MOM, MEMORIES AND MIRACLES
My mother, Fay Lusthaus, passed last Friday evening, elevating from this world as the Light of Shabbat began to shimmer and shine into the world. There were so many breath-taking miracles—large and small— and many wondrous signs associated with her process that I will share shortly .
But first, to gain a sense of her character, think Beverly Goldberg, the matriarch and mom on the hit TV show The Goldbergs. The resemblance between the two is uncanny. Except my mother possessed an even greater larger-than- life personality, and an innate ability to meddle far more into our lives with profound love and care for her kids.
Throughout her life, my mother’s heart and her home were always wide open to everyone. As kids growing up in the suburbs of Toronto during the sixties, along with my two older sisters Lezlie and Darlene, my mother always welcomed all our many friends into our home. All the kids felt comfortable enough to freely eat from our fridge, loaf on our sofas, and even hang out with my mom. As my sister Lezlie pointed out during her eulogy to my mother, this was an era—the 1960s—when parents were called by their surnames—as in Mr. and Mrs.
All of our friends called my mom by her first name, Fay.
My mom made sure that our home was everyone’s home. I used to have 10-15 friends at a time sleeping over at my house every birthday, year after year, and every New Year’s Eve. My sisters always had their friends sleeping over. I once had five tents pitched in our backyard with 20 kids camping on the Phillips campground.
My mom would never say no to anything that made us happy.
My mom’s best friend Dorothy and all her kids also moved in with us at one point. They were going through a rough time in their lives and so my mom invited them to stay with us and the two families lived together for over a year. It was insane.
We were close and each family had so many unbelievable challenges in their own lives, but being together also created fun and wild times that helped us deal with the obstacles.
If they made a movie about the exploits of my mom and Dorothy, people wouldn’t believe it. They’d simply say it’s all fiction. But it wasn’t. They were two genuine crazy characters.
Dorothy passed two weeks before my mom.
When my sisters were in high school, someone once called my mother in a cruel prank and said they had kidnapped my sister Darlene. My mom and Dorothy ran over to my sister’s high school dressed in their nightgowns and sporting sunglasses.
My sister, who was hanging out in the foyer with her friends was mortified and embarrassed to no end as these two hysterical women came dashing into the school looking for her.
When Darlene wanted to skip a day off work, she would get my mom to call in sick on her behalf.
When Darlene had a boyfriend, my mom and her would go on spy missions to check up on him. My mom would disguise her voice and make up some kind of crazy accent and she’d call the boy’s house to see if he was home.
When Darlene wanted to skip off school, my mom would be her accomplice; she would call the school and say that my sister had a doctor’s appointment and she must be excused at once. What mother helps their kid play hooky from school?
Every time I wanted to skip school to go fishing with my friend and his father, she always said okay. And because she gave us so much freedom to be kids, we never took advantage of it. And we NEVER had to lie to our mother about anything. Because we KNEW she would understand whatever trouble we got into.
As my sisters noted at the funeral, all the friend’s of her grandkids today in Toronto loved my mom because she knew how to relate to them. She was never trying to be a cool mom or one of the kids. She was just being herself. Period. And the person that she truly was, related to kids in every generation.
THE POWER OF TRUST
I think the greatest trait my mom demonstrated was her willingness to trust in her kids. I learned from her that when you gift your children with trust you empower them and motivate them to want to earn that gift. She used to let me go into her wallet every morning and take 25 cents so that I could by chocolate bars and potato chips at lunchtime during my public school years. Yes 25 cents in 1967 got you two chocolate bars and a bag of hickory-smoked potato chips.
I remember clearly never taking an extra nickel because I so appreciated her trust in me. I remember kids at school telling me how they would swipe a dollar or two from their parent’s wallet.
I would never dare betray my mom’s trust because she gave it to me so freely.
Once, when I was around 10 or 11, my friend and I wanted to experiment in the art of bank robbing. Well, not actually bank robbing, but stealing and thievery. We were in Yorkdale Shopping Mall in Toronto. When no one was looking, we proceeded to stuff all the pockets in our jeans with little boxes of caps for our cap guns. With our front and back pockets bulging at the seams, we casually exited the toy store. Suddenly a large man in a gray suit approached us, arms raised as if to say, you boys aren’t going anywhere.
We’d been caught red-handed.
