Wednesday, March 21, 2012

R' Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg zt"l

Another gadol has been taken from us.

R' Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg was niftar yesterday.

It's scary. It's a shock. We need our gedolim. We need their zechusim.

When I was in seminary, I went along with a friend of mine to clean his house for Pesach. It was actually very exciting beforehand that we were able to be the ones to go. There was a girl who did chessed in his house every week but she was going back to America for Pesach so she asked a friend who asked a friend and eventually, it got to my friend and the two of us went together.

I cannot describe to you the feeling of true awe to be standing in front of a gadol of that stature. We were going to clean his house for Pesach. It felt like such a scary responsibility. Who am I to make sure Rav Scheinberg's house is chometz free? But his outlook on cleaning for Pesach was that it should be done b'nachas - calmly and happily and Pesach should not be a time of stress for the whole family. No, there is no chiyuv to go thru the corners of each drawer with a toothpick to get rid of the dust that's in between the cracks. Yes, you need to clean. But the idea is to get rid of chometz, not dust. You should not make yourself crazy.

I remember going through the kitchen cabinets and I thought it was so cute to see how they were savers (just like me :) ). They saved every little mini vodka bottle they had obviously gotten from different people for mishloach manos. They even had these mini salt and pepper holders that they had gotten on an El-Al flight (many years ago-that I could tell) was still high up in their kitchen cabinets.

I remember getting instructions from Rav Scheinberg on how he wanted us to line the cabinets with silver foil, unraveling it together with my friend and joking he told us how to clean behind the refrigerator but do it simply and not work too hard...At some points, his house felt like such a "normal" house.

But then there were the special times, when you couldn't help but feel like you were in the presence of greatness. Like when a phone call came in from someone who had dropped his tefillin and he needed to know if he has to fast or give tzeddakah...or when a mother came in with a few little children so they could watch her ask the gadol hador a shaileh about pesach cleaning...and the highlight (for me) - the daily mincha minyan in Rav Scheinberg's house. Since he was already quite elderly and it was hard for him to go out, people came to his house to daven mincha with the Rosh Yeshiva. Can davening mincha with a person this great be described in words? My friend and I got to stay in the kitchen and join the minyan. It was extra special to say the least.

When the time came for me to clean the dining room, I was literally shaking. Some parts weren't as scary because I was further away from where he sat. But when I got closer to him, I felt something that I cannot describe. How do you describe what it feels like to be in such close proximity to someone so great?

I got to his desk. I took a broom and swept around his feet. He lifted his feet up for me so I could get all the crumbs into a pile. He picked up his feet for me? I can't describe the feeling. At some points, I almost felt like he was able to see through me. It's a very scary feeling.

Then I had to clean his desk. It was full of papers and kvitlach and things I was too afraid to touch. I cleaned his phone with trembling hands. I couldn't do more. I gave the job to someone else. She must've been more of a regular in their house because she did it without a problem; she stacked the papers and moved some things around and got the desk done.

I remember the brachos I got from Rav Scheinberg when I was done. He said, "You should get a good shidduch...a good shidduch" (and it came true...a very good shidduch :-) )

What will stay with me most is that feeling of being in the presence of someone so great. If I ever want to picture it, I can just close my eyes and bring myself back to his room, the room where he sat and answered so many phone calls, shailehs, gave advice and brachos...I can transport myself back there and feel what it felt to stand near a gadol...and all it makes me want to do is strive higher and be better than the best I could be.

Baruch dayan ha'emes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spoken Words-A Poem

This poem was written by S.R. Thank you for emailing it to me and allowing me to share it with everyone here.

I talked to You, Hashem, today

I wonder if You heard.

I tried to pick up forsaken treasures

But did You hear my words?

I opened pages so close, so far

And read aloud each word.

A voice once hesitant again poured forth

As the soul inside me stirred.

I wondered as I stood alone

Two feet close like one,

If I were an angel by Your side,

Could I still be Your son?

