A prominent rosh kollel in Jerusalem once came to discuss a pressing matter with the renowned tzadik and Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, Chacham Rabbeinu Yehudah Tzadkah zt”l. At present, he explained, his kollel was being housed in one of the large synagogues in the city and the avreichim were learning well. The problem was that a number of the synagogue’s gabbaim were threatening to evict them from their sanctuary on the basis that they were tracking dust and dirt into the synagogue every time they walked in, and the gabbaim had no intention of cleaning up each day after the young men. The rosh kollel was in a bind, for he had no other place to go – were they to be asked to leave.

Chacham Yehudah called a meeting with the gabbaim, and he explained to them, in no uncertain terms, about the importance and merit they earned for housing Torah scholars in their midst. Then, he related a story that occurred many years previously.

The year was 1948, and the Israel War of Independence wreaked great havoc on most of the buildings in the Old City of Jerusalem, including Yeshivah Porat Yosef. The Jordanian Army did its utmost to destroy as much of the enemy’s city as possible and, as a result, the yeshivah was forced to relocate to temporary accommodations outside the Old City, in the Bet Sofia Synagogue in the Bukharan section. There, they were afforded a large and beautiful beis midrash, where they successfully transplanted the students and resumed their studies with an unbelievable zeal and intensity.

As is the norm in many Bukharan and Sephardic synagogues, the Bet Sofia synagogue contained rows of benches that were draped with elaborately colorful rugs and seat covers. Many of the rugs were expensive artifacts, and some were even priceless heirlooms that were passed down from family to family and used for hundreds of years. It happened that one time, a student from the yeshivah needed to climb up to retrieve a sefer from a top shelf of one of the bookcases, and in so doing, he stood up with his shoes on one of the benches that was covered in a brightly woven mosaic.

The student had just about reached the needed sefer when a synagogue caretaker noticed the boy standing on the bench reaching for a book. Incensed, he ran over to the boy, yelling and screaming in an almost hysterical voice. How dare you put your dirty shoes on the priceless rugs, the man bellowed, as the boy began shaking in the very real fear that he might be subject not only to violent verbal outbursts, but also to violent physical blows, from this crazed man. Frozen with fear, he stood helplessly as the caretaker ranted on and on about the nerve of youth who feel no shame nor had any feelings or regard for the property of others. Why, the dirt from these very shoes, he screamed, that tread so uncaringly on this priceless carpet could ruin an item that is literally unreplaceable! And on and on he went...

Suddenly, from the other end of the beis midrash, a voice called out imploring the caretaker to stop shouting. An elderly man, a distinguished scholar who spent his days absorbed in the study of Talmud and Kabbalah, was coming towards them in a slow and painful gait. As he reached the bench where the confrontation was taking place, he removed his silk Joba (a multi-colored cloak that was worn by distinguished community leaders) and laid it out on the bench next to the student’s feet. Then, he said loudly, “Please, I beg of you, stand on my cloak while reaching for your sefer.”

The boy hesitated but the old man was insistent. Finally, the boy did as he was told and took down the sefer he required. When he had stepped off the bench, the old man picked up his Joba and put it back on. As he did so, he cried out, “How wonderful it is to be connected to the dust from the feet of Torah scholars.”

When Chacham Yehudah finished telling this story, he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of the gabbaim of Bet Sofia. As if with one voice, they all spontaneously agreed, “Not only do we want the avreichim to continue learning in our synagogue, we want them to make this the permanent address of the kollel!”

Rabbi Dovid Hoffman is the author of the popular “Torah Tavlin” book series, filled with stories, wit and hundreds of divrei Torah, including the brand new “Torah Tavlin Yamim Noraim” in stores everywhere. You’ll love this popular series. Also look for his book, “Heroes of Spirit,” containing one hundred fascinating stories on the Holocaust. They are fantastic gifts, available in all Judaica bookstores and online at http://israelbookshoppublications.com. To receive Rabbi Hoffman’s weekly “Torah Tavlin” sheet on the parsha, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.