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Heralding the imminent arrival of Moshiach
Heralding the imminent arrival of Moshiach

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Published by: B. Merkur on Apr 10, 2014
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Beis Moshiach (USPS 012-542) ISSN 1082-0272

is published weekly, except Jewish holidays (only
once in April and October) for $160.00 in Crown
Heights. USA $180.00. All other places for $195.00
per year (45 issues), by Beis Moshiach, 744 Eastern
Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409. Periodicals
postage paid at Brooklyn, NY and additional
ofces. Postmaster: send address changes to
Beis Moshiach 744 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
11213-3409. Copyright 2014 by Beis Moshiach, Inc.
Beis Moshiach is not responsible for the content
and Kashruth of the advertisements.
FEATURED ARTICLES
6
USHERING IN PESACH
IN THE LUBAVITCH OF
THE REBBE RASHAB
10
FROM HODU TILL KUSH
Rocheli Dickstein
22
THE CHASSID WHO
GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS
SHLICHUS
Refael Dinari
30
R’ MOTTEL THE
SHOCHET – THE MAN
AND THE LEGEND
Shneur Zalman Berger
22
CONTENTS
744 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409
Tel: (718) 778-8000
Fax: (718) 778-0800
admin@beismoshiach.org
www.beismoshiach.org
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF:
M.M. Hendel
HEBREW EDITOR:
Rabbi S.Y. Chazan
editorH@beismoshiach.org
ENGLISH EDITOR:
Boruch Merkur
editor@beismoshiach.org
WEEKLY COLUMNS
4 D’var Malchus
19 Viewpoint
20 Moshiach & Geula
27 Parsha Thought
38 Tzivos Hashem
40 Crossroads
6
30
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THE FINAL
GENERATION –
AND 3 MORE
From Chapter Six of Rabbi Shloma Majeski’s Likkutei Mekoros (Underlined
text is the compiler’s emphasis.)
Translated by Boruch Merkur
THE REBBE’S REDEMPTION:
A CATALYST FOR THE
FINAL REDEMPTION
4. […] The redemption of my
revered father in-law, the Rebbe
(the Yosef of our generation), is
connected with and serves as a
catalyst in hastening the true and
complete redemption through
Malka Meshicha, Moshiach
ben Dovid. Moshiach will bring
about the recognition of G-d’s
reign throughout the entire
world, as described in Torah:
“G-d shall reign forevermore,”
“and kingship shall be G-d’s,”
“and G-d shall be king upon the
entire earth; on that day G-d
shall be one and His name will
be one.”
PREPARING FOR THE
FINAL GENERATION
5. The latter concept is
further emphasized in the final
stage of exile. More specifically,
within this period itself, its
impact is particularly felt in [the
sixth generation of Chabad]
the generation that the Rebbe
Rayatz served as Rebbe in the
dynasty of Chabad, as well as
[the following generation] our
generation:
The Rebbe Rayatz is the sixth
generation from the Alter Rebbe,
founder of Toras Chassidus
Chabad. (The teachings of
Chabad find expression in
spreading the wellsprings of
Chassidus outward into the
mind’s faculties of Chochma,
Bina, and Daas, in a manner of
“isparnasun minei – one gets
sustenance from it [becoming
a palpable reality, affecting the
emotions, rather than remaining
abstract, intellectual concepts].”
Chabad Chassidus also reaches
the “outside” in the context
of the world, extending to the
furthest possible distance.) And
in terms of s’firos, the sixth
generation corresponds to the
s’fira of Yesod (Yosef), the sixth
Divine attribute.
In general, the sixth
generation parallels the sixth
millennium, the final millennium
of the six thousand years for
which this world is destined to
exist – two thousand years Tohu,
Chaos; two thousand years
Torah; two thousand years the
Era of Moshiach. Within the
sixth millennium itself, the sixth
generation corresponds to the
end of the two thousand years of
the Era of Moshiach.
The sixth generation in the
sixth millennium serves as a
direct preparation for the next
generation (the final generation
of exile and the first generation
of redemption), the seventh
generation (corresponding
to the s’fira of Malchus) – a
preparation for all the men,
women, and children of the
generation individually – as
well as the seventh millennium,
“a day that is entirely Shabbos
and tranquility for everlasting
life.” Although there are “two
thousand years of the Era of
Moshiach” (the fifth and sixth
millennia), there is also the
actual redemption [when the
redemption becomes a tangible
reality]. The pinnacle of the
redemption, of course, takes
place in the seventh millennium,
which is infinity greater than
the six preceding millennia
(in addition to the fact that
it is their culmination and
summation). Indeed, in the
seventh millennium, all that has
been achieved throughout the
six thousand years before it is
included within it and drawn
down to “b’nei shileishim – the
D’VAR MALCHUS
922_bm_eng_BRM.indd 4 2014-04-01 2:40:51 AM
third generation,” achieving
the perfection of “the tenth
shall be holy” (seven together
with three) – the perfection in
Kesser-Malchus of Dovid Malka
Meshicha, as well as all the
virtues of ten that shall come to
the fore in the Future Era.
THREE GENERATIONS
FOLLOWING THE SEVENTH
GENERATION?
6. This manifestation of
Kesser-Malchus is further
expressed on Yud-Beis Tammuz
of this year, the 110
th
birthday of
Yosef, the nasi of our generation,
beginning a new stage in
the ongoing avoda of Yosef,
extending to future generations –
“And Yosef saw Efraim’s children
of the third generation, etc.”
Also, alluding to drawing
down Kesser-Malchus is the
number sixty-three, being sixty-
three years from the Rebbe
Rayatz’s redemption (5687-
5750). Sixty-three is fifty plus
thirteen. (In particular as the
sixty-three years are divided into
thirteen years in the previous
century (5687 – 5700) and fifty
years in this century (5701-
5750). For Nun (Shaar HaNun,
the Fiftieth Gate) corresponds
to Kesser, and it is drawn down
to all Jews, alluded to by thirteen
(twelve Shvatim as well as the
Tribe of Levi, totaling thirteen
Shvatim), corresponding to the
Thirteen Attributes of Mercy.)
Furthermore, sixty-three
(Samech-Gimmel) signifies
G-d’s Divine name referred to as
Sheim Sag, which corresponds to
the main avoda of our time (i.e.,
the refinement and rectification
of the World of Tohu). In fact,
in the sixth millennium, close
to the end, the avoda of Sheim
Sag prepares for the revelation
of Sheim Av (Ayin-Beis) – Atika
Kadisha, the aspect of “maskil
l’eisan ha’ezrachi” – with the
true and complete redemption.
ALL VANITY COMPARED
TO THE FUTURE ERA
7. This discussion relates
to the chapter of T’hillim we
begin saying as of this Yud-Beis
Tammuz (the Rebbe’s 110
th

birthday), Kapitel 111:
On the verse (in this chapter),
“He has made a memorial for
His wonders,” the Tzemach
Tzedek cites (in his writings
on T’hillim) the Midrash, “All
that the Alm-ghty does for the
righteous in the present time is
nothing other than a memorial
of what He prepares for them
in the World to Come, and its
righteousness stands forever.”
The Tzemach Tzedek continues:
“‘All that the Alm-ghty does for
the righteous in the present time
is nothing other than a memorial
of what he prepares for [them
in] the World to Come’: It is
plausible to maintain that this
Midrash teaches that even the
miracles of the exodus from
Egypt are nothing other than
a memorial, a premonition, of
the miracles of the Future Era,
as it is written, ‘As in the day of
your exodus from the land of
Egypt I shall show you wonders’
… That is to say that in the
Future Era there shall be the
revelation of the inner dimension
of Atik, whereas even in the
time of Moshe there was only a
manifestation of the superficial
aspect of Atik Yomim … Thus,
‘a memorial of what he prepares
for [them in] the World to Come’
refers to the aspect of ‘I shall
show you [the] wonders’ of the
Future Era.”
Then the Tzemach Tzedek
elaborates: “All Mitzvos are
merely a memorial and symbol
for what shall be in the Future
Era. For, according to the
Talmudic opinion that Mitzvos
will not be eradicated in the
Future Era, they will actually be
far greater than they are now,
to the extent that the fulfillment
of Mitzvos nowadays is only a
memorial and symbol of how
they will be then … See Rabbos,
the beginning of Koheles, on the
concept of ‘vanity of vanities’ –
that all that was created in the
six days of Creation is ‘vanity’
compared to the Future Era,
as stated in Rabbos that even
the Torah of our time is ‘vanity’
compared with the revelation of
the Torah in the Future Era, etc.”
These teachings underscore
the chiddush discussed above
regarding Yosef’s hundred and
tenth year. Namely, that then
[in the Future Era] it will be
revealed how the continuation
of generations emerges from
“Yosef,” beginning with the
generation of the true and
complete redemption, which is
infinitely greater than anything
that exists at present (throughout
the six thousand years this world
is destined to exist). It goes
without saying that the Future
Era will infinitely surpass the
time of exile, but this is likewise
so with regard to the time of
redemption – the exodus from
Egypt. Naturally, worldly matters
of the present time pale in
comparison to how they will be
in the Future Era, but this is also
the case with regard to Torah
and Mitzvos. It is all no more
than a memorial or symbol of
“His wonders,” of the revelation
of G-d’s “I shall show you
wonders,” from the One “Who
alone performs great wonders”
(of which, as of now, only the
Alm-ghty Himself is aware –
“His wonders”). The Future Era
will see the dawning of “a new
Torah shall emerge from Me,”
and the fulfillment of Mitzvos
will be revealed in the Future Era
“as the Mitzvos of Your will.”
(From the address of Shabbos
Parshas Balak, 14 Tammuz 5750.
Seifer HaSichos 5750, pg. 560-56)
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USHERING IN PESACH IN THE
LUBAVITCH OF
THE REBBE RASHAB
On Erev Pesach in Lubavitch there was a feeling
of satisfaction and joy that grew out from the
great hopes that Moshiach was fnally coming,
the Beis HaMikdash would be rebuilt and the
Korban Pesach brought. * A compilation of
stories about the Rebbe Rashab and Pesach, to
mark Beis Nissan, the Yom Hilula of the Rebbe
Rashab and the upcoming holiday.
CHECKING AND SELLING
THE CHAMETZ
The Rebbe Rashab would
invite some bachurim to his
house and tell each one which
area to check for chametz. The
bachurim would listen to the
Rebbe say the bracha and then
would go and check. Afterward,
they would go and check for
chametz in the dining room of
the yeshiva and in the tea room
and other places.
They gave the chametz they
found to the Rebbe so he could
burn it.
One time, one of the
bachurim, R’ Avrohom Boruch
Pevsner, returned from a
thorough checking and told
the Rebbe he had not found
any chametz. The Rebbe said,
“The mitzva is to search, not
necessarily to find.”
***
The Rebbe Rashab would also
sell his horses to a gentile (in
addition to selling his chametz
through the rav). He would go
with the gentile along with his
personal valet to the stable and
arrange the sale there.
I, and some of the talmidim
who saw that the Rebbe was
in the yard, ran after him and
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BEIS NISSAN
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heard the Rebbe say to the gentile
in Russian, “Will you buy the
horses?” Then the Rebbe noticed
us and told us to go back.
***
The burning of the chametz
was done in the large hall of the
yeshiva in one of the ovens next to
the entrance. They began heating
up the oven that the Rebbe used
to burn the chametz from early in
the morning so the oven would
be full of glowing coals for the
burning of the chametz.
After the burning and saying
the Yehi Ratzon, the Rebbe said
to the talmidim, “Just as the
physical chametz was burned, so
too, the spiritual chametz should
be burned.” Then he added, “A
healthy summer,” and he went
home.
(From the memoirs of R’
Refael Nachman Kahn – Lubavitch
V’Chayaleha)
DRAWING THE MAYIM
SHELANU IN LUBAVITCH
This is how the Chassidim
remember the days of matza
baking that took place in
Lubavitch in a festive spirit and a
state of elevation:
The work of drawing the
water for kneading the shmura
matzos that were baked for the
Rebbe Rashab on Erev Pesach
was done festively and with great
joy. The Rebbe himself took part
and went with the bachurim
to the river behind Binyamin’s
Shtibel in Lubavitch.
The entire way, from the
Rebbe’s house until the river,
the bachurim walked in a long
procession and sang. At the head
of the procession went the Rebbe
and around him walked all the
mashpiim and mashgichim of the
yeshiva, and behind them were all
the bachurim of the yeshiva.
At this time of year, when
the snow melted, the streets in
Lubavitch, which was a small
town whose streets were not
properly paved, were full of mud.
For this reason, walking was hard
for the Rebbe even though the
distance from his house to the
river was not great.
The drawing process was
not simple because large parts
of the river were still frozen and
they had to find a spot where
the snow melted from where it
was easy to draw mayim sh’lanu.
They usually drew the water not
far from the bridge near the flour
mill. The bachurim would enter
the river with their shoes while
the Rebbe stood on the banks of
the river and drew water with a
cup attached to a long stick.
One year, the Rebbe’s health
was particularly precarious and
he did not leave his house for
days. When it came time to
draw the water, the household
members realized that the Rebbe
would not forgo this lofty event
and he would definitely be leaving
the house. One of the household
members spoke to Rebbetzin
Rivka, the Rebbe’s mother, and
asked her to tell her son that this
year he should not go to draw the
mayim sh’lanu.
The Rebbetzin, who was
known as an exceedingly wise
woman, said, “I cannot mix into
my son’s spiritual matters.” The
Rebbe went as usual.
***
The custom was that after
drawing the water, all the
bachurim would dance in the
yard. The Rebbe would sit in
his room and watch through a
window.
One year, the Rebbe said
about a bachur, Shimshon
Milner of Vitebsk, “I saw how
Shimshon Vitebsker danced after
bringing the mayim sh’lanu and
his yechida of the nefesh was
illuminated.”
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Next to him danced the
bachur, Refael Cohen, may
Hashem avenge his blood, later
the rav of Germanovitch. He
said afterward that Shimshon’s
face shone so much that it was
impossible to look at him.
BAKING THE MATZA
Baking matza in Lubavitch
was a great and wondrous avoda.
The Rebbe was present during
the baking and he would stand
the entire time in the room where
the women rolled the matzos and
would watch all the workers.
R’ Mendel of Liadi (a teacher
in Tomchei T’mimim) would
hold the dough. When he held
the meira (the large dough from
which smaller pieces are torn off
for individual matzos), he would
hold and knead it with all his
might. One time, the Rebbe told
him, “You need to hold onto the
moira (awe, fear) in the cheider
just like you hold onto the meira
here.”
Some of the bachurim would
change the paper on which they
rolled the matzos and they were
also the ones who would bring
the matzos to the room where the
oven was, which is where they
also made holes in it. They made
holes with thin pieces of wood. A
number of bachurim would make
holes in each matza individually.
The Rebbe’s son, the
Rayatz, stood near the oven and
supervised the baking.
After the matzos were baked,
the Rebbe gave a matza to each
of the bachurim who worked
there.
(Lubavitch V’Chayaleha; Likkutei Sippurim)
FORTUNATE IS THE ONE
WHO SAW THE SIDREI
PESACH IN TOMCHEI
T’MIMIM IN LUBAVITCH
R’ Chaim Mordechai Perlov,
a talmid in Tomchei T’mimim in
Lubavitch, related:
Until 5666 the way it was in
Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in
Lubavitch was that the bachurim
would spend Pesach in one of the
local hostelries. Starting from the
year 5666, something new was
enacted. Each talmid, including
those from well-to-do families,
would remain in yeshiva and eat
there during Pesach. This system
was also arranged for the young
talmidim of the chadarim who
did not eat in the yeshiva dining
room all year.
