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Nosson Avraham

Dov Levanon

4 D’var Malchus 24 Parsha Thought 30 Moshiach & Geula


Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz


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D’var Malchus


It says in Yeshayahu, “Where is the bill of divorce...that I have sent?” – meaning that it does not exist! G-d never divorced, nor intended to divorce, the Jewish people. The fact that it appears otherwise – Moshiach will answer that. Or perhaps this itself is the answer – that the matter is only one of appearance. So what is holding Him back?!
Translated by Boruch Merkur

Rambam writes, “A man should not marry a woman with the intent to divorce her” (Laws of Divorce 10:21), “as it says, ‘Devise not evil against your neighbor, seeing he dwells securely with you’” (Laws of Forbidden Relations 21:28). It is known, of course, that G-d follows His own laws, as derived from the verse, “He speaks His words to Yaakov, etc.” – “That which He does, He tells the Jewish people to do.” On this basis, the question is raised – in nigla, the revealed, legalistic dimension of Torah – regarding the general marriage of G-d to the Jewish people,

which took place at the Giving of the Torah (as has been discussed at length elsewhere): The Torah explicitly states, “This people will rise up and go astray ... And I will forsake them” (VaYeilech 31:16-17), “And cast them to another land, etc.” (Nitzavim 29:27). That is, at the time of the wedding, at the Giving of the Torah, G-d had in mind to divorce the Jewish people, G-d forbid – the opposite of the Torah law, “A man should not marry a woman with the intent to divorce her”! You cannot say here that this case is an exception, having “informed her from the onset that he is only marrying her for [a set duration, or number of] days,” in which case it is

permitted (insofar as it is not in a manner of he “dwells securely with you”). This exception cannot apply in our case, for it is understood and obvious that since the matter is dependent upon the bride’s knowledge and will (“a woman is only betrothed in accordance with her will”), the Jewish people, being “a wise and understanding nation,” would certainly not consent to a marriage that is only for a predetermined time. Thus [with regard to reconciling G-d’s forewarning that He “will forsake them” “And cast them to another land” with the marriage that took place at the Giving of the Torah], it appears that G-d had no viable alternative, as it were. That is, on the one hand, it is forbidden to marry a woman with the intent of divorcing her, and on the other hand, “to exchange them for another nation, I cannot do” [i.e., G-d remained intent on following through with His marriage to the Jewish people].

We must, therefore, say that the concept of divorce is not meant by these verses; G-d never intended to divorce the Jewish

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nation, as it says in the book of Yeshayahu the Prophet, the Prophet of Salvation, “Where is the bill of divorce with you that I have sent?” (stated as a rhetorical question) – meaning that it does not exist! The fact that it appears otherwise (and similar arguments) – Moshiach Tzidkeinu will answer that. Or perhaps this itself is the answer – that the matter is only one of appearance. And since this is so: What is holding Him back?! [That is, there is nothing preventing G-d from resuming His intimate connection with the Jewish people by redeeming us.] Rambam writes (in the daily lesson of this Shabbos) that a Jew “wants to be part of the Jewish heritage, and wants to observe all the Mitzvos, etc.,” it is just that “his [evil] inclination overcame him.” However, regarding the Alm-ghty, such a thing cannot be said. The outcry is, therefore, even more pronounced: “ Ad masai?! How much longer must we suffer in this bitter exile?!”

Since G-d married the Jewish people, He must provide for them, as derived from the following logic. If G-d “provides for the entire world with His benevolence, with grace, kindness, and mercy,” how much more so must He provide for His own wife, the Jewish people! ... But since the Jewish people remain in exile, denied these rights, there is no other recourse but to make a great outcry!

(sustenance) that is appropriate for himself but not for his wife (for she cannot eat it, or it is not appealing to her) – that is not “her sustenance” (her food). Similarly with regard to her clothes – they should be appropriate for her needs and dignity, etc., and likewise with regard to intimacy, it must be specifically in a manner of affection and good will (as Rambam elaborates). [But since the Jewish people remain in exile, denied these rights] there is no other recourse but to make a great outcry...

[The Rebbe smiled and continued.] Were we to bang on the tables with the necessary force, the tables would surely break, and there would be no place to put the cups. Moreover, those who are sleeping will have no table to lean on... Therefore, the tables must stay intact. But it makes no difference what happens to the tables and all the other things. The main thing is that we bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu “below ten handbreadths,” overtly manifest in this world: “A king from the Davidic dynasty proficient in Torah and occupied with Mitzvos, as Dovid, his forefather. He will compel all the Jewish people to go in its way and

Since G-d married the Jewish people, He must provide for them, as derived from the following logic. If G-d “provides for the entire world with His benevolence, with grace, kindness, and mercy,” how much more so must He provide for His own wife, the Jewish people! To elaborate, the Torah defines the role of husband: “Her sustenance, her clothing, and her conjugal rights he shall not withhold from her [his wife].” Indeed, all of this is according to the perspective and benefit of the wife, the Jewish people. Thus, if the husband provides food

strengthen its breaches, wage the wars of G-d and be victorious, and build the Holy Temple in its place,” or in a manner of “if they are found to be meritorious – it will be with the clouds of heaven,” for then the Holy Temple will be revealed from Heaven. Simply speaking, [we are anticipating the redemption imminently] literally in our times, “He did not hold back [on redeeming the Jewish people] even the blink of an eye.” The promise, “I will cause you to walk upright,” will then be fulfilled, and we will see how “night will be as bright as day.” Indeed, the meaning of all the blessings of the portion of the daily Chumash will be readily apparent in a manner of revealed blessings, with visibly revealed goodness, “below ten handbreadths,” “from His full, and open, holy ( ha’k’dosha ) and generous hand,” including “ ha’g’dusha (full, overflowing)” [in place of “ ha’k’dosha ”] (as was printed in the siddur of the Baal Shem Tov), “an overflowing cup” in a manner of “enough and then some,” speedily in our times, literally! [Those present then sang “We Want Moshiach Now” with great enthusiasm for an hour and a half!]
(From the address of Lag B’Omer 5746, bilti muga)

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“My first yechidus with the Rebbe lasted nearly thirty-five minutes, and he showed an interest in me like a father to a son.” He began his search secluded in the forests of Australia, eventually making his way to the Chabad shul in Melbourne. He now resides in the Holy City of Tzfas, after establishing a generation of baalei t’shuva at Yeshivas “Ohr T’mimim” in Kfar Chabad. He recently closed an amazing circle in his life, as two letters from the Rebbe arrived at his new home, decades (!) after they had been written. A fascinating talk with the chassidic gaon, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Gafni.
By Nosson Avraham Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry Photos by Moshe Asulin

n the porch of his home facing the breathtaking view of the Galilee hills, the clear mountain air and the strong smell of pine permeate the atmosphere. There is a pastoral calm everywhere. In this peaceful setting, I sat with Rabbi Shneur Zalman Gafni, until recently the rosh yeshiva of “Ohr T’mimim” in Kfar Chabad and the mashpia of the Chabad community in B’nei Brak. Last month, he moved to the kabbalistic city of Tzfas – a dramatic and perhaps


brave step after living for decades in B’nei Brak. The Gafni family took up residence in “Neve Oranim,” Tzfas’ most remote northern neighborhood. Yet, when you visit their home, you can feel the chassidishkait – like a breath of fresh air. Three days a week, he spends time in the kollel founded by his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Nasanel Gafni, delivering classes in chassidus. He also maintains regular contact with his hundreds

of students spread throughout the globe, including in Tzfas itself. “I have always loved Tzfas,” he confessed at the start of our interview. “When I arrived in Eretz Yisroel after the SixDay War, I was already making frequent visits to the Old City of Tzfas.” Rabbi Gafni shared with me the fact that he would daven Shacharis in the Tzemach Tzedek Synagogue in Tzfas’ Old City, which the Rebbe’s shluchim renovated shortly before the Yom

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Kippur War. He felt a sense of spiritual inspiration there. He personally visited the shul before the renovation, and he was well acquainted with the Jew who used to guard the premises due to a miracle that he experienced with the Rebbe’s bracha. The story accompanying Rabbi Gafni’s move to Tzfas spread like wildfire. We wanted to hear all about it, and we were amazed by the story’s power. As the head of the first Chabad baalei t’shuva yeshiva founded at

the Rebbe’s instructions, and who was privileged to bring hundreds and thousands of students to a chassidic way of life, we took the opportunity to ask about those students. We heard about his amazing private audiences with the Rebbe, and were enthralled by the story of his own spiritual journey.

As we have mentioned, Rabbi Gafni has always had a warm place in his heart for Tzfas.

