The shul Daniella and I davened at recently came out with a journal of different Torah ideas spanning Pesach to Shavuos. I wrote my piece in December but it took on a completely different meaning after everything that happened. The piece was in need of an epilogue. Friends have asked me to share the Torah I wrote as well as the epilogue here. The epilogue comes from a tremendously deep place inside of me. I can’t tell you how many tears were shed writing it, as well as rereading it. I hope it can be helpful.
Much Love, Noam
Life’s Best Kept Secret
Based on the shir given by Rav Moshe Weinberger at the hilula of Rashbi, 5769
It is brought down at the end of the Zohar Hakadosh, in the Idra Zuta, when Rebbi Shimon’s holy soul left our world, that Rebbi Shimon was teaching a very deep inyan in which he began a pasuk but he didn’t finish it, and ever since he left our world, we are finishing that pasuk. He left the world with the words “כי שם צוה ה’ את הברכה חיים עד העולם”, “For there Hashem has commanded the blessing. May there be life forever”. But he did not finish the pasuk. Before he was able to say the word “חיים”, he was silenced.
Bar Yochai, Fortunate is the woman who gave birth to you
And fortunate are the people who learn what you taught
And fortunate are those who truly understand your secrets
Who are enclosed in the urim v’tumim of your teachings
Rebbi Shimon left the world without being able to say the words חיים עד העולם, and the question is, one, how do we finish that pasuk? And two, and more importantly, ואשרי העומדים על סודך, “fortunate are the ones who understand your secrets”, what are those secrets of Rebbi Shimon?
In truth, there are two types of secrets. One kind of a secret is when a person has some exciting news. So you have some news that you want to tell the whole world, but it’s not right place and it’s not the right time, but you know that when it is the right time to tell that secret, you’ll have no problem telling it. “Did you here so-and-so is getting married? Did you here so-and-so is expecting”. This is one kind of secret, but this is not a secret in its essence. A secret that you can tell, even if you don’t tell anybody, is not truly סוד, a secret, נסתר. It is something you haven’t told yet, but it can be told. What then is a real secret?
So li’mashal, when you love another person, the love that you have for that person is a secret b’etzem, in its essence, because as much as you might tell that person how much you love him, or how much you love her, as many times as you repeat those words, and you try to find words, and if you don’t have words you buy a card or you look up an old poem someplace and you borrow someone else’s words, it doesn’t make a difference, because even after you let the secret out, the סודhas not been violated, it is still a secret.
That means it is possible to have a person who can be learning a pasuk in Chumash, with a translation in English, nigleh (the revealed Torah) mamish, or he’s reading a Mishnah; complete revealed Torah – no Zohar, no Kisvei Ha’Ari, but at that moment he’s reading, he’s completely invested and immersed in that pasuk, in that midrash, in that halacha, and he feels it in his neshama. That person is connected to what is called סוד, the secret of Torah.
And you can have another person who can be learning, and understanding, the most complicated piece of the Zohar, or the Ari, but he is learning it in a way of muskalos (intellectualism). He has not even touched סוד, the level of secret, even though he’s learning Zohar, and his friend at the end of the table is learning Chumash with Rashi. The person reading the pasuk with his heart is connected to what he is learning. That person is in the world of סוד. And the person who could be giving a drasha in Zohar ha’kadosh, even though he’s talking about סוד, his entire learning is niglah. It’s all revealed.
Let’s take this a little further. You have a single guy and this person has decided to write an encyclopedia on the subject of love. And he’s been working on this for many years: the halachos of ahava, whatever those are, and the hashkafos of ahava; the mussar of ahava; chasidus of ahava; stories of ahava, and he has a multi volume encyclopedia all footnoted with thousands of sources that he has put together on the subject of ahava. And then an interesting thing happens on the day he is going to publish the encyclopedia. He met a young lady. And then, all of a sudden, for the first time in his life, he feels love. He feels love for somebody else, and he feels loved by somebody else. Until now he has written twenty volumes on the subject of ahava and it is only now for the first time in his life that he has been transformed into someone who loves. That means, that after going out a few times and being head over heels in love with this girl, that when he comes back and he looks over at all the loose-leaf he has on his table, his ears turn red and he feels humiliated and embarrassed because he understands for the first time in his life that the twenty volumes he just wrote are all superficial and shallow. All the years that he was working on the encyclopedia, he was writing about the idea and the concept of love, but he and love were two totally separate things. And then, for the first time in his life there is dveikus (attachment; cleaving). He and this concept, he and ahava, are one. He is no longer a person writing about ahava – he himself is a cheftza (a part of the reality) of ahava that he never felt in his life.
