Category Archives: Mrs. Miriam Liebermann

letter from miriam liebermann, Oct 31, 2014

Dearest Friends,

 

I hope that the recent holiday season, the chagim, were meaningful for you, as well as enjoyable. I had the pleasure and privilege of spending several weeks in Jerusalem, and found it meaningful indeed.  Although it had been such a difficult, tumultuous summer in Israel, spirits were high and the holiday spirit prevailed.

 

‘V’samachta b’chagecha v’hayisa ach sameach..’ And you shall rejoice with your holiday (holy day) and you shall be happy. Many comment that this may be the most difficult commandment of all. How can one be happy when facing daunting circumstances? Is it really possible to simply don rose colored glasses and then automatically view life from a positive angle? How does this work?

 

Neuroscientists have shared with us results of intensive research, lauding the amazing elasticity of the brain. With repetition, repeating certain mantras, again and again, repeating certain actions, over and over, we can literally build new neural structures in our brains. So the response to our earlier question is a resounding ‘YES’.  We can change our brains, our outlook, our perspective in life. Maybe not automatically, but over time, yes, indeed.

 

When  experiencing life challenges we may find ourselves traumatized. “Trauma occurs when one experiences oneself as helpless within an intolerable  situation.” So states Sarah Chana Radcliffe, familyfirst, Aug 27, 2014.  We need never find ourselves helpless.  Trauma is not an inevitable result of loss.We all have internal resources we can access. We have tools available to weather the storms.

 

The amount and the quality of inspirational reading available to the Jewish public today is unsurpassed. The books, the magazines, newspapers just keep coming.  Classes in Jewish thought are offered across the globe. Webinars and telephone conferences unite us from the 4 corners of the earth.  Let these lessons and readings fill our tool boxes. Take advantage of all that’s being offered. All, including myself of course,  stand to benefit from an extra dose of  Torah wisdom.

 

“Difficulties in life can be embraced rather than shunned.” So continues   SC Radcliffe. Don’t ask ‘Why?” Rather ask, “Where do I go from here? What does G-d want from me right now?”  We can empower ourselves, if we approach each situation mindfully,  with a conscious decision to persevere and even grow through the experience.

 

Rabbi  Fishel Schachter, Inyan Magazine, Sept 3, 2014, suggests that we reframe our efforts from ‘problem solving to shelter-seeking’.  “Seek out what you can do to reasonably fix or protect yourself. ….move to the most reasonable solution and draw the effort/outcome line…” And then step back…”..this is what I did; let’s wait and see what Hashem will do now.”

Let’s make  G-d part of the picture. Ultimately, it is He who is running the show. Let’s acknowledge His role and mindfully allow Him to be an integral player in our lives.

 

Leaving Israel just last week, I bid farewell to our 2 youngest, 2 sons, who are both learning in Yeshivot in  Jerusalem. I’ve always had a hard time with goodbyes. As I anticipate each farewell scene, as well as each welcome home scene, the same thought crosses my mind. As much as I love my children, and I love them fiercely!!- that’s how much G-d loves me, even more!!!! And that comforts me. G-d is always present in our lives, as long as we let Him in!!  Talk to Him every day, formally through prayer, or informally throughout the day. Seek out instances of Divine providence; look for G-d’s interventions in our every day lives. He is our Father, intimately involved with our lives, orchestrating the details. He  has charted a path for each of us to follow…There is a purpose to our pain, there is a rhyme and reason to our challenges. “Let go and let G-d”- so states  a major mantra adopted by the international OA program.

 

Sara Rigler shares the tale of Aviva, who tragically lost her daughter to cancer. (AmiLiving, July 30, 2014) There were many ups and downs during that particular journey. A lesson Aviva had learned from Rabbi Paysach Krohn helped her through the more difficult times. Every day we make the blessing “…l’havchin bain yom uvain laila… to bless the distinction between day and night.”   States Aviva, “ I learned that if I had a bad day, that day would eventually end, and there was a chance that the next day would be better…..otherwise we would have had one interminable day.” There is always hope for tomorrow.  The Jewish day begins with the  evening. After the night’s inky darkness, the sun emerges with  its radiant light.

 

Steven Sotloff, the American journalist was tragically slain on camera by an ISIS terrorist. A letter he had written was smuggled out earlier by a former cellmate and read aloud at a memorial service.  He wrote, “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you have only one.”

 

In truth, the term ‘chaim’, life, is always written in the plural. We live a multiplicity of lives. Have you any recollection of being in your mother’s womb? And yet, for certainty you spent perhaps up to nine months in that welcoming environment. Similarly, we have no sense of the world to come, the world of souls. We do live a multiplicity of lives. Let’s do our utmost to make each life, each aspect of our lives,  meaningful and significant.

 

Says Bassi Gruen, FamilyFirst, “For a Jew, every last day, even the most final, is also a beginning. When G-d closes one door, He is opening another. And that is a source of joy.

 

Wishing you all a winter filled with hope, new beginning, new door openings, fulfillment, meaning and abundant joy!

