Boro Park Center Celebrates Nonstop Simchas Yom Tov: From Rosh Hashana to Simchas Torah
By Yehudit Garmaise
“Yom Tov is always a super special time at the Boro Park Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing (BPC), but this year, everything throughout Tishrei was even nicer: truly in the spirit of Simchas Yom Tov,” said Mrs. Raizy Pavlov, BPC’s director of recreation.
"It was hard to believe we were in a rehab center because there was so much going on: nonstop entertainment, action, and fun, meaningful Yiddishe activities b’ruchnius and simcha: round the clock," said one happy resident.
After what another resident described as “magnificent davening” over Rosh Hashana and beautiful Yom Tov meals: complete with delicious dishes and simanim platters, just days later, BPC staff members brought the residents everything they needed for Tashlich.
For the second year in row, BPC staff brought in-house: fish swimming in bowls, decorated with seashells, netting, and other colorful, cheerful decorations that created an “under-the-sea” theme.
In addition to the visual delights, musician Don Stern played heartfelt songs with lyrics from the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur davening, and Rabbi Aron Waijsfeld said Tashlich with the residents.
During Tashlich, Rabbi Waijsfeld explained that Yidden should remember that Yom Kippur is the day on which the Akeidah, “the biggest z’chus of K’lal Yisroel” took place.
“Just as Avorham had to go through an ocean that the Satan had created to try to stop Avrohom from getting to the Akeidah, Jews have to go through ‘oceans’ of nisyonos and challenges on the way to the purity of teshuva,” Rabbi Waijsfeld said. “We have to remember that the difficulties we face are not put in our way to stop us, but for us to overcome: and that should be our attitude all year long when we are faced with challenges.”
Rabbi Waijsfeld then shlugged kapporos with a live chicken and spoke to BPC’s residents about the power of teshuva.
While some residents also did their own kapporos, many other residents just wanted to pet the chickens, said Mrs. Pavlov, who added with a laugh that the chickens were just a precursor to the Eric the Animal Guy, who, over Chol HaMoed, made an animal show for the residents, who got to see, touch, and learn about snakes, lizards, bunnies, turtles, and other animals.
"We enjoyed the animals very much,” one resident said. "They were so cute!"
Also during the aseres y’may teshuva, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss also came to speak to the residents, and on Shabbos Shuva, the Chavraya Choir further inspired the BPC chevra, by singing even more songs from the Ya’mim Noarim.
Motzei Yom Tov, after the first days, BPC made its own Simchas Bais Hashoevia with Chaim Blumenfeld singing, Yossi Eidlisz playing music, and the Tantzers dancing.
“It was really freilach and beautiful,” said a resident, who added that the staff also brought in Chol HaMoed fun when Yossi’s Balloons went around to all the residents, especially those who were bed-bound, to make for them shapes, animals, and smiley faces out of balloons.
On Hoshana Raba, Shia Fried brought his guitar for a kumzitz and davening, and Rabbi Waijsfeld connected David Hamelech, the last of the Ushbezin, with the need to make the effort to stay positive and b’simcha every day.
“We know that David Hamelech never had a wonderful day in his life,” Rabbi Waijsfeld said. “Yet, he teaches us the idea of simchas Yom Tov, the simcha of the Torah, and simchas shel mitzvah.
“David teaches us feel, to happy, to dance, and to feel light: just because we are part of K’lal Yisroel.
We all have challenges in life, Rabbi Waijsfeld pointed out, but we have to rise above difficulties with simcha and happiness: which sometimes means dancing, but sometimes ‘rising above’ can just mean smiling and trying to stay as happy as possible in every situation.
“All of Tehillim is all about davening and begging Hashem for help, but also thanking Him for what we have and staying happy with what we have been given.
“The challenges are just there to help us to grow even higher.”
On Shemini Atzeres as well, the resident heard many beautiful lectures and drashos.
“The next day, Simchas Torah was absolutely beautiful: complete with plenty of dancing,” said Mrs. Pavlov, who described joyful staff members who wheeled residents around to dance with those in wheelchairs.
"It can be hard for us to get around, so it was so nice to have everything for Yom Tov in one place," a resident said.
After Mincha and Maariv on Simchas Torah at BPC, Rabbi Waijsfeld led the residents in closing out Yom Tov on a high note: with singing, dancing, and brachos.
"Everything was in the true Yom Tov spirit,” said a BPC resident, “from start to finish.”