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Love song at the funeral


Dear friends,

I wrote a few months ago of my visit to Port Alberny to visit Edward, a Jew who had lived there for the last few decades. That visit was our final encounter; on Sunday, Edward passed away.

wiecinski.jpgAfter hearing the sad news of Edward’s passing, one event flashed through my mind – that of Edward, shortly after reconnecting to Judaism, asking me to buy him some Jewish items, including a CD of Jewish music. “I’ll be very happy if you can buy me a recording of the Chassidic singer Avraham Fried”, he said. “I really like his songs; he sings with his whole Neshama.” Ever since then, he would frequently send me links to video clips he found of performances by Avraham Fried.

A few hours before Edward’s funeral, I realized that the date of his passing was the Yohrtziet of Reb Elimelech of Lizenk, a Rebbe of many thousands of Chassidim in Poland – Edward’s birth country – in the18th century. What struck me was the fact that Reb Elimelech wrote a beautiful inspiring prayer, which Avraham Fried sings with a very moving tune and has become one of his leading songs, as well as my favourite of his songs since my childhood...

Being that Ed shares his passing date with the writer of the song, Reb Elimelech, I thought it would be appropriate to sing it with the tune of his favourite singer at his funeral. When singing it in the silence of the cemetery on Tuesday afternoon, I was able to see Edward smiling with satisfaction.

Please take a moment to listen to Avrahan Fried singing “Aderaba.” In memory of my good friend, Edward Wiecinski – Nachshon Ben Yisrael. 


אַדְּרַבָּה, תֵּן בְּלִבֵּנוּ שֵֶׁנִּרְאֶה כָּל אֶחָד מַעֲלַת חֲבֵרֵינוּ וְלאֹ חֶסְרוֹנָם, וְשֶׁנְּדַבֵּר כָּל אֶחָד אֶת חֲבֵרו בְּדֶרֶךְ הַיָּשָׁר וְהָרָצוּי לְפָנֶיךָ, וְאַל יַעֲלֶה שׁוּם שִׂנְאָה מֵאֶחָד עַל חֲבֵרו חָלִילָה. וּתְחַזֵּק הִתְקַשְּׁרוּתֵנוּ בְּאַהֲבָה אֵלֶיךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לְפָנֶיךָ, שֶׁיְּהֵא הַכּלֹ נַחַת רוּחַ אֵלֶיךָ.

On the contrary, place in our hearts the ability to see only the good in our friends and not their shortcomings!
May we speak to each other in a way that is straight and desirable in Your eyes. May there be no hatred between friends, Heaven forbid.
Strengthen our ties and our bond to You with love, as it is revealed and known to You that we strive to give You only satisfaction and pleasure. 

The greatest gifts al all

 Dear friends,

 This Saturday I will be G-d willing celebrating my birthday. Chani told me of a conversation she overheard the kids having in preparation for this occasion.

They were discussing a gift they’d like to present, and kept bringing up different ideas, using the brilliant imagination that only children have. Then Leibel jumped in with a flash “I have an idea” he said, “we should all go in a big gift box, and when Tatty will open it he’ll find us, because he likes us more than anything!”...

Leibel was right. There is no greater gift that we received from G-d than our precious children; there is no superior source of joy than our kids.

May the Almighty give us the wisdom and strength to always acknowledge this, and to be responsible keepers of the greatest treasure of all.

Letter to Tamar Fogel

Dear Friends,  

Here is the letter I sent to twelve-year-old Tamar Fogel who lost both of her parents and three siblings in a massacre inside her home in Itamar last Friday night.  

Dear Tamar,

Since hearing of the terrible attack in your home on Friday night, I feel horribly pained; my heart is broken and bleeding with you and your family.  The faces of your beloved parents stand in front of my eyes constantly. I feel as if I have always known them. The smiles of your brothers Yoav and Elad, and the pure face of your baby sister, Hadas, are alive in front of me and don't let me rest. A part of me is crying inside all the time, and sometimes brakes out. 

You have now become a little mother for your two brothers. I know it's a lot to ask of a 12 year old child, who was the first to witness the worst scene man can ever imagine. I want you to know that we are all with you. Millions of your brothers and sisters around the world are praying for you and for Roee and Yishai,that Hashem may give you the strength you'll need to continue, the strength to be able to enjoy life, to sing and dance, to play and run, just like every other child.

