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elul: the king is in the field
the illumination of the thirteen Attributes of Mercy is in the field, not in the desert. A desert is at the level of “‘a land that is not cultivated,’ which are those deeds, words spoken, and thoughts which are not for G-d’s sake.” In order to receive the illumination of the thirteen Attributes of Mercy requires at least the arousal of the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of Heaven, represented by leaving (the desert), to go at least to the field, to greet the king.
Translated by Boruch Merkur
Regarding the significance of the month of Elul, the Alter Rebbe writes as follows: “In Elul it is the time of the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. In order to understand this – for the question is begged: Why then are they regular weekdays and not holidays? ... This, however, can be understood in light of an allegory of a king, who, before he comes to the city, the city folk go out to greet him, holding a reception for him in the field. Anyone who wants to go out and receive him then may do so, and he welcomes all of them with a pleasant countenance and shows
a smiling face to them all. As he makes his way to the city, they follow him. Afterwards, as he enters his royal palace, no one may enter without permission. Indeed, entrance is granted only to the elite of the nation and select individuals. So is the matter, in terms of the analogy’s significance, regarding the month of Elul: they go to receive the light of His blessed countenance in the field.” A (possible) explanation of the answer (to the [puzzling] fact that the days of the month of Elul are regular weekdays) is as follows: The concept of
holidays is that an increase of light and revelation is drawn into them, a revelation that is not enclothed within them so much [but remains transcendent]. It is on account of this revelation that during these days labor is forbidden. Indeed the performance of labor, regular weekday activities, is in contradiction to receiving this light (symbolized in the parable by the king being in his royal palace, where “no one may enter without [permission]”). Whereas the concept of the month of Elul entails the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to each and every Jew, even to one who has sinned, etc., in the place where he happens to be found: a field [i.e., not the royal place, but a place of mundane weekday activity]. The illumination of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy is a preparation enabling them to repent. So it is regarding the service of love and fear [of G-d] in Elul (for then the love and fear are loftier): they must be aroused through an initiative that precipitates specifically from below, for the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are merely a prerequisite for Divine service. Nevertheless, the illumination of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy is in the field, not in the
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desert. A desert is at the level of “‘a land that is not cultivated,’ which are those deeds, words spoken, and thoughts which are not for G-d’s sake.” In order to receive the illumination of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy requires at least the arousal of the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of Heaven, [represented by] leaving (the desert), to go at least to the field, to greet the king (but this service is at the level of “field” (of holiness), involving plowing and sowing, unlike [the activities permitted] on holidays). *** All matters discussed in Torah, including the allegories, are precise in all their details. But at first glance, the terminology of the Alter Rebbe is not understood there [in his allegory of the king in the field]: “the city folk go out to greet him...in the field.” This wording indicates that their place is in the city but they only now venture out to the field. But at first glance (in what the allegory represents) it is the opposite: Their place is in the field, and the innovation of [the month of] Elul is that the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy shine even in the place where they are at present, in the field. The explanation of this quandary is as follows: The means by which each and every Jew perceives this illumination of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy [which are spiritual in nature] is on account of the root of his soul. The Alter Rebbe alludes to this in saying, “the city folk go out to greet him...in the field.” For the reason the Jewish people perceive the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy is because they are “city folk” [an allusion to the Jewish soul as it exists in the Heavenly realm of Bria, which is referred to as “city.” See Footnote 11 in original text.]
It is just that for the time being they happen to be in the field, [a metaphor for being] in the exile of the body and the Animal Soul. Notwithstanding the fact that they are in exile, “one cannot compare the virtue of a minister while in captivity to the virtue of a commoner” [Likkutei Torah Parshas R’ei 32c]. Being that they are “city folk,” even when they are in the field, they “receive the light of His blessed countenance,” the illumination of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. *** Another matter that is not readily understood from the terminology of the Alter Rebbe in the allegory there: The wording implies that the original place of the king is in the field (for he does not write that “the king goes out to the field”), whereas in the meaning of the allegory, the place of the king is in his royal palace, but he makes a special trip to the field to enable everyone to receive him. The explanation is as follows: In terms of revelations, when the king is in the field, it is a descent in comparison to how he is in his royal palace. For when he is in his royal palace he wears a royal crown and royal vestments, etc. Which is not the case when he is in the field. Nevertheless, in truth, the very fact that the king forgoes the revelation of his royal crown and royal vestments, and he goes out to the field to enable everyone to receive him, proves that the repentance of those who are found in the field is more precious and pertinent to him than his royal crown and vestments (like the example of the service of penitents, which reaches higher than the service of the righteous). For His royal vestments and crown are merely [elements constituting his] appearance. Whereas His
blessed essence is specifically in the field, as it is known that it is specifically the lower worlds that are a dwelling place for His blessed essence. In the allegory in discussion, the Alter Rebbe writes, “As he makes his way to the city, they follow him. Afterwards, as he enters his royal palace, etc.” At first glance, since His blessed essence is specifically in the field, etc., as has been noted, why is this necessary and what advantage is accomplished in going to the city? The matter is as follows: Regarding a dwelling place there are two factors: 1) In a dwelling place one’s entire essence is present (as in a home, for one’s essence resides in the dwelling), and this is accomplished through the fulfillment of Mitzvos specifically in the realm of action. 2) The one who lives in the dwelling is revealed there. Thus, revelations are also necessary. Notwithstanding the fact that this service takes place in the month of Tishrei, the Alter Rebbe writes about this matter in the allegory which elaborates on the service of the month of Elul. It could be said that he, thereby, suggests that even the beginning of the service of receiving the yoke [of Heaven], the venturing outwards to receive His blessed countenance in the field, must be on condition and in a manner [intended to] follow Him afterwards to the city and to His royal palace, for then they come from the service of Elul to the service of Rosh HaShana and the Ten Days of Repentance and etc., until the revelation of Shmini Atzeres – “They will be to You alone, with no strangers among You.”
(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 4, Hosafos, pg. 1342 ff.)
Issue 847 • �
INsIGHT INTO T’sHuvA
A selection from the rebbe rashab’s Hemshech Ayin-Beis, dealing with t’shuva at the levels of Nefesh, ruach, and Neshama. * Presented in the Month of Elul, when we make a soul-assessment of our service of G-d throughout the year. * Part 1
Translated by Boruch Merkur
Just as there is a unique service of G-d associated with each level of the soul, the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama – the three aspects of the soul that are invested within the body – so too with regard to t’shuva, returning to G-d through repentance: there is a unique manner of t’shuva corresponding to each of these dimensions of the soul. T’shuva at the level of Nefesh entails that “the Nefesh that has sinned” should return to G-d in repentance [thereby correcting the person’s sins]. T’shuva at the level of Ruach is as it is written, “And the Ruach shall return to the L-rd, etc.” And t’shuva at the level of Neshama is described in the verse, “My Ruach and my Neshama shall be gathered unto Him, etc.” To elaborate on the different qualities of repentance associated with each of these three levels:
NEFESH: CHANGING ONE’S WAYS
Nefesh is associated with the realm of action, as discussed earlier. Repentance at this level is on account of improper behavior, etc., being extremely embittered in one’s soul for having committed a sin or transgression. The person is stricken with regret for it, and resolves firmly in his heart to leave his wicked ways and depart from the paths of evil, as it is written, “Let one who is wicked leave his path, etc.” This manner of repentance is called “abandoning sin.” That is, correcting one’s behavior, changing one’s former ways from one extreme to another. For when the embitterment of one’s soul is sincere, when regretting his past is in earnest, then his commitment and resolve for the future is likewise sincere and he changes his ways completely. T’shuva at the level of Nefesh in general also
includes repentance for embracing hedonism (hisgavrus ha’chumrius), even with regard to permissible activities. That is, repentance not for actual sins and transgressions per se, may G-d have mercy upon us, but for one’s mere attraction towards materialism – i.e., the fact that he is powerfully drawn after the nature of his Animal Soul – as well as his inability to separate himself from it. Since he is powerfully bound to materialistic things he is actually compelled towards hedonism and unable to detach himself from it. But being embittered by his condition brings salvation to his soul, freeing him from materialism and enabling him to resist his natural compulsions, changing his manner in this respect. Repentance at the level of Nefesh also entails repentance for the [general] lack of the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, especially in the case where one has actually cast aside the yoke, no longer maintaining within himself fear of the Alm-ghty. One must do t’shuva for this and draw upon himself this quality of submission before G-d.
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RUACH: T’SHUVA FOR NOT FEARING AND LOVING G-D
T’shuva at the level of Ruach is repenting for one’s shortcomings in arousing in himself love and fear of G-d. Indeed, there is an obligation upon each and every person to love and fear G-d; it is a Mitzva among the Mitzvos of the Torah that is incumbent upon every single Jew. In addition to it being an obligation, by arousing in oneself love and fear of G-d, the Jew refines and corrects his Animal Soul. Purifying the Animal Soul constitutes the ultimate purpose for the descent of the soul into the physical world; it is the reason for which it was created. Moreover, it is impossible for the Animal Soul to assume the quality of Adam [a term that refers to the virtue attainable by Man] unless one experiences actually love and fear of G-d in his heart, which comes about specifically through hisbonenus, meditation. One may, however, compel and subdue the Animal Soul simply by means of summoning the strength of the Nefesh in overpowering the Animal Soul, a process that does not require love and fear of G-d per se (and certainly not the love and fear of G-d that is brought about through hisbonenus). In fact, by harnessing the strength of his Nefesh he
Overpowering the Animal Soul in this manner does not serve to “carve out,” as it were, the “inner form” of the Animal Soul, establishing its character. This transformation is only possible by means of experiencing a love of G-d that is brought about through hisbonenus. Hisbonenus affects the character of the Animal Soul, insofar as it engenders even the “natural intellect – ha’seichel ha’tiv’i” with the understanding of G-dly concepts.
weakens the Animal Soul, both in terms of 1) deterring its hedonistic behavior, and thereby weakening its materialistic nature, and especially by means of 2) compelling it [to act in accordance with G-d’s will]. However, overpowering the Animal Soul in this manner does not serve to “carve out,” as it were, the “inner form” of the Animal Soul, establishing its character. This transformation is only possible by means of experiencing a love of G-d that is brought about through hisbonenus. Hisbonenus affects the character of the Animal Soul, insofar as it engenders even the “natural intellect – ha’seichel ha’tiv’i” with the understanding of G-dly concepts. In fact, the goal is that the arousal of love in the G-dly Soul also inspires the Animal Soul to love G-dliness. The deficiency in arousing love and fear, however, causes
pain to the soul, insofar as it has not fulfilled its intent for having descended into the physical world. The soul suffers especially on account of the fact that the Animal Soul is prevailing, causing timtum ha’lev, apathy towards G-dliness. Timtum ha’lev causes the middos (emotional attributes) of one’s G-dly Soul to lie dormant, unaffected by [the contemplation of] a G-dly concept. The soul is extremely pained by this, for so long as the person fails to serve G-d, his Animal Soul strengthens significantly and the G-dly soul weakens, etc. And who can fathom what may result from this, G-d forbid?! T’shuva at the level of Ruach is in response to this deficiency – “And the Ruach shall return to the L-rd,” stimulating the emotional attributes [to love and fear G-d]. [To be continued be”H]
Issue 847 • �
SHLICHUS AMONGST THE HILLTOP OUTPOSTS OF THE WEST BANK
R’ Menachem Bakosh lives in Adei Ad, an isolated place with no fence surrounding it, deep in the heart of hostile Arab territory. * He reaches out to youth in the area, not only to strengthen Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel but also to show them the beauty of Torah and Chassidus. * He describes his work as well as his life under the shadow of the sword, which can at any moment destroy their homes.
By Nosson Avrohom
here are dozens of outposts throughout Yehuda-Shomron, big and small, where hundreds of families live. A significant number of them are located in highly strategic areas and have helped save the lives of soldiers and settlers. But the politicians in the government only care about what some bootlickers will say. The only thing that matters is the opinion of those who sit in ivory towers and are supported by money that pours in from the EU and other haters of Israel around the world.
When it comes to expelling Jews from their land, they consider all means kosher. When the operation to destroy Migron began, and settlers in the Binyamin district saw large military forces heading their way, settler leaders called the district unit commander, the battalion leader and the general. These three officers calmed the settlers when they said it was merely a military exercise. When some time passed, the settlers realized they had been conned. Hundreds of soldiers and policemen
surrounded all the houses of the yishuv and viciously destroyed three of the homes. We visited an outpost known as Adei Ad, which is not far from Migron. It sprang up over a decade ago and is located southwest of the veteran yishuv, Shiloh. Its residents grow flowers, fruits and vegetables in hothouses – melons, watermelons, olive trees. They also have an organic bakery and produce homemade cheese, most of it designated for export.
