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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vaeschanon

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Here's a note from Jewish Educational Media about this special article: 

"In our work to record the testimony of individuals’ experiences with the Rebbe, we often encounter those who tell us that their encounter was so personal and so private that it cannot be shared.
While we always try to persuade them that it is exactly such personal stories that are incredibly relevant, too many decide to keep their stories to themselves.
We are especially thankful to Mrs. A. for sharing her story with us. Though it was difficult for her to relive this part of her life, she graciously agreed to do so on the condition that her identity not be revealed.

We hope that others who have withheld their stories thus far will be encouraged to emulate her example."

Click here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

Tisha B'Av

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This column was shared a few years ago.
The lessons are as pertinent today as they were then.

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The Banquet
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I was attending a wedding approximately 18 years ago in Seattle. Everyone was in a jovial, happy mood. The joy and spirit was palpable and the music and food were wonderful. After a time, a Rabbi, who was in town from Israel, entered the wedding (uninvited) and made his way around the room quietly soliciting donations for his cause. One of the hosts approached him and asked him to leave. I overheard this exchange and immediately said to the host, “He can have my seat and portion of the meal. I am fine.” I beckoned the Rabbi to my seat. The host, though initially taken aback, later acknowledged me for my sensitivity.

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A Time of Mourning and Reflection
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Today is the 8th day of the month Menachem Av (Friday, August 9, 2019), which is followed by the Fast of Tisha B’Av . This year, the 9th of Av is on Shabbat, so the fast is delayed by one day and starts at sunset the 9th and concludes Sunday evening. The first Nine Days of the month of Av is a time where we relive and remember the Holy Temples (First and Second) and mourn their devastating destruction, which BOTH happened on Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the month of Av) approximately 400 years apart. The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and the second by the Romans. 

Talmud Gittin 55-2 says, “The incident which led to the destruction of the Second Temple:

As a result of the incident involving Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Jerusalem was destroyed. A certain man, who had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza, made a banquet. He told his attendant, ‘Go and bring Kamtza to join me at the banquet.’ The attendant went and mistakenly brought him Bar Kamtza. When the host arrived at the banquet and found Bar Kamtza sitting there, he said to Bar Kamtza, ‘Look here, you are the enemy of me, what do you want here? Get up and get out!’ Bar Kamtza said to him, ‘Since I have come, let me stay, - and I will give you the value of whatever I eat and drink.’

The host said to Bar Kamtza, ‘No, I will not let you stay!’

Bar Kamtza responded, ‘I will give you the value of half your banquet.’

Again, the host said no.

Bar Kamtza said, ‘I will give you the value of your entire banquet.’

The host said, ‘No!’ and grabbed hold of Bar Kamtza with his hand, stood him up and ejected him from the banquet.

Bar Kamtza said to himself that the Rabbis who were seated at the banquet did not rebuke [the host] for the way he treated me, -it is evident that what [the host] did was acceptable to them. I will go and spread slander against the Rabbis in the royal palace.

He went and told Caesar, ‘The Jews have rebelled against you!’

Caesar said to him, ‘Who says so?’

Bar Kamtza said, ‘Send them an animal as a sacrifice and see whether they offer it in their Temple!’

Caesar went and sent a fine calf with Bar Kamtza. As he was going to Jerusalem, Bar Kamtza caused a blemish in the calf’s upper lip. The blemish was in a place where it is considered a blemish for us, i.e. for offering in the Temple, but is not considered a blemish for them, i.e. for offering outside the Temple. Although the animal was unfit to be offered in the Temple, the Rabbis considered offering it for the sake of peaceful relations with the Roman government. R’ Zechariah ben Avkulas said to them, ‘But people will then say that blemished animals may be offered on the Altar!’ The Rabbis considered putting Bar Kamtza to death, so that he would not be able to go and tell Caesar that the offering had been refused. R’ Zechariah said to them, ‘But people will then say that one who blemishes consecrated animals is put to death!’

