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October 5, 2015 / 22 Tishri, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Sefer Torah’

My Machberes

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Emergency Call From Woodbourne

The historic B’nai Israel of Synagogue in Woodbourne, New York, under the leadership of Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, beloved Nikolsburger Rebbe, has issued an emergency call for help in finalizing its preparations to serve the Catskills region and beyond this summer.

The Department of Buildings has determined the shul’s roof, built in 1922, is no longer safe. A simple calculation of the number of minyanim daily, including Shabbos and Sunday, and the average number of mispallelim at each minyan, tells us the shul had upward of 60,000 visits last summer. With so many people using the shul, the safety of its structure is an absolute necessity.

B'nai Israel Synagogue in Woodbourne

On January 15, 1999, the B’nai Israel Synagogue, with its signature outdoor menorah, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. With its present expanded function, the shul has now also achieved a place in Jewish history as the first shul to have non-stop minyanim in the Catskills. With the shul officially recognized as a historic building, expert workmanship is required to restore the its roof to meet the necessary safety regulations.

Work on the roof work is underway. However, its cost is daunting. Though much emotional and spiritual support has been and continues to be carried by the shul and the Nikolsburger Rebbe, outside financial support is critically needed. The cost of the roof and related expenses totals more than $100,000. With summer just about here, completing the work is now an emergency.

Even the regular day-to-day financial burden of maintaining the warm setting is considerable. Those wishing to use their tzedakah dollars most effectively should consider helping to underwrite this particularly noble effort. Assisting the shul at this time is worth exertion and self-sacrifice. Assuming a share in the tefillahs and Torah-learning taking place at the Woodbourne Shul will surely be noted and rewarded by the Kadosh Baruch Hu.

* * * * *

During the summer months Woodbourne, officially classified as a hamlet of the town of Fallsburg, sees a dramatic population increase with the influx of observant Jews from all over the greater New York City metropolitan area. Businesses there thrive from the July 4th weekend through Labor Day.

This is the third summer that B’nai Israel Synagogue, on Route 52 (Main Street), will serve the entire Catskills with its 24/7 full-service open-door operations. It exerts a powerful magnetic force throughout the Catskills, with a minyan every fifteen minutes (or even more frequently) and often multiple minyanim in its main sanctuary, beis medrash, and vestibule, drawing mispallelim from the length and breadth of the vacation region and beyond. The Woodbourne Shul now ranks with such famous minyan venues as Shomrei Shabbos in Boro Park, Veretzkier in Flatbush, and Lederman in Bnei Brak.

Nikolsburger Rebbe

Prior to the summer of 2010, the Nikolsburger Rebbe formally met with the B’nai Israel administration, and with their overwhelming support assumed leadership of the Woodbourne Shul. The board of B’nai Israel must be applauded for their many years of self-sacrifice in preserving the facility. Though the shul had not been fully utilized for years, the board’s resilience in its maintenance must be recognized as an important part of its present spectacular success.

During the regular school year Rabbi Jungreis tirelessly serves as rebbe at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, where he has infused thousands of children through the years with passionate Yiddishkeit. In addition, he leads Beis Medrash Khal Chassidei Nikolsburg-Kollel Boro Park at 4912 Sixteenth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park neighborhood. There, Rabbi Jungreis exercises a captivating pull on chassidishe youth at risk. This special effort continues in Woodbourne during the summer.

Chassidim of Rabbi Jungreis have again freshened and upgraded the Woodbourne Shul in preparation for the summer season. As in years past, they have rented a home across the street to serve as the Nikolsburger Rebbe’s summer residence.

With the walk-in lower level of the shul having been lovingly refurbished and turned into a large beis medrash with walls of sefarim and Judaica, the shul now comfortably accommodates more than one minyan at a time.

