A Vision Thing
Volume 4 Issue 21
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Among the items that were to be included in the building of the Tabernacle
was acacia wood. And though there is no acacia wood in the Sinai Desert,
Rashi tells us that 210 years before the exodus, on the journey to Egypt,
Yaakov (Jacob) brought acacia trees to be planted in Egypt. He knew that
one day the Jews would be liberated and would need a sanctuary in their
sojourn. So he prepared wood. Yaakov had not seen his son for 22 years,
yet mind while going to see Yoseph, he brought the material needed for a
structure, that was to be built years in the future! What prompted Yaakov
to think that way? Was there nothing else to bring to Egypt? Why wasn't
he worried with the needs of the present? After all, 70 souls were
entering a new land and culture. I am sure there were more pertinent
things to bring than wood.
On a visit to Congregation Toras Chaim of Hewlett, NY, Rabbi Paysach Krohn
told a wonderful story. Ponovez Yeshiva in Bnai Beraq is one of the most
distinguished Yeshivos in the world. A number of years ago, at the
beginning of a semester, a young boy from Switzerland who applied there was
denied entry. The Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) told him to come back in a few
years, his level of study was not advanced enough for the Yeshiva, and he
also was a bit too young.
The boy said he understood, but he wanted to speak to the Rebbitzen, the
widow of the founder and late Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovez, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo
Kahanamen, of blessed memory. The Yeshiva administration was a bit
surprised: Rav Kahanamen had passed away a number of years prior, and the
young man did not claim to know the Rebbitzen. More important, she had no
role in the admission process. Nevertheless, the young man was shown the
After a few moments, the boy emerged, and the Rebbitzen asked to speak with
the Rosh Yeshiva. It took less than a few minutes, for the Rosh Yeshiva to
emerge and motion the young student waiting outside of the Rebbitzen's
"Welcome to Ponevezer Yeshiva," the Rosh Yeshiva heartily declared. "We
have decided to accept you wholeheartedly."
The boy smiled while many of the students and others who gathered outside
the apartment were baffled. "What could have influenced the decision?"
The young man solved the mystery for the students who had gathered near the
"When I was seven years old, one summer my mother and I vacationed at a
Swiss mountain resort."
Coincidentally, the Ponovezer Rav z'l was in Switzerland for the summer and
checked in to the only kosher hotel in the area - the one we were at! The
problem was, the only available room was on the upper floor, and it was
hard for the Rav to walk up and down. My mother heard about the problem
and immediately offered to switch our room on the first floor, with his.
After thanking her profusely, the Rav called my mother and me into his new
room. "I want to thank you, Mrs. Schwartz," he said. "I understand that
when on vacation it is hard to move rooms, but more so I also want to
express appreciation to your son. I'd like to buy him a toy in a gift
shop. What would he like?"
"I told the Rav that I did not want a toy, I did not want any prize. I did
not even want a few coins. All I wanted is to become a student one day in
the Ponovez Yeshiva. The Rav smiled and said that he would accept me
whenever I felt I was ready. Immediately, the Rav took out a pen and paper
and wrote the note that I handed to the Rebbitzen today. Frankly, I never
even read it. All I know is that the vision of my youth was fulfilled today."
Upon descending to Egypt, Yaakov Avinu knew that redemption would be a long
way off. He also understood that one day there would be a Mishkan
(Tabernacle) for his children. For without it, the exodus would be
meaningless. Yaakov realized that a home for spirituality would be the key
to Israel's survival. In Braishis (Genesis), after crossing a river, Yaakov
worries about little things he left behind and returns to retrieve them. He
worried about the small things that were dear to his children. He worried
about the memories of the past. Here, Yaakov worries about what he needs
to build the future.
There were flourishing Jewish communities in the early years of American
Jewish immigration. The communities that had the vision to bring the wood
to build a Mishkan - the home for Torah -- are still vibrant and
flourishing. For with the vision for spirituality the Jewish people will
always have the spirituality for vision. Good Shabbos!
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