May 1945. Liberation day finally arrived. Chaim was more dead than alive, but he had survived. Although he had suffered terribly and lost almost everything, he had outlived Hitler. So many times throughout the war, he had given up hope; there was simply no way he could go on. The odds of his survival were practically zero, and yet, in each situation he somehow survived. It was as if a divine hand was guiding him in the miserable darkness.

 You won’t find “Lower East Sider” in a dictionary. If you Google those words, you’ll get some entries about prices of apartments and other various news about the Lower East Side. But for the tens of thousands of Jews who grew up and lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, there is significant meaning. In fact, those old timers take it as a great compliment to be a “Lower East Sider.”

 By now, the beautiful holiday of Sukkos feels like a somewhat distant memory. The leaves have changed into their splendor and august colors, and are beginning to rapidly fall from the trees. Our clocks have been adjusted to Eastern Standard Time, and the weather has become markedly colder.

Our son Avi became a bar mitzvah on Thursday evening, 26 Cheshvan 5781. Unfortunately, my father-in-law was not feeling well enough to attend the Shabbos event, so Avi and I went to visit him in Lakewood on Thursday afternoon.

 As I was walking to shul on Motza’ei Shabbos this week, I saw that the moon was clearly shining. That meant that we would be able to recite Kiddush L’vanah after Maariv. I turned to the person walking with me, pointed upwards, and remarked, “a sheiner levanah,” Yiddish for “a beautiful moon.” I then added, “Can you imagine a non-Jew ever making such a comment?” That’s not to say that a non-Jew can’t appreciate the beauty of the moon. However, they do not have the same appreciation to “bless the moon,” which is considered equivalent to greeting the Sh’chinah itself. That feeling of excitement expressed in the words “a sheiner levanah” is unique to those who observe mitzvos.