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An impression of kindness

Dear Friends, 

Last week, on Erev Sukkot, we escorted a dear member of the community, Dr. Nicolas Cohen to his resting place. Nicolas was a very special individual, someone who made a great impression on everyone who knew him.

photo.JPGSince I have known Nicolas, he was suffering from a very advanced Parkinson's disease, and was very limited in his function. However, instead of complaining about his condition, he always found the time to complement people and share kind words of appreciation. Here are two incidents how he touched my life:

Nicolas was one of the regulars to receive the "Light of Shabbat" box, every time after receiving he made sure to call or send a note of thank you. The following is a letter he sent a short while before he left Victoria. The letter is classical for Nicolas, filled with emotion and poetry:

"On Friday... I felt abandoned, utterly lonely. I opened your box, took the candles, lit them said the Brocho... and everything was transformed. By the time I came to Hamotsi my heart was calm and filled with happiness of Shabbat".

A few weeks before he left Victoria, Nicolas contacted me and asked if I'd come for a visit. When I came, he expressed his strong wish to put on Tefillin, something he hadn’t done for a few decades. I helped him put them on, and he said the Shema in a tear-choked voice... When we finished he thanked me, as always, with a great smile...

May his soul be bound in the bond of life.

A Link to Jewish Life...

Dear Friends, 

About four years ago, I met a Jewish man on Friday at Thriftys.  I invited him to Shul for the next day, and it seemed like he had a nice time. Since then I have tried a few times to call him but the number didn't seem to work, so we lost contact...

A few weeks ago I got an email in my inbox from Peter:

"My name is Peter F. we met at the supermarket at Sears Mall about three years ago.  I told you that I was Jewish at that time you invited me to attend services at your Shul which I did, and truly enjoyed the service and the Kiddush which was fabulous.

"I told you that day that I was moving to the mainland to be close to my son who lives in Whistler.

"I am writing to day to tell you how much I enjoy reading the Jewish Link and your blog every Friday evening.  It reminds me of my Jewish heritage at least once a week, so please keep it coming and please have faith in me because as you very well know miracles do happen.

"I will send a donation for your tables so please tell me who I should make the cheque to.

"I hope you and your family are all well.


The Legacy of Dr. Chaim David Masson

Dear Friends, 

As we prepare for Yom Kippur and Yizkor services, a memory of a special person in our community comes to my mind. I would like to share with you today, Erev Yom Kippur, a very precious story about Dr. Chaim David Masson, who's second Yhartzit was this week.

It was Chanukah almost six years ago, a wonderful Chanukah celebration at the JCC. At the end of the event we raffled a Mezuzah. On the winner's note it said the name David and a phone number. David wasn't there, so when I called to inform him, he was very excited. "That's the most amazing gift" he said, "Noemi and myself just moved to Victoria and we will be moving to our new home next week."

When I came to the house, David wanted Mezuzahs on each door; in addition he wanted to Kosher his kitchen and learn how to keep it Kosher. And so we did. Sitting in the living room and having a nice chat, David's face became very sad as he told me this story: "You know Rabbi, I never had a Bar Mitzvah, my father past away when I was twelve, in the middle of my Bar Mitzvah lessons, and so the celebration was canceled".

"It's not too late," I told him and we started planning the Bar Mitzvah. We found his original Bar Mizvah Parsha, which would occur ten months later, so we had a plenty of time to study. He choose the section he would like to read and we scheduled time for classes.

David left the room for a moment and came back holding a notebook. "This is where I left off 50 years ago with my teacher in Edmonton" he said, and he placed the book on the table. Reading the notebook, I noticed that the teacher was teaching sentences in Hebrew. In each example he would use the same name, again and again: "Mr. Kaplan" or "Mrs. Kaplan" - Mr. Kaplan praying, Mr. Kaplan going to Shul, etc. David was shocked to find it, we both felt that it was a message from his previous teacher for me to carry on...  

A few days later I have received a phone call from a member of the community: "I heard of your Bar Mitzvah plans for David, which is wonderful. But I'm telling you as a nurse that David is very ill; you are taking a chance by having it so late, chances are he won't make it..."

I gently consulted David and he suggested that we leave the plans as they were, especially because the end of his reading states "and I will remove sickness from your midst." The following few months, David came to services in our home every Shabbat that we had a Minyan, and we always remembered to pray for him with the Mi Shebeirach blessings.

By Jewish tradition adding a name could bring life to a very ill person, so days before the following Rosh Hashanah I asked David if he would like to add the name "Chaim", which means life. David agreed immediately. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah I got a chill when reading the special prayer for adding a name - it had that same verse from his Bar Mitzvah Torah reading...

Three months later David was very emotional when he read the Torah. His face was filled with joy and satisfaction, just like a Bar Mitzvah boy. At the Kiddush following the service, he set up pictures of his parents and grandparents on the table, while welcoming everyone to his Simcha... Then he delivered the most beautiful Dvar Torah, which I still remember...

Against all odds, David lived close to three more years.  He led a very full life, was the pillar of his family and very instrumental in the community, attended numerous events and created an amazing group of friends. He was also able to see two beautiful new grandchildren, and even managed to be a Sandak for the first time, for his own grandchild.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, exactly three years after "Chaim" was added to his Name, Chaim David lay in a bed in the hospital. I visited him with my son Leibel (then 3 years old), and because we knew that David was very sad about being unable to attend Shul, we brought a Shofar along. I blew the Shofar, then Leibel did. David was very moved, he tried to kiss Leibel, and in a very low voice thanked me for our visit. He took the apple dipped in honey which we brought, licked the honey, and looked very satisfied. 

Two days later, after his children from out-of-town arrived, he called them all to the room, requested a Kippah to be put on his head, and with his last bit of energy, he said the Shma. A few short hours later his soul departed... 

All who knew David in those few years, including myself, will remember him for his determination and his love of Yiddishkeit. May we be inspired to continue his legacy.

A Ring Found in Ruby Lake

In the Kiddush following Services last Shabbat, Alex Smolov was very emotional when sharing his recent experience. Here is his amazing story:

"Last week Ina and I joined some of our friends in Vancouver in honour of my birthday, to spend the weekend in Ruby Lake on the Sunshine Coast. A woman who joined us was diving in the shallow part on the lake, and came out with a treasure in her hand".

When we came closer we saw she was holding a silver ring in her hand. "It says something on it”, she said, "but I can't read a word, it seems to be in some foreign language".

I looked at the ring and I was stunned! Let me tell you a little bit about myself", Alex continued "I was born in Chernivtsi Ukraine. Although I remember with admiration my grandfather putting on Tefillin every single day, growing up in the soviet society we had very little, if any, Jewish education.

"Since the Kaplans came to the Island my interest in learning more about Judaism grew, and I found myself wanting to connect deeper with our heritage. I started attending classes and services. Two years ago I taught myself to read Hebrew".

"Now, when I looked at the ring I was shocked to my core. Its said in large Hebrew letters "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad". I couldn't believe it, here, at the end of the world, on the day of my birthday, there is a ring with Hebrew words awaiting me!

"Aside from being a most wonderful birthday gift" Alex concluded "It is a reminder; reminding us that we can't escape G-d's presence even in the Sunshine Coast and an encouragement to all of us to do more to earn our inherited connection to Yiddishkeit".

Everyone at the kiddush was overwhelmed by the Devine providence of the story. Another L'chaim was poured, we started singing all together "Shema Yisrael" while Alex wiped his tears...

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