I returned to work after the pre-summer Memorial Day weekend and found on my desk a brochure sent from the American Friends of Kupat Ha’ir. It described a tragedy that had recently taken place in Eretz Yisrael. A tzedakah campaign had been created after the father of 13 children was suddenly killed in a car accident, leaving behind a wife and the 13 children – including a six-day-old baby.
I recently heard a Pirkei Avos shiur in which the speaker said that our spiritual DNA derives from our patriarchs and matriarchs. The great tests they withstood and for which they gained ever greater prominence was witnessed by the Jews who followed them, many of whom succeeded in overcoming great challenges as well. It seems that an individual’s great effort helps the spiritual strength kick in.
In an April Lessons in Emunah column, I wrote an article called “Learning to Dance in the Rain” about two friends who were very ill. One was in a hospice. The doctors had given up hope and the family waited with a heavy heart. But there was still One Doctor left. And He began to heal her. Slowly, the disease began to reverse itself, slowly it began to withdraw.
It took a few months, but I finally summoned up what little koach I had to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l, for “Sunday Dollars.” I wanted to take my new baby to the Rebbe. Although he was about three months old at the time, I had not been strong enough until now to attempt a trip to 770 Eastern Parkway.
A few short months ago I lost my one and only uncle. He was very special and a great void was felt. He left a wonderful wife, children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren – and, Baruch Hashem, even some great-great-grandchildren.
I knew it wasn’t the right attitude to have but Tisha B’Av 30 years ago was one of the happiest days of my life.
My 40th birthday was looming, and the doctors were taking no chances. Every pre-natal visit was a repeat performance of the earlier ones. I was practically read the riot act, made to feel like the most irresponsible mother in history.
Like many religious Jews, our bookshelves contain a variety of sefarim. Among the sifrei Mishnah, the Gemara, the Chumashim, among others, there is one sefer that has special meaning to my family and me.
The GPS had not been invented when Shelly set off on a Friday afternoon many years ago to join the Bnei Akiva camp in the English countryside. The organizers always managed to find a farmer who welcomed young campers under adult supervision; thus they set up their tents and during the week took the opportunity to learn the halachot of building an eruv. There would be no problems on Shabbat and they would be able to carry within the campsite.
The highway was packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and there I sat with hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel, begging the cars to move. My heart swelled at the thought of seeing my son, who was just coming back from his year of learning in Eretz Yisrael. How I had missed him! Though I was used to him being away (if you can ever really get used to a child being away), a special space in my heart was empty – as I waited for him.
With so much to do before our recent trip, I was walking on a cloud. It must have been evident to one and all, since my feet barely touched the ground. Who would have believed that I would arrive at this special time – so grateful am I to HaKadosh Baruch Hu?
Soon after Hurricane Sandy’s devastation was just starting to sink in, news of a second approaching powerful storm called a “Nor’easter” was heard around the tri-state area. Another probable loss of power, hot water and other conveniences left us anxious and worried. In Lakewood, New Jersey there is a small mikveh building near the lake, and the woman working there shared this story about the storm’s impact.
The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.
A flash of red caught my eye, and I looked up and saw a cardinal perched on the picnic table on my deck. What a miracle, I marveled. You’re beautiful. Thanks, Hashem. And then my mind’s wheels began to roll, and it struck me that several miracle stories had come my way this week. The stories prodded me to think of and feel Hashem’s presence as a more tangible and vivid reality.
It was a lovely summer night in the Holy Land. My husband and I, and a dozen or so of our colleagues, straggled into our hotel, exhausted but exhilarated after a long action-packed day of touring and activities. As we entered the lobby, we heard the unmistakable melodic strains of a piano being played in an adjacent room.
Growing up with Cerebral palsy, I was angry. I asked, “Why am I disabled? Why is the kid next door Reform and healthy and my family is so religious and I am disabled?” I thought He was supposed to love us, but it seemed He was punishing me.
Recently, I was elated to hear that my daughter had left Shaare Zedek hospital content that the surgery to remove a growth under her eyelid had been successful, Baruch Hashem. It is always difficult when a loved one must endure a painful experience while separated by land and sea, but when I heard about the hashgachah she had encountered I was comforted that the One Above was again watching over our family.
When I call my friend on her birthday and ask her how it feels to be her new age, she answers, “It's better than the alternative.” Yes, we’ve all heard Vivian Greene’s words: “Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.”
A pale young man shuffled into the small Jerusalem yeshiva during kriyat haTorah one Shabbat morning.
We live in a world that is often too cruel and unkind. Living in Israel for the last 30 years, I have attended too many funerals for those whose lives were taken through incomprehensible acts of terror. During the years of the second intifada there were many days that I found it impossible to continue teaching, as a student would burst into my classroom and announce that there had been another terrorist attack. How could I just go on with a regular lesson when lives were lost?
Living in Staten Island provides us with a certain type of suburban living that is enjoyed and appreciated by most, if not all. We have less congestion of cars, easier parking and more camaraderie, as there are less people than in the other boroughs. We have no alternate parking, and it’s easier to park in all shopping areas. The rabbis know each person individually, and are very familiar with their families and life histories. This is not an advertisement for our neighborhood; it’s simply background to my story.
“If you have children, you are a millionaire. And if all of your children have children, you are a billionaire.”
The start of the school year had already passed. Our youngest son was waiting for community leaders to determine what should be done for the students of his beloved school that had recently fallen apart due to lack of funds. The result turned out to be better than anyone could have ever expected.
The first and only time I said I was a rabbi was also the first and only time I had a gun pointed at me. What led me to that moment was my need to stay on the Upper West Side for a Shabbos and a hospitality committee that arranged for me to stay with a man who lived in the former janitor’s apartment on the fifth floor of a synagogue.
There were three names with brief bios on the list. All had similar qualities and were within the correct age and frumkeit range. With nothing to distinguish one from the others, we could have enlisted the tried-and-true option of “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…” Instead, we decided to base our decision on practical and geographic considerations. So we opted to go with the candidate from Teaneck, New Jersey, reasonably close in proximity to our son’s apartment in Edison.