The Gift Of Unity

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

During the past several weeks I have shared many of my own personal experiences and those of others. I am referring not only to my recent hospitalization following the breaking of a hip, but also to my series of articles on hashgachah pratis – events that befall us that can easily be attributed to random happenings but upon closer scrutiny and honest introspection testify to the ever-guiding Hand and mercy of Hashem.

In this column I will share yet another hashgachah pratis occurrence.

This past year our Hineni organization expanded its activities and established a young leadership program for Sephardic youth. Before I embarked on my Pesach schedule, we designated a date for a Young Leadership Sephardic/Ashkenazic Shabbaton.

This event was supposed to take place at the end of May, but my presence and participation became questionable after I had my accident.

Nevertheless, I was determined to be there and Hashem granted me that privilege. So while my first public address following my surgery took place at Hineni’s 40th Anniversary Dinner celebration, this Sephardic/Ashkenazic Shabbaton would mark my first Shabbos program.

The event was scheduled to take place at a hotel in Connecticut, not too far from New York but far enough for me. Little things that under normal circumstances one would never consider, like sitting in a car for two hours or finding a place for one’s swollen legs, all became challenges. My mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis of blessed memory, would always quip in Yiddish, “Far ah kranker – for someone who is not feeling well, no matter how and where you place them, it’s never comfortable.” And that was very much my situation that erev Shabbos.

Just the same, I was determined to go and was so worried about getting there on time that I managed to overlook my aches and pains without making a stop so that we might get there on time.

Two hundred young people, representing Hineni and Go Sephardic, had signed up. To me, that itself was inspiring. At our Hineni classes on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I always feel uplifted when I look out at the audience and see how Jews from every segment of our population – from secular to strictly observant, Ashkenazim to Sephardim, young to old – are all there, united in a desire to study Torah. And now I felt strengthened and buoyed by this very special Shabbos that would unite our beautiful Sephardic and Ashkenazic young people.

As our car pulled up to the hotel, I noticed some chassidim pulling up as well. Could it be, I wondered, that our committee wanted to surprise me and invited some chassidim to participate? But then, as more and more chassidim arrived, I realized something else was happening.

“Are you having a convention here?” I asked in Yiddish.

“No,” came the reply. “We are here for a private family event.”

When I found out what that “family event” was, my eyes became moist with tears of joy. These chassidim had come to the hotel to celebrate the 90th birthday of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was a survivor of Auschwitz, and the family had gathered to give her berochos and naches on this momentous occasion.

When I learned that this survivor of Hitler’s concentration was surrounded by 400 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I was simply overwhelmed. As many of you know, I too am a survivor of Hitler’s Holocaust, and for me this was not only a declaration of triumph over the Nazis, but grand testimony to the eternity of our people – an eternity that no force, no power on earth, can ever destroy.

The celebration took on an even greater dimension Shabbos afternoon. The family dedicated a Sefer Torah in honor of “Mama/Bubba.” It was a scene to behold. There was Bubba, seated in a wheelchair, her face covered by a veil in honor of the Sefer Torah, as four hundred children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren danced around her with the Sefer Torah they were dedicating in her honor.

Through that hachnassas Sefer Torah, all of us who were present – Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Satmar chassidim – became one. If you just think about it, you too will feel chills running up and down your spine.

New Sefer Torah For Hong Kong

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Hong Kong’s Ohel Leah Synagogue recently celebrated the dedication of a new Sefer Torah. Britain’s Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Lady Elaine Sacks joined Rabbi Asher Oser and Assistant Rabbi Ariel Zamir of Ohel Leah at the festivities. Also present were Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon of Chabad of Hong Kong, Rabbis Meir Azarzar and Avner Cohen from the Shuva Israel community, and the sofer, Rabbi Yehonatan Yitzhak-Halevy. Hundreds of members of the Hong Kong Jewish community participated as well.

