Shoah Martyrs from Bolechov

On my father’s side of the family:

(from Bolechov, Poland; currently, Bolekhiv, Ukraine)

Chaim ben Yaakov Schnee

Elka Schnee (nee Fasberg)

Gitel bas Chaim

Isaac ben Chaim

Sarah bas Chaim

Sason ben Chaim

Yaakov ben Chaim

Sosie bas Chaim

Melamed

Joseph ben Melamed

Chaje Ruchel bas Chaim

—– —– —–

Yehoshua Mordechai ben Yaakov Schnee

Ziona Schnee (nee Weisbard)

Moses ben Yehoshua Mordechai Schnee

Chana Schnee (nee Turkel)

Yaakov ben Moses

Celina bas Moses

Tzila bas Moses

Israel ben Yehoshua Mordechai

Sorke Schnee (nee Goldfischer)

Aryeh ben Israel

Tzinah bas Israel

Basia bas Yehoshua Mordechai

Gotshalk ben Basia

Hirsch Ber Tzvi Dov ben Yehoshua Mordechai

Kalman ben Yehoshua Mordechai

Esther bas Yehoshua Mordechai

Reisel bas Yehoshua Mordechai

On the Road Again

I will be traveling across the country by train for the first time in three years to attend the bar Mitzvah of my nephew. I intend to post some updates – a travelogue – of my journey along the way. I will be travelling, after this event, to visit my mother who will not be attending, because of a serious heart condition. If you feel inspired to contribute a few dollars for my travelling expenses, I would greatly appreciate your contribution.

Thank you very much. G-d bless.

Please, find link to contribute here.

Soul Renewal: Changes Along the Journey of Life

“Some people will remain with us on our journey when we change; others will not.” – Tzvi Fievel Schnee

As I change, from time to time, over certain periods of my life, the adage that was made known to me, personally, by the founders of PD Seminars, at The Haven in British Columbia has become realized: I was told that some people would draw closer to me, and others would move further away from me. It is as if I can add this statement to my “facts of life” list, if indeed I had a facts of life list to begin with, written down somewhere in my personal journal. Yet, I never even though about beginning a list like that until now. The reason that I have even brought up this issue, is based upon my noticing that every once in a while, my Instagram account loses a follower: it is as if to say, that it is a fact of life for those who post on Instagram and other social media platforms; of course, this could apply to any other social media platform. Although I cannot be sure, I make the generalization with some certainty, despite any statistics; therefore, I hope that what I have mentioned in this specific post of mine, may be of some consolation to others.

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5782

Today is Rosh Chodesh Tammuz,

the first day of the new month of Tammuz on the Hebrew calendar.

Aside from entering the auspicious month of Tammuz, wherein the 17th of Tammuz commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., the three weeks leading up to Tish b’Av begins on that day. On the ninth of Av, both the first Temple in 586 B.C.E., and the second Temple in 70 C.E. were destroyed. Yet, we look forward to the building of the Third Temple, in like manner that light always follows darkness at dawn.

Tammuz is also a month of reckoning, whereof we may focus on ourselves, in terms of our own progress and lack thereof, taking stock of our weaknesses, as well as our strengths. Our “spiritual reserve,” may be running low; perhaps, akin to the sins that lead to the destruction of the Temples amongst those two generations, especially sinas chinam, baseless enmity. Yet, for myself, and K’lal Yisrael (All of Israel), I take hope, for our generation is the generation of return, both in the sense of teshuvah (repentance), and an actual return to Israel:

“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the L-RD thy G-d, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; that then the L-RD thy G-d will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath scattered thee.” – Deuteronomy 30:1-3, JPS 1917 Tanach

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Shavuot Reflection 5782

To some extent, the nature of Judaism very well may appear to be a smorgasbord of various beliefs, practices, and minchagim (customs). Nowhere is this more clear to me, than at the shul (place of worship) that I frequent on Shabbos and yom tov, as well as other, holidays. Where I  live, a lot of out of town Jewish visitors show up, especially for yom tov.

Inasmuch that I became an observant Jew in 2005, I took upon myself as a ba’al teshuvah, specific modes of yiddishkeit, based upon what I learned from others. Moreover, about twelve years later, I learned that my grandfather was a Chassidic rabbi. Thus, through my lineage, I am a Bolechover chasid, my ancestors on the paternal side of my family, being from Bolechov, Poland.

So, I prefer not to conform, nor model my sense of Yiddishkeit, roughly translated as “things Jewish,” after the type of Chassidism being promoted where I attend services.

