Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

My Take on the News


Tensions with the US Reach Record Heights

The political situation in Israel is highly fluid and extremely fragile. Some believe that the government is on the verge of dissolving, but I disagree with that assessment; perhaps I will write about it at length sometime soon. But there is another issue that cannot be denied: Relations between Israel and America are at an all-time low. Or perhaps I should be more specific and say that the relationship between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu is more fraught with tension than ever. This week, the bad blood between the two leaders reached new heights when the White House canceled a scheduled meeting with two Israeli officials who were visiting Washington: Tzachi Hanegbi, director of the National Security Council, and Minister Ron Dermer, who is said to be very popular in Washington. This was allegedly due to a video released by Netanyahu that earned him the ire of President Biden—or at least of the officials in his immediate orbit, possibly including former President Obama. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant flew to Washington at the beginning of this week, presumably with the goal of reducing the diplomatic damage. This is a bit ironic, though, since Gallant is probably the least relevant person in the government today, as well as Netanyahu’s greatest enemy within the Likud.

The video in question discussed American shipments of munitions to Israel, and Netanyahu was fairly aggressive. “When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel,” he said, “we had a candid conversation. I said that I deeply appreciate the support that America is giving Israel, but I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition from Israel. Israel, America’s closest ally, is fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and its other shared enemies. Secretary Blinken told me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks. I certainly hope that is the case. It must be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the United States, ‘Give us the tools and we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster.”

According to some sources in Israel, Blinken has already signaled in response to the video that America will remove its restrictions in the coming days and will supply more armaments to Israel. It seems that the most effective argument was Netanyahu’s claim that Israel was losing its deterrent power because of the slowdown in arms shipments, and his warning that the lack of American military support would encourage Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas to attack, which would likely escalate the war. American officials in Washington denounced the video as “embarrassing” and “irrational.” The tension between the two governments is unmistakable.

Netanyahu Defends His Move

At the beginning of this Sunday’s cabinet session, Netanyahu spoke about a number of topics, including the video that had earned him the ire of the United States. “We are obligated to bring the residents of the south and the north home safely,” he said. “We are obligated to rebuild the settlements, to rehabilitate the communities, and to propel the north and the south forward in every area. For that purpose, I have decided to appoint General Yiftach Ron-Tal of the reserves to the position of director of the Tekumah Authority in the south, and General Eliezer (Chainy) Marom to head the authority in the north. I am confident that both of them will do excellent work, and I am also confident that the ministers of the government will give them complete backing for their important work.”

Netanyahu then moved on to discuss the conflict with America. “I deeply appreciate the support of President Biden and the American administration for Israel,” he said. “Since the beginning of the war, the United States has given us both material and psychological support, providing us with both defensive and offensive means. But four months ago, there was a dramatic drop in the supply of munitions coming from the United States to Israel. For many long weeks, we appealed to our American friends and asked them to expedite the shipments. We did this time and again, and we did it at the highest levels, and at all levels, and I want to emphasize that we did it behind closed doors. We received all sorts of explanations, but there is one thing we did not receive: The basic situation did not change. Certain items trickled in, but the munitions shipments remained behind as a whole.

“After months of a lack of change in this situation, I decided to give it public expression. I did this based on years of experience and the knowledge that this was step was crucial for the bottleneck to be opened. I expected it to entail personal attacks against me in Israel and abroad, as happened when I came out against the nuclear agreement with Iran, and as happened – and as is still happening – when I repeatedly opposed the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state, and as is now happening when I oppose ending the war while Hamas remains in power. But I am willing to endure personal attacks on behalf of the State of Israel. As the prime minister of Israel, I am responsible to do everything possible to guarantee that our heroic soldiers have the best possible weapons. In light of what I have heard over the past day, I hope and believe that this issue will be resolved very soon. But I want to emphasize, as I have said to our American friends, that there is one asset that we possess and that will always be the ultimate deciding factor: the heroism and determination of our fighters. With that weapon, we will be victorious.”

After the American government expressed anger at his claims that they were withholding shipments of weapons and ammunition, Netanyahu explained himself in an interview. “Almost nothing has arrived, and months of quiet talks haven’t solved the problem,” he said, adding that he felt that releasing the video that antagonized the American government was an absolute necessity. He also presented his vision for the “day after” in Gaza, after he was criticized over the course of months for the fact that the issue had barely been brought to the cabinet for discussion at all. Remember, Netanyahu will be on his way to Washington soon….

