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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Chabad’

A Mother’s Soldier: A Candid Discussion with a Toronto Mother About Her Son who is Serving in the Israeli Army.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

War. Guns. Bullets. Combat Officers. Tanks. Paratroopers. Unfortunately, we’ve all become far too familiar with these terms.

And yet, as familiar as I am, for me, as for many of us in the Western world, the whole scenario remains a vague blur.

And as small a nation the Jewish People is – and though I may know people who currently are, were or will be serving in the Israeli army – it’s still all about them.

Fighting far away, over there. Across a vast ocean.

As connected as I may feel to our Homeland, as much as I feel so much a part of one large extended Jewish family, it remains in safe cognitive dissonance territory.

Until today.

Today, an e-mail was sent out to our entire community by my father, Rabbi Dovid Schochet, our community rabbi, making us aware of two of “our own” boys who were stationed on the front, asking us to increase in prayers and good deeds in their and all the soldiers’ merit.

“Our” two boys, Avraham Meyer (ben Leah Naomi) Ostfeld and Levy Yitzchack (ben Margalit) Mogilevsky, are in their early 20s. They grew up in our Toronto community, where their families currently live, just a stone’s throw from my own home. Yet the boys decided, on their own, to volunteer for the Israeli army; and in their respective special divisions – they were chosen from amongst many others in training – both are preparing to be at the very fore of the ground assault – if and when it may come.

I reached one mother, Lily Ostfeld, last night. Lily and her husband, Eron, are well-known members of the Toronto Chabad community, as well as the international Chabad community, for their philanthropy. Here, Lily is known for her modest grace, elegance and open warmth, generously offering her beautiful, spacious home to host any one of our many large communal events. The highly polished, ever shiny stone floors, the plush Oriental carpets, the tasteful furnishings and delicate knickknacks – as well as the mess, chaos and exertion of hosting hundreds of women – never prevent Lily from warmly agreeing.

“What is it like for you to have a son poised to begin the ground assault? To come face to face with his enemies?” I ask Lily.

“Avrohom Meyer was actually serving in an intense Maz lan battalion in the North. He switched very recently to the elite Golani brigade where he felt that the atmosphere was less intense, there was less rivalry and there was more of a sense of camaraderie amongst the unit. At this point,” here Lily sighs, “I guess I’ve got mixed feelings about his switch, since he might very well be involved in ground combat.”

“How did it all begin?” I wonder.

Lily speaks openly and frankly. “Three years ago, Avrohom Meyer was studying in CRC, now Meorot Chabad, a Lubavitch yeshivah in Israel, when he decided to volunteer for the army. He is well aware of the faults of the Israeli government in the whole peace plan and fully understands why many people are disillusioned with the effectiveness of the government in providing adequate security for its citizens,” Lily pauses. “But he has always said to me, ‘our brothers and sisters are in danger. Someone has to go to the front line to protect them. Just because the government puts the land in peril, someone still has to defend them.’”

One of those “someones” is now Avrohom Meyer.

How does a mother, living a comfortable life in Toronto, feel about her son’s decision?

“I’ll be honest with you, Chana.” Lily confides. “I can’t tell you how many times I tried to talk him out of this. I can’t say that I’ve supported his decision. I still have reservations and I admit that I was not a fan. And yet, I admire his determination and I’m so impressed by his motives.

“And the way that I hear him talking now – he’s changed. He’s grown. Life in the army makes them grow up really quickly. They gain a certain ” Lily grasps for the word, “a certain wisdom and knowledge.

“Look, here is a Toronto boy, growing up in a sheltered, cushy environment. And suddenly, he’s faced with real questions, with life staring him in the face, and situations in which he needs to ask for guidance from mentors.

“We speak to him very often – probably three or four times a day! I call him every night at 1:30 a.m. – which is 8:30 in the morning Israel time – to hear what is happening, or if he has been informed of the day’s schedule.

