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FRUMToronto Articles Parsha Pearls

Devrei Torah relating to the weekly Parsha.

Blog Image: Thoughts.JPG
Reb Shlomo Zalan- Korach 5769
Hi Kids,                                                                                                                              
 I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer. Our summer has officially started as the nurse has arrived in camp safely with Tal B"H and I will be going up IY"H for Shabbos. I got mixed reviews for last week's story selection and I hope this week's compensates for that.
I will try and tell it the way R' Vallach does. Ellis Island, New York - 1925 - A distinguished yet modest looking young man steps off the boat onto American soil. His possessions for the most part consist of books - sfarim - as many as he could take on the journey. He, a short while later began to reside in the Bronx. That is where he, the holy Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Epstein of Ozerov, (1889 - 1971) set up his chasidic court.                                                                                                                                   
 A small glimpse into his background - when he turned 3 years old, after having his haircut celebration, was given a big black kippah to wear on top of his new payos. The toddler felt like a 'big boy'. Then his father brought him into his 'inner sanctum', his study, lined from top to bottom on every wall with sforim, and from the sweet, awesome silence of the room, he heard his father's loving voice, " come my big boy, let's learn." From that day his destiny was set. His life was totally focused on the study and teaching of Torah and Judaism. His connection to Torah was so strong and imperative that once when he was very ill, about 70 years later, and the prescribed medicines were not helping him as he got weaker and weaker, he 'cured himself' by leaving his bed against doctor's orders and going into his study. The soothing effect of his favorite environment and his concentrated learning, actually removed the illness. But back to the story…                                                                              
The first few years in the Bronx were extremely difficult. They were too poor to afford heat in the winter and often had zero food in the house. Over time however, his reputation began to spread - the vastness of his knowledge, the warmth and empathy with which he spoke to all those who came to seek his counsel and brachos - Rabbis were coming to discuss weighty Torah issues and regular Jews began to seek his advice and bracha in health and financial, as well as spiritual areas. With the donations he received, his family survived.                                                                                               

One day, a distinguished looking man came to speak with the Rebbe. He was one of the founders of a certain Jewish community, who was an integral player in the successful building of a beautiful shul. After great effort, the shul now had many members, a prestigious Rabbi and a vibrant program of learning activities daily. He was the president. The problem was that new members were joining the shul, who wanted to make some changes to a lot of things. Politics turned ugly and there was much bad-mouthing and loshon hora. People were even spreading false rumors about him and were trying to taint his reputation.He did not know what to do.                                                                                                                

The man could see in the Rebbe's expression, how strongly he felt his pain as he told the story. Still the man did not expect anything more than a pep talk to be strong etc. However the Rebbe's response was to seem to withdraw into himself and to groan to himself " What am I doing in America ". The man did not understand and asked what the Rebbe meant.                     
The Rebbe, cognizant of the man's confusion, began his story.  " I came to America from Poland, way before World War 2 - at a time when Judaism in Poland was alive and vibrant and Judaism in America was extemely weak. There were barely any Jewish schools for my children, hardly any chasidism and very difficult circumstances in many other areas. So what made me come here ?"  " My grandfather was the third grand Rebbe of Ozerov and my father was the Rav of the town. When my grandfather passed away, my father became the Rebbe and I, at the age of 22, became the Rav. With Hashem's help, we opened a yeshiva and established much learning in Ozerov. It was a wonderful time then, before world war 1. My work in Ozerov gave me quite a reputation in Poland and I received offers of rabbinical positions in some great and famous Jewish communities - but I turned them all down preferring to stay in my hometown - the place of my ancestors."                                                             
 " World War 1 broke out in 1914. Life in Poland became excrutiatingly torturous. Ozerov was taken over by one side and then the other. Each government that took over was worse than the last. Decrees, outlandish taxation, out and out anti-semitism. Finally the Russians took control. They forced all the Jews to evacuate the city taking only what we could carry on our backs. As we walked down the road to who-knew-where, we watched the local farmers rush past us back into the city salivating at the thought of ransacking the now 'abandoned' Jewish homes. Not long afterwards, tears and worry all over our faces, we turned back to see the plumes of smoke rise up from what was once our home - Ozerov burnt to the ground - completely. After a while the Russians were seen abandoning the razed city and I decided to lead the way back and rebuild. We returned to the desolation of no more shul, no more mikveh, no more houses. I began rebuilding. I raised money from other towns, encouraged people to build their homes. Just as we were getting some momentum, a plague broke out in town - among the many dead were my wife and three of my children. Both my parents died that year as well. I don't know where I got the strength to keep going, but Ozerov was eventually rebuilt. The shul, mikveh, yeshiva and aside from my duties as the Rav, I also became the Chasidic Rebbe of Ozerov. It seemed like the glory days of Ozerov had returned. So why did I come to America?"                                                       

 " An uncle of mine, quite a lot older than me, lived in Ozerov. Certain people felt that for various reasons, he should be the Rav and Rebbe of Ozerov instead of me. Although he only had a very small following, they were very vocal and the arguments were becoming nasty. Before they became too terrible, I ran away - as far as I could - to America…   As the Rebbe told his story, tears streamed down his cheeks - tears over the destruction of his people. " And today Ozerov is once again destroyed. The Nazis YmShm, occupied the town. Before deporting all the remaining Jews to the camps, they took the old Rabbi, my uncle, out into the middle of the street with all the Jews lined up on the sides of the street to watch, as they ripped the Aron Kodesh out of the shul, with the Torahs inside, and loaded it onto the back of the Rabbi. The Jews watched in horror as the evil nazis laughed while the old Rabbi was crushed under the weight of the Aron - he was buried under the holy Aron - Hashem should avenge his death. Go home, " the Rebbe said to the spellbound shul-president. " Think about my story and come back tomorrow if you want to talk more."                                                                                     

The next day, the president handed in his resignation to the shul.  No one could read this glimpse into the life of R' Moshe Yechiel, and think that he was some kind of "wooss" to put it in the common vernacular. He fought for the community and for what was right all his life against the most incredible of odds. But when the machlokes - the divisions - became personal, he ran as fast and as far as he could. The Ozerover Rebbe was most definitely well schooled in the most basic lesson of this week's parsha - the destruction and potential devastation which can result from divisions which get personal. Something we should all do our utmost to avoid.                                                             
I hope you all have a wonderful Shabbos (an especially exciting one for "H" and hopefully not too challenging for Brian).                                                                                                                                     
 I love you all . 'd'                                                                                                                   

Posted 6/27/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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