Monthly Archives: October 2012

Rabbi Lau speaking in Chicago

Click image for ticket information




Sunday, December 2, 2012 | 7:00 PM


Niles North High School auditorium
9800 North Lawler Street, Skokie

Rabbi Lau will share his personal experience as a child in the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp and how he rebuilt his life to become chief rabbi of Israel.
TICKETS $25 at the door (IF AVAILABLE) / ADVANCE online $18

For more info, group and student tickets, call: 312-445-0770

(includes private reception & tour of Illinois Holocaust Museum with Rabbi Lau)

A project of Jewish Learning Institute of Metropolitan Chicago

Co-sponsored by: Illinois Holocaust Museum and Walder Education Pavillion

Rabbi Israel Meir Lau is a widely respected international dignitary, gifted orator, celebrated author, Holocaust survivor and inspiration. He was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003, and is currently the chairman of Yad Vashem and chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.

3rd yahrtzeit of my dad a"h

Note I wrote that was saved by my dad a”h

Tonight, the 16th of MarCheshvon, is the 3rd yarhzeit of my dad, Albert Lyon Harris, Avraham ben Zorach.  My brother made arrangements to be in town and we went to ma’ariv so that we could say kaddish together.

Of course, seeing my dad’s brother and sister with their spouses at our son’s bar mitzvah recently has brought up the natural feelings of loss, even before the yahrzeit.  Not having my in-laws or my father present for our simcha was hard.  However, the loss of a loved one in this world does help crystallize the feeling of loss the I now experience during Tisha B’av, the day of national mourning for the loss of the holy temple, the Beis Hamikdash.  It also puts more feeling behind the 12th Ani Ma’amim which affirms our believe in the revival of the dead in the time of Moshiach.

The note above was something that my father saved, for some reason.   My bar mitzvah was December 3, 1983.  Later in the month we must have gone out for Chinese food and I wrote this note.  I guess I gave it to my dad.  About six years ago, he had purchased a Hebrew/English gemara Pesachim on eBay and sent it to me.  Sitting between the pages was the note about the Chinese food.  He got a tremendous kick out of the fact that before I kept Kosher I hated Chinese food, yet I now love it.  His foresight to keep this note and send it to me is a reminder that he remembered the little things about me when I was growing up (that I had forgotten about) and figured that eventually I would change my tune and taste buds.  We should all see our loved ones for who they are and for who they may become.

A line in the sand of the separate beach

There’s been tons of chatter about the Mishpacha issue dealing with baalei teshuva. I read it and wrote the editors. Beyond BT as made arrangements to actually post the responses. You can read what they have posted, so far, here.
Fitting in or being reminded that you don’t fit in is a universal feeling. As a BT, I’ll admit, it’s an issue. I think, however, that the focus on not fitting in becomes more of an issue than if we really fit in or not. In 2007 I wrote something for BeyondBT titled “Are we to obsessed with integration?”
We live in an era when baalei teshuva have first, second, and even third generation frum from birth branches in their family trees. BTs are now shul rabbis, rebbes, teachers, kollel members, and principals within the frum community.  

6th yartzeit of my father-in-law a"h

The 12th of Cheshvon (Sunday) was the 6th yartzeit of my father-in-law, Dan ben Aharon haLevi.  Thanks to the quick thinking of my sister-in-law, my son has been wearing his Zaidy’s tefillin for over a month (of course, making a bracha on them for the first time on the 2nd of Cheshvon).  The fact and zechus (merit) that he owns and uses his Zaidy’s tefillin leaves both my wife and a I speechless sometimes.  My son said it best, when he recently told my wife that everytime he kisses the tefillin it is his way of saying, “Thank you” to Zaidy. 

Our sages teach that we’ll soon see the revival of the dead and they will, in fact, return shalayim, completely whole and healthy.  It really can’t happen soon enough.

Free recording of Yosef Karduner and a shiur from Rav Weinberger

Photo from Dixie Yid’s blog

This past Shabbos Kodesh was the yahrtzeit of the Aish Kodesh zt’l. Rav Weinberger’s shul, Cong. Aish Kodesh, held their hilula with music from Yosef Karduner and a shiur in memory of Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira given by Rav Weinberger. His shiurim on the yarhtzeit of the Rebbe are always so moving and this one is no exception. The recording contains over an hour of music by Yosef, the shiur, and then more music. It’s available here. Black hat tip to Dixie Yid for the info on the recording.

Said over prior to lunch


This past Shabbos Kodesh was our son’s bar mitzvah.  It was a beautiful simcha bringing together family and friends from Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey, and New York.  We are so grateful to so many friends that helped make our son’s bar mitzvah an incredible experience.  I shared the following with about 75 family members and close friends prior to lunch.

Rav Joseph Solveitchik zt’l , the former dean of Yeshiva University’s rabbinic program once said that, “A person’s birthday is the day that Hashem decided that the world couldn’t go on without you”.

On Thursday morning, Eli Meir, your birthday, you read from the Torah at school during minyan and got your first aliya. It seems that you were waiting your whole life for this moment. Even when you were 1 and a half, you would dress up in hat and use your blanket as tallis. We all thought you were playing, but as I look back know, you were not playing, you were in spring training, waiting for baseball season to start.

