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A CHAIN REACTION TO BRING REDEMPTION
Afterwards I began to think to myself: I do not know this lady who wrote the letter to me, nor does she know me. she has merely heard of my name, and sought advice from me, etc. If so, what is the intent of this chain letter coming to my attention?! eventually I concluded that the purpose is to utilize this approach for the sake of holiness. * on publicizing the words of the chida and the Radak on bringing about the redemption.
Translated by Boruch Merkur
1. Once a certain Torah scholar commented to me about the words of the Chida, of blessed memory, in his book Midbar Kadmos, on the section about hope, saying: “It states in Yalkut T’hillim remez 736 that even if a Jew has no merit other than hope, he is fit to be redeemed – in virtue of his hope ... On this basis, the great rabbi Rabbeinu Yosef Dovid [the Chida] elucidates ... ‘the wording of the blessing, “Speedily cause the scion of Dovid, Your servant, to flourish, and increase his power by Your salvation, for we hope for Your salvation all day.” Saying “for we hope for Your salvation all day” is difficult to understand, for what reason does this provide for our salvation? If we rightfully deserve salvation, it would be attained without hope. And if not, what benefit is there in hope? However, according to what was said above [in Yalkut T’hillim], the difficulty is resolved, reading the blessing as follows: “Speedily
cause the scion of Dovid, etc.,” and if it were said that we have no merit, nevertheless, “flourish...for we hope for Your salvation” – we have hope, and in reward for this hope it is fitting that You redeem us.’” The same message is found – in an astonishing[ly severe] style – in the commentary of the Radak on Nach, at the end of Shmuel II: “‘So the L-rd was entreated for the land and the plague was stayed from the Jewish people,’ meaning G-d accepted the prayer of the inhabitants of the land. Understood exegetically, all the others, the thousands who died in the time of Dovid, died only because they did not beseech Hashem for the Holy Temple. It follows logically from this that since those who lived prior to the time when the Holy Temple stood, and who did not live in the aftermath of its destruction, nevertheless lost their lives on account of their neglect to petition for it, how much more so does
the severity of this message apply to us, for we have had the Holy Temple in our days and live in the aftermath of its destruction. Thus, the elders and the prophets implanted in the mouths of the Jewish people to pray three times a day, ‘return Your Divine Presence and your kingdom to Tziyon, and the order of your service to Yerushalayim,” and the Radak concludes, “Amen, may it be His will forever.” Practically speaking: As has been observed from the questions and complaints voiced regarding the hope and anticipation and the clamoring for the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, there are those who are evidently unaware of the words of the Chida and the Radak mentioned above. Therefore it is appropriate and proper that one should publish these matters in a “newspaper.” It must be underscored, however, that this should not be done in my name. Unfortunately there are those who upon hearing that this was said by so and so will argue that the opposite is more logical ... (as is known from similar cases, but now is not the time to elaborate on this). In addition, as far as we are concerned – that is, with regard to the topic of redemption – it
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is particularly important to cite the original author, as our Sages say, “All those who say something in the name of the author bring redemption to the world.” Thus, this matter should be publicized in the name of the original author, both with regard to the words of Radak as well as the words of Chida, by quoting their teachings precisely, word for word, in addition to citing the source etc., in order to bring merit to our Jewish brethren who do not possess these texts. 2. Another related matter, but first a parenthetical preface, in continuation with what was said above: Among the correspondence I have received of late was a letter from a woman who was extremely distraught. What was bothering her? I received a letter – the woman writes – at the end of which the author requests of me, the reader, to make ten copies and send them to ten people. The author continues that in the merit of doing so, the reader will receive a reward, etc., and that the converse is true as well. That is, if the reader does not comply, it is unspeakable what could happen to him or her. In fact, the author asserts, a causal pattern as such has already been noted, for the results were such and such… The content of the letter is filled with idiocy... The author remains anonymous, and the woman does not know from where the letter came. Nevertheless, the lady asks, since she has received such a fright, if it is acceptable for her to send out the ten copies in order to assuage her doubt. Naturally I answered the lady that she should tear up the letter ... and that she should completely remove the matter from her mind! I also quoted the verse, “Thus
states the L-rd, do not learn from the ways of the Gentiles, and from the signs of heaven do not fear, for the Gentiles fear them,” meaning, even when we are speaking about “heaven,” Jews have nothing to fear, for this sort of fear is “the ways of the Gentiles...for the Gentiles fear them.” Afterwards I began to think to myself: I do not know this lady who wrote the letter to me, nor does she know me. She has merely heard of my name, and sought advice from me, etc. If so, what is the intent of this occurrence coming to my attention?! Eventually I concluded that the purpose is to utilize this approach for the sake of holiness. But first, to preface: Every single thing in the world must be used for a holy purpose. Regarding forbidden things, they must be entirely rejected and nullified, but regarding permissible things, the approach must be, “all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven.” Indeed, it is clear that the purpose of every thing created in the world is that it should provide some benefit with regard to matters of holiness. In fact, even regarding something that is permitted but was used until now in an undesirable manner, one should seek out strategies to utilize it for holiness, in accordance with its purpose for which it was created. This is so even if until now, one used it for matters that are the opposite of holiness. For example, our Sages say, “the world was not fit to use gold. Why then was it created? For the sake of the Holy Temple.” To apply the above to our discussion: When we see that there exists in the world a concept of sending
a letter to ten people, requesting of each recipient to send out copies to an additional group of ten people and so on (in the local lexicon, chain reaction), this method should be employed for matters of holiness, publicizing something good among our Jewish brethren (so long as there is the slightest possibility that there is someone who is still unaware of this good thing). With regard to the imminent redemption, this amounts to publicizing the matters discussed above about hoping and yearning and petitioning G-d for the coming of our righteous Moshiach, by means of every person sending a letter (citing what is written in the aforementioned texts) to ten Jews, and that they should each send it to ten more Jews, etc., in a manner of continually adding in light. A certain context for this instruction, however, should be noted. There are those who are called “shpitz Chabadniks” ... and when they hear this kind of thing said in public, in a synagogue and in a study hall, they will leave aside all their concerns and get involved solely in writing letters to tens and tens of Jews. Therefore, I hereby emphasize that it is sufficient that each person write to no more than ten Jews, and if any free time remains, he should learn Torah! ... Regarding all the other Jews (those to whom he did not send letters), someone else will write to them – perhaps one of the ten that he did write to, for example. 3. It goes without saying that the concept of sending letters designed to “frighten” a Jew, G-d forbid, or even a Gentile, is utterly ruled out. When writing to a Jew one should write only blessings.
(From the address of Shabbos Parshas Lech Lecha 7 MarCheshvan 5746, bilti muga)
Issue 853 • �
s someone whose life’s course was somewhat unusual, it was important to me to get my story in writing, mainly for our younger generation, who are the future of the nation. I want them to know that the wide expanses of the sea, foreign and exotic shores and all the delights of the world, are all G-d’s wonders. There is nothing to it all if they are not a springboard
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FROM THE HIGH SEAS TO 770
“I had yechidus at two in the morning. I stood there facing the Rebbe and I, the tough sailor who wasn’t afraid in the face of mighty waves that threatened my ship, lost my bravado with a split second glance from the Rebbe. I was mute.” * The life story of Uziel Paltin, a sailor for many years who crossed the Atlantic and saw Hashem’s hashgacha pratis.
By Nosson Avrohom
for awareness of the Creator and following in His ways, the ways of Torah.” That is how Uzi Paltin began his story which he wrote in 5753 with the Rebbe’s bracha. When we met, upon the recommendation of a friend of mine, I found a modest individual who was not thrilled about publicity. “It was already written,” he said to my request that he tell me
about his life. He said he prefers putting his time and energy into looking for tidbits and gematrios about the tribe of Z’vulun. That is what he is busy with these days. “I am in the final stages of writing a book about the secrets of the tribe of Z’vulun, the most fascinating tribe, in my opinion.” It’s not very difficult to guess why an old sea dog like him is enamored of the tribe of Z’vulun …
The following article is a composite of many conversations I had with Paltin. This is in addition to looking at his book and hearing gripping sea yarns, adventures of sailors along with the internal thought processes and struggles that, according to Paltin, are also an inseparable part of the lives of sailors who spend weeks and months navigating their ships in the Atlantic.
Issue 853 • �
FAR FROM SHORE
As a child, Uzi breathed the rarefied air of Yerushalayim. He was born in the Zichron Yosef neighborhood. His parents, Matisyahu and Tova Paltin, were G-d fearing Jews with tremendous emunas chachomim (faith in Torah sages), and they sought to instill these values in their children whom they sent to religious schools. “My personal transformation began after I turned ten and my mother became sick. We had to leave Yerushalayim and move to Tel Aviv. My parents bought a home on Rechov Baal Shem Tov in a southern part of the city. I attended the religious Tachkemoni School and my parents worked hard to raise me in the ways of the Torah. “It was 1948 and the atmosphere in Eretz Yisroel, especially in Tel Aviv, was one of fear and tension along with heady feelings of independence that led many to abandon their heritage. A new nation had risen up in Eretz Yisroel that felt entitled to cast off the ways of its fathers and to construct a system free of any faith, Torah and mitzvos. Unfortunately, I and my siblings got caught up in this national excitement to the sorrow of my parents. My youth included a period of training in a program at Kibbutz Be’eri in the Negev. In Tel Aviv, I became acquainted with the sea. “I lived near the ocean and we spent many hours there. My brother and I became outstanding swimmers and we spent a lot of time fishing. The sea was both therapeutic for me as well as a place of adventure. One beautiful autumn day, when I was sixteen, I saw a ship anchor in Yaffo’s port about two kilometers from the shore. I decided I would swim
out to it. I asked my brother to join me but he refused. It wasn’t easy swimming such a great distance, but I was determined and he finally agreed to join me. “We swam and swam until we became exhausted. When we looked behind us, we saw we had swum quite far. People on the shore looked like matchsticks. ‘Maybe we should turn back,’ my brother suggested worriedly, but I was determined to reach the ship and touch it. ‘What difference does it make if we swim further or turn back?’ I retorted. ‘We are closer to the ship.’ He continued swimming with me. The ship’s captain looked at us in astonishment. Where had these two human fish come from? They immediately lowered a lifeboat and took us to shore where we kept vomiting up the water we had swallowed.” Uzi was questioned by the coast guard about this adventure, but the experience did not dampen his love for the sea; on the contrary. His dream was to steer a ship on the ocean. Not surprisingly, when he became of draft age, he joined the navy, at his request. Within a short time he had become a sailor on the frigate class warship named the K-28 or Mivtach (INS Reliance). “It was a small ship even by the standards of the time. Our main job was coastal missions. Even when we sailed out to deeper waters for training exercises, these forays were brief. My love of the sea grew until it was my entire world. “I looked forward eagerly to a voyage across the world. I considered that to be the ultimate adventure. Today, in hindsight, I realize that I had a strong desire to disconnect from my past and to feel as free as possible. One day, we were told that we
would be sailing to Naples, Italy. I and my fellow sailors rejoiced at the news but were soon disappointed. Shortly after we set sail a severe storm arose and instead of an adventure, we turned back. However, the pull of the sea did not let up and we anticipated another voyage. It never happened.”
“As soon as I was released from the navy, I joined a merchant fleet and sailed with them for many years. My first voyage was in a ship called HaShlosha. This was a small boat with not much engine power. No wonder it took us nearly two weeks to reach Genoa, Italy. In that amount of time a large ship could cross the Atlantic, going from Haifa to New York. “It is hard to describe to what extent, on every voyage, we see the hand of G-d. A ship is literally like a walnut shell in the face of the powerhouse of nature. Over the course of many years working at sea, I went through endless numbers of heartstopping adventures. A pity that in those days I was far from being religiously observant and did not know chapter 107 of T’hillim where it says, ‘Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do work on great waters; They have seen the works of Hashem and His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind which lifted up the waves of the sea.’ Every sailor can tell stories about storms at sea and mighty waves as well as the feeling that in another moment you will descend into the depths. How great is the joy when you reach safe shores. The feeling cannot be described in words. “Yes, there were a few particularly hairy episodes. I
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will tell you about one which occurred in 5721. We sailed from Haifa on the Har HaCarmel and our destination was the US. On the way, we entered the area known as the Bermuda Triangle, which is infamous for the violent storms there. Sailors call it a ships’ graveyard, because of the numerous ships that have sunk there. “During the voyage we enjoyed calm days, but at sea everything can change in an instant. One day, as we traveled serenely along, the captain, a Finn, decided to go down into the bowels of the ship. He was a chevraman and he decided to paint the inner walls of the ship’s store rooms where the paint had peeled off. He wasn’t lazy and he didn’t mind doing menial tasks. At times like these, he would assign veteran sailors to the wheel including myself. “A few hours went by and our instruments indicated that a big storm was heading our way. We quickly sent a sailor to the captain to inform him of developments but with a ship that size, it took time. “We knew that during a storm we had to immediately close and lock all the store rooms and stow all loose objects in all the rooms. However, the young sailor, who was inexperienced, decided to open all the doors and lean all the planks as if he was taking a leisurely trip. In the meantime, the storm had arrived and he found himself under intense pressure. He lost his senses and tried to move a big beam, but the strong winds tossed him into one of the store rooms from a height of 15 meters. A few of us hurried down into the bowels of the ship; we were sure he wouldn’t make it out alive. We lowered ropes and ladders and when we got there,
“I looked forward eagerly to a voyage across the world. I considered that to be the ultimate adventure. Today, in hindsight, I realize that I had a strong desire to disconnect from my past and to feel as free as possible.” TRAVERSING THE ATLANTIC
The dangers in sailing ships across the sea are enormous. Four years after that experience in which a crew member was injured, the statistics caught up with Uzi. It was a cold and stormy day in 5725. He and his mates were coming and going from European ports like Marseilles, France and Rotterdam, Holland. “On that voyage, we were sailing the merchant ship Esrog for the Zim Lines. We entered the Kiel Canal with Copenhagen, Denmark our destination. The Danish flag was already hoisted on the masthead and we were met by snow and freezing cold. We were wearing ski caps and
we saw he was seriously injured. “Fortunately for him, there was an American aircraft carrier in the vicinity. We knew that aircraft carriers had superior medical staff and even an operating room and so we radioed them. The storm was in full force and there was no way that a helicopter could fly or land under those conditions. Having no choice, and entailing great danger, we raised him up on a stretcher to the upper deck which rolled with the waves. Every shift caused him great pain. We stood by his side and kept up his spirits until the storm died down. Then the Americans took him and treated him. It was a stormy experience in more ways than one.”
