Much has and will be written about the spiritual giant that was Rav Mordechai Eliyahu “Z’Tzl” . He was, as his son Rav Shmuel said, a spiritual father to many . Many will describe his courageous and unflinching stands on the sanctity of torah and torah life. Others may speak with loving words of the Rabbi who stood at the forefront of the battle to protect and secure the Land of Israel and its people. Many others will focus on his miraculous blessings and the spiritual strength he imparted to every needy and hurting soul that came to him for comfort and hope. All these are true and powerful descriptions of this towering personality.
I also remember the Rav who met with my children when they were small and gave them their first Rabbinic blessing when they received their first siddur (prayer book) in grade one. I remember him as he sat in my daughters kindergarten class as an active participant in his granddaughter’s kindergarten graduation. I remember also when he danced with my son at his wedding.
Yet in addition to all that he was to me the”Ish Teffilah-the man of prayer”.
I remember a tefillah ( Prayer gathering) that the Rav “Z’Tzl” and Rav Shapira “Z’Tzl” . called for, in the center of Jerusalem, because of the impending dangers in 2004, It was to be one of many.
In times of great danger the Torah Ark was brought into the center of the cities and horns and trumpets were blown to ward off the impending decrees and dangers.
“And when ye go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you then ye shall sound an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before HaShem your G-D, and ye shall be saved from your enemies”.( Numbers 10:9)
Close to thirty thousand people gathered at Zion square at the reques of these Rabbis They did not come to hear speeches. They did not bring signs. They did not come chanting slogans. They came to pray.
Thirty thousand people gathered to cry out their pain and declare their faith in their destiny. When it came time for the silent meditation prayer, not a sound was heard. Thousands of men on Jaffa street and thousands of women on Ben Yehuda street and not a sound was heard. At that moment they ceased being a collective of thirty thousand and they were transformed into one soul standing alone before his G-d.
Then the strangest thing happened.
At the end of the prayer gathering music began to be played and the crowds formed hundreds of circles of dance. None of this was pre-planned and none of this was expected. The intensity and pain of the “minutes before” melted into a wave of joy and rejoicing. My son and I were drawn in and we weaved in and out of the circles singing and dancing. At one point I looked up unto the main platform and saw Rabbi Eliyahu and Rabbi Shapira and others dancing with some of the terror victims from Gush Katif.
I looked up at the Rav standing on the makeshift stage.Rav Eliyahu “Z’Tzl” ‘s face was a picture of serenity and calm in the midst of all the pain and concern. Nothing had been resolved in the natural reality. Yet this is the power of prayer. Prayer elevates and puts in perspective. Prayer does not change G-d’s mind but changes us . It gives us the power to move forward regardless of what lies before us.
Rav Eliyahu “Z’Tzl” was the master of prayer.
There were those who prayed with sweet voices. There are those who cried out with passion and vehemence. There were those who recited with forcefulness. Rav Eliyahu “Z’Tzl” would simply call out in a gentle and quiet voice.
The Rav did not need to yell, sing or declare. The Rav simply had to speak in a quiet voice towards the Throne of Mercy. This seems to be so,because some men are Princes and some are Leaders and others are warriors. He was all those yet the Rav was most “simply” the servant. As a servant of HaShem , he was always near the Throne.He only needed to speak in in a gentle and quiet voice.
We read in the psalm , “VeAni Tefilati” which is translated as, “But, as for me, may my prayer to You, O Lord, be in an acceptable time. O God, with Your abundant kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.” ( Tehillim/ Psalms 93:14)
Yet the first words are more literally translated as ” VeAni Tefilati-And I Will be prayer..” The Rav was prayer. He embodied prayer.
That is what was so calming listening to his prayers and blessings. That was what gave us so much strength and hope. That is what gave us the courage to continue on the eternal road. It was simply that his calm and quiet prayer came from a place of eternal strength.
When I mourned for the Rav, I cried because of endless mesirut hanefesh ( the sacrificing spirit) he exhibited. I wept because we all felt orphaned. I was pained with fears for the future. I yearned for that whispered prayer of the man who was the servant by the throne of Glory.
Then I realized that “the servant” was now even closer to the throne.
That offered a little comfort.
Note: The abbreviation “Z’Tzl” stands for ” May his righteous memory be a blessing”