 

Warmly, Miriam Liebermann

 

p.s. Dear  Readers, I’d love to hear from you. What brings you joy? What inspires you to keep going? What lessons have you learnt through your personal challenges? What keeps you going? Let’s share the challenges as well as the joys. Let’s probe the difficulties, and share the emerging solutions…

Scent of Heaven

Sitting in the Low Chair
Beth Firestone

For a baalas teshuva there is a first for everything. The first time you say no to a cheeseburger, the first time you don’t answer your phone on Shabbos, and the first time you pound your chest on Yom Kippur. Each of these first times is accompanied by a unique set of feelings and thoughts and is the end result of an ongoing growth process. I have been on the side of being menachem avel many times, but it took me twenty six years as an observant Jew before I was the person sitting in that low chair.
The mitzvah of comforting a mourner was always difficult for me. I assumed that when my turn came, I would opt for a quiet shiva. An introvert by nature, I believed that in my sadness or grief I would not want to open my home to just anyone. I thought that I would find my comfort exclusively among family and my closest friends. I couldn’t imagined ‘holding court’ and having to either ‘be on’ or endure awkward silences when I didn’t feel like talking. I didn’t think I would want to repeat the same thing over and over again all day long, nor could I imagine needing to. Mostly, I didn’t feel comfortable allowing myself to be the one who needed.
When my turn came and I told a friend about my reservations, she urged me to do it right – promising that when the seven days were up, I would be glad I had. Not completely convinced, during the twilight onen period between my father’s death and the burial, I wrestled with myself.
I reasoned with myself, thinking that because my father lived to ninety, and lived a long, productive, happy, life, my mourning was somehow less important. His death was “normal” – a sad, but ultimately expected part of the cycle of life. I thought of one shiva house I’d recently visited. The mourners were a young couple whose five-month-old baby had died tragically of SIDS. In that same week, a young husband and father in our community mourned the sudden loss of his wife. A few months prior, our city mourned a forty-something year old mother who’d succumbed to cancer, as well as the death of a young grandmother in a tragic car accident. Who was I to need comfort?
Then I overheard a close family member whisper that this “was not the time to be a martyr” and the words hit home. The words of Koheles echoed in my mind … a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to wail, a time to dance. Although my father’s was not a tragic death, my sadness was great. I would miss him tremendously, and I needed to honor that. More importantly, my father deserved to be honored. Sitting shiva properly would allow me to do that. Though still apprehensive, I sent out the appropriate announcements, unlocked our front door, sat in my low chair, and waited. Like subjects coming to greet the queen, people came. Some stayed for only five minutes, others settled in for an hour —old friends, new friends, acquaintances, rabbis, teachers, children, the expected, and the totally unexpected. I was overwhelmed by the constant flow of people. I fell into a kind of rhythm where time melted away. I floated from sleep to eating to sitting in my low chair. My adult children took care of cooking and carpool and after they left, people in the community provided meals. What I had previously imagined as an overly indulgent and taxing process, proved itself to be the most incredible exhibit of kindness I have ever experienced.
My oldest daughter, for whom my shiva was also a first, spent much of the week with me. On the seventh day, after the last comforter had recited ‘Hamakom Yenachem…’ she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’ve never seen so much goodness.”
She is right. To carve out a piece of time from one’s busy life to visit a mourner is goodness at its core. It is not an exaggeration to say that being on the receiving end of mourning is to experience a week of Godliness. The divine nature of man that emerges in a shiva house is to experience people making a Kiddush Hashem at its best.
Acknowledging my anxiety as I began shiva the morning after my father’s burial, my husband pointed out that shiva is for “you, the mourner.” There was no right or wrong, he reiterated. Do what you feel like doing. And so I did. I talked about who my father was and what he meant to me. Our friends and acquaintances—some of whom had met members of my non-observant family and others who hadn’t —asked my mother and sisters questions, giving them a chance to talk and be comforted. My living room was lively with conversations whose subjects ranged from my father’s career, to how my parents met, to what a shame we all don’t know more about each other’s parents, to styles of parenting then and now.
Mostly, the talk was about our father of whom we were extremely super proud. He was a highly accomplished, published professor of Mathematics who conducted research that combined math with physics, computer science and bio medics. In the early years of his career he worked on rocket trajectories to Mars. Yes, he was a rocket scientist. We talked about how difficult it must have been to live in that brainy head of his, then switch gears to relate to the rest of us who, though intelligent and talented in many ways, did not share his mathematical genius. We discussed how he never flaunted his brilliance and the humility of that. Day turned to night and, as I lay in bed exhausted, I would replay the many conversations. I cried some more, realizing that what I had sometimes perceived as my father’s emotional distance was instead a product of a mind whose natural default mode was logic and calculation. High on logic – lower on emotion – his brilliance breeded impatience that to a sensitive daughter was sometimes hurtful. I had spent years being angry about this inability to give me the kind of emotional support I needed. During shiva I felt forgiveness and . I focused on how during the past few years of his life when battling his illness, my father had changed. Hugs, praise and kind words were much more forthcoming then they had ever been. In his own way, he’d been doing teshuva.
I have come to understand that this is part of the shiva process. The concentrated thinking, talking, and mourning allows us to reevaluate the person we have lost together with our own lives. It creates a space for the mourner to come to a deeper understanding of herself. My father came from the old school of ‘tough love’ and ‘it’s better to do it yourself’ – and as a child this was often difficult. I am only just beginning to understand that what I resented as a child, was in the long run, “for my own good” – just like my father had always claimed!
At the funeral speeches, we painted a picture of a brilliant, hardworking professor who was a loving, generous man, passionately devoted to his family. While this is certainly true, nobody is perfect. Nobody knew this better than my mother. A few of my visitors, upon flipping through my father’s published books, instantly understood the issue. “It must have been difficult living with him,” a very wise rabbi in our community said. How did he know? Another visitor, married to a brilliant doctor said, “Left-brain spouses are the most difficult. They constantly have to be reminded how to interact properly with people. It takes tremendous patience and understanding. Your mother must be an amazing person.” He got it! It was as if Hashem were sitting right next to me, orchestrating who came and giving me what I needed to hear. Shiva provided me with the opportunity to both honor my father’s greatness and better understand his imperfections.
