Family Gatherings Across the Globe

B”H we have had a quiet week. Today,  Benny is finally getting back to himself.  He is picking up new words every day and is enjoying playing with fish cousins who traveled in from NY this week.

Last night, Benny and his brother’s were invited to a drum recital and a pizza party by friend’s of ours. They all enjoyed the loud music so much, that when they got home, they couldn’t hear anything I asked them to do.

Today, Benny decided that his brother’s drums at home needed some cleaning for Pesach. He’s been pretty helpful around the house especially in cleaning out the nosh cabinet.

As we approach the Seder night, getting ready in cleaning, cooking, shopping etc., I have been reflecting back to this past year. We can hardly believe this Pesach will be a year that Team Benny was formed.

I have also been reading and learning about the importance and power of the Seder night. The close connection between us and Hashem, one of the most Holy and important times of the year, where we can ask for just about anything. It was not even an hour that our Seder was over, on the second night, that Benny woke up with a bump by the side of his eye. Benny showed no signs of his illness until that point.  We had no way of knowing anything was wrong. I look at that bump as a blessing and a sign that Hashem gave us. Not only did it get us to take action and get Benny the help he needed, Hashem showed us on the night that were closest to Him, that He is with us in our new journey. Although, one could look at our journey as a Golus, the fact that it happened the night we were redeemed from Mitzrayim (Egypt), shows that we too are on a journey of Geula and Refuah IY”H.

May this Seder bring to all of us the Final Geula and Refuah we all need in our lives.

Regarding the update of Refael Yoel Ozer ben Chaya Malka:

I am happy to report after speaking with Michelle and Avi Feder earlier today, their son is B”H improving every day. Yoel is talking, laughing, walking (although a bit shaky), and is understanding everything.  It is truly a miracle beyond miracles.  What is not a miracle, but truly remarkable, is the closeness and connection we all feel with one another and the desire to take action in time of anguish. There is no question in my mind that the outcome so far for baby Refael Yoel Ozer and baby Binyomin Chaim (Bennny) is a direct result of your Tefillos (prayers), Mitzvos and desire to do good for their Zechus.  Being that these babies were born so close together, lived across the street from each other the first year of their lives, our families connected like one (going back 3 generations), having the whole world pray for their survival, it so beyond any human comprehension. The external forces are so great, yet, so are the forces when we all come together as one.

The Feder’s and our family have tremendous Hakaros Hatov (appreciation) for everything and everyone that has played a role is our children’s recovery.  IY”H may we all be able to celebrate in each other’s Simchot very soon.

Good Shabbos!

Picture of the Week:  Cleaning for Pesach or is It!

Just a quick update written by Rabbi Eli Gewirtz

From: Rabbi Eli Gewirtz <>
Date: March 22, 2013, 1:27:24 PM EDT

Subject: An update on Yoel Feder and why thousands of people are praying for a two-year old baby they’ve never met

After two-year old Yoel Feder sustained a life-threatening head injury when he was struck by an out of control car in early February, several hundred people in Yoel’s home community (Passaic-Clifton, NJ) came together – on a nightly basis – to recite Tehillim (Psalms) on his behalf. But it wasn’t only in his community. As word got out about this tragedy, people from all over the world recited special prayers and, as Yoel’s mom requested, accepted one mitzvah upon themselves in Yoel’s merit. I have over 150 emails from people who never even heard of the Feders expressing their compassion for little Yoel and committing to take on one mitzvah with special zeal. Surprising as it is that so many people shared the family’s pain in this way, it would only be natural for the concern to diminish over time as life’s everyday challenges get pushed to the front burner. For some reason, that didn’t happen. Regular gatherings continue for the recital of Tehillim. A 15-minute nightly conference call with a Torah lecture and heartfelt prayers, with hundreds of participants each night, continued unabated even in this frenzied, home stretch week of pre-Passover preparations. Requests for updates on Yoel’s condition keep pouring in from across the globe. Why?

Because Yoel is our brother. He’s our son. We are klal Yisrael. We are one.

I’ll give an update on Yoel’s condition shortly but will first share the following of how someone in a different context personified this idea:

Mrs. Chana (aka Caitlen) Bilek, one of the Study Coordinators at Partners in Torah received a called today from a student named Frank. The following is a faithful reconstruction of that call:

Frank – Hi Caitlin!!! I cannot believe you matched me with a prominent lawyer from NY. Here I am a little conservative Texan, and you matched me with such a powerful man.

Caitlin – Oh really, well Ira must be humble because I did not know this.

Frank – Well, I looked him up online and found all this out. I told Ira that I could not believe he wanted to learn with a little me from Texas when he was such a big shot. Ira replied, “Frank, Can I ask you if your mother was Jewish”? I said yeah. He asked me the same question again, “Frank- was your mother Jewish?” – I say ‘Yes’. Ira says “my mother was Jewish too.” So here we are two Jews who are going to learn Torah, are you okay with that”. I said ‘yes’. Then Ira says, “So let’s learn”.


Caitlin – Wow Frank this sounds like you’re really happy with your mentor.

Frank – Yes! I’m pumped. Here I am at 60 yrs old and I’m pumped! I just wish that kids in their 20s would know about this so they could make better life decisions.

Caitlin – I’m very happy for you. Please make sure tell others about our program.

Frank – Oh I will! Your organization is great. Here you are helping me get Tefillin and matching me with a great mentor.

Caitlin – Thank you. And you are a great guy too. Happy Passover and thanks for calling.

Whether a prominent NY lawyer, a humble 60-year old Texan or a 2-year old baby, we are one. We come in all shapes and stripes, Democrat or Republican, Sephardic or Ashkenazik, Jewishly knowledgeable or less so, affiliated, marginally unaffiliated,  or completely unaffiliated, we’re all one. And when we behave and pray as such, Hashem listens.


In early February, the doctors had no idea if Yoel Feder would make it out of the hospital alive. If he would, the head trauma along with hundreds of fractures in his skull made the likelihood of severe brain damage quite strong. What the doctors didn’t realize is that Yoel is part of klal Yisrael. They didn’t understand the power of thousands of people stepping up their commitment to one mitzvah, nor the power of earnest prayer. Even intense prayer doesn’t always achieve the hoped-for outcome. Hashem has His own plans. But sometimes Hashem is just waiting for klal Yisrael to get it together. Here’s the latest from Yoel’s parents:

Yoel is talking and learning how to walk again. He was transferred to specialized children’s rehab hospital and doing very well baruch Hashem (thank G-d). He’s talking all the time and, as far as we can tell, remembers almost everything. He is in very good spirits and is always smiling and interacting with everyone. The most pressing physical issue we’re dealing with is a large swelling on the right side of his head right above the eye. The swelling is caused by a leak of cerebrospinal fluid which the doctors are hoping will resolve itself without intervention could get complicated and dangerous. So glad to be able to share this news with you and hope everyone will continue to daven. Thank you for all your tefillos (prayers) and may Hashem should continue to answer all your prayers.


While it is too early to know what the long term effects of his injuries, if any, will be, the progress so far is nothing short of miraculous. In addition to likely playing a major role in Yoel’s healing, the prayers and the mitzvos done in his merit have, from the beginning, offered his parents’ hope and tremendous support. They vividly see that they are not alone. We should as well – without needing another tragedy to bring it to the surface.


As we sit down at the Seder table to celebrate our miraculous redemption from slavery,  let’s realize the power we have to achieve national healing and our final redemption. It starts with appreciating all the gifts we have – the Ira’s in our life – and then with getting Ira’s message. We are one.


Happy Passover.


Rabbi Eli Gewirtz

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