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SUMMARY OF BASI L’GANI 5713
Beis Moshiach presents a summary of the maamer the Rebbe MH”M delivered on Yud shvat 5713, in accordance with the custom established by the Rebbe to review each year a section of the Rebbe Rayatz’s maamer “Basi L’Gani” of 5710. • this year we focus on the third section of the profound and foundational chassidic discourse.
Arranged by Boruch Merkur
SHTUS D’K’DUSHA COUNTERS OUTRIGHT FOLLY
1. The essence of the Sh’china was originally manifested in the physical world. Sins, however, caused it to depart. Then tzaddikim, through the avoda of iskafia, drew the Sh’china back to the world, being especially revealed in the Mishkan and later, in the Beis HaMikdash. The Mishkan was made of atzei shittim, symbolizing the avoda of transforming the shtus that permits evil behavior into something holy, shtus d’k’dusha. “Shtus” comes from “shata – inclined,” an inclination, a deviation, typically towards foolishness. Where extra caution is needed to avoid shtus d’l’umas zeh, shtus d’k’dusha, a “deviation” towards holiness, is required, the effect of which is: bringing the Sh’china back to be revealed in the world.
soul that sins” – the Torah and the Alm-ghty are confounded and ask, “How could there possibly be a nefesh (even the lowest dimension of the soul) that sins?!” A ruach shtus, however, covers over the truth and makes it appear to the person that even when he transgresses, his Judaism remains intact. On this basis, it is possible for a Jew to transgress, causing him to be totally separated from G-dliness, even more so than klipos and sitra achra, which do not transgress G-d’s will. [See box on page 6.]
WORSE THAN IDOLATERS?!
3. Now, “G-d of gods” is an expression of idolatry (shituf). So how could a Jew who sins (even nominally) be more separate than that? The answer is that since Jewish souls have a more essential G-dly source – Sovev Kol Almin – they are, therefore, subject to greater scrutiny in recognizing G-d’s oneness. Gentiles, on the other hand, stem from a more external, superficial source: Memalei Kol Almin. Memalei Kol Almin invests itself within the worlds, as the soul enlivens the body, apportioning overt energy to each limb and organ, as required. This his’chalkus (individualized dissemination) indicates that the body bears relevance to the soul. Thus, the nullification to this source of vitality is not complete, not battul b’metzius (rather, “they call Him ‘G-d of gods’”).
HOW COULD A SOUL SIN?!
2. “Shtus” is described by the verse, “ki sisteh ishto – were his wife to go astray,” a deviation from modest behavior, engendering sin. Sin is unnatural to a Jew. Of his own accord, the nature of every Jew is that he does not want – nor can he be – separated from G-dliness. Indeed, “a man would not sin – even inadvertently – were it not for a ruach shtus entering him.” Thus, the Zohar comments on the verse, “nefesh ki sechta – a
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The creations do not bear any significance, however, to the transcendent light of Sovev Kol Almin, much like the vitality that is not revealed within the body, its transcendent life-force. This dynamic is reflected in the concept of creation ex nihilo, where the ayin is not perceived by the yesh, for the source of creation is concealed.
ONLY JEWS FORBIDDEN ‘SHITUF’
4. Jews are forbidden shituf because they are rooted in Atzmus, or Sovev Kol Almin, the inner aspect of G-d’s will. At this level there is no reckoning with anything other than G-dliness. In virtue of his soul being rooted in G-d’s essence, which transcends division, every Jew, even the most ignorant, stands in self-sacrifice so as not to commit idolatry, not even paying lip service to it. Gentiles, on the other hand, do not have a connection to Sovev – just Memalei. They are, therefore, not forbidden shituf, for that belief does not oppose the level to which they have a connection, their source. Calling the Alm-ghty “G-d of gods” is indeed idolatrous, which is the opposite of the Divine will. Nevertheless, in so doing, the evil forces do not oppose the level of will to which they have a connection. However, since it opposes the level of Divine will that pertains to a Jew, it is an act of rebellion for him. And in that sense he is more debased than klipos and sitra achra, and totally removed from G-dliness.
TALK IS CHEAP, SUPERFICIAL: HOW TO CONVEY THE ESSENCE
5. It says in Eitz Chayim that there is a single small spark of Creator enclothed within a single spark of a created being, called Yechida. Now, the Tzemach Tzedek writes that the Yechida is rooted in the Keilim. This requires explanation, for Keilim signify limitation and division (whereas G-d’s essence – the source of the soul mentioned earlier – transcends all limitation and division, etc.). However, the soul, especially the Yechida, is rooted in the inner dimension of the Keilim, which, in turn, is united with the light that invests itself within it. That is, the spark of Creator and the Yechida become a single entity, united in essence – not remaining as two distinct entities, separate one from the other. Two illustrations are provided to express this dynamic: a) It is the inner part of the vessel that comes into contact with its contents, signifying that it
is united with the light it contains, including the essence of the light. The outside of the vessel, however, does not come into contact with its contents. Its purpose, rather, is merely to distribute its contents outward, a process which does not convey the essence. (That is, in the process of hishtalshlus, the essence of the light does not reach something outside, something beyond its source.) b) The latter point is developed further in the second illustration, which outlines the difference between oral communication and hashpaas ha’tipa, the process of reproduction. The communication of ideas, what a master teaches his student, is strictly a hashpaa chitzonis, a transference of something that is (comparatively) superficial. Thus, “one approaches the knowledge of his master” only eventually, for the master himself, his essence, is not transferred in verbal communication; just his words are conveyed. In contrast, the process of reproduction is an internal process that produces offspring that resemble the father in essence, for the very essence of the father is present in his progeny from the moment of conception. This process does not take place b’derech hishtalshlus, but by means of a hefsek, an interruption in the causal chain, allowing the essence to leap outwards (as in Creation ex nihilo.)
Issue 865 • �
notes from the Rebbe MH"M in response to the many questions he received on the maamer Basi L’Gani 5713, section 2, end, where it says: the gentile nations, the klipos, and sitra achra do not transgress G-d’s will… “they call Him ‘G-d of gods,’” but they do not rebel against Him outright.
At first glance, it is difficult to understand: a) The fact is that we find that Gentiles do transgress the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach, the seven commandments they are charged with observing. The answer is simple, along the lines of what was said with regard to a Jew: Transgressions are attributed to the ruach shtus that enters the person, which covers over and conceals the truth, and which contradicts the fact that “they [show Him deference and] call Him ‘G-d of gods.’” But unto themselves, as they spawn from klipos and sitra achra, their nature is such that they would not transgress nor would they rebel. For example, Bilam said, “I am not able to transgress the word of G-d” (see Tanya Ch. 24), although he had bestiality with his donkey (Sanhedrin 105b; Zohar I 128b), which is a transgression of one of the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach. b) We find that there are Gentiles who utterly deny the existence of G-d. This difficulty, of course, is not on the maamer but on the saying of our Sages (Menachos, end): “they call Him ‘G-d of gods.’” (The Gemara learns this from the verse (T’hillim 113:3), “From the rising of the sun unto its setting, etc.”). This Talmudic statement is the foundation of what is elucidated in the maamer. The explanation of the matter is understood from what is written in Seifer HaMitzvos of the Tzemach Tzedek, in the section dealing with the Mitzva of Recognizing the Unity of G-d, end. See there. This, however, is not a suitable forum for a lengthier discussion of the matter. c) In the beginning of Section 7 of the maamer, it says, “just about all the souls of our generation are called “zera beheima – animal offspring.” What is the source for that claim? The source is Torah Ohr of the Alter Rebbe (author of Tanya and Shulchan Aruch), Parshas Mishpatim, beginning. His statement is founded upon what is written in Zohar II Parshas Mishpatim, beginning (94b, end). See Ramaz there. See also the Alter Rebbe’s Likkutei Torah Parshas Tzav (8b ff.), Shaarei T’shuva (of his son, the Mitteler Rebbe), Vol. 1, words beginning “Shishim Heima,” among other sources.
DELIGHTING IN SHTUS? A REAL WASTE
6. It is solely on account of a ruach shtus that a person can sin. A ruach shtus is the predominance of a desire for (even permissible) physical pleasure. Entertaining this desire has the effect of cooling a person off spiritually and desensitizing him from enjoying G-dliness. Now, worldly desire is called “shtus” for two reasons: a) many physical delights result in a bitter aftermath. b) Physical pleasure is called “shtus” because it is actually waste. Just as the digestive system extracts the nutrients from food and excretes waste, so too On High, angels sift out and elevate the spiritual manifestation of pleasure, especially spiritual delights, and extract from it what is considered waste in comparison. This process results in the spiritual waste descending, ultimately becoming manifest in the physical world as earthly delights. Thus, taking pleasure in it is indeed an act of great folly, insofar as it is the exchange of G-dly delight for physical pleasure, which is actually waste.
LIKE A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP
7. Now, the cause of a ruach shtus is the person being an animal. For just as an animal lacks intellect, the person who sins lacks daas d’k’dusha, a holy mindset, causing him to crave physical things, etc. Even if he has an understanding of holiness, that is not enough; there must specifically be daas, sensitivity in his soul, to ward off the ruach shtus. There are three levels of daas. a) Intellectual immersion; connecting with the subject matter through deep contemplation (“And Adam knew, etc.”). b) A more profound level of daas is having an emotional response to the knowledge. A child is, therefore, not obligated in Mitzvos, for he does not appreciate their preciousness. c) Deeper still, daas means irrevocable knowledge – having a recognition of the matter to the point that it is validated to him, as something that is seen, with no need for proof or corroboration. Where daas is lacking and shtus finds its way in, correction is required. Although in general, one must take the middle path, if the person has veered from this path towards
6 � • 7 Shvat 5773
the side of evil, he must correct it by veering to the other extreme. Being that shtus d’l’umas zeh and sins cause the Divine presence to depart, shtus d’k’dusha is needed to bring it back.
THE NEED FOR HELP FROM ON HIGH
8. Now, Moshe and Aharon were responsible for illuminating souls. Indeed, Aharon is the embodiment of the principle, “have love of humanity (ha’brios, the creatures) and draw them close to the Torah,” meaning that he reached out even to those who are merely “brios – creations,” possessing no other virtue than having been created by G-d. Even towards these “creatures,” Aharon
showed affection, great love. Likewise, the n’siim, whose every concern – with regard to matters of Torah and Mitzvos as well as guiding the Jewish people – is overseen with love of their fellow Jews, love of Torah, and love of G-d. And this virtue is channeled to all the Chassidim, each individual according to his personal situation, his standing and his state of being. We must exert our own effort, but assistance and the capacity for success must be granted from Above, in general, and in particular, from the neshama from which the Jew stems. As a result, the Sh’china dwells in the work of our hands, and returns to the physical Express service Express service world. Fully Computerized Fully Computerized
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Issue 865 • �
WHEN I WENT UPSTAIRS, I UNDERSTOOD EVERYTHING
R’ Binyamin Mintz of Crown Heights was a young bachur on Yud Shvat 5710. He shares his memories of over sixty years ago and recalls what few remember today – the final years of the Rebbe Rayatz and the day of his passing. * Presented for Yud Shvat.
By Hillel Zaltzman
Binyamin Mintz of Crown Heights grew up in Pittsburgh and attended public school. When the Rebbe Rayatz first came to America, he sent R’ Mordechai Altein and R’ Sholom Posner to Pittsburgh to open a yeshiva. When R’ Binyamin’s father heard about the new yeshiva, he suggested to his son, who was already over 13, that he learn there because he saw that his son was inclined to learn about Judaism. Binyamin agreed and his father registered him.
It wasn’t a typical yeshiva. Every day, after public school, at four in the afternoon, he would go to yeshiva and learn Jewish subjects until the evening. Then he would return home. “When I entered ninth grade I began learning in yeshiva regularly. Every morning I would go to yeshiva where I learned Jewish subjects and in the afternoon we learned secular subjects.” Another year went by and when Binyamin moved up to tenth grade he faced a decision.
The yeshiva had not opened an additional class so he could either continue in public school or go to yeshiva in New York. He decided to go to Tomchei T’mimim in New York. This was the winter of 5706, after Chanuka. “R’ Sholom Posner brought me to the train station in Pittsburgh and got me settled on the train. His son Zalman waited for me at the station in New York and took me to the yeshiva which was at the corner of Bedford and Dean. The next day I met with the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi
8 � • 7 Shvat 5773
Mordechai Mentlick and I gave him the letter of recommendation that R’ Posner had given me. I was only fifteen and a half.” This was the first time Binyamin was learning in a full time yeshiva with a dormitory, with s’darim on weekdays and Shabbos. At a certain point, when the yeshiva was experiencing financial woes, he had to eat with the Kestenbaum family on President Street. Mr. Kestenbaum, a wealthy furrier, was not a Lubavitcher, but he admired Chabad and was willing
to host a yeshiva bachur.
MEMORIES OF RAMASH
R’ Binyamin saw the Rebbe Rayatz several times. “We would on occasion see the Rebbe looking out the window of his room on the second floor. Sometimes he sat on the sukka porch and rested there.” R’ Binyamin even attended farbrengens of the Rebbe Rayatz, which took place in his apartment on the second floor. About thirty
or forty people filled the space around the large table. The young bachurim were not allowed in, but after the farbrengen they would open the doors and the bachurim, who had been waiting on the steps, would then be allowed in. The Rebbe would still be sitting at the head of the table and the boys would say l’chaim to the Rebbe. R’ Binyamin can still visualize the Rebbe’s son-in-law, Ramash, as he looked in those days. He knew him personally because of the way things were set up in the
Issue 865 • �
the sukka was through that room so I walked in and went to the sukka. I saw the Rebbe Rayatz sitting facing Eastern Parkway and Ramash sitting and facing Kingston. Those present, a handful of Chassidim, sang, and now and then the Rebbe Rayatz spoke. “At that point, it was very hard to understand the Rebbe since his speech was impaired. I saw a spot in a corner of the sukka and sat down quietly. Between sichos I took mashke and said l’chaim to the Rebbe. Then I went out and as I was already in the room heading out, I heard the people stop singing and the Rebbe began talking. Although what he said was almost entirely not understandable, I suddenly heard him say clearly, ‘Wine is a precious thing and every drop must lead to a benefit in avoda.’ I remember being taken aback by how clearly this was said.”
