The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 25 July 2009 / 3 Av 5769

The Story Behind the Siddur

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

Behind the success of the Siddur Beit Tefilah, which is to be found in virtually every synagogue, is a fascinating story concerning its publisher, Mordechai Natan Miller.

Arriving alone in Israel from his home in Czechoslovakia as part of the Youth Aliya transport, later known as the "Yaldei Teheran Aliyah", he was placed in the religious Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim. Recalling the wish of his deceased parents that he study Torah in the yeshiva of Rabbi Yosef Zvi Dushensky, who knew the family in the years before the war, the young orphan fled the kibbutz and came to the yeshiva in Jerusalem.

When she became aware of his move, Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah who then served as head of the Jewish Agency Youth Aliya Department, demanded that he be returned to the kibbutz. When her official request was ignored she traveled to the home of Rabbi Dushensky, determined to bring the boy back. For two hours this distinguished rabbi and rosh yeshiva tried to convince her to allow the boy to fulfill the wish of his parents. At one point he pulled out from a shelf a Torah volume that her grandfather had authored. "This boy's parents," he said, "wanted their son to be like your grandfather." Not only did she allow the boy to stay but even arranged for the Jewish Agency to send Rabbi Dushensky monthly checks for his support, checks which he never cashed.

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