June 25, 2024
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June 25, 2024
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This past week, as we celebrated the final days of Chanukah, we simultaneously experienced the loss of one of the great Religious Zionist Rabbinic leaders of our time, Rav Chaim Druckman, zt’l.

On Zot Chanukah, the final day of Chanukah, Bnei Akiva of the US & Canada’s Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah and Midreshet Torah V’Avodah, the only American program, loaded up busses so every student could pay respect to Rav Druckman, one of the most influential rabbinic figures of the current Bnei Akiva movement.

This was the speech, Rav Shaul Feldman, executive director of Bnei Akiva of the US & Canada shared with students before loading the buses to the Levaya:

Today is Zot Chanukah. It is known that the number seven represents nature as the world was created in seven days, yet the number eight represents miracles, something above nature. And today, on the eighth day of Chanukah– the main day of Chanukah– the day representing miracles.

There is another idea that I heard this year that is absolutely unbelievable.

The Gra writes that there are eight days of the year that we were supposed to complete Hallel, and for external reasons, we either say half Hallel or don’t say Hallel at all. First, there are the six days of Pesach. We only say full Hallel on the first day of Pesach the rest of the Pesach we only say half Hallel. The Gemara says the reason we don’t say full Hallel is because we were watching the Egyptians drown in the Yam Suf. We cannot say Shira to Hashem at a time like that. מעשה ידי טובעים בים ואתם אומרים שירה The next day is Rosh Hashanah, as the Gemara in Rosh Hashana says we would have said Hallel then if not for the fact that the books of life and death are open on that day. The last day is Yom Kippur. Those are the eight days that the Gra brings, of times we should have said a full Hallel and we didn’t.

So, when do we complete those eight days of Hallel? On each day of Chanukah. So if you follow the missing days, Zot Chanukah, Day eight, corresponds to Yom Kippur. The power of tefila that is present on Yom Kippur, is also present on Zot Chanukah. Use that moment that you had on Yom Kippur, when you told yourself, “I want to make a change.” Use that moment now, as your second chance to put it into action.

Yesterday, at 9:35 p.m., I received a message, “The light of Am Israel was shut.” כבה אורם של ישראל I was in the middle of my father’s 90th birthday. Rav Druckman, a Holocaust survivor, passed away at 90 years old. The first thing I did when I heard the news was that I bought a set of his sefarim, “HaTorah L’Doreinu.” It’s a set of sefarim that Rav Druckman wrote on the Chamisha Chumshei Torah, and on Pirkei Avot, and it includes six volumes.

I want to tell you a little bit about why I bought these sefarim. After Mach Hach Ba’aretz, this past summer there was a parent who emailed me, in the middle of Elul, and asked if I was familiar with a sefer called “HaTorah L’Doreinu.” He told me that his son picked up the Sefer during Mach Hach and started learning that sefer, and then continued learning it with one of the madrichim, and he felt so connected to the ideas in it. Seeing his son so engaged in a sefer was remarkable and he wanted to know if there were any more valumes of it. I told him that there were definitely more books, and I ordered him a set in Israel and had it brought to New York. I said to myself, if there is a student who has such a strong desire for learning Torah, and from Rav Druckman, the model of Torat Eretz Israel, I must do anything possible to get it to him.

I heard something this morning from Rav Druckman’s son in law. The last thing that Rav Druckman did before he went to the hospital was give five shiurim. He spoke to students, mothers and parents of students in the yeshiva. He gave five shiurim before he was rushed to the hospital. Last I saw Rav Druckman he was in his home. He was together with Rabbi Yehuda Seif in discussion about granting YTVA Hesder status, something that was approved later on. His love once again in the room for Bnei Akiva was unbelievable. We felt that the rav was very tired, but just a couple of minutes after we had left, he had an interview with a few reporters, where he was calling for better religious standards in the Jewish army, allowing the Hesder boys to serve in a Lechatchila way. He wasn’t tired at all when it came to Am Israel being holy in Medinat Israel.

Rav Druckman conducted his life in a way that only helped other people. He helped the Jewish people. I want to share with you an important message. Today is Yom Kippur, on Zot Chanukah. It is a day to take advantage of the opportunity to really understand what life is all about.