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Among the twenty-five families lives the shliach, R’ Menachem Bakosh, who does tremendous work there and in other outposts throughout the Binyamin region. We met R’ Bakosh late at night as he closed his pizza store and was on his way home. “There are about twenty families at our yishuv, but in physical size, it is bigger than yishuvim with hundreds of families and more. The principle that guided the founders was expansiveness rather than
building in tight groups.” In Adei Ad one cannot go out the door of his home and encounter the door of his neighbor. The point of the game here is to restrain Arab expansion. The settlers want the Arabs to live in constrained clusters. Everyone who knows R’ Bakosh knows that he is not a man of words. He is a doer. We asked him about his thoughts, about his shlichus, his work with youth, and the difficulties. Right before we spoke to him, he
had been released from military jail after sitting half a year for the crime of obstruction of a policeman who wanted to destroy his home. “I was shocked when I heard my sentence and the reasons given. They were fictions and lies, but the army is hard to argue with.” The apple did not fall far from the tree. Menachem is the son of shluchim in Beit El and he grew up in an atmosphere of shlichus all his life. Not surprisingly, immediately after he married he
Issue 847 • �
also went to Chabad schools. Slowly, our way of dress changed and our home began to look Chassidish. Our family became the Lubavitchers to turn to in the yishuv.” He completed his yeshiva studies in the Chabad yeshiva in Tzfas. “After I married, we lived in Yitzhar and we looked for a shlichus from the very start. Since Yitzhar already had a shliach, we looked elsewhere. Just two and a half months later, we went to Adei Ad.” Is there a difference between outreach at an established yishuv and outreach at an outpost? “In general, it is very hard to work with hilltop youth. These are a small group of Jews who are extremely clannish due to their fear of Shabak agents. Whoever doesn’t think like them is excluded from their group. I was previously acquainted with the hilltop youth and they were happy that we came. Some of them looked askance at the emphasis on Moshiach and Geula, but this topic quickly made its way in.” The Bakosh family has been living at Adei Ad for five years. Their nearest neighbor lives 500 meters away. R’ Menachem runs a pizza store in the afternoon and evening. “The pizza store is a Chabad house in every respect. Videos are shown of the Rebbe. For many young people in the area, this is their regular gathering spot and we talk to them about the Rebbe and about Moshiach.” In addition to pizza, R’ Bakosh runs a sort of Talmud Torah for the children of Adei Ad and for children of other outposts in the area. He does programs for children, like arranging a Lag B’Omer parade and activities
Lag B’Omer parade in Adei Ad
“His hair was longer than ever; he had turned into a hippie. I sat there in shackles and was not in the best of moods, but when I saw him, I was really happy. He sat next to me and we sang the niggun of R’ Michel of Zlotchov. When we hugged at the end of the niggun, I knew he would come back. When I was released from jail we met again. He had cut his hair and had gone back to being a Tamim.”
knew he was dedicating his life to shlichus. “I was born in Beit El to French immigrants. At first, we were not Chassidim. My parents were Mizrachi and life was about love of the land. When I was nine, a horrifying murder of a resident of our yishuv took place by bloodthirsty invaders. My father and the rest of the members of the yishuv went out to protest. “The feeling at the time, under Rabin’s government, was that Jewish blood was expendable. A month after the demonstration, my father was arrested for shooting into the air. It was a lie, but they were looking for a scapegoat. While he was in jail, he studied Tanya and got to know some Lubavitchers, including the mashpia R’ Zalman Notik. “When he was released, our home turned in the direction of Chabad and hiskashrus to the Rebbe. That year, I was sent to a Chabad camp organized by the shliach R’ Binyamin Edery, now of Japan, and I returned home a Chabadnik. “I was sent to Toras Emes in Yerushalayim and my brothers
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around holidays. “We have farbrengens for adults on special days in the calendar. I learn one-on-one with people in the yishuv’s one shul. There is a nucleus of people who are called ‘Rambamistim’ who conduct themselves according to the Rambam and we learn the daily Rambam together.”
A MODERN BLOOD LIBEL
Before getting into a discussion about his unusual outreach work and life in constant fear of the bulldozers of the IDF’s Civil Administration, as well as Arab terrorists, we asked him about his yeshiva in military prison. “It was about a year after we married. On 20 Cheshvan I was on my way to the base where I served in Yerushalayim, when I heard that large military and Yassam forces were surrounding the yishuv and approaching my house. I took off my uniform and joined the residents who bodily defended the yishuv. Nearby was a container/trailer in which six young friends who had joined the yishuv lived in. “I had taken off my uniform so they wouldn’t accuse me of rebelling against the army. Before that, before the resistance began, the evacuation commanders, who knew I was a soldier, threatened me that they would sentence me and put me in military prison for a long time. I ignored their intimidation tactics. In the past I had opposed expulsions in a non-violent manner and had been arrested and released, but when you are an active service soldier, it’s different. At a certain point, the tractors destroyed the structure and the atmosphere got more heated. The police acted more brutally than usual. They began hitting women and children
for no reason. I restrained myself and did not get involved. I was a soldier and a married man, but when I saw that the situation was getting out of control and people were being injured, I went over to the assistant unit commander who was overseeing the eviction and rebuked him for the violence. He angrily slapped me. In the meantime, the structure was completely demolished. It was a sad sight, particularly when the Arabs in the surrounding villages build as they please. When the police left, I put my uniform back on and headed off to the base. “A week later, I was arrested by the military police and was accused of throwing stones at a soldier, an accusation which all the military cameras proved was
In handcuffs, after his arrest
“A week later, I was arrested by the military police and was accused of throwing stones at a soldier, an accusation which all the military cameras proved was false. They tried to accuse me of attempted murder! I denounced this as a lie until I realized they were not interested in the truth.”
Yisroel. They knew that they were jailing a father of a baby for half a year although he was completely innocent. “When I was arrested, I refused to admit to what they were accusing me of. They had no evidence, so they tried to get a confession out of me. The military prosecutor said to me that if I did not confess, they would ask for more and more extensions to my incarceration for the purpose of further investigation and I would sit in jail without a trial for months. They said, ‘Forget about your baby daughter, about your wife. We will destroy your life.’ “It wasn’t easy withstanding this psychological torment, but
Issue 847 • �
false. They tried to accuse me of attempted murder! I denounced this as a lie until I realized they were not interested in the truth. After lengthy sessions I was sentenced to a half year in prison in Tzrifin, and after getting one third off, I was released.” How did you feel being falsely accused? “I was protesting because I live in this outpost. It is understood that I didn’t lift a hand to anyone, and this whole trial just clarified exactly what the judicial system in this country is worth. It’s no wonder why the leaders look the way they do. The trial was supposed to weaken our stance in the struggle for Eretz
CHILDREN WAKE UP AT DAWN TO LEARN CHASSIDUS
R’ Menachem reached out to the residents of his area before he sat in jail and much more so upon his release. “The story behind our Talmud Torah is interesting. The davening at our shul is at dawn and residents wake up before dawn. Before the davening, I would learn Rambam and Chassidus with someone. Children would sit next to us and listen and our chavrusa turned into a sort of shiur. When I finished with him, I learned Tanya and sichos with the children. “On mornings that I found it hard to get up early, they would come to my house to wake me up. This lasted for several months until I was told by their teachers in school that they might be learning well with me, but the fact that they were up so early in the morning made them nod off in class. We decided to change our learning time for the afternoon. Every day, we gather in the shul. I consider my work with the kids my main shlichus. “I recently wrote to the Rebbe about a number of things and kept opening to letters about learning with children. A Torah library just opened with books on Jewish topics that are appropriate for them. On Shabbos, after the davening, which ends at 7:00, the children sit down to a Chassidishe farbrengen that continues for a few hours! Within a few weeks, they learned Meseches Middos by heart, and they are continuing to learn Mishnayos and Tanya.” The children feel so close to him that before Rosh HaShana last year, they called him and asked him to leave the base where he was serving to help them with
With Knesset member Michoel Ben Ari at the farbrengen upon Menachem’s release from jail
I wasn’t going to confess to something I didn’t do. In the end, the judges realized that a three month imprisonment without filing charges was over the top.” What did you do all that time in prison and how did they treat you? “Whoever heard why I had been arrested was supportive and this showed that the people are with us. As a Lubavitcher Chassid I made use of the circumstances for shlichus, for shiurim in Gemara and Chassidus, and for mivtzaim with the soldiers in jail. That gave me a lot of chizuk. “Every Sunday, the military police runs what they call ‘Mivtza Malbish’ (Operation Appearance) when they look for soldiers whose manner of dress is not up to par. We turned Mivtza Malbish into Mivtza T’fillin and every Sunday, all the soldiers put on t’fillin. “I had a chavrusa with one of the soldiers who greatly strengthened his Jewish
commitment as a result of our learning sessions. More soldiers than usual began to visit the jail synagogue. “On Chanuka I was in a difficult situation. In prison, there is one menorah for all the soldiers. It is lit in the dining room, and when we leave it is extinguished. I wanted to use olive oil and to light in the doorway of the cell. At first, the prison administration refused my request. Until then, I was an obedient soldier, but this time I told them I would not sleep and would not eat. They finally acceded to my request. Oddly enough, it was in the jail itself that the commanders showed more compassion and concern for my needs.” • • • After four months in jail, R’ Menachem celebrated his release. The seudas hodaa took place at his parents’ home in Beit El. Many came to show support.
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Learning with kids early in the morning
a soccer game. He had to explain to them that he was on duty and could not leave. They called his commander and convinced him to let Menachem go. When he arrived, he saw that the children had arranged a surprise party in his honor to express their appreciation to him. “I was moved and so surprised by what they did.” Every Shabbos, farbrengens take place in shul for the adults. They start after seven and sometimes end at noon! “On Shabbos, it is much easier to work with adults. They are less preoccupied with parnasa and there is a feeling of serenity. Here at the yishuv, everybody loves the Rebbe. I am sometimes asked to help someone write to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh. “I have a good friend here. We got married at the same time. After some time, I had children already while he did not and this bothered me. When I was in 770 last Tishrei, I decided to daven for him. On Shabbos B’Reishis I stood next to the Rebbe’s shtender and asked for a bracha for children. I also put a request for him in a volume of Igros Kodesh and opened to an
“In the village opposite us, a very hostile village, there is a tumbledown mosque. They wanted to renovate it, so what did they do? They burned it in the middle of the night and began wailing that the settlers had burned it. Whoever heard that – even in the IDF – laughed. Everybody knows that no Jew would dare to enter there because it would be suicidal, but they got the publicity they wanted. Sure enough, several Israeli proArab organizations helped them build a new mosque.”
afraid of them and deal harshly with their fellow Jews. If someone is an Arab, nobody will stop him from building houses and storage places, planting vineyards and olive trees, without permits. If he is a Jew, he will need to wait for permits. “The injustice is unbelievable and we feel it all the time. I sometimes read the articles in Beis Moshiach about the unfairness, and I think that maybe there are people who believe that the reports are exaggerated. The truth, however, is far worse. “Two days after my first daughter was born, two of my horses were stolen from my stable. As a law-abiding citizen, I called the police and some time
Issue 847 • �
answer about children. I was sure he would have a child this year. “On Shabbos Noach, one week later, we all farbrenged together at the outpost with a big bottle of mashke. I said to him, ‘The Rebbe gave a bracha and what you need to do is make good hachlatos and, with Hashem’s help, you will have a yeshua.’”
One of the most painful things to deal with is the Leftists and those who constantly back the Arabs, encouraging them to attack Jewish property and lives. In a normal country, this would be called treason. Military authorities and the police are
learn all day while his brother, who grew up in the same environment, cannot. There are boys who need Menachem is also involved in reaching out to young space and the system does not work for them. “I once asked a boy how his relationship with his dropouts, including those who grew up in Lubavitcher homes. Those who know him speak about his ability parents got so bad, and he said that his father smiled to find a common language with these kids. Whoever at him when he was doing well, but when he veered was in contact with him ended up getting back on somewhat from the path, the smile disappeared. track. “I feel that people don’t understand them,” says ‘Apparently, he doesn’t really love me,’ the boy said.” Menachem. He emphasizes that he is no expert, but Can you give us examples? simply someone in the trenches who is involved with “For a long time, we had two boys from beautiful kids. Lubavitcher homes here at the yishuv. They had “It’s hard for them, and the system does not identify dropped out of the system. One of them, a refined boy, their problems in time. They end up feeling frustrated even when he went off the derech, was unable to do and leaving the system. What can be done? Not every many things that went against Halacha. He grew his kid can fit into the rigid dimensions of the system. hair long and did not dress like a yeshiva bachur, but “Some people think the kids are deaf to the tears he could not touch his beard and he was careful about of their parents, but parents don’t realize that these other things too. children are super sensitive. When I speak to them, “When I sat in jail, he would come with a friend to they sometimes cry to me about how bad they feel visit me and I was shocked by his deterioration. His about causing their mother or father pain, but they hair was longer than ever; he had turned into a hippie. can’t and won’t continue living in a prescribed way I sat there in shackles and was not in the best of moods, just to make their parents happy. but when I saw him, I was really happy, even though “For these kids, what works is a program of work his deterioration was apparent. He sat next to me and and learning. It gets them to learn better. We had we sang the niggun of R’ Michel of Zlotchov. When some guys here who learned half a day and the other we hugged at the end of the niggun, I knew he would half they worked with goats and horses. They did come back, and that is exactly what happened. When well with the learning. They knew that after learning I was released from jail we met again. He had cut his there would be something else to do and this made the hair and had gone back to being a Tamim. learning easier and better.” “Don’t blame these guys; help them. Listen to When a student drops out, parents and teachers them. Sometimes, you can see how they stay away from everyone except for one teacher. Why? Because feel they failed him. “First, you really need to daven a lot when it comes they feel that he really respects them. They need to chinuch. The most important thing though, is to space and the most important thing is to love them, realize that people are not alike. Even brothers who no matter what. That is the only way they will come seem very similar are not equal when it comes to back. Otherwise, why would they want to go back to learning and abilities. One might be able to sit and someone who doesn’t love them, or who will only love them on his own terms?”
