Photos: Inspiration and Elevation at Brooklyn Kinus in Response to World Events


kinnusBy Shimmy Blum

[Photos below.] It was after a long workday, at the height of the summer, but well over 1,000 men and women packed The Palace ballroom Wednesday evening for a special gathering in light of the consequential events that Jews are experiencing around the world.

The Kinus Tefillah V’hisorerus was hosted by Agudath Israel of America at the behest of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America. The atmosphere in the filled majestic ballroom was both somber and energetic, with the urgency of the gathering not lost upon anyone. Already during tefillas Mincha at the commencement of the event, led by Rav Yosef Frankel, V’yelipoler Rebbe and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, an unusual degree of piety and kavana could be sensed in each word recited by both baal tefillah and audience.

Upon conclusion of the tefillah, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, stepped up to the podium and relayed the clarion call of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of America to hold this event as planned, even though a tenuous cease fire in Eretz Yisroel has taken hold. Citing the multifaceted dangers faced by Yidden, particularly in Eretz Yisroel and Europe, Rabbi Zwiebel explained, “We are in a situation of ‘ki lo seida mah yeled yom’; no one knows what the next day will bring.” Whatever the calendar may say, he declared, “now is a time for koved rosh, seriousness of purpose, not kalus rosh, frivolous pursuits.”

A Call from Heaven

The news of the day was indeed that Israel experienced the first lull in missile attacks and perilous military operations since the latest conflict began but Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, stressed that Hashem’s call to His children remains as strong as ever. “The eis tzara hi l’Yaakov is still here,” the Rosh Agudas Yisroel stated with audible emotion. “The resha’im still have the same goal: to erase the remaining sparks (of Jewry).”

At the same time, the Rebbe noted that the streaks of hope finally visible amidst the dark clouds should be an immense source of chizuk and motivation. As excruciating as they were, the tragedies in recent weeks were but a fraction of the casualties that the evil perpetrators were determined to inflict – and were logistically capable of. That knowledge, coupled with the subsiding immediate threat , are the direct result of the greatly enhanced tefillos and achdus within our communities around the globe. “We need to be full of shevach v’hodaa to Hashem,” the Rebbe exclaimed. “Our tefillos are accepted and our mitzvos and maasim tovim accomplish in Heaven.”

In the broader context, the Rebbe explained that the Heavenly inspiration for our spiritual strengthening is essentially a call for us to do proper teshuva – to come closer to Hashem – with the Divine assistance necessary to help us accomplish that goal. “In the zechus of coming together k’ish echad b’lev echad, may we see Hashem fulfill ‘chadeish yameinu k’kedem,’ coming back to where we were before.”

Though Jews in America remained shocked at the unprecedented level of anti-Semitism and terrorist sympathies expressed here in the United States, there is no doubt that we are blessed with the ability to face less direct hostility and fear than our brethren living practically anywhere else in the world. Nevertheless, the Rebbe stressed that we cannot ignore our brethren’s troubles and live in our normal carefree manner. “Our davening and learning need to be on a higher level than they were before,” the Rebbe implored. “We need to focus on the ikar (of life), not the tafal.”

Elevating our Lives

This message was reiterated by the poignant words of Rav Yisroel Reisman, shlit”a, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Rav of Agudas Yisroel of Madison, whose address followed. Rav Reisman’s address piqued particular interest amongst the audience because he was fresh off a three week long trip to Eretz Yisroel, experiencing firsthand the travails of our brethren in the heat of the conflict.

Rav Reisman related that, contrary to popular belief, he did not see fear permeating the charedi communities in the Holy Land. “One of our mispallelim asked me, ‘What’s different in Eretz Yisroel now?’ I answered, ‘The learning is more sincere, and the davening is more serious!'”

Rav Reisman explained that the Yidden who are literally a stone’s throw away from fighter jets, terrorist attacks and riots – for whom sirens and bomb shelters are a part of life – were not focused on any of the political or military developments unfolding around them. Instead even the simple Yid and Yeshiva bochur in Eretz Yisroel is now dedicated to staying longer in Bais Medrash, reciting a dvar Torah during a car ride and opening a Sefer Tehillim while waiting at a bus stop.

The gap between our world and theirs is wide, said Rav Reisman. He explained in the timeless battle between man’s heart and mind, Yidden and their hearts’ desires must follow the dictates of their minds, especially during trying times. The fact that Yidden in Eretz Yisroel are able to trump their natural inclinations towards fear and despair, thanks to their strong bedrock of emunah and bitachon, is a testament to this virtue.

Rav Reisman implored the audience to emulate our Israeli brethren, and avoid remaining subordinate to the shallow earthly desires that surround us. Rav Reisman related a poignant anecdote that occurred during the Six Day War with Rav Nochum Partzovitz zt”l. An American talmid of Rav Nochum’s in Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim returned home for the duration of the war at his parents’ insistence, despite Rav Nochum’s request that he remain in Eretz Yisroel where he will “shteig” more.

When he returned, the talmid proudly told of how he shteiged equally in America, learning identical hours and sugyos as he did in yeshiva. Rav Nochum replied that the shteiging that he was referring to was of a different sort: the growth one experiences when watching the pious yidden of Eretz Yisroel react to the sirens and threats of death at their doorstep.

Voices to the Heavens

Rav Reisman’s speech was followed by the recitation of Tehillim led by Rav Shlomo Mandel, shlit”a, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva of Brooklyn. The powerful words echoed loud and clear throughout the hall – and in the Heavens above.

Though not originally on the program schedule, it was spontaneously decided that a minyan Maariv take place, due to requests from many members of the audience to maximize the spirit of the evening and the ko’ach harabbim of the assembled. During the twenty minutes remaining until the zman, Rav Dovid Olewski, shlit”a, Rosh Yeshivas Gur, delivered an unplanned rousing address embellishing the message that was heard.

Rav Olewski expounded upon the virtues that we can all undertake in order to merit protection for ourselves and our brethren around the world. Citing the words of the Shla Hakadosh, he mentioned the particular detriment of laxity in the areas of anger, evil and impure speech, as well as the pursuit of frivolous pleasures.

Additionally, Rav Olewski relayed the importance of proper focus and decorum while standing before Hashem, in His chamber, and davening each day. “A Yid must know that we have no merit of existence without Hashem,” he summed up. “Who will save us if not for the Shomer Yisroel?”

The kinus concluded with Tefilas Maariv, led by Rav Eliezer Ginsburg, Rosh Kollel Mirrer Yeshiva and Rav of Agudas Yisroel Zichron Shmuel. Upon its conclusion, the multitudes of participants left The Palace with a sense, as Rav Olewski said, that they had in fact been in the Palace of the King, and strengthened their bond with the Creator of the Universe.

Rabbi Yosef Frankel, V’Yelipoler Rebbe
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president, Agudath Israel of America
Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, Novominsker Rebbe and Rosh Agudas Yisroel

Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Rav, Agudas Yisroel of Madison

Rabbi Shlomo Mandel, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva of Brooklyn
Rabbi Dovid Olewski, Rosh Mesivta of Bais Yisroel d’Gur

{ Newscenter/Photos: Hersh Rosner}