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Giving Our Heart & Soul
By Menachem Ziegelboim

Every summer for 19 years, a bar mitzva celebration was held in Kfar Chabad for the children of the war heroes who had died in Israel’s wars * Thousands of people participated in these moving events * Behind this project was a woman named Shifra Golombovitz of Kfar Chabad * For the first time, Beis Moshiach tells the full story behind the amazing work done on behalf of widows and orphans.*
Part 3 of 3 (Click here for Part 1)

What were some long-term results you saw from all your efforts?

“Many families became more involved in Yiddishkeit in some way or another. Some actually got involved, others just changed their attitude towards Judaism. Some became observant and some even established beautiful Chassidishe families.

“If somebody from Kibbutz Meizra decides to marry according to halacha because of our work, it’s worth everything. There was a young man from Degania Beis who called us in a state of great distress. ‘A terrible thing happened,’ he said. ‘The strap came out of my t’fillin. What do I do?’ I sent somebody to him from the Chabad House in Afula who fixed it for him and calmed the boy down.

“Once a widow from Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov came and brought me grapes. She said with complete sincerity, ‘The grapes are kosher, and we didn’t cut them on Shabbos because we knew they were for you.’ That’s worth everything.”

“I remember that once we went to the home of President Navon and the children were wearing their tzitzis out. Navon was upset and asked one of the children, “All of a sudden you wear your tzitzis out? At home you don’t do that!”

When Shifra tells these stories her eyes sparkle. She re-experiences all the events over all the years as she is recollecting them.

“We once went on a trip, and on the way back we passed near Beit Shemesh. It was time to daven Mincha and we asked the driver to stop. He refused, saying he was late and couldn’t stop. Hearing this, the children jumped up and shouted, ‘What do you mean? We want to daven Mincha now!’ And to think that these children had never held a siddur.”

Here is one example of many of the results of Shifra’s work:

“There was a widow who lost her husband at the end of Sivan 5727. She was at the beginning of a pregnancy and had to go through nearly the entire pregnancy alone. She went into labor on Chanuka. As soon as I found out I rushed over to the hospital to be with her. I maintained contact with the family over the years and the boy made his bar mitzva with us and then married another war orphan. Today he is a Chabad rav.

Shifra has many such stories, but in order to round out the picture she tells the following:

“A woman and her family emigrated to Australia after losing her husband in war. We sent them mishloach manos every year, and when their son became bar mitzva, we invited him to join our celebration.

“We placed him with an English speaking family for camp, and the boy became very interested in Yiddishkeit. But in time he lost interest in it and turned to other pursuits. One day he left his mother’s home and went to work in the jungle in central Australia.

“One day he showed up at Rabbi Lesches’ home in Melbourne and said he wanted to get married. He had met a girl in the jungle and found out she was Jewish, the daughter of a Chassidic family from Hungary. Her parents were thrilled she was marrying a Jew. Rabbi Lesches agreed to marry them on condition that it be al pi halacha, including the couple’s commitment to observe family purity.

“Rabbi Lesches described the bizarre chuppa to me, with the boy looking like a typical hippie and the girl standing barefoot wearing a brown dress. The couple had asked that four kangaroos stand around the chuppa. The boy insisted on a Jewish wedding, as a result of the bar mitzva we had made for him years before.”

Shifra points out that despite the fact that the counselors “worked like maniacs,” they didn’t receive a penny for their work. “In general, whoever worked on the project of widows and orphans did so voluntarily.” Shifra herself never received a cent for her work all those years.

Shifra adds that once they had planned to make a bas mitzva celebration for the orphan girls, similar to the boys, but the Rebbe said that since there was no such concept in halacha she should not make innovations. “We decided to make a “12th birthday party” with a small camp program beforehand, but that project didn’t last.”

* * *

Whoever remembers the bar mitzva celebrations for the children of war orphans, remembers a beautifully decorated giant dais. People of all walks of life as well as dignitaries sat at long rows of set tables. It was a moving and intense event, giving the impression that it was organized by a professional team with an ample budget.

When I say this to Shifra she laughs. “Three or four people threw themselves into the event, especially Rabbi Nachum Cohen, who worked for Tzeirei Agudas Chabad. We had hardly any money. We didn’t have fax machines and telephones weren’t readily accessible. It took weeks of hard work, day and night.

“We had to run from company to company in order to get donations of tablecloths, napkins, fruit, lighting, loudspeakers, and a dais. It was all donated. We got all the children of the Kfar to set up tables and chairs.”

As the day came to a close, the chassanei bar mitzva filed onto the platform to the sound of a Chassidic march played by the band. The boys were dressed in white, and when they sat down on the dais you could see them scanning the crowd for their mothers, whom they hadn’t seen for two weeks, and other family members. It was their big day, the day they had dreamed of for years.

Night fell over Kfar Chabad and the lights came on. The festive voice of the emcee, Rabbi Tzvi Greenwald, explained the significance of the event. Then, at a certain point, a group of soldiers made their way towards the central dais and took the boys on their shoulders like beloved brothers. The mothers cried. Many tears were shed at that time.