R’ Yochanan said, ‘The tolerance displayed by R’ Zechariah ben Akvulas in refusing to have Bar Kamtza put to death destroyed our Temple, burned down our sanctuary and exiled us from our land.’”

The Macharam Schif clarifies: “In fact, the destruction of the Temple had already been Divinely decreed. This incident was effective only in causing the destruction to take place at that particular time.” The Maharsha adds, “Alternatively: Only the exile had already been decreed (as punishment for the unwarranted hatred that festered among the people). As far as the Temple was concerned, Caesar would have spared it had his sacrifice been offered in it. Now that his sacrifice was refused, he decided to destroy the Temple, arguing that it served him no purpose.”

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Baseless Hatred
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The Gemara, Yoma 9b states: “In the era of the second Temple, the people studied Torah and performed Mitvos, so why was the second Temple destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred among the people.”

The first Temple was destroyed because of, “three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed. (Yoma 9b). The second Temple was destroyed because, “Therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered as of equal gravity with the three sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together.” (Yoma 9b).

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Love
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The Torah records, following the birth of the twins Esau and Jacob– Parshas Toldos - their relationship was strained to the point of animosity. “Now Esau harbored hatred toward Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself (Parashas Toldos 27/41): ‘The days of mourning for my father will draw near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.’”  Rivkah, their mother seeing the hatred that Esau had toward Jacob, sent Jacob away. “So now, my son, heed my voice and arise; flee to my brother Laban, to Haran. And dwell with him for a few days until your brother’s wrath subsides.”

Jacob dwelled with Laban for many years. He married two of Laban’s daughters and had many sons. The time came for him to return to his father Isaac and the Land of Canaan. 31/17, “Jacob arose and lifted his sons and his wives onto the camels. He led away all of his livestock and all his possessions that he had amassed.” On his return to the Land of Seir “Jacob sent angels before him to Esau.” “The angels returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother, to Esau; moreover, he is heading toward you, and four hundred men are with him. And Jacob became very frightened, and it distressed him. He took, from that which had come into his hand, a tribute to Esau his brother: She-goats, two hundred, and he-goats, twenty; ewes, two hundred, and rams, twenty; nursing camels and their young, thirty; cows, forty, and bulls, ten; she-donkeys, twenty, and he-donkeys, ten. He instructed his servants saying, ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, “Whose are you, where are you going, and to whom are these that are before you?” You shall say, “Your servant’s, Jacob’s. It is a tribute sent to my lord Esau, and behold he, too, is behind us.”’(Parashas Vayishlach 32/4-9). Rashi elucidates that, “Jacob readied himself for three things: for paying tribute, for prayer and for war.”

Parashas Vayishlach 33/1, “Jacob raised his eyes and saw- and behold, Esau was coming, and with him, four hundred men… He went on ahead of them and bowed earthward seven times until he reached his brother. Esau ran toward him, and he embraced him, and fell upon his neck; and kissed him; and they wept.” Rashi elucidates on “He embraced him.” The Tanna R’ Shimon bar Yochai said: “It is a given fact that it is known that Esau hates Jacob, but his mercy was warmed at that time, and he kissed him with all of his heart.”

The Torah records that they went their separate ways at that time and Jacob did not have to resort to defense of his family from an attack from Esau.

A more recent example of what the effect of love and compassion on a hateful soul can accomplish we can see from the events which transpired a few years ago when a young man named Dylan Roof walked into a bible study group in South Carolina and opened fire, killing nine people and wounding three. In the aftermath of the shooting, authorities said they found a racist manifesto Roof had posted on his website and modified just hours before the rampage. This site was filled with racial stereotypes and diatribes against black, Jewish and Hispanic people. What you might not remember are his words after the fact. From a Washington Post article dated June 19, 2015:

“Yet Roof also acknowledged to authorities that he had briefly reconsidered his plan during the time he spent with the Bible study group after entering the building, two people briefed on the investigation said.

