Monday, December 30, 2013

Jan 2nd in Boca- Talk

“When the Ordinary becomes the Extraordinary”
      Rabbi Mike Stern - In memory of Shoshie Stern a’h
       January 2nd , Thursday Night 8:00 p.m. at BRS

Rabbi Mike Stern will share inspiring lessons learned  
from the life of Shoshie Stern a’h –

The subsequent reaction after Shoshie’s Petira about who
Shoshie Stern was in her life time and her impact on people
far exceeded what we as her parents understood and saw.

Do we really know who we are married to and who our children are?
What is blocking us from seeing each other as to who we truly are?
How to truly see each other’s greatness; that is already there.

BRS is at 7900 N. Montoya Circle, Boca Raton, FL 33433

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spreading Shoshie's Light in Yerushalayim

Just got back from visiting Shoshie's older brothers both learning in Eretz Hakodesh
While I was there I merited to share a talk ("When the Ordinary becomes Extraordinary" ) about how Shoshie has inspired our family in 3 different Yeshiva programs.

Ohr Somayach's - Chai Israel program - about 50 - 18 year olds (Moshe's program)
Aish HaTorah's Gesher & Intermediate programs - about 40 kids ages 18-22
Yeshiva Imrei Bina (Yossi's school) 50-60 - 18 year olds
Rabbaim also there too.

The essential message was for us to truly see each others greatness and not get caught up in things about the person (their attractiveness, popularity, life style, frum or not very frum) - Everyone is worth validation, affirmation, love and respect. Learn how to to see each others virtues as one and the same as who they truly are.

I will be speaking soon in Boca on this topic- details soon
In the meanwhile - let's love each other and keep Shoshieing

Monday, December 9, 2013

Today is Shoshie's Birthday

We remain in darkness. It's not possible for us to fathom how Hashem writes this kind of loss in the script of life. The loss of Shoshie or anyone for that matter, G-d forbid should not be in vain. Please G-d Shoshie's memory should motivate us to live life more as a light to ourselves and others and bring more love, togetherness, fun, peace and genuine brotherhood amongst all of us- no matter, what school we go to, what Shul we daven in, how frum we perform our Mitzvot, how snius our clothing is, how popular, beautiful and "in" someone is.

Shoshie saw you- not something about you. She loved you.....not something about you. She was in the moment - oh so engaged in life-so much fun -so full of radiance, joy so there -----Her presence is oh so missing. A hole that can't be filled, patched by anyone or anything. We need to fill it -the way Shoshie would fill it.

Do something that is full of "life" today with someone you love - even something simple- Get the big size Slurpee, Make Chinese noodles with the peanut butter sauce, fill your entire mouth with a soup sized spoon of mashed potatoes, throw a dodge ball at 90 MPH in the house at your little brother, skateboard over to the store and go get your mother stuff, stop by your neighbor say hi, drink your older brother's specially hidden Gatorade (then deny it). And if it rains -go play in it

Our love and faith in Hashem hasn't dimmed. We beseech him for insight, understanding and wisdom as to how to move forward. May we see a day where we are reunited with Shoshie in this world and may the world at that time know no more pain, sickness, or anything bad or evil.

Our family thanks you for your love
Please Keep Shoshieing


Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't be a "Jewish Unity" fraud!

Don’t be a “Jewish Unity” – Fraud

If I had a dollar for every time I have listened to someone who loudly professes and
primarily demonstrates, a strong conviction and feeling of a love for all Jews; but in the
same conversation denigrates a sliver/part/group of the Jewish people that doesn’t
measure up to their sensibilities, I would be very wealthy.

It’s amazing- it is almost to the degree that someone shows their love for Jewish people
they shtup in something derogatory about some group-unaware.

It seems to me that we have to think of the Jewish people as a whole entity-as one
like we think of our children. If someone would say something derogatory about our
child that would pain us very much. We would rush to judge favorably. You certainly
wouldn’t just sit there and listen.  

How much could you really love the Jewish people if you serendipitously say negative
things about any part of the group for no apparent benefit.  Wouldn’t it hurt them to say
something negative about their own child? The only scenario that you say something about
your child is when the person you are talking to can be helpful in some way – to do something
about the current situation.  Otherwise, your negative comments are just giving you an
illusionary feeling of superiority.

