Category Archives: yahrzeit

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.

Yahrtzeit of Rav Dessler zt’l

The 25th of Teves is the yahrtzeit of Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt’l, one of the most influential post World War II baalei mussar.

I’d like to re-examine one of my favorite about him, originally posted here

When Rav Dessler came to America in 1948, he met up with his son, Nachum Velvel in New York. Rav Dessler asked his son who had help him during his years alone in America? His son mentioned several people in New York along with Rabbi Eliezer Silver, the head of Agudah Israel and the rav of Cincinnati. Rav Dessler said, “We must thank him.”
His son offered to place a telephone call to Rabbi Silver, but Rav Dessler wanted to show personal hakaros hatov to Rabbi Silver. Nachum Velvel and his father then took a nine hour train ride to Ohio, arriving at 5:00 am in Cincinnati. Then went to Rabbi Silver’s home and waited on the porch to meet Rabbi Silver as he left his house for davening.
Rabbi Silver met his two guests when he woke up and they all went to shul and then back to the Silver’s for breakfast. After a bite to eat, Rabbi Silver said, “So, Rav Dessler, what brings you to Cincinnati?” Rav Dessler said that he had only come to show appreciation to Rabbi Silver for all he had done for his son.
Rabbi Silver thought about this and again asked, “So, Rav Dessler, what really brings you to Cincinnati?”
Rav Dessler said that he had no other purpose that to show hakaros hatov. Rabbi Silver asked, “Rav Dessler, what can I do for you?”
Rav Dessler, for a third time, repeated that he only wished to show gratitude to Rabbi Silver in person.
Rabbi Silver finally gave up and muttered, “This must be mussar.”
(Paraphrased from the Artscroll biography of Rav Dessler, by Yonoson Rosenbloom) 

I had originally thought about writing something regarding Rav Desslers view of perfecting middos and our own subjectivity or his view on the importance of tefillah (praying), but I am going with a more down to earth message.  

A common theme among mussar teaching is the need to emphasize the mitzvos bein adam l’chavero (between person and person), while keeping in mind that recognizing the “Godliness” within each person falls into the venue of bein adam l’makom (between a person and Hashem).

Those who are great people in the arena of character development are such because they think.  Most of the times we feel slighted, turned off, distance or conflicted about relationships with others is because one party simply didn’t think about the other person.  We don’t take time to really appreciate others or truly think about how someone else would feel when we give our opinion about something.

So, as we come to the end of a week and start another, I will try to think more about those I interact with and attempt to bring kiddusha (holiness) to my relationships.  The greatness of the story above, in my opinion, is that Rav Dessler gave thought to what he could do to show appreciation.

For other postings about Rav Dessler please click here.

2nd yahrzeit of my father a"h

So, tonight marks the second yahrtzeit of my father Al Harris a”h, Avraham ben Zorach. While the picture on the the right might not be the clearest, it was taken on his last visit with us in Chicago, in July of 2009, only three and a half months before he was niftar. 

It’s funny how the mind works. A few months ago when R.E.M. broke up I had a flashback to my sophomore year in high school. It was a Thursday night in the fall of 1985 and my father was driving me from Wichita, KS to Kansas City- a three our drive. It must had been fairly late at night, because we were listening to Larry King’s talk show and he had Michael Stipe (lead singer from R.E.M) on as a guest and there were tons of calls to him about the state of college music.  My dad thought it was cool that “my music” was being talked about on the radio.  That wasn’t the cool part.  The really cool part was that my dad was driving me all the way to Kansas City, so that I could catch an Amtrack train to St. Louis to attend an NCSY shabbaton (youth group retreat weekend).  He drove me and then drove straight back home.

So, tonight marks the second yahrtzeit of my father Al Harris, Avraham ben Zorach.  While the picture on the the right might not be the clearest, it was taken on his last visit with us in Chicago, in July of 2009, only three and a half months before he was niftar. 

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l taught the world that it is giving that leads to love, not love that leads to giving.  Meaning, that the love we have for another is a natural outcome of our giving to another, of the deeds we perform.  Deeds that come from giving, like driving me three hours away to catch a train. 

In memory of my father-in-law’s 4th yahrtzeit

Tonight, the 12th of Mar Cheshvon is the 4th yahrtzeit of Dan ben Aharon HaLevi, my father-in-law.

I can’t help but think tonight that he would have been thrilled to see how my oldest daughter uses internet-based educational websites to work on spelling, math and reading.  He would get a kick out of how my son will use my wife’s iPhone and use the Kotel Kam app to see a live feed from Yerushalyim.  I know he would laugh till there were tears in his eyes if he saw how my 5 yr old little girl will use my smartphone and check the weather so she knows what shoes to wear in the morning.

When people were not sure what to make of the internet in the early 1990’s, he was downloading parsha summaries from, sending emails, and printing out Torah material for his shul’s newletter.

My kid’s Zaidy loved technology, because it kept him young.  He was always up on the lastest trends and technologies.  It was something I always found impressive.  For sure, he’d appreciate the fact that this post was written on my Blackberry, while sitting in a parking lot.

