Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
Ahh… those youthful summer memories, sun shining, grass growing, trees reaching up to the heavens, the childish mind never realising that those days would mold who we would become.
To a New York kid, summer meant camp, and camp meant a chance to discover talents never before realised, and friends never to be forgotten. Experiences born of the chrysalis of Torah camping are the stuff of future strengths and understandings. Memories experienced in the heat of those summer days live on with a clarity bathed in that sun drenched ambiance.
As I write, one such cherished memory springs to mind. The Bobover Rebbe Rav Shlomo Ztl created an atmosphere of positive love for Yiddishkiet just by your being in his proximity. Each summer the Rav would come in the week of parshas Nachamu to visit the campers. The weeks before Tisha B’Av were obviously tinged with a sense of loss, however Shabbos Nachamu was a springboard to heightened youthful joy. As the moment of the Rov’s arrival approached we would all stand, dressed in our Shabbos clothes on both sides of the camp entrance road. When the car would come into sight an energised rendition of a welcoming nigun would burst forth. The Rav had a smile created in Shomayim which opened up everyone’s heart. As I type, I pause, that energy floods back, and the Tsaddik’s warmth lifts my heart. The Rav would greet each youngster, his eyes opening up the floodgates of ahava he held for each Talmud. This was whilst I was a counsellor at the camp and although over six score years have passed, I am still nourished by those moments.
What we couldn’t fully appreciate then is the source of that eternal positive Yiddishkiet the Rav instilled in us.
The Tzadik had lived through so much darkness, he lost his wife and children, barely escaping with his then young son HaRav Naftali Ztl. The Rav often shared stories of his challenges in those disaster strewn times. How he stood in front of our worst enemies and refused to lose hope. Rav Naftali was a youngster and witnessed what no child should ever have to. Yet, despite all that he lived through, he told me he never lost hope nor his knowledge of what it is to be a Yied. I once witnessed how he was being tormented by an anti-Semite who sought to get information from him that would damage other Yidden. He calmly told his nemesis, “I have seen the worst, I have been subjugated to the pain of the most maltreated of slaves, yet I could always hold my head up high and look into anyone’s eye knowing I kept my connection with Hashem. Do you think I would do anything to hurt another Yied now?” I heard these words, coming from this most sweet and calm soul, and it took my breath away.
The Tzadik visiting the Kinderlach in camp, his son who had waded through the cinders of hell holding his hand, these astounding souls created the Torah community of post-war Yiddishkiet.
And now, we their heirs, are being called upon to rebuild our world, destroyed by an invisible enemy who has taken so much from us. Where can we get the courage and strength of those giants?
The Yismach Yisroel tells us:
When the sun becomes obscured on a cloudy day, those very clouds need only be blown away and the sun light will shine on further. So it is that a mensch has to know that just as the sun, all the pain and challenges we experience will pass and the illumination of Hashem’s love will bath us as always.
This week’s haftora starts with words of comfort “Nachamu, nachamu ami…Comfort, comfort My people… Says your G-d.” The Kozhnitzer Magid Ztl explains that the passage says twice the word ‘Comfort’ because the Malochim came to The Eibishter with words of comfort over the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh. The Eibishter told them, Comfort Me, go and comfort My People and with that I will be comforted.
We must offer words of comfort and chizuk for one another, especially those who have lost loved ones. Hashem sees our tears, Hashem followed us into golus and remains with us whatever challenges we face. Comfort, giving Comfort to Kaveuchal our Father in Shomayim will come when we offer strength to one another.
The Barditchever Rebbe Ztl tells us that in this week’s parsha we read the Ten Commandments, just as we do on Shevuos. This is because just as these unique commandments are read on the Yom Tov of Shevuos commemorating the moment when we received the Torah, so too, when the Moshiach comes, as the Novi tells us, we will again receive the Torah directly from Hashem.
Let us all share in that magnificent time soon, and till then, never lose faith, hold your heads up high and know that we are Hashem’s beloved.