The Rebbe’s son, Rayatz,
the “acting dean” of the yeshiva,
was in charge of arranging and
running things. Everything the
Rebbe’s son did was done in the
most meticulous manner.
Rayatz sent a messenger to
Vitebsk to buy big pots as well as
plates and cups and utensils. He
bought so much that when it was
stored in the yeshiva’s kitchen it
looked like a huge housewares
store.
Since the usual dining room
wasn’t big enough for all of
them, certainly not for sitting
comfortably in a way that would
allow for rejoicing on the holiday
properly, the big zal was chosen
as a suitable place for a dining
room. A special team of bachurim
was chosen to clean, kasher and
arrange the zal for this purpose.
The first night of Pesach,
after Maariv, the Rebbe Rashab
entered the zal with his son. The
zal looked new. It was clean and
sparkling, and set and ready for
the Seder by the bachurim. Later
on, they said that the Rebbe said
the appearance of the zal was a
“spiritual delight.”
R’ Yehuda Chitrik, also a
talmid of the yeshiva, said:
The nights of the s’darim and
the rest of Pesach were run in the
most orderly way. The hanhala
appointed someone in charge and
an assistant. They, together with
a team, were responsible to see to
it that everything went smoothly.
A list of names of talmidim
was hung on the wall, stating who
sat at each table. Each class sat at
its own table and at every table
there was someone in charge who
had to supply each person with
whatever he needed for the ke’ara
and the four cups of wine.
One of the bachurim was
appointed to sell the various
honors such as asking the
four questions out loud; who
would finish each section in
the recitation of the Hagada; a
certain dance in front of a certain
table; filling up Eliyahu’s cup;
opening the door for Eliyahu;
and Birkas ha’zimun. The money
was later given to the Kupas
Bachurim.
After they all found their
places, the one in charge would
announce, “Table 1 will say
Kiddush.” After they finished
Kiddush, he would announce,
“Table 2 will say Kiddush.” The
same was done for all the tables.
As long as the previous table did
not say Kiddush, the others did
not begin.
The same was with washing
the hands. The one in charge
announced it according to tables.
Obviously, doing it this way,
when there were close to 200
talmidim present, in addition to
the dancing, the s’darim ended


When he saw what happened, he cried out, “Oy,
Rebbe! Your fngers are burned!”
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BEIS NISSAN
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late at night. The first night it
ended at 2 in the morning and
the second night at four in the
morning.
In the middle of the hall was
a table with a large candelabrum
that was made by the Rebbe
Maharash. The candelabrum
was comprised of 613 pieces of
wood and had thirteen branches.
It was painted with three colors –
brown, yellow and a color almost
black. All the dancing took place
around this table.
Throughout the years, the
days of Pesach were very joyous
with much joy and public
celebration, “and in the multitude
of the nation is the glory of the
King.”
BOILING WATER ON THE
REBBE’S FINGERS
The Rebbe Rayatz related:
One year before Pesach my
father went to the room where
they koshered the utensils for
Pesach (they also koshered the
utensils that were exclusive for
Pesach). He would oversee the
work.
When they koshered the water
urn, the Rebbe tossed white
hot stones into the water so the
water would boil hotter. He
simultaneously opened the faucet
from which water came out of the
urn. The boiling water burned his
hand.
The Chassid, R’ Michoel
Dworkin was present. When he
saw what happened, he cried
out, “Oy, Rebbe! Your fingers are
burned!”
The Rebbe Rashab, whose
holy face was bright with
joy, said, “Are my fingers not
Chassidish? A Chassid does not
need to refrain from doing what
needs to be done, whether it is
cold or hot.”
(Seifer HaSichos 5708)
OPENING THE DOOR
FOR ELIYAHU
The Rebbe Rayatz related:
When I was a little boy,
my father (the Rebbe Rashab)
held a seder in the home of my
grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivka
(wife of the Rebbe Maharash).
When they reached the part in
the Hagada of “Pour out Your
wrath,” they would open all the
doors of the rooms, from the
room which they were in until the
front door.
In order to open the doors,
they sent distinguished guests
who were with them at the table.
Although Eliyahu HaNavi can
find a Jewish home and enter it
on his own, we still need to go
and open the door ourselves to
let him in.
One time, when I was a boy,
they sent me to open the door.
One of the doors was double.
I opened the first door but the
other half needed to be opened
from on top. I stood on a chair
but still was unable to reach the
upper knob. Finally, my father
came and picked me up.
When I got off the chair, I
sighed from the physical exertion.
My father said, “In order to allow
a Jew, Eliyahu HaNavi, to enter
the house, we need to exert
ourselves.”
(Seifer HaSichos 5707)
THE NEWS THAT
ARRIVED THAT NIGHT
In 5664-5, during the Russo-
Japanese War, the Rebbe Rashab
sent packages of matza to Jewish
soldiers who fought in Shanghai.
The Rebbe was in Paris at the
time. Baron Ginsberg, a wealthy
man with connections in royal
circles, was there too.
The Rebbe Rashab hoped to
use his connection to the Baron
in order to send the matza to the
soldiers, but at that time he was
estranged from the Baron. The
Baron was upset with the Rebbe
for his opposition to secular
studies in Jewish schools.
Despite this, the Rebbe went
to the Baron and begged him
to obtain permission to send
matza to the soldiers. The Baron
caustically said, “The Jews have
Pesach Sheini ...”
The Rebbe replied, “On the
front lines there are no barons;
the soldiers are simple Jews. They
don’t know any tricks. They need
matza for Pesach.”
After much effort, the Russian
government helped in sending
matza to the soldiers. Seder
night, a telegram arrived at the
Rebbe Rashab’s home from
Petersburg with the news that
all was in order and the matza
had reached its destination. The
Rebbe was excited at this good
news and he stood up and said,
“Praise to G-d.”
(Seifer HaSichos 5702)
ADD IN ACTS OF GOODNESS & KINDNESS
TO BRING MOSHIACH NOW!
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FROM HODU
TILL KUSH
Twin sisters, shluchos from the day they were
born, have ended up with one in Hodu-India and
one in Kush-Ethiopia, and not just for Purim!
* Shlichus stories of Chaya Mushka Sudry and
Devorah Leah Chaviv, of the Gromach family
of Beit Dagan. * Shlichus which entails going
completely out of that which is familiar and
comfortable, in order to transform the world.
By Rocheli Dickstein
I
ndia is a country of opposites.
On one side of New Delhi,
the capitol, are the abject
poor; on the other side live
multi-millionaires and billionaires.
The tourists who land in Delhi,
who want to save money, stay
in the filthy Pahar Ganj quarter.
The Main Bazaar in the center is
polluted, noisy and chaotic with
beggars, peddlers, and wandering
animals. In the summer, add the
unbearable heat and humidity. No
wonder that the tourists escape
after a day or two. But R’ Akiva
and Mushka Sudry, who went
to replace R’ Shmulik and Mira
Scharf, have settled here.
In Ethiopia there are also
opposites. Ethiopia is a country
where people rent apartments
for thousands of dollars a
month, but are unwilling to sell
a hundred eggs “because this
is all I have.” The country is
sizable (27
th
in the world) but
it is hard to find a home with a
kitchen of reasonable size. There
are embassies from nearly every
country, but only one shul. This
is where R’ Eliyahu and Devorah
Leah Chaviv have opened a
Chabad house, the first in the
country.
SHLICHUS FROM BIRTH
“Beit Dagan,” says Devorah
Leah, “is our home. A big house,
which is not only the private
home of my family, but of the
entire yishuv. My parents went
to this yishuv with the Rebbe’s
blessings. My father presented a
number of options and the Rebbe
circled the yishuvim of Beit
Dagan, Mishmar HaShiva and
Kfar Ganot.
“The job of us girls was with
the children. For example, every
Friday, before candle lighting,
about thirty girls gathered in the
home of my parents, R’ Shmuel
and Ruth Gromach. We would
light together and recite Kabbalas
Shabbos with songs and games.
We also ran Tzivos Hashem
activities on Wednesdays in a few
areas of Beit Dagan.”
Then the two of them got
married and Mushka went to
Delhi, India
“Three months after we
married. It wasn’t something
we planned. R’ Shmulik Scharf
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asked us to replace them for
three months. The Indian
government allows Israelis a visa
for only half a year. Every half a
year, the shluchim have to leave
India and stay away for a cooling
period until they can submit a
new request for a visa.
“We agreed to go. My
husband was in Delhi for half a
year as a bachur on shlichus, and
that is why R’ Scharf asked us to
go. As far as learning and work
were concerned, it was a great
time to go and as far as visas, we
both have foreign passports so
everything was quickly arranged.
We also opened to an amazing
letter from the Rebbe about being
a role model and shlichus so we
had no doubt.
“We had just two problems.
The first, what would we do with
the furniture and electronics that
we had bought when we married.
The second, I had never been to a
place like India before. I grew up
on shlichus since I was born. It’s
not like Chabad house life is new
to me, and most of my family had
been in the East on shlichus. But
still, when you yourself go and
begin to work, it’s different than
hearing stories about it.
“We resolved the first problem
by selling our stuff. We saw that
it would be cheaper to sell and
buy again than to pay to store
the contents of an apartment.
The second problem I discovered
only when I landed in Delhi and
it’s a problem that only time can
resolve.”
Devorah Leah went to Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia:
“We went thanks to the
Rebbe,” she laughs. “Before we
married my husband was on
shlichus in Hampi, India with
my older brother, for half a year.
One day, he got a phone call
from a number that contained
the digits 770. He was sure it
was one of his friends and he
answered the call as he would to
any of his friends. It turned out
to be a tourist to Ethiopia who
was a bit peeved that he hadn’t
found a single Chabad house.
Since then, it became a joke that
Eliyahu Chaviv would open a
Chabad house in Ethiopia.
“I, on the other hand, had
promised myself as a single girl
that I wouldn’t go on shlichus in
that way. I had seen my brother
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and sister-in-law, who are
shluchim in India, and the
kind of life they lead – living
in a way that is vastly different
than what they are used to,
worrying about enormous
amounts of money and
never being able to stop
dealing with it, morning,
noon and night … I
wanted a different kind of
life. Shlichus, but in Eretz
Yisroel, with a set salary so
that I knew how much was
entering my bank account and
living accordingly.
“Two weeks before Pesach
of last year, we found ourselves,
a young couple with a baby on
a sort of vacation. It was ‘bein
ha’z’manim’ from Kollel for my
husband and I had a break from
school, and he suggested we
make Pesach in Ethiopia. Not in
order to stay there, but just to
see what Ethiopia is like and to
help the tourists there celebrate a
proper Pesach.”
STARTING OUT
Mushka-Delhi:
Acclimating was very hard.
India is a very beautiful country
and people go there for half a
year and more, but they stay only
a day or two in Delhi and even
that is only because the airport is
here.
Delhi is a place of extremes.
The southern part of the city
belongs to the wealthy and that
is where I go when I need to do
shopping. But the cheaper area
where the tourists go is filthy.
In the summer it is so hot that
what you feel when walking in
the streets is like the feeling when
you open the oven in the middle
of baking. It is unbearably hot
here.
The Scharfs had enormous
mesirus nefesh. It is impossible
to understand under what
conditions they lived. The current
building, which we are in, is one
they came to after many prior
stops and they considered it
beautiful. This “beauty” consists
of four walls and a ceiling. No
closets, no air conditioning,
nothing. I don’t know how a
couple with children was able to
live like this. The first thing we
did was to renovate it.
Devorah Leah-Ethiopia:
We knew nothing about
Ethiopia and we had no one to
ask. In the end, we managed to
get the email address of an Israeli
tour guide who lives there. We
made a list of what we needed for
a proper Pesach and asked him:
what do you have there and what
do we need to bring? We had
to discuss the smallest details –
are there disposable plates? Are
there pears for charoses? And
the question of all questions: how
many Jews are there?
Although he tried to help,
when we finally got there we
discovered that we were missing
so many things due to lack of
clear information. The tour guide
continued to help us. We found
a hotel near the area where the
tourists are, and also close to the
shul of the Adenite community.
We began to inquire about the
number of people. We soon
learned that there aren’t
many Israelis living there.
The businessmen go
back home and there
aren’t many tourists.
We decided to prepare
for forty people. We
had just two weeks and
it was urgent to get
down to work as soon as
possible.
We went to the manager
and asked him to set aside a
place for us in the kitchen which
we would kasher for our needs.
This wasn’t the best option
because on the other side of the
kitchen they would be cooking
treif and we would have to
constantly watch to see that not
a single worker approached our
area or mistakenly put something
down on the counter. But that
seemed the best we could do.
When we sat down with the
manager, a close friend, a Jew
from the Adenite community by
the name of Sholom, who is there
on business, came in. Sholom
lives in England and comes to
do business a few months a
year. The Rebbe arranged things
so that he would be here just at
this time. Sholom loved the idea
of our presence and since he
was a friend of the manager, he
explained to him what we needed.
We thought of the hotel’s kitchen
but Sholom had them turn one
of the offices into a kitchen with
two sinks, a counter, and a place
for an oven and refrigerator.
Sholom also got them to give
us the lobby of the hotel for free
and not at the amount equivalent
to twenty shekels per person,
as we had originally arranged.
Thanks to Sholom, the manager
so wanted to satisfy us that he
offered to prepare part of our
food. When he realized that this
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was impossible, he offered to
supply soda. We consulted
with a rav and told him
no, but the atmosphere was
pleasant and accepting and
the sum total of expenses
was less than we had
anticipated.
That last part
about the expenses is a
miracle of the Rebbe.
We had come with an
amount of money we
thought would be enough,
but it really wasn’t. We had
thought that since things are
so cheap here, it would be easy
to manage, but we hadn’t taken
into account that we had to buy
pots and electronics at three
times the price the items cost in
Eretz Yisroel. We could not make
Pesach without an oven or food
processor and that is why our
money was quickly used up.
Back to our organizing:
Within a week, we had finished
fixing up the office and we had
a completely separate kitchen.
Although it was small, it was
ours. We got a refrigerator from
an Israeli woman who lives
there and we bought a stove
and were ready to begin. Just
so that you know, there were
only three days left until Pesach
night. We received phone calls
intermittently throughout this
time. We recalculated and saw
we had to prepare for fifty-sixty
people. I decided to “go big” and
to prepare for seventy people.
On the last night before
Pesach, the phone did not stop
ringing. Groups of tourists of
eight people and more told us
they were on their way and then
I realized, I may have prepared
for seventy but I had no way
of knowing how many would
actually show up.
Nothing prepared me for
the surprise of the night. One
hundred and thirty people came!
Food for two days was consumed
in one night. People from
the embassies came. We had
contacted a few people from all
the embassies and they told their
friends. All the employees of the
Israeli embassy came, and they
were quite a few people. Aside
from them there were also many
tourists. The tourists hadn’t
expected to attend such a formal
affair and they came dressed in
their usual casual attire. They
felt uncomfortable around the
respectably dressed embassy
personnel but they quickly
warmed up. Israelis feel at home
with Israelis and it makes no
difference how they look. The
men went to shul and came back
for the seder which was run in a
most beautiful way. It was a great
success.
