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Thursday
Nov142013

REMEMBERING MIRA – HER LIGHT CONTINUES TO SHINE

Rosh Chodesh Kislev reminds us of the shluchos to India, Rivka Holtzberg and Mira Scharf, may Hashem avenge their blood, who were murdered on this day. * Reminiscences from relatives, friends and tourists about Mira. She acted quietly, modestly, far from the spotlight; she was an exemplary Jewish mother and devoted wife, daughter, friend, and Chassida of the Rebbe MH”M. * May we immediately march forth, led by the shluchos, to the third Beis HaMikdash!

     Mira Ruth (nee Cohen) Scharf was born in Yerushalayim to a family of Sadigura Chassidim. She became involved with Chabad in her youth. She married Shmulik Scharf of Beitar Ilit in 5767, knowing that they were going on a very challenging shlichus to Delhi, India.

R’ Shmuel Scharf and his son getting back to work at the Chabad House this past Tishrei

TWENTY-SIX YEARS OF LIGHT

 

The Main Bazaar in Delhi, the capitol of India, is hard to describe. It’s a place that leaves every Israeli who visits stunned by the experience. On a narrow, crowded street one sees rickshaws and bicycles along with cows and dogs. The street is lined with houses of idol worship alongside crowded shops, and the cries of crippled beggars carry through the air filled with strange and repugnant odors.

In the midst of all this lived a Chassidic family in a welcoming Chabad House. Due to Mira’s modesty, it was hard sometimes to even notice her presence, even as she quietly ran everything from behind the scenes. Mira was a point of light for every tourist. She provided the homey motherly atmosphere at the Chabad House. Every friend felt that Mira was closest to her; to her parents and family, Mira was a source of nonstop nachas; she was like a sister to every sister-in-law, like a daughter to her in-laws, and to her husband and children …

You could not remain indifferent to her personality, to the manner in which she gave her full attention to every detail with which she was involved. She was utterly devoted to others but not at her husband’s and children’s expense. With all her refinement and modesty, she did not refrain from speaking up when something effected the chinuch of her children and tznius, but due to her refinement and her great Ahavas Yisroel, she did not offend anyone.

A few days before she was killed, in various conversations with her friends and relatives, she told them what she learned about in a shiur a few days earlier, “No evil descends from above.” “Any sense of evil testifies to a lack of bitachon in Hashem.” Mira was taken from us as she said T’hillim with her children, when she was hit by a missile in Kiryat Malachi on the morning of 1 Kislev 5773.

MIRA AS HER
FAMILY SAW HER

Mushka Gurewitz, her sister-in-law

My sister Mira!

Mira, you are a priceless part of my life. Yes, a sister, mashpia, psychologist, counselor, everything! You spoke to me for hours, we discussed everything, you straightened out my head, showing me how to think right and do what the Rebbe wants me to do.

Learning sichos with you gave me strength. You put so much effort into helping me grow and it was always with a smile.

After you married you lived in Beitar. You immediately started a Tzivos Hashem club in your building. You always ensured that everyone knew what is right and important to do, what the Rebbe wants from us now. You didn’t just talk; you did it!

It was so important to you to learn the D’var Malchus, and most importantly, to live it. I am reminded of our last phone call. You told me the latest about Yosef, Chana and Geula. It was when Shmulik was away fundraising for the Chabad House; you told me you were a little afraid to be alone at night and that you were just going to make sure that the door was locked.

Then you picked up Chana’le and she said to you, out of the blue, “Mommy, here’s the Rebbe.” You froze and said, “I don’t know if she really saw him or it’s just what she thought, but the fact that she said it made me think about how the Rebbe is really with us everywhere! This is why we always, even at home, need to be ready for the Rebbe to show up at any minute.”

You gave your children a true Jewish-Chassidic chinuch. Do you remember how you told me about Yossele, who watched a video of the Rebbe giving out lekach and began to cry that he also wants lekach from the Rebbe. I said to you, “Mira, if only my children had those desires. How do you do it?”

You replied, “Mushka, it’s not me. It’s a gift from heaven.” You said that as though you had nothing to do with it.

You raised them in such a pure way. Even before they were born you said the 12 P’sukim and Yechi with them. You sat with them, you told them the parsha and Chassidishe stories. You put your soul into them and we see it now, in your children!

Now you can go to Hashem and demand (like Yossele told my mother this week, “Bubby, you know, I told Hashem to quickly send Moshiach because my mother greatly misses her children.”), ask, cry and plead: Hashem, send the Geula already. The suffering should cease, everyone should be able to see only light. Your children should have you, a mother. They deserve it! And your husband, he should have you at his side. It’s not a major request and we are allowed to ask.

