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Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai’

Will You Dream With Me?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

One very cold, very dark evening in the middle of a particularly brutal Canadian winter, four cars were parked outside a home on a deserted side street of our Thornhill neighborhood.


Inside the home, five women were huddled around the dining room table, animatedly discussing and planning. Over herbal tea and low-fat cranberry cookies, the five women, representing different synagogues and outreach centers in our area, shared their dream and vision.

 

The last few months had been particularly difficult for all of us. As part of the Jewish nation, we collectively shared our pain, suffering, worries and prayers. The Mumbai tragedy had hit us all hard, and before recovering, we once again found ourselves gathered tensely in prayers as our valiant soldiers entered Gaza to defend our people and Land, while misguided and hate-filled protesters the world-over furiously objected against our right to self-defense, and, in some cases, called for our destruction.

 

And so, gathered around that table, we shared our thoughts. We had a vision; and over the next couple of hours it became more tangible, as we planned, shared, organized and planned some more.

 

If in difficult, tragic times we were able to gather in unity and prayers, could we do so without any impetus of danger?

 

We would make an evening of unity for all the women of our area – an evening when we would gather together, disregarding all our differences but focusing solely on our similarities. For that night (and hopefully more to follow) we would look beyond the disparities in our philosophies, customs or value systems. It wouldn’t matter what our level of observance was or wasn’t, how or whether we opted to cover our hair, what choices we made in educating our children, or the level of kashrut that we did or didn’t keep in our homes.

 

For the terrorists of Mumbai and Gaza, these differences were clearly insignificant in their keen desire to destroy us all. And now, we too, would make a gathering of unity where these distinctions would not separate us.

 

It took work and planning, several email exchanges and a bunch of phone calls. But for the first time in Toronto’s history, a flyer advertising our women’s evening of unity proudly bore the logos of three synagogues and outreach centers that hitherto had never worked together.

 

In our special evening, each community would be represented, whether through the main inspirational speakers or in the preliminary words of greetings, whether in coordinating the “ice breaker” activity or in being the venue to host the event.

 

As the advertisements began to be distributed, more and more synagogues – even those whose original reaction was lukewarm or whose adult education schedule was already too full – asked to join and be a part of this evening.

 

The result? This week, those initial five women are meeting once again. This time we’re meeting to discuss an even bigger follow-up event, because the most-repeated feedback from the overflowing crowds that attended was, “This is great! When’s the next unity evening being planned?

 

Because the Jewish People is tired of suffering, we are ready to join together – in unison – as G-d’s chosen people. We are coming to a collective, intuitive realization that we share too much to be divided over the petty differences that break us apart.

 

And so, as we plan for hopefully bigger and better programs in our Thornhill community, I now have a new dream.

 

Now I am dreaming that these “unity evenings” will spread to more and more communities, male and female, all across our city, all across Canada, North America and the world over.


 I dream that we will become big enough people to see beyond our small differences.

 

And I dream that despite our differences, we will be able to appreciate the good in each other and work with one another to accomplish our joint goal of bringing more goodness to our world.

 

Do you, too, share my dream?

 

Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute video cast on www..chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers -Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/13/09

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Esther – An Update (Part 1)

Dear Readers,

Many of you will no doubt recall the columns that were devoted to “Esther” who had first written of her heartache and her guilt-ridden conscience back in May of last year. Gradually we learned that Esther (the name she chose to veil her real identity) was just barely facing and surviving each day in her prolonged state of wretchedness brought on by events of years back…

Esther let us in on her feelings of devastation, enormous guilt and unending sorrow over the death of a fine young man whom she believed she had “killed” with her insolent rejection. In her own words… “Twenty-three years ago I murdered a wonderful young man and haven’t had a day of true peace ever since.” (Chronicles 5-16-08)

Were that not enough of a burden to bear, she then suffered a mother’s worst nightmare when her then-husband left her and absconded with their two young sons. “They were stolen from me,” Esther wrote of her harrowing ordeal. “When my children vanished, I died a million times over the years. As a mother, my heart bleeds and cries and is torn apart.”

We cried along with Esther and this column did what little it could to lift some of the poor woman’s melancholy and to offer her hope of “…being reunited with the children you carried under your heart and whom you were so cruelly dispossessed of.” Our response to her second letter (Chronicles 8-1-08) expressed the consolation that “G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent – a kesher not easily broken.” (Chronicles 8-8-08)

Unbeknownst to Esther at the time, across the globe the column was being read by none other than one of her sons – who lost little precious time in contacting whom he had a hunch was his birth mother, whom he was separated from when he was but a toddler.

