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5 Iyar 5762 - April 17, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family
Thousands Draw Chizuk From P'eylim/Lev L'Achim Assifa in Bnei Brak
By Moshe Schapiro

An estimated 5,000 men and women traveled from throughout Eretz Yisroel last Tuesday to attend P'eylim/Lev L'Achim's annual assifa in Bnei Brak. They came in search of chizuk and inspiration with which to face these troubled times.

The event lasted nine hours, ending in the wee hours of the morning. And the 5,000 Lev L'Achim workers and volunteers came away with an important message: the weapon that can win this war is in our hands.

"In the zechus of this great mitzva of zikui horabim and of disseminating knowledge of Hashem's omniscience among our fellow Jews," HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv wrote in the letter that was read at the gathering by his son-in-law Rabbi Yosef Yisroelzon, "we will merit eternal salvation from our enemies."

In his letter, HaRav Eliashiv extended his warmest blessings to the Lev L'Achim workers and volunteers who devote themselves to being mekarev non-religious Jews in Eretz Yisroel "especially in these times, when `the sword claims lives outside, and people are terrified inside their very own homes'; when many residents of Eretz Yisroel feel lost and confused, and eagerly seek a source of support and hope."

HaRav Eliashiv emphasized that every member of the Torah community is obligated at this time to reach out to his fellow Jews and introduce them to a Torah way of life.

"In this manner he will save himself from danger as well," HaRav Eliashiv wrote, and went on to quote Chazal's statement that the way to protect oneself from the danger that will visit the world prior to the Messianic era is to engage in Torah and gemilus chassodim.

"One should engage in Torah that contains an aspect of gemilus chassodim," HaRav Eliashiv added, referring to the type of kiruv work that Lev L'Achim performs throughout Eretz Yisroel.

The Greatest Act

HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman began his address by commenting that he was very moved to see so many bnei Torah who devote themselves to kiruv gathered together in one place to hear words of chizuk.

He then cited the gemora in Brochos that describes the simchah that Hashem experiences when the mal'ochim say shira.

"At this exact moment," HaRav Shteinman said, "when the simchah is at its peak, the gemora says that Hashem `roars like a lion over the fact that He destroyed His house and exiled his children.' What is the reason? Because at the time of the greatest simchah is when a parent most feels the absence of a missing child.

"Those of you who are gathered here today carry out your important work for the purpose of returning the lost children to their Father in Shomayim," HaRav Shteinman said. "This is clearly the greatest act that a person can do today. In this zechus, we will merit to see the Geula Sheleimoh."

HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner also illustrated the importance of Lev L'Achim's outreach work in his address. HaRav Wosner cited a Chazal that says that the Jewish people's 400-year exile to Mitzrayim was a result of Avraham Ovinu's reluctance to be mekarev the people of Sedom.

"HaRav Wosner said, "Avraham Ovinu reasoned that the people of Sedom were too evil to come close to Hashem, and so he gave up on them. For this he was punished, and his descendants -- the Jewish people -- went into exile to Mitzrayim.

"The truth," HaRav Wosner continued, "was that it would have been possible for Avraham Ovinu to be mekarev the people of Sedom, despite their evil ways. I heard from the gedolim of the previous generation that one must try to be mekarev every Jew. If he refuses to observe Torah and mitzvos despite one's efforts, one must try to be mekarev his children.

"We have an obligation to be mekarev these neshomos, especially during these difficult times. For this reason we are very grateful to Lev L'Achim, for you are fulfilling the obligation that rests upon all of our shoulders."

I Don't Have Answers, I Have More Questions

HaRav Osher Weiss, rosh yeshivas Chug Chasam Sofer, gave voice to many of the questions that people are asking themselves during this difficult time.

"These are days of pain, of suffering, of tears," HaRav Weiss began. "People have come to ask me many questions since Pesach. How is it that people who were sitting down for the Seder in Netanya, on Leil Shimurim, were murdered in cold blood?

"My answer to these questions was, `I don't have answers, but I do have more questions.' In sefer Sheilos Uteshuvos Mima'amakim, written by HaRav Efraim Oshri zt"l in the Kovno ghetto during the Holocaust, there is a reference to Reb Moshe Goldkorn.

"HaRav Oshri relates in his sefer that this Reb Goldkorn, through tremendous mesiras nefesh, somehow obtained a little flour and on erev Pesach he mixed the flour with water, lit a fire, baked ten matzos and managed to eat a bit of matzo before the Nazi guards stormed into his barracks. He was beaten savagely -- they knocked out all of his teeth and broke his bones.

