By Joseph M. Boniuk
I started my journey up the first hill, not quite unlike the rest of my mornings in Yeshiva. This morning, however, I would not only be climbing this hill, but this would be the first of many. I was not afraid though, for I had made sure that I was hydrated and loaded on carbs from the night before.
This past Friday, the twenty-third of May, 33 members of Yeshivat Sha’alvim participated in the Talmon All-Men’s Marathon, proudly wearing matching purple running shirts the words, “Team HASC Talmon” across their chests. The group consisted of students, Kollel members, and even Rebbeim and their children, representing their yeshiva. It was an effort as a yeshiva to perform an act of Chessed, and the result was the Yeshiva collaborating with HASC to raise much-needed money for camper scholarships.
Camp HASC is a unique summer program which provides over 300 children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable camp experience. Camp HASC serves the social, therapeutic, academic, recreational, and medical needs of all its campers with a positive, “person first” approach to care. Many talmidim of the yeshiva are staff members at Camp HASC, and there was no reluctance to strengthen the connection. HASC gained money and support, and Sha’alvim was proud of the opportunity for achdut and performance of such a beautiful and impactful chessed. HASC was elated to have a third prosperous Team HASC come forward this year, after the amazing successes at the Fort Lauderdale and Jerusalem marathons.
That morning, I walked into the “Beis” a few minutes later than I would have preferred, 5:55 a.m. for a 6:00 Shacharit. We boarded the bus and heard a shiur from Rav Ari Waxman, Menahel of the Overseas Students at Sha’alvim, en route to the Yishuv. The scenery was beautiful, the group was jovial, and the atmosphere smelled of Chessed.
When we arrived at Talmon, after driving around four or five Arab villages, we all went to sign in and get our bibs with numbers and tracking chips. I put on my sunscreen, aviator sunglasses, and Tzahal bucket hat and headed toward the starting line. I was slightly surprised to see a gang of bikers preparing to lead us, but then they announced the start of the race and there was no more thinking – only breathing and running for a five kilometer run, the shorter option of the race for those physically untrained yeshiva guys like myself. Emotions ran high. There was a plethora of bright colors, a large crowd of supporters, and the climate was warm.
Around a half hour later, I reached the last incline and decided to run all out through the finish line. I drank a few cups of water, returned my bib, and received a Talmon Marathon jersey for my efforts. My parents, who were visiting for the wedding of my cousin, arrived and we took some pictures. After the race, the times were posted on a board and I went and looked up how well I had done (30:16 in 155th place, 23/32 in my category, which is not too shabby for someone who sits and learns all day).
While I was running, I was thinking “Ma rabu maasecha, Hashem!” The view of the Shomron hills was nothing short of breathtaking (as if I had any left). The number of people running seemed like a herd of animals but looked like a vibrantly colored flock of birds with bright yellows, neon-oranges and royal purples. I thought how beautiful it was that so many people had appeared to support Israel’s presence in its territories and how many yeshiva students from Sha’alvim had come and raised money for Camp HASC.
Our inclusion in the event was organized by Eli Rozenberg and Yaakov Feldstein, two second year Sha’alvim students and both counselors at Camp HASC. They had approached the administration, asking to brainstorm ideas to raise money for Camp HASC. The marathon became an agreeable option, and everything moved forward quickly from there under their leadership. They facilitated recruitment, sponsorships, T-shirt orders, and all of the logistics for Team HASC Talmon. They also served as the middlemen between the organizations of the marathon, HASC, and Sha’alvim, none of whom have ever worked together before.
Rav Yechezkel Yakovson, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Sha’alvim, Rav Ari Waxman, Menahel of the Overseas Students, and Rav Judah Mischel, Director of Personnel and Programming at Camp HASC, all enthusiastically supported the joint effort. In R’ Yakovson’s written hascamah (approval) of the event he quoted the Gemarah in Sotah (14a) “Torah techilato gemilut chasadim v’sopha gemilut chasadim – Torah’s beginning and ending is acts of kindness.” Yonatan Sklar was the technical organizer, doing all the behind-the-scenes work from the HASC end, and photographed the run. Team HASC’s Coach Michal gave us sound nutritional and preparation advice. Working together as a yeshiva for this worthy cause were students, Kollel members, Rebbeim, and their children, all raising money, running, and just coming to help the large crowd of supporters cheer on the runners.
During the planning stages, I asked Yaakov Feldstein for a summary of what they were doing and he told me: “We spend day in and day out learning in the Beit Midrash, but we can’t forget the importance of chessed and doing things for other people, especially allowing these beautiful souls the opportunity to come to Camp HASC. We’re trying the best we can to make as big of Kiddush Hashem as possible.”
And a tremendous Kiddush Hashem it was. There is no doubt that Friday’s success will pave the road for others to join and contribute to the constant effort in acting selflessly for others and making the world a better place.
Donations can still be made at talmon.teamhasc.com.
To contact Eli Rozenberg and Yaakov Feldstein, email email@example.com.