Following an emotional reunion of mother and long-lost son who, it turned out, resides in Israel with his wife and young daughter, Esther wrote to us again (Chronicles 10-31-08) – this time with her spirits somewhat uplifted. “You saved my life and brought me back not only a son but a full-fledged family! I am suddenly very aware that there is happiness and joy in the world and the tears of both keep mingling…”

Having returned from her trip abroad where she spent the Yamim Tovim with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Esther updated us: “You can imagine that over the holiday season we talked for hours on end, catching up on lost years – my son’s growing-up years in particular. At one point I asked him to let me meet his stepmother. (He calls her Ima… and me they called Ima’le!)

Happy ending, one might conclude, by any stretch of the imagination. But wait – there’s more. While her son continues to be a beacon of light to the mother he was fortunate to become newly acquainted with and for whom he displays the greatest respect and love, Esther has been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions.

“I’m really, really thinking about my son urging me to move to Israel,” Esther confided in an e-mail exchange. “I don’t have anything here…but I never thought of Israel because after all I had nothing there either. What would YOU do IF you were in my exact position?”

As she was mulling the pros and cons (were there any cons?), her tenderheartedness shone through – despite all the hardships she had suffered: “What do I do? If I go, I’ll be closer to a family I never had and I want very much to be close to. On the other hand, am I going to infringe on the adoptive mother? Will I be stepping into her territory ?”

And then – Esther’s dilemma suddenly became miniscule when the Mumbai tragedy struck. It was broadcast around the world and Esther was beside herself with grief. She cried along with Moishe’le: “I am devastated. I was watching the funerals in Israel…and watched how little Moishe is crying for his ‘Ima.’I’m still crying for the poor, wonderful souls that were torn away…”

True, Esther was one of many thousands of devastated souls, but with everything that she had been through, I worried about Esther’s fragile new beginning and dared to ask her if she still cried over “Aaron” – the man whom she had loved yet had spurned so many years ago. “NO. I do not cry any more,” she replied. “I still have a strong yearning (is that the word?) for that long ago time…and the wish that I had done things differently. But my newfound family gives me a lot of energy.” I sighed with relief; Baruch Hashem…

In the meanwhile, the subject of aliyah kept resurfacing. “I have been discussing it with my son and his wife. They call often and every conversation includes the discussion of why I should not stay and why I should come.”

Esther’s boss (“a very nice man and nice to me always…”), her employer for years now, has not only encouraged his devoted employee to “to think about it [moving to Israel] in a positive way” – he furthered her motivation by telling her that he’d give her three months pay to help her along in her new start. “I almost hugged him!” wrote Esther in another of our e-mail exchanges.

By mid-December, she finally had it down pat: She would go to Israel to be with her family for Pesach, would assess her surroundings and hopefully come away with a more definitive decision about moving there and about the where-to-settle issue.

Esther, I was discovering, was more than just softhearted. She was also considerate and very grounded in her thinking: “…Close enough to my son, I guess, but far enough not to be in their way…”

(To be continued)

Senseless Love

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

One month ago, humanity woke up to a very dark world.


Has there ever been such a clear-cut line drawn between good and evil, between darkness and light?


As we have all learned by now, Gaby and Rivki Holtzberg were two young Chabad emissaries, only in their twenties, who chose to leave the comforts of home and family to live in far away Mumbai, India, with the sole goal of bringing the light of Torah, of spreading greater joy and meaning to their fellow Jews.


The terrorists were also young  − in their mid-twenties, and they also chose Mumbai as their destination. They too were dedicated to their goal, and spent years in training for it  − but their goal was to darken lives, to bring pain and destruction, and wreak horror and havoc.


And this past week, though our world became a darker place, the clarity between these polar opposites, between good and evil, became as clear as day.


Unfortunately we live in a world where horrors happen. Too often, people die young, children are left orphans. Crimes and wrongs are needlessly perpetrated.


We usually read about these things. We sigh. We say how horrible they are and then moments later we continue on with our lives.


But with this atrocity in Mumbai, somehow we are all not just moving along. It is affecting us. We’re outraged. We’re incensed, consumed with sadness, with pain. We sense that this is somehow more tragic. Because of its senselessness. Because of the clearly drawn lines between the forces of good and the evil.