"In a bloodied state, he came to HaRav Oshri to ask a sheila. What was his sheila? Did he ask, `Zu Torah, vezu sechoroh?' Did he ask how such a thing could have happened on Leil Shimurim?

"No," cried HaRav Weiss. "His question was, `Rebbe, how will I fulfill the mitzva of achilas matzo without teeth to chew the matzo?'

"One does not always need answers. Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. With questions such as Reb Goldkorn's, we survived all of the difficulties of golus -- all of the decrees and pogroms and inquisitions. This is how we survived Hitler, yimach shemo, and this is how we will survive the Palestinians, yimach shemom. With mesiras nefesh and deveikus to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, we will survive these difficult days.

A Movement Sparked By Bnei Torah

Two guests of honor from the American Torah community graced the event with their presence, the Novominsker Rebbe and HaRav Dovid Shustel, a rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, N.J.

The Novominsker Rebbe began his address by expressing the American Torah community's appreciation for Lev L'Achim workers and volunteers for fulfilling an obligation that the American Torah community is unable to fulfill -- namely, doing kiruv work among non-religious Israelis.

The Novominsker Rebbe described Lev L'Achim workers as having the great opportunity to do the mitzva of hashovas aveidoh by returning thousands of lost souls to Hashem.

"There are entire generations drowning in rivers of kefirah," said the Novominsker Rebbe. "When a person is drowning, one throws him a rope, a chain. What kind of rope does one throw someone who is drowning in kefirah? It is the understanding that `Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and gave it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the Zekeinim . . . ' It is the shalsheles of Torah that was given to us at Sinai and continues until today. That is the chain that we need to throw to them."

HaRav Shustel delivered a stirring speech in which he, like the Novominsker Rebbe, expressed the hakoras hatov that the American Torah community feels toward Lev L'Achim workers and volunteers. He described himself as a shaliach not just for Yeshiva Lakewood but also for " all bnei Torah in America."

HaRav Shustel emphasized that a teshuva movement of the kind that is sweeping through Eretz Yisroel "can only be sparked by bnei Torah, who inspire others to teshuva through Torah. "May you continue in your efforts directed by the gedolei Yisroel," HaRav Shustel concluded, "until the coming of Moshiach."

The Most Powerful Of Moments

Although there were many inspiring speeches during the evening, the entrance of the gedolei Torah, some 30 rosh yeshivas, poskim and admorim, into the hall was by far the most powerful moment of all.

When the rabbonim walked in, all of the people in the hall began clapping their hands in unison, singing, "Yomim al yemei melech tosif, shnosav kemo dor vodor." It took a long time for the crowd to settle down. It really was very moving to see virtually every Torah leader in Eretz Yisroel sitting in the same room, at the same time, with a singular purpose in mind.

When HaRav Raful, rosh yeshivas Neve Eretz, stood up and led the recitation of Tehillim, one could feel the words of Dovid Hamelech coming alive and penetrating the heart.

After the gedolim exited the hall, HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, noted posek and son-in-law of HaRav Eliashiv, kept the crowd on the edge of its seat with his popular question-and-answer session.

In Our Hands

The last portion of the assifa was devoted to a round- table discussion on the subject of enrolling non-religious children into Torah schools. Lev L'Achim Kiruv Director Rabbi Uri Zohar interviewed children from secular homes who had made the switch to Torah schools, as well as with their parents, old and new teachers, and siblings. The interviews gave the audience a firsthand look at just how much their hard work is achieving -- something many of them don't even have the time to discover on their own.

It was past midnight when the last speaker of the event, HaRav Chizkiyohu Mishkovsky, menahel ruchani of Yeshivas Gaon Yaakov and Orchos Torah, took the podium. Known for his powerful delivery and unique, rasping voice, HaRav Mishkovsky gave one of his most emotional speeches ever.

"Our shlichus is to return the lost children to their Father in Shomayim. Imagine the pain a father feels when he realizes his children have been taken into captivity. How much money would he be willing to pay to have his children back? We are here in order to return His children.

"Soon Moshiach will be here. All of those children whom we fail to reach will be cut off forever from the Tree of Life. They will be lost to HaKodosh Boruch Hu forever. Only those who we reach today, tomorrow, next week, next month, will be zoche to eternity.

"It's in our hands! It's up to us! No one else is going to do it but us! And we have to hurry -- before it is too late!"


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