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Menorah, Mezuzah and Buffalo shofars

Dear Friends,  

On Monday, I got a phone call from Dave from Barriere, BC. "Hi Rabbi, would you be able to tell me how to turn buffalo horns into shofars?"

To understand why Dave would like to make shofars out of buffalo horns before Purim, I must first let you know how I got to know Dave, which is one of the most inspiring tales I have been a part of since we made Victoria our home.

Weeks after we arrived in Victoria, I was contacted by Rabbi Dubrawsky from Vancouver who told me that a visitor from Baltimore had met a Jew on the ferry to Victoria who inquired about a mezuzah, and he has his phone numbers in case I would like to be of help.

None of the numbers he gave me seemed to work. A few days later, I learned that the 250 area code could be long distance, requiring a 1 before the number. I called Dave to find out that he lives in the interior of BC in a town called Barriere, and he was in Victoria for a visit. "Let me then mail you the mezuzah," I said, to which he replied, "Please don't. I would like to meet you in person to get the mezuzah."

"When will you be coming?" I asked. "I don't go very often, it may be next summer, but you'll hear from me as soon as I'm there". 

A few days later Dave was on the phone: "My wife’s uncle died suddenly in Victoria. See you tomorrow."

When Dave came to my house it was clear that he had something to say. He asked me and Chani to sit down to hear his story. 

"I was born in Austria to a Jewish family. At the age of three, I was adopted by a Christian family from BC. They told me that my ancestors were Jewish, but I didn't pay too much attention to it and I went on with my life. When I decided to research my family to find relatives, I was told that the Jewish people in my town have most probably all perished in the Holocaust. When I heard that, I made up my mind to leave the history behind and go forward with my life. 

"I began a career in real estate and became the realtor of Barriere. I established a family and had a peaceful life, until that one spring day. It was right after I sold a house, and went to see my clients and to my surprise, I saw a menorah on their shelf. I had no idea what it was, but I was confident that it was a Jewish item. When I inquired about it, they said they weren't Jewish and the conversation ended.

"After leaving the house, I felt I had to go back and find out how this family got to own this beautiful menorah. After some convincing, they were ready to share their story. ‘My grandmother,’ the lady said, ‘hid a Jewish family in her home during World War II. When the Nazis took the family away, they left their belongings with her. She told us to carry this menorah with us and maybe one day we would find someone to give it to.’” 

Tears were falling down Dave’s face as he continued the story. “I said, ‘I may be the one. I lost my entire family then. Would you give me the menorah?’ When they heard my story, they immediately agreed. They felt that the menorah had finally reached its destination. 

"Since I got this menorah, I’ve become a different person; my Jewishness has been awakened and I’ve been looking to learn more about who I am. 

"A month later I found a silver item in an antique shop that seemed to be Jewish. I purchased it and later heard from my learned friend that this item is called a "mezuzah" and it’s missing the parchment. When I was on the ferry to Victoria in the summer, I saw a man who appeared to be an observant Jew, so I asked him if he knew where I can obtain that parchment.” 

Chani and I were in awe from the story. It was a very emotional moment when I handed Dave his mezuzah.

Days before Chanukah of that year, I received a letter from Dave asking if I can send him the blessing of the lighting of the menorah along with a kippa, so he can light the menorah, which lit his soul, and celebrate the Festival of Lights in his home... 

Today, Dave is the treasurer of the Thoumpson Valley Jewish organization and is looking to do programs for the community. "You know," Dave tells me, "we have Jews of all kinds. I thought a hands-on program is something that everyone would be willing to participate in. I got horns of a buffalo and was hoping we could convert them into shofars. I know it's not the perfect timing, but I still think it will be wonderful to get the Jews here to do something together. We are all one big family, aren't we...?!"

A new perspective

Dear Friends,

I wasn't planning on writing every week about my walk to shul on Shabbat morning, but what can I do - the story still goes on...

You can imagine that after my decision from last week, I walked this past Shabbat with Mussi, Rivky and Leibel. While walking together, the cyclist from last week cycled by and waved with a huge smile.

Two minutes went by and Mussi asked for a story. I'm not a good story teller, but telling a story could make the walk more enjoyable and keep us together - I couldn't refuse.

The story that came to mind at that moment was about the cow that was owned by a Jew, and when later sold to a gentile, wasn't willing to work on Shabbat until the previous owner convinced her to do so.

"But some Jews don’t know of Shabbos, they know only of Saturday," says Leibel. "That's your Job," I answered Leibel, "to tell everyone about Shabbat..."

We crossed the street and a guy waking by called with a smile, "Shabbat Shalom." I turned immediately and replied, "Shabbat Shalom to you!" and just to continue the conversation, I asked, "Where are you from?" "From Nelson" he answered. "Would you like to come with us to shul?" I heard myself asking. "I actually used to participate, but not anymore" he said.

"I was wrong," I turned and told the children. "Every Jew knows that it is Shabbat today. Look with what pride he wished us "Shabbat Shalom!" 

Worthy guarantors

Dear Friends,

Last Shabbat morning as I walked to shul, as usual, only this time on my own and I'm waiting at the pedestrians cross walk, I was attacked by a cyclist with an unexpected question:

"Where are the children?" he asked.

When I smiled at his comment, his face remained serious, as if to say, "I'm asking you a serious question"...

I started thinking about the reason I didn't take Rivky and Leibel with me that morning. They actually wanted to come, but Chani (and Mussi and Rochel) was away for the weekend,  they went to sleep late, and they seemed a bit tired in the morning, so I left them with a babysitter.

Giving it another moment of thought, I realized, that I didn't take them to shul because I was too tired to deal with children who were a bit tired and may kvetch a little on the way back from shul (after all it is over 2 KM). But was this enough of a reason to leave them home, when they asked to join?

When we began the Torah reading, Parashat Yitro, discussing revelation on mount Sinai and the giving of the Torah, I knew the answer. Our sages tell us that when G-d gave the children of Israel the Torah, he asked them for a guarantor to ensure that they will keep the laws. G-d rejected the forefathers and the profits as guarantors; only when we offered the children, He accepted: "They are truly worthy guarantors".

And there I was, leaving my kids at home so that I could have a peaceful walk?!

After Mr. Gross, who gives goodies to the kids in shul every morning, asked me as well why I didn't bring them, I promised myself, bli neder, from now on if my children want to come to shul - I shall take them. After all, G-d needs to know that our guarantors are still here! 

Childhood innocence

Dear Friends, 

Every once in a while, children ask questions that make you realize how brilliant they are, and the great responsibility that each one of us has to respond to these questions in a way that will encourage them to continue thinking and to use their wisdom and talents.

In our family, this week it was Leibel. Chani was telling him how G-d renews life to the creation and at all times we need to be thankful for everything we are surrounded by, as a new gift from the creator.

 "If G-d in fact creates the world at every moment" asks Leibles "so how could we say that G-d rested on the seventh day; he still needs to give life to the creation?"

Now how many of us thought about that question before, and more so, how many of us are ready to answer this four year old’s question?

Kind Salomon said, "Raise a child in his way, so even when he is old, he will not depart from it." If we will be there to answer our children's questions, to help them learn in their way, we can insure that they will continue to thrive in a way that their brilliants and purity will not depart as they get older.

Chani joins me in wishing you Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Meir Kaplan 


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