By: Rishe Deitsch
Approximately 200 men attended the grand opening of The Beis Medrash on Motzei Shabbos, which is located at The Crown Condos at 580 Crown Street.
Rabbi Nissan Mangel addressed the crowd, informing them that he had recently returned from a visit to Auschwitz, where he was imprisoned as a child during World War II. During the visit, he wrote on the pole inside one of the barracks, “Hitler is gone, but Nissan Mangel is boruch Hashem still here. Am Yisroel Chai!”
What is the power of the Jew? Why does he always survive, when others have brief spurts of power and then die out?
It is because the power of the Nazi and other enemies of the Jews is dependent on guns and dogs, whereas the power of the Jew is dependent on his strong connection to Hashem and His Torah. That kind of power is eternal. Rabbi Mangel urged the men to make Torah learning an integral part of their day, saying, “You get home from a long, hard day at work, you eat supper with your family, then you want to relax, check what’s on the computer, maybe open a sefer at home, but that is not the same as having a regular kvius at a real beis medrash.”
Rabbi Mangel stressed that the way to have a strong and lifesaving connection with Torah is to learn it every day in a beis medrash.
The warm and popular Mr. Ari Pfeffer, regional direction of AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) chaired the event most capably.
Rabbi Motty Lipskier, director of The Beis Medrash and one of the maggidei shiur, repeated a story heard from Rabbi Avraham Heschel, son of the Kopyszcnitzer Rebbe, zy”a, who knew the Bluzhever Rebbe, Reb Yisroel Spira, personally.
Reb Yisrael Spira was in Bergen-Belsen as Chanukah began. Despite devastating losses, including the loss of the Bluzhever Rebbe’s wife and children, the tortured, surviving Yidden were trying to find potato peels, threads, drops of shoe polish, etc., to be able to light the Chanuka licht. Word spread rapidly in the barracks and hundreds of Yidden risked their very lives to come see the Chanuka licht being lit.
With deep kavanah, the Rebbe said the first two brochos. But before saying Shehechiyanu, he turned around and looked at the hundreds of emaciated faces watching him. He seemed to be searching the crowd for someone, or something. Then he turned back to the ‘Menorah,’ and said the brachah Shehechiyanu. He lit the wick. The Yidden quickly ran back to their barracks, uplifted by what they had just seen.
There was a maskil in the Rebbe’s barracks, one who thought a lot of his own seichel. He asked the Rebbe, “I can understand your lighting the menorah. I can understand your saying the first two brochos. But hundreds of Jews are being murdered in front of our eyes, every day! How can you thank Hashem that you have lived to see this day?”
The Rebbe agreed. “I had the same question. I turned around to look for a Rov so I could ask him whether Shehechiyanu could be recited under such awful circumstances. When I turned around, what did I see? Hundreds of Yidden standing with emunah and bitachon, waiting for Chanukah-licht-tzinden. I thanked Hashem to have lived to see that after [the horrors we are witnessing], Yidden can still wait with hislahavus to fulfill Hashem’s commandment, for this alone it is appropriate to say Shehechiyanu.”
Rabbi Lipskier concluded, “Being oppressed and tortured is one kind of nisayon. Living in total ease and freedom as we do, in this country today, creates its own type of nisayon, its own huge yetzer hara. Despite that, and despite the many options open to you of how to spend your evening tonight, you are all here now to support limud Torah – and for that I feel like saying Shehechiyanu!”
On a lighter note, the crowd was entertained by the sweet and hartzige voice of Mendel Goldman, age 12, who sang ‘A Little Bird Is Calling’ with true kavanah, and other selections.
Shaya Gordon and Nachi Light of Q-Cumber Caf? at 419 Kingston Avenue supplied delicious hot food for the melaveh malkah at no charge to help promote the work of The Beis Medrash. Sholom Pinson of Papergoodsdirect.com donated paper goods generously.
Beis Medrash hours are Sunday through Thursday evening from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Maariv at 9:20, nightly. A variety of shiurim for English-speaking men is available and of course Chavrusa learning can take place at any time – please check out www.thebeismedrash.com for details. Shiurim are in full force beginning tonight, Sunday, December 19!
Dov Ber Sigelman, Yitzchok Katz and Dovid Joseph supplied professional musical entertainment.
Following the event several of the founders and participants sat down for a chassidishe farbrengen; the first of G-d willing many to come.