Perhaps my father’s (and my mother’s) greatest accomplishment was their marriage. This past December, on my father’s 90th birthday, we presented him with a family photo album that traced his life from childhood to the present. The last page shows my parents as the elderly couple they’d become, sitting on a porch bench overlooking Big Bear Lake where our entire family vacationed each summer – Grandpa’s treat. The sun is gloriously setting. As my visitors reached the last page in this album, there was always a deep, wordless sigh. I imagined they were all thinking the same thing: The world has gotten so crazy. Broken marriages, broken families, broken lives. How many couples make it to the finish line still intact? How many people really do become that old sweet couple sitting together, watching the sunset?
My parents did not have a perfect marriage. There was plenty of arguing, disagreeing, bantering, and miscommunicating. However—and it’s a big however—they believed in marriage. They believed in working it out and sticking to it. They believed in the bigger picture of what they were building. In the end, they reaped a beautiful harvest. We are a family with many differences, but we get along. This is in no small part due to my father’s insistence that we be ‘one big happy family.’ We needed to learn tolerance. We needed to accept our differences. We needed to love one another because Daddy said so. This tolerance played out beautifully when planning my father’s burial and funeral. My halachic concerns were honored, and I, in turn, respected my sisters’ requests for other things. Dad would have been pr proud.
As the week of shiva wore on I sensed a theme emerging. People entered my home respectfully, expecting the heaviness that pervades a house of mourning. But when they sat and listened— and comforted us by their listening and the questions they asked— the heaviness lifted. With all of the tragedy my community has experienced in recent months, my father’s death was really a ray of hope: it affirmed that the normal cycles of life still exist. That people marry, raise children, get naches from their grandchildren, build, accomplish and then leave this world at a ripe old age, having lived a full and good life. What I learned from this is that shiva doesn’t just comfort the mourner. It comforts and inspires the comforter.
It was the last hour of Shabbos and the sixth day of my shiva week. Looking for my glasses, I walked into the living room, still set up for shiva, but quiet now. The blue yartzheit candle burned on the mantle. My father’s published math and physics books and photographs of his life lay scattered on the coffee table— books that spoke a language most of us would never understand. I let my eyes rest on a recent picture of him. The photograph captures the incredible sweetness in his smile and tenderness that had emerged in the last few years of his life. I turned to walk back to the dining room, but stopped because I was hit by a strong scent, like a man’s expensive cologne. It was a very pleasing smell and I called my husband over to see if I was only imagining it. No, I wasn’t; he smelled it, too. I looked around for stray articles of clothing with yesterday’s cologne, but found nothing. Nobody had been in the room but us. I felt a sudden strong sensation in my stomach, a fullness and tightness, but not unpleasant. My eyes began to tear. We were both thinking the same thing.
Almost involuntarily, I whispered, “Hi, Daddy.” The yartzheit candle flickered and my husband and I stood quietly, feeling a great peace. The moment passed and we moved to the dining room to bentch from Seudah Shlishi. Afterwards, we discussed it. The only scent my father ever wore was Old Spice, so what was that scent? I resolved to ask my mother if Dad had used any other cologne.
I went to bed feeling exhausted by the notion of one more day of shiva. Did I really need it? I was pleased when many in my extended family decided to join me again. I so wanted them to be a part of the process. As requested, my mother brought my father’s shaving cream, hand soap and body soap. None of the scents matched the distinct aroma we had experienced on Shabbos. Once again, I got tremendous satisfaction from the interest people took in my non-frum relatives, and I found that I’d been wrong about what I thought I needed. It amazed me that we all still wanted to talk about my father. I rode the ebb and flow of people coming and going, and when at nine o’clock, the last wave of visitors left, I sat quietly with my husband. In the back of my mind I was hoping that maybe the scent would come back. It did not.
In the morning, I took my place on the low chair for the last time as my husband stood over me and recited,“ Hamakov Yenachem….” Though I’d heard these words countless times in the past seven days, their power once again penetrated by soul. Fresh tears flowed. I have been thinking about that scent ever since, and the feeling that my father had really been in the room, if only for a few moments.
Gesher Hachaim by Rabbi Tuchazinski, a’h, delineates three levels of spirit:
“The Nefesh remains hovering over the grave, the Ruach ascends to the lower Gan Eden (and to the upper Gan Eden on Shabbos and Festivals) while the Neshamoh enters the upper Gan Eden, the source from whence it came. As long as the Neshomoh fails to ascend to its source the Ruach and Nefesh cannot come to rest.”
In the last days and hours of my father’s life I kept waiting for a sign that would tell me something about the next world. The hospice care had left us with some literature about death and dying and they’d used the word “crossing over.” It said that in a person’s final hours they have one foot in both worlds. Words are part of the physical world and the dying are so deeply entrenched in crossing over to the spiritual world, that words are difficult. My father’s breathing had become very strained an,d in his weakened state, words were few. But I kept thinking it was more. I kept thinking he was seeing the Olam haEmes. Even though he believed in a ‘divine power,’ as a mathematician and scientist he wasn’t able to take that leap of faith from believing in ‘a Creator’ to believing that this Creator expected him to separate milk and meat and to not drive on Saturdays. So I worried about his Neshamoh, and waited for some kind of sign.
I’d been discussing this with my older sister who was open to such ideas, and after my father died she said, “Dad was a quick study. Whatever there is ‘to get’ – he’ll get it fast.” As I now make my way through the shloshim, I see that being an aveles is an ongoing process of discovery. I find myself holding on to my sister’s words. I hope that my father did his calculations quickly, and that his Neshamoh was able to let go of the physical world easily so that his Nefesh and Ruach werer able to ascend.
I keep reliving the moments when I thought I felt my father’s presence on Shabbos. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but I’d like to think that maybe his Ruach had stopped by my home just before ascending. I’d like to think that the scent was a whiff of Gan Eden, left behind when the gates opened and my father’s spirit crossed over. I like to think that if he could have spoken he would have said: “Thank you for honoring me this week. Thank you for bringing Mom and your sisters here to sit in low chairs and be comforted by our great people. We truly are one people. Yenachem Eschem Bsoch Shear Avelei Zion v’Yerushalyim.”

