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Beis Moshiach (USPS 012-542) ISSN 1082-0272 is published weekly, except Jewish holidays (only once in April and October) for $160.00 in Crown Heights. USA $180.00. All other places for $195.00 per year (45 issues), by Beis Moshiach, 744 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409. Periodicals postage paid at Brooklyn, NY and additional offices. Postmaster: send address changes to Beis Moshiach 744 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409. Copyright 2012 by Beis Moshiach, Inc. Beis Moshiach is not responsible for the content and Kashruth of the advertisements.
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MOSHIACH FLOURISHES IN OUR FAITH
Translated by Boruch Merkur
Regarding the meaning of the name “Tzemach Tzedek” – it is an allusion to Moshiach Tzidkeinu: The first part of the name, Tzemach, is the name of Moshiach, as said in the liturgy of Hoshana Rabba, “Ish Tzemach shmo – A man, whose name is Tzemach” (Zecharia 6:12, see Targum; Talmud Yerushalmi Meseches Brachos 4:4; also see Zecharia 3:8). Similarly, the second part of the name, Tzedek, is one of the identifying signs of Moshiach, which is referred to in the prophecy of Yeshayahu (beginning with the words, “A shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Yishai, and a twig shall sprout from his roots” (Yeshaya 11:1)). There it describes Moshiach’s distinction of rendering honest judgment: “He shall judge with tzedek, justly, etc., and tzedek, righteousness, shall be the girdle of his loins” (ibid 11:4-5). The message here is that the name Tzemach Tzedek expresses the faith of chassidim, the perfect faith of every chassid, that their Rebbe – for example, the leader of this generation [see the commentary of Even Ezra on Zecharia 3:8, “Tzemach is Moshiach…for ‘Tzemach’ is numerically equivalent to ‘Menachem’”] – is in fact Moshiach, and if we had merited, the matter would have been fulfilled and manifest outwardly; Moshiach would be visible to the human eye.
(From the address of the fifth night of Sukkos 5747, bilti muga)
No reseNtmeNt iN ideNtifyiNg moshiach
Every person in this generation was born as the Rebbe’s shliach, the emissary of the leader of our generation, and the Rebbe is the leader of all the people of the generation. And when the shliach utilizes his 10 soul-powers, “kav shelo” (his measure; i.e., his faculties), in the practical fulfillment of the mission the leader sent him on (as discussed above), the concept of Moshiach is revealed (for “Moshiach” is the numerical equivalent of “shliach” along with (the) 10 (soul-power)). In so doing, he also reveals how he reflects the meshaleiach, the one who sent him (“just as you are members of the covenant, so are your emissaries, etc.”). Indeed, he even becomes one with the meshaleiach (for a person’s emissary is like himself), one with the leader of our generation, who is Moshiach, with all the connotations of “Moshiach”: 1) mashuach, anointed; 2) chosen; 3) guide and shepherd of the Jewish people – including the simple interpretation of “Moshiach”: leader or ruler. There shouldn’t be any resentment sparked in concluding that the leader of our generation is Moshiach Tzidkeinu in the literal sense, for this is the fact: the leader of our generation is the Moshiach of the generation!
(From the address of the night of Simchas Torah, prior to Hakafos, 5746, bilti muga)
tzemach, tzemach, tzemach
May it be G-d’s will – and this is the main thing – that calling out the name “Tzemach,” the name of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, causes Moshiach to come in actuality. In simple terms – by calling and crying out the name “Tzemach,” with the intent that by calling out his name certainly he will answer those who call him – they effect the actual advent of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. (The notion that Moshiach will answer those who call is deduced from the effect that results from calling out the name of a living human being, “as the tzaddik, the righteous individual lives upon the earth…within a [corporeal] vessel and garment [the body]… within the dimensions of physical space.” For the results of appealing to a tzaddik who lives in this world is constrained by limitations in the degree of revelation and the capacity of its reach [yet calling out to him is still powerfully efficacious]. How much more is this so after these limitations are negated!) Thus, when they now proclaim “Tzemach” three times – Tzemach, Tzemach, Tzemach – Moshiach Tzidkeinu will literally come now!
(From the address of the fifth night of Sukkos 5750, bilti muga)
5773 - 353
UNTIL THE COMING OF MOSHIACH
R’ Motti (Mordechai ben Rochel) Gal has a Chabad house and is a shliach of the Rebbe in Ramat Gan for nearly three decades. He was always unique in his approach and his way of thinking. He has always sought to break out of a limited, exile type of thinking. * In an interview with Beis Moshiach, between one chemotherapy treatment and the next, he recounted the story of his life and made a request of Lubavitcher Chassidim.
By Menachem Ziegelboim
t’s hard to speak with Rabbi Motti Oliver-Gal, because between chemotherapy treatments he is busy with his U’faratzta activities, spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus, as well as activities to hasten the Geula. Since he discovered his life-threatening illness, he has felt the importance of utilizing time well, knowing that every minute he has is a gift from above and he needs to use it to convey the Rebbe’s messages. I know R’ Gal since I started
davening in the Chabad shul in Ramat Gan sixteen years ago. He officially bears the title “shliach of the Rebbe and director of the Chabad house in Ramat Gan,” but not many know that his achievements in life can fill books – vision, ideas, initiatives that strive for the heavens, are his field. He is the kind of person with far-reaching vision. This is what he constantly speaks about to those who want to hear what he has to say (and there are many), to stop thinking in a
limited, galus fashion. The saying “to conquer the world” is not merely a slogan to him. He lives with the consciousness that in our day, it is closer than ever. We have endless opportunities and we just don’t do enough to make it happen. “The Rebbe paved the way and now we need to harvest the fruit of his labors, and not enough is being done,” he says sadly, even frustrated. R’ Gal was born to Bulgarian parents who made aliya at age
6 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
17 on a rickety boat. They were idealistic and they intended on settling the land. This was in 1948. They went to Kibbutz Ashmora near the Sea of Galilee. Their wedding was held on a farm and the chuppa was held up by four rifles. His father, Yosef, became disillusioned by kibbutz life and moved to Yaffo where he began working in construction. He brought his parents and in-laws and all their children to Eretz Yisroel. He later opened a shoe factory called Oliver. Mordechai Oliver (later Gal) was born in Teves 5712. He lived on Baal Shem Tov boulevard on the corner of HaRav HaMaggid of Mezritch and R’ Shneur Zalman of Chabad. “As a child, I always said that I’m on Rechov HaMaggid, corner of Shneur Zalman,” said R’ Gal smiling. When he was four, his family moved to Tel Giborim in Cholon where
there had been a strong stand of the pioneers during the War of Independence as they faced the murderous attack of Arabs who came from Yaffo. The neighborhood he grew up in was a neighborhood of immigrants. The veteran resident among them had lived in Eretz Yisroel a mere four years. While parents found it hard to adjust, their children went to school, learned Hebrew, and quickly acclimated. This eroded the authority of the parents. “Parents did not know the language and couldn’t even help with simple homework. All of them were struggling to make a living, but we grew up very happily. There was a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie on our street.” R’ Gal also remembers the screams that could be heard nightly. These were Holocaust survivors who relived the terrors of the war in their sleep.
“There were Holocaust survivors with a dead look in their eyes. I remember that I was once going up the stairs of a store when a woman began screaming, ‘Kapo!’ and ran with nails outstretched towards an old man.” Motti finished elementary school and went to high school. “I was an average student when it came to effort, but was outstanding in my achievements. None of us put in much effort into our matriculation tests, but we all passed.” His father, who was becoming financially stable, could allow himself time for his various hobbies including classical music on a high level. “I remember listening to music with my father at the age of six or seven. After we listened, he would analyze what he heard with astonishing subtlety as he differentiated between various performances, interpretations
Issue 850 • �
and meters. I also became interested in classical music and not only because he wanted it.” Since Motti suffered from asthma, he was given a low rating by the army. However, this was a few years after the Six Day War. “My father wanted to protect me and he took me to Tel HaShomer hospital to the amputee ward so I would see the soldiers and be scared off, but it spurred me on.” A medical committee was convened, led by Dr. Oliver, Motti’s uncle, and he was given a high rating. He proceeded to join the Golani brigade. It wasn’t easy to break into the tight knit unit, but Motti made it and excelled, successfully completing an officers’ course. He had a number of interesting adventures in the army. “We went to set an ambush in Syria. We had information about terrorists that were going to operate in the area and we wanted to catch them while still in Syrian territory. It was three or four in the morning. We were lying in a structure called a ‘Kochav,’ with five in the front and two covering the back. I was the assistant commander. At a certain point we were discovered and the Syrian soldiers sent up flares. The commander flew into a panic and couldn’t lead. He began screaming hysterically and I slapped him in the face to bring him back to his senses. I then immediately took command. We managed to kill two terrorists out of the four who were there. Back at company headquarters they made me into a hero and a symbol to encourage people to volunteer for service in Golani. “On another occasion I was in Gaza. It was 1971 and we were there in order to capture the founders of the terrorist infrastructure in the Strip, with the senior figure being Abu Nimar along with Mohammad Yousef Sida’i. At a certain point they realized that someone in their ranks was informing. They found him and told him that his end was near. He came to us in the middle of the night to tell us of this. I immediately reported to the commander of the unit, Chido Abraham a”h and he told us to set a trap for the terrorists called a “straw widow.” This was a strategy in which we entered the house of the collaborator in order to stay with him until they would come to kill him. He lived in the center of the Jibala refugee camp which was known as one of the most dangerous camps. “At six in the morning a car stopped near his house out of which came three guys who called to him to come out. Of course he didn’t go and we got ready for action. I still remember the hand that opened the doorknob of the house and the person saying, ‘Ibrahim, come out.’ When the terrorist opened the door, he was shocked to see me, a 19 year old kid in IDF uniform, aiming my weapon at him and ordering him to raise his hands. He tried to resist and I shot him. Chaos ensued and we needed help to get out because of the mob that surrounded us. We managed to take the wounded man with us and he underwent interrogation, in which he told everything we needed to know about the terrorist infrastructure in the camp. Ariel Sharon conducted some of the interrogation.” 5733 with the rank of Company Commander. After his release, he took a training course in security and bodyguard work, and was sent to the airport in Lud and later to the Israeli embassy in London, but then the Yom Kippur War began. Gal returned home and was sent to the southern front. “We bore the brunt of things there. Our recon unit was on the front line and we sustained many losses.” He served for half a year in Sharon’s unit and returned from there broken in spirit. “At age 21, I went to console several dozen families whose loved ones, young men and good friends of mine, had been killed. I told the families precisely where their children had been killed and what happened. I was suffering from grief overload.” After the war, he returned to security work in Israel’s embassies. “They asked me where I wanted to go. I told them I wanted to go far away. They offered the embassy in either Buenos Aires or Seoul. Since I knew a little Spanish from home, I picked Argentina. At that time they asked me to change my last name Oliver, which they considered ‘not Israeli,’ for something else. I told them I would pick the shortest name: Gal.” This was 5734-5 and Motti went to provide security for the Israeli consular staff in Argentina. Argentina was full of escaped Nazi war criminals. It was also suffering from an annual inflation of 9000%. With a salary of $400 a month, he enjoyed servants, a sports car and a high standard of living. He felt on top of the world. But boredom quickly set in. He wanted to study film and
meetiNg the moVers aNd shaKers
After completing an officers’ course with high marks, Motti went back to Troop 51 in Golani. He finished the army in Shevat
8 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
television, another field which his father had introduced to him. He applied to New York University, where few were accepted. He was accepted and he left Argentina for New York, where he went to school and supported himself by being a security guard for the Israeli economic delegation to the United Nations. Every night, from one until nine in the morning, he was on guard and then he went to school. He excelled in his studies and successfully completed this highly regarded film program. It was there that he met his wife-tobe Malka. In 5738 he completed his degree and he had to do a final project. “Then, something interesting happened. Avital Sharansky came to New York to raise awareness about her husband, Russian refusenik (Anatoly) Sharansky. I thought this would be my golden opportunity to make a film for my project. I got a sum of money from someone by the name of Jerry Stern, a wealthy Zionist who loved the idea of a boy from Yaffo working at night to pay for his schooling who wanted to complete his course work with such a Zionist and human interest project. I worked on the film with Naftali Larish, today a successful cinematographer in the US. “For a year and a half, we went around with Avital Sharansky on her quest to have her husband released. We went everywhere with her, to Congress, the Senate, the Pentagon, the homes of wealthy people in Hollywood, and wives of members of Congress. We filmed her visit to the home of Vice President Walter Mondale. She managed to attend every influential event. She had an incredible ability to generate sympathy for her cause.
R’ Motti Gal receiving a dollar from the Rebbe
“When the terrorist opened the door, he was shocked to see me, a 19 year old kid in IDF uniform, aiming my weapon at him and ordering him to raise his hands. He tried to resist and I shot him. Chaos ensued and we needed help to get out.”
reserved person. She did not share her thought processes with me. She had a defined goal and we served her purpose. “As for me, what happened was that I saw the faces of all the world’s big shots up close and I saw them from a different perspective than you see from a distance. When my friend Avi Piamenta brought me to the Rebbe for the first time, I saw a face that was not of this world.”
“When I recall that time, I know that many Jewish feelings were stirred up in me, which played an important role in my beginning to think about what it means to be Jewish. I was a young guy with hair down to my shoulders, with an artistic soul; I lived in a loft in downtown Manhattan. “I remember that the peak of our filming was when we sent a Russian crew with a hidden camera to photograph Anatoly’s trial that took place in Russia. That was a dangerous escapade. Anatoly was sentenced to thirteen years in jail. Afterward, we parted ways with Avital.” How do you sum up that journey? “Mrs. Sharansky was a
seeiNg the reBBe for the first time
“It was the summer of 1978. I saw the Rebbe for the first time at Maariv. The Rebbe came out of his room, stood in the small zal, and put on his gartel. I
Issue 850 • �
Sinai. As for parnasa, the Rebbe wrote: Yogaata yegi’a kala (with three lines under the word ‘kala’) u’matzasa! (With a little effort you will be successful). “It was like a bomb exploding. First of all, I was very angry at the Rebbe. How dare he tell me that a career in film was not at all suited to Judaism? I was flooded by various emotions, because on the one hand I was new to things and couldn’t just accept what the Rebbe said. On the other hand, I was already a bit of a mekabel. I felt great love for the Rebbe and tremendous admiration and respect. I had read a lot about the Rebbe and Chassidus. “I went to R’ Yoel Kahn to consult with him. This was no simple dilemma. $25,000 a month was at stake. “If that wasn’t enough, the bachurim in 770 wanted to separate me from my girlfriend whom they sent to Machon Chana while I went to Hadar Ha’Torah. I was very confused. Suddenly, someone had come and messed up the life I had set up for myself and yet, I felt that the Rebbe was protecting me. “In yeshiva, I began learning Torah and Chassidus. I put on a kippa and let my beard grow. Word got back to my parents and they freaked out. They couldn’t understand how I could have gotten involved in Judaism, something foreign to them. My friend told them that either I had been brainwashed or I was on drugs. He advised them to go and rescue me as soon as possible. They took the first plane out. “At this time, Avi Piamenta planned on learning in a Litvishe yeshiva while I was becoming a Lubavitcher. I traveled to him and told him that he wasn’t going to learn anywhere but by the Rebbe. He came back to Crown
Public figures sign a scroll of honor, in honor of the Rebbe’s 90th birthday
looked at him from up close and saw a noble face. The Rebbe’s gaze was engraved very deeply within me. The Rebbe looked at me and moved on. But to me, it was something that made an enormous impression on me.” How do you explain it? “Something happened and apparently, I was ready for it. My neshama was ready for this encounter and when it happened, it had a dramatic effect on me. I later read about what an impact the first yechidus has on a person for his entire life. I guess that was my first yechidus. “Then began a most interesting process in which I began to yearn for the Rebbe. I would go to Washington to shoot follow-up footage and I missed him. Two guys from 770 began keeping in touch with me, R’ Amitai Yemini and Yoske Levin. I was taking an interest in Judaism. I had always felt respect for Judaism, but I didn’t know what it was; I had no idea. “Then I wrote a letter to the Rebbe. I had been offered an
enticing job to move to the west coast and work with a famous movie producer who loved my life story, the Israeli hero etc. A lot of money was involved. In my long letter I wrote that I did not understand what was happening to me, that I had never been connected to Judaism, but I was feeling a gap between my work as a film producer and what I was reading in the Rebbe’s teachings. I also wrote that my involvement in Judaism could make my parents panic. I added that my career and my entire world at this stage of my life was film and television and this was the direction I wanted to develop in my life. “At seven o’clock the next morning I received a phone call. The Rebbe had written a response on my letter: A career in film is not at all suited to Judaism and to modesty in particular. As for my parents, the Rebbe wrote: Tell the truth, you returned to Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, Dovid and Shlomo and obviously to the Exodus from Egypt and Maamad Har
10 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
Heights and we were the nucleus of the Israeli program at Hadar Ha’Torah. Our group included: Avi, Alon Kaiser, Sharon Harel, Avrohom Sasson, and others. We were about ten Israelis there.” Had you calmed down in the meantime? No, definitely not! Throughout the transition process, along with enormous concessions that I made in my life, I was experiencing inner turmoil. “My parents arrived. At our first meeting they realized that something had happened to me. When my father asked me what was going on, I quoted the Rebbe without adding any explanations: I returned to Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, Dovid and Shlomo and obviously to the Exodus from Egypt and Maamad Har Sinai, and I laughed. I told them that this is what the Rebbe told me to say and I had nothing to add. I felt that the Rebbe’s words would be persuasive enough. “They spent twenty days in Crown Heights with R’ Yoel Kahn and his wife who hosted them with utmost sensitivity. They did not force them to wash their hands or wear a kippa. On their own they went to davening at 770. This was my father’s first t’filla in his life. He later told me, ‘When we came and looked at you, I could see that you were happy and at peace with your new path.’ “When I opened a Chabad house in Ramat Gan, my father worked there for fourteen years as a volunteer. He once said to me that when he got his first look at the Rebbe, he realized that as parents they had merited something great, but he only said this at the end of his life.”
