In a meeting of Shluchim in Illinois one week ago, it was decided that they would focus on inspiring as many people as possible to take on hachlotos and pledges to undertake more mitzvos.
At a memorial event every participant was given a card to fill out with suggested hachlotos (the mivtzoim) and a line for additional personal resolutions. It was announced that the next morning Rabbi Moscowitz would fly to Israel to bring these hachlotos to show to the grieving families. On the way out of the event hundreds of filled-out cards were deposited in specially marked boxes, which were then bound in a book.
Additionally, all the Jewish day schools in Chicago were contacted with the request that each school have their students write letters of nichumim and resolutions that each of the students undertake. Each school put their letters in a notebook which Rabbi Moscowitz took with him as well.
Rabbi Moscowitz writes:
As I sit on the plane on my return trip home, early Monday morning, I am still under the influence of one of the most moving experiences of my life. On Sunday, for twelve hours, Rabbis Menachem Kutner, Yossi Swerdlow, Shmuel Aronow and I traveled throughout Israel visiting each of the families and experiencing the love and thanks of each them for Chabad and the Rebbe’s Shluchim the world over. It is hard to put into words the emotions of these very diverse families – Satmar/Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Bobov, Mexican, secular Israeli and parents of Shluchim – as they heard about and saw for themselves how this tragedy has been channeled by Shluchim the world over to inspire so many in Torah and mitzvos.
First Stop: Yerushalayim
We began our day in Yerushalayim where the Volover Rav and his family are sitting shiva for the passing of Harav Leibish Teitelbum hy”d. Our delegation was also joined there by Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin, Shliach in Seattle, Washington. When we walked in, the home was filled to overflowing with an “eidah kedosha” and when the Volover Rav heard that Shluchim had arrived he asked that room be made for us to sit up front and center. When I showed the book of hachlotos and presented a few books from the schools he was overwhelmed by emotion. Please, he asked, go also into the other room where the almonah-widow and other family members were sitting shiva, show them what Chabad is doing to inspire others; this will give them nechama.
After meeting with the women they asked that we visit with two of the younger children who were in a separate room. With long payis and the precociousness and innocence of little children they examined the book of hachlotos and were fascinated by the concept that people in some far off place were willing to make changes in their life in memory of their father. At the prodding of one of the relatives they agreed to join in the hisororus by making the hachlotah of helping their mother in preparing the house for Shabbos every Friday afternoon.
Next Stop: Afulah
Then we traveled to Afulah where the Holtzberg and Rosenberg families are sitting shiva for the loss of the legendary Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg hy’’d, in a large tent filled with people. Here we were talking to Chabad families who understood what was happening in every corner of the globe. Yet when we presented them with the books and hachlotos they were overcome with emotion. The next thing I know a microphone is thrust in my hand. I was asked, “Speak to all the people here. Describe to them what one community is doing and ask everyone to join with more and more hachlotos.”
We then presented to the grandmothers a special package for Moishe’le. It contained pictures made by the children of Gan of Chabad of the Gold Coast, a yarmulke embroidered by a Shlucha, a video of little children inviting Moishe to their house to play, and a Chanukah present of some new clothes sent by another Shlucha. It was a moment of deep ashreinu; Chassidim ein mishpocha.
Next Stop: Bnei Brak
The next stop was Bnei Brak where the young son of Norma Schwartzblat-Rabinovitch of Mexico was sitting shiva in his Yeshiva. When we entered the Yeshiva, a large group of bochurim escorted us into the room where Emanuel was sitting. He was overwhelmed firstly by the fact that we were just there, and then even more emotional when we gave him a book of letters from a High School in Chicago – children his own age. We showed all the bochurim the book of hachlotos and gave him to keep a package of hachlotos that was sent by Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov of Chabad in Munster, Indiana. As we left we overheard some bochurim discussing how they, too, should launch some similar program.
When we got back into the car, Menachem Kutner asked if I minded making a detour to stop in a hospital where a soldier is convalescing having recently been severely wounded from an attack from Gaza. Part of his leg had been severed and the second was in danger of being lost. Of course I agreed and off we went. Trying to continue the chain of goodness I opened my “mitzvah suitcase” and found one of the blankets that the children of Kids Zone of Chabad of Oak Park, IL had handmade and sent with to be distributed.
By the way, throughout the day Menachem Kutner’s phone was ringing non-stop with inquiries from his kehilla – 2700 families that are victims of terror acts – as to where the Mumbai relatives were sitting shiva so that they could share in their pain and offer words of comfort.
When we got to the soldier’s room we were told that it had been a difficult day for Noam but we were welcome to try and cheer him up. Menachem Kutner, a veteran of such meetings, knew all the right things to say. I made a mishberach and presented him with the blanket and now he was smiling from ear to ear. Yossi Swedlow started a leibidike niggun and before you knew it all the people in the room – soldier friends, family, and Chabadniks were dancing around Noam’s bed like it was Simchas Torah. It was truly an amazing sight.
Next Stop, Kiryat Bobov, Bat Yam
Next stop was to Kiryat Bobov in Bat Yam to visit the Chroman family. This was especially relevant to my Chicago mission – for the Chroman family is originally from Chicago. I know them well and when the father comes to visit he regularly davens in our shul – Bais Menachem.
Reminiscent of our first stop of the day in Yerushalyim, we arrived in a packed room of Chassidim, and when we were spotted the sea split and all the focus was on the Chabad guests. I explained the purpose of the visit and showed the book of hachlotos. It was especially moving when I presented the book of letters from Arie Crown Hebrew Day School – the very school that the father of R’ Ben Zion Chroman hy”d had gone to as a child. We also gave three more of the handmade blankets to be used by the three little yesomim. Here, too, we were asked to be Menachem Avel the women and share with them the details of our mission.
Next Stop, Orpaz Family
From Kiryat Bobov we traveled to the family of Yocheved Orpaz hy”d who live in a typical secular Israeli neighborhood. This family was extremely grateful to see Rabbi Menachem Kutner once again, for he had guided them throughout their ordeal, arranged for the levaya, and with the help of the local Shliach, arranged for minyonim, etc. One of the sons was wearing a Chabad of Mumbai yarmulke that he had found in his mother’s belongings that were retrieved after the incident. After showing the book of hachlotos and presenting the final books from the school children, the daughter declared: “Today I am proud to be a Jew.”
We made it back to Kfar Chabad just in time to get to the airport for my return flight home.
I would like to thank Menachem Kutner & Yossi Swerdlow not only for the arrangements of that day – but for all they do all year round for the Victim of Terror Families and for helping Shluchim with arrangements for their supporters who visit Israel.
Now it’s on to Mivtza Chanukah! Hamaysa hu haikar!