Shortly before the Rav was released from the Hadassah hospital hotel, Rav Shimon Badani, shlita, paid him a historic visit.
Rav Uziel Kohali is married to the grand-daughter of Rav Badani, and he was fortunate enough to accompany the gaon Rav Shimon Badani, shlita, during his visit to Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita. Here, he shares a few words about this momentous meeting of two of the Torah greats of the generation:
“I merited to be able to participate in the meeting,” begins Rav Kohali. “Rav Berland, shlita, and Rav Badani, shlita, spoke words of Torah together, and it was very moving. When Rav Berland first saw Rav Badani, he made the Shehechiyanu blessing, and immediately began to speak words of Torah.
“Rav Badani saw the Ketzot HaChoshen on Rav Berland’s table, and said to him: ‘Here’s the Ketzot HaChoshen.’ Rav Berland replied that he’d been learning it with his daughter.”
Rav Badani’s visit to Hadassah followed hard on the heels of his recent public words of support and affection for Rav Berland, as well as his recent visit to the Shuvu Banim yeshiva in the Old City, where he recently gave over words of chizzuk (strengthening and encouragement) to the community , as well as words of Torah.
Rav Kohali continued to describe the meeting of these two giants in Torah: “Rav Berland and Rav Badani, shlita, started discussing a sugya in Tractate Gittin, during which they started opening more and more books together. Over the years, Rav Badani has frequently spoken of how Rav Berland is a big promoter of Torah learning, and that’s the ikkar (main point), after all.
“There was really a lot of friendliness and pleasantness between them; Rav Berland told Rav Berland that he was the leader of the Children of Israel.
“[When they met], It was exactly the hiloula (anniversary of passing) of Rav Alfandari. They spoke about him, and lit a candle for an ilui neshama (elevation of his soul). Afterwards, Rav Badani made the blessing ‘matir asurim’ (‘who releases the bound’) and then they continued studying together. The meeting lasted approximately half an hour.”
Rav Kohali continues:
“Rav Berland is the sort of Tzaddik who is only concerned with bringing people closer to their Abba in shemayim, and everything you see going on by him is only Torah and pleasantness.”
After describing the visit, Rav Kohali also told the story of how he’d travelled to Uman, to visit the grave of Rebbe Nachman, zt’l. While he was describing his trip, he said: “For me, Breslov and Rav Berland are really one unit. It’s impossible to separate these two things.”
Rav Kohali continued: “The machloket (controversy and slander) around Rav Berland saddened me greatly, to see people acting like that within Breslov. Rebbe Nachman himself said that he could judge everyone favorably, except for baalei machloket (trouble-makers who spread strife within the community). It’s really like that, Rabbenu isn’t going to judge the people opposing the Rav favorably.
“Everything they said about the Rav didn’t confuse me; if anything it only brought me closer to him. ‘Hashem is with the one who is being persecuted’. It’s only normal that someone is going to find it very hard to see people persecuting the leader of a community like this. That reaction comes naturally of every Jew. [But we have to remember] that Rav Berland wanted all this persecution to happen, as he said, it’s like being given diamonds. Still, how is it possible to persecute such big Tzaddikim?!”
Rav Kohali continued in a tone of disbelief: “How is it possible for people to persecute ba’alei teshuva (returnees to religious observance)? The whole of the Likutey Halachot talks about the spiritual level of baal teshuvas, and says that Amalek pursued those people from the tribe of Dan who the Clouds of Glory weren’t covering.
“People who know how to stay silent, this is the true strength of Rav Berland, shlita, who hushed all those who wanted to respond to the persecutors. But for me, watching from the sidelines, all this persecution still troubled me tremendously.”
Rav Kohali concludes: “Rav Badani knows that every Rosh Hashana, I travel to Uman. His hashkafa (particular Torah outlook) is that as long as you’re immersed in Torah, it doesn’t really matter which particular community you belong to. Initially, I came back from Uman be’orot (lit up with spiritual inspiration), but when I heard Rav Berland say that the ikkar is to learn Torah, that really helped me to stay close to Rebbe Nachman.”
“So, don’t get confused, and continue along the path of Torah.”
You can hear the interview with Rav Uziel Kohali for yourself (in Hebrew) by calling:
In Israel: 02-800-8800
In the US: 1-845-640-0007
In Europe: 44-203-807-3333