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Family Harmony

Lev Weisman lay in bed completely exhausted, all his muscles aching. During the time he was confined to bed with a severe flu, childhood memories washed over him.

He remembered his childhood that he had spent in Leningrad, in Soviet Russia. The fact that he was Jewish held no positive meaning for him. On the contrary; he suffered from repeated anti-Semitic attacks from neighborhood bullies. Lev ran his tongue over his teeth, which had been broken during one of those incidents.

A few days before the Yom Kippur War, when Lev was 16, his family made aliyah to Israel. They flew by way of Vienna, and could barely contain their excitement when they saw who shared their flight: Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel.

After landing in the Lod airport, the Weisman family was brought to an absorption center in Kfar Chabad. They had an elderly uncle who was Torah-observant. He wanted the new immigrant family to be exposed to authentic Judaism, and arranged for their stay in Kfar Chabad.

The Weisman family lived in Kfar Chabad for one year, after which they moved to Lod. In time, Lev was drafted into the Israeli army and served five years in the airforce. While in the army he met his wife, Yael, from a traditional Yemenite family. Yael herself, however, had turned her back on tradition, and Lev himself, despite the year he had spent in Kfar Chabad, felt no strong leanings towards tradition either.

However, Lev always had the sense that if he were to become religious one day, he’d be a Chabad chassid. The joy that they constantly expressed appealed to him. Nevertheless, he had no intentions of becoming religious. On the one hand, he enjoyed participating in various holiday celebrations in Kfar Chabad; on the other hand, whenever he was asked to put on tefillin in some public setting, he always refused.

Now Lev lay in bed, sick with flu, in his home in London. He had accepted a job in the high-tech industry, and he and Yael had moved there and rented a home in the Golders Green neighborhood.

During his long convalescence, Lev found himself stirred not just by childhood memories, but by deep thoughts that he had never paid much attention to before. He had many questions on faith and the meaning of life, but had never found anyone he felt was qualified to discuss the subject with him.

Lev’s father kept a connection to the Chabad chassidim, and before Lev had left to London, his father had given him the phone number of a chassid in London by the name of Rabbi Gabi Spitzer. “He is a fascinating personality, and it would be worth your while to get to know him.”

After he had recuperated from his illness, Lev called Rabbi Spitzer and began to bombard him with all the questions weighing on his mind: creation versus evolution; the age of the universe; the purpose of mankind; the essential difference between Jews and non-Jews. The answers he received from Rabbi Spitzer satisfied him, and in time, Lev committed to putting on tefillin daily, to attend regular Torah classes and take part in synagogue services. Overall, he enjoyed every step of his return to traditional Judaism.

The one obstacle in his path was his wife, Yael. She was adamantly against her husband’s newfound path in life, and made it clear that she had no interest in sharing his life, if it meant joining the ultra-Orthodox.

Family cohesion was extremely important to Lev, and he tried his utmost to convince Yael, in a pleasant way, to join him in this path or at least not to serve as an obstacle. But all his efforts seemed to drive Yael further away, and Lev was beside himself.

Rabbi Spitzer advised him to travel to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask for his blessing. Lev agreed, and in December 1990, he traveled to New York and stayed for several days. The atmosphere in the Rebbe’s synagogue captivated him; he felt a spiritual elevation as he had never experienced before.

On Sunday, before his return to England, Lev passed the Rebbe on the famous “dollar line,” when the Rebbe would dispense blessings along with dollars for charity. When Lev’s turn came, he decided to address the Rebbe in his native tongue, Russian. He asked the Rebbe for his blessing that the family should return to Jewish observance together, not with rancor and animosity.

The Rebbe blessed him with his standard “blessing and success” and gave him two dollars, one for himself and one for his family.

The turning point came only two weeks after his return to England. On her own initiative, Yael turned to her husband and suggested that he kosher the kitchen, “so it will be easier for you to eat kosher.” For a moment Lev thought he had not heard right.

This was the first step in a transformation in their family life. Yael joined Lev in watching his collection of Judaica video tapes that he had acquired in New York, and slowly changed her perspective. Soon she wholeheartedly joined Lev on his journey to Judaism.

Today the Weissman family lives in Kfar Saba, and conducts a Chassidic home in every sense.


 

 


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