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Avi's faith

Dear friends,  

One of the greatest Mitzvahs and acts of kindness in Judaism is to honour a deceased person after his or her soul has departed. Part of this Mitzvah is "Shmirah" - someone should stay with the body from the time of death till the funeral. This week, following the passing of Dr. Avi Destin, I was asked to be in the room early Tuesday morning.
 
When I walked into the room, I immediately recognised the Talit bag lying next to Avi. Avi brought it for many months every Sunday morning to put on Tefillin and pray at our Shul.
 
Sitting in the room beside Avi and the Talis bag - made me realize the special man I got to know for the last few years of his life.
 
While I heard from many people that he was a great professor of mathematics and an accomplishing scientist for many decades - I knew a very different aspect of Avi.
 
Avi’s way of relating to the creator was like a child, with great simplicity. When Avi would put on Tefillin and say the Shema - many times tears would stream from his eyes, he would constantly thank G-d for everything in his life, "Baruch Hashem" he would say again and again.
 
While Avi was a brilliant man, I will remember him for his humility. Avi understood the real meaning of faith - connecting with a higher reality and conscience - which transcends intellect. 
 
May his soul rest in peace and may we get inspired from a special man who has lived among us.

Regards from my Helsinky friend

Dear friends, 

One of the reasons I enjoy the so-called summers in Victoria is the visitors. Usually Shabbat brings some new faces from communities around the world. They share stories about their families and communities, adding a great deal to our Shul life. Last Shabbat it was something special.

The couple visiting from Bet-El, Israel, was great. We had some nice conversations and they seemed to enjoy the community very much. On Saturday night, when they came to hear Havdallah, Matti told me, "I have been to Chabad in many places and I enjoyed meeting all the Rabbis, but with one of them I really developed a relationship. I consider him my best friend.”

When I heard his name - I realized we had a great friend in common. Rabbi Benyomin Wolf of Helsinki, Finland, is a close friend of mine from yeshiva. We studied together, ran summer camps together and traveled across the world to dance at each other's weddings.

In fact, he was a big influence in our decision to move to Victoria. Not only was he the first one who introduced me to Vancouver Island (I had never heard of this beautiful place before; a month later we made it our home for life...), he also encouraged me to come to Victoria, and he still takes pride in the work that we do here... 

 

A call for thanksgiving

When I decided to skip my weekly blog last week it was due to lack of time, not lack of stories. In fact, last week was filled with big and small incidents that each deserves a blog of its own and G-d willing, their time will come... Today I want to share with you a story that happened yesterday because it is my favourite kind of story.

As you may know, yesterday, the 12th of Tamuz, was a great holiday for Chabad Chassidim. In 1927, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, had been arrested by agents of the GPU for his activities to preserve Judaism throughout the Soviet empire. He was sentenced to death. On the 12 of Tamuz, international pressure forced the Soviets to change the sentence to exile and, subsequently, to release him completely. 
 
To be inspired on this special day, I took the book of the teachings of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak from that year, and studied the discourse he delivered on the date of his release. The entire essay is based on the blessing of "Hagomel" (thanksgiving) that one has to say after being saved from danger. As I closed the book, the phone rang.
 
Robert sounded very happy on the other side. "I want to inform you of great news. I feel that I'm completely recovered from my long-time illness. I want to know what would be an appropriate way to celebrate this occasion and give thanks to the Creator.”
 
It didn't take me long to not only tell him about the blessing of "Hagomel" that he is invited to say in shul, but also to share with him the learning I just completed on the subject.
 
You are invited to shul this Shabbat when Robert will say the “Hagomel” blessing and celebrate his healing with a great Kiddush thanksgiving.
 
Now you know why it's my favourite story? As a Rabbi I get many calls, not too often is it someone who calls to share good news and the advice he seeks is -how to celebrate it....

Light your candle!

Please allow me to share with you a story with a great message from Israel PM Benyamin Netanyahu: 

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