Abe Mezrich '00

I remember going to Rav Amital once for some personal guidance. I walked to his makom in the beit midrash and said "Could I ask the Rosh Yeshivah a question on a personal matter?" He responded simply, “Take a chair"—motioning to an empty chair next to his. He said it with such warmth, as if to say that he already understood how important the matter was to me, and whatever it was he'd give all the wisdom, kindness, and years of experience and Torah he had toward helping me make the decision I needed to make. It was incredibly touching and incredibly in keeping with every other encounter I had with him. I’ll never forget that.

Another memory: once, a kolelnik brought his baby into the beit midrash. I think Rav Amital was pacing the beit midrash working on a problem (which he would do sometimes), I think; he stopped what he was doing, walked up to the kolelnik's baby, and played with the baby for a good few minutes—stopping traffic in the beit midrash for a good few minutes as everyone looked on. When he was finished playing with the baby, Rav Amital said “thank you” to the father with so much sincerity (the father had a look as if to say, “I should be thanking you!”). That was Rav Amital to me.


Pinchas Becker 96-98

I had the privilege of studying in the yeshiva after high school in 1996-97 and 97-98. My first year I was fortunate enough to have the far left swivel chair in the front most row of the middle section of the Beit Midrash. Every morning Rav Amital would make his way past me on his way to his seat humming a tune under his breath. It was impossible not to love everything about him. His kind face and calm demeanor imbued a sense of tranquility that was somehow palpable in the air around him. Towards the end of my first year I began debating what to do for the summer. I was offered a job as a counselor at a co-ed basketball camp for Americans in Israel. While I wanted very much to go and could use the break after an intense year of study, I felt a sense of guilt about attending a co-ed camp, serving in the capacity of counselor rather than chinuch staff and just generally leaving the yeshiva atmosphere. I finally gathered the courage to bring the question to Rav Amital. I  approached his desk warily but he immediately soothed me with his warm reception. I explained to him my dilemma and will never forget his response. Rav Amital looked at me with his kind eyes and said "al tehiyeh lecha 'guilty conscience'" and he reassured me that I was a "talmid tov" and that I had taken my learning seriously and was a good boy. It is hard to imagine another Rosh Yeshiva responding in that way but Rav Amital had a down-to-earth, practical common sense about him that has left a lasting impression on me and is something that I have tried to emulate in my own life.


Batya Matla Herzberg - Migdal Oz

I cry and mourn for your loss, and for who Klal Yisrael has lost. The Torah and teachings of Rav Amital resonate still in the minds and hearts of his students.

I wanted to share with you my warm and wonderful memories of Rav Amital. I learned in Migdal Oz 4 years ago. We spent one shabbat in Yerushalayim, and our Ra"m, Rav Chaimi Navon, arranged a visit with Rav Amital on Friday night. I remember stepping into the house with trepidation, scared to behold the gadol haTorah who would speak to us. Rav Amital greeted us with a warmth. He smiled like a Sabba who knew us well and encouraged us to eat some cookies. We sat around him, he shared words of Torah with us, and encouraged us to ask him what was on our minds. After a while, he asked us to sing him a shabbat song. The feeling in the home was one of normalcy, of happiness. Rav Amital then allowed us to look around at his marvelous library of well-used and well-loved volumes that took up shelf after shelf. On that dark Friday night, the Torah of the Amital home shone bright.

I consider it a privilege to have spent those moments in Rav Amital's presence. The lessons I learned that night and those that I continue to learn from his writings and songs will stay with me always.


Noam Fried, machzor 28

There is much that I learned from HaRav Amital. If I am not mistaken, I never spoke to him more than a single sentence, but we conducted a constant silent dialogue between us, a dialogue of the eyes and of the heart, over the course of many years.

Indeed, I learned many things from HaRav Amital, things that shaped my outlook and my inner self, but one memory echoes within me every day owing to its simplicity and profundity.

It was at a Shabbat Bogrim, after several years had passed that I had not visited the Yeshiva, and I was happy to be able to bring my wife and children to the Yeshiva to show them the place where I had studied and to meet my teachers and friends. The Shabbat was a success, with interesting talks and meetings. But the high point was Se'uda Shelishit with HaRav Amital. Now, I said to my wife, you will see the special power of HaRav Amital. We took our seats as close as possible to his table. All of a sudden our little boy started to make noises and my wife quickly started to get up to take him out before he would cause a disturbance. As she was getting up with our boy in her hands, the soft voice of HaRav Amital could be heard, "Children don't bother me." This was the shortest and most profound dvar Torah that I ever heard, and ever since we have tried to build our lives around it.


