May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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During the last couple of weeks our kehilla celebrated and mourned what epitomizes the circle of life. On the seventh day of Pesach, Mr. Seymour Kerner, father of our esteemed friend Rabbi Shimon Kerner, was niftar. I officiated at the funeral on isru chag.

Just over a week later, the morning after shiva ended, the Kerner family celebrated the bris of a great-grandson of the niftar, who now carries his name. It was unbelievable to receive a text from Rabbi Kerner on the morning before the funeral stating that his family gets a mazel tov on the birth of his grandson.

Mr. Seymour Kerner was a beloved personality in our shul and everyone was happy to see him during his frequent visits throughout the year. At the funeral, Reb Shimon quipped that his father was the simplest person in the world, and that was his greatness! His father was always content with what he had and never complained. He also loved to daven and his siddur was one of his most prized possessions. He anticipated Shabbos all week. In his last months, when he was plagued by Alzheimer’s, his wife had to convince him every morning that it wasn’t Shabbos and he shouldn’t wear his white shirt. He often replied that if the rabbi was wearing a white shirt, he could too.

In my brief eulogy, I noted that at the end of the Seder, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rav Yisroel Hager zt”l, would quip that he had eaten a kezayis of matzah and a kezayis of maror, but where could he procure a kezayis of nirtza? (Nirtza means to be desired. We conclude the Seder with beautiful songs of praise to God, in the hope that we have gained Divine favor through our efforts during the Seder.)

I said that I wondered how we could find and preserve a kezayis of Mr. Kerner? In a world in which we are so blessed and yet so spoiled we need to learn from his example how to appreciate the blessings Hashem granted us.

At the bris the following week I was honored to recite the unique bracha “Asher kidash yedid, Who sanctified the beloved friend from the womb.” I have heard the bracha recited many times previously. However, since this was the first time I was given the honor of reciting it, I began to think more about the vernacular.

The word “yedid” connotes a deep, intimate friendship. It is a combination of the word yad, hand, twice. Two hands clasped together in solidarity and admiration creates yedidus, true friendship.

The numerical value of the word yad is 14. Two “yad”s is 28, the numerical value of the word koach, strength. There is great energy that results from the synergistic unification of two friends.

I once read about the psychology behind a handshake. Our hands extend beyond ourselves, symbolizing our reaching beyond our comfort zone and current standing in order to accomplish and further our personal interests. In a handshake one person places his hand, which represents the extension beyond himself, into the firm grasp of another person’s extended hand. Doing so symbolizes one’s feeling of comfort and security in the efforts of another. Both are willing to leave their comfort zone to find commonality in order to accomplish greater things together.

The Rishonim explain that the yedid referred to in this bracha refers to the Patriarchs—Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, each of whom was a “trusty confidant and beloved friend” of the Divine, as it were.

It would seem that these words also refer to the newly circumcised child. The child’s unique encomium as a “yedid” is the result of his receiving a bris milah. The bris symbolizes self-control and adherence to the Torah’s code of morality.

One who commits himself to a life of chastity and morality is deserving of the title yedid. Such a person can be counted on to maintain his integrity and remain true to his morals no matter where he is or what predicament life challenges him with.

Mr. Seymour Kerner was a yedid. He lived his life with simple faith and joy in whatever Hashem gave him, and he was genuine and sincere.

Imagine how different the world would look if more people lived their lives more in that way.

May his neshama have an aliyah and may his new great-grandson who bears his name live up to it.

All of us are sanctified as yedid from the womb. The challenge of life is whether we can maintain it.

By Rabbi Dani Staum

 Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead as well as a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at [email protected]. Looking for “instant inspiration” on the parsha in under five minutes? Follow him on Torahanytime.com.

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