Scenes from the powerful Shabbaton
held in Tzefas
More than 100 women who were recently rescued from Arab villages, and their children, were treated by Yad L'Achim to an unforgettable Shabbos in Tzefas this week.
Chartered buses were dispatched all across the country – from Beersheva in the south to Acco in the north – to collect the honored guests and bring them to the Metzudah Hotel, where Yad L'Achim had rented the entire facility to better provide for their needs.
The women and children arrived Thursday evening and were taken straight to their rooms where they discovered a pleasant surprise: in addition to the traditional light refreshments there were winter accessories, including colorful woolen hats for the children.
After a sumptuous dinner, the children adjourned to a special play room that had been set up for them by a kindergarten teacher and trained counselors. Combining arts and crafts and Jewish education, the teacher helped the children decorate cups for washing hands and taught them the laws of netillas yadayim.
Afterwards they baked cookies, and learned about the blessing of mezonos and how to take challah.
Meanwhile, their mothers were attending a riveting lecture given by Mrs. Miri Or, that included the laws of taking challah and inspiring tales of faith.
Later that night, after putting their children to bed and leaving them in the care of the counselors, the mothers gathered to hear the story of a woman whose mother was Jewish and father was an Arab sheikh. She had been rescued by Yad L'Achim and adopted a life of Torah and mitzvos.
On Friday, the mothers were taken on a boat cruise of the Kinneret and given an opportunity to participate in a moving tefillah at the tomb of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron. The emotional afternoon reached its peak at candle-lighting time, when more than 100 women who had until recently been living as Arabs covered their eyes and uttered silent prayers on behalf of their children.
The Friday night meal began with Kiddush recited by Yad L'Achim chairman Harav Yisrael Lifschitz. The young children sang Shabbos zemiros with a zest, filling the room with light and holiness.
Harav Lifschitz delivered words of Torah in which he exhorted the women to continue their spiritual growth.
After the meal, the children retreated to a room with their counselors to hold an "amen" meal which gave each child an opportunity to make a blessing on a treat and have everyone else respond with a hearty "amen."
The mothers attended a lecture by Mrs. Miri Or, who shared her dramatic life story, including her return to Judaism and how her faith helped her battle a very difficult disease.
Later, they heard from Rabbi Ayal Krochie who shared his personal story of returning to his Jewish roots and leaving behind everything that was dear to him. He sang the praises of Jewish women, particularly those who, like the seminar's participants, had left everything behind to live their lives as Jews and raise their children in their heritage.
On Shabbos morning, the mothers were given a rare opportunity to observe their children in prayer, being led by the kindergarten teacher. Many were moved to tears to hear their own children praying with the same melodies they had used in their youth.
After lunch, the Chief Rabbi of Tzefas, Harav Shmuel Eliyahu, gave a special address. The atmosphere was electric, as the Rav referred to the weekly Torah portion, noting how the Jewish people had been transformed from lowly slaves in Egypt, until they merited to be redeemed.
With tears in his eyes, the Rav recalled his personal memories of Yad L'Achim's founder, Hagaon Harav Shalom Dovber Lifschitz, zt"l. "He was an angel and he knew the awesome value of every neshama in Am Yisrael," he recalled. "Rav Lifschitz put his entire soul into every single Jewish girl who was in 'Egypt' and did everything to bring them to freedom."
He praised Yad L'Achim's staffers for continuing Rav Lifschitz' holy work.
At the conclusion of his inspiring talk, the Rav blessed all the participants collectively and individually, as each of the women approached him for a blessing for herself and her children. The moving encounter brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the room.
Afterwards, the Rav turned to Harav Yisrael Lifschitz and said, "Fortunate are you for being involved in such great and important activities."
Seduah Shlishis featured a symposium in which each participant shared what she had gained from the Shabbos. They had nothing but praise for Yad L'Achim for putting together such a beautiful experience which strengthened them mentally and spiritually and gave them the feeling of belonging to a large family, that of Yad L'Achim.
Right after havdalah, they filled out questionnaires in which they listed what commitments they had taken upon themselves. Some committed to bake every week and take challah; others to host Torah classes in their home; and still others to register their children in Torah schools.
They left with a siddur and bencher to remember the Shabbos by, as well as food and drink for the journey home. Most importantly, they left with a powerful spiritual charge that gave them the strength to cope with the many challenges they face as they seek to build their lives anew.