Issue 853 • �
consciousness. “When I woke up, I heard a commotion around me. It turned out I had been severely injured. A doctor who had been called for from the shore by the captain wanted me moved immediately to a hospital. I stayed in the hospital in Denmark for sixteen days until I recovered. I did not recognize that I had been saved by a miracle and my life given to me as a gift. Back then, I did not think about Torah and mitzvos. Every day at sea provided me with new horizons of freedom. I spent a lot of time in conversations with Jewish and gentile sailors. We spoke about every topic under the sun including spiritual matters, but they did not lead me in the desired direction. It is interesting that these sailors, known for their toughness, turned out to be dear Jews. Despite everything, their Jewish hearts were awake to Judaism. When you learn Chassidus, it is all understood. A Jew is literally a part of G-d above. But even without learning, if you think about it, it will strike you how a Jew remains a Jew no matter the circumstances. “One of the special moments I experienced was on a long voyage I made. We sailed on the Har HaGilboa to the United States with an itinerary spread out over 21 months in which I was away from Eretz Yisroel. It was a very difficult trip, especially when the ship wasn’t loaded with cargo and it was thrown about like a walnut shell in even the mildest breeze. This is hard, even for someone used to the waves. When it’s like this, even the veterans look forward to the end of the storm. “During this difficult trip, we crossed the Atlantic Ocean no less than 123 times. When we were approaching the end, the
ANSWERS FROM THE REBBE
Over the years, R’ Uzi received many answers from the Rebbe. He shares three of them with us: When I asked the Rebbe for a bracha to start writing my book, I did not receive an answer for some time. Then R’ Leibel Groner called me and gave me the answer: It requires much analysis whether it is possible, in the life of a sailor, to observe the laws of Shabbos and Yom Tov. His daily conduct should be in accordance with the instructions of our Torah, the Torah of life. Check t’fillin and mitzvos. I will mention it at the gravesite. Right before printing the book which was written in the merit of the Rebbe in 5753, I asked the Rebbe for a bracha and this is what R’ Goner wrote to me: The Rebbe nodded his head in agreement and blessing for the printing of your book. On my birthday, in 5746, I asked the Rebbe for a bracha and asked how I should conduct myself. The Rebbe’s response was: On the Shabbos before the birthday, an aliya to the Torah. On the birthday, tz’daka before Shacharis and before Mincha. Chitas and an additional shiur in Nigleh and Chassidus. I will mention it at the gravesite. wrapped in scarves, sweaters and coats. “We pulled into port late at night. I was glad I had no guard duty and could do as I pleased. I went to my cabin and hung the sign, ‘I am sleeping. Please be quiet.’ I felt into an exhausted sleep. I was woken up early in the morning when the ship had already anchored in the port. The snow and wind continued to whirl about outside. Whoever did not have to go out, stayed put. “Now, whenever the ship was anchored in port, we would tie strong ropes to the pier and cut the engine. When we wanted to leave, the ropes would be untied and we would begin sailing out into the open sea. My job was to bring the rope back to the ship. It is simple to do when the weather is calm, but dangerous in wintry weather when the rope has a large iron hook on the end. Strong winds howled outside and I had a hard time controlling the rope; it was absolutely taut. “Then a frantic cry was heard. ‘Let go of the rope!’ I screamed at the man on the shore, ‘It’s going to rip!’ Within seconds, the thick rope, which seemed capable of withstanding any wind and any exigencies of nature, ripped from the force of the 6000 ton ship buffeted by the heavy winds. The rope made a complete circuit in the air and then landed on me, full-force. I felt everything turn white around me. It was hard for me to breathe. My instinct said to breathe; I tried, breathing once, twice, and then I lost
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crew was ecstatic. The plan was to drop anchor in the port of Haifa, but a last minute change had us head for the port in Tel Aviv. Since the port at Tel Aviv is not set up for large ships, we had to get into little boats that would bring us to shore. When we finally finished setting the anchor, we waited for a small boat to take us. “Each of us waited impatiently to meet family members and to rest up from the long trip. We saw a small boat approaching. At first, it looked tiny, like a dot on the horizon, but it slowly grew. When it touched our ship, I was so moved to see my father, R’ Matisyahu. I have no words with which to describe the excitement I felt. He unfastened himself and jumped towards me onto the ship. I noticed that his beard had grown white and he was more bent over. I hadn’t seen him for nearly two years. I immediately took him to my cabin to rest. “After resting briefly, he asked me which way was east. It was late in the day and he wanted to daven Mincha. My friends were surprised by his question – since when was he a sailor who wanted to know which way the winds were blowing? Then my father asked me to get ten Jews together to form a minyan. Nobody refused him and all joined with great respect. It was quite an unusual sight. I saw how my father stood in the center, surrounded by sailors dressed in overalls with hammers, knives, screwdrivers and other tools hanging from their belts, and all stood silently with the lapping of the waves heard loudly in the background.”
“We saw a small boat approaching. At first, it looked tiny, like a dot on the horizon, but it slowly grew. When it touched our ship, I was so moved to see my father, R’ Matisyahu. I have no words with which to describe the excitement I felt.”
saw that the place was lit up and many people were coming and going as though it was two in the afternoon. I was curious enough to park the car and go inside. I was amazed by everything I saw. I just stood there and looked around. “As I stood there, bareheaded, R’ Shraga Zalmanov (shliach in Queens) came over to me and put a hat on my head and began talking to me as though we were old acquaintances. R’ Zalmanov was warm and self confident and had lots of Jewish pride. He moved quickly from questions like ‘Where are you from’ and “What do you do’ to t’fillin, Shabbos, and establishing times to learn Nigleh and Chassidus. “I can’t forget how, before we parted, he explained that a Jew has two souls, one animal and one G-dly, and just like we feed the animal soul physical
Issue 853 • �
770 AND TWO SOULS
no Years went by and Uzi could longer tolerate lengthy
voyages. “There comes a time when you decide it’s enough. I had fully experienced life as a sailor and I wanted to do something else. In 5726 I decided to return to dry land. I settled in New York where my ties to tradition were exceedingly weak. “Following the deaths of my parents, I visited Eretz Yisroel and then returned to New York. Like many Israelis at that time, I drove a taxi and made money. I also married and had a family and was sure my life was set. “All this changed when I was asked to drive a passenger from Manhattan to Crown Heights. The passenger was clearly religious and the address he wanted was 770 Eastern Parkway. The address did not mean anything to me. It was nighttime and when he got out I
am with the Chabad Chassidim. I am amazed as I take in the atmosphere and I already feel and think differently. I can say that the beginning is hard, and sometimes it is too hard to bear, but I feel that something is shifting within me. “Slowly, I feel the atmosphere, the atmosphere of k’dusha, bringing me to the point where superficial things and the nonsense of the world are starting to interest me less. It is clear that all this did nothing for me in the past but just weakened me. As the Chassidim put it – it strengthened the animal soul within me. “Every day, spiritual sensibilities are strengthened within me. I have a picture of the Rebbe in my room in which he is wearing t’fillin and it seems to me that he is looking at me and saying: Carry on! Don’t despair and don’t retreat. Taste it and see how our holy Torah is all joy. “I also watched him as I stood next to him during davening. He had no connection to the nonsense of this world. Just being in his presence is an experience beyond human comprehension. He is with you, and at the same time, he is in another world, cleaving to G-d, and yet he sees you and knows your thoughts, even when he is not directly thinking of you. The moment his gaze is fixed on you, a shudder passes through you and your body begins to tremble.”
R’ Uzi with galleys of his book on the tribe of Z’vulun food, we need to feed the G-dly soul the food it requires, spiritual food, Torah study and the doing of mitzvos. Otherwise, it starves, and starving isn’t healthy. “I left 770 with new insights and deep thoughts. I thought back to my childhood, to my parents, to the holidays that we religiously observed. I felt a sudden yearning for my parents’ home, the shul, for Torah study and mitzvos. I became a regular visitor to 770. “The high point was yechidus with the Rebbe. That year, 5741, I had yechidus at two in the morning. I stood in the Rebbe’s room and the hardened sailor who knew no fear, even in the face of massive waves that threatened to break the ship, lost his courage in the face of a second’s glance from the Rebbe. I couldn’t say a word. Before I walked in, I had thought of asking the Rebbe questions, but once inside the room, I didn’t dare open my mouth. “The Rebbe blessed me and when he finished, I left and decided to change my way of life. The Rebbe’s gaze changed my outlook on life 180 degrees. The Rebbe made me a baal t’shuva. “The very next day, I decided to investigate the depth of Judaism. I left my job and went to Yerushalayim. At first I attended R’ Yaakov Sofer’s Yeshivas Kaf HaChayim, but after a brief period I felt drawn to Lubavitch. The truth I had seen on the faces of the Chassidim is something you don’t see anywhere else; it was all with pleasantness and rooted in deep understanding. I remember that throughout my stay in yeshiva in Yerushalayim, the Rebbe’s eyes did not leave my mind’s eye. I could walk down the street and remember the Rebbe’s eyes and this brought me back to New York, this time – to 770.” *** From when he was a child, Uzi enjoyed expressing his feelings in writing. Uzi took up this hobby once again as he wrote of the many experiences he had, as well as the feelings he had in yechidus and in his mingling with the Chassidim in 770. This is what he wrote: “It is only nine days that I
REVEALER OF SECRETS
It didn’t take long before Uzi became a Chassid. He grew a beard and wore a suit and the hat that Chassidim wear. He lived in Crown Heights for many years. Now, after a lengthy sojourn during which he gained American
12 � • 10 Cheshvan 5773
citizenship, he decided to return to Yerushalayim and has settled in the Chabad community in Ramat Shlomo. He spends most of his time and energy on writing a book about the tribe of Z’vulun, all with authentic sources. “I feel that I’ve uncovered the secrets of the tribe of Z’vulun,” said R’ Uzi emotionally, and he shared a little bit of what he has written. He no longer goes to the physical ocean, but he does spend plenty of time with the one who represents him in Torah, i.e. Z’vulun. He says he can talk about this topic for four hours without a break. Towards the end, R’ Uzi spoke about his great love for the Rebbe and the amazing answers
he receives through the Igros Kodesh, which make him feel the Rebbe is still with us. “In 5762 I greatly desired going to 770 after not being there for a while. I put a letter in a volume of the Igros Kodesh and asked for a bracha for the trip. The answer I opened to was addressed to Rabbi Naftali Roth. The Rebbe wrote about Express service his wanting to ‘come here at Express service the Fully Computerized Fully end of Elul and return in Tishrei.’ Computerized What particularly amazed me was house close to chabad that the letter was number 5762 331 Kingston Ave. mosdos in 331 Kingston Ave. Migdal ha’emek nd and the next answer was #5763. Flr) Brooklyn NY 11213 (2(2nd Flr) Brooklyn NY 11213 I felt that the Rebbe was giving me a bracha to leave in Elul 5762 Get tickets within minutes! Get and to stay until Tishrei 5763. Iyour tickets within minutes! made the trip and was thrilled to Fax: (718) 493-4444 Fax: (718) 493-4444 be there.”
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Issue 853 • �
383 Kingston Ave. #94, Brooklyn, NY 11213
The doCTor looked aT The x-rays In amazemenT and asked:
“WAS THERE EVER A PROBlEM HERE?”
A young couple waiting anxiously for the birth of their first child had suddenly discovered that the fetus was suffering from a serious heart condition. And if that wasn’t enough, they quickly learned that there were other problems that simply made the situation worse. there wasn’t much time before the birth, and the doctors were urging them to undergo serious and complex examinations, until the Rebbe decided otherwise...
By Nosson Avraham Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
In the living room of the Suissa family from Moshav Amnon, a settlement in northern Eretz Yisroel, a picture of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach hangs prominently on the wall. “There’s a simple inscription written under the picture that I deeply identify with,” the head of the family, R’ Shimon, told us. ‘The people want Moshiach – because there’s only one true leader.’ Every time I learn or just rest in the living room, the Rebbe’s picture stands before me, alive and vibrant. My children don’t leave the house without the Rebbe’s picture in their wallet. Another one hangs in the carriage of my eldest grandson, born to my son Yitzchak, as a source of spiritual protection and salvation.” When R’ Shimon tells his
story, which took place quite recently, one can hear the emotion in his voice. This wasn’t exactly the first supernatural experience in his life. A few years ago, he had experienced another miracle through which he discovered the Rebbe and the segula of writing to the Rebbe in Igros Kodesh, but he wouldn’t give us any details about it. “It’s too personal,” he told us, but he’s already related the story about his grandson dozens of times to many people. “I give over a weekly Torah class in the local shul, and all this is in the merit of the Rebbe. When my daughterin-law told me about the medical problem the doctors had discovered with their son even before he was born, I immediately knew to whom to turn – the one whose brachos never go
unfulfilled. First, however, we had to make a proper vessel to hold the bracha.”