While the unveiling of the new Torah was itself special, it was also deeply personal for many longstanding community members. It was dedicated in memory of five men (in Rabbi Sacks’s words, “one for each book”) – each of whom were deeply committed to the Ohel Leah community. All of these stalwarts – Ezekial Abraham, Edouard Esses, Cecil Ezra, David Sassoon and Karel Weiss – died without heirs; thus, this Torah represents their legacy. This was a most fitting way to pay homage to men who helped secure the community’s future.

These men’s stories are the community’s stories. Each came from diverse backgrounds and carried with them family histories and customs. For example, Cecil Ezra’s family was deeply tied to the Shanghai Jewish community, rising to great wealth and prominence before having to flee in the mid-1900s. Though forced to leave the family’s wealth behind in Shanghai, Ezra continued his family’s legacy by greatly contributing to the Jewish community.

Community members funded the writing of the Torah, and individual parshiyos were dedicated in memory of, as well as in honor of, their loved ones – linking past, present and future. Each contributing family was invited to help Yitzhak-Halevy, the sofer, complete the writing of the Torah. Children proudly held onto his arm while he completed writing the letters corresponding to the first letter of their names.

This Torah dedication was greatly significant to the sofer as well. Having previously served as the community’s mashgiach, carrying the Torah with him from Israel truly felt like he was bringing it home. In fact it was his close relationship with the aforementioned Esses that initially inspired the Torah dedication project.

In conjunction with the dedication ceremony, Hong Kong’s Jewish Historical Society displayed images from the photography collection of Karel Weiss, one of the posthumous honorees. His sepia images of old Hong Kong represented the Hong Kong that these men loved.

Michael Green, chairman of the Ohel Leah Synagogue Trust, said at the ceremony that ultimately all five of the honored men would have asked only that, “as a community we behave the way they would have liked us to behave.” He spoke of the inspiration these men provided in their own time and for the community’s future. For Green, having known these men personally, this dedication was particularly moving as he was able to offer his own insight into their lives.

Rabbi Sacks, the program keynoter and regarded by many in the Hong Kong Jewish community as their spiritual head, told the throng in the Garden Room of Hong Kong’s Jewish Community Centre, “No people have ever loved a book as we love this book.” He called the phrase “People of the Book” the ultimate understatement and reminded everyone that, “While we are the people who have carried the Torah with us … the Torah has actually carried us.”

The symbolism of placing this new Torah in the 110-year-old Ohel Leah Synagogue was a powerful statement of continuity. The ornate beauty of the case, in a Sephardi style reflective of the community’s roots, spoke to the reverence the community has for its heritage.

Following the ceremony and a celebratory meal, the group paraded the new scroll into its home in the synagogue’s aron kodesh. The crowd danced and sang outside the synagogue, undeterred by the Hong Kong heat and humidity.

“Our Sephardic Torahs are read upright, standing ready to honor those who come to give them honor. It’s as if the memory of these men, embodied in this Sefer Torah, are greeting us each time we enter the synagogue,” said Rabbi Oser of the Ohel Leah Synagogue.

Photos courtesy: Tai Ngai Lung

Itamar, a Year Later – “We Will Prevail”

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A little over a year ago, five members of the Fogel family from Itamar were murdered in their sleep by two Palestinian terrorists. The terrorists entered the Fogel home on Shabbat eve, March 11 2011, and slaughtered the father Ehud, the mother Ruth, and three of their children, Yoav 11, Elad, 4, and baby Hadas, only three months old. Three siblings survived. Twenty-five thousand people attended the mass funeral. The terrorists, aged 18 and 19 were arrested a month later, and recently received life sentences.  This incident is one of the most horrifying in recent memory.

Leah Zak, 36, mother of five and resident of Itamar for the past seven years, remembers that night vividly. She remembers that her family slept until about two in the morning. Initial reports came through the emergency message system, but they did not hear them. They awoke to hear loud banging on their front door. The RRT (Rapid Response Team), a civilian counter terror unit, was at the door. “They asked us if everything was all right. They told us that there was an infiltration into Itamar, and that we should close all windows and lock the doors. We didn’t know exactly what happened, but the situation seemed grave,” Leah recounts. One of her sons was woken up by the knocking on the door and was very frightened. “We went back to bed. We were told to turn all the lights out, so it was completely dark. I couldn’t read out of a book, so I prayed from memory. At some point we fell asleep. The RRT came back again at four. At that point we were completely awake. We received a message through the emergency message system that sessions would be held later on for everyone. We understood that something terrible had happened.”

