On Sunday morning, June 12, the community gathered for a community breakfast to show support for the Rabbinical Seminary of America – Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills.
Dr. Richard Gewanter, chairman of the breakfast, welcomed everyone. He shared that he is a talmid of the Yeshiva, and he discussed the immense impact the Yeshiva has on all our lives, having such a prestigious makom Torah in our community. It provides chizuk to have such a high level of Torah learning here in our community. The Yeshiva carries on the tradition of a high level of learning along with learning musar and creating mentchen. He shared how, in his work as an oncologist at Sloan Kettering, his training from Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim enables him to be a better physician and to work on his character traits so he can do kiddush Hashem in the workplace. “Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim inspires love and appreciation of learning. It gave me tremendous love of learning.”
He then introduced Rabbi Dovid Harris shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Harris shared a d’var Torah based on the Midrash Tanchuma. Hashem said that the essence of Torah is shalom, and every aspect of Torah brings shalom. Shalom of the Torah brings peace to the world. “Shalom is a value. With the attitude of shalom, we merit receiving the Torah.” He taught that the S’forno explained that the Menorah represents two sides of supporters of Torah: the people in the beis midrash who are learning, as well as the supporters of the people who are learning. They must work together. He said that our responsibility is to act together to maximize our strength and to bring the ultimate good. All should be done with kiddush Hashem. He thanked Rabbi Moshe Winter, Director of Alumni Affairs at the Yeshiva and Breakfast Coordinator.
Following this, Rabbi Moshe Turk, rav of The Jewish Heritage Center of Queens and Long Island, spoke. He said that in the parshah last week, we learn according to the Zohar that kohanim have to bless Yisrael with ahavah. Where does the Torah get this from the text, and how can a kohen be expected to bless each Jew with love? There is an extra vav in the pasuk with the word “amor” to teach us that the kohanim have to give the blessing with kavanah and a full heart. There is a separate command for the kohen because it is teaching us that the kohen can bring his mind into the right place to have a leiv shaleim. The kohen can reach this level. Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt”l, former Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, was a kohen and he didn’t just give blessings with ahavas Yisrael. He dedicated his life to the love of Israel and inculcated this love into hundreds of disciples.
The Chasam Sofer asks: Why did Hashem choose Avraham to be the progenitor of am Yisrael? There were great tzadikim before him. Hashem chose Avraham because Hashem knew that he would command his household and his descendants and bring them to observe the ways of Hashem. He ensured the teachings of Hashem would continue for generations. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Leibowitz, saw that the entire country was devoid of Torah, and he started Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in 1933. The goal was not just to teach students in the Yeshiva but also to spread Torah throughout the country. The Yeshiva continued through Rav Henoch, and it continues through the Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Harris shlita and Rav Akiva Grunblatt shlita. It continues this mission with places of Torah in all four corners of the nation. In over 100 communities, thousands of students of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim are involved in shul and school outreach and organizations that brought and are binging the ways of Hashem to fellow Jews.
The focus of the Yeshiva is not just in Queens. When Yaakov came to Shechem, he camped there and he also contributed to the city. He felt a responsibility to the place where he was living to show gratitude and to contribute. In the 1950s, Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim was started in Queens. The focus was on starting many of the Queens Torah institutions like Hatzalah, a kashrus organization, and a chevrah kadisha. There are 62 Chofetz Chaim rabbanim and administrators in our community. There are seven local rabbanim, two high school principals, and ten heads of community programs.
Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l taught that a yeshivah that worries for the needs of klal Yisrael, then klal Yisrael should worry about the needs of the yeshivah.
Our community has a responsibility to see to the needs of this awesome Torah institution in our midst.
To donate to the Rabbinical Seminary of Queens – Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, go to the website www.rayze.it/rsa/.
By Susie Garber