‘Roof said he, “almost didn’t go through with it because they were so nice to him,’”

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 “Arise and Renew”- Rambam
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Tradition tells us that the Moshiach is born on Tisha B’Av. Let us re-double our efforts in love and sensitivity to each other to undo the baseless hatred which caused the destruction of the Temples. To hasten that perfected time, we must be aware that our actions have an ability to change the course of the world, and we should heighten our sensitivity and respect in a non-judgmental approach to our fellow man by embracing even those whom we don’t otherwise agree with or understand.

May we merit the time about which the Rambam writes: “In the future, the Messianic King will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, returning it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel.” (Chapter 11 Hilchot Melachim)

As Isaiah 11:9 states, “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the sea fills the ocean bed.”
 

Videos:

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Matot-Massei

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Rabbi Chaim Meir Drukman, winner of the 2012 Israel Prize, is a former member of the Knesset who presently serves as the head of Israel’s State Conversion Authority and as head of the Center for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot. He was interviewed in July of 2012.

Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Pinchas

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Dear Friends, 

I am especially pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story about a former classmate and a very close personal friend of mine. 

Rabbi Gershon Schusterman served as a Chabad emissary in southern California for 18 years (from 1971 to 1989). Since then, he has been engaged in private enterprise in Los Angeles, while continuing to serve as a counselor and spiritual mentor to the Chabad community and writing on Jewish topics.

Click 
here for the story. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 


From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Balak

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Don Wolf presently resides in Melbourne, Australia, where he works in his family’s property development business. Before retiring, he had served for over 35 years on the board of the Yeshivah Centre, including 12 years as chairman.  He was interviewed in July of 2016.

Click
 here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Chukat

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Tuviah Friedman, a life-long Nazi hunter who founded the Institute for the Documentation of Nazi War Crimes, aided in the capture of hundreds of Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann. He was interviewed in his home in Haifa in March of 2010. This story has previously been published in the book My Story.

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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shlach

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Yossi Rosenstein is a contemporary artist who resides with his family in Bnei Brak, where he was interviewed in December of 2018.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

P.S. The  new book ONE BY ONE: STORIES OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE is inspiring! Over 4,000 copies have already been sold. Order your copy today before they are sold out!

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behaalotcha

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Winner of the Israel Prize, Aryeh “Lova” Eliav (1921-2010) was an Israeli politician who held various government posts, including serving in the Knesset. He was interviewed in his home in Tel Aviv, Israel, in January 2007. 
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Nasso

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Avraham Shalem hailed from a long line of Sephardic rabbis. In the 1960’s, after being offered two different rabbinic posts, he was conflicted as to what to do. Seeing no way to solve his dilemma on his own, he turned to the Rebbe for advice. 
Click 
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CLICK HERE to view a video of him speaking about meeting our Holy Rebbe, obm.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

My First Encounter

It was July 1972. I was visiting Seattle for the first time with my very close Chaver (friend), Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi. It was a “scouting” expedition to get a feel for the Pacific Northwest. The blessing and guidance from the Holy Rebbe, OBM, had been given - that my wife and I should assume the position of regional directors of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

I had just received my driver’s license and was a novice at directions (my Chaver, Rabbi Zarchi, today a Senior Provost of the Central Chabad Lubavitch Yeshiva in New York to the best of my knowledge still does not have a driver’s license).

Driving down Seward Park Avenue, we got lost. We noticed a young man and woman down the road on bicycles. We drove up to them and asked them for directions. Their response, “We are from Back East. We bicycled all through the states – going up to Canada. Sorry we can’t help you.” I asked his name, and asked if he happened to be Jewish.

I remember vividly his response – “I was born a Jew, but I do not now believe.” Then he said about the young woman, “she comes from a more traditional background than I. We are both from Philadelphia.”

Well, of course, we parked our car.  I engaged in a conversation with the young man and my Chaver spoke with the young lady. His name was Joe, he was my age, and he was angry young man. He had marched in the South for Civil Rights, he had marched against the Vietnam War, and what I sensed was really upsetting him was that his friends were beginning to “sell out”.

