Houston, Tefillin in Plattsburgh, and Chai Elul

News on September 19th, 2017 No Comments

I am pleased to announce that the student fundraiser for Houston hurricane relief has raised $183.57! Queens College students are awesome, we love you! Tzipah and I matched that amount, for a total of $367.14.

The funds were donated to Chabad of Houston, who are on the ground, providing food, supplies and hugs to all those who have been affected by the storm. Share good news!

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When I was at the bris of Elisheva and Avi’s son on Wednesday, my phone rang (don’t worry, it was on vibrate so as not to disturb others). It was a close friend of mine, who is also a QC alum. He’s an early riser, although I don’t usually get calls at 7:14am. Since it was not an appropriate time or place for a phone conversation, I sent a text that I could not talk at the moment. He texted back:

“Sorry to bother you. Got stuck last night in Buffalo, on a plane now to Plattsburgh.. don’t have tefillin with me, can you help?”

So I texted Rabbi Avrohom Rimler, my friend and colleague at SUNY Plattsburgh, who responded within a minute or so that he would be happy to meet up with my friend and bring him a pair of tefillin.

A few hours later, my friend called me again. He told me that he had been upstate on business, and had a flight booked to return home on Tuesday evening. The flight was cancelled, so he booked another flight, which was also cancelled. He ended up staying in Buffalo overnight, and since he did not expect to be there in the morning, he didn’t have his tefillin with him. The following day he needed to be at a business meeting in Plattsburgh, so now he flew straight there — but without his tefillin.

I gave them each others numbers, and they arranged a time and place to meet. The tefillin were wrapped, everyone was happy, and my friend shared a short thought that Rabbi Rimler told him, so here goes:

Why is Rosh Hashanah celebrated on the sixth day of creation? That’s right, RH is not actually the first day, but the sixth!

Adam & Eve were created on the sixth day; before humans inhabited the world, it was empty. The world itself is beautiful, but we celebrate Rosh Hashana on the day that humans were created to show that the true greatness of creation is that we were placed here to change it for the good!

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Tzipah and I were saddened to hear of the passing of NYS Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz. We were fortunate to have Michael as our guest speaker at Pink Shabbat last October. This year’s Pink Shabbat dinner will be dedicated in his memory. He was the kind of person that as soon as you met him, you knew he was your friend. May his memory be a blessing.

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This Shabbat is “Chai Elul” (the 18th of Elul), the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe (first Chabad Rebbe). The Baal Shem Tov taught how we should serve Hashem, and the Alter Rebbe taught how to actually do it. Alternatively, the Baal Shem Tov placed a ladder for anyone and everyone to ascend; the Alter Rebbe showed how to climb it. 

What is the ladder?

The Baal Shem Tov focused on three things: Love of Hashem, love of the Torah and love of the people of Israel.

Yet in truth, these three things are actually one and the same.

If one is lacking in love of Israel, this is an indication that one is also lacking in love of Torah and love of Hashem.

Even if we may have been lacking in any of these three areas during the past year, Chai Elul strengthens us in these three loves. Moreover, when we reflect on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe — who both entered the world on the same day of Chai Elul — we come to an intellectual recognition and an emotional feeling that it is impossible to separate between these three loves; they are intrinsically bound one with the other, as the Zohar states, “Israel, Torah and G-d are one.”

Shabbat Shalom,

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