COnneCting With the YOuth
later, they showed up along with a military tracker. They followed the horses’ tracks and reached a nearby Arab village where they stopped. I asked them – What happened? Why did you stop? They did not explain. “I had lost valuable property and I angrily said to them that if they did not go in, I would find a way to get in. On Sunday, I got a call from the police. ‘Are you the one who had horses stolen?’ I said yes, and the officer asked
me to come and testify. When I arrived at the station, two policemen handcuffed me. At first I thought it was an honest mistake, but it wasn’t. They brought me to court and asked the judge to authorize holding me in prison, because I had planned on entering an Arab village. I was flabbergasted. “Apparently this was too much for the judge too. He listened to the police prosecutor and rebuked him. The judge got
up and said to the policeman that he would check where I am every few hours to see if I was still under arrest. “This is the situation we are living in. Instead of the police chasing our enemies, they pursue the settlers. There’s a person living here who was locked up for a year, because they suspected he did something. When it turned out that he did nothing, nobody thought of apologizing to him or compensating him. He was
14 � • 6 Elul 5772
released and that was all, like nothing happened. “Tishrei of two years ago, there was a shooting attack at the junction that leads to our yishuv and to some other yishuvim. It was a miracle that only one person was lightly wounded. Afterward, all of the residents of the outposts in the area made a protest march. On the way, we passed an olive grove belonging to Arabs and saw them trimming the branches in order to improve the trees. “The next day, this was a headline in HaAretz. Next to a picture of people passing the trees, the reporter had written about the destruction wreaked in the grove. Even if we wanted to prune olive trees, we would not have been able to trim so many trees. The following day, an agronomist from the Civil Administration, an organization not known for its great love for settlers, showed up and said the whole thing was nonsense. It was obvious that trained farmers had done the work for the sake of improvement. On the flip side, Arabs regularly destroy vineyards and groves that are owned by Jews, but you won’t read any articles about that in the papers. “There’s a Jew here who invested his entire savings into a vineyard. One day, Arabs came and began destroying it. He called the police and the army, but it was the season for harvesting olives and they were busy protecting Arabs. Three hours later, one policeman showed up, wrote down the complaint, and left. Of course, nothing was done and nobody was arrested. “A few years ago, I was hit by a rock in the village of Khavara. I called the police but nobody came. I got out of my car and began throwing rocks back at
The shul in Adei Ad
them and police came within minutes. They wanted to arrest me, but since I was bloody from the rocks thrown at me, they had pity on me. “It has become a sad joke among the settlers that if you want the police to come, you tell them that we are attacking Arabs. That brings them in a hurry. “Most of the ‘price tag’ acts of vandalism reported in the media are bunkum. The police know that, but choose to ignore it. In the village opposite us, a very hostile village, people walk around freely with weapons. In the center of the village there is a tumbledown mosque. They wanted to renovate it, so what did they do? They burned it in the middle of the night and began wailing that the settlers had burned it. Whoever heard that – even in the IDF – laughed. Everybody knows that no Jew would dare to enter there
because it’s suicidal, but they got the publicity and money from several Israeli pro-Arab organizations that helped them build a new mosque. It’s the Jews who give the Arabs the courage to approach Jewish yishuvim and they often join them in the looting.” I’m listening to all this and have one question. Isn’t it scary? “Is it scary? The answer is yes, but it won’t stop us from doing what needs to be done and what we believe in. As someone who grew up with this in YehudaShomron, sad to say, I’m used to it. I remember from my childhood that when we would travel to school in Yerushalayim, I would see cars that had been shot at. Just moments before, they had taken out Jews who had been murdered from those cars. I had a preschool teacher whom I loved. She had to stop near
Issue 847 • �
Ramallah to fix a flat tire and she was murdered. “For a very long time, my parents would not travel together on the roads of Yehuda-Shomron so that if they would be attacked, one parent would remain alive to raise us. That was normal. Today, I know that we are living with the understanding that our surviving another day is uncertain. The lack of a sharp response on the part of the government towards attacks is what created this norm. “Recently, there were two times that I felt really scared and I took action to defend myself. After all, we are living in a yishuv without fences and the houses are distant from one another. I had a small stable, a few meters from the house, and when the horses were stolen, I realized that the Arab thieves could just as easily enter my house. The massacre in Itamar frightened us tremendously, especially my wife. The fact that the army collected our weapons from us so we won’t, G-d forbid, attack Arabs, does not add to our sense of security.” How do you feel about putting work into your house when you know that it can be demolished at any time? “It is much more frustrating than you would think. The Arabs opposite us build as they please, while here, every inch of earth is acquired with much aggravation. I’ve wanted to put up a building for a Chabad house for years now, but the Civil Administration does not allow it. What is most infuriating is that in a regular city or yishuv you need to get a permit from the council or municipality, while here we need to get permits for every structure from the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister. What it means if they destroy your home is that you will continue paying a mortgage for the next twenty years on a building that does not exist! “There are some residents to whom the monetary loss is less important than Eretz Yisroel is to them. They bought three old buses and turned them into houses with bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. They placed these buses on a hilltop in order to create territorial continuity from the Jordan Valley. Each time they got an injunction they moved a few hundred meters. They recently received an injunction that says that the buses are illegal throughout the Binyamin area. “Last year, we had a story here that seemed to be taken from other times and other places. On Sukkos, a resident received an injunction that he had to leave his sukka within a week.” How is it possible to do mivtzaim with those policemen? “When they destroyed my vineyard, a callous police officer stood there and screamed and threatened my daughter who wasn’t yet five years old. She cried hysterically and he smiled sardonically. The next day, I met him in a store and asked him if he would like to put on t’fillin. He looked at me in shock. He was afraid that I planned on doing something to him and he took a few steps backward, but I explained that despite everything, he is a Jew. ‘The only difference between me and you,’ I said, ‘is external. You wear a police uniform and I wear a Chabad uniform.’ “He was embarrassed and so taken aback. This is really what distinguishes us Chabad Chassidim. We don’t hate the police. We absolutely hate what they do, and we will fight it, but we don’t feel hatred towards them. When I was a guest at the outpost of Itzik Sandroi, we would fight the soldiers who came to evict us, but then we would offer them t’fillin. I remember being arrested then, as a minor. I was fourteen. On my way out, I went to all the soldiers and put t’fillin on with them. Do you have plans to expand despite the obstacles? “We constantly open to answers from the Rebbe in the Igros Kodesh about the importance of the work with youth. We started doing that, and when I am released from the army I plan on doing more. “The situation here engenders confusion on the part of the youth. Young people, by nature, seek absolute truth. It is very hard for them to live with the falsehood here. Chassidus is the only thing that can provide them with truth. We want to turn the pizza store (until we get permission to build a Chabad house) into a place where young people will have a voice. We also want to step up activities in other ways, at all the hilltops and outposts.” In conclusion: “We need to increase Ahavas Yisroel. I won’t ask everyone to go up on the hilltops, because that does not seem to be what the Rebbe wants. If he wanted it, there would be tens of thousands more Jews today in YehudaShomron, maybe more. What can strengthen the settlements here and Jews everywhere else in the world is achdus, to think before arguing and contradicting someone, to think before doing something if someone else will be hurt. This will surely give nachas to Hashem and hasten the immediate hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M, and this darkness will be behind us.”
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stOP hAting YOuRself And YOu Will stOP hAting OtheRs
By Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz
“What’s your problem, anyways? If something bothers you so much, if something disgusts you so much, it’s inside you, man. You think it’s out there, but really it’s in you. You know, you can only really smell your own garbage.” Sometimes you hear certain words that resonate so intensely, for good or for bad, that they stay with you forever. A sincere compliment. An ugly insult. A sharp insight. Even years later, you feel them with the same intensity as when they were first said. I was used to hearing such flaky New Age polemics from pseudo-ex-hippies and wannabe spiritualists around the campfire, which made it easy for my exceptionally healthy inner cynic to deflect and dismiss them. But this was different. This bit of wisdom was coming from a Chassid who I had come to admire for his intelligence and down-to-earth sensibilities, and he was paraphrasing the Baal Shem Tov, the Rebbe of all Rebbes. So, coming from there, it hit me hard, and it still does. Projecting our inner daemons is probably the most popular game we humans play – at least it’s up there with some of our other favorite pastimes like drowning in denial, ping pong hypocrisy, and feigned righteousness. As a sweet and simple Russian Jew once demonstrated to me, pointing your finger outward at others is
I was used to hearing such flaky New Age polemics from pseudo-ex-hippies and wannabe spiritualists, which made it easy for my exceptionally healthy inner cynic to deflect them. But this was different.
easy and natural, but pointing it at yourself is difficult and painful. (Try it – it actually physically hurts.) “You can only smell your own garbage.” There is no question that there is garbage out there, and plenty of it. But what causes me to fixate on a particular issue or problem, and to dwell on it? Of all the types of garbage out there, why do I obsess only about certain varieties? I am attracted to it because, in one form or another, that particular garbage is inside me. I therefore have a specific proclivity, or even an affinity, for that garbage. Why else would I see it and smell it so readily, so easily, so often? I attract it like a magnet because it exists within my own thoughts. It penetrates my senses and my imagination so effortlessly because it is already within my sphere of awareness, a product of my own consciousness. It disturbs me and repulses me so violently because it troubles me to think that it is mine. And so I make a sport out of repelling it, deflecting it and projecting it, convincing myself it is not mine, taking whatever contorted
position will allow me to escape it and the pain of acknowledging it is me. Instead of despising my own shortcomings, I project the image of my garbage, and its stench, onto objects upon which I can unleash my hatred. Like an addict, I become hooked on the illusion of personal freedom created by deflecting and projecting my own garbage onto other things, and other people. Ironically, I am trapped by this false freedom, and its lack of accountability hampers my growth. How do I overcome this addiction and break the cycle? The only way is to seek within myself whatever negativity I perceive around me – to turn the accusing finger and point it toward myself, and laugh. For though the process may seem painful and fraught with fear, there is no greater joy than the joy of uncovering something new. The true treasure of who I am is buried in there, beneath the garbage, if only I am courageous enough to seek it out. Reprinted with permission from Exodus Magazine
Issue 847 • �
YOU AND THE REBBE PReeMPted the MOsAd
This is the extraordinary story that happened to Erez Mei-raz in the airport of communist russia and about the rebbe’s shliach whom he met in the shul in leningrad.
By Nosson Avrohom
r. Erez Mei-Raz, a representative of the Nativ* organization, a branch of the Mosad which worked clandestinely with Jews behind the Iron Curtain, has the following story to share: The Rebbe was a step ahead of the people from the Mosad. In many places, when we thought we were the first ones there, we found the Rebbe’s shluchim already operating on his behalf. They encouraged and supported local Jews and started Jewish institutions. All this took place at a time when there was great fear that at any moment secret agents could be knocking at your door and exile you to Siberia. The shluchim were fearless.
MIRACLE IN THE AIRPORT
Until today, I don’t know why the Mosad picked me out of all my fellow officers. Maybe the reason was that I also have a foreign passport. Previously, I had served in the IDF Nachal Brigade. Upon my release, I received an invitation from the Mosad. In my worldview, there was no refusing them! When they tell you to jump, you jump, no matter the dangers involved. I did not consider the ramifications and whether or not I was prepared to endanger myself. Just as I went to war in Lebanon on the third armored troop carrier with my head held high, I found myself showing up at the Mosad offices where I was given my assignment.
