By Daniel Keren
One of the highlights of the summer season in Brooklyn is the annual Summer Kinus sponsored by the Alumni Committee of the Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath that is usually held on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av and connected to the theme of Tisha B’Av.
As in past years, the evening of inspiration which was held this past Monday night was dedicated by the Hirsch family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Henry (Yechiel ben Yehuda) & Myrtle (Malka bas Yeshaya) Hirsch of blessed memories. Mr. Hirsch who was nifter 23 years ago on the second day of Av was a devoted supported of the yeshiva and president of the Torah Vodaath Board of Directors.
A Concern for One’s Sheep or Gashmius
The program began with a special memorial address to Mr. and Mrs. Hirsch by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Toras Chaim of South Shore and author of the ArtScroll “Parsha Parables” series. He spoke of an important lesson we learn from last week’s parsha. The Bnei Gad and Reuven approached Moshe with a proposal.
They declared to the Gadol Hador that their tribes were blessed with an abundance of sheep and the land that had just been conquered from the kingdoms of Og and Sichon was just perfect for them to graze their flocks. So if it was O.K. with Moshe, the Bnei Gad and Reuven would prefer to settle in this land and not take their inheritance with the rest of Klal Yisroel in the Promised Land of Eretz Canaan.
Accused of Demoralizing the Rest of Klal Yisroel
Rabbi Kamenetzky noted that what followed was nine pasukim of a bitter verbal assault by Moshe on the integrity of the Bnei Gad and Reuven, in which he accused them of being like the Meraglim in that their actions of staying outside Eretz Canaan would serve to demoralize the rest of Klal Yisroel.
Taken aback, the Bnei Gad and Reuven argued that they had no intention of not participating in the conquest of the land. Indeed they would first build pens and stables for their animals and then establish fortified cities for their children and wives; after which they would be in the forefront of the battles to conquer the Land of Canaan for their brethren.
Moshe Rabbeinu corrected them. No, first you will build fortified cities for your children and then you will make pens to house your sheep. The ruchnius of your children should be more important to you than the gashmius that your sheep represent.
Inspired with the Proper Values
Similarly, Mr. Hirsch in his dedicated efforts to help sustain and expand the vital efforts of Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath in educating boys to become proud and learned Jewish men was inspired by the arguments of Moshe Rabbeinu against the Bnei Gad and Reuven. It once happened that a meeting of the Board of Directors was being held upstairs in the Yeshiva. The administration arranged for an excellently catered meal to be served to the major supporters of Torah Vodaath.
Mr. Hirsch asked, “And what are the boys downstairs having for supper?” When told that they were being served egg salad, he insisted that the meal for the board of directors be sent down to the bochrim “and we can eat the egg salad tonight.”
Remembering Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l
Rabbi Gedalia Weinberger, an alumni of Torah Vodaath spoke briefly about how the Kinus that evening was being held a couple of weeks prior to the yahrtzeit of Yeshiva’s beloved Rosh Hayeshiva – HaRav Avrohom Pam, zt”l. He noted that the program began when it was still Rosh Chodesh Av and therefore had a connection to the yahrtzeit of Aharon HaKohen who was nifter on this date. Rav Pam who also was a Kohen was very much like Aharon HaKohen, Rabbi Weinberger in that his whole life was devoted solely to teaching Torah in a way that promoted and encouraged his talmidim to likewise dedicate themselves to the pursuit of shalom amongst all Yidden.
Two Main Speakers of the Evening
The highlight of the evening’s Kinus were the Divrei Hisorerus delivered by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, shlita, the Rav of the Agudath Israel of Madison (Zichron Chaim Zvi) in Flatbush and Rabbi Eytan Feiner, shlita, the Mora D’Asra of Congregation Kneseth Israel (the White Shul) in Far Rockaway.
Rabbi Reisman began his talk by focusing on an aspect of the Three Weeks which he felt remains very relevant to us today. It was on Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, the 17th of Tammuz that the enemy first penetrated the holy city of Yerushalayim. Yet the origin of the bad roots of this date goes back to that night when Moshe Rabbeinu smashed the Luchos.
When analyzing Klal Yisroel, Rabbi Reisman noted that there are two aspects to the Jewish nation. The first is that of Yichus or ancestry and this goes back to our righteous forefathers Avrahom, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The second aspect we have to be concerned with is that of Kedushas Yisroel, the holiness of our people and this only developed with the giving of the Torah by Hashem to the Jewish people at Har Sinai.
The Two Aspects of a Jewish Wedding
A Jewish marriage, Rabbi Reisman said consists of two aspects. The first is the Kiddushin, whereby the woman is set apart for her husband. The second aspect is that of the Nisuin or the chupah, wedding ceremony after which the man takes his wife into his home. Today, both the Kiddushin and the Nisuin are done at the same time under the chupah. In ancient times, there was a delay of many months, at which time the woman although legally bound to her husband, continued to live in the house of the father until the chupah was held.
If not for the sin of the Chait Ha’eigel, the sin of the golden calf, the Jewish nation after Har Sinai would have immediately entered into Eretz Yisroel, so-to-speak the home of their husband Hakodesh Baruch Hu. On Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, the Jewish people were in the status of Kiddushin, set aside to a special relationship with Hakodesh Baruch Hu as a result of accepting the Torah at Har Sinai.
Moshe Smashed the Luchos
But because of the sin of the golden calf, Moshe smashed the Tablet of the Ten Commandments that he had received atop Har Sinai from Hashem. That action so-to-speak broke off the second stage of the marriage the Nisuin.