Leah’s husband went to Shul, and there, she says, he learned of what had happened. “There was much confusion and the details were unclear, but we knew that the parents and some of the children had been slain. I was totally shocked, and began to cry. I tried to find out who of the children had been murdered. I found out, and we told the children each separately about what happened, not wanting them to hear in a different fashion. One of my sons was a classmate of one of the children murdered; another, a classmate of one of the surviving children. They cried, and later went to the meetings held for the children, on that Shabbat day.”

In the following hours and during the next days the Zaks and the residents of Itamar felt a great surge of support. Many from around the country offered their help. Many Rabbis and leaders came to show their support, offering words of encouragement. Leah elaborates: “Following this devastating event, and taking into consideration the community’s history, many of the adults wondered if the community was being punished, why they have been inflected with so many terrorist attacks and casualties. The Rabbis explained that one could not explain these incidents on a personal level, that the greater scheme of things was to be considered. Many volunteered to come and watch the children, encouraging us to attend the funeral.”

As the weeks passed, Leah’s children continued to exhibit signs of sadness and grief. They spoke a lot about the attack, occupying themselves with the details. They told stories about their lost friends. “One of my sons, the one who was woken up by the knocking on our door during the night of the attack exhibited real signs of fear and stress. During the first week he refused to leave home, was constantly demanding that we shut all the windows and doors. For the first few weeks he refused to sleep in his room or fall asleep alone. He went to group meetings meant to help deal with these fears. As for myself, every time I would close my eyes to fall asleep I would see Ruthie before my eyes. This difficult situation in the family lasted for about a month.”

“My oldest was in the same class as Yoav. The class received psychological counseling. My second oldest was in the same class as one of the children who survived, Roi. He subsequently left Itamar and moved in with his grandparents. My son grieved for the loss. Roi was very friendly, a good kid and my son was sorry to lose him. There was a farewell party arranged for him, but Roi was scared to come to Itamar, so his entire class traveled to Jerusalem to hold the party there for him.” Over time there were a few occasions that he came to Itamar. Every time he came there was great excitement.

Months after the tragedy, people continued come to Itamar to express their support. This created an amazing positive feeling. “Many people who I have not spoken to for a long time contacted me. Rabbis came to show their support, strengthen the spirits of the residents, constantly stressing that this incident was part of a bigger picture in Jewish history, that it was not a punishment for any individual person or act. Many visitors from abroad came as well. Many large events were held, and all these visits and events served as a great source of strength and comfort.”

For the most part, the attack jolted the town into activity. Many invested themselves in social projects. The general trend was a desire to continue to build and become stronger. Many of the supporters from outside offered various initiatives. There was an overall positive attitude. But Leah did not completely relate to this sentiment: “I felt a bit frustrated, it seemed odd to me that everything was progressing as usual, that the State did not avenge this attack.”

A bit more then a year after the attack, Leah still has mixed feelings. At the beginning she had a hard time just believing what happened. At times she imagined that she saw Ruthie. “A year later, am I different? More vulnerable? Definitely not! The opposite is the truth. In a sense, the whole story has helped me grow. I have become more stronger, a stronger believer, a more joyful person. I constantly try to think what I can learn from Ruthie, how I can implement her teachings in my life. It’s a choice I have to make – to elevate myself, or to fall and crash. I didn’t want to crash, so I progressed with it, with a lingering sense that I lacked a choice”.