In Rav Moshe Weinberger’s Perkei Avos shiurim that I listened to this past Sunday, while biking, he mentioned a few ideas that I’d like to expand upon, L’zecher Nishmas the 4th yahrzeit of Rivka bas Chaim Yosef a”h, my mother-in-law.

Rav Weinberger asks (in the 2st shiur)  a question based on the Marahal’s Derech Chaim,  “Why does the first mishna start of stating that Moshe received the Torah from Har Sinai, instead of stating that the Torah was received from Hashem?”
Har Sinai was more than just a place, it was a way of life.  The location was chosen by Hashem, just like we, B’nai Yisrael were chosen by Hashem.  Har Sinai was a constant, a visible force.  It was also chosen because of its’ size and the middah of humility, as many of our children have learned in pre-school.  To be someone that receives Hashem’s Torah, means that you are willing to receive from anyone who can teach you.  It’s is we, like Moshe, who have to be willing to learn what anyone is willing to teach us, no matter if they are a Gadol or a Katon.

Peirkei Avos, Rav Weinberger says, is called “Avos” because the Torah within these Mishnayos are based on a mesorah that goes back and is rooted in the yashrus, the ehrlichkeit, middos, and derech eretz of our Avos and Imos.  Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaaov, Sara, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah, like Har Sinai, taught us how to be m’kabal not just the Torah but a Torah lifestyle of middos tovos. Perkei Avos isn’t just the textbook for a course on how to “act frum” it’s teaches you how to live a frum life.  The Avos and Imos, but the Avos gave over the passion of the one writing the textbook.  My wife’s mother was a prime example of this.  She knew what it meant to be frum, to love Hashem, to have a relationship with Hashem.  She gave that over to those she knew, especially to Joanie.

Later in the 3rd shiur, Rav Weinberger gives an insight into the first thing said by the Anshei Knesses Gedolah, “Be deliberate in judgment.”  This teaching is so important when viewed within context of what was happening to the generation at the that time.  It was the end of the era of Nevu’ah, prophecy, and B’nai Yisrael felt that Hashem was abandoning them.  The Mabit (Rav Moshe be Yosef of Tirani) says that being “deliberate in judgment” doesn’t refer to how we view other people, but how we view the events that happen to us in life.

Din is always related to examining every detail of a situation, looking at things from all sides.  He says that we should always realize, even if the darkest times when we no longer have Naviim, that Hashem is always with us.  This is what the Anshei Knesses Gedolah was teaching their generation.

When we are able to “be deliberate in judgment” and see how each detail in our life is connected to another detail, then the  outcome can only be that Hashem is with us.  This was a middah that Rivka bas Chaim Yosef had perfected.  My mother-in-law never looked at tragedy, loss, or any difficulty as a punishment  from Hashem.  She always knew that Hashem was constantly with her, watching, guiding, and protecting.  We should all be zoche to take this middah from Bubbie and giving it over to our own children.

A request from Mrs. Uberdox

My wife asks of my readers the following:
In honor of my mother’s 4th Yarzheit, Take the time out of your day to lend an ear, a shoulder to cry on , give a warm smile and most importantly don’t forget to tell your family and friends how much you love them. Tomorrow simply isn’t guaranteed. The yarzheit of my mother-in-law, Rivka bas Chaim Yosef a”h, starts this Shabbos night.
Thank you.
Sent via Blackberry by AT&T

The living yerusha of Rav Dessler zt’l

Photo from here

The 24th of Teves marks the 57th yarhtzeit of HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler. In the past I’ve posted stories regarding Rav Dessler (a link for those is at the end of this post), but I think, for myself, that it is important to remember that Rav Dessler was able to impact both the lives of Western Jews and also that of the Yeshiva world of E”Y. He influenced both baalei batim and yungerleit, This global effect might have been due to his Mussar upbringing while learning in Kelm. Unlike the next generation of baalei Mussar, the Alter of Kelm focused on creating people, not yeshivos or roshei yeshiva. His view was more concentrated and that was passed on to his talmidim.

It’s that focus that enabled Rav Dessler to teach in London, head the first kollel in the Western hemisphere, and go on to become the mashgiach of  Ponevezh . His focus was on how the individual can m’Kadesh Hashem through relationship. No matter if it was a rebbe-talmud relationship, a parent-teacher relationship, or a husband-wife relationship. Looking through Michtav M’Eliyahu or any of the volumes of Strive for Truth it is clear that Rav Dessler is speaking to the Jew of Today. We all struggle with our Yetzer Hora, we all want to look at our actions as choices not habits, and we want to emulate Hashem. Constant examination of how we can improve our mitzvos bein adam l’Makom and bein adam l’Chavero is part and parcel of being a Torah observant Jew.

I can think and dream about a vibrant resurgence of a Mussar movement for this generation. I can sit and email like-mind people about the importance of self-growth and the foundations of Mussar that, like a cassette tape, seem almost obsolete to the average twenty-something. I can and I do. However, I can also look at Rav Dessler’s life and see that had he confinded is ideas to the written word or interacted with a limited number of people, his impact might have been much more localized. He made the best of every enviorment he found himself in and constantly tried to reach is potential. For him Yiddishkeit and growth were inseparable and not a spectator sport.