In the last few days, my friends and I have felt the need to turn this pain into a positive motive, to turn the tears into a source of inspiration, and to transform the darkness into great light. 

We heard how important Jewish education has been to your parents; we all know that you had children over for a Shabbat gathering hours before the terrorists entered your home. We would like to continue their legacy; we want it to make an everlasting impact on Jewish life on Vancouver Island. 

While discussing this with friends in our small but lovely Jewish community, we have decided to form "The Fogel's Jewish Enrichment Project". This new initiative will bring Jewish education in the cities of our Island to a new level of involvement and connection for Jewish children. 

At the present time, there is no Jewish Day School on Vancouver Island. At Chabad, some thirty five children come every Sunday for Hebrew School. I bet you are wondering, and rightfully so, about the other days of the week. Can once-a-week learning provide a child adequate excitement about our heritage? This is what we want to answer with the FJE project. 

The plan is that every Sunday, each child will receive a week's worth of daily assignments to complete throughout the week, appropriate to their age and level. If all tasks have been completed each day - they will receive a special prize, on a weekly basis. This project will be available through a special website for children in other towns throughout Vancouver Island. We believe that we have the right people to design this program and turn it into a smashing success. 

The Jewish education of Yoav, Elad and Hadas was cruelly interrupted by bloody hands of the evil murderer - we will do what we can to continue their education here on the other side of the planet. 

This is the Jewish answer to terrorism. This is how we plan to turn bitter tears to joy.

Wishing you, Roee, and Yishai a Shabbat Shalom, and may you know of no more sorrow from now and forever.  

Now I can get ready to celebrate Purim. 

Meir Kaplan

I invite you to send your letter to the Fogel family here.



The soul on a birthday

Dear Friends, 

Since I wrote my last blog about the heartbreaking meeting with Mindel and her family, I have received great feedback from many people in the community, which I'm very thankful for, but beyond all  - I have received an email from Mindel herself.

"Thank you so much for your kind words, Rabbi Kaplan. You sent it to me to read yesterday, just before my 41st birthday today!! A beautiful gift."

First of all, I was happy that Mindel didn't object to my sharing her story (although, I made sure to change some identifying details...) but, what really caught me by surprise was to hear that it was Mindel’s birthday on Shabbat!

The Talmud says that on a Birthday the spiritual source of a person's soul shines with power. As Jewish people, our birthdays are marked according to the Jewish calendar, as you may know Hebrew birthdays are usually very much apart from the English date. I rushed to the calendar to check Mindel's Hebrew birthday, and behold: it was on the 27 of Adar I which was last Thursday, the day I had the inspiration to write her story. The power of the soul...

I'm sure you are sharing with me in prayer to the Almighty to send a miraculous recovery to Mindel Bat Chiya.  May she merit celebrating many more birthdays with Joy and Nachas. 

Fresh Water to a Weary Soul

Dear Friends,

It was one of the most heartbreaking meetings I had in Victoria, when Mindel, a young Jewish woman came with her father, her husband and her two little children to see me. After a recurring cancer was found in her brain, she was told that if a miracle doesn’t happen, she had only six months to live.

All I can recall from that morning was how my heart was going out for that young family, and how sorry I felt that I couldn't be of much help, especially since they lived a few hours up the Island.

This was sixteen months ago. Since then, I haven’t seen Mindel and her family. I have called their home several times and left messages, but we never got to speak. 

This week I called again and Mindel answered the phone. In our short conversation she told me that although she feels pretty well, the doctors continue to tell her that her health situation is worsening, "but I carry on living my life as full as I can," she said.

To my great surprise, she sounded very much in peace and with a positive outlook.  I complemented her for her strength in keeping her spirits up, under the most difficult circumstance.

"Two things are keeping me going," she said, "two thoughts I heard from you at our meeting... First the analogy you gave me of the moon which after it disappears, it starts shining again every day a little more...

"The other thing is I'm lighting Shabbat candles as you suggested, and I meditate on the idea you shared with me, that the flame on the candle is like the soul attached to the body.  I'm lighting the candles with the prayer and hope that my soul should stay in this world, to allow me to continue doing my mission on earth."

To be truthful I must say that I couldn't remember a thing I said that morning. All I was able to recall was the family’s worried faces and my inability to help.

Never underestimate the power of positive and hopeful words. When they enter the hearts of those who are eager for it, it can be like fresh water to a weary soul.

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