This message is an idea I heard from Rav Druckman many times. Not to exaggerate, but he said this at least 50 times, and in public as well. I spent a lot of time with Rav Druckman when I was a shaliach for Bnei Akiva in Teaneck. The same job that I had, he had had 50 years beforehand. There was a week at TVI that I sat with him and that week was entirely life changing. There was something he constantly repeated, and it comes from the Shir Hama’alot that is said before bentching after bread. He would ask, on the words “שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלות בְּשׁוּב ה’ אֶת שִׁיבַת צִיּון הָיִינוּ כְּחלְמִים”. What do they mean? Am Yisrael is coming home, and David Hamelech is imparting that message to us in this verse. This refers to the days of redemption. The words “הָיִינוּ כְּחלְמִים” say that “We were like dreamers.” To me, those words meant that the redemption is like a dream; it’s unreal.

When I see my father, who is a Holocaust survivor, get excited when he sees a new house built in Israel. He feels joy from that. He can’t believe that he is living in a time where that is the tangible reality. To me, that is the p’shat of “כְּחלְמִים”. But Rav Druckman said that his p’shat is, in fact, very different from that.

Rav Druckman used to say that in the times of redemption, we have a problem. That problem is that we sit here and stay dreaming. We don’t realize the opportunity we have and the time that we’re living in. We allow the redemption to simply pass over our heads. It was Rav Druckman’s mission in life to wake up the Jewish people and tell them that we’re living in a different reality. We need to wake up and see the days we are in and take action. That we are part of a bigger picture. We each have a mission in life, and we need to find our part in impacting the world.

Rav Druckman told my oldest son, when I took him to see him before his bar mitzvah, that he gives him a bracha that his Torah learning should be sweet and joyful. He should have the love for Torah so great that he never wants to leave Torah. Rav Druckman started the Hesder movement because he believed that it was a religious obligation to serve in the army and that he wanted people to be able to do that, with Torah as well. This was his focus, all for Am Yisrael.

Rav Druckman rarely lay down flat to go to sleep. The reason for this is that he told people, “How can I sleep when I have the gift of life?” He shared that more than once, including the multiple times he almost died earlier in his lifetime. In the Holocaust his life was in danger, in Israel he was in a terrorist attack that almost killed him. His driver was murdered and the car that Rav Druckman was in, stopped merely inches from a cliff. He was given back his chance at life, and someone who experiences something like that, clearly has a mission in life. He had a mission. He showed up for people, and he loved every Jew.

He also strongly believed that Bnei Akiva, as a movement and concept, has the ability to bring Am Yisrael together. He believed that Bnei Akiva was the connector. And he never spoke bad about another Jew. I once saw him at an airport, speaking with the Toldos Aharon Rebbe– who couldn’t be on more opposite ends of Torah representation– and in my humble opinion it appeared that there was nothing but mutual and humble respect between them. It was unbelievable.

Rav Druckman’s door was open to every Jew. So many decisions we made as a movement were with his guidance, sitting at his table. It didn’t matter what time of day and when, every call he answered personally. So today, we are attending the funeral of Rav Druckman not only to respect him. We are going because today is a day like Yom Kippur, and it holds that same power. Rav Druckman did us a great service by telling us that on this day, we are able to go and make a great change in our lives. Some points to think about today are: How can I be a part of the bigger picture? How am I making sure that I am not sleeping as a Jewish person in this time that we are living in? How can we prevent ourselves from being כְּחלְמִים in the negative way?

We need to be true dreamers. The ones that see Israel today and are in awe because it feels too good to be true. If you go to Machane Yehuda, to the Shuk, and look at the fruits and vegetables there, you see redemption. The fact that there are so many fruits of so many varieties growing in Israel, is a sign to us that this is the generation that is living in the times of the coming redemption. We can’t sleep now. We can’t lie down and dream. We can’t let ourselves miss this opportunity. We need to have this mission of waking up and taking action.

Today is a wake up call. It’s not a sad day. It’s Chanukah. It’s a day of simcha. It’s a day of waking up and understanding הִגִּיעַ זְמַן גְּאֻלַּתְכֶם. We’re in the days of redemption, and it’s happening right in front of us. Let’s embrace it and live that way. B’hatzlacha to all on this day.

Rabbi Shaul Feldman currently serves as the executive director of Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada.

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