Ki Yachol Nuchal!

New olah; mom and wife. In small ways, every day, trying to rectify the error in judgement of my zaydies, the meraglim. "See these big grapes? We can make really big wine!"

Archive for the ‘ahavat Yisrael’ Category

Shavuot Song: Ahavat Yisrael

Posted by rutimizrachi on 27/05/2009

Yom revi’i, 4 Sivan 5769, Erev Erev Shavuot.

My name is Ruth.

Whither thou goest, I will go.

I have been seeking a place among this Holy People my whole life.

I have been included  — warmly, lovingly, laughingly, approvingly — lo these twenty years..

There is nothing so sweet as seeking a home for one’s neshama, and finding it.

There is nothing so satisfying as hungering for a thing, and attaining it.

The love I am permitted to have for every Jew comes from wanting it so before acquiring it.

This is what I would share with you.

This is what it can be to be a ger among Hashem’s Holy Nation.

Even born among this people, you can fall in love with it — just by making yourself into a ger.

Where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d.

Thank you, Hashem, for bringing me home to Your People, and to Your Land!

Shavuot:  the holiday of the giving of the Torah
Neshama:  soul
Ger:  convert

Posted in ahavat Yisrael, convert, ger, Shavuot | 4 Comments »

Geula on My Mind

Posted by rutimizrachi on 22/03/2009

Yom rishon, 26 Adar 5769.

A friend sent me the following remarkable letter.

Dear Friends,

There are no words for the gratitude and awe Bracha Elisheva and I feel for your incredible tefilla and zrizus for mitzvahs.

When this all began, I wanted to know what the spiritual implications of the disease are.  As it turns out, Rav Avraham Schorr writes in the Lekach Levav that Cancer’s nature is for cells to grow seemingly without reason, to the point that they kill the cells around them.  He says that this is the essence of Sinas Hinam, baseless hatred.  When people do not maintain an Ayin Tov, a good eye, for one another, they end up hating each other for no reason.

It seems fitting, then, that the tikkun for this insanity is Ahavas Hinam, love without reason.

Anyone who has observed the tremendous love between friends and community across the globe will see that this tikkun is taking place as we speak.  From where I sit, the experience is indescribable, and feels at times as if we’re living the lives of two other people–not ourselves.

In any event, please know that your love and support is well needed and welcome in our home, as are you.

Good Shabbos,


Cancer is a terrifying disease.  Is it just my impression, or have you also noticed that it seems to be growing like – well – like a cancer???

I am moved and shaken by what Jordan shares with us, in his quote from Rav Schorr.

Many years ago, I had a chavruta.  She came to my door, the guest of a guest.  She sported a black leather mini-skirt and shockingly red, very short hair.  Only much later did I learn that her costume was part of her campaign of shaking her fist at the Malach haMavet (the Angel of Death).  She had been fighting cancer for 18 years; and up until now, it looked like she just might win.

We began to learn together, because she struck me as very intelligent, and I answered her questions without glossing over anything I didn’t understand.  Over the year we learned together, she made me prove that I really believed everything I said I believed.  It was an education and a pleasure to watch her grow in her respect for the concepts in the Torah.

As Marla got sicker and sicker, the community around her said Tehillim on her behalf.  Her favorite perek was 51, which spoke about the kind of repentance she hoped to attain before she left the world. 

In her last battle, she taught me more about love and giving from a Torah perspective than I had yet learned from texts or even from my beloved rabbis.

Right now, I have a friend who is fighting cancer.

I have only been privileged to meet her in person once; but through her writing, I have come to know and to respect her.  She writes a blog sharing what it is like for a young mother, living in Israel, to fight this terrible disease day to day.  She calls it “Coffee and Chemo,” in honor of the friends who come to sit with her during her chemotherapy, to take her mind off of the rigors of the experience.  RivkA (with a capital A at the end of her name) ends each of her blog posts with the words “Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.”  It feels like a great honor to be among the many readers who have added RivkA to their prayers.  May we share great news!