However, his shlichus with the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad kept him in the central part of Eretz Yisroel. “After spending decades in B’nei Brak, we recently decided a make a transition. Naturally, I wrote to the Rebbe, but I must admit that I still had some nagging doubts whether the Rebbe approved of this decision. “One day, before moving to our new residence, we came to Tzfas to make certain that our home would be ready prior to our arrival. While we were still in the

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house, one of my former students suddenly appeared at the door. “Without uttering a word, he opened his case and produced a letter from the Rebbe addressed to me. In the letter, dated the 28th of Iyar 5727, the Rebbe wrote: In reply to the notice of their entering a new home, may it be the Will of Alm-ghty G-d that there should be ‘change your place, change your fortune’ for good and a blessing in material and spiritual matters. At the end of the letter, the Rebbe added Since he had been a student in our yeshiva, he decided that he would board a flight to Eretz Yisroel and surprise us with the letter. He never imagined how much of a surprise this would be and how the letter had come at just the right time. “It turns out that the Rebbe had sent us this letter after we had written to him about moving into our new apartment in B’nei Brak forty-six years ago! However, the Creator amazingly found the way for the letter to come now. The said that even they (the women) were at that miracle, at Purim, the Megilla is called by Ester’s name only. In addition, since we have been commanded to increase in joy when Adar comes, and even women are included in the aforementioned, and the commandment of the Torah also means providing strength and possibilities, may it be G-d’s Will that the reasons for true joy shall increase in a most clear and revealed sense and for all those who accompany it.’ “We were overcome with emotion. We moved into our new home in Tzfas at the beginning of Adar, but the Rebbe didn’t just settle for a letter on our entry into a new home. He also sent a letter to my wife, telling her that the move had to be done with joy. The Rebbe wrote these two letters many years ago, yet the Creator of the Universe made certain that they arrived at just the right time.”

When I was in university, I met professors who could speak about one philosophy or another with great enthusiasm, but their actions belied their words. These Chassidim, in contrast, practiced what they preached.

in his own handwriting: With blessing for a good preparation, followed by his holy signature. “My wife and I were astonished as we read the letter. I didn’t even remember receiving this letter, not to mention that I had never seen it before. After we had calmed down a bit, the student, Yifrach Abramov, told us how this letter had come to him. R’ Yifrach today lives in S. Petersburg, Russia, and he had previously been in the United States, where he had met a prominent merchant of Judaica items. This merchant suggested that he purchase several letters from the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, out of his collection of about two hundred. “R’ Yifrach agreed. When he returned home to S. Petersburg, he went through the letters and discovered to his astonishment that one letter was addressed to the Gafni family in B’nei Brak.

message was clear: The Rebbe is still at the helm. “Just a few days later, my former student came knocking at our door again with another letter and another story to tell us. When he decided to read the content of each of the letters, he was surprised to find a letter from 5728, addressed (not to the Gafni family, but) to Mrs. Gafni personally. “The letter was sent to my wife on the 7th of Adar Sheni 5728. The Rebbe writes: ‘I hereby confirm receipt of her letter, and may it be G-d’s Will that she should bring us good news. We find that the entire month – the month of Adar – is a successful one for matters of the Jewish People, both men and women. Furthermore, in the case of (Adar and) Purim in relation to Chanukah, regarding both of which our Sages, of blessed memory, have

Noticing my amazement, Rabbi Gafni proceeded to tell me another story that he discloses for the first time, illustrating the Rebbe’s great prophetic vision. “Since moving to Tzfas, I go twice a week to my son’s kollel, where I give over shiurim and study with the avreichim. Up until now, I had been accustomed to teaching students who were taking their first steps into the world of Torah and mitzvah observance. Today, my avoda is with avreichim who have already learned a lot of Gemara and are expert in Halacha and chassidus. “One day when I was sitting in kollel, I recalled an amazing incident that took place on

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Simchas Torah 5732 during Hakafos in 770. As we know, the Rebbe was always honored with the first and last hakafa. Dealing with the thousands of Chassidim filling every corner of Beis Chayeinu was a special committee – Vaad HaMesadrim. Their job was to make a passageway for the Rebbe from his platform to the center of the shul. That year, I was standing near the bima, and as the Rebbe came down the steps, I found that I was the first person he encountered as he descended. “I’ll never forget that smile conveying a tremendous inner joy. The Rebbe passed by while holding the small Torah scroll. He turned to me and said something in Yiddish, but I couldn’t hear

due to all the great noise and tumult created by the situation at hand. A few seconds later, after the Rebbe passed, a good friend of mine asked me: ‘Did you hear what the Rebbe said to you?’ When I told him that I hadn’t, he repeated the Rebbe’s words in Yiddish, and then translated them into English. The Rebbe said: ‘Zahl zain a simcha far dem gantzen kollel’ – There should be joy for the whole kollel. At the time, I didn’t understand what the Rebbe meant. I was a rosh yeshiva for baalei t’shuva, not a rosh kollel... “For many years afterwards, the whole episode seemed rather mystifying. Yet, as Chassidim, we know that every word the Rebbe utters is absolutely precise and

measured. Now, with our move to Tzfas, when I started working in my son’s kollel, I realized that the Rebbe was talking about these times. He foresaw everything from afar, as the past, present, and future lies before him...

Rabbi Gafni’s story is indeed a thrilling one. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, before the outbreak of the Second World War. He chooses not to state the exact year of his birth. When he was still a young boy, his family moved from the big city to live in one of the surrounding villages. His love of nature and the

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“This splendid Jew realized all the deep complex travails of my soul, and during meeting between us, he said, ‘Look, I have given everything I know. If you want greater depth substance, turn to the Lubavitcher Chassidim.’”
mountains had already started to develop – and it continues to this very day. He was always looking for depth and meaning, and these feelings were quite evident when he began his studies at the University of Melbourne. “At the age of fifteen, I was already learning in university. Before then, I was a member in a group of young anarchists, the type that rebelled against all normative social principles. Such people stubbornly go against the grain as they maintain a strong desire to implement their ideas of truth, justice, and honesty. I can only say that in contrast to our image in the eyes of outsiders, our concern for our fellowman was tremendous. There was much goodness and kindness among us. “I studied philosophy and social sciences, not the more technical subjects. During these studies, we created a kind of socialistic pact in defiance of the Creator. We rejected everything. The world was beginning to rehabilitate itself from the destruction of the Second World War, and there was much confusion. The group proposed ideas to improve society, and in so doing, ourselves as well. However, every time that it appeared that we had found the exact formula, I proved that it was far from complete. I secluded myself for a lengthy period of time in a shed in the thick Australian forests. The only one who cared about me and understood my heart was

and one you and

my mother, while everyone else thought that I had lost my mind. “During this seclusion, some amazing incidents of Divine Providence took place that made it clear to me that there must be a Master to this world. Coming to this realization shattered everything I had previously believed. “Around this time, I had become acquainted with a young Jewish man who helped me to reach the path of traditional Judaism. However, he was not very enthusiastic about the Torah lifestyle, and when I wanted to take some meaningful steps in this direction, the connection between us was severed. Yet, I saw this as a clear sign of Divine Providence. I started reading numerous books on Judaism, and I quickly internalized that if there is truth in the world, it would be found in the teachings of Yiddishkait. “At a certain point, I began looking for a Jewish leader who would instruct me in the path of truth. This led me to a wonderful Jew who served as a rav in a synagogue – Rabbi Yitzchak Schlesinger. He was a Holocaust survivor who had lost his entire family during the war. He made his way to Australia, remarried, and despite what he had gone through, remained steadfast in his faith. I subsequently worked out all the nagging doubts and questions that had been disturbing me. This splendid Jew realized all the deep and

complex travails of my soul, and during one meeting between us, he said quite simply, ‘Look, I have given you everything I know. If you want greater depth and substance, turn to the Lubavitcher Chassidim.’ “Although I didn’t know anything about Lubavitch, he sent me to the mashpia, Rabbi Zalman Serebryanski. The first meeting between us took place at the Chabad shul. When I came in, I saw R’ Zalman sitting nearby and studying chassidus with two people. He learned in English mixed with Yiddish, and I listened from the side. I could hear how he explained chassidic concepts, and I felt that I had come to the truth. He had a good heart. He sat with me for many long hours, speaking with me with a uniquely patient style. He didn’t only understand me, he also understood the very deep conflicts of my troubled soul. Over a period of time, I established contact with other chassidim, such as Rabbi Abba Pliskin, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Groner, Rabbi Nachum Zalman Gurevitch and his family, and Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel Altheus. “What really got me into Lubavitch was the fact that they piously fulfill everything that they learn. All of them, especially Rabbi Serebryanski, were a living example of this dedication. When I was in university, I met professors who could speak about one philosophy or another with great enthusiasm, but their actions belied their words. These Chassidim, in contrast, practiced what they preached. They spoke about Ahavas Yisroel and practiced it. They discussed the avoda of t’filla, and that’s how they davened. These Chassidim put aside their own lives for the purpose of helping another Jew, and this captivated my heart.