Reprinted with permission of Mishpacha Magazine

Rosh Hashanah 5775

Dear Friends,

Rosh Hashanah is almost upon us; a new year, a new beginning. The Hebrew term for ‘year’ – ‘shanah’ is similar to the word for change ‘shinui’. And interesting to note, the Hebrew term for ‘month’- ‘chodesh’, is related to the word ‘new’- ‘chadash’. We now have the opportunity to change ourselves, renew ourselves, even recreate ourselves, if you will.

Neuroscientists are reporting that due to neuroplasticity, the malleability of the brain’s organization and wiring, we do have the capabilities of changing our brains. As Sarah Chana Radcliff discusses in familyfirst Jan 29, 2014, “The trick lies in repetition- the slow methodical building of new neural structures.” We can learn to reframe situations, we can change our approach to life and life’s circumstances. Let me share with you several concepts that may help us reorient ourselves to life’s challenges.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn teaches us that we make the blessing every morning, “l’havchin bein yom u’vein lailah,”.. to acknowledge the distinction between day and night. Each night does eventually end, presenting us with a new beginning, a new potential for blessing, a better day. If today is difficult, hopefully, G-d willing, tomorrow is another day, a new day.

There is a familiar concept in Judaism, ‘Maasesh avos siman labonim’- The actions of our Forefathers are a foreshadowing for the children.. Our fathers are leading the way, teaching by example. Do you recall when Yaakov wrestled with the angel, when he fled from his home, from the wrath of his brother Esav? Yaakov refused to release the angel until the angel had blessed him. Sherrie Wise in the Ami Magazine, Aug, 2013, referring to the tragic passing of her adult son, discusses this episode and informs us..”He (Yaakov) would not let go until he was able to transform it into a blessing. So too must we emulate his obstinacy and reliance and tell ourselves, ‘I will not give up until I have extracted something positive from the pain and turned it into a blessing.’ ”

This summer was a terribly difficult one for Israel. Jews across the globe were united in their prayers. Our attention was directed towards Israel, our hopes and our dreams. Mrs. Rachel Frankel, the incredibly courageous woman, the mother of Naftali, who was killed together with his two friends, presented on Aish.com this past week. She shared that those 18 days that the boys were missing were the darkest hours, but also the most amazing hours-for she discovered the strength and unity of our people. She concludes her comments, saying, “We went searching for our boys, and we discovered ourselves.” You and I, we are part of an entity much greater than ourselves. We are part of an eternal nation, the nation of Israel. There is power, strength, a potential that lies within each of us just waiting to be tapped.

Judging our neighbors favorably is a major tenet of our Torah. Explains Eytan Kobre in Mishpacha, May 7, 2014, “Different mitzvos call upon the use of diverse aspects of ourselves, some requiring application of intellect, others physical exertion or emotional commitment. This one asks of us to employ a combination of deductive reasoning, creative thinking, and a healthy imagination to explain and to contextualize the seemingly surprising or inappropriate behavior of others.” What he presents to us is the fact that we must judge G-d favorably also! We must trust that there is an eternal plan that we are simply not privy to. As it states in Isaiah 55;8, “Lo machshevosai machshevoseichem… My thoughts are not your thoughts. “ As mere mortals, we are simply unable to comprehend life’s events. Asking why is not helpful. What is helpful is to do our utmost to strengthen our relation with G-d and with the people in our lives.

Rav Yecheskel Abramsky zt’l presents us with a powerful analogy. Our generation is comparable to a ship in stormy water, with enormous waves threatening to capsize the boat any moment. Time and time again the ship miraculously survives, whilst the passengers wait impatiently within the ship, ill at ease, rather frantic. As their long journey nears its end, the passengers began to despair, having lost hope, claiming to have no more strength to carry on. Out comes the captain who implores them to take courage. “You’ve survived for so long, the journey’s almost over, soon we’ll be in safe territory. Don’t give up now!” So we have suffered in this long exile of ours. All we have to do is hang on a bit longer, we’re almost there!!!

During these holidays, literally holy days, Birchas Kohanim, the Priestly Benediction, will be recited in our shules. These blessings, although they’re directed towards the entire general community, are recited in the singular tense. Why is that? Each of us is being blessed with personal inner peace, with equilibrium, with ‘menuchas hanefesh’, tranquility. That’s a pretty powerful blessing.

As we enter the new year, writing a new chapter in our life’s journey, I wish for all serenity and equanimity. May the new year shower us with sweetness. Ksiva v’chasima tova. May we all be written and sealed for a good year, a happy year. And may we only share the happiest of tidings.

Very best to all,
Miriam Leibermann

A thought from Miriam Leibermann

Dear Friends,

This evening is the yartzeit of a dear friend of mine. She passed away 7 yrs ago, died in a car accident. It was shocking and terribly sad for her family and close friends. I had known Susie since we were youngsters together in camp. We had been a jc counselors together when we were 18-19 yrs old. We had spent a most memorable summer together in Israel. I had spent Shabbos quite a number of times with Susie and her family and loved her dearly. And our families had summered together for close to 30 years.

Yesterday I decided that I could not, I would not, let her yartzeit go by without some sort of acknowledgement. I notified my friends and put a sign on the grocery that this evening, the 16th of Av, I’ll be hosting a gathering in Susie’s memory. We’ll keep it informal. We’ll sit in a circle and share memories. Perhaps we’ll recite a chapter of Tehillim/Psalms, or two. And then, we’ll sing.

Sing? Last week, in preparation for Tisha B’Av and trying to make sense of all that has been happening over the last couple of weeks, I read everything I could find, loads of relevant reading. I learnt that all the sorrow in the world, all the difficulties, all the challenges, stem from the same root cause; the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. Rebuilding our beloved Yerushalayim and the holy Temple, would impact every aspect of our lives. And therefore we pray several times daily, ‘Uvneh Yerushalayim Ir hakodesh…..’

