In life, one has to make choices or, as the velt says, “Min kent nit tantzin auf alle chasonos.” One of the special weeks in my year is the opportunity to participate in the Agudath’s Israel’s annual yarchei kallah. This year, baruch Hashem, the reason I had to miss it was because of the wedding of my granddaughter Nechama Lazar to Nosson Lowenthal of Montreal.
Like many things in life, a project can be launched with just one goal in mind. After that goal has been achieved, the activity that was started lives on. It continues producing other goals and benefits.
The American Agudah yarchei kallah is just such a project.
It was not long after the petirah of Rabbi Sherer, z”l, that the first intifada begin. The Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael was in a state of siege. People were afraid to walk the streets and to take buses. Their Jewish brethren abroad wanted to help. But what could they do?
The Torah community in America wanted to do something. Someone came up with the idea that we spend a week in Eretz Yisrael sitting and learning. After all, Chazal tell us that “Torah protects and saves.”
When the idea was presented to Hagaon Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, he responded that although it is true that Torah protects, why should we learn in Eretz Yisrael? Torah would “protect and save” just as much, if we learned in America.
It was explained to him that American Jews would not give up a full week to learn if they stayed in America. The pressure of their occupations and their involvements just wouldn’t make it possible. With that explanation he accepted the idea.
Once we had the approval of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in America, the first Yerushalayim Yarchei Kallah of Agudath Israel of America was announced at an Agudah convention. Every step in the process was checked with Reb Aharon Leib:
Where should we learn? He insisted that we not leave the hotel.
How many sedarim should we learn? He insisted that we learn three sedarim.
Can we go to visit mosdos that invite us to show us the work that they are doing? Absolutely not. The baalei batim are bothered by so many mosdos when they come. Let them truly learn this time!
Can we go to visit him in Bnei Brak, and visit other Gedolei Yisrael? No. He will come to us (as he did — over and over through the years — and as did many other Gedolei Yisrael.)
Reb Aharon Leib felt a personal achrayus for the welfare of the yarchei kallah participants. One particular year, when the bus bombings were extraordinarily heavy, a number of the wives were concerned about the welfare of their husbands. I asked Reb Aharon Leib whether we should come that year. He did not respond immediately.
Later, he called and provided a text that I could tell the people in his name. “If someone comes to learn Torah and does not use the time to go touring around the country, then not only is it not dangerous but, on the contrary, it will bring brachah both to him and to his entire family.” American bnei Torah have found the opportunity to spend a week of learning Toras Eretz Yisrael with outstanding Maggidei Shiur. This is something that they cannot pass up. It is the highlight of the year for many of the participants.
Hagaon Harav Yitzchok Scheiner, shlita, the Rosh Yeshivah of Kamenitz Yeshivah, put it very well. This American-born Rosh Yeshivah said that if the yarchei kallah only represents four days of elevated learning and kedushah, then we have missed the point.
The yarchei kallah has to represent a life-changing period during which each one of us has to re-evaluate our role in life.
We came to this world with a tafkid — an assignment to accomplish. We are so busy doing, however, that we forget to think whether or not we are on the right track. We could be working very hard — but for the wrong things. We could, chas v’shalom, be like Yosef’s brothers who, when confronted with the words “Ani Yosef ha’od avi chai,” realized that their whole life they were living a mistake.
Four days of Torah and yiras Shamayim in Eretz Yisrael, away from the normal rat race, has to put your whole life in perspective.
As the cycle of violence has once again escalated and the original purpose of the yarchei kallah also holds true, it is especially disappointing to miss it. Baruch Hashem, at least it’s for a good reason.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.