Rav Yosef, shlita, born in Krakow in 1919, was 18 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. He came from an illustrious Belzer family of talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), dayanim (judges), and people renowned for their charity and kindness. He had the privilege of meeting the Belzer Rebbe, zt"l, a number of times, as well as spending yamim tovim in Belz. All this left a deep and holy impression on him.
It was a hot day in June 1997, the first day of summer vacation for many high school students. The Tel Aviv beach was packed with people. It was a perfect day for Motti Ashkenazi.
Are there any coincidences? I don't believe so. Everything that happens is preordained by Hashem.
It was a beautiful morning in May 1985 when I decided to take my tzedakah box to Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. I did not know much about Chabad, and had to ask for directions.
In 2001, the year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my husband and I were both in mourning for close relatives. As a woman, I did not have the responsibility of attending a minyan to recite Kaddish. So I never realized how complicated it could get.
I have been living in Israel for many years, yet there are still special moments that catch me by surprise. A series of such moments occurred recently, reminding me of how very lucky I am to call Yerushalayim my home.
Note to readers: When I heard the words, "You give us seven minutes and we'll give you the world" on the radio at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, July 13, I never thought that what I was about to hear would shake me to the core and change my world forever. I could not come to myself - and I'm sure most of klal Yisraelcouldn't either. So I sat down and the following poem spilled forth. Because it is written in a simple style, simple enough for any child to understand, I hope it does not seem to trivialize what happened; it is just my humble reaction to an earth-shattering event.
I am just a small-town girl whose aspirations never included the notion of traveling to exotic places. I dreamed of getting married, raising a family, and living near my parents and in-laws.
The long awaited wedding of her son was the highlight of Faiga's (all names used here are fictitious) life. A widow, she had never given up hope that she would one day walk her son down the aisle to his chuppah. With a mixture of fear over the long flight ahead and joy at the upcoming simcha, she boarded the plane. She had never undertaken such a long journey, but nothing could have held her back.
May 3, 2009-9 Iyar 5769: This is a date I will always remember and give thanks to Hashem. I was crossing 14th Avenue at 1 p.m. on a rainy day when I was suddenly struck by a car. The Almighty zokef kefufim straightens the bowed.
While working for the U.S. Census Bureau in 1990, I knocked on the door of Soviet ?migr?s in Boro Park and proceeded to converse with them about their recent arrival to the United States. This elderly couple had come from Moldavia. They were survivors of both Nazi and Communist tyranny.
We had just finished celebrating the High Holidays in Boca Raton. With the intensity of those days behind us, we were looking forward to visiting my family in New York. The kids were so excited and counted down the days until they would see their Bubby and Zayde, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Never did I realize that while I was deciding what clothes to pack for the Yom Tov of Sukkos, I would also be packing clothes for my father's levayah.
It was erev Simchas Torah and I had just lit my Yom Tov candles. I was rushing to go to hakafos (dancing with the Torah) at my local shul.
My husband of 40 years is always ready to help people. He is also very kind to his family and is always eager to embark on a family outing. However, he has one stipulation. He would rather not drive long distances at night, as he has had challenging experiences driving in the dark in fog, rain and other inclement weather.
Although the following incident occurred many years ago, it is etched in my mind as if it happened yesterday.
It was 1 a.m. when my daughter Shani and her friend Tehilla took a wrong turn and found themselves traveling along a dark, isolated stretch of road outside Jerusalem. A few moments later, they noticed a young bearded man dressed in a suit and black hat flagging them down. Tehilla was surprised when Shani abruptly stopped the car. Tehilla tried to dissuade Shani from giving the young man a ride, given the late hour.
Normally, I enjoy air travel. But the night before a recent flight to Los Cabos, Mexico, I developed an excruciating earache. I tried nursing it with organic eardrops, but by the time we arrived at the airport, the pain had only intensified.
This past Yom Kippur, my father, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, surprised our family by recounting a wartime Kol Nidre observance that stirred his soul.
My treasured parents loved Yiddishkeit. Their belief in Hashem was unwavering. My darling Daddy used to tell me that if I was ever afraid, I should recite the Shema. Whenever I was troubled, my precious Mommy would reassure me, "Gott vet helfen!" (God will help!).
While studying the anatomy of the heart in Machon Biotechnology in Israel, I had some thoughts: The four holiest cities in Israel - Jerusalem (fire/aish),Tzfat (wind/ruach), Chevron (earth/adamah), and Tverya (water/mayim) - seem to correspond to the four chambers of the heart.
I was writing in my home office, and the back door was open, letting the breeze waft in. It was quiet, except for a loud squawking squirrel outside. In fact, he was so loud that it sounded as if he was in the next room. I stopped typing and unsteadily dragged myself to the dining room door, terrified to open it.
For the past 10 years, I have been privileged to be part of a women's Tehillim group in Jerusalem. Every Shabbat, we meet and divide Sefer Tehillim (the Book of Psalms). We pray for the safety of our soldiers, for Eretz Yisrael, and for those injured in terrorist attacks. We also bring our individual lists of people in need of Divine assistance. We pray for women waiting to become mothers, for singles waiting to meet their spouses, for sick people waiting for good health, and for soldiers waiting to come home.
My husband and I were honored to attend a Hachnassas Sefer Torah celebration this summer at our upstate summer home in Elm Shade Estates. We have had a summer home for many years. We were always privileged to have a special, devoted friend take care of all the things that needed attention there - from ensuring that the grass was cut to keeping the shul spotless for Shabbos.
During the 1920s, a polio epidemic swept across the United Sates. My uncle, then a baby, was one of its victims. As a child, I heard the story of his recovery many times from my mother, his sister. At the time she was about 10 years old, and witnessed the miracle firsthand.
As I was sitting at the computer writing about my dream baby, I suddenly wondered, "Where is she? She is too quiet." So I turned around to see what she was doing. I had left her sitting behind me with toys to keep her busy, and she had been playing nicely. As she was no longer there I went to look for her, and found her happily sitting on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pile of ripped tissues. Okay, back to my story. Now you might wonder who "they" are. It's those folks who come up to me and say that my baby's feet are cold without socks; her head is baking in the sun without a hat; she's too hot with that blanket over her. Oh, the joys of living in Israel, where we are all family.