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Wednesday
Sep062017

PIONEER AND TRAILBLAZER OF “K’VUTZA”

For decades now, thousands of talmidim have spent their Kvutza year with the Rebbe. Few know that the pioneer of the first Kvutza in 5722 was Rabbi Aharon Halperin of Kfar Chabad who the Rebbe referred to as, “in charge of the Kvutza.” He spent six months in a row with the Rebbe! * Rabbi Aharon Halperin recently passed away, and in this brief bio we have incorporated some of his first-person accounts about the importance in going, as well as memories of rare kiruvim he had from the Rebbe.

Who was Rabbi Aharon Halperin ah, who passed away recently after a brief illness? I, and others who knew him, have attempted to explain, but the truth is that descriptions and job titles do not at all sum up the Chassidic personality that was RAharon Halperin, or, as he was known in Kfar Chabad, Arele Halperin.

The truth is, R’ Halperin spent many years disseminating Torah in the Yiddish Cheder in Kfar Chabad, as well as the yeshiva and kollel for baalei teshuva at the Chabad house in Bat Yam. He was also a mashgiach of kashrus and eruvin until he became sick with his final illness a few weeks ago. But all this does not define in the slightest this Chassid who was taken from us on Tisha B’Av.

R’ Aharon Halperin was a genuine Chassid whose entire being was Torah and Chassidus. He made a living by teaching and in his free time he gave many shiurim. His conduct in every respect was solely according to darchei ha’chassidus. He did not budge in the slightest from the derech ha’chassidus and hiskashrus to the Rebbe. All his life, he “lived” with the fact that he was a member of the first K’vutza in 5722, and with good reason.  R’ Halperin was one of the leaders of the battle for the K’vutza program, and worked along with his friends to arrange it so that they could stay in the Rebbe’s presence for a long time, not just a month, as they were offered. While on K’vutza, he merited unusual displays of closeness from the Rebbe and together with another friend, was chosen to be in charge of the K’vutza. The Rebbe referred to this publicly during a farbrengen.

FOR A MONTH YOU ARE JUST A GUEST

R’ Aharon Halperin was born in Yerushalayim on 19 Nissan 5700/1940. His parents were Yisroel Yitzchok and Michla, descendents of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel.

He learned in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Pardes-Lud, and at the end of 5721, he was a part of the group of T’mimim who yearned to go together to the Rebbe. In those days, the concept of “K’vutza,” which became an established stage in the life of every Tamim who finishes the yeshiva system, did not exist.

There were many obstacles that the members of the first K’vutza had to deal with, to realize their dream of going to the Rebbe. R’ Halperin was one of the bachurim who made it happen.

One day, an answer from the Rebbe arrived for the mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman. The Rebbe negated the trip, because the hanhala of the yeshiva in Lud said it would harm the development of the yeshiva.

“Our disappointment was indescribable when we heard this negative answer from the Rebbe,” said R’ Halperin. “I should point out that the hanhala of the yeshiva was not indifferent to our desire to go to the Rebbe. While stating that our leaving could weaken the yeshiva, they offered an alternative. If a group of bachurim was sent from 770 to the yeshiva in Lud, the yeshiva would not be adversely affected and bachurim could be sent to 770.

“At the end of the letter, the Rebbe added a postscript in which he did not rule out the idea of exchanging students. This gave us hope for the future.

“The next day, the head mashpia of the yeshiva, R’ Shlomo Chaim, held a surprise farbrengen. He read the Rebbe’s letter and explained that although the Rebbe wanted us to go to 770, his first priority was the welfare of the yeshiva. ‘Someone who is on fire to travel to the Rebbe, will have to suffice with being there for one month.’ At some point, one of the older bachurim asked, ‘What about the Rebbe’s postscript?’ This question was the crucial turning point.

“When the hanhala of the yeshiva saw how we yearned to go to the Rebbe for a year, and did not want to compromise on this, they allowed us to go, on condition that replacements would come.”

R’ Halperin explained the persistence of the first K’vutza in wanting a year with the Rebbe, which laid out the basis for the idea of K’vutza till this day:


“We knew that one month would not allow us to squeeze the maximum out of a stay with the Rebbe. When you go for a month, you are a guest. When learning there for a year, you are a talmid in the yeshiva. You attend the Rebbe’s farbrengens for a year and live and breathe the atmosphere of 770 throughout the seasons of the year.

“We learned the difference between a short stay and being with the Rebbe for a year from the bachurim who preceded us, like R’ Avrohom Sasonkin, R’ Reuven Dunin and others. They spent half a year with the Rebbe. This period of time left a powerful impression on them. To us it was clear; we were not going to go for just a month.”

The bachurim ended up getting an “exit permit” from the army for just a month, but their resolve was firm, to be with the Rebbe for an entire year.

POMEGRANATES FROM ERETZ YISRAEL

The K’vutza arrived in Elul. The spiritual Chassidishe experiences that R’ Halperin had were conveyed in letters that he wrote at the time and sent to Eretz Yisroel. He also related his experiences over the years, from which people could see how he was reliving K’vutza.

Before he went, he took pomegranates from Eretz Yisroel for the Rebbe, after his brother Moshe, who had been at the Rebbe the year before, requested them. R’ Halperin picked five pomegranates and gave them in at the office. The Rebbe held on to one of them and he asked that the other four be taken to the second floor for the Rosh Hashana meal that took place in the apartment of the Rebbe Rayatz, which the Rebbe himself participated in, as was customary at the time.

Thanks to these pomegranates, he was granted the privilege to attend the Rosh Hashana meal with the Rebbe. The pomegranates were served, and some of them were also given out at the Rosh Hashana farbrengen.

