Messages & Miracles
For those who may have trouble grasping the eternity and continuing power of the neshama (soul) to affect the lives of one’s loved ones after a person leaves this world, the following stories may help.
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree” (Psalm 92).
When Toby taught in the local Hebrew school for children of Russian parents, one of the projects she did with her students was to plant date seeds in a paper cup to see if they would grow. The seeds were taken from dried dates from the supermarket. Today (in 2010), 3 years after Toby passing, the date palm she planted sits in the Eagles’ living room well over 6 feet tall.
Saving other lives at a time of dark concealment
One of Toby’s distant cousins was driving her children from Florida to Maryland on the day of Toby’s passing, August 3, 2007. Toby appeared to her clearly in the early morning and told her to pull over to the side of the road and rest. Although she did not feel tired and always “pushed herself” when driving long distances, this relative heeded the advice and pulled over. She was astonished by this “vision” of Toby because they had not had spoken for over a year, and there was no reason why Toby should be on her mind. She later learned that at this precise time in the morning, Toby had perished in a car accident in South Carolina. Neither she nor anyone else in the family knew anything about Toby’s accident at the time.
Emails from Gan Eden (heaven).
On October 19, 2010, more than 3 years after Toby’s passing, her father and sister Dina received the following email from Toby:
From: “Toby Eagle”
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 03:46:52 -0500
To: David Eagle;
Subject: family fotos:-)
sorry guys. I don’t know why these didn’t go through the first time. enjoy!
The email was originally sent on November 2, 2006 and attached two photos of all 10 Eagle children at the time. Before receiving the re-sent email, Dina had checked the U.S. time on her Blackberry which was 6:13 (the exact time Toby was born and her birth weight) and had said “Hi Toby.”
Helping another heal from trauma
A friend of Toby’s father told him that on the night before Toby’s levaya (funeral), he had a life-transforming dream in which a serious car accident he had been involved in several years earlier was replayed in detail before his eyes. In the dream he ended up on the threshold between life and death. He experienced a powerful pull to succumb and stop fighting for his life after the accident, but he ultimately mustered the strength to prevail and choose life. He awoke drenched in sweat and realized that until this point he had completely suppressed all memory of the accident, which had caused him personal anxiety and trauma for years. The dream healed him.
Miracle in the making (David Eagle)
A bit of Chabad history: when I was a chosson (engaged to be married) in 5744/1984, there was a goral (lottery) for chossonim in 770. You had to wake up very early in the morning to be at the bima in the upstairs shul, where we would draw lots for the right to place a new Chumash or Tehillim by the Rebbe’s shtender on Mon. and Thurs. The idea was that during davening the Rebbe would read from your sefer, which then made for a very meaningful gift for your kallah. I recall that it did not take too long for me to “win” the Chumash and, of course, we cherish this sefer to this day.
It took an extremely long time for me to “win” the prized Tehillim for Yehudis to recite on the day of our upcoming wedding, and I started to get concerned. I showed up every time and, although the competition was intense, I thought maybe this was not meant to be. Finally, my day came. It was Tu B’Av, a very special happy day. I recently took another look at my inscription inside this 23-year-old Tehillim. The day was Monday, Parshas Eikev, the exact same k’vius (parsha and order of the days) as the week of Toby’s petirah (passing) this past 19th of Av. The 15th of Av is the “refuah” before the “makah” of the 19th of Av — the ability to heal before the pain. I believe that the Rebbe’s saying of Tehillim on that day gave us the strength for what would occur 23 years later.
A Miracle By Yehudis Eagle
On the morning of August 3rd, I woke up. Chana was in bed with me and the boys were sleeping across the way in your bed. Yosef came over to my side and lay down at the end of my bed. Nobody was talking, we were all just laying quietly, not feeling particularly inclined towards jumping out of bed and getting started with the day.
The silence was then broken by Yosef who asked me, “Mommy, will you be at my funeral?” Thinking that was a tall order of a question for the first conversation of the day, but of course wanting to answer him appropriately, I replied, “Chas v’Shalom! you’re 7 and much younger than I am. I’m 45 and older so it’s more likely that I’ll live my life, grow old and be finished here while you’re still young, growing and having experiences. It’s not the natural order of things for a parent to bury a child. (i do not know if this was exactly how I answered, but i’m trying to recall as accurately as possible). As this communication was going on, I was pondering where this question could have come from (actually I think I thought all this when he first asked, before I responded), thinking that we hadn’t been to any funerals, but maybe it was a delayed reaction because we’d just been at Jerry’s unveiling the week before. Then Gavriel, across the way, buried his head in his hands and said, “I don’t want to die”.