A ROUTINE EXAMINATION GONE AWRY
“When my son and daughterin-law told my wife and I that they were expecting their first child, and everything appeared to be normal, it was a day of great joy and happiness for us. We obviously were most anxious to hold our first grandson in our arms, but then the problems began. During a routine examination late in the pregnancy, the examining doctor informed my daughterin-law about a certain problem he had found. While the condition was not a common one, it wasn’t acute either. The
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doctors themselves didn’t seemed alarmed over their discovery, and they reassured the young couple that they had come across similar cases in the past, where despite the initial findings the child was born totally normal without any health problems. “However, in order to avoid any further risks, my daughterin-law went to check the fetus’ weight and overall development to make certain that everything was in proper order. The results proved most satisfactory. I saw this as a clear case of Divine Providence, as I had just begun that week to give over a Torah class based on the parable which compares the experience of exile to that of a woman about to give birth. We are trapped among the seventy nations of the world, and in order to break their spiritual
impurities, we have to hear seventy voices of holiness similar to a woman crying out from the pain prior to birth. “A few hours after I spoke about this in synagogue, my daughter-in-law and my son told me about everything that had transpired. I suggested that they make a good resolution to recite Chapter 20 of T’hillim each day. My daughter-in-law immediately agreed to my request, and she has said this chapter daily ever since. “They were about to go in for another examination, this time with a cardiologist. Nothing could have prepared them for the test results that would bring all of us into a state of deep melancholy. The doctors determined that the baby had a gap in his heart, a ‘congenital birth defect’ in medical terms. The senior
physician added that there was a hole in one of the ventricles of the heart. The latter problem would not be so serious on its own, were it not for the first diagnosis. The doctor pointed out that there had been numerous instances of children born with this defect, and they immediately underwent heart surgery after the birth to repair the problem. However, in this case, the situation was a bit more complex. “My son and daughter-in-law left the doctors’ offices filled with anguish and deep concern. This first pregnancy had progressed with a feeling of excitement, yet now they were facing a very complicated problem. I constantly tried to give them encouragement, but the doctors’ pessimistic declarations carried far more weight. The cardiologist
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suggested that they go for a genetic examination. “My daughter-in-law met with a geneticist, who suggested that she undergo further tests, which simply increased her sense of fear. Nevertheless, the doctor urged her to do the exam as soon as possible, since she was already rather late into her pregnancy. “After her appointment, my daughter-in-law told me about the difficult situation and her internal struggles over what she should do now. It was only six weeks before her scheduled due date, and I understood her waiting for? Without a moment’s hesitation, I called Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Levkivker from Tzfas. I told him the whole story and then asked if he could write a letter to the Rebbe on our behalf. “I had known Rabbi Levkivker for several years, ever since I had a store in Chatzor HaGlilit, where yeshiva bachurim would come from Tzfas each Friday to put t’fillin on local Jewish men and tell them some words of Torah and Chassidus. While I needed no help with putting on t’fillin, I was always happy to hear a weekly D’var “Now I was reminded of that incident, and I quickly contacted Rabbi Levkivker again to make use of his services. My request was for our first grandchild to be born healthy and strong, and I then asked whether my daughterin-law should do this potentially dangerous examination. He heard all the details, took down their names, and promised to get back to me as soon as possible. A short while later, the telephone rang; Rabbi Levkivker was on the line. He said that he wrote to the Rebbe for us, and when he opened the volume of Igros Kodesh, one page contained a ‘Mazel tov’ from the Rebbe for the birth of a new baby. On the second page, the Rebbe wrote, ‘When your wellsprings spread forth, the entire doubt will be removed.’ In the conversation that followed, Rabbi Levkivker recommended that my son should begin taking part in activities spreading the teachings of Chassidus. He suggested that he get in touch with the Chabad center nearest to his home, take some of the Chabad brochures on the weekly Torah portion, and give them out to at least ten people living on his settlement. Rabbi Levkivker calmed us when he said that if my son would do this, there will be no need whatsoever for the examination, because the Rebbe said that all doubt will be removed and everything will turn out fine. “I immediately called my son and told him about the answer. He accepted it with complete faith and got in touch that same day with the nearest Chabad center to his place of residence – the Chabad House in Ashdod. From that moment on, he always made certain to distribute the weekly parsha sheets to at least ten people, religious and secular alike. He continues the
“This first pregnancy had progressed with a feeling of excitement, yet now they were facing a very complicated problem. I constantly tried to give them encouragement, but the doctors’ pessimistic declarations carried far more weight.”
fears and emotions. ‘This is your decision,’ I told her, ‘but I am certain that you will make a proper vessel for a bracha if you agree to make some good resolutions.’ “The doctors had already set a date for an examination in two weeks, but neither my son nor my daughter-in-law was at peace with the idea. Feeling very apprehensive, they went together to the Western Wall to daven. The tension in our homes was overwhelming. “Then suddenly, it hit me. What about the Lubavitcher Rebbe? When I had personally experienced a problem in the past, I wrote to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh. I made several good resolutions, including giving over a shiur on the yishuv, and everything had worked out just fine. What was I
Torah from the Rebbe. On one such occasion, I felt comfortable enough with these young men to tell them about the complicated problem I was struggling with at the time, and they immediately suggested that I write to the Rebbe. Rabbi Levkivker was the one who got back to me with the Rebbe’s answer. In his reply (see Vol. 21, pg. 112), the Rebbe requested that I should be involved in avoda with myself and with others. Rabbi Levkivker explained that the Rebbe wanted me to start giving over Torah classes to others and also to make time to study Torah privately. Thus, I accepted this task as a good resolution, and to this day, I stringently give over a shiur and a drasha in shul each day between Mincha and Maariv. As a result, the problem disappeared as if it had never been there.
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distribution to this day. “Instilled with faith and trust in the Rebbe’s bracha that everything will be all right, my son and his wife did not agree to the examination, despite the doctors’ warnings. “During Chol HaMoed Sukkos, at the start of her ninth month, my daughter-in-law went into labor and she was quickly brought to the hospital. She entered the delivery room that night, and at six o’clock the following morning, I called my wife with the good news of the birth of our first grandchild. Due to the concern raised throughout the pregnancy, the baby was immediately brought in for a series of tests, and the results showed that all his limbs were functioning normally. “When the child and his mother were released from the hospital, the doctor asked that they come back for a follow-up examination in three months to check the previously discovered defects in the baby’s heart. ‘You can make the bris at the proper time,’ he confidently assured them. The bris mila took place on my son’s moshav as scheduled. “Three months later, they went to the doctor with a feeling of nagging concern in their hearts. After the baby went through a
comprehensive series of tests, the doctor called the parents into his office and asked them with a tinge of humor, ‘Was there ever a problem here? The x-rays show that everything’s normal.’ The doctor’s confirmation put an end to a difficult trial for my son and daughter-in-law that had persisted over the last few months. Everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief. “I told this story during the seudas hodaa that we made in our home a few days after this, in which many of the moshav residents participated. They all
MIRACLES NOW JUST AS BEFORE
R’ Shimon finishes his story as his voice cracks with emotion. A lengthy and noticeable silence hung over the phone. “All this could easily have turned out the other way,” he suddenly said. “We are eternally grateful to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was a true advocate of justice for our grandson. It should come as no wonder that a picture of the Rebbe hangs in the baby’s carriage, accompanying him everywhere he goes.” In his place of work at the
“We are eternally grateful to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was a true advocate of justice for our grandson. It should come as no wonder that a picture of the Rebbe hangs in the baby’s carriage, accompanying him everywhere he goes.”
“Pri HaGalil” canned food factory in Chatzor HaGlilit, as on his moshav, there’s no one who hasn’t heard this story. R’ Shimon sees it as a shlichus to publicize the miracle. “During the days when the Jews were leaving Egypt, and in these times as well, we see the fulfillment of miracles and wonders, deliverance and consolation,” he concludes.
heard about the broad shoulders of the Rebbe, in whose merit my daughter-in-law didn’t go through the examination. Furthermore, in the merit of his miracle, everything worked out in the best possible way. Today, my first-born grandson, Idan, is healthy and strong, developing as all normal children do.”
Issue 853 • �
THE REBBE PERFORMS
MIRACLES IN SIBERIA
He went through the usual “routine” of a Chabad Chassid in Soviet Russia – Jewish activity, arrest, exile to Siberia. But there, in the frozen tundra, he experienced great miracles. * While preparing this article about R’ Yisroel Konson, the Rebbe’s miraculous intervention was discovered.
By Shneur Zalman Berger
18 � • 10 Cheshvan 5773
he Chassid, R’ Yisroel Konson was born in the Chassidic town of Nevel in the Ukraine in the year 5666/1906. His parents, R’ Tzvi Yosef and Baila, instilled Chassidishe Yiras Shamayim in him. He never attended public school. He learned in Yiddish and Lashon HaKodesh, and for many years he did not know how to read and write in Russian. Only when he needed a passport, for which one had to be literate in Russian, did he learn how to read and write in that language. In his youth, he learned in secret yeshivos in Nevel. His friends were R’ Mendel Futerfas, R’ Dovid Skolnik, R’ Asher Kravitzky, and R’ Boruch Shifrin. The friendship that began in their youth continued for many decades afterward. In the final months of his life, R’ Mendel Futerfas visited him and the two were highly emotional. The family members were moved to see the two of them fall upon each other’s necks and call one another by their childhood nicknames of Yisrulik and Mendele. R’ Yisroel studied Nigleh and Chassidus assiduously and was one of the “scribes” who wrote the maamarim from which they made many copies that were distributed among the bachurim and Anash. While learning in Nevel he studied sh’chita and soon after he was appointed as a shochet in some town. His being a shochet saved him from serving in the Russian army, for the law at that time was that someone who worked in a religious position was deemed to have no legal rights and was not given a place to live or medical care and was exempt from the army. He saw the Rebbe Rayatz
r’ yisroel konson with his grandson in moscow 5729/1969
“The sight of Chassidim farbrenging into the night is etched into my mind forever. These farbrengens took place despite the great danger. My father knew good and well that his house was under surveillance.”
Chassid, R’ Nachum, in 1932. In order not to have to desecrate Shabbos, he began doing home based piece work. Many of Anash did work like this, which was done in private houses, so they would not have to work on Shabbos. He did not make much money and so he studied photography. He did not make much money from that either and at a certain point, he began manufacturing berets in his house. Although for many years he did not earn much, being a kindhearted man, he gave a lot of money to others, even when he and his family did not have enough. His daughter, Mrs. Rivka
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a few times and years later he would speak yearningly about the time when the Rebbe Rayatz parted from the Chassidim who had come to the train station in Leningrad to see him before he left Russia, at which R’ Yisroel was present. Even after the Rebbe left Russia, R’ Yisroel corresponded with him, which the government considered a serious crime. One of the letters, about building a mikva in the year 5689, was printed in Igros Kodesh volume 16.