The end of the book of Daniel is a prophesy about our time, describing events as follows:
At the end of days, things will become abundantly clear. Evil people will be exceedingly evil and good people, devoted to helping others, will shine like the bright stars in the sky.


So how do we react to this? What now?


We need to direct our outrage, our pain.


We need to follow the example of Rivki and Gabi, whose lives were dedicated to unconditional love and unity − of reaching out to every one of their fellow Jews as brothers and sisters, without judgment, without condescension, without focusing on differences − but only with love and unity.


On a very practical level, what does it mean to each of us?


We all have someone, against whom we harbor something −  a grudge, or a hurt that we still hold within our hearts.


“Maybe he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did”; “maybe she really did blow this out of proportion.” “Maybe he does have an uncontrollable temper,” and “maybe she really is too stingy.” And “maybe they really have an entirely different world view than my own.”
Does it really matter? Isn’t now the time to get past that, get beyond our petty limitations to find the connecting threads of unity?


So, reach out. Pick up your phone and call that person that you haven’t spoken to for months. Get together with that relative. Gather around the Shabbat table. Gather around the beautiful Chanukah lights.


Let us make this year a year full of connections, heart-warming gatherings, of unconditional, absolute unity.


Let’s fight the senseless hatred in our world, with our own senseless love.


Because we want little two-year-old Moishele to grow up in a better world than the one he now knows − a world where there is no room for senseless evil, because it is filled with too much love.


[In honor of the shloshim for Rabbi Gavriel Noach (Gaby) and Rivka (Rivki) Holtzberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, and all the other innocent souls who perished at the hands of terrorists in the Mumbai Terror Attacks.]


Watch a four-minute powerful video of “Senseless Love” on Chana’s In Touch video blog at chabad.org/779256 or chabad.org/InTouch.


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at cweisberg@chabad.org.

Senseless Love

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

One month ago, humanity woke up to a very dark world.

Has there ever been such a clear-cut line drawn between good and evil, between darkness and light?

As we have all learned by now, Gaby and Rivki Holtzberg were two young Chabad emissaries, only in their twenties, who chose to leave the comforts of home and family to live in far away Mumbai, India, with the sole goal of bringing the light of Torah, of spreading greater joy and meaning to their fellow Jews.

The terrorists were also young  − in their mid-twenties, and they also chose Mumbai as their destination. They too were dedicated to their goal, and spent years in training for it  − but their goal was to darken lives, to bring pain and destruction, and wreak horror and havoc.

And this past week, though our world became a darker place, the clarity between these polar opposites, between good and evil, became as clear as day.

Unfortunately we live in a world where horrors happen. Too often, people die young, children are left orphans. Crimes and wrongs are needlessly perpetrated.

We usually read about these things. We sigh. We say how horrible they are and then moments later we continue on with our lives.

But with this atrocity in Mumbai, somehow we are all not just moving along. It is affecting us. We’re outraged. We’re incensed, consumed with sadness, with pain. We sense that this is somehow more tragic. Because of its senselessness. Because of the clearly drawn lines between the forces of good and the evil.

The end of the book of Daniel is a prophesy about our time, describing events as follows: At the end of days, things will become abundantly clear. Evil people will be exceedingly evil and good people, devoted to helping others, will shine like the bright stars in the sky.

So how do we react to this? What now?

We need to direct our outrage, our pain.

We need to follow the example of Rivki and Gabi, whose lives were dedicated to unconditional love and unity − of reaching out to every one of their fellow Jews as brothers and sisters, without judgment, without condescension, without focusing on differences − but only with love and unity.

On a very practical level, what does it mean to each of us?

We all have someone, against whom we harbor something −  a grudge, or a hurt that we still hold within our hearts.

“Maybe he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did”; “maybe she really did blow this out of proportion.” “Maybe he does have an uncontrollable temper,” and “maybe she really is too stingy.” And “maybe they really have an entirely different world view than my own.” Does it really matter? Isn’t now the time to get past that, get beyond our petty limitations to find the connecting threads of unity?

So, reach out. Pick up your phone and call that person that you haven’t spoken to for months. Get together with that relative. Gather around the Shabbat table. Gather around the beautiful Chanukah lights.

Let us make this year a year full of connections, heart-warming gatherings, of unconditional, absolute unity.

