Rampant anti-Semitism in the streets. Jewish community facing existential threat. Our enemies in positions of governmental power. Is this the world in 2015? Or was this during the time of Mordechai HaTzaddik and Queen Esther?
With the fate of the Jews in Achashveirosh’ kingdom hanging in the balance, Mordechai knew just where to turn: to the Tinnokos shel Bais Rabban. On the wings of their pure, powerful learning and prayer, the Jewish people were zocheh to have the decree overturned.
Purim 5775. Once again, the world is in a precarious position. Once again, we are in need of yeshuos. Once again, we can harness the power of Tinnokos shel Beis Rabban.
If you have a boy between the ages of seven and fourteen, then you’re likely a part of it: Yeshivas Mordechai HaTzaddik. A beloved part of the Purim routine, started sixteen years ago by Rav Naftali Meir Falk, son of Rav Falk of Gateshead, who had recently joined the administration of the Avos U’Banim organization in Israel. At Purim time, he noticed there was a problem outside.
“Children looked forward to Purim as a day of wildness,” explained Rav Falk. “I realized our approach to Purim had to change.”
The idea of a father-son learning program on Purim morning was first implemented by Rav Falk’s uncle, Rav Matisyahu Solomon. Mindful of his uncle’s experience, Rav. Falk decided to start Yeshivas Mordechai HaTzaddik in Eretz Yisrael.
“It’s become the cherry on the pie of our programming. Yeshivas Mordechai HaTzaddik generates such excitement that many start coming to the weekly Avos U’Banim afterwards. Think of it: Thousands upon thousands of hours of Torah learning, on the day that used to be bereft of Torah! A deep irony, certainly, for the anniversary of “kiymu v’kiblu”, our loving reacceptance of the Torah.”
Yet, when Rav Solomon announced his intention to organize the program that first year in a shul in the Ezras Torah neighborhood of Yerushalayim, he was widely ridiculed. Rav Falk remembers the words, “You’re crazy! No boy is going to give up his Purim to come out and learn in a Beis Medrash!” But this wasn’t so. On Purim day, 400 boys packed the Ezras Torah shul.
The second year, the program jumped from 400 to 14,000 boys. And today? Sixteen years after the program first began, YMH attracts upwards of 60,000 boys! Imagine how the Heavens shake from the voices of 60,000 children united in learning – together with their fathers, over 100,000 in all! Walk into any one of the more than 1000 branches in Israel, from Kiryat Shemoneh to Eilat, and the excitement is palpable. Boys drag their fathers to the Beis Medrash, and, in recent years, women have joined in as well – coming to recite Tehillim in the Ezras Nashim, at such an auspicious time.
Now, an integral component to the success of the program is the prizes. A closely-guarded secret, the valuable prizes are carefully selected early in the year, and distributed around Rosh Chodesh Nissan, after the exact numbers of attendees are tallied. The budget for these prizes is $4.20 per child. Multiply that by upwards of 60,000, and it becomes an expensive undertaking. Expensive – yet highly profitable! Both for Klal Yisrael as a whole, and for individual donors.
While Rav Falk is quick to note that miracles are not guaranteed, stories abound of people who experienced long-awaited yeshuos after donating to YMH. “There’s a koach of V’Nahafoch Hu on this day, for every person who needs it,” he added. “Even for those who can’t afford to donate thousands, many like to give $600 which is one penny per boy, granting them a share in each bit of Torah. But certainly any amount gives the donor a portion in the learning.”
60,000 children. 1,000 centers of learning. 1 day of Purim. We have the power to shake Heaven and Earth but donations are needed!
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