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We've all seen or been part of a scenario repeated dozens of times. At a family gathering, a synagogue event, a Jewish lecture, a simcha, someone says, "I'm leaving," and moves to get his coat. Twenty minutes later he's still there. Either in to an all-new conversation, still hugging the Bubbies and Zeidies, or noticing an old friend/relative he didn't have a chance to chat with yet. This phenomenon transcends gender, age, and country of origin. But it does seem to be particularly prevalent among Jews.
It's called a Jewish good-bye and it seems to go on forever. Because Jews never really say "good-bye." We say "shalom - peace to you." Or we say in Hebrew "Go in peace." One whose background is more Yiddish might say, "fort gezunterheit - travel in health." But we never say "good-bye."
In fact, even were you to scour the modern Hebrew language, you wouldn't find a word for "good-bye." All you'd come up with is "l'hitraot," which means "see ya later." (Some Israelis do say, "bye- bye." But pronounced with that decidedly Hebrew accent you know that it's been borrowed from English.)
At a Jewish gathering, private or public, we take a long time to go because, after all, who wants to leave the warm embrace of family - and all Jews truly are one family. All Jews share in each others simchas and each others sorrows.
Is there any basis, though, in Jewish tradition, for this seeming inability to just say "good-bye"?
The Talmud enjoins us, "Whatever your host tells you, do, except leave." One of the commentaries explains that a guest must immediately comply with everything the host tells him to do except when the host tells him it is time to leave. The guest should show the host his reluctance to take leave of his company!
In addition, Jewish teachings encourage us that when we part from a friend, we should share a d'var halacha, meaning a "word of Jewish law." But d'var halacha can also be interpreted as a "word for the way."
So, it's not hard to understand why Jews don't say good-bye. Firstly, we don't really want to leave. Secondly, even when we do realize that we absolutely must leave, we should show our reluctance to leave. And lastly, when we already have our coat on, we should share a thought for the journey (however short) with our friend.
Ultimately, though, one might speculate that not saying "good-bye" has a more eternal and confident message. For, deep within every Jew is the fundamental belief in better times, the best times, the times of Moshiach. In that era - the Era of the Redemption - we will see the fulfillment of one of the principles of Jewish belief, the revival of the dead. And at that time, we will all be reunited with our loved ones. And when we rejoice in being together again with them, we will fully understand why we never really said, "good-bye."
In this week's Torah portion, Va'etchanan, Moses addresses G-d: "O L-rd G-d," Moses opens his prayer, "You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand..." With these words, Moses establishes that it wasn't until his generation that G-d began to reveal His greatness in the world.
The Zohar asks how this can be possible. Many years before, it points out, there was a great tzadik (righteous person) named Jacob, who was one of the three Jewish Patriarchs. In fact, Jacob is called "the chosen" of the Forefathers, and he merited to see many G-dly miracles. So how could G-d have first begun to show His greatness only in Moses' time?
The Zohar answers its own question: "That which Moses had, was had by no other human being: many thousands and tens of thousands of Jews, etc."
In Jacob's time the Jewish people was very small in number, far fewer than the several million who existed in Moses' generation. From the "seventy souls" that went down to Egypt at the beginning of the exile, by the time of the Exodus they had already multiplied to 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 60, not counting women and children and men in other age groups, .
It was not until Moses' generation, when the Jewish people had become "great" also in number, and stood together in unity and oneness, that the true "greatness" of G-d was manifested.
This contains a practical lesson for the Divine service of every Jew: Every individual, regardless of age, must do everything he can to strengthen Jewish unity and make the Jewish people more cohesive. Every person must strive to increase his love for his fellow Jew, and connect himself to as many Jews as possible.
This is one of the reasons we preface our daily prayers with the words "I hereby accept upon myself the positive commandment of 'You shall love your fellow as yourself.'" Before we ask G-d to fulfill a personal request, we identify and connect ourselves to the totality of the Jewish people.
Indeed, it is then that the "greatness" of the Jew is expressed. A single Jew is not alone, nor is a single Jewish family or Jewish community. Every Jew is connected to every other Jew, and to all Jews throughout the generations.
