Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Av 5766 - August 23, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








"Veyishme'u Rechokim Veyovo'u"

by B. Reem

Part II

"Let's see: What we have done in the year that has gone by to improve the plight of Jews in Israel, make sure that heresy is not increasing, that people will be moved to make a spiritual reckoning and recognize the Divine Truth, and that everyone will believe in the Torah and follow its teachings without compromise? Have we really bolstered an awareness of Torah among the people? More particularly: have we in our own personal lives exemplified purity and truth, righteousness and lovingkindness, and pure and holy thoughts? Have we ourselves carried out the Word of the Torah, to the extent that Hashem could set us up as an example to our erring fellow-Jews: "My servant are you Israel; in you I will be glorified." The shofar already calls for us to do teshuvoh, in the hope that our future will atone for our past, until HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself in all His glory will announce: Solachti!") HaRav Shlomo Raphael Hirsch in The Jewish Year).

Biseshuvoh Sheleimo Lefonecho . . .

During bein hazmanim—Av 5765 (last year), a fascinating discussion was held with the veterans of the Teshuvoh Movement in Israel: HaRav Yosef Bruck, rosh yeshiva of Nesivos Olam in Bnei Brak, HaRav Yosef Wallis, managing director of Arachim, HaRav Moshe Grylak, one of the veteran senior lecturers in the Teshuvoh Movement. The panel was chaired by Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, editor of Musaf Shabbos Kodesh of the Hebrew Yated Ne'eman. The panel discussion was held at the camp of Yeshivas Or Yisroel in Beit Alpha, after the Rosh Yeshiva of Or Yisroel, HaRav Yigal Rozen gave his consent for a symposium to be set up which was solely value-spiritual oriented, with no involvement in political issues.

Elul and the days of Teshuvoh approach. Here is food for thought.

The discussion is in the middle, dealing with the difficulties that baalei teshuvoh have in becoming fully integrated with the chareidi community, after they have made the basic commitment to Torah and mitzvos. They have mentioned the difficulties that some children have in getting accepted at chareidi educational institutions, the shock at finding some elements of the chareidi community that tend to imitate the non-religious community in matters such as clothes, music, and speech, and generally not living up to the high standards that the Torah demands. This often causes a personal crisis.


Rabbi Bruck: As far as we are concerned, since we are talking about a yeshiva, there is more of a feeling of community — which the baal teshuvoh is very much in need of. He has left his original place, and therefore a community is important for it gives a sense of his having arrived somewhere, whereas without this there is definitely a feeling of having left your home and being left hanging. So it is important to remember to stretch out a hand—and this is definitely an opportunity to call on everyone to lend a hand in this. One warm smile, a nice word, can accomplish a great deal.

In seminars we speak about the highest concepts, we breathe the high mountain air. We speak of the Torah that is Divine, that there is a Ruler over the castle, that there is reward and punishment, and more. And it is all so compelling for participants who have known nothing but a life of emptiness and materialism. They are captivated by the fascination of spirituality.

Later on, when they have become baalei teshuvoh and they have to face everyday life, it appears to them as if all that uplift has disappeared and suddenly they have to come down to earth, as it were, to basic concepts like eilu metzios, shor shenogach, or matters of vows, and Kesuvos . . . and they have to be careful not to do borer on Shabbos and to tie their tzitzis . . .

Rabbi Wallis: From their perspective, there is a certain come-down, but we have to understand the process. The main thing is the power of the Torah! The light of the Torah makes them reform their ways. Take a secular person and teach him gemora, and in the end he will do teshuvoh!

So what do we need all the lectures for, then? The answer is simple: Why on earth would he want to learn? Why on earth should he keep mitzvos? That is why we need to give the lecture subjects to him and arouse his spirituality. Then he will find his way to the shtender—and from there the light inside will do its work.

By the time he comes to seminar we are at the stage where we talk about mitzvos and start to carry things out. That is how we make the connection between Torah min haShomayim and Shor shenogach (a chapter in the gemora).

Let me give you an example from my own recollections. At the first seminar, Rabbi Grylak, who was on the staff of lecturers, asked: "Who wants to see what a page of gemora is?" A group came up and he learned with them a chapter about a stolen lulav. That was a group of 30 young people who had never seen a page of gemora in their lives, and they sat and discussed types of lulavim, the length of the lulav, the kitutei michtas shiurei (lack of sufficient legal length). What does that have to do with teshuvoh?

But you know, in the end, those who were in the class asked him: "You see, don't you, that on Succos serious and respected people walk with a lulav, holding it and shaking it — do they really do it based on what you learned with us? But isn't what we learned nothing but arguments, questions — and more arguments?"

