Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

My Take on the News

 

 

Five Soldiers Die in Friendly Fire Mishap

Tensions are running high in Israel, and even if life seems to be moving along normally in many parts of the country, nothing could be further from the truth. The country is living in the shadow of war. Last weekend, including on Shabbos, over 100 rockets were fired into the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee, including Meron. A drone exploded in the settlement of Margaliot in the north; miraculously there were no fatalities. Israelis are almost certain that, despite all the assessments to the contrary, Hezbollah is interested in escalating the hostilities. Are they following orders from Iran? Perhaps. Is this a reaction to the weakness displayed by some of Israel’s senior cabinet members? Again, perhaps. But regardless of the reason, the situation is very clear, and the tens of thousands of people who were evacuated from the north are not even thinking about returning home.

Along with the escalation in the north, there is also ongoing rocket fire in the south (including Ashkelon), not to mention fighting in Gaza. Following the recent barrage of rockets from the north, the IDF conducted a round of strikes in southern Lebanon, destroying terror infrastructure and military buildings belonging to Hezbollah, as well as taking out a rocket launcher. In addition, the Arab media reported that an IDF plane conducted an air strike on a car on the border between Lebanon and Syria, which was carrying a Hezbollah commander.

The IDF’s operations in Gaza in general, and in Rafah in particular, are continuing to exact a heavy price. Last Wednesday night, five soldiers were killed in a tragic accident, their deaths made even more painful by the fact that they were inadvertently killed by friendly fire. Seven other soldiers were wounded in the incident, five of them seriously. The soldiers were hit by tank fire directed at a building while they were inside, after the tanks were hit by RPG projectiles fired at them over the course of the day. The soldiers operating in the area have been facing fierce resistance from the terrorists, who fired over 60 anti-tank missiles at the Israeli forces and detonated dozens of explosives. After the tanks were stationed there, a group of soldiers from the 202nd Battalion, the same battalion to which the tanks belonged, arrived at an adjacent building and took up positions there. Another group of soldiers under the command of the Chetz company of the paratrooper division arrived later and also entered the building.

A few hours after the soldiers took up positions in the building, one of the tank operators noticed a suspicious-looking figure in the large structure. The soldiers in the tanks related that they saw the barrel of a weapon directed at them from a window; one of the tank operators signaled to the soldiers in the other tank, and two shells were fired at that portion of the building. The explosives killed the commander of the division and four other soldiers from the Chetz company, while another seven were wounded.

In case you are wondering, why I am making a point of identifying the soldiers’ division by name, the answer is that the Chetz company is the chareidi company within the 202nd Battalion of the paratroopers’ division of the army. That detail is significant in light of the passions stoked by Ayelet Shaked on the day before this tragic incident. Shaked, who served as Minister of Justice in the Lapid-Bennett government, made a deplorable comment: “Every day, I am visiting the homes of bereaved families, but I am not visiting any chareidi homes…. We can’t go on like this. The army needs to draft 50 percent of the chareidim!” Just one day later, five members of a chareidi unit were killed. One of those soldiers, Ilan Cohen, was a yeshiva bochur who came to Israel from Argentina to serve in the army. His funeral on Friday was attended by thousands of chareidim, after announcements were made in chareidi neighborhoods that the community was asked to attend the levayah and pay their final respects to the soldier, who had no family in the country. Another of the soldiers, Doniel Chemu, had learned in Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman’s institutions in Migdal Ha’Emek. And then another soldier, Sergeant Ben Avishai, was killed on Friday. It was a terribly sad string of losses.

Aviels Kaddish

In light of Ayelet Shaked’s misbegotten comment that chareidim haven’t been dying in the army (an observation made by two or three anti-religious media figures as well), I would like to share with my own experiences on Yom Hazikaron. For the past six or seven years, there has been a memorial event honoring the chareidi soldiers of the IDF who have been killed. I attended the event this year as well.

One of the recent additions to the list of the deceased was Aharon Parash, who was hailed by everyone who knew him as brilliant. Parash was born in Beer Sheva and attended Talmud Torah there until his family moved to Ofakim, where he became one of the top talmidim in a cheder known as Torah Lishmah. His yeshiva ketanah years were spent in Yeshivas Hadras Torah in Ofakim, and then he moved on to Yeshivas Daas Chaim in Yerushalayim for yeshiva gedolah. He joined the army in 2008, after two years in kollel. In the religious community of Ofakim, he was known for his dedication to all matters of kedusha.