Don’t talk badly about any part of the Jewish people for nothing.
It should pain you if you do. If you do care so much that you have to do something
For the people you are speaking badly about

The Jewish people are “one” – Every group is a leg or an arm of yours.
I think I’ll keep it unless its gang green. I will do everything I can to help make my arms healthy.

Don’t be a fraud and profess love for your brothers and then denigrate them

Happy Chanukah and Good Shabbos

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dear Friends

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to give 2 talks on the topic of "When the Ordinary becomes the Extraordinary" in the merit and memory of Shoshie a'h at the girls High Schools in Philly (KTA) and Milwaukee(TAM) in the past 2 weeks.

This talk, gleaned from lessons about the life of Shoshie Stern shows us a pathway of how to truly see the greatness in each other so we can bring more respect, peace and unity into our families, schools and community. I will have a recording soon.

In the meantime, many have asked me for my notes. I will send along the talk in installments.

I am booking my schedule for February right now. A generous donation has made it quite affordable to bring me to your city.

All the best

P.S Remember the 3 Shoshie rules; give up your seat, look out for the next person and make peace -

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chai Lifeline Shabbaton for Bereaved Parents this coming Shabbos
They asked me to speak at Lunch - Not a clue as to what to say.
The following is a very raw rambling of my attempt to write

I was asked to say a few words at this festive meal for a few reasons – 1) You already know why my wife and I are here, 2) I do speak a lot and have spoken a few times about what lessons I have learned from the tragedy and lastly I am pretty much never at a loss for words – so I said “sure”

•    As much as I tried to figure out what I thought might be helpful to convey to everyone here – I couldn’t think of one thing

•    I could speak to an audience that hasn’t necessarily experienced what we have but us?

•    You know, even when people tried to comfort me and said “there are no words” as well meaning as they tried to be –those words of “there are no words” felt so hollow, so contrived, so…. Not comforting- I was in too much pain to hear any word.

•    So what I could say here today?

•    Even when someone shared with us that they had experienced the same tragedy I was like in my mind “ you know I can’t take this- all my compassion and mercy is already used up for me and my family –telling me about your child is a burden for me

•    Even if you are not alone in your life - I do have to say that there is such  an acute feeling of existential loneliness- certainly if you are shouldering this completely alone - one feels totally alone,

•    So alone if there isn’t anyone who understands you, if there isn’t anyone who can really care just exactly how you are feeling, if there isn't anyone who can experience the thoughts you have just as you have experienced them

•    At some point most people yell out to the heavens and say “I’m so alone” – and sometimes as much as you might have a partner who would like to share “your” pain –they just can’t.

•    Seemingly they just can’t get on the same page as you and completely lift your burden

•    And you just can’t blame them at all – they can only do the very best they can – they are so totally innocent – reacting to only what just comes to their mind –limited as to their thoughts –a prisoner of their own constraints and pain

•    So much so you sometimes can see their pain and come to a realization as to just how lonely they are – and wow what they must be feeling-oyyyyy- Until you engender your feelings for them

•    “I feel so badly for them-my spouse- my partner- and just sometimes at that moment of love and compassion for them – my own loneliness –for just a moment –maybe more disappears

•    But even when not in your own compassion – just realizing that they are doing just the very best they can –can take the sharp edge of the anger of feeling so alone –

•    the sharp edge of your being critical and judgmental of your partner and spouse and forgiving of the fact that that your partner and spouse is doing little to alleviate your pain

•    Nothing is perfect- I can’t have someone totally on my page- taking care of the depth of agony that I feel, they can’t (no matter how close you are with your spouse)  take care of my feeling so lost, so confused

•    But hopefully I do have someone in my life that shares my very same loss –our daughter- and  while not my whole page can my spouse share

•    She is the only one who is going through the same agony and terror albeit in a different way and in that there is an opportunity (if you can reign your criticalness and judgmental-ness) 

•    To further create an indelible, unbreakable bond that only he/she can do- that is deeper than every before the loss –

•    Even with a vulnerable -bare – a brief acknowledgement that I too am am my own living hell from a common place - a common source - and in my own way, which is only what I can do am I sharing this experience with you.