ONGOING SHLICHUS
Mushka:
As I said, we were only
planning to be in Delhi for
three months, but after three
months the Scharf family had not
completed the visa process. We
knew that a high turnover rate
of shluchim at the Chabad house
such as this one in Delhi was not
a good thing, financially and on
a human level. Three months are
not enough time to acclimate.
So although we had already
planned on returning home,
to breathe the fresh air of
Eretz Yisroel, we decided
to stay for another three
months.
At the end of this
period of time, the Scharf
family was ready to return
but Hashem had other plans.
The blackest day in my life is
when I heard about the terrible
tragedy of Mira’s death. We
realized that for the meantime,
until Shmuel could come back,
we would be staying.
Devorah Leah:
We returned to Eretz Yisroel
after Pesach and for a few
months we received calls like,
“We heard you were here for
Pesach. Where can we get kosher
food?” “Where is the Chabad
house?” and so on. We were in
Eretz Yisroel, but people spoke as
though we were still in Ethiopia.
We thought about it and decided
to go back.
We received a special bracha
from the Rebbe, we consulted
with mashpiim, my husband with
his mashpia and me with my
mashpia, and jointly decided to
return. That was at the end of the
summer. We wanted to prepare,
financially and emotionally, and
to get there around Chanuka.
But my husband’s mashpia
asked: Who will blow the shofar
on Rosh HaShana? Who will
take care of Kaparos?
So in less than a month we
finished our preparations and
we boarded a plane for Ethiopia.
Organizing meant packing up the
house, but we left many things
behind like a washing machine
and a new oven. Although they
are very expensive in Ethiopia,
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the costs of transporting them
and the import tax sent the costs
way up. We ended up with three
pallets that weighed half a ton
that contained a lot of s’farim,
clothing, sheets, pillows, dishes,
and food. We sent it by air and
got it all three days after we
landed.
We went back to the hotel
where we spent Pesach. It was
nice to recall what had taken
place here a few months earlier,
this time with a child who
understood more. We took a
room in the hotel and thought
that within two or three days we
would find an apartment and
move. It took more time than
that. It turns out, it is very hard
to find an apartment in Ethiopia.
Our requirements weren’t
unreasonable. We wanted a place
as close as possible to where
the tourists stay, which is one
of the most neglected, dirty and
unpleasant parts of Ethiopia, but
we had come for their sake. We
wanted a large kitchen, a house
that would meet the needs of a
Chabad house, at a reasonable
monthly rent.
We spoke to a few real
estate agents and explained
what we were looking for, but
apparently the Ethiopian mind
works somewhat differently.
They took us to see apartments
which left me wondering what
connection they had with our list
of requirements, and they even
tried to convince us that this is
just what we needed.
Forget about a big kitchen.
They prepare the injera (an
Ethiopian food that is like a big
pita) outside the house on a gas
burner or coal fire. All the smells
and smoke remain outside. There
is no refrigerator in the house.
So what do you need a kitchen
for? Even if there is a kitchen,
it is tiny and without space for
a refrigerator and oven. As far
as bathrooms and showers,
many Ethiopians see no need
for a room like this in the house.
There are public bathrooms and
showers and they manage just
fine.
In addition, a reasonable
rental fee to them is different
than what we had in mind. We
saw a tiny two room renovated
apartment for $3000 a month!
The reason the prices are so
high is because the apartments
are mainly for employees of
embassies. Ethiopians live
peacefully in small tin huts. The
ones who pay these exorbitant
rental fees are the embassies,
so the employees don’t care if it
costs $5 or $2000. Although the
Ethiopians are not businessmen,
they realized the potential here
and upped the prices.
After we saw about two
hundred apartments, we almost
compromised on renting a few
rooms in a rundown guest house.
We told the owner: we will rent
three connecting rooms and pay
you for half a year in advance.
But he wasn’t interested because
there are times in the year, he
said, when people move in and
out of a room three times a day
and each one pays the price of
a room. “If you’d like,” he said,
“you can pay me triple.”
Well, that wasn’t feasible
and so we continued to search.
After Tishrei, we moved into
an apartment that was very
small and became even smaller
as people came to visit. People
wanted to stay and sleep but
we had no place for them. We
spread mattresses out in the
living room and every night the
living room looked like a pajama
party. This was not a workable
situation because in the morning
we needed the living room for
davening and in the afternoon
we needed it for meals, and it is
not pleasant to wake someone
because you need to daven, but
that’s the way it was.
This apartment had only one
bathroom so before Shabbos I
could find myself in a line with
Mushka, our baby, waiting
behind six people who wanted
to use the tub. One good aspect
of this apartment was that it was
about five minutes away from the
airport and it was located on the
main street of the city. It was very
easy to direct people to it and a
lot of people stopped by to eat
supper and to get ready for their
flight.
We continued looking for an
apartment. Thanks to our tiny
apartment, we were more aware
of our needs: the apartment had
to be located no more than five
minutes from the main highway
so we could be easily located.
There are hardly any street
names in Ethiopia. In order to
direct someone, you say which
embassy or hotel is close by, but
if you are located deep into the
side streets it is very hard to find.
Also, of course the apartment
had to be near the tourist area,
it needed at least two bathrooms,
a reasonably large kitchen, and
another floor so Mushka would
have a private area to play and to
sleep and we would have a place
where we could clear our heads
from all the noise downstairs.
We recently moved to a larger
apartment with a bigger kitchen.
It is centrally located, not on the
main road but only a small way
off – a ten minute walk from the
Global Hotel. It is interesting
that we moved into our first
apartment with one car and left
it with two trucks and two small
cars, all completely full of stuff.
This is despite the fact that the
money we came with was used
within the first two weeks. We
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constantly see the miracles that
the Rebbe does for us.
On our first Shabbos in
the new apartment, I was
very nervous. How would
people find us? My fear
was for naught, boruch
Hashem. Thirty-five
people came. Most of
them had been with us
for a Shabbos or two
and they knew we were
moving and were in touch
with us before Shabbos
to find out exactly where
we are. The rest of the people
came thanks to them.
TARGET AUDIENCE
Mushka:
Delhi is the “gateway”
to India and whoever comes
to India, comes to us. It is
important to us that everything
be nice, aesthetic and clean.
For example, one of the Scharf
family’s wonderful projects,
that we try to expand upon, is a
mikva. The mikva brings tears
to the eyes of most of the people
who come. In the midst of all the
filth, it opens a door to a quiet
world with sparkling chandeliers.
One of the reasons that we
place an emphasis on gashmius
here is because the Chabad house
in Delhi is the tourist’s first
encounter with Chabad. They
find in us a place of refuge where
you can sit down in a clean,
air conditioned place and eat
something. Every Chabad house
is a home, but over here it is even
more than that. This Chabad
house opens the door to the
world of Chabad houses in India.
People are here for a day or
two. They put down their bags
and look for a guest house. In
the summer, about two hundred
people pass through here every
day! My daughter crawls among
them and tries to find herself a
path within the bedlam. In the
winter, on the other hand, there
are fewer people and the weather
is more pleasant, so the Chabad
house suddenly looks larger.
The fact that thousands of
people pass through here, means
that our encounters are very
brief. You invest but don’t see the
results. On the other hand, we
are exposed to so many personal
stories. Each person is a story and
every encounter with someone is
an interesting story. We welcome
them when they come to India
and we send them off back home.
Those are significant moments.
We see how someone comes and
what he goes back with. I don’t
have amazing soul stories, but
we constantly have little, moving
stories.
For example, there was a
kibbutznik fellow by the name
of Elad. He was here with us for
Simchas Torah. The selling of the
honor of carrying a Torah was
in exchange for good hachlatos.
A girl who wanted to buy the
honors with a good hachlata
could then give it to one of the
guys. Elad committed to putting
on t’fillin at every Chabad house
he went to.
A few days later, he came
to the Chabad house around
nine o’clock at night. He
came over to me and said,
“Okay, here I am.” I didn’t
know what he wanted.
Then he explained that
he came for t’fillin. We
explained to him that he
has to come earlier, but
he had things to take
care of that caused him to
miss doing it by sunset for
a week.
He was really upset
with himself. It was finally a
Friday when he showed up a few
minutes before candle lighting.
My husband put t’fillin on
with him and Elad’s emotional
reaction moved everyone present.
Devorah Leah:
Our target audience can
be divided into four main
groups: tourists, volunteers,
Israeli businessmen and Jewish
employees of the embassies.
Ethiopia is becoming a tourist
attraction something like India
or South America. There is a
lot to see here. There is a salt
desert where the earth is shiny
and colorful, there are lakes, wild
animals, mountains, an active
volcano, and more. Aside from
the scenery there are the tribes.
They live without electricity and
without communicating with the
world. They try to add variety
to their food from what they
find around them and they build
houses out of mud, straw, or tin.
A group of tourists told me
that a certain tribe was so happy
to host them that they honored
them with whatever they had:
a cup of sour milk, some seeds,
and a banana. The Ethiopian
tribes don’t know quite what
to make of white people. They
touch the tourist’s clothes and try
to understand why they need so
many. They touch the tourist’s
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body to see whether he is for real.
They don’t understand where this
strange creature landed from.
The tourists here are different
than the tourists in India because,
for one thing, they are tourists
with “serious” destinations who
come to experience nature and
to learn about different cultures
and tribes. The tourists can be
students before or after the army,
older people, and even families
with children.
Another difference between
tourists in India and tourists in
Ethiopia is that you can form
a personal connection with
the tourists here. In Delhi, for
example, the tourists pop into the
Chabad house for a few hours
and then leave. Even if they come
back later, it is hard to remember
them. In Ethiopia, they go south
and then return to Addis Ababa,
the capitol, for a few days of
organizing and preparing, and
then they go north and come
back to Addis Ababa, and so on.
We, who are near the airport and
the main highway, just have to
keep track of who left for where
and who came back.
The businessmen come here
because they find Ethiopia a
good place to do business. Labor
is very cheap here and there are
plentiful natural resources. In
Ethiopia itself there is what to
do: developing highways, for
example, is popular. Others work
in agriculture, exporting tons of
strawberries every week to the
entire world, exporting flowers to
Holland, etc. These businessmen
find the Chabad house to be a
place to unwind. We have a shiur
twice a week just for them. They
come to learn and also to network
with one another, to get advice,
to help out where possible.
The volunteers are people
from all over the world who
decided to go to Ethiopia and
volunteer with children. They
teach them math and English, do
activities with them, and help out
on the health front where things
are actually starting to improve.
They usually come for three
months and the Jews among
them come to us often.
All these are Israelis or Jews
from outside of Ethiopia. We have
nothing to do with Ethiopians
except for the members of the
Adenite community who are not
really Ethiopians but Yemenites.
The Aden community is an
ancient one which developed in
Ethiopia a hundred years ago.
Aden is near Yemen and the
sea, so Yemenite businessmen
who wanted to do business
with Egypt and India, came
here. Some of that community
moved to Ethiopia. They are
reminiscent of Yemenites but
are different in appearance,
customs, and observance of
tradition. We daven in their shul.
When the British ruled the area,
they received British citizenship
and many of them left for Eretz
Yisroel or England. Today, they
are five hundred families who all
speak Hebrew and know how to
read and write. The reason they
stayed here is for business or
because of assimilation.
NONSTOP WORK
Mushka:
My job is to welcome every
female tourist, to be a listening
ear to those who need one and to
put together shiurim. Aside from
that, I am very involved with the
logistical side of things. Every
day we get dozens of emails and
I respond to all of them. We
started a catering service, which
provides deliveries of kosher
meals as well as the Chabad
house restaurant. Now, for
example, there is a big expo going
on for the airline industry. Every
country presents a number of
advanced avionics developments.
The exhibit attracts people from
all over the world. We realized
this is a tremendous potential for
mivtzaim and boruch Hashem,
we managed to get invited. Our
part of the expo is to set up
stands of tasty kosher food and
t’fillin, of course.
By the way, Delhi, as the
capitol city, is the least advanced
in India as far as medicine and
prisons. We take responsibility
for all tourists who are in jail or
who were injured while traveling.
This year, boruch Hashem, there
are far fewer instances of injuries
among the tourists.
Aside from the work with
tourists, we also work with the
local Jewish community. They
are a few Jewish families who
remained out of a beautiful, large
community. They came here
originally around the time of the
Expulsion from Spain and over
the years, they acquired the dark
skin and look of Indians. One
of the families has children and
I teach them basic Judaism and
Hebrew once a week. These three
children are the only Jews among
500 children in the local school.
I remember that when I
told them about Chanuka,
the little boy asked why the
Greeks contaminated the Beis
HaMikdash. I explained but
he did not understand why the
Greeks would want to persecute
Jews. I told him that Jews are
very smart and successful and the
gentiles are jealous and hate us.
He said, “How is it possible that
there is a boy in my class who
gets better marks than me if I am
the only Jew in the class?”
In the south of the city there
is another Chabad house which
is run by Shneur and Sarah
Kupchik. The south of the city
is another world entirely than
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where we are. Over a hundred
Israeli families of businessmen
live there along with people
from embassies and the
aircraft industry. I go
there once a week to
do activities with
children. The fact
that there is another
Chabad house in
the city is very
helpful.
Devorah Leah:
We don’t have
400 people Friday
night as they do in
Bolivia or India, the
shlichus here is different.
At the Shabbos meals we can
have fifty people. Each meal
begins by people introducing
themselves, saying where they
came from and what “point of
light” they saw that week. A
“point of light” means where
did you encounter G-d or what
we would call hashgacha pratis.
People stop and think about
what occurred to them and how
it came to pass. This practice is
very positive and unifying.
There are activities with
Israeli children who live in the
area, big events before holidays
and every Monday there is a
class on Hebrew and a class
on Judaism which includes the
parsha and learning the alef-
beis. We divided the children
into two groups, one group with
little children, ages four to nine,
and another group of older girls.
These lessons are Sunday school
style but we chose Monday
because on Sunday they all go
on outings. They come to us in
the afternoon, after school. By
the way, they attend an American
school so our Jewish activities
with the children are really vital.
We see our little Mushka
becoming a real shlucha. Aside
from the fact that it is important
that she see children and play
with them, she is able to break
the ice. When they see her, they
take out a kippa and show me
they have a Siddur.
Every Thursday we give out
challos. I make seventy braided
challos out of ten kilos of flour.
I have someone to work with
me but she can’t manage the
braiding. I can’t figure out how
she is able to make so many
braids in her hair but can’t
manage in my kitchen …
With each challa we attach a
brochure with information about
candle lighting, a little on the
parsha and a miracle story of the
Rebbe. After the packages are
ready, we make the rounds of
all the families and offices and
personally give out the challa.
The rounds take about four and a
half hours by car.
This also strengthens our
personal relationship. We go to
their houses and have a friendly
conversation. Activities like these
make a long term impact. Thanks
to the challa, a number
of people have started
making Kiddush on
Friday night.
HARDSHIPS
Mushka:
I don’t like
to talk about the
hardships. Every
person and every
place has its
difficulties. “Good”
is an inner sense.
In the aggregate, it’s
actually good here.