This Simchas Torah, Aharon was in Ofakim with his son, Aviel, when he received a telephone call from his commanding officer ordering him to rush to the south. He hurried to the command center and managed to save a few soldiers from the Hamas murderers before he fell in the line of duty. Aharon was survived by his wife and five orphaned children, the oldest of whom is 14 years old: Matanel, Aviel, Dovid, Asher, and little Itai Yehuda, who is almost two years old. Aharon’s gravestone in the military cemetery in Ofakim hails him as an “oheiv shalom v’rodeif shalom,” a man who loved and pursued peace.

When Aviel recited Kaddish at the event last week, the surge of emotion that ran through the crowd seemed powerful enough to topple the building. The entrance was manned by soldiers with long peyos and tzitzis dangling visibly at their waists. There were also rabbonim and askonim who are affiliated with the chareidi soldiers in the army; as well as the men of Netzach Yehuda, whose goal is to lower the flames of hostility and spread warmth and brotherhood. These men work hard to save the souls of young men who would otherwise easily be drawn astray. The chareidi Knesset members and government officials were present as well. The sound of voices speaking French caught my attention, and I turned around to find myself facing a group of three young men from France who had come to Israel to join the army. All three hailed from religious homes; two were from Paris and the third was from Toulouse.

The emotionally moving ceremony was clearly the result of prodigious hard work. The speakers, each of whom delivered a masterful presentation, included Rav Shlomo Amar, Rav Dovid Yosef, Rav Dovid Lau, and Ministers Yaakov Margi and Betzalel Smotrich, as well as representatives of the bereaved families. One of the speakers, Rav Nesanel Lev of France, was the father of Binyomin, a member of the chareidi unit within the paratroopers’ brigade who was killed in battle against the terrorists in Nachal Oz. Rav Lev spoke at the podium with his young son beside him, sending a ripple of sorrow through the audience. “On my flight to Israel to attend my son’s levayah,” he related, “I tried to come up with an idea of something I could do to honor his memory, and I settled on offering my fellow passengers a chance to lay tefillin. A few of them turned me down, but when I explained the reason that I was traveling to Israel, there wasn’t a single person who stuck to his refusal.”

The pictures and names of the deceased were displayed on a screen; the list was painfully long. Every one of those names represented a pure soul taken from this world at a young age, leaving a gaping, agonizing void behind. Not all of the names were new; some of them dated back years. Then there were some familiar names, such as Yishai Avimael Roseles, whose parents I visited during his shiva; his father, Rav Aharon, worked in Yeshivas Ohr Elchonon. At one point, the screen showed a picture of a soldier named Yisroel Reinman, who wore a jacket and black hat. The list of names included Noam Elimelech Rottenberg, who was killed on Simchas Torah, to name just a few. Rav Yitzchok Bar-Chaim read perek 83 of Tehillim aloud, and Avrohom Fried stirred everyone’s emotions. Instead of merely singing his song “V’nikeisi Damam,” he seemed to be directing it Heavenward as a heartfelt tefillah.

Aviel Parash recite Kaddish. After the ceremony, I approached Aviel and informed him and his uncle, who was present with him, that the Shas party’s elected officials were available to offer their support and assistance for any of his needs. Aviel informed me that he is currently learning in Hadras Torah in Ofakim, and he plans to enroll in Darchei Chaim, the yeshiva ketanah, next year.

“What is the origin of your family name?” I asked him.

“We are Sephardim,” he replied.

“I understand that you are Sephardic, but from where?” I asked.

“No, I meant Sephardim as in people from Sefarad, or Spain,” he explained. “My family is Spanish.”

Aviel told me a little about his father and the battle in which he fell; Aharon Parash gave his life to protect his fellow Jews. The orphaned child and his bereaved uncle later struck up a conversation with Yaakov Margi outside, and I discovered that Margi had visited them during the shiva and had developed a close relationship with the family. “B’ezrat Hashem, you will become a gadol b’Torah and carry on your father’s legacy,” Margi said to young Aviel.

May Hashem avenge the blood of the fallen.

