Thursday, February 16, 2017

PARSHAS YISRO 5777



“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro
20 Shevat 5777/ February 17, 2017

Jim Gaboardi is an 89-year-old, former post man, from Danbury, Connecticut, currently living in a local nursing home. While his granddaughter was visiting him recently, the mail was given out to the residents. Gaboardi sighed and told his granddaughter that it had been a long time since he received any mail.
That afternoon, his granddaughter sent out a message, asking people to send her grandfather cards: “Let’s deliver mail to a man who delivered it to us for so many years.”
Her message was forwarded, and then forwarded again. Within days, letters began streaming in from former neighbors, old friends and acquaintances, and people who had been on his mail route. Now, a few months later, 250 letters/cards adorn his room.
Gaboardi’s granddaughter says that despite her grandfather’s failing health, the spark of life has returned to his eyes. 
Thanks to a winter storm that walloped our area last week, we began Pesach cleaning (!!!) in our basement. While rummaging through the clutter in the basement closet (looking for chometz, of course) I found a box full of letters and cards. There were cards and notes from my kallah and birthday cards from my family.
Beyond that, I found a stack of letters I had received when I was a camper at Camp Dora Golding in 1991. Of course, there were letters from my parents, my best friend, and even from my sister. I also found a letter from my Bubby (who should live and be well until 120), and from my Savta a’h. The content of the letters brought me back to a different time and stage of my life. In her letter, my Savta noted that my parents had come to visit her with “the baby”. The baby is my sister Shoshana, who is now married with two of her own children b’h.  
The greatness and uniqueness of a letter is not just the content, but also the handwriting of the writer. In an age of email and electronic communication, the beauty of a handwritten letter may be a rarity, but it still cannot be replicated.
I treasure a few letters that I have from a few Gedolei Yisroel, including Rav Chaim Stein zt’l, Rav Avrohom Pam zt’l and ybl”c Rav Aharon Schechter. The Igros Moshe I have with a personal inscription from Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l - a gift from my Zaydei zt’l- is invaluable to me.
The letter that I received from Rav Pam, was in response to an inquiry that I had sent to a few Gedolim. At the time, I debated if I should even send one to Rav Pam, because he was weak. I was surprised and delighted when I received his handwritten response.
In one of his books, Rabbi Paysach Krohn relates that Rav Pam once wrote a short letter to a fellow who davened in his shul who was hospitalized. Because he was a kohain, Rav Pam did not visit him, but sent him the letter instead. The patient treasured the letter, and showed it to everyone who came to visit him. One of the eulogizers at the patient’s funeral noted that the man was so distinguished that he received a letter from Rav Pam.
When Rav Pam was informed about how much the patient valued the letter, he remarked that the incident shook him. If a hastily written letter could have such an impact, how many other times do we have an opportunity to make such an impact with our words that we don’t take advantage of.
After hearing that story, I wondered if that story was part of what prompted Rav Pam to send me a detailed response in his own handwriting, despite his busy schedule and despite his being so feeble, fifteen months before his petirah. 

Perhaps in today’s world it’s even truer, that there is hardly anything more personal, and hardly any greater expression of closeness, than a handwritten letter. The nonverbalized message to the recipient of the letter is that he is worth the time and effort.
If you want to express feelings of appreciation, or sentiments of love and devotion to another, especially someone who may not know that you feel that way towards them, write them a letter. Put a stamp on it and send it out with the snail mail. The excitement of receiving mail is far greater than email.
One of the halachos of Megillas Esther is that although it is called a sefer (scroll), it is also called an iggeres (letter) (See Megillah 19a). When it’s being read, the Megillah is supposed to be folded like an elongated letter.
Part of the idea is that we recognize that the Purim miracle, and the holiday of Purim is an expression of Hashem’s personalized love for us. The Megillah is a letter to each of us, as it were, reminding us of our personal and collective greatness, and how beloved we are in G-d’s eyes, as it were.
And that is truly reason for celebration.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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