R’ Motti Gal with friends and mekuravim of the Chabad house, years ago
“I saw the faces of all the world’s big shots up close and I saw them from a different perspective than you see from a distance. When my friend Avi Piamenta brought me to the Rebbe for the first time, I saw a face that was not of this world.”
tremendous impression on me to see someone devoted to learning with such intensity. He is an independent thinker with fantastic and very impressive capabilities.” R’ Gal began his Lubavitch askanus in hafatzas ha’maayanos. Together with R’ Meir Friedman a”h, director of Tzach in Kfar Chabad, he put a lot of work into a Chassidus exhibit in Kfar Chabad. R’ Yochanan Gurary provided the historical guidance for the exhibit which was going to be housed on the second floor of Beit Shazar, but “because of a little politics,” as he put it, the exhibit never ended up happening. “I was terribly brokenhearted over it. The one who was mainly
yoU WiLL Be at the PeaK
In the meantime, his future wife Malka was studying at Machon Chana while Motti was learning in Hadar Ha’Torah by R’ Avrohom Drizin and the mashgiach, R’ Goldberg. He also filled in gaps in his knowledge by learning privately with R’ Yoel Kahn. They would meet at R’ Yoel’s house and learn Chassidus. This period extended from Elul 5738 until the summer of 5739 and then Motti returned to Eretz Yisroel and married Malka on 12 Av. They lived in Kfar Chabad in the new development, while Motti learned in kollel and with R’ Yitzchok Ginsbourg. “That year I grew to love learning. I watched R’ Ginsbourg as he learned and it made a
Issue 850 • �
hurt was Meir Friedman who worked on the exhibition for such a long time and raised a lot of money for it.” When the Rebbe announced the “Letter in a Seifer Torah” campaign, R’ Gal was picked by the Beis Din Rabbanei Chabad – which the Rebbe said was responsible for this – to run the campaign. Motti, as he is wont to do, went “big.” He traveled with R’ Zushe Wilyamowsky to set up branches. They set up booths on the street to sign people up and they got Lubavitchers excited about going out to register children. “The Rebbe himself initiated, led and planned the campaign. Nearly every day I would be questioned by R’ Leibel Groner: how many were registered, how is the designing of the certificate coming along, and daily reports. I have not seen another mivtza of the Rebbe in which the Rebbe himself was so involved.” When the campaign got off the ground and was being run in an organized way by the committee appointed for that purpose, R’ Gal returned to ordinary life and began to ponder a shlichus position. This was in 5744-5. He was made a few shlichus offers and he wrote them all to the Rebbe. The Rebbe marked Ramat Gan-Givatayim and that became his place of shlichus. There already was a Chabad shul there, the legendary one on Rechov Uziel, and R’ Gal gave it a shot in the arm. He began being mekarev young residents of Ramat Gan who came to the shul and helped expand the existing k’hilla which was led by the mashpia, R’ Meir Blizinsky. The gabbai of the shul, R’ Mordechai Gruzman, enjoyed the infusion of fresh blood in the form of twenty or so new sirtuks who joined the shul in a relatively short period of time. “I began arranging activities and shiurim with the focus on Tanya classes for men and women. In a yechidus that I had in 5739 along with my wife, the Rebbe told me that spreading Judaism and especially Chassidus was my mission.” R’ Gal had a number of private audiences with the Rebbe. You can still see the awe and emotion on Rabbi Gal’s face as he recalls his first yechidus with the Rebbe. “The first time I had yechidus, I heard the Rebbe and saw how he looked at the world differently, as territory that needed to be infused with k’dusha. “It was a relatively long yechidus with the Rebbe sitting by a desk piled with letters. When I entered the room the Rebbe looked up at me and smiled. His face lit up and he said in Lashon HaKodesh: ‘Hashem will surely fulfill all the requests of your heart for good and for blessing. You should disseminate Yiddishkait in the world, especially Chassidus, until the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, soon in our days, mamash.’ “When I left, I trembled for the next two and a half hours. It was the ultimate experience, the ultimate level of purity. It was very purifying.” He had additional private audiences in 5740 and 5741. “They were always very moving. I always left them crying and very emotional. The feeling in yechidus was of something very pure and refined that is hard for me to put into words. Maybe this feeling is what Chassidus calls the revelation of the yechida.”
sPeciaL shLichUs to the Prime miNister
In issue 785 of Beis Moshiach there was an article about R’ Gal concerning the events of Pesach 5750 or as it was called then, “ha’targil ha’masriach” (lit. stinking scheme, or the dirty trick). Shimon Peres and the Labor government colluded with Shas to cause the fall of the Shamir government. Peres also turned to Agudath Israel and invited it to join a new narrow coalition under his leadership. R’ Gal felt that an umbrella organization of the Chabad movement was using the Rebbe’s name for their own purposes and against the Rebbe’s explicit position. Although he was a local shliach and not an askan operating on a national level, and was certainly not involved in politics, he felt he had to get involved. “On Motzaei Shabbos I began calling rabbanim who told me not to get involved. The only one who ‘broke’ was R’ Dovid Chanzin who, after a lengthy conversation, blessed me.” He went to various people to exert pressure on them to torpedo the attempt to form a Labor government. He met with key political figures numerous times, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He was not authorized to speak on anyone’s behalf, certainly not on behalf of any organization. He was just a private person, a Lubavitcher Chassid, who was conveying the Rebbe’s views. “I began working with Shamir and Sharon. I showed them sichos of the Rebbe with his position on shleimus ha’aretz. I reported constantly to R’ Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary, but he
12 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
heard the badmouthing against me, that said I was working on my own in opposition to the position of Chabad. “In the end, the plot was foiled and Shamir remained in government as the Rebbe wanted. Throughout this ordeal, I went to the Rebbe several times with secret messages from Shamir, but there were people who ruined the shlichus. When the whole thing was over, Shamir sent a letter of thanks to the Rebbe, sealed with the wax seal of the prime minister’s office. I brought the letter to R’ Groner who submitted it to the Rebbe. He told me afterward that the Rebbe said to convey: ‘You prevented me from having tremendous aggravation and caused me to be greatly pleased.’ That was the greatest gift I ever got from the Rebbe.” Chol HaMoed Pesach, a few days after the Rebbe’s birthday, R’ Gal said to Shamir, “I want to take a letter from you to the Rebbe.” Shamir wrote to the Rebbe, without a secretary, in his own handwriting, as a Chassid writes to the Rebbe. That day, R’ Gal left for 770. When he arrived, he gave the letter to the Rebbe’s secretary, R’ Groner. “Shortly afterward, R’ Groner called me at the place where I was staying and said that I should come to 770 right away to get a response for Shamir. When I got there, I was given an envelope and told to personally give it to the prime minister. “I know that the Rebbe saw all that I had gone through and in a very sensitive manner, he wanted to repay me for my efforts. “The reward was that I was able to be the shliach from Shamir to the Rebbe and then
R’ Motti Gal reading the Rebbe’s letter to Prime Minister Shamir in Shamir’s office Below: Shamir’s letter to the Rebbe and the Rebbe’s response to him
from the Rebbe to Shamir. “After this episode, the Rebbe’s blessings to me were along the lines of starting to work with Jewish leaders. He also encouraged me to work on a much larger scale.”
At this stage of his life, R’ Gal went back to his old hobby, films and producing, this time in the service of Torah and Geula. He and his good friend and film producer, Shuki Ben Porat began
to develop some projects for the religious audience. In 5751, when the Rebbe made a big commotion about Geula, R’ Gal took it one step further. “We did a media campaign to announce the Rebbe’s b’sura. We went to all the television and radio stations and newspapers. It was an exciting time. “I looked for what the Jewish people were lacking in order to see what I could contribute.” He and Shuki Ben Porat
Issue 850 • �
he wanted to do a broadcast that would be shown on Yud Shevat. “Chabad was in an uproar since Gimmel Tammuz. Rami suggested I come to the US and work on this broadcast. The goal was to focus on all the inyanim of the Rebbe in connection to Moshiach and Geula through a satellite broadcast covering six continents, in which each place would accept the Rebbe’s malchus. “A week to prepare for a project like this is nothing. I didn’t sleep that week. We examined all the places where the Rebbe talks about Moshiach. I decided not to focus on miracles but on the Rebbe’s demand for Geula. It’s a miracle that we were successful. The fact that six continents were on the screen simultaneously and the lines didn’t fall is a miracle from Heaven. Even with a million dollar budget you couldn’t pull it off under natural circumstances. The broadcast inspired thousands of Chabad Chassidim around the world and charged them up with anticipation for the hisgalus of the Rebbe.” Following this success, R’ Gal began producing the Moshiach Congress, an idea he came up with. As is his wont, he brought in public relations experts, trend setters and strategists. He invited shluchim from all over the world to attend the Congress. He made a clip on Geula and Moshiach for the purpose of directing the world to a better place. It was marketed in ten languages including Arabic, German, Chinese, and Japanese with a call for the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws. At the Moshiach Congress, the “Million Dollar Fund” was announced as a means to fund Geula projects. “Rami felt that it was his role
“He told me afterward that the Rebbe said to convey: ‘You prevented me from having tremendous aggravation and caused me to be greatly pleased.’ That was the greatest gift I ever got from the Rebbe.”
decided to produce a film aimed at bar mitzva age boys. “It was an attempt to extend a hand to the non-religious community, showing them that an encounter with a religious person is not all that bad.” This project took two years. Gimmel Tammuz 5754 halted their work. In 5755, Motti’s good friend Rami Antian a”h, a man of broad vision himself, told him
14 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
UNder the sWord
It’s no secret that R’ Gal has reached a major crossroads in his life. He did not hide his illness from his family and many mekuravim. He even spoke about it at a special achdus farbrengen he held recently. “Two months ago, I was coughing a lot during a shiur. One of the women there asked me to get checked out by a doctor. I was diagnosed as having advanced cancer. Since then, I have felt like there is a sharp sword on my neck. “It was hard to accept, but I worked on a number of fronts: my family, my feelings about it, the community. This was while I was choosing my oncology team, having treatments abroad, etc. “I know I am living on borrowed time and I need great mercy. It’s making me work harder. I want to accomplish many things that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t done yet. The doctors say I’m living on borrowed time even though I am full of emuna and to hold aloft the flag of Geula and not to allow the Rebbe’s inyanim to fall by the wayside. “Sadly, it all ended almost overnight.” Rami lost his money and moved to Eretz Yisroel where he began learning in the kollel that R’ Gal opened. “Rami was focused on his goal. Sometimes, he would wake me up in the middle of the night with questions in learning. It was the same sort of intensity he had used in business. He died suddenly of a heart attack. He was born on 3 Tammuz and he died on Simchas Torah. I miss him very much. He was a real chavrusa.”
don’t accept that, but by nature I am also a realistic person. The two souls operate simultaneously as it says in Tanya, the animal soul and the G-dly soul. I hope for the best, for a miracle, but I am undergoing difficult treatments.” In addition to dealing with this terrible illness, R’ Gal is facing tremendous costs because of expensive treatments. Most of the treatments are taking place abroad and they cost a fortune. He calls upon Anash to make a donation to the fund he opened to save his life: Bank Discount 11, Branch 007 Tel Ganim # 73032 Mordechai Gal Oliver Or mail to this address: Gal Family Rechov Peretz Bernstein 44 Ramat Gan h t t p s : / / p 9 . s e c u re . h o s t i n g p ro d . c o m / @ w w w. charityforisrael.com/ssl/Emergency_fund.html are exposed, for the first time, to Jewish messages of goodness, light, Ahavas Yisroel, Achdus, and mutual responsibility. About 9000 young people are members of this organization. The Chabad house in Ramat Gan has expanded. Five more shluchim have joined the team and work in various neighborhoods in the city. Midreshet Hisorerus was started for women and girls and is run by R’ Gal’s daughter. Dozens of women and girls attend every day and participate in shiurim. Girls who were far from the world of Torah and mitzvos learn to appreciate the depth of Torah. Many of them have established Chassidic homes.
ProJect after ProJect
R’ Gal went back to his shiurim and Chabad house and to the movies he produced. This time it was a series of videos called Chaburat Ha’Geula which were aimed at the frum crowd, all with messages of Geula. They were quality films and were very successful. In 5760, R’ Gal opened Beis Maasim Tovim in Ramat Gan, an enormous chesed operation which distributes food, provides help for children, etc. There is also a soup kitchen. He started an organization called Yehuda V’Yisroel which is aimed at thousands of gifted, creative, artistic children who
Issue 850 • �
THE TRAVELS OF TWO SHOFARS
By Menachem Ziegelboim
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn zt”l, the father of the Rebbe, had two precious shofars. They came into his possession as an inheritance from his holy ancestors. Every Rosh HaShana, he would stand on the bima in the center of the large shul in Yekaterinoslav and remove the black shofar from its bag and blow it. This shofar was referred to as the “black shofar” and it was from the Rebbe Maharash. After Reb Levi Yitzchok was arrested and exiled to Kazakhstan, the shofar remained with his wife, Rebbetzin Chana a”h. It was most surprising that this shofar had been overlooked by the evil ones when they conducted a thorough search of his home. The Rebbetzin quickly entrusted the precious shofar to the Chassid Rabbi Yehuda Gurary, who also lived in Yekaterinoslav, with the hopes of recovering it in better days. Eventually, Rebbetzin Chana
joined her husband in exile. She knew that her husband would be there for a number of years and would need a shofar for Rosh HaShana. She retrieved the shofar from the son of R’ Gurary and took it to Chili.
Years passed. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Raskin, who together with his sons had greatly assisted R’ Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana, left Russia. Before he left, he asked the Rebbetzin, with whom he was close, to give him the shofar so he could take it out of Russia and it would not fall into the wrong hands. The Rebbetzin gave him the black shofar that had remained in her possession after her husband died. R’ Raskin had the shofar for six years and he blew it every year until Elul 5710/1950. One day, R’ Dovber Chaskind went to R’ Yaakov Yosef and told him that he came as an emissary of the Rebbe Rayatz’s son-in-law. The future Rebbe had heard that he had his father’s black shofar,
and since he was his father’s inheritor, he wanted the shofar. R’ Yaakov Yosef did not hesitate, although it was hard for him to give up something so precious. However, he asked for something in exchange, for an item that belonged to the Rebbe Rayatz. The Rebbe gave him a handkerchief that the Rebbe Rayatz had used, and said that since he was a baal tokeia, he could cover the shofar with this handkerchief. A year later, R’ Raskin wrote a letter to Rebbetzin Chana in which he expressed his emotion over the usage of this shofar: “I was delighted to read what my son Dovid wrote to me, that on Rosh HaShana, this year, they blew the black shofar of the Rebbe Maharash, which I took from your esteemed honor in Alma Ata eight years ago. I blew it for six years every Rosh HaShana and enabled others to fulfill their obligation. “Last year, when I received a letter from their son who asked
16 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
R’ Yaakov Yosef Raskin blowing the shofar on a weekday in Elul at the Rebbe’s minyan
me for it [the shofar], I’ll admit the truth and won’t deny that it was very hard for me to part with it, but I could not refuse the Rebbe’s request. “Now that I heard that they blew it on Rosh HaShana by the Rebbe, I was very happy that this took place through me, for I brought it from Russia to here and guarded it like the pupil of my eye, and it finally came into the possession of their son. “The small white shofar of the Tzemach Tzedek is surely with R’ Tzvi Rabinowitz, may Hashem have mercy on him and all of Anash in Russia ...”
