Gedolim Open Their Homes and Hearts to Special Boy Who Returned to Am YisraelDecember 31, 2023
Rina was born in Israel to Muslim parents from Uzbekistan who were given citizenship under the Law of Return. When she came of age, she married a Christian, who’d immigrated from the Former Soviet Union. A few years after giving birth to their son, she got the shock of her life: She learned that she was a Jew.
The revelation came when her grandmother on her mother’s side was dying, and in her final moments disclosed that she was Jewish. “I can’t die peacefully unless I tell you the truth,” she said, presenting documents to prove her identity.
The news shook the entire family, but Rina most of all. As one who had grown up in Israel and attended state schools, she was familiar with basic Jewish laws and concepts and loved the religion, and decided to make a change in her life and live as a kosher Jew. As part of her commitment, she divorced her non-Jewish husband and embarked on a new path with her baby son.
Good people she met referred her to Yad L’Achim and the organization was quick to help on her journey to Judaism.
After undergoing the “Return to Judaism” ceremony at the Rabbinate, Rina wholly embraced a life of Torah and mitzvos, bringing her son to bris mila and naming him Yisrael.
The boy was enrolled in a Torani school, where he soaked up stories from the Torah and delved into his learning. After school, he spent many hours a day with a mentor sent by Yad L’Achim and within a year was the top student of his class.
A month ago, as his Bar Mitzvah was drawing close, Rina and Yisrael approached Yad L’Achim with a special request: To visit the homes of Gedolei Yisrael in order to behold their holy visage, to present them with chiddushei Torah that Yisrael had written, and to ask for a brachah.
Gedolei Yisrael were of course only too happy to oblige, and within a few weeks the visits were arranged. For two complete days, from early morning till evening, Yisrael and his mother made the rounds to the homes of Gedolei Yisrael and Admorim in the company of Yad L’Achim representatives. One after another, these Torah giants gave their blessings to the young man who impressed them with his pleasant ways and the scope of his knowledge in Gemara.
The first stop was the home of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, Harav Moshe Shlomo Amar. The Rav couldn’t hide his amazement at Yisrael’s sweetness and knowledge. He asked the boy to approach him, shook his hand warmly, closed his eyes and offered heart-felt blessings. As they were leaving, the Rav gave Yisrael a sefer, Kinyan Hatorah, with a personal inscription.
The next stop was the home of the grandson of the Baba Sali, the mekubal Harav Shlomo Buso who was deeply moved by Yisrael’s life story and his love of Torah. He showered him with brachos and even gave him and his mother an arava from those that had been beaten on Hoshana Raba. Such an arava is known to be a segulah for protection.
At the home of the Gaavad, Harav Moshe Bransdorfer, the Rav stood in honor of the bar mitzvah boy and heard the moving story of his life. He gave Yisrael his father’s sefer, K’nei Bosem, with a person inscription. At the end of the visit, the Rav praised Yad L’Achim’s staffers for their hard work and investment in Rina and Yisrael, adding that one who teaches the son of his friend Torah, it’s as if he gave birth to him. He added that the merit of rescuing mothers and children from Arab villages, as well as all their future generations, should stand in the organization’s stead.
The entourage continued to the home of the Rosh Yeshiva of Kiseh Rachamim, Hagaon Harav Meir Mazuz. The Rav, astounded by Yisrael’s knowledge of Torah, blessed him that he grow up to become a gadol baTorah and praised his mother for returning to her roots.
The Alexander Rebbe joyously welcome the boy, his mother and Yad L’Achim. The admor tested Yisrael in the laws of Tefillin, which he knew thoroughly, and praised his knowledge of Torah and practice of rising every morning to daven at netz.
Harav Hagaon Mordechai Shmuel Eidelstein cleared time from his busy schedule to host the delegation. “I heard much about the work of Yad L’Achim and Baruch Hashem I am meriting to see it with my own eyes,” he said. He spoke in learning with Yisrael, on the sugyos the boy was learning, and was impressed by the depth of his Torah knowledge. At the conclusion of the visit, the Rav gave Yisrael his father’s book B’Ikvei Hamegillos, with a special inscription. He even asked that Yisrael remember to invite him to his “inauguration” when he is appointed chief rabbi of Israel…
The next day the entourage arrived at the home of the Nadvorna Rebbe, who received them warmly, taking an interest in Yisrael’s learning and giving him a siddur, with a blessing that all of his tefillos should be answered. Later, the Rav spent muc time advising Yisrael on the basics of avodas Hashem, and told him that his door was always open to him.
Afterwards, they headed to Yerushalayim, to the home of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Harav Yitzchak Yosef. The Rav, who as chief rabbi knows well Yad L’Achim’s work in fortifying the wall protecting Torah Judaism, spoke with Yisrael at length and even invited him to have his first aliya la’Torah in his beit midrash. He also asked Rina to remember to invite him to Yisrael’s wedding…
Winding down the whirlwind two-day tour, Yad L’Achim brought Yisrael and his mother to daven at the grave of Shmuel Hanavi and at the graves of the tzaddikim, Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef, zt”l, and Hagaon Chacham Rabi Shalom Cohen, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivat Porat Yosef.
“Had we merited it, we would have brought Yisrael to their homes to show them the fruits of our labor, as we used to do during their lifetimes, when we brought them young people who’d been rescued from Arab village and become bnei Torah and Yarei Shamayim,” a Yad L’Achim official said.