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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Priest's Kapparah

Incredible story in this week's Pahad David - p. 2 that I will translate  (Updated:  I mistranslated גימנסיה so all references to "gym" were changed to "high school"):

This story was publicized in the new volume of the book "Veha'arev Na", and it deals with a Jewish boy from Baltimore who was very far from Judaism, and wanted to be accepted to learn a profession in a certain high school.  Standing at the head of the high school was a priest, and when the boy approached him, the priest asked him if he was Jewish.  The boy thought to himself, "What should I answer him?  If I tell him the truth, maybe he won't accept me because I'm Jewish, and if I lie and say I'm not Jewish, maybe the truth will come out."  In the end, he decided to say the truth.

When the priest heard that he was dealing with a Jewish boy, he asked him, "Do you recognize the letters of the Hebrew alphabet - the Alef Bet?"  The boy answered, "No, I have no clue about them."  The priest told him that he was accepted to the high school  but on one condition: "that every afternoon, after you finish your lessons, you come to my office, and I will teach you the Alef Bet!"  The boy, who really wanted to be accepted to the high school, had no choice but to agree to the strange request.

At the end of the first year, the boy finished learning with the priest all the letters of the Alef Bet.  Then, the priest called him and informed him, "If you want to continue to learn in the high school next year, you will need to come to me and have a private lesson in Humash."  The boy had no choice and again agreed to the strange request.  At the end of the year, after the boy learned all of the 5 books of the Torah, the priest called him and told him that he could remain in the high school only if he comes next year to a private lesson - this time in Mishnayot.  The boy again agreed to the request and throughout the year, the priest and the boy dealt with learning Mishnayot.

For the fourth year, the priest called the boy and told him, "If you want to continue your studies with us, you will now need to learn Gemara, but not here - in Yeshivas Ner Yisrael of Baltimore - which was not far from the high school.   Rav Ruderman is the Rosh Yeshiva.  He will teach you Gemara.  After you learn Gemara there for a number of months, you can then return and learn in our high school."  Leaving him no option, the boy again agreed, and approached Yeshivas Ner Yisrael to Hagaon Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman ZT"L to learn Gemara.

The boy entered the Yeshiva and looked for Rav Ruderman.  When he found him, the rav asked him what he wanted.  He answered, "I came to learn Gemara."  The rav was very amazed since the boy didn't even look like he was Jewish.  "Are you Jewish?" he asked.  The boy answered positively.  The rav told him that he cannot now teach him Gemara - "You first need to learn Alef Bet and reading."  "I already know them - also, I already learned Humash and Mishnayot," the boy said.  The rav tested him and he was proven correct.  "Where did you learn Torah?  Who sent you here?" wondered the rav.  "The priest at the high school," answered the boy.

Rav Ruderman accepted him to the yeshiva, and already after a few weeks, the boy started changing his ways.  The light of Torah had influenced him and brought him toward good.  He got better and better until he became a true Ben Torah.  After a half a year of tiring learning in the holy Yeshiva, he was tested on a complete Mesechet, and after he passed with flying colors, he received a certificate saying that he succeeded in the test on a complete Mesechet.  He ran to show the priest.

The boy thanked him since it was in his merit that he returned to the source and grew in the yeshiva.  "But I want to know one thing: why did you do this for me?"

The priest broke out crying and after he calmed down, he told the boy a story:

"Many years ago, I received a sabbatical from work and I didn't know how to spend the year.  I heard about a group of priests who were traveling to the Land of Israel for a week and decided to join them.

"On Friday night, I got to the Kotel and when I heard Friday night prayers, I very much enjoyed them.  I waited there until the end of prayers.

"At the end of the prayer, a Jew approached me and asked me if I have a place to eat on Shabbat.  I replied negatively, so that Tzaddik gathered me into his home.  After the meal, he asked if I would accompany him to an exciting Mussar talk by Rav Noach Weinberg and I happily agreed.  I was very impressed by the talk.  I decided that there is something for me to do on my sabbatical year - to remain in Yeshivat Aish Hatorah, headed by Rav Weinberg.  I informed my peers that they should go on their way and that I would be remaining a bit longer in the Land of Israel.