Hostages Bodies Recovered Based on Intelligence from Captured Terrorists

On motzoei Shabbos, we were moved to learn that the bodies of four hostages were rescued from the clutches of Hamas. The remains of Ron Benjamin, Amit Buskilla, Shani Louk, and Itzik Gelernter were recovered from the Gaza Strip in a military operation carried out by IDF and Shin Bet operatives. After the successful operation, the IDF spokesman announced, “Yitzchok, Shani, and Amit fled from the Nova festival and, according to verified information, were brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists who took their bodies to Gaza. The bodies that were recovered were transferred for identification, and IDF representatives notified the families after the process was complete. During the same operation, the soldiers recovered the body of Ron Benjamin, who was murdered on October 7 at Miflasim and whose body was held by Hamas terrorists.”

The bodies’ whereabouts were determined based on the questioning of terrorists held by the Shin Bet. These terrorists had been captured during IDF maneuvers in the Gaza Strip and had been brought to Israel for interrogation on account of the suspicion that they were either aware of or actively involved in the imprisonment of hostages. The interrogations were reviewed by a designated unit in the Shin Bet working together with the IDF to locate the hostages and missing persons, and the exact location of the hostages’ remains was ascertained based on the intelligence they provided.

The news was received with mixed emotions. On the one hand, there was a measure of relief in the fact that these people were finally given proper burials. Indeed, the families attested that their suffering was eased by the knowledge that their loved ones would finally be interred in proper graves. At the same time, this also put an end to the hopes that the victims were still alive in captivity and would eventually be freed. Several funerals were held at the beginning of this week, and the people of Israel shared the families’ pain.

Global Efforts to Save a Jew in Iran

Another issue that has been weighing on us is something that is not directly associated with the hostages in Gaza or the Jews who have been killed by Arab terrorists, yet it seems connected nonetheless. In Iran, a 20-year-old man named Arwin Nesanel Gharamani from the city of Kermansha, who was convicted about two years ago of murdering a Muslim man, was scheduled to be executed this Monday. Immediately before the scheduled execution, the Jewish community was notified that the death sentence was postponed for a month. International organizations have been working hard to prevent the execution, and Gharamani’s family members have been struggling to persuade the victim’s family to forgo the execution and accept a monetary payment instead, which is their legal right.

Iranian sources reported that Gharamani was involved in an altercation with a non-Jewish Iranian man two years ago. According to the reports, Gharamani used a large kitchen knife to defend himself, and the Iranian man was killed in the struggle. The Jewish citizen of Iran was sentenced to death, and the execution was originally scheduled for this past Shabbos before being delayed until Monday. Iranian law permits a death sentence to be commuted in exchange for a ransom payment only if the victim’s family approves it. Gharamani’s family and other members of the Jewish community offered a huge payment to the victim’s family, but they refused to accept it and demanded his execution. This led to a flurry of appeals to various governments, including those of Russia and Germany, to intervene in an effort to have the death sentence rescinded. Attorneys in Iran and other members of the Iranian Jewish community also tried to intercede with the victim’s family and to convince them to forgo the death sentence, which would have seen Gharamani set free immediately. According to Iranian law, if a ransom payment is accepted for a prisoner facing capital punishment, the accused is released from prison. Iran has been known for many years as the country with the highest number of executions, followed by Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, although the exact number of executions has been deliberately kept ambiguous by the authorities.

On that note, I will reveal a little secret to you: I was personally involved, to a small extent, in the efforts on behalf of Gharamani last Friday. Yaffa Deri was contacted by the Gharamani family for help, and she sought my assistance in getting through to Vladimir Putin. I had once helped a well-connected Russian Jew reach her husband to make a request, and she suggested that I should put them in touch with the same man. I advised her to contact Rav Lazar of Moscow, who has the ability to reach Putin, and I gave her the telephone number of Shea Deutsch, who is very close to Rav Lazar. The plan was to ask Putin to intercede with the president of Iran. That is all that I can reveal. When I told Mrs. Deri on motzoei Shabbos that the media had reported that the execution had been carried out, she replied, “That’s impossible. I know that it was postponed until Monday.” Sure enough, she turned out to be correct, and then the execution was postponed again, this time for another month. That means that there is time for additional efforts to be made to save the life of a Jew in grave danger.

May Hashem hear all the tefillos that are being offered on this young man’s behalf and grant him a reprieve.