Let’s fight the senseless hatred in our world, with our own senseless love.

Because we want little two-year-old Moishele to grow up in a better world than the one he now knows − a world where there is no room for senseless evil, because it is filled with too much love.

[In honor of the shloshim for Rabbi Gavriel Noach (Gaby) and Rivka (Rivki) Holtzberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, and all the other innocent souls who perished at the hands of terrorists in the Mumbai Terror Attacks.]

Watch a four-minute powerful video of “Senseless Love” on Chana’s In Touch video blog at chabad.org/779256 or chabad.org/InTouch.

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at cweisberg@chabad.org.

What Will It Take For Us To Get It?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Those of you who have been following my column and those of you who have read my books, especially Life Is A Test, know that in the closing chapters, I focus on Acharit HaYamim – the days that will precede our Redemption, known as Chevlei Moshiach – the birth pangs that will herald the coming of Messiah. If you are familiar with those prophecies, there is nothing astonishing about that which has befallen us in Mumbai and the world at large. It has all been predicted thousands of years ago, and I spelled it all out in Life Is A Test.

But that which we are doing to ourselves in Eretz Yisrael – attacking our own people and protecting those who are sworn to annihilate us, is beyond words, although that too has been predicted. Nevertheless, the pain is too great to bear.

I have written and said many times in my lectures that it is pointless to ask “why” because there are no clear answers to “why.” “Why” can only lead to bitterness, cynicism, and depression. In Lashon HaKodesh – the Holy Tongue, however, everything takes on a different dimension, for in the Holy Tongue, every word is definitive. In Lashon HaKodesh, not only can we ask “why,” but we must ask “why.” There are two words in Hebrew that are translated into the vernacular as “why” – “madua” and “lamah.”

Madua literally means “Mah Dei’ah – What do we learn from this?” How do we grow from this? What wisdom can we glean from this? And “Lamah” means “L’ mah” – To what end?” What is the ultimate goal, the higher purpose? So what can we learn from the two tragedies that have befallen our people? What lessons can we imbibe that can protect us in the future? And specifically, what can we learn from Mumbai and Chevron?

If you recall, during the presidential campaign, I mentioned in one of my columns that I found it curious that not one of the candidates, in the course of their many debates and discussions, ever referred to Islamic terrorists. It appears that that term was politically incorrect. This was all the more difficult to understand since we in America have had first-hand experience with their satanic savagery. On 9/11, we tasted their brutality and the carnage that they were capable of inflicting, and yet, strangely enough, we have forgotten who was actually responsible for that day of infamy.

In Israel, acts of terror are daily fare – they are not new phenomena, but unfortunately, have been going on for years. And I am not just referring to Sderot, Gaza and the Golan, but to Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, Netanya, and all the cities and villages of Israel. Carnage has taken place everywhere, on buses, trains, streets, shopping centers and schools. No one has been spared. These attacks have become so commonplace that they don’t even make the news anymore. The world rationalizes it away by placing the onus of responsibility on Israel rather than on the Islamic terrorists.

Israel has been demonized and held accountable for Islamic savagery, and amazingly, the Leftist Israeli Government and media have also bought these lies. Even as the present lame-duck prime minister prepares to leave office, he continues to wreak havoc -to release from prison vicious killers that slaughtered our people – killers who have only one agenda – to annihilate Jews. The IDF is commanded to exercise restraint even as rockets rain down on Israel; Shalit remains in captivity. Yet the Israeli Government opts to send money to Gaza to relieve the financial crisis, and as if this were not enough, Olmert and his cohorts keep offering to give away even more land. As far as he and his colleagues are concerned, Chevron was only the beginning!

Never in the annals of history has a sovereign government uprooted its own people and given away their homes and their land to those who are sworn to kill, exterminate and annihilate her citizens, and yet, not only has Israel done just that, but is continuing on this suicidal course.

But sadly that which has been unfolding in Israel has not awakened anyone to the jeopardy into which we have been placed and continue to place ourselves.

But Mumbai is different. The massacre in Mumbai cannot be blamed on the “Zionist devils” – for this carnage, there can be no rationalization to hold Israel accountable. This time even the most leftist, liberal multiculturalists would find it difficult to lay the blame at Israel’s feet. And yet, the world media, including ours here in the United States, still refuses to get it, and worse, most of our people don’t get it either.