So too with the Boreh Olam: A person can write many seforim about Hashem, but he and Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu can be two separate realities. He never tasted God; he never felt Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu. Even though he may have written a doctoral thesis on the secrets of Torah, he doesn’t have the slightest bit of connection to סוד. Only through dveikus with Hashem can a person finally stop talking about Hashem and feel him.
By Pesach Sheini, the Torah says that if someone is impure, or is בדרך רחקה (far away), instead of making a Korban Pesach on the 14th of Nissan, they should make it on the 14th of Iyar. And Rashi there says that דרך רחקהmeans,”לא שרחוקה ודאי, אלא שהיה חוץ לאסקופת העזרה”. Not that he is necessarily far from the beis hamikdash, rather he can even be right outside the Azara (the courtyard) of the beis hamikdash, and he is still considered to be בדרך רחקה! So the Kushnitzer Maggid asks what does “בדרך רחקה” mean? And he says that being inside the Azara means, when you say the words “ברוך אתה” at the beginning of a bracha, you feel it with all the warmth and all the affection and all the certainty like you would say it to a friend, and בדרך רחקהmeans the opposite.
If a person doesn’t feel when he says those words, “ברוך אתה” then the Kushnitzer Maggid is saying then he is בדרך רחקה. As much kabbalah as he learns and as many Chassidus seforim and other sifrei kodesh that he goes through, he is still בדרך רחקה. He is still outside. It is all still called nigleh, revealed, which is a lashon of galus, exile. This person is far away.
ואשרי העומדים על סודך. So it turns out there is a ונהפוך הוא. The guy who was saying all sorts of fancy things from the Zohar is outside, he does not feel God. When he davens, he is thinking of some pshat that he saw in some pasuk somewhere. He can’t say “ברוך אתה”. Kulo nigleh – completely revealed! And the simple Jew who is in love with the Ribbono Shel Olam and just says “You”, so that person is in the place of אשרי העומדים על סודך.
So what did Rebbi Shimon bring us? A person can spend his whole life learning the sugya of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, but all of a sudden, and you don’t know why, the most beautiful thing in life happens, and all of a sudden it becomes one billion percent clear to you, and you feel it in your kishkas, that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu is melech chi v’kiyam! He’s a living God! And there is no one else in the world you can tell that secret to, this secret that you uncovered within yourself. And at that moment, Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu has stopped being an entry in the encyclopedia, and at that moment Hashem became a real living reality!
This is all based upon a Torah of the Yosher Divrei Emes, one of the early talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov:
ענין אהבת הבורה ויראתו ית”ש אי אפשר לפרש לחבירו איך היא האהבה בלב. וזה נקרא נסתר, אבל מה שהם קורים נסתר חכמות הקבלה האיך הוא נסתר הלא כל מי שרוצה ללמוד הספר לפניו ואם אינו מבין הוא ע”ה ולפני איש כזה גמרא ותוספות ג”כ נקרא נסתר אלא ענין הנסתרות שבכל הזהר וכתבי האריז”ל הכל בנוים ע”פ דביקות הבורא
What is the inyan of loving Hashem and fearing Hashem? You can’t explain to someone what it means to feel that love for Hashem in your heart. That is called the secret. And that which people call “נסתר” the wisdom of kabbalah, how is that a secret? Anyone who wants to learn can go to the store and buy a sefer Zohar or Kisvei Ha’Ari, and if you don’t understand it, then you are an am ha’aretz. It’s not a secret. So he says for a person who doesn’t understand, Gemara and Tosfos can also be a secret. Rather the נסתרthat is referred to in the Zohar and the Kisvei Ha’Ari, are matters which are all built on dveikus, attachment, to Hashem.