There are many beautiful melodies referring to the rebuilding of Yerushalayim. Music is the language of the soul. Our souls will sing in harmony this evening. Each song is a prayer. When these are sung with feeling and intent, they can reach the Heavenly realms.

May the soul of our beloved Chaya bas Reb Yisrael Hakohen be elevated. And may she enjoy a radiant Gan Eden. And may we all soon be reunited with our loved ones, with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

Metzapim LYeshua, letter from Miriam Liebermann

Bais  Av, 5774 /July, 2014                                           B’H

Dearest Friends,

We are living through a very difficult, very painful historical period. We are witness to chasdei Hashem, with the Iron Dome intercepting and destroying numerous missiles.  We acknowledge the heightened sense of achdus that unites all of Klal YIsrael, here and in Eretz Yisrael.  However, we mourn the loss of young lives; we weep copious tears together with their families. We feel deeply for those communities whose lives have been disrupted by the barrage of missiles fired from Gaza.

A dear friend just called minutes ago. She is in the process of doing much needed renovations in her home in order to accommodate her kh growing family. Right now she is homeless, wandering from apartment to apartment, anxiously waiting for the renovations to be completed.  I thought to myself, “She is a ‘golus yid. She is in exile.” Truthfully, we’re all in exile, even if for the most part, we’re oblivious to the fact. It seems that every so often we need a reminder. My, what a reminder we’re getting right now.

Rabbi Pinchus Lipschutz, in   a recent editorial in the Yated, discusses Reb Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin’s dire situation, in prison for the 7th year. Hashem yerachem!  Each spring, when the weather would turn warm and he would once again be permitted to walk around an outdoor area, he would recall his outings with his dear children. This year however, he could no longer remember those outings. In place of those memories, were the memories of the year before, as he walked alone around the perimeter of the bare courtyard.  One can say an incredible analogy. Our souls originated in the Heavenly Spheres, in an environment of extreme holiness. Upon birth, our souls yearned to connect with their place of origin; our souls desired to attain that exalted level of holiness once again. But as the years go by, our souls, ourselves, we became acclimated to this world and no longer yearned for the Ultimate.   We find ourselves so distant that we can no longer relate to that world.

If I may take that a step further…. We are here in our exile for so long, that we are having a hard time connecting to the reality that was our Bais Hamikdash. We find it difficult to picture the Avodah, to grasp the presence of Hakadosh Boruch Hu in our lives. We don’t even know what we should be yearning for.  It seems so far removed from us.

I have a serious question for you, my dear readers. At this point in time, how can we not believe  that Moshiach is on his way?  How else  will peace ever be achieved in the Middle East? Will Hamas ever become a peace loving society? Will the lions ever sit peacefully with the lambs? Our nation has been journeying for centuries….soon, very soon, please G-d, we will reach our final destination

Never before  have our prayers been so timely, so relevant.  To quote several passages from our Shmoneh Esrei;

“Behold our affliction, take up our grievance and redeem us…Sound the great shofar for our freedom, …. Restore our judges…remove f rom us sorrow and groan and reign over us…with kindness and compassion…  And to Yerushalayim, Your city, may You return in compassion…. Be favorable..toward Your people and their prayer and return the service…May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion.. Establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness and compassion upon us….”   Each sentence cries out to us and demands our attention, particularly given the dire situation today.

Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, in a recent article in the Ami, shares with us a beautiful Maharal. The Maharal discusses the difficulty people have with transitions. The word for change, ‘shinui’, is significant. It alludes to the term ‘shnaim’, two. Why are transitions difficult? We’re comparing the two situations, the two arenas. We’re balancing both as we segue from one to the other. Says the Rabbanit, if we begin transitioning now to the Yemos Hamashiach, the transition will be easier for us as that era swiftly approaches.

Visualization has become popular today. We have to begin seeing the Yemos Hamashiach as a reality. It’s not foreign and it’s not distant from us. We’re almost there.  My dear friend Raizy mourned when her father passed away. Raizy  cried to me, “My father was so sure he would be here to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu. I can’t believe he passed away unable to fulfill his most fervent, desired wish.”   We have to live that dream. We have to propel ourselves into that mindset.

The Yated last week ran a remarkable letter, telling us of a woman who lived with this dream. When she would leave her home, she would tell her children, if Moshiach should arrive before I get home, I’ll meet you in the back of the Kosel plaza, by the sinks. This same woman  had a tambourine hanging on her kitchen wall.  When Moshiach would come, she would easily be able to grab her tambourine, and join Miriam Haneviah in singing tribute to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

May I share an interesting concept with you; At the moment of Krias Yam Suf, when the entire nation witnessed the hand of G-d first hand, the angels wanted to sing tribute. They were forbidden to do so. How could they sing tribute when G-d’s handiwork was drowning in the sea? Yet, we see that the Jews did sing. ‘Az yashir Moshe u’Bnei Yisrael…’ Our sages expound on this. The angels, dwelling above, experience the presence of Hashem intimately; they don’t need the extra dose of inspiration and encouragement.  We however, limited to this world, need all the encouragement and inspiration we can get. Hence, we, mere mortals, were permitted to sing     tribute. Such is the power of music. And such is the frailty and neediness of mankind.

I have always felt the power of music; music possesses a language of its own.  When I hear beautiful music, the melody works its magic on me, the words inspire me.  Poetry, rather than prose, has always moved me. Our songs, when sung with intent and mindfulness, can be prayers; can be blessings. The tambourine, the music anticipated, thus represents the heart and soul of a people.

Are we ready for the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu? How shall we prepare ourselves? How can we not ready ourselves?!!! My friend Rosie would tell us of her grandmother, who had a special garment set aside that she would wear in order to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

I just ordered 5 tambourines. I admit; that’s the easiest preparation. Now let me prepare my soul; that’s a lot tougher.

