(Photo: Gavi Katz)

Yom Yerushalayim: A Torat Tzion – the Israeli Talmid Chacham of Open Miracles

An Introduction by Rabbi Aron White

BY RABBI ARON WHITE

“Never in Jewish history have there been so many Torah scholars fighting in a Jewish army”

(Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, Nasi of World Mizrachi).

In 1904, Chaim Nachman Bialik wrote one of his most famous poems, “HaMatmid, about the diligent yeshiva student. Based on his experiences learning in the Volozhin Yeshiva, it captures the world of the yeshiva bachur, poring over his beloved Talmud day and night, away from the bustle and rhythm of the outside seasons and society. Although Bialik had departed from the world of the yeshiva, and certain elements of the poem reflect his personal ambivalence toward that world, the beauty of his description makes it one of the finest literary portrayals of the Lithuanian yeshiva.

In the empty yeshiva rests a holy silence, 
Which the lad takes in for a moment
There in the corner wait his three friends who await him each day:
A candle, his shtender, and his volume of Talmud,
And not wanting to delay he hurries to those friends, and begins to learn,
And he is fixed there like a nail hammered in,
A full day and half a night, he does not move from his place 
To satiate himself there he eats his blackened bread,
Who are you Shamir and Chalamish,
In the face of a Hebrew lad toiling in Torah?

So the lad stands every day,
From the crack of dawn to the middle of the night,
He divides his day into units, one for himself and three for the Torah,
And with the isolation of a Nazir, locked away in his corner,
He arises, white faced, furrow browed,
And he creates through the Talmud his whole soul,
He creates – and it is eternally closed to him.

“Oh, Rava says! Oh, Abaye says!”
Is this the factory creating the soul of our nation?

Zionism and the miraculous return to the Land of Israel changed the Jewish people from an embattled minority to a sovereign nation. As we reentered the realms of military, social, and political affairs after a 2,000-year hiatus, a new paradigm of Torah scholarship has emerged. Since the inception of the first Yeshivot Hesder in the 1950s, hundreds of learning institutions have emerged, with dedicated students who also serve in the IDF. In this war, this has been on full display – not only are there tens of thousands of religious soldiers, but there are countless Torah scholars, rabbis, teachers and future Gedolei Yisrael fighting in the IDF today. Some of these figures, including Rav Elisha Loewenstern and Zechariah Haber, have given their lives in this war, others have been injured, and many have been fighting for numerous months. As we celebrate on Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot the modern return to Yerushalayim and the eternal Torah that emanates from it, these talmidei chachamim are writing a new poem in the pages of the Jewish story.

The machine guns and artillery fade, as other units begin their operations,
They slump down, exhausted, in their temporary dwelling,
For a few hours of rest – perhaps.

And from his backpack he withdraws a paperback Talmud,
Stained with oil and sweat,
The underlined passages from his yeshiva still visible,
Notes from himself – an hour’s drive, a world away.

He opens to today’s Daf
Together with the nation he is protecting,
And as he eats his rations, and quenches his thirst,
For Torah, his eyes light up,
The dark room, lit only by a flashlight.

His quiet tune blends with the chatter of guns,
The soul of a nation fighting for its body,
And his tired eyes and mind fight on for a few minutes,
In the Milchamta Shel Torah.

“Oh, Rava says! Oh, Abaye says!”
Is this the factory creating the soul of our nation?

 

Rabbi Aron White is the Managing Editor of HaMizrachi magazine. 

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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