CNN, BBC, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, even the psychology guru, Deepak Chopra, all spoke in euphemisms when referring to the Islamic terrorist slaughter in Mumbai. Euphemisms that have positive connotations, like “militants” and other generic terms that sanitize the evil of Islamic terror. Not only do these euphemisms fail to identify the true nature of the danger they represent, but more pointedly, they refuse to acknowledge the component of Jew hatred that led to the slaughter at the Chabad House.

Just consider for a moment – how does a little Jewish Chabad house in India become the target in an India-Pakistan/Muslim-Hindu conflict? The Chabad House had been cased by Islamic terrorists pretending to be Malaysian students, who wanted to learn more about Judaism, and were given warm hospitality by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg. They had photographs and diagrams of every part of the building, and were there for only one reason – to kill Jews because they were Jews.

The Indian physician who examined the dead stated in a voice wracked with emotion that of all the victims, the greatest torture was inflicted on the Jews. Their bodies showed that they had endured terrible pain and suffering before they were brutally murdered. The Israeli forensic team could not identify the victims by their faces, but had to rely on DNA tests and dental records to identify them, for the torture that they had endured was barbaric. The one live captured terrorist, openly admitted that they were under specific orders to torture and kill the Jews. And yet, despite all this, the international media does not admit to the Jewish character of the attack – or that the Chabad House was intentionally targeted.

All of this takes me back to the days of the Holocaust, when the media reported on the Nazi invasion and takeover of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, etc., but somehow failed to report the annihilation of European Jewry, or passed over it as an insignificant sidebar. And yet we have learned nothing.

During the past weeks, the parshiot that we read are from Sefer Bereishis. Each parshah is instructive and speaks to us, for the stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs are not “Bible stories.” Everything that they experienced was meant as a sign for us, their children: “Ma’aseh Avos, siman l’banim.” In Parshas Vayishlach, it is written “VaYivaser Yaakov levado” – Jacob found himself alone in the darkness, and he had to struggle with the forces of evil until the sun rose…” teaching us that we, the Jewish people, will always find ourselves alone in the darkness of our Exile. And no nation will come to our aid, so we will always have to struggle, and that struggle will continue until the sun rises and Messiah comes. And now, we have entered that period.

What we are witnessing today are the painful birth pangs of the final days, although sadly, we do not comprehend it. We are frightened and terrified, but we do not see the Hand of G-d.

It has been foretold that, during that time, Ishmael [Islamic jihadists] will inflict the most savage, brutal acts upon our people and terrorize the entire world. And this nightmare will be accompanied by other horrific events – natural disasters, terrible illnesses, disease, and unprecedented chutzpah – the collapse of our cherished icons.

If, just a year ago, someone had told us that the giants of finance and industry would disappear before our very eyes, and our government would be ridden with corruption and chaos, we would have ridiculed them and labeled them delusional. Yet it is occurring before our very eyes, and we don’t get it.

On his deathbed, our patriarch Jacob called out to his sons and asked them to gather as one so he might relate to them that which would befall them at the end of days. But, we are told, the Ruach HaKodesh left him and he could go no further. Our Sages offer many explanations for

this. Recently, I heard an esteemed rav explain that the Hebrew word “Yikra,” which is translated as “will happen,” should have been spelled with a “Heh” but the word is written with the letter “Aleph” which means “call”…. teaching us that we will be deaf to the Call of G-d.

And that explains the silence of Jacob, for that is what will happen to us – we too, will be silent. Terror and bedlam continue and we refuse to understand. There is only one solution to our dilemma, and that is “Ein Od Milvado” – to understand that our help can only come from G-d, but we remain deaf to His Call and blind to His guiding Hand.

But, and this is the big but – we need not fear, for all negative prophecies can be changed. We need only heed G-d’s Call, and overnight we can change our destiny. One of the reasons why at the Minchah Yom Kippur service we read the story of the prophet Jonah, which relates that the city of Nineveh was doomed because of its many sins, but it heeded the call of the prophet and in a split- second changed darkness into light and destruction into life. We can and must do the same. We need only proclaim “Ein Od Milvado! – There is no one but Hashem to help us.” But what, exactly, does that mean?

It has all been written, and please G-d, in ensuing columns, I will begin spelling it out.