In the merit of righteous women, we were redeemed from Mitzrayim. And in the merit of righteous women, we will be redeemed in the future. It’s up to us!!

Metzapim l’yeshua… Awaiting salvation……

Miriam Liebermann

 

 

 

 

The Funeral by Sara Rigler

Bs”d

The Funeral

by

Sara Yoheved Rigler

Envy me. Because I was at the funeral. When I heard the news that our three boys Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad were dead, my heart broke. The funeral glued it back together.

 

The hespid for each boy was held in his hometown, followed by the burial of all three in the cemetery of Modiin, in the center of the country. We chose to go to the hespid of Naftali Fraenkel in Nof Ayalon. Scores of buses, hundreds of cars, thousands of mourners.

 

In his hespid, Naftali’s grandfather quoted the pasuk that the mitzvah of kivud av v’aym, honoring parents, is rewarded by areichas yamim, length of days. He recounted that Naftali was on his way home to spend Shabbat with his parents. He was fulfilling the mitzvah of kivad av v’aym when his young life was cut short.

 

Standing there listening, my mind jumped to Acher, the great tanna turned heretic by exactly this situation.  He heard a youth commanded by his parents to climb a tall tree to bring them dates. On the way down, the youth fell to his death. Acher concluded that the Hashem’s promise was false (chas v’chalila) and abandoned the entire Torah.

 

Naftali’s grandfather continued: “The commentaries explain that areichas yamim refers to length of days in the world of eternity, the only place where time is indeed ‘long,’ and that’s where our beloved Naftali is. We miss him, but he is in the World of Truth.”

 

I stood there in awe. Acher was one of the greatest giants of the Talmudic era, the teacher of Rebbe Meir.  And the youth whose death he witnessed was not related to him in any way. Yet his response to the death was to deny Hashem and abandon His Torah. Naftali’s grandfather is a professor and a man of intellect, and he had lost a beloved grandchild. Yet his response was an adamantine faith that could not be shaken by even this most horrific turn of events.

As speaker after speaker—Naftali’s other grandfather, his friend, his father—echoed that same absolute emunah, I thought of the quote from Rav Chaim Vital: “The avodah of a simple Jew at the end of days will be greater than the avodah of the great tzaddikim of the previous generations.”

 

And then Naftali’s mother Racheli spoke. It was she, the only fluent English speaker among the six parents, who had represented the parents at the United Nation Human Rights Council in Geneva. It was she who had rallied all of Am Yisrael into an army of prayer, kabbalas mitzvos, and unity. It was she, speaking to a group of children who told her proudly that they were praying for her son, who worried that they might face a crisis of faith. She told them,  “Children, I want to tell you something. I believe with all my heart that they will return. But whatever happens, whatever happens… Hashem is not our employee. You shouldn’t be broken if something else happens, okay? I believe that they will return quickly.”

 

Now here she stood, her hopes dashed, her worst nightmare come true, and she did what she had done throughout those wrenching eighteen days: She expressed gratitude! She thanked the soldiers and the police—a pointed reference indeed, since so many had blamed the incompetence of the police personnel (since fired) who did not immediately report the phone call from one of the abducted boys.

 

She declared: “Dear soldiers, intelligence forces, and police, we thank you very, very much. You promised that you would find them and bring them home. And you did. Also this is a great chesed. We are not taking it for granted.”

 

Rejecting the idea of “random evil,” and referring to the murderers as “hunters,” she spoke to her sons and the other boys: “HaKadosh Boruch Hu chose you as His poster children, as the opposite of them–of good, purity and love.”

 

Then, standing beside the body of her dead son, Racheli Fraenkel, her voice breaking, did something that carved an impression deep into my soul: She thanked G-d! “From the first day, we said to ourselves that even if it ends bad, HaKadosh Boruch Hu gave us an outpouring of blessings.” Through her tears, she proceeded to count her blessings: “We are so rich—with wonderful children, youths with nobility of spirit, incomparably wonderful brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, a strong and empowering community…” The ultimate example of focusing on what you have rather than what you lack! Racheli Fraenkel was not declaring the glass half full. She was peering over the edge of a deep pit and thanking Hashem for His beneficence.

 

Over the high-pitched sound of girls weeping in the rear of the crowd, she concluded: “Rest in peace, my boy. We will learn to sing without you, but we will always hear your voice inside of us.”

 

No blaming G-d, no cries of “unfair,” no accusations against Divine justice, no questioning how a good G-d could take the lives of such innocent boys, no wondering how evil could prevail. Without lessening the culpability of the murderers, the family led the thousands of mourners to accept that Hashem is in control and that this was a Divine decree that in no way diminishes all the good that Hashem does. The paste that glued my heart back together was the faith and fortitude of the Fraenkel family.

 

And this faith and fortitude was manifest, multiplied, at the burial in Modiin. Over 50,000 mourners crowded into the cemetery to escort the boys to their final resting place. All of Am Yisrael was represented: men with long payos, yeshiva bochurs with black hats, masses of knitted kippas, young and old, men and women, religious and not-so. Jews came from Eilat at the southern tip of the country and from Naharia on the northern border. The cemetery was not planned to accommodate such a massive crowd. Its single, narrow access road, winding up and down hills and through forests, had no room for hundreds of busses, thousands of cars. So everyone had to traipse from the main road for forty minutes in the scorching sun to reach the burial site. A mighty river of Jews flowed along the road in the sweltering heat, making their way not to a music festival or political demonstration, but to the funeral of three holy martyrs.

 

When my bottle of water was exhausted, and climbing up the next hill seemed more than I could handle, I asked a policeman standing by the road if he had water. He offered me his own bottle. No, I told him, just pour a little water into my bottle. He filled my bottle, depleting his own. And that’s how it was throughout.