R’ Mintz recalls something else that happened in the early years of the Rebbe’s nesius, in 5713. That year, they recited Birkas HaChama, a bracha recited once every 28 years. “It was a Wednesday, 23 Nissan, and about twenty people were gathered in the beis midrash. The Rebbe came to the beis midrash at seven in the morning. He was already standing in his place, ready to daven but nobody went over to the amud. I started walking over when the Rebbe suddenly said, ‘Today we need to daven quickly.’ By the time I got over to the amud, R’ Yoel Kahn had gotten there and he was the chazan. “When the davening was over, we went outside with the Rebbe. He stood downstairs in the spot between the steps and the pavement, while the rest of us stood on the grass next to 770. We were about fifty people in all who said this rare bracha.” yeshiva in 770. “The yeshiva davened in the small zal on the first floor every Shabbos. Ramash (later to be the Rebbe) would come from his home, enter the room for a few minutes and then come out, walk into the long corridor, enter the ‘second room’ and from there go to the zal and sit in his place next to the far entrance. (After accepting the nesius, he would enter the zal from the main door opposite his room). His place was on the bench with everyone else with a shtender near the wall. Sometimes I sat next to him during davening. “I noticed that Ramash would start from ‘Ma Tovu’ and daven at his own pace. When the minyan would finish the Shabbos davening, he would be up to ‘Boruch Sh’Omar.’ During the Torah reading, the Rebbe Rayatz’s two sons-in-law were given an aliya. Rashag got shlishi and Ramash got shishi. After the minyan finished davening, Ramash returned to his room and nobody knew what he did there. “On special days like 12 Tammuz or 19 Kislev there were two farbrengens: the first night, Rashag farbrenged in the small room downstairs. On the second night, Ramash would farbreng in the beis midrash. More people attended Ramah’s farbrengens. Ramash would also farbreng every Shabbos Mevarchim. After the davening, the people would set up two tables and Ramash, who as I said, hadn’t yet started ‘Boruch Sh’Omar,’ would sit at the head of the table and farbreng for about forty minutes. We bachurim would come from the yeshiva on Bedford to attend this farbrengen. “We often saw him on Erev Shabbos when I sat in the zal and reviewed the parsha. He would enter the zal wearing a gray suit and hat. On Shabbos, of course, he wore a sirtuk and a black hat.”
That bitter day of Yud Shvat 5710, the day of the histalkus, is etched in R’ Mintz’s memory. He first relates his memories of the preceding Friday: “After I finished eating at my hosts, the Kestenbaums, I went to 770 and found Rashag sitting and learning the maamer ‘Basi L ’Gani’ that the Rebbe Rayatz had prepared before Shabbos. “The next day, Shabbos morning, when I arrived for Shacharis, I saw Zalman Posner running from 770. I asked him where he was running and he replied obliquely, ‘I’m going to Brownsville.’ At that time, there were many shuls there and thousands of Jews lived in the area. “I continued to the beis midrash for davening when I suddenly noticed R’ Nachum
THE VALUE OF EVERY DROP OF WINE
R’ Mintz’s memories of the Rebbe Rayatz are clear, even today. One of them is of the final Sukkos, Shabbos Chol HaMoed 5710, when he was on the first floor of 770 and heard singing from the Rebbe Rayatz’s sukka on the second floor. Someone told him that the Rebbe was farbrenging in his sukka. “I went up to the second floor and saw that the door was open. I went in until I reached the yechidus room. I saw a large desk and large pots full of water for netilas yadayim. The entrance to
10 � • 7 Shvat 5773
Novokov standing near the window and sobbing. He owned a store on Montgomery. I still didn’t know what had happened and thought he was crying over some personal matter. Then I noticed Ramash enter the beis midrash with some other people and when he saw that they had already begun to daven he entered the ‘second room’ and went before the amud and began davening very quickly until he reached the point that they were up to in the main minyan in the large room. Then the two minyanim joined and davened together. I also heard someone crying during the Torah reading but I still did not attribute any significance to this. “After the davening, as I got ready to go eat the Shabbos meal, a bachur older than me came over and said, ‘Perhaps you’ll go up to say T’hillim.’ I innocently asked him why, but he said, ‘Don’t ask questions, just go up.’ When I went up, I understood everything. I sat down to say T’hillim near the Rebbe’s bedroom. The door was slightly ajar and I saw the Rebbe’s bed in the corner while the other bed was moved to the side. The bed was covered with a sheet. “Rashag walked here and there in a frenzy. Ramash on the other hand was restrained and dealt with everything that needed to be done, telling each one what to do. It was easy to discern the difference between them. Other bachurim came up to say T’hillim and I left for the Shabbos meal. When I arrived at my host’s house, I found that they already knew of the Rebbe’s passing. As I said, my host wasn’t a Lubavitcher but he traveled on business to various countries including Russia. Each time, the Rebbe Rayatz asked him to take Jewish religious items with him
Binyamin Mintz at his typewriter
Issue 865 • �
saying, ‘It’s dangerous but you have an American passport.’ A few times when he came for the Rebbe’s blessing and to offer to take some items, the Rebbe declined saying, ‘Now is not the right time for that.’” “As I stood there next to the yechidus room, I couldn’t help but remember the t’fillos that took place with the Rebbe as he sat there and the congregation davened in the minyan in the next room, his mother’s room. The Rebbe would listen to the minyan through the partially open door. I could sometimes see the Rebbe sitting near the table, wrapped in his tallis with only wisps of his beard visible. “Sunday morning, we went down to the beis midrash and davened Shacharis while the chevra kadisha closed the door to the room and made the preparations for the funeral. When we went back upstairs, the Rebbe was in the aron (coffin) they built out of his shtender. It was lying on the chairs, covered with his tallis. Downstairs, all the bachurim had already done kria. “They took the Rebbe downstairs for the funeral where a large crowd waited. The aron left 770 and the bachurim turned left until Brooklyn Avenue and then right where the cars were waiting. The chevra kadisha’s car took the aron to the yeshiva on Bedford and Dean from where they continued to Atlantic Avenue, and turned right towards the cemetery on Springfield Boulevard. “When we arrived there, they told us not to enter through the main gate but to walk left till the grave. It was a long detour and when we got there, the burial had already taken place. Someone told us that we should take some dirt and place it on the grave. As I stood there, I saw Ramash standing on the right side of the grave and Rashag on the left, gazing silently. “By the time we left the cemetery, the buses had already departed for 770. As mourners do, we sat for a short while on the pavement on the side of the road, and then took a city bus to 770.” ten. R’ Mintz will never forget the first Lag B’Omer after the histalkus: “On Lag B’Omer the Rebbe said he wanted to go to the gravesite together with a minyan. Since we did not have a regular yeshiva schedule that day, I decided to go along. When we arrived at the Ohel, the Rebbe stood at the foot of the grave, facing the gravestone while the rest of us stood all around. Each of us said the Maaneh Lashon and when we finished, we went out and waited for the Rebbe outside the cemetery near the bus. After the Rebbe finished his avoda, he came out. “Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Kazarnovsky, Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson and some other older Chassidim arrived. R’ Kazarnovsky showed the Rebbe the plans they had prepared for a stone wall around the grave. The initial plan was that the inner stone wall would be a little larger than the grave. When the Rebbe saw the plan he said, ‘Why was so little space left?’ They said they wanted the space to be as small as possible in order to give people room to stand. To their surprise, the Rebbe said, ‘And who said that the Rebbe [Rayatz] is here?’ pointing at the grave. ‘Maybe the Rebbe is here, more to the left?’ “They were all flabbergasted by this and did as the Rebbe said. The inner wall was constructed more to the northern side. As I said, this was on Lag B’Omer, just three months after the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, and long before the Rebbe accepted the nesius. Even then, the older Chassidim had utter bittul to the Rebbe for they knew that the Rebbe was head and shoulders above them all.”
RAMASH WILL BE THE SUCCESSOR
According to R’ Mintz, the feeling that Ramash was the person to fill the void was apparent to him and many others. “We bachurim knew that if something happened to the Rebbe, Ramash would succeed him. I remember that one time, when I ate at the Kestenbaums, they were discussing what would happen after the Rebbe Rayatz’s 120 years. I said, ‘Nothing will happen because he’ll be the Rebbe until Moshiach comes,’ but they insisted on asking. I said, ‘Then the younger son-inlaw will be the Rebbe.’” R’ Mintz felt this way even though Ramash acted in a very low-key manner, like an ordinary person. He told how once he had a problem with his foot which caused him to have to shuffle. Ramash met him and asked him how his foot was. Even several weeks later, when Ramash saw him at a farbrengen, he asked him about his foot. “He was very unassuming, like an ordinary person, but we could all see that he was superior to all.” Throughout the year, minyanim were held in the Rebbe Rayatz’s room and the two sonsin-law said Kaddish. Rashag davened in the first minyan at nine, and the Rebbe davened in the second minyan that began at
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BRILLIANT CHASSID AND SIMPLE JEW
R’ Itche der Masmid said about Nachum Goldschmidt, “Founding Tomchei T’mimim was worthwhile just for Nachum’ke.” * He was an enormous maskil in Chassidus and he taught Chassidus to tens of thousands of people in shiurim, farbrengens and on the radio. He was very close to R’ Levik, the Rebbe’s father. He was a mashpia in Tomchei T’mimim and ran a Beis Yaakov, and despite all his accomplishments he was the epitome of modesty. * He passed away on 13 Shvat 5736/1976.
Rabbi Nachum Goldschmidt a”h was born on 8 Nissan 5665/1905 in Yekaterinoslav. His father was R’ Yitzchok, the town shochet. Their family was very close with the rav of the city, R’ Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Rebbe’s father. In his childhood, R’ Nachum learned by the Chassidishe melamed along with the Rebbe and his brother. He
kept up his relationship with R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib for years and would visit him at his place of work, the municipal library in Tel Aviv. They would talk for hours, with R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib explaining deep concepts in Chassidus to him. In 5683, he went to learn by the Rebbe Rayatz in Rostov and when he was in yeshiva he was given permission by the Rebbe Rayatz to review maamarei Chassidus according to the
level of the listeners [this was revolutionary at the time since the tradition was to be particular about “osiyos HaRav,” reviewing the Rebbe’s teachings exactly as he said them – Ed.]. R’ Itche der Masmid once exclaimed that it was worth founding Tomchei T’mimim just for “Nachum’ke Goldschmidt.” When the Rebbe left Rostov, R’ Nachum went to learn in Charkov and Nevel. When he heard that the GPU was on his trail, he fled for Vitebsk
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where he was appointed mashpia for the youngest group. In 5695/1935 he moved to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Tel Aviv. There too, he exerted himself to spread Chassidus. In 5698, he married Chaya Devorah, the daughter of the magnate, R’ Yechiel Tzvi Gurary. The wedding took place in Poland and is famous because the Rebbe Rayatz appeared unexpectedly at one of the sheva brachos meals and even said a maamer, “Asher Bara Sasson V’simcha.” That was the only time we merited a wedding maamer from one of the Rebbeim that was said not at a wedding of Beis Rebbi. For 21 years, R’ Nachum and his wife ran a Beis Yaakov school. “The principal sat throughout the school day with s’farim in front of him. He studied them in depth, thirstily and with profound concentration,” said one of the teachers in the school.
Although he gave shiurim in Chassidus on the radio for years, when he was asked to be interviewed for Israeli television he refused. He said, “Ich bin fort a Tamim” (after all, I am a Tamim) as though to say, there is a limit to compromise.
organizations of the Rebbeim in Eretz Yisroel. Despite his serious heart condition, he worked with mesirus nefesh to spread Chassidus and fought against the decree of Mihu Yehudi.
In his position as principal, he met with many of those in leadership positions within the religious world and he used these encounters to introduce them to Chassidus. In addition to his wisdom and fine character, which became evident in his role of menahel of this mosad, R’ Nachum was also a mashpia and famous lecturer of Chassidus. He was known for his marvelous ability to explain even the most difficult concepts in Chassidus. He was a member of the Vaad Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the Vaad of Ezras Achim and other
WITH THE REBBE’S FATHER
Because of the war that had broken out in his youth, he remained in Yekaterinoslav where he learned in the local yeshiva. He spent his free time developing a connection with the rav, R’ Levi Yitzchok. R’ Levi Yitzchok responded with love and would
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answer all his questions in Nigleh and Chassidus. When R’ Levi Yitzchok would go to public events and wanted someone to accompany him, he had a problem. His oldest son was immersed in his learning and he did not want to interrupt him. His younger son was too young to take along. So R’ Nachum became R’ Levi Yitzchok’s escort on many occasions. Once when he was 15 he walked home with the rav and carried his tallis and t’fillin bag. R’ Levik suddenly asked him, “Nachum, what do you think – the government asked me to sign a declaration that there is enough matza for all who want it. Can I sign to that? It’s far from the truth!” The boy thought and then replied, “Who am I to respond to something so complicated? I am but a lad who has not reached the level of deciding halachic issues, but if the rav is asking my opinion, I think that the answer ought to be negative.” R’ Levik smiled and said, “Yes, Nachum’ke, I also think it is forbidden to sign it and I won’t sign it.” parents will enjoy the regards that I give them from you.” Rayatz agitated for the establishment of shiurim in Chassidus in every Jewish community. R’ Nachum immediately got involved. He would travel four times a week to yishuvim – in Petach Tikva, Rishon L ’Tziyon, Bat Yam and other places. The bus he would take passed Arab villages and the Arab hoodlums would throw rocks, but he wasn’t scared. R’ Nachum was a master explicator and many people attended his shiurim. R’ Yisroel Tzvi Heber related: In those days, I lived with my family in Petach Tikva and I tried not to miss a single one of R’ Nachum’s shiurim. The night that R’ Nachum would come to give a shiur, the shul was full, more than on Shabbos. In one shiur, it seemed to me that the correct explanation was different than how R’ Nachum explained the Tanya. After the shiur I went over to him hesitantly and told him what I thought. R’ Nachum stood patiently and listened quietly and attentively as I said my piece. When I finished, he thought and then said, “You might be right; we need to think about it.” I was amazed by this answer. There I was, a young fellow, and he conceded that I might be right! I learned from him what the gadlus (greatness) of a Tamim is.
CHASSID – OVEID
When he moved to Eretz Yisroel, he slept the first night at his teacher, R’ Zalman Moshe HaYitzchaki. The very next day though, he looked for a room to rent and work to pay for the room. He wasn’t very choosy and he found a small, cheap room and backbreaking work in construction. It would happen in later years, as he walked in Tel Aviv, that he would proudly point at a building or road and say, “I built that” or “I paved that.” Despite the difficult labor, when he arrived after work he would go directly to the Chabad shul and learn Tanya with some older boys. Another shiur took place in those days in the home of R’ Shmuel Zalmanov which was well attended by bachurim and Anash. For a while, he worked together with R’ Folye Kahn selling second-hand clothing. One day, while sorting the clothing, they found two liras in a pants’ pocket, a sum equal to the salary the two of them earned in a month. They immediately left the business and went to the beis midrash to learn. They did not work for a month; instead, they just sat and learned from morning to night.
HAND ON THE SHOULDER
While learning in Vitebsk, R’ Nachum once felt a hand on his shoulder. At first he was frightened because he thought it was a police agent, but when he turned around he saw R’ Levik standing behind him and looking into the seifer he was learning from. When R’ Nachum asked him what he was doing there, R’ Levik said, “I had to come here to Vitebsk for a communal matter and I heard that you are sitting and learning in the beis midrash. I decided to come and see how you are and surely your
GRANDSON OF THE REBBE
After his son Mordechai was born, his mother-in-law showed a picture of the child to the Rebbe Rayatz. The Rebbe looked at it and smiled and said, “Just as he is your physical grandson, he is my spiritual grandson.”
FIVE SHIURIM ON SHABBOS
His dedication to teaching Chassidus was legendary. Aside from the four evenings a week that he traveled to give shiurim, and in those days, traveling by bus from Tel Aviv to Petach Tikva, for example, was not merely half an hour but much more, R’ Nachum would give five shiurim on Chassidus every Shabbos in shuls throughout Tel Aviv.