 ”It’s important for him to speak to us. He can talk to us differently than to his katzin (army officer) – even though he’s got a great officer who’s a former expellee from Gush Katif and from whom he’s learned so much – but there are still things that you want to say to your mother or your father.

“He’s talking differently. He speaks about preparing his mindset, being especially focused in his goals and his mission and how he needs to be ready – not only physically but emotionally too – to face the enemy. He’s done his briefing and his training and a lot of work on himself emotionally, to be in the right frame of mind.”

“And, you, as a mother, Lily?” I ask. “How are you faring? What do you do when you feel nervous or scared?”

Without a pause, Lily continues, “I remind myself of this:

“I know he is there with his chitas [book containing a Chumash, Psalms, and Tanya, recommended by the Rebbe for extra safety - C.W.] − safely nestled in his bullet-proof vest, and with his Rebbe dollars.

“I know theAibishter firt de velt – G-d runs the world.

“And I say my Tehillim (Psalms).”

Almost as an afterthought, Lily says, “Please, Chana, write that the more Tehillim that is said for our boys, the more mitzvot that are done – it’s so important for them and the more encouragement we all feel.”

Because really, truly, there is no “them.”

It is all about us. Every one of us.


Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute videocast 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

Chesed In The Midwest

Wednesday, October 1st, 2003

A few weeks ago, my family and I arrived in Cleveland on a Sunday afternoon. Early the following morning, my father, Rabbi Dovid Schochet, was scheduled for a serious operation, which at his age and condition could be life threatening.

For weeks, ever since the large growth was “accidentally” discovered on my father’s kidney, the tension had built. The doctors’ prognosis was grim and we hoped that it wasn’t too late for this cancerous growth to be contained, after which nothing medically would help. Divine intervention had led my parents to a world-class specialist in Cleveland.

Late Sunday night, my father emerged from his bedroom in a Cleveland hotel and joined my sister and me in the adjacent area. He sat down at the table and opened his book of Tehillim (Psalms).

He explained, “Tomorrow, we will have to be in the hospital early and I will be very rushed after the davening. I won’t have time in the morning, so I wanted to recite the children’s Tehillim tonight.” My father’s custom, ever since I can remember, was to recite daily the chapters of Tehillim correlating with the age of each one of his many children and grandchildren.

It struck me that he wouldn’t forego an opportunity of praying on our behalf.

My father then dialed my brother, who was staying a few blocks away. “Please meet us here early tomorrow morning,” he requested. “I want to make sure to bentch all of you before my surgery.”

My father replaced the receiver. “Daddy,” I began. “We don’t want your blessing tomorrow. We want it after the surgery, for many years to come!”

My father smiled tolerantly at his youngest child, “Yes, Chana. I definitely hope to bless all of you for many years to come. But tomorrow, too, is an auspicious opportunity and one never knows…” His voice trailed off before he continued. “The final moments of life can be the most important ones. We are fortunate when we have a chance to prepare properly.”

I lay awake in bed that night. My mind restlessly grappled with the question, how could I possibly say good-bye to someone who meant so much to me? How could I convey to him through mere words my appreciation for his lifelong of giving?

The question twisted and turned in my anguished mind, amidst the doubt, hope and fright wrestling there. Before long, morning mercifully dawned, providing an escape from the tormenting night.

My sisters, mother and I were waiting nervously by the time the men had returned from shul. My father stepped into the other room to call each of us for a private, secluded moment of blessing.

My father beckoned to me and I forced my feet, which felt like a pile of cement blocks, forward. He lifted his hands above my head and silently mouthed the traditional blessings. As he concluded, fresh tears stained my already wet cheeks and he hugged me.

I gazed into his wise, blue eyes, eyes that for so many years had interacted with me smilingly and with such teasing humor.

I heard my voice managing, “Daddy, thank you for being such a wonderful father all these years.” I sucked in some air since my chest felt like it would collapse under the crushing burden.

