August 2006

Menachem Av 5766

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Dear Talmid,

Now that the shooting has stopped in this part of the world, we are in a position to bring you up to date on what has been doing in Ohr Somayach since our last newsletter. Our talmidim prayed fervently throughout the war and continue to pray for the peace of Israel.


The large JLE group which came to the yeshiva this summer was treated to an opportunity that none of its predecessors in the past two decades enjoyed. A large group of Jews from North America, including a number of alumni who serve as members of the Ohr Somayach Board of Governors, arrived in mid-Tammuz on a Mentors Mission. Mission members spent time learning with JLE students and others in the Introductory Program. Not only did they have hands-on contact with these newcomers which left an indelible impression on them but they also had an exciting opportunity to get to know the yeshiva and the high regard which Gedolei Torah have for it.

On the day of their arrival the mentors and their wives were welcomed at a festive luncheon in the yeshiva’s Lauffer Auditorium. This was turned into a seudat mitzvah thanks to the siyum on Mesechta Bovo Basra by one of the dozen talmidim of the Beis Medrish who achieved this impressive feat in the space of one year and a relative beginner who completed his first mesechta. Gracing this welcome, which was filled with music, dancing and an inspiring talk given by one of the visiting mentors, was the appearance of Rosh Yeshiva Mir, Hagaon Rav Nossen Zvi shlita. The great effort he made to come and to speak his words of Torah despite his physical condition made a powerful impression on all our talmidim and the visitors.

In the early evening hours the mentors had an audience with Maran Hagaon Rav Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv shlita in his home. His opening remark was to remind the Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Nota Schiller shlita, that he was the first to give Rav Schiller a letter almost four decades ago calling for support of his efforts in kiruv.

Topping off that day was a visit to the yeshiva by Maran Haghaon Rav Aaron Leib Shteinman shlita who spoke for more than half an hour to our overflow audience of talmidim, mentors and talmidim from other yeshivas in the main Beis Medrish of the yeshiva. Before this gadol hador spoke he was presented with a new sefer Iyunei Deiah written by Ohr Somayach alumnus and current staff member Rabbi Yirmiyohu Ullman. The presentation was made by Reb Yirmiyohu’s young son who publicly asked for and received a brocha from Rav Shteinman for success in learning Torah. Although many of our talmidim were unable to understand everything he said because of the language obstacle, they were all deeply moved by the sight and sound of this Torah giant. A written synopsis in English of his important message was later provided for all talmidim to read.

[ Read more about the Mentor Mission in this article, courtesy of Mishpacha magazine ]


Ohr Somayach years ago introduced the idea of utilizing fast days as vehicles for inspiring talmidim and outsiders with shiurim on the significance of those days. Today it has become a popular practice in many yeshivos and communities. Nowhere, however, are there crowds as large as those who come to hear the world-class lectures offered by Ohr Somayach personnel. The entire afternoon of Shiva Assar Be’Tammuz was dedicated to a Yom Iyun on the subject of kiruv while most of the Tisha b’Av night and day were filled with talks on the theme “Building With Tears”.

Participating in these events which drew many hundreds in addition to all of our talmidim were the Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Schiller and Rav Weinbach and Hagaon Rav Moshe Shapiro shlita along with staff members Rabbis Dovid Gottlieb, Dovid Kaplan, Moshe Lazerus, Zev Leff, Dovid Orlofsky, Avrohom Rockmill and Yehuda Samet. Special guest lecturers were the renowned mekubal Hagaon Rav Yaakov illHHillel shlita, Rosh Hayeshiva of Ahavat Shalom, who discussed the role of kabalah in halacha and in kiruv, and alumnus Rabbi Yehuda Albin who directs Ohr Somayach in Chicago.


When an itinerary was planned for the JLE and the Mentors Mission it naturally included a Shabbos in Tsefat, which is always the highlight of a JLE trip. But while the talks were going on in the Beis Medrish on the Fast of 17 Tammuz, Hezbollah bombs began falling on that holy city in the north. As the yeshiva heads painfully decided to cancel the trip to that danger zone, they racked their brains for an alternative in order to not disappoint our JLE and the visiting mentors. A desperate call was made to a hotel in Bnei Brak which assured us that it had just enough rooms to accommodate all the people who had been headed to Tsefat. It turned out to be an unforgettable experience which included a visit to the world-famous Yeshivas Ponevez. Not only did our group have the opportunity to do some learning – and mentoring – in the Ponevez Beis Medrish but was also privileged to meet with one of the roshei yeshiva.


The Mentors Mission proved that former talmidim and their associates can make an important contribution to Ohr Somayach by sharing their learning and their resources. Anyone who wishes to participate in a future Mentors Mission should contact us.

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