Rebbe, what are you waiting for? True, we can’t look for reasons, but why? How come things happen that seem so sad and not understandable? Why wait? Come already! I promise you, there are lots of people who are waiting for you to come and redeem us. Rebbe, these are diamonds, a family with three children and a husband who are waiting for someone to come and redeem us right away! Only you can help Mira now. Rebbe, she deserves it; she did everything to be mekushar to you, and with simcha. I promise you Rebbe that we will collaborate, we will do everything! We will add in the learning of Chassidus, add light and try to do it all with simcha, but Rebbe, make it quick and “now” in our terms, not another moment in galus, and we will all stand and proclaim: Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu, Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed.

Ruti Kirschenbaum, a cousin

Since you left, my life was cut in two. Everything goes into one of two categories, before Mira and after Mira. This “after” is so hard for me and for everyone who loved you so much. You are a rarity in the generation and maybe even in generations. My dear Mira, you spoke to me so much about the Geula and Moshiach and I did not understand anything. And now, who awaits it like me? I await Moshiach so he may come and bring you along with him.

You know, Mira, the seeds that you planted were not for naught. Your work, your mesirus nefesh, your bittul, all of it remains. How many people did another mitzva, how many did t’shuva, how many women observe the laws of family purity, and it’s all thanks to you. For example, that man who visited your husband and told him that during your first year in India, he showed up with some other tourists. He visited you and you welcomed him with that special warmth unique to you and you spoke to him, not necessarily about faith and Judaism. He was so moved by your personality and by your open heart to everyone. He went back to Eretz Yisroel, became a baal t’shuva, married, and today he is a Chassidic young man. It’s all thanks to you, Mira. And he is just one out of thousands who passed through your Chabad House.

Despite everything, you were always critical of yourself and you thought you were not doing enough. You did above and beyond; you gave your all until your final breath.

Beloved Mira, you were and will always be a symbol: a symbol of a devoted daughter, a supportive wife, and an incredible mother, a symbol of overcoming, of growth, of genuine piety; a role model for every Jewish woman.

I just want to ask you Mira: Ask for mercy up above for your dear ones. For your father and mother who have no consolation over your loss, for your husband for whom you were his sails and now he has to steer his boat without you, for your sweet children who miss you so much and don’t stop asking, “Where is Mommy?” and who try to understand that Mommy is in heaven. Use all your kochos – and you have the kochos – and return to us speedily with the Geula.

MIRA AS HER FELLOW SHLUCHOS SAW HER

Mrs. Rochele Kupchik, Shlucha to Poona, India

A Jew, a Chassid, a shliach, is supposed to give of himself; Mira gave her very self.

As a young bride she arrived at the Main Bazaar (married for only three months) not to an apartment or even a small studio. Aside from a pathetic room, she had no living room or kitchen or another place to sit together privately with her new husband.

Everyone knew that the Chabad House belongs to everyone and even the refrigerator belonged to everyone as well as to Shmulik and her. Which of you ever thought about her? How did a newlywed 22 year old, without any privacy, without an inch of space for herself and her husband, manage? That was our Mira. You should know about this so that, until the Resurrection of the Dead, there should be another person to learn from, what it means to give yourself.

There have been righteous women throughout the generations. We can mention Rochel, who gave the signs to her sister; thanks to her dedication, her voice is heard, “And your children will return to their border.” We can think of Ruth who left her royal home on a sad journey to an unfamiliar land where she had to gather sheaves to feed herself; in the end, she became a mother of royalty. We can remember Rebbetzin Devorah Leah who sacrificed her life; thanks to her, Chassidus continued. And Rebbetzin Chana and the writings … but Hashem, enough already.

If the Rebbe said that the fact that the Geula did not happen yet is “something not at all understandable,” then we certainly can’t understand it. But we want to see Mira along with Shmulik and their dear children. The Rebbe said we can shout and demand like Moshe: Why? Why did You do evil to this nation? We are allowed to be bitter like Miriam and to cry out: Ad Masai?

Rebbe, we want to get to the point of “and Miriam took the tambourine,” and for Mira to dance with her and all of us, all the women with her. What tambourines, smiles, hugs, and dancing there will be!

Mrs. Neta Merili, Shlucha to Kudle Beach, Gokarna, India 

In my last conversation with Mira I told her how hard it is for me to return to my place of shlichus and to forgo the comforts of Eretz Yisroel, especially in regards to chinuch. She told me that if we don’t understand that this is the best thing for our children, then it really won’t be good for them.

