Friday, February 1, 2008

A Full Cycle - A Brit at Tel Hebron

A few years ago I wrote about a special wedding which took place at Ma'arat HaMachpela. At that time Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook's grandson was married at that holy site. Rav Kook, Israel's first Chief Rabbi, was one of the most significant Rabbis and Jewish thinkers in the past few hundred years.
Following the expulsion from, and destruction of Yamit, Rav Kook's grandson, Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan and his wife Chaya, moved to Hebron, to the Tel Rumeida (Admot Yishai) neighborhood. There they lived in a small caravan home for many years. Rabbi Ra'anan, a quiet and seemingly unimposing man was actually a great Torah scholar, whose modesty and humility characterized his life. Following in the footsteps of his father, Rabbi Shalom-Natan Ra'anan and his grandfather Rabbi Kook, he dedicated his life to Torah-study and dedication to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. And, of course, his family.
Nine and a half years ago Rabbi Ra'anan was attacked and brutally murdered by an Arab terrorist who infiltrated into his caravan home at eleven o'clock at night and stabbed him to death. At the Rabbi's funeral the Rishon l'Tzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu declared that a Torah study center should be established where the Rabbi was murdered. As a result "Kollel Ohr Shlomo" – the Ohr Shlomo (the Lights of Shlomo) Torah Study Center was established in the very room where the Rabbi was killed. The Ra'anan's daughter Tzippy and her husband, Rabbi Yisrael Shlissel moved to Hebron and Rabbi Shlissel became dean of the new Torah study center.
Until the Shlissel's had a place to live, the Rabbi drove an hour and a half every day from his home to Hebron and back. One morning, on the transJudean highway, a terrorist standing in the middle of the road opened fire on Rabbi Shlissel. The Rabbi literally ducked, and miraculously was not hit. He continued his daily drive until their new home in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood was ready for them. They moved to Hebron with their many children and became official residents of Hebron.
Almost three years ago, the Shlissels, together with eight other families, were expelled from their Mitzpe Shalhevet homes. The Shlissels moved to a large caravan home in Tel Rumeida, only meters from where Tzippy's father had been murdered only a few years before.
The Ohr Shlomo Torah Study center is a very special place of Torah study. Some fifteen young Torah scholars spend their days preparing to be Rabbis. They are limited to five years of study at the Center, during which time they study for Rabbinic examines allowing them to take positions as official Rabbis. Graduates from the study center today teach in such diverse places such as Netanya, Ofakim, and even Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron.
At the helm is Rabbi Yisrael Shlissel, an important Torah scholar in his own right. As was his father-in-law, the Rabbi is very modest. But his knowledge and character have molded the Ohr Shlomo Torah Center into special place of study.
The Torah study is enhanced by the fact that the center is located on Tel Hebron, home of all the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and also King David, who lived in Hebron for seven and a half years before establishing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. Torah study in such an atmosphere is distinctly unique.
The Shlissel's themselves have a large family, with three married children, one of whom was married only a month ago. However, last week they celebrated another special 'simcha' – festive occasion. Tzippy Shlissel gave birth to her eleventh child, a little boy.
Due to the cold, snowy weather, the baby's brit milah, (ritual circumcision), the Shlissel's decided to conduct the event, not at Ma'arat HaMachpela, rather in the Ohr Shlomo study hall. Despite the closed roads, many people arrived and filled the room for the festivity. Among those attending were Rabbis Dov Lior and Eliezer Waldman, both of whom teach at the Torah study center. With Rabbi Waldman holding the baby in his arms, Rabbi Lior recited the special blessings prior to naming the child. At the appropriate time, Rabbi Yisrael Shlissel, the baby's father, leaned over and whispered the new baby's name to Rabbi Lior who immediately repeated it for all to hear: Avraham Yitzhak . Little Avraham Yitzhak was named for his great great grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook.
On the wall of the Shlissel's caravan home, not too far from the Ohr Shlomo Torah Study Center, are three pictures. On the left is Tzippy's uncle, Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook. In the middle is Rav Shlomo Ra'anan, Tzippy's murdered father. And on the right is Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook.
These three men represent, perhaps more than any other people, the return to Eretz Yisrael. Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook is arguably the father of modern Jewish religious Zionism. His teachings have led to generations of students and teachers, who continue today to imbue love of Torah, the Jewish people (Am Yisrael) and Eretz Yisrael to the masses. His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, led the 'settlement movement,' the return to the heart of Eretz Yisrael, to Judea, Samaria and Gaza following their liberation in the Six Day War in 1967. His students settled Hebron and Kiryat Arba and followed to build the Shomron and Gaza communities. And Rav Kook's grandson, Rabbi Ra'anan represents above all 'mesirut nefesh,' the dedication and determination to Torah and Eretz Yisrael, willing to give literally everything, even his own life, to achieve these lofty goals.
The Shlissel's, Rabbi Yisrael and Tzippy, continue in the footsteps of their illustrious forefathers, beginning with Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emanu in their Tel Hebron home, through Rabbis' Kook and Ra'anan. It seems that now the cycle has been completed: Avraham Yitzhak Shlissel, named for his great great grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, should be blessed to learn and teach Torah in his father's study center in Hebron, and in his great great grandfather's yeshiva, Mercaz HaRav, in Jerusalem, spreading the light that the Kook, Ra'anan and Shlissel families continue to emanate to Am Yisrael, in Israel and around the world.
Mazel Tov.
With blessings from Hebron.

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