Thursday, December 16th, 2021
It is midnight at nearly 37,000 feet somewhere over Europe. Physically exhausted from the last week, I conked out for a few hours in the beginning of the flight. Now awake and spiritually exhilarated, I feel compelled to write to you about my experiences.
Over the last week, I merited to take six flights on a mission to visit five communities, five shining beacons of light, joy, vibrancy, and Godliness. I want to take this opportunity to reflect on my incredible trip and to record just a few of the stories, encounters, and feelings that were born against this blessed backdrop.
Allow me to begin with a general reflection. Over the course of my travel through airports across the country, I indirectly encountered thousands of human beings. Throughout my stay in various cities, I connected directly with hundreds of Jews, a diverse swath of our glorious nation. Both of these interactions, in their own unique ways, contributed to the fostering of a single emotion; an emotion that began as a flickering flame upon arrival in Lakewood last Thursday and, by my final event in Miami, had transformed into an atomic force: HOPE.
The politeness, respect, civility, kindness, and friendliness I experienced in every single airport from people of every race, color, and nationality showed me that, despite what we see on the news, there is hope for humanity. The excitement, yearning, openness, sweetness, devotion, and holiness I experienced in our communities showed me that, despite our challenges, there is hope for our nation.
We are living through a remarkable moment in time. Something wonderful is in motion, a force of redemption, the glimmer of a reality described by the Neviim thousands of years ago. Ashreinu!
THURSDAY, SHABBOS, MOTZEI SHABBOS
My trip kicked off in Lakewood, NJ where I was hosted by the Meyer family of the Breslov Shul right down the block from BMG. After an erev Shabbos spent meeting with chaveirim at Mordy’s Shteibel and time with the rav, yedid nafshi, Reb Binyomin Weinreb, we enjoyed a quiet Shabbos with this special mishpacha, singing and sharing Torah at the suedos and by Shalosh Seudos. Motzei Shabbos, I merited to address a dinner benefiting the shul alongside Rav Mota Frank. This was a unique opportunity for me to publicly express my appreciation to Rav Mota for the role he played early on in my drawing close to Breslover Chassidus. It was such a special moment! Albeit rare, there are yet many Jewish events that feature diversity, different kinds of Jews coming together as one. But the unity experienced at Breslov events such as this dinner is unique; it isn’t simply a physical closeness, but a deep inner bond shared by these Jews of every age and background – a sense of humility, an exalted consciousness, a gentle joy, and endless yearning that fills their hearts as one. Looking around the circle on the dance floor, my heart – reverberating with the word “Ashreinu!” – was bursting with pride.
Early the next morning I was off to Houston, Texas where I headed straight to the Torch studio to record an incredible podcast with Dan Kullman (audio and video airing soon!). I then merited to spend a few hours in the community with a wonderful group of mevakshei Hashem who have formed a shul known as “Heimish”. After addressing the women of the community, I had the privilege of spending some time with the boys, sweet and shining neshamos spanning the ages of 5 – 14. I began by letting the boys know that I had so much more to learn from them than they had to learn from me, and I meant it. I gained so much from that experience – watching their wonder, their joy, their passion for Hashem and love of neginah d’kedusha reminded me of how beautiful we are, how privileged we are. Then, it was time for the farbrengen. Together with the rav, Rabbi Nagel, we enjoyed niggunim and Torah marking the yahrtzeit of Reb Nosson, followed by a roundtable discussion centered around the importance of Chassidus in our times and the recent conversation regarding yeshivos. What an awesome chevra! Special thanks to Reb Yaakov Wohgerlernter for hosting me and Reb Ari Winkler for arranging this incredible visit!
On the flight back from Houston on Monday morning, I sat next to a tattoo artist from Alaska, an ex-convict who had spent the majority of his life in prison. We conversed for the bulk of the four-hour flight, exchanging stories and talking about some of the challenges facing our world. He is a remarkable individual who experienced an incredible transformation during his 13-year incarceration, channeling his energy into becoming a beacon of hope and encouragement to others. Interestingly enough, because he was locked away during the explosion of the technological revolution, he got to experience the stark distinction between a world without, and a world with, social media. It was fascinating to hear his perspective on the effects that technology has had on our society.
