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Speech of HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum shlit"a at a Toldos Yeshurun Event

We must help with money, with learning Torah, but with money we must also do all that we can!

We all remember well the story of the Pilegesh Begiva’ah. There is a complaint against the tribe of Binyomin, as they had committed a great sin. All Israel was fighting the tribe of Binyomin and almost the whole tribe of Binyomin was killed.


The Jews cried and made a fast since they had lost a tribe from Klal Yisroel. Six hundred men were left over, but there were no women for them to marry, as the Jews had made an oath not to give them their women to marry. There were 600 people left over who had lost their families – but this is not the reason that they cried, they cried because a tribe was lost.


What is so terrible about this? If 26,000 Jews died, then this is the way it was decreed and the way it was meant to be! What is so terrible? The explanation is that every tribe had a special maalah, different traits, different ways, everyone has his own maalos. Every tribe has its maalos, and this is important for Klal Yisroel. To lose a tribe means they lost a maalah that they should have. This is what Klal Yisroel lost, they were lacking the maalah.


As you know, this is what happened with the tribe of the Russian Jews. There were 3.5 million Jews in Russia before the war, and with the Communists, nothing was left over of them. The Germans took care of that.


This means, it is like a tribe from Yisroel was lost. You will ask: The Russian Jews, are they a tribe?

It was a tribe in Israel! They were not a tribe? They were from the tribe of Binyomin, and the tribe of Yehuda! We lost a holy tribe!


During the time of the war, all the yeshivos came to Vilna, and as you know, the Jews were very poor there. There was a war in Europe with Russia, and there was nothing to eat – there was no bread, nothing.

In America, when there is a war, there are some that do not even know that there is a war at all, but there, at the time of the Communists, when there was a war, there was nothing to eat! The poor Jews came to the yeshivah in Vilna, and they said, we are hungry! It was very difficult to endure.


From one yeshiva came five bochurim, then another few from another yeshiva – almost all of the yeshivos from Poland came. Every one of them made a Beis Midrash of their own. It was very difficult to endure, without bread, and they had to feed other people, as well. In one yeshiva, there were only three bochurim left over, and it was suggested they join another yeshiva, but Reb Chaim Ozer said, we do not pasken like that. Every yeshivah gives its own contribution – there was the Mirrer yeshivah, the Grodno yeshivah, every yeshivah has its own emphasis.


As we say, you cannot see all the yeshivos, but you must see the advantage of every yeshivah. We need the contribution of every yeshivah.


Chas ve’shalom that the maalah of the Russian Jews should get lost! We have to grab those who were left over, because a Jew from Moscow, he has a different Yiras Shomayim! You know, that is also a tribe!

They lost the inheritance of the Russian Jews. Their special characteristics, the midos that they have as a tribe. We have many tribes. We have a congregation of Jews who came from Poland, from Lithuania - it was possible to distinguish a Jew from Lithuania, they had a different inheritance, a different maalah. Every congregation of Jews, every country counted. A different inheritance, a different sort of Jews they were. Together, they were congregated as a Klal Yisroel.


Chas veshalom that the tribe from Russia should be lost today. We are obligated to keep it alive. Why? We see, Reb Elchonon asks a shailoh on the decree of Chanukah and the decree of Purim: On Chanukah, when there was the decree of lehashkichem Torasecha, what did the Yidden do? They fought a big war! Matisyohu and his sons went to war! On Purim, there was a decree of war on Yisroel. They made a fast and prayed – why did they not make a war, you ask? Because there were more of them? Of the Greeks there were also more, and they have the strongest fighters! So they had the strongest army, but when there is a war, one goes to fight! There was Chanukah, we have Matisyahu and his sons, and we won the war against the Greek army. So what was on Purim? Why we did not go to war, you ask?


Someone gives an amazing explanation. You know, in Poland, before the war, the Polish who were sonei Yisroel, have forbidden shechitoh – it was not allowed to shecht! Even Reb Chaim Ozer did not believe that this decree would go through. Officially, Poland was a democratic country. They were oppressing the minorities anyway. There were 3 million Jews in Poland. They made a decree so the Jews would not be able to eat meat! There were hundreds of thousands of Jews who did not eat meat!


Said the Mashgiach Reb Yerucham, this was min hashamayim – when Jews do not want to be shomer mitzvos, when we say that it is too hard, then Hashem says, fine, I will take the mitzvah away from you! With this decree, the mitzvah of Kashrus became impossible, it was taken away from us!
Before that, until this decree of shechitoh, in the whole country there were those who were mechallel Shabbos, but in kashrus they were firm! One could eat in the house of every Jew, even those who were mechallel Shabbos! It was in that time that they began breaking kashrus also, and this is when the decree came out. If you say a mitzvah is too hard, Hashem takes it away!


What happened on Chanukah? The sinners came from the Misyavnim. There were Jews who said, the Torah is not enough. We must take the culture of the goyim also! We have to go to college, we have to become doctors, lawyers, and professors. Who were the most brutal killers? Doctors, lawyers, with multiple degrees!


The Jews said, Torah is an old-fashioned thing. We need the culture as well. At this point, since the Torah was not enough, the Torah was taken away.


There was a decree of “veyashkichem Torasecho”. This decree did not come about because of a sin. Torah is difficult? It’s difficult to learn? Torah is not enough? You need to have other cultures? Then Hashem says, fine, I will take away Torah!


What do we do to learn Torah? There are some fools who do not know any Torah, and so they say, we do not want Torah – but we must show that we are ready to give our lives for Torah! Against what did Matisyahu fight? He fought to learn! If Torah is being taken away from us, we have to fight!


