Video, Photos: Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz Named Chairman of the Board of CCHF


cchf-dinner-rechnitz[Video and photos below.] There was a tangible, electric excitement among those gathered at the CCHF annual dinner this year. Supporters, participants in the organization’s programs, esteemed rabbonim and guests shared the sense that the organization’s goal – making Shmiras Haloshon the trademark of Klal Yisrael – is at last in sight.

Two milestone events converged to create that feeling of hopeful energy. The first was the inspiring chasima of a Sefer Torah written zecher l’nishmas the Chofetz Chaim. The second was the inauguration of Mr. Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, the accomplished and talented Los Angeles askan, as the first-ever Chairman of the Board for the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

These two milestones brought together a roster of renowned rabbonim, including Rabbi Yitzchak Scheiner, Member of Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah; Rabbi Yechiel Nisselbaum, Talmid of the Chofetz Chaim; Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia and Chairman of the Rabbinical Board of CCHF; Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva; Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, father-in-law of Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas; Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rosh Yeshiva of South Fallsburg; Rabbi Yaakov Krause, Menahel of Toras Emes of Los Angeles; Rabbi Shlomo Shustal,  Rabbi Yoel Bursztyn, Principal of Bais Yaakov of Los Angeles, Rabbi Hoberman, Yeshiva of Long Beach and Rabbi Respler, Yeshiva of Long Beach.

After two decades of laying the groundwork for Shmiras Haloshon revolution, there is a sense of reaching a tipping point, and with the addition of Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz to the organization’s leadership, that hope appears closer to reality than ever.

Why Shmiras Haloshon?

Mr. Rechnitz is a major force in the Torah institutions of his Los Angeles community, and has associated himself with many worthy causes in Klal Yisrael. He agreed to pour his considerable talents into helping the CCHF reach a new level of achievement, because “Every little bit that we spread Shmiras Halashon, where we can even stave off one machlokes or just stop it from getting worse, we are saving ourselves, our friends and our families from much tzaar.”

In his frequent role as a mediator of both family and business disputes, Mr. Rechnitz says he has become acutely aware of the damage loshon hora causes. The damage is even more widespread today because information can be spread instantly to millions of people with a text message, a blog, or a click of the mouse.

Using the anti-smoking campaign as a paradigm, Mr. Rechnitz believes in the ability to change people’s perceptions of what is acceptable. “I honestly believe we, together with the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, can accomplish the same goals with loshon hora, if we teach our children from a young age that loshon hora is ugly and unacceptable and is also harmful to your health — your physical health and your spiritual health…We can accomplish unfathomable brocha and yeshuos for Klal Yisrael.”

Mordechai’s Praise

Rav Matisyahu  Salomon addressing the dinner guests, praised the middos Mr. Rechnitz possesses, which make him well-suited to promoting Shmiras Haloshon. Rav Salomon, noted that the Megillah ends with praise of Mordechai, stating “Because he spoke in peace to his nation and he spoke good to his descendants.”

The fact that he spoke peacefully to his nation explains why he was able to lead them to teshuva. The fact that he spoke kindly to his descendents, however, was the proof that his middah of kindness was true.

Rav Salomon noted that in observing Mr. Rechnitz with his children, he saw that the chesed he exhibits to Klal Yisrael comes from deep within him.

“Mr. Rechnitz talked about bringing to the CCHF to a newer level,” said Mr. Gedalia Weinberger, a member of the CCHF Board of Directors. “I’m very confident that he will accomplish it all.”

Chasima of the Sefer Torah Project

The Sefer Torah project, started two years ago, was designed to ensure a bright future of Shmiras Haloshon for the next generation. Thousands of its osios were “purchased” by school children across the country, who participated in a learning and activity program in Shmiras Haloshon in order to earn their letters. As teachers and principals testified, these children’s level of awareness of how they speak to their friends and classmates was raised, and their habits of speech improved in a real, noticeable way.

The resulting Sefer Torah is therefore a beautiful testimony to mitzvah so precious to the Chofetz Chaim himself. Through the Sefer Torah project, the CCHF was able to promote the best possible strategy for building a future of Shmiras Haloshon — to instill it in children at a young age, while their habits are still forming. Those children, IY’H, can be expected to grow up to become parents, teachers, neighbors and community members who bring harmony and unity into the lives of everyone around them.

Fueling the cause of Shmiras Haloshon further still, the proceeds from the many donors and sponsors of the Sefer Torah are being invested directly into more and better programs to educate children in the mitzvah.

The Sefer Torah is a powerful symbol of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s message, said Michael Rothschild. “There are 304,805 words in a Sefer Torah,” he remarked. “If one word is missing, the Sefer Torah is possul. Every Jew has a letter in the Sefer Torah, and the message is that if even one Jew is missing, then Klal Yisrael is not what it should be. Loshon hora and sinas chinam separate Jews from each other, and keep us from being what we should be. The Torah is the perfect metaphor for how Hashem views Klal Yisrael and for how we view each other. Each and every one of us is essential to the whole, and we have to treat each other in a way that recognizes this.”

Bringing every Jew to recognize this principle has been the sole mission of the CCHF since its inception 22 years ago. All of its events, projects, publications and programs are directed to that one goal, and the results are clear to see.

A First-Hand Account of the Chofetz Chaim

The goal of following in the ways of the Chofetz Chaim became not just an idea, but a vivid picture through the rare appearance of Rabbi Yechiel Nisselbaum, the last living talmid of the Chofetz Chaim.

Well into his 90s, Rabbi Nisselbaum spoke to a spell-bound audience about his days as a student in the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva in Radin. His stories highlighted the purity of this revered tzadik, demonstrating the heights to which the Torah can bring a person.

The first of these stories occurred when his father was ill, and his family asked him to seek a brocha from the Chofetz Chaim.

The young Yechiel Nisselbaum went to the tzadik’s home on his father’s behalf. The Chofetz Chaim was already at a very advanced age, and the gabbai explained to him that his talmid was pre-occupied with worries about his father and would like to receive a brocha for his recovery. The Chofetz Chaim asked, “What does you father do?” Yechiel answered, “He is in business.” “Is he honest in business?” the Chofetz Chaim inquired. “Yes,” the son responded.

Then, the Chofetz Chaim asked for the father’s name. It appeared that at that point, he dropped off into sleep, and was unable to repeat the name. When he awoke, he asked the boy the same questions, and upon hearing the father’s name, once more fell asleep without saying the father’s name. When he awoke, he gave the boy a brocha: “You should be well,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, Yechiel Nisselbaum’s father was niftar. The reason the Chofetz Chaim could not say the father’s name was because he knew that the father’s destiny had already been decided in shomayim. So pure was his neshama that he could receive the truth from the World of Truth, even as he lived in the physical world.

Mr. Gedalia Weinberger, summed up the beautiful juxtaposition of Rabbi Nisselbaum’s depiction of the past with Mr. Rechnitz’s energetic drive toward the future.

“In a certain sense, it was a perfect connection,” he said. “You had the oldest talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, and you had Rabbi Rechnitz bringing it all to life.”

Anchoring the new era of Shmiras Haloshon, the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer Torah will be completed in Eretz Yisrael and escorted to its home at the Kosel on June 6, Erev Shavuos. And in the words of Mr. Rechnitz at the conclusion of his address, “I hope and pray that we, very shortly, will follow this Sefer Torah we just completed tonight, to Yerushalayim ir hakodesh bimheira v’yameinu amen.”

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{Noam Newscenter}