She told me that a few days before, she and her husband went to visit a couple that they had met at their India Chabad House and who now lived in Hertzliya. They did Mivtza Mezuza with them. The lady asked Mira, “How do you do it? How do you leave here and go and live so far away? How do you have the strength?” And Mira said that before she could even respond, the woman’s husband said to his wife, “What do you mean? She has the strength! She has the strength! She’s Chabad and Chabad has the strength!” Mira told me that she kept thinking about what he said for days.

Libby Grumach, Shlucha to Hampi, India

When we had the occasion to speak heart-to-heart about life on shlichus, Mira, many times you were firm in your belief that a shliach needs to live well! I always came to the conclusion that although you don’t have anything materially, you have strong faith that the Rebbe put us on shlichus and he is the one who arranges things. The understanding look, the somewhat shy smile that was so inclusive, enabled me to understand what mesirus nefesh on shlichus is about – devotion to the meshaleiach – and this gives me a lot of strength on shlichus.

Mira had a great impact on me in her final year. In the chinuch of my daughters, Mira was a fantastic role model of a Chassidishe mother in a place so far from anything Chassidic. In instances of uncertainty, yetzer ha’ra, or laziness when it comes to chinuch, Mira’s image comes to mind.

And with tznius too – I sometimes stand in front of the mirror and think that what I’m wearing is not suitable. Mira is who I’m thinking about.

And in the Chabad House – when they asked Mira, “How do you manage to get yourself settled?” she said, “We did not come on shlichus to be settled.” How much demanding truth there is in that answer and how much strength this gives me in hard times. Mira, in your last year, you gave me a perspective on life!

Sarah Kupchik, Shlucha to Delhi, India

There’s a reason that they say G-d takes the good ones. Mira, you were one-of-a-kind, holy all your life. A Chabad House in a pathetic room in a guest house did not frighten you and did not stop you. What Chabad of Delhi was then and what it is now is all thanks to your strength, your pushing, and your fervent emuna. You achieved all your goals – a new building, a mikva, and a kosher restaurant.

We did not prepare properly for the first evening event for women of the community that we made. We left late. We had a hard time finding a cab. The cab got a flat tire and stopped in the middle of a herd of cows. A twenty minute trip was taking longer and longer. We got stuck in every possible traffic jam. We sat there, frustrated, feeling guilty, despairing, embarrassed, and we began mumbling chapters of T’hillim and Yechi. Then Mira, with her wisdom and simple faith said, “Even if we did not handle this right, we learned a lesson. The next time, we will prepare properly. But today is the Rebbe’s evening, not ours, and the Rebbe will make sure that it will be all right.” She put us in a good frame of mind.

A nice group of women awaited us. The evening was a success, a fine opening for many more such evenings. The Rebbe took care of it! 

Your message stays with me. The next time you taught, in your refined way, you fascinated the women with lots of rich content.

Mira, you were dedicated to shlichus through fire and water, materially and spiritually. In the fire of the heat of Delhi in the summer when the temperatures can be over 100 degrees, hours upon hours without electricity so that you couldn’t turn on an air conditioner, you didn’t flinch. In fire … in frightening times you were a real heroine. You didn’t run from a Chabad House in a sensitive area which soldiers guard 24 hours a day. And in water – the monsoons … stinky alleyways flooded, children jumping around, and cows in the puddles, and you in the midst of it all.

Then came the children and you were a role model of a Jewish mother with uncompromising Chassidishe chinuch. Still in one room, three children! How happy you were when you were able to block off a part of the “guest house” corridor as a room for the children.

You put everything into them; you didn’t become disoriented from the task of dividing your attention between shlichus and your devotion to your children. Your children were always well taken care of, materially and spiritually. Clean clothes even when you did not have a washing machine. Even when you finally got a machine and you had to schlep the laundry. Only those who were there can understand what the dirt is like.

At the Chabad House in the Main Bazaar, there was no room for a preschool, so we chose our home as a preschool for our children. I did not understand where you got the strength to make a trip that sometimes took an hour each way, more than once with dubious drivers, in antiquated taxis with two children and pregnant with a third. You always took an interest in the programming, in the day’s schedule. The tznius of the girls was always important to you. You were always the best role model possible for the children. Until today, I am amazed by how you spoke to your children, with such respect mixed with motherly gentleness. I never, ever heard you raise your voice to them. And what children you had! They were wonderfully well-behaved and refined.

