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Thursday, December 27, 2012


My Cousin, Mordechai Yehoshua Ben Tzvi Elimelech z"l                       
This past Shabbat, our dear first cousin "Sheike," as we knew and loved him, was taken back to his Creator.  His illness was discovered only a short month before his death and he rapidly deteriorated.  I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the last few weeks of his life with him and he taught me so much, especially at this most difficult time.
Sheike was a big man. "Big" in all senses of the word.  He was a physically big man, but more important- he was a man with a BIG smile and an even bigger heart.
We are saddend beyond belief.  It is hard for us to imagine and accept that he is gone. 

In Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), depicts the scene of a man walking through the garden, picking figs. This is an allegory for death, meaning that God picks the neshamot from Earth to go with him to Gan Eden. The reason Shlomo Hamelech used a fig for this parable, as opposed to any other fruit, is because a fig has the characteristic that it is very difficult to tell when it is ripe, just by looking at the outside. So too with the neshama, we cannot tell by looking, which neshamot are ripe to go to gan eden. Some take 120 years, some take 60 years, some take 20 years.

    It is difficult to tell which Neshama is “ripe” and ready to be taken back by God, but it was not difficult to see the great Neshama of Sheike.  He was taken in the prime of his life.  Too early, way too early.  God wanted his pure neshama to be with Him.  Sheike died on Shabbat which shows how special he was.

·        For one thing Shieke had a smile that projected goodness.

o   His smile could melt ice. His smile brought an instant deep intense feeling of goodness.

o   Sheike did not have it easy. His life had many twists and turns.

o   During the last couple of weeks – he was in intense pain. Yet he did his best to always show a positive smile. A loving smile.

o   His smile was pure chesed and we will miss it dearly.

·   Sheika was a man who was always willing to give. To his country, to his wife, to his children and to his family and friends.

We will never forget what he did for us when we moved to Israel. It was a hot sweltering day and we just made aliya with 3 little kids in tow.  I was so saddened to leave my family behind and it was very hard.  Suddenly, as we got off the plane and went down those airplane steps, we were greeted by a very huge smile and laugh that only Sheike had.  He worked in the airport and was able to get a special pass to come greet us on our first steps of this beautiful land.  He took the children, who took to him immediately so that we could deal with all the paperwork.

He then joined us in the sweltering heat, 3 kids, hand luggage and 15 boxes to our new home.  He could have said goodbye there, but he insisted on carrying all of our boxes up two flights of stairs without hesitation.  His presence and smile made our aliya so much easier and memorable.  We never forgot that incredible kindness that he thought nothing of. 

·     We found out that he was sick only three weeks before he passed away.  I have been thinking a lot about the important things in life and how every day counts since we do not know how much time we really have.  

        Even in intense pain he smiled his big smile when we came.  He tried to say all the right things as the terrible illness spread to his head, lungs and rest of his body.  As a Cohein he gave us the famous priestly prayer.  He requested, actually demanded, to see all of our kids.  When we brought each one of them, he took each one separately and added an extra bracha at the end.  Even though he had such difficulty breathing and talking he thought about doing so .
          This  reminded me of this week's parsha, when Yaakov gathered all his sons around his bed to give them their last blessing.  The last song we sang with him in the hospital which Sheike sang so fervently was Am Yisrael Chai.  What a powerful song.

        During his last days he took all of his energies and thanked anyone who was there helping him and wished them well.  How can someone in such intense pain,  think of those things, think of others?  That was our beautiful cousin Sheike.
    His Uncles in America so wanted to talk to him, but he could not talk on the phone, could barely speak.  On Wednesday before he passed away, he took all of his strength and was able to say a few words to them on the phone, because he so wanted to speak to them and I guess to say goodbye.  

 His words were sparing the last two weeks, yet he said so much.  He told us how much he loves us and how much we mean to him.  He told us how proud he was of his children and he hopes they will be taken care of.  He did not know he was dying, but he knew...

·  On the Friday before he passed away we were swapping stories of Sheike and his great heart. His son told us how he was so happy with his childhood and he could not have asked for a better childhood.

  We are so  happy that we had the chance to know you. You have taught us to be strong; to do everything with kindness and Simcha. Whenever we are sad we will think of your great smile and we will smile – remembering what a great person you were.  We will miss you very much.

·       May your Wife and Children be comforted amongst the mourners of Israel.

תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים


  • Yaakov lives his last seventeen years in Mitzraim.
  • Before Yaakov dies he makes Yosef swear that he will bury him in Israel.
  • Yaakov blesses Yosef's two sons, Ephraim and Menashe.
  • Yaakov switches his hands and puts his right hand on the younger son, Ephraim, and his left hand on the older, Menashe.
  • Yaakov blesses them with the famous blessing:   Hamalach Hagoel:
          "May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, and may they multiply abundantly like the fish in the midst of the land."

  • Yaakov blesses Yosef's son's further, with the blessing we give our boys on Friday night:  
          "May G‑d make you like Ephraim and Menashe."
  •  Yaakov gathers his sons and gives each of his sons a bracha, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
  •  Yaakov makes a final request to be buried with his forefathers in Mearat Hamachpela.
  • Yaakov dies at the age of 147.
  •  Yosef requests permission from Pharoh to leave to bury his father.
  • Yosef, his family and the elders of Mitzrayim go to bury Yaakov in Mearat Hamachpela.
  • Upon returning to Mitzrayim, the brothers fear that Yosef is still angry with them and will take revenge.
  • Yosef reassures his brothers that he is not angry with them.
  • Yosef lives until the age of 110.
  • Before he dies, Yosef makes his family swear that they will bring the remains of his body to Eretz Yisrael.
This concludes Sefer Bereishit.  Tune in next week to find out what happens next........  and for some great Parsha Cakes!!!

In this week’s parsha, Yaakov Avinu was dying very soon,
Reuven, Shimon Levi, Yehuda, Yissaschar, Zevulun,
Dan Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yosef and Binyamin,
Were told about their greatness and also of their sin.
Yaakov was poetic, each bracha well thought out,
And each shevet understood and knew what their bracha was about.
One shevet will be judges, and one will trade at sea,  
One shevet will be learners  and one will have monarchy.
One shevet will be brave in battle, another that go hand in hand,
were separated from each other, and one did not get his own land.
One brother compared to a wolf, and one was blessed with olive trees,
One as swift as a deer, one rebuke, and they each took their bracha with ease.
Can you figure out all of the brachot, like the one that’s compared to a snake,
When you answer this you can say: "Chazak chazak venitchazek!"
(answers below...)


In this week’s parsha, Yaakov gathers his sons to give them each brachot before he dies.  Each bracha was well thought out and given one at a time to each Shevet.   
Have each person consider how Hashem has blessed their life. Each person should think of things he considers a blessing from Hashem. Encourage everyone  to think deeply and come up with nice things that happened to them. After a set amount of time, go around the Shabbat table and  each person should say their blessing out loud. Keep going around and around until people run out of blessings. The last person to name a blessing wins.

Here is a great way for my father and I to learn a little bit of Parsha each week, even though we live far from each other. ( I like the play on words of Abba in the word Shabbat and Imabba meaning "with Abba" and Ima Abba written together!  Thanks Abba and Ima :-)!

The Parsha starts out with the pasuk saying "Vayechi Yaakov Beeretz Mitzraim shva esre shana".  Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years. 
The word Vayechi equals 34.  Yaakov had a good life for 34 years. The first 17 years, when all of his family were togehter, and the last 17 years of his life when the brothers reunited.  We can learn from here that when family comes together and unite, those are the best years of ones life.  
( I hope my parents are hinting that they will come to Israel soon to join us and make aliya :-)!)


My daughter and friends created this fun Parsha cake!

This week’s Parsha talks about the 12 shevatim and the brachot they received from their father Yaakov.  It also talks about Yaakov switching his hands to give the bracha for Ephraim and Menashe.  I thought that a clock (12) and the “hands” crossing each other is a great way to think about this parsha!  Enjoy!

You will need:
Carrot cake
Cookie dough
Fruit leather
Numbers out of chocolate mold, cookie shapes or piping.
Candies with brachot on them (optional)
Candies for the different brachot: i.e. snake, deer etc... (optional)
We bought chips that were in the shape of hands, since Yaakov crossed his hands...

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a round 10 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Frost with dessert whip if you would like.  Place the numbers around the clock,  Take the fruit leather and cut them into 2 rectangles for the hands of the clock.  Make hands out of the prepared cookie dough or out of the fruit leather.  Don’t forget to cross the hands over.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Shabbat!

Chazak Chazak Venitchazek!!! 

Answer to Parsha puzzle:  Reuven- rebuke  Shimon and Levi- separated , Levi had no land, Yehuda- monarchy , Yissaschar- learners, Zevulun- trade, Dan- snake, Gad, chase the enemy, Asher- olive trees,
Naftali- deer,Yosef- vine, Binyamin- wolf.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry! What you wrote here is beautiful - I hope his family will be able to read it too.