Monday, July 21, 2014

Letter from a Soldier

With everything on in Israel, I received this message and am posting it here. It's the least we can do to help our fellow brethren fighting on the front lines. May they be successful in their mission and not be harmed. 



A letter from a soldier in Gaza:
Today our hearts are pounding in fear. Who of us will die? And who will return safely?
We are your messengers in fighting . We are fighting so you can live peacefully with your children. So you can stay alive. We are your protection. Will you be ours? We are going to this dangerous mission knowing some of us will not come back, but will rise to their next position in a storm to heaven, as Eliyahu the Navi did. 
We are going with devotion and dedication. 
We are asking you to be our protection with your prayers. Protect us by going above and beyond yourselves through Ruchniyus and good deeds. 
Pray for us. Pray that you won't see another mother burying her son. Pray that you won't see our wives as widows raise our children in tears. Pray that our children will grow up knowing who their fathers are. Pray that we will eliminate the terrorists who aim to destroy us, and that we will not injure innocent women and children.
Please, we are begging you, as you are reading this, don't just go on to the next thing you are doing. Say a chapter of Tehillim. Wake up  David HaMelech to ask Hashem for full Geulah and peace for the all world. Take upon yourselves another good deed. And please pass this on. I'm certain that your prayer will make a difference.
Remember, we are in it together. We are on the front lines carrying the weapons and you are fighting along with us in your prayers. Each word of your prayer gives us strength, protection and success!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mi KeAmcha Yisrael

I just  received this email and it is too beautiful to not pass on. It just goes to show, we can never judge another person and how every Jew looks after each other. May we continue to make a constant Kiddush Hashem in everything we do.
I honesty do not know where to start
.
Driving to the airport on Wednesday afternoon, I was filled with sadness and incredibly broken spirits. I have never been so sad to be visiting Eretz Yisrael in my life.
I was feeling uncomfortable on so many different levels; will my presence be of any significance or meaning to these most beloved families? Will they just look at me as yet another representative, from just another organization, who is "paying his dues" by passing through their grieving home? Will I even have a chance to explain where I come from, that I have come to mourn with them, and convey some of our collective thoughts and feelings of their brothers and sisters in America?

But after all, I was chosen as our "shliach tzibbur", to deliver a piece of our heart to the Shaer, Frenkel and Yifrach families respectively; so the answer had to be to go, and to make the very best of this most unfortunate trip.


Getting stuck on the JFK runway for close to two hours, I said to myself; this special trip is starting off drastically differently than I had expected. I was meant to land at 12 PM in Tel Aviv, go directly from the airport to meet up with Rabbi Weinreb from the OU, and visit the families; and this plane delay would now throw off the entire Israel arrangement.



But boy was I mistaken. This was a trip that will be etched in my mind for all posterity. It was the most inspiring and uplifting trip I could have ever made, and I simply have to share my feelings with the tzibbur, who felt the grave importance of sending a shul representative.



In the middle of our flight, the stewardess began to speak with me, and we got into a very pleasant conversation. She then inquired when I was planning to return back to the States, and I said I would only be staying until until after shabbos, and I would then be returning home. She said "just four days? What kind of trip is that?" And I proceeded to tell her that I was sent by our shul to visit the three respective families, to deliver our beautiful letters, and to let them know that the affection of their beloved brothers and sisters in America, knows no bounds.



She immediately began to cry uncontrollably, and said, this kehillah of yours is something unique and something incredibly special. For you to get on the flight is no big deal; but this speaks volumes about your kehillah, that this is what they feel is important. This is where their hearts are, and this is what is occupying their minds - how incredible!



So the stewardess proceeds to make an announcement in tears, to a plane filled almost to capacity with Birthright groups; "Rabotai! We have on our plane, a shliach Mitzvah! Come meet a Rabbi who was sent by his Kehillah to perform the great mitzvah of nichum aveilim, for those whom they feel are their own brothers and sisters! Our plane is safe because we have a shaliach mitzvah on board with us!"