Its Final: Hillula in Meron to Be Canceled This Year

At this point, it has become absolutely clear that there will be no hillula in Meron on Lag Ba’omer this year. With that in mind, the Ministry of Religious Affairs is working on two other events to be held in lieu of the annual festivities in Meron. One of those will be at the kever of Rabi Meir Baal Haness in Teveria this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 13th and 14th of Iyar. There is a small hillula held every year at Rabi Meir’s kever, but the authorities are preparing for a much larger event this year, which is to be attended by tens of thousands of people. In recent days, meetings have been held with the attendance of top officials in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, including Michoel Malchieli, the religious affairs minister, and the ministry’s director-general, Yehuda Avidan, along with representatives of the police in the northern district and of the Home Front Command. Two senior officials were tapped to serve as project managers for this event, both of whom have already proven themselves by overseeing the festivities at the Baba Sali’s hillula in Netivot. The police officials at the meeting included Superintendent Ran Levi of the Kinneret district and Deputy Commissioner Yigal Benlulu, commander of the Teveria police station. The meetings were also attended by representatives of Magen Dovid Adom, the firefighting service, and the organizations that manage the tziyun.

The government approved a special budget for this hillula, and Michoel Malchieli noted that the allocation was made possible by the work of Aryeh Deri, chairman of the Shas party, who invested major effort in securing the government’s approval. He also made it clear that the Ministry of Religious Affairs has been working with the Teveria police force and has been following the instructions of the Home Front Command. Yehuda Avidan said, “It will be a tremendous source of merit for masses of Jewish people to daven at the tziyun of Rabi Meir Baal Haness specifically during these days, when we are so sorely in need of a yeshuah.” He revealed that a designated davening area will be made available exclusively for the families of the hostages in Gaza. The officials also called on the public to comply with the orders of police and ushers during the event, to ensure that it will proceed without a hitch. The plans approved at the meeting include the preparation of large parking lots, regulation of routes for entering and leaving the site, the establishment of stations for emergency medical aid, and security arrangements in anticipation of a potential threat. The preparations for the event are now entering the final stretch, as work is underway on preparing access routes for tens of thousands of mispallelim to pour out their hearts at the kever of Rabi Meir Baal Haness.

Lag Baomer at the Kever of Shimon Hatzaddik

On motzoei Shabbos, Lag Ba’omer, there will be a large event at the kever of Shimon Hatzaddik in Yerushalayim. In truth, this site attracts crowds every year on Lag Ba’omer, but this year it is expected to be more heavily crowded, with the proceedings there serving as a substitute of sorts for the annual festivities in Meron. The Ministry of Yerushalayim Affairs and Israeli Heritage has invested in preparing parking lots and other amenities required for large crowds.

While previous years have seen Lag Ba’omer bonfires, upsherins, and singing and dancing taking place at the kever, the anticipated crowding this year has led to some changes at the site. A designated area has been set up for hadlakos, where the crowds are expected to be large and dense. A number of chassidic groups are expected to be holding their bonfires, which usually take place in Meron, at the kever of Shimon Hatzaddik. There will also be a separate area for upsherins and a spacious tent for davening, and music will be played around the clock, from the end of Shabbos until the conclusion of Lag Ba’omer on Sunday evening. The distribution of chai rotel and other forms of hospitality are likewise expected to take place throughout the day.

The tziyun will be staffed by ushers, who will be tasked with keeping order and preventing dangerous overcrowding.

Meir Porush, the Minister of Yerushalayim Affairs and Israeli Heritage, explained, “We have decided to do everything we could to make it possible for tens of thousands to celebrate the hillula of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai again this year in joy and tefillah, in safety and security, and in the unique atmosphere that we all recognize from the holy site of Meron. We will all rejoice together in Rabi Shimon’s joy, and we will daven together for all of Klal Yisroel.”

Yossi Deutsch, project manager for the event, said, “As soon as the security services decided to prohibit the ascent to Mount Meron due to the danger to human life, we quickly prepared to make it possible for the hillula of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai to be held this year in accordance with the minhag of Yerushalayim at the kever of Shimon Hatzaddik. Let us daven that Hashem will help us return quickly to daven and rejoice at the tziyun of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai as we have always done.”

A third festive event is being organized at the Schneller compound in Yerushalayim by the organization known as Ohr HaRashbi. This event is likewise expected to attract large crowds.

Hypocrisy and the Israel Prize

The Supreme Court rejected a petition for the Israel Prize to be denied to Rav Yitzchak Yosef, the Rishon Letzion and Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel. The Israeli left slammed the court, fuming that the judges had “legitimized Rav Yosef’s racism and granted him a prize for disparaging Israel.” These accusations are the height of hypocrisy. These liberal advocates for democracy become narrow-minded and critical when their own values work against them; they are humane and tolerant only when it is in their favor.