The main job was to travel to the Soviet Union which was, in 5749/1989, beginning to collapse, and to set up aliya cells among the Jewish youth. We would secretly meet with young Jews, give them Hebrew books, Jewish books and religious items, and encourage them to make aliya. There was tremendous fear, for us and for them. We would meet them in train stations and apartments. At the beginning of the 70’s there were some waves of Jewish emigration with the approval
18 � • 6 Elul 5772
Mr. Erez Mei-Raz at a farbrengen at the Chabad house in Kfar Saba In the background: Leningrad
of the communists, but sadly, many of those Jews settled in the Diaspora. Our goal was to make sure this did not happen again, by arousing their desire to pick Eretz Yisroel. For decades since Nativ was founded, its operatives traveled via Finland and other Scandinavian countries to the Soviet Union. The year I went,
Issue 847 • �
He grabbed my shirt and put his mouth next to my ear in a threatening manner and then he whispered, in a heavy Russian accent, “Shma Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.” I thought for a moment that I was hallucinating…
those in charge decided we should travel via Vienna and that our tickets should say Tel Aviv-Vienna-Moscow. In other words, the Russian border police should know precisely where we came from, since the communist regime had shown signs of ailing and we knew there wasn’t much to fear. We were told to act in an open, normal manner, and not as if we had anything to hide. On my first trip, I went with a huge backpack containing sixty kilos of Hebrew books and s’farim as well as many videocassettes, all of which were forbidden to bring into Russia at the time. Naturally, when I arrived at the customs check, the police rubbed their eyes in disbelief and decided to stop me for a more careful check. They opened my bags and of course found everything they contained. They acted as though they had caught a drug dealer with an astronomical quantity of drugs. They took out one tape and another tape, another book and another book, and spoke in Russian which I did not understand. Behind me stood a long line of people who stared at me in incredulity and curiosity. After a few minutes that seemed like forever, two husky soldiers came and asked me to accompany them to one of the rooms. An officer decorated with medals entered the room with me and began screaming. I speak Yiddish, German, and English, but not Russian. I did not understand a word he said. When he realized that I did not understand what he wanted, he switched to speaking English and he asked me whom the tapes were for. I told him, as I had been instructed, that I am a Jew and that when I came to Russia I brought Jewish items along with me so I could donate them to the first shul I would visit. He was furious. He banged on the steel table and told the two soldiers to leave the room. I thought I was done for and that is how my short story with the Mosad would end, with his ordering me sent to years of exile in Siberia. But then something marvelous happened which I cannot figure out till this day. He grabbed my shirt and put his mouth next to my ear in a threatening manner and then he whispered, in a heavy Russian accent, “Shma Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.” When he finished, he “threw” me away from him. I thought for a moment that I was hallucinating. I looked at him and was all shaken up, but he showed no signs of emotion. On the contrary, he said in an irritated voice: A shul? Ah! He ordered me to go along with him, and walked me through all the checkpoints of the airport and then sent me on my way. I went outside and pinched myself to see whether I was dreaming. Either he was a Jew or something
else happened that only Hashem knows. I seemed to be a “fat fish” for them. Before I left, the officer told the soldiers to repack my bags that they had emptied out haphazardly. They arranged my bag much better than the Nativ people did for me in Eretz Yisroel.
THE REBBE’S SHLIACH PRECEDED ME
I calmed down from the jolting experience and focused on the mission I had been given, to go to Leningrad, find the big shul, and to leave all the goodies I had brought with me. From the briefing I had been given, I knew that the shul existed, but what it was like and whether Jews davened there, I did not know. When I found the shul, I was sad to see its state of neglect. Spider webs covered most of the corners of the old building. I was happy to find the shul open though. On the Krias Ha’Torah bima sat two older men with white beards, davening together. They looked like two angels. I went over to them and began a conversation in Yiddish: How many people daven here? How many people who daven do not come here? They were nice people and they answered my questions. After we had spoken a little, they pointed out another man who was sitting there. I turned and saw a nearby room where Torah had been studied in the past. There sat a young man who did not look like a local. I walked past two long benches that separated between us and addressed him. At first I spoke in Yiddish, but he smiled and said I could speak in Hebrew. I was taken aback and I asked him: Are you from Israel? What are you doing here?
20 � • 6 Elul 5772
He said he had been sent to Leningrad by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Now I was completely confused. The Lubavitcher Rebbe? You don’t look like a Lubavitcher Chassid! He told me his name, Avi Taub. He was the director of a diamond polishing company in Netanya and that he was a mekurav of Chabad. In recent years, the Rebbe had given him a number of assignments to carry out for him in the Soviet Union, along with his close friend, Rabbi Dovid Nachshon. He said they had recently arranged, by the Rebbe’s instruction, supplies for the Pesach Seder for the Jews of Leningrad. He had purchased a large quantity of matza, Hagados, fish, and other Pesach needs and
brought it all to Leningrad. He “When he came to the city 20 had arrived a few days before years ago, we did an article about Yom Tov and gave everything him. Since then, we are good he had bought to the Chabad friends.” Chassidim who organized the *Nativ, or officially Lishkat Jewish programs there. Pesach Hakesher (The Liaison Bureau), night, dozens of Jews enjoyed a is an Israeli liaison organization kosher and happy Seder, thanks that maintained contact with to the Rebbe’s emissaries. Jews living in the Eastern I looked at him in wonder. Bloc during the Cold War and “You and the Rebbe preempted encouraged aliya. It began the Mosad,” I said. “That was operating in the Soviet Union precisely my assignment.” in 5714. Until 5747 there were actually two departments: Nativ, • • • Express service Express service Mr. Erez Mei-Raz is a proud which kept in touch with Jews Fully Computerized descendent of Reb Bunim Fully in the Soviet Union and other of Computerized Peshischa. He keeps in touch Eastern European countries, and 331 in Kingston Kingston Ave. with the Rebbe’s shluchim and Bar, which worked 331 western Ave. countries lobbying nd(2nd Flr) Brooklyn NY 11213 Flr) Brooklyn (2 governments NY 11213 is regularly in contact with Rabbi Yemini, the shliach in Kfar Saba. to promote greater emigration in He also has a warm spot in hisyour freedom minutes! the USSR. In Get your tickets within minutes! dismantled and tickets within Get 5747 Bar was heart for the shliach of Hod Fax: (718) 493-4444 Fax: (718) 493-4444 HaSharon, Rabbi Shimshon Tal. incorporated into Nativ.
(718) 493-1111 (718) 493-1111
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Issue 847 • �
Every morning, R’ Michoel Malka makes his way to one of the prisons in the south of the country. R’ Malka is district rabbi of the southern district’s prison services and he is responsible for religious services in eleven prisons. He doesn’t only handle religious needs, but also spreads Torah and touches the souls of those Jews who are living behind bars. There, in the deepest galus, he opens a window to their personal Geula.
By Nosson Avrohom
he interview with R’ Michoel Malka was a choppy one. Every few minutes the phone in his office rang. Since he was on the job, he had to answer the phone. Special requests streamed in from all lockups in the southern district. In one phone conversation he spoke to an inmate who reported about the lack of mehadrin food; in another phone call it was a rabbi of one of the prisons who wanted to consult with him. Wardens and prison officials called him to ask questions or get advice. Having looked into the matter, R’ Malka discovered that most prison chaplains are Lubavitchers: “From Chassidus we learn to love every Jew and it makes no difference what his outer covering
is. We also gain the ability to look at his essence, which is literally a portion of G-d above. So it’s not surprising that we have a strong sense of mission that enables us adjust to working with inmates and to even love them.” R’ Malka has been working for over a decade as a prison chaplain. His first position was as the rabbi of the Oholei Kedar prison. For the last six years he is in charge of the prisons in the southern district. He leaves the “stick” to the jailers while he operates with the “carrot,” i.e. endless encouragement and love in the spirit of Torah and Chassidus and many shiurim, sometimes one on one. Battei Midrash have opened within those prisons that do not have a religious section.
“The job is challenging and there’s plenty to do every day. We are constantly coming up with new programs.”
A SHABBOS IN CROWN HEIGHTS
R’ Malka was born in Morocco in 1957. When he was two, his parents moved to France where they lived in Sarcelles for about ten years until he became bar mitzva. Then the family decided to move to Eretz Yisroel. “We moved a year after the Six Day War. Euphoria over the victory was at a peak. That was the first wave of emigration from France and we settled in Cholon. Our home in France was traditional or less, but after we made aliya my parents
22 � • 6 Elul 5772
heard about the meaning of life and I was very impressed by the hospitality. “After that Shabbos there were many other Shabbasos that I spent with the Lubavitchers and discussed the meaning of life. I came to see that Judaism is not an illogical system of rules; it has depth and extraordinary meaning, and the way of life is based on real values. “I slowly came to despise my decadent Manhattan lifestyle and to relate to the spiritual world that I was exposed to. I left my job and went to the baal t’shuva yeshiva in Morristown. I soon started wearing a hat and jacket. I studied Chassidus for hours on end as well as the Rebbe’s sichos. I loved the depth and the approach. After I married we moved to Crown Heights.”
JUMPING INTO SHLICHUS
Throughout all those years until he moved back to Eretz Yisroel on shlichus to the yishuv Mitzpeh Rimon, R’ Malka enjoyed special kiruvim: “For a long time, I felt bad that many ‘fresh’ Chassidim and mekuravim got special attention while I did not. Chassidim explained to me that when someone receives kiruvim from the Rebbe that means he is still not close, while I was close already. That assuaged my mind but not my heart. “On Motzaei Pesach, as the Rebbe gave out Kos Shel Bracha, I shared my feelings with some friends. One of them said to me: If you want a smile from the Rebbe then go with a smile to him. “That is what I did. When I stood facing the Rebbe I had the privilege of a broad smile from the Rebbe as though the Rebbe
grew stronger in their religious observance and became religious. “There was very strong emuna at home, but for some reason it did not affect me. When I served in an anti-aircraft battery in the air force, I dropped the last remnants of tradition that had clung to me as a student in the Otzar Ha’Torah School in Sarcelles. During my army service we were sent to study certain defense systems in El Paso, Texas. We loved our trip to New York and we all knew that one day we would return to the land of endless opportunity. Indeed, the day after our release, we were on the plane to New York where I worked for an interior design company. “I arrived in New York in 1979. I wanted to stay far away
from anything that reminded me of Jewish tradition, but it didn’t work out. One day, R’ Shraga Zalmanov knocked at the door of my office in Manhattan. He was the head of the organization for Hebrew speakers that worked with Israelis in New York. He said: We are organizing a Shabbos in Crown Heights with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I am here to personally invite you to attend. “I happily agreed. I had always heard about the greatness of the Rebbe. People would say that if you went to New York and did not see the Rebbe, it’s like you weren’t in New York. This was in 5740 and the Shabbos amazed me. The Rebbe aroused within me storehouses of emuna that had been hidden. I saw a royal leader. During Shabbos I
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“At the end of the long sicha, the Rebbe explained that Moshe’s level is higher than that of a Kohen. I felt that the Rebbe was speaking directly to me and I trembled. I felt that the Rebbe was speaking with Ruach HaKodesh. This served to connect me more deeply to the Rebbe. “Before Shavuos, I flew to Miami to help the shliach Tziyon Cohen. The tickets were cheap and since I knew the shliach, I wanted to help him. I planned on returning to 770 before Shavuos, but in the meantime the price of tickets went sky-high and the shliach asked me to stay for Shavuos since he wanted to fly with one of his supporters to 770. I agreed although not without apprehension. How would I run the show for dozens of Israelis including many from kibbutzim? The shliach told me what to do and it all worked out well. “Shavuos night I had a dream that I was in 770 and I was picking up my cup of wine to say l’chaim. The Rebbe looked at me with a shining face. I felt that I had given the Rebbe nachas. “As a result of the dream that night, I felt strongly about going on shlichus. That year, the Rebbe spoke a lot about shlichus. One farbrengen with R’ Zimroni Tzik that took place in my house was enough to get me to take action. R’ Nachum Cohen of Tzach suggested Mitzpeh Rimon. After receiving the Rebbe’s bracha we packed our bags and went on shlichus. “The one who encouraged me very much in our shlichus to an out-of-the-way city was R’ Moshe Slonim a”h, a genuine Chassid and baal mesirus nefesh. We had some good years there in Mitzpeh Rimon. I would go on mivtza t’fillin every day. We organized Lag B’Omer parades,
Receiving dollars for tz’daka from the Rebbe when giving a key to the city of Mitzpeh Rimon
“I explained to the Frenchman what the Kohanim do and he asked me in surprise, ‘The Rebbe is not a Kohen?’ I said no, and then the Rebbe turned around and looked at us in surprise. I was very shaken. In that commotion and at such a distance, surely the Rebbe could not have heard our discussion… The following Shabbos the Rebbe said an entire sicha about Moshe Rabbeinu’s connection to the priesthood and explained that Moshe’s level is higher than that of a Kohen. I felt that the Rebbe was speaking directly to me…
knew of my conversation with my friend. “On Pesach 5747, something even more amazing happened to me. A group of visitors had come from France and I helped one of them follow the davening. Before Birkas Kohanim, a lectern was set up for the Rebbe down below. I explained to the Frenchman what the Kohanim are and what they do and he asked me in surprise, ‘The Rebbe is not a Kohen?’ I said no, and then the Rebbe turned around and looked at us in surprise. I was very shaken. In that commotion and at such a distance, surely the Rebbe could not have heard our discussion, but because of that look from the Rebbe I told the Frenchman that although the Rebbe was not a Kohen, he is the leader of the Jewish people. “The following Shabbos, Tazria-Metzora, the Rebbe said an entire sicha that nearly knocked me off my feet. The Rebbe spoke about Moshe Rabbeinu’s connection to the priesthood and quoted the differences of opinion on the matter.