Rebbi Shimon brought the message to the world to stop being בדרך רחקה, to stop talking about God. To stop living a life when you can’t honestly say “ברוך אתה”. To stop living a life where you are only speaking about Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, without once in your life feeling his presence and touching your life. The whole tachlis of learning, Rebbi Shimon revealed, is dveikus ba’Hashem. And סודdoesn’t mean that you need to be a person who understands kabbalah. סוד means that each and every Jew can feel every cell in his body come alive with God from just saying a kaptle Tehillim, a Mishnah, a “ברוך אתה”!
Open a Kedushas Levi, Noam Elimelech, Rav Tzadok, Nefesh Ha’Chaim, a Gra, but don’t open it up to understand it like an encyclopedia. Don’t open it up to see what chiddush, what can I say over, maybe I can use this by a bar mitzvah or a sheva brachos or something. Or maybe I can say this over and close my eyes and move my head and everyone will say “woo woo, this guy’s really deep.”
Rebbi Shimon took simple Jews like us and he said “תא חזי”, I want you to see the Boreh Olam, כי שם צוה ה’ את הברכה חיים עד העולם, but Rebbi Shimon was not able to finish the pasuk and it is on us to finish that pasuk to finish חיים עד העולםand to feel that the Boreh Olam is a leibadika God! He’s not an idea. He’s not a concept. He’s חיים!
Ahava and yirah means dveikus. It means to be in love! Not to talk about love. To be in love. And that is geula. Galus means gilui, it means revealed it means shallow it means empty it means encyclopedias and books, it means not feeling, it means not being there. Geula means being there!
Let’s finish with a short story. In England at the end of the 19th century they used to have these competitions of reciting poetry. And there were five finalists who had gathered together for this recitation of poetry, and the final poem to be read was the 23rd Psalm – מזמור לדוד ה’ רואי לא אחסר. God is my shepherd I shall not want. So the finalists were reciting this poem with their great diction, and there was a young man who was really terrific and the entire audience was cheering and everyone stood up and gave him a standing ovation. It was clear he was going to be the winner. Suddenly from the back of a room, an old Jew with an long white beard and peyos stood up and said with a heavy Eastern European accent “gentlemen, would you mind if I try that?” So they said certainly, and the old Jew got up and he started to say in broken broken English “מזמור לדוד ה’ רואי לא אחסר“. For the first five seconds people were smiling – it was entertaining. After thirty seconds people were dumbstruck, and by the time he finished everybody was crying. And he sat down and of course they awarded the first prize to the young man. As they were leaving the auditorium the young man came running after the old Jew and said “Rabbi rabbi, the truth is, the prize belongs to you.” So the rabbi said “I’m not interested in awards.” And the young man said, “Rabbi, I must ask you, why is it that when I recited the 23rd Psalm, that everybody was clapping and I received a standing ovation and this award, but when you recited the 23rd Psalm, everybody was crying?” So the rabbi put his arm around the young man and said “The difference between you and me is that I know the shepherd. I have a relationship with the shepherd.”
Hashem Yisborach should help each and every one of us that in these times, when we feel so far away, that we should be zoche to know that we can be krovim to the Boreh Olam, and that we should be krovim to the Boreh Olam and to speak to him in such a way of k’dabeir ish el reyeyhu.
The Rav Weinberger portion of the d’var Torah is over. Now it is just a simple man’s words about his personal ahava and sod, with his very special wife.
It was somewhere around the two and a half years of marriage point where it became very clear that I had become a cheftza of ahava with Daniella. That the relationship we had, had moved, at least for me (she was more advanced – I think she felt it earlier) to a new level. I can’t tell you what it felt like. It is impossible. It is sod. I can say that it was the greatest, yet very subtle, feeling. It was not something that came easy – it is not something that comes easy. It is something that was worked at.