"During the year, I had the chance to learn Alef Bet, the 5 books of the Torah, and Mishnayot.  At the end of the year, I approached the rav that taught me and told him that my sabbatical is over and that I must return to my job.  The rav tried to convince me to stay, saying, 'After you learned so much, it would be a shame for it all to go to waste,' but his persuasion did not help.  He requested that we approach Rav Weinberg in order to hear his advice.  Rav Weinberg also said that I should stay, and it would be a shame that I should leave after I was doing so well during the year. 

"Finally, I decided to confess.  'I am going to tell the Rosh Yeshiva the truth.  I am a Goy and serve as a priest, and I now need to return to my work.'

"Shaken, Rav Weinberg heard this and responded sharply, 'I do not forgive you for the entire year that you wasted for us!  We invested so much in you for nothing!' 

"I was stunned and started crying like a baby.  I asked that he forgive me, but he resolutely said, 'There is no forgiveness for you, not in this world or the next world!'  Eventually, he said, 'Maybe, you can get atonement if a Jew will by chance come to you and you will transmit to him everything you learned in the Yeshiva.  Only then would it be retroactively clarified that your learning here wasn't totally for naught...'

"And now," concluded the priest his awesome story, "after years that I waited that a Jew should fall to my hands whom I will be able to teach, you came here.  And in order to fulfill my promise, I tried my utmost to transmit to you everything that I learned in Yeshiva..."


At Thu Oct 18, 03:31:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can this story be authenticated?

At Thu Oct 18, 03:35:00 PM 2012, Blogger Neshama said...

That's so amazing. Did they check into his background to see if some family member was actually Jewish? Rav Rudeman said the boy didn't 'look' Jewish; why was this not even mentioned about the priest? He maybe looked Jewish? Strange circumstances. I'm not sure I agree with Rav Weinberg's response to the priest's confession. This story creates many questions.

At Thu Oct 18, 04:06:00 PM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

Anonymous, the newsletter said it was published in Veha'arev Na. I'm guessing that this is Rav Zilberstein's volume 3 of his book. (Maybe someone can correct me if this is not the case.) Rav David Pinto and Rav Zilberstein are enough of an authentication for me.

Neshama, I'm assuming the priest was a definite goy, and I'm sure it would have been looked into.

At Thu Oct 18, 04:42:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yaak, that is very nice story and I also heard from my rav once years ago,thank you

At Fri Oct 19, 07:06:00 AM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the story, it looks like that institution has no problem teaching Gemora to anyone, even to a goy, even to someone who subscribes to another religion (where and how did he practice it? Was there no control?) The boy did not quite do a mitzvah either, learning holy things from a nonjew and a worshipper of some other religion. I wonder how Ner Yisrael, or for what matters, any yeshiva, felt they could accept such a student. If the story has truth to it, oh my. But the story is blatantly false. He may have learned the alefbet, but everyone knows that nonjewish heads are not capable of understanding Gemora. Like a fly in the Beit Midrash, so is the nonjewish intruder. I would have expected the blogger to immediately realize such a basic point.

At Fri Oct 19, 09:35:00 AM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

Anonymous 7:06,

If you will reread the story, you will notice that no non-Jew learned gemara here.

If you can verify the falsehood of the story, I'll give you the floor. Until then, your reasons for not believing it leave me underwhelmed.

At Fri Oct 19, 09:54:00 AM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you arguing the priest character is capable of teaching Mishna without ever having studied any Gemora? A true illui. Do you know others like him? I don't, but I have the Brooklyn bridge for sale.

At Fri Oct 19, 10:24:00 AM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

Teaching simple Mishna without any gemara is definitely possible. You don't need to be an illui for that.

You've got to do better than that.

At Sun Oct 21, 05:13:00 AM 2012, Blogger Cosmic X said...


FYI the word
in modern Hebrew means "secondary school".

Great story!

At Sun Oct 21, 05:16:00 AM 2012, Blogger yaak said...


Oops. Thanks. I'll correct it.

