I don’t know about you, but for me, gift-giving is hardest when it comes to the men-folk. Girls are easy: some trinkets, jewelry, or the latest novel, and they’re set. But gifts for boys… What do you get for that yeshiva bachur who, baruch Hashem, happily spends his days shteiging away (short of a few hundred batches of homemade cookies, which he’ll go through in just a few days anyway)?
You’ll be relieved to hear, then, that Israel Bookshop has solved your men-folk-gift-giving dilemma—at least for this year’s Chanukah! A Treasure of Letters is the book to get for your husband/son/brother/father (or better yet, all of the above!). This truly one-of-a-kind book is a compilation of letters written by a yeshiva bachur to his parents in the early 1950’s. In the letters, he describes the world of Torah and Chassidus in Eretz Yisrael as he saw it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these original letters are worth hundreds of pages of description, as they give a fascinatingly authentic snapshot of Eretz Yisrael in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the gedolei roshei yeshivah and admorim of that era.
If you are looking for a gift that your yeshivah bachur or “yeshivah bachur at heart” will really treasure, your search is over; A Treasure of Letters is all you need to say when you walk into your local bookstore…
Click here to purchase online.
Enjoy these sample letters…
4 September 1953
…Yesterday I went to see the Tchebiner Rav [R' Dov Berish Weidenfeld] shlit”a. He asked me where I came from and my name. When I said Manchester and Reich he immediately asked me if my name was Elozor! It is either ruach hakodesh or another possibility I can think of. I asked him a few she’eilos, all of which he answered immediately. He then asked me if I knew a few of his talmidim, e.g. R’ Avrohom Rand [my rebbi in Staines Yeshivah], and abruptly wished me kesivah v’chasimah tovah, which doubtlessly meant that the interview was at an end.
The yeshivah here has an exceptionally large library which is only open a few hours a day and quite a few people come in to use it. Amongst them is one regular whom if I had not seen and heard myself I could never have believed. He is not a big lamdan but is reputed to be the biggest baki in all of Eretz Yisrael, in fact in the world. Without the slightest trace of guzma, I have seen it myself. You can ask him how many machlokes R’ Yochanan and Resh Lakish there are in Yerushalmi Maasros and he will give you the answer without the slightest hesitation. The same applies to all Bavli and Yerushalmi, all the Rishonim and all the popular Acharonim such as the Nosei Keilim of the Shulchan Aruch and the Nesivos, Ketzos, Tumim, Minchas Chinuch, Or Someiach etc. For fun I asked him to tell me all the machlokes of the Teshuvos Chemdas Shlomo and R’ Akiva Eiger. I had to listen for a quarter of an hour whilst he reckoned them out. This is not an exaggeration; it is unbelievable until one sees it. As he does nothing but learn and has no official position, he is a pauper. Such Yidden one meets in Yerushalayim!
The weather here is bothering me far less than I expected. As long as one does not walk about in the heat it is quite comfortable. The beis hamedrash is large, high and airy, in fact far more suitable for learning than its Gateshead counterpart. How pleasant it is always to see blue sky and at night such a clear heaven and bright stars.
On Shabbos here it is so pleasing to see in the Meah Shearim district (which is near the yeshivah) all the children with shtreimlech and long peyos. The town really is far quieter with only taxis and a few private cars. Some districts are chained off to ensure no vehicular traffic passes through, and in the others, when a car does go through the children and a lot of people shout “Shabbos! Shabbos!” It was for such an offence that R’ Amram Blau (the uncle of the one who was in Manchester), who is one of the leaders of the Neturei Karta, was imprisoned for three months. He refused to sign a good conduct promise. The Chazon Ish went to visit him in jail and was only admitted the second time. All this was proclaimed on the posters which are plastered here every few days.
There is a poster issued by the Government headed “The Truth about Military Service for Women” (in Ivrit) set out in question and answer form. The Eidah Hachareidis answered with a similar poster with the same questions, but different answers. Well I must finish now……..
4 October 1953
Since it is over a week since my last letter and such a Yom Tov has passed…
I cannot remember ever having such a Chag Sameach. The first day of Yom Tov I went to the Brisker Rav shlit”a to bentch esrog. Of course he is not satisfied with one, it is like his Krias Shema which is interesting to hear – nearly every word is repeated several times and so with esrogim, there were six on the table of various pedigrees, sizes and shapes. Before I was allowed to use them I had to listen and agree to complicated tena’im. Due to this I missed Hallel [in the yeshivah] and went to say it at R’ Ahrele’s minyan where it took exactly one hour. They are a very interesting group of Chassidim. Full details in a later letter. On the second day of Yom Tov we had our own minyan and ate seudas Yom Tov in a restaurant (on the yeshivah’s account).
Sunday Chol Hamoed, I responded to the Halpern’s invitation, where I met the whole family of Rav Shmuel Halpern, a most distinguished talmid chacham.
Monday morning I was mispallel Shacharis in the Chazon Ish’s own minyan which is at ha’netz. Then after davening it is quite easy to go in and talk to him for a few minutes. But I hoped to do better and wait until he goes after breakfast for his daily walk, when it is usually possible to accompany him for a long time and talk be’arichus. However, it seems that Succos he does all his walking inside the sukkah, so I missed my chance. Sadly this was his last Yom Tov, and the last time I saw him.
Later in the morning I went to Vizhnitz which is a short bus ride from Zichron Meir. There I saw the yeshivah including the walls of the partially built new beis hamedrash. The roof fell in, wasting a lot of money. Then after some delay I went in to see the Rebbe [R' Chaim Meir Hager] shlit”a and chatted with him for about quarter of an hour. He remembers you and Zeide shlit”a very well and asked me to send regards and also to Yidel [my brother]. He was very interested to hear about the folk he remembers from his last visit. There is a rumour that he will shortly visit England and the USA again. He was very amiable and friendly and I enjoyed the talk greatly.
In the afternoon I went to visit….
After seeing the sights of Bnei Brak I returned to Yerushalayim on Monday evening where they staged a simchas beis hasho’evah in the yeshivah and also in a proper Yerushalayimer yeshivah called Yeshivas Hamasmidim. Our yeshivah also made [simchos] some other nights, but the one in the latter was unsurpassable. One can really say “Mi shelo ra’ah zeh lo ra’ah simchah miyamav.“ They had a band and badchanim and it was properly organised. Never have I seen such wonderful dancing with different kinds of dances and the whole lively Yerushalmi crowd. It would have gone on all night as noone who went in for five minutes could bring himself to leave, but it had to stop at two…