You Are Never Alone

This past Shabbos something happened to remind me that I am never alone.

Like the time that I lost my mother when I was a young man in Yeshiva in Israel.

It was the loneliest experience I had ever known. So many people came to make Shiva calls, but although it served as a tremendous catharsis, it didn’t cure my strong sense of being alone in my mourning.

What was particularly painful was during Yizkor (the memorial service) when all my friends packed out, and I was left with people who were some 50 years my elder.

This feeling subsided a bit when I had the opportunity to Daven (pray) in various synagogues on holidays, when Yizkor is said.

When the uncomfortable Yizkor service came around, I noticed that younger kids than I were saying Kaddish.

I was struck by the knowledge that I was not alone. During that difficult year, I met a friend in  New York. He softly said to me, “Welcome to the club.”

On Shabbos, we hosted a Shabbaton for 17 girls! After they had all washed their hands, I typed out, “Now you are all just like me!” Then I added, ” Welcome to my world!”

Yes indeed, we can always find a common denominator, whatever our situation.



  1. Rachel Stein · · Reply

    Because I agree with you that saying Yizkor can be so sad & lonely for young people when most of their peers leave the room, Michael & I have had our kids stay in for Yizkor–saying the parts for chayalim & victims of the Holocaust & also for their grandparents. Although we used to get strange looks, there are now a few families in Skokie who do this & I hope more communities adopt this custom too. Even young children can understand the importance of remembering people who are no longer with us. And we need to send a message to young people who have lost their parents too soon that they are not alone–that their community supports them and stands by their side.

    1. Fascinatingly thought provoking! I’ve heard of entire congregations in Israel staying in during Yizkor.

  2. Lauren Shaps · · Reply

    The Vancouver girls had such a wonderful time at your home! Thank you for hosting them and inviting the Ottawa girls. What a party!

    1. Indeed it was very special! Let’s do it again!

  3. Y Goldbaum · · Reply

    Short piece, but very powerful. You touch our heartstrings on so many levels!

    1. Awww, i try and I’m gratified that you think I hit the mark!

  4. Baruch Lederman · · Reply

    This post hits home because I have had times when I have had similar feelings – an epiphany that a situation that you thought only applied to you actually applies to many others as well. Times I thought I was the only one in the world in some situation or feeling a certain emotion. I was always relieved to discover there were others like me.

    P.S. – Hey! What’s wrong with men in their 50s. Talk about hitting where it hurts.

    1. Nothing’s wrong, it sure beats the alternative!

  5. When you put a smile on the faces of the guests welcoming them to your world you have no idea how many worlds above them you really are (now don’t let that go to your head).

    P.S. what’s wrong with men not yet in their 50s

  6. Dina Acoca · · Reply

    My daughter Shoshana was one of the 17 girls that you hosted. She had the most inspirational Shabbat and for that I thank you. This came days after I watched the Tiferes video with other women in our city of Vancouver and listened to the most inspirational words of mrs. Shaindel Simes, words etched into my mind forever. Thank you for being you. Refua shelema.

  7. Rabbi- I read and appreciate every single post, even though I don’t always post a comment. Your message here really resonates with me. I remember meeting a friend’s mother for the first time- She, like me, had survived a life threatening illness in her 20s. She was telling me about her experience ( I hadn’t shared mine), and I just replied ‘I understand.’ I guess there was something about the way I said it, that made her stop, look at me closely, and then she softly said, “oh, you’re part of the club.” I asked her what she meant and she replied, “the survivors club.” Strangely, I thought at the time, I found that comforting. I think what you identify in this post is exactly this phenomenon: the comfort we glean from being around others who know where we’ve been and what we’ve lived through. Thank you for the meaningful reminder that we can take (and give!) comfort to others simply by sharing membership in the same “club”.

  8. · · Reply

    very moving rabbi

  9. Michal · · Reply

    Rabbi Simes I am one of the girls who was at your table and I am so happy that you enjoyed having us at your home and felt that we were all able to expirence something together. This past Shabbos was one of the most amazing ones I have expirenced. Being in your wonderful community and meeting the people there was such a great expirence. What was especially amazing to me was the feelings you expressed above. Living in Vancouver our Jewish Comminity is not so large and sometimes talking to people who live “In Town” the don’t really get what it’s like. Being in Ottowa I felt like everyone just got it. They knew what it was like to be 30% of your class and for each person to really be important in the community. It was such a good Chizuk for both communities to be able to identify with the other.
    Thank you for inviting us to your world.

    1. We enjoyed the opportunity as well!
      Let’s make it a yearly occurance!

  10. Sometimes what you need the most is a validation, an acknowledgement that yes, what you are going through is horrible, that you’re not crazy or overreacting. It is a most therapeutic balm for the soul.

    1. Well said, well said!

  11. Marge Kaplan · · Reply

    I had forgotten how young you were when Ossie died. I have found the minyan a wonderfully supportive group expecially when grieving. It sounds as if that was true for you as well.

    1. I was indeed. I still, 28 years later am scarred by the experience leading up to her untimely passing and shocking death itself.

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