A trolley was approaching and his heart froze. Just a few inches separated the shofar from the wheels. Miraculously, it did not run over the shofar. “At that moment, I realized the shofar was not supposed to be in my possession,” said R’ Hillel, “which is why I rushed to bring it to you.”
today?” asked R’ Chaim Ber, seemingly off topic. R’ Yosef said he had. “So blow this shofar for me,” he begged, until he finally blew the shofar. R’ Yosef was about to leave the house when Chaim Ber called him once again. “Please take the shofar to your home,” he asked. R’ Yosef was surprised by this request, for he knew how Chaim Ber guarded the shofar like a treasure. Nevertheless, he did what he asked. Chaim Ber had apparently felt that his days were numbered and that the shofar needed to be under greater care. R’ Yosef Nimotin was arrested at some later point and after a
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What was the story of the other shofar, the white one? When R’ Levi Yitzchok was in exile in Alma Ata, there was a simple man there together with him by the name of Chaim Ber. After R’ Levi Yitzchok passed away, this Jew moved to Chernovitz where he lived till his final day.
During the last Elul of his life, Chaim Ber called for the Chassid R’ Yosef Nimotin, who was also there with him. He told him that he had never used the shofar, but that year he wanted to hear the t’kios from this holy shofar that had come from the Tzemach Tzedek. R’ Yosef refused since he was afraid to blow it. On the morning of Rosh HaShana, R’ Yosef went to Chaim Ber’s house to visit him. The shofar was already on the table. R’ Chaim Ber asked his friend once again to blow it, but R’ Yosef said he wanted to blow the shofar he was used to blowing. “Did you go to the mikva
a hand suddenly and quickly placed the shofar in front of him. R’ Yosef caught a glimpse of the back of Hillel Lieberov as he disappeared out the door. R’ Yosef took the shofar and immediately recognized it as the holy shofar. His hands shook with emotion. He had not expected the shofar to end up in his hands again and at such a significant time, shortly before the blowing of the shofar. He wondered what made his friend rush to return the shofar and in such a fashion. They later met and R’ Hillel told him the following story. On Rosh HaShana morning, R’ Hillel had taken the shofar with him on his way to shul. He intended on blowing it with the intention of arousing mercy on himself and his family. He knew quite well how much mercy the Jewish people needed on this fateful day, when the communists persecuted every Jew who maintained his Jewishness. When he arrived at shul, he noticed that the shofar wasn’t there. At first, he thought his eyes were deceiving him and he began searching his bag, but he soon saw, to his consternation, that it was gone! His heart skipped a beat. He was beside himself. He realized he must have lost it somewhere, on his way from home to shul, but it wasn’t likely that he would find it. Nevertheless, he retraced his steps. Who knows? Maybe the z’chus of the holy shofar would stand by him. Brokenheartedly, he rushed along as he scanned the streets for the shofar. Maybe it was in the middle of the street and maybe it had been pushed aside by the feet of passersby. Then, he saw it! It wasn’t far from the trolley tracks. A trolley was approaching and his heart froze. Just a few inches separated the shofar from the wheels. Miraculously, it did not run over the shofar and shatter it. “At that moment, I realized the shofar was not supposed to be in my possession,” said R’ Hillel, “which is why I rushed to bring it to you.” More time passed, and it was 5706/1946 when hundreds of Chassidishe families were able to leave Russia. R’ Simcha Gorodetzky asked R’ Yosef Nimotin to entrust the shofar with him so he could bring it to the Rebbe. This was no simple shlichus since the shofar was likely to fall into the hands of the border guards, but the miracles continued. R’ Simcha was able to cross the border and he gave the shofar to the Rebbe, who would take it with him to the bima on Rosh HaShana.
(Toldos Levi Yitzchok)
short trial he was exiled to a labor camp for six years. His wife gave the shofar to his friend, R’ Hillel Lieberov, who kept it throughout R’ Yosef’s incarceration. This holy shofar underwent other tribulations. After R’ Yosef was released, he began davening at the shul of the Iranian Jews. It was the first Rosh HaShana, when R’ Yosef stood in his place, ready to pour out his heart to Hashem on the Day of Judgment. He was standing there when
18 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
the Month of tishrei
I WON THE RAFFLE
the trip to new York was long and hard and lasted a week. We were very excited, and on the way we told stories about chassidim traveling to the rebbe and learned maamarim about the special quality of tishrei.
By Rabbi Yekusiel Green, author of many Chassidic works Prepared for publication by Nosson Avrohom
The first time I had the privilege of being with the Rebbe was in 5723/1963. A raffle for a ticket was held in Tammuz and the people who had bought tickets were very excited. Everyone was hoping to win that raffle. That year, the yeshiva g’dola of Tomchei T’mimim moved from Lud to Kfar Chabad. The Chassid R’ Folya Kahn knew how to drum up excitement about a trip to the Rebbe and draw in many people, but in those tough times they only managed to raise the cost of half of a round-trip ticket from among the participants. 1000 liros were enough for a one-way ticket and the winner would have to pay the rest. I was told I had won and I can’t begin to describe how thrilled I was. Unlike today, flying overseas was a major event. There were no direct flights from Eretz Yisroel to the United States at the time. My grandfather a”h had left me a bank account that he had opened for me with a large sum of money for the future. I withdrew it and collected a little
more and was able to pay 2000 liros for the rest of the ticket. I sent a letter to the Rebbe in which I informed him that I had won the raffle. A few days later, on 8 Tammuz, I received a response – a full page with specific instructions about how to prepare for the trip: In response to your letter of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, the month of Geula, in which you write that you won the raffle to travel here for the upcoming Tishrei ... Surely, you will prepare yourself properly, for your own
sake and because you are the shliach of all the participants in the raffle. The manner of preparing should be discussed with the mashpiim in your area. We are promised, if you toil you will be successful, and the merit of the many helps you. We are in the month of Geula, the redemption of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, Nasi Yisroel, and the body follows the head. At an auspicious time the pidyon nefesh in your letter will be read at the gravesite of the Rebbe, my father-in-law. I consulted with R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman, who gave me specific instructions about which maamarim I should learn and how I should prepare for the trip. I made the trip together with the talmidim of that year’s K’vutza group, who received permission from the IDF to go to the Rebbe, although it was only for three months. The trip was long and hard and lasted a week. We were very excited, and on the way we told stories about Chassidim traveling to the Rebbe and learned maamarim about the special quality of Tishrei. We took a train from Tel Aviv to Haifa on Sunday, where we boarded a ship which took us to Marseilles, France. In France we took an overnight train to Paris. In the morning, we were welcomed by two Chassidim in France who were also members of the European Office, R’ Hillel Azimov and R’ Refael
Issue 850 • �
the Month of tishrei
the Rebbe. During the hakafos I walked with the Rebbe for the first and seventh hakafa. Another extraordinary kiruv I enjoyed on Simchas Torah was when the Rebbe’s secretary, R’ Moshe Leib Rodstein, came over to me and invited me to eat the Yom Tov meal with the Rebbe in the Rebbe Rayatz’s home. Only ten people of the distinguished Chassidim were invited, and there I was with them. At the head of the table was an empty chair for the Rebbe Rayatz. The Rebbe sat on the left of the table and Rashag, who was older than the Rebbe, sat on the right. I sat at the end of the table on Rashag’s side. During the meal, Rashag spoke with the Rebbe. R’ Yudel Shmotkin, who sat next to me, kept urging me to eat quickly so as not to delay the Rebbe. The Rebbe would extend the eating time on purpose, so as not to inconvenience guests who were still eating. The Rebbe would not begin eating until every person had been served and the waiter had sat down. I remember that these practices of the Rebbe astonished and moved me. They made such an impression on me that I decided to adopt them. There are times that you see a woman serving and before she is done, people have already finished eating their portion. At the end of the meal, one of the people in charge came over to me and said, “Yekusiel, the Rebbe wants you to lead the bentching.” I nearly fainted. He explained how to say the zimun in the Rebbe’s presence. What can I say … to sit in the Rebbe’s presence and to say, “B’r’shus Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu” is an unforgettable experience.
The Rebbe walking from the sukka to his room
Wilschansky. On Friday, we boarded a small plane that took us to London, where our group stayed with different Lubavitchers who were happy to host guests of the Rebbe. I stayed with the Vogels. In London, we also enjoyed a warm welcome and were showered with lots of love. R’ Bentzion Shagalov, who ran a store that sold coats and sweaters, outfitted every bachur with a warm coat. That was the atmosphere back then … On Sunday, we took a direct flight from London to New York. The first time we saw the Rebbe was on Monday, when the Rebbe came in for Krias Ha’Torah in the small zal. It is hard to convey in words the experience I had in Crown Heights. The Rebbe davened upstairs for all the t’fillos of Mincha and Maariv and we stood relatively close to him. In general, in those days the tone was more close and intimate. The Rebbe davened in the big zal only on Shabbos. We were not allowed to participate, since we
had instructions from the Rebbe to keep the yeshiva’s s’darim. We had to learn Chassidus between Mincha and Maariv with the other talmidim of the yeshiva, a practice I stick to till this very day.
at the KiNg’s taBLe
As the winner of the raffle, I had a number of wonderful privileges. On Rosh HaShana during the t’kios, I was able to stand on the bima where only a few senior Chassidim stood, even though I was a merely a young bachur, all of 20 years old. Those were unforgettable moments. The panim were lying there in front of the Rebbe. The Rebbe was wrapped in his tallis and he cried for ten long minutes. One could sense how the Rebbe felt for each of the people who had turned to him, and was pleading on behalf of Am Yisroel. There was a feeling of awe and trepidation. Until today, every year during the t’kios, I recall those moments saturated with resplendence and feel pain in my heart from those tears of
20 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
After a Tishrei packed with these special experiences, all the talmidim of the K’vutza prepared for yechidus. We were able to go in, one after another, for a private yechidus in the middle of Cheshvan. A few days before I had yechidus, I received a letter from R’ Dovid Kretz, and before I tell you about my yechidus with the Rebbe, I must tell you about this letter. About a year before this trip, another three bachurim (Yeshaya Hertzel, Aryeh Levin, and Dovid Kretz) and I decided to go to Miron to the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. We took a train to Haifa and then several buses. We left early in the morning, which is why we did not daven Shacharis in yeshiva. We took our t’fillin along so we could daven on the train. When we finished davening, there was still plenty of time until Haifa, so we went among the passengers and offered t’fillin. In one car there were fifteen or so guys from Kibbutz Ein Dor in the Jezreel Valley and we asked them to put on t’fillin. They were young in spirit, and unlike the more polite folks who merely agreed or didn’t, they asked us questions, such as why should we do this if we don’t believe? I patiently explained what we had learned in yeshiva and answered their questions one by one. As the conversation continued, more and more people came from other compartments of the train to watch the Chabad boys having a dialog with the kibbutznik guys. We were an interesting attraction. Interestingly, their teacher, Mr. Gazit, who was the most contrary, was the first to put on t’fillin. After he took them off, he
R’ Green giving the Rebbe one of his s’farim during “dollars” on Sunday
said thank you to me for filling in for him with several lessons on Judaism. Two weeks later, I received a letter from Danny Ben Arom, representative of the Lehava group, who wrote that following that conversation on the train, they had more questions; he wanted to know whether he could write them and receive answers. Of course I agreed and every few weeks I would get a letter of questions. After consulting with my friends, I would respond. They would hang the letter with the answers on the bulletin board before the symposium they had once every two weeks, during which they would discuss the answers and raise additional questions. Now, a few days before having yechidus, Dovid Kretz sent me their letter in which they wrote that they were inviting me to appear at the symposium. When I met with the Rebbe, I submitted their letter. I had already written to the Rebbe in earlier letters about my involvement with them.
The Rebbe’s answer was: [Only] Married men should go to places that are mixed [men and women] and not yeshiva bachurim and bachurim. I learned that even Hafatzas Ha’maayanos has limits in order to protect one’s Yiras Shamayim. You can’t do everything.
a LooK aNd its sigNificaNce
I will end with something I experienced in Tishrei 5732/1972. As they sang one of the niggunim, I was standing on a bench facing the Rebbe. R’ Levi Yitzchok Bruk stood next to me. At a certain point, he took my hand and said, “Yekusiel, it’s already quite a few seconds that the Rebbe stopped clapping and is staring at you. What did you do to deserve this?” I blushed. I looked up and saw the Rebbe gazing at me while all of 770 danced and rejoiced. As to the significance of this, that is something personal …
Issue 850 • �
TECHNOLOGY IN THE SERVICE OF SHLICHUS
By Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz Shliach, Beit Shaan
WeBsites as hoLy sites
The Rebbe explains that in our times we can see how modern technology not only prepares the world for Geula, but is itself part of the Geula process. Chabad houses use the Internet to reach tens of thousands of Jews (and nonJews, l’havdil). For many of them, it’s the only way to be in touch with a Chabad house and with Judaism. Many people who ask that their mezuzos be checked, that their kitchen be koshered, etc. say that their first exposure to Judaism was by visiting the Chabad house website. There is a famous story about a shliach in Australia, Rabbi Moss, who answers questions about Judaism over the Internet. A girl, who discovered the site and learned many things, corresponded with the rabbi. At some point, she asked him why the Jewish religion seems to obsess about details. What
could happen already if a letter is missing in a mezuza? To her surprise, he did not answer right away. A week later, she sent a reminder. Rabbi Moss said he had actually answered right away, but he had left the dot out of the dot.com address. What difference could a little dot make when he spelled everything right? The point was, of course, that every detail does matter. Just as a missing dot prevented them from communicating, so too, in order for us to be able to connect with G-d through t’fillin or mezuzos or whatever the mitzva is, the details matter.
dUe to a smaLL techNoLogicaL error
One of the incredible inventions of modern times is the telephone and cell phones. The Rebbe refers to this (Truma 5744 etc.) and says that a person can be speaking here, and his words can be heard at the ends of the world. The Rebbe calls
this “ko’ach adir,” and this tremendous force was created solely for spreading Torah, doing chesed, etc. One Erev Sukkos, the phone in my house rang. It was R’ Mendel Gorewitz, the shliach in Frankfurt, Germany. He said that one of the friends of his Chabad house wanted to donate money for a needy person in Beit Shaan for Yom Tov, and he wanted to know whether the money could be sent through me. I agreed. The man, Robert was his name, called me and told me the name of the person in Beit Shaan and the amount of money he wanted to give him, an amount generous enough that with it the man could buy all his family’s needs for Yom Tov. Five minutes later, the man was in my house to take the money. I asked him how he knew Robert from Germany. He said, “It’s an amazing story of hashgacha pratis and I would like this story to be publicized.” So I’m writing it here.