Often I hear from well-meaning individuals their concern that the sufferer of the disease is somehow to “blame” for the disease.  But I have empirical evidence that this is not the case.  Rather, this is a malady that we collectively must suffer, perhaps as a message that we must get our collective act together.  I believe that the victim is merely “carrying the ball for the team.”  Two years ago, a dear friend died of a particularly virulent form of cancer.  “Tante Dina,” as we all called her, was a very special neshama.  She gave joy to countless children, even though she was never blessed with children of her own.  She added music and dance to the world.  She was always there – more often than not anonymously – to help those in need.  Most characteristic of all, she refused to ever hear a breath of lashon hara about any person.  Tante Dina was the last person on Earth to be punished for the individual commission of the sin of baseless hatred.

We all have examples of people we know who are suffering from this dreaded disease.  The question, as the Israelis say, is “Ma la’asot?”  What is one to do?

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo offers an insight in his book For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People: Essays and Studies on Israel, Jews and Judaism.  In his chapter entitled “Jewish Tradition and the Intifada,” Rabbi Cardozo suggests the following:

“Israel should start a national campaign to promote the commandments between human beings.  National outreach programs that use radio and television broadcasts, websites, email, CDs and educational videos could reach hundreds of thousands of people.  We should flood Israeli society and the Jewish world at large with uplifting literature, presented in an attractive way in order to inspire people to show the highest sensitivity to the feelings of our fellow human beings.  Advertisements on billboards at bus and train stations and in shopping centers sponsored by major industries, should call on readers to be more patient with each other, greet passerby with a smile, show courtesy, help wherever possible and make it a matter of honor and pride to be a real mensh.”

Any grassroots project has to start small.  But if something as small as the smiley face of the 1970s could make a big impact, surely acts of kindness within Jewish society could start small, and snowball into an avalanche of decency.  My husband always says to our sons – all very different individuals – that “world peace begins at the Eastman table.”  Each family, each individual, can make being nice to our fellow Jews a personal campaign.  If we truly want the Geula, the Great and Final Redemption, isn’t treating each person well just as important as the other mitzvot G-d asks of us?  If you knew that being patient with the person on line ahead of you had the potential to kill two million cancer cells, would it be worth it?  If you knew that treating a harried bureaucrat with compassion would save the life of a Jew, would you give it a try?

Rabbi Cardozo quotes the Talmud (Yoma 9a, b) to drive home the point.

“While the first Temple was destroyed because of idol worship and sexual immorality, the second was destroyed because of sinat chinam – groundless hatred – even though many people studied Torah then… the construction of the second Temple took only several years… Yet once the second Temple was destroyed two thousand years ago, no third one as yet been built.  This shows us that God considers groundless hatred between fellow Jews much worse than idol worship or sexual immorality.” 

There are women’s groups springing up all over Israel whose focus is to increase Ahavat Yisrael collectively.  May their efforts be crowned with success.  May we help to bring about a refua shelaima m’heira for Bracha Elisheva bat Kayla and RivkA bat Teirtzel, among all of our precious, holy cholim.

Tefilla:  prayer
Zrizus for mitzvahs:  alacrity in perfoming G-d’s commandments, as well as good deeds in general
Tikkun:  repair, remedy
Chavruta:  study partner
Tehillim:  Psalms
Perek:  chapter
Tante:  Aunt
Neshama:  soul
Lashon hara:  gossip; evil, hurtful talk
Mensh:  decent, upright human being
Ahavat Yisrael:  love of a (fellow) Jew — It is understood that the process of loving the world starts small, like a pebble dropped into a pool of water, and that the ripples eventually will spread throughout the world.
Refua shelaima m’heira:  complete and speedy recovery
Cholim:  sick people

Posted in ahavat Yisrael, cancer, Geula | 6 Comments »

Sunday Sojourn #2: Gaza War Inspired, Part 2

Posted by rutimizrachi on 14/01/2009

Yom revi’i, 18 Tevet 5769.