The ahava we feel is not dependent on the other person, it is dependent on ourselves. It requires that we personally take the time and energy to think about it. “Am I thinking about a closer relationship with my wife? Am I building a kesher nafshi?” These feelings are no less true for our relationship with Hashem (and all other relationships). “How am I making more room for Hashem in my life? Do I even want a kesher nafshi with the almighty?”
Daniella and I in many ways were Davuk to each other. The huge chasm of longing that became my heart can testify to that. What I have been feeling over the past few weeks is that I miss Daniella so much. Almost no other feeling or thought has been able to push this longing out. Ki cholas ahava ani. The feelings of dveikus now are significantly stronger than they were before her passing. It’s a new level of sod, in a place where sod already existed. I wish we had the time to develop the sod more. “To make you more a part of me, and me more a part of you.” There is nothing in the world, nothing, that I want more, than to be with Daniella.
Maybe there are people reading this that have the opportunity to build this dveikus, this attachment, with their spouses – the dveikus that I am longing for. I recommend not taking this opportunity for granted. Build this relationship with them and build it with Hashem.
Daniella, I know your beautiful neshama is right next to the Kesei Hakavod, asking Hashem to look over us. You cared so much for others while you were in this Olam Ha’asiah that I know that in Gan Eden where you are now that you are still looking after others.
I was your NCSY’er in West Coast and I was not the type to make a kesher with any advisor type but you were so awesome, friendly, happy, kind, caring, sweet, and just there to be someone to talk to that I wanted to connect with you. You showed me that you cared, you made me feel comfortable and always said “Hey!” to me when you saw me, even when NCSY was over and I saw you at shul or around LA.
Even the last time I saw you, in the bakery in the summer, you were so excited to see me and wanted to catch up right there and then. I was always instantly put at ease by your friendly attitude and warm smile.
Ive been wanting to do this for a while but knowing how you loved to smile and out smiles on others faces, I want to make a Wedding Shtick Gemach in your honor, so that each bride that smiles and becomes happy because of the shtick from your gemach can bring an even furthering of your neshama to the highest of places.
I will let everyone know when the Wedding Shtick Gemach L’iluey Nishmat Daniella Shaina Bat Yehoshua Falik a’h will be finished.
Miss you Daniella
Daniella Lee-Casper, I remember when I first met you. I met you when I was going to Israel my first time and you sat right by me on the airplane. We talked for hours about what we want out of our lives, our Jewish morals and values….I remember when I decided to become frum you were also the first person I wanted to share the news with. You were so inspiring and kind towards me and encouraged me towards a decision that would help impact me for the rest of my life. And the book you were reading on the plane called “The Life and Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld”. I ended up buying it and am still working through reading it… However, I won’t forget your enthusiasm about Judaism and your love for your people and life.We always used to write back and forth to each other and somehow she managed to never forget to write me back as facebook was our main communication due to distance throughout the time I have known her since…She would write me back like a month later completely apologizing and stating how she did not forget me because she genuinely cared about people, her people and all people. She found value in making herself so indispensable to others and this made her a very special girl. The way I see it, Daniella was a flower that always was looking for a new way to blossom and grow. It is easy to miss someone like her because people like her are rare to find nowadays which is why I know Hashem must have had a reason to take her. I will miss you and you will be missed by all those whom love you in which hearts you have touched. Thinking back, I can see how she completed her mission in life because of how anything she did, she did whole heartedly while trying to keep this constant learning and finding beauty in life to illuminate who she was through Torah and honoring god. May her neshama escalate in shemayim…… A”H You were such an amazing person and you will be remembered by klal yisrael l’olam va’ed…<3
This past Sunday, February 16, I ran in the Ft. Lauderdale A1A half marathon with Team HASC, the same team Daniella came to support last year when the marathon was in LA. Many of us were Camp HASC counselors, as was Daniella a few years prior. During seudah shelishit, Daniella’s friend, Esther, spoke to us about Daniella and what a wonderful person she was. She said Daniella was an amazing counselor at Camp HASC, as “she did not only just fulfill the campers exact needs, but she would make that extra effort to really make it the best summer for her campers that she possibly could.” Although I was not zoche to meet Daniella, the way in which her friend described her was so inspiring. I learned so much about her incredible neshama just from that speech, and I know her memory will always be for a blessing.