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I felt that this was also how I wanted to live my life.”

“One day, someone from Anash asked me why I haven’t written to the Rebbe. I was twenty-three years old at the time, and I decided that I had nothing to lose. I sat down and wrote a long correspondence – twentyone pages in all – explaining my entire philosophy. Chassidim who saw the letter said that I had to shorten it, but I decided to include everything. When I sent the letter, I said to myself: It doesn’t make any difference – I know that the Rebbe is extremely busy. If he replies, all well and good. However, if I don’t get an answer, I’ll understand that it’s because he’s simply very preoccupied, and I’ll have no complaints towards him. “Much time passed, and I still hadn’t received an answer. In the meantime, I continued to hear about the Rebbe and learn his teachings. “After the entire process of kiruv, the long awaited day had come for me to bring it to a successful conclusion. This too happened in a most amazing fashion – a story unto itself. Among those rabbanim who were involved in this process was Rabbi Kaplinsky, another Holocaust survivor who had great love for his fellow Jews. During this time, Rabbi Mordechai Perlov was in Australia, serving as the rav of the Chabad community, and he suggested that it would be appropriate to make a seudas mitzvah. “This is what I did. The entire local Anash community, along with other friends, came to the festive meal. I was a young

bachur, and it was very moving and exciting to sit among all the rabbanim. Each of them gave a speech, and I also said something in honor of the occasion. Suddenly, in the midst of all the joy and singing, I saw someone standing at the entrance, asking people something. It caused a bit of a commotion, and I didn’t know what was going on. After a few moments, I was given a sealed envelope, and I saw that it was a letter from the Rebbe. I almost fainted from shock. Rabbi Zalman Serebryanski was sitting

near me, and when he saw the letter, he too was overcome with emotion. “It turns out that the Rebbe’s secretariat had misplaced my address. However, when they realized from my letter that I had a connection with Anash in Melbourne, they sent the Rebbe’s reply to the yeshiva offices. The letter reached me at exactly the right moment – approximately a year and a half after I had written my lengthy message, and on the very day I had completed my kiruv process. As I still had
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to say my own d’var Torah, and due to all the excitement and emotion, I didn’t have a chance to go over the Rebbe’s letter in depth. Among the things brought in this letter, written in English, the Rebbe said that it would be appropriate for me to return to university. “The Rebbe touched upon several points that I had mentioned in my letter, and he explained the Torah position towards these points. The Rebbe also noted that he was very happy to read that I was now among Lubavitcher Chassidim, and I had surely learned and understood how this is binding, etc. At the conclusion of the letter, the Rebbe gave a bracha for success, adding that he expects to hear from me in the future. “In 5722, I wanted to leave Australia and go to another country with a larger Jewish community. I wrote to the Rebbe that I was considering a move to England or the United States, but a response was not forthcoming. Around this time, Rabbi Nachum Zalman Gurevitch of Melbourne went in for a yechidus, and the Rebbe inquired, ‘What’s

happening with Gafni?’ Rabbi Gurevitch told the Rebbe what he knew, and the Rebbe replied: ‘I already wrote to him that he should travel to Eretz Yisroel.’ The Rebbe had apparently sent me a letter, but it failed to arrive. “As soon as I heard about this, I did as the Rebbe had instructed. I emigrated to Eretz Yisroel, settling in B’nei Brak, as per the suggestion of my mashpia, Rabbi Serebryanski. He took the opportunity to ask me to send regards to his good friend, Rabbi Nachum Goldschmidt, with whom I soon established a warm and close relationship. We would periodically take walks together, and he would ask me about my life and offer some valuable advice. He was a Jew of unique quality: a Torah scholar of great intellect, who also gave each person an opportunity to express himself. “In 5724, I met my future wife, and after our wedding, we established our residence in B’nei Brak. “The first time I came to the Rebbe was in Elul 5726. The truth is that I had wanted

to make this trip a year and a half earlier – for Pesach 5725. Naturally, I wrote to the Rebbe first about my wish to celebrate the Festival of Freedom in 770. Within a few days, I had a reply from the Rebbe in the form of his general pre-Pesach letter with the following added in the Rebbe’s holy handwriting: ‘It is a wellknown custom among all Jews that for the Pesach holiday, and particularly on the Seder night, the entire family gathers together, especially the head of the family. Furthermore, it is also known that it is difficult to be as stringent as we would like in matters pertaining to Pesach when we are in other people’s homes. Therefore, there is no point whatsoever in his traveling here.’ “Of course, after an answer like that, I cancelled my plans. However, the feeling of longing continued, and I eventually made the trip for Tishrei 5727. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I had my first yechidus with the Rebbe, which was also the longest one I ever had – lasting nearly thirty-five minutes. The yechidus concentrated

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primarily, if not solely, on how I was managing in my new environment in Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe related to this matter at great length, literally as a father shows concern for his son. The Rebbe also dealt with matters of parnasa and employment. With regard to parnasa, the Rebbe noted my proficiency in the English language, even praising my grammar skills. ‘And why shouldn’t this be the basis of your livelihood?’ the Rebbe asked. “At a certain point, without my raising the subject, the Rebbe began to speak about the great importance of giving over the teachings of chassidus in public. He added by explaining how ‘one must strive that they should be understood by all those listening, such that they can go home and even give them over to the members of their household.’ To be perfectly honest, I was quite surprised and startled. In response, I told the Rebbe that I was still a young man, I had not been raised in a Torah environment, and had only recently accepted the yoke of mitzvos. As a result, I dared to claim that I wouldn’t feel so comfortable saying chassidus in public, and it would perhaps be preferable if I didn’t take this on. “However, the Rebbe did not accept my arguments. He replied that if there’s someone who can say chassidus publicly, he must do so and people must listen, as it has long been said, ‘Accept the truth from those who say it.’ The Rebbe added that the Alter Rebbe writes in his preface to the Tanya against those who place their hands over their mouths, conducting themselves with a false expression of humility. We must therefore take extra care not to keep matters of goodness from reaching our fellow Jews.

As mentioned earlier, before Rabbi Gafni emigrated to Eretz Yisroel, the Rebbe had urged him to complete his university studies. Even after his arrival in the Holy Land, the Rebbe had suggested this in his first ‘yechidus,’ noting that there was a college near B’nei Brak that he should inquire about. “When I returned to Eretz HaKodesh, I went to Bar-Ilan University, located near B’nei Brak. I met with one of the faculty professors there who had heard about my record, and he suggested that I learn Talmud, perhaps even combining this with another field of study. I eventually began a discussion with some other staff members, but unfortunately it did not produce any desirable results. I realized that this was not the place for me. “I returned home and wrote about this to the Rebbe. At the end of the letter, I alluded to the Rebbe that I deeply regretted the fact that I was not doing what the Rebbe wanted. Sometime later, I received a reply from the Rebbe, stating that in light of what I had heard there, ‘it is both clear and understood that