•    And in that maybe, perhaps your immense yoke can ease  a little bit and your spouse and in that way your spouse can become a source of comfort in a way that no-one else can possibly do

•    This was all – that I have absolutely nothing to say to all of you that I think would be helpful –

•    I could share something that I have found to be helpful to me

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Must Read! Devori Stern’s (15 yrs old) Talk in Bais Yaakov –In memory –Shoshie a’h

Devori has been chosen to be the 10th grade representative at Bais
Yaakov for the high school “Mishmeret” program. This program of the
Chofet Chaim foundation has been chosen as a way of educating and
Inspiring the girls not to speak Loshon Hara (negative, hurtful and derogatory
Speech) which is a serious prohibition of our Torah. The following is Devori’s
Talk this past week to the entire high school to kick off this year’s program.
Did I mention that this year’s entire program is dedicated in the memory of
Our beloved Shoshana Rachel bas Elimelech –may her memory be for a blessing.

Good Afternoon
Loshon hara is a very lowly thing that mostly hurts ourselves. Every time  you
Speak Loshon Hara you are hurting yourself more than the person that you
Are talking about. Every time you speak Loshon Hara you are sprinkling a
Little bit of dirt on your Neshama (soul). Most times that we speak Loshon Hara
It is because of our own insecurities and not because of anything else.

Let me give you an example. You have a terrible voice, you literally sound like a
cow when you say Modeh Ahni ( aprayer). Now this girl Sarah is an amazing singer!
She can do solos, harmony  and pretty much do anything with her voice. So Sarah
Is chosen to have the big solo part in the play. She messes up on one word. You
consider yourself “a music critic” and you go around and say “OMG –did you see Sarah?
She totally messed up the solo? You don’t even realize that it came from your own

Does this make you really feel good? Does this really help you? The answer is no! You
Are only hurting yourself, you are trying to make your own insecurities go away! Sarah
Might have made a mistake but the one that is getting hurt is you, the one who is getting
An avira (sin) is you!

So let me ask you a question: When next Yom Kippur comes and Hashem wants to forgive
You for all of your actions. How is he going to do that? When it comes to Loshon Hara and
speaking about others Hashem can’t forgive you only the person you spoke Loshon hara
about.  I don’t think she is going to like it when you tell her uummmm that you spoke Loshon
hara about her and you are sorry. She is not going to be so forgiving. Are you going to
remember all the times in the year when you spoke Loshon Hara? No! So how is Hashem
going to forgive you?

Not to mention that if you speak Loshon Hara, and you are a gossiper
Hashem will have a hard time forgiving you himself ………….. I mean you are going around
And speaking badly about his children. K…… so why speak it? Cuz it makes you feel good?
2 get her back?.............cuz it is tempting…….. it is not worth it! I mean we all make mistakes
But we can all try to be more careful in the way that we speak toward and about each other.
We can all take upon ourselves a time in the day not to speak Loshon Hara, to be extra,
super careful. Do it with your friends, make it fun………….. it’s not nerdy. I mean come on
am I nerdy?

I’ll even tell you the best part we are doing it in honor of Shoshie Stern a ‘h –my sister.
As we all know, Shoshie was and still is a fun, bright, bubbly, sweet girl…… who spoke
With mostly all positive words and speech. Shoshie always tried to be nice to every single
Person and not to speak bad of anyone. It would mean so much to me, my family and I am
sure a million times more times to Shoshie to participate in Mishmeret, in her name, in her
memory to elevate her Neshama.

So lastly, I just wanted to express gratitude to Bais Yaakov for giving us an environment
Where we all feel comfy to be who you are and not feel judged when we want to grow and
Prosper. Lastly………..

Be Positive and Keep Shoshieing!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rabbi Mike Talk - November 24, 2013 at Torah Academy of Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Mike Talk - November 24, 2013 at Torah Academy of Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.

       “Where the Extraordinary meets the Ordinary”
Lessons from the life of Shoshie Stern a’h- A regular, normal 12 year old

Why did the death of a 12 year old frum girl named Shoshie Stern in Boca Raton become a national Jewish story?Why were there over 1,500 people at her levaya and over a 1,000 people at her Shiva?
Why was I95 Shut down to make way for the funeral procession, something usually only reserved for dignitaries? Why are there over 3,000 people signed up for and tuning into Shoshie’s web page “Mitzvot for Shoshie”, Why has there been a distribution of close to 7,500 “Keep Shoshieing bracelets. Why has there been continued, unrelenting Mitzvah activity done in Shoshie’s name?

