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1361: Tetzave 8th of Adar 1 5771 12/02/2011

The Tel Aviv neighborhood of Kiryat Shalom was built in the fifties of the twentieth century. It was populated by veterans of the land – members of the Histadrut, career military people, and members of Beitar. Nearby the first neighborhood connected to Hapoel Hamizrachi was built. Rabbi Yehuda Zerachia Segal was appointed as the spiritual leader of this new neighborhood. His father, Rabbi Shefatia, was a student/colleague of the Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, the author of the book "Or Sameyach."

Rabbi Yehuda Zerachia was born in Jerusalem, and when he was still a baby his parents moved to Neve Shalom, in Yaffo. He was kidnapped when he was one and a half years old, and the world was one step away from never hearing about him at all. His father found the baby in a sack on the back of an Arab. When he was only seven or eight years old, the community already enjoyed listening to his sermons. When he grew older, he studied in the Lomza yeshiva in Petach Tikveh. The Chazon Ish described him as a lion among lions. But here is what he wrote himself: "I hereby declare that to my sorrow I am one of the lowest of Bnei Yisrael – not only in good deeds but also in achievements, and also in Torah study and the fear of G-d..."

At the end of his book "Raishit Ha'Avodah" the publishers included a manuscript where he wrote that he had studied the Daf Yomi – a daily page in the Talmud – "for all my life until now" (at age 56). He vowed "to complete the task and to continue until the end of my life, with G-d's help, studying two pages every day with the Tosafot, slowly, while consulting the early commentators and reviewing this eleven times - and then to quickly review five more pages with Rashi and carefully study all of the Tosafot and the ROSH, and to review this eleven times also." Why the number eleven? This would mean that within three years he had studied the entire Talmud thirty-three times, where twenty of the repetitions made up for his early years, when he did not study. One time he replied to a question by a relative and noted that a passage appears on page 114 of Sanhedrin, while the passage really appears on page 111. Three years later the same man came to him and complained that he was forgetting all the he had learned. Rabbi Yehuda replied: Why should you complain? As you well know, I forget too! But the man was shocked. He said, You were only mistaken by three pages! Yes, the rabbi replied, but for someone who studied the tractate four hundred times even such a small memory slip is a disaster!

Rabbi Segal wrote articles in dozens of periodicals that were published by various sectors, since he did not belong to any one faction but was rather part of Yisrael in general. His articles were collected into two books, "Innovations of Rabbi Yehuda Zerachia" and "Tzemach Yehuda" (five volumes). On the "holiday of Yom Haatzmaut 5737" (that is a direct quote) he wrote a letter to Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook praising him for "providing light, which is Torah, to thousands of young men, and agitating for the love of Eretz Yisrael," with all of its parts (including the "other side" of the Jordan River). "Without a doubt you have great merits, and let the Almighty help you to serve in the role of High Priest in the Temple, which we hope will be built quickly, in our days." He describes Yom Haatzmaut as "this great day, when the glory of heaven was reinstated and the Shechina returned to Yisrael. For the glory of G-d which was degraded among the Gentiles is sanctified by the very existence of the State of Israel and a center for the rejected ones from among Yisrael. Let this serve as a stake which will lead to the renewal of prophesy within our nation."

His penetrating and heavenly vision can be appreciated from the story told by a member of his congregation. The rabbi came to him in the middle of the prayers on Shabbat and said to him, "Take your talit and go home!" The man was shocked that he was evidently being expelled from the synagogue, and he went home, where he found his wife unconscious. After her life was saved, the doctors in the hospital told him, "You were sent home by heaven in order to call for help."

Rabbi Yehuda passed away ten years ago, on the ninth of Adar 5761 (2001). He did not leave any children behind. Perhaps this explains why he was so close to children and why he loved to sing with them with his pleasant voice in spite of his exalted position as rabbi of the neighborhood.

Words of Torah by our Subject:

For the seventh of Adar (anniversary of the death of Moshe): The Shulchan Aruch rules, "If somebody says, 'I would not accept what you say even if you were like Moshe,' he is punished by lashes because of the humiliation in the statement." [Yoreh Dei'ah 242:36]. The commentators explain the humiliation is raising the possibility that anybody else could be the same as Moshe, even though it is written, "No other prophet has ever risen in Yisrael like Moshe" [Devarim 34:10]. It is true that the Rambam wrote, "Every person is worthy of being just as righteous as Moshe" [Hilchot Teshuva 5:2], but he is referring to the specific issue of righteous deeds. The Talmud notes that Moshe had passed through all fifty gateways of wisdom except for one. To attempt to be like Moshe by passing through all fifty gateways of wisdom is indeed a humiliating suggestion.

(Tzemach Yehuda volume 1, 78)

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