DESPITE THE DANGER, A CHASSIDISHE HOME
R’ Yisroel married Gittel Labkovsy, the daughter of the
Bisk, tells about his outstanding midda of chesed: “In 5695, R’ Shmuel Notik was arrested. His wife found it difficult raising her children by herself and so she sent her two daughters, Rochel and Sarah, to my parents to live with us. Rivka Volovik, who was a “living orphan,” also lived with us for years, until she married. To me, they were all like big sisters, an inseparable part of the family. “We always had farbrengens at home, despite our financial situation. They occurred often because our apartment had a separate entrance so that when Chassidim came to farbreng, the neighbors did not notice. “Among the Chassidim who came to farbreng were R’ Yona Cohen (Poltaver, may Hashem avenge his blood), R’ Avrohom Drizin (Maiyor) a”h, R’ Bentzion Shemtov a”h, and R’ Nissan Nemanov a”h who was one of the main farbrengers. I was a little girl at the time and my parents would tell me to go to sleep, but I always peeked curiously into the other room and watched the faces of the important guests who visited our home. The sight of Chassidim farbrenging into the night is etched into my mind forever. These farbrengens took place despite the great danger. My father knew good and well that his house was under surveillance. “Another episode that I remember is the bris that took place in our house for one of the sons of R’ Bentzion Shemtov. The windows were covered with thick curtains so that nobody could see what was going on. I, as a little girl, innocently asked my father, ‘A bris is done by day and not by night, so why is the house being made dark?’”
mechutanim: on the right, r’ dovid Bisk, on the left, r’ yisroel konson. moscow 5725/1965
“YOUR GRANDFATHER SAVED US”
After the Nazis invaded Russia, tens of thousands of civilians fled into the interior of the country. Many people, including Chassidim, boarded trains that took them to places far from the front lines. R’ Yisroel could not escape since the army decided to draft him. In the meantime, his wife and daughter escaped from Moscow to Tashkent while he remained in Moscow. He finally managed to gain an exemption when he appeared as an invalid suffering from epilepsy. He then traveled to Tashkent where he reunited with his family. The Konson family lived in the Corsu neighborhood where other Chassidic families lived who had escaped the battlefront, including the family of R’ Isser Kluvgant, R’ Chaikel Chanin, R’ Zalman Sudekevitz, and others. The Corsu neighborhood
was very poor and the living conditions dismal. Therefore, R’ Yisroel moved with his family to live in the old city of Tashkent where many Chassidim lived. Hunger and disease were the lot of many refugees who arrived in Tashkent, including many Jews. The refugees did not have a way of supporting themselves and did not have a way of buying food. Having no choice, R’ Yisroel sold everything he owned, as his daughter Rivka relates: “A lady came to our house and within a few minutes, my mother had agreed upon a price for a tablecloth. The tablecloth was removed and given to the stranger. We were left without a tablecloth but with the money she received, my mother bought food for me and medicine for the typhus I had.” As he did in Moscow, R’ Yisroel helped many Chassidim and saved many lives. Rivka relates:
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“A little over ten years ago, my son moved to Toronto. He rented an apartment from R’ Eliyah Akiva Lipsker a”h. Mrs. Rochel Lipsker visited him and she realized that he was the grandson of R’ Yisroel Konson. She was so excited by this and said, ‘Your grandfather saved me and my husband from death. During the war, we were sick with typhus. We were hospitalized in Tashkent but there was nothing to eat. We were very weak and under these circumstances our health was even more precarious. When your grandfather heard about this, he asked your grandmother to cook some cereal for us. He would come every day and stand near our room and put the plates there and then leave, since typhus is highly contagious and dangerous. Thanks to this, we got our strength back and we recovered.’”
on the right, r’ yisroel konson with r’ yechezkel springer at Ben Gurion airport before flying to the Rebbe in Elul 5731/1971
THE INTERROGATORS LIED
At the end of World War II, R’ Yisroel and his family returned to Moscow. He was arrested a few months later by the secret police. His daughter tells of his arrest in the middle of the night: “I remember the arrest as though it happened today. Late at night I woke suddenly to the sound of screams. There were three secret agents in our living room who told my father that he was under arrest. They conducted a thorough search of the house in the course of which they confiscated s’farim, sifrei Chassidus, and manuscripts. Then they found a Tikkun Leil Shavuos. They flipped through it and cheered. We could not understand why they were so excited over finding it. Only later did my father tell us that the book had been given to him by a family who had crossed the border into
Every Motzaei Shabbos Mevarchim they had a joint Melaveh Malka at one of the families’ homes, attended by men, women and children. R’ Yisroel was one of the regulars. He always encouraged people to bring the children and said that if they fell asleep, at least their neshamos would hear and understand.
Mordechai. The first night of Pesach passed peacefully, but the second night the NKVD told the landlady (from whom we rented the apartment) that undesirable people were being hosted in her home. “The woman quietly told my father about this. On Motzaei the second day of Pesach, R’ Mordechai left our house and hid somewhere else. When my father was arrested, he was inculpated for hosting a ‘criminal.’ “My father sat in Lubyanka, a large prison in the center of Moscow. My mother was very
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Poland and the book had their name in it. This was proof that my father had been in contact with them. This was one of the accusations made against him during the interrogations. “In addition, they accused him of hiding the Chassid, R’ Mordechai Dubin. It was Pesach 1946, a few weeks before the arrest, when my father met R’ Mordechai Dubin in the big shul in Moscow. R’ Mordechai asked my father to host him during Pesach and my father was glad to do so, despite knowing that the authorities were after R’
it was his only daughter he was hearing. Then they told him that she did not withstand the torture and had died. His heart broke and he tore kria. According to the severity of the crimes he was accused of, it was clear that he would be given at least ten years in exile like many other Chassidim. The first miracle was the sentence. After months of suffering, he was sentenced to “just” three years in exile and hard labor in Siberia. “I heard about this sentence when I arrived with a package of kosher food. The jailors told me that my father had been transferred to another prison in Moscow. “That day I met with the prosecutor responsible for my father’s file. He told me that the period of time my father had been imprisoned in Moscow was considered part of the sentence. Another miracle was that they did not take our house and property away from us as they did to some prisoners.”
WITH BlANKETS OVER OuR HEADS
R’ Zushe Gross of B’nei Brak related: The Chassid R’ Yisroel Neveler was a cousin of R’ Yisroel Konson. He once described his cousin as a very clever Chassid. When I knew R’ Yisroel, I noticed that he never sat at the head of the table at farbrengens, even though what he said often drew the attention of the people who crowded around him. He knew numerous Chassidishe stories and inyanim in Chassidus and would sometimes farbreng for hours into the night. When he escaped from Tashkent, I traveled with him on the train for five or six days. I was a young bachur and during the long trip I heard many Chassidishe stories from him as well as what he endured during his imprisonment and exile to Siberia. I remember the story of his tzitzis in Siberia. The police confiscated religious items belonging to prisoners. R’ Yisroel decided that he had to fulfill the mitzva of tzitzis regardless and he found a woman who knew how to spin wool. According to his instructions, she wove threads which he attached to a four-cornered garment. Thus, he continued fulfilling the mitzva of tzitzis in the labor camp in Siberia. On that same trip, we were afraid to put on t’fillin in the train compartment lest our fellow travelers tattle on us. R’ Yisroel found a way out of that too. Every morning, we would pull the blanket over our heads and put t’fillin on and daven Shacharis while lying down.
HARD LABOR IN SIBERIA
After an exhausting trip, R’ Yisroel arrived in a forced labor camp in the Sverdlovsk district in Siberia. Like many others, he was given the backbreaking work of cutting trees in the forests. Every morning he would walk through the deep snow with a group of prisoners into the forest. The conditions were horrendous with snow falling constantly. The people in the front of the line had to break a path through the snow drifts which were no less than three feet high. Prisoners would stumble and fall into ditches covered with snow, which they had no way of avoiding. A prisoner who veered slightly from the road was shot in the head by the armed guards.
A Chanuka party at the elementary school in Nachalat Har Chabad in 5733. From right to left: r’ s. z. hendel, r’ Berel rickman, r’ yisroel konson, r’ elchanan yakobovitz, r’ yaroslavski, Chacham moshe michaelashvili, ?, r’ yaakov Tzirkis
sick and could not leave her bed. I, who was all of 13, went to the prison to try and find out my father’s fate. He spent months in prison and every month I brought him a package with kosher food.” R’ Yisroel was tortured mercilessly for ten months so that he would incriminate other
Chassidim. He kept quiet and did not reveal a thing. They prevented him from sleeping for many nights, they gave him medications to confuse him, and nevertheless, he remained strong. At a certain point they had him hear screams of a girl pleading for her life and they told him that
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In the forest, the prisoners were divided into groups with each group leader given an electric saw. After a tree was chopped down, they had to lop off the branches. The thick trunk was dragged by ropes to the staging area where they had to arrange the wood in piles before the tractor came to haul it away. A typical daily sight was prisoners collapsing and dying of exhaustion as a result of the hard labor, the arctic cold, the malnutrition, and disease. One day, a thick branch fell on R’ Yisroel’s foot. His foot swelled up and he suffered greatly. At first, he was accused of injuring himself on purpose so he would be exempt from working. However, after an interrogation of the prisoners on location, they clarified that it had happened due to the carelessness of another prisoner. R’ Yisroel received medical treatment and the doctors said he could not continue chopping trees. Another Jewish prisoner, who was in charge of manufacturing picture frames, offered to have him join that work which was much easier. About a year after he was exiled, the camp authorities decided to allow him to live in a nearby town and to work as a bookbinder and picture-framer, on condition that he did not leave the town. Life there was incomparably easier than in the camp. He could buy kosher food and write letters home more freely. For Pesach, they permitted his wife to meet with him and give him matzos which he shared with other Jewish prisoners. “All his life,” said his daughter, “my father said that in Siberia he saw big miracles. The biggest miracle of all was that although his foot healed relatively quickly, he was not forced to return to
R’ Yisroel Konson with his students in the elementary school in Nachalat Har Chabad
work and instead was allowed to do the light jobs which every prisoner wished for.” Why did he merit these miracles? We don’t really know but it is interesting that just at that time, the Rebbe mentioned R’ Yisroel’s name to the Rebbe Rayatz at a farbrengen on the Chag Ha’Geula, 12 Tammuz. This was done at the request of R’ Zalman Butman, a friend of R’ Yisroel, when he met the Rebbe in Paris in 5707/1947. In a letter from Tamuz 5707 (Igros Kodesh volume 2, letter #273), the Rebbe writes to R’ Zalman Butman: “...As promised, I mentioned to the Rebbe, my father-in-law Yisroel ben Baila HaKohen of Nevel, at an auspicious time, Chag HaGeula, 12 Tammuz. Of course I mentioned that this was at your impetus and my intention was so that your name would also be mentioned.” Amazingly, it was around that time that R’ Yisroel experienced all those tremendous miracles.
The years of exile in Siberia ended, but the wanderings of R’ Yisroel Konson and his family did not. R’ Yisroel was released for Pesach 1949, but was forbidden to live in large cities or near them, i.e. 100 kilometers from a major city. Upon arriving home, he found no alternate place to live and in the meantime, he lived in his house in Moscow. Just one week later, he was arrested for the offense of living in a large city. He was released after signing that he would leave the city within 24 hours. At first, he opted not to leave Moscow but hid in the home of his brother-in-law, R’ Elchanan (Chonye) Labkovsky. A short while later, he moved to live with a relative in Tashkent. Then he heard that they were after him there too, and he immediately packed and escaped to a small town called Yalguya. Throughout this time, his family
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remained in Moscow. His years in exile continued until 5713 when Stalin died and the Soviet government pardoned hundreds of thousands of former prisoners, including R’ Yisroel. Then he was allowed to live where he pleased and a relatively calmer period ensued. For a while he lived in Riga and then returned to Moscow where he was a shochet and supplied meat to Lubavitchers living there. Despite the great danger, and despite having already experienced torture, imprisonment, and hard labor, he still did this holy work. He was also moser nefesh for the chinuch of his grandchildren. Every day, he traveled a great distance from his house to their house in order to teach them Torah. At that time, there weren’t many Chabad families in Moscow, but those who lived there were particularly close. Every Motzaei Shabbos Mevarchim they had a joint Melaveh Malka at one of the families’ homes, attended by men, women and children. R’ Yisroel was one of the regulars. He always encouraged people to bring the children and said that if they fell asleep, at least their neshamos would hear and understand. These Melaveh Malka meals were held in the homes of: R’ Naftali Kravitzky, R’ Yehuda Botrashvili, R’ Shneur Pinsky and R’ Yitzchok Wolfowitz. Only Lubavitchers who knew one another well attended these farbrengens. Mekuravim could not be invited. The Melaveh Malka began with a sicha from the Rebbe. The contents of sichos were transmitted by “tourists” who visited the Soviet Union. These tourists were Chabad Chassidim serving as emissaries of the Rebbe, and at great personal risk, they brought in religious items, sifrei Chassidus and sichos of the Rebbe. One time, R’ Yisroel met one of these tourists when he went to the mikva. The tourist quietly asked him why he didn’t leave the Soviet Union. R’ Yisroel said they did not allow him to. The tourist disappeared and R’ Yisroel met him years later in 770. many Lubavitcher immigrants lived. However, the Jewish Agency pressured him to live in central cities of the country. As a Chassid, R’ Yisroel went to live in Nachalat Har Chabad after being told the Rebbe’s directive that immigrants settle there. He was 65 when he arrived. He had been through a lot. Although he was eligible for a pension, he chose to continue working in various holy fields. When he saw that he would not get work as a shochet, he prepared boys for their bar mitzva and taught in the elementary school in Nachalat Har Chabad. The boys loved him and he loved to teach them Torah. He fell sick with cancer two years before he passed away, and suffered greatly. Aside from his closest family members, nobody knew of his illness and he continued to teach. Some people noticed that when he walked from his home to school he would stop now and then to rest. His students said that occasionally he would sigh during the lessons, but he continued teaching with courage, devotion, and love until he took to his bed. He passed away on the 10th of Teves 5737 and was buried on Har HaZeisim. May this role model of mesirus nefesh be an example to Chassidim for generations to come.