We went back and forth for at least an hour about G-d, Creation, the purpose of Creation, etc, and I did not feel I was making headway with him. Finally, I took the approach of the RamBam, Chapter 2, Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah:

1. It is a mitzvah to love and fear this glorious and awesome G-d, as (Deuteronomy 6:5) states: “And you shall love G-d, your Lord” and, as (Deuteronomy 6:13) states: “Fear God, your Lord.”

2. What is the path (to attain) love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify Him, yearning with tremendous desire to know (G-d’s) great name, as David stated: “My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living G-d” (Psalms 42:3).

I elaborated. I said, “Joe, you just traveled through our beautiful country. You saw its beauty. Two spades of grass don’t grow together; millions of unique animals and vegetation, constellations, stars, planets, etc… are you trying to tell me this just happened on its own? You have a problem with the term G-d? You have issues with all the pain, suffering, poverty, and inequality that you know of and see? I also have issues with all of the above! But it didn’t just all happen.”

After a passionate presentation, he became calmer and looked at me and said, “Sholom, I see your point, but I still don’t believe.”
 

Shavous – Reaffirming the Covenant

I would like to share with you the Introduction of the RamBam (Maimonities): Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah – The Laws (which are) the Foundations of the Torah.

They contain ten mitzvot: six positive commandments and four negative commandments. They are:
1. To know that there is a G-d
2. Not to consider the thought that there is another divinity aside from G-d
3. To unify Him
4. To love Him
5. To fear Him
6. To sanctify His name
7. Not to profane G-d’s name
8. Not to destroy those things associated with His name
9. To listen to a prophet who speaks in (G-d’s) name
10. Not to test G-d

Chapter One, Halacha 1-6

  1. The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.
  2. If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.
  3. If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their (existence) would not nullify His existence, because all the (other) entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them or any of them. Therefore, the truth of His (being) does not resemble the truth of any of their (beings).
  4. This is implied by the prophet’s statement (Jeremiah 10:10): “And God, your Lord, is true” – i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what (is meant by) the Torah’s statement (Deuteronomy 4:35): “There is nothing else aside from Him” – i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His.
  5. This entity is the G-d of the world and the Lord of the entire earth. He controls the sphere with infinite and unbounded power. This power (continues) without interruption, because the sphere is constantly revolving, and it is impossible for it to revolve without someone causing it to revolve. (That one is) He, blessed be He, who causes it to revolve without a hand or any (other) corporeal dimension.
  6. The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment, as (implied by Exodus 20:2): “I am G-d, your Lord…” Anyone who presumes that there is another g-d transgresses a negative commandment, as (Exodus 20:3) states: “You shall have no other g-ds before Me” and denies a fundamental principle (of faith), because this is a great principle (of faith) upon which all depends.

In preparing for Shavous, commemorating and reliving the revelation at Sinai, it would be proper to reflect on all of the above and more.

I urge you all to attend your synagogues this coming Sunday to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments, the embodiment of our tradition, and reaffirm our commitment.

Have a good Shabbos and a Joyous Chag.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin - Parshat Bechukotai

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Simcha Raz is the author of 'A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin', as well as a number of books about Jewish leaders. He was interviewed in his home in Jerusalem in August of 2010.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behar

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Dear Friends, 
A Freilichin Lag B'omer!

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Yechiel Ziskind was active in the field of kosher supervision, working with the Orthodox Union and Vaad Harabonim of Queens until his passing in 2012. He was interviewed in February of 2011.

Click 
HERE for the story.
 

Herman Wouk
Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Herman Wouk, passed away on May 17, 2019, just 10 days before his 104th birthday. Among the two-dozen books he wrote is the widely cited This Is My God, a popular explanation of Judaism written for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences that has been translated to many languages, including Hungarian and Russian.

CLICK HERE to read more about Herman Wouk and to view a video of him speaking in Yiddish with our Holy Rebbe, OBM.

Have a Beautiful Shabbos,
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Emor

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Milek Kremer has served as a council member and as a vice chairman of the Kiryat Ono Regional Council. He was interviewed in his home in Raanana in December of 2012.
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In addition, we are  proud to announce a new book from the Here’s My Story series, called One by One , which showcases the Rebbe’s diverse reach and inspiration to so many types of people from all over the world. 