At Sun Oct 21, 11:50:00 AM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

Many years ago, I had heard that David Koresh also studied at Aish HaTorah before he was discovered. He was at Aish for 6 weeks. Rav Noach simply told him to leave. But in the process he learned that an anointed of G-d could marry up to 18 wives halakhically as long as the women had reached the age of "knowledge" of 12 or 12 1/2. So he looked into Tanakh and saw that there were two tzaddikim who were called G-d's anointed who passed on to the next world perfect. One was David, who actually did have 18 wives, and the other was Koresh. The rest is history. Too bad David Koresh did not check into the concept of Dina Malkhutha Din while he was at Aish, and he would have seen that a girl in the US has to be 17 years old to get married. The 12 and 13 year old girls he had married made him a pedophile under US law. Did that mean that Janet Reno had any right to burn down his place in Waco, Texas?? of course not, but he had broken American laws even if he thought himself a Melekh under Jewish law.

At Sun Oct 21, 12:38:00 PM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

I should point out that this is the risks that one takes in the modern era. Most of Aish's recruits were found in one way or the other wandering around either the Kotel or other places in Yerushalayim looking for their roots. By and large the ones found near the Kotel were completely devoid of any Jewish upbringing. One does not bring someone into such a yeshivah by first checking out the yichus of someone with whom you are doing kiruv. You pop the question: Is your mother Jewish? And if the answer is yes, you invite him to come to a shiur. Rav Noach was a pioneer in the Litwak world. He invented kiruv into the yeshivah world of the Vilna Gaon and Rav Chaim Volozhin. He was a true tzaddik in his generation, but unlike his namesake, he would have been a tzaddik in any generation. My deepest thanks to this great tzaddik who understood that one of the keys to kiruv today is to find a confluence between the Torah's view of Creation and the Cosmology inherent in the hard sciences without compromising on the veracity of the Torah itself or making a laughingstock out of oneself by showing basic ignorance in the hard sciences when trying to disprove them. He found jewels in the sand like Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Dr. Nathan Aviezer. too bad we don't have his greatness paving the way after his passing. Instead we have incidents where the Torah becomes a laughingstock when kashrut hashgachah is removed from a well known Israeli dairy because the Dairy put Jurassic Park dinosaurs on their yogurt lids. With the loss of Rav Noach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik the Ashkenazic world has not recovered. With them the nations of the world would praise the Torah for its brilliant wisdom as described in Devarim 4:5-6 and Gemorrah Shabbat 75a. To be wise in both Torah and the hard sciences with impeachable character is what made the Torah great in the eyes of those who are righteous amongst the nations. At least in the Ashkenazic world we are missing these men today. If Rav Noach brought in David Koresh and this priest for a short time, they are like specks on a otherwise spotless white sheet. If someone can explain to me the advantage gained by Talmud Torahs not teaching the hard sciences (Calculus, Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Life Sciences), please explain to me why. Like certain support from certain people for the evacuation of Gush Katif, I fail to see the reason why.

At Sun Oct 21, 12:52:00 PM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

unimpeachable not impeachable character. sorry about that.

At Mon Oct 22, 01:59:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Koresh and a priest being admitted to yeshiva are "a speck"? Sounds like President Obama stating that the murder of diplomats is "not optimal".
Anonymous Oct 19, good for you that you can't imagine the scenario. I personally know about a person who studied in Aish HaTorah and should not have. Rav Noah Weinberg was contacted and facts were confirmed, however, he declined to take responsibility.

At Mon Oct 22, 02:31:00 PM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

Yes, Kiruv is a messy business, especially if it done on a grand scale. If for every David Koresh there are 1000, 2000, or 5000 Jews keeping mitzvot, studying Torah, and marrying Jewish women and having Jewish children, then David Koresh pretending to be a Jew for 6 weeks is a speck. Add to that the thousands more who attended Discovery weekends in the the US in both English and Russian and were convinced by the overwhelming evidence to keep the Torah and to do mitzvot. Imagine all of those doctors, scientists, lawyers, engineers who laughed at the Torah for saying that the universe is only 5772 years old plus 6 days, and now they are no longer laughing and are deeply committed to the Jewish way of perfecting the world. And look and see who organized this massive kiruv effort, and understand that without his efforts, how much greater would the spiritual Churban be in America. a pretty white sheet indeed.

I guess the other grand risk taker in this messy business called kiruv was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And after his stroke in the Spring of 1992 much was assumed about his involuntary movements in answer to questions about his future role in the Jewish world by those who had taken a spiritual journey too fast. He lived for two more years, and a far greater danger developed in the Lubavitch world than David Koresh. One has to conclude that Kiruv on a massive scale is tread by the Great Tzaddikim where most dare not tread because of the dangers involved. By and large one is dealing with a very large group of Jews looking for answers and objective Truth. Sometimes a few non-Jews latch on. Sometimes Jews become so attached to their Rebbe, they deem him the Messiah. Yet, without these trailblazers, where would we be? The risks that they took were worth it.