Here is an example: In the year 2020, the Israel Prize for Literature was awarded to Rav Yaakov Ariel, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan. This triggered an outpouring of criticism and condemnation for his public statements. For some reason, the “enlightened” democratic value of freedom of expression seems to be inapplicable to a rov. At the same time, the left was willing to trumpet the importance of freedom of speech when it worked to their advantage. Seven years ago, the awards committee nominated an “artist” named Yair Garbuz for the prize, but the decision was shot down by the Minister of Education, who was displeased by Garbuz’s notorious speech. I will not quote the speech here, but I will tell you that he disdainfully derided everything that is sacred in Yiddishkeit. The education minister was promptly subjected to an avalanche of criticism from liberals touting the value of “freedom of expression” and insisting that it was outrageous to deny the award to Garbuz because of his statements. Yet for some reason, they refused to apply the same argument when Rav Yaakov Ariel made statements that they found objectionable. Speech is only free, apparently, when it is speech that meets with liberal approval.

Another case in point took place three years ago, when the committee decided to bestow the Israel Prize for Mathematics on Professor Oded Goldreich, who had made an outrageous call for the European Union to boycott Ariel University. Yoav Gallant, who served as education minister at the time, canceled the award in response to Goldreich’s incendiary statements, and the court was immediately petitioned to overturn his decision, based on the professor’s right to “freedom of expression.” Furthermore, there was another uproar surrounding the Israel Prize this year, in addition to the outcry over the nomination of Rav Yitzchok Yosef, due to the nomination of hi-tech magnate Eyal Waldman, who is a leader of the weekly anti-Netanyahu protests in Tel Aviv. Yoav Kisch decided to withhold the prize from Waldman, but he later capitulated to Attorney General Baharav-Miara, who warned him that she would not defend his decision in the Supreme Court. And what do you suppose was the pretext for the left’s support of Goldreich and Waldman receiving the prize? Freedom of expression, of course!

In leftist ideology, freedom of speech is an exalted value that permits the most abhorrent displays of racism or bigotry, but only if the bigot is a leftist. If prejudice is displayed by someone on the right, and certainly by someone who holds a rabbinic title, the principles of enlightenment and freedom are set aside, and the leftists will call for awards to be withheld or withdrawn. And if the Supreme Court takes the position that freedom of expression extends to the right as well as the left, then the justices will likewise come under attack. There is only one word for this: hypocrisy!

Why Not Visit Friendly Azerbaijan?

The Knesset is beginning its summer session this week, and I can easily predict that the media will tell us as usual that there is a “hot summer” in store for us. This year, that assessment is probably more accurate than ever. The Knesset is growing increasingly polarized, and the atmosphere is rife with tension. Of course, the legislators are convening in the shadow of the ongoing war in Gaza and the plight of the hostages languishing in captivity, not to mention many other problems such as the soaring cost of living in Israel. All other issues are dwarfed by the concern surrounding the war and the hostages, but these things have been plaguing the country nonetheless. I will try to report to you on anything important that occurs in the Knesset.

During the Knesset’s recess, I monitored the parliamentary queries submitted by members of the Knesset. The anti-religious legislators do not seem to be taking much interest in Israel’s ongoing problems. Lapid, for instance, did not file a single query, and Avigdor Lieberman submitted only two. To be honest, I doubt that those questions are of any interest to you.

There is one interesting query that is worthy of your attention. During the Knesset’s winter session, MK Simon Moshiashvili submitted dozens of parliamentary queries. (Moshiashvili hails from Kiryat Atta, where he spent many years representing Agudas Yisroel on the city council. He was elected to the Knesset on the Shas party’s ticket.) I reviewed his questions, and I found one that was very interesting. “As of today,” Moshiashvili wrote, “there are eighty countries included in the travel warning for Israelis, most of them with a low rating of 2. It was recently reported that Azerbaijan was included on the list, or, at least, that it was depicted on the color-coded map with a color representing a low level of warning. Many people who are familiar with Azerbaijan, however, feel that there is no reason to refrain from traveling to this country. The atmosphere there is calm, the Jews live in security there, Israelis are able to move around freely, and it is a friendly and popular destination. There are many daily flights between Israel and Azerbaijan, and all of this is in spite of the fact that it shares a border with Iran. (Armenia is another country that has a border with Iran, but it is not included on the list.) That border is impassable. The inclusion of Azerbaijan on the list, even with such a low classification, is an injustice to a country that consistently maintains excellent relations with Israel and its citizens.”

