This past Shabbos, Parshas B’Shalach, took on a new meaning for the Kew Gardens Hills community as the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) combined forces with eight minyanim and two illustrious families to share Torah thought.
Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel of RIETS, was joined by Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS and Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Holliswood, during the extraordinary Shabbos, a first for the neighborhood.
“What made the Shabbos so special was not just the presence of Rav Schachter shlita, but the fact that the initiative came from the alumni of the Yeshiva in the special community of Kew Gardens Hills,” explained Rabbi Penner.
Dr. Yaakov Walfish is a Yeshiva University graduate who admittedly lost contact with the institution where he gained so much introspection for the journey of life ahead. “My son Ari helped reinvigorate my connection and ahavah for the efforts of RIETS with the creation of this monumental Shabbos project. It is my hope that the community gained their own reflections and took cherished moments of inspiration from the Torah words heard,” stated Dr. Walfish.
There was not a seat to be found in Kehillas Torah Temima for the Rosh Yeshiva’s address, while the Dean was welcomed by Congregation Ohel Yitzchok. Later in the evening, the community gathered at the home of Aron and Raquel Brody, where Rabbi Schachter delivered a passionate drashah and, in his famed manner, took questions from the audience. Community leaders and rabbanim, including Rabbi Yaakov Friedman and Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, embraced this oneg as a form of communal unity.
“RIETS and YU have so many rabbanim and talmidim in our community. The agenda was designed to both give chizuk throughout the neighborhood and be a continued harbatzas Torah for all,” noted Ari Walfish, a prodigy of the Yeshiva’s hallways.
The leaders, students, and alumni of RIETS, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, carry forward the legacy of its founders and namesake, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor, who reached the Olam HaEmes the same year the Yeshiva officially launched, 1896. Rabbi Spektor was the famed rav of Kovno, Lithuania, whose lofty heights in learning was paralleled by his profound humility and personal devoutness. “Shabbos was a celebration of everything the Yeshiva was, is, and continues to be. So many listen to the Torah of RIETS on YUTorah, but nothing compares to once again being together to learn and be inspired,” mentioned Rabbi Penner.
For Rabbi Penner, Shabbos morning began at Bais Medrash Zichron Shalom and continued at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, while Rabbi Schachter spoke in both Congregation Ahavas Yisroel and in Khal Nachlas Yitzchok. Rabbi Penner then joined Congregation Etz Chaim in the afternoon and Rabbi Schachter concluded Shabbos at the Young Israel of Queens Valley.
“I am especially gratified that so many people from such a wide spectrum of yeshivos, shuls, and shtieblach joined together l’hagdil Torah u’l’haadirah,” concluded Rabbi Penner.
It is customary for a chanukas ha’bayis to include words of Torah and be shared amid family and friends who bestow upon the homeowners blessings of luck and impart wishes for a fruitful, content experience in their new surroundings. Rabbis Schachter and Penner were joined by fellow RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Michael Rosensweig and RIETS Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Rabbi Hyman Arbesfeld, amongst various other notables, for a parlor meeting at the home of Daniel and Sara Turkel, supporting the work of RIETS and culminating a fantastic weekend program. It seemed the most fitting manner to have this unique display of Torah be the first act to occur in a home designed to contribute creatively to the strengthening of Jewish tradition and preservation of our beliefs.
By Shabsie Saphirstein