To make matters more complicated for me, when observant Jews from out of town visit, any sense of “localness” dissipates into the mountain air, as the priorities of the visitors seem to supersede the local congregation. Case in point, when I facilitated the yizkor service on the second day of Shavuos, one of the visitors, who was holding the Torah, as required during the Yizkor (memorial) service, took it upon himself to start without me.

Mind you, I was standing on the bimah, in the middle of the sanctuary, and hadn’t yet even opened the Yizkor book. Instead of beginning the service anew, with an opening paragraph in English, I picked up where he left off, by abruptly reciting the same prayer in English that he had recited in Hebrew. This dueling for control of the service continued, whereas I was in a position that required assertion on the one hand, without offending the visitor on the other hand.

Was there a misunderstanding, whereas he felt responsibility for leading the service, because he was holding the Torah? To some extent, I showed deference to him, even though I was designated to lead the yizkor service, and had been doing so since the fall holidays. Yet, it seems at times that some visitors would like to run things according to their own ways, irrespective of showing respect to the place where they are visiting. Not that  I mean to make a generalization; however, this does seem par for the course, based on various other observations I’ve made over the years.

I absolutely have no sense of belongingness where I attend shul, because if it ever had been about the local congregation, it no longer is. True, the local congregation dwindled significantly after the pandemic began to proliferate; so, there are a number of extenuating circumstances, that compel those in charge to focus on out of towners. Nor, do I have anything against out of town visitors, because I am always fascinated by the Chasidim from Borough Park and elsewhere that visit.

However, I feel as if I stand alone amidst K’lal Yisrael, in a variegated melting pot, that never truly coalesces. No sense of community, like I would ideally envision for a congregation. Not that any congregation would be ideal, anyway, especially, because I am somewhat unique in the values that I would emphasize as crucial to a communal sense of worship, and spiritual growth. Only H’Shem knows, what the future holds for me, or this congregation.

on a personal note:

I am at my desk, nearly twenty-four hours a day, for I often fall to sleep at my desk. Yet, the time has arrived for me to question my motives, and activities. What do I do? Mostly I think, read, and write about G-d, religion, and scripture. However, this will not suffice. For, I have very little lived experience in actually serving G-d within the framework of an active compatible community. To what avail have I been attending services on Shabbos on a regular basis? Virtually none, for the pace of service is too fast for me to meaningful follow along. The interruptions and chatter are always present to some degree; and, additionally, there is no fertile opportunity for me to foster any sense of kavannah before during or after the service. Moreover, seudah (lunch) after services, is disappointing as well, even though at times, I do get to here an interesting dvar. Even so, mostly, the table(s) are full of mundane chatter about worldly topics, forbidden to speak about on Shabbos.

And, so, at my desk shall I remain until I am able to find another community for myself, according to H’Shem’s directive. Baruch H’Shem (Praise G-d), for taking me this far on the journey. As usual, I will need to move on at some point, perhaps, in the near future; that is to say, that it is typical in my life to change, and need to find somewhere else where there is “room to grow.” For now, I will take a break from attendance at the local shul where I have been davening in-person on Shabbos and holidays. After all, I still have the shul I attend on Zoom during the weekdays, as well as on Shabbos, early in the morning, inasmuch as I give myself a dispensation to do so, being that it is forbidden to use the internet on the Sabbath. It figures that all of these thoughts are preceded by my first ever purchase of a bottle of unkosher wine on Friday afternoon (under extenuating circumstances); perhaps, the treif wine has made my brain “loopy,” so to speak; although I feel as if I am “liberated” from the minutia of details, that plague the mind of an observant Jew. So be it, for now. I will remain on the derech (path); yet, I will tread mindfully as I walk along to eternity.

note: this blogpost was posted exactly at the end of Shabbat, erev 30 Nissan 5782.

Truth Conquers All

1.

All of the firebrands that you have thrown at me,

have been deflected, landed in fertile soil, and,

transformed into pillars of truth to guide my life.

The blazing torches of lies, brandished in my face,

have been quenched by the streams of sanctity,

and extinguished by waters from the well of salvation.

I have been inoculated against future deception,

and strengthened against the cunning of the Great Deceiver.

I have regained my sanity in a world of chaos.

2.

I put one foot forward each and every day of my life,

on the road towards freedom from my past bondage,

held as a mental hostage, in the lairs of my nemesis.

