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Moment of Nachas

As every parent experiences, our children give us all kind of moments. At times laughter and joy, but on other occasions distress and disappointment. Today, I'd like to share a moment of Nachas with you.

Avram, a good friend and member of the community mentioned to me that he will be completing a Seder of Mishna, a section in the book of the "Oral Torah", and as customary he would like to make a "Siyum" - a celebration in honour of this occasion, on the following Shabbat.

When Leibel heard of it, he said that he will complete a tractate of Mishna for the very first time at  school this week. "That would make it a double Simcha", I responded.

On shabbat, after the conclusion of services, I announced  the Siyum, and I said that Avram will be sharing an insight from his learning at the Kiddush. Then I added, "Leibel will hopefully also share from the learning he did in school on the tractate that he completed".

As we were walking over to the Kiddush, Leibel turned to me, "I'm ready to speak, but I don't know what to say..."

"Do you remember one Minsha in particular that you'd like to Share?", I asked.

Leibel told me that he was intrigued by the Mishna that speaks of the joy that took place at the festival of Sukkot at the temple in Jerusalem, especially the description how the young priests climbed the ladders to light very tall Menorahs, which illuminated the entire city.

At the Kiddush, Leibel shared this story with excitement, and then he added, "from this we can learn that it doesn't matter your age - you can bring a lot of light to the world".... 

"Through Fire and Water"

Whatever our position may be about the Middle East, the solution to its conflicts and the role of Israel in bringing a brighter future to the region, I believe we should be very proud Canadians after this week.  

You see, regardless of different opinions that there are, here are three truths which, I believe, most of us can agree on:

1. Israel is a the only real democracy in the middle east which practices freedom and fair human rights. 
2. Israel is being condemned by the international community in a terribly disproportional way.
3. The condemnation of Israel in many cases is based on antisemitism.

For these reasons only, it is the mandate of the western world to stands by Israel, and express its support. Sadly, this doesn't happen too often. Firstly, because of a propaganda that has been successful in hiding these facts, and secondly, because of the cost that country leaders may pay for it, politically and perhaps economically.

Whatever our opinion may be on Stephen Harper, our Prime Minister visited Israel to tell our brothers and sisters that  "through fire and water, Canada will stand with you" "because its right to do so". As Canadian I think we should be proud that the leader of our country is choosing to stand with the Jewish state, regardless of the cost, and he is to doing it just because it is the moral thing to do.

There is much more that I would like to say about it, and I plan, G-d willing, to share it in my sermon, tomorrow morning after the Torah Reading. Yes, it is an invitation...

"Elter Zeide"

Not too many people merit to see grandchildren of their grandchildren. My great grandfather had this incredible privilege.  

elter zeide - small.jpgRabbi Yehuda Chitrik lived in three centuries. He was born in 1899 in Czarist Russia and passed away eight years ago today, the 16th of Shvat, at the age of 106. He traveled to the city of Lubavitch by horse and carriage, and surfed the internet at his old age. He lived to see many of his fourth generation descendants, among them our oldest daughter Mussi (in the picture).

Rabbi Chitrik was a man of many tributes. He was Torah Scholar, a teacher, an amazing family man, and a very kind and patient person.

He was in all his capacities until weeks before his passing; he knew all his great grandchildren (over one hundred) by name and was caring for their wellbeing.

There is one encounter that I hope will stay with me for my entire life. It was the 100th birthday of "Elter Zeide" (as we used to call him with great respect), and I phoned to give him my wishes on this awesome day.

What do you wish a man of this age? "You should be healthy" I said (in Yiddish) "and you should have much Nachas from your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren".                                    

In response, I heard the high voice of Rabbi Chitrik "and what about me?! I should have Nachas from myself too! May the second hundred be better than the first one!"...

For many of us, there is a stage in life when we stop thinking "what I will do when I grow up". That wasn’t the case with "Elter Zeide". Every day as he woke up he knew that this is G-d saying that there was more for him to do; that his life still mattered.

I don't know if this was his secret for his long healthy years, but it was no doubt his way of maintaining a blissful and meaningful life. May his memory be of a blessing.


Sign of wonders

Once upon a time, our home was mostly the Chabad Centre; the Shul was on the main floor, and the Preschool/Hebrew School was in the basement. In between, there were living quarters for a young couple with two babies.

Shortly after our arrival, we ordered a nice sign to be placed in our front yard. “Chabad”, read the sign in large letters. 

Thank G-d, after a little while, the Shul wasn't fitting into the living room; the preschool became a full time licensed program, and our family also started to occupy more space. What stayed the same was the Chabad sign in front.

A few weeks ago, I realized that the sign had begun to fade away, and I considered that it was time to remove it. Our home is now mostly our family's residence, and we have acquired another space for Chabad. I decided to speak to Chani and let her have the last word.

That week, I got an email from Jonathan, a student that just arrived from Lyon, France. He wanted to know about Shabbat services and events, and he possessed a strong desire to get involved in the community. 

When I met Jonathan, he told me he attends Camosun College, and he rents a room on Richmond Road close to his school. A few days after his arrival, he took a walk in the neighborhood, and was stunned when he saw the ‘Chabad’ sign. He found us online and got in touch.

When he told me his story, it reminded me of a wonder that this sign created in our first year in Victoria:

A family from Toronto, that was considering a move to the Island, came to visit Victoria to check out the city. At the time of their visit, Chani and I were out of town, but we got to speak to the family on the phone.

 "We were taking a drive through the city", the man told me…."We were pleased with much that we have seen, but we were still concerned about how our children, who grew up in a Jewish environment, would be able to stay connected in Victoria where the Jewish community is so small. As we were driving through Lansdowne, we came across the Chabad sign. We had no idea that Chabad was in Victoria! I turned to my wife and said, 'if Chabad is here - our children will be OK."

We were blessed to have this family move to this city and enrich the community. Their children are a source of Yiddishe Nachas to their family and to us all.

If you happen to be driving on Lansdowne this afternoon, you may find me standing on the corner of Aldridge. I’ll be removing the ‘Chabad’ sign in front of our house, to replace it with a new and fresh one.

Bar Mitzvah completed!

One Shabbat afternoon last year when I was standing outside the Shul with Mr. Max Gross, he shared with me the feeling of regret that he had carried for over seven decades. 

"Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, I had a friend who had the same birthday as mine. When our 13th birthday was approaching, the question that arose was who would read the Haftorah on the Shabbat of our Bar Mitzvahs.

Being that my friend was doing better in his Hebrew studies, the Shul had decided that he would read the Haftorah and I would chant the blessings prior to and following the Haftorah. I agreed....

However, it did pain me then, and that feeling has never left me. Now, 75 years later, I still regret that I never got to read my Haftora for my Bar Mitzvah."

To make long story short, after over a year of preparation, Reb Mordechi is ready to read his Bar Mitzvah Haftorah properly, like every Bar Mitzvah boy.

Tomorrow - Shabbat Parashat Bo,  Max will celebrate his 89th birthday and his 65th wedding anniversary, but above all he is excited to complete his Bar Mitzvah celebration, which started in January of 1938. What a Simcha!

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