Thursday, August 6, 2020

How Can it be?

The 15th yartzeit of my brother, Shalom ben Chaim Nosson, is tonight and tomorrow. It's hard to believe it's been so long, yet the emotions come back and we miss him so much. May all the actions we do for his neshama bring us comfort as his neshama continues to go higher and higher in gan eden.

Here's the poem I wrote this year.
un
How can it be?

It's been 15 years since that fateful day,
When you climbed that tall tree that took your life away,
Our family was so shocked when we were told,
Shalom, you were too young to die, you weren't yet 16 years old!

How can it be?

You lived your life according to the way you were raised,
At your levaya, for all your special qualities you were praised,
You looked out for others, helping before you were asked,
And now, up in heaven, in the pleasure of the שכינה your soul does bask.

How can it be?

We continue to talk about your unique qualities,
Sharing stories with our friends and family,
How your sense of humor and love of animals is what made you you,
And now your nephew, with your name is so similar too!

How can it be?

He loves to climb trees, wishes he could live on a farm,
Is so gentle with animals, won't cause them any harm,
Chess is a game he loves to play,
And now for a label machine, with his own money he wants to pay.

How can it be?

I miss you more than words can express,
I became stronger and more sensitive through this huge test,
I wish I could see you one more time,
Give you a hug and share thoughts that are mine.

How can it be?

So many milestones in my life that you haven't shared,
Moments of joy and times I was scared,
I often wonder what my life would be like if you were still here,
Shalom, how much I treasure you - in your lifetime were you aware?

How can it be?

Near my shabbos candles stands your picture in a frame,
Your face so calm, your demeanor so tame,
I think about you so much, I never dreamed,
That your loss would affect me so strongly.

How can it be?

As Jews we live with אמונה that's constantly put to the test,
That Hashem has a plan for our נשמה and He knows what's best,
He puts us through challenges that refine our soul,
So through our time on this earth, we become better, more whole.

That's how it can be.

We accept that this too, was for our good,
Even when we feel weak and question how this could
Be for our benefit, we still know deep inside,
That Hashem put us on this journey and He is our guide.

That's how it should be. 

To make a donation in memory of my brother, you can go to my personal fundraising page here and help us continue to run programs that bring non-affiliated college students closer to Torah and Mitzvos!

To read more about Shalom and his story, click on the following links: 



Monday, August 3, 2020

Parsha-Shema

This past week, we read Parshas Va'eschanan. The foundation of our belief in Hashem, the Shema, is written in the parsha. We cover our eyes when we say this phrase, reciting it in the morning and in the evening, and even before we go to sleep at night.

Why do we cover our eyes? We are expressing that we believe in the oneness of Hashem and that everything He does is for our best. Whether we are experiencing the highs of life, the clarity and openness of Hashem's involvement in our lives, or we are going through challenges and things are dark, we remain strong in our trust in Him. We believe that He orchestrates every single thing we go through - the happy times, the difficult ones, they all come from Him.

And we cover our eyes to express that even when we can't see how it's good, we believe there is an ultimate benefit to be gained from every single thing we go through. 

The morning represents the good times. 

The evening represents the tough times. 

And even before we retire for the night, every Jew proclaims this truth: As my day comes to an end and I reflect on my experiences, there are some things I'm grateful for and some things I'm confused about. I will never be able to understand everything going on in my life. But I believe that you Hashem, you know what I need in order to accomplish my mission. Please help me continue to believe in you, no matter what I go through. 

May we continue to strengthen our trust in Hashem at all times!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Why I Cry

I wrote this poem seven years ago. I still remember sitting on a bench on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, taking out my notebook and writing.
The message is still relevant now as it was when I wrote it. 
Read and be inspired!

Why I Cry
I look up at
The deep blue sky
And slowly
Teardrops
Form in my eyes
And I 
Begin to cry

Why?
Why do I cry?