A Rift in the Coalition

Netanyahu has plenty of problems on the domestic front as well. The Ministry of Religious Affairs recently tried and failed to pass a law, and Netanyahu, who had pledged to help pass it, found himself stymied by a minor insurrection within his coalition. That is the reason that many believe that the current government is no longer capable of holding power and that it is about to end its term.

The law in question pertained to a procedural matter concerning the appointment of rabbonim. In practice, its goal was to prevent mayors or heads of local governments from torpedoing the appointments of rabbonim, which is a fairly common phenomenon today. The Ministry of Religious Affairs drafted a bill that would have allowed the ministry to form an appointment committee whenever a mayor does not do so. This law triggered a wave of fierce incitement, with its critics claiming that the true aim of the ministry staff and the Shas party is to have the power to appoint dozens of rabbonim and thus to hand out jobs to people for whom they wish to perform favors. The bill’s proponents protested that this was a complete misreading of its intent, but those protests fell on deaf ears. The incitement machine was in full gear, and the malicious claims that “chareidim are looking to give out jobs while soldiers die” led the bill to be cut down before it could be passed. Several members of the Likud announced to the prime minister that they would not support it, but Netanyahu decided to remove the rebellious MKs from the committee that was handling the bill, in the hope that it would clear a path for it to be passed. However, he soon found himself facing further opposition, as Itamar Ben-Gvir announced that his party members would vote against the bill as well. Netanyahu finally decided at the last possible minute to remove the bill from the agenda. The opposition rejoiced, and the media bombarded the prime minister with relentless criticism. The chareidi parties were outraged, especially since Netanyahu’s failure on this issue seemed to call the future of the draft law into question. If he is not capable of passing even a simple law of this nature, does Netanyahu have any hope of passing a law on draft deferrals for yeshiva bochurim?

Netanyahu’s decision to remove the bill from the agenda was preceded by prolonged negotiations between his senior staff and Minister Ben-Gvir. The latter dug in his heels, insisting that he would support the bill only if he was granted membership in a newly resurrected war cabinet. Ben-Gvir ruled out all of the alternative incentives that were offered to him in exchange for supporting the bill; he insisted that he would settle for nothing less than the reestablishment of the war cabinet, with himself as one of its members. The negotiations stalled at that point, and the bill was removed, at least for now, from the Knesset’s docket. Some political sources suggested that this might actually be a tactical delay and that the bill isn’t actually being scrapped. The chareidi parties, meanwhile, were incensed. “Bibi has no control over anything in the coalition, if it even still deserves to be called a coalition,” one of the party members said.

“Netanyahu is not in control; we gave up everything for the coalition, and we are getting nothing in return,” another added.

Some sources within the Likud party, meanwhile, asserted that the law has been scrapped permanently. “One person here is concerned about the nation and the state,” one of those politicians said cynically, “but there are others who are worried about a small group of rabbonim.”

This incident sowed plenty of division within the coalition, opening a rift not only within the Likud party but also between Ben-Gvir, Shas, and Netanyahu. Otzma Yehudit, Itamar Ben-Gvir’s party, released a notice announcing that the party is opposed to any political deal between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri: “Otzma Yehudit will not support a political deal between Netanyahu, Aryeh Deri, and Mansour Abbas, a member of the legislative committee who agreed to abstain from voting on the Shas party’s law concerning rabbonim.”

The Shas party took umbrage at the implication that they had made a pact with an Arab party. “This is an absolute lie,” the party wrote. “Shas did not make an agreement with any Arab party or any opposition party to support the law. We hope that the law will pass with the support of the 64 members of the coalition alone.”

As you can see, there are cracks not only in Israel’s relationship with Washington but in the governing coalition as well. And that may make it at least somewhat logical to suspect that the government is on its last legs.

Gaza Death Toll Rises Past 300

Meanwhile, the war is continuing to exact a heavy price. Last weekend, we were informed of another three soldiers who were killed in Gaza: Omer Smadga of Ganot Hadar, Saadiah Yaakov Deri of Tel Aviv, and Gross Malkia of Sussia. Gross Malkia is not the first fallen soldier from Sussia, a small settlement that has suffered terrible losses during this war. The other two soldiers, Smadga and Deri, were both killed in a single incident. This brings the number of soldiers killed in Gaza since the beginning of the war to a staggering total of 313. If we include the soldiers who were killed on Simchas Torah as well, the IDF has already suffered a loss of 665 soldiers. That is both frightening and deeply saddening.