To take away Torah because of them? But they are fools! What do they know about the life of Jews? They think with culture it will be better. But this is wrong – you can see that on the example of Germany. We do not need anything else but Torah!


On Purim, they already had Torah, there was not even a question about assimilation. The decree of Purim came upon us because of a sin, the gemara says. If you committed a sin, so come do teshuvah! There is no need to make a war because of it. If you did a sin, do teshuvah! But it is avodah zarah when you take things in addition to the Torah, because maybe the Torah is not enough! They took things in addition, and this is why the Torah was taken away and the decree came about.


The Chofetz Chaim said, still in Poland, in the moment the Communists came to power, we have foreseen that we would have to be moser nefesh. You know what happened there in Russia. The Jews became like animals, robbers, all the work of honest people was abused by stealing and robbery. But how could it be different? They paid such salaries that people could not live on them, they had to steal! Everything was stealing and robbery!


This is the pshat that the Chofetz Chaim said then. The Chofetz Chaim meant, why did such a decree come upon us?


There was such a sheker. We know that usually in a lie, there must be a little bit of truth. But here, there was pure sheker, and the murderer Stalin said that he was the father of the workers! Father of the workers! He was their biggest enemy! To him a person was nothing, mamesh!  Nothing! He threw them into prison for nothing! For nothing with nothing! In Siberia, in the prisons, do you think they made laws there?! A person was just a number, nothing!!  They did not even have a dry piece of bread to eat. It was not like in America, where if there is no bread, you just eat cake - bread was all there was to eat. No bread meant that they went hungry. There was hunger in the whole country, and this on a soil that is better than in America! There was no bread! For seventy years there was such sheker, how can it be? Why did such a decree come from Shamayim?


Because there was the haskoloh in Russia, and Torah was not enough!  They wanted it like this -  they wanted to give up Torah! We should have proven to Hashem that we want Torah, we would be moser nefesh for Torah!


But we did nothing, and the Communists succeeded. This is a taina against us, what happened to the Russian Jews was because we were not moser nefesh!  The Chofetz Chaim said, we have to fight like Matisyahu and his sons! This means, we need to be moser nefesh for Torah! And only with mesirus nefesh we will have Torah! True, we would have lost some neshamos along the way, but the strength of the Satan would have been weakened, and Torah would not have been taken away from us. We did not go to fight for this! This is a taina against us – we did not fight.


A shevet in Yisroel, 3 million Jews, precious Jews that we lost! There was Volozhin, there was Poland, what became of the whole tribe? It has become lost ! It is a complaint against us, we did not fight enough, we have to have Torah! Just because there were some foolish boys who think they do not need Torah, Torah should be taken away from us? The mesirus nefesh was not there. All the more so, it is an obligation! And it’s an obligation to see that a tribe was lost!


Rav Yaakov Yavinsky told the following story. He was sent to Siberia, as were so many in those days. He met the two biggest gvirim from Lithuania there, and they told him the following: There was one thing, they said, for which they would never forgive the Ponevezher Rov. The Ponevezher Rov once came to them, and asked for money for the yeshiva. They gave a thousand dollars. He thanked them profusely and bowed, and then he left. The next year, he came again to ask for money. This is not a garden, they told him, where money grows on trees!

A short time later, they took everything from them, and sent them to Siberia, because they did not like people with money. Now they wished the Ponevezher Rov would have put a gun against their heads and said, “Give me the money!” – then they would have had the money forever, as it would have gone to tzedakah. But like this, they just lost it, and for this, they said, they would not forgive the Ponevezher Rov.


What we have lost is a taina against us. We were not moser nefesh to prove what Torah means to us! That is a big taina! Now we have heard all the droshos about money, and it is up to us to decide how to use our money, how to use it best.

A tribe from Yisroel dies out! A tribe! Millions of Jews become nothing! Seventy years ago, they still did everything, to do a mitzvah, they went to Siberia. This was the ikkar, seventy years ago, doing a mitzvah was the ikkar. And now? No matter how grave his sins, a Jew always remains a Jew and he must know that he can come alive again, as it says in Yechezkel haNovi who brought dried bones back to life.


A tribe from Yisroel should die out?! This will fall back on the whole Klal Yisroel! How can we let that happen? It is a taina against us, as the Chofetz Chaim said, we should have been moser nefesh.


I remember, in Baranovich, there was a fellow who told a story about his grandfather, it was at the time that the Communists took over Russia, and the Yevsektziya, the Jewish Communists, were the worst of all. They went into a shul on Thursday and announced that whoever would take out a Sefer Torah would be shot. They were known for shooting people just like that, and they were carrying weapons. The gabbai was afraid to take out the Sefer Torah, and he did not know what to do. An old man, the grandfather of one of the Yevsektziya man, stood up and took out the Sefer Torah. His grandson said to him: “Why did you do this? We told you we will shoot anyone who will take it out!” Said the grandfather, “You Rasha! I need you to tell me to take it out or not to take it out?” He turned to him and started unbuttoning his shirt, and he said, “Here, shoot if you want! Shoot!” He did not shoot.


We should have been moser nefesh for Torah, but we missed out on it! And lost. But now we must make up for it. We missed out on this, we lost a tribe in Yisroel!


It is such an obligation, what a loss there was! It is not just one Jew whom we need to help. It is a whole tribe from Yisroel! We should feel a fear that a tribe is lost! It’s a tribe from Yisroel. Here we have to think what we must do.

We must help with money, with learning Torah, but with money we must also do all that we can!

I am not just saying a drosha, I am writing out a check right here and now! You see? I am writing out a check!

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