One of the most interesting and strange things to have transpired after Shoshie’s Petira was the almost shocking realization of just how great Shoshie truly was in her life time.  The enormity of the reaction, impact and lasting impression of Shoshie’s Petira is a testimony that Shoshie embodied within what we all long for. It’s not that we, her family didn’t think she was special;She didn’t fight with her older sister, helped out at home, took care of the other kids, cooked desserts for Pesach, etc however; nothing in particular was glaring, stood out or drew great attention to us nor did we think to others. Shoshie didn’t noticeably excel at anything in particular. Yet when the final tally came in about her life, without exaggeration, her true greatness, when all was said and done, merited for her to be a Rebbe of sorts for our entire family and an inspiration to literally thousands to grow in greater Mitzvah observance.  How did we miss it? How is it possible that the extraordinary can hidden in what seemingly is just the ordinary? Maybe we need to adjust our antennas! Not only could we be missing out on seeing each other’s greatness but do we really know who we are married to and who our children are?

In this talk, I would like to share some thoughts as to: What was Shoshie’s greatness that will inspire us to create more respect, love, peace and unity in our world?  What were the key and the essential components that when added up created that greatness? Why and how each others greatness is hidden from one another? Down to earth-wisdom for living tools for us to see “true” greatness
in the ordinary, appreciate one another in a deeper way, and build the world that we want to live in.   

Torah Academy is located at 6800 N. Green Bay Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53209 – 414-352-6789

Gratitude or Death - Choose Life

The snake spoke to Eve in the garden of Eden to entice her and Adam to eat from the forbidden tree (the tree of knowledge of good and bad). Eve answered back that God said that " you should neither eat of it or touch it lest you die". The snake convinced her to eat it and she didn't die. What exactly had God meant?

After she and Adam ate, God confronted Adam and asked him "where are you" ? Where are "you" in all of this? (How could you do such a thing) - Not only did Adam not admit fault or guilt he blamed it on his wife, Eve, after all she is the one who gave it to him.

The famous Bible illuminator mentions that Adam was guilty of denying the good that was given to him and the following is what perhaps God meant when he said that "lest you will die:

Every moment of life, every breath is a gift from God. Life itself, awareness of life, the ability to have an experience (s) - to be aware of those experiences, - to see, to touch, to hear, to speak, to smell, to taste - every second of life many of us have an opportunity to constantly experience the good that is given to us by the Almighty. God gives us so much, knows what is good and/or bad for us and let's us know that in advance. If you are aware, over time one has the ability to develop an appreciation and a trust that the Almighty does so much for us out of pure unconditional love - When he says something like don't eat from the tree- he should surely have our attention. By eating from the tree-rejecting the relationship, Adam denied the good that continually comes from Hashem.

True life comes from the ability to be aware of, appreciate and experience the good that someone continuously bestows upon you -and to be connected to the source of that good- the moment you don't do that, disconnect from that source, deny the good- that is the definition of true death.

Life is only love

These thoughts are based upon ideas I heard from Rabbi Benzion Twerski - Rabbi of CBJ-Milwaukee - where we spent Sukkot

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Tragedy Stirkes - by Yaakov Astor

 When Tragedy Strikes

A horrific tragedy took place within the community of Boca Raton, Florida, last April. A 12-year-old girl, Shoshie Stern, was killed in a traffic accident. At an emotional communal gathering, one of the rabbis summed up everyone’s feelings:
We reel from this tragedy. It feels like it was just moments ago, hours ago, that we received a phone call or text message informing us that a 12-year-old girl -- a precious neshamah -- has been lost. The pain is still so acute, the grief is so overwhelming -- and it could not have happened to a more special family.
As those who spent time in the shivah home have come to realize, Rabbi Michael Stern and his Rebbetzin, Denise, are incredibly special people. Tonight, at their home, they spoke to two people from our community who saw the entire horrific event unfold. I heard Rabbi Mike turn to Denise and say, “We need to be here for those who witnessed it. They really went through a very difficult thing. We have to lift their spirits; we have to give them comfort, because they are really going through a horrible time.”
Can you imagine! What extraordinary people -- to think of others even as they are going through this themselves.
Nothing is coincidental. Rabbi Paysach Krohn had been called to perform a bris in Boca Raton. Incredibly, the bris turned out to be during the shivah for Shoshie Stern. He was thus asked to address the community the night before the bris. A large crowd gathered in one of the community shuls. The following is taken from his words.