Moshiashvili goes on to pose a series of pointed questions: “On what basis did the National Security Council compile the list of eighty countries to be included in the travel warning? Is Azerbaijan indeed meant to be included on the list? If so, why? And if Azerbaijan is currently included on the list, does the NSC plan to consider removing it?”

Memories of Rav Zundel Kreuzer

I remember one day when Rav Zundel Kreuzer, the author of Ohr Hachamah, visited the home of Rav Uri Zohar. This was obviously at least ten years ago, since we marked Rav Zundel’s tenth yahrtzeit (the 8th of Iyar) last week. He arrived together with Rav Avrohom Chaim Cheshin, and Rav Uri greeted him with great enthusiasm. “The Torah itself has entered the room,” Rav Uri declared.

Rav Zundel was an outstanding talmid chochom and a legend in his own times. Many incredible stories have been told about him. After a burglary in his home, Rav Zundel was asked if he was aware of how much had been stolen. “The thief took exactly the amount that he was instructed [from Shomayim] to take,” he replied. On another occasion, someone told him that one of his grandchildren was learning in the Tifrach yeshiva. “Make sure that no one tells his friends that I am his grandfather; I don’t want him to be embarrassed,” Rav Zundel said humbly. Rav Zundel was a mechutan of many gedolei Yisroel and a highly admired figure in Israeli society; any association with him would be a source of great pride.

I asked Rav Cheshin to tell me about the origins of Rav Zundel’s friendship with Rav Uri. “I believe that they first met through Rav Uri’s son, Rav Ephraim Zohar,” he said. “I know that Rav Yosef Shlomo Zilberman, Rav Uri’s rov, once said to him, ‘If you want to see a tzaddik, go meet Rav Zundel Kreuzer.’” Rav Uri, like many of the people of Yerushalayim, revered Rav Zundel. But why did Rav Zundel come to Rav Uri’s home that day?

“He wanted to ask him to help someone who needed his assistance,” Rav Cheshin replied. “Rav Uri helped many people. Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher likewise sought his involvement in all sorts of mitzvos. I, too, asked Rav Uri for many things, and he never turned me down. He helped many people, and he traveled far and wide for that purpose. Rav Zundel actually came to his home many times. He once heard that Rav Uri had taken it upon himself to participate in a certain mitzvah, and he came to offer him chizuk. He also visited him on occasion to ask for his help for other people, sometimes for tzedokah or pidyon shevuyim, on a number of occasions. And he also asked Rav Uri to help him with doctors. He once asked Rav Uri to do something that he found unpleasant, and he said, ‘Sometimes, a person has to do things that are black label.’ Rav Uri was amused.”

Rav Cheshin returned to the subject of his visit to Rav Uri’s home with Rav Zundel. “When we arrived, Rav Uri looked at me angrily and said, ‘Why did you burden the Torah itself? Why did you make the rov put in the exertion to come here?’ Rav Zundel looked at him and quipped, ‘Am I an unwanted guest?’ Rav Uri was somewhat mollified when he heard that.

“I once brought Rav Zundel to the prison in Beer Sheva to visit an inmate,” Rav Cheshin continued. “He was in a wheelchair at the time. We stayed there for only a few minutes, and then returned home.” There was also a similar story in Meron. Rav Zundel traveled to the kever of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai together with his friend and chavrusah, Rav Nochum Cohen. Rav Cheshin had arranged their visit to the site, but Rav Zundel spent only one minute there. When he was asked why he had left so quickly, he replied, “Rabi Shimon told me to leave.” Seeing that his questioner was dissatisfied with his response, Rav Zundel said, “I was answered for what I needed.”

Rav Cheshin added, “I once traveled with him to the Kosel on Chol Hamoed. He davened there for a few minutes, and then we left. Then he asked me to take him to visit the Gaavad, Rav Tuvia Weiss. Rav Weiss did not have a chair with handles for his visitor, and Rav Zundel was unable to sit down. The Gaavad stood up and offered him his own rabbinic chair, and Rav Zundel said, ‘Today is Chol Hamoed, not Purim!’”

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