I cry because
When I am in pain
When I am hurting
I know how to cry
It's almost...easy
The tears just come

When I am overwhelmed
By...my life
By...my struggles
By...my challenges
By...my difficulties
I know how to cry
Those tears
Spring forth from my eyes

So why?
Is it so hard to cry?
When the month of Av
Comes around
And I should be thinking
Feeling
Hashem's pain
Hashem's loss
Our pain
Our loss
A house that once was
A nation that once was
The glory that once was
A relationship that once was

Why?
Why can't I cry?
Why don't I feel the pain
Why is it
So hard to feel
To make it real
To me?

When I'm having it hard
When someone hurts me
Those tears flow
So freely

When I'm simply taken over
Overwhelmed
By so many little things
And sometimes
Sometimes bigger things

I can cry
Easily

But...Hashem's pain?!
The thought of the kosel
The thought of the shechina in galus
The thought of all that we are missing?
Why doesn't that make me cry?
As simply
As effortlessly
As easily
As my own pain?
As my own life?

Hashem...?
I lift my eyes
Up to Your skies
I think about
Things
Close to me
That hurt me
That touch me
That inspire me
To cry

And I realize...
They are all connected.

It may be easier
For me
To shed tears
Over personal losses
Over personal hurts
Over personal frustrations
Over...my personal life

And I see
I understand
That it all comes from
The same place

A place of emotion
A place of longing
Of yearning
And of hoping

So...although I may not
Be able to cry
Shed real tears
Over bigger losses
Bigger pain
Deeper losses
Deeper pain
I know...
That inside
My heart is crying

And Hashem
Who is bochain libos u'chelayos
Who knows
Who sees
And Who understands
The inner workings
The inner chambers
Of my heart

He knows
He sees
And He understands

The inner sigh
The inner cry

Even
Without
Real tears.

I lift up my eyes
Look up at the shimmering blue sky
Searching
Yearning
Hoping
And...yes.
Crying
Without real tears
But I cry inside 
And Hashem
Understands
Why
I cry.

May we reach the day of u'macha Hashem dim'ah mei'al kol panim. Amen.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Video-Dear God


Sometimes, we have so much in our hearts that we want to express to Hashem. But we don't know how to say it. We don't have the right words.

Hashem, who created us all and knows the deepest parts of us, understands it all.

This video illustrates this idea really beautifully.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Guest Room

My basement
With the guest room
Once a happening place
Busy hosting
Sleepover guests
Now replaced
With quiet
It's empty
Week after week
As we seek
To remain
Safe
Home
Alone
No guests
No more changing linen
On a weekly basis
No more inviting guests
Every shabbos
No more last minute requests
"Is your basement available?"
No more calls
To reserve the space
For families
Who need a place
To stay
When coming from far away
So they could partake
In a family simcha.
No more telling the kids
To choose a few games
Before shabbos day
So they could play
On shabbos morning
Upstairs
So the guests could stay
Sleeping
Downstairs.
The basement -
It's all theirs
Every day of the week
No more sharing their space
No more hosting with grace
No more giving a place
To people who need.
Our guests thanked us
They were so grateful
When they'd leave
But did I realize
Indeed
How much I gained
From hosting?
How much I enjoyed
Being
On the giving end?
Our home is still full
Full of noise
Full of laughter
Full of learning
Full of fun
Full of laundry
Full of messes
Full of kids.
But it's empty
Empty of guests
Empty of Hachnosas orchim
Empty of
The weekly giving.
Yes, I'm still giving
Endlessly
To my kids
To my family
But I want to give
To a bigger circle
Of people who need
Of people who enjoy
My home
My food
My desserts
My company.
I think about
Hashem's home
That was once full
Full of people
Full of kedusha
Full of purpose
Full of meaning
Full of life.
Now that home
Is empty.
Completely empty
Are we ready?
Ready to be the ones
To fill that home
With kedusha?
With purpose?
And with meaning?
Do we fill our homes
With kedusha?
With purpose?
With meaning?
Can we be the ones
To return to
Hashem's home?
So He can host us
And bestow upon us
All the goodness
All the blessings
That come along with
Basking in His presence?
My home is so full
Yet empty in some ways
My heart is full of yearning
Waiting for true change
When we will be united
Together all Jews
With clarity
And the redemption
Just to name a few.
Hashem,
Look at your nation
Look at the chessed
Look at the tefillos
Look at the teshuva
Of so many individuals
We are changing
We are growing
We are yearning
We are hoping
For change
The Ultimate change
The Ultimate geula
We want to be
In Your home.
Bring us home
Fill Your home
With our noise
With our laughter
With our joy
Of the geula
Of knowing
That all this
Was part of
Your plan for us.
Bring us back.
Bring us home.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Microscopic