This led to a whole pandemonium, and after I finally got to sit down again, the young man next to me informs me that he is 26 years old, from Seattle Washington; he works in a national zoo, and is going to Israel for his first time.



He then proceeds to tell me that he was so inspired by our kehillah, and that he would like to borrow my Tallis to do a mitzvah that he has not done since his Bar mitzvah celebration (at age 16) in memory of the three precious neshamos.



I gladly gave him my tallis and then proceeded to ask him if he knew how to recite a bracha. He said "sure I do", and went on to take out a small piece of paper from his pocket, and recited the "Tefillas Haderech". This was the one and only Hebrew Bracha that he was familiar with, so he decided to recite it as well on the Tallis.



He then asked to borrow my Tefillin as well, which was followed by a long conversation with the other members of the plane, who were all taking pictures of this highly unusual scene.



But that wasn't it; after a few minutes he turns to me and says "Rabbi, I am so inspired, but in Seattle Washington we don't have these boxes. But I want to continue to do something special for these three precious souls, even after I return home. So what would you suggest I do?"



I was in complete shock, and overwhelmed with emotion, so the Satmar Chassid in the next row turns to this tattood and pierced young man and says, "Sweet Jew, if you promise me you will try and wear these Tefillin each and every day, I promise I will have a pair sent by FedEx to your home in Seattle Washington by the time you get back from Israel!" They then exchanged phone numbers and information, and the deal was done.



Now I ask you, is Klal Yisrael anything short of amazing and absolutely incredible? Look what our Kehillah alone has already accomplished! I almost felt like taking the next flight home, and calling this trip the greatest success I could have ever imagined!
But things only continued to became more and more meaningful as the day went on.
I landed in Eretz Yisrael over two hours late, and had already missed two out of the three homes that the OU was planning to visit.



So I met them on the way to the Shaer home which is located in Talmon, a neighborhood of 280 families, which is surrounded on all sides by Arab Villages.



We arrived there at 3:30, and were told by the Policemen, that the family was resting until 5:30. So the OU van decided to leave, but I chose to stay and wait it out.
So there I was, alone, in a far flung Yishuv that I have never heard of, drenched with sweat, with not a living person in sight, in any direction.



I begin to walk around looking for a Beis Midrash, and after about a minute, a women walks out of the Shaer residence, and I sheepishly asked her, "By chance, do you speak English"? And she says, "Yes, I am from the States, but I live in Talmon for over 20 years? How can I help you".



I said, "Well, I just came from the airport, I haven't eaten or drank anything, as I had a last minute flight, and they would not provide me with food on the plane, and I am feeling very disoriented..." She then invited me into her home, quickly served me a beautiful platter of fresh fruit; gave me a tour of the local shul and mikvah, acquainted me to the local shomrim and Chayallim, and proceeded to introduce me to many of the local families on the Shaer's block as well.



One after the other, families began to break down crying, as they heard that a guest had arrived from America to share in their pain.



But I watched as these incredible families, walked up and down the streets with bottles of water, delicious cake platters, freshly diced fruit, tuna and egg sandwiches, and everything else you can possibly imagine; offering the crowd that was beginning to form outside of the Shaer residence. Their outpouring of love was quite overwhelming to watch, and it is something that is so hard for me to properly express in words.



Signs were posted by a table at the entrance to the door, asking all visitors to write down what services they might be able to offer the family in the coming months, and when they would be available to render them. A plumber wrote that he has off on Wednesday's and would be happy to help them should they ever need. A therapist wrote that any day after hours they could feel free to use her services. A young teenage girl from Beit Shemesh wrote that she has the summer off, and would be happy to entertain anyone in the Yishuv who was busy caring for the Shaer's during this tragedy, and the list went on and on and on. 

  
Politicians began to gather and many people could be seen waiting for the Shaer's to reopen their doors. Fellow school friends of Gilad began to recount stories of his youthful personality, but after just a few minutes, Mr. and Mrs. Shaer asked that people please make way for the Kehillah who has sent someone all the way from America to visit, "we want to hear from him; his visit means the most to us right now; though we may be closer to many of you sitting in the room".