GADLUS OF A TAMIM
In 5701/1941 the Rebbe
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Yud-Tes Kislev was his Yom Tov. He would review Chassidus at several farbrengens in the big cities in the center of the country. These were maamarim that were listened to with great attention. In the Chabad publication of those early years, it always mentions that his reviewing of Chassidus was the highlight of the celebration. The maamarim which he reviewed were also listened to closely by people like President Shazar and Knesset members and ministers who would attend the main farbrengen in Kfar Chabad.
He did this with simplicity and bittul and considered this a holy assignment even though he couldn’t delve into the haskala of Hemshech 5672 with them. Before he began teaching Tanya to girls he devoted considerable time to introducing them to the concept of hiskashrus. He did this by first teaching them the order and history of the Rebbeim.
HOURS ON THE BENCH
R’ Nachum was immersed in Chassidus to an astonishing extent. One summer day, he was seen sitting on a bench on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, one arm resting on the back of the bench, his other hand supporting his head, completely lost in thought. All around him cars zoomed by, horns honked, mothers chased after children, and dogs barked. He sat there for several hours. A Chassid passed by and was offended when R’ Nachum did not greet him. It was only when he got closer that he saw that R’ Nachum was immersed in something loftier and was oblivious to his surroundings.
TANYA CLASSES ON THE RADIO
During the height of the inspiration roused by the Rebbe in the year 5720 which marked the 200th year since the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, R’ Yona Eidelkop decided to go after the ultimate in large scale outreach. He approached the Israel Broadcast Authority and asked for air time for a Tanya shiur. Nobody dreamed that he would be given any, but in the end, he was allotted fifteen minutes once every two weeks. It was decided that R’ Nachum would give the shiur. R’ Nachum would sit for five to ten hours and prepare for the fifteen minutes he would speak on the radio. The time and effort he invested were quickly seen to be worthwhile. Letters started arriving at the Tzach office in Kfar Chabad with requests for transcripts of the shiurim. The Broadcast Authority saw the tremendous interest in the shiurim and decided to grant more air time and the shiur became a weekly event. When R’ Nachum was in yechidus in 5728, the Rebbe told him to print his shiurim. This
did not happen in his lifetime. After he passed away, the Rebbe told his son-in-law, R’ Sholom Ber Lipschitz, that R’ Nachum’s son, R’ Mordechai, should print them. This book became one of the mainstays of explaining Chassidus in that era.
STILL A TAMIM
Although he gave shiurim in Chassidus on the radio for years, when he was asked to be interviewed for Israeli television he refused. He said, “Ich bin fort a Tamim” (after all, I am a Tamim) as though to say, there is a limit to compromise.
R’ Nachum was known for his joie de vivre and his sense of humor, as well as his musical talent. He was the direct source for a number of the niggunim in Seifer HaNiggunim. His good friend was R’ Pinye Altheus and if you knew R’ Pinye, you understood why. During the War of Independence, bombs fell on Tel Aviv. At one point, R’ Pinye and R’ Nachum found shelter under some tables and benches. While lying there, they competed as to who could do a better job with a “shtikel chazanus” for T’fillas Tal.
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MEKUSHAR AND CONNECTING OTHERS
Although R’ Nachum was a gaon in Chassidus and he loved to delve into deep topics (in 5701 the Rebbe Rayatz wrote him that even though the main learning was in-depth study with the older students, he should not forget simple learning with balabatim), he taught Chassidus to women and girls. This was something the Rebbe told him to do after R’ Leibel Zalmanov asked him to teach Chassidus in Beis Rivka.
‘I FELT THAT THE REBBE LOVES ME’
The shliach, R’ Shimon Shaer, director of the Chabad house in Kiryat Moshe for nearly five decades, shares some special stories he had with the Rebbe. * Presented for Yud Shvat.
By Nosson Avrohom
y family made aliya from Yemen when I was a little boy.
When we arrived in Eretz Yisroel, the Jewish Agency representatives put us on trucks and took us to the Zarnoga transit camp (Kiryat
Moshe today), which is near Rechovos. There, my parents and I underwent hair-raising attempts to turn us away from our religion.
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“Unlike many others who fell into their nets and sent their children to government schools, our family insisted on not changing anything from the way things were done in Yemen. “One day, religious Jews showed up at the camp. I later learned that they were the Chabad Chassidim, R’ Itzke Gansburg and R’ Zalman Abelsky. They had come to register children for the school they had founded in the neighborhood. My parents were the first to agree to register their children, me and my brother Avrohom.”
Rebbe. Back then, traveling was complicated, so it was much more appreciated. No wonder that the excitement and simcha were enormous. “When we arrived in New York after the long trip, the local Chassidim were waiting for us with a special bus at the airport. Throughout the trip we did ‘mivtzaim’ with every Jew we met. The first time we saw the Rebbe was at Maariv. We said the SheHechiyanu blessing. After Maariv, the Rebbe farbrenged as it was the yahrtzait of the Tzemach Tzedek. It was the first time I was participating in the
know them thoroughly. “In that yechidus I also asked what to do about celebrating my birthday since my parents did not know the exact date of my birth, only that it was before Rosh HaShana. The Rebbe told me to observe my birthday on the Shabbos before Rosh HaShana. “When I returned home, I asked the Rebbe whether I should continue doing this and the answer was: My spoken word remains in force. “Something interesting happened in my second yechidus. As soon as I walked in, the Rebbe
A LETTER FROM THE REBBE TO A YOUNG BOY
That year, 5716/1956 when he was a child in the Chabad school, he wrote his first letter to the Rebbe. He asked for a bracha for good health for his mother and for the rest of the extended family. The Rebbe responded with brachos for the entire family. “I remember that the letter I received as a young boy affected me deeply and it helped me continue on my way to Chabad. I felt that I was connected to the Rebbe.” When he graduated, he felt close to Chabad and it was only natural that he would want to continue learning in the Chabad yeshiva in Lud. After years of learning Nigleh and Chassidus, he went on K’vutza at the end of 5722/1962. Because he was young (below draft age), he stayed a year and a half in the K’vutza program. He received many kiruvim (signs of affection) from the Rebbe. “I will never forget the trip, what dancing there was, what simcha. It’s not like today when you order a ticket in the morning and the next day you are at the
Rebbe’s farbrengen. I did not know Yiddish at the time and did not understand a word. “Right after a Tishrei packed with giluyim (lofty revelations), the secretariat began making appointments for yechidus for all the guests. Before I went to see the Rebbe, I wrote down points of everything I wanted to say, and the Rebbe answered all my questions. The Rebbe laid out for me a path in yiras Shamayim. Among other questions, I asked how to avoid unwanted thoughts and the Rebbe told me to learn chapters 26 and 27 in Tanya and
asked me whether we could move on to ‘asei tov’ (doing good), since in the first yechidus we had dealt with ‘sur mei’ra’ (avoiding evil). This time, the Rebbe instructed me to learn chapter 41 and the chapters that follow it. This yechidus took place in 5724, a year later, and I had learned Yiddish for the purpose of understanding the Rebbe’s sichos. Interestingly, the Rebbe asked me at the beginning of the yechidus whether to speak in Yiddish or Hebrew. I replied that we could speak in Yiddish and that is what we did.
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“In that yechidus I asked the Rebbe whether I could remain in 770 for a while after my K’vutza returned to Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe told me to extend my visa and I was ecstatic that the Rebbe approved my staying on. I returned home a week before Shavuos. Before that, I had a rare kiruv, which every time I think about it, thrills me anew. It happened before I left for the airport. “I went to R’ Leibel Groner and told him how hard it was for me to leave the Rebbe and the atmosphere in 770. He commiserated and suggested that I stand in the hallway and wait. It was after Mincha and the Rebbe suddenly appeared with mashke a shliach but a regular bachur, a graduate of the Reshet, and to get such a kiruv! I could not possibly have expected such a thing. “When they saw that the Rebbe continued standing there, they felt bad for taking the Rebbe’s time. Although my flight was in a few hours, they announced that I had to get into the car that would take me to the airport. R’ Eliyahu Heber, the wine seller, took me in his car and only then did the Rebbe go to his room. “Afterward, everyone began speculating about why the Rebbe had parted from me in this way. They said they had never seen such a thing. As for me, I simply “A long time later, the brothers, Rabbi Meir and R’ Chaim Aharon, who learned in the school in Kfar Saba, told me that my farbrengen made a great impact on them and encouraged them to continue to come close to Chabad.” A short time after he returned, he received various shidduch suggestions but he wanted to learn Yoreh Dei’a and be tested. He set aside all the suggestions and continued learning in Kollel until 5725. “During that year, R’ Druk, who ran the Chabad school in Rishon L ’Tziyon, begged me to fill in for one of the classes. I substituted for a month and did well but then I wanted to return to yeshiva. The hanhala had other plans for me though. I told R’ Druk that I needed the Rebbe’s agreement. A few days later I received this answer: Continue in your class in Rishon L ’Tziyon for the upcoming year too and look into a shidduch and be successful. “I did not expect this. I hadn’t written about a shidduch, but the Rebbe had decided the time had come. That same week, someone by the name of Moshe Mutzafi approached me with a suggestion. He had a very odd condition though, that the meeting take place that same night. He explained that the girl lived in the north of the country and she was in central Israel that day and it was an opportunity to meet. I said no. I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t even have a decent suit, but he insisted. ‘You have no choice, you are coming with me.’ I joined him reluctantly and we went to Kfar Saba together where she was staying with relatives. “The girl had not attended a Chabad school but had been in the Chinuch Atzmai
“I said no. I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t even have a decent suit, but he insisted. ‘You have no choice, you are coming with me.’”
and told me to farbreng in all the schools of the Reshet throughout Eretz Yisroel. “The Rebbe blessed me with good news and that I should have a good trip and I answered ‘amen.’ Then the chevra began dancing with me, ‘Ki B’simcha Seitzei’u,’ and the Rebbe encouraged the singing with a wave of his arms. They all expected the Rebbe to enter his room but the Rebbe stood there at the door and watched us. R’ Groner asked me to come closer to the main door to enable the Rebbe to enter his room, but that didn’t help and the Rebbe continued standing there. R’ Groner asked me to leave the building and set out, but the Rebbe did not go to his room and continued to encourage us for many minutes. Everyone, myself included, was stunned by this kiruv from the Rebbe. I wasn’t felt that the Rebbe loves me. “The Rebbe’s special gaze when he escorted me accompanies me to this very day. I feel that the Rebbe is always with me, especially in the many decades that I am on his shlichus. In order to run such wide-ranging activities among a population of 30,000 people, you need a lot of inner fortitude. That fortitude I draw from that gaze of the Rebbe.”
THE REASSURING DREAM
When R’ Shaer returned to Eretz Yisroel he immediately carried out his shlichus. He went to all the Reshet schools and farbrenged with the students. He told about the Rebbe’s greatness and the importance in improving in Torah and mitzvos and anticipating the Geula.
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system in Bayit Vegan. My first impression of her was positive and we decided that each of us would influence the other with the good things we knew. We ultimately decided to marry, though not before receiving the Rebbe’s bracha which she got immediately and I got a week later. The Rebbe’s response eliminated any doubts I still had: Surely they have decided to establish a faithful home in Israel. “Afterward, my wife told me about her doubts since she was unfamiliar with Chassidic customs and whatever she had heard about Chassidim up until that point was not positive. Even after the vort, she was still uncertain lest we would not be able to raise our children the way she had been educated. That night she had an astonishing dream. The Rebbe came to her and said, ‘You should know that this is your shidduch from heaven.’ This is what reassured her.”
THE REBBE ENJOYED THE PICTURES
In 5740, R’ Shaer was in the Reserves at the Refidim base in the Sinai. He used the opportunity to do mivtzaim with soldiers and officers. He was a father of four children at the time and had to be released for Shabbos. But he was called to the commander of the base who surprised him with a request. He wanted a Chabad Shabbos on base, in the best Chassidic tradition with simcha and dancing, in order to raise the morale of the soldiers. “I asked the commander how I could leave my family home alone. I hadn’t seen them in a long time. He said, ‘Bring them here.’
“My wife agreed and the commander sent tickets for the entire family so they could fly to the base. That was a very special Shabbos which I will never forget. All the soldiers wore kippos. We made Kiddush at night and by day and we danced and rejoiced as though it was Simchas Torah. The soldiers loved the children and wanted to take pictures with them on the tanks and military vehicles. A while later they sent us the pictures in the mail. “That was a Hakhel year and my entire family flew to the Rebbe. After an exciting month, we all had yechidus. My wife was pregnant at the time with our fifth child and the Rebbe blessed us that we merit to raise him to Torah, chuppa and good deeds. When we left the yechidus, we were excited over the fact that the Rebbe had made it clear that we were going to have a boy, which we had not known. We brought the soldiers’ pictures with us to the yechidus but did not mention them in the letter. “At the end of the yechidus we put the pictures on the desk and got ready to leave. We were in the doorway when the Rebbe called
us back. ‘How can you leave after such pictures?’ said the Rebbe, after looking at each picture and the attached description. The Rebbe looked pleased and he blessed us with an abundance of brachos. The Rebbe said that the pictures gave him much nachas and he blessed us that we see nachas from our children.”
R’ Shaer is emotional as he recalls all those special moments, moments that gave him the strength to found the Chabad house that he runs in Rechovos, in the section that used to be Zarnoga. “I never left the neighborhood. When I was younger, I had several choices of where to go to school, but my parents chose Chabad. I’ll never forget the teachers, R’ Avrohom Lisson, R’ Dovid Lesselbaum, R’ Folya Khan, R’ Nissim Shitrit and of course, R’ Itzke Gansburg.” Over the years Zarnoga turned into a large residential area, which today is populated by 30,000 people. It is called Kiryat Continued on page 27
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MosHiacH & GeuLa
MOSHIACH – EXCLUSIVELY FOR EVERY JEW
Presented in honor of Yud Shvat, from a talk given on Chaf-Dalet Teives at Machon Chana commemorating the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Alter Rebbe.
By Rabbi Zvi Homnick
WHAT DOES EVERY JEW THINK ABOUT?
In the early days of the Chassidic movement, the means by which the revolutionary teachings of the early masters could be disseminated were severely limited. The strong and deeply entrenched opposition to any novel approach to traditional Judaism, and in particular to an approach that elevated the lowly simple Jew, made it all the more challenging. One of the strategies that was employed to gain access to unsuspecting audiences was to take advantage of the custom in many cities, towns and villages, to honor visiting Torah scholars with the opportunity to give a learned talk to the local scholars and/or an inspirational talk to the community at large. Since
there were no obvious differences in appearance or mode of dress at the time between one Jew and another, one simply had to establish one’s bona fides as a learned individual in order to be accorded said honor and opportunity. It didn’t take very long for the Misnagdim, the sworn opponents of the nascent spiritual insurgency, to catch on to this tactic. The threat was very real, as many were being caught up in the groundswell, scholar and layman alike. Steps had to be taken, and so it become necessary to screen potential candidates for a guest spot at the pulpit in order to weed out any possible subversives. Since a Torah scholar would not engage in prevarication, it seemed a somewhat simple and straightforward process.
