Dear Friends,

 

I am grabbing a few moments to dash off a quick note.  I am in Warsaw Airport.  I am on my way to join our young leaders, members of the ASLP, for Shabbat together in Cracow.  I am sure they are having an impactful experience and I cannot wait to join them.

 

For me, my flight was an elevating experience.  It was packed with chassidim. Chassidus was brought to Poland by Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, ancestor to many members of our Shul such as Joseph Lerner, Dr. Tzachi Goldberg, and Michael, Alex, and Rachel Herschmann.  Reb Elimelech taught about the Tzadik.  He taught that there is a world called all of Israel.  When you perform a mitzvah and give it to the nation, you are connecting to the world called all of Israel.  At that level there is no sin.  God only sees merits there.  Reb Elimelech composed a prayer to recite before Shacharis.  One of its key phrases is Adaraba.  We beg Hashem, “On the contrary put in our heart the ability to see in our friends their strength and never their weaknesses.  And let us lead our friends on the way that is desired and loved by You.”  Reb Elimelech’s yahrzeit is this Sunday.  Thousands of chassidim are converging on Poland over these days to pray at the grave of Reb Elimelech and at the graves of other Tzadikim. Our flight had a Sefer Torah, huge minyanim in the aisles, and lots of Tehillim.  Seeing this made my heart swell with pride.  Poland is a land drenched in Jewish blood.  Conservative historians think the Nazis murdered one million Polish Chassidim.  But Am Yisrael chai.  Our nation proudly, obstinately, with wild side curls and long beards, is still coming to Reb Elimelech, bonding with a Tzadik and proudly displaying our faith.  No force will stop our nation.  I am sure that is a lesson our teens are receiving as well.

 

I feel a tremendous gratitude to Ron, Diane and the entire Strobel family.  They guide this initiative with love and are truly making a difference.  Before I boarded my flight from New York, I called Diane to thank her and the community for enabling me to be a part of this experience.  Diane shared with me a moving moment.  At Maidainek, our group met a group of Israeli teens from Ofra.  The Israelis were singing Hatikvah.  Mr. Manny Buchman, Diane’s father, heard the music and came over to join in the singing.  The group was singing Hatikavah and Mr. Buchman could not resist.  Dreamy eyed, he sang with them.  For Mr. Buchman, Hatikvah is redemptive.

 

Mr. Buchman survived the war.  He then went to Palestine and helped fight in the Israeli army to create Israel.  I remember how he told me once about Mashiach, “I saw Mashiach twice – once he was a black man wearing the uniform of the US Army and he told me, ‘You are free. Hitler is dead.’  The other time I saw Mashiach was in Israel.  When Jews were strong.  When we were soldiers the feeling was so intense, I could only describe it as Mashiach.”

 

With Aryeh Strobel watching, the Israelis gathered around Mr. Buchman and asked him to share stories with them.  Many stories were relayed.  He told them about Carpathian Mountains, life in the shtetl, the war and loss.  They closed the meeting, begging him for a Beracha.  The Israeli leader said, “I heard in the name of one of the Rebbes that if you need a berachah, go to a survivor.”  (It was the Satmer Rebbe who had said it).  Mr Buchman demurred.  “I am not a Rabbi.” “We made you a Rabbi now,” they said.  He blessed them.  To be religious.  To be strong. Most of all he wished them in a voice quivering with tears, “Be soldiers!  Be good fighters for our land.  Fight to keep Israel safe.  We need Israel forever.”  All ended the encounter with our kids and theirs dancing together singing Am Yisrael Chai.  The world of Kol Yisrael can be reached.  Our youth and Israel remind us that the Jewish nation lives.

 

The following link contains the beautiful tefillah of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk sung by Avraham Fried at the kever of Rav Elimelech: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nEddzBUhp7c

 

 

Zev Reichman