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The Verdict

The year 1990 was one of the most difficult ever for the Chabad Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in Kiryat Gat, Israel. The yeshiva had fallen into heavy debt, and some of the creditors had already begun foreclosure proceedings. The yeshiva's bank account was overdrawn, and there was talk of selling the yeshiva's building.

That year, an unusually high number of students enrolled in the yeshiva. The halls of the yeshiva were filled with hundreds of diligent Torah students. The Rosh Yeshiva (head), Rabbi Moshe Havlin, stood at a difficult crossroads. Spiritually, the school was robust; the best year ever. This stood in direct contrast to the difficult financial situation.

Towards the beginning of the school year, the yeshiva was visited by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Mendelson, the Rav of the nearby religious settlement, Komemiyut. The sight of hundreds of dedicated students swaying over their Gemaras moved him deeply. He told the Rosh Yeshiva that in several days he would be traveling to New York for a family celebration, and he intended to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe and receive his blessing. "I will send my best regards from the yeshiva," he promised.

Rabbi Havlin asked Rabbi Mendelson to ask the Rebbe's blessing for the success of the yeshiva. "We are nearing financial collapse," he said frankly. Rabbi Mendelson promised to deliver the message.

When Rabbi Mendelson arrived in New York, he approached the Rebbe and said, "I want to be a good neighbor. I visited the yeshiva in Kiryat Gat, and thank G-d, I see many students sitting and learning diligently. However, the financial situation is critical."

The Rebbe turned to Rabbi Mendelson, and to his surprise, said, "I don't know if there is a rabbinical court in Komemiyut. If there is, good. If not, gather two more rabbis, form a rabbinical court and issue a ruling that the yeshiva must have wealth. I have a source for this ruling from Maimonides. In Hilchot Teshuva, Maimonides writes that Jews must have material good including much silver and gold, in order to be able to study Torah and fulfill mitzvot properly, without disturbance."

The Rebbe spoke these words to Rabbi Mendelson in the presence of many other people and they were also recorded on video. Within a short time, news had reached Rabbi Havlin, even before Rabbi Mendelson returned to Israel. In a telephone conversation between them, they made up that as soon as Rabbi Mendelson would return to Israel, they would carry out the Rebbe's advice, for the benefit of the yeshiva.

As the Rebbe had suggested, Rabbi Mendelson formed a beis din, a rabbinical court, consisting of himself and two other esteemed rabbis: Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Yaroslavsky, the secretary of the Chabad Rabbinical Council of Israel, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Vechter, the head of a Chabad kollel (study institute for married students) in Kiryat Malachi.

The court case was conducted by Rabbi Mendelson with all due seriousness, and the court issued its ruling in the customary Aramaic text: "In the presence of three who are as one... the complainant, Rabbi Moshe Havlin, has come before us..." The halachic ruling was based, as the Rebbe said, on the words of Maimonides. The conclusion was that the yeshiva in Kiryat Gat must be relieved of its financial pressures. The three rabbis signed their names on the verdict.

The ruling was issued on the 28th of Elul, 5750, and that same day Rabbi Havlin sent the text of the ruling to the Rebbe. The next day he received the Rebbe's reply: "It has been received, and thank you... May the matter be in its proper time, towards the end of the 'Year of Miracles' and the beginning of the year 'I will Show You Wonders.'"

It was clear that the Rebbe intended to machinate some heavenly intervention through the rabbinical court he had called. Indeed, from that day, the yeshiva's financial crisis resolved itself. The creditors withdrew their demands, and even agreed to a repayment schedule on easy terms for the yeshiva. In the coming years, the yeshiva's finances stabilized, and it continued to provide a solid Chassidic education to its many students.

Rabbi Havlin and Rabbi Mendelson both retold the story at many opportunities. Rabbi Mendelson relates that he once received a phone call from a Satmar chassid from the United States, who likewise ran an educational institution and had gotten caught up in financial difficulties. He had happened to see a clip of the video of Rabbi Mendelson's meeting with the Rebbe. He decided to follow the Rebbe's advice, gathered together a beis din and issue a complaint against G-d. The rabbis likewise issued a favorable ruling for his yeshiva, "and it worked," he concluded.



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