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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Menachem Mendel’

Am Yisrael Chai

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

February/Adar is birthday month in the Kupfer family, with four out of five members born during this period.


My oldest son Mendel made his debut on a wintry Rosh Chodesh Adar that almost seems like yesterday. I marvel that the tiny wizened-faced infant is now himself a father – and I am in awe of the endless chain of Yiddishkeit forged at Har Sinai, linking the past to the present, and the present to the future with new links added with each passing day.


And I remember.


It was the morning of Mendel’s bris one frigid February morning many years ago in a tiny shtiebel in a small town near Pittsburgh. Most of the congregants were quite elderly; no doubt there had not been a bris in the shul for years. So they shuffled up to me, squinted in my face, wished me a mazal tov and asked me, “How do you feel?” I know they were asking about my health. To them it was amazing that I was on my feet, let alone attending the bris. Back in the alter heim a kimpeturin, a woman who had just given birth was flat on her back for weeks.


But the question gave me pause. How do I feel about all this? Not physically but emotionally. For months I walked around with what felt like a squirming watermelon in my belly, unable to see my shoes, let alone tie them. Food shopping was an ordeal, as the smells wafting from the deli made me sick to my stomach. Finding a comfortable position to sleep in was as much of a challenge as getting to the bathroom on time.


And then one blizzard-like day, after hours and hours and hours and hours of being, to quote the nurse, “in a state of discomfort” (that made root canals seem like a walk in the park) my firstborn son made his debut. As I held this toothless, hairless brick-red wrinkled little nefeshal, with a head the size of a grapefruit, I immediately knew that for him I would demolish a mountain if necessary. And now at this moment, barely a week later, I was letting him be put under the knife.


So how I felt was a real good question? I know this was also on the minds of the ladies who were present because I saw them stealing glances at me. No doubt long buried memories and feelings had resurfaced, as they relived the moment themselves.


To be truthful, I felt a smorgasbord of feelings: concern that this very experienced, competent mohel would make his first mistake; anxiety that the baby survive the procedure and my clueless mothering; anguish over his pain; wishing he was getting married instead; and impatience that it be over already.


But these very real thoughts and feelings were unexpectedly shoved aside by an explosion of awe, wonder and the realization that Hashem had bestowed upon me a great honor. I had produced a Jew. There was another son of the covenant because of me and the level of holiness on Earth had been elevated. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of what I had been zoche to do. I had done something that even Moshe Rabbeinu, the only human who had seen G-d’s face could not do. He could not make a Jew. He, like all fathers, could produce children, yet even with the yichus of being the son of Amram and Yocheved and the grandson of Levi, Moshe could not pass on his Jewishness. Only a Jewish woman could. As it turned out, his wife Tzipporah, a convert, was able to transfer her Jewishness onto her sons – but Moshe the tzaddik could not.


For me this was the ultimate of achievements.


I felt that if I did nothing else for the rest of my life – if I sat in bed eating bonbons day after day -I could do so with a total sense of fulfillment, for I had brought forth a ben Yisrael and the world was holier for it. The worry, fear and anxiety that I had been experiencing when they took the baby from my arms had been washed away by feelings of awe and gratitude that I had been deemed worthy to be part of this miracle. By a lovely bit of timing, it was Parshat Terumah, and I was beside myself with pride that in a way I had provided my own kind of terumah – a 10th in a future minyan.


For me, my son’s bris also took on an extra sweet aspect. Both sets of his grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland and Romania. My mother, in particular, was the only survivor of her immediate family and my father had lost his mother and 10 older siblings and dozens of his nieces and nephews. (His father had died before the war or he would have probably been murdered as well.) When my son’s name was called out – Menachem Mendel ben Shmuel – I felt as if my hand had gone through gehennom and I had slapped Hitler’s face.


With the birth of every Jewish child, we are stating to those who wish we would disappear: You’re going to be bitterly disappointed.


Am Yisrael chai!