Once, one such an itinerant exemplar of erudition was asked about his opinion regarding Chassidim and Misnagdim. The clandestine Chassid responded by saying that the difference between the two groups was that Chassidim think only about themselves all the time, whereas Misnagdim think about G-d. Upon hearing this response, the members of the review board were only too glad to give their seal of approval. After suitably impressing his audience with his exegetic prowess, the Chassid segued into ideas and concepts based on the teachings of the holy Baal Shem Tov, which made a deep and profound impression on the crowd. Afterward, the furious Misnagdim approached the Chassid, demanding an explanation for his earlier
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deceptive response. The Chassid assured them that he stood by the veracity of what he had said, explaining that a Chassid believes that the only true existence is G-d, and nothing else can be said to exist but Him. Therefore, the Chassid struggles with the question of how he himself can exist and whether or not he truly does exist, as well as the purpose of his seeming existence. Thus, he can be said to always be thinking about himself. The Misnaged, on the other hand, is absolutely certain of his own existence and his only question is as to whether or not G-d exists, and so he is always thinking about G-d. Although in my younger years I identified with those in the opposition, unlike the apocryphal Misnaged of yore I never ever struggled with questions about the existence of G-d. To me, G-d was very real and very present. My personal struggle was mainly with trying to live up to my obligations as regards His commands and expectations. In fact, at an absurdly young age, I came to the realization that I had serious issues with impulse control and that the things that enabled most normal children to exercise restraint and acquire discipline were of little to no effect in my case. Fear of authority figures and the corporal punishment that they meted out liberally (usually deservedly) back in the day; fear of eventual divine retribution; peer and/or communal pressures based on societal norms within the insular religious world; none of these spoke to me in any significant way (except to exercise caution not to get caught so as to avoid the ever present threat of getting a whack or three). To be sure, I had a very strong sense of myself as a Jew and as a
member of religious society, and felt a strong kinship with all Jews in general and Torah observant Jews in particular. Despite being a good (sometimes bad) little adherent of ethnocentrism, I somehow never experienced the need or desire to be and behave like everybody else in order to belong or be accepted. This left me only with my very strongly developed sense of right and wrong, and the unshakable conviction that only G-d Himself has the first and final word on
what is good and what is bad, what we are obligated to do and what we are obligated to refrain from doing. As a little kid, years before his Bar Mitzva – I am not going to mention an actual age, mostly because it would just seem way too weird even for the more credulous amongst us. However, do allow me to suggest that we as parents and educators cannot afford to underestimate the inner world of even very young children. Anyone remotely
Issue 865 • �
MosHiacH & GeuLa
familiar with the educational philosophy and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, should be well aware that the Rebbe held very strong views on this topic. – I felt trapped and overwhelmed. Aware that the Evil Inclination I was born with was working overtime and that I wasn’t due for a Good Inclination until age thirteen, I tried to come up with some way to rein myself in. The only concrete strategy I managed to come up with was to grow peios despite family opposition (now they all have peios), since I felt that the potential for chillul Hashem, desecration of G-d’s name, who I didn’t think should be reflected upon badly due to my lack of self control, would at least serve as a deterrent in the public realm. Even after the ostensible appearance on the scene of the aforementioned Good Inclination, the struggle didn’t seem to get any easier, and although I employed similar strategies over the years, there were many times that I felt that I just couldn’t go on. There were even times that I turned to G-d and informed Him that if I dropped religious practice altogether (G-d forbid), it was not a reflection on Him, and that I would be the first to admit and proclaim that G-d is truth and His Torah is truth and I am the one who is remiss. verse from Yeshaya (Isaiah 51:1) which begins, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek G-d.” According to the tradition that the Alter Rebbe once spent six weeks deciding over a single letter in the text, we have to assume that this choice of words is not simply an exercise in lyrical prose, but is intended to accurately define the very essence of those whom the author is addressing. Most of the commentaries on the verse (Radak and others) interpret this verse in the context of the prior chapter that concludes with the prophet excoriating the Jewish people of his time, and warning of the dire consequences they will face. At this point, he is turning to the tiny minority of righteous G-d seeking people, consoling them and guiding them in how to navigate the difficult times ahead. According to that explanation, it would seem that citing this verse is meant to convey that the Tanya was written for a very narrow and exclusive audience, namely the pursuers of righteousness and the seekers of G-d. Later in his introduction, the Alter Rebbe again uses an expression that would seem to affirm this message of exclusivity, There he writes, “However, I am speaking of those that know me and recognize me, each and every one of the men of our fellowship, of our country and its outlying areas.” Regarding this statement, the Rebbe Rayatz once told of a tradition that he heard from his father, handed down from Rebbe to Rebbe starting with the Alter Rebbe, that the Alter Rebbe was addressing himself to every single Jew that will ever open a Tanya all the way until the coming of Moshiach. The explanation given is that the author is trying to convey that he isn’t simply dispensing advice, but that he is investing his very being into his work so that any Jew who studies it in the future will become one of “those that know me and recognize me.” In fact, the Rebbe Rashab once stated that anybody who opens a Tanya should know that he is entering into “yechidus,” a faceto-face soul-bonding private audience, with the author. The above explanation, however, would seem to require additional explanation: If it is meant for every Jew, then why include an expression that can be not only misleading but could be interpreted in a way that is the exact opposite of the intended message? This is not simply a theoretical question, as there actually have been very great people who cited those very words as proof that Tanya is not for everybody (such as the late Satmar Rebbe in his introduction to VaYoel Moshe). Additionally, this explanation would not seem to apply to the citation of the verse from Yeshaya addressing those “who pursue righteousness, who seek G-d.” There is an alternate interpretation of the verse from the MaHaRI Kara. His reading of the verse depicts the prophet addressing the entire Jewish people in exile. According to that version, the prophet is referring to every single Jew throughout all the years of exile, which would fit nicely with the idea that the Tanya was written for and addressed to every Jew. However, this explanation too requires additional clarification: How do we understand referring to every Jew as a pursuer of righteousness and seeker of G-d, when the reality of our existence and our history seems to proclaim
FOR EVERY JEW OR ONLY FOR THE ELITE?
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, The Alter Rebbe, whose 200th yahrtzait we are commemorating this year, penned his introduction to Tanya in the form of a letter. In the salutation to that letter, he strings together a number of verses from Scripture, one of which is the
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the exact opposite? How can we have two interpretations of the same verse that are polar opposites? The view that it refers to a tiny minority of unique individuals has to be assuming that the overwhelming majority of Jews can absolutely not be classified as such! Additionally, if the function of Chassidus is to reveal the inner G-dly reality of all things and especially of the Jewish soul, why this choice of phraseology that only seems to cloud the issue?
WHAT DOES EVERY JEW REALLY WANT?
In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe reveals the existence of a second soul that exists only within the Jew, which is “a literal part of G-d from above.” As such, its most primal drive is to reconnect to where it came from, and therefore it wants nothing more than to leave this world and reattach itself to its source within G-d, “even though it will be naught and nothingness and will be nullified there entirely out of existence, and nothing will remain of it of its original substance and essence.” As the Alter Rebbe explains, this is true of the Jewish soul at all levels, “the neshama of man [a Jew], and also the aspects of ruach and nefesh,” which are the levels of the soul that manifest within the physical body. However, being that leaving the world is not an option, since it is not what G-d wants as He sent the soul down here into a physical body, the soul needs an alternate way to become reunified with G-d. That is where Torah and Mitzvos come in. G-d, in His “desire for a dwelling place in the lowly realms,” invested His Will and His Wisdom and, by extension, His Very Being,
into Torah and Mitzvos, and it is only by learning and doing them and building that divine abode that the soul can reconnect on all levels of its existence. Unfortunately, the way the world is currently constructed, the Divine Unification that is accomplished with every word of Torah and every good deed remains hidden from our eyes and our consciousness until the coming of Moshiach, except in limited ways at certain auspicious times, or for those about whom it
says “your world you shall see in your lifetime.” The bottom line is that the most essential instinct that characterizes the soul is the boundless desire to go back home to G-d as He transcends the entirety of the natural order and all finite limitations, in order to reconnect and lose itself entirely in His Oneness. And if the only way to experience that reunification is by taking this fixer-upper of a world and doing the necessary renovations, then
Issue 865 • �
MosHiacH & GeuLa
no effort is too difficult and no sacrifice is too great to achieve the revelation of “G-d is One, and His Name is One.” So it turns out that one of the central concepts revealed in Tanya upon which much of the rest of Tanya and the spiritual advice and guidance dispensed therein is based, is the fact that the core soul programming of every Jew is to want to fix the world and find G-d. It was only as we began drawing nearer to the end of the long and difficult exile, when the darkness became so pervasive and the natural instincts of the soul became concealed and misdirected, that instead of being instinctively drawn to Torah and Mitzvos, Jews began pursuing other ways and other definitions of what it means to try to “fix” the world and make it a just and righteous place. However, the one thing that never changes and can never change is the nature of the Jewish soul. So whether its Enlightenment or Communism, Assimilation or Zionism, saving the planet from global warming or saving chickens from a southern fried holocaust, fighting for mothers to have the right to kill their unborn children or making sure the poor victimized Palestinians get their own state, a Jew is prepared to make far greater sacrifices for, and will demonstrate more extreme commitment to, that distorted version of a good and just world. Similarly, every Jew is always seeking out G-d for the purpose of reconnecting, whether he realizes it or not. That is why we see that when a Jew embraces a given belief system, he does so in a way that goes far beyond his gentile counterparts. So for example, when a Jew says he believes in Evolution, he is embracing a very different version of that belief. His Evolution is allseeing, all-knowing, all-wise, allcaring, and any question that the human mind can conceive on any subject can and will be answered somehow by Evolution and/or Science. It doesn’t matter to him that it was seeing the inherent unfairness and extreme imbalances within nature that caused the founder of the theory to suggest that there was “no owner to this domicile,” and instead there was a random process of natural selection going on. To a Jew, Evolution has to be fair as it is the source of all that is good, and to suggest that one race is further advanced than another (a basic premise underlying the original hypothesis) is blasphemous, and if any imbalances do exist then it is up to us to do anything and everything to set them right. The same holds true regarding any belief system that a Jew embraces. His version of that belief system transcends all the limitations of nature and is the means through which to fix the world. The mission of bringing G-d down and making Him accessible, while at the same time helping every Jew uncover his own instinctive drive and true desire to become One with G-d and make himself and the world around him a suitably hospitable place for the revelation of His Oneness, fell to one man and his subsequent successors along with their followers. They would be forced to operate as a small minority (Chabad) within a minority (the Chassidic movement) within the tiny minority of the Jewish people. Much like the prophets of old, the Alter Rebbe addresses himself to those few who felt the call of G-d to pursue righteousness and seek out G-d, those committed to trying to fix the world and make it a dwelling place for G-d, even if it requires standing up to the entire world. The mission that he charges them with is to reveal to, and within, every Jew how he too is included amongst those “who pursue righteousness, who seek G-d.”
TO GET EVERY JEW TO CALL OUT
In his inaugural address, on the 10th of Shvat 5711/1951, attended by a fairly small crowd, the Rebbe laid out the mission of our generation, the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption, as being to complete the work started by the Alter Rebbe. There he defined the work as “calling out” that G-d and the world are not two separate entities, as well as causing others to “call out” the same. Additionally, the Rebbe issued a caveat that if one wishes his own “calling out” to truly penetrate his own being, the only way to accomplish that is by making others do so as well. Sixty-two years ago, a pitifully small handful of people were called upon to embrace a vision of a world made right, a world that is One with G-d and proclaims that nothing else exists except for G-d, and to reach out to every Jew in the entire world on an unprecedented scale in order to convince them that this is who they truly are and what they truly want. When the Rebbe announced in 1991-92 that the work has been completed, and now the only job that remains is to prepare oneself and the world to receive and embrace the reality of a G-dly world ushered in by Moshiach himself, once again the mission fell to a relatively small number of people, whether by
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design or by circumstance. So yes, it helps to be a maverick, someone who is not hampered and hindered by societal norms and conventions, in order to hear the call to those Continued from page 21 Moshe. When he married, he chose to return to this area. “I started out small, working one-on-one by checking mezuzos, buying new t’fillin, making house calls and the like. There was something new added every year. When the Rebbe said to make kollelim for the elderly, I started Tiferes Z’keinim Levi Yitzchok. In 5747, when the Rebbe spoke about opening
“who pursue righteousness, who seek G-d.” But that is not enough. We need to operate with the knowledge that the same is true of every Jew in exile. It is just that we have the good fortune,
along with the tremendous responsibility, of helping them reveal it until they too call out (and we all internalize) that Moshiach is here, and will be fully revealed immediately, NOW!
Chabad houses everywhere, I decided to formally organize the activities in the framework of a Chabad house. That is when the official Chabad house of Kiryat Moshe was founded. I saw there was a great interest in Judaism and a willingness to be inspired if there was someone to do the inspiring. I decided to regularly work in Kiryat Moshe, Shechunat Efraim, and Shikun Selah as well as the western neighborhoods of Rechovos. I started in a small of Horodok was afraid to appear before the Rebbe, since he hadn’t fulfilled his instruction and so he hid from the Rebbe. The Rebbe once met him and said: Nu, what’s with the smicha? R’ Dovid told him he hadn’t passed and the Rebbe responded: The rav acted improperly. He should have relied on me. He told R’ Dovid to go to Rabbi Eliezerov and get smicha from him, which he did.
building where we had activities for kids, a small Chabad minyan and farbrengens on special days. “The work rapidly expanded. With the Rebbe’s bracha we decided to continue growing. We began working on a beautiful three story building where the Chabad house is located today. In 5752 I got the Rebbe’s bracha to put up a building. Two years later we laid the cornerstone and at the end of 5758 we inaugurated the building.” what it says in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch that one says the words “va’anachnu lo neida” (we do not know) while b’yeshiva (sitting) and the words “ma naaseh” (what we should do) while b’amida (standing). In Lubavitch they would say, “va’anachnu lo neida” – we do not know while in yeshiva, “ma naaseh” – what will be with us “b’amida” – during the later years of life known as the years of Amida. In other words, what we are like when we are in yeshiva is no evidence as to what we will be like when we are older.