For years, R’ Yisroel wanted to make aliya with his family, but the government did not allow it. It was first in 1971 that he was able to leave Russia for Eretz Yisroel with his wife, daughter, her husband, R’ Eliyahu Bisk, and their children. When they arrived at the airport in Lud, Anash who met them suggested that they live in Nachalat Har Chabad, where
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...SO TOO NOW THE REBBE STANDS AND SERVES
Source material compiled and arranged by Rabbi Shloma Majeski Translated and presented by Boruch Merkur
Toras Menachem continues with a letter the Rebbe wrote on Rosh Chodesh Adar 5710, which begins with the terms of consolation from Igeres HaKodesh cited earlier. As the Alter Rebbe describes, the tzaddik lives on, after his histalkus, insofar as he continues to extend vitality to those who are connected with him and whose love for him is true and pure. Hiskashrus is not limited to those who were adherents of the Rebbe prior to his histalkus, but is attainable by anyone who studies his works and finds inspiration therefrom. Indeed, the Rebbe Rayatz himself writes that the “great yearning for hiskashrus is only sated when one studies the maamarei Chassidus the Rebbe delivers or writes. Face-to-face contact alone does not suffice.” Another letter of the Rebbe Rayatz (the wellknown entry of the 9th of Adar Sheini in HaYom Yom) includes among means of hiskashrus: fraternizing with other Chassidim and T’mimim, by learning with them and by farbrenging, as well as saying T’hillim [note: this was written prior to the establishment of Chumash and Tanya as part of the daily study of Chitas], and maintaining regular sessions of Torah study. And when we study his Torah and sichos, and when we walk in the straight path he directed us in, then, “as water reflects the face...a spirit attracts a
spirit and draws down a spirit. His spirit stands literally among us … to the extent that even in this physical world of action – “today to do them” – he is more present [than before].” “And just as here he stands and serves, so too there he stands and serves…”
*** On Shabbos Parshas Truma: The power the Rebbe harnessed through the teachings of Chassidus is extended and given over to us even now, with no change on his part. Even on our part no change has been made that would amount to the Rebbe not being with us, G-d forbid. Those who knew the Rebbe throughout his thirty years of leadership know that the Rebbe would not abandon his Chassidim, leaving them alone on Shabbos Parshas Zachor, for example, when we need to battle with Amalek… The only change that is made in us is that in the past a person could have conceived that when he had a private audience with the Rebbe he could tell the Rebbe what he wants to reveal, and omit those things he wishes to conceal from the Rebbe. However, it is clear to everyone now that the Rebbe knows even those things that are concealed within us, insofar as in the past the Rebbe
was invested within a physical body, which is no longer the case; now he is beyond the limitations of a physical body and he is entirely spiritual. From another perspective, since “The righteous who pass on are present in all the worlds more so then when they were alive,” “that even in this world of action [the physical world]…he is more present” – certainly the Rebbe is in charge of the entire world, especially with regard to anash (his Chassidim), arousing great mercy [from Above], etc., as he had been doing until now. In fact, now it is with greater strength and with greater might. And just as until now it was accepted among every single one of us that the Rebbe will take us to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu, the same notion must be accepted now as well. The event that transpired etc. is only [as it appears] to our physical eyes; it is only a test (one of the tests of the “birth pangs of Moshiach” that must take place prior to the coming of the Goel Tzedek, the Righteous Redeemer). The only Continued on page 35
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rabbi hendel looks through his collection of letters and written accounts from his many private audiences with the Rebbe over the years
ast month, as we were all preparing for the upcoming Tishrei holiday season, I paid a visit to the home of Rabbi Shneur Zalman Eliyahu HaKohen Hendel, executive director of “Ohr Menachem” Educational Institutions in Tzfas, to hear about the numerous private audiences with the Rebbe he has been privileged to have during his life. In
addition, I came to get a first look at dozens of letters and answers he received from the Rebbe on a variety of issues since he came of age and throughout the years of his shlichus. These letters are filled with detailed instructions and advice. Rabbi Hendel, the eldest son of the gaon Rabbi Yitzchak HaKohen Hendel a”h, rav of the Chabad community of Montreal,
was privileged to have his first yechidus with the Rebbe for Shavuos 5711, when he was only six years old. At the age of twenty-four, he married his wife Rebbetzin Chaya Rochel, the daughter of the Chassid R’ Yisroel Tzvi HaLevi Heber, and took up residence in Kfar Chabad. He later joined the second group of Chassidim to settle in Nachalat Har Chabad.
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AS A FATHER WHO SHOWS MERCY TO HIS CHILDREN
Rabbi Shneur Zalman Eliyahu HaKohen Hendel, executive director of “Ohr Menachem” Educational Institutions in Tzfas, was privileged to receive constant guidance from the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, at every major turning point in his life. In a special interview in commemoration of his fortieth year of shlichus in Tzfas, Rabbi Hendel gives Beis Moshiach a rare look at some of the correspondences he received, including his personal notes from private audiences with the Rebbe.
By Nosson Avraham Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
Afterwards, together with Rabbi Lipa Kurzweil, he experienced “and your beginning shall be small” with the establishment of Chabad institutions in Arad. The Rebbe eventually sent him to join Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan to restore the ancient Chabad community of Tzfas. Throughout these years, the Rebbe provided instructions to Rabbi Hendel at every step along
his path in life. In this exclusive interview, Rabbi Hendel gave us a rare look at some of the correspondences he received from the Rebbe, including some of his personal notes from private audiences held in 770. “When you enter the Rebbe’s chamber, you feel that he’s only with you, listening to you – and only your request, your question, and your personal struggles are placed before the Rebbe.”
THE REBBE: WHILE HE’S ONLY A BOY, HE SHOULD STILL PARTICIPATE IN FARBRENGENS
As mentioned earlier, the first time that Rabbi Hendel was privileged to go in for yechidus was during Shavuos 5711. “My father traveled to 770 for Simchas Torah 5711, and I was planning to join him for the
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trip. However, when I caught a bad cold, my parents decided to leave me behind in Montreal. The next opportunity was not long in coming. As the rav of the Chabad community in Montreal, my father went to Crown Heights for the following Shavuos, and I came with him as a boy of only six years old. During the farbrengens, I stayed at the home of our hosts. “Back in those days, it was not customary to bring small children to farbrengens, and I would only come into 770. At the yechidus that my father had after Yom Tov, from Eretz Yisroel. “The family questioned whether I should travel to Eretz Yisroel or if the girl should come to Chutz La’Aretz. We raised the issue before the Rebbe, and the instructions were that I should go to Eretz Yisroel. “Before my departure, shortly after Yud Shvat, I went in for a yechidus with the Rebbe. In those days, it was customary for a Chassid making a lengthy trip to accept some shlichus upon himself. I wrote to the Rebbe that I was about to travel to Eretz Yisroel, asking if the Rebbe had a shlichus for me. “At the conclusion of the yechidus, the Rebbe gave me a bracha for success in all my endeavors. “I took my tape player with me on the flight, along with a recording of the Yud Shvat farbrengen. I also brought a ‘hanacha’ from the Shabbos farbrengen, and I gave them both over at various opportunities during my stay in Eretz Yisroel. “The shidduch eventually proved successful, and we decided to establish a Jewish home together. We naturally wanted to receive the Rebbe’s answer as quickly as possible. There were no fax machines or Internet as we have today, and all correspondence was sent via regular mail. Yet this was a process that could take a very long time. “The Heber family sent the letter to my future brother-in-law, Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Heber, and I asked my father to bring the letter into the Rebbe. In this way, we hoped that the answer would come quickly. While the Rebbe eventually issued a clear and unequivocal answer through the secretary, he also asked that we write a letter ourselves, not through someone else. We sent a letter via regular mail, and a few days later, an answer from the Rebbe arrived with his consent for the shidduch and a bracha that it should be at a good and auspicious hour. The wedding was set for Chai Elul.”
“The family questioned whether I should travel to Eretz Yisroel or if the girl should come to Chutz La’Aretz … I wrote to the Rebbe that I was about to travel to Eretz Yisroel, asking if the Rebbe had a shlichus for me. With regard to shlichus, the Rebbe said, ‘What greater shlichus can there be than the shlichus you will be traveling on now?’”
the Rebbe asked him, ‘Where was your son?’ My father replied that since it was not customary to bring children to farbrengens, he had left me at home. The Rebbe looked at me and asked that whenever I came to 770 in the future, I should make certain to participate in farbrengens. During the yechidus, the Rebbe tested me in Mishnayos.”
TRAVELING FOR A SHIDDUCH: “WHAT GREATER SHLICHUS IS THERE?”
When Rabbi Hendel reached marriageable age in 5729, his family received several offers for shidduchim, including one
“The Rebbe related first to the subject of studying for rabbinical ordination. He said that since I had already learned poskim, etc., it would be appropriate for me to receive smicha as a rav and a dayan (rabbinical judge). “With regard to shlichus, the Rebbe said, ‘What greater shlichus can there be than the shlichus you will be traveling on now? This is a matter relevant in both general and individual terms.’ “Afterwards, the Rebbe added, ‘With regard to the personal shlichus, give over things that you heard at the Yud Shvat farbrengen and b”n what will be discussed on the upcoming Shabbos.’
A BRACHA FROM THE REBBE “THAT WE SHOULD SEE ONE ANOTHER SOON”
“At the end of the Sheva Brachos, we traveled to 770, and at the conclusion of the Tishrei holidays we went in for yechidus. I asked the Rebbe for a bracha
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for our marriage and a bracha to learn in the kollel in Kfar Chabad. This was the first time my wife had ever been before the Rebbe, and she was very emotional. The Rebbe blessed us that our hearts’ wishes should be fulfilled, and then he gave me a bracha for success in my kollel studies. “At this point, the Rebbe turned to the subject of my wife’s work. She had been working at the time as a teacher in the Chabad school in Lud, teaching immigrants from Soviet Georgia. The Chabad school in Lud accepted immigrant girls for the purpose of preventing them from getting swept up by the permissive atmosphere existing in Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe gave her a bracha, adding that based on what he had heard about the new immigrants from Soviet Georgia, the children have a great deal of influence over their parents. The reason is that they’re simple people who aren’t very knowledgeable about Yiddishkait. Thus, when a teacher comes and speaks to the girls’ mothers about Torah and mitzvos, it can change the entire home, especially as the girls themselves begin to walk in the path of Torah. “The Rebbe asked if we had received the letter he had sent us for the wedding. When we replied that we had not, the Rebbe shook his head in amazement. He said that he simply didn’t understand why we hadn’t received the letter. Throughout the entire yechidus, the Rebbe blessed us that we should build an everlasting home in Israel, illuminating our surroundings with the light of Torah and mitzvos that will have a significant influence upon ourselves. I clearly remember the entire event and all the words that were uttered. At the conclusion of the yechidus, I asked the Rebbe for a bracha that we should again
above: rabbi hendel receiving a bottle of mashke during kos shel Bracha distribution; Below: At a general yechidus
see one another soon, and the Rebbe gave a broad smile and said, ‘Oif a gutten ofen’ (in a good way). “In the meantime, we returned to Eretz Yisroel, and according to our plans, I went to learn in the kollel of Kfar Chabad, headed by Rabbi Avraham Hirsch HaKohen.”
WHY DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT THERE’S NO MASHGIACH?
In preparation for the auspicious day of Yud Shvat 5730, the kollel held a raffle for a trip to the Rebbe, and Rabbi Hendel won the raffle. Shortly after his return from the United
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States, he again traveled to the Rebbe – a most unusual occurrence in those days. He attributed this to the Rebbe’s bracha when he asked that they should see one another again soon: “Oif a gutten ofen.” When Rabbi Hendel returned to Eretz Yisroel, he discovered that there was a great “shturem” in Kfar Chabad about settling in Nachalat Har Chabad, which the Rebbe had founded the year before. A minyan of avreichim had already moved into special residential units prepared by the Israel Ministry of Housing, and found gainful employment, while others temporarily continued their studies in the kollel at nearby Moshav B’nei Re’em. They were looking for new students there and even agreed to pay. Numerous avreichim, myself included, joined this kollel. “With regard to the kollel in Kiryat Malachi, I recall an interesting answer from the Rebbe that I received when I went in for yechidus in 5732. A problem existed in the kollel at the time: There was no Rosh Kollel, and this fact bothered the students. Some of them even decide where you want to settle.’ In response to another question, regarding whether we should buy a home in Kfar Chabad or Nachalat Har Chabad, the Rebbe replied that it all depends upon where we settle.”
ON PLANS TO ESTABLISH A COMMUNITY IN ARAD: “IN COORDINATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES”
“On Yud-Alef Nissan that year, the Rebbe spoke about the gift he wanted for his birthday: the establishment of seventy-one institutions during the coming year. As a result, the Committee for the Founding of Seventy-One Institutions was established for the purpose of coordinating this effort. “During those years, the concept of shlichus had yet to catch on in Eretz Yisroel. Only in Nachalat Har Chabad was there some form of shlichus outside of the existing Chabad centers. Together with another friend, Rabbi Lipa Kurzweil, Lubavitch Youth Organization director in Kiryat Malachi, we thought about creating another Chabad neighborhood in Arad, a city lacking all signs of ultraOrthodox Judaism. The plan was to establish a kollel in Arad, in the hope that when ten avreichim would come to settle in the city, this would lay the groundwork for a new chassidic community. We got in touch with the national Tzach director, Rabbi Yisroel Leibov, raised the idea with him, and requested if he would ask the Rebbe. While the Rebbe did give his consent, he also instructed that we should not come spontaneously. Instead, it should be done in an orderly manner in coordination with the municipal authorities, making it possible
“The Rebbe added that he wanted to make a community in Tzfas; not like Kfar Chabad, but similar to Nachalat Har Chabad.”