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farbrengens, gatherings and shiurim, and even opened a preschool. We would send reports to the Rebbe and almost always received replies. We often saw open hashgacha pratis. One time, I was stuck without money for the Lag B’Omer parade and a friend from 770 dropped by with money to cover all the expenses.”
JUDAISM BEHIND BARS
R’ Malka began his work as prison chaplain about sixteen years ago after doing outreach work in prisons a few years prior to that. As a dynamic shliach in Mitzpeh Rimon, he visited the Nafcha prison nearby. R’ Yosef Ochiyon, who served then as the “regional Rabbi,” greatly enjoyed R’ Malka’s work, so it wasn’t surprising when R’ Ochiyon offered him the job of unit chaplain in the Oholei Keidar prison where he volunteered. That is when R’ Malka officially joined the prison service. Over the years, he was promoted until he eventually came to fill the position of regional Rabbi of the southern district. During a short break between on-site visits to the eleven prisons under his jurisdiction, he told me, “I did not get involved in this work merely as a job. There is a difference in your attitude if you look at the work of a prison rabbi as another job or as a shlichus. When I go home I think about the prisoners, about how to encourage a certain one or how to spiritually rehabilitate another one. To the best of my knowledge, that is what my Lubavitcher colleagues do too. Since we are the Rebbe’s shluchim, we throw ourselves into the work. I have no doubt that rabbanim from other groups are also devoted, but as Chassidim of the Rebbe, this is something that we take
Receiving kos shel bracha from the Rebbe
very much to heart. We work to prepare these places for the Geula. My prison is, to me, like a neighborhood or city where I run a Chabad house and am dedicated to the success of what I do 24 hours a day.” Since R’ Malka took the job, things have moved at a rapid pace. The results speak for themselves: When he was appointed, the beis midrash at Oholei Keidar was the only one in the southern district and it had seven students. Today, there are eleven battei midrash in which about 200 inmates learn. Do you remember how it was when you first started working with inmates? Sure. There were few inmates in the religious wing. There wasn’t even a minyan. Every morning I would go around to the cells and play a harmonica until the inmates woke up and came to shul. It wasn’t easy. I often had to rope in wardens to complete a minyan. Today, the religious branch in Dekel has over 70 inmates, most of whom became baalei t’shuva in jail. They regularly attend the
davening and shiurim. It’s an enormous accomplishment! How do you do it? We gradually increased the number of participants at the shul. At first, we used two rooms, then half a floor, and now we have an entire branch that is populated by people who are seeking to satisfy their spiritual thirst. It is only by their being “inside” that they found the time and readiness for it. The demand for joining the religious wing keeps growing, and sometimes, there is even a problem with lack of space. In prison there are varying levels within the wings designated for religious Jews. The lowest level is the branch that runs a beis midrash for learning about Judaism. Most of the people in this branch are not traditionally observant. Do inmates really get more seriously involved in Judaism in jail, or is this just an act? Most of the people who put on a yarmulke or start keeping Shabbos are serious and not just acting for ulterior motives. I am sure of this. I have observed this throughout my years of prison
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where they went wrong. They try to fix themselves, with most of them doing so through the beis midrash. When someone new comes, I ask him: How long is your sentence? If someone says two years, for example, I tell him: You have two years in which to prepare for your release. You have two years in which to get your life in order and prepare for life on the outside. Right now you are preparing for a test you will have to face when you leave, at home, in the street, or wherever you violated the law. Now is the time to improve. Is discipline better in the wings among religious Jews and those on the way to a religious life? Every prison warden knows that a wing like this is quiet. Behaviorally, it is the wing with the fewest problems and arguments. • • • Some prisons are visited every Friday by bachurim from nearby yeshivos who put t’fillin on with inmates. Sometimes they find someone who has never put t’fillin on before. The inmates wait eagerly for their visit, as they are a breath of fresh air for many of them who don’t attend the beis midrash. “There is a new administrative policy that allows for civilians to visit prisons. When it comes to mivtza t’fillin, there is full support from the prison services and we certainly rely on the bachurim. Whoever volunteers at a prison has to undergo a briefing from the prison information officer.”
RAYs Of sunshine Behind PRisOn WAlls
R’ Michoel Malka relates: Before I was appointed as district rabbi, I was put in charge of religious services and appointed as chaplain of the Oholei Keidar prison. We had gotten a new Torah for the shul and I decided to bring it to Wing 4, which until then had been lacking a Torah scroll for the davening. I decided to make a big celebration with the participation of the inmates. I shared my idea with the district commander and he gave his approval. He allowed me to bring in a band and people to participate in the event. “Just do me a favor,” he said. “I want you to postpone the event for a month, because we are about to change the command staff here and I want the new prison command staff to attend the event.” A month later I began planning the event, but then the commander went on vacation. Since I wanted him to participate in the event, I decided to wait for him to return. The event kept on being postponed for one reason or another. When I saw that this was happening time and again, I decided to set a date and hold the event on that day no matter what. On the next Sunday, at an orientation meeting, I announced that I wanted to make the event that same week. The prison quartermaster looked at me incredulously. “This week?! Do you know what kind of weather there will be?” But since I had already resolved to go ahead with it, I wasn’t going to change my mind. I suggested two options, to set up a dais outdoors or inside an auditorium so that the event could go on regardless of the weather. That week was particularly stormy. The night before the event there was a major storm in Beer Sheva. Dozens of shutters on houses to the east of the city were broken because of the hail. On the morning of the event, I went to daven at the Chabad shul, Beis Menachem. Before leaving, I asked the Rebbe for a bracha for the event. Since I did not have time to write, I just opened a volume of Igros Kodesh and glanced at what was written there. I was happy to read, “As in the known aphorism, ‘He called to the sun and the light shone – do not read it as shemesh but as shamash ...’” It looked as though it was about to pour and I thought perhaps I had not understood the answer. If that wasn’t enough, various problems cropped up. When I called the band, they said they were delayed in Beitar Ilit because of snow. “We need to wait for another vehicle with snow tires so we can leave the city,” they said. In the meantime, the delays were messing up the inmates’ schedule. The bachurim from the Chabad yeshiva in Beer Sheva, who came to add to the simcha, showed up. Finally, the procession got underway as everyone stood in astonishment at the sight: Around the prison complex the sky was gray, portending an imminent downpour, but in the center, right above the prison, the sky was clear and the sun shone. That’s the way it was until the end of the event. service. I think there are two reasons for this. One is, when someone gets inside, life stops. There is no family, no friends, no trips. Someone who has enough brains uses this time to feed his soul and attends shiurim and davening. The second reason is that people suddenly have time to think and to try and understand
SEEING THE LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS OF PRISON LIFE
The highlight of R’ Malka’s
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work is the battei midrash. “The results are astounding.” Very few of the participants give into temptation when they are released and take off their yarmulke or beard and drop Shabbos observance. Usually, someone who spends half a year in a beis midrash doesn’t fall. Thousands of people have attended his shiurim in Halacha, Gemara, Tanya, maamarim and sichos of the Rebbe. “Sometimes our work saves a life and we don’t even know about it until much later. Here is an example. One day, I got a phone call from the prison chaplain in Carmel. He told me about a new prisoner who came to him and who had danced fervently on Simchas Torah. When he asked him why he rejoiced, the man said that because instead of dying he had discovered the truth. “It turned out that this fellow had been lying down in his cell one day, depressed and bitter, planning his suicide. It was at that point that I met him and cheered him up, which made him change his mind about suicide. He is going to get married a few months after he leaves prison.” R’ Malka has stories that he tells in a few words, but behind them are months, even years of work. The examples illustrate the tremendous change that takes place in many inmates. “There was a fellow who was in a closed wing where the tough guys are placed, those who are liable to hurt others or be hurt themselves. He was in jail because of drugs. I visited his wing and gave a shiur. I encouraged him, listened to him for a long time, and tried to convince him to transfer to the religious wing, but he refused. “After much cajoling, he finally agreed and joined us
With inmates in jail on Chanuka
We look at the depth of a Jew and not at his exterior. The exterior doesn’t frighten us; on the contrary, it is these people who are closer to revealing the light because they have hit rock bottom.
religious, even Chassidic, families. “These are guys who went through what they went through, got the message, and became baalei t’shuva. I personally sent some of them to Chabad yeshivos in Ramat Aviv, Tzfas, and Katamon. “I was once at a nichum aveilim and someone exclaimed, ‘R’ Malka, do you remember me?’ I tried to remember but couldn’t. Then he surprised me when he said that when he had been in Oholei Keidar, I took him from the wing he was in and put him in the religious wing. When he was released, he left the world of crime that he had been immersed in, and now he is shomer Shabbos and kashrus.” The problem, as R’ Malka sees it, is that according to the rules of prison services, someone in uniform is not allowed to keep in touch with an inmate after he is released. “We had someone here in
R’ Malka lecturing at a Moshiach Congress in Eretz Yisroel
with mixed feelings. I invested a lot of time and energy in him. He ended up doing t’shuva and getting his girlfriend to do t’shuva too. Today, he is a religious man with a long coat and hat and has a beautiful family.” R’ Malka says there are dozens of fully Orthodox Jews who became religious in prison and eventually established
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jail for five years and it was very hard to part from him. By Divine Providence, I occasionally saw him and each time he yelled out ‘Ana nasiv malka!’ as a reference to the maamer that got him to change.” I have seen an inmate covered in tattoos and earrings with a tough exterior, who after a talk together displays the refined soul of a warm Jew that wants to connect with Hashem. We look at the depth of a Jew and not at his exterior. The exterior doesn’t frighten us; on the contrary, it is these people who are closer to revealing the light because they have hit rock bottom. You speak in terms of Geula. Prison is the lowest place – can you see Geula from there? An ordinary person looks at it as a low place, but the Rebbe taught us to look at the lowest place with different eyes, i.e. that the light of Geula shines from the lowest place. I see this tangibly every day. In jail, people are more open to change, to their personal Geula, and consequently, to the collective Geula. The moment a person steps foot in jail, he has to face himself and start to think. And when a rabbi shows up and broadcasts emuna and hope, our hope ends up turning into their Geula. There is no shiur or lecture at which I fail to speak about the Besuras Ha’Geula. The message is that our situation is not normal without Moshiach and the world is ready for Geula. There are special shiurim that focus on Inyanei Moshiach and Geula. There are shiurim on the D’var Malchus. There is a line from the Rebbe that says it is not impossible for the Geula to come right now and this is what we convey: we are not satisfied with surviving. We want a full, authentic life. Do inmates write to the Rebbe? Lately, I have written to the Rebbe with many inmates. Here is a story from this past Yud-Tes Kislev. We held a special farbrengen at the end of which everyone was inspired and wanted to write. One of the people wanted a bracha that the custodial parole committee which would deal with his case should decide to free him. This was actually not a reasonable request considering his crimes, but I told him to write and since the Rebbe is the Nasi of Klal Yisroel, he could write to him about anything. He opened to an incredible letter that had to do with the Geula of Yud-Tes Kislev. We couldn’t help but be amazed by the relevance. The most surprising thing of all is that the committee decided to shorten his time in jail. There was recently a young man here who was stricken with a strange rash on his hands. He could not do anything with his hands and just barely managed to move them without them causing him pain. All treatments that were tried had failed. He suffered greatly. We wrote to the Rebbe and the answer was about the good deeds a Jew needs to do with all his limbs, his feet and hands. This was clearly relevant. I suggested, and he agreed, to commit to saying Chitas every day. A few days later I left on leave. When I returned, he saw me and made a V (for victory) sign. He said he had kept his commitment and less than two weeks later, the rash was gone.
WHAT A LUBAVITCHER CHAPLAIN SEES
R’ Malka explained that the work in prison is the work of a Chabad house in every respect – a place to turn to for all religious needs. “Every week I prepare sichos or maamarim of the Rebbe that pertain to rehabilitation, with the message from every sicha being never to despair, that a Jew can always pick himself up. Chassidus does not lack for messages of encouragement and rehabilitation, and people love to hear it. Mitzvos were given to refine us and you can see this clearly through the lens of Chassidus.” Still, what makes a Chabad chaplain different than others? We were taught to raise our sights higher. Our message is Geula. We were taught that in galus, we are imprisoned within the body. When the Geula comes, we will leave this prison. A Lubavitcher rabbi sees not only the nimshal (analogue) but the mashal (analogy) too. Every one of us knows that until the Geula, we are prisoners of the animal soul, so it is easier for us to identify with inmates. We talk to them about the general Geula as well as their personal Geula. More practically, we operate as the Rebbe taught us, not condescendingly but through loving them. I don’t give up on anyone, even if he doesn’t seem to connect with anything Jewish.