Shlichus fulfills us. It’s
a special feeling because
when we encounter a problem,
we feel that it’s not our problem
but the Rebbe’s. In Eretz Yisroel,
if a person doesn’t have enough
money to finish the month and
has to pay the rent, he goes
around feeling stressed. Here,
when there is no money for the
rent, we feel that soon the Rebbe
will send it and he does. Each
time it’s another sort of miracle.
This is a worry-free life.
What is the difference
between life in Eretz Yisroel
and life in India?
Mushka:
There are lots of blackouts
and we still don’t have a
generator. Imagine what it’s like
at fifty degrees Celsius (122 F)
without being able to turn on
a fan. Last year we spent two
days like that. Perhaps it might
have been a little less difficult if
I wouldn’t have lost hydration
and reached the point of
hospitalization …
There is also a problem here
with the water. The government
provides water one hour a day.
During that time, you need to
operate a pump which fills a big
black container on the roof, like
the Arabs or Bedouins in Eretz
HODU
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Yisroel have. This amount is
meant to last all day. If we forgot
to turn it on, or we turned it on
late, or the government decided
not supply water that day, then
there isn’t any and we bathe with
bottles of mineral water. It’s a
way of life you get used to. You
slowly get used to it.
Devorah Leah:
The money issue bothers me.
Our expenses are very high and
raising money isn’t easy. For
some reason, people think my
husband and I are paid a salary to
be here. They are also sure that
if I would just ask them to send
me something from Eretz Yisroel,
I would immediately get it. My
dream for the last half a year has
been a slice of bread with 5%
white cheese …
Communicating with family
in Eretz Yisroel and elsewhere
is hard; even India is more
advanced in that respect. The
electricity fails at least twice a
week. You never know when
it will happen and when the
electricity will be restored. If it
happens during daylight hours
it’s relatively easier to manage but
if it happens at night and people
come to eat, it’s not that pleasant
to search for the schnitzel in the
pan in the dark. During the first
blackouts, baby Mushka was lost
and couldn’t navigate among all
the people in the house. Today
she is used to it already and we
both manage to feel around
and find one another relatively
quickly.
We bought a generator but
it only manages to power the
dairy oven. One time, we had
a blackout from Thursday until
Shabbos morning. In order to be
able to give out challos as always,
we koshered that oven so it would
be pareve and I baked challos and
cakes for Shabbos, as usual.
As far as the food here, one of
our miracles is that my husband
is a shochet. The first sh’chita
was chicken from Kaparos. In
Eretz Yisroel, all the live chickens
come in boxes and they are all
white, clean, and full of meat.
Here, the chickens walk freely
about all day. That makes then
lean and muscular which makes
them not very tasty. Also, the
area is not clean so their feathers
are dusty and you can’t get rid
of the odor. We looked for better
chickens. After a long search,
we found a distant village where
they raise chickens. They gave us
200 chickens, a clean work space
and support staff. We even had a
feather removing machine. Real
luxury.
There is only one kosher
fish here, called tilapia. It is full
of bones and not that tasty, but
I try to get the most out of it: I
add vegetables and make fish
cakes. Other fish aren’t available
because there is no sea in
Ethiopia, just lakes. They import
fish and that raises the price and
makes them hard to get.
Milk is easier. We came with
two boxes of Cornflakes and they
remained closed for four months.
We simply did not manage to find
a cow. Even when we found one,
the process wasn’t easy. You have
to get up at five in the morning
for milking. The cows don’t
always have enough milk, so each
time we tried to figure out how
long it would last us. Now I want
to start making cheese. That will
broaden our dairy diet.
Speaking of milk, one day an
Israeli came who saw the milk
and was excited about it. I asked
him why he was so particular
about chalav akum and he said
that he once wrote to the Rebbe
and the Rebbe responded that he
should be particular about chalav
Yisroel. This sounded strange
to him because he lived in Eretz
Yisroel and bought everything
there. Still, upon his return,
he went through his cabinets
and found many products that
were not chalav Yisroel. He was
amazed by how the Rebbe knew
what he had in his house while
he, the homeowner, did not
know. Since then, he has been
very particular about this.
LOOKING FORWARD
Mushka:
The Chabad house in Delhi
has gone through many changes.
It began in a little room in a guest
house and today it is in a normal
building. We are constantly
expanding and improving it. My
husband is gifted with a mind
that races forward and thinks
big. When tourists come back to
us after several months, I always
hear exclamations of surprise
at our progress. But it is still
not up to par. We need a big,
spacious place that can contain
the huge numbers of people who
come here. Our dream is to put
up a big Chabad house that will
be called “Beit Mira” for Mira
Scharf, may Hashem avenge her
blood.
Devorah Leah:
The next big project is
building a mikva. We get a
lot of phone calls about this.
There is no mikva in any of the
neighboring countries and they
call us because they are sure the
Chabad house has a mikva. With
each one of these phone calls, my
husband or I explain that there
is a lake four hours away and
you have to go there. I want a
beautiful mikva so that whoever
needs it, can pamper themselves.
Aside from that, there is
still no Chabad house in all
the countries along the Israelis
touring route in this part of
Africa. So whoever can rise to the
occasion, will be blessed.
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SHLICHUS
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LET THE SUN SHINE
By Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz
By default, the sun emanates
light. The circumstances through
which the light is blocked are all
external obstacles – whether they
be natural or man-made. As long
as there is some obstacle between
me and the sun, the light will never
shine on me. I definitely want to
let more light into my life. Who
doesn’t? So, if I want to let more
light into my life – more meaning,
more spirituality, more goodness
– then the question I have to ask
myself is: What’s blocking the
light? The light is certainly shining,
but something is stopping it from
getting to me. If I can figure out
what the blockage is, then I can
remove it and allow the light to
shine through.
Sometimes the shadow is cast
upon me by external factors that are
– to varying degrees – not entirely
under my control. I can do my best
to avoid or minimize them, but at
the end of the day there are going
to be situations in which there
is not much I can do to remove
the obstacle. I will inevitably find
myself in times of darkness. Shade
is a dimension of reality that I
have to learn to live with, and even
sometime appreciate.
But, honestly, most of the
obstacles are actually self-generated.
Whether it be a propensity toward
anger, self-aggrandizement,
lethargy, or uncontrollable
temptations and addictions, the
negativity I generate from within
and project outwards form barriers
that block the light, or make me
unable to appreciate it when it is
there. These follies stop me from
attaining the intelligence, harmony,
health, wealth, world domination,
or whatever it is I’m after in life.
Working to correct these follies
removes the obstacles and allows
the light to shine into my life.
On a deeper, more existential
level, the obstacle that blocks the
light is, ironically, me. Do I then
have to remove myself so that I don’t
block the light? And if I do succeed
somehow in achieving this, then
who will be there to benefit from the
light once I remove myself?
The answer is Passover. What
makes this night different than
all other nights? That is the
question that begins the historical
and existential journey known as
the Passover Seder. One of the
differences, the one that most
explicitly symbolizes the theme of
freedom that is so central to this
festival, is the custom of reclining
while eating the matza and drinking
the traditional four cups of wine at
the Seder. On the simplest level,
the reclining is an expression of
our status as a free people, one of
the motifs of Passover as a whole
and the Seder in particular. In
Kabbalistic sources, the custom
of reclining is described in more
spiritual terms, perhaps exposing
the mystical roots of what freedom is
all about. The body can generally be
divided into three sections that are
organized hierarchically according
to function: The head, the torso and
the legs. In a standing or a seated
position, the hierarchical structure
is maintained; the head is above
the torso, which is above the legs.
However, when a person reclines or
lies down, all three sections of the
body are on the same level. This is
an expression of ultimate freedom.
When an individual can focus all of
his or her powers toward one goal,
with all aspects of the individual
equally humbled before the same
ideals.
Often, our minds and hearts
and bodies each tend to have their
own agendas, and the striving of
each one in its own direction is the
source of great internal strife. But
when we focus on the common goal
for which all these components were
placed within us, then they recline
together to serve that common
purpose and we are freed of the
internal conflicts they generate
individually. By subjugating my
entire being to something beyond
my own little life, I focus all my
energy together. I remove myself as
an obstacle to the light, and a new,
humbled self is created that can
then bask in the light shining past
the removed obstacle that was my
old self. I pass over myself, and let
the light shine.
Reprinted with permission from Exodus
Magazine


This is an expression of ultimate freedom.
When an individual can focus all of his or
her powers toward one goal, with all aspects of the
individual equally humbled before the same ideals.
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VIEWPOINT
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ARE WE
STILL IN
EGYPT?
When Hashem asked Moshe to take the J ewish
people out of exile, Moshe responds, “Please send
your other messenger.” Rashi explains that he is
referring to Moshiach. At frst glance, it is puzzling:
We all know that Hashem knows best. Why would
Moshe argue with Hashem’s decision?
By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon – Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati
Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,
This week we begin the
month of miracles, the month of
Nissan. It is a month in which we
celebrate the dedication of the
Mishkan and the liberation from
Mitzrayim. It is a month that we
focus on Geula and Moshiach,
as Chazal teach us “ “B’Nisan
Nigalu, U’B’Nisan Asidim L’gael”
– In Nisan we were redeemed,
and in the future we will be
redeemed in Nissan.
Chassidus teaches us that
the Geula from Mitzrayim
was the first catalyst for the
Moshiach. As a matter of fact,
the redemption from Mitzrayim
is still not complete until the final
Geula.
With this understanding,
the Rebbe (Chaya Sara 5752)
explains a fascinating thing:
When Hashem asked Moshe
to take the Jewish people out of
exile, Moshe responds “Please
send your other messenger.”
Rashi explains that he is referring
to Moshiach.
At first glance, it is puzzling:
We all know that Hashem knows
best. Why would Moshe argue
with Hashem’s decision?
The Rebbe explains: Moshe
wasn’t arguing whether he should
accept the responsibility or not.
He was asking that Hashem
connect his mission of taking
the Jewish people out of Egypt
with the mission of Moshiach
to take the Jewish people out of
exile to Eretz Yisroel. It is one
continuous journey.
That also explains
a rather grammatically
puzzling Pasuk. The Pasuk says
(Micha 7:15) םירצמ ץראמ ךתאצ ימיכ
תואלפנ ונארא “As in the days of
your Exodus from Egypt, I will
show [the people] wonders.” The
obvious question is: Why does
it say “days” in a plural form if
we really left Mitzrayim in just
one day? The answer – based
on the above – is simple: We are
still in the midst of the journey of
leaving Mitzrayim.
Once we are talking about the
connection of Yetzias Mitzrayim
and Moshiach, it is important to
clarify the following:
We find that the accepted
Halachic opinion is that we will
continue to mention the exodus
even in the times of Moshiach.
The Mishna (Brachos 1:8) retells
of an interesting discussion
among the sages: “Said R.
Eliezer ben Azariah: behold I
am about seventy years old, and
I have never been worthy
to [find a reason] why the
exodus from Egypt should be
mentioned at night time until
Ben Zoma expounded it, for it
says, ‘that you may remember
the day when you came forth out
of the land of Egypt all the days
of your life.’ [Had the text said,]
‘the days of your life’ it would
have meant [only] the days; but
‘all the days of your life’ includes
the nights as well. The sages,
however, say: ‘the days of your
life’ refers to this world; ‘all
the days of your life’ is to include
the remembrance of the exodus
even in the days of Moshiach.”
This Halacha obviously
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MOSHIACH & GEULA
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demands explanation: Being
that the reason behind the
Mitzva is to reinforce our belief
in Hashem, it would seem
superfluous to have this Mitzva
in the times of Moshiach. The
prophet Yirmiyahu describes
the times of Moshiach (31:34)
“And no longer shall one teach his
neighbor or [shall] one [teach]
his brother, saying, ‘Know the
Lord,’ for they shall all know
Me from their smallest to their
greatest, says the Lord, for I will
forgive their iniquity and their
sin I will no longer remember.”
Similarly, the Rambam writes
(Hilchos Melachim 12:5):
“Therefore, the Jews will be
great sages and know the hidden
matters, grasping the knowledge
of their Creator according to the
full extent of human potential,
as Isaiah 11:9 states: ‘The world
will be filled with the knowledge
of God as the waters cover the
ocean bed.’”
The Rebbe gives a fascinating
explanation:
While the time of Moshiach is
a time of serenity and spiritual
fulfillment, there is one
component missing – the
struggle to conquer our evil
inclination. Why do we need this
conquering? Why not simply
transform the impurity rather
than conquering it first? This
subjugation has an advantage in
that, as the Alter Rebbe writes
in the Tanya, a person is a
true servant of G-d when he is
constantly battling against and
subduing his nature. It is a battle
which brings G-dly light into the
world.
The situation is similar to that
of a king who distributes all of his
treasures to his soldiers so that
they can fight a war. In peace
time, these treasures would never
have been touched, much less,
spent so freely. This war is the
battle with the animal soul, and
the victory brings treasures of
Divine Revelation.
This is another reason
why the Egyptian exodus
will be mentioned in the Era
of Moshiach. By mentioning the
struggles of the exodus –
and the personal struggles
that we had in exile – we will
continue to draw-down these
special “spiritual treasures.”
In the times of Moshiach these
treasures will be totally revealed.
Let us finish with the words of
the Rebbe (Nissan 5751):
“Simply put: All Jews, men,
women and even children, have
the responsibility to increase their
efforts to bring our righteous
Moshiach in actual reality!
“Therefore, it’s obvious
there’s no place for relying on
others or imposing the work on
someone else instead of doing it
one’s self – but this is the task of
every man and woman; everyone
must themselves do their job, ‘to
serve my Maker’ (for the sake
of which ‘I was created’), and
certainly one has the ability (since
‘I do not ask except according to
their ability’).
What this duty consists of
is also simple: increasing one’s
Torah and mitzvos. This means
learning both the open aspects of
the Torah and the inner aspects
of the Torah and performing the
mitzvos with distinction... All
of this should be done with an
intense anticipation and desire
for the Redemption – ‘I anxiously
await his coming every day.’ As
we say every day in the prayers:
‘May our eyes behold Your
return to Zion in mercy’ and
(on weekdays) – ‘Speedily cause
the scion of David Your servant
to flourish.’ This has been
mentioned many times.”
Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva
of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a
well sought after speaker and lecturer.
Recordings of his in-depth shiurim
on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be
accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.
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THE CHASSID
WHO GAVE HIS
LIFE FOR HIS
SHLICHUS
About the Chassid, R’ Avrohom Levik Slavin, a Chassidishe rav and shliach
of the Rebbe Rashab to Kulashi and Kutais in Georgia. He was moser
nefesh to spread Judaism among Georgian Jews until he was arrested and
sent to a labor camp, his whereabouts unknown. He did not merit Jewish
burial but his yahrtzait was established by the Rebbe Rayatz. This article is
based on the book “Arba’ah Chassidim” by Shneur Berger.
By Refael Dinari
A TEENAGE BOY
LEARNS FOR SMICHA
R’ Avrohom Levi Slavin was
born in Rogatchov in White
Russia in 5651/1891. His
parents were Yisroel Nosson, a
Chassid of the Rebbe Maharash,
and Gittel. Contagious diseases
raged through Russia at the time
and they became sick and died
within a week of one another.
Avrohom Levi became a double
orphan at the age of eight.
Having no close relative to care
for him, he was adopted by the
community who took care of him.
When he grew older, the heads of
the community sent him to learn
in the yeshiva in Bobruisk.
