My first position in chinuch about two decades ago was as an elementary school social worker in Yeshiva Bais HaChinuch in Spring Valley, NY. During those years, I taught a class about emotions vocabulary. It began with a discussion about the common emotions of mad, sad, glad, and bad. It then moved on to discussing more complicated emotions like disappointment, frustration, excitement, surprise, etc.
The final classes were about dual emotions and even conflicting emotions. The human experience is never clear cut and smooth sailing. Life entails balancing conflicting feelings of joy and sadness, often at the same time.
This past Shabbos, 18 Adar, our family marked the first yahrtzeit of my late father-in-law, Mr. Nathan Mermelstein, a’h, Nuta Yitzchok ben Alexander. The following day was the hakamas matzeivah (unveiling).
Beforehand I discussed the event with our nine-year-old son Dovid. I told him that it would mostly be a sad event, but there would be a tinge of happiness as well. We are sad because we miss Zayda and would like to see and speak to him again. Yet, at the same time there is a tinge of comfort and happiness, knowing that he is free of pain, and enjoying his place in Olam Haba.
At the same time, this week is a special milestone for me. Two books that I worked on for some time have been published simultaneously. They are both already available in seforim stores in Eretz Yisrael and will, iyH, be available in American seforim stores imminently.
The first is entitled “Nostalgia for Eternity,” published by Feldheim (available on Amazon). It contains a collection of lectures from my rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein. The book contains a treasure trove of his ideas about many topics including prayer, Jewish pride, marriage, post-pandemic life, dealing with disappointments, and ideas about the Yomim Tovim of the year.
Rabbi Wein is renown throughout the Jewish world as a lecturer, author, historian and scholar. But for myself and countless others he is foremost our rosh yeshiva and rebbe. I was privileged to be part of the last class of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah to graduate with Rabbi Wein as its rosh yeshiva. That summer, the summer of 1997, Rabbi Wein and his Rebbetzin, a”h, made aliyah.
I always appreciated Rabbi Wein’s timeless insights, candid reflections about life, and his love for Torah, Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish people. But now, over 25 years later, I have a far deeper appreciation for the poignancy and accuracy of his messages.
Rabbi Wein often speaks fondly about his great rabbeim and the gedolim of the previous generation that he was privileged to know personally. He recounts that they imparted to his generation the need to appreciate being part of the eternal people and the responsibility it entails. He also speaks of our need to pridefully convey those messages to our progeny.
My goal in transcribing and adapting his lectures for print was to help others feel the nostalgia for eternity that Rabbi Wein evokes.
The other book is entitled “The Ateres Frumah – Striving Higher Haggadah,” published by Mosaica Press (and available for purchase on their site). The haggadah contains a brief, running commentary on the haggadah that allows the reader to understand the beautiful passages of the haggadah as he reads them. There are also footnotes containing lengthier explanations and ideas, often with novel and contemporary stories and parables that help explain the words of the haggadah.
Following the haggadah section is a collection of essays about the seder and Pesach, with a touch of (attempted) humor and (attempted) sophistication.
The fact that the Ateres Frumah Haggadah bears the name of my late beloved Bubby, Rebbetzin Frumah Kohn, makes it all the more endearing to me. I was privileged to have my Bubby in my life for almost four decades and that my children knew her as well. She serves as our link to a lost generation.
No book merges past, present and future quite like the haggadah. Through its timeless words we are inspired by reading about the past, to anticipate and await a wonderful future. Grandparents and grandchildren sit around the seder table symbolizing the bridging of generations.
My rebbe, Rabbi Wein teaches us to appreciate that we are a vital link in an eternal chain, an idea represented by the haggadah. Our nostalgia for the greatness of the past, helps us yearn for the eternity of our future.