On the Heights
While we are trying to daven and afterwards listen to R' Leib's speech at the kever of Rabbenu Chaim, we are pestered by an old drunken goy who tugs at our jackets and demands that we take his picture as he poses in front of the kever. Another living proof of the churban, just in case we had needed one.
As our bus heads out of town we get one last glimpse of the building that was once the Volozhin yeshiva, still standing proudly on its hill. It brings to mind what R' Eliahu Aharon Mielkovski wrote of his last moments there, before the yeshiva was closed (in protest at the government's order to include secular studies in the curriculum): "I passed by the yeshiva in the middle of the day and cast an eye for the last time on the beautiful building, standing tall on the heights of the city, where I had spent the best years of my life. The roar of the voices of five hundred talmidim emanated from it. Fortunate was he who saw all this. Did it occur to any of these people that soon they would be chased out of this beis mikdash with `anger, rage and great fury'?"
On our way down we take the beginning of the path that the grieving talmidim of Volozhin took after the yeshiva was closed. As the chroniclers describe it, the police came and took the bochurim out of the beis midrash, whose doors were then locked with a government seal, while peasants gathered from the whole area with their wagons to take the exiles to the nearest train station at Molodechna.
But we are going to Molodechna for a completely different purpose. A summer camp is in progress there for Jewish children from Belarus, Lithuania and Russia who are returning to their roots, and the roshei yeshiva have been asked to speak to the children. They seem fascinated as R' Baron tells them gently there is a mitzvah in the Torah to live for seven days in the succah, "so that your generations may know . . . "