The levayos on Friday were utterly heartrending. But it was amazing to hear the speech delivered by Oren Smadga, the bereaved father of Omer Smadga and a prominent figure in the world of Israeli sports. “We heard from the commanders about what really happened there,” he said. “His commanding officer was truly broken and pained. From this place, I would like to say to the soldiers: Raise your heads and keep going with as much strength as possible. Keep fighting, and don’t stop until we have won. That is my message to everyone who is fighting in this war. Am Yisroel chai!”

Omer Smadga’s record of heroism did not begin on the battlefield in Gaza. In 2019, Ezer Mizion discovered that Omer was a compatible bone marrow donor for a leukemia patient. Omer went to the Oranit cancer center to make the donation, and the patient’s life was saved. This week, Dr. Bracha Zisser, the director of Ezer Mizion’s national bone marrow bank, remarked, “During this war, we are seeing our heroic soldiers falling on the battlefield, but we have already witnessed their heroism in other areas as well. There are heroes who save lives and bring great light into the world by donating bone marrow to complete strangers. Omer was one such hero. We salute him and share the family’s profound grief.”

Saadiah Made His Place in the Bais Medrash

Saadiah Deri’s funeral also produced heartrending images. Saadiah was a devout young man who learned Torah at every opportunity; the last picture taken of him before his death showed him davening while wearing a tallis and tefillin. Saadiah’s parents are Chaim and Lali Deri; his mother is a well-known publicist and a member of the Binyamin Regional Council who also serves as the director of Sunflowers, a project launched to aid war orphans. Saadiah is survived by his wife, Racheli, and by two small children, two-year-old Hilleli and one-year-old Yinon. He is also survived by five brothers and sisters. As a member of the kollel of Yeshivas Yaffo, he studied for the Rabbinate exams. He was called up on Simchas Torah as a reservist in the IDF.

Saadiah’s father addressed his departed son in his hesped: “The year of mourning for Saba Yaakov hasn’t even ended, and you have already gone to join him in the Olam H’emet. Your real place was in the bais medrash, but you were also a brave and heroic fighter. We have been told about your strength. You were as gentle as a feather with other people; you knew exactly how to convey any message to any person. As a commanding officer, you showed concern for your soldiers; you were like a father to them. Saadiah read from the Torah throughout the years since his bar mitzvah,” he added, “and he knew the entire Torah. He was unmatched in his wisdom and knowledge; he was an outstanding son.”

Saadiah’s mother delivered a hesped as well. “I have been silent since the beginning of the war, but we must no longer remain silent,” she said. “I will not allow our sacrifice and our daughter-in-law’s sacrifice to be in vain. On behalf of Saadiah, we demand total victory. My son must not be allowed to have fallen for the sake of a mere diplomatic arrangement; his death must be for the purpose of completely defeating the enemy.”

The niftar’s rebbi said, “Saadiah was one of my best and most diligent talmidim, one of the tzaddikim among them. He was always happy, smiling, and optimistic. He was a loving husband and a father who invested energy in his small children. He completed the bechinot for the Rabbinate and had plans to teach Torah. Now he has been called to the yeshiva shel maalah. The pain and anguish are great, and the loss is great as well. Who can possibly console the family?”

Armenia Lashes Out at Israel

Israel’s foreign relations have turned into a mess. Last Friday, Armenia, which is a fairly small country, announced that it was joining 147 other members of the United Nations and recognizing a Palestinian state. Armenia has followed the example of four other countries that made the same announcement in recent times: Slovenia, Norway, Spain, and Ireland. The Armenian ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry for a reprimand in response, although that conversation does not seem to have any chance of changing the country’s decision.

As far as the Israelis are concerned, the announcement issued by the Armenian foreign ministry is absolutely infuriating: “Armenia has always supported peace as a solution for the Palestinian problem and has endorsed the two-state solution. We are convinced that this is the only way to ensure the fulfillment of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians and the Israelis. Based on a commitment to international law and the principles of equality, sovereignty, and coexistence, Armenia recognizes a Palestinian state.”

Armenia first established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, shortly after it gained independence from the Soviet Union. The country has an embassy in Tel Aviv. In the wake of mounting tensions between Armenia and Turkey over the past decade, the possibility was raised that Israeli might officially recognize the Armenian genocide, and the subject was even discussed in the Knesset. However, Israel’s relations with Armenia have deteriorated in recent years on account of the quiet support that Israel has been providing to Azerbaijan, the country’s neighbor and rival.