The scary man told us he was head of security and he took us downstairs for interrogation. Then he called our parents. Thankfully, he reached my mom, and not my father. After explaining the situation to our parents, he told us to go straight home. I was so scared of what was waiting for me, I walked home instead of taking the bus, thereby stretching a 15 minute journey into one hour.
When I got home my mom was kind, gentle and she simply told me not to ever steal again because it just wasn’t the right thing to do. No preaching. No yelling. No scolding. Just a look and tone that said: I know you’re better than this.
She never told my dad.
And I never stole anything ever again.
Then there was the time when girls were teaching me a few things about life. There was one particular incident where it hadn’t gone too far, but it went far enough that I was looking forward to becoming a teen.
I was only 11.
The mother one of one of the girl’s found out about our escapades and called my mom. I was scared out of my mind. I heard my my mom on the phone saying “Oh, I don’t think he would do something like that.” Now I knew I was in for it.
When she hung up the phone, I was expecting to get blasted, grounded, spanked, yelled at and sent to my room. My mom just said very gently, “At your age this is not appropriate behavior with girls. You should wait until you are older.”
I have to confess, this was one of the few times I didn’t listen to my mom.
My mom and dad divorced when I was 15. It was long coming, as the chaos in our house was pretty intense to say the least. That was when I learned all about anxiety attacks.
Nonetheless, after the divorce, they remained friends, their relationship becoming more like brother and sister. My dad moved out and my new new stepfather moved in. His name was Bill Lusthaus.
Bill was a larger-than-life personality as well. He ran gambling junkets to Las Vegas in the days when the mob was running that town. I met some pretty cool characters, right out of Goodfellas when Bill and my Mom took me to Vegas. He was a big deal back then and so we used to get into all the big hotels, free, for all the biggest shows on the strip and all our dinners were comped and paid for by the hotels. Those were amazing fun times.
During those years, my mom’s open heart and open home policies remained in force. My mom and Bill bought a nice two bedroom condo in Florida and I would come down with 5-6 friends, all of us piling into their place.
We would do this two to three times during the long cold winter in Toronto. One time, my two grandparents were staying with my mom and Bill and I still came with 5 friends so now there were nine people vacationing in their two bedroom condo. Bill was quite frugal, to put it mildly, and he didn’t want the air conditioning running throughout the condo 24 hours a day. He would shut it off and me and my friends were hot and sweating bullets. We would hear my mom screaming in the bedroom, “Bill I’m boiling hot. I’m dripping sweat. Put the air conditioning on.” My mom did this for us and she would drive Bill nuts until he finally turned the air back on!
That was my mom. And Bill, bless his heart, never had a choice; when my mom wanted something, he had to listen.
When my father was stricken with lung cancer and near the end of his life, once again my mom opened her heart and home. My dad and his wife came to stay with my mom and Bill at their home in Florida for a few weeks. The four of them had a wonderful time.
On the surface, this seemed a bit bizarre but my mom always lived outside the box and as my sister Lezlie noted at the funeral, she just didn’t care what other people thought. At all! She was a true rebel.
Lezlie also explained how my mom was a contradiction in many ways. She loved to be the center of attention and yet she was shy. She was highly critical and thought she knew everything, yet she was extremely insecure. And somehow, during all the chaotic, difficult times, she found a way to make us laugh and feel loved.
But make no mistake — she was not the typical “Jewish” mother. As Lezlie noted in her eulogy, we did not grow up eating bagels, lox, cream cheese and chicken soup. Our kitchen was stocked with Sara Lee chocolate cakes, blueberry pies and chocolate milk. My mom’s greatest pleasure was to eat a chocolate Sarah Lee cake. One time she was eating her cake in bed at night while watching TV. She felt something weird in her mouth. She turned on the bedroom lights and she saw a million ants all over the cake. She had taken a mouthful of ants into her mouth.
My mother also had an amazing sense of style. She loved shopping and high fashion, and she had a wardrobe that any Hollywood celebrity would die for. Yet most of her escapades in her life were carried out in her nightgown. As my sister Darlene shared in her eulogy, my mom had no problem walking into an ice-cream store to buy milkshakes for her and my sister dressed in her nightgown with only a short jacket over her top. She just didn’t care what people thought.
DREAMS OF A CHILD
The last time I spoke in public about my mom was on my wedding day back in 1984. It was also the day known as Lag B’ Omer. This was five years before I had even met my teachers, Kabbalist Rav Berg and Karen Berg. This was five years before I had ever heard about the word Kabbalah, let alone the funny Hebrew term known as Lag B’ Omer, which means “the 33rd Day of the Omer.”
