Reports from the field,1/26/12

Naftali’s Sister Speaks Out

“When I read the personal stories featured on Acheinu’s website, I felt that I must publicize the story of my brother “˜Naftali’ (a pseudonym),” relates a woman. “The story will strengthen anyone dealing with a child who seeks to grow in yiddishkeit.”

Naftali’s family was religious, but not chareidi or oriented towards Torah learning. Naftali’s older sister was the first family member who entered the Torah world and found great fulfillment and joy. She relates the suspenseful journey that helped Naftali share in the glow of Torah:

Every night, I’d speak to my two brothers about the value of Torah, the beauty of yiddishkeit, -our goal in life and the greatness of tzaddikim and talmidei chachamim. When I’d speak to Naftali, it went in one ear and immediately left through the other. Occasionally, he’d nod his head as I spoke to make me feel like I wasn’t talking to the wall.

I continued these talks for over a year, but the hundreds of hours I invested seemed for naught. Naftali saw Torah learning as a burden, just to pass the tests in school, and he wasn’t looking for more of that.

By chance (i.e. through the hand of Hashem), I encountered Acheinu’s amazing website, where I saw a brief video about the Acheinu Yeshiva in Yerushalayim and immediately realized that it was a special place, with palpable enthusiasm. I decided to take my brother there, so that he can understand that Torah offers the utmost enjoyment. I contacted Acheinu and arranged with Rav Yaakov that Naftali come for a visit.

Naftali was greeted with warmth, love and infectious joy. Although he only spent half an hour there learning Gemara, Naftali paused for a moment after leaving Yeshiva and told me, “I understand my goal in this world.”

This is the point of my story. A famous rav once explained the passuk, “Ve’hayu hadevarim ha’ele asher anochi metzavcha hayom al levavaecha.” Why does the passuk instruct us to place the Torah on our heart and not in it?

The rav answered that we must continuously place the Torah on our hearts even if it doesn’t immediately enter, because the day will come when we’ll experience a moment of hisorerus and it will all come rushing in. And that is precisely what happened to my brother…through Acheinu.

Naftali continued visiting the Yeshiva and became a different person. He loved learning Gemara and adopted the sterling middos he observed in the bochurim there. He appreciated the clear difference between the yeshiva bochurim and his classmates in school and wanted to learn in Yeshiva full time.

My parents were strongly opposed to the idea, but my brother wouldn’t relent. After a year of battling, my parents allowed Naftali more frequent visits to Yeshiva. One day, he chanced (!) upon Yeshiva Ohr Hachaim in Yerushalayim and sought a beracha from the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, that his parents allow him to learn in Yeshiva.

Rav Elbaz afforded him an unusually long conversation and was impressed by Naftali’s iron will. He spoke to my mother and convinced her to allow for a month long tryout in Yeshiva. He thrived in Yeshiva and later became a regular talmid in Yeshiva Acheinu!

We thank Hashem from the depths of our hearts for helping us get to know the Acheinu Yeshiva. I’d recommend everyone to come and visit the Yeshiva just for a few minutes and derive immeasurable chizuk. It is even worth a trip from overseas!

We would also like to thank Rav Yaakov and his fellow staff at the Acheinu organization, as well as Rav Elbaz and the other Roshei Yeshiva of Ohr Hachaim.

Our entire lives have changed dramatically. You can never give up on even a single Jewish child.     


Naftali’s Sister


Dan the Frugal

Dan Cohen arrived in yeshiva with practically no knowledge of Torah and Judaism.  His family was far from being observant; but knowing what awaited their son in the secular schools, his parents decided to follow the advice of an Acheinu worker and send their son to a yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

Like thousands of other children who had weak backgrounds in Torah studies, Dan was given a tutor who took him under his wing and showered him with love.  With his mentor at his side, Dan advanced in his Gemara studies.  He was awarded small monetary prizes to spur him on.  

With time, Dan was amassing more and more in prize money.  But the Acheinu mentor was concerned with what appeared to be Dan’s extreme frugality.  Why was Dan hoarding his shekels, not even allowing himself an occasional candy bar? Was Dan exhibiting problems with stinginess?

When confronted by the mentor on the subject of his thriftiness, Dan’s answer was surprising and touching: “I am saving my money with good reason! I’m going to buy my mother a scarf -so when I go home for Shabbos, she’ll be able to cover her head.”

That very afternoon, the mentor had his wife buy a pretty white headscarf, and presented it to the overjoyed Dan.

But this is not the end of Dan’s story.  Some weeks later, the mentor noticed that Dan was still saving every agurah.  This from the incredulous mentor to Dan “””Your mother already has a scarf! Why are you still saving?!”

“Rav, you are right,” explained Dan. “But now I’m saving up to buy my father a shaver because I learned that one may not use a razor. “But the Rav doesn’t have to buy me one,” he hastily added, “I”˜ve already saved enough money!”