He learned there until he was
14. Then he went to Lubavitch
and was accepted into Tomchei
T’mimim. At this young age he
was already considered an ilui for
he knew some tractates by heart
with the commentaries and was
proficient in Shulchan Aruch.
When he was tested, he was
discovered to be a tremendous
scholar, knowledgeable beyond
his years. They decided to send
him to the zal so he could study
for smicha for rabbanus.
He spent several years
studying and when he was
finished, he was tested and was
given ordination for rabbanus by
famous rabbanim including the
Rogatchover Gaon.
His scholarly reputation was
known and the community in
Bobruisk suggested he return
to them so he could serve as the
rav in one of the big shuls. He
agreed and the young bachur was
appointed as rav of a shul.
After he married the daughter
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PROFILE
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of R’ Avrohom Dovid HaKohen
at the age of 22, he and his wife
Rochel Malka moved to Seduva
in Lithuania, where his in-laws
lived. His father-in-law had a
small grocery store and when his
son-in-law came to town, he gave
the store over to him. R’ Avrohom
Levik had his wife run the store
while he sat and learned.
SHLICHUS TO GEORGIA
In 5677/1917 the Rebbe
Rashab asked him to go to
Georgia. R’ Shmuel Levitin
operated in Kutais, Georgia
during those years and since the
work had grown, he needed help.
It wasn’t easy to travel to
distant Georgia in those days,
as it was during the communist
revolution, but his Rebbe’s
directive outweighed all other
considerations and without
thinking much about it he packed
their few belongings and left for
Georgia with his wife and little
children. His children were quite
young when he set out. The
oldest was five and the next one
was three, and his wife held the
year old baby.
The exhausting trip took
months. There were times that
they had to drag their feet in the
glacial cold, in rain and snow,
until they were able to obtain a
wagon. If traveling in wagons
wasn’t hard enough, the trips by
train that lasted for days without
stop were much harder. The little
children, hungry and thirsty, did
not stop crying. They could not
understand that money wasn’t
always available and that there
was nothing to still their hunger.
Around them swarmed
gentiles, including murderous
anti-Semites. The family was
constantly fearful. What was
the gentile who sat next to them
thinking? Was he plotting against
them?
The long trip finally reached
an end. R’ Avrohom Levik and
his family reached Kulashi where
3000 Jewish families lived.
BUILDING TORAH
R’ Avrohom Levik realized
that he would not be making a
living from the members of the
community. So he went to the
nearby town of Samtredia and
introduced himself as the rav
of the neighboring town and
asked the manager of the factory
whether he could give him a
barrel of oil on credit which he
would sell little by little. After
he sold it all, he would pay what
he owed and get another barrel.
The manager agreed and gave
him what he wanted. His wife
sold the oil, drop by drop, and R’
Avrohom Levik got down to the
work of shlichus which the Rebbe
had assigned him.
With great mesirus nefesh he
established schools, chadarim
for the boys and yeshivos for
bachurim. He did not spend
much time at home. He went
from city to city, from town to
town, and village to village, in
order to start schools and shiurim
for adults. In Kulashi, he started
a yeshiva and a big elementary
school where hundreds of
students learned Torah.
Among the places R’ Slavin
started schools was the town of
Oni. Georgia is mountainous
and has many rivers and lakes.
This is why there wasn’t good
transportation, especially
between towns and villages. The
mountain passes were narrow
and winding and transportation
was mainly by carriages and
wagons hitched to horses.
Oni was on a high mountain
and many Jews lived there. The
trip generally took three days.
Like the other towns and villages,
transportation to this place was
through a narrow path. The path
was so narrow that if two wagons
met, facing one another, they
were both in great danger.
One year there was a
particularly hard winter and
the road to Oni was covered
with high piles of snow. There
was barely any transportation
there. Since this was the case,
R’ Avrohom Levik did not know
what to do about the schools he
had started there.
In the middle of the winter, a
messenger arrived at the Slavin
home who said that he had come
from Oni after a very difficult
journey. Due to the terrible
weather, it was impossible to
leave the town. Business was
paralyzed and the Jews had no
way of supporting themselves.
Under these circumstances,
they were unable to pay the
teachers and it was impossible
to bring money from the city.
The situation had deteriorated to
the point that the schools barely
operated.
When R’ Slavin heard this,
he decided to put his life in
danger and travel there in order
to prevent the closing of the
schools. He hired a gentile with a
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strong horse and made his way to
Oni. The gentile walked in front
of the horse because there wasn’t
room for two men on the horse.
The snow and rain fell
constantly and the freezing cold
penetrated their bones. Their
thick clothing was not enough
to keep out the cold. After three
days of traveling he arrived at the
town exhausted from the rigors
of the trip. Before he rested and
recovered, he found out that
the messenger had given an
accurate picture of the situation.
The children wandered around
with nothing to do because the
teachers had not received their
salaries. All the work he had
invested in the local schools was
about to go to waste.
R’ Levik immediately called
a meeting of the leaders of
the community. He spent
hours explaining to them the
importance of children studying
Torah and the holy obligation
they had to make sure that Torah
study did not cease. In the end,
it was decided that they would
commit to covering 50% of the
expenses and he would take care
of the rest.
After a few days he decided
to go home. He had so much
work to do, holy work, in other
places. On his way back to
Kulashi he underwent all the
same travails as he had on his
way to Oni. The snow and rain
became increasingly treacherous
and the danger of slipping from
the narrow path worried him.
As he traveled, while he sat on
the horse with his feet tied to
the saddle to prevent falling, the
horse slipped in the snow. The
horse rolled about in the heavy
snow along with R’ Avrohom
Levik, who was unable to move.
His feet were tied to the saddle
and he hung there …
After a while the horse
managed to get up on its feet
while R’ Avrohom Levik, because
his feet were tied to the horse,
was dragged behind! The gentile,
who was walking way in front
of them in order to see that the
path was clear of potholes and
other dangers, did not see the
horse slip and rider fall and he
continued walking, oblivious to
what was happening dozens of
meters behind him.
R’ Avrohom began shouting
with his remaining strength so
that the wagon driver would
come to his rescue, but his voice
was lost in the vast snow plains.
After some time the wagon driver
stopped and looked behind him.
To his dismay he did not see the
horse and rider, and so he rushed
back to see what happened. He
was surprised to see the horse
making its way through the snow
while the rider was dragging
behind and shouting.
The wagon driver quickly
picked him up and cleaned him
off. After recovering a bit from
his injuries, the wagon driver
placed him on the horse and
continued walking. R’ Avrohom
Levik groaned from the injuries
he sustained while he was
dragged by the horse. He arrived
home in terrible pain. He spent
two weeks in bed without being
able to move until he slowly
recovered his strength and was
healed of his wounds.
THE BURNING
OF THE SHULS
In 5685/1925, the secret
police sought to arrest R’ Shmuel
Levitin and close the yeshiva
he started in Kutais. The Jews
of Kutais, who knew what was
happening behind the scenes,
told him that the authorities
were planning to arrest him. He
appointed R’ Avrohom Levik
to take his place and fled to the
Rebbe Rayatz in Leningrad. R’
Avrohom Levik and his family
moved to Kutais where he was
very successful as the Chabad rav
and rosh yeshiva.
Hundreds of talmidim who
began learning under R’ Levitin,
continued learning with R’
Avrohom Levik, and he took care
of all their material and spiritual
needs.
On his trips throughout
Georgia, R’ Avrohom Levik
examined the mikvaos in the
cities and towns where Jews
lived and where necessary, he
renovated them and even opened
new ones.
He made a list of the status
of the mikvaos in Georgia and
in the margins he wrote what
improvements were needed in
some mikvaos and where there
wasn’t a mikva altogether. He
sent the list to the Rebbe Rayatz.
At the end of the winter 5691,
the decision was made to move
the Yeshivos Tomchei T’mimim
to cities in Georgia and the
Caucasus where the communists
were not as heavy handed as they
were in the rest of the Soviet
Union.
In the summer of 1931, a
group of bachurim went to learn
in Kutais and R’ Avrohom Levik
helped them in every way. A few
months later, another group of
bachurim went to learn in Kutais
and the yeshiva grew. The yeshiva
was there for about two years and
R’ Avrohom Levik was there to
help and support the bachurim
who were far from home. Sadly,
the yeshiva was closed because of
the attempt to smuggle across the
border which ended in the arrest
of a number of the talmidim.
WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN
There was a certain party
member in Kutais, who, as a
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PROFILE
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result of a certain incident, felt
that R’ Avrohom Levik had
offended her personally. This
woman went to the NKVD
office and informed on him.
The NKVD were thrilled with
the formal complaint. They were
familiar with his activities, with
his founding Jewish schools
for children in various cities of
Georgia, building mikvaos, etc.
all against the law which forbade
religious activities such as these.
It was just that in Georgia it was
hard for them to persecute rabbis
because of religious activity. Now
they had an opportunity to take
revenge on him and put an end to
his work.
It was a night in Kislev 5701
at two o’clock when banging
was heard at the Slavins’ door.
Their hearts beat rapidly as
they immediately pictured who
it was knocking at the door at
that hour. When they opened
the door, they saw four NKVD
agents. The agents did not wait
for an invitation but barged right
in. One stood near the door
on the inside, so nobody could
escape, while the leader of the
group took out a search warrant,
signed by the NKVD commander
in Kulashi.
The three angels of
destruction began searching and
probing in the bookcase and
drawers, kitchen cabinets, desk
drawers and every corner of
the house. They paid particular
attention to the desk drawers and
bookcase which turned out to be
a bonanza for they found copies
of letters that R’ Avrohom wrote
to the Rebbe Rashab and the
Rebbe Rayatz as well as letters in
the Rebbeim’s holy handwriting.
They had discovered a genuine
“Schneersohnski,” a member
of a counter-revolutionary
organization, the most dangerous
in Russia, and documents signed
by the head of the organization
himself, Rabbi Schneersohn!
But they did not suffice with
that. They turned over and broke
everything in the house, shaking
out and throwing bedclothes
to the floor, leaving nothing
untouched. After confiscating
what they wanted to take and
packing them up, they ordered
R’ Avrohom Levik to get dressed
and accompany them. His wife
and children, who knew what
this meant, began to plead for his
life and their lives, that they do
him and them no harm and not
take him from them. Their pleas
were ignored and they were even
threatened that they would be
taken along if they did not stop
crying.
The next day, his wife went to
NKVD headquarters and asked
where her husband was, but their
answer was he was not to be
found there. They weren’t lying.
After that woman tattled on him,
she was sure that the NKVD
would go immediately and arrest
him. However, when one week
and two weeks went by and he
was not arrested, she went to
NKVD headquarters in Tbilisi
and tattled again. She knew that
in his city of Kutais, even if he
would be arrested, they would
release him shortly because of the
close ties that Chacham Michoel
Davitiashvili had with the
NKVD. So she asked the NKVD
headquarters in Tbilisi to transfer
him there because the Chacham
had no connections there.
That is what happened.
The NKVD in Kutais were told
to transfer R’ Avrohom Levik
to Tbilisi until he would be
sentenced by headquarters in
Moscow.
R’ Avrohom Levik spent
eighteen months in the cellars of
the NKVD in Tbilisi in a cell with
thieves and murderers. Every
few days they would get him up
late at night and take him to the
The shul and yeshiva building in Kulashi
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interrogation room on the fourth
floor.
During the initial
interrogations, he was told that
the informing was just an excuse
to arrest him. The interrogators
read to him what was written in
his file: the number of schools
and yeshivos he had founded
including their addresses; in city
X he had founded a yeshiva and
in another city he had made a
mikva; the exact names of the
teachers; the names of the roshei
yeshiva and mashgichim. They
told him everything. “We are not
in a rush. Nobody can escape us.
We know everything!”
The interrogations,
accompanied by torture, were
debilitating. He bled from their
blows but he did not give them a
single name of those who helped
him or those who worked as
teachers and the like. All their
efforts to get him to confess were
in vain.
At the end of a year and a half
in jail, they transferred his file to
Moscow for him to be sentenced.
His sentence was severe: ten
years of exile and hard labor in a
Siberian labor camp.
After the family found out
about his sentence, they asked to
meet with him before he would be
sent away. Although many friends
tried to dissuade the family not to
endanger themselves, his son, R’
Yisroel continued to make efforts
and permission was granted to
meet with his father.
R’ Yisroel described that
painful meeting:
“When I saw him through
the bars of the door, after a
separation of a year and a half, I
hardly recognized him. His face
was swollen and his face was
completely pale. His body was
shrunken and exhausted. His
condition so affected me that I
nearly fainted. My father showed
me his shirt stained with blood
that was stuck to his skin from
all the blood that had run onto
it from the beatings and tortures
he sustained. He tried to separate
the shirt material from his skin
but was unable to do so.
“‘I am very doubtful as to
whether I will have a Jewish
burial,’ were his final words to
me, knowing what they accused
him of and where they planned to
send him.
“After a few minutes, they
removed me from the area and
did not allow me to continue
speaking to him. It was a final
parting from my father.
“After he was sent to Siberia,
we had no information about
him. According to the law, he
was allowed to send a letter home
once a year and we could do the
same to him. We only received a
letter one time. When we sent him
a letter, it came back to us with a
note attached that the addressee
was hospitalized due to sickness.
We knew that in that camp there
was no hospitalization.
“We considered this note
as a sign that our father had
died. His whereabouts were
unknown. I sent a letter to the
Rebbe Rayatz in which I briefly
described everything he went
through. I ended my letter with
a question, that since we did not
know the date of his passing, we
did not know what to do as far as
mourning, saying Kaddish and
observing the yahrtzait.
“The Rebbe’s answer was
that since his father, the Rebbe
Rashab, was the one who sent
my father to Georgia, and since
the day the Rebbe Rashab passed
away was Beis Nissan, we should
observe my father’s yahrtzait on
Beis Nissan.”
Shul in Oni
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PROFILE
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RECIPROCITY
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
WHO GOES TO WHOM?
The Torah commences this
week’s parsha with the following
description of the purification
process for the person who has
contracted tzaraas, an enigmatic
skin disease (commonly confused
with leprosy):
“This will be the law of
the Metzora; on the day of
his purification. He should be
brought to the Kohen-priest. The
Kohen should go forth to the
outside of the camp; the Kohen
shall look, and behold! – the
tzaraas had been healed from the
Metzora...”
In this brief introductory
passage many questions arise:
First, Rashi addresses the
question, why does the Torah
state that this law applies to the
“day of his ritual purification?”
What does the word “day” add?
The Torah could have stated
simply: “This will be the law of
purification for the Metzora.”
Second, why does it say “the
tzaraas has been healed from
the Metzora?” Don’t we already
know that the Metzora is the one
who is afflicted with tzaraas? It
could have simply stated “the
tzaraas has been healed” or “the
Metzora was healed,”
Lastly, it says that he is
brought to the Kohen and
immediately afterwards it says
that the Kohen goes outside the
camp, implying that the Kohen
goes out to the Metzora. Which
is it? Does the Metzora go to the
Kohen or does the Kohen go to
the Metzora?
THE FUTURE PURIFICATION
The key to answering these
questions is a fourth question:
why does it introduce this
section with the words, “This
will be the law of the Metzora?”
Couldn’t it just say, “This is law
of the Metzora?” Why is the verb
associated with implementation
of this law in the future tense?
The answer is that the ultimate
realization of the purification of
the Metzora phenomenon will be
in the future Messianic Age.
