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The answer to the murderers

Dear friends,

Six months ago on Friday night, after the Fogel family put their children to sleep, two terrorists broke into their peaceful home and murdered the parents and three young children, including a three month old baby. The brutal attack left us all shocked to the core and with great sadness. The answer to it came this month.

Following this terrible attack, I have written to you about our plan to create the "Jewish Enrichment Program" in memory of their pure souls.

Two weeks ago, at the beginning of the new Hebrew School year, the program was launched. Every child went home with a beautiful kit, including Hebrew reading practice book, Aleph Bet flash cards and very interesting reading material on Jewish Heroes, with a special weekly assignment card for every day of the week. The children receive prizes weekly for completing their tasks.

"I am delighted with Chabad’s Jewish Enrichment Program (JEP). My son loves learning Hebrew this way – getting faster at saying and identifying words to learning about the Jewish heroes, Avraham and many others. . Having not studied Hebrew for many years, I too find that my Hebrew is quickly improving". This email is just one of many warm responses we have got since. This program has created a great enthusiasm by children to learn about their heritage, a new commitment from parents to get involved in the children’s Jewish upbringing, and allowed parents to brush-up on their knowledge as well...

This week we will reach out and extend our invitation to children on Vancouver Island who can’t attend Chabad Hebrew School to participate in this wonderful program of Jewish continuity.

The children of the Fogel family didn't make it to get their Jewish education; children on Vancouver Island are doing it for them.

Mind blowing Divine Providence

I’m writing to you today still under a great emotional impact of yesterday’s incident.

Though Devine Providence is something you can see very often, this episode is nothing short of mind blowing.

I was on the ferry to Vancouver when I answered a call on my cell phone. “Hello, Rabbi Kaplan, I understand that Elias Mandel is a member of your community.” “Yes,” I answered. “It’s his daughter here. Elias passed away this morning.” “Elias?! Baruch Dayan HaEmet. I’m shocked."

“I see he is sponsoring a Kiddush this Shabbat in your synagogue; in fact, that’s how I found out he is a member of your community...”

And then it hit me. Two months ago, in the weekly email, we sent out an offer to sponsor kiddush in our shul for the coming year to be listed in the new calendar. I remember my surprise when Elias, who never attended services on Shabbat in our shul, let alone sponsor a kiddush, filled out a request to sponsor a kiddush for his father’s yahrtzeit in October. That Shabbat was already reserved, so we worked it out for tomorrow... Elias sponsored a kiddush for the Shabbat following his sudden passing.

I got to know Dr. Elias Mandel well in the last year. Eighty two year old, Elias, who taught medicine for over 4 decades, kept a very busy life. Elias volunteered regularly at the BC museum and took courses at the university, constantly eager to learn more. Though initially he was hesitant, after we met for a coffee a year ago, he joined two JLI courses, which I instructed. Elias was a tough student who didn’t give me any breaks, but I remember his words of reflection after the last course “Towards a Meaningful l Life.” With tears in his eyes, Elias said, “This course brought me back to cheder; you reconnected me with my Yiddishe Neshama.”

The following Pesach, Elias, who was a Cohen, came to Shul to say Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing). “This is the first time since I did it under my father’s talis at Sha’arei Shomaim Synagouge in Montreal” he said.

Elias's daughter, Ruth, and his sons, Mark and Eric, will arrive in Victoria in time to join us tomorrow for this emotional kiddush, sponsored by their late father, Dr. Elias Mandel, of Blessed Memory.

Effortless, much appreciated

There is something special in the simple lessons learned from "insignificant" events in our lives. Here is a fresh one from yesterday:

Visitors from Israel contacted me and requested to meet me in person and see where our shul is located so they could make their plans for Shabbat. When I met the elderly couple in shul, Chanoch asked me if I could help him with a technical problem.
"As our phone is not working, our only way of communication with our family," he said, "is over the computer, and yesterday our computer stopped connecting to the Internet. As you can imagine, I'm not a computer expert, but this is driving me insane! I know my family is wondering where I am. I speak very little English, so it’s hard for me to get help," he concluded, while placing the laptop on the table.
The first thing I checked for was the wireless switch, which was, as expected, off....
They were so excited when they saw that the internet was working again. "You are so kind! We can't thank you enough!" they said, while I was feeling rather undeserving of this tremendous appreciation...
But then I realized that it doesn't matter that it required zero effort on my behalf; it was still the greatsest thing I could have done for them at that moment.

We constantly have opportunities to do little things that are effortless for us, but could change the lives of others, we don't always have to wait until we are asked... 

When I returned home, I picked up the phone and called a few people for whom my call could make a difference. All it took was a few minutes of my time...

Lesson in education

One morning this week, our son, Leibel (6), called me to see what Rochel (2) did to our little toy car. I came to the room to see Rochel all embarrassed. She had found a permanent marker and coloured all over this new car.

Before I had a chance to say anything, Rivky (7) walked into the room and saw what was happening. "Rochel," she said, "you just wanted the car to look nice, yes?" Rochel's face turned to a big smile. "Yes," she answered, "isn't it nicer now?!"

With her comment, Rivky did not only actualize the teaching of our sages in the Ethics of our Fathers, "judge every man to the side of merit," but also showed a great lesson in education: in every circumstance, start by complementing your child; that is the one and only way you can open him/her up to learn and improve.

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