At Thu Oct 25, 06:57:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The essence of a Jew goes well beyond what we can see. Your attitude "to make an omelette we have to break a few eggs" is disgusting and has nothing to do with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who, on the contrary, used to repeat often a hassidic story about large and garish diamonds not being necessarily the priciest and the worthiest. The Rebbe held precious every single Jew and you too should try. If you are convinced that Moshichists are "a far greater danger" than a mass murderer, refuah shleimah.

At Thu Oct 25, 08:49:00 PM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

Um, do you have proof that David Koresh was a mass murderer?? If you do, prove it. Janet Reno assaulted his compound and most likely set fire to it. Koresh did not murder anyone. I am sorry that you have your facts incorrect. His worst crime was statutory rape because he married girls who were at least 12 1/2 years old but not yet of legal age in Texas. He also had a cache of legal firearms. So there was no illegality there except for relations with underaged minors. I am in no way a supporter of his branch of 7th Day Adventists. But you would be hard pressed to prove the canard that he murdered anyone.

The Meshichists on the other hand are a very different kind of danger. In one generation one says that this or that Rebbe is the Messiah. In the next generation, when he has not returned from the dead, the children raised in this fervor become impatient. Many begin to believe that not only was he the Messiah, but that one has to believe that he was the Messiah to have a place in Olam HaBa.

Then when they see that other Jews are not buying their arguments, they start to look for those amongst the goyim who might agree with them about their Rebbe. and they even make leniencies because they are not Jews, that they can believe in their Rebbe without keeping mitzvot and converting to Judaism.

We have been down this road once before, and the results after 2000 years have not been pretty. It is best to nip it in the bud in Generation number One so that we do not lead to the conclusions of generation number two. Yes, the Rebbe was a Tzaddik, and Yoshke was no better than a rabble rouser. Yet, the result is ultimately a new religion which drifts further and further away from Judaism. And as we know, this does not end well.

And I have not even mentioned, G-d forbid, the Elokistim.

At Thu Oct 25, 11:37:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dov; Your comments about the Rebbe's chassidim are false and deplorable.

Mum shebecha is talking.

Please retract for your own spiritual welfare.

At Fri Oct 26, 03:15:00 AM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

The large majority of the Rebbe's Chassidim are not engaged in this new cult. The ones that are engaged need to remove themselves from this new cult. I daven at Chabad here in EY. The Shaliach Rabbi here got rid of the Meshichistim years ago, and there are still a lot of Chabadniks who daven at this shul.

At Fri Oct 26, 04:59:00 AM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

One final thought, and then I don't think that we should waste time on the Meshichist stuff on Ya'ak's blog. There are plenty forums besides here where this cult is dealt with. If you want to believe that the Rebbe might be Mashiach but you are not sure, there is no problem with that. Yet, if you believe that he is definitely Mashiach and is coming back from the dead to be Mashiach, for sure, then you have yourself a real problem. And you need to work on that problem. It is dangerous, and as we see from our Yoshke experience from 2000 years ago, it can only lead to tzarot. If you want to continue this discussion, it would be probably best to find one of the hundreds of forums out there where this is seriously being discussed Shabbat Shalom.

At Sun Oct 28, 01:14:00 AM 2012, Blogger madaral said...

Dov Bar Leib: "Imagine all of those doctors, scientists, lawyers, engineers who laughed at the Torah for saying that the universe is only 5772 years old plus 6 days, and now they are no longer laughing.."

Tu quoque, Brute?