The following poem was written by Sarala Pollack. I'm sure it will inspire you as much as it inspired me!

A tiny microscopic germ,
Inflicts so many,
Keep us in our house,
Does not allow us to interact,
Has changed our lives, while trying to keep intact,

Thought it's tiny,
Its potential is so great,
It created such a scare,
Do not go near me, don't dare!
So tiny, yet it has changed our lives
So small, yet it has dictated what we do,

We, precious human beings,
Children of Hashem,
We may think we're tiny, so small,
We may think we're just nothing at all,
I'm just but like the many starts in the sky, we think,
Who am I, amongst so many stars?
But that's precisely who are we are,
Our value, our worth,
So vast, unlimited,
So bright and shining,
So precious and unique in our own way,
So special, it would be a sin to forget it all,

So, as we're home,
Let's contemplate our unlimited worth,
Let's embrace ourselves,
Let's shine in ways that may seem "microscopic" but are truly not,
Let's shine, smile, laugh, sing, create and let ourselves break through

Monday, April 13, 2020

Seder Night

Seder night
House is bright
Full of light
And joy
We sit together
As a family
Each child ready
Haggadas chosen
Wine is poured
As we begin
The tradition
Of Kadeish, urchatz
Singing softly
Happy tunes
Joyous melodies
Uplifting moods
I glance around
The table
Look around
At my kids
And feel blessed
We are here
Together
Healthy and well
Amid uncertainty
Around the world. 
Yet as I look
At my son
And see his choice
Of haggadah
My heart
Falls
And I feel sad
His own haggadah
Should be full
Of divrei torah
From his rebbe
Dictated
Carefully
Written
In his childish scribbles
But understood
With his mature
Understanding
And repeated
With clarity
And he knows which ones
I would like
He should repeat
The gematrias
And remazim
Mathematical calculations
That explain
The meaning
Behind this part
Of the hagaddah
And the deeper meaning
Behind this phrase
In the haggadah
And the story here
And a mashal there
All explained
By his rebbe
Written in his haggadah
In his messy handwriting
But given over
With crystal clear
Understanding.
It should be that way.
Yet
His haggadah is empty
Sure, the pages are full,
Full of the printed words
Of the haggadah
But the lines
The empty lines
Waiting to be filled in
With divrei torah
Dictated
By his rebbe
With love
And passion
Giving over
Stories
And explanations 
Deeper meanings
Behind
Hashem's miracles
And our slavery
None of it
Was filled in
Nothing there
But empty lines
They waited
He waited
For his rebbe
Who wasn't feeling well
To get better
So he could teach
Over the phone
And he could write down
All the explanations
Baruch Hashem
His rebbe is feeling better
And on the last day 
Of learning 
Before pesach 
He was able to
Come onto the phone
To wish the boys
To wish his boys
A gut yom tov
But that was it.
No divrei torah
Written down
Scribbled
No divrei torah
To share
With his family.
So instead,
He chose another haggadah
With beautiful stories
And short explanations
Which was great
And nice
For this time
But for me
The saddest sight
The sight the broke my heart
Was that empty haggadah
With pages waiting to be filled
Because
It represented
The emptiness
The desire
The yearning
For learning
For real learning
And structure
And social interactions
And deeper connections
That exist
In the classroom
Yes, I am grateful
Grateful for life
For this life
For our health
And his rebbe's
Improved health
But I am sad.
I look at the empty pages
Of his haggadah
And wish
We could go back
Rewrite
This time
And fill in
The blanks
The empty pages
And relive
The excitement
That comes along
With seder night
And the full experience
Of yeshiva
In session
With lessons
That are eternal
Embedded
Into the soul
Of my young boy
So he doesn't have to read
From a preprinted
Haggadah
With English translations
And English
Explanations
Instead
He would read
Straight from his book
From his hand written
Illegible - to me
But legible
To him
Thoughts
And divrei torah
That are imprinted
In his heart
Forever.
Hashem...
Please allow our children
To learn from their rabbeim
In their classrooms
With the halls of their
Yeshiva
Reverberating
With the sounds
Of torah
Of singing
With hasmadah
And fire
And excitement
And joy
And bring us back
To your home
To your palace
With joy
And happiness
And tears
Of excitement
So we can sing
And praise you
Forever
And ever. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