From One Tragedy To Another – When Will We Learn?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The tragedy of Mumbai was still fresh in our hearts. The cry of little Moishele, “Ima, Ima – Mommy. Where is Mommy?” kept reverberating in our minds. The heart-wrenching hespedim – eulogies for the kedoshim, holy martyrs, tore us apart. Indeed, these holy souls “were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions, to serve their Creator.” All of Israel was cast into deep mourning and the families were still sitting Shiva, when another tragedy befell us. A tragedy that hit us hard, very hard – Chevron, and this despite the fact that the Holtzberg family had pleaded with the Israeli Government not to disturb this time of Shiva and sow conflict in Israel.

I’m not ashamed to share with you that I have cried and continue to cry. The tears just keep flowing from my eyes. My loving children and friends tell me to get hold of myself, but I can’t stop weeping. “Al Eleh Ani Bochiyah – For these do I weep.”

As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have personally tasted the bitter sting, the savage cruelty, the torture and the murderous acts of those whose aim and purpose is only one – to annihilate us, the Jewish people. But despite it all, that which occurred in Mumbai tore me apart. Somehow, as much as I know, I live with the hope that such satanic brutality will never be repeated, for otherwise, it is just too painful to go on.

But, despite all hope, we are once again confronted by insane carnage. This time, it’s from Yishmael. Yes, I am familiar with the prophecies regarding the savagery of Yishmael during the period that will precede the coming of Messiah. I spelled it all out in my book, Life Is A Test. But even if you never heard of these prophecies, you need only open your eyes to see them unfold.

It’s one thing however, when bnei Yishmael – Islamic terrorists – are the attackers, but it’s an entirely different matter when the attacks emanate from our own people in our own land, when our own police and our own soldiers are ordered to forcibly evict their own brethren from their homes and mercilessly cast them out. “No” you say, that cannot be. You must have it all wrong – that cannot happen in Eretz Yisrael!

But it did, and it happened in Chevron while the families of the victims of Mumbai were still sitting shiva. The Jews of Chevron who lived humble lives in Beit Shalom at great sacrifice were suddenly evicted from their homes. They were guarding the holy city, the resting place of our patriarchs and matriarchs.

Oh, I am familiar with all the disputes regarding Beit Shalom and for that matter, all of Chevron, Judea, and Samaria, but those rationalizations have no meaning. After Yerushalayim, Chevron is our second holiest city, given to us by Hashem Himself. Chevron is the city that guarantees blessing and protection for all of Israel.

It is written that when the meraglim – spies, came to scout out the land, they were overwhelmed by the inhabitants who were all giants and powerful. Calev, it is written, was not intimidated, because he went to Chevron and prayed at the gravesites of our patriarchs and matriarchs, and he knew that in their merit, no power, no force in the world would be able to defeat the Jews. The others, however, who did not pray in Chevron, were terrified and saw themselves as “grasshoppers” next to the local residents. It was through our patriarchs that Hashem made the promise that Eretz Yisrael would be our eternal inheritance, and it is in their merit that we have returned there today.

While our brethren were being forced from their homes, the Arabs were gleefully applauding and throwing stones, and our police, our soldiers, did nothing! To be sure, there are those who will argue that our Jewish youth who came to Chevron to stand strong with their brethren responded in kind. Well, we are in Eretz Yisrael, not in pre-Hitler Europe where Jews were attacked with impunity and had to take the beatings and the epithets silently.

Baruch Hashem that we still have youth who have the guts, courage and faith to stand up for their embattled brethren and cry out in defense of Chevron! Baruch Hashem we still have youth who love Chevron and understand the kedushah, the sanctity of that ancient city.

The operation was swiftly carried out by our police and by our soldiers. The residents of Beit Shalom were no match for them, and I’m afraid that, chas v’shalom, Heaven forbid, this is just the beginning, that Beit Shalom was just a test case; that G-d forbid, there will be more to come.

One would have thought that our people would have learned something from Gush Katif and from all the other places from which the Israeli Government forcibly evacuated them. All of these places have now have become launching pads for even more terror. But no, the Israeli Government has learned nothing. As a matter of fact, the lame-duck Israeli prime minister, along with his cohorts, has made it known that they are willing to give away most of Yehuda and Shomron and parts of Yerushalayim.