Next up, I got to see my parents for a bit before heading up to Monsey, NY for a beautiful yahrtzeit seudah l’kavod Reb Nosson with the chevra from Breslov New Hempstead. I merited to share Torah alongside the legendary Reb Chaim Kramer, who similarly played an integral role in my discovery of Breslov Chassidus. Here as well, the diversity, energy, love, and excitement for Yiddishkeit, Torah, and avodas Hashem was palpable. Thank you to Reb Avrumy Jordan for arranging this visit! Shout out to Aryeh Shershow who drove all the way from New Jersey to attend. Ashreinu!
The following morning, I had the incredible privilege of sitting with mori v’rabi Rav Moshe Weinberger shlita. We discussed a great many things, mostly relating to the continued fostering of a global network of penimiyus-oriented Jews and how to deal with some of the challenges unique to our burgeoning community. Sitting with my rebbe, time seems to stand still. It is eternality captured in moments; every word is shining, golden. How fortunate are we that our generation is graced with this visionary leader and the clarity he has gifted those privileged enough to truly listen to his message.
That night, after breaking the fast, I headed to Aish Kodesh for a uniquely special event (also with Rav Chaim Kramer), my first time speaking and performing in the presence of Rav Weinberger. Here too, I used the speech as an opportunity to express my hakaras hatov to Rebbe for all that he has done for me and so many others like me. It was so special to see, many for the first time, so many Yidden of all ages who are connected to The Story of Our Lives and LPI! Aided by fantastic lighting and sound by Haim Tobaly as well as incredible musical accompaniment by Yonatan Hakimian and Zevy Goldring, this event was simply heavenly. Truly a remarkable chizzuk and a kavod to the tzaddikim.\
The next morning, I flew off to Miami, where I was able to see my siblings and spend a lot of time with my grandmother. The staunch and vibrant emunah flowing out of that 90+ year-old woman who survived Auschwitz at age 16 years old and rebuilt her life from the ashes, is simply indescribable. It was worth the entire trip just for those moments alone.
I then headed to a very special yeshiva in Aventura by the name of Doresh, where we shared some Torah and niggunim with the bochurim. Their joy and sweetness was infectious, and it was an honor to share their presence. From there, I drove to the venue of the final event of this tour at the Lighthouse Project. This event had its own special chein – a small, intimate group of all kinds of Yidden, gathered together to connect with one another, with Hashem and His Torah. I shared the story of The Lost Princess and we discussed some of the messages embedded in this iconic tale, delving into exactly what it is that gets lost, and exploring some strategies for reclaiming the spirit of the Princess in our lives. Special thanks to Michael Benmeleh for arranging this awesome event!
I didn’t quite have time or Yishuv hadaas to process this trip or the events experienced, encounters enjoyed, and new relationships forged over the last week. But on a very general level, I can honestly say that this was one of the most remarkable weeks of my entire life. And I know, with all of my heart and soul, that this is yet only the very beginning. All bsiyata d’Shmaya.
Thank you to all the event planners, the organizers, the supporters, and all the chevra who came out. It was a true kiddush shem Shomayim. Of course, the greatest thank you goes to my wife, who allowed me to take this trip and held down the fort while I was away. Whatever I have – it’s all hers.
Friends, I hope you enjoyed reading this brief recap of the last week! Feel free to check out the recordings from all of these events at the links below. If you would like to book an event in your yeshiva/seminary/community here in Eretz Yisroel, please don’t hesitate to reach out! ASHREINU!
With gratitude and love,
WATCH FULL VIDEO RECAP OF THE TRIP BELOW!
Link to video on Google Drive for those without access: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1j2tAeDBBqMP1VpOyNCGHI8TW7F_aBp_A/view?usp=sharing