I then received the most warm, gracious, gentle, and highly emotional embrace from Mr. Shaer, who was completely overcome with shock by our Shul's gesture.
The room grew silent and we began to speak with one another; I then proceeded to present the letters from our shul, which threw the room into a complete hysteria, and Mrs. Bat Galim Shaer began to speak with me about her feelings of love for our Kehillah.



Although there were numerous signs posted, that no pictures be taken at the shiva house, Bat Galim encouraged her friends and relatives, to take pictures and share them with both her family and our Kehillah, so they would remember, and that we would be able to see how much this special visit meant to them.



Surprisingly, she then proceeded to personally address our wonderful shul on video as well, and asked her friends to share her personal message with our shul via email before Shabbos; so we could all appreciate the Shaer family's tremendous appreciation, love and incredible sense of strength that they felt by our gesture.



I then traveled to Nof Ayalon to visit the Frankel family. I got to speak very personally with both Mr. and Mrs. Frankel, and they too were overwhelmed with our sense of connection and achrayus to Am Yisrael and its terrible tragedies.



Mrs. Frankel then said, "Rabbi, it is not only you who feel it for us, you don't even know how deeply I personally feel a connection to your shul. The Torah that you teach in The White Shul, I know you don't know, but I follow and listen to the shiurim on YUTorah, and I can't tell you how special it is, that one of my personal Rabeim has come from abroad to share this difficult time with me".



Mrs. Frenkel then told me that when Ambassador Dan Shapiro, came to speak with her last week about the continued mission to rescue her son, he said, "for an American citizen, nothing will stop us". To which she responded, "It makes no difference if my son is American or Israeli. If all three are not being equally emphasized, then I want none of them back. Klal Yisrael is Klal Yisrael!"



Being more familiar with America and the English language, the Frenkel's spent time reading the package of letters that were presented, and found many of them to be incredibly heartwarming.



And finally I visited the home the Yifrach's in Elad. A complete mob scene, I was brought directly to meet with Mr. Yifrach who stood up in the overly crowded tent, and tightly hugged, kissed and cried on my shoulder. He asked that our Shul consider joining their family when they make their next Simcha, so we not only connect with this special family under these circumstances, and that we always remember that life is usually, supposed to be filled with, and revolve around "Simchat hachayim"

  
I was then brought to meet with Mrs. Yifrach who was inside the house, and she asked that I share her personal wish with our shul. On Erev Shabbos, at 19:00 p.m. Israel Time, there will be close to one million Jews around the world, participating in a רגע של חסד.

Throughout Eretz Yisrael and various communities, people will be setting aside sums of money for tzeddakah, in the memory of the three precious kedoshim, the three pure and untainted souls. She begged that our Shul sincerely commit to join this meaningful campaign, and asked that when setting aside these monies we recite גדולה צדקה שמקרבת את הגאולה.


She begged, that her beloved brothers and sisters join with her as well going forward, to make this worldwide campaign of chessed, a most successful and life changing one, in memory of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad.



What more is possibly left to say other than מי כעמך ישראל on so many incredibly beautiful levels. מי כעמך ישראל, who feel such a strong bond and connection with one another. 

מי כעמך ישראל who stay committed and so incredibly strong at times of utter and complete devastation. מי כעמך ישראל who are willing to bat for one another at any cost, and are so overwhelmingly kind to those whom they have never, and perhaps will never meet! מי כעמך ישראל who have families the likes of the Frankel's, Yifrach's and Shaer's; families who talk about their most beloved Father in Heaven who is so deeply rooted in their respective hearts, minds and souls. מי כעמך ישראל who will pledge to join together to make our world a more meaningful and wholesome place to be.