Naor Vilner, machzor 16

Much has been said about the harmonious cooperation and peaceful spirit that characterized the relationship between the two Roshei Yeshiva. Several years ago there was a Shabbat Machzor for the first class of the Yeshiva, in honor of which both Roshei Yeshiva remained for Shabbat. At the Friday night tish one of the bogrim raised the issue of the peace and harmony that reigned between the two. One of the wives spontaneously interrupted: "What do you want, that they should quarrel?" HaRav Amital responded as follows: "It doesn't matter how much money or what conditions you will forfeit. If peace is lacking in your place of work, run from there as you would from fire!" His underlying assumption was that there was nothing unique or special about the relationship between him and HaRav Lichtenstein. But rather there is something exceptional and problematic about the absence of peace, usually caused by issues of honor, ego, and other personal interests.


Nadav Kidron

1. I remember a particular Shabbat during the period when HaRav Amital was serving as a minister in the government. That Motza'ei Shabbat I had to go to Jerusalem, and since HaRav Amital lived not far from my parents' home, I asked him whether I could get a ride with him back to Jerusalem. HaRav Amital said that there was no problem, but he asked me to check with his security guard. At the appointed hour I arrived at his car and found that there were already four riders without me – the driver and security guard in front, and HaRav Amital and his wife in back. At that point, I told HaRav Amital that I did not want them to be squashed in the back and that I would find another ride. But he insisted, saying, "Don't worry, this is a short ride; before you know it, we will already have arrived." And thus the three of us squeezed into the back and drove off to Jerusalem..

2. One Shabbat we had a question and answer session with HaRav Amital. At one point he was asked about the importance of certain parts of the prayer service, e.g., the prayer on behalf of the State of Israel, and the like. HaRav Amital wished to clarify that the various parts of the prayer service are not all equal in importance, but rather we must differentiate between the different sections. As part of his answer, HaRav Amital related that following the haftara that morning he had gone to the bathroom, and as a result he missed "Yekum Purkan" and did not bother making it up, but rather he continued with the rest of the congregation. I remember that as young students, hearing the Rosh Yeshiva admit in the most natural manner that he had omitted a section of the service and did not bother to make it up, left a deep impression upon us and emphasized the need to think and examine everything that we do.

3. I remember that I was once asked by a bridegroom to drive HaRav Amital to his wedding. I called HaRav Amital in order to coordinate when to pick him up. I suggested a particular time that I thought would allow us enough time to arrive when the groom wanted us to arrive (HaRav Amital was to officiate). HaRav Amital told me that since the groom has stressed how important it was to him to start on time and that it was likely that there world be traffic jams on the way, it would be better for us to leave fifteen minutes earlier so as not to take a chance and come late. This is a perfect example of the way that HaRav Amital took his students into consideration and understood what they needed, with no affectations of honor….


Michael Intract

Concern for others:

The first Shabbat in the Elul semester often falls out on Parashat Shofetim. Relating to the law of egla arufa, HaRav Amital mentioned Chazal's comment on the verse: "Our hands have not shed this blood," cited by Rashi: "But would it enter anybody's mind that the elders of the court are suspect of blood-shedding? But the meaning is: We never saw him and knowingly let him depart without food or escort." HaRav Amital emphasized that new students had arrived at the Yeshiva, and that we must all look out for them and help them acclimate to the Yeshiva, and, God forbid, not ignore them.


Every year HaRav Amital would lead the prayers on the High Holidays as the sheli'ach tzibbur. O, the concentration! O, the uplifting melodies!
When HaRav Amital would reach the section in the Musaf service, "Happy is the man who does not forget You, who gains courage in You…," his voice would turn into a cry, expressing perhaps more than anything else one of the most important principles that must be internalized on Rosh Hashana. As it is related that when Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai lay on his deathbed, his disciples asked him to bless them, and he said to them: "May it be [God's] will that the fear of heaven shall be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood." And with the melody to which he chanted the words, "A ya ya ya ya…," like a shofar that moans and sobs, he hummed, as it were, the continuation of the story: "His disciples said to him: Is that all? He said to them: If only you can attain this! You can see how important this is, for when a man wants to commit a transgression, he says, I hope no man will see me." And then with a progressively rising melody, everybody would join in and sing: "Those who seek You shall never stumble…."

On the Friday night on which the attempt was made to rescue Nachshon Wachsman, Hy"d, reports reached us that some military action was taking place and that we should pray for a successful outcome. At the end of the Friday night meal, we all went back to the Bet Midrash, and HaRav Amital himself led the prayer, reciting Tehilim 120 verse by verse, time after time. Ever since, whenever a special prayer service is conducted at a time of special distress, I see this model for prayer before my eyes.