UPLIFTING PEOPLE IN JAIL
At the end of our talk, R’ Malka expressed his hope that by the time the article is published, we will be in the era of Geula already, but until then, he would do all he can, along with his fellow rabbanim, to uplift the spirit of Judaism in jails.
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leAdeRshiP fOR duMMies
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
POSTING GUARDS AT THE GATES
This week’s parsha is about Jewish leadership. It begins with the judiciary and continues with the monarchy, priesthood and the institution of prophecy. Each branch of government discussed in this parsha was a co-equal partner in leading, shaping and molding the Jewish nation. In light of the emphasis on leadership in this week’s parsha, and in light of the dearth of good leaders in modern society, it is appropriate to focus on what the Jewish people look for in a leader. It is also important for us to look for the qualities of leadership and incorporate them into our own lives. We can gain some insight into this matter when we examine the introductory verse of this parsha: “Judges and officers you shall appoint in all of your gates, which G-d your G-d has given you, tribe by tribe, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” What does the Torah mean when it says “gates?” The simple explanation is that it refers to cities, which were usually surrounded by walls and had gates at their entrances. The question is: Why doesn’t the Torah simply state, “in all of
your cities?” What symbolism is there in “gates?” One classic answer is that it also refers, metaphorically, to each and every one of us. We must “appoint” judges at the seven entry points of our bodies. We must guard our two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and our mouth that only the proper things enter into and come from them. It is crucial that we filter out the undesirable stimuli from our system. We can take this message a step further. A good leader is one who has mastered this feat and has absorbed only the positive influences so that his decisions are not tainted by ideas and mindsets that are alien and anathema to Jewish values. How does one know whether an idea that asks to be allowed entry into his consciousness is kosher or not? To be sure, there are obvious thoughts that any sane and civilized person knows should be rejected. But there are so many grey areas where it is extremely difficult to ascertain whether they come from the realm of holiness or perhaps from the “other side.” This is where true leadership can be tested. While the appointment of “judges” in the figurative sense is a necessity for all, it is even more crucial for a leader.
SEEING THE FUTURE
A leader needs vision to see the consequences of decisions and actions taken today. The Talmud records how Alexander the Great asked of the Sages, “Who is a wise person?” Their response was, “One who sees the future.” The Talmud also states that a wise person is preferable to a prophet. Both see into the future; the former by using his own capabilities with the assistance of Divine inspiration, the latter by Divine revelation. The ability to see the future utilizing one’s own efforts is a hallmark of leadership.
SEEING WITH BOTH EYES
A leader—and indeed every person, but particularly a leader—must have two eyes. This need for two eyes can be understood in at least three ways: First, while a leader needs to have one eye on the future, he also has to have the other eye focused on the here and now. It is said that Korach—the rebel who fought Moses and Aaron and sought to become the leader in their place—was “deceived by his own eye.” While he had one healthy eye, which enabled him to look into the future to see the glorious destiny of his descendent, the prophet Samuel, he could not see in
Issue 847 • �
For a leader—and every Jew must aspire to leadership—it is more important to ensure that his mouth does not remain closed for fear of saying something improper.
front of his face to realize that his rebellious actions were illconceived and catastrophic. Second, a leader has to perceive G-d’s greatness with one eye and realize his own insignificance with the other eye. It does not suffice to have a sophisticated spiritual view. It must be balanced by a healthy dose of humility. It is said of Bilam, the heathen prophet, that he was blind in one eye. Although he was endowed with the power of prophecy to have a higher spiritual consciousness and see G-d’s greatness, he was incapable of seeing his own limits. He was completely blind to his own flaws and lowly character. Third, there are two different ways to look at the things around us. As the Rebbe Rashab (the fifth leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement) told his young child (who later succeeded him as the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe): “Look at another Jew with your right eye and use your left eye to view a candy.” In other words, see the positive in others and use your critical eye primarily for worldly pleasures. Put yet in other terms: We must utilize our power of penetrating analysis to see the hidden qualities of others that exist beneath the surface while viewing the material aspects of life with a superficial eye. A good leader hears more than what is audible to others. A good leader hears the pain and true emotions of others. He hears much more than the story the audible words tell. In addition, the Talmud tells us that every day heavenly voices emerge from Mount Sinai, which are intended to inspire and uplift us. Yet, only the most spiritually sophisticated hear these celestial messages. The ideal Jewish leader hears the voice that gives direction for his particular generation. While the Torah teachings never change, the focus and emphasis may, and often do, change from one period to another. For example, in certain times, the need for Tz’daka might be greater than in other times. The sensitive leader picks up the voice that comes from Sinai that informs him what message he should transmit to the Jewish people and indeed to the entire world at that particular time. Indeed, every Jew, the Baal Shem Tov taught, hears the voices from Sinai subliminally. We must learn how to listen for these Divine messages that are embedded in our subconscious and that inspire us to aspire to greater fidelity to the teachings of Sinai.
leader—as one who can “smell righteousness.” This talent will render him the ultimate judge. Commentators explain that the sense of smell is a sense that is difficult to deceive. While one can imagine seeing or hearing something, in contrast, the sense of smell is less susceptible to deception. This indicates that Moshiach will have an intuitive and innate sense of right and wrong. No one will be able to pull the proverbial wool over his eyes.
GUARDING OUR MOUTHS
The guard that one must place at the mouth – particularly the mouth of a leader – is not just ensuring that nothing untoward is uttered. For a leader— and every Jew must aspire to leadership—it is more important to ensure that his mouth does not remain closed for fear of saying something improper. The mouth—especially of a leader— must always be open to teach and guide others. The leader leads primarily by the power of speech. It is also crucial to guard what comes into the mouth. Ingesting kosher food, our Sages teach, has the power to refine one’s sensibilities and speech. The challenge to safeguard all of our portals is easier said than done. How does a person know how to focus his vision, hone his sense of hearing, and of smell and speech so that he is governed properly? What gave the great leaders of the past—and will give Moshiach in the future—the power to transform the world through their leadership?
The sense of smell is even more crucial and sensitive for a good leader. The Talmud, based on a verse in Isaiah (Chapter Eleven), describes Moshiach—the ultimate Jewish
HEARING THE INAUDIBLE
The same can be said for hearing.
SEEING AND HEARING YOURSELF OR SEEING AND HEARING G-D?
One answer was provided by the Chassidic Master, Rabbi
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Meir of Zhitomir, (known for his work, Or HaMeir), based on a verse in the Book of Psalms: “They have eyes but they cannot see; they have ears but cannot hear; they have a nose and cannot smell.” He retranslates the words “They have eyes…” as “their eyes are for themselves, therefore they cannot see; they have ears for themselves, therefore they cannot hear; their nose is for themselves and therefore they cannot smell.” When all of our senses are directed to enhance our own selfish interests, they lose their
ability to connect us to truth. All of our senses, when they are tainted with self-centeredness, provide us with a warped sense of reality. When, however, we seek to see, hear, etc. things from G-d’s perspective, our senses then become sharp and they do not give us a false reading as to what is going on. We see the Divine and good in everything and everyone, we hear the sounds of Sinai and we develop an intuitive sense of right and wrong. These are the characteristics
of Moshiach, the ultimate leader. But they also pose a challenge for all of us to change the focus of our lives. By doing so, we reveal the spark of Moshiach within us, which, in the aggregate, will turn into a major conflagration that will burn the remnants of galus and empower Moshiach to unleash all his G-d-given abilities to take us out of exile and usher in the final Redemption, at which time the blind will see and the deaf will hear. May this happen imminently!
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OUR BRAND NEW
fOrGED IN THE crucIBlE Of THE TOMCHEI T’MIMIM UNDERGROUND
Modest, an Ohev Yisroel, Yerei Shamayim and a Baal Mesirus Nefesh – that was R’ Nachum Wolosow a”h, who passed away a little more than a decade ago.
By Shneur Zalman Berger
Nachum was born on 1 Teves 5674/1913 in the Chassidic town of Kremenchug in the Ukraine. He was orphaned of his father Tzvi Hirsch and his mother Freida in his childhood. Together with his brother Shulem, they went to live with their grandfather, R’ Avrohom Abba Wolosow. There they were raised to a life of Chassidus and fear of Heaven. When he was only twelve years old, he left his grandfather’s house to learn in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Nevel, as he later recounted (Toldos Chabad in Soviet Russia p. 290): “I arrived at the yeshiva in Nevel at the beginning of
R’ Nachum Wolosow
5686/1925/6 where I learned until 5687, at which point I went to learn in Ramen. They once came to test us and I was transferred to learn in Polotzk by R’ Yechezkel Himmelstein. “At the end of the winter 5789 they expelled the yeshiva from Polotzk and arrested the mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman. We traveled with R’ Himmelstein to learn in Homil together with the existing class, which had about twenty students. At the end of 5689 they expelled us from there and we went to learn in Charson. After a short time, we were expelled from there too.” From this brief description that R’ Nachum recorded, we get
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a glimpse into the tribulations and wandering that he went through from the ages of 12-15. He went to five yeshivos where he had to get used to the new routine, new classmates, and a new rosh yeshiva with each move. This discomfort paled in comparison to the material difficulties he endured. During this period, the bachurim suffered from lack of food and places to sleep. The Jews who lived in those places were afraid to help the youth who were there illegally. R’ Moshe Aharon Geisinsky a”h described the tribulations of the yeshiva in Kiev in those days. He had moved to Kiev at that time and he met the starving bachurim who davened at the shul: “When I entered the shul for the first time, I saw a sight that was a novelty to me: young bachurim whose beards had just started to grow. They did not touch their beards with scissors (I was only used to seeing young men whose beards had fully grown in). I quickly learned that they were bachurim f r o m Ye s h i v a s To m c h e i T’mimim Lubavitch w h i c h operated clandestinely. They learned Nigleh and Chassidus in fear of arrest and in great
poverty to the point where they literally lacked for bread. “I should mention that there were times that the Rebbe Rayatz would send a certain sum of zlotys from Otvotzk in Poland to every talmid in Dimyevka (the Kiev neighborhood where the yeshiva was located) and they would buy bread in special stores that were known by the name turgasin (special trading centers in the thirties that had the best quality merchandise which was sold in exchange for dollars or gold). But that was
only occasionally and then the political situation worsened and it stopped altogether. “These are the names of the bachurim as I remember them: Avrohom Zelig Gansbourg of Haditch, Eliezer Pinsky, Benzion Cohen, Berel Goldschmidt of Yekaterinislav, Yechiel Michel Rappaport, Yaakov Gansbourg of Haditch, Yaakov Shatz, Yisroel Yehuda Levin (Lipavitcher), Michel Kuznetzov of Kremenchug, Moshe Yatshamnik of Yekaterinislav, Nachum Wolosow. “Although due to my young age I was not accepted to that yeshiva, I would still go to learn there whenever I could, i.e. in the shul. For a while the maggid shiur was R’ Aryeh Leib Kaplan. “In 5694/1934 the local authorities suddenly came to catch the bachurim and arrest them for the great crime of learning Torah. However, they had a miracle and were able to jump out the window of the women’s section and only my father who was there at the time was arrested. He maintained that he was not a member of the yeshiva’s staff and was obviously not one of the students. They released him after a few days with Hashem’s help. As a result of this incident, the authorities closed the shul where the bachurim had learned and the yeshiva in Dimyevka was no more.” That is how the yeshiva in Kiev was closed after Shabbos B’Reishis 5694. Young Nachum Wolosow and two friends, Eliezer Pinsky and Avrohom
Issue 847 • �
“One day, they each sent a letter to the Rebbe about the same problem. R’ Mendel got a response to check his mezuzos, while my father got a different answer, but the Rebbe did not tell him to check his mezuzos. R’ Mendel checked and found that his mezuzos were pasul. When my father decided to check his own mezuzos, they were all kosher.”