“How are you? How are you coping?”, questions I get regularly to which I reply “lousy” and “not well.”
The loss of our beloved daughter Daniella is a tragedy we pray that no one has to live through. It is an unbearable burden and yet somehow we have to march on.
Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein, co-founder of Tomer Devorah, the seminary that Daniella attended, suggests that I share with Daniella’s friends some of the thoughts that have keep me sane during these trying times. I apologize in advance if at times I appear to be rambling.
First of all, I must thank everyone who has posted a memory, signed up to do a mitzvah or committed to learn something in Daniella’s honor. The outpouring of love and affection has been very comforting. As an aside, although all mitzvah’s are important and good, I think that Daniella would have favored mitzvahs “beyn adam le chavero” (man to man) because they tend to make the world a better place and become contagious. If you do something nice to someone hopefully they will do something nice to someone else.
The first few days we were consumed with complete and absolute grief. We were numb. We could not comprehend what had happened and how our lives would be forever changed. But when we heard all of the wonderful things that people were saying about her and the mitzvahs they were doing in her honor we had to struggle with reconciling our grief with the naches she was bringing us. We love her so much and she has made us so proud of the fine young woman she became.
How do we cope? First I remember that that we found out that Kerri was pregnant with Daniella the day my father. Sam Lee, Menachem Yishiyaho, died. It was January 26, 1989. Daniella came into the world 7 months later but we needed her right then and there to get us through with hope for what the future would bring.
My father was a Holocaust survivor. He was born in 1909 in Czechoslovakia, got married and had four children. When WWII broke out he was taken to a forced labor camp where he barely survived for five years. In Pesach 1944, his first wife, four children and both parents were taken to a ghetto and then two months later to Auschwitz where they were murdered.
After the war my father married my mother. They moved to Paris where my brother was born. From there they moved to Israel where my sister was born and from there they moved to Montreal where I was born. All of the moves were the result of terrible economic conditions and the search for a better life. Canada was very cold so when I was 18 months old the family headed out to Los Angeles, where my father was told that the weather was like Israel. My parents had no relatives or friends in Los Angeles but remaining in Canada was not an option.
In spite of all the tragedies and hardships my parents faced, they never gave up. My father lost his entire family in the war but started over to build a new family based on principles of honesty and integrity and always committed to his Jewish faith. All three of us went to Jewish day schools and regularly attended minyan at our local shul. We were raised being shomer Torah and mitzvahs and my father set an example for us by not being bitter.
My father was a strong man physically and spiritually and was an incredible role model. I think it is no coincidence that his yahrzeit was on the day that shiva ended for Daniella. She came into the world to give us solace on his passing and his passing was to give us strength on her passing. We have to follow his example of being strong and understanding that we do not know what G-d has in store for us but we have to believe that whatever it is, it is only for good.
Finally, and some may find this to be a coincidence, but it is of great comfort to us to know that at the shiva there were several donation plates and that the total amount raised through shiva amounted to $613! Daniella was committed to Torah, her email address contained the number 613 and I believe that this is a sign from G-d that he is watching over her and us and that things will somehow work out.
I pray that we all can meet only at simchas and that no one has to endure the great loss our family has suffered.
Frank Lee, Daniella’s loving father
P.S. A good friend of ours suggested that I ask Daniella’s friends to write a letter to Gavi to be opened when he turns 18 about what she meant to them. Just a thought.
Those that can remember their first few days of seminary can testify to how hard they can be when you are in a new place with a bunch of new girls that you don’t know yet… these pictures with Daniella were all taken within the first week of our shana aleph in Tomer Devorah. Daniella Lee-Casper was one of the first girls to introduce herself to me, initiate a friendship, and unbeknownst to her, she immediately made me feel less homesick. I will never forget that. Daniella, you were a tzadekes and an eishes chayil in its true meaning and you had a tremendous impact on everyone around you. You are loved by so many and we have no doubt that you will storm the gates of shamayim on behalf of the entire klal yisroel.