On Tuesday evening, May 9, Chevra Bais Dovid, Rabbi Naftoli Rubin’s shul in Kew Gardens Hills, was filled with awe and gratitude as the community received a tzadik in our midst. At a reception for Chesed L’Avraham, the Skulener Rebbe shlita, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, the Grand Rebbe of Skulen, sat at a table in front of the beis midrash and gave out shirayim and blessings. The chairmen of the event included Mr. Eli Glaser, Mr. Yitzchok Dykman, and Rabbi Dovid Kurz.
First, Rabbi Kurz greeted everyone. Next, Rabbi Rubin shared a d’var Torah and spoke about the Skulener Rebbe’s important tz’dakah. Rabbi Rubin pointed out that the reception was being held on Pesach Sheini. He then drew a connection between Chesed L’Avraham and Pesach Sheini. Pesach Sheini is called the small Pesach. The Zohar says that the matzah that klal Yisrael ate on Pesach lasted for 30 days until 14 Iyar. Pesach Sheini still has the influence of Pesach with all of its miracles. The Arizal taught that the holiday is called Pesach because Hashem skipped over the sins of klal Yisrael and brought us out of Egypt. Hashem taking us out of Egypt was not based on our merit. So, the holiness of Pesach extends to Pesach Sheini. Pesach Sheini is the bridge between us and the holiness of shamayim, and now we ourselves must provide the holiness. Pesach Sheini was a second chance for people who were tamei on Pesach to experience the holiness of Pesach. So it is appropriate that we support this organization on Pesach Sheini, because it brings holiness to so many who are far from holiness. The Skulener Rebbe welcomes and gives tremendous love and warmth to all Yidden who are near or far from Yiddishkeit. This tz’dakah is involved with so many families. We should merit going up in k’dushah and meriting kabbalas HaTorah with this great mitzvah of tz’dakah.
Next, Rabbi Kurz spoke about Chesed L’Avraham. It operates in Israel, and most of the money is raised in America. There are four primary buildings: three for boys and one for girls. They house kids of all ages. Chesed L’Avraham brings people who are far from holiness to holiness. It helps orphans and r’chokim. Chesed L’Avraham is holding a reunion for alumni and families soon. A couple of hundred families will be there. Chesed L’Avraham is there for them no matter what.
Next, the guest speaker, HaRav Yaakov Bender shlita, the rosh ha’yeshivah of Far Rockaway’s Yeshiva Darchei Torah, spoke. He shared a d’var Torah from Parshas Emor. He posed the question of why is the mitzvah of tum’ah a prototype. It’s the mitzvah that a kohen must teach his child. The kohen child must be taught that he is different and must be careful about tum’ah. Jewish children need to know that they are different. We don’t talk, walk, or dress like everyone else. Rabbi Bender noted that it is a battle today. It is very difficult.
He shared another d’var Torah that we see in the parshah that after the laws of Yom Tov, it says to be sure to take care to invite the needy, the orphan, and the widow. The Skulener Rebbe is doing this for us. We must support this organization, Chesed l’Avraham, which rescues children who are in terrible situations and abandoned, and it becomes their parents. It takes care of their physical and emotional needs and teaches them about Yiddishkeit. The Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Eliezer Zusha Portugal, started the organization for orphans.
The Skulener Rebbe’s father, the alter Skulener Rebbe zt”l, was the av of orphans. He literally raised them as his own children. So many called him Tatty and Zeidy. The numbers of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren reaches into the hundreds. He founded Chesed L’Avraham after the Holocaust to care for orphans and help free captives. The Rebbe’s father’s heart filled with ahavas Yisrael. His heart was so big that he always held room for one more orphan. The alter rebbe’s sefer is the Noam Eliezer. This sefer on t’filah expounds on the strength of a tzadik, who is able to create an opening in the gates of mercy. That opening allows the t’filos of other Jews to enter, even though they are not on the same level. A tzadik wants Hashem to receive everyone’s t’filos. He hopes Hashem will fulfill all of their wishes. His job is to elevate the generation.
While awaiting the Rebbe’s arrival, this writer spoke to Mrs. Ruty Koenig, a resident of Kew Gardens Hills, whose grandfather, Herschel Bronstein, took the current Skulener Rebbe’s father out of jail in Rumania during the 1960s.
Donations to Chesed L’Avraham can be sent to 131 Keap Street, Brooklyn NY 11211.
By Susie Garber
Photo credit: Gary Koenig