Monday, March 28, 2005

Simcha and Emunah

Simcha and Emunah
March 28, 2005


Today I have to speak about two different subjects, which definitely have a common denominator.  

Exactly a week ago I was in New York, together with my friends Simcha Hochbaum, Noam Arnon and Rabbi Hillel Horowitz. We all flew in to the 'big apple' for a wonderful occasion.

A few months ago, Hebron's New York affiliate, the Hebron Fund, announced the appointment of the organization's new executive director, Yossi Baumol.  Yossi came to Hebron from the most appropriate of places…Jerusalem. Directing Ateret Cohanim and the Jerusalem Reclamation Project for over fifteen years, Yossi fit into Hebron's administration swiftly and successfully. His first major project was Hebron's flagship event, the annual Hebron Fund dinner. It's not easy to begin with such a mission, but he was up to meeting the challenge. Yossi, together with his dedicated New York staff, members of the Hebron Fund Board of Directors and other talented volunteers, took off and never looked back.

By the time Hebron's Israel contingent landed in New York, most of the hard work was finished. Late last Monday afternoon we gathered at the Marriot Marquis Hotel on Broadway and found ourselves ensconced by some one thousand friends and supporters who gathered to pay homage to Hebron's Jewish Community, men, women and children. What an evening it was! As is customary at such affairs, a few exceptional people were honored. Amongst the dinner honorees were Shimi and Chani Klein, Rabbi Marvin Rosen and his son, Michael Rosen, and Howard and Phyllis Goldberg. This year we also chose to pay tribute to an extraordinary woman, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, whose work with Jews around the world is virtually unparalleled. The evening's dynamic keynote speaker was Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, spiritual leader of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY.

Every once in a while people ask us why spend the time on what seems to be such a lavish event. Of course,  it goes without saying that Hebron's numerous projects would be impossible to accomplish with our friends in Israel and abroad. For example, the new, just-finished apartment building in Tel Rumeida, was a multimillion dollar project. (Stay tuned for details of the building's dedication, to take place on Tuesday, April 26, during the Passover holiday celebrations in Hebron.) Many other undertakings, including various and assorted children's projects, such as a state-of-the-art computer room, youth centers, summer camp activities and the like, are funded by generous supporters around the world. Our annual dinner serves as a focal point, bringing together many of our devoted friends.

However, from my point of view, events such as this one can be compared to a splendid shot of adrenaline. By the end of the evening I'm on a real high – and I know my friends are too. When we come back to Hebron and tell all the others, trying to describe the phenomenal outpouring of love and camaraderie, I think much of our emotions rub off on the rest of Hebron's Jewish community. They too are uplifted by the tremendous efforts made by the New York Hebron Fund, and by so many others, to bond with us, here in the city of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The energy I pick up at this dinner keeps me going for a long time, and on behalf of all Hebron's residents, I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank all those who contributed to the event's fabulous success. If I start naming names, I will inevitably forget someone, so, without going into specifics, to ALL OF YOU, we owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Talking about highs…

Yesterday was Purim. No, Shabbat was Purim. Excuse me, but Friday was Purim. I guess for most of you, the latter is correct. On Thursday night and Friday morning we gathered to hear Megillat Esther, the scroll of Esther, and celebrated this age-old holiday. Yet, here in Hebron we usually celebrate two days of Purim. Due to doubts as to the legalistic status of Hebron in Jewish law – do we celebrate like most of the world, or like Jerusalem? Accordingly, we take to easy way out – we do it twice. That is a great deal of fun. But this year we had three days, with Shabbat in the middle.
Aside from reading the Megillah, giving presents to our neighbors and charity, in Hebron we participate in three special events: a 'shuk purim,' an 'a'deloyada' and a huge communal meal. Translated, a 'shuk purim' is a carnival for kids, and an 'a'deloyada' is a purim parade. Actually, I missed the shuk purim this year, because late Friday morning we were participating in individual family meals, and in the middle, I fell asleep. (One of the main facets of the feast is a lot of wine.)

Yesterday,  Sunday, day the entire community, all costumed up, danced through the streets from Tel Rumeida, past Beit Hadassah and the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, to the Hebron Heroes neighborhood, and back to Ma'arat HaMachpela. This year we had an extra added attraction. Two new Torah scrolls were dedicated to Ma'arat HaMachpela during the celebrations. It's difficult to express the feelings – you have to experience it to understand it.  Afterwards, the entire community joins for singing, dancing and lots of good wine and food at the Gutnick Center.

Of course, such an event wouldn't be complete without photographers and journalists from around the globe. Israeli television news caught me prancing around and stopped me to ask a question: "How can you have so much fun and generate so much happiness in the middle of  'disengagement?'"

The answer to that was simple. "Purim is a holiday of opposites. In the end, everything turns around and upside down. Not everything that seems to be happening is reality; sometimes reality is 'covered up,' and revealed only 'later in the game.' We have no doubt that that is what is happening now.

There are two integral ingredients: happiness and faith. Without either one of them it is difficult to exist. Here in Hebron, thank G-d, we are fortunate to be filled with both of them. Faith leads to simcha, that is, happiness, and simcha, real, true simcha, also leads to emunah, that being faith. These two come together on Purim in the most tangible way, and so too, with G-d's help, we will be blessed to the revelations of a modern day Purim miracle, in the not too distant future."

I guess here in Hebron we are very lucky. We are constantly surrounded by simcha and emunah – be it in New York, or be it here at our home. Quite a gift.

With blessings from Hebron.

This commentary is dedicated to the memory of the four Seidenfeld children from Teaneck, New Jersey, who were lost in a tragic fire last week, and to the complete recovery of mother Aliza bat Yehudit, and daughters, Zahava Nessa bat Aliza and Aviva bat Aliza. Please pray for them.

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