I don’t even know his name. I know that he survived the Holocaust. He An old man, he is bent over, a widower. He is alone, and yet he is not alone. He is not depressed. He gives out candy. You know about the candy man. He’s the one who gives out candy to the children in Shul.
Well, this candy man is different. He gives candy to adults.
Every morning, at a certain synagogue in Jerusalem, he distributes candy to every man who walks in. The recipient could be twenty years old or seventy, a young student or famous rabbi. It doesn’t matter; everyone gets candy. And the old man smiles.
I think some people don’t appreciate him. Some leave their candy behind in shul.
This is the man who calls out “Kohanim!” every day.
This is the man who says the last Kaddish every day.
This is the man who says “Borchu” after the last Kaddish.
This is the man who survived the Holocaust.
This is the season of the year when our ancestors in Biblical times marched from Egypt to Mount Sinai. This is when we count Sefiras Ha Omer and we have arrived at L’Ag B’Omer, the thirty third day of the Omer, the day when the dying stopped among Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students. On this day it is appropriate to speak about the Candy Man.
The Jewish People are very resilient. We are an old nation and a young nation. “Na’ar ha’isi … I was a youth also have aged, and I have not seen a righteous man forsaken, with his children begging for bread…. Hashem will give might to His people; Hashem will bless His people with peace.” (Psalms 37 & 29)
L’ag B’omer is about getting through challenges. In fact, this week’s Torah Portion discusses counting the Omer itself, and that is about getting from one place to another, not only spiritually but in the physical sense of getting from Egypt to Mount Sinai. In the Holocaust, a generation was destroyed. The Holy Ones of Israel, the remnant of the holy communities of Europe which had survived centuries of anguish and pain, were obliterated, just the way the hope of our Nation, the students of Rabbi Akiva, were obliterated at this time thousands of years ago.
“Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of disciples … and they all died (between Pesach and Shavuos) because they did not treat each other with respect, and the world was left barren [of Torah].” (Tractate Yevamos 62b)
This was a Holocaust. The Torah leaders of the generation were wiped out, but Rabbi Akiva did not give up. “[He] came to our rabbis in the South and taught (the Torah) to them. [They were] Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua, and it was these [later disciples who] upheld [the study of] Torah at that time.” (ibid)
We have to know that the world was created with the attribute called “techias Hamaisim… Resurrection of the Dead.” The second blessing in Shemoneh Esreh instructs us that Hashem is “faithful to resuscitate the dead.” It is prohibited for us to give up, no matter how dark the world may be. It may seem that all is lost, but all is never lost, because we are constantly coming back from death, like the moon.
“To the moon He said that it should renew itself as a crown of splendor for those borne [by Him] from the womb, those who are destined to renew themselves like it and to glorify their Molder for the name of His glorious kingdom.” (Kiddush Levana)
The Candy Man is an old and wise man. He knows that adults need to smile perhaps even more than children, because adults are burdened by the cares of the world. Adults sometimes become depressed by the burdens they carry. They need sweetness; they need hope; they need to be reminded that they are also children, the children of G-d.
Like Rabbi Akiva, the Candy Man has not given up even after everything holy and precious has apparently collapsed all around him. This is the lesson of L’ag B’omer and the lesson of the phases of the moon. “May the light of the moon be like the light of the sun and like the light of the seven days of creation, as it was before it was diminished. As it is said, ‘The two great luminaries.’ And may there be fulfilled upon us the verse that is written: They shall seek Hashem, their G-d, and David, their king. Amen.” (Kiddush Levana)
As I write, I have learned about the death of a dear friend, Reb Moshe Orlansky A”H.
Reb Moshe exemplified the life I have just been describing. He was a powerhouse of love of Torah and love of the Land of Israel, a powerful baal tefillah (prayer leader) and baal Koreh (Torah reader) who knew how to lead his people in prayer, which he did as a long-time member of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, from the days of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld zt”l through these days, as the Yeshiva flourishes under Rabbi Freifeld’s son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Naftali Jaeger shlita”h.
Reb Moshe was also a “candy man.” His livelihood for years was making doughnuts and muffins, providing sweetness to generations of Jews. He took pride in making real doughnuts, filled with a sweetness that came directly from a soul filled with sweetness.
More recently, Reb Moshe experienced terrible physical challenges. I have never met anyone who endured more physical suffering than he. You can ask Hatzalah of the Rockaways. They literally brought him back from death on more than one occasion. Reb Moshe was a fighter; he never gave up. Now his suffering is over, and he has ascended to the World of Truth. There, he will undoubtedly continue to fight for his people, with all his strength and all his sweetness, until the day when death is erased and we will all rejoice in the Presence of G-d in the Rebuilt Temple in the Holy City of Jerusalem, may we see it soon!