Continued from page 41
TO RELY ON THE REBBE
R’ Shaul spoke about R’ Dovid of Horodok (who was one of the outstanding T’mimim in Lubavitch) describing him as a ben-bayis (member of the household) of the Rebbe Rashab. The Rebbe Rashab once told him to get smicha from the rav of Lubavitch whose name was R’ Dovid. R’ Dovid of Horodok went to him and was tested, but he did not pass the test and he was not given smicha. R’ Dovid
SITTING AND STANDING
R’ Shaul would explain
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Issue 865 • �
ALONE IN WARTIME
The ninth and final installment of R’ Zalman Levin’s memoirs
By Menachem Ziegelboim
he Germans had bombed all the bridges that connected Leningrad with the rest of the country and the city was under siege. I found out that large groups of young people were organizing to leave Leningrad. The only way to leave the city was via Lake Ladoga. It was mid-winter and the lake was frozen and covered with a thick layer of ice. Those involved with the plan, with the government’s help, convinced thousands of young people in schools that it was worthwhile trying this route. They guided the youth until the meeting point. Crossing the lake was very dangerous. Although the lake was frozen, there were places where the ice wasn’t particularly thick and strong and there was a real danger that it could break and people would drown. What did we do? All along the path stood a long line of people whose job it was to warn about which areas were safe and which weren’t; which places to cross quickly so the ice wouldn’t have time to crack and where it was slippery and you had to cross slowly. All
this was done while the German planes kept up the bombing. We all knew that this was the only way out of the city. Before we set out, they gave each person a little bit of flour so there would be some way of sustaining ourselves in the harsh days to come. I had my t’fillin and a little zhamicha (animal food made of corn) and I still had the sunflower plates which helped me remain alive. It took us an entire night to cross the lake. We were terrified since there was no light and there was the possibility of drowning, and so we walked along slowly to avoid falling. In the morning we arrived at the other side of the lake, the more secure part. Large trucks took us in groups to the train station and they put us on trains. In times like these, everyone looked out for himself. Nevertheless, we tried very much not to offend one another and not to quarrel. There was a heightened sense of sensitivity because of the difficult situation. After traveling, we arrived in Vologda. We slept there one night and from there we went by
train in the direction of Siberia and Kazakhstan, to the cities of Karaganda, Alma Ata and Ufa. The trains were constantly bombed and some of the compartments were destroyed. (R’ Zalman’s eyes are teary as he recalls what he went through): You are traveling by train and feel that you are in constant danger. At any second a bomb could fall and the compartment you’re sitting in could explode and you and the pieces would rise to heaven in one large flame. It is hard for me to talk about it and relive it. It doesn’t add any life to me (and that’s an understatement). I remember that I stood the entire time and asked Hashem to keep me alive as I was the sole survivor of my family. I asked, with all my heart, that at least I should remain alive as a descendant of my family. The trip by train took two weeks. They were freight trains and every so often the train would stop and we would take care of our needs in the train stations. Of course, there was no opportunity to bathe because there was no hot water. In any case, in light of the great danger and the desire to
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flee the bombs nobody thought about luxuries and it sufficed that we had a way of escaping. The train traveled mainly at night so that the Germans wouldn’t see us and bomb us. In the mornings they would stop the train and put us, hundreds of children and youth, into churches which had large, empty halls. We slept on the floor in our clothes, which were not made of soft down feathers. We would spend the rest of the time waiting until they would tell us we could continue traveling. This went on until we finally reached Karaganda in Kazakhstan. While I was still in Leningrad, I heard that the family of R’ Avrohom Aharon Chein (the brother of R’ Berke) and R’ Dovid Leib Chein lived in Karaganda, where they had moved before the war for reasons of their own. Karaganda is a city located in an area where there is a lot of coal. When I arrived in that area, I headed for Karaganda in the hopes that I would find shelter with them. I did not know where they lived so I began wandering about. It was nighttime and I was in a serious bind. It was the height of winter, freezing cold, and dark outside. I walked about like a blind man in a chimney without knowing where to go. I finally saw a house with a light on. I didn’t have much choice and I knocked on a window. I shouted that I needed a place to sleep until the morning and they did not have to worry about food for me since I had my own. Not only didn’t they let me in, but the man of the house suddenly opened the door and gave me two powerful slaps on the face that propelled me into the snow. It was by a miracle that I remained alive as they were mighty blows.
But the cursed Russians were themselves big anti-Semites, and they could not make peace with the fact that the Jews excelled in the army. They always diminished our contribution. They just couldn’t fargin us.
hundreds of people who were sleeping there. In the morning I went to look for the Chein family and while looking for them, I discovered that there were more Jews living
Issue 865 • �
I had no choice but to return to the train station. There was a bit of heat there and it was relatively pleasant to be there; far better than being outside. I sat there until morning with
in the city. I also found out that there was a Lubavitcher Chassid in the city by the name of Yehuda Kulasher (he was the gaon, Rabbi Yehuda Dobrashvili). He was given this name for the city Kulashi in Georgia where he served as rav. After searching, I arrived at the Kulasher home and they welcomed me warmly. They had a child or two. Their house was a sort of cellar dug out of the earth. I stayed in their home for a few weeks and then spent another few weeks in the home of R’ Leib, the tzaddik, and his wife Devorah Chein. The suffering that he endured is indescribable. I remember that R’ Leib had great compassion on me even though this entailed work on his part. He took care of me so I wouldn’t be bereft and so that I would feel like a member of his household. I also spent a period of time with his brother, R’ Avrohom Aharon. I moved from house to house to avoid the spying eyes of the government. (While speaking with R’ Zalman about the mesirus nefesh that other Chassidim went through in Russia, especially during special times like Pesach when they fasted for eight days, he recalled:) Pesach was very hard for us. It was still in the winter and it was hard to obtain food. Every so often we received a little food but there were no matzos. Yet we survived and continued onward. It is hard for me to believe and hard for me to be reminded, hard for me to explain … *** At a certain point, they were looking for laborers for a munitions factory. As I mentioned, when I lived in Leningrad I had worked in a factory while studying machining. Since I knew the profession I presented myself for the job. They paid only a token sum, but at least they gave us what to eat. My expertise in machining was in cutting screw threads into metal. This suited me well because they manufactured large quantities of bombs in the shape of bottles and the “bottle” had to have a sort of screw top on which they screwed a sort of wingshaped piece that served as a propeller that directed the bomb. The broad side of the bomb was filled with explosives and on the narrower end they attached a head that housed the mechanism that caused the bomb to explode when it hit the ground. Our department had 150 workers. I and another worker were the best. On the wall was a chart that listed the names of workers who reached 100% of their productivity potential and I was listed there as a worker who produced at 150% – 200% of his capacity. Thanks to this, I received a number of premiums and bonuses, and they made a big deal out of me and my excellent work. It was a huge kiddush Hashem. Unfortunately, there was a manager, the chief machine fitter, who was a big anti-Semite. When he found out that I am a Jew he began making my life miserable. Although there were no external signs that I was Jewish since I hadn’t yet grown a beard and I wore a cap, you could tell I was Jewish because of my nose. There were other male and female Jews who worked very hard there. We worked in three shifts throughout the day. Every morning, before I left for work, I would daven in the Chein’s home. Then, I would present myself at work at precisely 8:00. Some time later, they moved me to a youth hostel where I worked and lived, but that did not last long since I did not feel comfortable there. Besides, there was great danger because they could take me to the army. In fact, every day they took young people from our factory to the army that was fighting on the front against the Germans. I was all of 17, quite young, and I did not see myself going to the front so fast, from which hardly anyone found his way back alive. *** I did not work on Shabbos at all. I made an arrangement with some gentile co-workers that when they replaced me on Shabbos I would pay them in food or other gifts. I would also fill in for them when they wanted to take off. I managed for a while since my absence for a day wasn’t that noticeable, but when Rosh HaShana came and then Shabbos, three days in a row of absence from work, I did not know what to do. R’ Avrohom Aharon suggested that I burn myself, like by putting my hand in boiling milk, and then I would go to the clinic and say boiling milk had spilled on me and I could not go to work. I did that, but they did not think it was serious enough to prevent me from working. My hand was very red but there was no blister or wound and they said I could work. The anti-Semitic manager who realized what I had done, swore to take revenge on me. He made sure I was thrown out of the factory even though he knew I was an excellent worker. By not working on Shabbos I associated myself directly with religion and to the Jewish religion, no less, and
30 � • 7 Shvat 5773
this angered him exceedingly. He decided to take revenge cruelly. He gaily promised that I hadn’t seen the last of him. Every so often, people from the military went to the manager and gave him five draft notices for five men who worked there, and he decided to whom to give it. This time, he put me on the list of draftees. He also reported me to the Comsomol office and I had to register with this communist youth organization. They examined my file and thought I was a sworn communist, considering my work in the war against the enemy. Actually, my enthusiasm for my work was because I was seething inside for what the Germans did to my dear parents. In general, there were many Jews in the Russian army who fought with bravery and courage against the Germans out a sense of revenge. On the one hand, the Russians loved the Jews’ diligence. There was a slogan at the time which translates into, “Death for death, blood for blood.” It meant that we Russians had to pay the Germans back for what they did. But the cursed Russians were themselves big anti-Semites, and they could not make peace with the fact that the Jews excelled in the army. They always diminished our contribution. They just couldn’t fargin us. In any case, the Russian propaganda was very powerful and personally affected me.
I was taken to the front and joined their ranks even though my heart wasn’t with them, just my body. Aside from this, I was very afraid because I was the sole survivor of my family and I knew that if I would be killed in war, there wouldn’t be anyone to say Kaddish for me.
This is what I heard from R’ Zalman. At this point, he did not feel well and he asked for a break. I honored his request but was unable to go back and sit with him on his porch in the warm summer nights and hear more of his memoirs. These nine installments paint a rich portrait of his life, and yet,
we only reached the point when he was 17! However, as I heard, his stormy life continued while he was in the army and afterward. Upon his release, he moved to Eretz Yisroel, married the daughter of R’ Avrohom Pariz, and was famous for putting on t’fillin with people at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv where he enabled thousands to perform this mitzva. R’ Zalman finished his story with his fear that there would be nobody to say Kaddish for him. Hashgacha saw to it that he survived, whole in body, whole in spirit and whole in his religious observance. He merited to raise a chassidishe family which gave him much nachas.
TO BRING MOSHIACH NOW!
Issue 865 • �
ADD IN ACTS OF GOODNESS & KINDNESS
THE ESSENTIAL, REBELLIOUS JEW
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
TWO COMMANDMENTS: SINGULAR AND PLURAL
This week’s parsha highlights the Exodus from Egypt and the commandments the Jews were given prior to their departure. The main commandment concerned the Korban Pesach, the Paschal Offering. This offering involved sacrificing a lamb on the day before their departure—the fourteenth of Nissan—and to eat the meat of the Paschal lamb that night. Two of the commandments associated with this offering were: a) to eat it in their homes and not take any of it outside; and b) not to break any bones of the meat of the Paschal offering. However, as commentators point out, there is an inconsistency in the way these two commands are written. With regard to taking the meat out of the house the Torah uses the singular verb form, whereas the plural form is used for the prohibition against breaking the bones of the offering. Commentators discuss various reasons for this anomaly. Maharam Chagiz provides an ingenious explanation from a legal perspective. If one has violated the rule and taken the offering outside he has violated this Biblical requirement. If another person were then to take
it out a second time there would be no additional violation. Once the meat has been removed the violation cannot be transgressed a second time. With respect to the prohibition of breaking the bones of the offering the law is different. Even after one person has broken a bone while eating the Paschal offering, anyone else who breaks the same bone is also guilty of the prohibition. Hence, the Torah uses the singular verb form for taking the meat outside since only one person can be in violation of that law. The prohibition against breaking bones, by contrast, can be committed by multiple individuals. The Torah thus employs the plural form. Every detail of Torah must provide us with some insight into our own lives in our own time. What is the message in the foregoing distinction between the two prohibitions? Why is it that once a person has taken the Paschal offering out of the house, the next person will not be in violation if he takes it out as well? And why is the prohibition against breaking the bones of the offering different? To explain this anomaly we must first understand the underlying rationale for these two prohibitions.
The Talmud states that the law that forbids taking the meat of the Paschal offering outside is analogous to the law of not carrying an object out of the house on Shabbos. One of the 39 categories of work that the Torah forbids is carrying an object from a private domain to a public domain. Chassidic thought understands the public domain as a place that allows for strife, pain and unrest. The public arena, literally and figuratively, is inundated with a plethora of conflicting ideas and beliefs. The private domain, contrarily, enjoys privacy, unity and tranquility. Indeed, the entire concept of Shabbos as a day of rest is based on the capacity of Shabbos to bring tranquility into the otherwise conflicted, fragmented, chaotic and troubled world that is our weekday experience. The prohibition against carrying outside, therefore, is designed to maintain a state of inner peace because it allows us to return to and be in touch with our primal and simple core. Shabbos disentangles us from the web of quotidian life. However, as beautiful and tranquil as Shabbos is, it does not suffice. In addition to rest, peace
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and a return to our inner selves, we also need to be liberated. And this is what the Passover holiday—and particularly the Paschal offering—is all about. Indeed, even Shabbos possesses a secondary theme of liberation. We can see that in the Kiddush prayer recited Friday night, where we make reference to Shabbos first as a remembrance of Creation, and then as a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. What does liberation add to a person who already lives a blissful Shabbos life of serenity? As peaceful and blissful as living in a private domain can be, we can still be locked in a virtual prison, constrained by the limits of our natural selves. The human spirit demands of us to go beyond our comfort zone and break out of the external conventions that are imposed on us as well as overcoming our selfimposed limits. This is the spiritual parallel to the Passover offering. It is the imperative to “pass over” and transcend our own natural limits. Whereas the primary theme of Shabbos is going within to find our inner peace, the primary theme of Pesach — and the second theme of Shabbos — is self-transcendence. But then the Torah makes what appears to be a counter intuitive statement: One must not take the Paschal lamb out of the house, just like on Shabbos.
The answer is that even when we break out and transcend, we must do so within the limits of the Torah because they are Divine limits which are not really limits as we understand that term. We do not have to negate the inner sanctity of Shabbos in order to liberate ourselves. True liberation is where we find within ourselves the hidden powers that enable us to go beyond our potential,
is about breaking out, they can coexist. This teaches us that we are able to “break out” while yet remaining in our private domain. Now we can understand why the Torah uses the singular to describe the law of not carrying the Paschal offering out of the private domain. Both Shabbos and Passover demand that we never leave the ideal of unity and singularity.
The entire concept of Shabbos as a day of rest is based on the capacity of Shabbos to bring tranquility into the otherwise conflicted, fragmented, chaotic and troubled world that is our weekday experience. The prohibition against carrying outside, therefore, is designed to maintain a state of inner peace because it allows us to return to and be in touch with our primal and simple core. Shabbos disentangles us from the web of quotidian life.
but they dare not conflict with G-d’s commandments that are Divine and therefore liberating and not limiting. The only thing that is limiting is the way we approach the experience of the commandments. Moreover, self-transcendence is not about becoming something we are not. It doesn’t require of us to cease being Shabbos Jews. It does not require of us to deny our selfhood and transform our identities. It does mean that we can dig deeper into our soul to discover heretofore untapped reservoirs of G-dly energy which enable us to go beyond our previous potential. Hence, the Torah compares the laws of not transporting the Paschal offering out of the private domain to the law of Shabbos. While Shabbos is about going within and Pesach
DON’T BREAK – DENY YOUR ESSENCE
The Torah then continues to reinforce this idea with the command against breaking a bone of the Paschal offering. The Hebrew word for bone – etzem — also means “essence.” The essence of the Jew must not be compromised in the effort to break out of our boundaries. There is a tendency for those who are blessed with a rebellious nature to deny their own identity. And, tragically, in our own day and age there have been many Jews who have rebelled against their own heritage and even denied their Jewish identity. “Don’t break the bones of the Paschal offering” can now be understood as teaching that being a rebel does not mean to
THE PARADOX OF PASSOVER
How do we reconcile the idea of breaking out of boundaries with the idea of withdrawing into one’s home and inner sanctum? Either we are to stay within or break out? How can we do both?