22 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
“Yesterday,” began the man, “two days before Sukkos, there were no signs of preparation for Yom Tov in my house. My wife and I and the children had no idea what we would eat on Yom Tov. My wife pressured me and so I went to the grocery store in the hopes that he would extend me more credit, but the grocery store owner was unwilling to do so. I tried using my credit card; maybe there would be a miracle. But no, it didn’t work. I went to the bank to ask whether I could take out some cash, but the answer was no. “I was, understandably, very unhappy. I sat down on a bench near the house and began talking to G-d. I said to him, ‘You must help me. I love you. I built a sukka and I will celebrate the holiday in the sukka. I did my part; now you do yours and send me money.’ “After I finished talking to G-d, and upon seeing no way of getting the money I needed, I figured at least I could go and
“He went on and on until I said, ‘Listen here Robert. It seems like you’re having fun at my expense. I am suffering as it is, and I feel like my world is crumbling around me, so please find someone else to have fun with.’”
get a haircut in honor of Yom Tov (I would pay him after Yom Tov, of course). I would do mine, and G-d would do his. “My cell phone rang. ‘This is Robert from Frankfurt. How are you Meir?’ asked a voice in Hebrew. “‘You have the wrong number,’ I told him. ‘I’m not Meir and I don’t know any Robert from Frankfurt.’ “He insisted, ‘If you’re not Meir, maybe you can get Meir’s number for me. He lives at that moshav, what’s it called, near Yokneam.’ “He went on and on until I said, ‘Listen here Robert. It
seems like you’re having some fun at my expense, and I’d prefer if you found someone else. I am suffering as it is, and I feel like my world is crumbling around me, so please find someone else to have fun with.’ “He didn’t give up. He asked me, ‘Why do you feel like your world is crumbling?’ I told him my situation, that it’s Erev Yom Tov and I have no money, no money in the bank, and no credit at the grocer, and that I had spoken to G-d and I don’t know what else to do. “Do you know what happened next? He said, ‘Don’t worry. I will send you whatever you need.’ He tried sending me the money
Issue 850 • �
through the bank or the post office but that did not work out. He asked me whether I have a shliach in Beit Shaan. ‘I’ll speak to our shliach in Frankfurt, and through the two shluchim, I’ll send the money to you.’” The man received his money, said thanks to Hashem and his angel, as well as to the Rebbe whose shluchim are all over the world. He received the money within five minutes (without favors from the bank or post office). He was also thankful for the mistake of one digit that enabled an indigent Jew in Beit Shaan to connect with a donor from the next continent. That’s why there is a telephone. the mayor, the director of the educational department, and supervisors from the Education Ministry. Then during the summer of 2010, a certain religious organization came to Maalot and advertised their preschools with a superior program. Dozens of parents said they would leave the Chabad schools for the new schools. R’ Kaspi was in trouble. He wrote to the Rebbe and asked for a bracha. Nothing had changed by the end of summer vacation and there was a serious possibility that at least some Chabad schools would have to close. When the school year began, the new preschools of that organization opened, but during the first inspection performed by the Education Ministry, serious problems were discovered that could not be fixed and the schools were closed. Amazingly, more children joined the Chabad schools than had left them. Now, everyone knows that everything in the Chabad schools is on a high level with wellequipped classrooms, computers and more – all the bells and whistles. mishloach manos, or a shofar, depending on the time of year. One Rosh HaShana, he took along a volunteer and two shofars, and walked from one military post to another in the area. Many soldiers heard the shofar and then R’ Nachshon and his assistant went back to Efrat. He wanted to make use of every minute, and so on the way he read chapters of T’hillim while the other fellow finished the daily Chitas. Suddenly, they heard a voice in Arabic saying, “Ya Sadam, Ya Sadam.” R’ Nachshon looked up from his T’hillim to see who was shouting there in the wilderness. On the edge of the road, among the rows in the vineyard, lay an Arab, holding a rifle which was aimed at them. In a quick movement, R’ Nachshon made believe he was taking out his revolver, but he actually took out a shofar. He yelled in Arabic, “Halt!” Incredibly, the Arab got up and fled. Apparently, a shofar is also a technological wonder.
sUPerior techNoLogy at chaBad schooLs
R’ Yigal Kaspi, shliach in Maalot, is well aware of the power of technology for his personal use, as well as a means to improve the preschools that he runs in Maalot. In the distant past, R’ Kaspi learned some practical occupations like electronics, air conditioning, and building renovations, and he uses this knowledge in his shlichus. He built, almost with his own two hands, all the Chabad house buildings, including the electrical systems for the mikvaos, air conditioning, soup kitchen, and more. When he opened his preschools, he advertised that they would have computers with advanced educational programs. The parents were thrilled and came in droves to sign up their kids. R’ Kaspi made sure that all the city leaders knew about his advanced preschools, and he received compliments from
As Sukkos approached, R’ Nissan remembered that it would be good if he had a trailer to hitch to his car on which he could build a sukka. He went to a friend of his and said, “Don’t you have a trailer attachment?” The man said he did, but all the lights on it did not work. R’ Nachshon told him, “I have a friend who is an electrician and a friend who is a carpenter and a friend who is somewhat wealthy ...” The electrician spent two hours and the lights worked. The carpenter set up the sukka, and the wealthy friend paid for the refreshments, the music, and
the shofar that did Not shoot
R’ Nissan Nachshon is a shliach in Efrat, but he reaches out to all the yishuvim of Gush Etzyon, mainly to the many IDF camps and posts in the area. R’ Nachshon is known and beloved by all the commanders and soldiers. They all know that there is no limit to his devotion to the soldiers. He sometimes appears at a military post in the middle of the night with coffee and a niggun, and sometimes he shows up at dawn with t’fillin,
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the Dalet Minim, and the mobile sukka was on its way. On a trip somewhere in the hills of Yehuda-Shomron, R’ Nachshon parked his mobile sukka near a military vehicle on the side of the road. While the soldiers stood gawking, a biker rode up, loaded with biking equipment and a top-quality camera. He had invested a lot of time and money into his hobbies of bike riding and photography. He asked permission to take a picture of the military vehicle next to the mobile sukka. R’ Nachshon agreed as long as the man was willing to have his picture taken with the Dalet Minim. Thanks to the bike and the professional camera, they all entered the small sukka and enthusiastically fulfilled the mitzvos of Sukkos.
WheN techNoLogy stoPPed BecaUse of miVtza t’fiLLiN
R’ Shmuel Reinitz, shliach in Beit Shaan, regularly visits all the industrial and business centers of Beit Shaan. At one of the factories he regularly visits, there are three employees who put on t’fillin whenever he comes. He also works on building his relationship with the owner of the factory (who only occasionally visits Beit Shaan) and has even received nice donations from him for the Chabad house. A new manager showed up, and he did not like the idea of workers putting on t’fillin in the middle of the workday. He said that t’fillin could be put on only during breaks. R’ Reinitz understood very well that during the breaks the workers want to relax and drink something, and this would never be a feasible option. The manager told R’
Reinitz to leave and not to come back. R’ Reinitz left, but he did not give up so fast. When he met the factory owner, the latter said that he was happy when the shliach came and men put on t’fillin. The following week, R’ Reinitz was back at the factory and before the manager could open his mouth, he told him that the owner had said he could come anytime and put t’fillin on with the employees. R’ Reinitz went to his usual posts and put t’fillin on with whoever needed it. Friends told him an extraordinary story. “Don’t ask what happened last week. As soon as the manager got rid of you, something went wrong and the machines stopped working. They brought in
artillery corps. His job is to sit in an armored command vehicle that triangulates artillery firing coordinates according to satellite (GPS) and other technological wonders. The truth is that most of the guys in the command group don’t put on t’fillin. They are intellectuals, academics and very enlightened … but sometimes other soldiers come and R’ Roi doesn’t miss the opportunity. Once, there were training sessions in the south and, as I said, the enlightened ones did not want to put on t’fillin. One morning, after an entire night of exercises, the command carrier suddenly stopped working. As a result, all the vehicles and the entire exercise ground to a halt.
He asked permission to take a picture of the military vehicle next to the mobile sukka. R’ Nachshon agreed as long as the man was willing to have his picture taken with the Dalet Minim.
technicians and only after four hours of waiting did it all start up again. We all told the manager that it was a sign from Heaven. He had gained about five minutes of our work when we didn’t put on t’fillin and lost four hours. That’s how technology stopped working for the sake of Mivtza T’fillin.
Why did the Lead armored VehicLe stoP WorKiNg?
R’ Roi Tor, shliach to the kibbutzim in the Beit Shaan Valley, continues doing mivtzaim even while in the Reserves. Without revealing many military secrets, R’ Tor serves in the
The company’s munitions team came to fix the lead artillery half-track, but was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, R’ Roi put t’fillin on with all the mechanics. Bigger experts showed up, but they too, could not figure out why the vehicle had stopped. They also put on t’fillin. It was only after they had all put on t’fillin that someone suddenly asked, “Maybe there is no more gas?” They put several liters of gas into the gas tank and it began moving. R’ Roi, and you dear readers, know why this happened. Please daven for the refua shleima of Yaakov Aryeh ben Rochel.
Issue 850 • �
STANDING IN PRAYER BEFORE THE KING OF KINGS
Every year, before the Yomim Nora’im, they pack their bags and leave their neighborhood shul. They are baalei t’filla who give honor to Hashem with their voices. * We spoke with three Lubavitcher chazanim-baalei t’filla to hear about the world of t’filla and chazanus, about how they prepare for the role of shliach tzibbur, how they feel when they stand up there with their backs to us, and how they feel about leaving Crown Heights as thousands pour into the community.
By Menachem Ziegelboim
In Lubavitch there were never chazanim, but there were baalei t’filla. The difference between them is significant. In shuls and battei midrash, especially Chassidishe ones, they looked for baalei t’filla for the Yomim Nora’im; those with good voices who can represent the tzibbur and lift up their t’fillos to Heaven. Before the Yomim Nora’im, I spoke with three baalei t’filla who daven for the tzibbur on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. R’ Moshe Adler is a well-known
chazan who has been davening for years in various shuls. In recent years, he has been davening in the Anshei Sfard (aka the Sephardic Shul) in Boro Park. I also spoke to the baalei t’filla twins, R’ Mordechai and Meir Ziegelboim (my older brothers). R’ Mordechai (Motti) davens by the shliach R’ Dov Drizin in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. R’ Meir davens by the shliach R’ Yosef Yitzchok Geisinsky in Great Neck, Long Island.
first time Before the amUd
The first time, when his stomach is churning, is always an experience that sets the stage. It’s not as fun as it may seem. His hands grasp the edges of the amud, his eyes are fixed on the words so as not to get confused, and he tries to sing with his voice just right, all this while his heart is pounding. “I was the 16 the first time,” said R’ Mordechai Ziegelboim.
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“I was in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lud. One day, at the beginning of Elul, the mashgiach R’ Butman motioned to me to come to his office. I wondered what I had done wrong, for I did not remember anything in particular that would have warranted attention. “I followed him. The door to his office was closed. He looked at me a moment and said, ‘Tuck your shirt in so you look presentable.’ I found that odd, for since when does a mashgiach in a Chabad yeshiva insist that a talmid’s shirt always be tucked in? But I listened to him and then he opened the door to his office. A man was sitting there whom I did not know.
“R’ Butman introduced us and the man got straight to the point. ‘I am the director of a senior home here in Lud. Most of the seniors are interested in davening on the Yomim Nora’im. We need a chazan. Would you come and daven for us?’ He told me he’d pay $200. “I don’t know what surprised me more, the invitation to be the chazan or the money, but I immediately agreed without thinking whether I was fit for the position. I was to daven twice on Rosh HaShana with Musaf on both days and Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur. Nothing about Musaf on Yom Kippur. I agreed. “Today, when I think about it, I see how it was all Hashgacha Pratis. If I had been asked to daven Musaf on Yom Kippur, I would not have agreed. That seemed way too much, since while the chazan fasts his throat is parched and in addition he needs to stand for hours, but since I didn’t know, I agreed. “Of course, on Rosh HaShana I got permission from the hanhala of yeshiva to leave in the middle of Shacharis so I could walk over to the home. On Yom Kippur, I stayed in yeshiva, which was practically empty for Bein HaZ’manim, and I went to daven Kol Nidrei. The next day, I remained in yeshiva and davened Musaf with a small minyan of balabatim from the neighborhood. “That night, after the fast, I took a bus to pick up my money. As soon as I walked into the man’s house I felt something was amiss. To my utter surprise, the man was very upset. He asked, ‘Why didn’t you come today? We waited and waited. The ladies were afraid something had happened to you.’ “I innocently responded,
‘What are you saying? We did not discuss Musaf! You didn’t say a word about it! That’s why I didn’t come.’ “He said, ‘There’s no such thing. Whoever davens Kol Nidrei is the one who davens Musaf. Everyone knows that,’ he fumed. I later learned that this was true, but I was a kid and had no idea. ‘What shall I do now?’ he asked. “He finally got up and began counting out money. I think he gave me something like $120. I left feeling quite despondent. That was my first attempt.” Mordechai’s twin brother Meir’s first experience as a chazan took place later when he lived in Passaic. There was a large shul in the center of town called Ahavas Yisroel. It was a Conservative shul that had people attending on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and they used a microphone. The shul had hundreds of seats. “The congregants got older or moved away and the shul was nearly empty. In order to save the place, the Orthodox took it over. On the Yomim Nora’im of the first year, I was asked to be the chazan and that was my trial by fire. “It was a shul that did not belong to a particular k’hilla. Among the people was a man from the old days who had davened there for years. He was a short man and hard of hearing, who was used to the microphone. During the davening I heard him whisper loudly, ‘This young fellow has a strong voice and I can hear every word. We don’t need a microphone.’ To me, that was the biggest compliment and it gave me a sense of relief. The k’hilla had passed another sort of test in the positive transformation of the shul.” R’ Moshe Adler also started
Issue 850 • �
quite young. He was living in the Shomer Emunim neighborhood of Yerushalayim at the time. The first time he served as chazan was when he was 16 and had just started learning in yeshiva g’dola (zal/beis midrash). In 5740 he was asked to be the chazan in the big shul in Teveria. He went there once a month as well as on the Yomim Nora’im. At age 18 he traveled to the US where he was asked to be chazan for the Ohev Tzedek congregation in Pennsylvania. His family was not Chabad and at this point in his life he started visiting 770. He was actually going back to his roots, for his grandfather, R’
KNoWiNg Before Whom yoU staNd
Chazanim move around for many reasons, whether it be a desire for change or wanting to move up to bigger, more prominent shuls, which comes along with a bigger salary. The nusach can be different as are the people and style. “Over the years, I have been a chazan mainly in the US since I moved here when I was young,” said R’ Motti Ziegelboim. “I davened for a number of years in Riverdale in the Bronx. I davened in various k’hillos throughout the years, except for a three year break when I davened at the
R’ Motti Ziegelboim explains, “The difference between a chazan and a baal t’filla is that a chazan is focused primarily on his voice, since his reputation is being judged by the crowd. A baal t’filla puts more heart into the davening than his voice
Moshe Lerner, was a pillar of the Beis Yisroel Chabad shul in Yerushalayim. He continued learning in 770 and was helped by Lubavitcher relatives who lived in the neighborhood. A few years later, he was asked to be chazan in the German shul in Washington Heights led by Rabbi Mordechai Schneiderman, where they were very pleased with him. The fact that he remained their chazan for 23 years shows how beloved he was. When I asked him what made him stay there so long when chazanim often move around, he shrugged and said, “I was comfortable there and wasn’t looking for variety.”
K’sav Sofer shul of Rabbi Nissan Mangel in Crown Heights.” When R’ Motti received an offer to serve as chazan for R’ Geisinsky in Great Neck, he accepted it. “Most of the congregation is Persian, so I was asked to daven with the Sephardic pronunciation but in Nusach Ari, and to use Sephardic niggunim in the davening so people would feel comfortable. “I was there for five years until I became chazan in Summerlin, Las Vegas where R’ Yisroel Schanowitz had just completed building a new shul.