"Now, O Lord, grant honor to Your people":
It is well-known that HaRav Amital was a Holocaust survivor, from the Auschwitz concentration camp. Often in his talk before shofar-blowing on Rosh Hashana, chanted in his special melody, he would mention that in Auschwitz, when they uttered the words, "Now, O Lord, grant honor to Your people," nobody could have imagined that one day he would head a yeshiva in Eretz Israel. HaRav Amital knew how to appreciate each and every drop of God's blessing in the State of Israel.

HaRav Amital's humor:

Once on the night of Shabbat Zakhor, at the tish in the Yeshiva's dining room, HaRav Amital drank whiskey and ate popcorn, and said that the Mussar books tell us that on Judgment Day every person will be asked why he didn't observe the Torah and its commandments as expected. Surely had a doctor told him to do something, he would have obeyed; how is it then that he would listen to a doctor, but not to God. HaRav Amital said that he has an answer prepared for when he will be brought before the Divine tribunal. His doctor forbids him to drink whiskey, but this does not stop him. Thus, they will not be able to raise objections from his doctor, for he doesn't listen to everything that he says either.


Eli Eidelberg, machzor 19

I joined the Yeshiva at a relatively late stage after having completed the Hesder program at Yeshivat Ha-Golan. When I was preparing for my wedding, I decided that I wanted my revered teacher at Yeshivat Ha-Golan, Rav Cherlow, to officiate. He told me that he would be glad to do so, provided that his own teacher, HaRav Amital, was prepared to waive the honor. I approached HaRav Amital in the Bet Midrash, not knowing exactly what I would say to him. After explaining the issue, he broke out in a broad smile, and said: "That I should waive my honor? Perhaps Rav Cherlow would be ready to come and officiate at a few more weddings…."

Of course, all this did not stop HaRav Amital from attending the wedding and honoring us with one of the Sheva Berakhot.


Aytan Himmelstein, machzor 18

I remember that in my first year in the Yeshiva, between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, HaRav Amital came in to give his weekly class on the Kuzari to the freshman shiur, and suddenly said: "Oi, I forgot to do Hatarat Nedarim!" He then looked at me (by chance I was sitting in the first row) and the two fellows sitting at my side, and said: "Nu, I say that I want to do Hatarat Nedarim." We the students eyed each other in confusion, waiting for HaRav Amital to recite the printed version, "Shim'u na Rabbotai…." But HaRav Amital only looked at us again and said: "Nu, say already: "Ha-kol mutar lakh, ha-kol mutar lakh, ha-kol mutar lakh."

 And, of course, we did so, and immediately at the beginning of our first year in the Yeshiva we understood what a unique Torah giant was standing before us, who doesn't feel bound to a text, but does what he thinks that Halakha dictates.


Eliyahu Yaniger '78 and member of the Kollel 5739-5742

I remember my first Rosh Hashana in the Yeshiva. Before shofar blowing, HaRav Amital delivered his talk in his usual "sing-song," and spoke about Akedat Yitzchak. He said that when Avraham offered Yitzchak on the altar, he in essence was offering the entire world, for Avraham saw Yitzchak as the hope that would put an end to all the suffering in the world through the building of a new nation. I was so impressed by his words, for I had never heard a Rosh Yeshiva speak about the suffering of the entire world on Rosh Hashana, and certainly not during those great moments prior to shofar blowing.

Some more of his words that echo within me to this very day: At the beginning of the winter term of my second year in the Yeshiva, HaRav Amital gave a talk in the Bet Midrash. He spoke in the clearest possible fashion: there is no excuse for not making the most of the long winter term (it was a leap year) to grow in Torah. He said that there is one phrase that should serve as a red light: "a little." I will learn "a little" Gemara, I will do something else "a little." He said that one should never do things "a little" – but rather with total devotion and largeness.

In matters of faith:

I was once speaking to HaRav Amital about certain faith-related issues. I said that just as we have good reasons to hold fast to our faith, and we have great authorities to rely upon, so too in other faiths there are people no less sincere, no less wise, and no less convinced than our "gedolim." How then can we be sure that we are right? HaRav Amital didn't argue; he accepted what I had said, and added that one needs faith "that God will lead him in the true path."

