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BO' 5784

01/18/2024 05:29:50 PM

Jan18

Dear Chevra Shaas, Shearith Israel, et al

* First of all. mazal tov to the Haimovici family on the engagement of Yehonatan to a young lady from Teaneck (!), Chaiy Bodek.

I have returned from a wonderful week in Israel: amazing people and eye-opening experiences, and yet, the constant threat of danger in the background.

After all, this week’s parasha is called “bo’” meaning “Come,” and I felt the Land of Israel beckoning for us to come.

I was part of a “mission,” sponsored by the Jewish Link, a community paper of Northern NJ [hmmm.. how come the CJN shut down during and after Covid, just after I had paid for a two-year subscription, whereas the Jewish papers here kept on printing?]

The trip was organized by Nina Glick, whom you may remember from the years she lived in Montreal, and had been a very active member of the Jewish community. I record below just a few of many impressions:

Our base was the Kings Hotel in Jerusalem, which we shared with many evacuees from Shlomi, a town of about 7,000, in the western Galil, just a couple of kilometres from the Lebanon border. They have been living at the hotel for the past several months. Most of the residents to whom I spoke tried to exude a feeling of confidence. I especially remember an encounter in the elevator, when I asked a young mother how she manages the transition from her home to a room in a hotel. An elderly woman who was in the elevator forcefully commented “we cannot complain; we are doing what has to be done, and we know we shall return to our homes at the proper time.”

The children were delighted when I distributed one evening the “handy famm” measuring toy designed, manufactured and donated by my son Yehoshua.

One of our excursions took us to the lookout at Neve Daniel, where we could see the Mediterranean if we looked to the west, and the hills of Moab (i.e. Jordan) to the east.  This brought to life the vulnerability of Israel more than any textbook. [Israel's width at its narrowest point is only 10 km.] We depend on the strength of the IDF, and the mercies of HaShem.

We had all seen pictures of the destruction at Kibbutz Beeri on Oct. 7, but seeing the kibbutz in person brought out the savagery of Hamas more than any picture on the internet. "HaShem yikkom damam."

I have recited many times the memorial prayer, “e-l malei rahamim,” over the years, but I don’t remember any time emotion welled up inside of me to the extent that it did when I recited that prayer at the spot of the massacre where hundreds were killed on Oct 7.

Another personal emotional moment for me was when I led mincha payers on 2 Shevat, my father’s yahrzeit at the famous Heichal Shlomo shul in Jerusalem.

On Shabbat morning, I davened at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, where I was joined by our friend Prof. Ron Gehr, his son-in-law, and grandson. Ron attested to the hazzan’s musical ability, and I was impressed by the Torah reader’s precision.

We had come to bring encouragement to the Israelis. And so, we helped to prepare meals for soldiers, bolster the economy by shopping on Ben Yehuda, eating in restaurants, etc. [And by the way, you can buy Montreal bagels at "Muffin Boutique" on Ben Yehuda, run by the Richlers, formerly of CSL].  And so it was a nice feeling when, as I was standing in line for security before boarding the plane back to USA, the guard said to me in Hebrew, "we appreciate very much your coming." But really, though we came to encourage, we wound up being encouraged by the strength and unity of the Israelis.

Only on El Al:  When they served breakfast, I asked the stewardess if the roll was bread or was it cake. She actually understood why I was asking, and gave an answer demonstrating halachik reasoning.

There is much more that I am omitting for lack of space.

We pray for peace in Israel, refuah sheleimah for the wounded, and return of the hostages.

Shabbat shalom, shalom `al Yisrael,

Rabbi Menahem White

Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784