The 'Hand'

Friday, 16 August, 2019 - 3:50 pm

In Judaism, we are trained to see, or look out for, the hand of G-d in everything that we experience. One of the most basic tenets of Chassidism in the teaching of the Ba’al Shem Tov that “everything we see, hear or experience is to serve as a lesson in serving G-d” and those of you that read this column regularly know that I always try to follow this instruction and derive meaning and lessons from life’s experiences, regardless of how trivial they may seem.

Fourteen years ago my wife and I and our (then) three children moved to Northwest Arkansas .We were tasked with the mission of establishing Chabad of Northwest Arkansas and provide an opportunity for  every Jew in Northwest Arkansas, local or visitor, to celebrate their Judaism with pride.

In Hebrew that word for hand is Yad, spelled yud-daled. The numerical value of these two letters is 14 – Yud is 10 and Daled is 4. Often, when we want to use the number 14 we use the word yad. The most famous example is the Rambam’s Mishne Torah which consists of 14 volumes which is commonly referred to in halachic literature as the ‘Yad Hachazakah’ or ‘sefer hayad’.

Looking back at the last fourteen years, or ‘yad years’, it is difficult to ignore the hand of Hashem in our personal lives as well as in the amazing history of Chabad of Northwest Arkansas. I always jokingly say that when we established our Shul we used fifty-percent faith and fifty-percent logical planning; but as time went on we realized more on more the hand of G-d and His amazing blessings so the ratio now is more like 95/5. The way everything fell into place, the way the community got involved in participation and support is nothing short of a miracle. The nearly-complete Jewish Center, how it came to be and how it grew in scope and beauty is one more miracle, a pretty amazing one I must say.

The story of Chabad of Northwest Arkansas isn’t the story of a Shul or an organization. It is the story of the Jew who attended Shul for the first time and the one who’s always been going and can now do that here too; it is the story of the Jew who’s been able to say Yizkor again after many years and the one who just learned what that is; it is the story of the Jewish child who can now read Hebrew and the Jewish student on campus no longer hiding their identity; it is the story of the person who had a hot kosher meal instead of crackers and the one that just learned what kosher means and it is the story of the Jew who was laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery instead of being cremated and the story of the Jewish child who was born in purity thanks to our Mikvah.

On Shabbos morning after Torah reading we say a special “Mi Sheberach” for the community. In it we ask G-d that He “give reward, remove all illness, pardon all sins and send blessing and success to all of the endeavors” of “this entire holy community . . those who establish synagogues for prayer and those who come there to pray, those who provide lights for illumination, wine for Kiddush and Havdalah . . and all those who occupy themselves with communal affairs.”

I find it remarkable that the liturgist bundles together those who ‘establish the synagogues’ with those who provide ‘wine for Kiddush’ – ignoring the vast difference in their donation size; and couples those who ‘occupy themselves with communal affairs’ with those who just ‘come to pray’. A community is a synthesis of people with varying levels of resources and commitment, yet each one is precious, needed and blessed. I feel grateful and thankful to everyone that made the last fourteen, and the next many fourteens, a reality. The contribution of each of you, whether you come weekly or annually, give a building dedication or two times ‘chai’, do one mitzvah or a thousand is meaningful, appreciated, amazing and is truly the story of Chabad of Northwest Arkansas. This is your celebration as well.

I thank G-d for giving me this opportunity; I thank my wife and children for their endless support and I thank each of you that made this happen.

Gut Shabbos,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman

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