Again, although totally surprised about this being chosen for the first conversation of the morning, I began to mentally prepare my answer and said, “Hashem sends every Neshama down to this world for its mission. When the Neshama accomplishes all that it was meant to do, it’s ready to return to Hashem, and it’s excited to get there and give a report on all that it did. Of course, we hope that the Neshama takes a long time to do everything, because that Neshama’s house is in the body of someone we love and we want them to be around for a long time, but some neshamos are quicker than others and finish their tasks sooner. When that happens, the Neshama is glad to go back to Hashem having fulfilled its duty, but we’re sad here because we miss the person whose body was the house for that Neshama.”
There was a knock on the door. It was before or near 8 in the morning. None of us was dressed, we’d just woken up and had this heavy conversation, so at first, I thought, just ignore it. if it’s important, the person will come back, but the knocking continued.
I asked Yosef to go to the door and he refused which was unlike him. So I reminded him that the Torah way is to go b’zrizus with a smile when your mother asks you to do something, but he still would not get up. Finally, very begrudgingly, he went to the door, came back and said the Z’s were there. I was thinking that’s weird so early in the morn and said, “do you mean Mrs. Z.? and he said “no, the Zeitlins,”
I responded, “ok, please just tell them to wait a minute, that i’m getting dressed and will be there in a moment.” But yosef was reluctant to do that too and again begrudgingly went (or i just got ready fast, i can’t remember now) and that was it.
I went to the door, they said that there had been a tragedy, had no information and the circus began. Later on, when the news came and I returned to the bedroom to begin telling the kids, one by one, Mrs. Z. asked me if she could come in the room, which although I initially thought was odd (for lack of a better word), just agreed being too overcome and she told me afterwards that Toby was there and had asked her to please go in the room to be with me.
A Message by Yossi Belkin
This past Friday Lubavitch worldwide was shocked by a horrible tragedy. An accident that none of us want to admit to ourselves took place. A Jewish soul was lost. Another lies in critical condition in a hospital. And a third will have to look at this day for the rest of her life. How is G-d capable of such devastation? How can he deliver so much pain? I have asked these questions many times, on behalf of myself, and on behalf of others. There is no reason to ask. I have asked countless times and sadly to say G-d never answered me.
Toby Eagle was in my older sisters class. My father took her senior portraits. She played violin in my basement during Farbrengens. From what I heard, she was a true Bas Melech. And like that, one split second on the road. Her life. Her dreams. Gone. Taken away. All that’s left is her legacy. And as I see from the outpouring love of Anash from the world over, Tobys legacy will not be forgotten.
Last week my family saw my older sister get engaged. As our entire family posed for pictures with smiles on our faces not truly understanding how thankful we all had to be to make it to that day, this, for me, is a slap in the face. G-d gives. G-d takes. We take for granted everything G-d gives us. Sure we pray, but are we really thanking G-d for keeping us alive another day so we can continue on our lives, our dreams? No.
A few years back G-d took my nephew from us. I was devastated. Literally made a Hachlatah to throw G-d away. (That lasted 20 minutes or so). But as I cried another round of tears, I was not angry at G-d in a way I got angry with my mom. I was confused about how selfish G-d seemed. Why the tease? Why take a newborn baby from the world? I understand he has his mission, yada yada yada, but what about us? His mother. His Father. To have that haunt them the rest of their lives. It just seems so unfair.
As I listen to Mrs. Turen’s recorded Farbrengen from Motzie Shabbos and I feel the love streaming forth from so many people towards Toby, and all the Haclatas being made in her memory, I am sure she is smiling down with a smile nobody has every witnessed on earth.
My heart goes out to Tobys family. Please be strong. For us. For her.
A Refuah Shelimah to Orah Mital bas Bella. Please everyone she needs all the Tehillim and prayers we can give.
The Rebbe should reveal himself this second so that all of this growing pain will disappear immediately and we will be reunited with all of our loved ones whos time on this lowly earth has passed.
