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1 Kislev 5763 - November 6, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Don't Speak Loshon Hora About Eretz Yisroel - A True Story

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

It was some thirteen years ago that the tzaddik HaRav Dov Sokolovsky zt'l was niftar in Yerushalayim. He was the favorite son-in-law of the revered rov of Mir in Lithuania, HaRav Avrohom Tzvi Kamai Hy'd, who died al kiddush Hashem. The unassuming R' Dov lived a rich life of ninety years imbued with Torah and chesed.

He was a closemouthed man. Only rarely did a crack open in his solid wall of silence, but when that happened, concealed treasures burst forth: Torah glowed from him, the living Torah that R' Dov had painstakingly accumulated during his ninety years of being in the shadow of Torah leaders and living through some of the most dreadful times in our history.

The following amazing anecdote is the booty of those who were present at one of those atypical moments when R' Dov revealed his heart.

In Mir lived a well-to-do Jew who owned various local businesses, made a prosperous livelihood and in general succeeded in all he applied himself to. There was apparently no reason to warrant any change at all in the way he lived. Nonetheless, a stubborn rumor spread that this affluent person was selling all his businesses and possessions. Why? What could possibly be the reason?

People soon heard the reason for this decision: the fervent Jew had decided to uproot himself from Europe and to make aliyah to Eretz Yisroel, the Holy Land, to live on its sacred earth and fulfill in his own person the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisroel.

These tidings had strong repercussions. People highly praised and sympathized with his noble undertaking. When the day of his departure arrived all the Jews living in Mir gathered to bid him farewell. They were full of longing for Eretz Yisroel and a hidden jealousy about his being zocheh to what others were not. He responded to their warm blessings: "Next year in the rebuilt Yerushalayim for all of us!" and then embarked on his voyage.

Several weeks, or perhaps months, passed. What had happened would have been forgotten if not for the fact that the Jew, surprisingly, reappeared in Mir. He had, in fact, returned to Mir. What happened?

Again the Jews living in Mir gathered to its shul, but this time to hear about their neighbor's experiences in the Holy Land. This would be a worthwhile firsthand account. Here was someone from their own Mir who himself had lived in Eretz Yisroel -- no rumors or stories, a real live witness. He had been zocheh to walk on its earth, to touch the stones of the Kosel Hama'arovi, and to breath the soul- lifting air of Yerushalayim.

The man ascended the shul's platform and began to describe the magnificent land and those who live there, its sacred places, the sanctified environment and enchanting luster. He portrayed with great emotion all the spiritual blessings found in Eretz Yisroel.

Then, at the peak of his description, his face darkened and he began sorrowfully to depict the trying economic situation in Eretz Yisroel. "But . . . But," the man said, "living there is intolerable. Children go hungry, life is harsh, and there is no hope in sight."

He continued relating the pathetic poverty the Jews suffer from, as indeed they did. He did not calm down until he muttered a derogatory slogan: "It is preferable to be a sheep in Mir than to be a man in Eretz Yisroel!"

Here R' Dov arrived at the dramatic climax of his story.

Just as he finished saying that, in front the very eyes of the audience, a shocking thing happened: it seems that at that exact moment the man suffered a stroke. His face twisted, his body sagged, and he began drooping slowly to the ground. However, he did not fall all the way. He did not faint either, nor did he lose consciousness. His muscles shrank and his upright stature stooped.

In a few moments the man was left crouching on his hands and knees, walking on all four, very much like the way a sheep walks.

He was also unable to speak. Only strange sounds came out of his mouth, sounds that were amazingly similar to the "meh meh" that sheep always make.


R' Dov zt'l was afraid that those listening to him would not believe his story, so he emphasized that he remembered how, as a child, when he went with other children to the cheder, they would pass by that man's house. On the balcony the man would lie, bent over on his knees and hands, with strange noises issuing from his mouth. The children -- like all children -- would wave at him accusingly and yell at him: "Nu! You are the one who dared to speak loshon hora about Eretz Yisroel?"

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