The Torah thus states: “This
will be the law of the Metzora; on
the day of his purification.” The
term “day” is a reference to the
future Messianic Age when G-d’s
light, which will illuminate the
darkness, will render all of our
existence as day. And it is then
that we will be completely healed
from all forms of imperfection,
including tzaraas which affects
the most external aspects of the
individual.
EMULATING AARON
To affect this transformation
of the darkness of the night of
exile into the light of the day
of Redemption, one must be
brought to Aaron the Priest.
Each and every Jew is
admonished to emulate Aaron the
Priest. In Ethics of the Fathers
(1:12) the sage Hillel is quoted:
“Be among the disciples of
Aaron, loving peace and pursuing
peace, loving all created beings
and bringing them closer to the
Torah.”
Hillel identifies four traits of
Aaron that we must follow:
First, we must love peace.
Even when one is legitimately
disputing matters of principle
and values, one must never lose
his or her commitment to peace.
One must love the peace that will
come when the differences are
resolved.
Second, one must “pursue
peace.” It does not suffice to
feel a desire for peace; one must
also actively seek means to bring
about reconciliation.
Third, one must love all
created beings. It does not suffice
to cherish peace because it is a
less stressful state to be in than
conflict. The pursuit of peace
then becomes a selfish endeavor.
Hillel’s admonition to us is to
want peace because it is based
on and motivated by love for the
other. Even if the other appears
to be utterly wrong and his sole
visible positive trait being that he
or she is “G-d’s creation,” one
should still cultivate love for him
or her.
Fourth, one must also bring
these people closer to the Torah.
As the Rebbe emphasized on
many occasions, it does not say
“bring the Torah closer to them”
but rather bring them closer
to the Torah. This implies that
we must never compromise the
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Torah to make it palatable to
others. Rather we must find ways
of raising them up to the Torah.
While we must pursue
every avenue for peace and
express unadulterated love for
the other even if he or she is
wrong on crucial moral issues,
we must never compromise on
the standards of the Torah to
accomplish the above.
COME TO AARON
Applying all this to the
ultimate purification of the
Metzora we see that we must all
have mentors who fulfill Hillel’s
directive to follow in Aaron’s
path.
The Torah states that the
Metzora shall be brought to the
Kohen. This means that the
person who is need of direction
and purification shall recognize
that he or she cannot do it alone
and must depend on the other
(the Aarons) to assist.
Throughout history, the
Jewish people knew that they
depended on their leaders
for their moral and spiritual
advancement, not just for the
stability and prosperity which a
good leader would bring to the
community.
In order to enjoy the full
benefits of the Aarons in our
lives we must humbly recognize
how much they contribute to
our spiritual well-being and
not ascribe our progress to
our own brilliance and hard
work. One of the hallmarks of
the Rebbe/mentor-chassid/
disciple relationship is the total
submission of the disciple to his
or her mentor. This devotion is
what allows us to be receptive
to his guidance and accept the
flow of the mentor’s spiritual
energy and enlightenment to the
follower.
In light of this statement, our
original question becomes even
more insistent: Why does the
Torah juxtapose the statement
that the Metzora must be brought
to the Kohen with a contradictory
statement that implies that the
Kohen must go out of the camp
to the Metzora?
RIGHTS OR OBLIGATIONS
The answer lies in our
understanding of the differences
between Jewish values and the
prevailing secular values in
society today.
In the secular world, society
is divided into advocacy groups.
Each group lobbies for its own
interests and for securing its
own rights. The hope is that
when members on both sides of
a divide act with due diligence
in favor of their constituency,
fairness and equitable solutions
will ensue.
For example: our society is
made up of leaders and followers;
vendors and consumers; doctors
and patients; lawyers and clients
etc. Each group looks out for its
own interest and the protection
of its rights. In theory at least, the
outcome should be an equitable
balance between interests.
However, in reality, we find a
society deeply polarized along
these self-serving divisions.
In Judaism, however, the
focus is not on rights but on
obligations. The vendor has to
focus on what his obligation is to
his customer and the customer
has to think about his obligations
to the vendor. Each constituency
is looking out for the other.
With respect to the
relationship between the leaders
and mentors (the “Aarons”) and
their followers there is a need
for a reciprocal attitude. While
the followers must be brought
to Aaron and recognize that it
is he who enables their healing,
the leaders themselves have to
see it in the very opposite way.
The genuine Jewish leader feels
that all of his capabilities derive
from the people he mentors and
assists.
So while the Metzora must be
brought to the Kohen and show
his total dependence on him, the
Kohen must also feel that he is
beholden to the one he services,
and by going out to the Metzora
he is empowered to achieve his
goal of helping others.
We can now understand why
the Torah states, “The tzaraas has
been healed from the Metzora.”
The question was asked, why add
the words “from the Metzora?”
Don’t we already know that
the Metzora is the one who is
afflicted with tzaraas?
The answer is that the Kohen,
to whom the Metzora must be
brought and upon whom his
purification depends, must also
recognize that the Kohen’s ability
to heal is not his own. He derives
this power from the Metzora
himself. It is the Metzora who
has the spark of holiness within


In Judaism, however, the focus is not on rights
but on obligations. The vendor has to focus on
what his obligation is to his customer and the customer
has to think about his obligations to the vendor. Each
constituency is looking out for the other.
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PARSHA THOUGHT
922_bm_eng_BRM.indd 28 2014-04-01 2:41:09 AM
him that empowers the Kohen
to be able to heal. The Metzora
thus attributes his healing to the
Kohen and the Kohen ascribes
his power to heal to the innate
healing powers of the Metzora.
LONG LIVE THE KING!
This form of reciprocity
can also be seen in the way the
Torah views the role of the king.
On the one hand, a monarch
is head and shoulders above
his nation; on the other hand,
our Sages declare “there is no
king without a nation.” It is the
nation’s acceptance of him as
their monarch that empowers
him to be king. The power of
leadership, Chassidic thought
asserts, is very deeply rooted in
one’s soul and psyche. To elicit
this power requires the devotion
and commitment of the nation.
The relationship of a Rebbe
and a Chassid has also been
described in this manner. There
is no Chassid without total
devotion to his Rebbe and there is
no Rebbe without his Chassidim.
In a famous legal battle over
ownership of the Schneersohn
library, the Rebbetzin (the
Rebbe’s wife) was asked to
whom the library belonged. Did
it belong to the Rebbe personally
(and, as his private property,
therefore subject to the civil
laws of inheritance) or to the
community of Chassidim? Her
wise answer was: “Both the
library and the Rebbe belong to
the Chassidim.”
This mutuality is even more
pronounced in the leadership of
Moshiach. The Rebbe explains
that Moshiach’s ability to lead
us out of exile stems from our
acceptance of his leadership.
This we do by declaring “Yechi
HaMelech” (the Biblical refrain
that translates as “Long live the
King”) or any other expression of
our sincere desire for Moshiach
to get us out of exile.
This notion that Moshiach’s
leadership hinges on us, the
Rebbe states, is based on the
teaching of the Baal Shem
Tov that each and every Jew
possesses a spark of Moshiach.
When we allow that spark to
ignite, we empower Moshiach to
actualize his leadership potential
and finally take us out of exile
and thereby usher in the Age of
Redemption. May we see that
imminently!


It is the Metzora who has the spark of holiness
within him that empowers the Kohen to be able
to heal.
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R’ MOTTEL THE
SHOCHET – THE
MAN AND THE
LEGEND
R’ Boruch Mordechai Lifschitz, as Mordechai
in his day, did not bend nor bow to the
communists. In Adar seventy-fve years ago, he
was arrested by the communists, interrogated
harshly and exiled for three years. * Even after
being released he continued working in various
cities as a mohel and shochet. * He recently
passed away at the age of 97. * The life of the
man of mesirus nefesh known as R’ Mottel der
Shochet.
By Shneur Zalman Berger
A
t the end of 5733, only
a few Chabad Chassidim
were left in Russia since
most of them had left the
country. Among the few Chassidim
who remained was R’ Mottel der
Shochet, R’ Boruch Mordechai
Lifschitz.
When he wanted to leave
Moscow, the Rebbe did not
give his consent. Even after his
daughter Chaya Sarah married
R’ Berel Haskelevich in New
York, and he wanted to see
the Rebbe and visit the young
couple, the Rebbe told him not
to leave Moscow even for a
short time, “for who would take
care of sh’chita in the interim?”
The Rebbe wrote to him,
“Throughout the city and around
it only a very few remain as a
shochet and the like, and how can
you leave even for a short time?
And how could you skip, even for
a very short time, not actualizing
the great merit you have in being
the shochet there?”
***
R’ Mottel Lifschitz who
recently passed away in Crown
Heights, was a symbol of mesirus
nefesh and a model of a Chassid
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OBITUARY
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whose life was committed to
spreading Judaism and Chassidus
in Russia. He was one of the few
Chassidim in the world who lived
in the Soviet Union throughout
the entire seventy years of
communist domination. From
his youth and until he left Russia
after the fall of communism, he
worked tirelessly to strengthen
Judaism wherever he was. He
started in Kiev where he was
born and raised, then in the labor
camps to which he was exiled,
and finally in Moscow where he
lived for many years and was
one of the pillars of the Jewish
community. He did so much even
as he knew what could happen
if he was arrested by the secret
police.
He wrote his memoirs which
were published a decade ago in
Yiddish and called Zichronos
fun Gulag. The following article
includes parts of his memoir as
well as additional sources, which
together portray the life of a man
of mesirus nefesh.
THE EARLY DAYS
His memoir begins in Kiev
where he was born on 30 Av
5676 to a Chassidishe family.
His father was connected to the
Chassidim of Chernowitz and
his mother to Horonsteipel, but
he received a Chabad education.
The communist revolution began
when he was a baby and learning
Torah went underground. Many
Jewish schools were closed and
the ones that remained open
were mainly those belonging to
Chabad Chassidim, who were
moser nefesh to keep them
going. When he learned in these
underground yeshivos his soul
bonded with Chabad Chassidus.
He continued learning in a
branch of Tomchei T’mimim in
Kiev that operated secretly. He
was not able to sit and learn for
long. When he grew older he had
to go to work to help support his
family. He then joined the Tiferes
Bachurim organization run by
R’ Binyamin Lipman who served
as menahel, maggid shiur, and
mashpia.
This organization was
founded by the Rebbe Rayatz
throughout the Soviet Union for
older bachurim and for young
married Lubavitcher Chassidim
who had to work but wanted
to learn in the afternoon and
evening. When the authorities
tightened the noose around
the religiously observant, the
organization in Kiev nearly
closed down in light of the great
fear that prevailed. It was hard
to hide dozens of bachurim who
were learning. The activities were
curtailed, but now and then a few
bachurim from Tiferes Bachurim
met secretly and learned a
maamer or a sicha of the Rebbe
Rayatz.
R’ Mottel said that sometimes
the bachurim got the keys to
the shul, copied them, and went
in secretly at night. “There we
learned by the light of a candle
whose light we also concealed so
it would not be seen outside the
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windows. Nobody could know
that Chabad bachurim were
learning Torah at this hour in the
shul.”
Aside from learning, the
bachurim would also meet for
farbrengens on special days such
as 19 Kislev and 12 Tammuz.
When young Mottel grew
older and was of draft age, he
sent a letter to the Rebbe Rayatz
who was living in Otvotzk,
Poland at the time. In his letter he
asked for a bracha to be exempt
from the army. The answer was
identical to that received by many
bachurim in that time period.
“May Hashem grant that you be a
servant of G-d and not, etc.” The
meaning was clear, to continue
learning and consequently, he
would not be a servant of the
Russian army.
When he went to the draft
office, he presented himself as a
religious and believing Jew. This
caused the officers to put him
through harsh interrogations.
The Rebbe’s bracha was soon
realized and a few days later he
received an official document
exempting him from the Russian
army. He was thrilled. He did
not know that the secret police
were keeping tabs on even the
smallest details, even a religious
bachur who got out of the army
because he preferred learning to
fighting. When he was arrested,
as will be related shortly, he was
also interrogated about evading
the army draft.
THE BACHUR ASSOCIATED
WITH SCHNEERSOHN
Motzaei Shabbos, 21 Adar
5699/1939, Mottel went to
his bride-to-be’s house for the
purpose of writing t’naim. After
this shidduch was suggested
to him, he had written to the
Rebbe but had not received a
reply. The family were Ruzhiner
Chassidim and the father of the
girl pressured him to make a
decision. The man finally said
that if t’naim were not written by
the next Motzaei Shabbos, the
shidduch was off.
Mottel was worried about
losing out on this shidduch,
especially when in Russia of those
days it was hard to find a good,
religious girl. He knew that it was
possible that the Rebbe’s answer
was delayed because answers
did not always make it through
the “Iron Curtain,” but Mottel
yearned to receive a response
before he made this fateful
decision. With mixed feelings he
went to their house, the t’naim
were written, and all rejoiced.
When the bachur went home
the NKVD were waiting for him
and arrested him. The shidduch
was canceled.
He wrote the following about
his arrest:
“When I was arrested, they
conducted a thorough search
of my house. As in all Jewish
homes, there were many s’farim,
Gemaras etc. But I also had many
s’farim of Chabad Chassidus
like the famous Hemshechim
of the Rebbe Rashab from the
years 5659, 5666, and 5670,
maamarim and sichos of the
Rebbe Rayatz, etc. These
Chassidic works were hidden.
“When the angels of
destruction searched my house,
they took no interest in the regular
holy books. They searched only
for material connected to Chabad
and ‘Schneersohn.’ It seems that
the informer who tattled on me
also told them precisely where
the Chabad s’farim were hidden.
“After a brief search
they found the treasure and
confiscated all the material. Then
they told me I had to go along
with them. They told me to pack
the personal things I needed
and to go with them. I took my
t’fillin and Siddur, some clothing
and a little money. Their car was
waiting outside. They put me in
the car together with two guards,
one on each side, who guarded
me as though I was a dangerous
criminal. When we got to the
prison, the NKVD took whatever
I had brought with me. They also
From right to left:
R’ Mottel, R’ Yitzchok Kogan the tzaddik of Leningrad, and R’ Nissim Yemini
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took my shoelaces and belt so I
would not try to kill myself.”
That night, 21 Adar 5699,
a group of distinguished people
from the Chassidic community
in Kiev was arrested which
included: R’ Aryeh Leib Kaplan,
rav of the city (the father of R’
Meilich Kaplan, later rav of the
Chabad community in Lud), R’
Moshe Kulikov, the Chassidic
shochet and mohel in Kiev, R’
Bentzion Geisinsky, the menahel
and mashpia of Tiferes Bachurim
, R’ Binyamin Lipman, and
some talmidim such as R’ Dovid
Geisinsky and R’ Yechiel Michel
Rappaport.
Those arrested in Kiev
underwent hours of interrogation.
They realized that they had been
under surveillance for a long
time and the secret police knew
every move they made, big and
small, in recent years. Those
being interrogated did their best
not to incriminate their friends
and were exceedingly careful
with what they said, but the
interrogators knew everything.
The details had been provided to
them by a young man who was
not a Chassid, who had joined
Tiferes Bachurim and had, sadly,
fallen into the NKVD’s net. He
brought down the rest of them.
In his memoirs, R’
Mottel described the harsh
interrogations he underwent.
The following are some short and
painful quotes from his memoirs.
