Photo Credit: Yehuda Goldschein

The cover of the journal for the Congregation Ahavas Yisroel annual dinner has a heart logo symbolizing the connection of the shul members to each other and to the community and klal Yisrael. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for heart, leiv, is equal to 32. On Wednesday evening, May 8, shul members and friends gathered to celebrate the 32nd annual dinner for Congregation Ahavas Yisroel.

The shul’s president, Rabbi Elliot Hecht, was the emcee for the evening. He noted: “Tonight is not just a celebration for the Wahrmans, the guests of honor – Rabbi Cham Dov and Mrs. Breindy Wahrman – but it’s about celebrating our shul and all it does for us and the community. Our Rabbi and Rebbetzin are known worldwide and are like no other.”

The first speaker was a local political figure, Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal. He shared that “[i]t’s extremely important to be involved in community and what is going on.” To combat anti-Semitism, get involved in the political process. “Get out and vote, participate in local organizations, and be attuned to what is going on. Be involved in the synagogue.” He complimented the Wahrmans for their exemplary community service and he presented them with a New York State citation.

Next, Rabbi Herschel Welcher shlita, rav of the shul, spoke from the heart. “Tonight is a celebration of our beis ha’k’neses and the role it plays in our lives. The parshah calls on us to lead a sanctified life. Angels are not affected by the yeitzer ha’ra, so Hashem gave them one portion of holiness. Mortals of this world are affected by the yeitzer ha’ra, so the Ribbono shel Olam gave us a double portion of k’dushah in hope that it would help us in our travails in this world.” He pointed out that the human adventure is fraught with challenges of all types from all directions. “Hashem gave us the ability to stand up to those challenges.” He taught that we have this potential for k’dushah, but we have to develop it. It’s like a talented athlete, who must train and work diligently and with persistence to develop his talent. Hashem gave klal Yisrael an innate double portion of holiness. He put us in the world to stand up to the challenges, and with diligence and persistence, working on holiness, we have to actualize our potential by our struggle in this world.

Rabbi Welcher pointed out that “when we celebrate the tzibur, we celebrate our struggle to be a sanctified people. We join together and strive to be a community.”

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l taught that the word eidah (congregation) is in Parshas Bo and also in Parshas K’doshim. The word eidah comes from the word for destination. We have a common destination. We are working towards the same destination. “A k’hilah unites and elevates us in many different ways.”

He asked the question of how any one individual Jew could possibly observe all 613 mitzvos. It seems an impossibility. So, the only way to do this is when we are united as a community. Why do we have a shul? “The Rambam teaches that this is so that there is a house of Hashem. When we establish a shul, we proclaim Hashem’s existence. We proclaim our belief in the Ribbono shel Olam.” He continued. “In establishing a shul, we all share in an enormous kiddush Hashem, proclaiming to the world that the Ribbono shel Olam is present.” He emphasized that “when the community comes before Hashem with heartfelt t’filos, Hashem will undertake to accept those t’filos.” He shared a fascinating Gemara that if just one person in a tzibur is davening with kavanah, it carries the entire tzibur’s t’filos on wings that soar to Hashem. In the same way, if one person in a tzibur does mitzvos in a proper fashion, it elevates our service of Hashem. It inspires us and unites us. “The k’hilah connects us to each other, and through this connection we connect to the Ribbono shel Olam.”

Rabbi Wahrman and Mrs. Wahrman both dedicate their lives to educating our youth. Rabbi Welcher shared the famous teaching that the world exists only because of the utterances of the Torah of little children. “What holier calling can there be?” He detailed all the things that Rabbi and Mrs. Wahrman do for the shul and the community, and it was a very impressive list. Rabbi Welcher said that they are quiet, persistent, and committed to helping the shul. They always keep a low profile. “When they are there, things happen.”

Rabbi Welcher mentioned that roshei yeshivah from all over the world come to our k’hilah and they are impressed with the seriousness of the demeanor during the davening and limud haTorah. We have a broad range of people. He thanked all who work on behalf of the beis ha’k’neses. He thanked the head of the dinner committee, Yoni Katz, and his dedicated staff. He then listed the many names of people who helped out with the dinner and the myriad of other functions in the shul.

Judge David Kirschner spoke briefly, and this was followed by Rabbi Hecht sharing a d’var Torah.

Rabbi Wahrman then spoke. He shared how, when he and his wife first came to the shul, she liked how friendly the shul was, and he liked the availability of the Hashkamah Minyan and, most of all, the reason they joined the shul was because of the Rav. He then shared a d’var Torah he had heard from Rabbi Welcher. There were 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva and yet they were all killed, and all the Torah we have today is from the five students who came later. Imagine if we had Torah from 24,000. Why was it appropriate to have lost all that Torah knowledge? The answer is that Torah from that source would have been faulty. Torah has to come from a pure source. Our Torah has to be honest. Rabbi Wahrman stated, “What the Rav accomplished is mind-boggling. It’s an honor to have a rav like this.” He shared how the shul brings people together. When someone is in need, the shul members are there for you. “It is important for all of us to understand how special our shul is.”

 By Susie Garber