My father, who was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe more than 45 years ago to establish the Toronto Chabad community, and who served at its helm as its beloved rabbi, was more than a father. I forced myself to continue, “There hasn’t been a day in my life that I haven’t felt such a pride in being your daughter.” I paused for a second, “And may G-d allow you to continue for many years to come.”

I noticed a tear escape my father’s eyes. Moments later, we all left the hotel together to walk the five-minute trek to the hospital surgery room….

We sat in the lounge of the Cleveland Clinic. Comfortable couches were arranged into discussion centers. But instead of lively, animated chatter, the room was filled with a subdued undercurrent of talk, attesting to the serious tension filling this room, where families await news about the surgery of their beloved.

We tearfully left the bedside of my father, as the intern wheeled him to the pre-operating room. I can’t begin to imagine the emotions pulsing through him as he said the Vidui (confession) prayer, or as he bequeathed all his worldly goods as a gift of inheritance to my mother and informed us how his sefarim (books) should be divided should the worst occur. Nor can I fathom how he had the presence of mind to speak about the halachic implications of burying his removed kidney or how he remembered to tell us to return a book he had borrowed from a local synagogue.

I marveled, too, at my mother’s courage as she parted from my father, her husband of almost 50 years. She looked at him bravely and said, “You’ll be alright. I know you will.” She smiled encouragingly, but I was privy to the heart-wrenching turmoil that she faced within.

The surgery was scheduled to last several hours. We sank comfortably into our couches, doing the only thing we could do, endlessly mouthing words of Psalms, desperately entreating our Father in Heaven to grant my father many more years of earthly life. During this time, I glanced around the lobby and noticed many other families sitting and waiting. Some were whiling away their time with card games, while others were thumbing through popular magazines or newspapers. I felt immensely grateful to have the gift of prayer, so that I could utilize these strained hours constructively.

As the hours passed, I noticed many families leaving. Some were exuberantly joyous, while others were dejected and forlorn, their hearts shred to pieces after learning a negative

I remembered then, how, at this very hour, scores of people, in yeshivah, shuls, camps, and study groups around the world, were praying on my father’s behalf. Countless individuals who had been touched by him had approached me, misty eyed, on the streets or in the grocery store with their well wishes, or to whisper in my ear the good deed that they had taken upon themselves in his merit. I pictured all those prayers, all those positive acts and all those chapters of Tehillim rising up, heavenward, providing an enormous spiritual shield.

A short while later the organizer of the Bikur Cholim organization of Cleveland came to greet us, laden with packages, full of sandwiches and other refreshments.

Many foreigners from around the world come to Cleveland, seeking the help of respective specialists from this reputable clinic. The Cleveland Jewish community has responded to this challenge with a remarkably organized and professional network of volunteers, providing all kinds of support, medical advice, meals, a place to stay and anything else that a visitor might need. As this woman wished us well, we all felt enriched by more than the food that she had left with us.

The hours inched forward slowly.

It was now our turn to learn that, thank G-d, the operation had concluded successfully, the kidney was saved, the growth was removed, and it had not spread! We wouldn’t know for certain for a few days, but from initial testing, it appeared that the tumor was not cancerous - something that occurred in less than five percent of such cases!

Hearing such miraculous news, my obvious reaction was to open my worn Tehillim once again. From the depths of my being, I expressed my gratitude.

Soon after, we rushed to the recovery room. We stood at my father’s bedside, our hearts bursting with joy and thankfulness, as we watched my father open his eyes, smile weakly…and silently mouth the Minchah (afternoon) prayers.

I can’t remember a sight as beautiful as watching my mother gazing deeply into her husband’s eyes. Words are not rich enough to describe the joy in her face as she stood almost wordlessly, love and joy washing over her smiling features.

On behalf of my family, I’d like to thank the many individuals who have helped us with their acts of chesed During our trying time. And moreover, I thank the Ribbono Shel Olam for His supreme chesed and rachamim.

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca. 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/chesed-in-the-midwest/2003/10/01/

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