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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Boys of Mercaz HaRav; Letter from the Rabbi

Thanks for this beautiful letter, Jack. Will post


Baruch Dayan Emet
Attached please find a letter sent this evening from Rabbi Reichman who
visited all eight Shiva Houses of Mercaz Harav.

Still, there are no words.
These are our heroes. They are known to the world as fanatics, obstacles to peace. The yeshivah politely told the PM, Ehud Olmert, not to come and pay his condolences. His presence would not be welcome. When Olmert spoke of such youths sitting on the floor in Amona to obstruct the destruction of the 9 unauthorized homes, he had described them as "lawless hooligans."

Dear Friends,
Our sages teach that the Almighty climbs down into his garden to pick
His roses.  God chooses the most special souls to join Him in the
Heavens.   After spending a day visiting the eight shiva homes I am
overwhelmed by the awareness of how special these souls were.  The
eight who were murdered were pure, holy, studious, and inspiring.
They are like the eight chanukah candles, each one shining bright and
revealing great holiness.  What follows is a small snapshot of each

1) Doron Trounouch,26, was an exceptional young man.  I visited his
family this morning in Ashdod.  They were all depressed.  His father
cannot speak Hebrew, he is still only fluent in Amharic. The family
came to Israel from Ethiopia during Operation Solomon.  His siblings
also struggled with their Hebrew.  They explained that Doron's passion
was learning Torah.  He loved to learn.  He was always attached to a
book of Torah. He was a student in the Yeshiva for eight years.  He
was planning to take tests to receive smicha this summer.  His father
also has a great love for Torah, he reads stories from the Torah that
were translated into Amharic.  Doron and his father would talk as
equals about the Torah.  His father told me, "I am so proud to have
been Doron's father."  His older brother Avi told me that Doron was
the religious authority in the family.  Before Pesach he would call
each of his nine siblings and insist that they join the family for
Pesach.  On Seder night Doron would run the Seder and make sure that
each member of the family knew the story of how we left Egypt.  He
would teach them all of how we were slaves and how Hashem freed us.
He told his family all about the stories of Yosef.  Avi told me, "I
would not have known anything about Yosef's dreams and his
interpretations if not for Doron."  In addition to teaching Torah,
Doron taught his family about Israel, Zionism, and Yerushalayim.  He
had a passionate love for Israel and Yerushalayim.  He told his family
that Israel had to be a large country with many towns.  He planned to
live in a small town once he married.  He spread this enthusiasm to
all he met.  Doron was an exceptional boy in his neighborhood.  When
he would be home for Shabbos, he would sit in the local Beit Midrash,
Study Hall, and learn for eight hours in a row.  After his passing,
one of the neighbors wrote an obituary in the local newspaper.  He
described the passionate learning Doron would display whenever he was
home.  In addition to his family Doron spread Torah learning,  and
love of Israel and Yerushalayim, to the children in his community. He
would volunteer 20 hours a week in the absorption center in Mevasseret
Tzion.  There he would guide the recent Ethiopian immigrant children
along the path of Torah, love of Jerusalem, and loyalty to the State
of Israel.  Tens of kids wrote his family letters when they heard of
his passing.  One young girl wrote, "Doron I love you.  You taught me
about Torah and Israel.  Now I promise that I will pray every day and
ask Hashem to send Mashiach so that you will return to life."  She
signed the letter with a large hand drawn red heart.

2) Roi Roth,18, only merited to spend a few months in the Yeshiva
before he was taken from us.  His parents sat shiva in their home in
Elkana.  When I was there a group of Roi's friends from Yeshivat
Mercaz Harav came to visit.  One of them, who was several years older
than Roi spoke first.  "Roi taught me how to pray."  he said.  Roi
would regularly pray at length.  "He would frequently shed many tears
during his prayers of Shmonah Esrei.  He rarely finished with the
others.  He was usually one of the  last students to leave the Beit
Midrash at the end of Shacharit and Mincha.  Seeing a boy cry during
prayer, when it was not the high holy days, was a lesson as to what
prayer can and should be."  He then spoke of Roi's positive outlook,
"Roi would always smile.  He was upbeat.  He had kind things to say.
And he was brilliant.  Originally I thought he was only good at
prayer, but then he started to come to the classes I would give on the
Talmudic topic we would be studying.  He was very insightful.  He was
also humble.  Once in the development of the class, he realized where
I wanted to go and he offered the idea on his own.  I told him that it
was a great thought and that was my thinking as well.  We continued
with the class.  Soon another student, who apparently had not listened
before, suggested Roi's thought. A third student said, 'that was Roi's
concept,' to which Roi responded, 'who cares who said it. What matters
is that the true explanation of the Sugya be revealed.'"
 Roi would gladden everyone.  He once saw a student looking downcast.
He walked over to the boy and moved the young man's lips into the
shape of a smile and said "Let me see your teeth!"  The day he
ascended on high, Roi spent his lunch time discussing a topic of
Talmud.  His roommate had told him of a particular cd he was looking
for.  In the basement of the Yeshiva, books, cd's, and tapes are for
sale.  Roi went to the basement, and he saw the cd there.  He climbed
to the third floor dormitory room to tell his friend that he had found
where he could buy the music he wanted.  He then went down to the
library to learn some more.  The terrorist came two minutes later and
turned the room of books into a slaughterhouse.  Roi was found on the
floor his body riddled with bullets.  In his hand he was clutching his
kippa.  Apparently it had fallen from his head, with his last strength
he stretched out and held it, he did not have the strength to put it
back on his head.