It was huge and gorgeous with the women’s section in an upper gallery. “I have since become a chazan for R’ Drizin in New Jersey.” R’ Meir Ziegelboim also moved around. He was chazan at the old B’nai Abraham synagogue in Philadelphia, which is near Independence Hall. This shul has hundreds of seats and is over a hundred years old. It used to be a Reform temple and it became an Orthodox shul when hardly anyone attended the temple. The shliach is R’ Yochanan Goldman. “I began davening there when the shul became Orthodox. It was a few days after the 9/11 tragedy and all of America was religiously inspired and flocking to their houses of worship. Jews, too, came en masse to shul. This shul was full. It hadn’t seen a crowd that large in many years.” Since the shul had just become Orthodox, how did you know who the crowd would consist of and how to prepare? “The shliach told me that he had no idea who would be coming and he asked me to be prepared for any scenario. In the end, it was an American crowd of all ages and they all enjoyed it very much.” R’ Meir remained there for a number of years until he replaced his brother Motti in Great Neck. R’ Meir describes the job as complicated and challenging. The machzor is Chabad, but he needs to include tunes and songs from the Persian community. “It’s a fine balance between preserving Nusach Chabad while making the davening accessible to all so they all feel comfortable. From my father a”h I absorbed the idea that a shliach tzibbur is a shliach of the tzibbur and not of himself. I’m not doing a concert. If the tzibbur is disconnected,
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then the chazan is like a captain without a ship. ‘You need to feel out the congregation and find a way to uplift them, not just that they should hear you but they should take part in the davening,’ is what he told me. “I daven with the Sephardic pronunciation and use tunes that they know. When there are piyutim that are like a dialogue between the chazan and the kahal and I hear them participating, even if they don’t always understand the words, they feel part of the t’filla. As a shliach tzibbur, that is worth everything.” One of the special moments on the Yomim Nora’im is during Tashlich. “The Chabad shul is located in a pretty place, surrounded by woods and a stunning lake. In the afternoon, everyone goes to the lake and the tzibbur recites Sephardic piyutim which I learned and everyone sings. Those are uplifting moments at the lake.” In recent years, R’ Moshe Adler is the chazan and baal t’filla at the Anshei Sfard shul in Boro Park. It is a huge, old shul with about 700 seats. “Boro Park has numerous shuls, but back then, a hundred years ago, there was one big shul, Beth-El, where the famous chazanim Mordechai Hershman a”h, Moshe Koussevitzky a”h and Moshe Stern sang. When Chassidim came from Europe in the previous century and wanted to daven Nusach Sfard, there was no shul for them, so they founded this shul which was called, simply, Anshei Sfarad for the nusach they used even though they all came from Eastern Europe. The king of the chazanim, Yossele Rosenblatt, davened in this shul for two years. I feel that it’s a great privilege to stand where the
legendary Yossele stood.” R’ Adler looks Lubavitch, and although he doesn’t officially represent Chabad, people don’t make that distinction. “People really relate to the Chabad niggunim that I use in the davening, whether on the Yomim Nora’im or on special Shabbasos. Singing Chabad niggunim gives me a good feeling when I am not with my usual k’hilla. I try to include Chabad niggunim whenever possible.” Although R’ Adler has a particularly loud voice, he does not see himself as a chazan as much as a baal t’filla who davens with a “Chassidishe nusach.”
chazan is focused primarily on his voice, since his reputation is being judged by the crowd. A baal t’filla puts more heart into the davening than his voice. From that perspective, I consider myself a baal t’filla and not a chazan. I don’t repeat words and I don’t stop in the middle of the t’filla to give a concert.” You and R’ Moshe Adler live in Crown Heights. How does it feel to leave Crown Heights for the Yomim Nora’im when you see thousands of people coming to be with the Rebbe? R’ Motti Ziegelboim: “Leaving Crown Heights is routine for me, though I must say that when I When I daven, I don’t just think about the singing but about the
meaning of the words, at the very least, and I try to concentrate on them. People sense this, Boruch Hashem, and I will get feedback from people who tell me that even though they don’t know the meaning of the words of the piyutim, they understand the content because of the niggunim.”
“I stand before the amud with the feeling of responsibility of bringing all the t’fillos to Hashem. When I daven, I don’t just think about the singing but about the meaning of the words, at the very least, and I try to concentrate on them. People sense this, Boruch Hashem, and I will get feedback from people who tell me that even though they don’t know the meaning of the words of the piyutim, they understand the content because of the niggunim.” R’ Motti Ziegelboim explains, “The difference between a chazan and a baal t’filla is that a
leave for the Yomim Nora’im and see the many guests who made the effort to come, I feel a bit bad. But as we were taught, every person needs to be in the place where he accomplishes the most. If he remains where he wants to be and not where he and his talents are needed, he is betraying his role. “What I can say is that except for the years that I davened in Crown Heights, I always davened by shluchim of the Rebbe.” R’ Moshe Adler: “It’s really not easy. When I was a chazan in Washington Heights and had to be there for Sukkos too, I
Issue 850 • �
THE YOMIM NORA’IM ON THE TRAIN OF LIFE
R’ Motti Ziegelboim relates: My father’s hospitalization extended over the Yomim Nora’im of 5770. The shul in Hadassah is beautiful. During the week it is locked and serves as a museum, which is visited by tourists and donors. In 1960, Marc Chagall, the famous artist, designed twelve stained glass windows, each of which represents one tribe. The work took Chagall and his assistants two years to execute, as they applied a special technique that gives the viewer a threedimensional feeling. The inside of the shul is covered with marble from floor to ceiling. The walls are partially covered with plaques in honor of those who made donations. The shul is square and the center is sunken with the amud for the chazan on it to fulfill the verse “From the depths I call out to You, G-d.” It was there, at the shul, that I understood the significance of the expression “the train of life.” It was Shabbos Shuva and the Torah reading had just ended. We had added to the usual seven aliyos in order to allow the new fathers whose wives had just given birth a chance to make a Mi Sh’Beirach. There were women who had given birth to one baby, to twins, and there were even triplets that Shabbos. One of the fathers, from Yerushalayim, who had come to the hospital on Friday night, told me that his wife had just given birth to their sixteenth child. There was a small commotion and one of the men in charge motioned to me to come over. “Can you translate for him?” he asked me. There was a man, his eyes reddened by tears, who barely spoke Hebrew. He said he was a baal t’shuva from California, and his young wife, with whom he had come the night before to the hospital, had died a half an hour before. He came to ask what he needed to do as far as the laws of mourning were concerned. “Today is her 29th birthday. We were married less than two years ago and we have an eleven month old baby. What will I do without her?” The train of life. Some get on board and some get off. *** Yom Kippur 5770. Some of the people who were with us on Rosh HaShana were no longer there. Some were released from the hospital while others passed on. The prayer of U’nesaneh Tokef takes on additional meaning when recited in a hospital. New fathers came to shul on Yom Kippur too, but the wailing heard early in the morning from one of the rooms and the covered bed that silently passed through the corridor let us know that another one had gotten off the train. That day, I did no vocal acrobatics when it came to “… How many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time … Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer ...” noted in my contract that I would be with the Rebbe for Simchas Torah. I wasn’t going to forgo that, certainly not when I am relatively close, in Boro Park.
“i did Not feeL deserViNg”
R’ Adler often davens for the amud in the Beis Binyamin shul on Montgomery Street. Surprisingly, although he has been living in Crown Heights for about thirty years, he had not davened for the amud in 770 until so recently. Why? “I was afraid. I felt undeserving to daven where the Rebbe is.” Is there room for professional advancement? “Definitely. Chazanus is not my only parnasa. During the week I work for a living, and there are stresses which effect my voice. I can sense it immediately. There are only a few chazanim who don’t do anything else but sing. They need peace of mind in order not to wear down their voice. During the week they train and practice. It’s not at all just about going over to the amud and opening one’s mouth. “Maybe it’s time to grow some more. Thank G-d, He gave me the tools and the ability and there is definitely room to develop them further in order to give honor to Hashem with my throat/voice.” How long does it take to prepare for t’fillos? R’ Meir Ziegelboim: “My regular job is in the textile business. That’s the reason I travel a lot by car and plane. Unfortunately, one of the busy seasons is Elul, which is why I am almost always on the road in Elul. I sit on the plane and open a Machzor and look at the words and learn them, getting ‘into’ it. That’s the only way I can feel ready. “A connection with the words is projected by the shliach tzibbur
30 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
to the congregation. Many can’t explain all the words, but people will say, ‘You made me feel, for the first time, the power of the words.’ I consider it a special privilege to know the nusach well and to uplift the k’hilla, enabling them to feel the t’filla in a more pure, elevated way. It’s not chazanus, but a shlichus which Hashem gave me.”
people who had heard me during the t’fillos in the hospital and they told me how moved they had been. My father was suffering greatly at the time. When I told him about what people said, he smiled. It was a moment of nachas amidst all of his suffering.” R’ Meir Ziegelboim: “One year, Rosh HaShana fell out on Thursday and Friday and was followed by Shabbos. On Shabbos, we sat there at the seuda with the shliach and some mekuravim. During the meal, each person said a few words about himself. “When they wanted me to sing something, I sang the popular song, ‘Just One Shabbos.’ When I finished, a woman emotionally said, ‘I live alone in the neighborhood, surrounded by mostly Christian neighbors. They are very nice and they help me out. They often try to convince me to go with them to church. I don’t have much knowledge of Judaism, but when I was sitting here tonight and I heard that song, and I’m surrounded by people who love me, and it’s all so beautiful, the people, the food, and even the tablecloths and candles, it brings
“During the davening I heard him whisper loudly, ‘This young fellow has a strong voice and I can hear every word. We don’t need a microphone.’”
me back to where I really belong. I can be their good neighbor, but I am Jewish and I belong here and I will remain here.’ “One year, one of the mekuravim sat down next to me and said, ‘You sat next to me two years ago and you said something that changed my life.’ I said I was happy to hear that and that I hoped I changed his life for the better. He said, ‘Of course, for the better. I’ve married since then. Although I don’t look Lubavitch, it was a Lubavitcher wedding with the chuppa at 770. Back then, when I met you, I was frustrated and at a loss. I am so happy I met you then.’ “I couldn’t help but ask, ‘What did I say that changed your life?’ He smiled but did not answer. I respected his wishes and till today, I know that I helped change someone’s life but I don’t know what I said. “My shlichus is not only at the amud but also at the meals, where the atmosphere is less formal. Often, that which doesn’t happen in the shul can be accomplished in a friendly talk at the table. These stories are definitely encouraging. They support the feeling that this is also a shlichus.”
eXPerieNces oN the road
Going from k’hilla to k’hilla enables them to meet new people and have interesting experiences: R’ Motti Ziegelboim: “One of the special experiences I’ve had took place three years ago. I was with our father R’ Eliezer Ziegelboim a”h in the hospital, Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem, for the Yomim Nora’im. When the director found out that I am a chazan, I was asked to fill that role. The davening there was on a completely different level, and not just because my father was there and was listening to me daven the t’fillos of the Yomim Nora’im for the first time. “The t’fillos took place in the shul with the famous Chagall windows (see box). The congregation consisted of people from all walks of life, ages, backgrounds and levels of religiosity. I davened each t’filla with a different accent/ pronunciation so all would feel comfortable. Although I did not get paid that year, the experience of davening with my father is one I would not sell for any money. “Many months later, I met
Issue 850 • �
IF IT IS PLEASING TO THE KING, LET A D’VAR MALCHUS (ROYAL EDICT) GO FORTH
One Shabbos in 5751, pamphlets called “D’var Malchus” began to appear in shuls across Eretz Yisroel. They contained sichos of the Rebbe. At first, some people opposed the title “D’var Malchus,” but the Rebbe’s unusual reaction to the kuntres proved that he was pleased. * In recent years, hundreds of D’var Malchus classes have been started in Eretz Yisroel and around the world. * Presented for Rosh HaShana, the time for Kabbalas HaMalchus.
By Shai Gefen
he “D’var Malchus” has become a concept in Lubavitch, a concept that came from Daas Tachton, but was accepted by the king himself who encouraged the initiative and even granted it the official Shaar (frontispiece) of his sichos. The high point was on 15 Iyar 5751, just four months after the D’var Malchus was first distributed, when the Rebbe came down from his room and gave out the D’var Malchus on Inyanei Moshiach and Geula to thousands of people. The excitement on this occasion, when the Rebbe
personally distributed his message to thousands of Jews, was enormous. On the Rebbe’s way out of the beis midrash, he was accompanied by the singing of “Yechi” (which can be seen on video). The Rebbe encouraged this singing by waving his hand. Since the D’var Malchus was first printed, and especially in recent years, it has become the “Order of the Day.” For thousands of Chabad Chassidim, the D’var Malchus is the “Chassidishe parsha,” which they won’t miss learning each week. More recently, numerous shiurim have been started on the D’var Malchus, especially on Thursday
nights and Shabbos, in which people learn the weekly kuntres together.
hoW it BegaN
It was after the Rebbe’s sicha on the night of the 10th of Teves 5751, when a certain rosh yeshiva castigated the Jewish people and spoke about horrible consequences. The Rebbe, the one who loves and defends the Jewish people, said a sicha in which he spoke well of Klal Yisroel. It was a particularly painful sicha. On Shabbos Parshas VaYechi, the Rebbe continued speaking about the good qualities of the Jewish
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people and about the merit of the martyrs of the Holocaust (the Holocaust was a motif used by the other party to scaremonger). People heard the special sicha and waited impatiently to see the sicha edited by the Rebbe. For years there was a notable absence of the Rebbe’s actual words reaching the wider public. The Vaad that published the sichos in Hebrew only distributed them to subscribers. Following this sicha which the Rebbe then edited, R’ Tuvia Peles decided to distribute the D’var Malchus in a way never done before. That is how the D’var Malchus pamphlets came to be. At first, it was a photocopy of the
sicha in Kfar Chabad magazine, where the Rebbe’s sichos were published weekly under the title “D’var Malchus.” The Rebbe’s encouragement and response to this distribution was a huge push to distribute it even further and wider. With time, the booklet expanded and also contained the weekly anthology (under the name Likkutei Sichos) that the Rebbe edited, and selected letters from the Rebbe on various topics, and the broader public began to get acquainted with the Rebbe’s teachings and perspective. The chiddush was that the public was able to “live” with the new sichos that the Rebbe had just said.
At this same time, the Rebbe began to step up the anticipation for the coming of Moshiach in a way that was unprecedented. It began with the famous sicha of 28 Nissan 5751, and every Shabbos after that the Rebbe ratcheted up the level of anticipation to new heights. Thousands of people looked forward each week to the new D’var Malchus, to see the Rebbe’s latest statements regarding the Geula. The D’var Malchus was distributed in the tens of thousands. I still remember davening in Itzkowitz’s shul in B’nei Brak when someone came and put a bundle of kuntreisim on the table. Everybody present,
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without exception, grabbed up the new D’var Malchus that was fresh from the printer. In religious centers in B’nei Brak and Yerushalayim, the D’var Malchus became the topic of the day. Three months after the start of the project, when the kuntreisim were welcomed by broad segments of the public, R’ Tuvia Peles held a special kinus for those who devotedly disseminated the booklets. The kinus was held on Chol HaMoed Pesach 5751 in B’nei Brak, and he told those assembled there how much the Rebbe cared about their work and about his nonstop encouragement. The stories that came forth during the gathering were fascinating. R’ Tuvia told about a woman on a kibbutz (the D’var Malchus was distributed at kibbutzim too) who began reading a D’var Malchus and when she did not understand it and the many acronyms, she called the phone number on it. After learning it, she began making steps back towards religious observance. Today, she is a frum woman. Even people who had never learned the Rebbe’s teachings started taking an interest. R’ Avrohom Ben Shimon, one of the people who distributed the D’var Malchus spoke about a large group of religious Jews in B’nei Brak who, since the printing of the D’var Malchus, began becoming attached to the Rebbe. They couldn’t miss a week without learning it. The impact of the D’var Malchus was apparent everywhere. Even in a negative sense, the impact was apparent. This was seen in the fact that the opponents, in their newspaper, would quote entire segments from the D’var Malchus in order to prove that the Rebbe really said about himself that he is Moshiach. R’ Peles began using nicer graphics and he would highlight key paragraphs so that even those who didn’t read through the entire sicha would see the salient points. R’ Peles said he received detailed instructions from the Rebbe on every aspect of the printing of the D’var Malchus as well as continuous encouragement. A number of weeks after the D’var Malchus was a fact on the ground, the Rebbe – in a most unusual move – granted permission that the frontispiece of his s’farim be used for these kuntreisim too. Since then, the D’var Malchus has been disseminated as part of the official body of the Rebbe’s teachings. When R’ Peles passed by the Rebbe for dollars, he was tremendously encouraged to continue his work. Sometimes the Rebbe gave him an extra dollar, “for the D’var Malchus.” On 11 Tammuz 5751, the Rebbe gave him an extra dollar and said, “Tremendous success for the D’var Malchus.” Then on 9 Nissan 5751: “For all the printing.” On 12 Shevat 5751, “Print all the good things over there.” On 15 Sivan 5751, the Rebbe went to the Ohel while holding the latest D’var Malchus. The pinnacle was when the Rebbe indicated that he wanted to distribute a collection of his sichos on Moshiach and Geula in the format of the D’var Malchus as it was published in Eretz Yisroel. When the Rebbe was asked about printing it in the format of the traditional sichos published by the Vaad L ’Hafatzos Sichos, the Rebbe insisted on distributing it with name “D’var Malchus” and having it published in the same color as the one in Eretz Yisroel. Chassidim didn’t need to have a developed Chassidic sense in order to appreciate the significance of those sichos called D’var Malchus. From the perspective of many years later, when we see that those sichos were the first announcements of the Geula to the world, they take on even greater significance. The D’var Malchus became an inseparable part of the lives of thousands of Chassidim who want to “live with the times.” Then, it turned out that these were the finial sichos we received as of now, in galus, which makes them even more powerful as the Rebbe himself said, “If only Anash, especially the T’mimim, would closely examine what the Rebbe, my father-in-law said … even in his sichos and especially those of 5710 and the year before that.” (Igros Kodesh, volume 4, p. 24) There is no doubt that one can apply to the sichos of the D’var Malchus what the Rebbe said in the sicha of VaYakhel-P’kudei 5710, “In the last hemshech that the Rebbe [Rayatz] wrote, he clarified everything and also hinted to everything” … “The answers to all questions that people ask me – I look for in what was explained in those maamarim.” No wonder then that Chassidim focus on these sichos, appreciating that in these sichos the Rebbe clarified everything and even hinted to everything, and gave answers to all questions. All those involved in these kuntreisim maintain that they feel that hiskashrus nowadays to the Rebbe and chayus in his inyanim result from learning the weekly D’var Malchus. In recent years, shiurim on
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the D’var Malchus have become widespread. Today, there is hardly a k’hilla of Anash in Eretz Yisroel and the world that doesn’t have a shiur in this.
after chaf-zayiN adar 5752
After 27 Adar 5752, the D’var Malchus was no longer distributed until 5755. This bothered the mashpia, R’ Chaim Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg, who felt that the last sichos of the Rebbe should be distributed. He related to Beis Moshiach what happened: “It was Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5755 and a group of bachurim in the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad decided that something had to be done to renew the distribution of the weekly D’var Malchus. Late at night, they decided that things could not go on like this. ‘The Rebbe gave each of us the responsibility to do all that we can!’ It was decided to continue publishing and distributing the D’var Malchus, those sichos from 5751-5752, so they would be learned again and again and people would ‘live with Moshiach,’ and most importantly, people would constantly remember what the Rebbe said.” They set aside all the questions about how it would get done, who would do it, and where they would find the money. Who could think about petty things when speaking about something as momentous as the D’var Malchus of the king himself? By the next Shabbos, VaYeitzei 5755, the first booklet of the newly revised D’var Malchus was on tables in shuls in Chabad communities. The response was enthusiastic and people spontaneously sat down to learn “Toraso shel Moshiach.”