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 


From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Kedoshim

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Aba Brenenson resides in Kfar Chabad, Israel, where he has worked as a Torah scribe for the past thirty-five years before retiring in 2015. He was interviewed in his home in October of 2018.

Click  here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

P.S. Click here to see a video of the Eulogy of Mrs. Lori Kaye, victim of the Chabad Poway tragedy on the eighth day of Passover, Saturday, April 27, given by her daughter Hannah Kaye.

Today should have been my funeral.

 "Today should have been my funeral."
(Quote from Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad of Poway, taken from NY Times Op-Ed Tuesday, April 30, 2019)
 

The community had just concluded a very beautiful, spiritually moving, community Chassidic Farbrengen at Congregation Shaarei Tefillah-Lubavitch celebrating the last hours of the eight day of Pesach, Shabbos, April 27 - It was centered around the traditional Moshiach Seuda. Words of Torah, based on the last words of the RamBam’s (Maimonides) Yad HaChazakah, where he discusses how the world will be with the coming of our righteous Moshiach were shared.

Chassidic songs from all the Rebbes of Chabad were movingly sung and we wished each other L’Chaim and shared words of blessing. Following the Birkat Hamazon (blessing after meal), we all joined in a lively Chassidic dance.

We then moved into the Sanctuary to join together to say the concluding prayers of Shabbos and Chag.  Right after the conclusion of the prayers, someone ran into the Shul and shared the horrific news from Chabad of Poway in California.

We were all in utter shock.


Community Gathering

At 9:15pm, approximately 15 minutes after Shabbos. I received the following email from Nancy Greer, President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle:

Rabbi Levitin,
What a shock of a transition at the end of Pesach. We are stunned and saddened by the shooting and loss of life that took place at Chabad of Poway earlier today. Please let me know how I or anyone on the Federation team can assist you during this difficult time. 

Shavua Tov,
Nancy

Nancy reaching out was a typical representation of the tremendous outpouring of love, concern, and support from the greater Seattle Jewish community.

I want to acknowledge the lead role in organizing the community gathering by Rabbi Berry Farkash (of Chabad of Issaquah) and the space at the at the Eastside Torah Center / Chabad of Bellevue provided byRabbiMordechai Farkash, Rabbi for the Eastside Torah Center.

In less than 24 hours, Sunday evening, more than 400 people gathered together in Bellevue for an evening of prayer and reflection with community Rabbis and leaders.

The following is a presentation given by Rabbi Y. Kornfeld (of Chabad of Mercer Island / Rabbi, Island Synagogue) at the community gathering.


My Letter to Lori Gilbert Kaye
By Rabbi Y. Kornfeld – Chabad of Mercer Island, WA
Rabbi of Congregation Shevet Achim – Island Synagogue
 

Dear Lori,
I did not have the privilege of meeting you, of knowing you during your life. However, I do feel privileged for knowing you now. Lori you are a Kedosha, a holy person, a person who died for Kiddush Hashem the sanctification of G-D’s name. A Jew who is murdered for the sole reason that she is a Jew is a Kedosha.

But your Kedusha Is magnified, is amplified. Because you, Lori, were murdered in a holy place, and on a holy day, You were in your shul, Chabad of Poway, That you were instrumental in building from it’s inception, and maintaining until today. And it was on Pesach the holiday of Passover on it’s last day.

You were ready to recite the Yizkor prayer, Ready to invoke the memory of your beloved mother, who had passed away recently. Instead you recited Yizkor together with her in heaven, In G-d’s presence.

Lori, you were a holy person, in a holy place, on a holy day. I am privileged, we are privileged, to know you, to be a part of our holy great nation, together with you.

But Lori your Kedusha Is attested to, not only by how you died, but, equally important, by how you lived. You cared! You cared and made sure that your Kehila, your community, would have a place to Daven, Study, Schmooze, and  Schep Nachas , from their children and grandchildren. You cared! Not only about the community center, but, more importantly, about the community members.