Zelig Gansbourg, went to learn in Zhitomir. R’ Nachum was known in yeshiva as a gifted student, a scholar and a big masmid (diligent student). His son, R’ Yosef Yitzchok, shliach to Eretz Yisroel and rav of the Chabad community of Ramat Yishai, said that when his father learned in yeshiva he was known by his friends as “Nachum the Masmid.” When he was merely 22 he was appointed as the mashgiach in the secret yeshiva in Poltava. However, he did not remain in this position for long. That winter he moved to Stary-Russia to the home of R’ Michoel and Sarah (known as Mumme Sarah) Katzenelenbogen, to teach their children, Yehoshua and Shneur Zalman. R’ Yehoshua Katzenelenbogen had this to say (Yahadus HaD’mama Vol. 2, p. 54): “ … My parents went so far for a proper chinuch for their children that they brought six bachurim to live in their home: Michoel Teitelbaum, Nachum Wolosow, Mendel Morosov and others. Our house was their place for Torah and t’filla and they took care of all their needs. My parents did not take into consideration the great burden of supporting six bachurim. Without considering their difficult financial situation they took on this burden with love. It was all for the purpose of these bachurim being role models for their children. “In addition to the heavy burden, it was very dangerous to host yeshiva bachurim. If the government would find out, they would have punished the hosts very severely; but to them, chinuch of their children was the highest priority and they endangered themselves for this purpose.” R’ Nachum’s total dedication to Torah study was applied later on for disseminating Torah when he was appointed as R’ Yona Cohen’s assistant. R’ Cohen ran the network of underground yeshivos of Tomchei T’mimim. Those years were exceedingly difficult. The communists persecuted religious Jews in general and Chabad Chassidim in particular. Shuls were closed, s’farim and Sifrei Torah were confiscated, and Torah study was an unpardonable crime for which dozens of Chassidim were sent to jail and into exile. Some of them were even shot without a trial. Nachum was only 23 when he was called to a secret meeting in the home of the Chassid, R’ Mordechai Eliezer Lapotovsky, the right hand man of R’ Yona Cohen. R’ Lapotovsky emotionally described the terrible situation Tomchei T’mimim was in. “I see that Yeshivas Tomchei
T’mimim in Russia is shrinking in a shocking way and very soon, it will disappear completely in Russia. We have no choice but to cast our lives aside and build up Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim!” Those present at this meeting knew that this entailed actual mesirus nefesh. At this fateful meeting, Nachum Wolosow was appointed as R’ Yona’s assistant. His job was to start new branches of the yeshiva; to travel to various Russian cities and find boys who wanted to learn with their parents’ agreement; to find shuls whose gabbaim would allow the boys to learn there; to find mashgichim and magidei shiur to run the new yeshivos. R’ Nachum accepted the job and frequently traveled throughout Russia to test boys and to bring money to yeshivos whose financial situations were dire. He also worked to start new yeshivos. R’ Nachum described the first thing he did after being appointed: “When I was told by R’ Mordechai Eliezer to start new branches of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim, my first trip was to Krolevets [the town described at length by R’ Heishka Dubrawski a”h in a series published in Beis Moshiach] where I found the outstanding bachur, one whom G-d and people took pleasure in, Moshe Robinson (Meishke Krolevetser). He was learning Tur at the time with the brilliant and famous rav, one who headed the mesivta of Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch when it was first founded, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Dubrawski. It wasn’t easy convincing Meishke to travel to Berditchev, but when he accepted the leadership position he went to Berditchev and devoted himself to his work with all his heart and
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soul and might. He excelled both in his terrific shiurim as well as in his fatherly devotion to every one of his talmidim.” Over the next three years, R’ Nachum founded new branches of Tomchei T’mimim, transferred funds, found talmidim, tested talmidim, etc. He traveled throughout the Soviet Union while in constant fear of the secret police. Throughout those years he did not touch his beard. He tried covering it with a scarf but it drew people’s attention anyway, which could have gotten him thrown into prison. That did not stop him. He pressed on with his work, breathing life into Yeshivos Tomchei T’mimim. Then, one day, he was arrested. It was when he was in Yekaterinislav. He was caught with gold ingots worth a fortune in his possession. He had planned on distributing it to yeshivos throughout Russia. Before he was placed in the police car, he managed to see someone he knew and he asked him to tell the rav of the city, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn, of his arrest. R’ Nachum spent the night in jail extremely worried. In the morning, to his amazement, the door to his cell was opened and the warden informed him that he was free to go. Just like that, without any reason. Whenever he related this, he would say he was sure that R’ Levi Yitzchok had spoken with the heads of the local police and in exchange for a bribe he had been released. At the end of 5700 he married Sarah Relka, the daughter of R’ Zalman Mendel Karasik. Their financial situation was difficult. They had a hard time finding an apartment in Leningrad. Soon after they found housing
they were forced to evacuate as the Nazis came and mercilessly bombed the city. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, including numerous Jews, escaped in trains that the government provided. They fled far from the front. R’ Nachum, his wife, her brother Isaac, R’ Yeshaya Gopin, and R’ Zalman Levin left on a train that was heading for Samarkand in Uzbekistan. His wife described the trip: “We had the choice of going
leave. I remember that at one of the stops we nearly left my brother Isaac behind. The train whistled and we were afraid we would have to leave him and who knew for how long. Then, at the last second, he jumped aboard and the train set out.” R’ Nachum and his family arrived in Samarkand, but there too, life was not tranquil. He continued to teach Nigleh and Chassidus to boys. At a certain point, the secret police began
R’ Nachum learning in the “country”
to Siberia or Samarkand. We decided to go to Samarkand because of the severe weather in Siberia. The trip to Samarkand took over two weeks due to the constant bombing, and we had no food or water. Every so often, the train would stop for an unspecified amount of time. We would run out to buy some vegetables and water and then immediately return to the train so we wouldn’t miss it. Without prior warning, there would be a short whistle and the train would
following him and he had to hide. After the five years of war, he and his wife and their baby daughter Miriam were able to leave the Soviet Union for France, where he learned sh’chita with which he supported himself. He was part of a group of Lubavitcher shochtim in Dublin, Ireland where his son Yosef Yitzchok was born. “My father did not stay in Ireland for long,” said his son R’ Chaim Tzvi, shliach in Sharon, Continued on page 37
Issue 847 • �
An ABsOlutelY g-d feARing ChAssid
The rebbe used the rare expression “absolute yerei shamayim” in reference to rabbi Aharon Mordechai zilberstrom a”h, who passed away on 17 Tammuz. why did he deserve this title? Perhaps the following story explains why.
By Rabbi Chaim Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg
The extraordinary Chassid and “absolute Yerei Shamayim,” Rabbi Aharon Mordechai Zilberstrom a”h, was taken from us on 17 Tammuz. He was a prodigious talmid chochom, a devoted public figure, and one who disseminated the “wellsprings outward.” Nevertheless, he was exceedingly modest. Chabad custom, established by the Rebbe during the Shiva for the Rebbe Rayatz, is that we do not eulogize. Rather, we tell stories about the deceased in order to learn from him or her. I heard the following story from his children about his Yiras Shamayim, a story that was not publicized. *** It was during the difficult days following World War II. R’ Zalman Schneersohn had started schools in Paris for Jewish orphans. R’ Aharon Mordechai was one of the directors of these schools. In those days after the war, there was a serious shortage of food. There was hardly anything
to eat, not to mention kosher food. To illustrate: At that time, the connection between the Rebbe and the Chassidim was maintained through letters. Many Chabad customs were unknown. This is why every Chabad custom that the Chassidim knew about was considered precious and they did all they could to follow it. The Rebbe began writing down and publishing Chabad minhagim (which were later collected in the Seifer HaMinhagim) as additions to the kuntreisim of maamarim of the Rebbe Rayatz which were published for holidays. In addition to the official customs, they occasionally heard, unofficially, about how things were done by the Rebbe. The Chassidim in Europe heard that Chabad practice is to eat mezonos before davening. They also heard what the Rebbe publicized in the HaYom Yom for 10 Shevat, that the Tzemach Tzedek said, “Better to eat in order to daven, than to daven in order to eat.” The Chassidim who heard this, who hadn’t known about
it until that point, wanted to implement the practice, but they did not have mezonos to eat. All they had were a few pieces of bread for breakfast for the talmidim of the yeshiva. There weren’t many options. Either they could eat it before davening, in which case there would be nothing to eat after davening, or they could eat it after davening as a normal breakfast. The mashpia R’ Nissan Nemanov decided that they had to follow Chabad custom and so breakfast in Tomchei T’mimim Brunoy, which consisted of a few pieces of bread, took place before the davening. If there was such a severe shortage of bread, it was even more serious with other items. It was the middle of winter and the freezing cold made it nearly impossible to learn without heat, but R’ Zalman Schneersohn’s schools did not have anything with which to heat the classrooms. The idea was proposed to import coal from other countries, but they needed special permission from the Education Ministry of France. R’ Aharon Mordechai, who was all of 21, worked hard and managed to get permission to meet with the French Minister of Education in order to get a special permit from her, something which was hard to get in those days. In France, when someone had a meeting, he shook hands and made his request. If he did not
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shake the proffered hand, he was seen as someone who did not know, or did not want to practice, the customs of the country. This would reduce the chances of his request being granted to zero. R’ Zilberstrom deliberated about what to do. The minister was unfamiliar with the Torah and Halacha. Surely, she would not understand his refusal to shake her hand. Yet, the need was so great; heating in those days was a matter of pikuach nefesh for hundreds of boys. Along with the physical pikuach nefesh, there was also a spiritual pikuach nefesh in that the boys would not be able to continue learning in R’ Schneersohn’s Torah schools, and who knew where they would go. R’ Zilberstrom consulted with a number of rabbanim who told him it was halachically permissible to shake the minister’s hand for the following reasons: 1) They would both be wearing gloves; 2) It would not be affectionate contact, but more Continued from page 35 Massachusetts, “but he always told of the miracle that happened to him there. He and R’ Mendel Morosov lived in the same building. One day, they each sent a letter to the Rebbe about the same problem. R’ Mendel got a response to check his mezuzos, while my father got a different answer, but the Rebbe did not tell him to check his mezuzos. R’ Mendel checked and found that his mezuzos were pasul.
along the lines of a nurse who is allowed to take blood from a patient in a professional manner; and 3) This was about physical and spiritual pikuach nefesh. Armed with all these heterim, R’ Aharon Mordechai went to the fateful meeting with the minister. When he finally entered her office, she rose and extended her hand. In response, R’ Aharon Mordechai put his hand on his When my father decided to check his own mezuzos, they were all kosher.” As per the Rebbe’s instructions, R’ Nachum moved to the United States in 1953. He settled in Crown Heights where he continued working as a shochet until the Rebbe told him to work in diamond polishing. His colleagues said that as he polished diamonds he would review Mishnayos by heart. In his later years, R’ Nachum was a mainstay of the Kollel
heart and raised it up in a circular motion and said fervently, “Our hearts are completely given over to the Education Minister, who is concerned and who greatly helps the education of young people in these difficult times. Our holy Torah forbids us to shake the hand of a woman who is not our wife, but as I said, not only the hand but all our hearts are given over to you.” The minister, who was pleasantly surprised by this young bachur’s courage, immediately said, “It’s not necessary. There is no reason to do something that goes against your religion and principles.” On the spot, she signed the permit he needed. He was able to import coal to heat the classrooms and thanks to this, the number of students grew. Perhaps this is the reason why the Rebbe wrote to R’ Chadakov in 5710 about R’ Zilberstrom, referring to him as an “absolute Yerei Shamayim.”
Tiferes Z’keinim Levi Yitzchok in 770 and since its founding in 5740 he did not miss a day. For over twenty years he learned and gave shiurim in the kollel, until he fell ill. He passed away ten years ago on 7 Adar at the age of 88. May his memory be a blessing for all his descendants, and his shining example of what it means to be a Tamim should be an inspiration to all of us in these final moments before the complete revelation of Moshiach.
Issue 847 • �
the CAMP dAVid ChARAde is eXPOsed
Not a single Israeli policymaker has risen in defense of a military operation to retake the sinai Peninsula. Everyone is talking about the hope of preserving the peace and continuing to play the game of makebelieve.
By Sholom Ber Crombie Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry R’ Meir Goldmintz (photo by Ahrele)
ast week, the Israeli minister for foreign affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, sounded worried. “A kingdom of terrorism has sprouted in Sinai,” he was quoted as saying. Half of the Sinai Peninsula has been transformed into one huge terror cell – no less dangerous than the Gaza Strip. The local Bedouins and Felaheen gangs control the area like in the Wild West, and it also serves as a base for Al Qaeda activities. Thus far, in accordance with the peace agreement signed between Egypt and the government of Israel, the Egyptian armed forces had been forbidden to enter the region. Last week, they authorized a vast military operation throughout Sinai. Now, the politicians in Yerushalayim sit by and expect the Egyptians to do the job for us. Perhaps salvation will come from them, they think. Meanwhile, as the government waits for the military operation to get started, new Egyptian president Morsi has altered the rules of the game and has decided to pull a fast one on the Israelis. He fired General
Tantawi, Egypt’s main contact with the Israeli government, who was always considered a friend within the new regime in Cairo. Morsi also sacked several other high-ranking military officers. He completely changed the political map in the region and has strengthened his own party – the Moslem Brotherhood – consisting of Egypt’s leading Islamic extremists. The “peace” treaties with Egypt have been shattered once again. Yet another nail has been hammered into the coffin of these agreements that no one honors in any case. Only a few technical details remain from those hollow declarations we heard thirty years ago about “the dawn of a new day” between Eretz Yisroel and Egypt. In the meantime, even the government of Israel has ignored all technical arrangements connected with the Camp David Accords, and have allowed Egyptian armed forces to enter half of the Sinai Peninsula. Not a single Israeli policymaker has risen in defense of a military operation to retake the Sinai. Everyone is talking
about the hope of preserving the peace and continuing to play the game of make-believe. It’s as if we have to keep up the charade, despite the fact that everyone knows that the peace with Egypt no longer exists. Israeli policymakers continue to claim fervently that the agreements still apply and there is peace with Egypt. Diplomats forcibly try to breathe life into this farcical act, pretending that normal relations really do exist and hoping that the Egyptians will keep things afloat by playing along. For their part, however, the Egyptians are not honoring one iota of their treaty obligations. They permit the use of concealed tunnels to smuggle the most lethal weapons of war into Gaza, and they have failed thus far to take any action against the terrorist gangs lurking in the Sinai. The government hides behind the excuse that the peace agreements tie its hands and prevent it from conducting fullscale military operations in Sinai. However, in practical terms, their total disregard for what is
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happening there is far worse than anyone could possibly imagine. The story of the relationship between the governments of Israel and Egypt clearly reveal Israeli weakness to the point of complete submission. Instead of standing our ground and proclaiming that we will not allow these armed terror cells to walk freely in those areas that we willingly handed over to our neighbors, the Israeli politicians plead and beg from the Americans that they should protect us and make certain that the Egyptians honor the agreements. Wouldn’t it be in Egypt’s best interests if they kept their treaty obligations? Perhaps the time has come that they should be the ones to be afraid if the Camp David Accords are abrogated and Eretz Yisroel retakes the entire Sinai Peninsula? The bottom line is that the peace agreements with Egypt are now a thing of the past. The Camp David train has reached the final stop. All that remains is the hope and prayer that everything will turn out all right.
