23 May NEVER TOO YOUNG… NEVER TOO OLD
There are some childhood memories that
one never forgets. Memories that remain
etched in your heart and soul. Memories that
even years later can be seen in your mind’s
eye. For me, one such memory is of a special
I grew up in North Woodmere, where my
parents were the Rabbi and Rebbetzin of Ohr
Torah, at the time the only Orthodox shul in
the area. They settled there with the dream of
bringing Yiddishkeit and Jewish life to the
community. Their home had an “open door
policy”, and so many were drawn in by the
warm and inviting atmosphere.
Sharon was one of the many who found
inspiration in the Rabbi’s and Rebbetzin’s
It was spring break. Sharon came home from
college, only to hear that her beloved
grandmother, who was so much a part of her
life, was diagnosed with cancer. The
prognosis wasn’t good. The doctors didn’t
have much hope.
Sharon turned to my parents for support
during that difficult time.
Pesach was approaching. My mother a”h
suggested that Sharon, together with her
grandmother, Mrs. Block, take on the
mitzvah of counting Sefira, as a z’chus, a
Sharon and Mrs. Block began to count. One
week, two weeks, three weeks… never
missing a night. Grandmother and
granddaughter counting together. Five
weeks, six weeks, defying the doctors’
prediction. A miracle. Seven complete
weeks. Forty-nine days. And then it was
Shavuos, the count was complete.
Shavuos day. After shul, my father zt”l
lovingly wrapped the holy sefer Torah in a
taalis. Together with my mother, members
of the shul and their families, we all
marched down Hungry Harbor Road, from
the shul towards Sharon’s home.
My father brought the Torah into the living
room where Mrs. Block was resting on a
hospital bed. Even though she was weak
and ailing, she gathered her strength and
cried out together with my
parents “na’aseh v’nishmah
– I will do and I will listen”,
the very same pledge our
ancestors recited over three
thousand years ago at Har
Na’aseh v’nishmah. A
pledge we continue to say
The next day, Mrs. Block’s neshamah
ascended to the heavens and returned to its
Creator, taking with it the mitzvah of
counting Sefira, and declaring na’aseh
“With our young and our elders we will
go… with our sons and our daughters…”
(Shemos 10:9) Moshe’s words to Pharaoh
come to mind as I recall the story of Sharon
and her grandmother. “With our young and
with our elders…” From the ancient
civilization of Egypt, to the modern-day
suburb of North Woodmere, young and old
together, we turn to HaShem.
Shavuos night was always special in my
parents’ home. My father would lead a
Torah study learning with members of the
shul seated around our dining room table.
At midnight, my mother would take us
children out to the back porch. She would
tell us that at that very moment, the
heavens were opening up. HaShem is
waiting for us to proclaim “na’aseh
v’nishmah” just as the Jewish nation did
My mother told us how our ancestors
pledged their children as the guarantors
of the Torah, and that now, we were the
guarantors of our generation. HaShem
was waiting to hear the powerful words
of “na’aseh v’nishmah” from us. It was
up to us to continue on with the unbroken
chain from Sinai.
As I looked upward, gazing into the night
sky, I was certain that I saw the heavens
“The giving of the Torah happened at one
specific time. But the receiving of the
Torah happens all the time, in every
(Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the first Ger
Shavuos isn’t merely an historical event,
commemorating the past. It marks a
continuous commitment for each
generation to reaffirm its acceptance of
HaShem’s Torah. That no matter what
comes our way, we stand ready to proclaim
“na’aseh v’nishmah”. While the word
“Shavuos” means “weeks”, representing
the seven weeks between Pesach and the
receiving of the Torah, it also alludes to the
word “shevuah”, meaning a vow, a promise,
for it is on Shavuos that we renew the vow
to make Torah the centrality of our lives. In
return, HaShem vows His eternal devotion
to us, and keeps His promise to us as His
HaShem gifted the Torah to us, but unlike
other gifts, it comes with the responsibility
of “living the gift” — keeping mitzvos,
doing good deeds and being an ohr lagoyim,
a light unto the nations of the world.
We learn about our nation standing at Sinai
and receiving the Torah in Parshas Yisro.
“In the third month from the Exodus of
Bnei Yisroel from Egypt, on this day, they
arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai” (Shemos
“Bayom hazeh, on this day”. Rashi
questions why the words “bayom hazeh –
on this day” are used. Wouldn’t it have been
more correct for the Torah to state “bayom
hahu – on that day”?
Rashi explains that the receiving of the
Torah should be chadoshim – fresh and
new, k’ilu hayom nesanam – as if it was
given to us each and every day.
Bnei Yisroel arrived to Sinai on a spiritual
high in anticipation of receiving the Torah.
The Chumash tells us “on this day…” Don’t
lose the inspiration, the excitement of
something new. Like the first time we put
on a special outfit, drive a new car, or visit
an exotic new country – we get a thrill. So
too, when it comes to Torah, that special
feeling of chadash – newness, should
remain with us always.
Bayom hazeh. On this day. Every day.
Na’aseh v’nishmah. We will do, we will
listen, we will accept. Words not just for
Shavuos, but words for each and every day.
Words of the soul.
Wishing you an inspiring and joyous
Shavuos and Shabbat Shalom!