3)Yonatan Eldar, 16, grew up on the street where my parents own a
home.  He was one of eight siblings.  His five older siblings were of
another generation while he was the leader of the younger group of
three kids.  He really blossomed in the Mercaz Harav High School
(Yeshiva Litzeirim).  His love was learning Torah.  He developed a
passion for Daf hayomi.  He was very attached to reviewing the daf
every day.  He insisted on learning many topics the Yeshiva was not
covering. He had a passion for the study of Halacha. His older
brother, Yair, 26, is living in Jerusalem and studying in Yeshivat
Mercaz Harav.  Yair asked Yonatan if he would like to study with him.
Yonatan wanted to but he was so busy with his schedule of learning
that his only time available was between 6:30 AM to 7:00 AM.  HIs
brother was usually not awake at that time.  Yonatan would wake up his
brother every morning to enable their joint chavruta.  Yonatan  had
been waiting to receive a special printing of the Talmud Nedarim to
continue his Daf Yomi studies.  The book did not arrive in the mail on
time.  It came several weeks late.  Yonatan was therefore sixteen
pages behind.  Over the last few weeks he would put in extra time in
order to make up his shortfall.  On Wednesday the Yeshiva Litzeirim
went on a tiyul.  When they returned at night, Yonatan made his way to
the Beit Midrash to learn.  One of the Rabbis in the community came
into the Beit Midrash to learn.  The Beit Midrash was empty.  The
Rabbi was tired, he stood up and started to learn out loud in order to
stay awake, Yonatan was sitting during this time and concentrating on
his beloved  Tractate Nedarim.  He had to learn the day's daf and only
one more page in order to catch up.  He stayed in the Beit Midrash
after the Rabbi left.  He was the one to turn out the lights at 1:45
AM after he had caught up to the daf.  On Thursday the Beit Midrash
was shut in order to prepare it for a Rosh Chodesh Adar party.
Yonatan went to the library to learn his beloved daf yomi.  While he
was learning he was shot. His blood stained his favorite book.  On
Friday Yonatan was buried in Shilo together with his Tractate nedarim.
4)Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, was one of thirteen children.  His
grandfather learnt in YU together with our dear Dr. Samuel
Danishefsky.  Yonadav was known as the pride of his class.  He had
just graduated Yeshiva Letzeirim and was studying in Mercaz Harav.  He
knew all the Mishnayot of the Shas by heart. He would review the
entire Shas of Mishnayot every month.  He would review the entire
Tanach regularly as well. He had a passion for life and learning.  He
would run to the Beit Midrash.  He would climb the steps jumping
several at a time to enter the house of learning.  He was extremely
insightful.  His thoughts and analysis were extremely deep.  He always
had a smile on his face.  He would play the flute to bring joy to
others.  His classmates related that Yonadav had entered the library
to learn because the beit midrash was being cleared for a party.  Most
of the boys used the time to get some rest in their dorm rooms.
Yonadav wanted to catch a few more moments of learning.  The terrorist
shot him in the back.  He had apparently run from him and he was hit
in the back.  Yonadav apparently noticed that there was a sefer, Shev
Shimatata that had fallen to the floor Yondav reached down and picked
it up before he was killed by the terrorist.  The students pointed out
that Yonadav had such a radiant face it would have been impossible to
shoot him while seeing him.  Even evil incarnate would melt in the
presence of such joy and piety.  His grandfather told me Yonadav would
visit him regularly.  In addition, Yonadav's great grandmother,
Rebbetzin Shapiro, is still alive and has an apartment in
Yerushalayim, Yonadav would visit her once a week, playing his flute
and bringing her joy.  "I cannot believe he will no longer enter our
apartment and bring us joy." his grandfather told me as tears escaped
his eyes.
5) Yochai Lifshitz, 18, was considered the pride of the 41st
graduating class of Yeshiva Letzeirim.  Even when he was very young he
displayed a serious nature and a passion for learning. When his family
moved to the Old City of Jerusalem they enrolled him in the first
grade class.  At the end of the school year the teacher informed the
class that they would now be off for the two months of summer, Chofesh
Hagadol.  Yochai was incensed.  "Why should we not have school for two
whole months?" he complained to his parents.  "We can have a break for
a week or two and then we should return to class" he opined.  His
parents explained to him that the school year was established by the
ministry of education and they could not change it. "Then send a
letter to Misrad hachinuch,"  Yochai demanded.  His parents told him,
"If you feel so strongly about this, you write a letter to the
ministry. If you write it we will mail it."  Yochai wrote a letter to
the ministry.  It was written in a mixture of cursive and block
letters and in it Yochai demanded more school time.  His parents
thought the story was over.  Two weeks later an official letter
arrived addressed to Yochai Lifshitz.  It told him that his proposal
was being referred to a committee that would study the issue.  On the
bottom of the letter, the minister of education added in his own hand
writing, "I am so glad to see that in our day once again children in
Yerushalayim have a great urge for ever more amounts of time to learn
Torah. Rav Lichtenstein shlit"a, said "this was indicative of the type
of person he would become."  His Rosh Yeshiva said that he could write
a 300 page book about Yochai's dedication to learning.  Yochai was
extremely devoted to coming to Tefilla.  He would arrive at every
service at least fifteen minutes early in order to prepare himself.
Now that he was taken, Rav Lifshitz, his father said "it was a
privilege for me to have him in my family.  He was so special.  He is
now mori vrabi, my teacher and master."