There Will Come A Day

This is the most touching poem ever. Read and be inspired. 

There Will Come a Day
By: Yaakov Klein

They will be repaid
These walls
These cold, empty halls
For their unbearable pain
For their anguish

Cherubic faces of small children
Illuminated with excitement
Wide eyes of wonder
The beautiful curiosity of youth
Gave these walls a name:
"Classroom"
All dressed up with
Art projects, bulletin boards, a paper alphabet train
They exuded warmth, comfort, and security
So that their precious charges could learn
So that their precious charges could shine

Furrowed brows and open hearts
Swaying, singing, bowing figures
Bound together with a single goal
To heal the world with prayer
To communicate with their loving Creator
Gave these walls a name:
"Shul"
All dressed up with
Ornate wooden cuts, verses of faith, shelves of sacred texts
They exuded majesty, serenity, and sweet familiarity
So that their precious charges could connect
So that their precious charges could shine

Two souls floating down the aisle
To form an eternal bond under a canopy of blessing
Wide circles of exuberant dance
To music that is too loud
Joy that simply knows no bounds
Gave these walls a name:
"Simcha hall."
All dressed up with
Elegant moldings, elaborate light fixtures, glorious drapings
They exuded royalty, illumination, and other-worldly exultation
So that their precious charges could celebrate
So that their precious charges could shine

And then a virus came along and stole their charges away
Away to different walls, walls called
"Home"
An extreme precaution to stem the spread of illness
A near death-sentence, to these walls
They wept
They whimpered
Their identity threatened and all but shattered

But they did not collapse
No, they dared not collapse
Because they knew that
Difficult as this time-period might be
Spent cowering alone in the eerie silence
Their precious charges would be coming back
Coming back very soon
Very very soon

They stood tall
They stood proud
And they whispered to each other
Through the darkness
"There will come a day"

There will come a day
When the gates are unlocked
And the first busload of children arrive
They will have grown a bit, they will have matured
But their eyes will yet be filled with wonder
Slowly, uncertain in their excitement
They will enter their beloved walls
To join hands with friends
So much more excited
To discover life's answers
Than ever before

There will come a day
When the doors open wide
And the gabbai prepares the shteibel for the very first minyan
Congregants will gather together
The closer the better
Young and old, sephardi and ashkenazi, chassid and litvak
They will have developed immunity to division
During the time of their isolation
Linking arms, binding souls, they will call out
"Amen y'hei Shmei Rabbah"
With more energy
With more gratitude
Than ever before

There will come a day
When the entrance is unbolted
And the guests begin to arrive
Dressed in their finest
Hearts overflowing with the immensity of the celebration
A glorious chuppah saturated with emotion and prayer
The new couple's entrance into crowds bubbling over with joy
A snake formation, hands on each other's shoulders
Dancing the night away
Hearts lifted to heaven
More eager to praise
More eager to love
Than ever before

They will be repaid
These walls
These cold, empty halls
For their unbearable pain
For their anguish

For there will come a day
There will come a day

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Pail-A Story

Someone shared this with me and the message is so perfect for now. 