So, where was I, David?

Oh, yes.  The fellow who was “giving his father a lift” dropped us off across the road from the base.  After a short walk, directed by our dear daughter-in-law, we were outside the gate.  In a few minutes, my son’s familiar frame with his “conquering the world” stride came into view.

We had a terrific visit with him.  He looks good.  He is strong; and his confidence and sense of humor are intact.  Baruch Hashem!  May he come out of this “adventure” whole and healthy.  I could talk about him for a long time…  but this letter is about the angels we met, coming and going.

As the sun was sinking, our brief two-hour visit had to end.  We made our farewells, with hugs and smiles, and only a few tears. 

At the bus stop, we told Chana we would see her later.  “We’re going to see if we can find the camera.”  Yes, David.  My husband and I are a little bit crazy. But cameras cost money, and a quest is a quest.  We just had to try…

We wandered down the road for a bit, not sure of the distance.  After a pleasant hike, a young father offered us a ride.  His little boy’s face is the “wallpaper” on his cell phone.  He lives in the kibbutz nearby.  Former Golani, he expects to be called up soon.  “Where’s your car?” he asked.  His question made sense.  The only people who would be walking out here are folks whose car broke down, right?  We explained.  He found us amusing.  But he could not leave two people walking on the road; so he took us as far as he could.  Brachot were exchanged – for the long, healthy lives of his children, for the successful homecoming of our soldier son.
It was getting dark; and I really had given up on finding the camera.  Many cars had gone by without stopping.

And then you came along, David.

Of course you wanted to hear what the heck we were doing here.  We explained the whole story, to include the search for the camera.  You asked why we made aliyah.  Let me tell you the best reason, David.  I don’t know what your plans were for the evening.  But you spent at least 45 minutes with us.  You drove us to the place in the road at which we had lost the camera, near the “camel crossing” sign.  You shined your headlights on the road, so that we could look for white grocery bags.  You let us stop, three different times, to examine white bags by the roadside.  Each time, we told you that you had done enough; but you persisted.
The last bag had my rocks in it…  but no camera.  You waited as we searched the area, using your headlamps to light the side of the road, until we were sure it was not there.  “Thai workers drive up and down the side of the road, very slowly, to see what people may have dropped,” you explained.  As if to illustrate your point, a Thai went by on his bicycle at that moment.  We gave up on the camera.  But my husband was gratified at having found the bag with the rocks.  “See?  At least we know it wasn’t crazy to try.”  He was almost as happy as if he had found the object of our search.

I was happy to have encountered another angel.

You used your cell phone to check the bus schedule for us.  We didn’t even ask you to do that!  “There are no more buses,” you said.  “I’ll take you to the best place to tremp.”  Unbelievable.  May you have many brachot, David.  May you discover for yourself why living in Israel truly is the best way to spend your life!

Still, the night was filled with angels.  There were the two soldiers and the “hilltop youth” at the trempiada.  “Don’t take that car,” one of the soldiers warned.  “He’s an Arab.  You can tell by the black windows.”  Got it.  When a “kosher” car stopped, the “hilltop youth” gave up his place in line, and offered us the ride.  “Good luck!” they called after us.

This car felt like a tiny spaceship.  Very cool little car, with all the latest gadgets.  The Gen-X driver wore driving gloves and a Bluetooth.  He was constantly checking the news, roaming from station to station.  I could see that he was very into the drama of the war, of traveling in the south.  “The main road isn’t good.  No miklatot – no bunkers, in case of the ‘tzeva adom.’  I’ll take you to a bus stop in Ofakim with a miklat close by.”  As he dropped us off on a well-lighted street, he pointed to the bunkers on either side of the street, very serious.  “If you hear the warning, go there quickly.”  Off went the angel in his spaceship.