A Message by Shirelle Meer Morris
Nothing is an accident, despite what we tell ourselves. god does not pick his victims randomly. and god only gives us what we can handle. toby was the target and toby was taken. toby…it had to be her. it had to be somebody that impacted the world so much on this earth, somebody that will impact this world even more after she joins the departed…but wait a second…hello? god??!! what the hell is going on here??!! toby? not her!! i wanted her to marry my brother!!!! she was a rolemodel, someone that i defiantely looked up to and appreciated her many talents. this -“god only gives us what we can handle”- thing, must be taken litteraly. obviously it had to be a girl from bnos rabbeinu!!! look at the power that place has, look at tobys power!!! we unfortunately have been placed in a trap. tobys death was a kapara, an awakening call. to who? to us!! to those that care and that will make the difference untill something drastis changes. i dunno about anybody else, but i am suffering in this hell of a world called gollus. and it must change. we are all saying, “time goes on…” but no!!!! time will not “just go on” like this!!!
I was one of the people who went to toby levaya, to her temporary dwelling place. as i stood there, directly in front of the open earth, i was watching my surroundings. looking into each persons eyes (and trying to avoid them at teh came time), i saw love and meaning. respect and strength. there was the bnos rabbeinu crew and mrs turen. each girl knowing the loss of what the other was feeling. there was this tremendouse power and feeling there that made you shake. the love for one another. a love that i never knew exsited. a passion for moshiach, a true awakening. one that seemed to be going on forever. a feeling of trust and betrail for hashem (at least on my part)! and i stood there weeping, crying my eyes out untill i could see nothing. just hear the sounds of prayers and tears and other hearts shattering as mine was. and i felt something. something that made me shake. a feeling of respect for toby family. they stood there. some smiling, and some weeping. they had this overpowering strenth ang bitachon in hashem that shone right through them. they are believers. they excepted the fate that was bestoed upon their family. toby was lucky to merrit having such a secure family and circle of friends that are breaking the gates of heaven and that are demanding toby, demanding moshiach!!!
Later on i went to eagles home where kaddish was being said. there was this feeling of hope in the house. it was the feeling of jews, there to support eachother. the hugs that were exchanged, the words of comfort that were being said and that feeling of ad mossai, where sick of all this b.s. was almost crashing the walls down. mrs. eagle was sitting there, talking, smiling, and managing a family. a family of clearly pure chassidim. when i observed the scene surrounding me i felt this -thank god that there are real chassidim- feeling.
The ride home was a good 5 hours to think of whats next. so now what? we sit and linger and wait for the next tragity to happen? no!!! god forbid, now is the time to make those hachlatos, to take upon yourselfs those things that “are soooo not me!!!”. well guess what?? neither is tobys death. may hashem open his f**king gate and listen for once!!!! listen to the plea of his children, waiting for this misery to end. we are just kids!!!!!! but it has to be us. we are the youth. we are making the defference. yechi hamelech.
A Message by Chaya Feigelstock
It may be kind of sick of me, but when I heard it was Toby who was taken my reaction was one of sadness, but not surprise.
Toby was perfect. If this world is truly only a temporary journey to the ultimate destination, the it makes sense that Toby reached the goal.
Toby lived a wonderful life. She didn’t do anything that is left to be regretted. She was finished. It was time for her to leave the pain of this world and go to a better place.
But it hurts so bad for those of us left behind.
A Memory by Amalia Kotlicky
I remember the day that my sister Pinky came home and said guess what?!? “I have a friend from girl scouts her name is toby”. I was secretly thrilled that she was friends with Pinky so that we didnt have to drag her along with our friends…;). I then met her myself and got to know her and over the years watched her growing amazing neshama.
A few years back howeve I personally lost touch with Toby, but the random sightings I would see of her she always had a smile and she always took the time to see how my day was and what I was doing with my life. You knew that when you talked to Toby she listened and she deeply cared.
One thing about Toby I have realized is that she not only smiled with her mouth but she smiled with her whole self…her eyes sparkeled, her body radiated warm hugs and her neshama truly shined.
I have recenctly found my besheret, became engaged and my vort was on sunday prior to toby’s levaya. when i learned the news i was devastated for my sister Pinky. I understand why a lot of ppl who knew her couldnt make it and i told Pinky that she should come if she feels she can do it. Having lost a dear friend who was slightly younger than toby at a younger age for me unfortunately also because of a car crash, I understood the terrible sadness Pinky was feeling.
