– My husband and I have marveled at the tremendous honor (Zechut) it was to be involved, even in our own small way, in what we both call “The Howie’s Story”. This actually happened a dozen years ago, in one of our very first Succah’s. We hope you will enjoy it in your Succah!
Twelve years ago I was an undergraduate student at NYU and it was precisely the Fall semester. As many Orthodox students in post-secondary institutions can attest, the Fall semester necessarily means a discussion with professors and group work partners about missed classes and due-date extensions. Upon informing the group that I would have to be out for the holiday of Succot, a fellow student asked me to tell her a little about Succot. She was interested in Judaism because her boyfriend was Jewish, although, she added, he was completely anti-Judaism. After giving my classmate a ‘readers-digest’ version of the holiday, I found myself inviting her and her boyfriend to join us for a meal so she could see for herself what it was all about. She seemed elated and accepted, although she was skeptical that her boyfriend would be joining us.
And indeed, the next day after class, I ran into my friend and her boyfriend. He was, as described, anti-all-things-Judaism and a bit outrageous and combative. He stood there with his long dreadlocks and proudly showed me his tattoos. He pontificated about his beliefs and the melding of this philosophy and that theory until I was looking for ways to make a quick exit. Oh boy, I thought, what have I gotten into and what am I subjecting my family to by inviting this person into our Succah.
I slowly came to learn that Howie had actually come from a charadi family in Israel. His family life was not filled with the greatest of experiences. His upbringing involved both physical and mental abuse at the hands of a demanding father. He told us of the heavy -handed religion of an intolerant and derisive father. Howie had barely made it out alive and I was sad for the young boy who was now the young man before me.
Well, eventually Succot rolled around and our special guests arrived with a bit of curiosity (on my classmates part), and cynicism on her boyfriend’s part. At first, it was a little tense as Howie tried once more to wax poetic the joys of Buddhism, or individualism or some such ism. At this point I must acknowledge my husband’s wonderful demeanor and warmth. He did not engage, argue and antagonize our guests. He simply was himself; kind, honest and steadfast in his beliefs. We managed, however, to truly enjoy the meal and did our best to be hospitable and demonstrate ‘Hachnasat Orchim’. As Howie and his girlfriend left our Succah that day, we were sure that that was probably the last Succah he would ever enter. We were wrong.
Approximately four years later, My Husband and I were in for the surprise of our lives. It was a cold winter day and we had all gathered at my brother’s house for a Torah-dedication. The house was filled to the brim with all kinds of Yiddim, from Sephardic to Ashkenaz, from the ‘some-what’ observant to a large group of Chabad Chassid’s who danced and sang at the wonderful occasion. As I watched the young men dance, I noticed one Chassidic young man, with long peyot and black hat, was headed for me and seemed to have something to say. I was taken aback. What could this ‘bachor’ have to say to me? His first words…, “Do you know who I am?”
I probably do not have to tell you who that Chassid was after all. As it turned out, Howie told my husband what had transpired after his visit to our Succah. He shared with us that our meal, in the Succah that day, was his very first positive experience with Judaism. Howie said he had never seen truly observant families talk with respect, love and warmth as he had seen that day. He understood the religion of his youth was a corruption of something he had been denied. And so his long journey back began, slowly but surely. He thanked us as we stood dumb-founded at what we had been privileged to witness.
As we sit in our Succah today, you and I, let us be thankful for those that have returned and be hopeful for those that have not. It is during this Yom-Tov that I often think of Howie and wonder why Hashem let my husband and I be a part of his story. Whatever the reason(s), it is as if we are still standing in that living room with a young Chassidic man, his dreads transformed to peyot, waiting before us to recognize him. We are still dumb-founded.
-I was running very close to the time I had a dentist appointment. Driving there I said “ Hashem please give me a spot quickly and close to the dentist office… drove right up parked 4 houses from the office.. After the appt, was around 8:20 , I was going to learn and than said maybe I should pray arbit first at 8:30 Benei Yoseph.. Driving to shul, the time is now 8:29 PM getting closer, “ Hashem please let me get a spot right away and close, got a spot at 8:31, walked across the street and prayed… Thank You Hashem!!!