The lecturer answered them: "Yes, but this is what they have been asking for thousands of years—and this is what they are asking all over the world—and this is what they have been asking from morning to night—and this is what a boy of four asks as well as an old man of 90. And from the power of these questions, throughout the generations, serious people hold the lulav, shake it, and keep the mitzvos of the Torah! No question brought up ever changed the actual practice. And that is true as far as all the mitzvos are concerned!"

Then they begin to absorb the idea that is behind the learning, the connection between the learning and real life, and that really grabs them . . .

Rabbi Bruck: This reality of being occupied in Torah is what creates trust. I have a group of students whom I teach, and you can see how the gemora grips them: When I make a brochoh before I drink, after a few times they start making brochos too—because the learning has created a trust in them. Their heart opens up so that they understand that every car is made up of many small parts and not always do we understand the role of each part— but that is what a car is.

And I would like to add that this is the time of the great chesed: that first prayer—the first "speech" with HaKodosh Boruch Hu, the first brochoh. As time goes on, you really miss those first prayers. At this stage, it is not even a test, it is a wonderful feeling—later on, when you need to have kavonoh in the Shemoneh Esrei, that's when the work begins.

Rabbi Grylak: One of the best lecturers of Arachim defined it as follows: more than the person does for the mitzvos, the mitzvos do for him! When he begins to absorb how a neshomoh is built through keeping the little details, the tiniest of details, then that is an exalting thought, an amazing uplift!

We have come to the real last stage now. We cannot cover all subjects in one sitting. But I really cannot take leave of you without asking everyone for one personal story, that will give us a beam of light on the Teshuvoh Movement.

Rabbi Wallis: It's like this. The children raised a talking parrot in the yard of our home. This parrot heard words in our house like "Shabbat Shalom," "ma nishtana," "modeh ani," "boruch Hashem," and it knew how to repeat them. A parrot like that can remember up to a thousand words, and its Torah vocabulary was quite extensive.

Now at certain times we needed to pluck a few feathers from its wings, so that it would not fly off. Once we forgot to pluck its feathers and it flew off and disappeared. That was on a Friday, after we had noticed a leak coming from the solar water heater. My son went up to the roof to take care of the solar heater, and a stream of water spurted out onto the parrot — and it spread its wings and disappeared.

A year went by, and then one of the lecturers came into the Arachim offices and told me: "We have a study group in Kfar Saba at the home of a baal teshuvoh family, and there is a parrot in the house that disrupts the lectures and makes them into a joke, because it keeps repeating the words.

"Since anyway that baal teshuvoh does not know how to take care of the parrot from the point of view of the halochos of not causing pain to animals, and Shabbos, etc., maybe you ought to talk to him."

The next day we talked on the phone. During the conversation I told him that a year ago we had a talking parrot that had flown away. Suddenly, there was dead silence on the line. The man did not respond to that point and he quickly brought the conversation to a close.

The next day, the phone rang again. That same beginning baal teshuvoh was on the line again: "Yesterday you told me that your parrot had flown off. I think it's at my house. It came to me a year ago."

"So why did you not say so yesterday?"

"I wanted to ask the rav if I had to give it back. The rav ruled that if there are recognizable signs, I have to give it back. Do you have any signs?"

I did not know how one could possibly give signs. All parrots of that type look the same. Suddenly I remembered that the parrot knew the names of my children. When the children would pass by it, they would say their names for fun, and the parrot picked them up. Every time a child passed by, it would call his name. I suggested that he come with the parrot to my house. And when we told the children to walk by, it remembered their names even though a year had gone by . . .

Naturally, I was curious as to how the parrot had found its way to him, and he told me his story:

"I live in Kfar Saba," he related, "next to a basketball court. My hobby is raising birds. One day, in the middle of a basketball game next door, a parrot fell onto the court, exhausted. The referee halted the game and the players picked up the parrot and tried to decide what to do with it. They saw that it was a special species, and debated how to save it. Suddenly they remembered that they had a neighbor who raised birds, and they rushed over to bring me the bird, and then went back to play. A few days later, the parrot recovered and started to speak: Boruch Hashem, Shabbat Shalom. Our family just could not believe their ears. It was an amazing thing.

"At that moment some of us started to speak about teshuvoh. We went to an Arachim seminar, and the whole family did teshuvoh. We began study groups at home, and phoned Arachim to send us lecturers. The parrot disrupted the lectures, the lecturer went to see you to complain and that began the connection between us. That is how we met and that is how the parrot was restored to you — after it had restored a whole family to Judaism.