Shifra: “There were boys who told me afterwards that they felt their fathers standing above them, looking down on them with pride.”

After the event, when everybody mingled, boys and their mothers went over to the counselors to thank them. Only at the end did they approach Shifra, attempting to express their appreciation.

Shifra knew that the connection had not ended. On the contrary, it had been strengthened, to continue encouraging, consoling, and wiping the tears the next day too, and in the days, weeks and months to follow.


Shabbos in Chemdiya
(From Kfar Chabad issue #7)

“We will go despite all the expenses and turn over the kibbutz!” exclaimed one of the counselors at the camp for the children of war heroes, after Shifra finished talking. It all began with a letter from the mother of one of the bar mitzva boys who lived at Kibbutz Chemdiya in Emek Beit-Shan, whose son couldn’t make it to the celebration.

The letter both thrilled and amazed us. At a nonreligious kibbutz there was suddenly an arousal of the pintele Yid, and the mother, a member of the kibbutz, was asking that since her son couldn’t participate in the bar mitzva celebration, could they come and make him a party and call him up to the Torah on Shabbos Parshas R’ei! All this in a place that never saw t’fillin. If that wasn’t enough, the mother wrote that there was another child who was also turning 13 who would go up to the Torah on the same Shabbos…

Problems began cropping up. They had to cook and prepare food for thirty people, for the families of the bar mitzva boys would be eating with them. They had to obtain a Torah, siddurim, tallisos, yarmulkas, and so on. They also needed someone to explain the significance of the bar mitzva. Everybody got to work.

When the taxis arrived, all the things were loaded up, then we got in ourselves and were on our way. The kibbutz was quiet and peaceful. We found the family and they all pitched in and helped unload the goods and brought it to the children’s house, where we would be staying over Shabbos.

Two of the counselors went to see if everything was okay at the shul, which had served as the cultural building. They returned in amazement, saying, “They are so concerned and want us to be satisfied. They arranged everything: mezuzos, tablecloths, a bima for the Torah, and even a mechitza!

In the meantime, others took care of their rooms and the dining room. They also couldn’t stop praising the willingness of the kibbutz members to help everyone receive the Shabbos in a proper atmosphere. We saw how drawn they were to Yiddishkeit and how they thirsted to see and get what they so sorely lacked. That’s the only way to understand the unusual activities that took place because we came for Shabbos.

Shabbos arrived and a peaceful atmosphere descended. We convened in the dining room along with the members of the kibbutz, who lit Shabbos candles early so as to not to profane the Shabbos, and even refrained from playing music. Instead they listened to our zmiros. A few of them, who remembered the tunes from their parents’ or grandparents’ homes, sang along. Then someone said a brief speech about the special quality of Shabbos.

In the shul you would never have known that only a few hours before, it had been a cultural building. The atmosphere felt sanctified and pure, with people dressed for Shabbos with shining faces. After davening, we left the shul singing. We saw the great thirst to know and understand. They had lots of questions about Judaism, and we tried to answer them to the best of our ability.

We finally arrived at the dining room where a group of kibbutzniks were standing. We recited Shalom Aleichem and Eishes Chayil, as the many candles lit in honor of Shabbos glowed.

It was late when the meal ended, but most of the people sat around as a conversation ensued touching on various Jewish topics. Hearts that were closed, opened up; the tough outer layer melted in the warmth of Chassidishe ahavas Yisroel. People spoke about how life is actually empty without Torah and mitzvos. Older people reminisced about their growing up and tried not to cry.

* * *

The shul was crowded for Shacharis, with about sixty people attending. Among them were the bar mitzva boys who were about to have their aliyos. People came, hesitant at first about whether to enter or not, but eventually deciding to enter. A father who brought his son to see the seifer Torah, but was himself nervous about entering, finally entered.

The atmosphere during the davening was indescribable. Adults who hadn’t davened in years but who still remembered what they had learned as children, said parts of the davening by heart. The words of the t’filla brought even the younger generation to a moment of truth, a moment of thought and contemplation.. There was an atmosphere of Yomim Nora’im on an ordinary Shabbos.

Somebody peeked into the shul. It was someone on his way from work in the barn, who stopped a moment to see what the commotion is all about. His hair was wild, his beard scraggly and long with straw and grass in it, and his giant presence was somewhat ominous. He stood there for a moment and was about to leave when he suddenly entered the shul, drawn in graciously by one of the counselors. His face softened and his eyes began to reflect what was in his heart.

Everybody went over to kiss the Torah. Only members of the kibbutz received aliyos. The bar mitzva boys joyously awaited their moment of glory. The first boy said everything as he was taught, without a single mistake. The second boy, called Shlomo after his father, was also called up to the Torah to recite the blessing, “...who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah.” It seemed that we appreciated its significance now for the first time.

The rest of the day passed with a speech by Mutty Gal, who had come with us, about the deeper meaning of a bar mitzva, and with song and dance. This was the first time the kibbutz had experienced an authentic Shabbos. We were all sorry to see it end. We extended it with a Melaveh Malka with more song and inspiring discussions. We didn’t want to leave the place that had uplifted us along with them. But the truth is it did not end. We had planted a seed and hadn’t seen it sprout yet.

