Meeting with the Sages
On the 19th of Av (August 11, 1998) I returned to HaRav Shlomo Min HaHar, to submit the eight questions to him, and to give him an update of the project, photos, and 2 coins. G-d bless HaRav Min Hahar - he was exceedingly frail - but he lit up when I explained the photo, and explained each question. He repeated over and over "Beit Hamikdash! Beit Hamikdash!." He accepted the questions, and we parted with his offering me his hearty hand-shake.
On 8 Elul (August 30, 1998) we delivered the questions to HaRav Nachman Kahana and HaRav Shlom Riskin.
On 9 Elul (August 31, 1998) we met with HaRav Chaim Sheinberg. This meeting was magic and will have repercussions on two continents. Here is how it went;
Figuring that our opening was the Ketoret, as the Rav had already accepted, on behalf of his Yeshiva, the set of 8 spices we had available some nine years ago. We now have all 11, so it seemed a sure in. I reintroduced myself and presented the set of 11 in the wooden rack and filled him in on the new three we had obtained. Having succeeded thus far, I then proceeded to ask if I might update him on the new project we had actualized since our last meeting, and receiving his approval, I produced the ancient Half-Shekel, Shekel, Kalbonot (money changer's commision), Gera and Pym weights and explained each item. We have learned that the experience of holding these in your hands, actual coins that passed through the Treasury of the Second Temple, endears a person with whom we share it, and leaves them open to what we have to say next. I then placed our new Half-Shekel into his hand and said "for when the time comes - we have made this Half-Shekel to fulfil the commandment" and he asked its purity, weight, and value, and I explained the basis upon which we produced it. I then said that we had some important questions concerning the Half-Shekel and may we ask them of the Rav. He responded that he was sort of busy. At that point the magic began.
I had prepared a portfolio of pages downloaded from the website that included two Half-Shekels (packaged in Hebrew and English) and some photos. On the reverse side of the glassine sleeve I had placed a blow-up of the photo of the two Kohanim from Brinks carrying the golden chest and asking the Rav's permission I handed him the packet photo up. I said; "these two men (pointing to the Brinks guards) are Kohanim from the Brinks Corporation, transporting Hekdesh to the safe in the Chief Rabbinate's office following the Trumat HaLishka ceremony on Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan this year. We did it again on Rosh Chodesh Sivan and we will, G-d willing, do it again before Rosh Hashanah" (Sept.17, 1998.)
At this point I looked the Rav straight in the eyes and said, "we need answers to these questions - it is not theoretical - it is mamash serious and we need answers." He asked if I expected answers on the spot, to which I replied Chas V'chalilah (G-d forbid), "we prepared them in writing for you and it would be good to receive the answers by Purim." The Rav accepted the questions. Gevalt!
Feeling on a roll, I presented the Rav with a collector's edition of the Half-Shekel to teach from - and I went further. I produced a 154 page book written in 1895 entitled Shekel Hakodesh, and asked if he would have the Yeshivah undertake translating it from its Rashi script Hebrew to English - on disc - so we could post it on the website. He assigned a Rav to it, HaRav Tzvi Pinkus.
And I went one step further. In addition to my briefcase I came with a bag, containing the first Beged Ivri tunic I had ever produced - from Tallith material - wool with the horizontal black stripe, dingle balls along the front bottom, tzitzith with Radziner Techelet and the finest black satin gartel (sash). It was the most stunning Beged I had ever made. Rav Sheinberg is the 'Tzitzith Rebbe', and he wears layers upon layers of Tzitzith. As I packed up to leave - I figured - go for it - what do I have to lose? I walked up to the Rebbe and held out the corner of the tunic I was wearing, with the Tzitzith and Techelet, and he immediately grasped it from my hand and held onto it. I took the garment I had created with him in mind, and slid it out of the bag and held it up and said "I want to make a trade with you; I want to trade you this Beged for all the tzitzith you are wearing." His son, who also serves as his Gabbai (assistant), came rushing over and said "Put that away before my mother sees it!" (The rebbe wears so many tzitzith that the last thing his wife or doctor want is for him to take on additonal tzitzith.) I noticed though that the rebbe had come alive. The rebbe responded "What? You want to trade that one Beged for all these Tzitzith?" and I replied "Yes, your doctor and your wife will love it!" By this time his son was a full participant in the discussion. He said "But abba (dad) it has sleeves - you won't wear it!" I turned to the rebbe and seeing in his eyes that he wanted it said, "so don't wear it - hang it on the wall and look at it as you walk by." His son came back with "but eema (mom) will freak out" and at that point I turned to him and said, "don't argue with your father" (lovingly and definitively.) Now I turned to the rebbe who was weighing my offer, and I saw in his eyes that he was considering trading one, two, maybe even three of the tzitzith he was wearing, but all of them? He said to me, "Are you kidding?" Now of course I wasn't really looking to trade one garment for 60, I was looking to trade concepts, and I said "those are tzitzith for Galut (exile) - this is tzitzith for Geulah (Redemption), and asking if he would like to have it, he nodded to his son to accept it.
I won. The rebbe got his garment.
One other thing that caught the rebbe's eye was the ten stringed Davidic Lyre that appears on the obverse of the Half-Shekel of the year 50. I asked him if he would like to see one and he responded yes, and I told him I would bring both a Kinnor (Davidic Lyre) and Nevel (Harp) to him the next day.
We parted with the Rebbe offering me his hearty handshake - three times.
The next day I accompanied Shoshana Harrari of House of Harrari to the rebbe and he held the kinnor up to his ear and played it, and Shoshana played the harp for the Rebbe, as well as explaining the work she and her husband do, taking the harps and lyres down off the willows, and restoring once again the sounds of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.