We have come together in a week of anguish and in a week of heartbreak. What happened this past week will affect all of you forever. As a New Yorker, I can tell you that years ago, 9/11 affected us, and it still affects us to this day. Similarly, all those who live in Boston will be affected forever by what happened at the Marathon. And all of you here in Boca Raton will be affected forever by the sudden terrible, tragic loss of that special girl, Shoshie Stern.
In Boca, the sun set prematurely, and it cast a pall of darkness on the entire community. The shadows of this darkness spread across Jewish communities throughout the world. So many of us who do not live in Boca feel your pain and share your grief, because whoever we speak to tells us about the greatness of Shoshie’s parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Stern.
As I was being driven here from the airport, a friend who knows the Sterns called me and said, “Rabbi Stern was my closest friend growing up. He is the embodiment of Avraham Avinu. He has an organization called Rabbi Without Walls, which does just what it says: He does not wait for unaffiliated Jews to come to him. He goes out to people and is mekarev them.”
I want to tell you a very painful lesson I learned as a young man. My father passed away when I was only 21. I am the oldest of seven children. I had known for a while that he was sick. One day, my father was taken to the hospital in Washington Heights. He had been a talmid of Rav Shimon Schwab, so my brother, Kolman, and I stayed in the Rav’s home for Shabbos. After having visited my father in the hospital, we went back to eat the seudah with Rav Schwab and his wife. The Rav asked how our father was. I answered, “I have bitachon (faith) that he will get well.”
Rav Schwab became very serious, and taught me a lesson for life. “Bitachon in Hashem,” he said, “does not mean that your father will necessarily recover and get well. Faith in Hashem means that we understand that Hashem has a master plan, and He knows what He is doing. It does not mean that only good things happen.”
Tragedies happen, r”l. Bitachon means having faith that Hashem knows what He is doing, and that perhaps one day we will understand. That is why we get together to give each other chizuk, so that we will not be broken. At the end of time, we will find out why it happened, but until then, we face the reality that difficult things occur.

A New Person

A neighbor of mine, Mrs. Gitty Lipsius, teaches in Shevach High School in Queens. She had a number of children, and then it was a few years before she was expecting another child. She went through a full-term uneventful pregnancy, but tragically, the child was stillborn. She was devastated and sank into depression.
Mrs. Lipsius told me that her father, R’ Gershon Yankelowitz, had lost his entire family in the Holocaust, and after the war, he and his wife had trouble having children. After years, they had their first child, a little girl -- who died only four months later. He had suffered so much. Eventually, he and his wife had a family. Now, years later, he called his daughter Gitty and asked her how she was doing. She replied that she was doing terribly; she could not find herself and did not know how she would ever be the same again.
Rabbi Yankelowitz said, “My dear daughter, you will never be the same. You are a new person. Find your newness. Get used to it, and live with it. When you accept your new situation, you will be able to go on.”
When her father gave her that insight and direction, Mrs. Lipsius realized how right he was. She told me that once she accepted her new reality, she felt liberated. From that point on, she was able to return to being a functioning, accomplishing person.
That is what we must learn to accept here in Boca. We will never be the same. Once we learn to accept that, and live with that newness, we will be able to grow.

