(Courtesy of Beit HaTorah) It is hard to describe the incredible glow on the face of Dr. Tali Skoczylas, z”l, a well-known, respected physician from Queens, New York, when he came to visit his son, Rabbi Yaakov Skoczylas, shli”ta, who lives in Sanhedria Murchevet, Yerushalayim.
Dr. Skoczylas found tremendous pleasure in learning with his son b’chavrusa, or watching him from the side as he was climbing the “ladder” of Torah learning and teaching. It seemed like every couple of months, a new halacha sefer in his series “Ohel Yaakov” was published. Rabbi Yaakov was later appointed a moreh hora’ah at the Beit Hora’ah Haklali in Jerusalem, headed by the highly regarded posek Rabbi Ben Tzion Hakohen Kook, shlita, a well-known talmid of the posek hador Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l.
Rabbi Skoczylas’ gets letters, emails and calls at any hour of the day or night, many of which come through the Beit Hora’ah’s “hotline” at +972-72-213-3466. The calls do not only come from Israeli residents, but from people in all countries. The callers are men and women, young and old, Hebrew, English and Yiddish speakers, asking all types of questions.
Reb Yaakov answers his callers, from the first to the last, patiently and respectfully, asking about them and the circumstances related to their delicate matters. He tries to understand the purpose of the call and relate to the person who is seeking advice. Only then he proceeds with the halachic answer and best solution.
Reb Yaakov feels his father watching him every step of the way. It is not an easy task to give advice “on the spot.” It takes tremendous siyata dishmaya to come up with the right response, and there is also a sense of incredible responsibility. Reb Yaakov is so grateful to his parents for supporting him in his life’s mission and instilling confidence in him. Surely his dear father, Dr. Tali, z”l, is a meilitz yosher for him and the entire Skoczylas family. Dvora Skoczylas, Reb Yaakov’s mother, continues to be a strong supporter of all of her children’s endeavors and aspirations.
For the past decade, Rav Skoczylas has been fortunate to develop a very close relationship with Rav Avigdor Halevi Nebenzahl, shlita, the rav of the Old City of Yerushalayim. Rav Nebenzahl is a great tzadik, known worldwide and especially in Eretz Yisrael for his incredible knowledge of Torah and halacha. Four years ago, Rav Yaakov Skoczylas published a new 700-page sefer, “Mitzion Tetzei Torah,” which was based on Rav Nebenzahl’s answers and psakim on numerous questions and issues. More recently, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Rabbi Skoczylas has been receiving calls from abroad, inquiring about what to do with loved ones who had passed away and could not be flown to Eretz Yisrael for kevura. He forwarded these and many other difficult questions to Rav Nebenzahl for a final psak. Their relationship turned into a true family friendship, and Rav Nebenzahl has taken part in simchas, the letter-writing in the Skoczylas family’s new sefer Torah, and the acknowledgement letters that are found in Rav Yaakov’s sefarim, The Ohel Yaakov.
Recently, the administrative board of the Beit Hora’ah HaKlali of Yerushalayim decided to create a website to enable individuals around the globe to send their inquiries and receive quick, reliable responses. The address is www.beithorah.co.il. Rabbi Skoczylas is a member of the panel of rabbis providing halachic advice.
The head of the Beit Hora’ah, Rav Ben Tzion Kook, shlita, who knew Dr. Skoczylas, suggested that the website be dedicated to the memory of Dr. Tali. The home page displays Dr. Tali’s portrait, words of tribute and pictures of his visits with gedolei Yisrael. On the site there are questions and halachic answers posted every day, many of which are answered by Reb Yaakov, shlita.
“These days, there are many individuals who seek halachic advice, but do not always have a rav to turn to, or one who is readily available,” explained Rav Kook. “We are here to provide immediate response. The halacha does not discriminate. We answer questions asked by people from all walks of life and the entire religious spectrum. Accepting calls from around the globe fulfills the words of the prophet Yeshayahu: “Ki miTzion tetzei Torah u’dvar Hashem m’Yerushalayim.”
He added, “Our ultimate goal is that no Jew in the world should ever hesitate to turn to a rav! All we try to do is to give the best answers that will be in accordance with Hashem’s will. There is no doubt that Dr. Tali Skoczylas, z”l, is watching us from Gan Eden and is getting a tremendous nachas ruach.”