Yet, when you appeared, my bonds were loosened,

my nightmare ended, and new horizons emerged.

Now, carried away by the Spirit, to new vistas,

I have tread upon the tail of the serpent,

and danced amongst my people reborn.

matzevah – Shlomo Farkas

Samuel (Shlomo) Farkas

– my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family

translation of inscription:

L’Zikaron (remembrance) Neshamat (of the soul of)

Aviynu (our father)    HaYikar (the dear one, beloved)

Morenu haRav v’nichbad (our honorable teacher and rabbi) Shmuel (Samuel)

ben (son of) Reb (Mr.) Gedalyahu HaKohein

passed away on 26 Tishrei 5682

TNZVH (May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life).

[26 Tishrei, 5682 = Fri, 28 October 1921]

Yahrzeit: Yaakov ben Dovid

erev 29 Kislev 5782 (December 3, 2021)

in memorial: 29 Kislev 5779

on the occasion of my father’s third yahrzeit:

“This world is like a lobby for Olam Haba, the World-to-Come;

prepare yourself in the lobby, so that you may enter the Banquet Hall.”

– Pirkei Avos 4:21

The Jewish Sages envision the reward for a righteous life as a Great Banquet, where at the end of history we will partake of a great feast, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be present. In other words, this life is a test, how we live this life, determines the quality of our place in Olam Haba, the World-to-Come.

My father lived his life with a profound sense of emunah in H’Shem (belief in G-d). This can be demonstrated by a few examples: Years ago, my father would walk six miles to synagogue on Yom Kippur, and he would stay there for the entire day. Many years prior, when he was in the Korean War, on a particular night of fierce fighting in the trenches, he prayed to G-d, that if lived, he would stop smoking on the Sabbath. He lived, and he kept his commitment; he eventually stopped smoking altogether.

My father passed away towards the end of the month of Kislev, when the light reflected from the moon is barely visible. Yet, that day was also the fifth day of Chanukah. If you envision a menorah with the shamosh, the servant candle in the middle, there are four places for candles to the left of the shamash, and four to the right. On the eve of the fifth day of Chanukah, we light five candles. Therefore, that is the first day of Chanukah, in a sense, when there is more light than darkness.

In parashas Vayechi, the narrative begins “vayechi Yaakov” – “and Jacob lived.” Although the passage speaks of his death, the word “vayechi,” meaning “life,” implies “something that exists permanently” – that is the soul that continues to live. As the Sages say, “Jacob lives.” I believe that my father lives, and that after the Tehillas HaMeisim, the Resurrection of the Dead, he will partake of the Great Banquet, that marks the beginning of Olam Haba, the World-to-Come. May we all merit, to also partake of the Great Banquet.

Let the Loudness Cease

motzei Shabbos: parashas Haazinu 5782

As the evening wanes, and the new day waxes (“and the evening and the morning were the first day” of the week), I am at a standstill with the circumstances, not knowing how to proceed. For anyone who relies on the customary protocol of Yiddishkeit, such as the routine at the end of Shabbos that comprises a peaceful and meaningful transition from sacred time to mundane time, it is of the upmost importance to carry out these traditions. Yet, to do so without the proper kavannah (intention) would be disrespectful to the Sabbath Queen (the Shechinah – G-d’s immanent presence). And, so, I am taking to writing out my thoughts and feelings, in hope that this will serve as a catharsis, because I do not want to let my negative emotions affect my solemn testimony to the parting of the Sabbath.

Truth be told, this may sound trivial on my part, however, I am thoroughly saturated with annoyance over the volume of the music being played in a neighbor’s apartment. As I would not enter the Sabbath, feeling annoyed, frustrated, or otherwise sullied by negativity, so shall I not depart from this sacred twenty-five hour-period that I look forward to every week. Perhaps, I’ll wait another two hours and twenty minutes until 10:00 p.m., designated as “quiet time,” at the apartment complex where I live, in hopes that he will at least turn his music down some.

Meanwhile, rather than delivering an insightful essay on the weekly reading from the Torah, with some concluding remarks as the new week approaches, I am serving up a rant. My apologies. Moses was not permitted to enter the promised land, because of a prior transgression: he was only granted a view of the land from atop of a mountain. Whatever I have done to deserve this constant interruption to my Shabbos, it is such that although sometimes I am able to enter the sacred time, beginning on Friday evening, that privilege does not always seem to last. So, who am I to complain, if everything is truly somehow from H’Shem, because He is sovereign? (I am but dust and ashes).