It is not every day that a tzadik takes from his time to visit Queens, and it is not every day that this sage is a leader of our generation. HaRav Yitzchok Kolodetsky shlita, in his unassuming humility, is an accomplished scholar who has published various s’farim and is a hugely popular magid in Eretz Yisrael, often drawing an overflowing attendance. Still, Rav Yitzchok is best known as the eldest son-in-law and close confidant of the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita.
“Rav Kolodetsky is the address to bring brachah, chizuk, and y’shuos into your life and that of your family,” recounted Rabbi Dovid Cohen, rav, Beis HaMedresh Boker VaErev (Lakewood, New Jersey), who will be joining Rav Kolodetsky on this visit in Queens. “The rav is completely moser nefesh for the sake of Torah, barely taking time to eat. You will surely find comfort in the rav’s advice.”
Early on, Rav Kolodetsky, whose father was a close chavrusa of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, was notably close with both the Steipler Gaon, HaRav Yaakov Kanievsky
zt”l, and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l. A typical day for Rav Kolodetsky is one immersed in studying the intricacies of the Torah and delivering chizuk to those the rav meets. Remarkable y’shuos have been reported from the brachos of the venerable rav. HaRav Yitzchok’s wife, Rebbetzin Leah, is widely recognized for taking over the helm of her mother following her p’tirah. Rebbetzin Batsheva a”h was known for offering advice and giving brachos to thousands of women from every corner of the world.
In 2013, Rav Chaim entrusted Rav Yitzchok with the daunting task of transforming a dangerous neighborhood overridden with violence, drugs, and crime perpetrated by Sudanese hoodlums into a leading mekom Torah, setting an example for other communities around the globe. Kollel Derech Emunah in Pardes Katz, Tel Giborim, Bnei Brak, has flourished with a daily active kollel where the kol Torah is always present. The kollel and its beis horaah that began in a simple caravan infuses the Pardes Katz neighborhood, situated between Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan, with a unique blend of Torah. The kollel is active throughout the year, including Shabbasos, Yamim Tovim, and during Bein Ha’zmanim. A typical Shabbos or evening will draw in over 250 avreichim who remain absorbed in the glory of Torah. Markedly, the kollel and it 40 daytime avreichim operate on Erev Yom Tov and Purim, too. With the help of Hashem, the presence of the kollel has transformed the community, spreading the light of Torah throughout, and the presence of peril has nearly been eradicated. Even locals have ventured into the kollel’s doors to see what the beauty of a religious lifestyle is all about. This has led to merchant owners making changes in their lifestyles and respecting the observant community in their midst. Rav Chaim wrote that the kollel has “merited becoming a major center of Torah and yir’as shamayim, transforming the entire neighborhood into a miniature ‘mikdash.’”
Moshe Shasha, who owns a carpentry business in the area, remarked, “The activities of the religious people have been doing only good to the neighborhood.” Yosef Lugasi, who operates a local bakery, noted that the kollel’s presence helped him make a siyum on Maseches B’rachos, while another resident, Shem Shimon, now wears t’filin due to the religious activity in the neighborhood.
Pardes Katz now has hope with the energy and laughter of children in a Talmud Torah, Bais Yaakov, and preschool facilities, but it lacks a central base for the expanding efforts of the kollel. The pandemic has only exacerbated the demand for a new space, as all the maneuvering cannot compensate for a central base. To this end, a tremendous effort has been launched to construct a hub for the community to unite in its Torah learning and t’filah. This new facility will act as the only shul for over 500 frum families that now call Pardes Katz home. “Building a beis midrash in our times is truly like building the Beis HaMikdash,” wrote Rav Chaim in the name of the Chofetz Chaim.
The kollel’s leadership has done its homework and has chosen a location to house the 400 avreichim, prepared a spacious well-ventilated design that includes a simchah hall, obtained the building permits, and motivated the community members who live dollar to dollar to commit to a plan where they can donate over $2 million. Now, it is our turn to step in and help cover the $8 million budget that will allow future generations to have a proper study hall.
In August of 2019, I was privileged to sit down with Rav Kolodetsky for a groundbreaking interview on shidduchim. As the rav is joining our community for Shabbos, I will relate a poignant aspect discussed.
I had asked the rav if there is a time when those seeking a zivug should be extra cautious as a merit for their shidduch to work out. The rav replied, “Shabbos is the foundation of the Torah and all blessings. It provides nonstop chizuk for us for the entire week.” Rav Kolodetsky elaborated on the two foundations of Shabbos, Shamor and Zachor, that can bring down a tremendous amount of k’dushah, making us worthy of greeting the Shabbos Kallah. The rav then said that spending significant time on this will help one with his own kallah. Zachor includes all aspects of preparing oneself for Shabbos – from shopping to traveling. Rav Kolodetsky invoked his father-in-law’s name, noting that there is a special Satan on Erev Shabbos after chatzos, especially during the winter, when we must be more diligent in beginning Shabbos early. The rav then recalled a moving story about Rav Shteinman, who instituted that women should light candles ten minutes early. Once, when Rav Shteinman was in Lakewood for Shabbos, this special kabalah to begin Shabbos early led to no Hatzalah calls over that entire Shabbos.
Also, on the topic of Shabbos, Rav Kolodetsky advised, “It is advisable not to make last-minute phone calls before Shabbos, and for food preparations to take place on Thursdays, to ensure that one welcomes Shabbos fully prepared.” Regarding Shamor, we must be careful to fully understand the halachos of Shabbos. Families may opt to institute the practice of reviewing the laws relating to Sh’miras Shabbos during both the Friday night and the Shabbos day meals.
Rav Chaim wrote, “It is a great mitzvah to assist him [Rav Yitzchok Kolodetsky] as much as possible, and one who participates in this will merit spiritual and material success, and be blessed abundantly from Above with healthy offspring, life, and sustenance.”
The rav, under the shlichus of Rav Chaim, will be in Queens throughout the weekend, and it is our hope that his presence here will merit the community overwhelming blessings, much needed encouragement, and relief as the effects of the past year slowly fade in the rearview mirror. Those wishing to greet the rav are asked to call 718-310-7432.
By Shabsie Saphirstein