Rabbi Efraim Wolff was looking for another ten kollel students to volunteer their time to work with the new immigrants coming to Kiryat Malachi in droves. The Hendels joined this shlichus. “I remember those moments as parents parted from their children, young avreichim and their wives, as they left for Kiryat Malachi. There was much hugging and crying. I stood on the side, bewildered by all the sobbing. After all, they were only going forty minutes away from home! While the shlichus to Kiryat Malachi was a whole new innovation, I had just come to Eretz Yisroel from overseas, and that seemed far less daunting to me. “Two years later (5732), Rabbi Efraim Wolff informed all the avreichim that he could no longer finance the kollel studies and they would have to make arrangements for their own parnasa. There were those who
registered a formal complaint. “When I went in for yechidus, I raised the issue before the Rebbe. He didn’t seem pleased by this, to say the least. The Rebbe reacted with puzzlement and said: ‘After mature individuals learn in kollel for a year and a half, why are they so bothered and make a tumult because there’s no one standing over them? This is a strange mode of conduct.’ “During this yechidus, the Rebbe told me that I have to start thinking about my post-kollel arrangements. He said that I should consider employment or shlichus offers from a variety of sources, i.e., whether from Eretz Yisroel or even from the United States. The Rebbe noted that since I was now in the U.S., it would be also appropriate to hear suggestions from here. “‘When you arrive in Eretz Yisroel,’ the Rebbe continued, ‘you should also hear offers from there as well, and then you can
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to receive apartments from the Israel Ministry of Housing. “Our first meeting with local officials took place on Erev Chai Elul. We met with the head of the city council and future minister of finance, Mr. Avraham (Beige) Shochat, and submitted our proposal to him. We were accompanied by Rabbi Yisroel Leibov, Rabbi Zushe Wilomovsky, Rabbi Avraham Godin, Rabbi Baruch Gopin, and Rabbi Kugel from the TLAT Students For Students Organization (an association for the purpose of creating kollels throughout Eretz Yisroel, founded by R’ Shalom Shechne Rotem, one of the leaders in the Poalei Agudat Yisroel Party, who had ready access to the Israel Ministry of the Interior). At the end of this meeting, Mr. Shochat offered his cooperation, and Rabbi Kugel agreed to finance the stipends for those kollel students that we would bring. “During that year, a small crack opened in the Iron Curtain. Numerous Jews from the Soviet Union arrived in Eretz Yisroel, and many of them were sent to Arad. With the cooperation of the local religious council, we organized Jewish activities with new immigrants and local residents throughout the year. “In the end, despite considerable effort and correspondences and meetings with many people, we failed to acquire residential units from the Housing Ministry. While we worked with increased vigor, the Israeli bureaucracy became an endless source of aggravation, not to mention the fact that there were many people in Arad who simply didn’t want ultra-Orthodox Jews settling there. While we originally had ten avreichim, when it reached
a more practical stage much later, some of these young men had already made other arrangements elsewhere. Thus, when we finally received the necessary government permits, we discovered that a sizable portion of our original group was no longer with us. “Even before this stage, there were hints from the Rebbe that this would be no simple task. However, for some reason, the Rebbe wanted us to continue, apparently in order to ‘prepare the ground’ for the shluchim who would eventually come later. “In mid-5732, I sent a letter to the Rebbe, in which I spelled out in detail all the difficulties we had encountered along the way. The clerks in the Arad municipality placed one condition after another upon us. Several of them clearly told us that they didn’t want the ultra-Orthodox in their town throwing rocks at them when they’re driving on Shabbos... “I received an answer on the 25th of Elul 5732. Regarding my question whether we should rent the apartments on a private basis, letting each avreich look
for his own place as they would anywhere else in Eretz Yisroel, thereby removing the need to wait for the government permits, the Rebbe replied with the word: ‘Mufrach’ (groundless). The Rebbe specifically wanted the Housing Ministry to give everyone apartments. Regarding my claim that if we applied a little pressure, we could get the kollel started as early as Cheshvan, as the Rebbe shlita wanted, the Rebbe gave an interesting response that I only understood after the fact. “The Rebbe crossed out the words ‘month of Cheshvan,’ and he wrote that it should be in an orderly and practical manner – ‘and not by initially concealing the real situation, because the government ministries will eventually cause a cancellation and it won’t come to fruition.’ The Rebbe was referring to the idea of commencing the project without official government approval. However, the Rebbe thought otherwise: he wanted everything to be done properly in order that the relevant offices would authorize the residential units. Under no circumstances
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should we bypass the local authorities. “I was privileged to receive another interesting answer on the 7th of Teves 5733. The Rebbe wrote that since resolving the challenges in Arad would take some time, we should use the interim period to look for something else in Eretz Yisroel, and if such efforts proved unsuccessful, I should go to Chutz La’Aretz. I understood from this answer that the Rebbe was perhaps asking us to put a halt to our efforts in Arad. “It was only around the had received recently. “When I had finished speaking, the Rebbe said that he was about to send an avreich from New York to Tzfas. The reason he was sending him specifically from New York was to create a bigger ‘shturem’ with a fresh face. The Rebbe added that he eventually planned to restore the ancient Chabad settlement in Tzfas to its original greatness and prominence, noting that representatives of the local municipality had promised to give their help. He had given permission to take several that I join the efforts to reestablish the Chabad community of Tzfas. The Rebbe noted that since I was already in Eretz HaKodesh, it will be much easier for me to help there. However, he emphasized that while this new avreich was younger than I was, all instructions would pass through him. “The Rebbe said that before giving a positive reply to this proposal, I should consult with my family and relatives, in order that no one should complain later that there was no need to travel to faraway Tzfas, when I could easily do something here... “During this yechidus, the Rebbe also spoke with me about Arad and said that I should neither be saddened nor take responsibility for the unsuccessful efforts. He added that ‘this has no relevance to us; we do everything we possibly can.’ If anyone was to blame for the failure of the shlichus, it was the local municipal authorities who didn’t want an ultra-Orthodox community in their city. “As mentioned, since I came into yechidus with several shlichus offers that I had previously received, the Rebbe agreed to respond to each of the proposals. Among the proposals was that I should found a Chabad House in Montreal. The Rebbe’s reply was that if I should check and see if this poses a problem of hasagas g’vul. “I told the Rebbe that this was not a case of hasagas g’vul, since this will be a brand new operation. The Rebbe smiled and said, ‘I know Montreal, and you know Montreal...’ I had another offer from Guatemala. Some friends of mine had been there on ‘Merkaz Shlichus,’ and the leaders of the local Jewish community had asked them to
“Since I was collecting money for an institution that I was running, it would appear that I was raising the funds for myself. However, the Rebbe rejected this line of thinking and said that this matter was merely a temporary one, noting that the ultimate purpose is not fundraising, rather what is done afterwards with the funds raised.”
Pesach holiday that we finally received the government permits. By that time, however, it turned out that a sizable percentage of the avreichim had already found other places to settle. As a result, the plans for the Chabad community in Arad were shelved.”
THE REBBE SUGGESTS: TRAVEL TO TZFAS!
“After it already became apparent that the Arad option was no longer viable, I traveled to 770 for the Shavuos holiday and went in for yechidus. “I asked the Rebbe what I should do now, and I placed before him the various offers I
avreichim there to establish a kollel, build a mikveh, start a Talmud Torah – or as Israeli education officials called it, a ‘government-sponsored religious school’ – and with G-d’s help, I would have much success. He mentioned how the city had two rabbinical authorities who were quite busy with their own affairs, and if we didn’t interfere with them, we could accomplish a great deal. “This was the longest yechidus I ever had. The Rebbe added that he wanted to make a community in Tzfas; not like Kfar Chabad, but similar to Nachalat Har Chabad. “The Rebbe explained the proposal to me, and he suggested
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arrange for a permanent shliach. During that entire year, while I had been busy attempting to set up the kollel in Arad, I maintained correspondence with my friends who had been in Guatemala. I asked the Rebbe regarding this offer, but he replied that this was not suitable for a young couple. “At the conclusion of the yechidus, I understood that the Rebbe was directing us to Tzfas to establish a kollel there and to conduct activities.”
KEEPING THE SHLICHUS TO TZFAS A SECRET
“After consulting with my family, we decided that this was the will of the Rebbe, and we were prepared to accept the challenge. We still didn’t know the identity of the young man the Rebbe was sending ahead of us, and with whom we would have to work. We waited in Crown Heights for the meantime until the Rebbe instructed us what to do. When we told the Rebbe that we accepted the proposal, the secretaries asked us to keep it a secret for the time being. “Then one day, I met R’ Leibel Kaplan, who was then a young avreich, as he was walking through the streets of the neighborhood. We had been friends since the days when we learned together in the Montreal yeshiva and worked together at the summer camp. Everyone had been whispering among themselves about the Kaplans’ imminent shlichus, but no one knew where they were going. When we met in Crown Heights, we began to talk. Among the things we discussed was the fact that the Rebbe had wanted shluchim in Tzfas for some time, but it had proven most complex for the Israelis. He listened and then concluded the conversation
rabbi hendel (left) and Principal rabbi yosef yitzchak levkivker with the inaugural first-grade class of the Chabad Talmud Torah in Tzfas
DISCuSSION AMONG THE INSTITuTIONS
Rabbi Hendel shared with us another interesting episode that he experienced during a yechidus in 5734, a year after he arrived in Tzfas with his family. “When people used to go in for yechidus, they would first write out their questions for the secretaries to submit to the Rebbe. However, when I went in, the Rebbe told me that he had not received my letter, and I unfortunately didn’t have a copy. The Rebbe then began to give me a bracha for success in all matters of public activities, adding that I should make certain that there will be several institutions, particularly in Tzfas. Furthermore, since what’s good for one institution is not necessarily good for another, there must be communication and interaction between the various institutions. “The Rebbe spent a few minutes instructing me on how the institution directors must run their respective mosdos operating in the same city in an aura of cooperation while maintaining the distinction between them. “I thereby learned a fascinating lesson directly from the Rebbe on public activities.” by saying, ‘Soon they’ll be traveling to Tzfas.’ “I realized at that moment that he was the avreich the Rebbe had designated for Tzfas. I told him about the yechidus I had, and while he told me that he had received an answer from the Rebbe in this direction, he still didn’t know exactly where things were holding. He was now waiting to receive further instructions via the Rebbe’s secretariat. “During that summer, I stayed with my wife and children in the United States and Canada (at my parents’ home). On Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, we went in for yechidus before our trip
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back to Eretz Yisroel, and in continuation of our previous yechidus, the Rebbe again spoke about the shlichus in Tzfas. “Since we didn’t know when we would have an opportunity to visit the Rebbe again after returning to Eretz Yisroel, and we desperately wanted to stay in 770 for Tishrei, we asked the Rebbe about this during the yechidus. The Rebbe said that while my wife and children could stay, it’s possible that I would receive word that I would have to go right away. “A few days later, Rabbi were in Tzfas at the time did much work with the soldiers on the battlefront. “We had planned to travel immediately after Simchas Torah, but the war had caused delays in available flights. At the first opportunity, we boarded a flight and arrived in Eretz HaKodesh.” colleagues in the field, adding that ‘every person is close and partial to himself, and you can know if this will be successful for you or not.’ I said that I had a hard time with this, for since I was collecting money for an institution that I was running, it would appear that I was raising the funds for myself. However, the Rebbe rejected this line of thinking and said that this matter was merely a temporary one, noting that the ultimate purpose is not fundraising, rather what is done afterwards with the funds raised. The Rebbe dispelled my concerns and gave me numerous brachos. I now felt that I could meet this responsibility. At the conclusion of the yechidus, the Rebbe told me that Tzfas is close to Miron, and it was possible to achieve a great deal there. He added that there was enough room there for another two or three avreichim to engage in activities on the premises. “Around this time, a tragedy occurred in Crown Heights that stunned the community: The mother of the Pinson family was struck and killed by a passing motorist. I was friendly with Rabbi Yosef HaLevi Wineberg, of blessed memory, and when he met me then and I told him about my new shlichus, he suggested that I go to the Pinson family to offer my condolences and propose that they dedicate a building in her memory. The only building that Chabad had in Tzfas at the time was the Tzemach Tzedek Synagogue, which had begun recent renovations on the building. As a result, there was a prevalent need for another suitable facility. “To be quite honest, this was not an easy thing for me to do. While I had no experience in this whatsoever, I embarked on this mission with kabbalas
THE REBBE: FUNDRAISING IS A TEMPORARY MATTER
“After nine months of learning in the Tzfas kollel, Rabbi Kaplan suggested that I found the institution of my choice, while
I was friendly with Rabbi Yosef HaLevi Wineberg, of blessed memory, and when he met me then and I told him about my new shlichus, he suggested that I go to the Pinson family to offer my condolences and propose that they dedicate a building in her memory. The only building that Chabad had in Tzfas at the time was the Tzemach Tzedek Synagogue, which had begun recent renovations on the building. As a result, there was a prevalent need for another suitable facility.
