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Sparks in a Frozen Graveyard

Eytan Kobre

Today there’s nothing unusual about getting on a plane and traveling to holy sites for personal salvations, but this group of venerated rabbanim and roshei yeshivah was different. They were humble shluchim, representing the thousands of Torah learners who are about to complete a seven-year cycle of daily connection to the Chofetz Chaim.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Each year, as the Yom Hakadosh reached its apex at Ne’ilah, Be’er Yaakov Rosh Yeshivah Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro ztz”l would movingly recall how his father, a rav in Bialystok, tried in vain to get him — a child of seven — to come along when the tzaddik hador, the Chofetz Chaim, would come to town. “Not now, Tatteh,” he’d reply, “I want to play.” The Rosh Yeshivah would rue the opportunity of a lifetime squandered in favor of literal “child’s play” — and he’d urge his listeners: “When your turn comes, when your priceless moment arrives, seize it and don’t let go.” Rabbanim, dayanim, roshei yeshivah, and mashgichim ruchaniyim all tend to be very busy people, shouldering responsibilities most of us can’t imagine. There are sh’eilos to answer, shiurim to deliver, kehillos to tend to, Shas and poskim to learn. What, then, might have motivated a group of 13 distinguished talmidei chachamim to interrupt their very full lives last week for a 24-hour whirlwind journey from Eretz Yisrael to Belarus and back, by plane and bus, and bus and plane back again — all to recite some kapitlach Tehillim? The answer lies in where they were headed, and why. The destination: The tziyun of the heiliger Chofetz Chaim, situated just yards from where his famed Radin yeshivah stood — and stands yet as a shadow of its former self. The objective: To daven on behalf of the thousands of Jews who have been following the cycle of daily learning of the Mishnah Berurah, instituted seven years ago by that incomparable engine of Torah study known worldwide simply as Dirshu; and the thousands more — by Dirshu’s reckoning some twenty thousand more — who, come this April, have committed to join the next journey through the Chofetz Chaim’s halachic magnum opus. 

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