As we traveled home, we consoled ourselves over leaving them with the knowledge that we had “turned the kibbutz upside-down,” and whoever did not see Shabbos in Chemdiya never saw a Shabbos his life.


One of the letters Shifra received from the Rebbe
(Igros Kodesh, Vol. 25, pp. 38-39):

Enclosed is my contribution as well towards the expenses of the project and its expansion.

Fortunate is your portion in that you merited and have also succeeded in encouraging many souls of Jewish daughters, each of whom is a daughter of Sara, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah, in their special circumstance of having lost their husbands (tibadelna l’chaim tovim). Most certainly, the words of the Sages are reliable when they say, “He is answered first,” and Hashem will encourage and strengthen her spirit in this situation.

Hashem plans all circumstances and only He knows the reasons for His conduct in our world. But clearly, all that G-d does is for the best. As discussed elsewhere and written a number of times by our Torah leaders, it is no great wonder at all that a created being does not understand G-d’s ways, since there is no comparison at all between them – aside from whatever the Creator, in His great kindness, wants to reveal of His wisdom and desire and matters to created beings.

“If in all matters of goodness and holiness our Sages say that G-d helps a person, all the more so in a great test, as mentioned that one should not question G-d in the tragedy of losing a husband and a father of children. And G-d’s assistance – and He is the G-d of truth, and thus certainly also [His] assistance, in this case, concerning consolation – is founded on truth, even if the understanding in this is hidden from us.

“I strongly hope, based on the information I have received of the wonderful project in the past, that you will also work on this with even greater strength in the days to come, and ‘as waters reflect,’ the women with whom she came in contact should also be inspired to participate and help in this project and do as she does, and together the channels to receive G-d’s blessing will also widen for all their needs, for each one and for their families.

“[And this will be accomplished] by strengthening in daily conduct according to our Torah, the Torah of life given by the living G-d, and with the inner point – raising their children to Torah, chuppa, and good deeds in a state of expansiveness.

“One attributes a merit to a meritorious day. For a number of reasons this letter was written between 10 Kislev, the day marking the redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe, and 19 Kislev, the redemption of the Alter Rebbe, which are also our redemptions. Each woman among the Jewish people should be redeemed from all detrimental thoughts, and in general from all matters which deter a person from fulfilling his/her mission, the mission of each Jew: to be loyal to Hashem and His Torah, to run a Jewish home and educate its sons and daughters in the spirit of Yisroel Sabba. In this way they be outstanding and a source of praise and glory for our nation, the Jewish people. This is also a source of satisfaction and the most lofty merit for the souls of the deceased, the husband and father (may Hashem avenge their blood), when they look down from the World of Truth and see sons and daughters going in the way of truth and righteousness, the king’s road, which was laid out for us by the King of the world, Hashem, may He be exalted and elevated.

“In connection with the end of this month, the days of Chanuka, from now on may it continue to add in light from day to day, and Hashem should illuminate the lives of each woman, and may true and revealed goodness and kindness find them constantly, every day.


pidyon bechorOS

Shifra: It says that a firstborn son who was not redeemed needs special protection. We know that many firstborn sons who were not redeemed fell during the Six-Day War. During camp, we decided to redeem the firstborn boys according to halacha.

One day we played a game. We asked the children who was the oldest in their families, and they stood aside. Then we asked whose name was Cohen or Levy. They also stepped aside. We asked whose mother’s name was Cohen or Levy. Finally a small group of boys was left.

According to halacha, a bar mitzva boy who was not yet redeemed has to redeem himself, but if he is not yet bar mitzva, the beis din redeems him.

We had a beis din consisting of Rabbi Refael Kahn along with two other rabbanim, and they did the pidyon bechoros. We explained the significance of the ceremony to the children, who were touched by the ceremony and its meaning.


“Put on t’fillin. That’s an order!”

During the Yom Kippur War, Yechiel Naparstek served in the Golan Heights. During a respite in the fighting he put t’fillin on with the soldiers. When he was done, he asked to be allowed to go to the frontline and put t’fillin on with the soldiers there, but did not receive permission to do so.

There was an argument and a bit of a commotion. Suddenly an officer with the rank of major, who was the commander of the region, arrived on the scene and asked what the argument was about. They told him that a religious soldier wanted to put t’fillin on with the soldiers on the front. “Ah, you’re from Chabad,” said the officer. “Come with me.” He took Yechiel in his jeep until they arrived at the front most positions. The officer called all the soldiers together and told them, “I am putting on t’fillin now, and you’re all next. That’s an order.” They all obeyed and put on t’fillin.

Afterwards the officer told Yechiel, “I am from Kibbutz Maagen Michoel, and I am very distant from Judaism. The reason I helped you is because I adopted two boys whose father was killed in the war and whose mother was killed in a car accident. They left four children, two of whom I’m raising. When I see what Shifra and Chabad are doing for these kids, I can only salute you.”


Rejoicing over being Jewish





“It was time to daven Mincha and we asked the driver to stop. He refused. Hearing this, the children jumped up and shouted, ‘What do you mean? We want to daven Mincha now!’”




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