Israeli Foreign Minister Lambasts UN SecretaryGeneral

And that is not all; Israel’s foreign minister treated the secretary-general of the United Nations to a fierce written diatribe. Just before another session of the United Nations, which was expected to yield a resolution hostile to Israel, Foreign Minister Yisroel Katz wrote an open letter to the secretary-general of the UN, Antonio Guterres. “Your response to the horrors caried out by the Hamas terrorists is unacceptable,” Katz wrote. “The indifference that you displayed to the report of acts of immorality committed by the Hamas terrorists, a report that was written with great courage, is extremely disappointing. Your lack of willingness to promote a determined international position against such atrocities is a sign of clear bias. If the victims had been anything other than Jews or Israelis, we would have seen a much more resolute response from you.

“Moreover, UNRWA, under your oversight, has been implicated in the massacre, with thousands of its staff involved in Hamas’s terrorist activities,” Katz continued. “Your tenure in the UN will be remembered for bringing the organization’s stature to an all-time low, allowing it to become an epicenter of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement. To ensure justice and uphold human rights, you must act for the immediate and unconditional release of all individuals abducted by Hamas.”

Antonio Guterres is a politician from Portugal who has held the post of UN secretary-general since January 2017. Will this scathing letter from Israel’s foreign minister affect him in any way? If I may be so bold as to make a prediction, I would wager that the answer is no.

Draft Rates Low Among Chilonim as Well

Former minister Chaim Ramon attested that his jaw dropped when he read a report from the Knesset Research and Information Center. “According to data received from the manpower planning division of the IDF,” the report states, “during the period between the beginning of the Iron Swords War and the end of February 2024, 4000 chareidim requested to enlist in the IDF and 3120 of them were found to be unfit to serve for a variety of reasons, mainly medical concerns. Out of the 880 who were determined to be fit to serve, 540 were actually inducted. At that time, there were 66,000 chareidim eligible to defer their army service on the grounds that they met the legal criterion of ‘Torah is their occupation.’” Ramon went on to draw an eminently justified conclusion: “These figures reinforce the thesis that the army is not prepared for a mass draft of chareidim and actually has no interest in it.”

I, too, have a copy of this document, but I do not generally enjoy writing about this particular issue. Nevertheless, since Ramon has broken the proverbial ice, I will take the liberty of adding some more highly revealing details. First, the report lists the rates of exemption among male draft candidates based on the reasons for those exemptions. In the year 2020, the number of males receiving exemptions from the draft stood at 33 percent of the total pool of candidates, but only 16.4 percent of potential draftees were exempted (or, to be more precise, deferred their service) because they were involved in full-time Torah learning. The remaining exemptions were broken down into a number of categories: 8.5 percent due to medical and emotional issues; 3.5 percent due to criminal records, draft thresholds, difficulties adapting to the army, or deaths; 2.2 percent due to medical issues without an emotional component; and 2.4 percent because the candidates were not present in the country.” In the following years, the percentages shifted slightly; in 2022, 18.4 percent of the eligible candidates were exempt from the draft because they were in yeshiva or kollel, while 13.3 percent were chilonim who did not join the army. To make a long story short, there are tens of thousands of secular Israelis who can easily be labeled draft-dodgers, but no one seems to make a fuss about their failure to serve in the army. And the report does not even contain any information about Arabs, who are not pursued by the IDF for enlistment.

If the percentage of draft exemptions for full-time learners still sounds quite high, one must keep in mind that the figure of 16 percent would probably be reduced significantly if the army took a closer look at these men. Many of them are older or physically unfit to serve and would be rejected by the IDF in any event, but since they are entitled to deferrals by virtue of their status as talmidim in yeshiva or kollel, they do not bother to report their physical conditions. Others are residing abroad or have other reasons for not joining the army. The report from the Research and Information Center is based on data received from the IDF’s Manpower Directorate and from two high-ranking army officers who addressed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, but even that information is enough to pull out the rug from under the feet of those who are busy whipping up passions against the nation’s Torah learners. One must question why they do not devote the same energy to fighting the exemptions for psychological issues or criminal records that are handed out in Tel Aviv. Perhaps they should deal with the draft dodgers within their own ranks before assailing the community of Torah learners, who are not even wanted by the army in any event.