If there was someone who was needy, you cared and filled the need. If there was someone who was sad, you cared, and shared your joy. The picture of you, standing at the Western Wall with a beautiful smile, lighting up your face, is worth a thousand words.

You lived a holy life, full of kindness, full of happiness. A full life, not measured by time, but by accomplishments, בחיים ובמות , in life and in death Kedosha

Lori, my heart, our hearts, go out to your family. To your husband and daughter. Nothing we could say to them, could alleviate the pain and anguish of your absence. How lucky they were to have you as a wife and mom. All too short in time, oh so full of great moments and memories. We will take time to appreciate our loved ones, and resolve to emulate you Lori, to become better spouses, parents, and friends.

The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers teaches us: The world stands and exists because of three things: Torah study, prayer, and acts of loving kindness.

Lori, your life kept the world going. You supported Chabad of Poway, were so many Jews came, to study so many dimensions of our holy Torah.

You were in Shul for Davening, to pray and refresh your connection to G-d, together with your congregation your acts of love and kindness are legendary in your community. Lori, you are the embodiment of this Mishnah.

We will emulate your example by attending Torah classes, by going to synagogue, especially this coming Shabbat, and with a Lori-like smile, do more Tzedaka and kindness.

The Passover holiday ended last night. On its first night, Jews worldwide were sitting around the Sedar table. A highlight of the Seder is the listing of the 10 plagues, when we remove some of the wine from our cups. Our sages tell us that there were two stages to the ninth plague of darkness. The first three days, the darkness was so dark that nothing could be seen, but the next three days the darkness became heavy, so dark, that you could not even move. Lori, you faced an even worse darkness, the horrific darkness of hate and anti-Semitism.

However, our holy Torah tells us that during this plague: “For all the Children of Israel there was light where they dwelled”. Lori! You came face-to-face with horrific, evil darkness. But you Lori, are all about light, illumination, luminescence. Your shining countenance reflected your inner light, the light of your soul, your essence, who you really are. As king Solomon says “The flame of God is the human soul”. You really shined, and you amped it up with Torah and Mitzvot. “A mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah is light”.

A small amount of light banishes a lot of darkness. So how much more so, a large amount of light. Lori! You are a powerhouse of illumination, will emulate you, emphasizing and revealing our souls, We will kindle the lamps of mitzvot and shine with the light of Torah.

Lori, I am worried. I am concerned that I, that we, in time, will move on, and your memory will fade. After all we are only human, and time takes it’s toll. You Lori, deserve to be remembered, always, every day.

However, I think, no, I am sure that you would want to be remembered by something of substance, not fluff. You would want to be remembered via a mitzvah that has a direct connection to the circumstances of your passing. Here are my thoughts:

Our sages tell that the death of righteous people protect their generation. You are, and will continue to be, a protection from heaven for your husband, daughter, community, and the rest of the Jewish nation.

“G-d will protect you going out and you’re coming in from now and forever”. This pasuk is connected to the Mitzvah of Mezuzah. On the Mezuzah there is written the holy name of   G-d spelled.ש-ד-י an acronym too Shomer Daltot Israel Who protects the doorway of Israel. You no longer can touch and kiss the Mezuzah of your home and Shul But we Lori, will embrace the mitzvah in your memory. We will affix a kosher Mezuzah to every Jewish home.

And now a connection to your beloved Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein may he have a speedy healing and recovery. The Rabbi lost his right index finger. When he now lifts his right hand to touch and kiss the Mezuzah that main finger will be missing. I am sure he will feel your presence in that void each time he touches and kisses the Mezuzah We too Lori, will remember you each time we kiss our Mezuzah, and always try to live our lives inspired by your example.



May Hashem bless us all that we should merit the day of Redemption that the RamBam writes about:

In that Era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance and all the delights will be as freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d. The Jews will therefore be great sages and know the hidden matters, and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the [full] extent of human potential; as it is written  [Yeshayahu 11:9] , "For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."(Chapter 12 of Hilchos Melachim)

 

Have a good Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin


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