At Sun Oct 28, 04:08:00 AM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

No, I never laughed at the Torah before I met Dr. Gerald Schroeder in 1990 or 1991. He came to lecture at Washington University for Aish HaTorah though. Yes, I was extremely bothered by the Torah's insistence that the universe was only 5750 (at the time) years old plus 6 days. Yet, at that time I was already Shomer Shabbat for many other reasons. Yet, the doubts created by the lack of confluence between the Torah and Cosmology and proof of the the Age of the Earth such as the ratio of uranium and a natural radioactive decay product of a lead isotope in uranium deposits indicated a planet earth that was 4.5 billion years old. So in my mind then and now, I knew that the universe is a much older place. And using Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the expansion of light from the Big Bang over 15 billion years ago, one can show that 6 24 hour days in G-d's reference frame as He fills the universe with His Glory is 15 billion years in our reference frame. He also showed how the "half life" of the expansion since the Big Bang was one 24 hour day. The first day was 8 billion years. The 2nd day was 4 billion years so on and so forth. And yes it bothered me even if I was Shomer Shabbat at the time. Along came Dr. Schroeder, and most of the apparent contradictions were cleared up to my great relief. Baruch HaShem he helped to strengthen my faith by an order of magnitude even if I personally was never mocking the Torah (even if I knew people who were). And Rav Noach recognized how important it was to have Dr. Schroeder lecturing on the Yeshivah's behalf.

At Sun Oct 28, 04:34:00 AM 2012, Blogger madaral said...

Thank you. If I may ask, how is the Mabul treated in your approach.

At Sun Oct 28, 12:29:00 PM 2012, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

You hit the proverbial nail on the head with that one Moshe Raphael. The Great Flood began almost exactly 4117 years ago in our reference frame, the Generations of Adam after being tossed out of Gan Eden. As long as we were still in Gan Eden we or Adam and Chava were in G-d's reference frame. Upon being expelled we entered the 5772 years since Rosh HaShana of the Year One. Dr. Schroeder in both of his two well known books, Genesis and the Big Bang and The Science of G-d, admits that the Great Flood cannot be part of the 6 24 hour days that are in G-d's reference frame and must refer to the ultimate destructive event described in the Torah that began 4117 years ago according to our time and our clocks. How it happened is discussed by Dr. Mordechai Bishari a nuclear physicist that is the foremost nuclear physicist that worked on Israel's nuclear program over the years. He happens to live in Kochav Ya'akov and is a neighbor of mine but is getting along in years. His books are in Hebrew but are worth reading. I attended a lecture that he gave on the yishuv seven years ago. So the question abounds, where is the physical proof that a worldwide Flood occurred just over 4100 years ago that covered the tallest mountain at the time, Mt. Ararat, by 15 amot? For years and years I sought out the answer, and there is a long story which I will tell you personally that I will not write about here dealing with how I once drove Rav Akiva Tatz up to Chicago on our way to buy 220V appliances while he was on his way to an Or Sameach Seminar in 1998 just before Aliyah. At the end of our five hour drive as we approached Lake Michigan, I asked him, "Why is there no remnant of salt in Lake Michigan from the time of the Mabul? Why was all the evidence removed." He looked at me and gave me a bracha that I would find out the answer to this question. Upon moving to Israel I almost immediately got the first part of my answer. Someone named D.P. told me that he saw a medrash that unlike the evidence for the Creation, the evidence for the Mabul was hidden from Noach so that he would not be traumatized by the fact that G-d had just destroyed the world. As we see from the text Noach was extremely traumatized to the point that he sought solace in getting drunk from wine that he had just fermented. So by removing the evidence of the Great Flood, the trauma on Noach could be reduced just to the memories that he had and not to any physical reminders. But it is not that the evidence was removed. It was just hidden from Noach's view. Then about 6 months later I received my full answer to my query of Rav Tatz. Someone sent me an article that the largest salt mine in the world is hidden under Lake Huron near Detroit. The salt is free of any ancient fossils meaning that it is not the remnant of an ancient pre-historic inland ocean or sea. It is as if G-d siphoned off all the salt and simply placed it under the Great Lakes, the largest source of fresh water in the world. Now I have a ton of other other questions too. But I was not blessed to find the answer to all of them just that question. From why only monkeys with pre-hensile tails are in South America and why monkeys without such tails are in Africa to the forming of mountains much taller than Ararat during the course of the Flood to the rate of continental drift verses the fact that prior to the Flood or the Generation of Peleg and Yoktan, all the continents were together in one place, Pangaea, not 300 million years ago. Yet, given the fact that I found the answer to one question, I am not about to say well there are no answers to the hundreds of other questions. So we will leave it at that.

At Sun Oct 28, 01:18:00 PM 2012, Blogger madaral said...

You are a unique honest man. Thank for your answer. May HaShem bless you.


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