Three children in a room of the guest house were already beyond a bearable limit; it was just too much. Finally, Mira’s dream came true – private quarters on the third floor of the Chabad House. What joy! The day before Pesach, the Chabad House moved. There was still no running water in the showers, but l’chat’chilla aribber, we’re moving! After four and a half years of daily travel in the Main Bazaar to get to the Chabad House, suddenly the Chabad House and home are one place. Modest living quarters with two small bedrooms and a private living room. The preschool moved to the Main Bazaar and under your personal supervision it all became even better. Chassidishe messages, more davening, etc. Chinuch was always a top priority. As such a good mother, I see you now insisting on bringing your children to a better life, a life with the true and complete Geula, of Yemos HaMoshiach, a goal for which you sacrificed all your life.

MIRA AS HER
MEKURAVIM SAW HER

Eyal and Osnat Elimelech, New Delhi embassy

It is only with strong faith that one can try to understand the Heavenly accounts and to nod and say, “It’s all clear.” Who would the merciful gracious G-d choose as a fitting korban to atone for the Jewish people in a time of distress if not for you Mira?

Perhaps it is sad and cruel, and there are more than enough coincidences in this dramatic story, but let us concede the truth: girls like Mira are not found in real life; you read about them in stories of tzaddikim. There was something different about her, ethereal, and yet so simple, serene and wholesome. And no, it’s not because she left us that now we are praising her; we admired her in her lifetime.

First and foremost – and our good friend will forgive us – to be the wife of Shmulik, someone who is consumed by fulfilling the Rebbe’s commands, just for that alone she deserves a medal!

Second, to live at the Main Bazaar as a way of life – well, even the most intrepid Israeli backpackers wouldn’t make it. Most of them consider Delhi a sticky, oppressive and smelly way station.

Mira was there, with love, without questions, without standing on ceremony. We will not elaborate on her endless giving; that is a character trait that we’ve seen in all the righteous shluchos we’ve encountered, but Mira had something else to her. There was the measured pace, her minimal speech, her shy smile, her modesty.

We knew her during her first days in Delhi and throughout her first pregnancy. It wasn’t normal seeing this little white angel within the sewer that is the worst neighborhood in Delhi – Paharganj.

We remember that each time we marveled about her smile, which was so genuine despite all the hardships around her, but apparently that is how she saw it – that maybe there are hardships, or there are definitely hardships, but they are just around her; they did not pass through her. You did not feel pity for her; you just marveled at her strength of character and her modest and charming ways. Instead of being influenced, she was one doing the influencing.

About her it is said, “a little light dispels a lot of darkness.” That was Mira to us: a good girl from Yerushalayim who came to a place of impurity and the darkness of idol worship and spread the powerful light of holiness.

Yugav Nemshitz, tourist

In my mind, Mira is like an angel. Since I’ve completed my journey, a journey in which I tried to understand and seek meaning, I reflect quite a bit on things that I experienced. 

The feeling of a sapling in a foreign land, a land where everything is permissible and everything is out there, for good and for bad. A land where there is no gray, just black and white. My story begins from this place. From a state where a person seeks a starting point, roots, a past, the present, warmth, love. My heart was opened in the Chabad House in Delhi and my soul was exposed to the steadfast modesty and quiet strength of Mira z”l.

One of the most significant encounters that I had begun when, in my blind conviction, in a valley in northern India cut off from the world, I decided to go all the way back to Delhi in order to spend Shavuos in a place where the faces were familiar and where I could feel the holiday atmosphere. On the way there, I thought it was a great opportunity to buy a ticket and travel on a train southward for a few hours in order to see one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” the Taj Mahal.

While I was satisfied by my clever use of the time, when I got to the Chabad House I understood from Shmulik and Sholom that I had bought tickets for Yom Tov. As much as they tried to suggest, motivate, wheedle, and persuade me, I stuck to my decision and did not consider canceling the ticket and postponing my trip.

I have a good memory and it usually does not play games with me, but the moment I sat at the table in the Chabad House and Mira, in her gentle voice, explained the importance of Shavuos and the anguish I would cause my soul when it would miss out on the moment that we feel Maamad Har Sinai, something was ignited within me. It was Mira, who did not ask and did not cajole. She merely smiled a little smile, an angelic smile not influenced by the dimension of time, a smile which went everywhere with her and radiated warmth and truth. A spark, a light, a lightning bolt. After the one-sided conversation, I went to change my ticket. I spent the night of Shavuos there, participating all night in the Tikkun Leil Shavuos; I immersed in the mikva and had an aliya to the Torah with a feeling of refinement of the soul.