We enjoyed the silly, night-time teen life in Ofakim.  Young girls playing karaoke on their cell phones, singing and flirting with friends who passed by.  Yes, if they were our daughters, we would be freaking out (which is the main reason G-d didn’t give us daughters, I think).  But since they were just beautiful young Jews, filled with life and normalcy and a complete disregard for the serious adult world enveloping them, we could just take pleasure being near their exuberance.  It was a comfortably cool night; and when I remarked on the worrisome lack of rain, our young soldier’s father reminded me that sleeping outside in a tent, and fighting the enemy, are best done on rain-free, cool nights.  I made a silent prayer that Hashem would fill the Kinneret only after our soldiers’ work is finished, may it be soon.

We reached Jerusalem at around 9 PM.  Realizing that we had not eaten since breakfast, Avi offered to take me out for a bite of lamb at Burger’s Bar in the tachana.  We asked if they took credit cards, since we had never made it to an ATM machine.  The new employee said yes; so we placed our order.  Another young man came out of the kitchen to prepare the food; and I offered him my credit card.  “We don’t take.  No place.  See?”  He pointed enigmatically at the cash register…  Avi and I had a brief moment of panic; and then Avi went to get money from the machine.  “The teller is unable to complete your request at this time.”  [Note: refer to earlier note:  traveling on Sunday is not always the best idea…]

“Ehhhhhh…  we don’t have any money; and the caspomat is not working for us today.”

“Don’t worry.  Pay me tomorrow,” said the young man behind the counter.

Embarrassed, I accepted his offer, as the food was already on the grill, marveling at the “only in Israel” nature of the fact that he wasn’t disgusted by our lack of funds. We sat down to eat, wondering why our reasonably flush US bank account was letting us down.  “I’ll come in tomorrow, first thing, and pay this,” Avi said to me.

Our 14th angel arrived in the form of our landlord’s daughter, who was here for a friend’s birthday party.  She loaned us the money to pay the bill.

As I was paying, I explained to the delighted young man behind the counter:  “I just want you to understand what kind of day it’s been.  We went to visit our son, who is in Gaza.”

(“Golani?  G’dud Shteim-Esray? [12th Battalion?]  Wow!” he interrupted.  I didn’t mind.  The hero image of the Barak Brigade helps to ease the fear.  A little.)

“Nu?  So we had all these angels help us up and down the road.  You and the lady who paid for dinner are just the latest.  What makes a Jew an angel?  That he has a desire — no, a need — to help another Jew.  This is the best place in the world to live!”

This slender kid could have looked cynical in another setting.  He said to me, with deep sincerity in his dark brown eyes:  “Thank you for saying it.  I know what you say is true.  But thank you for saying it.  It is the best place.  You are a neshama tova.”

Our friend Marc says that if you scratch to just beneath the surface of any Jew in Israel, male or female, old or young, you will find a Jewish mother, who is dying to help you out.  We have found this to be true.

We took the 10:30 PM bus back to Neve Daniel.  Just so that the day wouldn’t end in a boring way, the gate was broken, and the new driver was afraid to take his bus through the narrow opening.  Let off at the bottom of the hill, Avi said to me, “I have been good all day.  We have walked miles; and I have kept a remarkably good attitude.  But now I am going to piss and moan my way up this hill.  Fine.  Just fine.”  I laughed, because I know him, and I know he was mostly kidding (although he really was looking forward to “slipper time”).

Just then, the 15th angel arrived.  Our landlady drove up.  “Would you like a ride?” she asked, in her musical and clear school-teacher’s Hebrew.

Would we ever!

David, I won’t pretend that any of the encounters we had today would not have happened in Chutz l’Aretz.  Hashem made beautiful people; and He placed them all over the globe.

What makes the country of your birth so special is that people like this cross our path every day.  And not just once or twice a day.  Some days, one is blessed to meet 15 angels in 15 hours.

Posted in ahavat Yisrael, aliyah, only in Israel | 8 Comments »