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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rabbi Yissachar Meir from Netivot

I have been derelict in my duty by not posting about our great loss here in Netivot of Rabbi Yissachar Meir, founder of Yeshivat Ha'negev on January 2nd. I have lived in Netivot for almost 34 years and witnessed first hand the tremendous love and chesed this Rav has shown to all segments of the city's population.

For instance, I know a battered wife in town whose eldest son was born with horrific heart defects. In the mid-1960's there was little recourse for someone destitue in need of heart surgery for a child. She entered Rav Yissachar's home crying hysterically. He calmly asked her how much money she needed, and the following day gave her an envelope filled with cash.

Having spent many years in Morocco, Rav Yissachar (sadly unique in his outlook) felt that Sephardic Jews were in no way inferior to Ashkenazi Bnei Torah. In fact 15 years ago when the Shas party was founded, he was the only Ashkenazi Rabbi who attended the opening cerermony, prodding Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to do all he could to promote Torah living in the peripheral areas of Israel. (BTW, Reb Yissachar, as he was fondly called here in town, was highly criticized by his Rabbinical peers for attending this ceremony.)

I can vouch for Rav Yissachar's concern for every yid in Netivot. During my second year of teaching at the local mekif, several pupils of mine became quite religious. One was rejected from the post high school seminary of her choice (as I was secretly informed by a rabbi teaching there,) simply because their quota for sephardic girls was full. Rav Yissachar sent me to Rav Shach to fight this decision. As his dear wife. the Rebbetzin indignantly said, 'What nonsense! As if on Har Sinai Hashem said, 'Ashkenazim, you stand here; Sepharadim, you stand there."

People openly scorned and mocked Reb Yissachar 50 years ago for his decision to open a yeshiva gedola in the midst of poverty stricken Netivot which was then a transit camp for indigent North African immigrants. An additional event in the development of Torah in Netivot was the Rosh Yeshiva's efforts to bring the Baba Sali to Netivot. It was Reb Yissachar who proved that Netivot was within the borders of Eretz Yisrael, paving the way for the saintly sage to move to town. The two Torah giants had very close ties throughout their lives.

The day of Reb Yissachar's funeral sent me back in time to 1984 when the Baba Sali died. I recalled identical feelings that day long ago. The city was swept with an immense feeling of bewilderment. Who would care for the city? To whom would the misfortunate turn in time of need? We can only hope and pray that these two Gedolim petition the heavenly court for the swift arrival of Moshiach speedily in our days.


Batya said...

HaMakom y'nachem...

This must be connected:

A few years after we moved to Shiloh, there were enough older kids for the parents to want us to have a youth movement. Being "Torani" it had to "nifrad," separate for boys and girls. The only one willing to let us open a "snif" branch was Bnai Akiva, even though most Bnai Akiva branches were mixed. Their reaction was "no problem." So when the first group of Shiloh kids, which included my two (or three) eldest went to a Bnai Akiva Camp, they weren't the only separate snif. There was Netivot, too. I trust that your Rabbi Yissachar Meir, ZaTz"L, was responsible for that.

yaak said...

Beautiful tribute to Rav Meir, ZT"L.

Netivotgirl said...

Batya, I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised!

Batya said...

Netivotgirl, that was the very first I actually heard about Netivot, how only it and Shiloh had a "separate Bnai Akiva." I was impressed.