raising money to provide for its financial support. “I decided to focus my efforts on education, and I began to work on establishing Tzfas’ first Chabad kindergarten. Administering the kindergarten demanded operating budgets, and I realized that I would have to deal with fundraising. I spent the Sukkos holiday in 5735 with the Rebbe, and at the conclusion of Yom Tov, I was privileged to go in for yechidus. I wrote to the Rebbe that I had begun to establish a new educational institution, but I didn’t know if I had the wherewithal or ability to collect donations. The Rebbe replied that I should consult with
Chadakov informed me that I could stay, but I might not receive my expected salary from the Tzfas kollel for Elul and Tishrei. This was less troubling to me, and I stayed in Beis Chayeinu. “That year on Yom Kippur, when war suddenly broke out in the Middle East, everyone clearly understood why the Rebbe wanted to found a community in Tzfas even before the Tishrei holidays. The feeling was that the Rebbe had hoped to stop the forward movement of the Syrian armies, which had temporarily retaken the Golan Heights within the first twenty-four hours of hostilities. The shluchim who
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ol. I offered my condolences, but I didn’t dare say a word on the subject. Then, Mrs. Pinson’s son, R’ Nachum, came up to me and said that he wanted to speak with me privately. He then surprised me by suggesting that we open a free loan fund in Tzfas in her memory. As I listened to his proposal, I felt that this was a clear sign from Heaven. I proceeded to make another suggestion: Tzfas does not have an organized facility for Chabad community activities. Inasmuch as we wanted our community to grow and prosper, we required a suitable building, sufficiently large to serve as the center for Chabad activities in Tzfas. “He requested a little time to consider the offer, and in the meantime, the family asked the Rebbe about it. In his reply, the Rebbe said, ‘The matter is correct,’ adding they should construct a new building as opposed to buying an existing facility. This was the Rebbe’s request, and we immediately established a committee to expedite the project. Together with R’ Yehoshua Pinson, we visited the homes of friends Continued from page 25 purpose of this test is to hide and conceal the truth. It is just that commentary and explanation is still needed regarding why according to Torah it is necessary to say Kaddish now, etc. The purpose of the test, however, is in order [for us] to prevail and stand firm in
throughout New York City, asking each of them to make a one thousand dollar donation. “This marked my initiation into the world of fundraising. As part of the committee’s activities, I remained overseas until the end of Cheshvan. My wife wanted me to return to Eretz Yisroel, but we first had to collect the money from all those who pledged contributions. I went in again for yechidus, and I asked the Rebbe if I should return to Eretz Yisroel now and come back on another occasion, or if I should stay until we collect all the money? The Rebbe replied that it would not be appropriate to go back now. It would be preferable to remain until the shlichus would be completed. “The resulting facility was the first Chabad House in the Old City of Tzfas. During those early years, I also served as local Tzach director, while we continued our work in establishing the new educational institutions. “Early in the Mem’im (eighties), it was decided to create a Talmud Torah in Tzfas in the spirit of Chabad. The
number of community members was increasing, and its circle of supporters was also growing. Rabbi Kaplan sent a letter to the Rebbe, requesting his bracha and consent to begin this project. The Rebbe replied that we must make certain that our children receive the best possible education. However, he also wanted that all Tzfas children could learn in this institution, while our own children would receive a better education after school hours and not in a school framework. All this was connected to what the Rebbe had said in yechidus about a government-sponsored religious school.” * “Ohr Menachem” Chabad Educational Institutions in Tzfas, which began in 5735 with one kindergarten class, has developed over the years into a tremendous empire of institutions for Jewish boys and girls, providing education to approximately two thousand students (may they increase in number). A more detailed article on these institutions will appear, G-d willing, in an upcoming issue. well as – and especially – the directives that were said faceto-face in yechidus), we shall immediately merit (since we are presently in the Era of Ikvisa D’Meshicha) “to be together with the Rebbe and see him” with physical eyes, and the Rebbe will take us to the Redemption.
the face of it. By doing so, the concealment and obscurity is pushed away and nullified, and the truth is revealed (as explained in the teachings of Chassidus). Therefore, by means of strengthening hiskashrus through the study of the Rebbe’s Torah and the practical fulfillment of his directives (both the public directives as
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Issue 853 • �
THE INEXORABlE JOuRNEY
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
This week’s parsha begins with G-d’s instruction to Abraham to leave his land, his birth place, and his father’s house and go to the land that G-d will show him. The Torah then records Abraham’s compliance with G-d’s directive to him. He takes his wife, his nephew and all their belongings that they acquired in Charan and “they departed heading to the Land of Canaan and they arrived at the land of Canaan.” When surveying the very first verse where G-d tells him to leave his land, his birth place and his father’s home, the following question arises: Hadn’t he already left his birthplace? At the end of the last parsha, the Torah makes it clear that: “Terach took Avram his son, Lot—the son of Haran, his grandson—and Sarai—his daughter-in-law, the wife of Avram his son—and they went out with them from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Canaan. They reached as far as Charan and settled there.” It is clear that Abraham— who was then still called Avram—together with his father Terach had already left his land and birthplace of Ur Kasdim. Shouldn’t the Torah have stated only that G-d told Abraham to leave his father’s house?
WHERE WAS ABRAHAM BORN?
This question has prompted a debate among early Bible Commentators about the location of Abraham’s birthplace. According to Nachmanides, it was actually in Charan. Terach then moved to Ur Kasdim and then returned to Charan. And it was from Charan—his birthplace—that G-d asked Abraham to depart. Ibn Ezra, however, follows the approach that he was born in Ur Kasdim and then moved to Charan. If so, the question remains: why did G-d tell him to leave his birthplace if he had already done so? Ibn Ezra explains that the command to leave Ur Kasdim actually preceded his father’s move to Charan. But, whereas his father decided to stay in Charan, Abraham continued on his journey to Canaan. Rashi appears to adopt the position of Ibn Ezra and responds to the question of why G-d commanded him to leave his land and birthplace, which he had already done, and explains that G-d meant he should continue to distance himself from his land and birthplace.
father’s house and go to the land that I will show you?” Why bother mentioning his land and birthplace at all? Another question raised by Or HaChayim: After G-d tells him to leave his land, there is no longer a need to tell him to leave his father’s house. Why did G-d have to refer to both? One can raise a third question: In the verse that describes Abraham’s departure, it states: “Avram took Sarai…and they departed, heading for the land of Canaan and they arrived at the land of Canaan.” Why does the Torah have to say that “they departed heading for the land of Canaan” and then say they arrived there? It could have simply stated: “Avram took Sarai and they arrived in the land of Canaan.” If he was in Charan and he arrived in Canaan, it is obvious that he departed from Canaan, so why must it be stated explicitly?
A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: ABRAHAM AND TERACH
To answer all these questions we ought to contrast the statement here and the one made at the end of last week’s parsha about the respective journeys of Terach and Abraham: In last week’s parsha the Torah states: “Terach took
The question still remains, however, why couldn’t G-d simply say to him, “Leave your
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Avram…and they went…from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Canaan. They reached as far as Charan and settled there.” Terach also intended to go to Canaan, but when he got to Charan he terminated his journey and stayed there. He never made it to his original destination—the land of Canaan. By contrast, when Abraham departs with the intention of going to Canaan, he actually goes there. He does not get stuck in Charan, but moves on without his father to realize the goal G-d had set for him. This not only underscores the greatness and uniqueness of Abraham but it also conveys an important message for all generations—ours in particular. There are many idealistic people who make resolutions to achieve certain goals. And indeed they are sincere in their intention of realizing their objectives. They set forth on a journey determined to reach their destination. However, when they stop to rest on the way, they find it difficult to continue on their journey notwithstanding their original idealism. Abraham was different. Nothing could sidetrack or distract Abraham from fulfilling his G-d-given mission; nothing could deter him from pursuing his goal.
By contrast, when Abraham departs with the intention of going to Canaan, he actually goes there. He does not get stuck in Charan, but moves on without his father to realize the goal G-d had set for him.
confront unanticipated obstacles. When people confront resistance they are intimated and freeze. This explanation is hinted in the location at which Terach aborted his journey— Charan. The word Charan is etymologically related to the word Charon, which means anger. When one confronts the opposition and rage of a reluctant and adversarial world, it instills fear and paralysis in the hearts of those who started their journey with idealism and enthusiasm. A second reason why some cannot realize their life’s goal and cut short their journey is that they are distracted by the enticements of the places they stop at along the way. A parable that describes this phenomenon is the king who makes an extravagant offer. Anyone may enter the palace treasury and take any article of value for one day only. Many people are so dazzled by the lush gardens that surround the palace, the mesmerizing music, the beautiful artwork that adorns the palace that never make it to the treasury to claim their treasure. In a similar vein, we get so caught up in the material and secondary spiritual matters that we forget that we are on a journey that is supposed to take us to a final destination. A third reason is that people get tired and decide to retire early. People get tired and lose some of their original energy and zeal for the journey. A fourth reason is complacency. Many people make great strides in the initial stages of their journey and are quite content. They revel in the positive accomplishments that they already enjoyed. They no longer feel compelled to advance forward.
ABRAHAM HAD HIS EYE ON THE GOAL
We can now answer the questions posed above. The reason why G-d said to Abraham to leave his land and birthplace, considering that he had already left his land and birthplace, is to highlight the inadequacy of just leaving a birthplace—one’s point of origin—only to remain stuck in one place. Terach also left his birthplace, but only in the geographic sense. Abraham, by contrast, was able to truly make a complete and total detachment from his birthplace. Abraham did not regress. Thus G-d tells him to leave his birthplace even though he had already told him to leave his land. By truly leaving his attachment to his birthplace and the attraction it held for him, he was empowered to leave his land as well. Again the contrast with Terach is highlighted. Terach, though he left his birthplace, could not leave his land because in truth he never really left his birthplace. And this answers the question of why the Torah has to add
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GIVING UP
Why do people abort their spiritual journey? Several reasons can be proposed that explain why people do not follow through on their intentions. The first reason is fear. Many discover how daunting the journey can be when they
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כשיוצאים אחרי כל ימי החגים שבהם זכינו ל אורות ולעליות פנימיות אל ימי החולין האפורים של השנה that “Abraham departed.” It is OUR FINAL DESTINATION יודעים ומרגישים כי כל תכליתה ומטרתה של בריאת החולין to underscore that Abraham’s The message for our תהיה לוresolution to leaveאינה אלא כדי שגם בתוך החולין הנמוכים והתחתונים ביותרtowards generation is that we too were Canaan was a resolution told by G-d to go דירתjourney קבעon a יתברך that actually translated into that will lead us inexorably to
action, as opposed to Terach’s determination to go to Canaan זהwas halted. thatעלינו להביא הביתה. לחיות עם בעצמנו ולהחיות עם זה נפש כל חי אשר נשמה באפו. כל אחד במקום ,לשם שלחה אותו ההשגחה העליונה ("המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלוקיך )כדי ."לשכן שמו שם Continued from להדגיש שוב ושוב, ההוראהpage 39וראוי מהרבי שליט"א בכל השנים הייתה the natural order of the universe והינה גם עתה בכל התוקף – שכל מי – has the capacity שזכה להיות בגופו ב-077, עליו למסורto alter the משהו מהמטען שקיבל שם מהרבי, כל nature of man. Even when one’s – כדלעילstill outside the emotions are אחד לפי אפשרויותיו המטרה: "מאךRedemption, G-d parameters of כדי להגיע אל את כל העולם כולוhe has ."770 yet forbid (because לעשותnot דא , לאמיתתהfrom his internal exile), emerged "ארץ ישראל" כמות שהיא מרגישים אלקות וקדושהlearnמקום he can nevertheless בו the אמיתית, מקום בו מאיר המלך המשיח Torah’s teachings concerning ,ובו מרגישים וחיים את בית המקדש Redemption, and thereby become מקום בו מחדירים זאת בכל פרטי one גםis elevated to the החיים , יחדwhoהגשמיים והרוחנייםstate of Redemption. באופן שהכל סובב ' סביב ה'נקודהOne then begins to thrive וה'עצם', שהיא כל חיינו , ממשon matters of Redemption, borne of knowledge, וההכרזה שפועלתthe המתבטאת בקריאה התגלות מלכנו משיחנו לעיני כלthat את awareness and feeling – בשר ‘Behold he is coming.’” מלךFinally, on Shabbos Parshas יחי אדוננו מורנו ורבינו .( לעולם ועדKinus המשיח Chaya-Sara 5752
We get so caught up in the material and secondary spiritual matters that we forget that we are on a journey that is supposed to take us to a final destination.
