Of Tzfas: A Community Like Kfar Chabad And Nachalat Har Chabad ...And
Moshiach correspondent Menachem Ziegelboim visited the Chabad
community of Tzfas, where he found a most impressive community. *
An interview with the first shluchim to Tzfas and with the
directors of its schools. * Part 1 of 2
summers ago, a child in Tzfas was run over and badly hurt. He was
flown to the Rambam Hospital in Chaifa, where he lay unconscious
for two months. The family and community were beside themselves.
Every day all the children of the community were assembled to say Tehillim,
and davened for his recovery. But there were no sign of
members of the community decided to make a grand Kiddush in
the boy’s merit. They went from house to house collecting money.
Everybody contributed and everybody came. The Kiddush was a
major affair. There was a lot of mashke being poured, and
everybody wished the boy a complete recovery from the bottom of
cue, just like in the Baal Shem Tov stories, the boy opened his
eyes. The next day he sat up, and within a few days he was back to
his normal self.
is Tzfas. And as much as I would write and describe it, I would
fail to convey what Tzfas is really all about. It is a unique
city. A city of Kabbala, mysticism, the old cemetery, the
narrow alleyways in the old city, and the clear mountain air.
500 Lubavitch families live in Tzfas with 14 shuls. The
first to come to Tzfas was the shaliach Leibel Kaplan, a’h,
who arrived in the summer of 5733. A few months later, another ten
families arrived and together they began the Chabad community of
Tzfas, a community “like Kfar Chabad and Nachalat Har Chabad and
even more,” as the Rebbe put it.
would have been easier to establish another community in
Yerushalayim or Lud, but Tzfas? It was a city beyond the dark
mountains. Cars were old and the roads winding.
had no mehadrin food, neither dairy nor meat. We lived in
rundown apartments with no heat or hot water. The only religious
women were over eighty,” recalls Mrs. Rochel Hendel, an active
member of N’shei Chabad of Tzfas. We founded an organization we
called NeTZaCH (Nashim Tzeiros Chareidiyos [Young Religious
Women]). Of course, there were no religious schools at all.”
Rebbe warned her husband, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Eliyahu Hendel,
before they went to Tzfas, to consult with his wife and children.
Today, despite the difficulties, Rabbi Hendel directs the Ohr
Menachem school system, where 1,500 children are educated!
the hardships, with the direction of Rabbi Kaplan the community
got started. Even before Rosh HaShana 5734, the kollel was
established in the Tzemach Tzedek Shul in the old city. In
the summer of 5734, a kindergarten with nine children was founded.
Then an elementary school with fifty children opened.
Kaplan worked tirelessly and devotedly for his community. Rabbi
Avrohom Goldberg, an old-timer of the community and one of the
deans of Beis Chana, recalls that Rabbi Kaplan would travel once a
week to the center of the country to buy necessary products for
the community. He would visit the parents of the young couples and
get food from them for their children who lived far away.
years ago the Chabad community in the Knaan neighborhood of Tzfas
was established. It consisted of three tall buildings on the edge
of the city. Schools and a mikva were built nearby. The
main Chabad shul was built ten years ago in the center of
the neighborhood. The Ashkenazi shul in the Knaan
neighborhood was taken over by the Lubavitchers who had run out of
space in the central shul.
the Chabad families are scattered throughout the city. A few dozen
are in the Me’or Chaim neighborhood, others are in the old city,
and still others are where the new immigrants live. They are in
Ramat Menachem Begin, Ramat Arazim, and other neighborhoods. Each
of these neighborhoods has at least one Chabad shul.
5736-5738, another three groups of shluchim arrived, some
of whom remained in Tzfas. Each of these families was appointed to
head various Chabad projects in the city.
the day I visited Tzfas, I met with some of the heads of mosdos.
I couldn’t meet them all, and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t
possibly describe all their work within this one article. I tried
as much as possible to provide a glimpse of the inner workings of
other Chabad communities around the country, the Chabad community
of Tzfas is noted for its warm, family-style atmosphere. Despite
personal differences, people get along. I also interviewed a few
former Tzfas families. They all used the phrase, “We had to
move.” Even those who had to move can’t seem to get
Tzfas out of their systems.
makes them miss it so much?
one thing, the community is far from the center of the country. So
everybody is far from parents and relatives. That’s the reason
why we all pull together and why it’s hard to leave.
factor that contributes to the warm atmosphere is that a
significant portion of the families are former students of the
Chabad yeshiva here (headed by Rabbi Y.Y. Wilschansky), as
well as Machon Alte and Machon Chana. These mosdos are a
warm haven for those seeking Judaism and Chassidus. These
institutions have contributed hundreds of Chabad families to the
couples are very close with the mashpiim and mashpios
of the schools they attended, which is why they want to live near
their spiritual parents after they marry. The mashpiim and mashpios
invite the young couples for Shabbos just as parents do.”
articles could be devoted to each one of these mosdos, but
the purpose of this article is to provide an overview of their
contributions to the Chabad community. I met with Amram Moyal, a
Chassid, member of the community and graduate of the yeshiva,
who found his way to Yiddishkeit within its walls. He used
to be a computer technician for the army, as well as a ballet
dancer. Today he is the computer programmer for the Beis Chana
was born in Kiryat Atta to a non-religious family. He began doing
research on nutrition, which eventually led him, believe it or
not, to the teachings of Kabbala. In 5741, while in the
army, he met a Lubavitcher who directed him to the Chabad House in
Bat-Yam. There he met Rabbi Zimroni Tzik and began learning Tanya.
