16 years ago, Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael was formed when five friends decided to follow the age old custom of arising at midnight to learn Torah. Today, over one hundred Talmidei Chachamim learn each night at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, and more are waiting for an opportunity to join.
Midnight. A cold winter night. Relentless rain. Empty, silent streets. In the surrounding fields, a jackal howls. A sudden lightning flash illuminates dozens of figures rushing through the rain toward an impressive building. The tall windows seem to diffuse not ordinary light but some higher, blissful radiance. Within minutes, the sound of tefillah and limud HaTorah overpowers the raging thunderstorm. This is Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, and these are the “anshei chatzos – the midnight men.”
An interview with Rabbi Yehoshua Meir Deutsch, shlita, the dynamic Rosh Kollel of Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael
What impelled you to create a Kollel Chatzos? I thought that arising at midnight to learn Torah was only for the tzaddikim of old.
The truth is, 16 years ago when I first decided to open Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, people though I was crazy. The idea of arising at midnight to learn Torah was unheard of, at least in this day and age. Yet so many of our seforim speak about the importance of devoting the auspicious midnight hours to limud haTorah and avodas Hashem. People who come to visit our Beis Medresh in the middle of the night, are always amazed to find it crowded with lomdei haTorah. The kedushah there is palpable – and it’s no wonder: chatzos is a time of brachah, a true eis ratzon. The holy Zohar brings that at dawn, the Creator stretches forth his scepter of kindness; whoever has merited standing and learning during the night may stretch out his hand and touch it. The tefillos recited during those hours are powerful and are m’sugal to bring down yeshuos.
The nighttime hours, and especially the hours of chatzos, are the times of greatest clarity. The world is still and there are no distractions. The learning is pure and untainted. The avreichim are able to really shteig in their learning.
Could you give us a glimpse into what goes on at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael?
“At Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, the night begins with the recital of Tikkun Chatzos. The avlei Tzion – the mourners of Zion, remove their shoes and lower themselves to sit on the ground. Bent over their Tikkun Chatzos, they sob with pain as they mourn the churban of the Beis Hamikdash, the Exile of the Shechinah and the sufferings of the Jewish People. Their eyes flow with tears as they beseech Hashem to put an end to our bitter galus, and pray for the individual suffering of each member of Am Yisrael. These tefillos are precious, for according to our seforim hakedoshim, Mama Rochel brings them directly to the Kisei Hakavod.
The moment we conclude the recital of Tikkun Chatzos, the “war of Torah” begins. The entire Beis Medresh throbs with the vibrant song of limud Hatorah. With chaburos, chavrusos and shiurim in both Gemara and Poskim, as well as Kabalah and Chassidus, the melodious song of limud Hatorah blend together into a beautiful symphony of avodas Hashem. The achdus is amazing. Sefardim, Ashkenazim Chassidim and yeshivisheh ovdei Hashem all learn together at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael. The avreichim range in age from twenty to close to eighty! Working men who rush home from their jobs to go to sleep early in order to come to Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, learn b’chevrusa with great talmidei chachamim who devote every moment of their day – and their night – to Torah study.
Can you tell us about some of the avreichim who are learning at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael?
Rabbi Rav Shlomo Aharon Gottleib, shlita, is one of the leaders of a prominent Chassidic group on Eretz Yisrael. Although he is disabled and confined to a wheel chair, he never, ever misses a night of limud Hatorah at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael. He is almost eighty years old, yet, in spirit, he is more like a twenty year old. Every night, about ten minutes before the minibus is scheduled to pick them up, he phones the ten avreichim who travel with him from Beit Shemesh to Beitar to make sure that they don’t get up in time! No matter what the weather, when the minibus arrives, he is already outside and waiting, and then, during the 15 minute ride to Beitar, he delivers a shiur to the other avreichim…
And then there’s Rav Moshe Shor, shlita. He’s been learning at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael for over twelve years, yet he’s never missed a night. Even on the night of his son’s wedding, he arrived right after the mitzvah tantz, wearing his streimel and bekesher!
We have real tzaddikim learning in our Kollel. Rav Y. K., shlita, for example, remains standing the entire night in a corner of the Beis Medresh, learning Gemara. Every year he makes a siyum HaShas. And then there’s Rav N. S. His face literally radiates kedushah! When he davens shmonei esrei, the tears are stream from his eyes. These simple looking avreichim are hidden tzaddikim – if the world would know about them, they would run after them from brachos…
Among the men learning at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, there are several who travel from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh to Beitar each night to learn at the Kollel. Isn’t there something similar available for them there?