It is ironic that during the election debates here in the U.S., many of us were concerned about America pressuring Israel to give away her land. Well, we shouldn’t have worried – the Israeli government is doing it to itself. As the prophecy proclaims -Meharsayich u’machrivayich – Your destruction shall come from within…” If anyone harbored doubts that we are living in the days that will bring us into the messianic period, from the madness that we witness unfolding before our very eyes, we have to conclude that we have indeed entered that period, which is called “Chevlei Moshiach,” the painful birth pangs of the pre-Messianic era. And unfortunately, birth pangs can be very painful.

Those of you who have heard me speak and have been following my columns and those of you who have read my books, especially Life Is A Test, know that in the closing chapters, I spelled it all out.

Thirteen years ago, my husband, HaRav Meshulem Halevi Jungreis, zt’l, was called on high. He had always been strong and healthy, so when he fell ill, it struck us like a bolt of lightening, and our entire family was totally devastated.

I remember the day clearly – it was a Thursday. Thursdays are always heavy days for me. I teach several classes at Hineni, tape a Torah TV program and give private counseling…. and that particular Thursday was no exception. For the longest time, I had been due for a medical check-up, but I kept canceling because something always came up.

That particular Thursday, prior to going to our Hineni Center in Manhattan, I had booked an appointment with our doctor, and as usual, I realized that I wouldn’t make it, but frankly, I was too embarrassed to cancel once again, so I asked my husband to do me a favor and take my appointment himself. I convinced him that he needed a check-up as well, and as it was his kind nature to try to accommodate everyone, he agreed to go in my place. It was on that Thursday that the doctor discovered a tumor and advised him to see a surgical oncologist immediately. I was teaching and had no idea of what had transpired. In-between classes, I called home, but there was no answer (those were pre-cell-phone days), so I called my daughter to ask if she had heard from Abba.

“He’s right here,” she answered cheerfully, “learning with the children.”

I didn’t want to interrupt his teaching Torah, so I told my daughter to ask him to call me as soon as he got home – and it was only then that I heard the ominous news.

Early the next morning, we were at the office of a very kind surgeon who was also a good, loyal friend. He confirmed the devastating news and urged my husband to check into the hospital immediately.

“Let me go home for Shabbos,” my husband pleaded, “you won’t operate on Shabbos anyway, and B’Ezrat Hashem, I will check in Motzaei Shabbos.”

The surgeon agreed, provided that the Rabbi not eat so that he might be ready for immediate surgery.

I called my children and they all came with their little ones for Shabbos. I’m certain that you can imagine our Shabbos table – all of us trying to forget the pain and focus on the sanctity and joy of the holy day. Every few minutes however, someone left the table, ostensibly to use the washroom, but we all knew it was to shed tears, which we could not allow my husband to see.

No one in the congregation knew what was transpiring. My husband was determined that the peace of Shabbos not be marred. And so it was that we strengthened ourselves and when we went to shul, we greeted everyone with a warm Good Shabbos.

My husband was a very sensitive rabbi who loved every Jew and was filled with chesed -loving-kindness. Every Erev Shabbos, he would empty my freezer and take challahs and cake to those who were ill or widowed. His chesed knew no bounds, and it was with that chesed that he led his flock. He would never burden the congregation with long drashos – sermons, but tried to relay his message in seven to 10 minutes. But on that Shabbos, he spoke for almost half-an-hour and broke down and wept.

Would you like to know what he spoke about? Would you like to know the focus of his message? Chevron – Yes, Chevron!

“Rebbetzin,” people asked me, “why is the Rabbi so upset over Chevron?” I didn’t trust myself to speak. I choked up with tears. But to be honest with you, I myself didn’t fully understand why he was weeping over Chevron. Don’t forget, this was 13years ago, before Gush Katif, before all the madness that is tearing our people apart today. But it is said that those who are approaching their last days on this planet somehow have insights that others lack. Thirteen years ago, before entering the hospital with a life-threatening illness, my husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, wept over Chevron.

Now let me ask you, my dear readers, and don’t answer me, but let us answer the question in our hearts…Do we feel the pain of Chevron? Have we shed tears over what is happening before our very eyes? From Mumbai to Chevron in just one week.

So, what can we do? There is much that we can do. And I will spell it out, B’Ezrat Hashem, in my next column.

(To be continued)

Tears And Praise As Israeli Victims Of Mumbai Attack Are Laid To Rest

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

KFAR CHABAD, Israel – Rabbis wept, women wailed and Chabad faithful called for avenging the tragedy in Mumbai with holiness and love as thousands gathered here Tuesday for the funerals of the two Chabad emissaries killed in last week’s Mumbai terrorist attacks.