May Hashem Avenge the Blood of His Servants

Meanwhile, Arab terror is continuing to rear its ugly head. Amnon Mukhtar, a 67-year-old man from Petach Tikvah, was shot to death on Shabbos while shopping in Qalqilya. This is actually maddening, since Jews are forbidden to travel to areas under Palestinian control, but there are some people who cannot resist shopping in Arab towns for the sake of saving a few pennies. What makes the incident even more saddening is that the victim drove there on Shabbos! “He was a good man,” one of his acquaintances said after his death. “He gave quietly to others and raised wonderful children. He loved helping and giving to others, and he contributed to people who did not have enough for themselves. He has a stand in the market in Petach Tikvah; he loved the atmosphere there.”

Mukhtar was a father of five children, including one who got married two months ago, and owned a vegetable stand in the Petach Tikvah market. His son Nir related, “He was a wonderful father and grandfather, a tzaddik who was murdered by terrorists. Everyone loved him, and he helped everyone. It is tragic that it ended this way; he never thought that this would happen to him there. He never harmed a soul, and he always helped the needy. The police called us and told us that his car had been found in Qalqilya. I asked where he was, and they didn’t have an answer for me. But we understood from the reports on social media that he had been killed.”

After the incident, large numbers of IDF soldiers entered the city to investigate the circumstances of the murder, which appears to have been a nationalistically motivated terror attack. The IDF spokesman announced, “Our forces are operating in Qalqilya now after the death of an Israeli citizen was determined, shortly after he was found in the area with a gunshot wound. IDF soldiers and police officers are probing the circumstances of the incident.” After the shooting, the victim’s car was torched by unidentified criminals. To date, there have been over 350 military operations in Qalqilya since the beginning of the war, and over 40 terrorists have been eliminated there. This fatal shooting of an Israeli, in a Palestinian city in Area A that is technically off limits to Israelis, came less than 24 hours after two terrorists were eliminated in the same city.

On the subject of terrorism, let me remind you that on Thursday night, the 15th of Sivan 5774, exactly ten years ago, Arab terrorists kidnapped three Israeli youths—Naftoli Frankel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shear—from the Alon Shvut Junction. For eighteen days, it was believed that the boys had only been abducted and were still alive, and Israelis stormed the heavens with fervent tefillos for their release. When their bodies were discovered, it became clear that they had been murdered immediately. This horrific act of terror was masterminded by Mahmoud Dawasme, one of the prisoners released under the deal that secured Gilad Shalit’s freedom. Let us daven for Hashem to avenge the spilled blood of His servants.

Israelis Panic Over Potential Electric Outage

I have much more to write about, but I am running out of space. There are some topics that deserve greater attention but that I can mention only in passing, such as the visit of a group of gedolei Torah to America. I don’t know what sort of reaction this is receiving overseas, but I can tell you that it has stirred great waves of emotion here in Israel, largely due to the tremendous exertion that the gedolim have taken upon themselves. It is not an easy trip, but they are enduring the arduous travel for the sake of preserving the Torah world. Another impressive aspect of this group is that the rabbonim represent a cross-section of Klal Yisroel. The Rachmastrivka Rebbe is one of the members of the expedition, and the Vizhnitzer Rebbe mentioned joined the group on Monday. Rav Avrohom Salim and Rav Yaakov Hillel are representing the Sephardic community, and, of course, the Litvish community is represented by Rav Dov Landau, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, and Rav Don Segal. For the Jews in Israel, it is moving to observe that our brethren overseas are taking an interest in the kollelim and yeshivos of Eretz Yisroel—and that while this wicked state is plotting against the Torah world, our brethren overseas are stepping forward to rectify the damage they have caused.

Meanwhile, Israelis are panicking over the prospect of a widespread power outage. Shaul Goldstein, the CEO of the Noga electricity company, admitted at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies last week that he cannot guarantee that the country will have a supply of electricity in the event of a war. And if that wasn’t enough to frighten the populace, he added, “If Nasrallah wants to destroy Israel’s electricity infrastructure, all he needs to do it pick up the phone and call the person in charge of the electric grid in Beirut, which is identical to the one in Israel.”

Meir Spiegler, the CEO of the Israel Electric Corporation—a man with a fierce temper and an aggressive disposition—accused Goldstein of making “a statement that was completely detached from reality and that creates panic among the public.” Goldstein’s comments were made less than 24 hours after Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah terror group, stepped up his threats against Israel and went on to threaten Cyprus as well.

