On Sunday evening, August 4, community members gathered at Congregation Ohel Simcha for a beautiful night of inspiration with Rav David Yosef shlita, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l, and Rav Yitzchak Yisraeli shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Rabbinical Bukharian Association United States and Canada.
Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, Operations Manager of Chazaq, greeted everyone. Then Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Director of Chazaq, pointed out that every generation has its speakers who inspire people. Usually they are in one category or another, but it is unusual to find someone who is in both the category of a poseik and is able to be m’kareiv people. Rav Ovadia Yosef was in both categories. He left behind great children and students. “Chacham David Yosef speaks from the heart and touches people.” He shared how, three years ago, Chazaq needed a Torah scholar to help them make a revolution to bring students from public school to yeshivah. Queens has the highest percentage of Jewish children in public school. Rav David Yosef was the Torah scholar who helped. In Forest Hills in August 2016, Chazaq held its first yeshivah night and 180 parents attended.
Three years later, amazingly, Chazaq has transferred over 700 students from public school to yeshivah. Chazaq employs people who are on the phone day and night talking to parents and convincing them to transfer their children to yeshivah. If parents need tuition assistance in order to not send their children to public school, then there are organizations that help with this. They include Our Jewish Children, Nechomas Yisrael, and Orah. Rabbi Ilan stated, “Rav David’s leadership helped us do what we did.”
Next, Rabbi Yigal Haimoff, rav of Congregation Ohel Simcha, spoke. He shared a special announcement that his son-in-law, Rav Gavriel Elbaz, will be working together with him as a rav of Congregation Ohel Simcha.
Next, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli spoke. He first shared his deep appreciation to Rav David Yosef for leading the community with such great knowledge and noted that he will continue to lead the revolution of bringing Jewish public school students to yeshivah. He spoke about Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah who was one of the greatest Jewish leaders. He was always appointed to debate apikorsim or people from other religions because he always won the debate. He then shared that there are 21 days between Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av, which marks the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Also, there are 21 days from Rosh HaShanah until Hoshana Rabah. He said the same idea applies during the Three Weeks now, as between Rosh HaShanah and Hoshana Rabah. These are days of kaparah (atonement). “The main idea of the Tish’ah B’Av fast is to pay attention to what we are doing wrong in order to correct it and to make these days into days of atonement, so Hashem will have mercy on us and turn these days to good days.”
He taught that our generation faces challenges that no other generation had to face. We have access to powerful tools that can destroy children and families. With these same tools, we can publicize Torah like never before. Shiurim like this one can be viewed by millions of people. Rav Yisraeli stressed, “We have to know that Hashem gave us these challenges because we have the ability to win these challenges.”
“A cell phone must have a filter. With no filter it is poison. If left for children, life and death depends on it having a filter. We need to know not just how to properly use the phone, but when to use it.”
“It should be shut off when you come home. A father texting and checking emails while he is learning with his son? What kind of learning is this?”
Following this, Rav David Yosef spoke about Rav Yochanan ben Zakai, one of the greatest leaders during the time of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. He knew that the Romans were going to conquer Yerushalayim. He pretended that he was dead and had his students carry him out of the city so he could meet the future Roman emperor and ask him to give him the city of Yavneh. After the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, he was able to establish a new Sanhedrin, and all the continuation of am Yisrael came from Yavneh. The Gemara asks the question of why Rav Yochanan didn’t ask the emperor for Yerushalayim. The answer is that the emperor may have answered that he is asking for too much, and he would have ended up with nothing. He knew that if he asked for Yavneh, he would get it. Still, his whole life, Rav Yochanan worried that he did the wrong thing and should have asked for Yerushalayim. The point is that this incredibly holy person, who did so much, still worried that he could have done more.
So, in our situation everyone can say, “I’m trying to do mitzvos and to save people.” If we look around, there are so many people learning and fulfilling mitzvos, but there are so many who are not and they are our brothers and sisters. We all have to do more. He shared a story of a family who had three children. Someone sponsored one of the children to go to yeshivah but they couldn’t sponsor all three. The daughter who attended yeshivah married a rabbi and had a frum family. The daughter’s two siblings, who attended public school, married non- Jews. Rav David emphasized, “Together we will be able to save the community.” He then spoke about truly yearning for Mashiach. “People don’t really want Mashiach to come. They are comfortable where they live. We have to realize that the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash and being in Yerushalayim will bring real happiness. When we have the Beis HaMikdash, then we will feel that we are talking to Hashem. He spoke about how his father, Rav Ovadia Yosef, couldn’t stop crying over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. He had eye problems and the doctor told him not to cry, so he tried to hold himself back, but he would say, “We lost the Beis HaMikdash – how can I stop crying?”
He then spoke about causeless hatred, which was the cause of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. “People are jealous, and this causes sin’as chinam. “We have to correct ourselves and check ourselves. We have to really love the Jewish people and show Hashem that we love each other. To save Jewish people, this is our target – our mission.” He offered a beautiful brachah to the community for good health, r’fuah sh’leimah, long years, parnasah, and much more.” To donate to Our Jewish Children to help more students be able to transfer to yeshivah and to stay in yeshivah, send donations to 147-37 70th Avenue, Flushing, NY 11367, or donate at JewishChildren.org.
This event can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber