had accomplished with that one dollar.

“Shortly after that encounter, that same patron came to Israel on a group trip and informed me that he and two other men in the group were interested in meeting with Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Uri, and ybl”c Rav Yisroel Meir Lau. I arranged all three meetings for him, and our meeting in Rav Uri’s humble home was as moving as ever. The men listened to the story of his life and were captivated by his charm. When they left, the donor gave us a check once again, and I put it in my pocket without examining the sum. I presumed that he had written a check for $5,000, or possibly for $10,000, as he had done in the past. Meanwhile, Rav Uri joined me in my car for the drive to our midrasha in Netanya. While we were on the road, he asked me, ‘Nu? How much did we make for kiruv today? Perhaps we should put in a phone call to thank the donors.’

“I took out the check to find out the answer to his question,” Rav Sorotzkin went on, “and I was astounded. The sum on the check was $90,000!

“That incident took place on Thursday. I used to visit Rav Shteinman’s home on Fridays to present all my shailos to the rosh yeshiva and receive his answers. When our usual session drew to a close, I told him that I had a fantastic story to tell, and I shared this entire chain of events with him. Rav Shteinman smiled and said, ‘You are enthused by the fact that one dollar was able to lead to one hundred thousand dollars. Personally, I am even more enthused by the fact that a dollar can have such an impact on another Jew’s heart…’”

 

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