What an interesting turn of events! The Chofetz Chaim wrote a sefer exhorting us to be careful how we talk about others and a hundred years later, he is being quoted in mainstream American media. How’s that for fascinating? And so I return to an epic journey that began in Eretz Yisroel and culminated in Radin, Belarus – on the “Yom Limud and Tefillah” – on the “Day of Jewish Unity.” A journey with so many unforgettable moments. Who will ever forget davening in the Radin yeshiva, as the walls began to release the sounds of Torah that had been stored inside them for so long? Who will ever forget the chizuk that was heard on that trip, the stories, the mussar and the opportunity to watch Klal Yisrael’s ambassadors up close? Who will ever forget the sound of the gedolim crying as they prayed for their nation and how the heavens themselves seemed to cry along with them? It’s not just the fact that the Chofetz Chaim wrote so many seforim, or the fact that he penned the Mishna Berurah – his seminal work on halacha. There were and are many other gedolim who have written Torah works of greatness. One might suggest that what sets the Chofetz Chaim apart from his contemporaries or even those who came before him, was the fact that he cared so much about every single facet of Klal Yisrael – down to the soldiers who had been forced into conscription by the Russian army – to the point that he took the time to actually write a comprehensive work explaining how they were to relate to the challenges facing them every single day. Others might claim that the Chofetz Chaim’s uniqueness lies in the fact that he ran a yeshiva, wrote piskei halacha and managed a business at the same time – thereby being able to relate to every type of Jew. One could posit that the source of his power was the sense of abject humility that he projected or his honesty or the fact that he was able to forgive... There are so many ways to explain the incredible popularity of the Chofetz Chaim’s ongoing message and the fact that it still rings forth throughout the world on a daily basis. Yet I would like to suggest one additional reason why this may be so - and that is the fact that it was the Chofetz Chaim who gifted us with an awareness towards the evils of Loshon Hora and our halachic obligations in the realm of Bein Adam L’chaveiro – between man and his friend. It was he who educated us in the intricacies of Shmiras Haloshon, of guarding one’s tongue, and it was he who explained with crisp accuracy how the unthinking words that we utter have a tremendous effect on the people around us. My point is a simple one. It was the Chofetz Chaim who taught us what real unity is all about. How to consider the other, how to think before we talk, how to love our fellow Jew. This was his message from day one. That being the case, there can be no other possible date for the “Day of Jewish Unity” than the yahrtzeit of the tzadik who dedicated his life to spreading that very concept. And so it is, that from Radin comes the word of achdus and Jewish Unity until this very day. Because he cared about us, his nation. And it is incumbent upon us all to do the same.
Yehiva Torat Emet, Houston, Texas
Yehivas Ohr Yisrael, Boston
A Special Supplement to
12 Tishrei 5777 / October 14, 2016