Jerusalem Journal #7

My Dear Young Israel Family,

Hopefully, you will be reading this Jounral installment prior to Purim, which, of course, gives me the opportunity to wish one and all a happy and freilech Purim. We think of you often and look forward to your contacting us when in Israel.


In Jerusalem, it is simply impossible to become bored; there's so much to do, to see, to learn. A little over a month ago, we were guests at Rav Nebentzal's home for Shabbos. It was, as it always is, an unforgettable experience. We spoke of many things and I will close with an uplifting d'var Torah he shared with me on Purim.

In January, I was invited by a dear friend, Rabbi Stuart Weiss, to lecture in Ranana. In memory of their dear son, Ari, who was killed by a terrorist sniper some years ago, both he and his wife, Susie, have done remarkable charitable work for soldiers in the IDF. My lecture topic that evening dealt with the crisis in this Post-Zionism era, a crisis evident in both the religious and secular sectors in Israeli society. The problems are obvious, the solutions less so, but I, at least, tried to contribute something of value to the discussion.

On January 18th, I was invited to attend the Hashba'a (Induction) ceremonies at the Golani army base in the North as Irad Straus was inducted into the Army. The Straus family was there along with many friends. We toured the base and the barracks and spoke with the young soldiers. It was a proud moment for Irad and his family. May HaShem keep him and all his comrades-in-arms safe as they defend our country.

It was wonderful to see Rabbi Grunberger in Jerusalem at the sheva brachos of his daughter, Leah. The joy was intense and it was heartwarming to hear the news of Dovid's steady improvement. May the Grunberger family continue to enjoy such yiddishe nachas and further blessings of refuah for their dear children.

Finally, last week, Ayla (Fredman) Osband, invited me to speak at the stone dedication for Irving Fredman, zt"l. Of course, many extended family members, as well as friends, were there. It was hard to believe that a year had past since Irving's passing. What Irving represented to his family, to our Shul and the St. Louis community—and to me personally—defies simple expression. I'll just say this: in his genuine modesty and wisdom, in his quiet and unqualified philanthropy, he inspired his family, guided our Shul, and set the bar for what it means to be a committed and dedicated Baal Habos. May his utterly unselfish example be emulated by all and may his beloved memory continue to be a blessing for everyone.

Israel Observations:

The experience of taking buses in Jerusalem and elsewhere is a study in the overall impact of being around and with people constantly. Think about it: When you drive in your car, you are basically isolated from everyone and everything. You pay little, if any attention, to people on the street or elsewhere (if you did, you might get into an accident). Listening to your radio or tape, you find yourself ensconced in a world of your own. What are the sociological implications of such behavior? Well, for starters, it means that with the exception of family, friends and co-workers, everyone else is essentially a stranger. On the bus, though, especially here, there's an air of informality as otherwise total strangers can and do spontaneously engage in animated conversation. It's quite amazing to reflect upon the many good things that often emerge from such pleasant encounters.

There's a second, and I would say ethical, plus as well. The mix of people riding a bus is wide—ranging in age, background and culture. There is a certain "people acceptance" that inevitably develops, a powerful awareness that reminds you that everyone has a role to play and something worthwhile and singular to contribute. You learn to appreciate people even if you cannot agree with them. All this develops quite naturally as you mix with throngs of people on the bus, in the street, everywhere. The "car" mentality needs to be sensitive to what is lost by this transportation convenience. People should not be anonymous "its." They are human beings with a claim on G-d's Image and as such deserve our respect.

D'var Torah:

In Megillah 6b, the Gemorah rules that in a Leap Year with a double Adar, Purim is celebrated in Adar II. The reason: to juxtapose the redemption of Purim to the redemption of Egypt. Rav Nebentzal's deepens our understanding of this decision by the following thought. Just as our deliverance from Egypt took place by the Hand of G-d, so too the events of Purim are no less divinely driven. True, the first Pesach was accompanied by open miracles and wonders and Purim, not so. But that difference should not blind us to G-d's active involvement in our historical destiny always! This is the deeper message of "masmich geulah l'geulah." May we all be worthy of the time when HaShem chooses to no longer be hidden (hester panim) and finally reveals (megale) His Glory to Israel and the world.