The air was thick with kedusha. I literally felt a whiff of Mamud Har Sinai. Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom was celebrating Kabalas HaTorah in its own unique way.
On the Sunday prior to Shavuos the student body assembled in the large Beis Medrash of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath to celebrate a day of fathers and sons learning Torah together. The event was aptly named ‘Uvos Ubanim’.
Eighty-three boys and bochrim sat and learned Torah with their fathers. Eighty- three shining faces, enthusiastic Bnei Torah, dressed in their finest clothing as is appropriate for Lomdei Torah on such a momentous day. Sadly, YBL has its own ‘yesomim club’, but every single student was accounted for and set up with a learning partner, even if not a biological father. I sensed our Father of all fathers hovering above this holy mamud and caressing the cheeks of the fatherless students.
As Rabbi Horowitz, the Menahel Hamoysed of YBL greeted all the guests, the staff of Rabbeim and teachers led the parents and sons to their places, as each pair received their own personalized lucite shtender. The shtenders added a dimension of elegance, and personal gratification for this gorgeous take-home gift. Every Rebbe prepared a booklet of learning material comprised of passages and lessons of Torah that were learnt in the classroom over the span of recent months. Sort of an ad hoc Tikkun Leil Shavuos.
Cheese delicacies were laid out in abundance, in addition to beverages and snacks. The party was on!
Rabbi Horowitz stepped up to the podium and delivered a masterful interpretation of ‘V’Yichun Shum Yisroel Negged Ha’Hur’ – Klal Yisroel stood together at Har Sinai. Rashi explains ‘K’ish Echod B’Lev Echod’. This was a requisite for being mekabel the Torah – to be as one. Rabbi Horowitz explained that every Yid is mechuyiv Taryag Mitzvos, yet it is not possible for every Yid to be mekayem all 613 mitzvos. The Kohein can’t do the Levi’s mitzvos and the Levi can’t do the Kohein’s mitzvos. But, if Klal Yisroel will be ‘K’ish Echod B’Lev Echod – united as one – then it is as if everybody is mekayem all Taryag Mitzvos.
He pointed out that we can all learn from our children who have Down syndrome. Their genuine Ahavas Chaveirim and total love for each other unites them as ONE, thus enabling them to be mekabel and mekayem ALL Taryag Mitzvos. If any student is ever absent from yeshiva, his close friends are already in the know as to the reason for the absence. Cell phones and busy fingertips work feverishly as concerned friends call to inquire about the welfare of the absentee. This is the love and concern our students have for each other.
Rabbi Horowitz then sang the praises of the Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom Rabbeim who also love their talmidim so genuinely and so unconditionally, thus generating our children’s success in acquiring Torah.
Rabbi Horowitz wrapped up his speech by saying that just like other yeshivas have Hachunah L’Mattan Torah, Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom is no different. He then invited the room full of loving duos to get to work and delve into their studies.
What followed was totally mind-blowing! Observing from my vantage point of sitting in a hidden corner of the packed room, the Kol Torah erupted into a crescendo, like burning lava shooting higher and higher into the air. To be honest, I was never in the hallways of Lakewood’s BMG or Yerushalayim’s The Mir, but at that moment I was quite sure that these were the sounds permeating those hallowed corridors of fame. I drank it all in, but couldn’t get satiated.
It is at events like these that my memory takes me back to the early days, weeks and months following Moishey’s birth. We knew and accepted Hashem’s decree, but which parents can easily swallow the reality of raising a son who will never be a Talmud Chocham? As much as we knew that this was part of the Master Plan, we still held onto dreams. And now those dreams had turned to reality. Yes, our son CAN and DOES learn Torah. Our son, a Kohein, bentsches Klal Yisroel on Yomim Tovim too! He is, in every sense, a participating member of Klal Yisroel…and so much more. Yes, he is an integral part of the ‘team’ that comprises and completes the ‘K’Ish Echod B’Lev Echod’.
