June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Early Thursday morning on the tenth of Kislev, I was informed that R’ Shalom Dreyfuss had succumbed to the coronavirus.

Shalom was just 42 years old and left five orphan boys ranging in ages from 4 to 17.

After hespedim in Passaic, Shalom was buried in Lakewood, and the family began their shiva.

That Shabbos morning, when the four oldest boys began to recite Kaddish together, there was not a dry eye in the shul.

Besides the tragedy of the death and his leaving five orphans, Shalom was the baal korei of the shul. He had over 25 years of experience and was a baal korei par excellence.e had leined the entire Torah, and just this past Sukkos he leined Koheles in the shul.

A cloud of sadness seemed to envelop the shul that Shabbos. However, life continues, and so must a shul.

Hashem has His ways of coordinating events.

That particular Shabbos was the bar mitzvah of Ashi Traiger.

Ashi is the only son of Rabbi Yaakov and Lisa Traiger, and he was entitled to experience the once-in-a-lifetime simcha of becoming a bar mitzvah.

Yet, Ashi’s simcha, besides coming on the heels of the levaya of Shalom Dreyfuss, had its own drama to contend with.

Ashi’s father, Yaakov, received the flu shot this year for the first time in his life. A day or two after the shot, he began to feel achy and experienced pain in his back. Soon he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Although it is rare, one trigger of this debilitating syndrome can be a flu shot reaction.

As the Guillain-Barre syndrome progressed, the muscle weakness evolved into paralysis. Rav Yaakov went to a rehab center, and indeed, he just came home today from rehab.

This unexpected illness precluded the father from attending his own son’s bar mitzvah, and due to an uptick in COVID, Ashi’s grandparents, aunts and uncles would also be absent.

After being maspid Shalom Dreyfuss on Thursday, and keeping in mind Ashi’s sadness over his father’s absence combined with the overall mood of the shul, I had no idea what I would speak about Shabbos morning.

I davened for Hashem’s help.

In my talks with Ashi, I recalled how baseball made him excited and passionate.

I decided to buy Ashi a baseball for his bar mitzvah.

The Friday prior to his bar mitzvah was Black Friday, and you can imagine what the stores looked like.

Thankfully my wife navigated us to the local Target, and she emerged with a pack of two baseballs as she explained they are sold in pairs.

I mentioned (as the parsha was Vayeitzei) that just as Yaakov’s chasunah didn’t go the way he planned, nevertheless, Yaakov kept going on in life.

So too, I explained to Ashi, “This may not have been the bar mitzvah you planned for. However, learn from Yaakov Avinu to continue in life and never give up.”

I took out the first baseball and told Ashi, “This baseball is signed by me and wishes you mazel tov. Here, it comes, please catch it!” My throw was on target, and Ashi easily caught the ball.

I then said, “Ashi, there is another ball here. This ball is blank. Please save it until your father comes home. Then he and you will sign it, as a remembrance for your bar mitzvah.”

I tossed the ball in Ashi’s direction.

However, I was way off the mark, and it appeared the ball would hit the ground and go rolling around the shul.

Ashi stood up, and as the crowd gasped, he leaned across the table, stretched himself over into the aisle, and made a spectacular one-handed catch as the shul erupted in a spontaneous ovation.

Ashi was smiling from ear to ear.

Even the four Drefyfuss boys were smiling.

Our sadness evaporated for one minute on a cold Shabbos morning amid a pandemic and with two fathers absent.

The simcha of Shabbos permeated the shul as we basked in the light of mei’ein Olam Haba.

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman is the rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic.

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