Did you know when I was far

That pain was there like stones-

Blocking off my path to go

Obstructing ways once home?

Were You there when I was lost

At the times I couldn’t see-

In the moments when all was dark

Too much for me to see me?

In those days, the longest yet

Far outstretching years,

When I sat low, detached, so far,

Why’d you have faith in me?

Was it okay that I talked to none

You’re presence inclusive with all?

For like I said, I was a son

Leaving angels for Your halls…

Why, now, after I stayed so far

When I try to connect with You,

Does something say it’s okay for me

To speak the words I do?

Is it really when I’ve strayed so far

And connection brought to nil-

Unable to muster three short words

Content with “One day I will.”?

Why, within me is a voice

That says, “Child, it’s fine.”

For between the words “One day I will”,

Was, ‘Dad, still call me Mine.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

In Style

I posted this once before and wanted to share it with you once again.

There are many challenges when it comes to dressing properly. I recently read this
mashal and thought it would help those who are having a hard time choosing the right things to wear. I'm curious to hear what you think about this since it's a very touchy topic and sometimes girls are not given the proper hashkafos and direction about this special mitzvah of tznius.

Did you ever see little kids looking at their parents albums? They'll all be saying the same thing. Oh my! Look at those hairstyles, look at those clothes...That's SO odd! How could you ever wear such styles?

It's all in whose looking at it.

So now, try to picture the celestial judges looking at you in the album. Realize that those short skirts really don't look so cute anymore! The things that are so in style and trendy down here on this world are viewed in a whole different light in the next world!!

Does this change your perspective in any way? Do you think this thought can help you dress properly in the future?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ta'anis Esther - Alone

Sometimes in life you feel alone. Like there's no one who can help you. No one to rely on. No one to turn to.

I was sitting in the hospital bed on Shabbos morning after having given birth just a few hours before. I was starving. I had no food with me. We came to the hospital with the bag that I had packed and that's it. It was shabbos. I didn't have my phone with me and even if I would have had it I wouldn't be able to call anyone to bring me something to eat. I was alone. I was tempted to call one of the nurses to ask them to look out for a Jewish girl who was visiting someone and see if they could go to the bikkur cholim room to get me something to eat. I just gave birth. I couldn't go myself. I was alone. And I was hungry. And I needed to eat.

I felt like crying. Where was I going to get food from?

Hashem, I said, I'm hungry. I need to eat. Could you please send someone to my room to give me some food?

I was close to tears.

Mi K'amcha Yisroel. It didn't take long for a volunteer from Yad Ephraim to come into my room with a bag full of food. She had grape juice for kiddush, danishes, cake and some warm mazel tov wishes for me.

* * *

Today is Ta'anis Esther. Picture the scene so many years ago. Put yourself in Esther's shoes. She is married to Achashveirosh and has to stand before him and make a request that would save her entire nation. The entire Jewish People is looking to her, relying on her for their salvation.

At that moment, she bursts into a prayer of "Keili Keili lamah azavtani"-Hashem, why have you forsaken me? Why did you leave me? Just at the time I need you most...I feel so alone!

What an emotional prayer. What could be worse than the feeling of loneliness? Than feeling that you have no one to turn to, no one who can help you?

Yes, as a Jew you should know that you can always turn to Hashem. You can daven to Him and beg Him for help. But sometimes...that's not enough. You need something real. Something to hold on to. Someone to hold on to.

And I think maybe that's why Hashem gave us people to rely on, people to turn to for emotional support. Even if there is no one who can actually do anything practical for you, whether it's for financial help, to find you your guy, to help you with a job, to get you into a school or just to help with something real, when you feel alone and you have someone to talk to, it makes such a difference. There is something about having a friend that makes the burden a little bit easier to carry. Yes, you still have to go through the challenge anyway but when you have someone walking alongside you, you feel less alone and you feel like you could do it.