The only reason Marianne and I were married on Lag B’Omer was because it just happened to fall on her birthday that particular year. Amazingly, the rabbi who married us was named Shraga Feivel, the same name as my teacher Kabbalist Rav Berg, who I would meet years later.
I had told a story that day about my mom. When I was around 13, my parents were still together but their marriage was in rough shape, as were the family finances. I wanted a Super 8 movie camera more than anything to make movies with my friends. We did not have the money. My dad had moved to England for a few years to start a new business and my mom was left all alone to raise us. She had to get a job to support us. One day I went to visit her at her office and she shoved $500 cash into my hand. She told me to go buy the camera. I told that story at my wedding and now I am telling it on the same holiday of Lag B’ Omer, which is now the day of my mom’s burial. Sadly, the decades race by at the speed of light.
That one story I had told has now become a metaphor for her life. She always supported our dreams. Always. There was never a negative comment about something that we aspired for. Make no mistake, my mom, had no problem complaining about her life. And she always could find fault in us for things like not calling her enough or not being a doting enough son. And she could start an argument with me and not let up until she drove me crazy.
But she never, ever, attempted to diminish my dreams. She always believed in them and in me. Her confidence in me is what sustained me during those difficult years, giving me the confidence I needed in life. So profound.
She also never held a grudge. No matter how much a friend or family member had offended her, insulted her, or snubbed her, she forgave and she forgot. My mom could argue with the best of them. My dad once told me my mom had the chutzpah to even argue with a physicist, on a topic she knew nothing about, and that she’d debate the physicist into submission. But in spite of her argumentative nature and debating skills, she never held a grudge against anyone.
My mom was not a deeply philosophical or spiritual person. Yet she said a few things that had always stuck with me. She said life is truly a dream. And one day we will wake up and realize there is another reality. I once overheard her say that if we saw true reality, there would probably be mass suicides because it’s so amazing there. And this is why we are not allowed to know the truth about it. After thirty years of studying Kabbalah, my mom got pretty darn close to the ultimate truth.
But now, in this article, and during the funeral on Sunday, we are hearing personal stories from the people who were close to her.
But what does the universe have to say about my mom? Now that she has left this physical world, what does God have to say about my mom? One way to take measure of a person on a cosmic scale, is to examine how they left this material realm. You can learn something from the bits and pieces of the way they left the world.
During my eulogy, I told our friends and family that we were supposed to be gathered here five years ago. The doctors had said that she had an incurable and aggressive form of kidney cancer. She would not live out the year. I told my mom that the Zohar and Kabbalah water could get her a miracle. For many years, my mother was not fond of my studies in Kabbalah. She thought I was actually crazy on ocasssions.
But she eventually turned around and she opened up her heart to the Zohar. A few months later, she called me on the phone crying her eyes out. Her doctor said she had gotten a miracle because the cancer was gone. Gone! She was sobbing as she said, “You saved me. The Zohar saved me!”
I told her that she had saved herself. There are no miracles without our participation.
She told me not tell my sisters because they will think she’s crazy. Thankfully, my sisters also participated in using the Zohar and my mom got an extra five years of life.
Which leads to a question:
What is greatness?
Greatness is not determined by all of our wonderful, endearing traits, like the positive traits I mentioned earlier about my mom. There are no brownie points in the game of life for all the good qualities that we were born with. Rather, we create Light and miracles by finding our negative traits and changing them, even if just a little.
My mom throughout her difficult life always lamented: “I have been so good all of my life, why were things so difficult?” And she would complain often at not being able to reconcile her life.
She was of the view that we are judged only on our good traits. Therefore, she concluded that life was simply unfair. After all, she had a warm and loving heart, and yet her life had been so filled with so much hardship. And it was.
During those arguments with her, I tried to share with her the teachings of Kabbalah, explaining the concept of the Opponent and the need to uproot our dark side and transform a little each year of our life.
As a kid and as an adult, when ever I brought up how my mom treated her sister (my aunt) Anita, my mom would fly off the handle and scream how horrible her own childhood had been.