That is how the shiurim that continue today got started in many places. As for money: “The first 1000 sichos were printed in Kfar Chabad by R’ Sholom Feldman and the folding and stapling was done by the bachurim. In the weeks that followed, Nimrod Chafetz and Danny Shabi contributed money towards the printing. “Within a short time, requests came in for more copies and the operation grew and grew
until tens of thousands of copies were printed and sent, every week, to hundreds of places around the country, with 1000 in Yerushalayim and 1000 in B’nei Brak. For Yud Shevat 5755, Nimrod and Danny printed 75,000 copies and had them widely distributed.” In the meantime, money was a big problem. R’ Ginsberg saw that he couldn’t continue the project, since the burden of money weighed heavily on him. One time, he even gave money he
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parnasa …’ I felt this was an answer and that the Rebbe was taking me by the hand. “On the day that I had to pay the workers, I received money from work I did months earlier that I had nearly forgotten about and it came just at the right time. The same thing happened in the weeks to come. When money was needed to pay someone or other, the money always came at the right time. It was only thanks to this that we were able to continue printing the sichos for a long time.” Why did you print the D’var Malchus with the current date rather than the original date when the sicha was said? We opened to an answer from the Rebbe based on which we decided that the current year should be used, so that whoever learned the sicha would relate to it as something new. As the Rebbe said, these sichos hint to everything, to all questions that we have, even now. Speaking of answers from the Rebbe, a bachur who was involved in distributing the D’var Malchus thought perhaps this was not something he should be doing when the main occupation of a bachur in Tomchei T’mimim is learning and not askanus. He decided to ask the Rebbe and the answer he opened to said: Surely the avoda of hafatzas ha’maayanos applies to young bachurim; and to the contrary, due to the passion of youth, this avoda is required even more of them. *** At a certain point, R’ Avrohom Ben Shimon took on the huge expenses of printing the D’var Malchus. Slowly, a routine was established and each week different donors pay to dedicate the weekly D’var Malchus.
A shiur in D’var Malchus in Kfar Chabad
A shiur in D’var Malchus in Ramat Gan given by R’ Motti Gal
had set aside for workers in his home to the D’var Malchus. “I knew that I couldn’t think too much about it lest the Satan interfere with what had to be done. So I quickly gave the money to the bachurim before I would have a chance to change my mind. But my conscience bothered me. How could I do this? And what would I do in another few days when I would have to pay the workers? “I sat down to learn my shiur in Likkutei Sichos, Volume 16 Sicha 3 for Parshas B’Shalach. In this sicha, the Rebbe speaks about the Mann, the ‘bread from
the Heavens,’ which instilled complete bitachon in Hashem. There was also the quote from the Midrash that says someone who has what to eat today and wonders what he will eat tomorrow is lacking in faith. Even when someone does things in the normal way, making keilim B’derech HaTeva, he still needs to believe that his parnasa is primarily ‘bread from the Heavens.’ “In footnote 35 he quotes the Ohr Ha’Torah of the Tzemach Tzedek who says, ‘The truth is that a person should not worry at all about tomorrow and his
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Some people wonder why the emphasis is on the sichos of the last two years when there are nearly forty volumes of Likkutei Sichos, fifty volumes of Sichos Kodesh, dozens of volumes of Hisvaaduyos – all of which contain Torah on the parsha and the time of the year, in addition to dozens of volumes of maamarim. R’ Ginsberg: We said already that the Rebbe indicated that everything is contained and hinted at in the latter sichos. The D’var Malchus has an additional advantage in that a chassid can “live with Moshiach” with them, more than with any other sicha, and the Rebbe said that “living with Moshiach” is the avoda now. When you learn these sichos, you see that all the chiddushim in the D’var Malchus are a taste and a preview of the teachings of Moshiach. In the sichos of the latter years, the Rebbe spoke of lofty matters that explain the entire parsha in a way we did not hear from the Rebbe before. The Rebbe inserted so much spiritual intensity into the D’var Malchus so that we would be able to stand strong now, without compromising. Many of those who regularly learn the D’var Malchus say that it puts them into a Moshiach mindset. R’ Zimroni Tzik: The Rebbe revealed the D’var Malchus so that we would delve into it more and more until his hisgalus. A Chassid needs to “live” with the D’var Malchus, though it also serves as a reminder as to how long it has been since this revelation of the D’var Malchus came down to us. This ought to spur us on to doing what we can to bring about the hisgalus, at which point we will have a “new Torah.”
R’ Avrohom Ben Shimon: Each time you learn the D’var Malchus again, you see a side to it that you did not see before. The more you learn it, the more chiddushim you find. I must tell you a story that happened with my grandfather R’ Mansour Ben Shimon z”l, who was a big mekubal in Yerushalayim. When he was in the hospital, the grandchildren would sit and say Divrei Torah to him, as per his request. I was there once and I decided to read from the D’var Malchus of 22 Shevat 5752. I saw my grandfather close his eyes and he looked asleep. I stopped reading and he opened his eyes and said I should continue. I continued and again, he closed his eyes. I stopped and he said, “Don’t stop. You don’t even know what you’re reading.” From the time the D’var Malchus was published, he would take it with him to shul on a regular basis. R’ Sholom Yaakov Chazan: It was mentioned before that the Rebbe said, “If only Anash, especially the T’mimim, would closely examine the words of the Rebbe, my father-in-law … even in his sichos and especially those of 5710 and the year before that.” In the sicha of Shabbos Shuva 5724 the Rebbe said that in the maamarim of the Rebbe Rayatz of the year he passed away (and not just in the hemshech of Basi L ’Gani) are hinted a number of wondrous things, starting with the maamarim of Rosh HaShana where the Rebbe Rayatz issued his ruling as to the order of all the Roshei HaShana of all the years until the coming of Moshiach. It should be noted that the Rebbe Rayatz did not say the maamarim that year; these were maamarim that were said many
R’ Yitzchok Fine
R’ Chaim Levi Yitzchok Ginsburg
R’ Avrohom Ben Shimon
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check out is dvarmalchus.org, where it says their publication, includes a maamer and an unedited sicha from the Rebbe, a sicha from Likkutei Sichos, the daily study portions for Tanya, HaYom Yom, and Rambam, a portion of the teachings of each of the Rebbeim, a page of Gemara for daily study, explanations for Pirkei Avos, two chapters of Nach, and weekly Torah portion, Rashi’s commentary and Targum Unkelus. Each week, over 70,000 copies are printed and are sent to hundreds of cities on five continents. There is also http://www. moshiach.net/blind/hebrew/dmindex.htm. Credit must be given to R’ Yitzchok Fine for his devotion to disseminating Chassidus in general and the D’var Malchus in particular. Many people who have become close to the Rebbe in recent years say that the sichos of the D’var Malchus is what contributed to their hiskashrus to the Rebbe. The shliach in Alon Shvut, R’ Yitzchok Cohen, says that his father-in-law who lives in Maaleh Adumim and was distant from Chabad became connected to the Rebbe because of learning these sichos. There are scores of shiurim in D’var Malchus in Chabad houses, in shuls on Shabbos, as well as classes for women. As R’ Zimroni Tzik put it, “Every time we learn the D’var Malchus, we discover new points; things we did not notice before, become illuminated.” May we merit greeting the new year with the full revelation and coronation of the king, when we will receive the newest D’var Malchus containing the Torah of Moshiach, “a new Torah will go forth from Me.”
All kinds of people come together to learn the Rebbe’s D’var Malchus
years earlier and were published that year! In the latter years, we saw a number of changes in the dissemination of the Rebbe’s teachings. Throughout the years, the Rebbe edited only the likut of the parsha (under the name Likkutei Sichos), while in latter years the Rebbe edited most of the sichos that were said at farbrengens and they were published shortly after the farbrengen and are known today as D’var Malchus. The Rebbe even edited maamarim and had them published for Yomim Tovim and special occasions. Following what the Rebbe said, there needs to be a “koch” in all three areas: in the sichos of the D’var Malchus, in the maamarim that the Rebbe had published in the latter years, especially in 5752, and the Likkutei Sichos that the Rebbe edited each week in the years 5751-5752. Indeed, we see amazing things in the Likkutim of the last years where the Rebbe refers to the events of those years and their ramifications, such as the Gulf War (Shmos-VaEira
5751), Yaakov Avinu did not die (VaYechi 5751), the special quality of Beis Rabbeinu in Bavel (Truma 5752), and a number of Likkutim on Inyanei Moshiach and Geula. There are also amazing things in the last likut, VaYakhel 5752. There is no question that we should have special regard for the sichos in the D’var Malchus, with their open promises and prophecies for this era of Yemos HaMoshiach. We see, in fact, that these sichos provide bitachon and hope during these difficult times. *** Over a decade ago, a team of bachurim and young men set to work collecting the source material cited in the Rebbe’s hundreds of footnotes, thus aiding the understanding of the sichos. Another initiative involved printing the D’var Malchus without the use of acronyms and with punctuation, and publishing the D’var Malchus as a separate book. Technology has been harnessed in the service of the D’var Malchus. One website to
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FROM KUTAIS R’ TO LUBAVITCH
R’ Shabsi Kutaiser fulfilled the dictum of chazal to exile oneself to a place of torah. in his youth, he went to Yeshivas tomchei t’mimim in lubavitch. from there he went to rostov, Kutais, Poltava and charkov. * after he married, he was the head shochet and mohel in Kutais, where he raised a fine chassidishe family.
By Avrohom Rainitz
Shabsi Kutaiser, father of the Elberg family in Crown Heights, was born in 5660/1900 in Kutais, the second largest city in Georgia. His father was R’ Yaakov. The Jewish community in Kutais is ancient and goes back to the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash and the expulsion of the Jews from Eretz Yisroel by Nevuchadnetzar. The Jews of Kutais are blessed with fine character traits in general and they excel in hospitality. Love for Torah is also an important value in their lives, and even during harsh times in the Soviet Union they supported those who learned Torah. When R’ Shabsi was a young boy, R’ Shmuel Levitin arrived in Kutais on shlichus from the Rebbe Rashab to revive Judaism in the entire area. In one of the Rebbe’s letters about R’ Levitin’s work in Kutais and surrounding towns, he writes that the number of talmidim in the Talmud Torah that he opened reached 2000! R’ Levitin’s greatest accomplishment was the yeshiva in Kutais, where talmidim learned according to the schedule and curriculum of Tomchei T’mimim. The Rebbe Rayatz describes alumni of this yeshiva as “Talmidei chachomim, knowledgeable in many Masechtos, ritual slaughterers, teachers, and Morei Halacha.” R’ Shabsi’s father instilled in him love for Hashem and love for Torah and sent him to learn by R’ Shmuel Levitin. R’ Shmuel, who recognized the boy’s special abilities, sent him to learn in Lubavitch. He learned in Tomchei T’mimim for nine years, during which the yeshiva moved to Rostov, and he did very well in his learning. He learned with R’ Zalman Shimon Dworkin and
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with R’ Yehuda Chitrik and other Chassidim. He received smicha for rabbanus and learned sh’chita and mila. He also learned to lain from the Torah accurately and fluently and he was a superb baal tokeia (one who blows the shofar). again his brother was missing. shecht a cow in the cellar of a butcher and when he checked the lungs, he saw that the animal was treif. The butcher, who had borrowed a lot of money in order to buy the cow and had hoped to turn a nice profit, pleaded with R’ Shabsi to find a way to declare it kosher. R’ Shabsi had insisted that it was treif. The butcher threatened him with a butcher knife and in tears demanded that R’ Shabsi say the animal was kosher. The butcher was a burly fellow and R’ Shabsi had thought his life would end in the dark cellar, but he still was unwilling to veer from the Halacha. *** Every night when he returned from work, he sat and learned until three or so in the morning and at six or seven he was on his way to shul, a kilometer away. He kept up this diligence in his learning until his final years. His grandson, R’ Reuven Elberg, remembers that when his grandfather would visit them, he would sit all night and learn. In the morning, he would see him napping in his chair in front of a pile of s’farim that he had learned from that night. The Chassidim who came to Kutais remember R’ Shabsi’s house as a hospitable place with Chassidim constantly coming and going. During the war years, when people were starving and thousands starved to death, there wasn’t always what to eat in R’ Shabsi’s house, but even then, he and his wife Dina never refused to host Chassidim. During the difficult times of persecution, when many Chassidim fled from the central cities of Russia to Central Asia, some of them went to Kutais, and they would occasionally go to R’ Shabsi’s house to eat. Among these Chassidim were R’
WaNderiNg to secret yeshiVos
When he was 22, R’ Shabsi returned to Kutais, where he went back to learn in the yeshiva run by R’ Shmuel Levitin. In 5684/1924, when the NKVD found out about R’ Levitin’s activities, they went after him. R’ Levitin had to flee and leave the region where he had done so much for Jewish life. As per the Rebbe Rayatz’s instructions, he went to Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Nevel. Once the yeshiva was closed, some of the talmidim went to other secret branches in Russia. R’ Shabsi learned for a while in Poltava, and in 5685 went to learn in Charkov.
iN the home of raBBi LeVi yitzchoK iN yeKateriNosLaV
R’ Shabsi stayed in the home of R’ Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana Schneersohn, the Rebbe’s parents, and he even saw the Rebbe there. How did this come about? Following World War I, his older brother was missing. At a certain point, word came that he might be in Yekaterinoslav. He asked the Rebbe Rashab about this, and the Rebbe gave him a letter sending him to one of his great Chassidim: the rav of Yekaterinoslav, R’ Levi Yitzchok. He arrived at the house and was warmly welcomed. During this visit, he saw their oldest son, later to be the Rebbe. When he told about this later on, he said that as soon as he saw the Rebbe he observed that he was unusual, G-dly. The Rebbe was always closed off in his room where he learned without disturbance. People were constantly coming and going, but the Rebbe lived in a different world. He would come out of his room for five minutes to eat a little and then go back to his room. His conduct was of someone elevated. R’ Shabsi spent a week or two in Yekaterinoslav during which time he found out where his brother was and even went to the house where he was told his brother was staying. Unfortunately, his brother had left before he arrived, and once
aN oPeN chassidic home
After many years of learning, he returned to Kutais and married Dina the daughter of R’ Yaakov, a G-d fearing man. During the forty days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur he would fast, and throughout the year he refrained from eating meat (except for Shabbos and Yom Tov) so as not to take pleasure from this world. R’ Shabsi, who had studied sh’chita and mila, became a prominent person in the Jewish community of Kutais. He was the chief mohel and one of the chief shochtim. He also taught others sh’chita and mila. He did not take payment for mila and only earned a small salary as a shochet. He slaughtered chickens and animals in the cellar of the butchers’ house, far from the searching eyes of the KGB agents. One day, he returned home trembling in fear. He told his family that he was asked to
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Eliezer (Lazer) Nannes, R’ Dovid Skolnik, R’ Sholom Ber Notik, R’ Yechezkel Brod and many others. R’ Shabsi took advantage of their visits to learn with them for hours. He particularly enjoyed learning with R’ Simon Jacobson, who was one of his closest friends and who hid in his house in fear of the KGB.
