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"Tallis, Tallis"

On Tuesday evening I went to visit a senior member of the community in the Jubilee Hospital. We had a good conversation; it seems that it gave him some comfort and he appreciated our time together. As I was getting ready to leave, I wished him "good night" and headed towards the exit of the unit, but it seems that G-d had other plans for me...

When trying to open the door, I realized that I would need the help of a staff member to let me out, so I started looking around for a nurse. 

I wandered around for a few minutes, but didn't see anyone available to unlock the doors. Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me calling with excitement "Tallis, tallis", I turned around and saw an older man with a white goat beard, who I've never met before, pointing to the Tzitzit strings hanging from my pants... I walked over and the fellow continued "do you have Tefillin too?" at this point I realized that he really knew what he was talking about... Standing in the hallway of the hospital we had a conversation about his bar mitzvah ("the last time I put on Tefillin") and he was overly excited when I told him that next time I'd make sure to come in the daytime and bring Tefillin along.

The next day I stood beside the man in his room,  his eyes were filled with tears of joy, as he recited the "Shema" with a Tallit and Tefillin.

This time when I was ready to leave, there was a nurse right there ready to open the door for me. As I stepped out she asked "What did you do to Dr. J?! I have never seen him so happy since he was admitted here...”

This Shabbat we will be reading in the Torah the commandment of Tzitzit. The Torah says that one shell wear them "so that you will remember". It seems that it may make awaken someone else's fond memories too... 

Rebirth in Tacoma

Last week we took the children for a two day trip to the mainland. We started in Tacoma, Washington, where we saw the new beautiful Chabad Centre. While touring the magnificent Shul, Rabbi Zalman Heber told us the story of the beautiful candelabras in the front of the Synagogue, a story I'd never hold back from you. 

"When we announced the building of a new Shul" Zalman began the story "a family in the city told me that they would like to donate a special gift to the new house of prayer and asked if I'd come to see them".

"When I came to their home they presented to me two very old looking candelabras.’They were from a synagogue in Amsterdam in the 18 hundreds, it was passed through the family and we feel that Chabad of Tacoma is the perfect home for it'".

photo 1.JPG"I held these beautiful pieces with great emotions and thanked them on behalf of the community for this remarkable gift. In front of the candles were the original plaques with Hebrew words. I quickly got a cloth to clean them and saw the dedication of the donor. They were right, it was donated to the synagogue in Amsterdam in 1791, but when I saw the way it was written I nearly fell in amazement: שנת תקומה. The Jewish year is written many times with the Hebrew letters representing the numerical value of the year. The word they chose for the year was "Tkuma" which means "rebirth", but the same letters can also be read as "Tacoma", the city which is now the new home for the candelabras.

“I explained it to the family who was astonished at the divine providence, yet filled with joy that they had done exactly what was meant to be.

"And for me" continued Rabbi Heber, "It gave exactly the strength I required. We were going through financial difficulties to complete the project and I got the sign I needed. It may be a great effort to pull it all together, but it is more than worthwhile. Our Shul is part of the long history of our people; a rebirth of the Amsterdam Synagogue in Tacoma".

The Traveling Mitzvah

Last year I wrote on this blog about my emotional visit in Israel on Lag B'omer. This story was featured on the home page of two weeks ago. As a result I've received wonderful feedback which I'm grateful for, but one email from Louisiana I really didn't anticipate.

"Dear Meir Kaplan, It is refreshing to know that although you didn't really have time to visit Mrs. Esther, you kept your word.

"...It is wonderful to see today some people still keep their promises. Although I am not Jewish, I support the Jewish community. 

"Being a member of IFCJ, you inspired me to keep my commitment to help the elderly Jews in need in Russia...  

"...thanks for inspiring me to keep up my pledge... The value of a man is only as good as his or her word!"

New Orleans, LA

I thought the power of the story played itself starting from Victoria to Ramat-Gan and connecting to Bergen Belzen, turns out that it continued to New Orleans and from there to Russia. The power of a Mitzvah... 

100 years later...

Getting regards from a grandparent is always a great thing, but getting it from a grandfather a few decades after he is gone, is nothing less than mind boggling.

A few months ago, a member of the community introduced me to Don, a Jewish man who she met through a friend. Don wasn't involved in Jewish life for many years, but when we met he was very open to getting back to Jewish practice and we connected very well.

Last week I offered Don to put on Tefillin. When I heard that Don never did it before, I got very excited. Being there when a fellow Jew puts on Tefillin for the first time is always a special experience; however with Don it was absolutely amazing. Although prior to putting them on it was totally  astrange act to him, after he put them on, he felt so inspired, that he decided right then and there, that he would like to do it often...

photo 2.JPGThis Wednesday, Don came to the JLI class holding a beautiful velvet bag. "Rabbi" he said "This is my father’s Tefillin, it hasn’t been in a shul probably since the 30’s, and it will mean a lot to me if I can put them on".

Before opening the Tefillin bag I looked at the embroidery on top. I saw remaining parts of some Hebrew Letters. With difficulty I was able to make it out. It read"אייזיק מוריס" - "Isaac Morris". "This is my grandfather Issac’s Tefillin I guess” Don said. Then I read more, under the name, "ניסן תרע"ג" – “ Nissan 5673” – April - 1913, was written, apparently is when the Tefillin was purchased. Writing the date on a Tefillin bag is not very common, but in this case it had great significance – exactly 100 years after they were bought – Isaac’s grandson got inspired to do this Mitzvah himself!

I have a strange feeling that it was Grandpa Isaac that set it all up, so his grandson Don would adopt his lonely Tefillin...

As to be expected, the 100 years old Tefillin are not in the best shape. Don asked me to get a new pair for him so he can put them on daily. He will place them in a beautiful bag – a bag that represents another 100 years of the unbroken chain of our people. 

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