In the first interrogation, the
interrogator proved that the
NKVD knew everything about
him:
The interrogator said to me:
Last Shabbos you were in shul.
On your right sat so-and-so and
on your left sat so-and-so, and
he mentioned the names of the
people who sat next to me in
shul.
“So – was it as I said?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Ah,” he said. “You should
know that we don’t arrest anyone
just like that. We know who you
are. We know you since your
childhood. We know everything
you are involved with. We know
that you are in touch with
Schneersohn who lives in Poland
and you spread his ideas.
“For a long time we did not
want to arrest you, but now we
discovered that you are standing
on the edge of an abyss and are
about to fall in. So we decided to
rescue you, to arrest you and get
you back on the right path.”
The interrogation continued
and Mottel cleverly avoided
disclosing information about
himself or his friends, but the
interrogator did not give up. He
realized this was no innocent
lamb but a hard nut to crack.
At the conclusion of the first
hellish night the interrogator said
to me, “Now I will leave you.
They will immediately return
you to your cell. Think over
everything you said. You should
know that we know that all the
answers you gave are incorrect.”
The interrogator pointed at some
books on the table and said, “In
these books, all is written. Here
it says everything you and your
friends did over many years.
Here it says where you visited
each evening, who visited you
in your house and what you
learned with them. And mainly,
all the letters that you wrote to
Schneersohn!”
In the subsequent
interrogations, the interrogators
continued to repeatedly ask
about his connection with
“Schneersohn.”
“Did your friends enter your
house?”
“Yes.”
“What did you learn with
them?”
“The Halacha of an ox that
gores a cow and her dead fetus
was found alongside her (I
translated it into Russian for
him).”
But that was not what the
R’ Mottel, from his KGB prison fle
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interrogator was interested in.
He said to me, “But you also
learned what Schneersohn
writes, that it is forbidden to
work on the Sabbath, that they
should start chadarim where they
will poison the minds of young
Jewish children, that they should
build mikvaos, not to serve in the
army, and so on!”
The interrogator continued
speaking and I felt a terrible
unease in my heart. They saw
everything as revolving around
“Schneersohn” and this I could
not deny, for during the search
they conducted in my house,
they found all my “Chassidic
treasures,” maamarim, sichos
and letters of the Rebbe.
FORCED CONFRONTATION
The seasoned interrogators
used manipulation, lies and
deceit, in the hopes of extracting
information in any way possible.
One day, they read to him
something one of his friends had
written after his arrest. Mottel
immediately realized that if
they were not showing him the
handwriting, it was possible it
was simply made up.
The next thing that occurred
is something he could not
possibly have prepared for. One
of the distinguished rabbanim
of Kiev was placed in the
interrogation room for a face to
face confrontation:
R’ Aryeh Leib Kaplan was
brought into the room. “Look at
him,” the interrogator said to me.
“Do you recognize him?”
“Yes.”
“Where do you know him
from?”
“He comes to daven in shul
and I see him there.”
“But he claims that you went
with him to collect money for the
chadarim and secret yeshivos!”
“That’s a lie! Let him say that
here in front of me, that I went
with him to collect money for
yeshivos!”
The interrogator then asked
a devious question. “What? You
claim he went alone to collect
money?”
Fortunately, I immediately
realized what he was up to and I
said, “I did not say that. I have no
idea what he did.”
The interrogator made a
motion with his hand to indicate
that R’ Kaplan should be removed
from the room. The interrogator
did not bring up this topic again.
His plan had not worked.
Before Rosh Hashanah 5696
(or 5697), a letter came to
Russia for the Chassidim from
the Rebbe Rayatz. The Rebbe
wrote that since the Chassidim in
Russia were not able to be with
him on Rosh Hashanah (since he
lived in Otvotzk), he asked that
each of them send him a picture
of himself along with his name
and mother’s name.
The Chassidim all had
pictures taken of themselves and
the pictures were forwarded to
Moscow from where they were
sent to the Rebbe. A while later,
many of the Chassidim, including
R’ Mottel, received a letter from
the Rebbe which confirmed that
he received the picture and in
which he conferred brachos.
This story was known to the
secret police and R’ Mottel was
interrogated about this too:
At one of the interrogations
the interrogator took out my
picture and asked me, “Do you
know this person?” I said, “Yes,
it’s a picture of me and I sent a
copy to the Rebbe.”
He asked me, “Why did you
send him a picture of yourself?”
I told him the real reason,
but the interrogator insisted it
was for purposes of spying. He
banged on the desk and yelled,
“Schneersonovitch! We will
exterminate you! We will send
you to a place from which you
will not return!”
I said, “I know that I am in
your hands. You can do with me
as you like because you fear no
one.’”
THE SENTENCE: THREE
YEARS IN EXILE
R’ Mottel spent over half a
year in the Lukyanovsky prison in
Kiev where he was interrogated
about Tiferes Bachurim, about
“Schneersohn activities” in Kiev,
and more. The young bachur
did not give an inch. On Pesach
he kept kosher to the point of
mesirus nefesh. That is not an
exaggeration, for on the last two
days of Pesach he was so weak
he could not walk. Sugar was
his main source of energy for the
eight days of the holiday.
When the interrogations
ended, he was sentenced.
Decades later, R’ Mordechai
Lifschitz’s file was found in the
dusty KGB archives. This is an
excerpt from the file and the
accusations against him:
On March 10, 1939 (19
Adar 5699), he was arrested as a
collaborator in illegal anti-Soviet
activity. He studied in an illegal
yeshiva.
He founded an underground
yeshiva where they learned Torah.
He organized a learning
program for youth, Tiferes
Bachurim.
He avoided serving in the Red
Army.
He raised money to maintain
Chassidim and their families.
His sentence was declared on
October 17, 1939 (4 Cheshvan
5700): three years of exile in a
labor camp.
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PESACH AND
SHABBOS IN SIBERIA
Mottel was exiled to
Siberia where he suffered
tremendously. With self-
sacrifice and super human
effort, he did all he could
to keep mitzvos despite the
tremendous difficulties. In
his memoirs he tells about
this in detail. We will quote
a little of it:
Pesach (5740, the first
in the labor camp) was
approaching. At that time,
I still managed to observe
the Jewish holidays even
though I did not possess
a Jewish calendar. One
day I was called to the
camp office where I was
informed that my mother had
sent me a package. They opened
it in my presence and after
ascertaining that it contained no
forbidden items, they gave it to
me. It was a package of matza! I
was thrilled.
There were some older Jews
with me in the barrack. Before
they were arrested they had held
important government positions.
I decided that I had to share my
matza with them Pesach night so
they could do the mitzvah too.
That night I brought them over
to a corner of the hut and told
them, “Tonight is Pesach!” At
this, they all shuddered.
I opened the package and
gave each of them a k’zayis of
matza. As they held the matza,
they burst into tears. The old
ones among them remembered
their childhood and how
their parents or grandparents
celebrated the holiday of Pesach.
Each of them began describing
what a wonderful holiday it was
in their house. This one recalled
the tasty kneidlach and that one
recalled the Ma Nishtana, and all
cried.
The tremendous spiritual
arousal that one k’zayis of
matza brought about cannot
be described in words. Pesach
turned into Yom Kippur for
them that year. Some of them
openly expressed regret for their
deeds over the previous decades.
Unfortunately, in order to attain
these feelings of t’shuva, they had
to undergo incredible suffering in
the labor camp.
One of the difficult problems
in the labor camp was Shabbos
observance. I frequently tried to
evade working with the excuse
that I was sick, but this was
no simple matter. There was
a doctor in the camp and if he
examined you and declared you
were healthy, no excuses would
help.
I remember one Shabbos
when I got up in the morning
determined not to desecrate the
day. It was Shabbos Kodesh
and I refused to go to work. The
commander in charge of the
prisoners entered the barrack and
asked me: Why aren’t you going
to work? I said: I am sick. He
said: You are sick? Come to the
doctor.
He took me to the
doctor who said I was
healthy and fit to work.
So, asked the commander
in charge of prisoners,
now will you go to work?
I said no, and returned to
the barrack.
The next day, when
I got ready to leave for
work, they told me that
since I had not worked
on Shabbos, I was
sentenced to ten days in
solitary confinement. You
might think that sitting
in solitary confinement
was a good thing since
it absolved you of hard
labor. The problem was
that someone sentenced to
solitary confinement did
not receive the usual food ration
since he wasn’t working. Just
once a day he received a small
piece of bread, a small piece of
herring, and a little bit of warm
water. In addition, the solitary
cell had holes through which
the Siberian cold came through.
After a short time, the prisoner
began to yell that he was cold.
Then they took him out to warm
himself up at the oven and then
he was put back in solitary. I was
sentenced to suffer like this for
ten days!
However, after a few days,
the door was opened and I was
asked to come out. They brought
me to a room where there was
a committee of doctors. After I
was examined, one of the doctors
announced, “He is fit, he is
healthy.” Fit for what? I did not
know. In the meantime, I was
sent back to solitary.
***
A few days later he was taken
with a group of other prisoners
and put on a train that was
heading to a notorious camp,
Kolima, which was located in
R’ Mottel while in Moscow
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eastern Siberia. The terrible
cold and the tough attitude
of the jailers there resulted in
a high death rate among the
prisoners and R’ Mottel had to
fight a constant battle for his very
existence.
FREEDOM IN STAGES
In Adar 1942, the three year
sentence came to an end, but it
was World War II and Russian
law stated that even prisoners
who completed their sentence
could not be released to go home.
After much effort, R’ Mottel
managed to get transferred to
work in a forsaken town. He was
paid for his work but he was not
allowed to leave.
He remained there until
the end of the war and at the
beginning of 5706 he was
completely free to go. He went
to Kiev in order to search for
relatives but found out that all his
relatives and many of his friends
had been murdered by the Nazis
at Babi Yar, may Hashem avenge
their deaths.
He heard that many
Chassidim were flocking to Lvov
in an attempt to leave Russia with
forged documents. He also went
to Lvov, in order to join them,
but was unable to get out. He
remained in Lvov and married
Henya Chana Zeide.
In the years that followed
he led a hard life. He moved to
Chernowitz and Charkov where
he learned sh’chita. Then he
settled in Moscow where he
learned mila. He then served as
shochet and mohel in Frunze
(today Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan).
After some time he moved to
Charkov and then Sverdlovsk.
In 5727 he settled in Moscow
where he lived for over twenty-
five years.
WHO IS MIGHTY?
While living in Moscow, he
secretly performed sh’chita and
mila. In addition, he worked hard
to strengthen Judaism in Moscow
and other cities. He knew of the
great danger hovering over him in
light of the brissin he performed
in private homes and without
guests, and yet he continued his
holy work for many years. He
related:
I was so wary of being under
surveillance that even though the
minhag is that when a mohel is
in shul on the day he performs
a bris, Tachanun is not said, I
made sure that Tachanun was
said so that the KGB agents who
were always in shul, would not
suspect anything. I fulfilled the
verse, “it is a time to do for G-d,
they abolish Your Torah.”
He did not only perform
brissin in Moscow. In Moscow
there was a Chassid by the name
of R’ Chaim Abramov. He would
occasionally buy a pair of tickets
to the Ukraine and would go
with R’ Mottel to perform brissin
there.
Yuli Edelstein, today the
Speaker of the Knesset, was very
close to R’ Mottel in those days.
He has told of their relationship
at Chabad events. This is one
illustrative story:
“R’ Mottel was a shochet and
mohel and had other roles as
well. The children of today think
that a hero is someone who fights
evil and always wins. To me, a
hero is something else entirely.
“I will never forget how
one time we were invited to a
bris mila in a relatively large
apartment in the center of
Moscow. Everyone waited for the
mohel, R’ Mottel, to come and
perform the bris. Suddenly, we
heard powerful banging at the
door. A policeman stood there
and said they had received a
report from neighbors about the
noise we were making and was
asked to check what was going
on in the apartment. Obviously,
they had prior information about
our gathering. We said that we
were celebrating a birthday, but
they asked for the ID’s of those
present. Whoever did not present
an ID was immediately written
down by the policeman.
“He left forty-five minutes
later. We breathed a sigh of
relief but were sure that no
bris would take place. After all,
they were waiting downstairs
and they arrested every person
who wanted to come into the
apartment.
“As we deliberated about
what to do, R’ Mottel suddenly
appeared, looking white. On his
way to the apartment he saw a
policeman enter the building. He
rushed to hide nearby and waited
until the policeman left. When
the policeman left the area, he
hurried upstairs and performed
the bris.
“What did we have here?
Someone who knew that he was
going to commit a crime. He
was not a doctor or a nurse, and
according to the law was not
allowed to perform a bris. What
would you expect from a normal
person in Soviet Russia who sees
a police car? That he would leave
the area immediately. But R’
Mottel sat and waited and waited
until they left and then went
right upstairs. That is a different
sort of heroism. He knew that
there was no one else who would
perform the bris, certainly not
someone nearby, and he realized
that it was up to him, only him.”
SPECIAL KIRUVIM
FROM THE REBBE
In 5747, when Russia began
to open somewhat, R’ Mottel
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began preparing to travel to
the Rebbe. He remembered the
Rebbe’s answer about not leaving
the place without a shochet and
he arranged for a replacement.
He began teaching sh’chita to
R’ Moshe Tamarin. He went to
the Rebbe for Tishrei 5748 and
merited many kiruvim.
On the first day of Rosh
Hashanah he was honored with
an aliya to the Torah in the
Rebbe’s minyan and stood next
to the Rebbe during the t’kios.
At the farbrengen on Shabbos
Shuva, the Rebbe gave him a
piece of lekach.
Erev Sukkos, when the
senior Anash and those who
won the raffle went to Gan
Eden HaTachton (the hallway
outside the Rebbe’s room)
to receive Dalet minim from
the Rebbe, R’ Mottel was also
invited. He received an esrog,
lulav and a bundle of eighteen
hadasim! These kiruvim thrilled
him and he immediately said to
the Rebbe, “May Hashem help
so that you have nachas from
the Chassidim!” The Rebbe
responded, “And nachas from
me” (i.e. that the Chassidim
should have nachas from the
Rebbe). R’ Mottel said, “Nachas
from you? When you are healthy,
that is the greatest nachas of the
Chassidim.”
Before returning to Moscow,
he waited near Gan Eden
HaTachton and the Rebbe
passed by when the davening
was over and gave him a bottle
of mashke and told him to go to
the secretariat where he would
be given $36. R’ Mottel asked
the Rebbe, “Since I am returning
to Moscow, they will surely ask
me what the Rebbe said. What
should I answer them?” The
Rebbe replied, “Moshiach is on
his way and we need to prepare
for his coming.”
Communist oppression
dwindled and many people
made aliya. The communist
government revisited the files of
ideological prisoners and most
of them were “exonerated,” i.e.
their offenses were deleted with
the understanding that they
acted with political or ideological
motivations which differed from
that of the government. On 20
Adar II 5749, R’ Mottel was also
“exonerated” of all guilt.
In Shvat 5753, his second
wife, Chaya Sarah, passed away.
He was elderly and the fact that
he was a widower was reason for
him to leave Russia. He knew he
could not remain there alone in
Moscow. He informed the local
community that he wanted to
leave. Within a short time they
found a replacement, a young
man to serve as shochet and
mohel. After his replacement
arrived, he wrote to the Rebbe
that he wanted to leave to be with
his children and grandchildren in
New York and the Rebbe gave his
consent.