As the Zohar explains, the process of showing G-d's "greatness," initiated by G-d in the generation of Moses, will reach its culmination with the coming of Moshiach, who will redeem not only the Jewish people but also the entire world. At that time we will experience wonders and miracles far greater than those witnessed during the Exodus, and indeed, incomparable to anything experienced in history.
Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on 7 Menachem Av 5740/1980
Zlata Geisinsky, wife, mother and emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, Maryland, recently passed away very suddenly. Below are excerpts of posts on zlatasimpact.blogspot.com
About 13 years ago, my then-fiance Zvi Rome took me to the first of what would become many Friday evening services, followed by dinner at Zlata and Rabbi G's home in Potomac. Zvi had fallen in love with the couple several years earlier, and was looking forward to introducing me to such a special part of his life. By the way he spoke of them, with such honor and respect, I expected to meet a couple in their sixties, at least. You can imagine my surprise when the baby-faced rabbi and his gorgeous rebbitzin received us with parental-type, unconditional affection.
Zlata, for me, was compelling; a paradox. Subtle and modest (needless to say), but seductively self-confident. Her endlessly dark blue eyes exuded a smoldering intensity for the life she was living; a life far different from my own. Five fabulous children, a gifted teacher, a home-maker that put Martha Stewart to shame; Zlata was truly a woman of valor. This smart, multi-tasking, people-savvy lady could have been a corporate executive or a high-powered K St. lobbyist. But Zlata embodied a higher-calling. She radiated with a sense of purpose that 1,000 self-help books and seminars couldn't come close to matching. She overwhelmed with quiet elegance. The ease and enthusiasm with which she tackled any challenge was contagious. She made mitzvot (commandments), acts of kindness and nurturing the family dynamic seem cool and far more worthy than scoring points on the way up the corporate ladder.
Zlata gently eased me in - purely through personal example - to the sanctity of Friday night at home, the more around the table the merrier. This from a journalist for whom Friday evenings meant deadline stress, followed by decompressing over dinner out.
In the years since, in our frequent visits back to the Washington area, we were privileged to enjoy many Friday evenings with the Gs and their wonderful family. The last time was just about a year ago. She was full of youth, verve and purpose. And that's how we'll always remember her. Young, gorgeous, and smoldering with a contagious sense of purpose. Barbara Opall-Rome
Fourteen years ago I took a new career path that placed me in an administrative role with a large Jewish agency. I was also the single parent of a Bar Mitzva boy. Both my son and Sendy Geisinky studied with Rabbi Bentzion Geisinsky; Sendy with the promise of a future scholar and my son with one ear glued to his Game Boy and the other to the tape recording that Rabbi G. had kindly provided.
On Shabbos Zlata assumed the uniquely selfless role of Rebbetzin. She stood by the back door greeting the women, finding prayerbook for them and pointing out the place in the service. Somehow while accomplishing this she also coordinated the kitchen activities (anything from kiddush to a banquet) and supervised the seemingly endless troops of children.
Zlata's welcome was warm and I felt encouraged to confide in her my concerns about my son's Bar Mitzva. In an era of lavish catering and entertainment, I was financially unable to compete. Zlata radiated calm and self-assurance as she gently reminded me that the purpose of a Bar Mitzva was to assume the mitzvot of manhood. Zlata made her kitchen available for kosher preparations and encouraged me to include family, friends and regular congregants by asking them to prepare their specialties. Zlata helped me make a list of affordable groceries and surprised me by tying bows on small packages of candy. The Bar Mitzva was a huge success and I felt my spirit soar as my son was called to the Torah. I had forgotten about the candy, but turned around at the close of service to see my son pelted with Zlata's candy, "Mazel Tov!" She had made it sweet indeed.
The very first time I met Zlata she made me feel as though we had known each other a lifetime. She was one of the warmest, loveliest people I have ever come across. At any Chabad event thereafter we sought one another out. I always learned something brilliant from her.
When our family had the pleasure of joining Zlata and her wonderful family for a Shabbat dinner the evening passed as though we had been together only five minutes. My 21 year old and 19 year old didn't want to leave.