I am hesitant about this.’ The Rebbe later added that I have no reason to worry ch”v that I’m not listening to his voice, concluding that salvation will come from somewhere else. I realized that I would have to sit tight and wait. Shortly thereafter, I received an offer to teach in a yeshiva for English-speaking baalei t’shuva. This offer was in the manner of ‘an arousal from Above,’ i.e., from the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach himself. Here is what happened: “It was shortly after the SixDay War. Both Eretz Yisroel and the world at-large were experiencing a great Jewish reawakening. One day, several young English-speaking Jews came to visit the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad. They said that they had heard how Chabad bring Jews closer to Yiddishkait, and they wanted to learn more about Jewish teachings and traditions. The yeshiva administration didn’t know what to do with this group, since there was no appropriate framework for them. Shortly before Rosh Hashanah 5729, then-rosh yeshiva Rabbi Nachum Trebnik traveled to the Rebbe. When he went in for yechidus, he raised this issue and asked what he should do with these young people. The Rebbe said that they had to establish a framework for them, making certain that someone can properly teach them. Then, the Rebbe mentioned my name, saying to Rabbi Trebnik that he should tell me that if it’s not too difficult for me, he (the Rebbe) suggests that I should accept the responsibility. When Rabbi Trebnik returned to Eretz Yisroel, he approached me with this proposal. “At first, I didn’t understand why the Rebbe said this as a suggestion, and not a command. I’ll never forget what Rabbi
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Meir Tzvi Gruzman of the Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim – Kfar Chabad administration said: ‘A suggestion is far greater than a command.’ He explained that the Rebbe’s suggestion was more loftily rooted than his order or instruction, similar to the difference as elucidated in chassidus between something ‘obligatory’ and something ‘optional.’ They explained that the Rebbe essentially wants me to do this willingly and not because I had been ordered to do so. “The yeshiva opened with six or seven bachurim, and a short while later, several more young men joined the program. Working with these young people was no easy task. I gave over classes in both chassidus and nigleh. I made farbrengens with the bachurim, and I also tended to their material concerns. I served as their sounding board – listening to them, speaking with them, while providing encouragement and understanding with the utmost sensitivity. None of this would have been possible without the constant strength of the Rebbe. “With the passage of time, Rabbi Chaim Ze’ev HaLevi a”h Steinbach joined the faculty, followed some years later by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton, who remains as the yeshiva’s living spirit to this day. “Already in the yeshiva’s infancy, a series of correspondence with the Rebbe had commenced regarding how to conduct administrative matters. Literally like a father, the Rebbe dealt with every detail. In practical terms, no one could have possibly dreamed of establishing a baalei t’shuva program without the Rebbe, and especially one affiliated with Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim. “In Tishrei 5730, I was again privileged to travel to the Rebbe. During the ‘yechidus,’ the Rebbe took considerable interest in the bachurim and my daily schedule. I complained that in the past, I could daven at length and had a precise schedule of Torah study. Now, however, my day is totally occupied with giving shiurim and holding private discussions with the students. “I’ll never forget that ‘yechidus.’ The Rebbe spoke at length about the obligation for complete devotion to the students. Afterwards, he stopped speaking for a moment. I thought that after such a ringing declaration, the Rebbe would at least release me from the need for lengthy davening. However, I was quickly proven wrong: The Rebbe said that I must find a way to continue in the avoda of t’filla without compromise, despite all my other activities... “In 5733, shortly before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, I had another ‘yechidus’ with the Rebbe, and I raised an issue that we had encountered with the bachurim. The yeshiva’s reputation was spreading everywhere, and many new students were coming to learn in our program. However, this created a problem: We were learning in the yeshiva’s main ‘zal,’ and these brand new baalei t’shuva often came wearing unconventional attire, and they didn’t always conduct themselves in a chassidic manner. There were those who expressed deep dissatisfaction with this situation. I suggested that perhaps we should leave the ‘zal’ and erect a separate study hall. “The Rebbe rejected this proposal, stating that the whole purpose of establishing the baal t’shuva program was that it should be an integral part of ‘Tomchei T’mimim.’ He suggested that the program can accept those who have already chosen the path of Lubavitch, or at least those who are heading in that direction. This will make it much easier to influence them regarding their wardrobe. The Rebbe discussed in great detail about how best to deal with the problem. The Rebbe also asserted that the yeshiva’s main objective was to raise young Jewish men as Chassidim. ‘This will be the beauty of Tomchei T’mimim,’ he declared. “Towards the end of the yechidus, I recalled several personal matters, and the Rebbe replied to each of them. When I felt that the time had come for me to leave the holy chamber, the Rebbe again began to speak about the yeshiva. He said that if they would do everything we had discussed, this would be the true fulfillment of ‘Tomchei T’mimim.’ In all honesty, ‘I was in the clouds’ as I heard such unusual expressions: The fulfillment of ‘Tomchei T’mimim’ would be achieved through our yeshiva. The Rebbe sharpened our responsibility towards those bachurim who came from the outside. “In 5735, there was a situation where the yeshiva had very few students, and I wrote to the Rebbe about it. The Rebbe’s reply: ‘G-d Alm-ghty will widen their border with good students in both quantity and quality. I will mention it at the Tziyon.’ Several days after receiving this answer, more students began to come from a variety of places. The yeshiva soon had its largest number of bachurim since its inception... I saw clearly how the Rebbe’s bracha had been realized. The following year, 5736, I was privileged to have another ‘yechidus.’ There were

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serious problems with the army and various other constraints, and I alluded to the possibility that I would have to leave the yeshiva and seek a position overseas. The Rebbe looked at me with astonishment, and said that I must continue in my holy work. “During this period, the Rebbe spoke frequently about the concept of t’shuva. In his farbrengen on Vav Tishrei 5736, he said that t’shuva and spiritual avoda must be done with joy. The Rebbe expanded upon this point in my yechidus: ‘I said in the sicha that everything must be instilled with joy, and you must do everything with joy.’ Obviously, the whole idea of leaving Eretz Yisroel was ruled out immediately. “I was privileged to have yet another yechidus later that year. Around this time, Litvishe baalei t’shuva yeshivos, such as ‘Ohr Sameiach’ and ‘Aish HaTorah’, began to emerge. Their massive publicity campaigns and other media activities had brought numerous students knocking at their doors. During the yechidus, I raised this issue, adding that

many bachurim, who had begun their kiruv process in Lubavitch, had moved on to study in these yeshivos. The Rebbe replied: ‘It was said to the administration of this yeshiva, and let alone to [the administration] of Tomchei T’mimim, ‘Raise many students.’ I realized what the Rebbe meant: It was forbidden for me to sit by idly and hope that more students will come. I must take action. As a result, we started various publicity activities and encouraged older students to bring younger recruits to the yeshiva. “We went through many interesting periods at the yeshiva, encountering numerous successes in recent years. We frequently wrote to the Rebbe via Igros Kodesh and we were privileged to receive encouraging answers.”

It is a known fact that a mashpia never abandons his flock. Thus, while Rabbi Gafni did leave the yeshiva and no longer lives in close proximity to

its main activities, our interview was constantly being interrupted by phone calls from students in need of their rav’s advice. In addition to the shiurim in Tzfas, Rabbi Gafni holds classes in chassidus via telephone with his students and devotees, in Eretz Yisroel and the Diaspora. In recognition of the recent celebration of Yud-Alef Nissan and the Pesach holiday, and the Rebbe’s well-known innovation about “the fifth son,” we asked Rabbi Gafni some questions based on his tremendous experience with this issue: • It may be said that Chabad’s outreach activities constitute one of the Rebbe’s greatest spiritual revolutions. How do you perceive this from your vantage point? The Rebbe has borne the responsibility for bringing the Redemption in actual deed, and in order to redeem the Jewish People, we must work with all Jews – not just with baalei t’shuva. That means with women, children, and other Jews from a variety of backgrounds. The leader of the seventh generation

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This is a mashpia’s duty – to bring the spiritual lights into vessels. A baal t’shuva needs a mashpia to guide him like a biological father. The mashpia needs to take action – not by trampling, but with a lot of love and warmth – and this enables the mashpia to maximize his power of influence.
is the “collector of the camp.” It’s amazing to see how young people came to us with absolutely no knowledge of Judaism and today, many of them hold rabbinical positions throughout the world. All this came only through the strength of the Rebbe. The Rebbe did not distinguish between baalei t’shuva and Lubavitchers from birth. Each received equal treatment. If anything, the baal t’shuva may have received more. The Rebbe was the personification of “and he brought back many from iniquity.” The Rebbe has conquered the world. I’ll never forget the Rebbe’s sicha in 5732, when he proclaimed the need for world conquest. ‘The world is burning, and we have to put out the fire,’ the Rebbe said at the time. He sent shluchim everywhere to bring Jews closer to their roots. This existed among all our Rebbeim, but with the Rebbe, it was a like a mighty stream. • You turned so many Jews into Chassidim. Yet, these people experienced quite different lifestyles before following the glistening path of t’shuva. How do we preserve this G-dly light and revelation for all times? Chassidus explains that when a person does t’shuva, the powerful Divine light that he received at the start of his spiritual journey begins to dissipate. Therefore, baalei t’shuva need a mashpia to guide them. This requires even greater force when he leaves the yeshiva and establishes a Jewish home. When he departs the confines of a full-time learning program and becomes a baal ha’bayis, problems are liable to arise stemming from the material world surrounding him. Therefore, we must educate the bachurim to have total bittul towards their mashpia, and the rav who first exposed them to the world of Torah must accompany them, even when it appears that they’re firm and strong, raising their children to follow the path of chassidus. Shortly before Pesach, I returned from matza baking activities that we hold annually with a group of yeshiva graduates. After the baking, we made a lengthy farbrengen. Many people took part, and this was due to the connection we maintain with them throughout the year. Alumni of our yeshiva know that they can call whenever they wish, and they will receive advice and guidance. They must understand that despite all the chassidus they learned in yeshiva, when a bachur establishes his own home, he can inadvertently start conducting himself according to those habits he followed when he was growing up prior to doing t’shuva. Therefore, it is most important to “provide yourself with a rav.” If one’s education and overall environment are proper,