“When I took this job and began investigating the true threat to the electricity sector,” Goldstein said, “I asked myself, ‘Let’s say a missile hits the electric grid and there is an outage for an hour, or three hours, or 24 hours, or 48 hours, or 72 hours or more. What will happen in Israel in that situation?’ The bottom line is that after 72 hours, it will be impossible to live in Israel,” he added.

It is a terrifying prospect, and after his comments, the Noga company quickly issued a clarification: “The comments of the CEO, Shaul Goldstein, at the INSS convention in Sderot do not represent the professional evaluations of our company of the state of readiness of the energy sector in Israel for an emergency.”

Unfortunately, the panic had already been created.

Another interesting subject is the issue of French Jewry. The Jews of France are deeply concerned about the elections that are scheduled to take place there next week. I should probably write at greater length about that, but I have already written separately about France both last week and this week.

A Funeral in Beer Yaakov

Last Monday night, I stood in the courtyard outside the bais medrash of Yeshivas Beer Yaakov, the yeshiva that was a spiritual training ground for innumerable people, myself included. This is the same courtyard where the yeshiva bochurim used to crowd together, along with Rav Shlomo Wolbe, beneath the kapparos chicken on erev Yom Kippur. It was also the site of the chuppah of one of Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro’s children. On Monday night, we came together for a different reason: to attend the levayah of Rebbetzin Rochel Shapiro, the wife of the rosh yeshiva and a woman who was herself an integral part of the yeshiva. A large crowd had gathered for the levayah, including current and former talmidim of the yeshiva, talmidim of Yeshivas Shaarei Shemuos, local residents, and the rebbetzin’s own students. Everyone present could attest to the fact that she played an almost maternal role in their lives—whether it was an elderly widow, a former talmid from the yeshiva, an older bochur, a poor family, or her neighbors in her apartment building. Thousands of people owed her enormous debts of gratitude. Like Rochel Imeinu, she was a mother to everyone, a great woman who spent her entire life giving to others as she reached the pinnacle of altruism.

The rebbetzin’s distinguished husband, Rav Dovid Yitzchok Shapiro, stumbled as he made his way to the courtyard from his home. His sorrow was clearly unbearable; he wept bitterly as he delivered his hesped, and he choked on tears as he gazed at the mitah. The rosh yeshiva began listing his wife’s virtues and then fell silent again, overcome by grief.

“Who will prepare our father’s shiur kloli with him?” one of his sons said mournfully in his own hesped. “Who will wait to celebrate with him when he returns?”

Another of the maspidim hailed the rebbetzin as the female version of a talmid chochom. Personally, I knew her as a highly accomplished woman and a beloved educator in the Beer Yaakov seminary. I will never forget how Rav Dovid Yitzchok waxed eloquent in his eulogy for the rebbetzin’s mother, Rebbetzin Sarah Pereg (sister of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach) in Givat Shaul. “She was an eishes chaver,” he declared, “not because she was the wife of a talmid chochom but because of her own personal qualifications.” The same could be said of her daughter, Rebbetzin Rochel Shapiro. And based on the stories that were told about her fervent davening and her passionate love for Torah, it is no surprise that she raised such a magnificent family. “She never called a babysitter to watch us, not even once,” one of her children related. “She was a dedicated mother who spent every moment caring for her children. She also used to take us to Mincha and Maariv every day.”

One of the rebbetzin’s sons described her complete detachment from the material world. “It wasn’t that she suppressed her desire for worldly things; she simply didn’t exist in this world. She was a purely spiritual person. It will be very easy for her to move on to the great ‘ballroom’ of the World to Come,” he added. “As Rabbeinu Yonah writes in Shaarei Teshuvah, ‘How difficult is death for one who hasn’t separated the desires for this world from his soul until death drives them apart.’ Chazal tell us in Maseches Derech Eretz, ‘If you do not wish to die, then die before you die.’ In other words, if a person wishes for the day of his death to be the beginning of eternal life, he should focus on the fact that he will ultimately leave this world and the desires of his body behind, and he will abhor those things and abandon them. This will lead him to give them up during his lifetime as well and to use this world only for the purpose of serving the Creator. If a person accomplishes that, then his death will simply be the beginning of a period of uninterrupted life.”

And this was precisely the example set by Rebbetzin Rochel Shapiro. May we all learn from her lifetime of virtue!



The Root Cause

  We have been living in turbulent times for a while, and this week, they got even more turbulent. Just a week after one party’s

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