I would normally have started this Blog with reference to The Rebbe and The Chabad Community In South Africa, but my thoughts and prayers are with my friend Yisrael who is in ICU in Johannesburg with COVID-19.
The South African Jewish Community is unique in many ways as I may have explained before since it is made up of so many communities which function as one family unit. It will be 24 years since I left with my family to make Aliyah this coming Parshat Lech Lecha.
Coming directly from Minnesota and marrying in South Africa less than three years after the Soweto Riots was a unique experience in itself. There was so much to learn and many Rabbis to consult, but let’s face it, without the Rebbe’s foresight South Africa might not have provided the same learning experience for me and others like me that I was fortunate to benefit from. We were part of the Chabad community which has grown quite impressively since I first arrived.
Raising a family is difficult enough, but when you have to bring up a family in a religious environment without having that same experience yourself is even more difficult. That’s why I feel the Rebbe in his infinite wisdom realized long before each and every one of us did, that there would be a need to establish Chabad Houses in every corner of the earth. And when I first landed in Johannesburg five days before our wedding, I realized how far one of those corners can really be.
My wife and I were invited to many people for meals, both on Shabbat and during the week. Only when we felt ready did we begin hosting people. It was similar to on the job training to become a good Shabbat host.
Special thanks goes to my wife’s brother Benjy and his wife Jeanette as well as my wife’s sister Faygie and husband Moshe. They were very helpful in making me feel right at home from the time I arrived. And of course I will never forget my wife’s mother Anne who treated me like one of her very own sons from the time I first arrived.
But not only that, we were also inviting people who themselves had never experienced being at a Shabbat table before. As I got more into it, I found it easy to relate to them because I had been through the same thing myself. And what made it more interesting is the fact that on Shabbat our whole family sat together to eat a meal. Most of those guests never experienced that before and were impressed how well behaved our children were.
My Friend Yisrael
When we first met, I knew him by his English name Irving. He would come to our Shabbat table willing to learn. He was particularly fond of our children and they loved him just the same. Yisrael and I spoke about many things, but I knew that one day he would become Shomer Shabbat. It would only be a matter of time that this would eventually happen.
Yisrael’s parents, Robbie and Sheri lived only a few blocks away and often I would go have a nice talk with them both. They were very respectful of their son’s desire to explore the possibility of becoming Shomer Shabbat. Yisrael’s sister and her husband were also very respectful which gave me added confidence that Yisrael would be well received by his extended family.
Yisrael and I helped each other in many ways as he introduced me to many of his South African friends and relatives. They were all kind and considerate and were aware that Yisrael was growing in his religious observance. There was something else that was also changing about Yisrael as he began growing his beard, which made him feel part of the “boys” when he came to daven in Shul.
Yisrael is a person who always wants to help anyone any way he can. He definitely can be ranked up there with people like Eli Beer who are always there when you need them.
That is why I wanted to write this Blog for my friend Yisrael. I wrote a previous Blog when Eli was ill and asked for prayers and Baruch Hashem Eli pulled through.
So I am now requesting that whoever is able to please say prayers for my friend Yisrael Ben Sherna.
May he have a Refuah Shleima and the same wishes go to anyone who needs our prayers for a complete recovery which should come speedily along with Moshiach’s anticipated arrival.