The night I heard the news, the fact that my memories of Mira transcend physical being really hit me. As much as I strained to remember, there kept forming before me one image, a smiling image encircled by a halo, the image of an angel which contained, whether knowingly or unknowingly, something above our understanding.

Ali, a woman who owns a shop in the Main Bazaar

Mira, yesterday I went up again, as I do every day, the steps of the Hare Rama Guest House in order to encounter your face smiling at me, but this time you looked at me from an announcement in your memory.

Delhi in particular, and the Main Bazaar most especially, poses daily hardships; the filth, the noise, the chaos brings you to the edge sometimes. And yet I never saw you nervous or angry. You were always relaxed and with a smile. I admired these traits of yours. You constantly radiated serenity while I could go out of my mind at least three times a day … but the moment I would meet you, your smile would melt all the anger and soothe. Some say that only crazy people stay so long in Delhi. It seems you were carved from that material.

When Shmulik returned for the first time with you, we were excited to see you. When we met you for the first time, we couldn’t believe that the little fragile girl, gentle and with an innocent smile, would last more than two days. We quickly learned that a girl with great fortitude was standing there before us. Something in your glance charmed me and I was so happy that I had found a partner, a woman with whom I could spend time.

Tal Weil, a tourist

Mira treated everyone as someone important. Every time I came alone or with other people, I felt that Mira was happy to see us. One day, I went with her and the children to a park in the center of Delhi. We took a taxi and Mira asked the driver to shut the music. Mira said that she didn’t want her children to listen to the Indian music. She wanted her children to sing Jewish songs.

In the park, so many Indians walked past Yosef Yitzchok and caressed him. It’s not every day that you meet a blond child in India. I asked Mira whether this didn’t bother her and she laughed and said that to them, it was something unusual … Toward the end of our visit to the park, the children were very tired and did not want to walk and cried a little. Mira was so calm, quiet, and confident. She spoke and didn’t lose her cool. I truly admired her.

All along the way, I asked Mira a lot of questions, and the quiet confident way that she answered me emphasized the beauty of Judaism. I felt that these values were planted deep in her soul and that when she explained things, it all looked so natural and beautiful.

Mira hugged me and I felt that I was parting from a good friend. From Mira I learned: patience, serenity, simple and constant joy, piety, giving, hospitality, and a rare ability to listen to so many different kinds of people, real listening to stories that I am sure got pretty repetitious, and love, so much love for every Jew.

In the editing of this article we used the booklet about Mira that was published for Gimmel Tammuz 5773, which was edited by Liat Shamir, and we were also helped by R’ Zalman Bernstein.

 

BIGGER AND BETTER – STRAIGHT TO THE GEULA

“We decided that because of what happened [the massacre in Bombay in 5769] now, we will do even more! … Davka now! What the cursed terrorists wanted to stop we must continue to do and show them that we cannot be vanquished! We cannot be defeated, Hashem is with us, and we will continue with simcha and emuna, straight to the Geula. We wish you all the good in the world and that we meet speedily in the Beis HaMikdash with all of the Jewish people.” (From a letter written by Mira to a worried mekureves)

Since Mira’s passing, many things have been done in her memory. We will mention some of them. Right after her tragic passing, a Kinus Shluchos was held in Eretz Yisroel and Mira was held up as a model of a mother and educator. Hundreds of participants in the national convention for 28 Nissan did things daily to hasten the Geula and in her z’chus.

In Delhi, India, a gathering was held for the women of the community where the women were told about Mira’s life and what can be learned from her. A special event was held on the day of her passing for all members of the community. A mikva was finished in the Main Bazaar, the Chabad House was renovated, and the “Beis Mira” project is starting to get off the ground. 

At the Chabad House in Hampi, India, they ramped up their activities and designated a decorated area for candle lighting in her memory. Also, increased group learning with girls is being done on a larger scale in her memory.

At the Chabad House in Pushkar, India, the shlucha Chaya started a weekly virtual Tzivos Hashem club with the young shluchos in Sri Lanka, in Mira’s memory. The classes for women at the Chabad House are held under the auspices of a learning program named for her.

At the Chabad House in Gokarna, India, the first Chabad preschool of its kind opened, inspired by Mira who was so devoted to chinuch al taharas ha’kodesh. It is a unique preschool with lots of Jewish motifs and inyanei Moshiach and Geula.

At the Chabad House in La Paz, Bolivia, they decided to follow in Mira’s ways and to make a hospitality corner so that whoever walks in can enjoy tea, coffee, cookies, and a choice of two hot soups. 

In Kiryat Malachi an entire organization was founded for Junior N’shei Chabad activities in her memory.

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