When Pinky showed up with a smile on her face i realized that she herself has a trully amazing neshama who had within her such strength from hashem. She was b’smicha for me although she knew that at her next destination there would be no smiles…only tears…
I am trully blessed in so many ways but more importantly I am blessed with the gift of such an amazing sister.
Toby my dear, I am saddened that you were not intended for yourself to have this simcha and I can only hope that you left us so soon because hashem needed you to help him bring moshiach.
We will miss you Toby and thank you for being a wonderful friend to my wonderful, strong sister Pinky.
A Message by David Eagle
My wife and I knew that we were blessed with an extraordinary child from the time Toby was an infant, but we did not realize the impact she had on the world around her until her passing on the 19th of Menachem Av 5767. She influenced others to become better and stronger people in a way of /hatzneah leches/, walking humbly and modestly along the path of righteousness and kindness. Toby did not act with any fanfare or desire for recognition. For example, she was a vegetarian from the age of 9, with no agenda whatsoever or need to explain herself. That’s just the way Toby was. She was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and an accomplished violinist, always maintaining the strictest standards of /tznius/ and utilizing her talents in the service of Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Whether in high school in Chicago or seminary (or, for that matter, wherever Toby traveled), she insisted on mastering the public transportation system rather than burdening others for rides and taxis to extracurricular activities. All the while, she adhered to a rigorous curriculum of /limudei kodesh/ and enjoyed tremendous success in many facets of Torah learning.
While in seminary at Machon Shoshana, in Jerusalem, Toby worked tirelessly on behalf of the children of Gush Katif after they were expelled from their homes. She emailed me from Israel on December 18, 2005: “We have a program for the kids from Gush Katif. Basically, they were all placed in hotels, which are very bad living conditions for families with 10 children etc., so we go to give them something to do in their after-school hours instead of being cramped inside the hotel rooms and lobby, especially being kids who are used to lots of yard and beaches to run around in. At least two girls from my seminary go every day to a different hotel, and we do arts and crafts, games, tell them stories, say /pesukim/, all different things – and we just give them a good time and have a lot of fun!”
Toby was a source of support to other young people who needed friendship and a positive perspective on life. As one girl wrote, “I came to seminary a week late, not knowing many people, and Toby sensed that. Toby always looked out for others; when she saw that I was still uncomfortable with the other girls, she would come over and talk to me, and invite me on walks with her.” Another girl wrote, “You were one of the first girls I met when I came from Israel to the U.S. I was shy and afraid of meeting all these new people, but you instantly befriended me and made me feel at home with everyone around me, always making sure no one was left out.”
Most recently, Toby lived at home and attended Towson University. She embraced Towson’s demanding “MB3” major (Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Bioinformatics). Toby was in the honors program and on the Dean’s list, she took classes during the summer in an effort to graduate early, and worked as an intern in cancer research at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Having been home schooled before attending a high school that focused on /limudei kodesh/, she was self-taught in many pre-college courses. Toby’s dream was to obtain a joint MD/PhD degree and work on finding a cure for cancer and other diseases.
During the academic year, Toby also taught Jewish studies on Sundays at ARIEL to children of parents from the former Soviet Union. She prepared long and hard for these lessons, and had a profound influence on the children she mentored in the beauty of Torah and mitzvos. Toby’s teaching method was twofold: to be a living example and to show her students unconditional love. She taught about Jewish heroes who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she sang and played the violin, she made charts of Jewish history, conducted interviews, and produced videos. During Toby’s winter break from Towson, she volunteered for the Friendship Circle in Morristown, New Jersey, which provides a Jewish learning experience for special needs children. As anyone who knows Toby could have predicted, she enthusiastically accepted the challenge of caring for a severely disabled boy in the program and transformed his life for a week into one of joy. Through loving words and song, she magically encouraged him to smile, communicate, move around, learn, and grow. As his parents wrote, “She brought such joy and pleasure into his life that week, and we will never forget her beautiful smile and sweet personality.”