 

The unity forged by our ordeal was evident throughout the funeral. Several tents offered shade. An old man with a long white beard was feeling faint. Someone offered him a backpack to sit on, and a policeman eased him down to sit. A man on a motorcycle distributed small bottles of water. Parched people crowded around him. The last bottle went to a tall young man. Noticing a middle-aged woman behind him, he handed the bottle to her and left. She saw three girls with empty bottles and poured half of the new bottle into one of theirs.

 

Due to the traffic jams surrounding Modiin, the burial started more than an hour late. An overwhelming scene: 50,000 Jews standing in the heat and not a complaint or cross word.

 

Finally, the voice over the loudspeakers announced the burials, calling one name at a time as the bodies were lowered into their graves. Then the Sephardi Chief Rabbi recited the Tzadok HaDin, the “justification of the judgment.” His words rang out over the crowd, and no heart protested: “The Rock, His work is perfect, because all His ways are just, G-d of faith, without iniquity. He is righteous and fair.”

 

Then the three fathers recited Kaddish, and 50,000 Jews responded in a loud roar that reached to heaven, “May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

 

We had come to bury three innocents butchered by evil men, and everyone accepted, painfully accepted, that this was a decree from Hashem, Who is just and right. Mi k’amcha Yisrael! Who is like Am Yisrael! Such faith! Such fortitude!

 

On my hike back to our car, I passed a large, hand-painted sign hung on the back of a bus: “Am hanetzach lo m’fached m’haderech arucha. THE ETERNAL NATION IS NOT AFRAID OF THE LONG JOURNEY.”

 

That said it all.

Reprinted with permission from Ami-Living, July 9, 2014

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A Cry….by Yaffa Ganz

This continues to be  a difficult summer.  A complicated one. With all the difficulties, life goes on. There are weddings and births, thank G-d.  There is a great deal of joy to be derived from our relationships with family and friends, and  immense pleasure to be had from the natural beauty of this universe. Yet, there is immense pain.  We, the  Jewish people, are one entity. When one aches, we all ache.  When the land and the people of Israel are threatened, Jews across the globe are threatened.  We will present various pieces that will hopefully help us to deal with the turmoil and the pain.  Metzapim l’yeshua, anxiously awaiting salvation, ML

A Cry…..by yaffa ganz

 

Words are gifts from G-d but sometimes

there are no words.

They are consumed in the cauldron of fire

which burns in the heart.

Rage, revenge, the desire to destroy –

these too have their place.

Amalek must be erased.

 

Not forever shall we be sheep.

Judah is a roaring lion, destined

to sanctify Your name.

But surrounding the burning fire in my heart,

lies a suffocating blanket

of sadness and sorrow

so heavy

I cannot breath.

 

Help us Hashem.

Give us the wisdom to be wise,

to do what should be done.

Empower us

to sanctify, protect and avenge

Your People and Your Name.

Embrace and comfort us

In our time of sorrow.

A personal note from Miriam Liebermann

Dear Friends,

 

This is a difficult time for all, with the situation in Israel so precarious. We follow the news carefully, recite our Tehillim with great fervor, hoping and praying for the best.

 

These last weeks have been an emotional whirlwind for all of us. I keep reading.  So desperate am I for words of encouragement and strength. And I keep praying.

 

Last week was particularly stressful. My husband and youngest son, Naftali, were scheduled to fly to Israel on Wednesday night. The following Sunday would be the first yartzeit and the Hakamas Hamatzeiva of my  father in law, on Har Hazeisim. The missiles were flying. Har Hazeisim scared me. I was not myself, but was anxious and quite frankly, terrified.

 

Naftali was scheduled to begin camp this week in Jerusalem.  The camp director had assured me that they had consulted with the proper Rabbinic authorities, as well as various security agencies, and that our boys would be safe and secure. They would revamp the itinerary and certainly not venture to any locale that may be G-d forbid precarious.

 

My husband and Naftali did fly Wed evening. Thank G-d, they arrived safely. All went well on Har Hazeisim; there was plenty of security on the mountain as it was also the yartzeit of the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh. By now, my dear husband is back in NY and  our dear Naftali has begun camp in Yerushalayim. Camp did officially begin. Out of approximately 60 campers, only 3 cancelled. As an insider, I think to myself, what a group of courageous mothers. Then I realize, it’s not necessarily courage, it’s faith.  All was decreed already on Rosh Hashana last year. All was sealed many moons ago.  The same G-d who protects our boys up in the  Catskill mountains, protects our boys in Yerushalayim.

 

I’m praying that our chayalim need not enter Gaza on foot. I just watched a moving video. Before leaving Jerusalem for Gaza, a large squad of soldiers came to the Kotel to pray. They marched into the kotel plaza   singing, “Anachnua maaminim bnai maaminim…..We are  believers, the son of believers, and we  have no one to rely on, other than our Father in heaven.”

 

We have just begin the 3 weeks, our traditional period of mourning, and mourn we will. We mourn the passing of three innocent, young lives. We mourn the destruction of our Temple, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the gifts Hashem continuously bestows upon us.

 

May Hashem take care of all, bring back all our boys safely and securely to the embrace of their loving homes. May Hashem  erect the long awaited succah of peace.

 

Hoping to share only happy tidings with you all.  Miriam Liebermann

A letter from Miriam Liebermann, July 8, 2014

Dear Friends,

It’s merely days since we heard the tragic news, the death of these 3 young, precious boys. Over the last several weeks, seeing their picture in the paper over and over again, we all felt connected. They were our sons, our brothers, our nephews and our neighbors, all rolled into one. They were young, full of spirit and life with a bright future ahead of them. And they were cut off, in a frightening, horrendous fashion. How does one cope? How does one make peace with this painful reality?  Tears have a language of their own. Silence can be eloquent and moving and meaningful in its own way.