A Cup of Blessing

A while ago, I got a call from Rabbi Yisrael Rosenfeld who had been a wonderful mechanech and principal in Denver, Colorado for many years. I personally have a great debt of gratitude to him because he was the teacher of my wife, Miriam, who grew up in Denver. Rabbi Rosenfeld said to me, “In the past, you have done the brissen of a number of my grandsons who live in New York. But now I have had my first great-grandson! Please come to do his bris at the White Shul in Far Rockaway.”
I was honored to get that call, and so on the designated day, I arrived early to the White Shul to prepare for davening and the subsequent bris. Before davening, Rabbi Rosenfeld showed me the becher they would be using. He told me that it was very special to him, because when his parents married in Chust, Hungary, the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l, gave them that cup as a wedding gift.
I was impressed, but Rabbi Rosenfeld was not finished. He continued and told me that he had been in Auschwitz. I was shocked. I had thought that he was born in Denver. No, he told me, he had been born in Chust, and when he was 15, the Germans surrounded Chust and turned it into a ghetto. The Jews learned that they had four days until they would be deported. Rabbi Rosenfeld’s parents thought they would be sent deeper into Hungary; they had no idea that they would be sent to Auschwitz.
Yet despite the fact that he was a teenager, Rabbi Rosenfeld realized that they would not be allowed to take their valuables with them, so he asked his father to allow him to bury some of their family’s precious possessions until the time when he would hopefully return and dig them up. His father consented. He took the atara of his father’s tallis, his mother’s candlesticks, his father’s pocket watch and the becher, and ran with them to the area behind his grandmother’s house, where the ground was very soft (because they had chickens there). With his hands, he dug as deep a hole as he could and buried those four items.
Four days later, they were sent to Auschwitz where they stayed for a year and a half. Rabbi Rosenfeld’s father and brothers were murdered there. He, a sister, and his elderly mother survived. It took months for him to return to Chust, and when he finally got there, he ran into his home -- but he was thrown out and threatened with arrest if he came back.
He ran behind his grandmother’s house and tried to remember where he had buried those precious articles. The ground had hardened, but he took a piece of wood and started digging. Sure enough, he found all four of the possessions. The becher had been flattened by the weight of people stepping on the ground above where it lay near the surface, but sometime later, Rabbi Rosenfeld had it repaired.
“This cup,” Rabbi Rosenfeld exclaimed, “has been used for every wedding and every bris in the family! Today, for the first time, it will be used for the bris of my first great-grandchild. That’s why it’s so special.”
I took the becher and kissed it, and asked Rabbi Rosenfeld to give the cup to me before the bris because I wanted to address the crowd before we even started. Thus, after davening but before they even brought the infant in for the bris, I held the becher up for all to see and told them its story.
“I believe this becher represents Klal Yisrael,” I said. “This becher was buried. This becher was trampled on. This becher was given up for lost -- just like Klal Yisrael. We have been thrown out of so many countries, we’ve been beaten and we’ve been given up for dead after pogroms. But today, here we are, stronger than ever. To me it would seem that this kos shel brachah is so special that after the bris, everybody should line up to sip some wine from this precious becher.”
Sure enough, after the bris, close to 20 people lined up to drink from that cup of blessing.
And that is what I believe each of us here in Boca tonight must do. We must strengthen ourselves and become like this kos shel brachah. That is our obligation. From tonight on, each of us must make a commitment that we will be a cup of blessing for others in Klal Yisrael. Each of us has certain talents. Each of us is accomplished in his or her own way. Tonight, we must look into our hearts and ask ourselves, “How can I become a blessing?”

Tuition Situation

None of us would have wanted this to have occurred, but each of us will now become a kos shel brachah, because now we will feel pain for others as never before. Now we will become more compassionate people. We will do more chessed. We will understand what it means when a community comes together and the people give chizuk to each other.
Let me give you an example. There is a fellow named Shabsi in London who has a job as the head of the tuition committee of a local yeshivah. It is a job nobody wants. Shabsi told me that as the tuition committee leader, he called a wealthy fellow, Feivel, a few days before Pesach to remind him that he owed the school £2,000, which the school needed desperately to pay the staff before Yom Tov. Feivel said that he would take care of it that day and promised that he would come to Shabsi’s home later that afternoon. Shabsi waited, but Feivel did not show up.
A few weeks passed. Now it was a few days before Shavuos. Shabsi made another phone call to remind Feivel of their previous conversation. Feivel protested that he had indeed come to drop off the money that day, but he had not been able to find parking, so he gave an envelope with the money in it to Shabsi’s eight-year-old son who had been playing outside the house. Shabsi went to ask his son about it. The boy said that he did not remember any envelope.
Shabsi called back Feivel and said that it was pretty irresponsible to trust a youngster with so much money, but before going to a din Torah to work it out, he would go up and down his block to see if anyone found it. The block was full of frum families, and he asked everyone if they had found a white envelope. Finally one neighbor, Henoch, responded by asking, “Do you mean the one with £2,000 in it?”
“Yes, exactly,” said Shabsi. He went on to tell the finder the whole incident.
“You won’t believe this,” Henoch said. “A few days before Pesach, I was laid off. I had no idea how I would make Pesach. I didn’t want to go home and tell my wife. I walked around, trying to decide what to do, and there on my lawn was an unmarked envelope with money inside. Like manna from heaven. That’s how I covered our Pesach expenses. However, now that you tell me that it is money that belongs to the yeshivah, of course I will pay it back. But it can only be in increments as I still don’t have a job.”
Shabsi called Feivel to tell him what had happened. What Feivel said was remarkable. “Tell him to keep the money. I’ll give you another £2,000. I was once in his position as well, and I can understand what he is going through.”
And indeed, Feivel brought the money over right away. Why did he do that? Because he had gone through a similar terrible experience of being without an income and had learned from it. He had become a kos shel brachah.
That is how we grow. From adversity we feel pain, and that helps us relate to others in a similar situation. This, then, is a moment of growth.

