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A meeting meant to happen

On Shabbat last week, community members attending services in the Shul seemed to feel a collective sense of momentousness, the Shul was completely filled; later arrivals found that there was standing room only.  In fact, the feeling that there was something special about the day was on many levels quite correct.

Standing in front of the congregation, I saw a middle aged man with a nice gray beard sitting in the last row. I did not recognize him, and imagined that he must be a guest. Then Dr. David Kirk, a ninety-two year old honourable member of the community, arrived in the middle of the service. I have known Dr. Kirk for several years and it was very nice to have him join the service.

Minutes later I noticed that the newcomer’s face had begun to brightly change colours; it was quite clear that he was shocked to his core...

Only at the lunch following the Kiddush did our guest, who we now know as Dr. Michael Grand, tell his story:

“Sixty years ago I found out that I was adopted, and my life turned upside down. I couldn’t fathom how this was going to affect my life. Years later I read Dr. David Kirk’s book, and once again my life was not the same. His book is the foundation of one perspective in adoption theory, and it had a profound impact on my life. As I carried out my own research in the field of adoption, Dr. Kirk’s work was a source of inspiration, and remains so in my current position as a professor of clinical psychology..."

"I met David a couple of times, but I didn't know if I would ever see him again.  I recognized him from the minute he walked into Shul". With tears in his eyes Dr. Grant continues "I'm so greatful to have the opportunity to thank him again for all he has done for me..."

Transformed tragedy

Dear Friends,

I remember that day, 9 years ago. It was the most horrific day in the history of terrorist attacks in Israel. Organized by Hammas, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the center of Jerusalem at a Sbarro restaurant. Fifteen people, including seven children, were killed and over 100 wounded on that vacation day in Israel.

When the details started coming out, the sadness and shock was beyond description. Five of the victims were members of one family, parents and three of their children: Mordechai, Tzira, Raya, Avram and Emda Schijveschuurder were murdered together while out on a "fun day" in Jerusalem. Their funeral was one of the most painful in the history of Israel. The images of the five surviving young children of the family were burned into the consciences of all Israeli residents, including myself, forever.

This week I met those children again.  I recognized the two boys’ faces. They came to the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe this past Tuesday to mark his 16th Yahrtziet. Together with them was one of my closest friends from Yeshiva, Rabbi Benyamin Wolff, a Chabad Rabbi in Helsinki, Finland.

Wondering about the connection, I was told that the Schijvsechuurder brothers met Rabbi Wolff on a trip to Europe and pledged to build a Chabad house in Helsinki in memory of their family members.

It is hard to imagine how this family was able to collect themselves after such a terrible tragedy; it is admirable to see how they have turned it into energy of goodness and kindness.

The candles still burn

Usually when members of the community travel to Israel, I try to get them in contact with my family.  As we are only able to visit on rare occasions, they are always quite thrilled to receive regards from a member of Victoria's Jewish community. However, when Noemi Masson told me that she would be going to Israel, I didn't try to make the connection; she was going on a group trip and I didn't want to complicate things for her.
 

On Friday last week Noemi and her group arrived for a short two hours in Tzfat. While walking in the old city, a young woman walking with her children approached Noemi and offered her Shabbat candles. After Noemi thanked her for her kindness, she asked, "Do you know Rabbi Meir Kaplan?"

"Meir Kaplan?" Rivky smiled, "he's my brother-in-law!"  Noemi was shocked, she couldn't believe it.  When Noemi was introduced to Rivky's children - Mussi, Leibel and Mendel (and others) - she was convinced... "Well then regards from your brother-in-law!" said Noemi.
 
the Rebbe.jpgYou might wonder why was Mrs. Rivky Kaplan of Tzfat offering Noemi candles even though she had never met her before...
 
In fact, Rivky grew up in a home inspired by the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of righteous memory.
 
The Rebbe assumed the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement just a few years after a third of the Jewish nation perished in the Holocaust. While the Jewish world was in shock, and somewhat in despair, the Rebbe called to spread the light of Yiddishkeit. The Rebbe encouraged each one of his followers not to be satisfied solely by illuminating their own home, but to bring the light and warmth of Judaism to every Jewish home they could reach.
 
This Tuesday we will mark 16 years since the Rebbe's passing in 1994. Although his physical presence is not with us any longer, the candles that the Rebbe lit continue to bring warmth and light to every corner of the world.
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