I say a personal thank you to the most incredible Kehillah that I feel blessed to be a part of, for your abounding love and care for every single last member of Klal Yisrael. Our Rabbi, Rabbi Eytan Feiner has taught us all in so many different ways, to appreciate and value the contributions of each and every member of our own tzibbur and of Klal Yisrael in general. This gesture was yet another incredible display of how successful our Rav Shlit"a has been in educating us all, to be from the most sensitive, most loving, most caring, and most compassionate Kehillah. 
May Klal Yisrael know no more suffering, and may the coming weeks and months only bring בשורות טובותישועות ונחמות,בביאת גואל צדק במהרה בימינו אמן ואמן

בריחוק מקום ומקירוב הלב,
Rabbi Shay Schachter


Monday, July 14, 2014

Bullying Singles

I just had the most frustrating conversation with a shadchan. And by conversation, I'm being waaaay too polite. It was more like a 20 minute verbal abuse session, than a two way civil conversation. 
I had honestly never met or spoke with the shadchan before. I was referred to her by a friend of mine and we were in touch by text/email. She had redd me to a guy and it was someone that was redd before nothing happened. I guess the guy wasn't interested. And that's where it all went downhill. 
After telling me off about getting a college degree and how girls should be educated as most boys want 'college girls' etc. I politely replied that it says on my résumé that I have a college degree-hence I was in college. Although I didn't agree with her reasoning, ie girls shouldn't go to college just because guys want college girls, they should do it for the elves if that's what they want, I just closed my mouth to avoid a further argument. 
Then the shadchan let me know that in no way, shape or form, if the guy agrees to go out with me (once the shadchan confirmed to him that I so indeed have a college degree), may I give a "no". The shadchan txted me only minutes later to let me know she told the guy he MUST go out with me and so 'it will happen'. 
When I asked for references she brushed me off saying that it's hard to get people married these days, let alone go on a date and that I was no 18/19 yr old spring chicken so I don't really need references and know a good thing when I see one and her idea WAS a good thing, so she advised me to say yes without references. 
I must say at that point I was really disappointed and ready to tell off my friend who referred me to this crazy person! I've never had such a terrible experience and to be bullied just because she made a call and forced the guy to go out?!?!
But my dear readers, I stood up for myself. I have pride and just cuz I'm single, don't make that excuse enough to go out with every tom, dick and Harry that every 'shadchan' decides needs a coffee break. 
Anyone else out there deal with bully-shadchans? (We should really nickname them bull-sh*dders)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Married at First Site

What happens when you mix The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Millionaire Matchmaker & shotgun wedding?  'Married at First Site', a new show which aired this week. I'm not sure how long the show will last to be honest as it sounds like a reality show gone too far. I'm still confused as to why the cars would want to take part in what they call 'the experiment' which is to allow the 'matchmakers' to find them their suitable mate based on scientific methods. Thing is-they gotta marry the match which is found for them whether they like it or not. 
You got it folks-they are marrying a total stranger. That kinda freaks me out as it's the way I view shidduch dating. You go out with a guy a couple of times, you're both really polite, on your best behavior. There's no reason to say no so why not get engaged right? Then a few months later you get married and are thinking: but I barely even KNOW the guy!
And here-they don't even SEE their future spouse, which is really trustworthy on the part of the cast. I don't trust a fly, let alone a shadchan. Here these people out their lives into hands of mere strangers.
Let's see how long until their photos are on the cover of every newsstand and magazine about their divorce!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

