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"Achim, Gam Yachad",,

When I opened my email one morning, exactly seven years ago, I saw a message from my former student in Yeshivah. I didn't hear from him in a while, but the real surprise was the picture attached. 

In the photo I saw Dr. Steve Baker, a good friend and member of the Victoria Jewish community, with my former student with their arms on each other’s shoulders as if they were good old friends.

Lag B'omer 021.jpgIn the text of the email I got the explanation.
"Rabbi Kaplan, I was in Meiron on Lag B'omer (when hundreds of thousands of Jews come to mark this date next to the resting place of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai - MK) and I offered a man to put on Tefillin at our “Tefillin booth”. We started to talk, when I heard that he was from Vancouver Island, I asked if he knew Rabbi Kaplan 'what do you mean if I know Rabbi Kaplan?! He is my Rabbi, how do YOU know him?!..."’

‘When he heard that you are my teacher, he was amazed "I don't know how you are all connected. And what are the chances that I will be meeting you out of the many thousands here… It reminds me that a few months ago my wife mentioned to Rabbi Kaplan that her brother lives in Helsinki, Finland, turns out that the Rabbi's best friend is the Chabad Rabbi there. He got them connected and now they are very close".

"You won't believe it" I told Steve when I heard his story “three weeks ago I returned from Helsinki, where I went to help Rabbi Wolf for Pesach, and you know who gave me a lift to the airport? Your brother in law..." Steve was blown away…

“I know the story doesn't sound real, so I'm attaching a picture of our meeting so you can see for yourself"…

Lag B'omer is the passing date of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Talmud tells us that one of his favourate verses was "Hine ma tov uma na'im shevet achim gam yachad" - How good and pleasant it is for brothers to sit together". Helsinki, Victoria, New York or Israel, we are all brothers and sisters "gam yachad" together as one. 


It was just Rochel (almost 4) and me in the car, when she asked a simple question that I never expected will turn into a deep theological discussion. 

"Why does the car have this?" she asked while flipping the grab-handle above the door. "I think it is to help older people who can't get up by themselves", I said.

After two minutes of silence Rochel came up with a question that can come only from an innocent child. "Why did Hashem make that people can't get up by themselves?" she asked.

I looked in the rear-view mirror to make sure it was Rochel asking the question... I was thinking. I knew I had to give her a meaningful answer that she can understand.

"Hashem made it difficult for some people to get up so we can have a Mitzvah by helping them", I said.

From the silence I gathered she was probably satisfied with the answer.

A few minutes later we arrived at our destination. "Tatty" Rochel said "If it will be too heavy for me to help the old man get up, will you help me?".

"Sure, this way I will have a Mitzvah too" I answered and gave her a big kiss for inspiring me, once again.

A Real Friend

Chabad of British Columbia, and the Jewish community as a whole, are still in shock and great pain by the sudden passing of Rabbi Lipa Dubrawsky on Sunday at the age of 56. Rabbi Lipa was great scholar and beloved teacher who touched the lives of thousands in the twenty five years he lived in Vancouver.

lipa.jpgThe brilliance of Rabbi Lipa was known to everyone who got to hear him. His vast knowledge of Torah was rare and his dedication to learning and teaching was exemplary.

When visiting Vancouver, I heard from many of his acquaintances that they consider Rabbi Lipa a very close friend. While Lipa was an extraordinary teacher, people spoke more of his warmth and affection than his great classes.

When Rabbi Dubrawsky came to a meeting in Victoria, a member of the community drove him to the ferry, after the short ride he told me how much he enjoyed speaking with him "I found a new friend", he said. 

How did so many people - even those who met him only once or twice - consider Lipa to be their good friend?  I think his secret was that he really listened and really cared.

How many people do you feel are really listening to you when you share with them your challenges or dilemmas? How many really feel what you are going through? Even when Lipa was rushing on his way somewhere, even when he had his own worries and concerns - when you spoke with him, you saw how attentive he was and you felt that he was concerned with you.

When I would call Lipa to get his advice - he would mostly listen. He had a lot to say but he would never talk before he felt that I said all I had to say, he wouldn't comment until he was sure that he had heard me entirely.

 King Salomon says in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living shall lay it to his heart”.

There are many things we can take to our heart from this great man, what I think will stay with me is the secret of becoming a real friend.  Listen and care.

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