In the summer of 2006, following graduation from seminary, Toby traveled with a friend throughout Europe and worked as a counselor for several weeks at Gan Israel camps in Scotland and Birmingham, England. As Rabbi Yehuda Pink wrote, “She left an indelible impression on us, our family, and the children in day camp.” The prior summer, Toby worked with children in the largely Israeli community of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she forged a close bond with one young boy in particular – an orphan. Unwilling to forget about him or the other friendships she made, Toby and two friends drove to Myrtle Beach on Thursday night, August 2, 2007, to spend a joyous Shabbos. Twenty miles away from their destination, it was Hashem’s plan that this would be the final leg of Toby’s angelic journey in this world.
I can only attempt echo the gratitude my wife Yehudis has expressed in these pages over the outpouring of support from rabbanim, parents, family, neighbors, and friends. A special note of thanks to our rabbi, Harav Elchonon Lisbon, for the true love, /ahavas achim,/ and devotion he has shown us from the very first phone call that the /Ribono Shel Olam/ summoned him to make in the early hours of August 3 from a conference he was attending in Colorado. I know that the call pained him to the core of his being. We have been blessed with waves of comforting souls from around the U.S. and abroad, truly remarkable neighbors and friends with outstretched helping hands and a tear in their eye. We have received an uninterrupted flow of phone calls and emails from around the world, poems and tear-stained letters, and visits from both Jews and non-Jews whose lives Toby had touched.
Several years ago, I was honored with the /haftorah/ for the second day of Rosh Hashana. For some reason that I never quite understood, I began to cry in the middle and could barely conclude the words. This year I was honored again and mustered the strength to recite the prophetic words of Yirmiyahu, in which Hashem declares: “I will yet build you up, then will you be restored, O maiden of Israel; you will yet adorn yourself with your tambourines and go forth in joyous dance.”
A Message by Sima Chitrik
Toby, A”H, was my friend: a friend who made me smile when I was sad, a friend who listened to my reply when she asked “How are you?,” a friend who walked in when the rest of the world walked out!
Life with Toby began just a short seven years ago, when we attended the same camp in California. Her questions, her attitude, her excitement in life never ceased to amaze me. Most often, you would find a student living away from home sad, lonely, and depressed. But not Toby! Toby was a girl who had been home schooled her entire childhood and wished to move on in her high school years to a school. She yearned to learn /chasidus/ and get the chance to explore the world. Toby spent her four years of high school in Chicago, balancing being a good student, earning her black belt in karate, going to violin lessons, joining her music group – practicing and practicing – and still being the true and loyal friend.
Toby was rare, not the typical girl. She never spoke badly about anyone. She never had a fight with her friends, and she always made the best of every situation.
Spending a year in Israel with Toby was a G-d-given gift. She was the gift of peace, acceptance, and never-ending friendship. Toby was my savior in that very difficult year of seminary. No matter the time of day, she always had both ears open and ready to listen. Talking to her was so refreshing and so unintimidating. Her mature and honest outlook is what really helped me put things in perspective.
Toby also really went beyond herself to be there for others. While in seminary, I found out that someone really close to me had a child with special needs. I told Toby how devastated I was. Without telling me, she went over to one of the rabbis in seminary to inquire about how Judaism explains children with special needs. She bought a book to help me learn about the subject, and volunteered to change our paired research project topic to this – all to help. She felt for another person, in her humble way.
The memories that fill my head are overwhelming. One that sticks out is that of the weekly visits she and I made to a family in Israel that suffers from poverty. The father ran away and the mother is left with nine children. Who would want to go do /chesed/ at the “lice family,” when we could pick from learning, concerts, and a big social life? Yet twice a week Toby would entertain the children so as to give the tired mom a break. To see those smiles she brought to their faces was heartwarming.
It wasn’t only her dedication to go that was inspiring; it was her commitment to help, and to solve a lot of what was going on in that home, that shows us how unique she was. She always said her goal was to find the cure for cancer. Toby dreamed big, and she also did the small details that made the big difference. Toby decided that she was going to try to “make the world perfect and end this /golus./” Chazal say /kolYisroel areivim zeh lazeh/ – every Jew is responsible for the other, and Toby made that her business and her life. Toby was determined to save the world.
To me, Toby changed my life. Through high school and seminary, I struggled with living amid judgment. Toby was judgment free. She loved. She just loved. She accepted people; she accepted situations. Being around Toby, it was impossible not to borrow some of this quality. Her positivity made everyone around her shine. If there is one thing I took from knowing Toby, it was to discover what you love in everyone.
Toby was a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece, and a friend to many. We miss her dearly and yearn to see her bekarov mamash with mashiach/ and the perfect world that she always wished for.
Some of the resolutions that we, her friends, have taken upon ourselves, are: lighting candles early, giving tzedaka, saying kri’as Shema, being careful with tznius, donating money to the sefer Torah fund, donating money to Toby’s high school, B’nos Rabeinu, adding in ahavas Yisroel acts and thoughts, starting the www.projectpledge.com web site, beginning the “pass on a kindness” necklace and postcards, contributing to the scholarship for cancer research in her memory.
With all this, and so much more that I didn’t mention, we will be reunited, be’ezras Hashem, with Toby with the coming of mashiach/ speedily in our days.
Sima Chitrik, a dear friend of Toby, delivered these words at the shloshim on September 3, 2007.
A Message by Treine Kheel
Toby Eagle, a”h, touched the hearts of so many people, of such diverse backgrounds, in her short sojourn here on earth. Although words, in their barrenness, cannot possibly contain or even touch the essence of Toby’s soul, perhaps they can at least draw us closer to an understanding of why she touched us all so deeply. With this inspiration clarifying our vision and fueling our efforts, perhaps we can carry on her legacy.
In reading the outpouring of heartfelt emotion on the internet sites that have sprung up about Toby since her passing, I realized that almost all seem centered around three themes: Toby’s light, the joy she radiated, and her intense yearning for mashiach: “Toby was a true light, a ‘lichtikeit.’ May her radiance remembered help us make this a better world.” “Her sweetness was so all encompassing that no one can remember her without a smile on her face.” “May she go straight to the kisei hakavod and finally convince Hashem to send the geulah!”
Everyone who knew Toby, even peripherally, could sense that she had a different way of moving through the world. What was it that made Toby so beautiful and so pure? Toby and my own children home schooled together and shared deeply in learning, music, play, and friendship for many years. One quality that was particularly striking to me about Toby was how clearly focused and directed she was in her life’s choices. She seemed to be on a trajectory completely and consciously guided by her own soul’s directives. It was as if her soul were journeying steadfastly to her beloved Hashem, Who was awaiting her with outstretched arms and a smile of approval at a job well done. No one could possibly intercede, and no one wished to. One friend commented, “She was so caught in being purely herself that she was purely angelic.”
All the girls loved her, for she was there fully and openly for each one. However, she never seemed concerned about what was “in” or what “everyone else” was doing. She was unaffected by these kinds of considerations. She never measured her accomplishments or her choices by others, and was particularly disinterested in any form of competition or comparisons. Toby charted her life’s course based on considerations of intrinsic worth only. She simply took pleasure in doing what she loved and valued, regardless of how well she did it, who else was doing it, or what others might think. (That being said, Toby was good at almost anything she touched!)
Another beauty of Toby’s outlook was that she never seemed to have to be dan lecaf zechus, judge someone favorable; indeed, she seemed not to judge others at all. It was as if she were unconsciously aware that each soul had an intrinsic beauty and value that could not be ranked or judged. She accepted and loved each person as that person was, because she saw his or her essence. She looked towards others not to judge them but to comfort, empathize, and love. Hashem’s bas kol seemed to reverberate within her being, drowning out the insidious noise of judgment.
As soul directed as Toby was, she was able to weave together Heaven and earth into a beautiful tapestry. Her soul worked in harmony with her body, each benefiting from the capabilities of the other. She loved to cook, so when she was at home, Shabbos meals became her domain. She loved to play the violin, especially Chabad nigunim. Violin afforded an outlet for the song of her soul, which she enjoyed sharing with others. Toby took pleasure in sewing, and once handmade an exquisite quilt for her family that still holds a prominent place in their home, warming their hearts. Even in her own persona, she was able to integrate the spiritual with the physical. Her dress was modest, but tasteful, and she always looked “put together.” Physically, she appeared to be a true embodiment of her holy /neshama/.
Toby loved to learn. She thirsted for the delights of the “knowledge of Hashem” that chasidus affords. She loved her family, and she loved home schooling, but her thirst for chassidic teachings was so strong that she chose to attend a high school in Chicago where she could immerse herself in the Tanya as well as other teachings. There, she filled her mind, heart, and deeds to her soul’s content.
