Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

3 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 20, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Lev L'Achim's One Hundred Meter Siyum -- An Electrifying Experience

by Moshe Schapiro

The gray Fiat snaked its way through Jerusalem's empty streets and sped its two passengers to their destination. Chaim checked his watch and noted with satisfaction that they were making good time -- it was 12:30 a.m.

Keeping his eyes on the road and one hand on the wheel, he opened his bag and felt for his tools -- wrench, screwdriver, electric wire, timer. Good. He had everything he would need for this late-night job. He took a quick glance at his passenger, Yehuda, who had sat in complete silence for quite some time. He was staring forward, obviously deep in thought, his jet-black hair blowing gently in the breeze.

The two men found the address and parked in front of the four story building. They disembarked and soundlessly closed the car doors. "No sense in waking up the whole neighborhood," the passenger said.

As is the case in most Israeli residential buildings, the light bulb in the lobby was out of order. "They didn't tell me the apartment number," Chaim said, "all I have is a name and a phone number."

They squinted in the dark and tried to make out the names scribbled over the mailboxes, but to no avail. "Wait, I know what to do" Chaim said as he reached for his cell-phone. The phone opened and on came the metallic green light of the dial module. Placing the phone next to each mailbox, he bathed the name tags in an eerie green glow, but it was no use -- the writing had faded a long, long time ago.

"What are we going to do now?" Yehuda asked.

Chaim thought for a moment and smiled. "I have an idea. We'll stand by each apartment door while I dial the phone number. I'll let it ring once. If we don't hear a phone ring in that apartment, we'll move on to the next door until we find the right place."

"Excellent," Yehuda said with sincere admiration. "Now I understand why you have such an outstanding reputation as a seasoned professional."

They found the apartment after three tries and knocked loudly on the door. After a few moments they heard the shuffling of footsteps. "Who's there?" a sleepy voice called from inside.

"Good evening Mr. Aloni, it's Chaim from Lev L'Achim. You asked me to come at 12:45 a.m. on Thursday night. Well, here I am. I've also brought a friend who will answer any questions you may have about keeping Shabbos while I install the Shabbos clock."

A series of bolts and latches clanged and the door swung open. "Ho, Chaim, my good friend! Thank you very much for coming at such a late hour. Please, both of you come in."

Chaim got to work on the fuse box while Yehuda explained the deeper significance of Shabbos observance to Mr. Aloni. As Chaim reached for the spool of electrical cable, he noticed that he had less than half a meter left. On a hunch he dialed the Lev L'Achim office in Geula and sure enough, Rav Avrohom Zeivald, the Jerusalem branch director, was still there.

"Good morning, Lev L'Achim," Rav Avrohom answered briskly at 1:15 a.m.

"Rav Zeivald, it's Chaim. I just noticed that we're running out of electrical wire. Could you please order another spool?"

"What? You've run out?" Rav Zeivald cried on the phone. "Do you realize what this means? We've used up 100 meters of the stuff! That means we've installed 150 Shabbos clocks over the past year! This calls for a siyum!"

People who know Rav Avrohom Zeivald will attest that when he says something, he means it.

One week later, a unique "one-hundred-meter siyum" was held in Lev L'Achim's Geula branch in Yerushalayim. The kiruv organization's six Shabbos clock installers were the ba'alei hasimchah, and the guests of honor were HaRav Tzvi Eliach, HaRav Boruch Shapira, HaRav Uri Zohar, and Lev L'Achim's national director, Rav Eliezer Sorotzkin. Approximately twenty other pe'ilim rounded out the list of guests.

All six Shabbos clock installers are full-time avreichim who dedicate their Thursday nights and Friday mornings and afternoons to installing Shabbos clocks in previously non- observant homes. They were taught the fine art of Shabbos- clock installation by a certified electrician who did teshuvah through Lev L'Achim.

To imbue the "One Hundred Meter Siyum" with the kedusha of Torah, the six installers aptly opened the evening with a siyum on maseches Shabbos.

"The real ba'alas hasimchah is the Shabbos Queen," Chaim explained. "She is the real guest of honor this evening."

Rav Uri Zohar then expounded on the deeper significance of installing a Shabbos clock in a formerly nonobservant home:

"For a non-religious person, the decision to have a Shabbos clock installed in his home is a major turning point. It represents the culmination of many months of intensive efforts by our pe'ilim to bring that family to Torah and mitzvos. When such people request a Shabbos clock, it indicates more than just a serious commitment on their part to keep Shabbos; it is also a signal that they desire to observe all mitzvos with more punctiliousness. It means that they no longer care what their nonobservant family, friends and neighbors may say about them. Having a Shabbos clock installed in one's home is equivalent to starting to wear a yarmulke and tzitzis."

A modest seudas mitzvah was served. Rav Zeivald appeared bearing a shiny, new one hundred meter spool of electrical wire lying upon a silver tray. With a show of formality he placed it on the table. "May it be depleted faster than its predecessor," he intoned.

"Imagine," Rav Avrohom Zeivald mused, "this entire spool costs only 37 shekels! Think of how much olom haboh we can obtain with it!"

"It reminds me of the story told by the Vilna Gaon's disciples. Moments before the Gra was niftar, he began crying. `Our master! Why do you cry?' his talmidim asked. `Vast eternal reward awaits you in the world to come.' The Gra answered, `Yes, what you say is true. But look at what a world I am leaving behind -- with eight strands of tzitzis that cost a few pennies, it is possible to gain eternal reward!'"

HaRav Tzvi Eliach and HaRav Boruch Shapira considered various methods by which to increase the "output" of Lev L'Achim's Shabbos clock commando. After some discussion, it was decided to assign one apprentice to each of the six installers and thereby double the team's "voltage." Plans were also made to establish such "electrician units" in some of Lev L'Achim's other 42 regional branches.

The Shabbos clock installers then began sharing some of their experiences. As they related one inspiring story after the next, it emerged that they not only install clocks, but also provide free "maintenance checks." When daylight savings time comes into effect or ends, they call their "customers" to remind them to adjust the timer accordingly. When they sense that a particular individual is not electrically-proficient, they make a free house call and adjust the clock themselves. "They also get quite a few phone calls every time there is a long power failure," Rav Zeivald confided.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Rav Eliezer Sorotzkin presented each Shabbos clock installer with a small gift. "These are for your wives, who make it possible for you to spend so many hours away from home," Rav Sorotzkin said as he handed each volunteer a gift-wrapped package. "It is a small token of Am Yisroel's appreciation for all your efforts."

When the ceremony came to a close and everyone began leaving the Geula office, somebody cried out, "When we hit 1,000 meters, the siyum will be held in Yad Eliyahu (a stadium which seats 20,000)!"

The quip drew a round of hearty laughter, but Rav Avrohom Zeivald's reaction was completely different. "Hmmm," he mused. "An excellent idea." He looked at his pocket calendar and made some quick calculations. "I had better make reservations soon."


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