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break and deny one’s essential identity! More specifically, these twin admonitions address two perils for those who seek to be liberated: First, the rebellious Jew may misdirect that positive energy and throw off the “shackles” of the Mitzvos, reasoning that free spirits do not need to be told how to micro-manage their lives. As protection against this mindset the Torah admonishes us to keep the Paschal lamb (read: the idea of liberation and breaking out of boundaries) in the home – the overarching structure of Judaism. However, once a person has compromised a commandment in order to “free” his or her spirit, the next modification to that commandment cannot do any more harm. Once we have begun to corrupt the Mitzvah it is no longer G-d’s commandment and no additional modification can further reduce its value. Thus, the Torah employs the singular to underscore that taking the Paschal offering out of the context of Jewish law is a singular offense. Second, the rebellious Jew may also go so far as to deny his or her identity as a Jew. However, no matter how many times one may try to deny his or her essence it cannot change that essence. A Jew remains a Jew notwithstanding strident protests. Thus, every time someone denies his or her essential identity it constitutes a new violation. to unite the Jewish people and usher in the future Era of Redemption—the Shabbos of history. Moshiach also possesses the opposite quality of constantly breaking out of the structures that impose limits on him, always looking for new ways of transforming himself and the entire world. Moshiach’s function is to combine these two paradoxical features. On the one hand we will feel the greatest sense of inner peace and delight in the Messianic Age and, simultaneously, we will be energized to break new ground. However, this liberating aspect of Moshiach will not compromise one iota of the Mitzvos. On the contrary, Maimonides asserts that Moshiach’s role is to make the Mitzvos complete and enhance their integrity. In addition, Moshiach will not change who we are, even as he inspires us to break out of our limits. Rather he will reveal the hidden energies that we already possess that empower us to chart new courses enabling us to reach new heights and depths.
MOSHIACH: A SHABBOS AND PESACH JEW
The message conveyed by these two commandments is especially relevant today as we focus on the imminent coming of Moshiach and the final Redemption he will usher in. There is a double misconception, however, that first Moshiach will change those laws of the Torah that can be viewed superficially as stifling and constraining and second that he will alter our essential identity so we will no longer be the persons we were in the past. Nothing is further from the truth. Moshiach is the ultimate liberator because he possesses both qualities: He is both a Shabbos and a Passover personality. Moshiach is the source of inner tranquility and therefore he is eminently qualified
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DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE?
By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
here was once a man who stretched a tightrope across Niagara Falls. A crowd gathered as he walked across the falls on the tightrope and came back to the same bank. He turned to the crowd and asked, “How many of you believe I can walk back and forth on this tightrope, blindfolded?” The crowd cheered and cried out, “We believe! We believe!” The man made the trip blindfolded. The crowd went wild, cheering and clapping. The man then asked the crowd, “How many of you believe I can walk this tightrope blindfolded, pushing a wheel barrow?” The crowd yelled even louder, “We believe! We believe!” The man performed the feat and once again the crowd screamed and cheered, this time even louder than before. Then he asked, “How many people believe I can walk this tightrope blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow with someone inside it?” The crowd went absolutely wild, yelling and screaming, “We believe! We believe!” The man turned to the believers and yelled
over the roar: “Who is ready to volunteer?” Sixty-one years ago, in his first Maamer (Basi L ’Gani 5711), the Rebbes stated: “This is what is demanded and expected from the seventh generation – starting from the Alter Rebbe – to bring the Ikar Sh’china back to this world with the coming of Moshiach!” Today, everyone is screaming different versions of “We Believe.” Some are screaming that we believe that the Rebbe is still our Nasi. Some are screaming that we still believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach and some are screaming that we believe that the Rebbe is still alive. Whichever version you proclaim does not interest me. All I want to know is one simple question: “Who is ready to volunteer?” *** The Rebbe is leading the revolution to change the mindset of those of us here in Olam HaZeh from seeing this place as Olam/Helem, the mindset characterizing the Galus mentality, to one of Geula/ redemption, of freedom. The revolution will be successful
regardless of our work. However, the Rebbe is allowing us to participate. When we join of our own free will, we elevate ourselves. Instead of being regular people, we turn into the Rebbe’s Angels. I want to share a story that I heard directly from the Baal HaMaaseh. I have a friend who went on Shlichus to South Africa while a bachur. At that time he was studying for Smicha in Milan, Italy. The following story occurred on Purim of that year. “Everything was running late, as usual. Purim came and went, and then . . . oops! We, the rabbinical students in the Milan Yeshiva, realized that we had forgotten to deliver the mishloach manos (Purim food gifts) to the children who had attended the Chabad day camp the past summer. “So we sat down with a map and figured out where we’d visit that evening. All in all, there were about forty houses within a foursquare-block radius. The rabbi, an indefatigable optimist, gave us his word that we would need no more than an hour and a half to do the whole job. Not bad. “‘Oh, by the way,’ said the rabbi, ‘there is one family, the
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Cohens, who lives about fifteen minutes out of the area. There’s only a small chance you’ll make it there, but I’ll mark it down on the map anyways, just in case …’ “Two of us, a friend by the name of Yisroel and me, volunteered to do the rounds. We set out at eight at night, planning to return to home base around nine-thirty. “From the moment we began the route, everything seemed to go wrong. As we trudged from one house (nobody home) to another (she’s sleeping already), and then on to another (nonexistent address), our spirits plummeted. Murphy’s Law was working overtime that evening. “It was already ten past nine and we hadn’t met even one kid. Our hands were hurting from lugging the heavy bags, and to top it all off we realized that we were lost. “We stopped our aimless walking to study the map. I finally determined our current location, and turned to my partner. “‘Yisroel!’ I told him. ‘We have good news and bad news. Bad news: we’re way out of our four-block radius. Good news: we’re five minutes away from the one house that we were not planning on visiting!’ “We decided to make our way to the Cohens’ house to try our luck over there. Tired and somewhat discouraged, we made our way to our destination. Don’t ask me how, but somehow we managed to get lost again. By the time we reached the right building, we were a shabby sight. “We rang the bell. And yes! The kids were home! And awake! Oh, how relieved we were. We ran into the building, into the elevator, forgot which floor we were heading to, and got lost . . . After a few trips walking up and
I thought that the Rebbe was dispensing business advice, but he must have seen that there is something there, in Siberia, that I must achieve, some part of my mission in life that must be played out in the frozen east. I could have gone in comfort, as a wealthy businessman and government contractor. Now I am going in chains...
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down the stairs, though, we made it… The child’s mother warmly welcomed us into her simple apartment and gave us drinks and hamantashen (“the best in town”), and asked us to share some Torah thoughts. We gladly complied. “Ten minutes later, we had shared a few thoughts with her and the kids. The mother was eagerly listening to every word and asking for more. I had run out of things to say, so I related to her the entire saga of our evening, how ‘truth be told, we were not planning to come to your house tonight, but for some reason nothing worked out and we got lost, so…’ “Suddenly she burst out crying; her whole body shook as she sobbed. What did I say wrong? Did I offend her? I felt terrible. “After a few long minutes, she managed to relate her story through her tears. ‘Just recently, my life has taken a turn for the worse. My husband left me, and my children are having a very hard time adjusting to this new situation. To make matters worse, I have no money to support my family. Everything seems to be going wrong. “‘So this morning, I turned to G-d in despair, and asked Him to send me a sign, a sign that He remembers me and cares for me. The entire day passed by—no sign. Then you two boys show up. It was nice, but I did not find my sign. “‘Then you shared with me how this was not a planned visit, how you got lost. How this was the one house you were not planning to visit. How nobody answered all your knocking. How you made it to my home… I immediately realized that G-d had answered my prayer; He sent me a sign in the form of two angels. “‘Thank You, G-d, for sending me these angels!’” *** Yet, there may be a few that who hesitate to join the revolution. They believe that although the Rebbe did tell us our destination, we are not ready to give from ourselves and join the journey to redemption. If that person is you, or someone you know, I would like to share the following story: The news passed swiftly through the city of Chernigov, leaving shock and sorrow in its wake. Reb Yekusiel, a wealthy businessman and pillar of the community, had been arrested on charges of tax evasion and misappropriation of government funds. All who knew Reb Yekusiel had no doubt of his innocence. Reb Yekusiel was known for his honesty, charity and modesty. Despite his immense wealth and influential position, he regarded every man as his equal and was always ready to lend a helping hand and attentive ear. For this, he had earned the respect and trust of all Chernigov’s residents, Jew and non-Jew alike. But this was Czarist Russia, where a man could be arrested on a bureaucratic caprice or by the stroke of a vengeful commissioner’s pen. Inexplicably, Reb Yekusiel was convicted. Nothing – not his connections in the government, not the numerous appeals by his expensive lawyers or the prayers of the community – could stave off the fate ordained for him. Reb Yekusiel was sentenced to ten years of hard labor in distant Siberia. On the day before Reb Yekusiel was sent east, a man knocked on the door of Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Chein, rabbi of Chernigov. “Rabbi,” said the visitor, who was none other than the warden of the local jail, “Reb Yekusiel requests that you come see him. Special permission has been granted for you to visit him in his cell, should you desire to come.” “Certainly,” said the Rabbi, “of course I’ll come,” and he hurried to get his coat. Tears filled Rabbi Dovid Tzvi’s eyes at the sight that met him upon entering the cell. Reb Yekusiel, too, was overwhelmed with emotion. The two men embraced and wept silently for some time. Finally, the prisoner began to speak: “I asked you to come, Rabbi, not because I have any personal request to make, but because I want to tell you why I am here. Perhaps others can learn a lesson from my story. “Several months ago, I was traveling to Petersburg for a series of meetings regarding my dealings with the government. As usual, I obtained a compartment in the first-class section of the train – a crucial necessity for any businessman seeking potential contacts among government officials and fellow merchants. It was then that I learned that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was on the train. “I passed by the Rebbe’s compartment, hoping to catch a glimpse of his holy face. The door was ajar, and suddenly I found myself gazing into his eyes – eyes that looked deeply into mine and seemed to know the innermost reaches of my soul. For a long moment I stood there, rooted to the spot. It was a while before I realized that the Rebbe was motioning to me to enter.
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“With awe and trepidation I entered the Rebbe’s compartment. But the Rebbe soon put me at ease, inviting me to sit and offering me a cigarette. He expressed great interest in our community, as well as in my personal life and business dealings. In parting, the Rebbe said to me: ‘I’m sure you’ve heard of the railway that the government is planning to build across Siberia. I think this is a perfect business opportunity for you. As one who has close connections with Minister Potysukshnikov, you should be able to obtain a sizable contract as a lumber supplier.’ “I returned to my compartment in a state of confusion. The last thing I expected from the Rebbe was a business tip. On the one hand, I felt that the advice of a tzaddik should be followed. On the other hand, the proposal held no attraction for me, despite its great financial potential. My business affairs were going well, thanks to G-d; why should I leave my family and community and spend many long months, if not years, in far-off Siberia? At the end, I hesitated long enough for others to avail themselves of the opportunity; to my considerable relief, I must confess. “And so, now I’m on my way to Siberia. I thought that the Rebbe was dispensing business advice, but he must have seen that there is something there, in Siberia, that I must achieve, some part of my mission in life that must be played out in the frozen east. I could have gone in comfort, as a wealthy businessman and government contractor. Now I am going in chains... “ We will all reach the Rebbe’s goal and destination. The
He came home that night, contemplating his life. He started making a Cheshbon Ha’nefesh. While going down memory lane, he remembered an interesting episode that happened over forty years before.
the Rebbe and explained his predicament, how he prepared the Maftir and wanted to say it. The Rebbe listened to the boy and answered: “I have an idea. Why don’t you make a side-minyan and say your Maftir there?” The boy looked at the Rebbe and responded: “Great idea! Why don’t YOU get your Maftir in a side minyan?” The Rebbe looked at the young Bar-Mitzva boy for a while and finally said: “Let us make a deal. You go to the side minyan and I will owe you one!” The boy agreed. He got his Maftir and the story was forgotten. Rabbi Gross got up, quickly called his brother and reminded him of the story. He asked him if he ever cashed in his favor. When his brother responded in the negative, Rabbi Gross asked if could get him a kidney from the Rebbe. The brother agreed to call the Mazkirus. Two weeks later Rabbi Gross had a new kidney and lived for another 15 years. Dear Chassidim, the Rebbe sees what you are going through. He knows how hard it is to give up your Taavos and desires in order to join the revolution. My message to you is that “The Rebbe will owe you one” and you can take that to the bank! Let us unite around the Rebbe’s vision and join the journey to Geula. Let us strengthen ourselves in learning and teaching others Inyanei Moshiach U’Geula and V’nizkeh Zhen Zich Mitten Rebbe...V’hu Yigaleinu!
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question is only in what manner we will make the journey there...... *** I wish to share one more story: There was a big Chassid in Crown Heights whose name was Rabbi Eliyahu Gross. He was very involved is Beis HaRav and in the Rebbe’s Mivtzaim and Mosdos. One day in the eighties he started to feel weak. After a few days he went to the doctor for a checkup. The results were frightening: his kidney was failing and he needed an emergency transplant. The problem was that the waiting list for transplants was as long as the Galus.... He came home that night, contemplating his life. He started making a Cheshbon Ha’nefesh. While going down memory lane, he remembered an interesting episode that happened over forty years before. Rabbi Gross had a brother whose Bar-Mitzva was in 1944/5. His parents had arranged that he would get Maftir in the minyan of the Frierdike Rebbe. The boy was very excited and prepared accordingly. How shocked he was when the got to 770 and were informed by the Gabbaim that Maftir was Taken! The Rebbe’s son-in-law lost his father that year, the Gabbaim said, and he gets the Maftir every Shabbos. The boy was heartbroken. The Gabbaim felt bad and told the boy that maybe he could work something out with the Rebbe’s son-in-law (our Rebbe). He approached
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
KOPUST AND LUBAVITCH?
stories and sayings from R’ chaim shaul Brook a”h as recorded by his close talmid, R’ chaim ashkenazi a”h.
ON WHAT WOULD THEY DO ISKAFIA?
R’ Shaul Brook said that R’ Eliezer Kaplan (the “kontorchik,” i.e. the menahel gashmi of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch) once wanted to cut down on the yeshiva’s expenses because of the difficult financial situation. He wanted to eliminate the compote served for dessert. However, the Rebbe Rashab told him not to eliminate it since if they did not serve compote to the bachurim, what would they do iskafia on (i.e. in what area would they deny themselves). walking around the zal.” In other words, the personal example he set for bachurim was worth the salary he was given. I think that the Rebbe put his hand on his heart when he said that.
obligated to purify himself on the regel’ (which means Yom Tov in this context and not literally a foot).” I don’t understand why specifically the foot and not the head.