Zlata has created the same warmth within her children that she carried within herself, giving them the ability and awareness to make anyone feel comfortable always. Cheri Friedman
Although we now live in Arizona, I never forgot Zlata and all she did for me when I was a teacher at MJBHA. My son Sam was in the 2's and 3's class. Under Zlata's leadership, Sam had the best education and the most loving teachers. Although not religious myself, Zlata never judged me. I always felt accepted and understood by her. When I was pregnant with my second child, Zlata was the one I often went to for advice. I always felt at home with Zlata. She was an amazing woman who seemed to know how to do a million things at once, something I marveled at. Elana Hostetter
A couple of years ago I jokingly lamented to Rebbetzin Geisinsky about how incredible her cholent was and how much I missed it after they had moved away... and I sheepishly told her about my perhaps not so admirable childhood practice of hoarding two or three bowls every week. She laughed and smiled.... And then that Friday, to my complete surprise, she personally delivered a cholent to my house. Brian Berman
Fifteen years ago, when I first became religious and was having a particularly difficult time making the leap from my former way of life, Zlata said to me, "I have incredible respect for you." I didn't know Zlata well, but I admired her for so many attributes - she was always pleasant, always real, always kind and aware of others. I couldn't believe that someone like Zlata could respect me while I was struggling so much with what came so easy to others. She told me her respect was borne of the fact that she grew up in a religious home so it was all natural to her, whereas I was choosing to take on Shabbat and kosher and other mitzvot. Her words gave me the "boost" I needed to move forward in my Judaism. I will always be appreciative of how Zlata inspired me. Iris
I didn't know Zlata well, but she dropped everything to be by my side when my oldest was born. I remember how she walked a mile from the hotel to the interim Chabad House one holiday in the pouring rain, her wig drenched, with a smile. I remember how she always made me feel so at home. Above all, the image of Zlata that stands out in my mind is her sitting quietly on the couch in the living room with her arms around her children, most of whom were well into their teens at the time. There was so much love in her home.
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5th of Nissan, 5735 
I am in receipt of your correspondence, and trust that you received my regards through your brother R. Zalman who was here for the Yud Shevat observance.
I must reiterate again what was said when you were here in regard to bitachon [trust] in G-d that all that He does is for the good. It is not easy to accept the passing of a near and dear one, but since our Torah, which is called Toras Chesed and Toras Chayim [the Torah of Kindness and Life], our guide in life, sets limits to mourning periods, it is clear that when the period ends it is no good to extend it not - good, not only because it disturbs the life that must go on here on earth, but also because it does not please the soul that is in the World of Truth.
A further point which, I believe, I mentioned during our conversation, but apparently from your letter not emphatically enough, is this: It would be contrary to plain common sense to assume that a sickness or accident and the like could affect the soul, for such physical things can affect only the physical body and its union with the soul, but certainly not the soul itself. It is also self-evident that the relationship between people, especially between parents and children, is in essence and content a spiritual one, transcending time and space - of qualities that are not subject to the influence of bodily accident, disease, etc.
It follows that when a close person passes on, by the will of G-d, those left here can no longer see him with their eyes or hear him with their ears; but the soul, in the World of Truth, can see and hear. And when he sees that his relatives are overly disturbed by his physical absence, it is saddened, and conversely, when it sees that after the mourning period prescribed by the Torah a normal and fully productive life is resumed, it can happily rest in peace.
Needless to say, in order that the above be accepted not only intellectually, but actually implemented in the everyday life, it is necessary to be occupied, preferably involved in matters of "personal" interest and gratification. As I also mentioned in our conversation, every Jew has a most gratifying and edifying task of spreading light in the world through promoting Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. Particularly, as in your case, where one can be of so much help and inspiration to children and grandchildren, who look up to you and your husband for encouragement, wisdom, etc.
Here is also the answer to your question, what you can do for the soul of the dear one. Spreading Yiddishkeit around you effectively, displaying simple Yiddish faith in G-d and in His benevolent Providence, doing all the good work that has to be done, with confidence and peace of mind - this is what truly gratifies the soul in Olam haEmes [the World of Truth], in addition to fulfilling your personal and most lofty mission in life as a daughter of our Mothers Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and thereby also serving as an inspiring example for others to emulate.
It is possible to enlarge upon the above, but knowing your family background and tradition, I trust the above will suffice. I might add, however, that one must beware of the yetzer-hara [evil inclination] who is very crafty and knows that certain people cannot be approached openly and without disguise. So he tries to trick them by disguising himself in a mantle of piety and emotionalism, etc., saying: You know, G-d has prescribed a period of mourning, which shows that it is the right thing to do; so why not do more than that and extend the period? In this way he may have a chance to succeed in distracting the person from the fact that at the end of the said period, the Torah requires the Jew to serve G-d with joy.