What happened? Rabbi Reisman explained that because of the Chait Ha’eigel we as a nation were denied to right to immediately enter Eretz Yisroel or the home of Hakodesh Baruch Hu. After 40 years in the Midbar, Klal Yisroel merited to enter the Holy Land. Eventually, the first Bais Hamikdosh was constructed and we felt as though we were completely married to Hashem.
During the Three Weeks we mourn the loss of that special closeness to Hashem we felt when the Bais Hamikdosh existed. Towards the end of the 40 years in the Wilderness, Aharon Hakohen died. It was in his zechus that the Bnei Yisroel were protected by the special Clouds of Glory. With his petirah on Rosh Chodesh Av, not only was Klal Yisroel exposed to attack by the goyim; perhaps even more serious was that they could now look out and see the goyim and what was worse be influenced by this outside spiritually corrupt non-Jewish world.
Today more than ever, Rabbi Reisman declared, the increasing spiritual contamination of the outside world has penetrated into the previously undefiled sanctify of the Jewish home, and this is particularly the case as a result of the internet.
Prematurely Breaking Down the Ghetto Walls
Dovid Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel boastfully declared that with the establishment of the State of Israel, the ghetto walls that had previously separated the Jews from the rest of the world had been broken. And yet, now in a most ironic manner, we see that it is the Jewish state that is spending a lot of money to defend itself by putting up walls to separate themselves from their goyish enemies that surround them.
And that really is the lesson we must understand. Our obligation is to build back those walls to again separate us as Klal Yisroel from the rest of the world and to protect us from it dangerous degenerate cultural and spiritual influences.
Keeping Separate from Goyish Influences
Rabbi Reisman concluded by reflecting that perhaps in the zechus of our understanding the important need to keep separate from the goyish influences and thereby strengthening our Kedushas Yisroel, may Hashem reward us with the restoration of the Bais Hamikdosh in Yerushalayim, Ir Hakodesh.
Concluding the Summer Kinus Program at Torah Vodaath was Rabbi Feiner who began by telling a story about a maskil, a so-called “Enlightened Jew” who had abandoned a Torah way-of-life and lived near Rabbi Akiva Eiger, zt”l. This maskil was seemingly the complete anti-thesis of the saintly and brilliant Rabbi Eiger who utilized his intelligence to further his yiras shomayim and come closer to Hakodesh Baruch Hu.
The Story of the Very Ill Maskil
It happened one time that this maskil became very seriously ill and nothing that the doctors tried to do in treating him was working. Instead of recovering, his condition became graver until it was just a matter of hours before he would die of his disease. As his strength was ebbing, Rabbi Feiner said that this maskil asked his wife to go to the nearby bais medrash of Rabbi Eiger and request that he and his talmidim recited Tehillim for his refuah sheleima.
The wife did as her husband requested and begged the talmidim there to start reading Tehillim for her husband. Her request caused an uproar as the young men shook their heads. “What are you crazy? Why should we pray to Hashem that your wicked husband who is opposed to everything we believe in should be healed?” The woman refused to leave until they would recite Tehillim for her ailing spouse.
The Commotion Attracts Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s Attention
The commotion attracted the attention of Rabbi Akiva Eiger and he asked what was going on. When it was explained to him just what this wife of the “great” maskil wanted, Rabbi Akiva Eiger explained a Chazal about a strange creature that looked like a catfish but was able to live on both land and in the water. There was a question about whether it was a land or marine creature. Rabbi Eiger said that Chazal determined once that when the creature felt itself in mortal danger it ran deep inland and from this act, it was determined that the animal was a land animal.
Similarly, Rabbi Eiger said that we can determine that this maskil is still a believing Jew. For, when he felt himself in mortal danger, where did he send his wife to run for help? She was sent to a holy bais medrash. On that basis, Rabbi Feiner said, the great Rabbi Akiva Eiger commanded his talmidim to join him in reciting Tehillim and according to the story, the maskil recovered shortly thereafter.
What is the Lesson of the Story?
So what is the lesson of this story for us? Rabbi Feiner asked the audience in Torah Vodaath. That is what we have to ask ourselves. What are we doing when we recognize, especially in these Three Weeks the terrible and increasing dangers that are quickly confronting us? The answer is that we should be running to our shuls and to our bais medrashim in order to open our Tehillim and Gemoras. Do we go early and stay late? That is the only solution that will protect us from the terrible dangers that we find ourselves faced with today.
If you want to rebuild the Bais Hamikdosh, Rabbi Feiner said, you have to focus on the foundation. And what is the foundation? The foundation is only the talmidim hachamim who diligently study and learn the Torah hakodesh.
The Netziv and the Sefer Torah
It once happened that the Netziv was walking to the bima while carrying a Sefer Torah. He tripped and fell to the floor with that Sefer Torah. Immediately the rav of the shul cried out, “You pick up the Netziv before you pick up the Sefer Torah, for the Netziv (as a Talmid Hacham) is greater than any Sefer Torah.”
Rabbi Feiner asked, “On Tisha B’Av, are we just mourning the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh? Or are we also mourning the martyrdom of the Asurus Harugim who were killed by the Romans. If not, we can’t hope to have a true appreciation for the restoration of the Bais Hamikdosh, if we are incapable of mourning and displaying our appreciation for the great Torah scholars that Klal Yisroel has lost. Only in this merit of appreciating our Gedolei Torah will we be worthy of seeing the Geulah and the restoration of our Bais Hamikdosh in Yerushalayim.