"I got the perfect chizuk at the precise moment, from none other than my Rebbe!"
What I saw in Skver that day was a lesson in how a Yid approaches the vicissitudes of life.
It all began the week after Shavuos in 2001. A man I never knew, a chassid from Skver, passed away. As he was the father-in-law of a congregant, I traveled to New Square for the levayah.
At the levayah, I watched the Skverer Rebbe mourning and crying over his beloved chassid.
Two hours later, I saw the Rebbe again in the same spot on the steps of the beis medrash. A chuppah now stood exactly where the aron of the deceased chassid had been. I watched in awe as the Rebbe passionately and warmly wished the newly married couple mazel tov, three times.
The Rebbe’s ability to mourn the loss of life and celebrate the joyous union of a new couple just two hours later was a life-changing experience for me.
On Pesach night in 2002, we in America heard the news that a suicide bomber had murdered 30 people at a Seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya.
Struggling with what to say to my balabatim that evening before the Seder, I utilized what I witnessed that day from the Skverer Rebbe. I used it as an example of how we must be joyful on this Seder night despite our sadness. I encouraged the shul, “Tonight, we all have to be the Skverer Rebbe.”
Nine years later, I published this story in the Mishpacha Pesach edition of 2011.
Why I waited for nine years to publish the story would only become crystal clear to me years later. It would also take me over two decades to fully appreciate how impactful and inspirational the Rebbe’s actions were on that June day in 2001.
Indeed, the Rebbe’s story took on a life of its own.
Chaya Pery Brailofsky was born in 1981 to a well-known Skverer family, the Taubenfelds.
Chaya Pery knows firsthand that hardships and nisyonos are part of life. In 2003, she lost her mother, Goldie, and her three-month-old brother Shmuel in the infamous Number 2 bus bombing. Her natural urge to do chesed went into overdrive as she assisted in raising her siblings.
After she married Zecharia Brailofsky, the new couple settled in Skver, yet their hearts were in Yerushalayim. A few years later, the Brailofskys made their dream come true, and headed east to Yerushalayim.
The home the Brailofskys built was one of chesed. Chaya Pery, although small in height, was a giant in stature. Every Shabbos, the house was full of guests. All types and all stripes. If you needed a place to eat, you knew to go to Chaya Pery.
Young people on the derech, off the derech, or who had their own derech, were welcomed by Chaya Pery Brailofsky. If she could do the chesed of feeding another Yid, she was happy and life was good.
During the Nine Days in 2016, Chaya Pery attended a huge kenes for women in Yerushalayim. The kenes was to give chizuk in shemiras halashon before Tishah B’Av. One of the speakers stressed the importance of using our speech to express our appreciation for others.
That same evening, Monday, August 8, 2016, Chaya Pery sat down to express her hakaras hatov. She wrote a letter to Misphacha stating, “I am writing you a belated thank-you note to deliver to Rabbi Eisenman.”
In her letter, Chaya Pery described how before Pesach of 2011, her two-year-old niece was killed in a car accident. The little girl was the only child of Chaya Pery’s brother. She had been born after four years of marriage.
As Chaya Pery sat down with her family on Leil HaSeder of 2011, she was devastated.
In the letter, she wrote: “I was sitting with my family at the table, looking at my children’s shining faces, and try as I could, all I could do was cry.”
She described how, in a desperate attempt to hide her tears from her children, she moved to the side, and picked up the first thing she saw to cover her face. It was the Pesach edition of Mishpacha.
She then recounted what happened next:
“I picked up the Mishpacha just to cover my face, when my eyes happened upon the special words Rabbi Eisenman wrote — ‘Tonight we have to be the Skverer Rebbe!’
“I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I got the perfect chizuk at the precise moment, from none other than my Rebbe! I have to be the Skverer Rebbe, I told myself. I rejoined the Seder and gave my children a warm smile with this story in my mind. I let go of my sorrow and let Hashem calm and comfort me.
“I have used this story so many times since then. We all have to be the Skverer Rebbe.
“We have to control our emotions for the sake of others, and smile.
“And I owe an immense debt of hakaras hatov for the chizuk I received.”
Chaya Pery’s finely tuned sensitivity toward others compelled her to express her gratitude for an article she read in 2011. Although five years had passed since the article appeared, nevertheless, in 2016, she wrote a letter of appreciation.
Such was the importance of hakaras hatov in the life of Chaya Pery.
Sadly, Chaya Pery was diagnosed with a terminal illness in the early summer of 2021. She bravely fought her illness. Even as her condition worsened, she always was b’simchah.
On 19 Adar Beis, Chaya Pery left This World, still b’simchah.
She was buried on Har Hamenuchos, in a formerly unnoticed small plot right next to her mother and younger brother. When her husband asked the chevra kaddisha if she could be buried next to her mother, they answered, “There are no plots left there.”
He begged them to look again.
Miraculously, the chevra kaddisha discovered a small plot that was somehow never properly marked. It was so small it could only fit a person under five feet tall. Chaya Pery was four feet, eleven inches.
As Pesach of this year neared, Reb Zecharia, her husband, was searching for something connected to Chaya Pery that he could share with his children before Pesach. He began to search her computer, looking to find perhaps a photograph of the family together.
He wrote “JPEG” in the search box, hoping to find a photograph.
No pictures were found, but, to his surprise, an email popped up.
On the email was the logo of Mishpacha, which the computer picked up as a JPEG.
Suddenly he was mesmerized. What was this email exchange? Why was his wife writing to Mishpacha?
He was spellbound by his wife’s words: I got the perfect chizuk at the precise moment, from none other than my Rebbe! I told myself I had to be the Skverer Rebbe. I rejoined the Seder and gave my children a warm smile with this story in my mind. I let go of my sorrow and let Hashem calm and comfort me.
Reb Zecharia could not believe what he was reading. He had never seen this before.
The night before bedikas chometz, Reb Zecharia gathered his entire family around him and read the letter from Chaya Pery.
His children stood there in silence, enchanted by their mother’s special message.
As he finished reading, one of the children said, “Mommy is talking to us. She’s telling us how we have to be on Pesach. We can’t be sad. We all have to be like the Skverer Rebbe!”
At the Seder, they indeed were all like the Skverer Rebbe. The family sang and danced together until four in the morning. Just as they finished dancing, the candles that had been flickering for the last two hours went out.
As the family was preparing to go to sleep, one of the boys said, “This was the most special Seder we ever had. I am always going to be like the Skverer Rebbe.”
His younger brother looked at him and said simply, “I am always going to be like Mommy.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 915)
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