6) Neriya Cohen, 15, was the youngest victim.  Neriya grew up in the
Muslim quarter of Jerusalem as one of ten children. Neriya loved to
learn.  He would always grab extra time for learning.  He was always
upbeat.  He was extremely careful to honor his parents.  He tried to
keep every detail of Jewish law.  "It was a true, zchut, merit, to
have him in our family."  Rav Cohen said. The night of the attack the
family ran to the Yeshiva.  They were told that someone thought he saw
Neriya in the hospital.  They ran from hospital to hospital for 4 and
a half hours.  Eventually they returned home and they received the
bitter news.
7) Segev Avichayil, 16, was from Neve Daniel.  Segev was very
studious.  He loved to learn.  He had a great ability to comprehend
and understand information.  His father read to us from his son's
notebook.  In the class his son summarized it was taught that every
nation has abilities just as each person has abilities.  In exile one
might use the abilities for good or for something not as good.  In the
Holy Land it is different.  The abilities are either expressed for the
good or they will be expressed in a negative and detrimental manner.
When we davened mincha in the home, his father lead the prayers with a
special emphasis on the hope that the Almighty will cause redemption
and salvation to sprout anew.
8) Avraham David Moses, 16, is the closest blow to home.  Avraham was
a cousin of our friend Michael Ratzker.  Avraham had a passion for
learning.  Perhaps this too started at a young age.  His father,
Naftali, showed us a picture of when Avraham was two; he had fallen
asleep on his father's lap while his father sat at a table filled with
Seforim in a Beit Midrash.  Avraham always loved to learn.  Once he
entered high school he developed a real passion for learning.  Nothing
else would interest him.  When his father decided to take the family
on a trip, Avraham did not want to go. "I would rather sit in a
Yeshiva and learn." he said.  His father told him, "I am taking the
family to Mitzpe Rimon, I plan to daven Shacharit in the Yeshiva
there.  You can stay and learn all day in the Yeshiva, while I and the
rest of the family enjoy a family tiyul."  Avraham David accepted his
father's suggestion.  Over the last two years his father would notice
Avraham whispering to himself.  When he asked his son what was up, his
son said, "I am reviewing Mishnyot by heart."  Naftali believes that
Avraham David knew half of the shas, the orders of kadoshim, moed, and
taharot by heart, even though he was only sixteen!  Avraham was very
deliberate, he was always at peace.  His teacher told us that he
always felt Avraham would be a giant in Torah.  Apparently God decided
He needed this giant to learn with Him.  The night of the attack,
Avraham and Segev were learning together Tractate Megilla.  The
terrorist entered and began to shoot, someone heard Segev scream
"Moses, GET UP!"  Apparently, he was so patient and so studious he had
been immersed in his studies at that terrible moment.

The Maharal writes that the number Eight is a number that represents
the supernatural. It's a number that ascends the physical and touches
the spiritual realm.  On the eighth day of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret,
Hashem tells us "Kashe Alay Preydatchem", "Your departure is difficult
on Me." Today we say to Hashem that while accepting His decree, the
departure of these eight martyrs creates a void within us that can
never be filled. Just as the eight Chanukah candles light up the dark
winter nights, the legacies of these eight pure souls will light up
the lives of each of us. The main message that the families asked me
to convey is the need to accept real change as a result of what
happened. Today we promise to be better than yesterday, today we
promise to never forget them. Shiva may end, shiva is commemorated for
seven days but the lessons of these eight, the smiles of these eight
and the memories of these eight will live on forever. May the memories
of these eight harugey malchut stay with us to truly increase our
goodness, kindness, and learning.

With blessings and tears,


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