“Yes, there is, but Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, is the ‘father of the kollel chatzos network.’ Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael is special; there is an incredible sense of kedushah and achdus that has yet to be duplicated elsewhere. The feeling of growth and avodas Hashem is palpable.
In terms of gashmiyus, Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael has its own magnificent Beis Medresh. Refreshments and drinks are available around the clock. Although the Beis Medresh is fully air conditioned, after too many occasions when the electricity was down due to inclement weather we recently installed a wood burning stove. After all, I couldn’t allow the men of Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael to continue learning in a freezing Beis Medresh, and of course, despite the lack of heat, none of them would miss a night of limud Hatorah, so they all showed up bundled in layers, and layers (and more layers) of clothing! Now, thanks to our new wood burning stove, baruch Hashem, no matter what the weather, the Beis Medresh remains warm – both in gashmiyus as well as in ruchniyus.
You’re supporting over one hundred avreichim, most of them heads of large families. That’s a huge responsibility. How do you do it?
Siyata D’Shemaya. That’s the key. It takes a real miracle to support so many chashuva avreichim. Each avreich receives a $700 monthly stipend, and before a Yom Tov that amount is doubled. The nashei chayil of Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael receive a $100 prior to each Yom Tov, a small token of our appreciation for their mesirus nefesh in enabling their husbands devote their nights to Torah.
Baruch Hashem there are wonderful people who want the zechus of supporting limud Hatorah during the eis raton of chatzos. The avreichim at Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael are incredibly grateful, and daven for our supporters’ zechus. To the left hand side of the Aron Kodesh is a special plaque where we post that night’s special benefactor. The entire Kollel literally tear open the heavens with their tefilla for his zechus, and dedicate their limud to his zechus.
One of the most sought-after arrangements is the Yissachar-Zevulon contract, approved by the greatest poskim. The donor and the Torah learner sign a contract, meriting each with an equal portion in the learning. Of course, for this I choose only the best learners, talmidei chachamim, real masmidim who never miss a night. The two become true partners; each night during the eis ratzon of chatzos, the Torah learner approaches the Aron Hakodesh and, with the Kollel’s kvittel, containing the names of all our supporters, before him, he davens for his donor-partner and family.
People mamash see nissim in the zechus of these contracts, especially in the area of parnassah. I am often astonished by the power of this segulah. One of our supporters was so satisfied with the results that he added another contract for his business! Dozens of times, I’ve seen how on days when Yissachar has learned with exceptional spiritual elevation, Zevulon reports a special success or a yeshuah.
Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael exists in the zechus of our donors. We have a range of possibilities for participation. For $180 per month, two of our choice avreichim, tsaddikim and masmidim, will daven for you each night during the eis ratzon of chatzos (and I am just a phone call away in case there is something special you want them to daven for that night). You can contact me and I’ll arrange for that avreichim will daven for you each night during the eis ratzon of chatzos. For just $250 per month over the course of a year, three avreichim will daven for you each night during the eis ratzon of Chatzos. There are also options for $180 per month for two avreichim and $101 per month for one avreich.
Oftentimes, in the middle of the night one of our supporters will call me up to request that we daven for someone who is seriously ill. I stop the learning for a few minutes to ask everyone to daven for that person’s refuah and dedicate their learning to his zechus. Sometimes, we also conduct a pidyon nefesh. Baruch Hashem the results have been amazing! But I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, during the hours of chatzos, the shaarei Shemayim are open to receive our tefillos, and they are brought directly to the Kisei Hakavod. And of course all our donors are listed in the Kollel’s kvittel. We daven for them each week at the Kosel and Kever Rochel, and monthly in Meiron. Each name and request is mentioned slowly and with concentration. Baruch Hashem we’ve seen incredible yeshuos!
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite anyone reading this to personally visit Kollel Chatzos, Eretz Yisrael, next time you are in Eretz Yisrael. Personally, I think it should be counted among the mekomos hakedoshim there.
Rabbi Yehoshua Meir Deutsch is in New York until February 20. To arrange a meeting please call 646-403-375 0r email firstname.lastname@example.org
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