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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Ateret Avot’

We Must Have Faith

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

I live at Scharf’s Ateret Avot, a residence for seniors. I get around via a motorized wheelchair. This gives me the independence to go where I choose.

On a recent sunny morning, I decided to ride and do a little shopping. Most important I took my small canvas tote bag, in which I put the things necessary to go shopping. Included among these things were my charge card, my purse with money, and my cell phone. As usual I slung the tote over the arm of my chair, did my shopping, and happily rode back to Ateret Avot. In the lobby I reached for my tote bag to get my keys. Calamity! The tote bag was gone.

Panic set in. Where can it be? Moses Scharf saw my agitation and asked what was wrong. I told him, and said I would retrace my steps. His response was, “Don’t panic. Put a dollar in the pushka and say a prayer to Rabbi Meir Baal Haness.”

Mr. Scharf had to give me a dollar because my money was in the missing tote bag. I recited the prayer for lost articles. I wasn’t sure that this would work, but figured that prayer never hurts.

I left the lobby and saw that Mr. Scharf left right after me. I later found out that he walked into every store on my route to inquire if anyone had found the bag.

I returned to Ateret Avot feeling dejected. I took mental inventory. I would have to notify my cell phone company, my charge card company, etc. All my IDs were gone. I entered the lobby with tears rolling down my cheeks. Iris, the receptionist, greeted me. “Phyllis, smile.” I answered, “I have nothing to smile about.”

Then I saw this young man holding my tote bag. I could not believe my eyes. This wonderful yeshiva bachur, Dovid Lipschutz, had found my bag. It was in the middle of the street and a car had just run over it. He picked it up and ingeniously called a number listed in my cell phone. My son answered and gave him my address.

Also amazing is the fact that the only damage was to a plastic pillbox. My purse, cell phone, etc. were the way I left them. Mr. Scharf smiled as he said to me, “I told you Rabbi Meir Baal Haness would help you find it.” There is no question in my mind that Mr. Scharf had advised me properly.

We must have faith.

Purity

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

What is purity? Too much of what purports to be good is watered down by the “not so good.” There seems to be a lurking selfishness behind many sin-cere gestures – a “what’s in it for me?” approach. With cynicism the order of the day, anyone who tries to rise above the rat race is often condemned as hypocritical or phony. In such a world, the concepts of purity of character and purity of purpose seem to be simply theoretical.

I thought this way until I had the opportunity to interact with Jay (Yaakov) Neinstein, may he rest in peace, over the last three months of his life. (Jay passed away this past July.)

I met his mother, Mrs. Ruth Neinstein, at Scharf’s Ateret Avot Senior Residence of Brooklyn, where I am director of programming. Over the next year or so, I talked with Jay a number of times and engaged him to lead a few programs at Ateret Avot. We also talked about his mother’s involvement in programs and he complimented me profusely for every time I gave Mrs. Neinstein an opportunity to shine in the activities.

Then, around four months ago, I learned that Jay had a grim health prognosis. A short time later, I was informed that he was moving to Ateret Avot. I felt a little awkward as I had almost no experience with providing recreation for people who are so gravely ill, and I wondered if he would just want to stay with his family. In short, I didn’t know how I could cheer him up.

Despite my apprehensions, I decided to give it my best, and when I greeted him the first time at Ateret Avot, I got a very warm response. In subse-quent conversations, we decided that we wanted to learn, and we set aside a period of time once a week in the synagogue where we would learn Mishnayos. My learning with him, though, went far beyond Mishnayos. Seeing his constant positive attitude, his love of learning Torah and his joy in understanding a section of the tractate that only moments before had seemed vague filled me with a sense of thankfulness to Hashem for all of His blessings.

The irony was that he was cheering me up more than I was cheering him. For the first time in my life, I experienced “pure emunah” (faith).

I never heard Jay say a bad word about anyone or anything, and he never complained about his con-dition. The fact that he was gravely ill was the last thing on my mind when we were sitting and learning. One of his most endearing qualities was his ability to add something insightful to some Torah idea that I was developing. All too often in other learning situations, people either criticize or ignore concepts which I present.

When I shared a Torah chidush with Jay, he was genuinely moved to hear it. The next day at breakfast, it was not unusual for him to tell me that he liked what I had said the day before, and that he had something he wanted to add. He was not refuting my ideas or ignoring them; he was building on them. This demonstrated that the learning didn’t end when we shut our seforim. It stayed with him until the next time we spoke. What a wonderful way to create a strong learning connection.

Two words that Jay often said were “Baruch Hashem.” At 51, Jay had trouble walking and concentrating. One might have wondered why such a young person who has the right to be angry at his plight instead expressed his sincere love of Hashem and all that He was doing for him.

I don’t believe that Jay was in denial or ignoring what he was going through. He had just found that special closeness to Hashem that we can all achieve. And when you have that pure connection, it’s only natural to be positive and serene.

When I think of Jay, I think of Parshas Shelach, which tells of the Meraglim (Spies) who brought back evil reports about the Land of Israel. They had been in a beautiful place, and had focused on the bad. Conversely, Jay was going through something very difficult, and all he could see was the beauty of having the opportunity to serve Hashem.

Jay’s mother, Ruth Neinstein, is a wonderful, loving, caring, generous and kind woman. She has two devoted living children – Saul Neinstein and Debbie Elk. They honor Jay’s memory with great dignity.

We can be inspired by the memory of Jay’s emunah by trying to move beyond superficiality, cynicism and rote religious practice toward that purity of purpose and purity of religious practice that’s within us to achieve. If Jay were still here, he would sweetly add something to what I’ve just written. In a way, however, he still is here for me, as he continues to inspire me to praise Hashem no matter what is happening around me.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/purity/2008/10/29/

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