She did have a difficult childhood. But so did her sister. My aunt Anita was a schizophrenic. This was during the 1940s. In those days, treatments for schizophrenia were barbaric. My aunt Anita had a lobotomy as a teen. A lobotomy is when a surgeon cuts out a portion of the brain. The lobotomy broke my grandfather and grandmother’s heart. How difficult it must have been for them to see their first born daughter become a simpleton with part of her brain now gone.
My mom resented her sister because she had gotten all the attention during those unbearable years.
My aunt had now become a simple, pleasant, but quiet person who never left the house until the day she died during in her late 60s.
She loved my mom and always tried to get her attention but my mom found it difficult to embrace and engage her.
Again, I ask, so what is greatness?
The last time I saw mom in person was 6 weeks ago. It was just before Passover. On my last night at her condo, my mom was in terrible pain from the cancer. I can now tell you that there is something worse than burying your mom. And that’s watching your mother writhe in pain from cancer. I couldn’t handle it. So I told her to open the Zohar and put it on her stomach where the pain was.
Then I knew what I had to do.
I said if you want relief from the pain, if you want a small miracle, we need to go inside. I brought up the situation with her sister Anita. I was expecting my mom to scream her head off at me.
Instead she burst into tears and said, “I know, I was terrible towards her. I know, I know.”
I brought up a few more issues and my mom took 100% resonsibility for all of it, in a way I had never seen my whole life. I was so proud of her my heart soared.
Suddenly, I knew she had just done the viduey prayer, which is a confession of one’s sins before they leave this world.
She admitted to me how she loved to start up and fight with people but that she could not help herself. She was identifying the Opponent inside of her for the first time in her life.
That is greatness. To find and admit ones’s fault is the true test of character.
She sobbed and sobbed and she told me she had never spoken like this in all her life and it had just come pouring out of her.
And then she was stunned because the pain in her stomach had vanished!
When I left her condo that night in Toronto, I told my wife Marianne that that was probably the last time I will see her alive, physically. I knew she just dine what she had to do before leaving this world.
Last Friday, my sister texted me at 6:00 AM. My mom had taken a turn for the worse. I went for a walk and started meditating on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author and the embodiment of the miraculous energy and Light that is the Zohar.
I was chanting his name.
And then I got a sign; a message from the Rav. It was clear as day. The Rav told me to call upon him to help. I began calling upon the Rav and suddenly I got another sign. And another sign. For the record, I have a signaling system with the Rav that allows me to communicate with him when I need immediate guidance. That’s all I will say about it. Suffice to say, the signs came in a flurry and it took my breath away. I was sobbing as I walked the streets because of the energy and clarity of the signs.
I came back home and texted back and forth with my sisters throughout the day.
At around 4:00 LA time, as I was still texting with my sisters, a thought popped into my head. A message from the Rav. I was to open up the Torah book for that Shabbat to see what the Rav had to say about the portion of the week known as Emor.
And I had to do it right now.
I got up from my desk, found the book, opened to the page of Emor. I quickly skimmed what the Rav had written twenty years ago. It was all about the illusion of death and how when a person is buried in the ground they are absolutely not really dead. And it was about immortality as well. It was about human consciousness and our need to recognize that our consciousness must overcome the opponent and recognize that immortality is possible—or it won’t be.
I was so excited when I read that. I called my sisters on the phone to let them know what the Rav had written about in this particular portion. My sister Darlene answered and she said, “Oh my God, mom just stopped breathing! How did you know to call right now?”
Thank you Rav.
My mom left with the power and Light of Shabbat, the portion of Emor, the power of death being an illusion and the secrets of immortality. It was insane.
The Kabbalists teach that when a person leaves with the energy of Shabbat, their soul goes straight up into true reality. There is no cleansing or purifying process for the soul, which is often quite painful. This was the greatest blessing in the world. It would be like waking up from a dream into true reality.
But even greater, the very next day, which is her burial, it happened to be Lag B’ Omer. The 33rd day of the Omer. And this day was also my 33rd Wedding Anniversary with Marianne.
And it was Mother’s Day.
Here’s the amazing part: Lag B’ Omer is all about the Light of the Zohar, the very day when Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai left this world. There were 250,000 people at this moment in Israel on Lag B’ Omer, connecting to the grave site of Rabbi Shimon to capture some of this immortality energy. Imagine 250, 000 gathering because of the power of this day. 99 percent of the world had no clue about this!
And my mom was also being buried at the same time.