BACK AT THE OUTPOSTS, IT’S BUSINESS AS USUAL
While the political leadership in Eretz Yisroel is occupied with matters pertaining to relations with our Arab neighbors, there are those who continue to deal with the country’s true problems. Of course, we’re not talking about the Iranian threat or the terrorism from Sinai. We mean the real threat: that group of young people settling the hilltops in the Shomron and erecting makeshift wooden sheds. The Defense Ministry can’t seem to let go of its obsessive involvement with the problem of the settlers and the hilltop youth as it continues to take action against
the outposts. Just three weeks ago, in the middle of the holy day of Shabbos, two outposts were destroyed: ‘Mitzpeh Avichai’ near Kiryat Arba and ‘Ramat Migron’ near the settlement of Migron, which stands at the center of the legal battle against the High Court of Justice. The destruction of Jewish homes in Yehuda and Shomron has long become a day-to-day reality. Virtually no one notices anymore when soldiers drag an entire family out of its house and leaves them in the street. Recently, the Israel Defense Forces destroyed the home of R’ Meir Goldmintz and his family, residents of Givat Egoz. The Goldmintz family has already gone through several expulsions. They have established their home on numerous occasions, only to have it cruelly uprooted each time. In the past, their house in Yad Yair had been torn down several times. Afterwards, they established the settlement of Givat Egoz, where their home was destroyed again. Recently, Arabs entered the settlement and burned their house to the ground. In order to shield their children from further trauma, after living in constant fear of enduring yet another nightmarish eviction, the Goldmintzs acquired a home on the settlement of Charsha, while they continued to spend Shabbasos in their new house at Givat Egoz. Even their temporary presence on this settlement, with its Jewish residents driven out long ago and its residential area destroyed, was a source of concern for the IDF. Soldiers proceeded to raid the isolated house and tear it down. The pictures taken after the operation are hard to look at. Among the ruins were scattered
the children’s dolls and toys. The soldiers even tore down the eiruv surrounding the yishuv. “To our great regret, the IDF has forgotten that the army’s primary role is to defend the people of Israel,” R’ Meir Goldmintz told Beis Moshiach. “The army’s actions were carried out through a diversionary maneuver. IDF forces arrived ostensibly for the purpose of conducting a training exercise to prevent possible terrorist penetration of the Charsha settlement. Thus, while we gave our cooperation in security matters and worked together to create a sense of greater trust, the army proceeded to tear down the outpost. “They didn’t miss a thing. They destroyed the house down to its very foundation. They threw out everything, leaving no proverbial stone unturned, even knocking down the pillars used for the eiruv. “The house that had been burned down by Arabs and later restored had now been destroyed by those who sometimes forget whether they represent the Jewish People or if they support the work of the enemy. “There can be no doubt that while it’s deeply frustrating and painful when Arabs burn down Jewish homes, the destruction at Gush Katif and Yad Yair was infinitely worse. The Arabs are, after all, our enemies. Yet, instead of offering thanks for the great blessing that has come to them as well since the Jewish People returned home, they engage only in ruin and destruction. “This would be unheard of in any other country in the world: a government destroying settlements of its own people and giving away portions of its homeland to foreign entities.”
Issue 847 • �
fAMilY ROOts: A ChABAd fAMilY in A tOWn Of CheRnOBYl ChAssidiM
chapters from the life story of r’ yehoshua shneur zalman serebryanski a”h
Prepared for publication by Avrohom Rainitz
ABOut the seRies
R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman’s story begins in White Russia under the Soviets where he fought to strengthen Jewish life. He left Russia in 5707/1947. After a brief stay in France, he went with his family to Australia, having been sent there by the Rebbe Rayatz. As per instructions from the Rebbe Rayatz, and later from the Rebbe MH”M, he began building Chabad institutions in Melbourne. The first chapters of this series will deal with his life in the Soviet Union, but most of the series has to do with his shlichus in Australia. The series is based on dozens of letters that he received from the Rebbe over the years, as well as letters that he wrote to the Rebbe in which he reported in detail about his work on behalf of Chabad. Copies of his letters to the Rebbe are in the possession of his son, R’ Chaim, from which we can better understand the Rebbe’s responses to him that are based on his reports. I heard the connections between the letters and the general background of events from R’ Chaim who helped his father throughout the years in his communal work.
abbi Yehoshua Shneur Zalman Serebryanski a”h was born on 8 Teves 5664/1903 in the town of Brahin (or Bragin) in White Russia (now Belarus). The Jewish community there was affiliated with the Chassidic movement since the time of the Baal Shem Tov and over the years, most of them were Chassidei Chernobyl. The Serebryanski family was the only Lubavitcher family in the town. The family’s connection with Chabad began in the time of the
Alter Rebbe. According to family tradition, in 5539/1879, when R’ Menachem Mendel of Horodok traveled to Eretz Yisroel, and after accompanying him part of the way, the Alter Rebbe visited several towns, R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman’s great-greatgrandfather saw the Alter Rebbe for the first time and became mekushar to him. R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman’s greatgrandfather was named Shneur Zalman for the Alter Rebbe. Three generations later,
the great-grandson was named Yehoshua Shneur Zalman after him. As a baby, he was named Shneur Zalman. The name Yehoshua was given later in his youth when he was sick and they added a name. Not much is known about this period and the bond with the Alter Rebbe. There are family stories about the ongoing connection that the family had with Chabad through one of the distinguished Chabad Chassidim in earlier generations, R’ Hillel Paritcher, who lived in Brahin in his younger years. One time, the tzaddik, R’ Nachum of Chernobyl visited his Chassidim in Brahin and when he left the town, all the townspeople went out to escort him. Among them was also R’ Meir, R’ Hillel’s father, who carried his young son in his arms. When little Hillel saw R’ Nachum, he began to shout: Father, I see fire! His father asked him: Where do you see fire? The boy pointed at R’ Nachum and said he saw fire on the head of the tzaddik. Many years later, when R’ Hillel lived in Paritch and had a group of talented young men mentored by him, R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman’s grandfather, R’ Eliyahu went there. He became one of the “yoshvim” by R’ Hillel. Under R’ Hillel’s influence, R’ Eliyahu became close to Chabad and to the Tzemach Tzedek. R’ Eliyahu worked in the
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lumber business, but he used all his free time to learn Torah and Chassidus. Even when he had to travel, he always took along s’farim. When they arrived at an inn and the passengers went over to the warm stove, R’ Eliyahu sat down with his Gemara and learned with a sweetness that warmed up his frozen limbs.
R’ AHARON GLUSKIN, SUCCESSOR TO R’ HILLEL
His son, who was born after the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek, was named Menachem Mendel. When R’ Menachem Mendel came of age, his father married him off to Nechama Gluskin, the daughter of R’ Aharon Gluskin, a talmid of R’ Hillel Paritcher and a Chassid of the Tzemach Tzedek. After R’ Hillel’s passing, the townspeople asked R’ Aharon to succeed him. He refused, claiming that he was not deserving to take over the rabbanus after R’ Hillel, and also because he did not want to support himself through rabbanus. He continued working in the lumber business as many Jewish businessmen did in those days. They would buy the lumber rights of forests, cut the trees, and send the logs as rafts down the river to the big lumber fair in Leipzig. One time, when all his money was invested in lumber, a telegram came on Shabbos with the news that the rafts had overturned in the river and all the logs sank. R’ Aharon understood what the telegram meant to convey, but throughout Shabbos he refused to look at it and continued to rejoice as though nothing had happened. It was only on Motzaei Shabbos, after Havdala, when the holiness of Shabbos departed, that he read
Their daughter, Sarah Schneersohn, was very learned and brilliant. She was considered one of the greatest mathematicians in Leningrad and received a very large stipend from the government.
to him for a din Torah and after paskening the din, the claimant asked the defendant to shake his hand upon his commitment to pay him by the time they had agreed upon. When the time came and the defendant refused to pay, R’ Aharon sent him a summons to come to the beis din. The man arrived but refused to
the telegram. All his money had been lost. He saw this as a sign from heaven that he should accept the rabbinic position in Paritch. He went to the grave of R’ Hillel, asked his pardon, and said: If it is your holy will that I take your place, I accept the judgment. After taking on the rabbanus, R’ Aharon became known as a holy man. Once, two men came
Issue 847 • �
pay. R’ Aharon told him: Since you obligated yourself with a handshake, if you do not pay – the hand will not be yours! The man continued to refuse and a month later his hand became paralyzed and remained that way until the day he died. the government. She supported the family of her cousin, R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman. She visited her family in Charkov several times and her cousin R’ Chaim Serebryanski remembers that she looked like the Rebbe Rayatz. Sadly, she perished of starvation during the siege of Leningrad during World War II. spirit of pure yiras Shamayim. In the mind of his grandson R’ Chaim is etched an image of his grandfather as someone who used every free moment to learn Torah or say T’hillim. Even when he walked in the street with his grandchildren, he murmured chapters of T’hillim. R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman’s sisters were Itta and Sarah. Itta married R’ Elozor Gorewitz and they had two daughters, Esther and Rachel. Tragically, Itta died in her prime and was survived by a young widower with two orphans, three-year-old Esther and two year old Rachel. Her sister Sarah, who was single, married her brother-in-law Elozor. Two years later, R’ Elozor suddenly took sick and died. Esther and Rachel remained orphaned of both their parents. Sarah decided to devote her life to the orphans. She did not remarry. Although in Russia of those days it was hard to raise girls in the spirit of Chassidus, and it was even harder to find a shidduch for them with a Tamim, Sarah instilled in them a love for Torah and the ways of Chassidus, and when it came time to marry, it was obvious that they would only marry T’mimim. In 5704/1944, while still in Russia, Esther married R’ Shmuel Gurevitch (the son of the famous Chassid, R’ Itche der Masmid). Her sister Rachel was married a few years later, after they had left Russia, to R’ Yaakov Edelstein, a talmid of Tomchei T’mimim in Otvotzk. Their wedding took place in the DP camp in Poking.
THE UNCLE, MENACHEM MENDEL GLUSKIN, CHIEF RABBI OF LENINGRAD
Nechama’s brother was R’ Menachem Mendel Gluskin, a distinguished Chabad Chassid in the time of the Rebbe Rayatz. He succeeded his father in the rabbanus in Paritch and after the communists began dogging his steps, he moved to Minsk and from there to Leningrad where he was appointed as chief rabbi (1934-1936). His daughter, Gitta, moved to Eretz Yisroel in the 90’s and lives in Givatayim. Nechama’s sister, Rebbetzin Teibel, was the wife of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Schneersohn, the son of the Admur R’ Sholom Ber of Retzitza, the grandson of the Tzemach Tzedek. R’ Sholom Ber was a second cousin of the Rebbe Rashab. He maintained a close relationship with the Rebbe Rashab, and in the Rebbe’s letters there is a long letter to him from which we can see the friendly relationship they had. Their daughter, Sarah Schneersohn, was very learned and brilliant. She was considered one of the greatest mathematicians in Leningrad and received a very large stipend from
THE UNCLE, MENACHEM MENDEL SEREBRYANSKI
R’ Menachem Mendel Serebryanski was a very wealthy businessman, but after the Communist Revolution, the government confiscated all his wealth. Of all his possessions, all that remained was his house with a large garden and a cow. Having no choice, he began working as a simple woodchopper in order to provide for his family. R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman, who was his only son, found it hard getting used to the new circumstances, with his father earning a paltry salary from the government. He was 17 years old and considered going to work to help out. However, when he told his father about his plans, his father was adamantly opposed and said that until his wedding, his head should be involved solely in learning Torah and not in work. Despite the difficult spiritual circumstances and the war the government waged against anything religious, R’ Menachem Mendel was able to maintain a Chassidic lifestyle and was even able to raise his children in the
tO BRing MOshiACh nOW!
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