Of Chariots and Horses

Finally, I believe that when a tragedy of this scope occurs, we need perspective. I had a friend in Detroit, Elya Shoenig, who had a son named Chezky. In the winter of 1966, shortly after his bar mitzvah, Chezky became very ill. He was a wonderful, respectful child, loved by everyone. By January 1967, the doctors realized that Chezky had leukemia. Everyone was especially frightened, because Chezky had had leukemia when he was two. For ten years, it had been in remission, but now it had returned with intensity.
Chezky’s father did everything he could to pursue treatments for his son. One day, someone approached him in shul and said, “Elya, I want you to know that your son will be fine! He’s going to be healthy again!”
“How do you know that?”
“There is a pasuk,” the man said, “‘Eileh varechev v’eileh vasusim, va’anachnu b’sheim Hashem elokeinu naskir -- Some [the non-Jewish world] with chariots and some with horses, but we, in the name of Hashem our G-d, we call out (Tehillim 20:8).’
The pasuk says that non-Jews rely on ‘chariots and horses’ to fight their battles, but we call out to Hashem; we’re on a higher level. It’s the same in medicine. Your son is fighting a battle with leukemia. Perhaps for a non-Jewish child, leukemia would seem hopeless because of the limitations of medicine, but your son will get better because Hashem is fighting his battle.”
Elya was moved. The more he thought about it, the more encouraged he became. Soon, he felt positive that Chezky would get better. Every day, he kept saying the pasuk over and over and convinced himself that this temporary nightmare would soon be over. Even after Chezky became more ill and needed a bone marrow transplant at the Harper University Hospital in Detroit, Elya Shoenig did not lose hope. Interestingly, when the doctor said to Elya, “Mr. Shoenig, your son is doing better than everybody else on the ward,” he thought, “Of course, eileh varechev v’eileh vasusim….’”
Tragically, Chezky’s situation got worse, and a few months later, on an erev Shabbos, he passed away. The whole Detroit community was devastated. They had a heartbreaking funeral, just as you had here in Boca. Every child who knew Chezky was crying, just like every girl here who knew Shoshie cried.
For weeks afterward, every time Elya Shoenig said that pasuk during Shacharis it pained him. And every day the pain grew worse. Wasn’t that the pasuk that assured him of healing? He was distraught until one morning, he suddenly came up with this understanding: What was Dovid Hamelech telling us in this phrase? It is not the battle plan during the war, but the approach after the war that Dovid was emphasizing.
After the war, when a non-Jew loses, he says, “If only I would have done something different. If I’d had a different strategy or different weapons, I could have won.” “Eileh varechev v’eileh vasusim -- if only this, if only that…
However, a Jew does not look back. He does not say, “If only I had used a different doctor, different hospital, different treatment…”
Now, he understood the next pasuk: “Heimah karu v’nafalu -- they slumped and they fell,” because they thought that they controlled it and could have caused a different outcome. But “Anachnu kamnu v’nisodad -- we got up and felt invigorated,” because we knew that no matter what we would have done, the outcome, which was the will of Hashem, would have been the same.
Some people may think that maybe Shoshie should not have crossed that street, maybe she should not have been in that area at that time or maybe she should have stayed home. But that is not how we should look at it. No matter what she would have done, and no matter where she would have been playing, it was going to happen. We can look at the Sterns and say that they raised a beautiful child. They and their precious daughter did everything they were supposed to do. We can all be proud of her, proud of her family and proud of her community.
That’s why we can say with confidence, “‘Ananchnu kamnu v’nisodad’”; we rise and are invigorated, because she was raised in the most magnificent way. The Sterns did everything they were supposed to do. And if you do everything that you are supposed to do, you cannot feel inconsolable about it. You should be proud that such a child was raised in your wonderful community of Boca Raton. The family, the school and the community should be proud.
Hashem should help all of you continue to be that kos shel brachah, that lev tov to each other, and know that though you have gone through a difficult time, you will not be broken. You will build yourselves and rebuild the Stern family; you will give them and anyone, anytime, who may find themselves in their position chizuk. May Hashem bless all of us with strength and perseverance, for they are the hallmarks of Jews through the ages.