The yetzer-hara will even encourage a person to give tzedokah [charity] in memory of the soul, learn Torah and do mitzvos [commandments] in memory of the soul, except that in each case it be associated with sadness and pain. But, as indicated, this is exactly contrary to the objective, which is to cause pleasure and gratification to the soul.
May G-d grant that, inasmuch as we are approaching the Festival of Our Freedom, including also freedom from everything that distracts a Jew from serving G-d wholeheartedly and with joy, that this should be so also with you, in the midst of all our people, and that you should be a source of inspiration and strength to your husband, children and grandchildren, and all around you...
NACHUM means "comfort." Nachum was a minor prophet who foretold the fall of Nineveh (Nachum 1:1). Nachum Ish Gamzu was a 2nd century scholar and teacher of Rabbi Akiva. He was named Ish Gamzu - the man of "this too" - for no matter what the situation he always said, "This too is for the good."
NECHAMA means "comfort." A pet form is Neche. It is the feminine of Nachum.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Shabbat, the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, is known as Shabbat Nachamu for the Haftorah portion we read which begins, "Nachamu, Nachamu Ami - Comfort, I will comfort My People."
Our Sages have pointed out that the word "Nachamu" is stated twice for with the building of the Third Holy Temple, G-d will comfort us doubly for the destruction of the first and second Temples.
Jewish teachings further explain that the repetition of words in the Torah points to the unlimited quality of the matter being discussed.
Thus, the comfort that G-d offers us through his prophet in this week's Haftorah does not point to just a limited consolation for the destruction of the First and Second Temples; G-d is telling us that with the building of the Third Holy Temple in the Messianic Era, we will be comforted in a totally unlimited manner, when the revelation of G-dliness and Divine Knowledge will likewise be totally unlimited.
This week we will also celebrate Tu B'Av, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av, a day when many positive things occurred throughout Jewish history. The 15th of Av is also the day on which we are encouraged to begin increasing in our Torah study, since, on the 15th of Av the nights become longer - nights which can be used for Torah study.
In a talk on Shabbat Nachamu, the Rebbe once emphasized what form this Torah study should take:
"In general, the study of Chasidut is associated with the Redemption... in particular the function of this study as a catalyst for the Redemption is more powerful when the subject studied concerns that matter itself," i.e., matters concerning Moshiach and the Redemption.
May G-d comfort us not only doubly but in an infinite and unlimited manner with the revelation of Moshiach and the building of the Third Holy Temple, immediately.
From there you will seek the L-rd your G-d and will find Him (Deut. 4:29)
It is precisely when you seek the L-rd your G-d "from there" - from the depths of your heart and with a sense of complete nullification before the Creator, that "you shall find" - the sudden revelation of the greatest G-dly light.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One (Deut. 6:4)
"My children," G-d declares to Israel, "everything I created in the world I created in pairs: heaven and earth; sun and moon; Adam and Eve; this world and the world to come. I alone am without counterpart."
"In the heavens above and on the earth below" (Deut. 4:39).
When contemplating one's heavenly or spiritual condition one should look "above" to those who have attained a higher level; one can never be satisfied. However in "earthly" matters of wealth and so on, one should look "below," to the less fortunate, and be thankful for the blessings one has.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
I stand between your G-d and you (Deut. 5:5).
Early chasidim used to explain that the "I," the awareness of self, the ego, stands between the person and his efforts to come closer to G-d.
Once, when Rabbi Yehoshua encountered Elijah the Prophet, he asked Elijah if he could accompany him so that he could learn from his conduct. Elijah refused, explaining that Rabbi Yehoshua would not understand what he would see. On the contrary, his mortal mind would raise countless questions and there would be no time for explanations.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi begged and pleaded; he promised that he would not ask any questions. Elijah finally agreed on the condition that if Rabbi Yehoshua would begin to ask questions, they would part company.
