A Handshake 70 Years in the Making! th (10).jpg

As recounted by Rebbitzen Chanie Lipskar of Bal Harbour, Florida, at the recent Shluchos Convention.

“Sitting at our Shabbos tabletogether with a group of guests, was a dear friend of my husband’s, a Holocaust survivor, scholar and businessman. We have a custom that each person either shares a dvar Torah, a Jewish experience or accepts upon himself to do a mitzvah.

My husband suggested to this gentleman that he take on the mitzvah of putting on tefillin every day, to which he responded, ‘Rabbi, I love you. But I cannot, and I’ll tell you why: The year was 1939 in Poland. The winds of war were already blowing and the situation for the Jewish community was dire.

 In this state of chaos and uncertainty, just before my bar mitzvah, my father called me over and said in the most serious tone, “Meir’l, please commit to me that you will put on tefillin every day no matter what.” Then he stretched out his hand for me to shake it. As I was a cheder boy at the time this seemed to be an easy request, and I lifted my hand to commit myself.

My uncle, who was watching this saga unfold, took hold of my hand and said to my father, “Don’t make him swear to something he may be unable to fulfill.”

So there I was, looking at my father with his outstretched hand and mine halfway up to his but held back by my uncle. My father was murdered and I became a resourceful survivor against all odds. I never finished that handshake, Rabbi, and that is why I cannot accede to your request.’

“There was utter silence around our table. People were wiping away tears. Then my husband extended his hand and said, ‘Meir’l, let’s imagine that your father’s soul dressed itself in me for just a moment and let’s complete that handshake.’

“The room was electric as you felt all the history, pain and anguish of that period. After what seemed like an eternity, Reb Meir grasped my husband’s hand and sealed the handshake that had waited 70 years to be completed. His father’s request had finally been realized. There were tears, elation, singing and dancing. Reb Meir began to put on tefillin every day.”