I made a visit with A (he would like to remain anonymous) to Ashkelon last shabbat. I've been taking the Magic Carpet on exploratory missions and diversions beyond my old bus routes, trying to see more of the country by road. This time, instead of taking the usual route 3 across the country, I swung down south past Beit Shemesh and went through Kiryat Gat.
The Intel factory at Kiryat Gat
IT was a beautiful cross-country drive. Wheras you can easily spend a month driving cross-country in the states, in Israel, it seldom takes more than an hour.
A. happened to know Rav Bleu, the Chief Rabbi of Ashkelon, and we accepted his invitation for Shabbat. But when we got to his house, he had already left for the beach.
Now, the beach presents many obstacles to the religiously-oriented, specifically a somewhat more relaxed standard of modesty. So where did Rab Bleu go?
A small section of the beach surrounded by opaque aluminum anti-immodesty shielding, where guys can go to swim away from the peril of the fleshy temptations found beyond the wall.
Shabbat was beyond fantastic. Rav Bleu travels from shul to shul delivering lessons on complexities and derivations of the Oral tradition, on the week's parshah, and everything inbetween. The man is 83 but strides kilometers across town at a brisk pace. Everywhere people see him coming and jump to their feet to kiss his hand, wish him a Shabbat Shalom, and ask him questions. It was an eye opener to travel in his wake.
At every shiur (lesson,) once he had everyone's attention, he would close whatever book he was learning from and address the audience.
"We have two guys here, A. and Ephraim, and they are both single, they both learn Torah in yeshivah every day, and they earn a decent living. If any of you have eligible daughters please let me know now. Rafael, yes you, do you have any daughers? No, only sons? If you have any daughters let me know!"
And so it went at every shul.
Afterwards, Rav Bleu insisted that A. pull out his guitar and play some upbeat tunes.
He also loaned me an English book on the laws of shmittah (the sabbatical year.) Just being around a living Tzaddik has a permanently elevating effect on the soul.