– Thank you HASHEM for the Human car wash of yom kipur that cleans our neshamot! Bh we hope to keep it nice and clean
– Reflecting last week regarding 9/11, 12 yrs ago… going to work, switched to the N or R train don’t recall which one, but was right under the World Trade Center when it blew up… train was stopped in the station, doors open…explosion, people running screaming … I sat on the train and prayed to myself “ Hashem please let this train go, please go….. doors open for at least 4 to 5 minutes …people running off train… not sure what was happening.. Conductor got on speaker and said “ Ok, this train is going”…. Got off at 34st stop, looked and saw tons of smoke from downtown area…That train was the last train to run through that station for 2 years…Thank you Hashem for saving my life…
– right before Yom Kippur , Friday morning just spent my last dollar and needed $5 to get to work and back… Prayed, Hashem please let $5 appear somewhere in my briefcase where I did not look…. Looked and looked and then behind my pen, $5 bill… Got to work and back no problem…
– A question asked to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1973 by another Jew–
“When we say Shema, whether you are a Jew, a black man , or an Indian, isn’t there only one G-d for all of us?”
The Rebbe answered ” The essence of a black man is to be what he is a black man…..the essence of the Indian is to be what he is an Indian….
The essence of a Jew is tied to G-d Almighty through Torah & Mitzvot…. Hashem thank you for making me Jewish with the ability to serve you…
– was rushing down 34th street to get to Penn station to catch a train, was so much congestion on sidewalk and an idea popped into mind, to quickly make my way to the edge near the curb and speed up, as I was approaching I noticed these hoodlum abid standing on the edge of the curb facing the sidewalk and thought it looked strange, as I passed them I decided to turn back behind me and just look at them and what they were up to, as I turned around I saw one of them motion to another one that was stationed ahead of where I was going- he was motioning to me! They were preparing to pick pocket or mug me-as I saw this I quickly speeded up my pace to pass the other character, he saw that I caught on and he started to chase after me-Hashem put super human speed into me that can not be explained and somehow I got to the busy steps of pen station and jumped in and lost the would be mugger or worse- Thank you Hashem for watching over me
– put a couple on the shir hashirim list who were not yet blessed with children –bh they are now proud parents
– I’m a really good parker, however the parking spot I found was just too small even for me. And…the spot behind the parked car was also ¾ of a spot. So this person took up three parking spots. I’m sitting there steaming and thinking of the proper way to thank this guy (for sure, I was not going to flatten his tires during aseret yemei teshuvah). A Jewish woman walks around the corner and in a split second assesses the situation. She asks me “Are you looking for a spot”, then tells me she is parked a little further up the street and is leaving. As I wait for her to leave, she pops out of her car and hands me her muni meter receipt with 45 minutes left! Thank you Hashem for sure, and.…….THANK YOU and bless you to the Bat Yisrael, holy sister, the Princess, the daughter of the King who had the sensitivity to notice me in the first place, and furthermore to share the muni meter receipt and save me a few shekels. Let’s all look for these opportunities. They are all around us.
– BRIS ON YOM KIPUR!
– Thank you Hashem for a Rebbi of mine that I have never met- Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld zs’l whos Yatzheit (I believe the 23rd yr yarzheit) is the 1st day chol hamoed-shabbat. All should learn from his beautiful approach to life. BE BIG!
– Thank you for the awesome holiday of succot that we can go out into our succot and soak in the shechinah under Hashem’s complete protection.
– Today I was looking out my window and was watching a man picking through garbage looking for metal. He was working for a half an hour. Later today I heard about a man who made a multi million dollar deal. It took me a while to connect the incidents but then I realized Hashem gave both of these men their livelihood . on the surface it may seem unfair, but only the master of the world can know what we need to fulfill our mission. I stopped and thanked him for my parnasa and for not having to pick garbage for a living. And for my beautiful new succah
– Encouraged my tattoo covered ups driver to fast this yom kipur-he said he fasted twice and he was doing it! –just confirmed-HE DID IT!! I asked him how was your fast, DID you fast? He smiled proudly and said YEAH!!! Mi kiamcha yisrael!
– My parents were looking very actively into a shidduch for my sister. They found out great things about him, thought it was perfect for her. The boy was in Yeshiva in Israel and they were waiting for him to come back for them to meet. Shortly before he was scheduled to return they were told by someone who knows both families that he’s a great boy, but not for your daughter. they were still going to wait for him, when someone mentioned the name of another boy who my parents knew the family very well. they met and within a short while, they got engaged.
Shortly afterwards my father, knowing so much about the boy, mentioned the shidduch to my uncle for his daughter, gave him all the wonderful information, and shortly afterwards they got engaged.
keep up the great work!
– I was going to buy a lulav and etrog and it usually takes time till you find the right one … So I get there and the 1st etrog I pick up was gorgeous. I looked thru the other ones and I liked the 1 I 1st picked up. It was great then when I went to pay (I was expecting to pay the regular amount bec I picked mine from the more expensive table) the guy gave me a amazing price and told me. We take care of our family (he just became my cousin through marriage)!! Thank you Hashem for the beautiful lulav and etrog