“That’s when I realized that Judaism isn’t only about what
is permitted or prohibited,” says Amram.
took Amram time to absorb what he saw and heard. By day he sat in
front of the army computer screens and at night he went out. It
was only after he broke his leg and had to rest it for three
months that he had time to think and resolve to make serious
Yom Kippur 5741 he went back to the army base with a yarmulka and
tzitzis. His friends were in shock. It wasn’t long before
he enrolled in the yeshiva in Tzfas and began to lead a
full Jewish life.
he told me his story, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Lepkivker, one of the roshei
yeshivos and one of the first shluchim in Tzfas,
stopped by. A lively discussion about the yeshiva ensued,
to which rav and talmid contributed.
makes the yeshiva in Tzfas different than other Chabad yeshivos
in Eretz Yisroel?
The Rebbe established this community and, therefore, it enjoys
success, both within the community and in the yeshiva. As
opposed to Kfar Chabad, which the Rebbe Rayatz established, and
Nachalat Har Chabad, an adjunct to Kfar Chabad, Tzfas is the
Rebbe’s Chabad community.
success the yeshiva presently enjoys was acquired with a
lot of work. The yeshiva opened in Iyar 5737 with a group
of 16 boys who weren’t successfully integrating in the yeshiva
in Kfar Chabad. In Tzfas they tried to get their lives together.
“I am recalling them now, one by one,” said Rabbi Lepkivker,”
and I see them today as teachers, mashpiim, madrichim,
and even a shochet. The yeshiva set them on their
wanted to come and learn at the yeshiva at that time. Tzfas
was far away and it was hard to get recruits from the high schools
around the country. Then the idea was proposed of having a program
for baalei teshuva. The Rebbe gave his bracha and
instructed us to include the baalei teshuva into the yeshiva
proper, not to relegate them to a separate program. Slowly,
boys started to come, and the yeshiva became established.
When I came to the yeshiva I felt at home. The attitude,
the patience, the approach, were all special. Today, becoming frum
is accepted, but at that time someone who became religious while
in the army was sent to the psychiatrist. His parents fought him.
roshei yeshiva, Rabbi Wilschansky and Rabbi Lepkivker, and
the mashpia Rabbi Orenstein, set the tone by offering lots
of warmth and love. There were a number of baalei teshuva my
age. They were older, serious boys who had had some experience in
life. Each of us had life goals, but we abandoned our careers to
come to yeshiva.
was nothing like Thursday nights, when we would sit and learn late
at night and sing Chabad niggunim, forgetting the entire
did the other bachurim get along with the baalei teshuva?
Very well. The baalei teshuva exhibited a seriousness and
sincerity towards the 17-year-old bachurim, and in turn,
the baalei teshuva received information and depth of
learning from the bachurim. It’s interesting to see how
after a brief time following their arrival in yeshiva they
amass knowledge of Gemara and Chassidus and can join the regular shiurim.”
What you learn in yeshiva by observation you can’t learn
from any book. When you see something, all the explanations just
support the point, and the Chassidic conduct itself is alive.
Chabad yeshiva in Tzfas is the largest Chabad yeshiva
in Eretz Yisroel. When I visited the yeshiva during the
evening Chassidus session, I saw a packed zal. About 250
boys learn in the yeshiva.
of the baal teshuva students end up marrying Machon Alte
girls and live in Tzfas. The second and third cycle of expansion
of the Chassidic community is definitely thanks to the yeshiva.
Today you have the children of the first and second generation of talmidim
learning at the yeshiva.
a conversation I had with other previous talmidim of the yeshiva,
many of them said they still love the yeshiva.
Lepkivker, what is it about the yeshiva that make people
fall in love with it?
like I said earlier. It’s the Rebbe’s place and that’s why
it’s successful. People become connected to the place.”
yeshiva’s mashpia, Rabbi Moshe Orenstein, joined
our conversation at this point and, without knowing what had been
said, offered the exact same answer – the Rebbe’s love for the
yeshiva has many special qualities, but the most important
one is the great significance which the Rebbe ascribed to this
Orenstein is also one of the first shluchim to the Chabad
community in Tzfas and one of its founders. “The Rebbe’s
special relationship was not only to the yeshiva but first
and foremost to the community. The Rebbe sent Rabbi Kaplan here
for the purpose of renewing the Chabad presence in Tzfas.
the years a veritable empire of mosdos was founded ex
nihilo, for in the normal course of things, it’s much harder
to establish a mosad here than in the center of the
country. Nevertheless, over 1,500 students attend these mosdos.”