I titled this post “the living yerusha” because no matter if you are learning full-time or working you are in contact with people. It’s those relationships that constantly require examination. How do we interact with others? Are we giving or taking from someone? What example are we setting for our children? Do we give enough? These questions are important, because within them lies the potential to make ourselves like Hashem. We can become a Giver and bring a level of kedusha to something as simple as offering directions to someone who is lost, complimenting a co-worker, or setting the table for dinner. That’s Rav Dessler’s living yerusha.

For previous posts regarding Rav Dessler click here.

Upon the first yartzeit of my dad a"h

Sunday, the 16th of Cheshvon, is the first yartzeit for my father a”h, Avraham ben Zorach, Albert Lyon Harris.  A few weeks ago my family and I were in Wichita, Kansas for the weekend to join my brother, mother, step-mother, aunts and uncles for the “unveiling” of the matzeiva (grave marker) for my father a”h.  It was bittersweet (much like my father’s favorite type of chocolate).  The comfort and feeling of togetherness was accompanied our collective memory of the last time we were all “together”.

A close family friend who brought in briskets, deli, and breads from Kansas City and thanks to fairly well stocked local grocery store, my wife came up with an awesome menu and fed the entire family (and a few friends) for both Shabbos dinner and lunch.  Even my father, who spent decades in the food industry as a restaurateur, would have been beyond impressed with the amount of food my wife made in such a short amount of time and with very limited cookware.

That Sunday, we gathered together at the Hebrew Cemetary, were my father and others had always made sure was in tip-top shape.  I found myself wearing the same suit and the same shoes that I had worn 11 and a half months and surrounded by many of the same people, as well.  My remarkes said over at the cemetary are below:

There really is no good way to start speaking for a lifecycle event like this.  All I can really think about is that the yartzeit, anniversary of the death of my father, a”h is taking place in exactly two weeks and again here we are again, here I am again, seeing so many people that really cared so much about him.

Marking a grave is a very old Jewish tradition, starting with after Rachel died,  when “Jacob erected a monument on Rachel’s grave” (Genesis 35:20).
In fact the word for stone, ev’en, is a contraction of two Hebrew words, Av, meaning father, and Ben, meaning son.  A gravestone serves as a connection between generations, between parents and children.   It is a physical reminder of a life lived, of the love shared, and the memories made.  As a whole, the eleven months and two weeks have gone by quickly, as individual days, each day without my father has been very long for all of us.  At this time I would like to thanks all of you who have been there this past year for my mother and Dixie.

It was once observed (by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, a dean of yeshiva students in Jerusalem) that a train and a plane can both reach their destinations.  Difference is that train stays on the ground as it proceedes, and a plane not only proceeds in the right direction, but ascends in the air at an optimum altitude and then reaches its destination sooner.  In life, as well, there are two means of advancement.  The first is progressing–but progressing only along the ground, which many people attempt to do at one point or another in their lives.  The second kind of advancement involves lifting oneself up and above this earth- giving one the opportunity to travel faster and reach our destination quicker, but also to soar above the impediments of even mountain-sized obstacles.
My father’s life was very much like that of a plane.  He traveled though his life and let no obstacles get in his way.  He lived a life that made him happy and did many of the things that he dreamt of doing.  He also reached is own final destination, although, much quicker than any of us wanted him to.
We all have good days and bad days, when we are faced with challenages and struggles.  Personally, in the past 11 months, there have been many times when getting though the day hasn’t been easy, but it’s important for us all to follow the path that my father took and continue on the journey and soar above everything that stands in our way.
Additional posts about my father a”h can be read here.

I ask that you please wanted to take a minute and in this coming
 week you attempt to do one extra chessed, act of kindness, for someone.
 The effect can last a lifetime.

Advice from my father-in-law a"h

The 12th of Cheshvon, marks the 3rd yartzeit of my father-in-law, Dan HaLevi ben Aaron a”h, Dan Huth.

My father-in-law a”h had a very unsual knack for telling over very pithy sayings and coming up with on-target analogies that seemed to make things crystal clear.  My wife happened to have inherited that trait, too.  One of my favorite sayings of his (I’m not sure of the origin of this saying, sorry) is:

If you are throwing roses to someone and it hits them like bricks, then you are throwing bricks.

Often it’s easy something to someone and have it taken the wrong way.  Usually we’re not aware of it, and it’s an honest mistake.  However, even if it wasn’t your intention, your words can end up hurting someone else.  This is called onaas devarim.  Most people are aware of when they say something hurtful, it s a conscious decision.  But, many times we think we are giving a compliment or offering advice and what we end up doing is throwing bricks.  I’ve seen this happen too often (and mostly I’m the one throwing bricks).

Over Tishrei I decided that we (my family, that is) needs to work on being more sensitive to onaas devarim, so starting this Shabbos Kodesh I’m attempting to go through sections of R Zelig Pliskin’s book on this topic, THE POWER OF WORDS, at each Shabbos meal.  Hopefully it will make us more sensitive to the importance of what we say and, more importantly, how we say things.

Written as an aliyah for the neshama of Dan HaLevi ben Aaron