with G-d’s help, a person can continue his life according to the Rebbe’s teachings. Thus, when he cools off a bit from his initial enthusiasm, this does not represent an extinguishing of the spiritual fire, rather the first steps in implementing the Divine purpose. The ultimate objective is not ‘ratzo’ but ‘shuv.’ While ‘shuv’ seems far more ‘balabatish’ in relation to ‘ratzo’, this is our main goal. Nevertheless, just as every Chassid has to “provide [him] self with a rav,” this is even more important for baalei t’shuva. • Some baalei t’shuva tend to be a bit extremist. How do we counteract this? This is a mashpia’s duty – to bring the spiritual lights into vessels. A baal t’shuva needs a mashpia to guide him like a biological father. The mashpia needs to take action – not by trampling, but with a lot of love and warmth – and this enables the mashpia to maximize his power of influence. We say in davening: “We are unable to go up, to appear and bow before You.” The question is then asked: Not being able “to go up, to appear” is understood – there’s no Beis HaMikdash. But why can’t we “bow”? Anyone can bend the knee and prostrate in the direction of the Holy of Holies. However, bowing alone is not enough. It can only come after we go up and appear. The avoda with the baal t’shuva is to make the bowing, i.e., bittul to the mashpia, come after going up and seeing, after much love emanating from the mashpia. • How are Chabad baalei t’shuva different from baalei t’shuva in other circles? Chabad demands far more individual strength. On a recent Shabbos, I was looking after a “brand-new” baal t’shuva. It was

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Shabbos Mevarchim, and the young man arrived early, said the entire T’hillim, learned chassidus, davened with great sincerity, and afterwards participated in a farbrengen. For anyone who came from a place where they don’t demand anything, this requires a great deal of effort. I could see that he was doing everything with joy. With regard to your question, this is the characteristic of a Chabad baal t’shuva. While there is truth, Chabad chassidus represents the ultimate truth. The ability to educate in this manner comes only because someone who learns Chabad chassidus doesn’t just see G-dliness, he can feel it as well. Together with this deep inner Torah study, our approach must include speaking about Torah and mitzvos in positive terms. When I farbreng with bachurim about the importance of the bedtime Krias Shma, I don’t try to make them feel uneasy. I speak about the wondrous light that shines within those who are diligent in this matter, contemplating upon each word and making a proper personal accounting. • During the recent Pesach holiday, we revisited the Rebbe’s concept of the “fifth son.” You have surely met many such Jews… It’s always quite moving to meet a young man who knows nothing about Judaism, and

then see his progress after a period of a few months. I have also had the privilege of seeing what’s happening with him several years later. I know many of them today, already ‘zeides’ to grandchildren going in the path of Torah, mitzvos, and chassidus – and I still remember how they first came to us. Parenthetically speaking, you can have Jews wearing a yarmulke and tzitzis, outwardly appearing like a ‘wise son’ or a ‘simple son,’ but in fact, they are comparable to the ‘fifth son.’ Our job through spreading the wellsprings of chassidus is to take action to neutralize the phenomenon in this world of a “fifth son.” • One final question in conclusion: The fact that the Rebbe chose you specifically to found and administer the yeshiva speaks volumes. Nevertheless, would it not be preferable that this work be done by baalei t’shuva or is this really the job of those raised in chassidic homes? I think that it’s easier for a baal t’shuva to work with another baal t’shuva, because he went through the same thing and he can identify with his situation and understand him. My mashpia, R’ Zalman Serebryanski, would always say that we have to feel what our fellow Jews are feeling. It’s not enough to know or understand; we must also feel

what others are enduring. It is written in Pirkei Avos (2:4): “Do not judge your fellowman until you have stood in his place.” It doesn’t say “until you have understood” or “until you know his place”. You want to judge him? You must first be in his place! However, it is also possible to be a Lubavitcher from birth and still possess the ability to feel your fellowman and his place. *** Several long hours went into putting together this interview, only a portion of which appears here in print due to lack of space. Anyone familiar with Rabbi Gafni knows that he is a knowledgeable Jew of tremendous stature, a learned Chassid who gives considerable thought before answering a question. However, one of his more fascinating characteristics is his sensitivity and his concern for detail. After the interview in his home had concluded, Rabbi Gafni got up to escort me outside. He waited with me until my taxi had arrived, and then watched as it drove away. Only then did he return to his house. This polite gesture suddenly gave me a greater understanding of the profoundly unique connection between him and his students, who continue to express such great love for him – and with good reason.

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The Chassid who had connections with everyone. The Chassid who did not have to ask for appointments to meet with heads of state. The Chassid whom the Rebbe Rayatz promised “Imi b’mechitzasi,” and the Rebbe cried when he said that he was farbrenging now in Gan Eden. • For his passing on 9 Iyar 5723.
By Dov Levanon

he Chassid R’ Pinchas Todros Altheus was born on 4 Kislev 5658/1897 in Nikolayev. His father was R’ Binyanim and his brother was Eliyahu Chaim. He went to learn in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch even before he became bar mitzva. After he married, he lived in Leningrad, served as gabbai in the minyan in the home of the Rebbe Rayatz, and carried out assignments for him, mainly through the Joint. In one of his letters, the Rebbe Rayatz instructed that a letter be sent on his behalf to the address of P. Altheus. “It is a pleasure to work with him,” said the Rebbe Rayatz. When his friend, R’


Eliezer Karasik, was incarcerated in Leningrad, he worked to have him released. He made aliya on 16 Cheshvan 5697/1936 and settled in Tel Aviv. After a short while, he was appointed as director of the office that sent packages to Russia, which was run by R’ Eliezer Karasik, R’ Berel Chaskind, and the brothers R’ Moshe and R’ Shmerel Gurary. After the office downsized, he supported himself for a while from a small cigarette kiosk. In 1944, he was appointed secretary of Aguch. He tirelessly helped establish and develop Chabad mosdos. He was mekarev senior public figures to Chabad, including many who came to

daven and to attend farbrengens in the Nachalat Binyamin shul in Tel Aviv, mainly on holidays and special occasions. He passed away on Friday, 9 Iyar, 1963.

On 19 Kislev 5685 or 5686, the Rebbe Rayatz told how his father took pidyonos (written requests for prayers and blessings from Chassid to Rebbe). The Rebbe did not take pidyonos in the same way from everyone. From some Chassidim he took it with his hand; with others, between his fingers. The Rebbe said to Pinye Altheus:

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From you, although you were still a little boy, he took the pidyon as he did from the mekuravim, between his fingers [here the Rebbe demonstrated how his father took the pa”n]. This is something for you to contemplate for your entire life, “and not just you, but the entire ‘otriad’ [Russian – military unit], because you are the ‘natchalnik otriada’ [Russian – unit leader].”

“Just as Hashem leads me in a supernatural manner, the same is true for my people, that He leads them in a supernatural manner. Hashem will help and we will yet meet.”

Pinye Altheus’ love and devotion to the Rebbe were boundless. This was true any day of the year, under any circumstance; all the more so in a

time of distress such as when the Rebbe Rayatz was arrested on 15 Sivan 5687/1927. During the Rebbe Rayatz’ imprisonment, he sat all day in the Rebbe’s home. On 12 Tammuz 5687, when the Rebbe was released, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka called and announced the good news. R’ Pinye and the other Chassidim in the house danced and continued dancing all night.

During the imprisonment, the Chassidim received information about the Rebbe’s condition. This news came through the father of the GPU agent, Nachmanson, who was a former Chassid himself. Before Gimmel Tammuz, he informed them that they would soon be sending the Rebbe to exile in Kostrama. There were train stations in Leningrad, and the mekuravim of the Rebbe split up to wait at
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the various stations. Since they did not know precisely which day the Rebbe would arrive, they waited for several days, including Shabbos before the davening. On one of these days, Pinye waited at a train station with his uncle, R’ Eliyahu Chaim Altheus. His uncle suddenly though he noticed the Rebbe through the window of one of the train cars and he exclaimed, “There’s the Rebbe!” Pinye did not see the Rebbe, for the Rebbe wasn’t on the train which was traveling toward the border with Finland, the other side of Russia. However, when his uncle exclaimed, he didn’t think twice, but ran over to the train and jumped on board. It was only after the train began decision until I was at the Ohel. Just as Hashem leads me in a supernatural manner, the same is true for my people, that He leads them in a supernatural manner. Hashem will help and we will yet meet.” The bracha was fulfilled and Pinye spent two months with the Rebbe Rayatz at the beginning of 5710. must be devoted to his spiritual work as well as material work, to be involved in the material state of each of Anash.” From that day, until his untimely passing, Pinye threw his lot in with building up Chabad in Eretz Yisroel, in the building of the mosdos and in aiding fellow Chassidim. He used his rare natural charm that lead to his many connections in order to expand the Rebbe’s mosdos, starting with the biggest project, building and expanding Kfar Chabad, a job to which the Rebbe Rayatz appointed him as menahel.