secret yeshiVa iN aN aBaNdoNed miKVa
During this period, there was no place that was considered unfit for secret learning. Yeshiva bachurim even hid in the old mikva that was no longer in use and was in the vicinity of his home. R’ Shabsi and the chief rabbi, Chacham Yaakov, would provide them with food. His wife would tell her children: First, we have to take care of the bachurim, and then what remains I’ll give to you. The Chassidim who were their guests brought a lot of chayus and Chassidic warmth into the household, through their interaction with the family and just with their Chassidic appearance. The family members remember the Chassidic farbrengens when Chassidim would say l’chaim and farbreng and dance all night. They were models of genuine Chassidim, who wholeheartedly devoted themselves to what the Rebbe wanted, despite all the tribulations. R’ Sholom Levertov related how R’ Shabsi saved him and his friends from starvation: “I was in Kutais with my friends, R’ Sholom Mendel Kalmanson and Sholom Ber Shanowitz and we hadn’t eaten for two days. R’ Shabsi came to where we were on the night of Tisha B’Av, and we told him
The Rebbe and his father. Painting by R’ Elozor Kalman Tiefenbrun
The official pointed at the burned structure, which had a large stone dome on it, and he said blustering: We will take down that rock first and then the entire building. As he spoke, the stone rolled off and hit him in the head. Before he died he said, “I’ve shot many times at G-d and was never able to hit Him, but He shot at me once and hit the mark.”
our situation. We said that if on Motzaei Tisha B’Av we would not be able to eat something, we would likely die of starvation. “R’ Shabsi immediately brought us bread to eat. He later asked local families to take care of at least two bachurim each.” When his children grew older, he sent them to learn in a secret yeshiva along with ten to fifteen other boys. The KGB once discovered them, and at the last minute the owners of the home managed to hide the melamed in the cellar. The KGB agents hit the young boys and threatened that if they caught them learning they would be thrown into jail. That is what life was like in the
shadow of the KGB.
fUtiLe attemPts at cLosiNg the shULs
Even during the harshest years, spiritually speaking, the situation in Kutais was better than in other places. The Jews demonstrated great courage in the face of the communists who sought to close the shuls, until they retreated and allowed the spiritual activities to continue. When the communists decided to close the shuls in the country, the Jews of Kutais held a public protest and did not allow them to approach the shuls. The communist police retreated, but
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they said: The next time, we will come armed and we will see who will dare oppose us. When they returned armed, all the Jews of the city went out against them and the righteous women lay down with their little children on the road leading to the shuls. They said: You can shoot us, but we are not moving from here until you leave. In the end, the communists gave up on closing the shuls and they left. Afterward, there were even some Jews who went to the municipal building and broke windows. The mayor and another senior official were there and they debated the matter. One of them said, “It will be publicized to the world and we will be the head. Before he died he said, “I’ve shot many times at G-d and was never able to hit Him, but He shot at me once and hit the mark.” since his first thought was that I was from the KGB. I asked him, “What’s the matter? I can help.” After he whispered that he was a Chabad Chassid, I told him that I was too and I asked him again, “What happened?” He said, “I need to get to Kutais for Shabbos.” I said, “Give me your passport.” When I saw that he was afraid to give it to me, I mentioned the names of some great Chassidim who had been in our house and I said, “My father is also a Chassid.” He was finally convinced and gave me his passport. I went to the people in charge and after bribing them, they gave me a ticket. When I went back to him with the ticket he was so happy. We traveled together, though we were quiet the entire time in fear of those around us. Years later I met him in Crown Heights and he remembered this incident.
doN’t Be afraid, i am aLso a chassid!
Due to the difficult situation and the government persecution, the natural feeling of mutual responsibility among Jews was that much stronger. R’ Shabsi instilled a love for Chassidim in his children, until they felt like family with every Chassid, even if they never met him. His son Yaakov related this story: I was traveling to the capitol
The butcher threatened him with a butcher knife and in tears demanded that R’ Shabsi say the animal was kosher. The butcher was a burly fellow and R’ Shabsi thought his life would end in the dark cellar, but he was unwilling to veer from the Halacha.
embarrassed. Let’s just leave the shuls open.” On another occasion, a fire broke out in the city and destroyed many houses and damaged the big shul. The communists wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. A senior communist came and said the shul structure should be demolished. The Jews who had lost their homes in the fire dropped everything and went to the shul to prevent its destruction. The official pointed at the burned structure, which had a large stone dome on it, and he said blustering: We will take down that rock first and then the entire building. As he spoke, the stone rolled off and hit him in
city to take care of some matters and I arrived at the airport on Erev Shabbos in order to fly back home. I noticed a 35 year old Jew with a beard and peios who looked troubled. It turned out that there was only a small plane at the airport, and since many people wanted to travel, there was no room for him. I always gave bribes to the right person and got a spot even if 100 people remained behind, so I was determined to do the same for him. After I saw that he didn’t know what to do and where to stay for Shabbos, I went over to him and said in Russian, “Come over here, I want to talk to you.” This made him very nervous
tWeNty miNUtes iN yechidUs
In 1946-7, following an agreement that was signed between Russia and Poland, permission was granted for those with Polish citizenship to leave Russia. They crossed the border in Lemberg/Lvov. Many Lubavitchers took advantage of this opportunity. After obtaining false documents and presenting themselves as Polish citizens, they crossed the border. Some of the Chassidim in Kutais left Russia in this way. When R’ Shabsi was told about this opportunity he declined, saying that he could not leave the holy work in Kutais. In 5732/1972, when a small crack in the Iron Curtain opened, R’ Shabsi left for Eretz Yisroel with his family and settled
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in Nachalat Har Chabad. He continued his work there. Shortly after he arrived in Eretz Yisroel, the Rebbe invited all the new immigrants to him and the Rebbe assisted in the cost of the tickets. R’ Shabsi was one of the lucky ones who went to the Rebbe. He merited many kiruvim during his stay. After the secretaries told him that he had an appointment with the Rebbe, he decided to take this opportunity and tell the Rebbe about a dream he had while he was in Kutais. It was a number of years after the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz when R’ Shabsi woke up one morning in great excitement. When his children asked him what happened, he said he had had a special dream. In his dream, he saw the Rebbe talking with the Rebbe Rayatz on the phone. The Rebbe Rayatz told him it was time to be revealed as Moshiach. The Rebbe refused. The Rebbe Rayatz asked him: Why? The Rebbe said he did not have sufficient strength. The Rebbe Rayatz said: We, Admorei Chabad, will help you from above. But the Rebbe continued to refuse, saying he did not have the strength. At this point, R’ Shabsi woke up. Two years later, he dreamed about the same thing, but this time he refused to tell his family details about the dream. He just
The Rebbe in his office
said it was a continuation of the first dream. When he had yechidus, he spent twenty minutes with the Rebbe, during which the Rebbe asked him about his work in strengthening Torah and Judaism behind the Iron Curtain. R’ Shabsi did not remember the dream and he said nothing about it to the Rebbe. When he left the yechidus, he suddenly remembered the dream. He went over to R’ Groner and asked him for permission to go back to the Rebbe, since he had forgotten to tell the Rebbe something very important. R’ Groner refused to allow him to go back in and so he did not hear any comments from the Rebbe
about this. R’ Shabsi’s son, Yaakov Elberg, lives in Crown Heights. He also enjoyed special attention from the Rebbe. Inspired by his father’s life work, he continued to look out for members of his community who immigrated from Kutais to the US, many of whom settled in Queens. He built a mikva there according to the Chabad shita and under the guidance of R’ Zalman Shimon Dworkin. R’ Shabsi passed away on 9 Elul 5740/1980 and is buried on Har HaMenuchos. His descendants follow in his path, the path of Chabad Chassidus, with fine middos and love for Torah and those who study it.
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By Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz
If you ask someone coming out of a church on a Sunday, “Do you believe in G-d?” the worshipper will be shocked. “What kind of question is that? Of course I do!” If you then ask him, “Do you consider yourself religious?” what will the answer be? “Certainly. That’s why I’m here!” If you go to a mosque on Friday and ask the average person there, “Do you believe in G-d?” what will the answer be? “Definitely.” “Do you consider yourself religious?” “Well, obviously.” This is normal. These conversations make sense. Now go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur. Ask the Jew sitting in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, fasting, “Do you believe in G-d?” You cannot get a straight answer. “Umm… it depends what you mean by ’G-d.’” That’s if the person is the philosophical type. Otherwise, you’re likely to hear, “What am I, a rabbi? I don’t know.” So then you ask the Jew, “Do you consider yourself religious?” They crack up laughing. “Are you kidding? Do you know what I eat for breakfast?” And then they’ll almost always add, “I had
a grandfather, on my mother’s side, he was a religious man. But me…?” So then you finally ask what seems like a logical question: “So, why are you here?” For some reason, this average Jew, who claims he doesn’t believe in G-d and is not religious, will look at you like you’re crazy and say, “What do you mean? It’s Yom Kippur!” To any straight-thinking, logical person, this is totally crazy. Jews are supposed to be a rational, intelligent people. How do we explain this complete lapse of reason? The truth is that there is no logic behind a Jew’s sudden awakening and desire to come close to G-d on Yom Kippur. And, far from being a default, it is a glimpse at the genuine nature of a Jew, a glimpse in which you can see the essential beauty of a Jew. How so? Judaism asserts that the essential part of a Jew is the neshama, or soul. The neshama, the epitome of spiritual perfection absolutely fused and united with G-d in a serene spiritual reality, is actually a part of G-d Himself. This lofty neshama descends into this world to be enclothed within
And just like any lost artifact, you have to look for it in the place where it was lost. In the case of the spark of beauty, transcendence and spirituality that every person seeks, the place it is lost – and the place it is found – is in our thoughts, words and actions.
a physical body. As a result, the neshama has to contend with all the garbage that material existence has to offer. The body needs to eat, the body needs to sleep, the body has irrational physical desires, it has to battle personal demons and is soaked in the mud of a lowly physical existence – even the intellect is overwhelmed by this materialistic plague. All the neshama wants to do is see G-d and live a purely spiritual existence. In fact, that is the reason that it descends into this world – so that in order to overcome the obstacles that it encounters in this physical world, it will be forced to shine with a greater spiritual intensity. Meanwhile, a voice is calling out from above to the neshama, reminding it where it comes from, reminding it that despite its long journey downwards, it remains forever united with its Source. The problem is that being soaked in the mud of worldly affairs makes the neshama insensitive to sounds of purity and transcendence from above. Tragically, the neshama doesn’t always hear the call. However, on Yom Kippur, the neshama hears. On Yom Kippur the neshama shines brightly, because on Yom Kippur the voice that is calling comes from a higher place of absolute purity and unity within G-d Himself. It comes from a place of such simple and revealed purity that there is no room for negative energy, even in the slightest way. And this reveals the true nature of the neshama below in which
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it has the power to outshine all the material trappings to the point where they are no longer obstacles. On Yom Kippur, the neshama is given the ability to pull itself out of the mud of this world, clean off the shmutz, and experience the beautiful, shining energy of its Source. This is why all Jews, no matter where they are physically or spiritually, hear and react in a special way to the call of Yom Kippur – even if their usual thoughts or words or actions are not consistent with it. The connection is there, on a level that completely transcends intellect. If properly utilized, a Jew can achieve by leaps and bounds what normally takes small steps to accomplish. Throughout the year, we attune ourselves
by painstakingly working on purifying our thoughts and actions in an orderly fashion. But on Yom Kippur, we are automatically tuned in, and if we absorb the energy of this holy day, we can affect leaps of instant purification and an abundance of positive vitality. The motto of Yom Kippur, “seek out G-d when He is found,” contains a profound lesson in how to go about finding what we’re looking for. It is a lesson that can be applied to life in general, and is especially pertinent for Yom Kippur. Since a Jew is actually a part of G-d above, it follows that the G-dly spark that we are seeking is not something new that we are looking for, rather it is something that has been lost. And just like
any lost artifact, you have to look for it in the place where it was lost. In the case of the spark of beauty, transcendence and spirituality that every person seeks, the place it is lost – and the place it is found – is in our thoughts, words and actions. Meaning, that we have to examine these three garments of our neshama to determine which thoughts, words and actions were in spirit of beauty and truth, and which ones were, unfortunately, the result of falsehood and the cause of negative energy. The motto is not only good advice, but it is also a promise: “Seek out G-d when He is found” implies that He is found, as long as we truly do the seeking. Reprinted with permission from Exodus Magazine
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HEARING THE SOUNDS OF SINAI
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
Parshas Nitzavim always precedes Rosh Hashanah. This implies that there is an organic connection between this parsha and the new year that commences with Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of T’shuva and Yom Kippur. The obvious connection between Nitzavim and these Days of Awe is that their central theme is T’shuva, often translated as “repentance,” and more precisely as “return.” In this week’s parsha the Torah states: “…When all these things come upon you among all the nations where G-d your G-d has banished you—the blessing and the curse which I have set before you—you will take it to your heart, and you will return to G-d your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. You will listen to His voice, to everything that I am commanding you today, you and your children. Then G-d will return your captives…” The key words in this section are: “You will return to G-d your G-d… You will listen to His voice.” One can ask what the Torah means when it says “You will listen to His voice.” If listening to G-d’s voice simply means to follow His commandments it would be a redundant statement, for listening to G-d’s commandments is mentioned
explicitly in this verse. Why is there is a need to state both “You will listen to His voice” and “To everything that I am commanding you?” It could have simply stated: “You will listen to His commandments.” An answer to this question can be given by using a novel approach to understanding what it means to “listen to G-d’s voice.” It is not simply a reference to complying with the commandments. Rather, it refers to hearing a heavenly voice that emanates from Mount Sinai, which is a prelude to listening to the commandants.
retUrN, eXcePt acher
The Talmud (Chagiga 15a) relates the tragic and rather unusual story of a great Sage, Elisha ben Avuya, who became a renegade. He flouted Jewish law and brazenly violated the most fundamental teachings of the Torah. As a result of his transformation into an apostate, he was nicknamed “Acher—the Other One.” Rabbi Meir, one of his loyal disciples, decided not to abandon him and continued to study under him. The Talmud states that Rabbi Meir knew how to distinguish the good from the bad. He likened his learning from Acher to one who eats a fruit and spits out the pit. The Talmud relates that one
Shabbos, as Acher was riding his horse (a forbidden activity on the Sabbath), Rabbi Meir walked alongside him and listened to Acher expound the teachings of the Torah. At a certain point, Acher reminded Rabbi Meir that he had reached the limit (2,000 cubits) a Jew may walk outside of the city limits so that he would return. Rabbi Meir took Acher’s literal suggestion of returning and challenged Acher to return in the figurative sense of the word and do T’shuva. Acher’s response was, “Everyday there is a Heavenly voice that emerges from Sinai which states, ‘Return, errant children.’ When I hear that voice it is stated with a caveat: ‘except for Acher!’” Acher was convinced that he had transgressed so egregiously that all the doors to his return had been shut. In truth, Chassidic thought teaches us that even Acher was not beyond salvation. Even if G-d had declared that the doors were shut for him, it only meant that he was expected to do a more energetic T’shuva and thereby break down the barriers that would not let him enter G-d’s domain. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (K’dushas Levi-Tavo), he could not rely on Heavenly voices to do T’shuva; he had to generate his return on his own.
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What emerges from this Talmudic discussion is that G-d generates a voice from Sinai that admonishes us to do T’shuva and return to Him.
Who hears the Voice?