During the farbrengen on Shabbos Shuva, the Rebbe said l’chaim many times, and with great sobs demanded of the Chassidim and T’mimim to increase their learning of Nigleh and Chassidus. The Rebbe especially cried when he spoke about the panim that were sent to him. R’ Halperin described this in his letter at the time:

“I am reading your pidyonos [said the Rebbe] at the same table (and he stopped because of the intense crying during these sichos) where the Rebbe, my father-in-law sat, where he learned and davened, and am drawing down [the requests in] the panim into thought and speech and into actuality … Erev Yom Kippur, I will read them again, and then again on Hoshana Raba. Everyone must increase in learning Torah and in avodas ha’t’filla, for by doing so, this will draw down the requests that you make.”

At the Simchas Torah farbrengen, the Rebbe announced that whoever had mashke, could come and make a request. R’ Halperin brought a bottle of mashke from his sister’s wedding and his brother’s vort. The Rebbe took the bottle from him, poured into his cup, and returned the bottle to R’ Halperin and asked him to give it out to all the talmidim on K’vutza. While pouring, the Rebbe demanded of him that he learn Chassidus copiously, “What do I get from your promise? You need to actually learn.”

It was only during Tishrei that the K’vutza got permission to stay for three months.

At the end of Tishrei, the group from 770 was about to leave for Eretz Yisroel to replace the bachurim in Lud. Before they left, the two groups had yechidus. The day after the yechidus, R’ Chadakov called the T’mimim in for a talk, and told them to choose bachurim who would be in charge of reporting once every two weeks about the activities that were carried out. R’ Halperin and R’ Nachum Kaplan were chosen.

At a certain point, those in charge were granted public recognition from the Rebbe. It was during a farbrengen, when the Rebbe said a special sicha about the state of the T’mimim. Suddenly, the Rebbe turned to R’ Mentlick and asked, “Where is the one in charge of the bachurim from Eretz Yisroel?” When R’ Mentlick did not respond, the Rebbe said, “I think it’s Halperin.” Aharon Halperin went over to the Rebbe and the Rebbe gave him a bottle of mashke and asked him to give it out to the bachurim on K’vutza. “And don’t forget yourself,” said the Rebbe. When R’ Halperin went back to his place, the Rebbe motioned to him to sing, “Hoshia es Amecha.”

“I began singing and everyone joined in,” wrote R’ Halperin in one of his letters. “I gave out the mashke to the bachurim. In the middle of the singing, the Rebbe stood up and clapped vigorously and danced in place and the entire room, which was packed, was uplifted. Such a simcha, in quality, we did not have even on Simchas Torah. It was indescribable.”

The K’vutza’s efforts were effective and in the end, half of their desire was fulfilled (instead of the one month allowed by the army) and they stayed for six months. Their return to Eretz Yisroel was set for 17 Adar I. To their great surprise, the Rebbe moved Maariv back by half an hour so they could daven with the Rebbe before leaving.

In a letter, R’ Halperin described the special attention shown by the Rebbe during that tefilla:

“During the davening, the Rebbe looked at us with a particular gravity and we felt it was a compassionate look. Right after the davening, we went out to the taxi that was waiting to take us to the airport. The secretaries suddenly called me and I was given the well known letter [about emuna] which had been published in English and then translated into Hebrew in the book Emuna U’Madda, so it could be given to Rabbi Chanoch Glitzenstein, as well as other letters to be given to Anash who would be waiting for us at stopovers in London and Rome. We became emissaries of the Rebbe.”

Before they left for Eretz Yisroel, they were told by the Rebbe to farbreng in yeshivos. Upon arriving, they rushed to farbreng in the Chabad yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel. R’ Halperin told about the farbrengen in Toras Emes in Yerushalayim:

“When we arrived for Shabbos at Toras Emes there were crackers and herring on the table. We said to Anash there, ‘Do you have cholent? Bring it to the farbrengen. We’re staying here.’ Afterward, it turned out this was a historic event in Yerushalayim, a farbrengen that lasted until Mincha.”

Since then, every year, R’ Halperin arranged a farbrengen for the members of his K’vutza, the pioneers for all the K’vutzas that followed.

MECHANECH AND MASHGIACH

He and his wife Rivka lived in Kfar Chabad where he learned in kollel for several years. During this period of his life, he authored a pamphlet called Ateres Yeshua with the laws of tefillin and netilas lulav for an amputee.

For many years he worked as a teacher and member of the hanhala of the Yiddish Cheder in Kfar Chabad. After many years he became a mashgiach of kashrus and eruvin in Kfar Chabad, into which he put much effort as per the instructions of the Rabbanei Kfar Chabad.

Throughout the years, he disseminated Torah in various ways in Kfar Chabad and other places including the yeshiva and kollel of the Chabad House in Bat Yam, first as a maggid shiur in Yeshivas Hadar T’mimim for baalei teshuva.

At the Chabad House in Bat Yam they note that for decades, he would come on public transportation in order to give shiurim in Chassidus, Halacha, and Gemara. He also gave an ongoing shiur in the sichos of the D’var Malchus.

Being a talmid chacham who was knowledgeable in practical halacha, many of Anash in Bat Yam would consult with him on halachic and kashrus matters.

After a brief illness, he passed away at Mincha time on Tisha B’Av. He is survived by his sons: Yisroel Yitzchok – Kfar Chabad; Aryeh Mordechai – Kfar Chabad; Shneur Zalman – Beitar Ilit; Yosef – shliach at the Kosel. His daughters: Miriam Garelick – Cholon; Chana Stern – Lud.

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