A Son’s Wedding: A Slap In The Face Of Our Enemies

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

My first-born son’s recent marriage was a huge simcha for the family, but the wedding was actually the culmination of a simcha that began years ago – at his bris. At the time, I remember the guests at the shul asking me how I felt. I knew that they were asking me ? a first time kimpeturin (a woman who had just gone through and was in the process of recovering from the strength-sapping ordeal of childbirth) how I felt physically. But I couldn’t help internalize the question from an emotional viewpoint. I myself wondered how I actually felt about what was happening around me.

For months, I had gone about feeling “out of sorts” – unable to tolerate everyday, normally pleasant smells like roasting chicken or perfume without feeling nauseous. For weeks, I waddled like a penguin instead of walking. I was unable to find a comfortable position in which to sleep, though I desperately needed the rest, and was even unable to tie my shoes.

I eventually went through an excruciating 25 hour labor being “uncomfortable,” as the nurse so diplomatically informed the doctor. And finally, after swearing this would be an only child – a vow that was not binding because women in childbirth are not held accountable for any of the babble that comes out of their mouths – I was presented with a brick-red, wrinkled creature that resembled a water-soaked chicken more than a human being – and it was love at first sight! At that moment, I made an unsolicited promise that as long as I drew breath, nobody would hurt him … And then eight days later, here I was surrendering this dependent, totally helpless being who was beginning to trust me – to a man with a knife!

So when I was asked, “How do you feel?” I had to do some serious self-examination. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted, rather sore, nervous, petrified (what if the mohel makes a mistake) and basically ready to pass out. But when I heard a cry from across the room, and then the name “Menachem Mendel ben Shmuel” being called out, an incredible joy and pride flooded me, totally washing away my terror and anxiety. Every fiber of my being was filled with an intense happiness and an overriding sense of accomplishment.

Mendel was named after his paternal grandfather’s father who had perished in the Holocaust, and as his name was proclaimed for the first time, I had a vision of a celestial hand cutting through Gehennom – and slapping Hitler’s face.

Mendel is the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors from across Europe – Poland, Romania, and Hungary. For thousands of years, the Jew haters of Europe, Asia and the Middle East have tried – in vain – to eradicate the Jewish people. Hitler, a descendant of Amalek, had tragically been extremely successful. Millions were brutally butchered on his orders. But despite his best efforts, he, like his evil peers throughout the millennia, had been unsuccessful. Their determined efforts were for naught. This eight day old baby boy, who had just been entered into the holy covenant between G-d and the children of Israel – was indicative of this failure. This child, who bore his ancestor’s name and was his continuation, was spiritual and physical evidence of the Jewish nation’s existence.

A new link in the timeless chain that stretched out from Har Sinai, this infant would embrace the holy heritage that his grandparents and millions of his kin had been murdered for. His very existence was triumphant proof that Jewicide was an unmitigated failure.

Thirteen years later, the simcha entered its second stage, as Mendel, upon reaching maturity as defined by Jewish law, became a full-fledged member of the congregation of Israel.

And now, the simcha has reached a new height as he and his wife Shira, whose multi-generational American family survived another insidious enemy of Israel - assimilation – proceed to build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael. With Hashem’s blessing, the young couples of today are producing offspring who, in turn, will carry the spiritual torch that has been handed down through thousands of years of Jewish continuity.

No doubt, every birth, every bar/bas mitzvah attained by a Jewish child, every chuppah and the subsequent birth of a new generation make Hitler and his ilk feel the flames of Hell more intensely. Every neshama, every soul, that was prematurely separated from its earthly body by the enemies of Israel rejoices and celebrates in its heavenly abode.

How fitting then, that during the Sheva Brachot celebration of this grandchild of the Shoah, the descendant of four sons and daughters of Yaacov who survived extermination by a vile son of Esau – that another blood-soaked enemy of Israel was summoned to the Heavenly Court for his Day of Reckoning. No doubt as this hate-filled son of Ishmael was escorted to the One Judge, his ears rang with the deafening shout of the souls of his victims – who, looking down at the simcha – roared in unison, “Am Yisrael Chai!!”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-sons-wedding-a-slap-in-the-face-of-our-enemies/2004/11/10/

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