This is the day that contains what the Kabbalists call the Hidden Light, the Light that will bring the Messiah to this world and end of death forever. The Kabbalists say this day has the exact same power as Mount Sinai when Moses brought down the tablets during revelation. Mount Sinai was all about the Light of immortality. So Lag B Omer and Mount Sinai are the same event, according to the Kabbalists.
This is the day when the Light will tear down the curtains and true reality will be revealed to us on earth and we will all reunite with all the souls of history in physical form. That is what the concept of Messiah is all about.
We wake from this dream.
Please understand that Lag B’ Omer rarely follows Shabbat. And it early happens on Mother’s Day. It just so happened that this year, it did.
This was a 48-hour-window that is so rare; a window of pure Light that embodies the Light of Shabbat and the end of death and the power of the Hidden Light and the Messiah. All of it wrapped up for my mom on her day of passing and her day of burial. And to top it off, Karen Berg was texting us live from Israel from Rabbi Shimon and other Kabbalistic grave sites during the funeral. So my mom was wired into the 99 percent reality, the raw naked power of the Zohar and the realm of awesome Light from every possible angle.
And still there’s more:
Also in this Torah Portion of Emor, there is a name of a famous Kabbalist who lived 500 years ago, encoded into the Torah scroll. This great Kabbalist revealed ALL the secrets of resurrection of the dead and immortality. His name is Abraham Azulay. His last name AZULAY is encoded into the Torah portion. So now we have another secret encoded in this one Torah portion concerning immorality and resurrection, further strengthening the power of the end of death for all humanity on this Shabbat.
In Kabbalah Centres around the world this past Shabbat, everyone stopped to mediate upon this name of AZULAY when it came up during the Torah reading Saturday morning. In fact, we stop and meditate upon this part of the Torah every year when we come across the name AZULAY.
Well, after I had shoveled the dirt into my mom’s grave, my daughter Arielle said, “Dad, look at the grave next to mom.” There were two headstones that said AZULAY.
Here they are below:
When a person passes from this world, the Zohar says that the souls of one’s departed family come to greet them. Two days before my mom passed, she was talking in Yiddish to her dead relatives while she was asleep. And then she screamed out in English to her husband Bill, who passed 16 years earlier. She said, “Bill, pick me up on Sunday.”
Bill was there on Sunday, on Lag B’ Omer courtesy of the Rav and Rabbi Shimon to meet my mom.
One final story I will share concerned the night she passed as the Shabbat rolled in. We tried to get a shomer for my mom—a person to be with the body until burial. The funeral home could not get someone for Friday night so she was going to be alone.
During Shabbat dinner at my home in Los Angeles last Friday, with Marianne and the kids, I spoke to my mom. I literally said, “flick the freaking lights in my house if you are here and let me know it’s true that death is an utter illusion.”
After dinner, we all went into the den to study the Zohar. I opened the Zohar to this week’s portion of Emor. The page that opened was all about what happens to the body after death and the importance of burial and not leaving the body alone.
I said to my wife and kids, this is our chance to protect my mom. We started reading the Zohar in both Aramaic and English. Suddenly Arielle screamed out as she pointed to the kitchen, “Look!”
The kitchen lights were flashing. On and off. On and off. If they had flicked even just once, I would say that was an amazing sign and miracle. But they kept flashing on and off for 3-4 minutes.
I mean, it wouldn’t stop!
We just stood there watching as the lights went on and off, on and off.
The kitchen was like a freaking disco.
Finally after some 4 minutes it stopped. But you know what ? The bulb didn’t burn out. It was not a short circuit or a fading light bulbs in the ceiling.
The lights just stayed on. And on. And they are still on today. In 13 years in my house, a light had never flickered even once, let alone on and off for 4 minutes.
Four days before my mom left, she said to the doctor, “I want to go out in style.”
Mom you went out in style. All those miracles are testament to your soul and your essence.
And no words or actions will ever be able to convey my gratitude and love to the Rav and Karen for giving me the wisdom and the tools that were so miraculous during this critical moment of my life.
Mom, you were given the two greatest days possible — one for your passing and one for your burial! You left with the Light of Shabbat and you were buried on the 33rd Day of the Omer, on the 33rd Anniversary of my wedding, and on Mother’s Day and the very day the embodies the end of death and the arrival of the Messiah and immorality. Wow! I think we should’ve buried you in your nightgown. 🙂
And then you flicked the lights on and off from the upper world where you are now, and after flipping those lights on and off for four minutes, the lights had remained on.
The lights remained on!