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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Aron Kodesh’

Spirits Soar

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

For many years Hineni has had the zechus of holding Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur davening in the beautiful ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. As if by magic, we quickly transform the banquet room into a majestic synagogue. By the time the Aron Kodesh is in place, one has difficulty remembering that just hours earlier, this was a wedding hall.

What is amazing about our services, however, is that they attract Jews from every walk of life, and all are equally impacted. The davening, drashos (sermons) learning and explanations of the prayers that my sons and son-in-law offer are electrifying and inspiring. Everyone embraces the day and reaches new spiritual heights.

No one goes out to the lobby to schmooze or needs to be shushed, and no one leaves early. Even during the brief break on Yom Kippur, people stay in order to study the Book of Yonah – an experience that is truly astounding when understood through the interpretations of the Vilna Gaon.

Only the crying of infants and toddlers breaks the silence in our shul, but to me, that is not noise, but music. Whenever there is a disturbance of this sort during prayer, I recall the words of the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt’l, who lost his Rebbetzin and all his 11 children in the Holocaust. On the first Rosh Hashanah after that terrible Churban, his voice choked up with tears, he wept and said, “Where are the children? Why do we not hear their voices? Where are the babies? Why do we not hear them cry?”

Those questions were laden with pain, and echoed in every displaced person’s camp where survivors gathered in prayer. “Why? Why don’t we hear our babies cry? Where are all our children?”

There were no answers forthcoming. The agonizing questions reverberated in the air. So, if today, I hear babies cry, I say, “Baruch Hashem!” a thousand times and marvel at the miraculous rejuvenation of our Jewish people.

Our Hineni Congregation is composed of people from every segment of society: young singles, families, parents, children, grandparents, visitors from abroad, secular as well as the very observant – people who normally have nothing in common, yet are fused into one through prayer and the sanctity of Torah.

That common denominator connects our people, but in our fractured society, we have failed to harness its magic, to banish the yetzer ha’ra with its fire. Baruch Hashem, at our services, that magic does take place. As the Torah envelops us, our souls open up and soar. We bond as a people…reach new levels of emunah – faith in our G-d.

On these occasions, we have the pleasure of hosting seudos (festive meals) after each of the services, providing us with an opportunity to get to know one another on a more personal level. Last year, we met Mr. X, who was 99 years old at that time. His daughter brought him to our davening. It was remarkable that this gentleman, a survivor of the Holocaust, who had experienced that nightmare in all its horrific dimensions, had totally renounced his faith and had not been in shul or heard the sound of the shofar for more than 69 years. But something tugged at his heart… a small inner voice whispered to him and demanded that he listen to the shofar, and for the first time in 69 years, he came to shul.

At the seudah, I asked everyone to stand up for him, and in his honor our chazzan sang Shalom Aleichem and Ani Ma’amin. We all joined in and the men formed a circle and danced around him. We marveled at the miraculous power of the “Pintele Yid,” which never dies.

I wondered if our friend would return this year. I was not kept in suspense for long. His daughter told me that he was anxiously awaiting Rosh Hashanah. Once again we welcomed and feted him, and as we sang, we wished him a happy 100th birthday…. biz 120!

Allow me to share with you two more vignettes of people who davened with us, as testimony to the invincibility of the Yiddishe neshamah.

There was a beautiful young woman who once heard me speak in a far-off very assimilated community. She held a lucrative position there, but I challenged her to leave it behind and come to New York. “Join us,” I said, “study Torah with us and meet a great Jewish guy.”

It was just one meeting, one little invitation, but the “Pintele Yid” in her awakened, and a few months later, she showed up at our Hineni class in New York. And she also convinced her sister to join her. In no time at all, both she and her sister were immersed in our Torah classes, and shortly thereafter, both were married to wonderful young men with whom they built true Jewish homes.

Then there’s the story of a young woman from Budapest who had read my book in its Hungarian translation. It awakened her Yiddishe neshamah and she told her family that she had to go to New York for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Overnight, a magical transformation took place. I was privileged to see her walk under the chuppah and establish a true Jewish home.

She wasn’t content to keep this treasure to herself. She and her husband organized a spectacular gathering in Budapest so that I was able to bring the message of Torah to our Hungarian Jewish brethren. And now this young couple flew in for our davening with their new addition – a beautiful little baby girl.

I could share dozens more stories with you – testimonies to the invincible eternal spirit of our Jewish people that neither Hitler, y”s, nor the forces of assimilation could destroy.