And so they set out together. Toward evening, they reached an old hut. An elderly couple was sitting outside. They were obviously poor, but their poverty did not hamper their enthusiasm to welcome guests. As soon as they saw the travelers, they jumped up and eagerly invited them into their home, offering them a meal and a place to sleep.
The accommodations were somewhat lacking because the people did not have very much. But whatever they had, they willingly shared, doing the best they could to observe the mitzva (commandment) of hospitality to guests.
The following morning, the two travelers bade their hosts farewell and set out again. Shortly after they had departed, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi saw that Elijah was praying. He listened closely. What was Elijah praying for? The elderly couple who had hosted them owned a cow. The cow was the most valuable possession they owned - indeed, the majority of their income came from the cow's milk. Elijah was praying that this cow should die.
When Rabbi Yehoshua heard this, he was shocked. The couple had been so kind, so pleasant, so warm. Why did they deserve that their cow should die? But he could not ask any questions; that was the agreement.
As they proceeded on their journey, they talked. Rabbi Yehoshua hoped that Elijah would offer an explanation for what happened. But that was not so. Toward evening, they came to a beautiful mansion. Although many members of the household saw them, no one offered them hospitality.
They asked the owner of the house, a very wealthy man, for permission to spend the night. Reluctantly, the man agreed. But he was very cold to them; he did not offer them any food, and he hardly said a word to them.
After they set off on their way in the morning, Rabbi Yehoshua noticed that Elijah was praying again. What was he praying for this time? One of the walls in this rich man's house was cracked and weak. Elijah was praying to G-d that this wall should be restored and should remain strong and solid.
Rabbi Yehoshua could not understand. This person had not acted kindly toward them. And yet Elijah was praying to G-d on his behalf! But once more, he abided by the terms of his agreement: no questions allowed.
Eventually, the two travelers arrived in a beautiful city; everything about the place reflected prosperity and opulence. They made their way to the synagogue. It was a magnificent structure, designed with elegance and taste. Everything, even the benches, was beautiful.
Rabbi Yehoshua thought that they would have no problem receiving hospitality in such a town. But it did not work out that way. The people were not very kind. When the prayers were over, nobody approached them to ask where they planned to eat or where they planned to stay. Ultimately, they had to spend the night in the synagogue without eating supper.
In the morning, when they were ready to leave, Elijah blessed the inhabitants of the city, wishing them that they should all become leaders. Again, Rabbi Yehoshua was puzzled. Why did Elijah bless people who had not shown them hospitality?
That evening, they came to another city. It was not as wealthy a community as the first; the shul (synagogue) was nowhere near as beautiful. But the people were very fine, warm and kind. They did everything they could to make the two travelers comfortable. Before leaving that city, Elijah told them, "May G-d help that only one of you becomes a leader."
At this point, Rabbi Yehoshua could no longer contain his curiosity. He told Elijah, "I know that by asking I will forfeit my right to accompany you, but I cannot go on like this. Please, explain these four incidents to me."
And so Elijah began to explain: "The elderly couple whom we met first were wonderful people who always performed acts of kindness. It was destined for the woman to pass away that day. By hosting us, she was given the opportunity to perform a mitzva. And the merit of her hospitality was great enough for the decree to be lifted, but not entirely. So I prayed that their cow - which meant so much to them and which was their source of income - should die. So the cow's death was really a blessing for them.
"About the wealthy person's home. In that wall, a great treasure lay buried. But the wall was weak and would soon break. Because he was a miserly person and conducted himself so rudely, I prayed that the wall should become strong so that he would not be able to benefit from the treasure.
"What about the people in the prosperous city?" Elijah continued. "My prayer that they should all become leaders in the city is not a blessing; if anything, it is the opposite. For the most destructive thing that can happen in a city is that everybody becomes a leader.
"In the other city, where the people were kind, I gave them a genuine blessing: that one, and only one, of them becomes a true leader."
From The Chasidic Approach to Joy by Rabbi Shloma Majeski
The Talmud compares the death of a Jew to the burning of a Torah scroll. If so, how can G-d let such a thing happen? As the Midrash comments, since G-d fulfills the commandments that He gives us, then, how can He allow a situation comparable to the burning of a Torah scroll? However, the answer is the same as the answer to how G-d could allow us to be in exile: this descent is for the purpose of an ascent and there is no other means for us to reach this high rung.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 20 Av, 1985)