Fathers and sons had their arms around each other’s shoulders as they studied together intently. Some swayed back and forth, others had their heads pressed together lovingly. The looks of nachas on the faces of the fathers, the mirrored joy on the faces of the sons – expressions that bespoke volumes – these children can also learn Torah with their fathers, not only their brothers, not only the bochrim they see in shul…
After a period of intense learning, Rabbi Stein shlita, the Menahel of Mechina of Torah Vodaath stepped up to the podium and captured the audience with his heartwarming message.
Rabbi Stein spoke about the beautiful integration between the two yeshivas – Torah Vodaath and Bonim Lamokom. As I write this article, my husband and I are preparing to attend a Hachnosas Sefer Torah soon, l’ilui nishmas Ha’Rav Avraham Pam zt’l. Rav Pam and his Rebetzin zichronom livrocha, were the ones who gave the biggest and final push for the board of Torah Vodaath to accept this new ‘little’ special education/special needs boys program that so desperately was looking for a Torah environment for its students. Rav Pam zt’l was niftar shortly thereafter, but Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom was graciously welcomed by Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. For the duration of that inaugural year of YBL, our students learned mishnayos every single day l’ilui nishmas Ha’Rav Pam zt’l…and now today…our yeshiva proudly takes part in the dedication of this new Sefer Torah, with YBL having donated the ‘mentela’ which dresses the actual Sefer. Such is the strong bond and ongoing relationship between the two yeshivos.
While Rabbi Stein continued to sing the praises of the YBL staff, justifiably so, the credit for this beautiful and successful integration of the two yeshivos goes to the respective leaders, primarily the Torah Vodaath Menahelim and Rabbeim. They are the ones who have ingrained the tremendous middos and kavod habriyos in their talmidim, which the students of YBL benefit from so tremendously.
Rabbi Stein shlita compared the Rabbeim of Bonim Lamokom to the nesher, an eagle, which will ultimately fly all of Klal Yisroel on its wings to Yerushalayim when Moshiach comes, may it be speedily. Rabbi Stein explained that a nesher is the only bird that carries its children on its wings, above its body, to protect it from predators below. No bird will ever fly higher than the eagle. The Rabbeim of YBL carry their talmidim on their wings, guarding them and loving them, yet gently pushing and encouraging them to learn to fly on their own…
Rabbi Stein also reminded the assembled fathers that parents of Klal Yisroel just said Tefillas HaShloh on erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. What better way to show our children how precious their Torah learning is, than this Avos Ubanim event?
Rabbi Yisroel Reisman shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaath, then graced the mesibah with his heartening words which he directed at the students of YBL. He said, “When you boys came to Torah Vodaath, the 4th floor was empty and it was a zchus for Torah Vodaath that YBL joined. Boys, since you came YOU brought bracha to Torah Vodaath! Torah Vodaaath has grown bigger than ever before. You bring simcha, middos tovos to the fourth floor and it is now busier than ever. In fact, it’s bustling because YOU came and brought bracha to Torah Vodaath. Sometimes Hashem sends malochim to help and sometimes He sends people who are like malochim. YOU boys are those malochim. You have middos, you hug me – the boys in my shiur don’t…”
Rabbi Reisman shlita then thanked Rabbi Horowitz and the dedicated staff of YBL and continued, “Hashem loves you boys; where you go, the Shechinah goes. When Moshiach comes, don’t let Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom get its own building. Please be together with Yeshiva Torah Vodaath then too.”
The event concluded with 2 precious talmidim of YBL reciting kaddish for their beloved parents a’h who were niftar during the past year.
My husband and I returned a very short while ago from the uber-derhoibena Hachnoses Sefer Torah at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. Some events can be described in writing; others just need to be experienced. This event falls into the latter category. I will wrap it up briefly, because my words can never do justice to what I witnessed. Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom was invited to be the first ones to greet the Torah as it was brought out of the home from where it was being danced all the way into the main yeshiva building. As my husband held the Torah close and danced with it, then reaching out and taking Moishey into this special dance, I covered my eyes with my hands and sobbed, deep, penetrating sobs and sighs…tears of joy and gratitude, tears for past fears, tears for future hopes…
After I had a good cry, I lifted my face and watched the unbelievable scene of once-doomed individuals with Down syndrome, dancing to the Torah, hugging it and living it precisely the way Hashem wants them to!