When 'Friends' offer Fiends

"Good to see you" she said, "it's been way too long since we last saw each other" 
I nodded in agreement all the while hoping the ground around me would open up. 
You see, we used to be really close once. You could almost call us besties way back when. But she got married and it was left behind. No phonecalls, emails or texts. Nada. I'm long forgotten in her book. Until today-when by accident, we bumped into each other (Holiday weekend and all...) and it got awkward. Then it was as if she put on a whole facade acting all sweet like sugar-but not in a "real" way. More like now that she's wearing a wig and holding a baby she can talk to me like I'm a 5 year old child! 
So the small talk, continued as well as the "next time you're in town you MUST call me and we can get together and go out" to which I replied that I'm only in town for dates and there's never time after that as either I travel right back, go meet a new shadchan and/or get set up on last minute dates which always end up horrible!
"Have you ever heard of the name ______?" She asked me, and then quickly added that she knows he's single but doesn't know him too well 
To be honest I thought my eyes would shoot daggers at her, but I faked a smile. After all, "Mr. So&So" that she suggested is the most inSANE suggestion on soo many levels. He's like a decade older than me atleast, has no personality WHatsoever, looks like a bullfrog, etc. I can't believe an old friend, someone who knows me so well would make such an embarrassing and lowly suggestion! And the nerve-to me personally! Without any embarrassment or shame whatsoever!
"Huh? I don't really remember names. After all I've went out with quite my share and get suggestions so often that I wouldn't recognize any names offhand..." I replied looking honest. And then I made up some excuse to rush away and left her standing. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Our Brothers' Keepers

Over the last few days we, as Jews have felt a tremendous loss. Checking the news constantly, asking people for updates on 'our boys', posting pix win support #bringbackourboys, etc. 
I'm still in awe at how Mrs. Frenkel, among the mothers kept it together. And not just together, she always seemed poised, calm and almost regal. Imagine how a mother can get herself infront of all the people, infront of the media, give speeches, be in the public eye amid such terrible tragedy and be the way she was! It boggled my mind literally, but then I realized-she had to put up a strong front. She gave us hope. The mothers gave us hope. The soldiers gave us hope. The volunteers gave us hope. The myriads of people saying Tehillim gave us hope. The taking Shabbos in earlier gave us hope. All the extra good deeds in the z'chus of these boys gave us hope. 
And then the worst happened...the boys were found. 
The world feels a loss. We are lost. Three young innocent boys who didn't deserve such a terrible end, ended up in the most devastating circumstance, to say the least. 
And I am guilty of not doing enough. Yes, u had hope and faith and checked the news daily, hoping for their safe return to their family. But did I say daily perakim of Tehillim? Embarassingly no. Did I take upon myself to do something? Shamingly-no. 
And so, here we are. We have lost 3 brothers. While we go back to our regular lives, these families will never be the same. Hug your kids/parents. Tell your loved ones that you love them. Do fun things together and make your Davening count. Make every moment count. LIVE your life to its fullest. B"H we are Blessed with our lives, our families, our friends. Do we thank HASHEM everyday for this? Do we take it for granted?
Up until now, I know I have. But I hope to never take it for granted again. I hope to take something upon myself in their memory. I hope that as they say, time heals for these families, and that for them-time passes quickly. 
I hope, even more so, that this is the time for the coming of Moshiach, so all these terrible tragedies can end. So that people can be united with their loved ones whom they lost to sickness, disease, and murder. 
It's interesting that when the Israeli army went to search for these boys it was called 'operations Brothers Keeper'. 
As Jews, we are all brothers. Now it is up to us to Keep our Brothers close, bring those who have left the stray closer. Be m'karev our fellow yiddin. Lastly, let's Keep Our Brothers' memory alive by doing mitzvos and ma'asik Tovim in their names. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dumb Reasons for a Shidduch

I'm gonna make this post an open forum for all of you to speak your mind cuz I'm honestly fed up and really frustrated of the dumbest reasons someone thinks 'it's a good shidduch idea' to set me up with a  guy. 
1) Well, he's not tall and ur short so I think it's a fantastic idea
2) Your grandparents and his grandparents met at a simcha and think it's a wonderful idea to set you two singles up-after all you're both looking to get married and if the grandparents hit it off...
3) You have brown hair and brown eyes and so does he!
4) Your mom is a special ed teacher and his is also-it must be a sign!
5) He just took his BA exam and you have your BA in ___=isn't it perfect
6) He is from an out of town city and you're from an out of town community 
7) His parents are divorced and yours are getting divorced, so you can both be a support system for each other-what a great way to start off
8) His sister just married into a large family and you're from a large family so I think you two will really hit it off 

Ok folks, add your dumb reasonings below