Jerusalem Journal #10

My Dear Young Israel Family,

I know it's been awhile since my last Jerusalem Journal posting. Thank G-d all is well and I am looking forward to seeing everyone when I visit over the Shabbasos of July 28th and August 4th. Right now, we are visiting with family in New Jersey and New York and shopping for those small items that cannot be found in Israel.

I was deeply saddened upon hearing the news of the passing of Jerry Lefton, z"l. In many ways, at least for me, Jerry was a powerful link with generations past. His deep commitment to learning and his veneration of talmidei chachamim along with a sterling character that was genuine to the core make his loss particularly difficult. I know he will be mourned long by his devoted family and many friends.

Personal and Israel Observations:

My attempts to connect educationally with the IDF have, as yet, not met with any specific offers. In early June, I was invited to give shuirim to the Nachal Hareidi units in the Bik'a region (near Bet She'an). The experience was quite enlightening and inspiring. Most people do not understand the important role Nachal Hareidi chayalim serve within the IDF forces. They are a critical fighting unit who serve alongside some of the IDF's most prestigious brigades. Space does not permit a lengthy discussion of their remarkable contributions. For those interested, I would suggest searching the news archives of the Jerusalem Post which reported on the unit's uniqueness.

In late June, I met with Effie Etam, a member of the Knesset, at his offices and shared with him some of my proposals outlining a variety of educational initiatives I believe could have a positive impact upon the IDF experience. General Etam was a celebrated soldier and is a committed Jew and is now a member of the Mafdal-Echud Leumi party.

Thanks to my son-in-law, Eliyahu Dershowitz (Saralea's husband), I have had the mitzvah opportunity to learn with an elderly gentleman not far from where we live. Here's a man who was seriously wounded in the Machane Yehudah terrorist attack some years back. He's recovered, but his mobility is significantly limited by his injuries. It is an uplifting experience to learn with him weekly. His courage in not surrendering to his infirmities is a powerful lesson for us all.

It is always fascinating to strike up a conversation with people on the bus. On one occasion, I found myself speaking to a non-dati (religious) sabra who was born in 1924. We should all only look as healthy as he seemed. When people offered him their seat on the bus, he preferred to stand. Having sharing some pleasantries, we began to discuss - what else but - Israeli politics, specifically the paucity of any real statesman-like leadership among the current political figures. I asked him which Israeli Prime Ministers he would choose as models of principled leadership. His response was immediate: Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin. There is, of course, a huge difference between a politician and a statesman. I've written an essay on the subject and perhaps when it's finished I'll share it with you.

In May, we've had the good fortune to celebrate the birth and bris of Saralea's sixth boy. And in August, we are looking forward to the Bar Mitzvah of our grandson, Zecharia Ness (Shami's oldest) upon our return to Israel. May we all share such happy news together.

It's always wonderful to see our dear friends when they visit Jerusalem. The Gersons, Hurwitzs, Oberlanders, and Strauses shared with us many of the exciting things happening at the Shul and in the community, especially the forthcoming arrival of Rabbi Shulman.

D'var Torah:

I pen these words of Torah as we begin the period of the Nine Days prior to Tisha B'Av.

Rav Soloveitchik raises a rather interesting question regarding the 10th of Av, The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 558) rules that even after Tisha B'Av, it is a minhag kasher, an appropriate custom, to observe many of the Nine Day restrictions through the noon hour on the 10th. The Vilna Goan finds the source for this custom in the Yerushalmi Taanis where we find some Tannaim who actually fasted both on the 9th and 10th. The reason was not sefaika d'yoma, a doubt as to which day was actually Tisha B'Av, but rather because of the historical fact that while the Temple's destruction began late on the 9th of Av, its complete devastation took place on the 10th.

To this interpretation, the Rav wonders why this extension of mourning practices into the 10th is not a violation of bal tosif, adding to the prophetic ruling of having only one fast day and not two. The Rav responds by telling us that the imperative to mourn the destruction of the Temple knows no limits. We are enjoined to extend this national grief beyond the one day. The reason? Because only in this way do we fulfill the Talmudic declaration (Ta'anis 30b): "All those who mourn for Jerusalem will merit to witness her joy." It is difficult to grieve for an event that occurred so long ago; hence, the mandate to consciously intensify our reflections, introspections and behavior to generate a unique sadness that finds expression in deep emotions and powerful longings for a time once hallowed in our historical narrative (the Temple era), and a future where that sanctity can once again be restored in all its glory and splendor.

May our lamentations this Tisha B'Av deem us worthy to experience that glorious redemption once again.

Rabbi J. Bienenfeld