This is not the place to go into detail about all the roles and jobs in which Pinye was involved. We will only dwell on a number of them. On the heavily burdened shoulders of the secretary of Aguch rested several additional responsibilities, such as being

In 5709, Rashag went to Eretz Yisroel. One of his tasks assigned to him by the Rebbe Rayatz was to help found Kfar Chabad. The members of Aguch were enlisted to help him, and R’ Karasik along with Pinye Altheus worked hard to find a suitable place until they decided on the ruins of the Arab village of Safraya. As mentioned earlier, Pinye Altheus spent two months in 770 with the Rebbe Rayatz, during which he had several private audiences. He was given instructions regarding Kfar Chabad. The Rebbe appointed him as menahel of the Vaad HaKfar alongside the head of the Vaad, R’ Eliezer Karasik. The Rebbe told him to go to France in order to meet with Anash there, to farbreng with them and to tell them about the new village. Everything having to do with the Kfar went through him. You need electricity? Pinye will run to meet with members of the electric company. You need new apartments? Pinye will arrange it. The Rebbe wants a seminary for girls? Pinye will get to work.

He never gave up when he set out to get something done.
member of the financial committee of Yeshivas Achei T’mimim in Tel Aviv for which he had to fundraise. In a letter dated 10 Iyar 5704, the Rebbe Rayatz said new members should be appointed to Aguch, to the Vaad (committee) of Aguch, whose job it was to take an interest in the material and spiritual state of every Lubavitcher in Eretz Yisroel. Among the new appointees, the Rebbe said Pinye Altheus should be appointed as secretary of Aguch. “As in every mosad where the secretary is the main person and upon him rests the fate of the mosad,” wrote the Rebbe to Aguch on 19 Av, four months later. The Rebbe said he should be paid a salary of 20-25 liras, so that he would be able to devote himself to the work without parnasa worries. The Rebbe stressed that “the secretary

moving that he discovered that the Rebbe was not on it. Upon his release, the Rebbe stayed in Malachovka, a suburb near Moscow. The Rebbe said, “Leningrad arrested me; Moscow released me.” It was only after it was decided that he would leave Russia that the Rebbe traveled to Leningrad. When he was there, the Rebbe told Pinye he wanted to immerse himself. Pinye ran outside to get a taxi to take them to the nearby river. On their way, the Rebbe was serious and lost in thought. On the way back, the Rebbe was in uplifted spirits and he spoke about his imprisonment. Pinye asked the Rebbe, “What will be with us Chassidim with the Rebbe leaving Russia?” The Rebbe said, “I thought about my leaving Russia in great detail and I didn’t reach a final

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R’ Pinye sitting next to the Rebbe at a wedding in Kislev 5710. Seen clockwise are the Rebbe, R’ Pinye Altheus, ?, ?, R’ Yisroel Jacobson, R’ Shmuel Levitin, ?, R’ Shmuel Zalmanov, ?, R’ Nissan Telushkin, R’ Zalman Gurewitz

His connections with numerous people are known, and surely the residents of Kfar Chabad remember the many official visits, such as the visit of all the members of the Working Committee of the Jewish Agency. Many buildings and mosdos in Kfar Chabad were built thanks to him. He was an unusual personality, and more than that, he loved to do favors for anyone. When the large waves of immigration began after the establishment of the State, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion gave Levi Eshkol (later prime minister himself) the important job of heading the Housing Department. At first, tens of thousands of people who had been exiled to Cyprus arrived. Then the Jews from Yemen, Iraq, North Africa, Bulgaria, etc. came. Eshkol divided the country into sections,

The Rebbe began another niggun, and another one, until a half hour went by and he saw Pinye coming back from his mother’s house. Then the Rebbe began saying the first sicha.
each of which was a new yishuv. Pinye was one of the first to ask for one of these sections. He wanted to found a Lubavitcher settlement. Pinye had a nice appearance. As Eshkol put it after some meetings, “A sheiner Yid.” He didn’t give up until he got what he wanted. He wanted 100 farming lots with each house being 84 square meters. The usual houses approved at the time for construction were only 62 square meters, but he wanted larger houses. Eshkol responded to all his requests by saying there wasn’t enough in the budget, and he went and got money from other sources. He never gave up when he set out to get something done. Thanks to his work, the houses in Kfar Chabad were bigger than others. The one who influenced Eshkol along with R’ Pinye was Shneur Zalman Shazar. Eshkol did not like this intrusion and said he would take care of things with Pinye alone, but Shazar did not leave him alone. Another person who gave his support was the Agricultural Minister at the time, Kaddish Luz. The triumvirate – Shazar, Eshkol, and Luz – gave full

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reason was to attend his son’s wedding. The practical reason was to fundraise for the yeshiva, for which reason he also went to Chicago, Boston, and other towns. The real reason was to be with the Rebbe. On the Shabbos of the oifruf, Parshas VaYeishev, Pinye knocked on the Rebbe’s door after the davening. When the Rebbe opened the door, Pinye said that he had come to demand shadchanus [matchmaking dues]. His father R’ Binyamin had been the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s official shadchan. “What would you like?” asked the Rebbe. “That the Rebbe come out and farbreng,” said Pinye. The Rebbe went out to farbreng at the oifruf for a few hours.

support to his entire work. He used all means at his disposal to found Kfar Chabad.

Once a week, a quartet of Chassidim met in a basement restaurant in Tel Aviv. The two bearded ones, who talked in Yiddish with the other two, were old friends. After they ate (giving the animal soul its due), the four of them went to the Nachalat Binyamin shul where they sat and learn Chassidus. The quartet included the mashpia, R’ Nachum Goldschmidt; Pinye Altheus; Avrohom Dov Shalonski, a childhood friend of the Rebbe; and the Rebbe’s brother, R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib. The relationship with R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib lasted until his passing in London. When the Rebbe left his mother’s home the first night after hearing the news, he saw Pinye’s son Binyamin, who was a bachur learning in 770 at the time. The Rebbe called him over and told him to call home

and say that the Rebbe’s mother did not know of the passing of her son and they should not say a word to her about it. R’ Pinye arranged for the funeral and burial of the Rebbe’s brother. Over the years, Pinye went to the Rebbe a number of times in the month of Tishrei. One year, he arranged for Kiddush to be made before hakafos at Rebbetzin Chana’s house. This arrangement lasted for a few years. When the Rebbe heard about it, he thanked him and said, “If I knew about this earlier, I would have started my farbrengens later.” That year, the Rebbe began the farbrengen at the designated time with a niggun. After they finished singing the first niggun, the Rebbe began another niggun, and another one, until a half hour went by and he saw Pinye coming back from his mother’s house. Then the Rebbe began saying the first sicha.

R’ Pinye was known as an outstanding singer. When he sang, people would stop what they were doing in order to listen to him. His sweet voice and the deep emotion with which he sang niggunim melted people’s hearts. “Pinye sings with zei’er Chassidishe osiyos (lit. very Chassidic letters),” the Rebbe Rayatz once said to his daughter. During Tishrei 5718/1957, the Rebbe asked him to sing a song of Eretz Yisroel, but he said he did not know niggunim from Eretz Yisroel, just from Lubavitch. “Sing something from Lubavitch,” said the Rebbe, and Pinye sang, “Tiku BaChodesh.” On another occasion, Pinye sang the Hakafos Niggun on Simchas Torah. The Rebbe asked him for the source of the niggun and Pinye said that he heard from the Rebbe’s father that this niggun was sung by the Alter

Pinye flew to the Rebbe on 18 Kislev, 5714. The official

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Rebbe on Simchas Torah. The Rebbe said he hadn’t heard that, but afterward Pinye consulted the Rebbe’s mother, who affirmed that this niggun was sung at hakafos by the Alter Rebbe. On Shavuos 5720/1960, Pinye sang a new niggun for the Rebbe, “V’Harikosi LaChem Bracha.” On 12 Tammuz of that year, the Rebbe told his son Binyamin to sing this niggun “like your father sang it.”

announce at the funeral that the Rebbe Rayatz promised him, “Imi b’mechitzasi” (lit. with me in my domain).