SOLDIERS OF THE HOUSE OF DOVID
R’ Shaul once met one of the great Chassidim of Kopust. The Chassid said to him: Your Rebbe (i.e. the Rebbe Rashab) has a yeshiva, and therefore he has young Chassidim with whom he can turn over worlds, but who does our Rebbe have with whom to do anything?
THE CHIDDUSH OF THE “LAMDAN”
R’ Shaul Brook said that when he was in Lubavitch, he finished learning the tractate Bava Metzia and he asked the mashgiach R’ Yaakov Boruch Karasik which tractate to learn next. (This was a period of time when each bachur learned what he wanted). The mashgiach said: You probably know it like that fellow knew all of Shas … What was he referring to? Someone claimed that he had completed Shas seven times. They asked him to say some chiddush from his learning. This “lamdan” said he had no chiddush. They pressed him until he said, “I wonder why the Gemara says, ‘a person is
POVERTY BEFITS THE JEWISH PEOPLE
R’ Shaul would say: In Lubavitch they would go about with torn overshoes due to poverty. There were mud puddles in Lubavitch, and when water entered their overshoes they would jokingly say (words from the Ketores): Yayin kafrisin she’shorin bahen es ha’tziporen (lit. The wine of Cyprus which was used to soak the onycha (an ingredient for the incense, tziporen also means nail as in toenails).
NOT JUST WALKING AROUND
R’ Eliezer (see above) once wanted to remove R’ Michoel der Alter from his position. He had been a mashpia in the yeshiva and could no longer teach as a result of his advanced age. The Rebbe Rashab said, “Michoel deserves the few coins he gets just for
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R’ Shaul would say that the clothing they wore in Lubavitch were torn and that is why they wore a long coat to hide the rips.
ON THE TOPIC OF HISKASHRUS TO THE REBBE
A WORM IS EATING AT HIM
The Alter Rebbe said about the Volper (one of the talmidim of the Maggid who became a drunkard at the end of his life) that even while he learned by the Maggid, they saw a worm eating away at him. One time, the students of the Maggid were sitting in their lodgings in order to review the teachings of their master, the Maggid. They were sitting in the cellar where the air was full of smoke, on sacks of potatoes. The Volper said: We cannot review our master’s teachings like this. That is when the Alter Rebbe suspected that a worm was eating at him, because when you are learning your master’s teachings how is it possible to pay attention to things like that?
HE LISTENED TO THE MASHGIACH
R’ Shaul said that when he learned in Lubavitch he was informed from home that since his father had died, he was asked to return home for Pesach to run the seder. R’ Shaul asked the hanhala for permission and it was given to him on condition that he return to yeshiva right after Yom Tov. When he returned home, he did not find the house since he did not recognize the area, not having visited in several years. He found out that his family had moved. He spent Pesach at home and Motzaei Yom Tov he wanted to leave for yeshiva. But his mother asked him to stay one more day so he could meet his brother whom he hadn’t seen in a few years. R’ Shaul said he had no permission from the mashgiach and he left right away (as a result, his brother was angry at him for decades).
WHEN DO YOU HAVE YECHIDUS?
R’ Shaul Brook told us that it used to be that Chassidim did not have yechidus often but very seldom, for as long as they did not feel that they had carried out the instructions of the Rebbe from the previous yechidus, they saw no reason to go again.
A SUPERIOR BACHUR
R’ Shaul said that he saw the Rebbe MH”M in Rostov by the Rebbe Rayatz and heard him say Aleinu. It was apparent from his recital that he was a superior bachur.
LEARN FROM THE REBBE
During Aseres Yemei T’shuva of 5725, I visited R’ Shaul for nichum aveilim (I think his brother had died then). R’ Shaul said that whoever paid attention to the Rebbe’s practices now would learn many dinim because he was sitting Shiva for his mother, Rebbetzin Chana.
THE ROLE OF MASHPIA
R’ Shaul would say to us: Don’t think that all the mashpiim in Lubavitch were big maskilim; that wasn’t necessarily so. We learned from them how to learn Chassidus and how Chassidus affects the one who learns it.
TO THE REBBE OR TO AMERICA?
After R’ Shaul went to America to see the Rebbe, he said that he was in the United States two times. When they said to him: How is that possible – you only flew there one time!? He said: I only traveled to the Rebbe once, but there were two occasions when I needed to step out of the Rebbe’s four cubits into the outside world of the United States.
THE SHMA OF A TAMIM
R’ Shaul said that in Lubavitch there was a bachur by the name of Avrohom Dovid Klimovitcher. When he davened, it did not look like he was thinking Chassidus because he walked around and one could think he was just doing so aimlessly.
However, they would suddenly notice his face redden and they knew that he would soon be up to Shma. And so it
What we are like when we are in yeshiva is no evidence as to what we will be like when we are older.
was. Within a few minutes he would take his tzitzis and prepare to recite Shma. Continued on page 27
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NO SHORTAGE OF MIRACLES
from the life of R’ Yehoshua shneur Zalman serebryanski a”h.
Prepared for publication by Avrohom Rainitz
fter Pesach, R’ Zalman went to Sydney to raise funds for the yeshiva. In those days, it was a long trip by train until the border of New South Wales where he had to change trains for Sydney. R’ Zalman was exhausted when he arrived. He was most disappointed when he found out that he had not come at a good time since a fund raising drive was underway for Eretz Yisroel. Many Jews in the community felt strongly about supporting Israel and after giving a nice donation it was hard to get them to part with additional money for a small institution in Melbourne. Some of R’ Zalman’s acquaintances, especially Rabbi Abramson, got involved in helping him and thanks to their help, he was able to raise 1000 Australian dollars in three weeks, a nice amount considering the poor timing of his arrival. R’ Zalman did not only want to collect funds in Sydney, but also wanted to recruit good boys for the yeshiva. In a letter that he sent to the Rebbe on Motzaei Shabbos, 19 Iyar, after he returned to Melbourne, he reported that he met “a fine bachur who learns diligently all day” whose name was Nachum Babroka. R’ Zalman heard from
R’ Abramson that he was actively being mekarev the bachur and learned an in-depth shiur with him every day in the tractate Chulin. R’ Shimon Stillerman was also mekarev the bachur who wanted to learn Torah and learned Shulchan Aruch HaRav with him twice a week as well as Tanya. R’ Zalman was very impressed by the boy’s yiras Shamayim. He spent Pesach with his father, sister and brother-inlaw and would not eat even what his sister cooked but cooked for himself in special pots. The bachur’s financial situation was very difficult. His father did not work due to an illness and his married sister worked and gave her father her paltry salary, which barely managed to cover his living expenses. R’ Abramson arranged for the bachur to teach three students every day, when they came home from public school, and paid him five Australian dollars for this. This amount sufficed for his living expenses but he could not go on like that. R’ Zalman was afraid for the boy’s spiritual fate since he was alone in Sydney, and he worked to convince him to go to the yeshiva in Melbourne. He suggested that Nachum come with his father and promised
to find them a place to live and to hire the father for light work in the yeshiva. Nachum politely declined and explained that his father was unwilling to live far away from his devoted daughter and he could not go to Melbourne alone and leave his sick father in Sydney. Before R’ Zalman left Sydney, he asked the boy to write to the Rebbe about his spiritual situation and he also told him that if he ever needed help, he should write to R’ Zalman who would do what he could for him. In a letter that R’ Zalman wrote to the Rebbe after his visit to Sydney, he wrote his impressions of the boy and concluded, “May Hashem have mercy on him to strengthen him and guide him because he is alone in Sydney and there is no [proper spiritual] environment.” (Some time later, Nachum went to the yeshiva in Melbourne and after he finished his learning there he returned to Sydney).
A MENAHEL WITH KABBALAS OL
Although some years had passed since R’ Zalman had gotten involved with communal work in Australia, he still found it hard to get used to the role of being menahel of the yeshiva. As
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a recent emigrant from Russia, he did not relate at all to the Australian mentality and he did not know English well. The only thing that kept him going as the menahel was the sense of obedience to the Rebbe’s instructions. Since the Rebbe had assigned him the job of running the school, he put aside all his wants, both material and spiritual-Chassidic, and devoted himself to the job at hand. He always felt that the Rebbe chose him to run the school not because of his special abilities, but because “where there is no man, strive to be a man.” In his great modesty, he always thought that if someone else had the job, he would be far more successful. This is the reason why, in many of his letters, both those quoted earlier and those which we will quote, he keeps asking the Rebbe to send someone more suitable than him to run the yeshiva. We see an example of this in a letter he wrote on Motzaei Shabbos, 19 Iyar 5714: We need to start getting ready to move the yeshiva and set it up in the new place, l’mazal tov, and I still have no idea how and in what manner to approach this work. May Hashem have mercy and help us with great success, in a supernatural way. I ask of the Rebbe to guide us with his holy instructions in every detail. The Rebbe is well aware of my lack of suitability to run a mosad, especially in the situation here where we do not have someone suitable, not for work with the outside and not for teaching and guiding the talmidim (if it would be possible to send someone suitable here, at least for a limited time, it would surely be good but if that is not possible) since it is the Rebbe’s opinion that I should continue to be involved in this,
then at least provide me with detailed and frequent instructions. In those days, the mail from Australia to New York took a week to get there so that R’ Zalman’s letter, which was sent on 21 Iyar (since there was no mail service on Sunday), reached the Rebbe on 27 or 28 Iyar. The fact that the Rebbe’s response bears the date 28 Iyar indicates that the Rebbe found it important enough to respond immediately. I received your letter of 19 Iyar and it is most surprising that after you and the rest of Anash have seen the outstanding success regarding the yeshiva in finding a building and buying it etc. you are still full of doubts at every step. As you write in your letter, you have no idea about how and in what way to approach this work. This is after you have been involved in this for years and balabatim have gotten involved that you would never have thought would do so. In addition to which, the Hungarian children have joined you, etc. All the more so, in your previous country where the matter entailed mesirus nefesh, you were involved in chinuch and did not make conditions with the blessed Creator that you should see miracles at every step, for otherwise, you would not be able to continue the work. In your present country where even in natural ways there are opportunities to continue, and all the more so when there is no scrimping with miracles – it is only that it requires brief contemplation and opening of the eyes, at least a little.
MONEY FROM REPARATION PAYMENTS
In this same letter, the Rebbe refers to another topic. In those years, following the reparations deal between Israel and Germany, the German government also gave large sums of money to Holocaust survivors living in Jewish areas in other parts of the world. This money wasn’t given to individuals, but was sent to Jewish organizations who in turn divided the moneys as they saw fit. R’ Binyamin Gorodetzky, the Rebbe’s representative in Europe, who was on good terms with leaders of the Joint, had nice sums of money transferred for Chabad work in Europe and in North Africa in particular. When they began sending some money to the Jewish community in Australia, the Rebbe said they should submit a request for the yeshiva in Melbourne. The request was accepted and the Rebbe reported to R’ Zalman about this so he would know to ask for money coming to the yeshiva. The Rebbe also wrote about being visited by a Mr. Rabinowitz, the principal of a Jewish school in Sydney. This school was later transferred to R’ Pinchas Feldman, the Rebbe’s shliach. The Rebbe told R’ Zalman that he had heard from this man about the school that he was running, and “would that they be envious of him – as far as his strenuous efforts – to expand the mosad Oholei Yosef Yitzchok that is in Melbourne.”
CAN THE REBBE’S CHECKS BE REDEEMED?
At the end of the letter, the Rebbe responds to R’ Zalman’s reports about his meetings with
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previous talmidim of the yeshiva, and to R’ Zalman’s question about whether the Feiglin family could redeem the checks the Rebbe sent and issue their own personal checks instead. The Rebbe encouraged him to continue being in touch with his former talmidim through letters and to try and get them to return to the yeshiva at least for some time. As for the checks, the Rebbe said that if the hanhala of the yeshiva approved, that was fine. help them arrange the yeshiva in its new place. It was worthwhile just for that for him to come. R’ Zalman harbored the hope that maybe R’ Groner would agree to stay in Australia and he could finally give over the leadership of the yeshiva to someone charismatic and beloved, who knew English well and could greatly benefit the yeshiva. So he sent a positive response to the hanhala of the yeshiva. A few days later, on 3 Sivan 5714, before receiving the Rebbe’s response to his letter, he sent another letter to the Rebbe in which he referred to R’ Groner’s mission and asked, on behalf of all of Anash and the mekuravim who wanted the yeshiva to succeed, that R’ Groner make efforts on their behalf. R’ Zalman emphasized that since the talmidim from Sydney had left the yeshiva and only three of the Hungarian talmidim remained, whom the hanhala was not satisfied with (and who were likely to leave soon after a new rav came to their k’hilla and re-opened the yeshiva as his predecessor did), therefore, he thought it was worth changing direction and focusing mainly on reaching out to the larger Jewish community, asking them to send their children for a Jewish education after public school. In such a situation, wrote R’ Zalman, they needed someone to head the mosad “who knows how to draw the hearts of the parents and the children, someone who would meet the demands of most of the community with his scholarship and yiras Shamayim as well as his knowledge of English and the mentality of the people there,” and who was more suitable than R’ Groner?
NO ROOM FOR DOUBTS
The Rebbe negated the idea of making R’ Groner’s visit conditional on his helping the yeshiva. He was going on a specific mission under certain terms and conditions and he couldn’t do something else. The Rebbe said he did not know whether it was possible to be involved in both things, but if it was, then surely R’ Groner would help to the best of his ability. The Rebbe also dismissed R’ Zalman’s claim that if the menahel of the yeshiva knew the language they would be more successful. The Rebbe brought as proof the work of Chabad in other countries where they were very successful even though the heads of the mosdos were not local people and they did not know the language. (In those days there were shluchim in Morocco and Tunisia. When they arrived, they did not know the language. Shluchim were also sent throughout the United States even though they had recently come from Russia and barely knew English). The Rebbe said he would repeat yet again what he wrote several times before that they must enlarge the yeshiva as much as possible, both in quantity and quality. He said Hashem is not unreasonable with His creations and surely it was within their ability. The Rebbe expressed his great dissatisfaction that they were the only ones working on the yeshiva for the last number of months, especially as the Hungarian rav whose yeshiva had been competing with theirs had left the country and they had experienced outstanding success as far as purchasing the building, public relations etc. The letter goes on to say:
Even before receiving the Rebbe’s response to his letter, R’ Zalman received a telegram from 770 in which he was informed that they wanted to send R’ Yitzchok Groner to Australia to raise funds for yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Eretz Yisroel and the United States. The question was whether he gave his approval in that this would not work against the yeshiva in Melbourne’s best interest. R’ Zalman thought the timing was problematic both for the yeshiva in Australia and for the yeshiva in New York. A general drive for the Chabad yeshivos could hurt the fundraising he was doing at that time for the local yeshiva. And because of local fundraising, people might not want to contribute towards the larger fundraising drive. Either way, both sides could lose out. After thinking it over, he came up with another consideration that tipped the scales towards saying yes. He remembered that on R’ Groner’s previous visit to Australia he made a tremendous impression on the Jewish community. So he thought that if, during his visit, R’ Groner could act on behalf of the yeshiva, he could definitely
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And all the explanations that they write about that they do not have a great lamdan there who knows the local language etc. – the reality of the work of Chabad in various countries belies all these excuses. In general, what benefit is there from the excuses – it is certain that there needs to be a Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim b’poel mamash also in Australia. The greatest proof of this is – since if not for this it is completely incomprehensible why Hashem Yisborach brought them there, as there doesn’t appear to be any material gain nor spiritual gain. It seems to me that I already wrote to them once the saying of the RaZA nishmaso Eden who said: “A Litvak (Lithuanian Jew) doesn’t believe until he counts over,” but not to believe even after counting...