the time of the final Redemption, when – לאworld will והוא, כלומר , מוותרthe אנחנו, מצדוbecome a good and G-dlyלא מרפה, לא מפסיק . ולא מתעייףworld. A problem בתוך הריקודיםwe , עד כלות הכוחותarises when בתוך הלימוד, בתוך התפילה, בתוך ההתוועדות, בכל רגע שנמצאים ב"בית משיח", וגם ברגעים שיוצאים משם HaShluchim), Rebbe זועק וקורא, בקלאthe – הביתה הוא said: “From the international פנימאה דאשתמע ובקלא פנימאה דלא ,אשתמע, בביטול עצום ובשמחה גדולה convention must come and be אחד בדמעות ומאידך דווקאsuch brought good resolutions מצד שהרבי רוצהshliach must prepare that every בשמחה ובטוב לבב, כפי רצון נחוש ששום דברall Jews in his himself and prepare מאתנו, ומתוך – שהגיע כבר הזמןetc. יכול לעמודour נגדוto greet לא place and city, לכבוש סופית את היעד, למלא סוף סוף righteous את המטרה והתכלית של הכל, ובאופןMoshiach. This should be done through hisהכי מלא והכי . מושלםexplanation of the concept ובפשטות – לאas להפסיק אף לרגעof Moshiach, explained in the ,את המלחמה בדרכי נועם ובדרכיWritten Torah and the Oral Torah, ,שלום, כמובן שהרי "אנן פועלי דיממאin a way that it – הוא להאיר אורby everyone עדwill be received אנן" ותפקידנו according to his intellect and שנראה את הרבי מלך המשיח שליט"א מתנשא ומביא לכולנו את הגאולה understanding. “בשרThis והשלימה לעיניparticular כלincludes in האמיתית .זה ממשthe ,תיכף ומיד ממש וברגעsubject learning of Moshiach and Redemption, מאך דא and specifically in a manner of Wisdom, Understanding אתand כל זה לקחנו מ-077 ואת זה
give up on continuing on the journey to finally reach our destination. Whether our hiatus is a result of our being intimidated by the obstacles, enticed by the glitter, כאןcomplacent with "יקר אלוקותor " – אפשר "לדלותour achievements in exile, it must be "בדליים ובחביות", כפי הפתגם .המפורסם overcome. אםWhatever the reason הרביget נמצא כאן ממש, גםwe – לא זכינו עדיין לראותו בעיני-בשר stuck in “Charan,” we must מביטthe lesson יהיהour "הכהן learn " בימים ההםfrom אשרfather )מכתב כללי לר"ה תשנ"ב( ואכפת לו Abraham to once and for all מכל תנועה של כל אחד ממש, מכל רגע take our , מכל נקודה במקוםleave גם מדברdetermination to ,בזמן our land, birth place and our שנראה קטן ופעוט. ומכאן לוקחים father’sאת ההדגשה שככה–ממש הוא גם בכלhouse aspects of exile – and march השנה כולה, בכל רגע בזמן, בכל נקודהtoward the final .במקום, ובכל אחד ואחת ממש Redemption! ולרבי אי-אפשר לתת "שוחד", גם לא "שוחד" של תורה ומצוות ומעשים .טובים Knowledge. זהו מקוםthis ש"אותי אתםAnd since770- בis the לוקחים", כאשר מתמסרים אליוDivine service of the time, it’s understood this applies to לחלוטין, נכנסים לגמרי ומתבטלים אל ה"נקודה", אלany exception every Jew without ,לגמרי אליו ה"עצם" – ודווקא ביחד עם זאת whatsoever.” בפועלsummarize: All the Torah To מחליטים, ומיישמים זאת מרגע זה ואילך, להוריד זאת לפועל we learn and the Mitzvos we do ממש גם בכל הפרטים והגדרים are a necessary path to והתחתונים. כשמתפלליםMoshiach. הקטנים Yet, )בלי מירכאות! ויעידlearning על כךthe “Direct Path” is עם הרבי about Moshiach. have taken שם ורוצה להרגיש כךI כל מי שנמצא upon myself the Shlichus of בפשטות ובתמימות בלי התחכמויות teaching Inyanei Moshiach ו ה ת פ ל ס פ ו י ו ת ( ; כ ש מ ת א ס פ י םfor להתוועדות עם הרבי; כשרוקדים בכל the English-speaking audience. אל מול פני הקודש, גם אם ח"וshiurim We have made audio הכוחות – 'לא זוכים לראות בעיני-בשר, וכו' וכו (available at www.ylcrecording. זוכרים ויודעים שהרבי נמצא כאן ממש com) or video (go to www. עם כל אחד ואחת. אם הוא רק רוצה youtube.com and type “Rabbi ,לקבל, אם הוא רק מוכן להתבטל Avtzon”) available ,לשכוח מעצמו , מרצונותיו ותאוותיוto the public. Please visit and spread the להתמסר כל כולו אל ה"נקודה" – הוא message to your הרבי שנמצא עמו . יחד ונותן לו הכולfriends.
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גיליון מס 38 � • 10 Cheshvan 5773
MoshIAch & GeulA
THE DIRECT PATH
By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
Dear Readers sh’yichyu: It has been quite a while since we last wrote our column on Moshiach and Geula. IY”H we will be starting a new series next week. Before we get into the details of a specific topic on Moshiach, I feel it is important to remember the reason, goal and importance of this learning. On 28 Nissan 5751, the Rebbe said the following: “What more can I do so that all the children of Israel should create an uproar and cry sincerely and cause Moshiach to come in reality, since all that was done until now has had no effect, and the proof is that we find ourselves still in exile, and most essentially in an inner exile in Divine service. The only thing I am able to do is to turn the matter [over] to you: Do everything in your ability – things that are in the nature of lights of Tohu, but in vessels of Tikkun – to actually bring our righteous Moshiach immediately, instantly, in reality!” In the following weeks, people were trying to figure out what they could do to make Moshiach a reality. Finally, on Shabbos Tazria-Metzora 5751, the Rebbe introduced us to the Direct Path to bring Moshiach: “The question is: Since we’ve already completed ‘our actions and service
On Shabbos Parshas Balak 5751, he once again spoke very strongly about it: “Despite the uproar associated with this matter in recent times within this year... we see how difficult it is to inculcate the awareness and the feeling that we are literally standing on the threshold of the Messianic Era, to the point that one begins to thrive on matters of Moshiach and Redemption..
each one according to his ability) should increase their learning of Torah, particularly the subjects of Moshiach and Redemption.” The Rebbe kept on pushing this new initiative over the next few months. On Shabbos Parshas Balak 5751, he once again spoke very strongly about it: “Despite the uproar associated with this matter in recent times within this year... we see how difficult it is to inculcate the awareness and the feeling that we are literally standing on the threshold of the Messianic Era, to the point that one begins to thrive on matters of Moshiach and Redemption.. “The solution to this dilemma is Torah study concerning Moshiach and Redemption. For Torah – which is G-d’s wisdom, and thus transcends Continued on page 38
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throughout the duration of exile,’ what is the ‘straightforward path’ (the easiest and fastest among all the paths of Torah) that all the Jewish people, who have concluded their service, should choose to realize the revelation and coming of Moshiach? “The increase in learning the Torah concerned with Moshiach and Redemption is the ‘straightforward path’ to actually cause the revelation and coming of Moshiach and Redemption. “My intention here is action, and certainly the following will be publicized everywhere: “In order to realize the immediate revelation and coming of Moshiach, each and every Jew (the men, whether they are dwellers in the tent (Yisachar) or men of business (Z’vulun), and the women and children,
PROMOTING TORAH lEARNING IN PARIS
R’ Zalman’s concern for the financial state of the yeshiva and the spiritual state of the Jews of Paris. * from the life of R’ Yehoshua shneur Zalman serebryanski a”h.
Prepared for publication by Avrohom Rainitz
R’ Zalman, together with his wife and daughter, traveled from Poland to Paris at the beginning of the winter of 5708. His sons were learning in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Brunoy. Upon arriving in Paris, he was happy to see his sons learning without the constant fear that had been their lot in Russia. However, he was sad to see the financial state of the yeshiva, which was terrible to the point that the bachurim did not have anything to eat. His brother-in-law, R’ Bentzion Shemtov, asked him to join the yeshiva’s vaad to help out with his organizational abilities. He agreed, and even attended some meetings, but after seeing no results from these meetings, he decided to work alone. He spoke to some Lubavitchers and suggested that they fundraise for the yeshiva in exchange for a percentage of what they raised. They began visiting Jewish homes in Paris and were able to bring in nice sums of money.
FROM LEARNING IN HOUSES TO A TALMUD TORAH
Along with R’ Zalman’s concern for the financial state of the yeshiva, he was also concerned about the spiritual state of the Jews of Paris. The lives of Anash in Paris were Chassidish with farbrengens etc. and their children attended the yeshiva in Brunoy, but hardly anything was going on for other Jews. One can defend Anash who were weary from all the suffering they had undergone, living with the status of refugees with temporary visas for France. This is why they did not do enough to spread Judaism and Chassidus outside of their own community. R’ Zalman, who was moser nefesh in Russia and Poland to fulfill the Rebbe’s wishes, did the same in Paris and began spreading Torah and Chassidus among non-Lubavitchers. He began with house calls,
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He began with house calls, and he tried to convince the parents to send their children to a Talmud Torah he would start.
and he tried to convince the parents to send their children to a Talmud Torah he would start. At first, the parents were unwilling to take their children out of school. They told him they would be happy if someone came to their home to teach their children in the afternoon, after they came home from school. R’ Zalman quickly took them up on their offers. Most Lubavitchers in Paris were unemployed at the time since their stay in France was only temporary, with no work permits. The Joint arranged apartments for them and provided a monthly stipend for food and sustenance, but other than that, there was no income. R’ Zalman easily found ten men and arranged for them to learn with the children in exchange for a monthly salary. R’ Zalman went from house to house and announced the new plan that would instill Torah and its values in Jewish children. He also placed a pushka in every home and from these pushkas he was able to cover the ten salaries. After forming a large group of children who learned in the afternoon, he was able to convince the parents to send them to learn in the mornings too. That is how the first Lubavitcher Talmud Torah was established
in Paris. Within a few months it grew, with dozens of children in attendance. R’ Zalman supported the Talmud Torah throughout the time he spent in Paris. When he received the Rebbe Rayatz’s bracha to move to Australia, he transferred the responsibility for the school to R’ Hillel Azimov.
PROTEKTZIA IN HEAVEN
His sons Chaim and Aharon were learning in Brunoy. Chaim was known as a big masmid and was a close disciple of R’ Nissan Nemenov from their days in Samarkand. He learned dozens of maamarim by heart and accustomed himself to daven at length with deep contemplation of Chassidic maamarim. He also studied Nigleh assiduously. His love for learning made him forget his physical needs and he hardly ate or slept. At farbrengens he drank a lot of mashke, which did not help his precarious health. Chaim’s thin body did not withstand the burden he placed upon it and one day he lost sensation in his hands. A few hours later he lost sensation in his legs and could not walk. It was also hard for him to speak. He felt paralyzed. He was brought to the hospital, where the doctors declared that his body had broken down due to his poor eating and sleeping habits. They were unable to improve his condition. The heads of the Joint in Paris, who took responsibility for the refugees, brought him the best doctors, but to no avail. R’ Zalman sent off a letter to the Rebbe Rayatz in which he asked for a bracha. Within a short time he received a letter with a bracha for a refua shleima. A few months went by with no
Students in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Brunoy, France
improvement and R’ Zalman sent a request for another bracha. The Rebbe wrote he should make sure to have good doctors and there would be a refua shleima. All this time, Chaim was in bed in yeshiva almost completely paralyzed. R’ Zalman wrote to the Rebbe once again and said the doctors were unable to heal his son, and he asked that the Rebbe bless him with a refua shleima without doctors. The Rebbe’s answer was: It says in the Torah “v’rapo yirapeh,” and since the Torah says to consult with a doctor, they should go to doctors again and there would be a refua shleima. When R’ Nissan Nemenov saw the Rebbe’s answer, he said to R’ Zalman, “You have the Rebbe’s promise that there will be a refua shleima. You just need to make a vessel for the blessing and bring a top doctor.” A top doctor was called, and after he visited Chaim over a period of days and brought various medications, the long-awaited miracle occurred
and Chaim began to heal. The doctor, who was very surprised by the speed of the recovery, said in amazement, “You have big protektzia in heaven.” R’ Zalman quickly informed the Rebbe that his son was no longer in danger, and he received a response in which the Rebbe thanked him for the good news. In the following months Chaim’s body recovered. He still had to spend a long time in bed to regain his strength. He was not able to concentrate on learning as he had been used to doing until then, and could not learn in depth for more than ten minutes at a time. He spent most hours of the day resting and occasionally he would review Gemara or maamarim on a superficial level. It was only in Sivan 5709 that Chaim was able to write his own letter to the Rebbe about the improvement in his health. The Rebbe responded with thanks for the letter and a bracha that Hashem grant him physical and spiritual refua.
Issue 853 • �
feAR of success:
THE GREATEST OBSTAClE TO OVERCOMING PSYCHOlOGICAl INERTIA
By Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz
abbala teaches that every object and being exists by virtue of it being an extension of the Creator’s will. Should that connection be severed even for an instant, the object would revert back to primordial nothingness. Simple enough. But what about failure? The Creator sets up a system through which I am supposed to reach specific objectives, both short term and long term. He even gives me cues as to how I should conduct myself along the way. But, ultimately, I fail. I fail to choose the right objectives, and even if by some fluke I do get it right, I inevitably fail to reach the destination, and I certainly fail to get there while maintaining an upright trajectory. As the saying goes, “People plan, and G-d laughs.” If G-d’s will determines reality, then how can I possibly fail? Doesn’t G-d want me to succeed? If everything exists only by virtue of it being the Creator’s will, then does that mean He wants me to fail? In a sense, yes – because G-d leaves it up to me. He does not really want me to fail. He
wants me to explore this virtual reality game called life on earth and figure it out for myself; He doesn’t want to give me the answers and make me into a prosthetic extension of Him. He wants me to be me. And I want to fail. Contrary to popular belief, the greatest obstacle to overcoming emotional and psychological inertia is not fear of failure. Failure merely plays into my greatest weakness and tempts the escapist within me, playing on my cynical and apathetic view of myself and the world around me. I am not really afraid of failure – I crave it. Success is what scares me. Success belies a profound truth that I am really afraid of and would rather deny: That I have the power to make my life and this world what they are really meant to be; that I as an individual am uniquely suited because of my unique gifts to confront the unique challenges placed in front of me – otherwise, why would I be here? This thought scares me, because if I succeed in taking one step forward in this direction today, then does that not burden me with the responsibility to make
an even greater stride forward tomorrow? So was the world set up to fail? Am I set up every day to fail? Yes, but only if that’s what I want – the simple, easy, quantifiable and manageable finitude of failure. Or I could take the plunge and choose to succeed, and accept that with success will come the pressure to continue succeeding – an infinite journey with infinite possibilities to discover the Infinite inside me and in the world around me. In order to leap, I have to crouch down and use the momentum to gather my strength. Failure is the crouch. Success is the leap. Whether I like it or not, I experience moments of crouching and moments of leaping, moments of failure and moments of success. The only question is whether I view my life in terms of failure, or in terms of success; are my leaps unnerving aberrations in a journey defined by crouches, or are my crouches opportunities to harness energy to be unleashed at the next occasion to leap?
Reprinted with permission from Exodus Magazine
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