We see how the Rebbe appreciated Pinye’s tremendous accomplishments and what a chalal [the Rebbe used this term, meaning void] remained after he was gone, from the following story. After Shazar was elected President of Israel, the Rebbe said to Rashag, “I don’t know what will become of Inyanei Chabad. Until now, when they lacked chickens in Kfar Chabad, they called Shazar at the Jewish Agency and they got chickens. Now, I don’t know what will be ...” Rashag told the Rebbe that they just needed to find the right go-between. Pinye had died a few weeks earlier. The Rebbe said, “What do you want – that I should look into the Seifer Yetzira and create a person?!”

Two weeks before he died, Pinye sat at a Seudas Moshiach in Nachalat Binyamin. The meal went on long after Yom Tov was over. It was getting late, but Pinye continued sitting with his good friend Nachum Goldschmidt, and they farbrenged without looking at the clock. Someone suggested that they end the farbrengen, but Pinye did not agree, as though he sensed it would be his last farbrengen. Friday morning, 9 Iyar 5723: In the morning, he still managed to take care of a certain matter to assist one of Anash, and his plan was to meet with two public figures in the afternoon at a hotel in Tel Aviv. In the meantime, he went home in order to rest, and then his heart stopped. Since he had expressed his wish to be buried in the holy city of Tzfat, they carried out his wishes despite the approach of Shabbos. He was buried right before Shabbos began. The mashpia R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman said they should

At the 12 Tammuz 5723 farbrengen, a few months after his passing, the Rebbe cried as he said, “One of the people who had a share in the Geula of 1213 Tammuz, as far as the efforts and activities carried out, was Pinye. Due to the closeness he had with the Rebbe, the Baal HaSimcha V’HaGeula, no doubt he is also farbrenging now at the

farbrengen of 12-13 Tammuz. “Since we have his niggun, ‘V’Harikosi LaChem Bracha,’ which he was wont to sing, and since there are probably people here who know the niggun, sing ‘V’Harikosi LaChem Bracha,’ and he will probably join in.” The Rebbe, who put his hand on the microphone, can be heard softly singing Pinye’s niggun on the recordings made of that farbrengen. After Pinye’s passing, a new wing of the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad was built and called Beis Pinchas. The Rebbe was involved in the details of the construction, and asked that there be a committee to put up the wing that would be comprised not only of Anash but also of public figures who knew him.

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Parsha Thought

By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, occurs in the month of Tishrei. Nevertheless, we read of this Holy Day several times throughout the year in our weekly Torah portions. In this week’s parsha, AchareiK’doshim, the Torah goes into elaborate detail concerning the offerings that were to be brought to the Beis HaMikdash-the Holy Temple – by the Kohen Gadolthe High Priest. The Torah describes Yom Kippur, in Acharei-K’doshim as “achas ba’shana,” routinely translated as a “once a year” observance. Why is it necessary to state here that it is only one day a year? Only a few verses earlier the Torah explicitly states that Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. It also states that “on this day G-d shall atone for you.” There is no obvious need to repeat that Yom Kippur is a one day Holiday. Another difficulty arises when we consider the literal translation of the words “achas ba’shana.” Instead of “once a year,” the literal rendition is: “Once in the year.” Why the emphasis on the fact that it is one day “in” the year? What other place could the day be if not “in the year?”

There is one other place where the Torah employs the expression “in the year” with regard to a Holiday. In a subsequent parsha (VaYikra 23:40-41) that discusses the festival of Sukkos, the Torah states: “…You should rejoice before G-d your G-d, for a period of seven days. You should celebrate it as a festival to G-d for seven days in the year…” Here too, the Torah adds the preposition “in” in relation to the word “year.” Why does this phenomenon only occur with regard to Yom Kippur and Sukkos? Furthermore, what do these two Holidays have in common? On the surface, Yom Kippur and Sukkos seem to be complete opposites. The former is a solemn day of fasting and prayer, whereas the latter is a period of incredible joy and feasting. The Hebrew word for “one” that the Torah employs here is achas. According to Rabbeinu Nissim, cited by the Tosfos commentary on the Talmud (Menachos 18a) that term has another connotation as well. Achas refers to the level of the soul called “yechida.”

To explain the significance

of yechida and its relationship to Yom Kippur, it is necessary to elaborate on the Midrash and Zohar’s description of the five levels of the G-dly soul. They are listed in ascending order as: nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya and yechida. The first and lowest level of the soul, nefesh, is identified as the part of the soul that is responsible for our actions. When a Jew is motivated to do a Mitzvah and is engaged in its performance, it is the nefesh that is expressing itself. When we invest our actions with emotion, love and awe, it is the level of ruach that is active within us. To develop a profound understanding of the Mitzvah and a deep intellectual awareness of G-d’s greatness, we must bring the next level of the soul, called neshama, to the fore. However, the Jew who is able to exercise a tremendous will-power, one that enables him or her to go beyond his or her understanding and sacrifice physical comfort and personal needs to fulfill the will of G-d, is actually being empowered by the transcendent aspect of his or her soul called chaya. However, the highest and most powerful level of the soul—sometimes identified

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as the soul’s very essence—is the yechida. From the vantage point of the yechida there is no need to sacrifice oneself to G-d. Sacrifice implies that there are two disparate entities, one of which must surrender itself to the other. But on the level of yechida, the Jew feels such an intrinsic attachment to G-d that there is no sense that he or she is surrendering to Him. In addition, at the level of yechida one is in touch with the inner delight that is the source of all other faculties. Why do we harbor the desire for something? It arises when our inner delight motivates us to want that particular something. It’s the inner delight that motivates us to use our nefesh and ruach to think, emote and act. It is the source of all else that transpires in our lives.

Holiday but rather is a day when the achas, i.e., the yechida, is fully revealed. We can now also answer the second question posed above, why the Torah refers to the day as “one day in the year.” This can be resolved in light of the foregoing understanding of achas as the level of yechida, but first a prefatory story is in order.

Once, when a Czarist official observed the Alter Rebbe wearing his T’fillin, the official was overcome with dread. When a Chassid asked the Alter Rebbe to explain this incident, he replied by referring to a passage in the Talmud: “Rabbi Eliezer the Great stated: ‘When the Torah says, “And all the nations of the earth

By this, the Alter Rebbe makes it clear that for the T’fillin to be awe inspiring to an outsider it must be internalized within one’s head. The message of T’fillin, which is G-d’s absolute unity, must become an integral part of one’s consciousness. Here too, we may suggest, when the Torah describes the day of Yom Kippur as a day of achas, a day when the yechida of the soul is revealed, it cannot be allowed to dissipate when Yom Kippur is over. The Torah exhorts us to extend the effect of the yechida that we experienced on Yom Kippur into the other days of the year. However, the message here is that it does not suffice for it to be extended to the other days of the year; instead it must be achas ba’shana, one day, a yechida day, in the days of the year.

On Yom Kippur, we are required to pray five times, as opposed to Shabbos and other Holidays when there are only four required prayers. Chassidic literature explains that these five prayers correspond to and affect all of the five levels of the soul. When we reach the concluding prayer of N’ila, the soul’s yechida is expressed. That experience is so powerful that it can totally transform the person who, for whatever reason, was incapable of being so inspired throughout the rest of the year. And while the entire day of Yom Kippur is a day of five prayers, implying that the level of yechida is present throughout the day, it is most dominant during the fifth prayer, N’ila. We can now understand why the Torah refers to Yom Kippur in Acharei-K’doshim as “achas.” It is intended to teach us that Yom Kippur not just a one day

The Alter Rebbe makes it clear that for the T’fillin to be awe inspiring to an outsider it must be internalized within one’s head. The message of T’fillin, which is G-d’s absolute unity, must become an integral part of one’s consciousness.
will see the name of G-d called upon you and they will fear you,” it was referring to the Head T’fillin.’ Thus, when the Czarist official noticed my T’fillin he was overcome with fear.” The Chassid then asked the Alter Rebbe, “Why doesn’t that happen when I wear T’fillin? It does not elicit any fearful reaction by the nations who notice me wearing them.” The Alter Rebbe replied: “In the Talmudic text it does not say that T’fillin that we wear on the head evoke fear. Rather it says, T’fillin that are in the head.” Yom Kippur poses a unique challenge that does not exist in other Holidays. Because of Yom Kippur’s singular role as G-d’s designated Day of Atonement it captures the yechida. One would thus be entitled to think that it is impossible to have this Yom Kippur/yechida experience any other time of the year. To dispel this notion the Torah states, “achas ba’shana,” one can take the achas/yechida and instill it into the rest of the year. There is a similar challenge with the Festival of Sukkos, which requires and empowers