  The mourners came together under a sun-drenched Israeli sky in this Chabad-Lubavitch town near Tel Aviv. The bodies of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were laid out side by side, wrapped in prayer shawls.


  The rabbis eulogizing the couple said the tragedy of their being killed in the house in which they had hosted and celebrated holidays with so many should be met by even more outreach by Chabad emissaries.


  “We need to have a revenge of light, an attack of holiness and love,” said Rabbi Naftali Liebsker, who helps coordinate Chabad emissaries worldwide. “Join us; that will be our answer.”


  Mourners appeared particularly aggrieved by the couple’s now-orphaned son, 2-year-old Moshe, who was spirited out of the Mumbai Chabad House during the attack by his Indian nanny.


  “The whole world and, of course, the Jewish people need an answer to the question asked by a 2-year-old child: ‘Where is my mother?’ ” President Shimon Peres said.


  Six Israelis were killed in the attack on the five-story apartment building that housed the Chabad center in Mubmai. Sandra Samuel, the Holtzbergs’ nanny, locked herself in a laundry room when the shooting began and heard Rivkah Holtzberg calling to her for help. Then she heard shots fired followed by an eerie silence. Samuel said she then crept out of her hiding place and found Moshe crying next to his parents’ bodies. She scooped the boy into her arms and fled the building.


  The footage of Moshe in his nanny’s arms was played repeatedly by Israeli TV stations. As part of the drama, cameras followed Moshe’s maternal grandparents preparing to leave Israel for India holding out hope that they would be reunited with their daughter and son-in-law alive.


  Instead they bid the couple final goodbyes at the funeral services at Kfar Chabad. Adding to the cruelty of her death, Rivkah – or Rivki, as she was called – was six months pregnant at the time of her murder.


  She and Gavriel, who like her was born in Israel but grew up in New York, had decided shortly after getting married to become emissaries for the Lubavitch movement.


  In a video of the couple taken about two years ago in their Mumbai home, they are seen beaming wide smiles.

 

 


Bodies of Mumbai victims arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport.

 


  A shot of Rivkah shows her bringing out a tray of Chanukah sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts. Gavriel describes the special sense of mission he feels helping out Israelis in distress, particularly those he would visit who were imprisoned in India, usually on drug-related charges.


  Yossi Katz, a geography professor at Bar-Ilan University, was with the couple on their last Shabbat. A frequent traveler and visitor to Chabad Houses around the world, he said he had been especially taken by the warmth and enthusiasm of his young hosts.


  Katz talked with the Holtzbergs about their sense of mission as Chabad emissaries.


  “Rivki said that being emissaries for them had become a way of life – not done in connection to something else, but their very lives,” he told JTA.


  Katz watched Rivkah explain the tenets of Judaism to Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, a Jewish woman from Mexico planning to make aliyah who was visiting India. Rabinovich was killed at the Chabad House during the terrorist attack. She was buried Tuesday in Israel along with Yocheved Orpaz, 60, a mother of four from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim who had gone to India to meet her daughter and two grandchildren who were traveling there.


 Two Israeli kashrut inspectors also were killed in last week’s attack. Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, 38, of  Jerusalem, and Bentzion Chroman, 28, of Bat Yam reportedly had stopped by the Chabad House to pray before catching a flight to Israel.


  Chroman, a kosher supervisor, is survived by his wife and three children.


  Teitelbaum, who is survived by his wife and eight children, was in charge of kosher supervision for a large American organization and had traveled for work to India via China.


  Teitelbaum’s family, members of the Satmar chassidic sect, caused some controversy in Israel when they requested that the Israeli flag not be draped on Teitelbaum’s coffin at a brief state ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Monday night, when the bodies arrived in Israel.


  At Tuesday’s funerals at Kfar Chabad, Lubavitch officials announced that renovations of the Chabad House in Mumbai would begin immediately and that the building would be dedicated anew, renamed for Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg.


  One of the only items from the Chabad House to survive unscathed in the attack was a large, gilded framed picture of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. It was seen in photos and footage after the attack propped on a chair surrounded by broken glass and blood-splattered, bullet-riddled walls.                                                               

(JTA)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/tears-and-praise-as-israeli-victims-of-mumbai-attack-are-laid-to-rest/2008/12/03/

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