After the Shloshim, the thirty day mourning period, foundations were laid for a Beit Midrash, a study hall in Itamar, which was named Mishkan Ehud after the father. The study hall was inaugurated on February 29, a year after the attack. Class rooms were also built in memory of Ruth and the children. During the inauguration event a new Sefer Torah was entered into the Hall’s Holy Ark, constructed of rocks and soil taken from the Fogel family garden.

Leah participated in the inauguration. The weather was stormy, but the event was well-attended by people from across Israel. The room was so packed it was impossible to get in or out. The structure wasn’t complete – funds are still being collected to complete this endeavor – but it all recognized the importance of holding the event on the anniversary of their death.

“The event itself was very impressive, very joyful,” Leah remembers, “I was very much moved, chills running through my body. The event was very joyful, but very sad as well. It was very joyful because we had finally established this building which we have been waiting for a long time. It was sad because people had to die to enable its construction.”

Itamar has a complex history, with several terrorist attacks in its past, but Leah has no doubts about living there. She says it’s simply her place, no question about it. She is connected to the people, the land. She feels more connected to the Land of Israel in Itamar. Here she can find the education she sees fit to give to her children. The danger will not cause her family to leave. “I am not making an ideological statement – This is the place that is good for me. Other places are dangerous as well. We live with it, cope with it.”

Leah concludes by inviting everyone to visit Itamar. “From afar is seems dangerous, but it not. It’s clear to me that this is our place.  There are massive open spaces. In my eye’s mind I see them being filled with houses. All we need is people to come.”

Writing A Torah In Memory Of Rabbi Dovid Bryn

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Usher Bryn, brother of Rabbi Dovid Bryn, z”l, fills in a letter together with his son Jonathan.

Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday, April 29, at Chabad Chayil Synagogue in Highland Lakes to pay tribute to South Florida’s Rabbi Dovid Bryn, z”l, and launch a project of writing a new Sefer Torah in honor of the rabbi’s 10th yahrzeit. Community members and local rabbis shared their memories of the legendary leader and his amazingly personality and accomplishments.

All in attendance had a chance to write a letter, filling in the first few pesukim of a Torah that will take a year and a half to complete. Every two weeks or so there will be a siyum completion ceremony of a parshah in another home, enabling the host/parshah sponsor to invite their friends and give them all a chance to write a letter.

The completion of the Sefer Torah will be celebrated together with the completion of the new Chabad House building, scheduled to break ground soon. A documentary of the rabbi is also in the works.

If you have a story you would like to share or if you would like to get a letter or parshah in the Dovid Bryn Sefer Torah, go to www.RabbiDovidBryn.org or call 305-770-1919.

Three Torahs to be Donated by the Young Israel Movement to the IDF Between Pesach and Shavuot

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Although generally thought of as an American organization, the Young Israel Movement has been very involved in Israeli life for decades – and this week, the Israel branch of the International Young Israel Movement dedicated – for the 202nd time – a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) to the IDF. This is the first of three Sifrei Torah being facilitated by the Movement between Pesach and Shavuot.

The groups have been raising funds for the Torah scrolls and donating them to the army for the past 12 years, in a project initiated by National Council of Young Israel Executive Vice President Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Rabbi Yedidya Atlas of the IDF Rabbinate. The project is named in memory of Ruby Davidman, who made aliyah over 30 years ago and was very involved in providing for the spiritual needs of IDF soldiers (www.redeematorah.org).

The donated scrolls are brought to Israel from synagogues throughout the world. They are in a worn or damaged state and donors are found to repair them and rededicate them in honor or in memory of loved ones or on special occasions. Upon their arrival in Israel, the scrolls are placed in different army, navy, and air force bases according to the needs of the IDF. Recently, Young Israel gained the rights to Sifrei Torah from Romania that survived the Holocaust, and just need donors in order for them to be redeemed and given to the IDF.