In his class on the Kuzari, HaRav Amital was teaching the section in which R. Yehuda Halevi justifies our tradition by way of the many witnesses who were present at Mount Sinai. I had heard this argument many times and I had always marveled at how anybody could find it convincing. Before HaRav Amital mentioned that we can learn from here the importance of the experiential dimension of faith, he opened by saying that Rihal's words as logical proof are weak. I said to myself: "Finally, a Rosh Yeshiva who speaks honestly." As a friend of mine remarked: "Not only did HaRav Amital teach Jewish thought, but he actually thought himself."


Moshe Teres

It happened as follows. In 1988 I was soon to be married, and I had asked HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein to officiate at my wedding. Three days prior to the wedding, one of HaRav Lichtenstein's parents (I believe, his father) passed away. Even before the funeral he called me (it was a little complicated… we are talking about a time when cellular phones had not yet reached Israel), and informed me of what had happened and that he would be unable to conduct the wedding. Anyone who has gotten married is familiar with the procedure of choosing a rabbi to officiate. There are numerous opportunities to inadvertently and due to circumstances beyond one's control offend a long list of rabbis. As I said, I had decided on HaRav Lichtenstein, and the moment he told me that he would be unable to make it, I was in a problematic "loop." For everyone can understand without my going into details that all those whom I did not turn to at the beginning because there was an alternative that would not lead to offense, might now be insulted because for some of them it was part of their job. I decided to consult with HaRav Amital, whom I also admired very much, but to whom, unfortunately, I had never grown close. I remember how my knees trembled before our talk (for I had chosen HaRav Lichtenstein), for even great people are subject to issues of honor. I was totally surprised. HaRav Amital answered his phone, as I said, seventy-two hours before the wedding, and immediately, before giving me a chance to apologize, said: Moishe, I don't have to open my calendar, I will come to officiate at your wedding. I only ask that the wedding begin at the time for which it was called on the invitation. And so it was.


Yirmi Winson '91

Five years ago (a few years after I had left the Yeshiva) I happened to meet HaRav Amital together with his son Rav Yoel. As a parent, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity and I asked for advice about parenting and education. In his unique manner, HaRav Amital replied with a very brief answer: "Sincerity." One word, but packed with so much wisdom!

Rav Yoel added: Make sure that there are always open lines of communication with your children.

With God's help we shall continue to apply HaRav Amital's unique approach in our lives.


Another moving story that I remember:

Several years ago I was present at a tish that HaRav Amital held in the Yeshiva's dining room. As usual, there was an elevating combination of songs and stories.

At a certain point, we sang "Ve-ata banim shiru la-melekh." In the middle of the song, HaRav Amital interrupted the singing in order to say a few words. Even though I had already been in the Yeshiva for several years, until that point I had never heard him speak directly about his experiences during the Holocaust. He began to speak about how he was separated from his parents, and other things…. He said that we don't always understand God's ways. As he put it – at times He appears to us as our father, and with all the difficulty, at times he appears to us as king. But either way, we know how to draw close to Him. "Continue to sing – Ve-Ata banim shiru la-melekh." And when we resumed our singing after this brief story, the song was filled with intensity, emotion, and depth. A combination of tears of sadness and joy.


Avinoam Meir, machzor 26

I have a story about HaRav Amital, concerning which I had doubts whether I should submit it, but in the end I decided to do so.

It was the beginning of the year 5756 (the end of 1995), and I had completed the pre-army journalism course of Galei Tzahal (Army Radio), for which I had received the blessings and support of my rabbis. I had the privilege to be the first religious person at Galei Tzahal, something which elicited various reactions.

My decision to take the course was a difficult one, but depended, as far as I was concerned, on several conditions: maintaining a connection with the Torah world and with the Yeshiva, not to bow down before anybody, and to always remember the rule that I had formulated for myself: "Fear no man – even if he is the broadcaster." In addition, I always reminded myself that I was not a symbol, nor anyone's agent, and that I didn't represent anyone or anything, and therefore I was not the address for all kinds of complaints – justified or not – against Religious Zionism.

As my first job as a soldier at Galei Tzahal, I was responsible, among other things, for inserting promos into the regular programs in the course of the broadcast. Some of these programs were broadcast on Shabbat. I refused to do this, and my immediate officer sent me to the head of Galei Tzahal at that time, Moshe Shlonski. My heart was filled with two strong feelings – concern about the future, which in the atmosphere of that time could easily have ended in a prison term, and a sense of power and persistence. After explaining to Shlonski the prohibition involved, Shlonski suggested turning to HaRav Amital and asking him about the matter. I, of course, agreed. I don't know what was said in the conversation between them, but I was transferred to a different department and was given a more senior position.