Since Toby’s passing, my thoughts and recollections of her have created a picture in my mind of what, from my perspective, her life was about. The picture reminds me of a piece I read a while ago by Sarah Edit Schneider. In it she compared the world of /tikun/, the linear, hierarchical world in which we are now immersed (hopefully nearing the end of) to the “circle world,” the world of mashiach. The object of our world of tikun is to “press out” the full potential of each soul. When this work eventually achieves its goal, explains Sarah Edit, “All the fallen sparks will be raised…, all potentials actualized, all illusions neutralized. G-d’s light will shine through the world, dissolving hierarchy as it turns the line into circle.” Later she continues, “The spiritual bliss of the World to Come is the intensely abiding joy of finally becoming who you are….In the Circle World it will become gloriously clear that every soul is equally precious and singularly beautiful in a way that cannot be ranked. There will be no where to look for instruction except straight from Hashem, Who metaphorically sits at the circle’s center, equidistant from all its holy points.”
Sarah Edit’s words could just as easily be describing Toby, whose way of moving through this world seemed to embrace the consciousness of the circle world. Her reality seemed to be that of the days of /Mashiach/: a light; an abiding joy; and looking only to Hashem for growth and direction. Perhaps Toby sensed this about herself when she wrote the following words in a song that she composed when she was seventeen
“Oh, look at me now,
Can’t you see how
I had to think and believe,
And reach out to every other living thing.
Building up His dwelling place,
Waking up from this bad dream,
He is crowned forevermore.”
Toby, we love you and miss you so much. Thank you for the prophetic vision you gave us into the sweet joy and abiding bliss of the World to Come. May the awareness that your life had such impact on us all be a comfort to your family. May your life be a model for us, so that we may wake up sooner and be reunited with you, with the coming of Mashiach, bimeheira beyameinu.
Treine Kheel is a close friend of the Eagle family.
At the time of the Holocaust, the Gerrer Rebbe (Grand Rabbi Abraham Mordechai Alter, 1866-1948) was the spiritual leader of over 100,000 Chassidim in Poland. At the beginning of World War II, the Gerrer Rebbe fled from the small town of Ger to Warsaw. In 1940, he managed to escape with three of his sons to Israel (then Palestine): Yisrael and Simcha-Bunim, who were already in middle age with families, and Pinchas- Menachem, still in his teen years. The Grand Rabbi and his sons were assured that other members of the family would also escape in the next caravan.
That did not happen. The rest of the family was lost in the Holocaust, as were the vast majority of all the Gerrer Chassidim. On February 25-26, 1941 all of the Jews from Ger were transferred by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto, where most of Poland’s Gerrer Chassidim, tens of thousands of souls, perished.
Grand Rabbi Abraham Mordechai Alter began to rebuild the Gerrer community in Jerusalem. He died there, during the siege of Jerusalem on Shavuos, 1948. He was succeeded by his son, Grand Rabbi Yisrael Alter (referred to by his followers as the Beis Yisroel).
The Beis Yisroel married a second time, but had no further children. (He appears to have been a very emotionally-contained person who rarely discussed the terrible loss of his family.)
Sometime after the war and after the creation of the State of Israel, a Gerrer chasid, a survivor of the Holocaust, arrived in Israel. He had lost all of his family and was embittered and disillusioned. He ceased the observance of mitzvoth, shaved his beard, gave up his Chasidic garb, and conducted himself as a secular Israeli. Yet, somehow, one day, he felt such a strong longing to have contact with the Gerrer Rebbe that he appeared at the back of the synagogue of Grand Rabbi Yisrael Alter, the Bais Yisroel. Not willing to be a hypocrite, he came dressed as a secular person. He was certain that no one would sense his origins and that he would merely have an opportunity to see his Rebbe, unobtrusively and incognito.
However, the Bais Yisroel would typically scan the people attending his synagogue, and he had a special ability to remember people he had met. He recognized the man despite all the time and circumstances that had passed, and from his seat in the front of the room, he sent his aide to bring the man to him.
The two sat together and exchanged stories about personal losses and family, friends and community. In response to the Chasid’s tears, the Gerrer Rebbe said, “There are no words adequate to comfort you or to ‘explain’ what we have been through. But let me share with you an observation that has helped me.”
