A Shabbos of Grapes

This Shabbos, I spoke at the aufruf of my son, Yitzchok Aaron.  It is attached for those who have asked for it to be published.

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When contemplating a theme for this Aufruf, the choice was simple. The Gemara in Pesachim quotes    “Inveihagefen be’invei hagefen davar na’ah umiskabeil” — “The mingling of vine grapes with other vine grapes is a beautiful and acceptable thing.”  We’ve heard this quoted by so many of our friends and family with regards to the shidduch between YA and Hindy.

So, I thought we would explore together what exactly this means.

On the surface, we understand that this refers to the union of two well-matched individuals.  As I am fond of saying, “a good marriage is when two people with good qualities find each other.  A great marriage is when 1+1 is greater than 2, when these two people become a force together.”

At Yitzchok Aaron’s bris, I spoke (yes, YA, a woman spoke at your bris , even in Passaic).  I told the story of two men, two grape vines, one named Chaim Dovid Fischbein and another named YA Kramer.  I told of how Chaim Dovid, the proud yekkie,  left his wife and family in Israel after the war and tried to make a living on the shores of the US, hoping to bring them over.   I told of Chaim Dovid’s commitment to Shabbos and how it was so hard for him to hold down a job in America as a Shabbos-observant Holocaust survivor when a six-day workweek was expected.

I told of YA Kramer who was a fruits and vegetables dealer whose real career was to help people after the war.  I recounted how these two men met and how YA helped Chaim Dovid during those lonely and difficult years.  I told of how YA lived with broken-down furniture so that he could help people like Chaim Dovid who had lost their family and their lives in WW2 Europe.

I didn’t know then that YA was to be my only son, but I felt that the first boy’s name should be for Yitzchok Aaron Kramer, Don’s  Zaidy, as a token of appreciation for all that he had done for Chaim Dovid Fischbein, my Opa, financially and emotionally.

YA, that is precisely what invei hagefen means.  It is the entwining of two types of grapes that is so beautiful and acceptable to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

We are honored and humbled by the mingling of the Resplers with the Shippels because we want your vintage to be the entwining of so many of the beautiful qualities possessed by the Shippels.  Their warmth and the chinuch and goodness that they impart to their children and to the world is breathtaking.

In just about every place that I have lived, we have planted a grapevine.  So, I know a thing or two about grapes and these are some of the interesting facts:

1) The quality and makeup of the soil determines the taste and quality of the grape and its wine

2) A grapevine requires the support of an outside structure and employs tendrils to adhere the vine to its support for strength and endurance

3) The vine trellises upward but its fruit hang downward

4) Every grape consists of sucrose, tanins and acids

From these grape-related facts, I’d like to weave some simple to wow marriage lessons for you, YA, as you leave our home and embark on your life together with Hindy.

1) The quality and makeup of the soil determines taste and quality.

Make sure to look toward the roots of the Cohen/Respler and Wassner/Shippel families.  You don’t have to look too far back to find great role models.  You have an “Aba” who is the paradigm of Torah hasmada.  You have your Bubby, Zaidy and Savta who set the Chesed bar high and of course, you will find so many of these sterling qualities in the roots of the Shippel and Wassner families, too.

2) Just as the grapevine uses tendrils to attach and receive strength and support from an outside structure, make sure to find friends, role models and Rabbeim who help you grow in strength and offer support to you and Hindy as you continue to grow together.

3) The vine trellises upward but its fruit hang downward.  

As you grow upward, always remember to remain humble and consider where you came from.  Always aspire to great heights and never look down on others who are not  where you are yet.

4) And finally, every grape consists of sucrose, tanins and acids.

It is the sweet and sour that work together in the fermentation of the wine.  Hashem will give you sweet and sour times.  Make sure to use them both to ferment your own vintage.

As we send you off to marriage, please remember the humble grape that becomes elevated once it is squeezed.  While the grape has the prominence of being one of the shiva minim in its own right, it takes on a whole new kedusha profile once it is squeezed.  We know this by the change of bracha.  While a grape is a ha’etz, the grape juice and wine produced from the grape has the brocho of hagefen.  The product of the grape will beH be part of your marriage ceremony next week as we recite the hagefen and so many other beautiful brochos under the chuppah.

May your life with Hindy retain the kedusha of each of you individually and take on its own blend of kedusha as you create your own vintage that grows better and better with age.

Mazel tov!

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