As we come to the conclusion of the Yamim Tovim, and appeal once again on Hoshanah Rabah for G-d’s forgiveness, compassion and blessing, I would like to publicly proclaim that it was not only during our 40-year sojourn in the desert that we followed Hashem, but throughout the millennia, the long dark torturous years of our exile. Generation after generation we declared, “Here I am! Yes, Hashem, we are here. So please bless us with your presence. Say ‘Hineni – Here I am’ to us and bring an end to our long, bitter exile!”

Some Guidelines for Visitation (Part 4)

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006


(Names and circumstances changed)


 


         In the last three articles I have been sharing some ideas for visitation of the sick that were suggested to me by the chronically ill and their spouses. In this article I’d like to discuss the repercussions of the visits on the well spouse and family and how the best of intentions for helping the sick can wreak havoc on the spouse. The family’s needs as a whole must always be considered when trying to help someone who is ill. Illness strikes a family, not just an individual, and everyone needs help.


 


         Mushka had been to the hospital every day since her husband had been readmitted. She would leave in just enough time to be home for her children when they came home from school. The rest of the day was spent taking her children to the hospital to visit their father for a short time. Then she’d get them home, give them supper, allay their fears about “Totty” and put them to bed. If she could get a baby- sitter she would return to the hospital. She hoped her employer would keep her job open until she could return to it. But she had no idea how long that would be.


 


         With all this, she had not even thought about preparing for Shabbos. Fortunately she had enough leftovers in the freezer to provide for her family this week. They would just make do with two sheets of matzah instead of her usual, freshly baked challah. She had no choice. On Friday when Mushka came to the hospital, a friend of her husband’s was there. He had brought two beautiful small challot his wife had baked especially for Mushka’s husband.


 


         She walked into the room just as the friend was saying to her husband, “Are you sure you don’t want them?” Mushka stopped short. The words, “I want them. I need them. Please! See me and my family’s needs!” were on her lips, but for some reason, wouldn’t come out of her mouth. She told me she was mentally gyrating around the room, to be noticed. But, she wasn’t noticed. And the friend packed up the challot and took them home.


 


         She angrily asked her husband why he didn’t suggest they give the challah to his family. Her husband asked her why she simply hadn’t asked for them. No one had an answer. And the family used matzah that Shabbos.


 


         Harry lived in an incredible, caring community. After his accident his community made sure he had support every day. People came to learn with him several times daily. They even began a weekly minyan in his home so that he could daven with a minyan. After a while, his community thought it would be great if Harry had a Shabbos minyan in his home, as well.


 


         They told Sheva, his wife, that the community would take care of everything. Someone would come every Friday to set up the chairs to make the family room into a shul. They would return after Shabbos to take them down and put them over to the side of the room. The women would bring everything needed for Kiddush and put it in Sheva’s refrigerator. They would come into her kitchen and set up Kiddush during davening. Of course, they would stay to clean up as well. Sheva would not have to lift a finger to help. They would take care of everything.


 


         Sheva wondered how she could make these caring people realize that they had forgotten a very important thing. That was, how she and her family would handle the constant invasion to her home and her privacy. She could no longer have her leisurely Shabbos coffee in her kitchen, or even walk to the bathroom without getting dressed first. She no longer had a single place in her room to which she could escape, to forget even for a moment, the horror that had come to them. Even the family room would now have an Aron Kodesh in it and chairs piled to the side all week, to hamper her children’s play and moments of normalcy.


 


         She told me she felt guilty complaining, because it was great for her husband. But her privacy was lost not for weeks or even months. We were talking years. For the coming years there was nowhere in her house that was hers.


 


         “When one is sick, two need help” is the motto of the Well Spouse Association. Just as the needs of the chronically ill have escalated, so have the needs of the family. Sometimes, helping one can cause problems for the other. It is important to always think about the family. How will what you are doing impact on the family? Are you even thinking about what the family needs?


 


         Discuss your ideas of how to help with the couple as a whole, or both, individually. Does the suggestion work for the family unit? Reevaluate it after a bit of time has passed. What might have been agreed upon as a great idea a month ago, may now be presenting some unanticipated problems. Well spouses sometimes get so wrapped up in making life better for their mates, they forget to think of how it will impinge upon them, until it does. Always remember that whatever you do affects a whole family and not just an individual. Make sure your help does the same.


 


         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/some-guidelines-for-visitation-part-4/2006/12/27/

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