On Monday, Dr. Joseph and Judy Berger of Toronto dedicated a Sefer Torah on the occasion of Dr. Berger’s 70th birthday. In a small but moving ceremony Dr. Berger presented the Torah to the IDF Rabbinate at their central base, and from there it will be placed in an Aron Kodesh of a secret air force unit. Dr. Berger emphasized that a strong Israel is not only important for the people who live in the country, but is vitally important for the Jewish people who live in the Diaspora communities.

The second Sefer Torah will be dedicated five days after Yom Ha’atzmaut. It is being dedicated by David & Chana Walles to the Iron Dome anti-missile unit, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of their premier tour company Eddie’s Kosher Travel. David states that “giving a Sefer Torah to the IDF is of special significance to my family as this Sefer Torah will be used on a daily basis by young men who have devoted their formative years to defend those of us living in Israel. The combination of spiritual strength and physical might is in my mind, the secret of the IDF’s success in defending Eretz Yisrael, and why we at Eddie’s Kosher Travel decided to back this project and show our appreciation. We encourage others to follow…”

The third Sefer Torah is to be dedicated on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, in the final countdown to Shavuot, by Mr. Harvey Schwartz, the Chairman of the Leo V. Berger Fund and will be delivered to the Israel Navy Training base. The Leo V. Berger Fund has kindly posted a Challenge Grant for this project, whereby the Fund will dedicate one Sefer Torah for every two dedicated by others.

Ceec Harrishburg, President of the International Young Israel Movement – Israel Region states, “donating a Sefer Torah to the IDF is a wonderful way to pay Hakarat Ha’tov to all the brave young men and women who are serving their country on bases all over our country. To see them dance, laugh, and relax, from the enormity of the responsibilities they shoulder is something which is quite emotional. Each time we present a torah, I am overwhelmed by the graciousness, and proud of the strong leadership our forces have. We should be eternally grateful for all that these men and women do, so that we can live our daily lives free from worry. May the Almighty grant them strength and courage to continue with the courageous tasks.”

“The National Council of Young Israel is proud to be the conduit for so many Young Israel and non-Young Israel synagogues in the USA and Canada to send our IDF soldiers a Torah scroll for their daily and Shabbat needs,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner. “These soldiers put their lives on the line every day to protect their people and land, this is the very least we can do. It is indeed an honor.”

For further information or to get involved in this project please visit www.redeematorah.org, or email at iyimisrael@gmail.com

Praying For The Sick

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Question: During Kriat HaTorah, many congregations recite a general prayer for ill people. What is the source of this custom? Also, in many congregations, instead of the gabbai announcing each name, all of the shul’s members are asked to silently say the name of the ill person to themselves while the gabbai remains quiet for several moments. Is this proper?

Answer: Recently, someone showed me the following from Berachot 55b: “When Rava would take ill, he would not say anything. [If his illness persisted], he would say to his servant, ‘Go out and announce that Rava is ill. He who likes me, let him pray to G-d for mercy on my behalf. And he who hates me, let him take joy over [my predicament]’ … G-d will then have compassion on me and transfer my illness to him.”

This Gemara teaches us that when someone is ill, the community should be made aware of the person’s name so that it will pray for his recovery. As such, it seems that simply saying the ill person’s name silently to oneself is improper since the rest of the congregation has no knowledge for whom they should be praying.

Interestingly, Rava only requested that an announcement be publicly made that he was not well. Thus, it seems that any public listing of ill people who need a refuah sheleimah is sufficient. Actually saying a special Mi She’beirach would be unnecessary.

To explain the practices of saying a Mi She’beirach for the sick and having people say the names of ill people silently to themselves, we may suggest the following: The Mi She’beirach for the sick is not a communal prayers based on the story of Rava in the Gemara. Rather, they are personal prayers for the sick, which are recited in synagogue because of the presence of the Sefer Torah.

I recall learning, although I cannot recall the source, that prayers said in the presence of a Sefer Torah have a greater efficacy than other prayers.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of several books on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/praying-for-the-sick/2012/04/18/

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