"When HaKodosh Boruch Hu wants to bring someone back," added that baal teshuvoh from Kfar Saba, "we see how wonderful are His Ways. Sometimes a person does not realize that the whole reason his children were raising a talking parrot was so that it could bring back a straying neshomoh to teshuvoh."

Chairman: The next story involves one of the workers for Lev L'Achim who signs people up. He tried five times to get to a certain house to meet the father of the family to persuade him to register his son for a Torah education, but whenever he came to the house the head of the house was absent.

He was determined not to give up, but each time the father was not at home.

One evening he came to his own house, and found his son running a very high fever. He went to a doctor, who rushed the boy to the emergency room. After the initial examinations, he was diagnosed as suspected of having meningitis, and they needed to do a spinal tap and to await the results.

As they were waiting, a woman came up to him and asked: "Was it you who came to our house several times and my husband was not at home? He is here now. Go up and speak to him."

And what were they doing there? They too were awaiting for the results of testing for meningitis. The two of them — the father and the person from Lev L'Achim took advantage of the waiting time in the hospital corridors to do some talking. The father agreed to register the boy, and they continued to wait for the results of their tests.

Minutes later, the nurse informed the Lev L'Achim person: "The results are negative, he can be released."

Seconds later, the other family got their release as well: "There is no meningitis."

The boy was registered in a chareidi institution.

At times two fathers need to be juggled around to the corridors of a hospital, so that a lost child can be brought back to his Father in Heaven . . .

Both incidents were related to HaRav Arye Leib Shteinman, and both times I was present at the time and witnessed the tears of emotion that welled in his eyes.

Rabbi Bruck: They say that the Chazon Ish said that you really feel Divine Providence in shidduchim, and I want to add that in teshuvoh too you really feel the Hashgochoh acutely. One of my talmidim came to Nesivos Olom after he had come back from a trip to South America.

He had been to the city of Kocha-Bamba, where a missionary lived who was out to trap souls. He had opened a hostel there where hikers could eat and sleep for free, and many Israelis took advantage of that opportunity.

The missionary took advantage of the guests staying there to push his religion onto them, poison them with his religion, and influence them to give up their religion, Rachmono litzlan.

Anyway, that talmid arrived there and the missionary began working on him, explaining all their usual nonsense, while throwing out questions and pointing to the distorted pesukim. The young man was in shock over his inability to defend himself. He realized how empty he was, and told that missionary: "I have no answers for you. But I have no doubt that my grandfather, who was a chazzan of one of the Chassidic Rebbes and a talmid chochom, would easily rebut you."

This incident began to greatly disturb that young man. He felt that he needed to find out some answers. From that moment on, his conscience did not cease to haunt him. And that is how he arrived at Nesivos Olom . . . He had to get to Kocha-Bamba to a missionary hostel so that the truth would hit him. Today he is a disseminator of Torah at one of the yeshivos for baalei teshuvoh.

Rabbi Grylak: There was one participant who came to one of the advanced seminaries who felt attracted to India and its culture. HaRav Yosefi was supposed to come and speak, but at the last minute they announced that he was not coming, due to sickness.

The organizers quickly tried to search for a replacement, but when they were unable to find one, they approached an avreich and asked him to give a shiur in gemora. He tried to get out of it: "Gemora instead of a lecture? They won't get anything out of that."

In the end, after much pleading, he gave in and gave a shiur on the subject of returning lost property: Machrozos shel dogim, simonim, yi'ush, yi'ush shelo mida'as — regular basic concepts of gemora that young boys start out with.

That particular participant did not understand anything, obviously was not impressed at all, and after some time, she went back to India.

Some months later, she was back, saying she wanted to learn about Judaism. What had happened?

It went like this. A group of students went walking with that "guru" — their spiritual guide — and they found a purse with a lot of dollars inside. The guru's eyes sparkled as he said: "This is a gift from Heaven."

The young woman asked him: "Maybe the owner's name is on it?"

Suddenly, the words of that lecture came back to her, which she had not understood — machrozos shel dogim, simonim, yi'ush, yi'ush shelo mida'as — and they gave her no peace. The morality of Judaism swam in front of her eyes in its full glory, especially when set against the "pious" words of that Indian who had refused to even check if there was a name written on it.

From then on, the road leading from India was short.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu had arranged it so that the lecturer would be absent, and the avreich would give a one-time lecture, that was not understood, so that later on a wandering soul would come back to Him.


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