In Adar 5753 he settled in
Crown Heights and in the years
to come he wrote his memoirs.
Two decades passed and a few
weeks ago, as he walked to shul
he collapsed. He passed away on
4 Adar II at the age of 97 leaving
a son and daughters: R’ Zalman
(Monsey), Sarah Haskelevich,
and Sheindel Wiener (Far
Rockaway).
R’ Mottel receiving kos shel bracha from the Rebbe
R’ Mottel receiving Dalet minim
from the Rebbe
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AND THE HOLY ONE,
BLESSED IS HE, SAVES
US FROM THEIR HANDS
By Nechama Bar
11 Nissan / April 1,
1882. Hungary
Mrs. Solymosi raced
through the streets of
Tiszaeszlár, a Hungarian
village. She was frantically
looking for her daughter,
Eszter, who had
disappeared.
The Solymosi family
were Christian peasants
and their fourteen year old
daughter worked as a maid
for a Christian family.
One day, she was sent
on an errand from which
she never returned. Her
mother was sure that she
was in the house where she
worked as a maid, but that
wasn’t so. A few days had
gone by already and she
had not appeared there.
The worried mother
asked whoever she saw,
“Did you see my daughter? A
tall, thin girl with long, blond
hair?” She even showed people
a picture of her daughter, but
nobody could tell her where her
daughter was. They all shook
their heads no, while some looked
at her pityingly and wished her
luck in finding her daughter.
Yosef Scharf, the shamash in
the shul, was walking to the shul
for davening. Eszter’s mother
met him too, and stopped him
with her question, did he perhaps
know where her daughter was?
Yosef was a simple man and
was not gifted with an abundance
of intelligence. Instead of saying
he did not know, he began to
console her and said, “Don’t
worry, your daughter will
come back home. See, a year
ago, around Passover time, a
Christian boy disappeared and
nobody knew where he
was. Cruel people wanted
to make up lies against the
Jews as though to say they
murdered him and used
his blood to bake matzos
for Passover. Oy, what
a ridiculous claim. Who
uses blood to bake matza?
Anyway, in the end, the
boy was found and he
returned home in fine
condition. You’ll see, your
daughter will also return
home.”
The woman did not
need more than this.
These few sentences were
enough for her to decide
that the Jews were the
ones who had taken her
daughter and who knew
what they did to her …
She rushed to the
police station with a
horrifying claim. “My dear
daughter vanished a few days
ago. I am sure that the Jews
kidnapped her. They probably
killed her in order to use her
blood to bake matza for their
holiday.”
The police commander was
thrilled to hear this. He was an
ardent Jew hater and this was a
golden excuse to harm the Jews.
He nodded understandingly
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and said, “I think that your
suspicion is justified. The
same week that your daughter
disappeared, three Jewish ritual
slaughterers came here in order
to be tested so as to be accepted
as ritual slaughterers in the
Jewish community. Who knows,
maybe they committed a criminal
act.”
He dismissed the woman
with the promise that he would
research the matter and bring the
Jews to justice.
The commander, with hatred
for the Jews burning in his bones,
got to work. He called over the
shamash’s little boy who was
also not that clever. He wickedly
bribed the boy with gifts and
convinced the child to testify that
he himself had seen through the
keyhole of the synagogue as the
Jews took the girl and murdered
her.
The evil commander took the
boy to his house and watched
over him well, so nobody could
approach him and talk to him and
convince him to say otherwise.
That same day, policemen
burst into the shul, blocked the
exit and took whoever had the
misfortune of being there at the
time. Fifteen Jews were taken in
chains and brought to the police
commander. The savage man
tortured them until they felt they
had no choice but to confess to
something they did not do.
The story became known
internationally. Explanations that
Jews do not use blood to bake
matza and in general, the Torah
commands us not to consume
blood fell on deaf ears.
Two months went by. A Jew
and two Christians were on a
raft in the river when they saw
a body of a girl floating on the
water. They pulled the body out
of the river and discovered that
she was the missing girl. A doctor
examined her and said that no
human being had done her any
harm. It seemed the girl had
fallen into the river and drowned.
The news spread and the Jews
breathed a sigh of relief. Finally,
the farce was revealed to all and
the unfortunate prisoners would
be released. But their joy did not
last long. The vicious commander
did not give up. He tortured the
three men who found the girl
and forced them to “confess”
that they had brought the girl
from somewhere else and had
thrown her into the river in order
to remove the suspicion from the
Jews.
Once again, the Jews were
in mourning. They prayed and
pleaded to Hashem that He help
them.
The court case took place
one year later. Journalists
from around the world were
in attendance. The Jews were
extremely tense about how the
case would go. Jews all over the
world prayed and said T’hillim,
hoping a miracle would take
place and their innocence would
be revealed to all.
A miracle occurred. A
Christian by the name of Károly
Eötvös, who was a learned
person and an upright individual,
was able to prove the absurdity of
the accusation. He had the police
commander go to the shul, close
the door, and try to see through
the keyhole. It turned out that
nothing could be seen through
the keyhole.
The commander’s face
turned colors when it was
demonstrated before everyone
that the accusation had no
basis. The Jewish prisoners were
released after being in prison for
seventeen months for no reason.
The results of the trial were
publicized around the world.
As we say in the Hagada, “in
every generation they rise up
against us to destroy us, and the
Holy One blessed is He saves us
from their hands.”
Issue 922 • 8£l5  HO5MlACM 39
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“WHO IS A JEW?”
OR “WHO IS AN
ISRAELI?”
Regrettably, many of the politicians in Eretz
Yisroel fail to understand the difference between
an Israeli and a Jew. Again and again, we hear
about the efforts to redefne who is a Jew
according to the national defnition of a citizen
of the state of Israel. The fulfllment of Torah and
mitzvos is no longer the formula for belonging
to the Jewish People; instead it’s the fervent
devotion to the nuances of Israeli culture.
By Sholom Ber Crombie
Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
1.
It may sound a bit strange,
but lately the members of the
Knesset have appeared to take
on an approach of supreme
knowledge. They had made the
decision on what is best for the
ultra-Orthodox community,
including a callous intrusion
into the educational content
of their children’s studies to
release them from the “burden”
of learning Torah. Now, they
have adopted the role of the
chief rabbis of Israel, and every
Knesset back-bencher is certain
that he knows the opinion of
Torah better than these leading
Talmudic scholars. Rabbanim are
no longer the ultimate authority
that decides on the issue of
conversion. They have been
replaced by the country’s political
representatives.
According to the new
legislation introduced by the
Ne t any ahu- Lapi d- Be nne t t
coalition government, every
potential convert can choose
which rabbinical authority will
perform his/her conversion,
including Reform and
Conservative rabbis. In practical
terms, Knesset Member Elazar
Stern’s proposal seeks to tear
down the last remaining guardrail
of government conversion
laws. Among the opponents to
this legislation is Rabbi Chaim
Druckman – the same rav who
received a “lifetime achievement”
award for his work as director of
the Israel Conversion Authority,
which has turned this field into
a colossal mess. Now, however,
even he has come to his senses.
The person who has represented
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a matador’s red cape on the
conversion issue, arousing the
fury of leading Torah giants,
has finally stepped forward to
prevent passage of a new law
that can destroy everything. But
the Knesset Members aren’t
all that interested. With the
encouragement of journalists
who are convinced that the
ultimate truth and justice lies with
them, coalition MKs have come
with a full frontal attack against
the final bastion of the crumbling
conversion system in the chief
rabbinate of Eretz Yisroel.
In this determined atmosphere
against all that holy is in Israel,
everything is permissible.
After the minister of religious
affairs, the person entrusted
with guarding the principles of
the Jewish faith, embraced the
Reform movement and gave it
official sanction at the Kosel, it
should come as no wonder that
they would dare to push forward
this new bill proposed by another
kippa-wearing Knesset Member.
According to Bayit Yehudi
MK Orit Struk, MK Elazar
Stern doesn’t move an inch
on this legislation without first
consulting with the Reform
people. Mrs. Struk was also
among those who succeeded in
stopping the decree and delaying
a vote before the Knesset. In
the compromise worked within
the coalition, the government’s
version of the legislation won’t be
as bad as the legislation proposed
by MK Stern, designed to give
full recognition to the Reform
movement. However, there’s no
way of knowing what Bennett
and his cohorts are preparing
for us. They have already taken
several steps towards Reform
Judaism, which they see as its
ideal partner.
2.
Knesset Member Stern has
been privileged to acquire one
tremendous merit from Heaven.
For the first time since last year’s
Knesset elections, the rabbanim
of the ultra-Orthodox and
religious Zionist sectors have
managed to unite. Two weeks
ago, many prominent rabbinical
figures from the knitted-kippa
community gathered in the office
of Eretz Yisroel’s chief Sephardic
rabbi, HaRav Yitzchak Yosef, for
a joint discussion on methods for
halting this dangerous statutory
initiative. Among the participants
was Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who
has tried long and hard to stand
up against the chairman of the
Bayit Yehudi Party and his efforts
to create further damage to the
country’s conversion system.
In the end, Mr. Bennett
was forced to stand behind the
rabbanim and put the proposal
on hold. The threat made by
the chief rabbis, that they would
resign if the law passed, made
it quite clear that this was a
line they were not prepared to
cross. From the point of view of
ultra-Orthodox Jewry, official
recognition of the Reform
movement in Eretz Yisroel would
compel the more observant
sectors of the population to
produce texts on genealogy as a
means of redefining “Who is a
Jew.”
To understand the new
legislative initiatives the Bayit
Yehudi chairman is trying to
advance, we need to go back to
his proclamations from before
the elections. Bennett didn’t
hide his opinions. He repeatedly
said, “There are hundreds of
thousands of immigrants today
from the former Soviet Union
who are not Jewish according to
Halacha, however, it is possible
to convert them in a much easier
fashion… Yet, the institution
of the rabbinate is killing them.
For example, you have someone
who emigrated from the Ukraine,
serves in the army, lives like a
Jew, wants to be a Jew, and is
ready to do a series of activities
in order to become a Jew.
However, he’s not prepared to be
humiliated and [then] rejected. I
say: Come, let’s bring them in to
us. Who will fight for this today?
Only we will.”
Here’s another statement
Bennett made often during last
year’s campaign: “Who will
ensure that the country will
be Jewish and Zionist? Who
will ensure the conversion of
the hundreds of thousands of
immigrants from the former
Soviet Union who today are not
allowed to convert? Who will
make certain that the majority
of the traditional Sephardic
community will receive a Jewish
Zionist education, not a chareidi
education? Who will ensure this?
Only we will.” But above all,
there was Bennett’s real election
promise: “The party will make
it possible for a young couple
that wants to get married to see
a Zionist rabbi, and not a non-
Zionist rabbi.” And when Bennett
says “non-Zionist,” he means
an ultra-Orthodox rav who will
make certain to maintain the
protective walls of Judaism and
not marry couples without first
ascertaining their status as Jews.
As a result, no one can really
come with any complaints against
Mr. Bennett. After all he had
made certain promises, and now
he wants to fulfill them. The real
question is: Where were all these
rabbanim until now? Maybe they
hadn’t supported him openly, but
neither did they make any effort
to block his road to electoral
victory, or at least impose
conditions for their support.
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3.
The problem did not begin
with Knesset Member Stern’s
legislative proposal or even
with the weakness of the Bayit
Yehudi Party and its leaders. The
Knesset’s legislative system takes
positions on Judaism that are far
too independent. Therefore, as
long as MKs fail to internalize
that they are not the authority in
determining Torah matters, we
will continue to have a serious
problem with their agenda of
social activism on religious
issues. This system is trying to
eat away at the country’s holiest
institutions, offering a perilously
new interpretation of the basic
principles of Torah. Regrettably,
many of the politicians in Eretz
Yisroel fail to understand the
difference between an Israeli
and a Jew. Again and again, we
hear about the efforts to redefine
who is a Jew according to the
national definition of a citizen of
the state of Israel. The fulfillment
of Torah and mitzvos is no longer
the formula for belonging to the
Jewish People; instead it’s the
fervent devotion to the nuances
of Israeli culture.
It was regarding this issue
that the Rebbe wrote to David
Ben-Gurion in 5719: “It is
precisely in Eretz Yisroel that
there exists the danger that a
new generation will grow up,
a new type bearing the name of
Israel but completely divorced
from the past of our people and
its eternal and essential values;
and, moreover, hostile to it in
its world outlook, its culture,
and the content of its daily life;
hostile – in spite of the fact that
it will speak Hebrew, dwell in
the land of the Patriarchs, and
show growing enthusiasm for the
Tanach.”
This letter was a continuation
of the Rebbe’s reply on the issue
of converting children to Judaism
who were born of a Jewish father
and a non-Jewish mother. “This
is in reply to your letter regarding
my opinion on the registration
of children of mixed marriages,
when the father is a Jew and the
mother a non-Jew who did not
undergo conversion before the
birth of the child,” the Rebbe
wrote him.
The Rebbe related to Ben-
Gurion’s question whether to
show leniency in the conditions
for conversion in the Jewish
homeland: “The above applies
not only to children whose
parents or guardians declare their
desire to register them as Jews,
but to whoever comes forward
to declare his wish to change his
status in order to enter the Jewish
community. Such a declaration
has no force whatsoever unless
he actually fulfills, or has fulfilled,
the appropriate conversion
procedure as laid down in the
Jewish codes of the Shulchan
Aruch.”
In addition, the Rebbe noted
several points at the conclusion
of his correspondence. Among
these points, the Rebbe wrote the
following:
a. “The question of
registration, or however it may
be described, is not a matter
confined to Eretz Yisroel alone.
It goes without saying – as
explained in your letter – that no
one may raise a barrier between
the Jews of Israel and those of
the Diaspora. On the contrary,
all our brethren, wherever they
may be, have constituted one
people, from the moment of
their emergence in spite of their
dispersion in all the corners of
the world. Consequently, the
solution of the problem must
be one that is acceptable to all
members of the Jewish People
everywhere, one that is capable
of forging and strengthening the
bounds between unity of all Jews,
and certainly not one that would
be cause, even the remotest,
of disunity and dissension.
Accordingly, even if you may
argue that the present conditions
in Eretz Yisroel call for a special
study of the abovementioned
question, those conditions do
not restrict the problem to Eretz
Yisroel, but, as noted, constitute
a matter of common concern to
every Jew everywhere.”
b. “The belonging to
the Jewish People was never
considered by our people as
a formal, external matter. It
has always been defined and
delineated in terms of the
commitment of the whole being
of the Jew, something intimately
linked with his very essence
and innermost experience.
Accordingly, any movement
which disregards or belittles
any of the procedures in this
connection degrades the feeling
of belonging to the Jewish People
and cannot but be detrimental to
the serious and profound attitude
toward the Jew’s inner link with
his people.”
c. “To ease the conditions
of transition and affiliation to
the Jewish People – particularly
in the special circumstances
of Eretz Yisroel, surrounded
by countries and peoples
unsympathetic towards it (that
is an understatement) – is to
endanger considerably the
security of Eretz Yisroel.”


This system is trying to eat away at the country’s
holiest institutions, offering a perilously new
interpretation of the basic principles of Torah.
42 8£l5  HO5MlACM • 4 Nissan 5774
OBITUARY
922_bm_eng_BRM.indd 42 2014-04-01 2:41:16 AM

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