The Baal Shem Tov asked an obvious question: If most people who are in need of doing T’shuva don’t hear this voice that emerges from Sinai, of what avail is it? And those spiritually advanced people that do hear the voice don’t need it. The Baal Shem Tov answered that while our conscious mind does not hear this voice, the part of the soul that is not cloaked within our body does indeed hear the voice emerging from Sinai and relays its subliminal message to the conscious mind. When this occurs we feel inspired, if only for a few seconds, and we harbor thoughts of T’shuva. So whenever we feel inspired, especially when the inspiration is spontaneous, it is a sign that our soul has just heard that Heavenly voice.
banished you—the blessing and the curse which I have set before you—you will take it to your heart, and you will return to G-d, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul. You will listen to His voice…” Feeling the pain and the curses of exile empowers us to break through the resistance that we have developed and allows for the free flow of our soul’s inspiration into our consciousness. To be sure, we do not ask for pain and suffering or for the extension of the exile, G-d forbid. On the contrary, all of our prayers are punctuated with
is the voice of Sinai that can now be felt and is what stirs us to do T’shuva.
a tighter coNNectioN to rosh hashaNah
We can now detect an even tighter connection between this week’s parsha and Rosh Hashanah. Not only are they connected through the theme of T’shuva; they are also linked by the notion of how challenges help us obtain a clearer and crisper reception of the sounds of Sinai. This week’s parsha speaks of how the pressures of exile, with its attendant curses, pierces through
As we stand on the bridge between the two years 5772 and 5773, we are reminded that we are now also situated on the bridge between the 2,000-year exile and the final Redemption through Moshiach. When we view all the negative things around us, we should exploit their power to awaken us to the reality of our situation. The sound of the Shofar that heralds the Messianic Age has already been sounded.
the resistant armor that blocks our ability to receive a clear signal from our soul. Likewise, according to Maimonides, the sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is intended, among other objectives, to jolt us out of our reverie. Once we are awake and alert, we can then hear the daily sounds that emanate from Sinai. Moreover, we then connect with the sounding of the Shofar that accompanied the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which is yet another objective of the Shofar of Rosh Hashanah.
There are times, however, when even the echoes of Sinai are muted. The combined effect of our physical bodies, animal souls, materialistic pursuits and indulgences, transgressions and the very phenomenon of being in an oppressive exile can so stifle and mute the sounds of Sinai that we don’t even entertain fleeting feelings of T’shuva. How do we overcome this desensitization process? The answer is provided in the verses that were cited above. “…When all these things come upon you among all the nations where G-d your G-d has
the most heartfelt pleas to G-d to end the suffering. But yet, after the fact, we should recognize that the hidden blessing in all of the past travail is that it helps us break our resistance to hearing the sounds of Sinai. Preferably, it is the blessings that we experience that shine G-d’s light on us and illuminate our paths so that we can hear the sounds of Sinai. If we fail to see the G-dly light in the blessings, the curses of the past will have to break through our resistant exterior. This then is what the Torah means when it talks about “listening to G-d’s voice.” This
We are aLL iNsiders
In order for these jolting
Issue 850 • �
When a Jew, no matter how far he or she has strayed and desensitized himself or herself, recognizes that he or she is always an insider, he or she can certainly return.
forces to work, there is one proviso. We cannot imagine that we are Acher, an “another,” an outsider. The apostate Elisha ben Avuya, cited earlier, could not return because he heard the Heavenly voice declare, specifically, that everyone can return except for Acher. It did not say “except Elisha ben Avuya,” which was his proper name. He heard the voice exclaim Acher,
the “other one.” When a Jew, no matter how far he or she has strayed and desensitized himself or herself, recognizes that he or she is always an insider, he or she can certainly return.
staNdiNg oN the Bridge
As we stand on the bridge between the two years 5772 and 5773, we are reminded that we are now also situated on the
bridge between the 2,000-year exile and the final Redemption through Moshiach. When we view all the negative things around us, we should exploit their power to awaken us to the reality of our situation. The sound of the Shofar that heralds the Messianic Age has already been sounded. This Rosh Hashanah, it is our role to hear and heed the call of the Shofar, not only as an echo of the past, but also as the sound of the future Redemption. And may we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, a year of visible good, including the ultimate good and blessing of the total revelation of Moshiach and the imminent final Redemption.
Check it out!! Educational and Fun!!
48 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
CHASSIDIC FAMILY IN CHARKOV
r’ Zalman’s wife sees the rebbe rayatz on his secret journey to rostov. * chapters from the life story of r’ Yehoshua shneur Zalman serebryanski a”h.
Prepared for publication by Avrohom Rainitz
Zalman’s wife Bracha, was born on 8 Teves 5664/1904. She grew up in an authentic Chassidic home. She was educated mainly by her mother, Mariasha Badana and her grandmother, Rochel Leah. Her father, R’ Menachem Mendel Futerfas died after Pesach 5666, when she was two, after a severe intestinal ailment. He left a pregnant wife, two little girls and a five year old boy (later known as the Chassidic artist, R’ Hendel Lieberman, named for his uncle, R’ Chanoch Hendel Kugel, who was the first mashpia in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch). A few months later his wife gave birth to a boy and she named him Menachem Mendel for his father. He was the famous mashpia, R’ Mendel Futerfas. Her grandmother, Rochel Leah, helped her widowed daughter in raising the children. She instilled a special Chassidic atmosphere and provided them with a firm spiritual foundation.
Although Anash would make plenty l’chaims and would sometimes speak sharply to one another, meKUreVes to Beis reBBi the friendship among them was spectacular and each Many stories abound about the grandmother, Rochel Leah. one was ready to be moser nefesh for his fellow.
She was exceedingly righteous and was extremely punctilious in mitzva observance. Some even say she wore tzitzis. For Pesach she would take part in the baking of the matzos, starting from selecting the wheat kernels and ending with rolling out the dough. The only pay she asked for her work was that the matzos she would be given would be from the first matzos of the “first oven.” Old-time Lubavitchers from Russia remember that one year there was a dispute between her and R’ Yisroel Noach Blinitzky about the first batch of matzos from the “first oven.” When they could not arrive at a compromise, they went to a beis din. After the dayanim heard both sides, they paskened in favor of Rochel Leah. She was the childhood friend of Rebbetzin Shterna Sara, the wife of the Rebbe Rashab, and whenever she went to Lubavitch
she stayed with the Rebbetzin or went to visit her. The two ladies would sit and discuss Chabad stories.
meetiNg With the reBBe rayatz
In the winter of 5685, Bracha saw the Rebbe Rayatz. It was when the Rebbe was secretly traveling from Leningrad to Rostov and passed through Charkov. Among the few people who knew about his trip was R’ Shmuel Bespalov who was a mekurav of Beis Rebbi. Since the train that the Rebbe traveled on stopped in Charkov for several hours, R’ Bespalov took the opportunity and went with his daughter to see the Rebbe. Bracha was a good friend of his daughter and was invited to join them. The meeting took place at the train station and the three spent some time in the Rebbe’s compartment. When it was time for the train to depart and they began to take leave, the Rebbe escorted them. Although it was a
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very cold winter day, the Rebbe left the compartment without a coat and walked them for a bit. When R’ Bespalov noted that it was very cold, the Rebbe smiled and told about a squire who would say that when he had a warm coat at home, even when he was outside, it warmed him. night, even when they ended in the morning. R’ Zalman later recounted that it would happen that a farbrengen ended in the morning, and he would immediately head to Shacharis and then to work. R’ Itche would drink a lot of mashke at his farbrengens. One time, at the end of a farbrengen he staggered in his tipsiness and R’ Zalman supported him. R’ Zalman heard him mumbling again and again, “Ich hub dir lib” (I love you). R’ Zalman asked him who he loved and R’ Itche said, “HaKadosh Baruch Hu!” The farbrengens with R’ Itche were an elixir of life for the men of the Charkov community and they wouldn’t pass them up for anything. On Sukkos, they could not farbreng in the sukka for it was too dangerous. Instead, they held it in the home of one of Anash with mashke and herring without mezonos. were older people; young people feared going to shul, lest they be accused of being anti-communist. On Yomim Tovim, about 2000 people attended shul. They enjoyed the davening with wellknown chazanim. The smaller minyan, Nusach Ashkenaz, took place on the first floor, while the Chabad minyan was in a third room that held 70-80 people. The shul building also had a mikva, which was filled by a live spring of water. Shlomo der Geller with his blonde beard and his wife were the attendants. They took care of the mikva and heated the water in a big urn with wood and coal as they did in those days. On Shabbos morning, Anash went to shul and learned maamarim in pairs. Davening began around 11:00 and ended at 2:00. After the davening, they sat down to farbreng with the chief mashpia, R’ Avrohom Boruch Pevsner. R’ Itche would come every so often. On Shabbos, his spot was in the women’s section (which was empty in those years). They would sit down to the third Shabbos meal towards evening and R’ Itche would review maamarim. At the kiddushim and farbrengens every Shabbos, the mashpiim would encourage Anash mainly about practical things like Shabbos observance with mesirus nefesh and chinuch with mesirus nefesh. There were a few who did not withstand the test and worked on Shabbos, but they felt the need to attend the farbrengens where they were strengthened to withstand other tests and where they were told to be moser nefesh for Shabbos too. Although Anash would make plenty l’chaims and would sometimes speak sharply to one another, the friendship among
shiddUchim With the Best of the t’mimim
When the two sisters came of marriageable age, their younger brother Mendel began inquiring about shidduchim for them, desiring that they marry the best of the T’mimim. Within a short time he had made a shidduch for Bracha with R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman Serebryanski, and a shidduch for Esther Golda with R’ Bentzion Shemtov. The two young men were considered among the best of the T’mimim and ready to be moser nefesh to spread Chassidus. After their wedding, held on Rosh Chodesh Elul 5688, the couple lived in Charkov and joined the large Chassidic community that had been there since the time of the Rebbe Maharash.
a three year oLd WaLKiNg haLf aN hoUr to shUL
Their first son was born in the summer of 5689/1929 and he was named Yisroel Chaim for his maternal grandfather. R’ Zalman, who wanted to instill Chassidic feeling into his son that would immunize him from the powerful communist heresy, took his son to shul from when he turned three. Every Shabbos, the two of them would walk half an hour from their house to the big shul near the river. In those days, all the shuls in Charkov were closed by the authorities and only the large shul remained open. There were three minyanim there. The big minyan with Nusach Arizal took place in the large area on the upper floor and had 500 people every Shabbos. Most of them
NightLy farBreNgeNs With r’ itche der masmid
In those days, many Chassidic young men lived in Charkov and there was a warm Chassidic atmosphere in the Chabad community. R’ Itche der Masmid would occasionally visit the city and stay with R’ Mendel Deitsch. His visits were special spiritual experiences for the young men of the community, as he would farbreng with them every night for hours. Although most of the men worked during the day, they did not hesitate to come to his farbrengens night after
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them was spectacular and each one was ready to be moser nefesh for his fellow. A special farbrengen was held on Yud-Tes Kislev. Anash prepared a big seuda and R’ Mendel Deitsch would cook the kasha. They also brought small barrels of pickled cabbage and pickles. R’ Avrohom Zaltzman would play the violin and young boys would prepare wooden drumsticks and tap on the tables to the beat. This farbrengen, like all farbrengens on special dates, ended at dawn and after Shacharis, Anash would go straight to work. The friendship between Anash was such that each one knew with certainty that he would be moser nefesh for his fellow. At farbrengens, they spoke openly about strengthening religion without fearing that someone would report them to the authorities. If a stranger walked in, they would immediately change the subject. Thus, for several years, the secret police had no control over Anash. It was first in 5697/1937 that the secret police was able to plant an agent within the Chabad community. It was a tourist who said he was a Chabad Chassid and he gained their trust. When they found out he was an informer it was too late and some Chassidim were arrested.
R’ Zalman Serebryanski with his brother-in-law, R’ Mendel Futerfas
doUBLe WorK, 15 hoUrs a day
In addition to what they had to contend with spiritually, Anash, like everybody in the Soviet Union, had to deal with the difficult material circumstances. In the years following his wedding, R’ Zalman worked in a wine factory which he inherited from his wife’s
grandmother, Rochel Leah. She had started producing wine out of raisins many years earlier. At the time, she did it so that Jews would have kosher wine to buy, but when R’ Zalman took over the business, there weren’t many customers for kosher wine and he began selling wine to gentiles too. His wine was known for its strong and good taste, and he was able to support his family with this wine business. After two years, the government nationalized all private enterprises and R’ Zalman got a permit to run a kiosk at the train station. Since he was responsible for the kiosk, he was able to keep Shabbos without fear. However, the kiosk did not earn him a big profit and he had to look for another source of income. At that time, the government allowed disabled people who could not leave their homes to contact one of the government factories and to get work that was doable at home. Since this job depended on supplying the goods and was not confined to a particular schedule,
many Lubavitchers took this opportunity that allowed them to keep Shabbos and worked from home. R’ Zalman and his wife also got these permits and began working at home. The work was hard and the salary paltry. In order to earn the amount they needed to support the household, R’ Zalman had to work 15 hours a day! The amount they received was enough for the basics. They couldn’t even dream of meat and even chicken made it to their Shabbos table only once every few months. Little Chaim would go with his grandmother, Mariasha Badana, to buy a chicken in the market and from there, they went to the shochet’s booth, which was located in the backyard of the big shul. They took the slaughtered chicken home and kashered it. For Pesach, they bought a fattened goose and ate the meat and used the fat (schmaltz) to prepare other dishes. Speaking of Pesach, they would buy flour in the market, kasher the oven, and bake matzos at home. Despite their poor circumstances, they made sure to
Issue 850 • �
pay tuition for the melamed who taught their sons. The melamed, a G-d fearing man, taught Chaim Chumash, N’viim, Gemara and Hebrew grammar, and later on, his brother Aharon too. a Jewish teacher to teach his son, and every morning, when the neighbors’ children went to school, Chaim also left the house with briefcase in hand. However, instead of going to school, he went to his teacher’s house. The neighborhood children noticed that he wasn’t showing up in school, but despite the prevalent snitching that was widespread in Russia at the time, the neighbors didn’t say anything. This went on for three years until an ardent communist moved into the building. As soon as she heard about the boy who did not attend school, she tattled on R’ Zalman to the KGB. R’ Zalman had no choice but to send his son to public school. If he had kept his son at home, he risked having him taken away and placed in an orphanage where he would be indoctrinated to communism. To combat the communist propaganda in school, R’ Zalman instilled a strong spirit of emuna, Chassidus, and yiras Shamayim in his son. that it made catching Shabbos observers more difficult, for once in seven weeks the official day of rest was on Shabbos and everybody took the day off, not just religious Jews. For this reason, although Chaim did not go to school on Shabbos and Yom Tov, each time with a different excuse, the teachers did not notice that his absences were systematic. It was only at the end of the year, when they checked his attendance that they noticed that he was absent once every seven days, on the Jewish Sabbath. The administration realized that this was religiously motivated, something that was considered forbidden by Soviet law, and they went to R’ Zalman’s house on Shabbos to warn him that if his son continued missing school on Shabbos due to religious reasons, they would have to report it to the government. R’ Zalman appreciated the fact that they came to his house to warn him, because in most instances, they would immediately report him and the situation would be that much worse. He somehow excused himself and said that he would arrange things for the following school year. World War II, which drew Russia into a bloodbath at the beginning of the summer of 1941, made it unnecessary to deal with the school regarding the Shabbos problem. School did not begin and within a short time, R’ Zalman had to flee Charkov with his family in the face of the approaching front.
Nights iN hidiNg
The years 1937-8 were black years for Chabad Chassidim in Russia. There was a wave of arrests of dozens of Chassidim, some of whom were shot and some of whom were sent to exile. Charkov suffered too when, one night, the secret police came to the home of R’ Avrohom Boruch Pevsner, arrested him, and within a short time, sent him to exile. The next in line was R’ Nachum Pinson and then R’ Tzemach Gurewitz and R’ Shmuel Katzman. R’ Zalman assumed he was also on the blacklist, and when he felt the noose tightening, he decided to hide. Since most of the arrests took place at night, R’ Zalman stayed home only during the day and he spent the nights in hiding. Some Lubavitchers worked as night watchmen in factories because this enabled them to keep Shabbos. R’ Zalman would spend his nights in factories. During the winter, he slept in a dye factory where he was warm at night too.
the BattLe oVer shaBBos
In the Soviet Union of those days, the government sought to uproot the Jewish day of rest, as well as, l’havdil, the day of rest of the Christians and Moslems. To accomplish this, they promulgated a law that said that the Soviet week consists of six days, with five days of work and one day off. The weekly day off changed from week to week. While it made life difficult, it also had an advantage in
hoW a three year oLd fooLed the soViet aUthorities
When little Chaim turned eight, he was required to attend public school by law. R’ Zalman ignored the law and instead hired
TO BRING MOSHIACH NOW!
52 � • Erev Rosh HaShana 5773
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