Just over 13 years ago we gave you your name. Eliezer Meir, you were named after mommy’s great-great grandfather and my great grandfather. Not only did we pick the names to attach you to our family trees, but the meaning of your name is very special.

Eliezer, means “my God helps”.  I know that you have seen this in your own life, but you should always remember that Hashem is with you to help you, no matter what challenges you have in life. Mommy and I will always be there, too, no matter what happens in life, we love you and know the greatness inside you. Meir means “to bring light”. Since you were born you had a gift of making everyone you know feel happy and you bring light to our whole family. You are thoughtful, funny, bright, and helpful. You have always brightened up the lives of others.

I remember how Bubbie a’h use to talk to you on the phone and then tell mommy that talking to you was like medicine that made her feel better. I remember Zaidy a’hbeing so happy whenever we would visit him and loved talking to you on the phone. Especially while watching baseball, football, and basketball. Grandpa a’h loved coming to visit us and he always loved seeing you and was always thrilled when I told him an “Eli Meir” story. Grandma and Nana always tell me how you are such a special person. I don’t tell you this to embarrass you, only so you should know that you bring light everyone that you meet. This is one of the many gifts you have.

You rocked today, buddy. Mommy and I knew that you could do it and your leining was amazing. For the past whenever anyone found out your Bar Mitzvah was Parshas Noach, they all said, “wow that’s a tough parsha”. I then said, “Shhh, don’t tell Eli that.” I hope you will always be proud of what you’ve done today, Eli. Mommy kept on telling you that you could do it and she was right.

Originally, I had wanted to a special story with you, but we can do the next time we walk to shul together. Instead, I will share a teaching of Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shaprio, the Piaseczna Rebbe. He was the last remaining Rebbe in the Warsaw Ghetto and today is his yartzeit. The Rebbe taught that “The most important thing in the world is to do someone else a favor.”  This teaching sums up the type of man you are, Eli. Since you were little you were always finding ways to make others feel better and help them. Once, in kindergarten you even showed a friend how to roller blades. He kept falling down and you then fell down on purpose and told him that everyone falls sometime. Even this past Simchas Torah, you ran across the street to the old Klal Chassidim building to get a stranger an English Hebrew Siddur.

Today at the kiddush and here now, you are surround by people who wanted to be with you. They didn’t come for the chullent or the kugel, or because they like to get up early.  They came because they love you and you are important to them. As we all look around this room, there are those who we are missing. I know that Bubbie a’h, Zaidy a’h, and Grandpa a’h have been watching you this whole time.

Joanie has pretty much done everything to make this Bar Mitzvah a success. To say that it couldn’t have happened without you is… well, the truth. Thank you for teaching Eli to believe in himself. You have given him the best present in the world.

Growing up

Our son, just past his 2nd birthday

Our son will become a “Bar Mitzvah” this Shabbos Kodesh.  Over the years I have written about how I’ve  shepped nachas from him making a friend feel comfortable, how we danced it up on Lag B’Omer, how we learned from a chumash belonging to my grandfather, and his awesome one-liner one Shabbos night.  All in all, he’s a great young man.  There are times when he is wise-beyond-his-years and other times when he acts well below his years.  He finds humor in things that others don’t see.  He understands the importance of a moment in time.  The excitement he felt on Tzom Gedaliah, when he put on his Zaidy’s tefillin was beautiful, because, he understood that even without making a bracha, it was special.  He started wearing his Shabbos hat on Rosh Hashanah and is aware that it’s not just another accessory.  I have always told him that he needs to keep his head covered, that’s the main thing.  He fully gets the fact that wearing a black hat doesn’t mean he has any more kedusha than any other Jew.

We have been fortunate that even when he was young, thanks in part to hours of listening to Uncle Moishy, he has had a certain fire for Yiddishkeit.  He has strong sense of what is right in the world and even when he would dress up with an old Shabbos hat and a tallis and play with at “Torah” he made in pre-school, there was a look in his eyes that, to him, he wasn’t just playing.

Watching him learn to lein has been quite an experience.  His diligence and desire over the past year has been inspirational.  He has even opted to listen to the mp3 files of his parsha instead of listening to baseball games on the radio at night (sometimes).  For him, this is a major accomplishment.  His has a great group of friends in his class that he has known since the middle of kindergarten.  He is looked to as role model by many younger boys our family knows, he is liked by his teachers and respected by his rebbeim.

He, like every kid, has his moments that make me want to pull out what is left of my hair, but I love him and he usually knows that.  He is loved by many and I hope he sees this over Shabbos.  We are zoche to live in a beautiful community that is rich in Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim.

The countdown is here, my brother arrived before Shabbos, and before we know it we’ll be with out-of-town family and friends who have come in to join us in this simcha.  The absence of my wife’s parents a”h and my father a”h is not easy, but, as we wrote in the Bar Mitzvah invitation:
“Though one’s parents have passed on, Hashem escorts them from Gan Eden to participate in their children’s simcha.” (Zohar 3:21b)