I am sorry it has been so long since we last spoke. I think its been a solid two months. I imagine when my thousands of devoted readers wake up every morning, the first thing they do is check their email, facebook, or twitter feeds, for news of my upcoming blogg post, and so to my dear readers, I also apologize.
There is so much I want to write to you about, but for now, I want to tell you about an incredibly moving story that happened to me this morning. This morning, I woke up a little bit later than usual, which meant that I would go to the latest minyan (prayer service) in town, which started at 8:30 AM. Everything was going great, speaking with the Almighty, connecting to Him and getting close. Then, as I took off my phylacteries a sweet elderly man sitting across from me began to speak to me.
Him: "You think they have this late 8:30 again tomorrow?
Me: "I wish, tomorrow is only 7:50 :-( "
"What's your name?"
"My name is Danny aka the D Train Aka Da Da Da Da D UNIT."
"Where are you from?"
"Originally from Denver, now Albany. How about you?"
At this point, this sweet man began telling me his life story. The short version is he is 90 years old, he survived the Holocaust, but his home and property were taken away, his brothers who were in the camps with him were murdered, as were his parents, and he has 12 grandchildren and several more great grandchildren. He then told me how every morning he goes to shul at Chabad (as they have the latest week-day minyan in town, 8:00 AM), and on Shabbos he goes to an earlier minyan close to his house (as despite being 90, he is walking to shul every week.)
As I was speaking to him, I noticed the rest of the crowd had cleared out- the only people that remained were the ones who it took the longest to take off their phylacteries (tefillin)-- this ninety year old man, and the man next to him, who seemingly suffers from Parkinson's. At this juncture, I told myself to remember that while usually I am very good about attending minyan every morning, there are inevitably those mornings that I miss minyan once in a while. But, I asked myself, how can I allow myself to miss a minyan, when these two individuals come every single day? I, who thank G-d get around without any delays, who am blessed with youth and good health, how can I not come, when these special individuals come every day despite the enormous difficulty involved? And so I vowed to myself, (albeit not with taking an official vow) to try my hardest to ALWAYS come to shul in the morning, and to not allow even for that rare exception.
But Henry, that aint even what I wanted to focus on during this lovely Sunday morning in July. What I wanted to dwell more on, was an incredibly powerful idea I heard from a Holy lady named Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, who herself survived the Holocaust. Just to put matters in perspective, I was once reading a story in her book, "A Committed Life" while waiting for my wife in Batteries Plus, and right there, in the middle of this store, I started bawling uncontrollably. I had the unique opportunity to hear her speak live at an Aish Conference once, and she concluded her tear-inducing speech with a very powerful blessing. She told us, that she had heard from a Chassidic Master, who himself survived the Holocaust, that if someone lived through the hell of the Holocaust, and yet somehow managed to retain his or her faith and closeness to G-d, a blessing from that individual will come true, and be very very powerful. Rebbetzin Jungreis then blessed all nine hundred of us, listening intently in the audience, and very few eyes remained dry. I recalled this story this morning, as I was talking to my new hero. As we went into the hallway, I told him what this Rebbe had said, and how I have so much admiration for him, and it would mean a lot of he could give me a bracha. As tears welled up in both of our eyes, he gave me one of the most powerful blessings I have ever received.
Tonight the Jewish people enter into a very difficult month- the month of Av. The Talmud teaches us, that when the month of Av comes in, we reduce our level of happiness, as it has been a month that has been brutal for the Jewish people, beginning from when our Holy Temples were destroyed. Paradoxically, the name Av, also means father. Somehow, this month which has been so difficult for us, means "father." It is our job to somehow try to remember that everything comes from our Father-- both blessings, and difficulties. Sometimes my children ask me for things- but I know it is not really in their best interest- so sometimes I say no-- and they don't understand, nor are they happy about it. We have to remember that although we don't always understand everything going on in our lives, our lives are not random- they are closely guided by a loving Father, who loves His children more intensely than any love we can fathom. In this massive, scary world, we must remember that we are never alone.
The holy man I met today, who despite suffering tremendously, witnessing horrific events, still clings to his Father. We collectively as a people have suffered over the years enormously, and yet we are still here because we continue to cling to our Father. This month of Av, we should cling to our Father-- not because of terror, sadness, or fear, but out of incredible happiness. We should all merit to get closer to our Father, in our holy city of Jerusalem, celebrating at the Beis Hamikdash, may it be rebuilt speedily and soon.
May the blessing this tzadik (righteous man) gave to me this morning, come true for the entire Jewish People:
May Hashem bless us and Protect us.
May His face shine light upon us and may He bestow grace upon us.
May Hashem lift His Face upon us, and may He grant us peace.