We all have times when we feel alone. Yes, we should turn to Hashem and ask for help but when nothing is going to change-because sometimes the situation stays the way it is and you don't see a way out, you can know that Hashem gave you something to make it a little more bearable. A good friend.

Today, many people take out their tehillims and say Perek Chaf Bais-the 22nd chapter that begins with "Keili Keili lamah azavtani". When a Jew feels alone, he takes out a siddur, he takes out his tehilim and he turns to Hashem. But sometimes, many times, that's not enough. You need something real. And that's what a friend is all about.

The purpose of a fast day is not about the food and about how hungry you are. The point is to get you to stop and think. We are still in galus. We know that sinas chinam is one of the things that is keeping us from getting out. Don't we all want to leave?

Today, take a minute to focus on your relationships and think about how you can be a better friend. A good friend, a real friend.

May you be able to be there for your friends to support them through the tough times and to celebrate with them in the happy times.

Have an easy, meaningful fast.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's a Boy!

I'm sitting in the hospital bed holding a precious little baby in my arms. I look at him and I see purity and perfection. Two perfect little eyes squeezed tightly shut, a teeny little nose and mouth, ears in just the right spot on the side of his face and ten teeny little fingers. So small and so perfect.

What a miracle. After nine months (and 5 and a half hours of labor), I finally got to hear..."It's a boy!"

I look at my son and wonder. How did this all come to be? A newborn baby is such a miracle. When everything goes the way it should and the baby is healthy, I cannot help but thank Hashem. There are so many little details that go into a healthy child. Everything is fine. I am so grateful. I hold him in my arms and watch him breathing...his chest moves up and down, up and down...I can look at him for hours and I wouldn't get bored.

My little baby was born on shabbos and just had his bris this past shabbos. When he got his name, it was a very emotional moment. I held back the tears while it was announced...Moshe Simcha. We chose the name Moshe after my (husband's) grandmother's brother who was killed in the holocaust and we added the name Simcha. Moshe was 10 years old when he was killed but he did have a miracle during that time. He dug himself out of a pile of dead bodies and somehow found his sister, my grandmother and they were able to spend some time together.

When a baby cries during the bris milah, it is a big eis ratzon and a time to daven. My baby certainly cried-plenty.

What is the meaning behind this mitzvah?

Jews believe that everything Hashem gave us can be used for spirituality. We elevate the food we eat by making a bracha and we enjoy different treats, nosh (and junk!) on shabbos-because shabbos is a day where we are supposed to enjoy ourselves. Even the junk food gets elevated-just by enjoying it on this special day.

Hashem gave us bodies to be used for something spiritual-marriage. When a little boy gets a bris milah, there is a message being given over-even though he is too young to understand it. Your body is holy, your body is special. His parents hope and pray, during that special time while he is crying, that he use his body for purity and that he keeps himself holy. Temptations are out there and it's easy to fall. Every Jewish boy has this as a reminder, a reminder that his body is holy...and he should know that if he saves it for marriage it will be all the more worth it.

As a girl you should know that your body is beautiful and there's a good reason why we are told to keep it covered. It's not that you're ugly, no way! You have a special beauty that no one can take away from you. When you have something beautiful, you keep it hidden. Just like a precious diamond is kept covered in a velvet case and just like a wedding gown is kept covered and protected and only taken out for when it is needed, your body is special and you aren't meant to walk around exposed and showing it off. It is meant to be saved for a special time when you are married. And if you save it and are careful now, it will be so much more exciting and so much more special when the right time comes!

So as my baby cried, I davened for him. I davened that he should be able to internalize this message and use his body for holy things only. That he should be able to hold back from all the temptations that are out there and keep himself pure.

I look at my son and all I see is an innocent little child. No aveiros, no impurities. And I just wish he could stay that way-totally and completely pure. It's a scary world out there and I can't protect him forever. But I know that he has this mitzvah to carry along with him and I hope he will keep the message with him always.

I thank Hashem for giving me a perfect, healthy little baby. He is precious, he is pure and he is mine.

Mazel tov!