I love this story and it seems very apt to share right now. Wishing everyone good health, strength and (yes) joy to get through this challenge. 

From Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin in New Orleans:

In light of everything that is being cancelled, including the prayers at Congregation Anshe Sfard of New Orleans, I want to share a Chasidic story.

The two brothers, the famed Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk and Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, often wandered about together, posing as simple beggars. They would mingle with the masses, listening, teaching, speaking, helping and guiding whomever and whenever they could.

Once, while they were traveling with a group of vagabonds, members of the group were accused of being thieves, resulting in the entire bunch being thrown into jail. Confident of their innocence and eventual release, the two brothers sat quietly. As the afternoon progressed, Rabbi Elimelech stood up to prepare himself to pray the afternoon service.
"What are you doing?" his brother asked.

"I'm getting ready for minchah," replied Rabbi Elimelech.
Rabbi Zushe pointed at the pail in the corner of the room. "It is forbidden," he said, "to pray in this cell, because the odor coming from that pail makes the room unfit for prayer."
Dejected, the holy Rabbi Elimelech sat down.

Soon after, Rabbi Elimelech began to cry. "Why are you crying?" said Rabbi Zushe. "Is it because you are unable to pray?" Reb Elimelech answered affirmatively.

"But why weep?" continued Rabbi Zushe. "Don't you know that the same G-d who commanded you to pray, also commanded you not to pray when the room is unfit for prayer? Be happy that G-d has afforded you the opportunity to obey His law at this time, no matter what it is."

"You are right, my brother!" exclaimed Rabbi Elimelech, suddenly smiling. The feelings of dejection banished from his heart and mind, Rabbi Elimelech took his brother's arm and began to dance from joy as a result of performing the mitzvah of not praying in an inappropriate place.

The guards heard the commotion and came running. Witnessing the two brothers dancing, the guards asked the other prisoners what had happened. "We have no idea!" they answered, mystified. "Those two Jews were discussing the pail in the corner, when all of a sudden they came to some happy conclusion and began to dance."

"Is that right?" sneered the guards. "They're happy because of the pail, are they? We'll show them!" 
They promptly removed the pail from the cell!

*    *    *    *
As Jews, we need to know that refraining from a Jewish practice such as attending synagogue because of a danger to life and health is as much a mitzvah as engaging in those practices under normal circumstances. We need to joyously thank G-d for allowing us to fulfill his Holy Will, whatever it is. And, perhaps, in merit of that joy, He might just take the pail away...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Real Success-Purim 2020


Purim is here, we feel it in the air,
It is a time of festivities as we are aware,
So as I like to do year after year
I’ll explain a deeper message and with you I will share.

On Purim we dress up in costumes and masks,
We hide our true selves for people to guess and ask,
It's part of the fun but there's something more,
There's a deeper aspect here that we can explore.

When we cover our faces on the outside,
We are allowing the external to hide,
And then we can focus on what's in our souls,
The inner part of us that it's special and whole.

The world we live in measures success,
By what can be seen by the eyes and how it's expressed,
A big house, lots of money or letters after one's name,
Are some things that show someone "made it" in this fake game.

But the Torah tells us true success is seen by,
The struggles we overcome that are hidden from the public eye
Changing our habits and improving our character traits,
Like overcoming negativity, laziness or anger make us truly great.

These internal successes don't get awards and aren't seen,
But that's exactly what counts in the greater scheme,
So on Purim we hide our face behind the mask,
As we challenge ourselves with this most difficult task.

Of focusing on fixing what's inside our hearts,
This day of Purim is the best time to start,
Because by removing the emphasis from success seen by all,
We can overcome internal struggles every time we fall.

Let's remember that the Torah values our efforts when we try,
And with Hashem's help we'll be able to soar and fly!
Let's all remove our masks and zoom in on what's inside,
And may we be proud of the perfected character we will find!

So c'mon, let's celebrate our internal successes that are true and real, 
So deep, inner happiness we will be able to feel! 

A Freilichen Purim!