In the very last verse of the Five Books of Moses (Deut. 34:12), the scripture eulogizes Moses for the “awesome deeds that Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel”. Why did G-D choose to end the Torah with the words “l’einei kol yisrael” – “before the eyes of all Israel”? What is their special significance?
Rashi, the classic commentator, explain that the specific deed of Moses being referred to here was his breaking of the tablets (see Ex. 32:19). Rashi bases this inference on a Midrashic interpretation (Sifrei on Deut. 9:17) which notes that the same phrase occurs in Moses’ description of the breaking of the tablets when he recounts the story in Deut. 9:17. Speaking in the first person, Moses says “I grasped the two tablets and threw them from my hands, and I smashed them before your eyes”.
Why, asked the Gerrer Rebbe, did Moses add the words, “before your eyes”? The Torah includes no redundant words. Yet, these words appear to be unnecessary and self- understood.
An answer may be found by examining a third Torah verse that has the same phrase. In Gen. 42:24 we are told that Yosef accused his brothers of being spies in Egypt and that he imprisoned Shimon “before their eyes”. Rashi cites a Midrashic interpretation (Bereishis Rabbah 91:8) for the words “before their eyes”: Yosef’s imprisonment of Shimon was only an illusion; as soon as the other brothers left to return to Canaan, he released Shimon and cared for his needs. Yosef gave the appearance of imprisoning Shimon because there was a certain impression that he wanted to create upon his brothers, “before their eyes.”
So, reasoned the Gerrer Rebbe, when Moses said that the tablets were smashed “before the eyes” of the Israelites, he was telling us that these tablets, so precious to Moses and G-D, were never really destroyed. The reality was that on some plane of existence those tablets were preserved intact, and that Moses’ destruction of them was illusory.
“Thus,” continued the Gerrer Rebbe, “I comfort myself with the belief that those Jewish individuals, so precious to G-D, were not really “smashed” during the Holocaust, and that on some plane of existence they are preserved intact by G-D.”
And, he concluded, this principle about the illusory nature of our perceptions is so fundamental that G-D chose to end the Torah with those meaningful words “before the eyes of all of Israel.”
A Story by Toby Age 7
Once upon a time there lived a very poor man. His name was Mr. Longfire. The only thing he had was a bird. The bird was a very fine bird, but she was very sad because she did not like being in the cage. She always tried to get out but she could not. One day the man was gone. The bird cage was opened. She could get out. She opened the cage. She got out. She was SO HAPPY!!! She saw a window opened. She went through. She did not know where she was going, she was going to the woods. She saw a rabbit, she was hungry. She wanted to eat it. She tried to. She could not. I can’t. I am starving. She saw a fish. She tried to get it. She could not. Finally she heard someone saying, I have food for you and that really was his master. She was found.”
A poem by Chana Hyams
A beautiful angel has spread her wings and flown from this world
Taken lovingly with G-d’s hands to a very special, wonderful place
As this Beautiful angel sees the peacefulness, holiness, and beauty of The higher world,
A peaceful smile must’ve appeared on her face
The angels rejoiced at the light that has entered the heavens
While we cried from below
A darkness has entered our world
And we felt the harsh, frightening winds blow
We feel an absence of a certain light and love
that our angelic friend has had surrounding her here
The light that she had brought to others
Has gone and our hearts feel bare
I’ve not heard this angel say a negative word
about anyone or any living thing
Every time she’d play her heavenly music
our hearts would all dance and sing
This gentle girl has always cared
for every living being
There were many wonderful memories that with her were shared
happiness and joy she has created
She must be crying up above for us
for we are in a dark, miserable space
Where although there is lots of happiness here
There is also pain and sorrow in its place
She is not at all in pain
secrets of Torah of Chassidis she must be learning
The lovely music sung by our nation she does hear
And with the angels she must be dancing
She is watching over us now, (and her spirit is still here with us)
We need her to beg the Creator on our behalf
That we be liberated from our sorrow
that we finally be redeemed at last
A letter from the Rebbe
You will notice in the Rebbe’s letter that the letter Pay in the word Chupa is Nifsak (incomplete). The Eagle family discovered this during Shiva. Perhaps it is a message for us. Toby had piles of Torah learning and Ma’asim Tovim (good deeds), but she did not live to fulfill the blessing of Chupa (wedding). May the ultimate marriage of the Almighty and the Jewish people take place with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days! Amen.