HELP FROM WEALTHY PEOPLE
In the letter of 3 Sivan 5714, R’ Zalman reported about his meetings with wealthy people and potential supporters. For example, he wrote about Mr. Aryeh Neuman whom he had connected with the Rebbe. After Mr. Neuman wrote to the Rebbe about his business dealings, he received a reply blessing him with success and also urging him to help Chabad’s work. After receiving this letter from the Rebbe, he invited R’ Zalman over and asked him to convey his thanks to the Rebbe for his brachos, and to tell the Rebbe that he was committed to helping the mosdos Chabad. As a first step, he convened a meeting in his home on Rosh Chodesh Sivan in which he was elected as a member of the building committee along with R’ Dovid Feiglin, R’ Menachem
Mendel New (son-in-law of R’ Isser Kluvgant) and R’ Nosson Werdiger (R’ Zalman’s son-inlaw). R’ Zalman arranged with Mr. Neuman that the latter would invite some wealthy people to his home, including Mr. Gutwirth, the Feiglin family and other wealthy people, in order to hold an emergency fundraiser and to elect the financial committee of the mosad. Mr. Neuman, who was in a bit of a financial bind at the time, told R’ Zalman that he could contribute 100-150 Australian dollars over several months. R’ Zalman suggested that he increase his donation to 500 dollars over a longer period of time so that the other wealthy men would be embarrassed to donate less than 500. R’ Zalman wrote all this to the Rebbe and said he planned on suggesting to Mr. Gutwirth that he serve as chairman of the financial committee of the yeshiva. Although up until that point Mr. Gutwirth had not been involved in communal activity, R’ Zalman hoped that if he would agree to the appointment, he would naturally be more involved in communal activity on behalf of the yeshiva. In conclusion, R’ Zalman wrote that the building should be available at the end of Sivan and if all went well, they could open the building on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. “I spoke with some of our mekuravim,” wrote R’ Zalman, “and they think the yeshiva should have a large library, not just of Chassidus but of Nigleh too, like the commentaries on Shas and responsa and other s’farim. We also need Siddurim, T’hillim, and s’farim for younger and older students. Aside from
the money needed for this, we cannot obtain the s’farim here and perhaps it is possible to obtain them all through Merkos L ’Inyanei Chinuch. Of course, the person involved with this will be an organized person who will know how to collect the necessary s’farim, especially the s’farim for the talmidim so that there will be enough and of the right quality, and that the shipping will be handled in an orderly fashion.” At the end of the Rebbe’s letter cited previously, the Rebbe concludes: It would be proper that when talking to Mr. Gutwirth they should remind him of the talk that we had between us, and they should add that although they do not know the content of our discussion – they are confident, especially as it was a long conversation, that when it will be made known here about his participation with all his capabilities in Yeshivas Oholei Yosef Yitzchok in Melbourne it will cause very great satisfaction. As far as what you write that there should be a library of s’farim of Nigleh and Chassidus, that is a proper thing, and it seems to me that they already have a library of s’farim made up of those published by Kehos (although I have not heard a thing about the activities of the library and its impact). They should clarify the matter once again, and when they will send a list of those s’farim that are already there, they will supply them with whatever is lacking. With blessings in all of the above – he who awaits good tidings, (The Rebbe’s signature).
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LOVING YOUR FELLOW JEW
By Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz Shliach, Beit Shaan
WHO OPPOSES YOU ON SHLICHUS
n the HaYom Yom for 18 Av, the Rebbe writes, “The Mitteler Rebbe quoted the Alter Rebbe: Ahavas Yisroel must consume a person entirely.” There are a number of ways of understanding the phrase, ad mitzui ha’nefesh (lit. to the point of the wringing out of the soul). One way to interpret this statement is to look at the commentaries on Tanya (Igeres HaKodesh, Siman Alef) where it speaks about t’filla which ought to be performed with kavana “ad mitzui ha’nefesh.” Another way is by applying the explanations of the commentaries on Torah (VaYikra 1:15), where it speaks about mitzui ha’dam (squeezing out blood). A third way, which is most appropriate for this column of stories, is to look at the Rebbe Rayatz’s letters (volume 4, p. 173) and to see in what context and regarding which story it was said that Ahavas Yisroel ought to consume a person entirely. This is the story: In the midst of the Holocaust a Vaad Hatzalah organization was founded that provided food for the survivors after the war. The organization, which was headed by Litvishe rabbanim, stated that no aid should be provided for Lubavitcher Chassidim. In a letter that the Rebbe Rayatz wrote to one of the askanim, he said that every time he encountered this shocking state of affairs, he was reminded of a story that he
heard in his childhood from his teacher, Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel (Rashbatz). Rashbatz described an unusual Shavuos in 5613/1853 with the Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach Tzedek said no fewer that five maamarim that Shavuos. In addition, at the meal on the second day of Yom Tov, he spoke with the rabbinic guests about the difficult and complex topic of beis din to’eh (a court that rules in error). On Isru Chag, there was a farbrengen attended by all the great Chassidic rabbanim, who spoke at length on topics they had heard from the Rebbe throughout Yom Tov. R’ Isaac of Homil spoke and said how he pitied the g’dolim among the Misnagdim who made a cherem against the Chassidim and were now in the World of Truth and saw that they were a beis din to’eh. It was only based on false testimony that they issued all their excommunications and caused the Alter Rebbe to be arrested fifty-four years earlier. R’ Isaac knew the rabbanim who had issued the cherem. He described at length their greatness and genius in Torah and consequently how pitiful it was for them in the World of Truth now. Suddenly, as R’ Isaac spoke, the sound of muffled sobbing could be heard from R’ Hillel of Paritch. They all looked at R’
Hillel and wondered why he was crying. R’ Isaac paused in his talk, but R’ Hillel could not say a word because of his crying. It was only after he had calmed down that he explained what had moved him so. If it was such a pity on those rabbanim, what would the Misnagdim of our day (5613) say when by now everyone knows that there is no justification for opposition against Chassidus? How unfortunate they would be in the World of Truth and how much greater was the pity on them. Then R’ Hillel added the clincher, “I myself heard the Mitteler Rebbe quote the Alter Rebbe as saying, ‘Ahavas Yisroel must consume a person entirely.’” The Rebbe Rayatz continued in that letter written during the Holocaust: Every time I come across this phenomenon of Misnagdim behaving this way against Chassidim, I recall this story and I take pleasure seeing the difference between Chassidim and Misnagdim. By Chassidim, we see love for another according to the guidance of all our Rebbeim. *** If we are to take a lesson from this story, the Rebbe is telling us in the HaYom Yom that even if you see a Jew who seems to you to be a “dangerous enemy” of Chabad, since he attacks
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Chassidim, behaving in corrupt fashion, especially when he has no reason to justify this, you are ordered to love him, to have pity on him, even if you have to exert yourself for this to the point that it consumes you entirely. The Rebbe’s shluchim know how to do this as the following stories will illustrate.
A LOT OF LOVE AND A LITTLE VODKA
Rabbi Avrohom Cohen, shliach in Beer Sheva, told me the following story: “Over 20 years ago, some of us set up a t’fillin stand in the center of Beer Sheva. An older man came by, a Russian
immigrant, who stood facing us and began shouting at anyone who came over to us, ‘Don’t put on t’fillin! Run away from here! This is simply nonsense!’ “Unfortunately, he did not grow tired of this. He stood there for a long time, shouting. The next day, our tireless acquaintance came back and he kept on doing this and disrupting Mivtza T’fillin. At first, we tried to ignore him, but he was really bothering us and caused quite a few people to stay away from us. “One day, I heard the man shouting in Yiddish too. He had a rich Yiddish as only someone who grew up in a Chassidishe town would have. Aha, I thought. This will be the way I’ll approach
him, through the Chassidic town. “I went over to him, put a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, ‘I want to sit and drink something with you.’ He was taken aback – to drink?! But he agreed. We went to a nearby restaurant and I ordered a bottle of vodka. I began asking him about his past, his family, where he went to school, etc. Initially his stance was hostile, but when he saw that I was truly interested in his background he said to me, ‘Do you know who my grandfather was? Do you know from which town of rabbanim I am from?’ Then he told me that he came from Dvinsk. He remembered the Chassidic rav of the town, the Rogatchover, as
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“I said, ‘So tell me now, who do you want to help over all the others, thus creating an ugly atmosphere through the – your grandfather or the communists?’” period of the Reserves.
describe the Kiddush Hashem and the Kiddush Sheim Lubavitch that was performed before hundreds of mekuravim of the Chabad house (including the rav of the moshava who spoke admiringly about R’ Schmerling’s work). By their very presence, they demonstrated the success of the shlichus. Likewise, this is not the place to wax enthusiastic over the participation of dozens of shluchim from all over the country who demonstrated the love prevalent among shluchim. Instead, I want to tell you about someone I met at the bar mitzva, a friend of R’ Nechemia from the Reserves. He’s a talmid chochom and a teacher at the yeshiva high school in Beit Shaan. Although I had known him previously, we had never spoken at length and it was only at the bar mitzva and on the long trip home that he told me some stories about R’ Schmerling. One of those stories pertains to the theme of this week’s column. “We showed up at Reserves and found that they had combined a number of units and we had a new company commander. We soon discovered that the new commander wasn’t so wonderful. He was younger than we were by 5-15 years, but tried to harass and train us as though we were new baby recruits. There was no end to his criticisms and he wasn’t open to any discussion about generating a positive environment or working together. If you’ve ever been in the Reserves, you are familiar with the situation in which a member of the team or a commander tries to take control “However, whenever R’ Nechemia shows up on the scene, things work differently, the rules change, albeit not in one day. At first, the company commander fought Schmerling and everything he represented. When R’ Nechemia spoke to him about lighting a menorah, he said the only thing he celebrated at this time of the year was “Sylvester” (a Roman Catholic holiday that falls on New Year’s Eve). When R’ Nechemia asked about going easy in the training because of the fast, he said it sounded to him like a rain dance done by African tribes. That was all in the beginning. “Then R’ Schmerling told stories from the parsha. All the soldiers listened avidly, including the commander. The commander was willing to have R’ Schmerling send him a text every week, after the Reserves, with an idea from the parsha. If you think it was just a nice offer on R’ Nechemia’s part, you don’t know him. He sent the guy a text every Friday for an entire year until the Reserves call-up the following year. “Think for a moment, about a soldier in the Reserves who gets a new commander, a first rate nudnik, who ruins the pleasant atmosphere. In addition, this commander hates religion. R’ Schmerling sends him Divrei Torah every week, without fail, without the fellow expressing his thanks. But R’ Schmerling knows what he’s doing. How do I know? Because when it came time for the Reserves the following year, the moment R’ Schmerling walked into the room, the company commander stood up in his honor and announced,
well as the Litvishe rav, the Ohr Sameiach. He told me many stories about his town and his family and proudly emphasized that he had a superior Jewish background. “I asked him, ‘If so, my friend, why do you oppose and interfere with mitzvos?’ He raised his voice and exclaimed, ‘Did you go through what I went through? Do you know what the communists did to us and to Jews in Russia?’ And he went on to tell me about the tzaros, the arrests, the fear and the estrangement from Judaism that he and all Jews experienced over decades of a hard life in Russia. “I said, ‘So tell me now, who do you want to help – your grandfather or the communists?’ “He thought quietly for a while and then said, ‘You are right. I want to help my grandfather.’ After another few minutes (and more swallows of vodka) he promised that the next day he would go to the Kollel Tiferes Z’keinim and learn Torah. “He did, in fact, go to the kollel and began to attend regularly. He also came for Shabbos meals at my house. I discovered that he knew a tremendous amount about Torah and Jewish practices, and within a few days he became the main helper and unofficial instructor of all the men in the kollel. He helped his grandfather as well as Chabad until his final day.”
LOVE IN THE TRENCHES
I attended the bar mitzva of the oldest son of the shliach in Kfar Yona, R’ Nechemia Schmerling. I’m not going to
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‘Welcome R’ Schmerling. You should all know that throughout this past year, I received a D’var Torah every week from him, and each week, when I traveled with my girlfriend to my parents’ house to hear Kiddush, I told her the D’var Torah.’ “The same company commander, who, the year before, had spoken about Christian holidays and African tribes, spoke about Kiddush and Divrei Torah. This was all thanks to Ahavas Yisroel. Of course, he invited R’ Schmerling to be the officiating rabbi at his wedding. “Before the wedding, a road accident occurred and the kalla was injured. She attended the wedding in a wheelchair. The chuppa took place in the yard of a friend’s villa in Raanana with twenty people instead of the 700 people they had planned before the accident. But R’ Schmerling turned this somewhat sad chuppa into a happy event. He spoke with such love and friendliness as though 1000 people were present. I saw this as an incredible act of Ahavas Yisroel.”
LOVE FOR A DEPARTING SOUL
My mother was hospitalized
in Hadassah Ein Kerem. Erev Tisha B’Av, my sister was sitting with her when they agreed that they would save the hard boiled egg she had been given for breakfast for the traditional Seuda HaMafsekes before the fast. In the evening, a doctor called another sister of mine at home and asked her why our mother was alone in her room. She was wondering why nobody was with her. My sister was taken aback and said that her sister M. was there. “Let me speak with my mother please.” My mother told her that the sun was setting and she didn’t know where the egg was and M. had disappeared. My sister called M. to find out where she was. Listen to what my sister M told her: We have a brother-in-law, Yossi Reinitz, who volunteers for Zaka and always carries a beeper for urgent messages. On Erev Tisha B’Av, about half an hour before the fast, a message from the Zaka base was sent to all volunteers: In Hadassah Ein Kerem there is a Jew who is about to die who never put on t’fillin and now he wants to put on t’fillin. Who is near Hadassah Ein Kerem?
Yossi immediately responded that he would take care of it and called my sister M. and gave her instructions and the information she needed to know like his name, department etc. M. ran over to that department, rushed from room to room and asked who had a pair of t’fillin (she completely forgot about the egg). She found someone with t’fillin who agreed to help the man with t’fillin. The sick man’s wife was standing next to him and crying. She asked what else could be done in his z’chus. A woman said, “Give tz’daka in his z’chus.” She immediately took out money from her purse and gave it to tz’daka. In the meantime, the man finished putting on the t’fillin and the owner of the t’fillin helped him remove them. Those were the man’s final moments. Everyone loudly said the Shma and he closed his eyes. My sister returned to our mother’s room but it was too late to eat the egg. Oh well. That was Ahavas Yisroel until mitzui ha’nefesh. Please daven for a refua shleima for Yaakov Aryeh ben Rochel, the author of this column.
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