 

And yet, our publications are replete with moving articles, divrei chizuk, words of healing, of encouragement. I am not wise enough. I cannot offer my own words, for like all of you, I am overwhelmed and overcome with grief. But I have been reading. I have been listening to our teachers and mentors who are guiding us. More than ever we need their words of wisdom and encouragement.   We dare not surrender to despair. Rather, we must gather together and strengthen ourselves even further. This tragedy must galvanize us, inspire us to reach out to one another, to reach out to G-d.

 

The history of our people is not a simple one. We have had more than our share of tragedy. This year, the three weeks  are beginning early… our mourning has already begun. The loss of  Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach is connected to our past.  To grasp their loss, we must appreciate Jewish history in its entirety. Says Chief Rabbi David Lau, “..The boys were murdered al kiddush Hashem, only because they were Jews. They join a long chain of pure martyrs from our nation..”

 

The Hamodia, July 2, 2014,  published a separate section dedicated to these 3 young men. I will share with you some of the writings. It opens with an incredible account told about Gilad Shaar. Upon turning Bar Mitzva, Gilad, when offered a special gift, asked to meet with HaRav Dovid Grossman. “Abba, Ima, all I want for my bar mitzvah is one thing, to meet with HaRav Grossman. That would be the best gift I could get.”

 

The meeting was arranged. Gilad sat down with the Rav and asked, “Kvod HaRav, how does one merit to do Chessed (kindness)? How is it possible to attain chassadim on a high level? How can one be mekadesh Shem Shamayim, sanctify G-d’s name?”

 

HaRav Grossman sat with this young boy for an hour and forty minutes explaining just how chessed should be performed in our generation, and how to merit to be mekadesh Hashem, how to sanctify the name of G-d.

 

Ultimately, Gilad was ‘mekadesh shem Shamayim’. Together with Naftali and Eyal, inadvertently he initiated an outpouring of prayer and unity. For 18 days the entire Jewish nation joined together, begging, pleading for the safety and return of these young men.  Says a counselor in Camp Kaylie, “These three neshamos, souls,  in their death accomplished more than people do in a lifetime.”

 

Rav Chaim Kohn, in this Hamodia supplement,  elaborates on the term ‘Hashem yinkom damam’, May Hashem avenge their blood.

Even if the murderers would themselves be killed, this would not be the vengeance that the Torah is referring to.  Says Rav Kohn, “Real vengeance is something else entirely; it is the nikmas Hashem that occurs when the forces of iniquity are eradicated from the world. When a Yid is alive, he is a walking Kiddush Hashem. When a Yid is killed, it is a time of hester panim, concealment of G-d’s presence, and his murder creates a chillul Hashem.”

 

“The nikmas Hashem we so desperately  want and need isn’t about striking back at killers, but of creating a Kiddush Hashem in place of a  chillul Hashem. It is about meriting an exhibition of Heavenly kindness, and destroying the powers of impurity through a revelation of the greatness of Hashem.”

 

Rav Yochonon Donn points out that there is comfort in the fact that as we stormed the gates of heaven with prayer, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were already “looking down form their high perch in Heaven and smiling, always smiling…Smiling at the wave of prayers that were recited.. Smiling at the unity their saga engendered.”

 

Harav Zev Leff impresses upon us that even when our prayers are not answered, our desperate requests are not fulfilled, our prayers still have great merit.  The Maharal Diskins asks: Why did Hashem allow Avraham Avinu to pray for Sedom, if Hashem knew that ultimately the city would be totally destroyed?”  He responds that these prayers of our patriarch, Avraham Avinu, created a spiritual reservoir that has benefited our people eternally, even though it did not accomplish what Avrhama Avinu intended to accomplish.

 

States Rav Zev Leff:

Let us be proud that in times of tragedy, we use the wake-up call to unite, to do acts of kindness, to better ourselves.

Let us be proud that we are a nation of merciful, bashful and kind people…

 

We read of the faith of these three sets of parents. Their statements of trust in G-d, their belief in a higher purpose in life, must vibrate within our beings.

 

May Hashem comfort these families, and all of Klal Yisrael, amongst all those who mourn for Tzion and Yerushalayim.  And may we merit to feel His benevolent presence, His greatness, in our lives.

 

Miriam Liebermann

 

 

 

 

p.s. I’ve recently written up a list of resources available to the general public that I will now post. There is so much encouragement and inspiration waiting for us. Do take advantage.

A Glimpse Inside by Raezelle Lazar

A Glimpse inside (of the Tsfat Conference evening performance)

By: Raezelle Bookey

I push open the heavy glass door of Beit Hatavshil and enter into the brightly lit room. I am 20 minutes late for the play that is being performed. Elisheva plays the writer, sitting at her desk behind her computer, surrounded by packages of crackers and rice cakes. She dialogues with the family of characters that she has created: one mother and two daughters. She wants to inject some kind of conflict, some tension, into the story line. The characters do not agree to accept upon themselves the hardship that she wants to inflict. However, the writer does not want to punish. She does not have evil intent, She does not intend to inflict hardships. She wants, rather, to develop the character and family by bringing out their strengths, and her only way to do this is through tension and drama of some kind. She has compassion for her characters and wants to work together with them.

I think of Hashem as I watch Elisheva behind her computer, controlling her characters’ lives. They plead and beg her to do it this way and not that way- anything but that. The writer, the creator of the story and of the characters, knows that only with conflict and hardship will her story be  story- will she be able to develop them to their potential. She truly has compassion.

If this writer feels compassion for her characters, how must G-d “feel” when He gives us sorrow? Do I see His compassion and His love, the necessity of life’s dramas, as clearly as the writer sees it in her story? How “hard” must it be for G-d to give His creations conflicts and hardships; to watch us bemoan our fate; to fight reality?

I feel a new awareness of G-d’s love and compassion: an opportunity for pause and for wonderment at His relationship with us.

I push open the heavy glass door of Beit Hatavshil and walk home.

Reprinted with permission from the Soferet Newsletter, Issue #13