AS: This is your 10th collection of stories. Wow! How do you keep them coming, so fresh, varied and new?
RBP: Baruch Hashem I have had tremendous siyata di’Shmaya in finding great, inspirational stories. People are eager to share their stories with me as they know how a great story can make an everlasting impact on countless lives.
AS: There was a poignant backstory to how this book was written. Can you share it briefly with the readers?
RBP: Last summer I met someone in a bungalow colony who told me that my books really gave him chizuk. He went on to tell me how his son who was in his twenties and married was stricken with a serious disease. I then shared with him a vort about the power of strengthening another Jew and asked him to share this vort with his son. I also said that we had to do something as a zechus for his son. The next Shabbos I told him that I was going to write a book about strengthening other people in tough times. Although, tragically, this young man passed away, I began to collect stories about how people strengthened others and also about how we can strengthen ourselves.
AS: How do we “strengthen” people’s hearts – including our own?
RBP: Hashem gave every person tremendous kochos. We all know someone who is going through a hard time, whether they are in need of parnassah, a refuah, a shidduch or in some other area of life. By reaching out to such people, by thinking about them, by giving them a call and showing true concern you can uplift them and truly strengthen them.
As for strengthening ourselves, we have to keep working on our emunah and bitachon in Hashem. When our relationship with Hashem is strong it empowers us to soar above the bumps and hurdles that life may bring us.
AS: What are some of your favorite stories in this collection?
RBP: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. The rebbi who is stranded in a Chicago airport in a snowstorm and has an incredible encounter. How about the rabbi who won’t let a nasty prison official get in the way of his strengthening another Yid. Perhaps the boy who wanted a chocolate bar for davening well — and heaven answered him. They are all great and sure to strengthen your heart!