Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5764 - October 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Learning and a Farewell in South Africa
by S. Tabak

On the evening after motzei Yom Kippur, two events of significance were marked at the Chofetz Chaim community in Johannesburg. The gathering was initially called to celebrate a siyum Shas of a relative newcomer to gemora study, but it turned out to be a farewell to the community's rabbi, Rav A. Yeshaya Pfeuffer.

The Hashgochoh protis of the coincidence of these two events is amazing as the siyum was a high point of Rav Pfeuffer's 22 years in South Africa, and a symbol of his achievements. He has relentlessly pursued the goal of bringing Yidden with little learning into the world of Torah. He always encouraged them to learn mishnayos and when they had studied a number of sedorim, he would start them in gemora. The significance of this siyum of one such talmid cannot be overlooked, taking place on the eve of the departure of the Pfeuffer family.

The mesayeim, Mr. Philip Abelson, started his drosho by reciting the Alef-Beis by heart, saying that although he managed to work his way through all the many pages of gemora, he still found it a struggle to memorize the order of the letters.

Ten years back he had no knowledge of what a mishna or a gemora was, yet at the Simchas Torah auction that year he outbid others in the number of mishnayos he would commit himself to learn. He carried out his commitment and over the next few years completed Shas Mishnayos a number of times. He then embarked some four years ago on the big voyage into the gemora. With the help of Rav Pfeuffer, and the ArtScroll and Soncino editions, he was able to complete the Shas at this celebration.

Adding to the occasion was the siyum by a number of other community members, who had reached the midpoint of the Shas Mishnayos or completed one of the Sedorim. Representing them were Rabbi Gidon Waks, Mr. Israel Goldberg and Mr. Eugene Sklar.

The gathering was addressed by the av beis din HaRav Kurtstag, who saw the great achievement of Mr. Abelson and the other talmidim as an indictment of many who are of stronger background and yet fail to put such effort into their Torah studies. He expressed his sadness on behalf of the Beis Din and the Johannesburg community on seeing a person like Rav Pfeuffer leaving Johannesburg, and expressed his good wishes to the family for their future.

HaRav Saltzer of the Adath Yeshurun Community told of his shock at hearing of the imminent departure of the Pfeuffer family. He described Rav Pfeuffer as a personal friend and a friend of the whole community. His sincerity in ahavas Hatorah affected not only his talmidim and congregation but even the other rabbonim of the city.

Rav Pfeuffer addressed the gathering and described how loyalty is a fundamental principle in the Torah. One should stick to his community, sit in the same place and even when traveling, stay with the same hosts as on previous occasions. Such loyalty is most important with regard to parents, and only for this reason had they decided they must return to Eretz Yisroel at such short notice. He was emphatic that it was not in any way caused by a thought that one should leave South Africa.

He then told how people often do not say thank you's, as they fear to leave out someone. Even so he asked that he be forgiven if he missed someone but that he felt the great importance of specifically thanking people. He then proceeded through a list of many community members and associates, and for each mentioned specific aspects of appreciation.

He officially handed over the leadership of the community to Rabbi Avigdor Blumenau, who many years back was a schoolboy in his class and who over the years developed into a talmud chochom, who can ably lead the community.

Rabbi Blumenau spoke and told of his early experience with Rav Pfeuffer. He recounted how on one occasion Rav Pfeuffer told him he had no strength to talk to him in English and promptly switched to Hebrew. Although not understanding too much, young Avigdor felt that he was transported into the Torah World of Eretz Yisroel. This he sees as a symbol of Rav Pfeuffer who, although having spent so many years in South Africa, made all who associated with him feel that they were connected to the yeshivas and gedolim of Eretz Yisroel.

Postscript: Rav Pfeuffer is a great believer in the important role of the Yated Ne'eman in South Africa. He encouraged his community to subscribe, at times even wanting to pay the costs, so that members would be able to receive a regular copy. He has said that there are students of his whose lives have been changed from reading the Yated every week.


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