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Parsha Thought
us to celebrate for a full cycle of seven days. Could we reasonably contemplate the idea of bringing that powerful joy to the rest of the year? Most would say that it is simply impossible. To dispel that notion, here too, the Torah states “seven days in the year.” These seven days do not have to end with the culmination of Sukkos. They can be extended and instilled within the rest of the year. Yom Kippur or the unmitigated Festival joy of Sukkos into an ordinary weekday? To answer this question we must recall the teaching of Kabbala and Chassidus that there were/are five unique personalities who represent the five soul-modalities mentioned above. King David represented all the souls on the level of nefesh. Elijah represented ruach, Moses neshama, Adam chaya while Moshiach will embodies the level of yechida. When we connect our lives to Moshiach and focus our attention on what we can do to bring Moshiach and the Final Redemption in our days, we can then experience the level of yechida. The “mere” desire to be there places us there in consonance with what the Baal Shem Tov taught: “A person is where his will is.” If we truly want to be with Moshiach— and express that desire sincerely by attempting to live our lives in harmony with the ideals of Moshiach—we are there! When we live a Moshiach life we ignite the internal spark of Moshiach within us—our yechida—and we get a taste of the profound joy of Sukkos that is a portent of the perennial joy we will experience in the Messianic Age.

How can we take the profound soul experiences of

Continued from page 38 health. He hoped to get better and join them later. However, he became increasingly weak and passed away on 9 Iyar 5708. The mashpia R’ Avrohom Drizin (Maiyor), who was with him till the end, said, “R’ Yisroel was very weak and on the day of his passing he asked me to put Rabbeinu Tam t’fillin on him too. Since I knew that any effort was too much for him, I pushed him off time and again until he said, ‘You fool, what do you think? That you’ll save me like this?

Bring me the Rabbeinu Tam!’” All were his friends, but he had a special friendship with R’ Avrohom Eliyahu Plotkin. When R’ Yisroel died, R’ Avrohom Eliyahu was in Paris and his family and friends wanted to hide the news from him, since he had had a number of heart attacks already. One day he found out that R’ Yisroel was no longer alive. He burst into tears and heartrending cries. When he calmed down a bit he said, “In Lubavitch there were various types of T’mimim. There were lamdanim whose heads lay deep in Torah as they swam in

the sea of Talmud and brought up pearls. There were maskilim who delved into Chassidus, into its wondrous descriptions of the inner workings of the soul and supernal s’firos. There were ovdim who put all their energy into avoda of the heart which is t’filla and they davened for hours. “Yisroel Neveler was a tremendous lamdan, a remarkable maskil, and an oved Hashem with sincerity and warmth to the point of exhaustion of the soul. I never saw another one with such an elevated and complete combination of attributes.”
Check it out!! Educational and Fun!!
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The message the Rebbe taught in connection with Pesach Sheini is that nothing is a lost cause; you can always fix it. In life, we are faced with hardships and situations which seem hopeless, but we are told this is never the case. Even if we messed up, we can make amends. * A compilation of stories on this subject as told by shluchim.
By Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz Shliach, Beit Shaan

n 5749, the Rebbe spoke about the special quality of 14 Iyar, Pesach Sheini, which is an opportunity to make up for all that is lacking in our avoda, and that nothing is a lost cause. The Rebbe pleaded with us to publicize this message: “A commotion should be made among Jews all over, to utilize the power of this special day … to rectify and make up for the past … from the day of one’s birth … Special farbrengens should be held about rectifying and completing all aspects of avoda.”


The people who daven in the Chabad house in Beit Shaan, as well as those who attend shiurim,

know that as soon as Iyar begins, they will be exposed to a number of lessons in the Yiddish language. This is not exactly what Moroccans, Yemenites, etc. are used to hearing. For 2 Iyar, we repeat the teaching of the Rebbe Maharash, “l’chat’chilla aribber.” Upon ascertaining that everyone knows how to say it, as well as explain it, we move on to the Chassidic message of Pesach Sheini, “nita kein farfallen.” You can always rectify matters. There you have it, remedial lessons in the Yiddish language. One Friday night, three years ago, at the beginning of the month of Iyar, as I left the Chabad house after Maariv, I met Motti Shimoni (who had davened in another shul). Motti had already met Moshe Parshan (who davened at the Chabad

house) and immediately after saying, “Shabbat Shalom,” he said, “I heard that the weekly talk at the Chabad house was about ‘l’chat’chilla aribber.’ Moshe already told me.” That’s how Jews “all over,” as the Rebbe put it, learn original Chassidic phrases like “halten zich bai di klamke,” “farbrengen,” “iskafia,” and “is’hafcha.”

I was invited to give a shiur at a shul in Beit Shaan. I hadn’t been there in a long time, and when I got there I noticed that they had put a lot of money into renovations. They had designed a magnificent ceiling, the upholstered furniture was new,

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Emes in Yerushalayim, and he gives shiurim and farbrengens at Chabad houses all over the country. We hosted him for a farbrengen that lasted long into the night. R’ Notik is known as a big believer in the approach of l’chat’chilla aribber and nita kein farfallen, i.e. there is always a solution. If, for example, there is a serious problem, what you need to do is make a resolution that is above the norm and then Hashem will send salvation that is above the norm. R’ Notik relates: “It was the Shabbos before 19 Kislev and I was a guest at the Chabad house of Raanana. We farbrenged nearly all Shabbos. At a certain point, one of the mekuravim came over to me. He was already over thirty and said he was stuck in shidduchim. All he wanted was to establish a Chassidic home. I used my approach – a resolution above the norm for a yeshua above the norm. Although the man wasn’t a rav or mashpia, I suggested that he give a shiur every day to ten people on inyanei Moshiach and Geula. Plus, that he should give tz’daka twice a day, before Shacharis and before Mincha. I said he would be engaged within three months. “The next day, and with seemingly no connection, I gave my regular shiur in Midreshet Ohr Chaya for women in Yerushalayim. An older single woman came over to me and complained about not finding a shidduch. I told her to commit to teaching three girls inyanei Moshiach and Geula every day, plus giving tz’daka twice a day, and that everything would work out. “Just three days later, the man from Raanana met the woman from Yerushalayim and they liked one another. At their third

R’ Yehoshua Edot

R’ Zalman Notik

and the Aron Kodesh had also been designed at great expense. After expressing my amazement about the shul’s new look, the gabbai exclaimed, “You haven’t seen the main thing!” I wondered what he could be referring to. Was it the windows? The chandeliers? But the gabbai motioned that I should look above the Aron. That’s when I noticed a work of art made of silver and copper combined with marble, a depiction of square Luchos, with a tablet over them with three words written in Aramaic in huge silver letters: Ana Nasiv Malka (I choose to take the king). I was truly moved as well as curious as to why they had chosen to display this Midrashic phrase that expresses a key Chassidic concept in the most prominent place in the shul. Everybody eagerly awaited the explanation of the gabbai. The gabbai explained to me and everyone else that this was a concept he had learned at the lectures in the Chabad house, and he had decided that this

was the most appropriate thing to write above the Aron Kodesh. I was happy at the opportunity to explain the idea of “ana nasiv malka” based on the Rebbe’s maamer of 11 Nissan. In a private conversation afterward, the gabbai told me that at every t’filla or seuda at the shul, the phrase “ana nasiv malka” is mentioned. It goes to teach us that even unique or unusual concepts, if explained properly, can be communicated to anyone.

According to what the Rebbe says in this sicha, there are no limits to the concept of nothing goes lost. It includes the possibility of fixing the lowliest things on the one hand, and also elevating and improving the greatest situation on the other hand. The following stories contain examples of each. R’ Zalman Notik is a mashpia in Yeshivas Toras

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meeting, the man told her what had happened a few days earlier with R’ Notik. He discovered that she had the same story! They married and have since had a baby boy.” A similar story occurred to R’ Notik at the Chabad house in Kiryat Yovel in Yerushalayim. It was at a farbrengen on Motzaei Asara B’Teives seven years ago, when one of the mekuravim approached R’ Notik at the end of the farbrengen and said he was just beginning to join the Chabad community and he was older and still single. “I want to get married, but only to an ultraOrthodox girl.” R’ Notik knew that a supernatural bracha was needed here and so he told the man, “Every Friday, go to the business center of Kiryat Yovel and put t’fillin on with people for two hours and it will all work out.” Three weeks later, the man met a Breslover girl. She had begun taking an interest in Chabad. They too married.

In one way or another, this approach works even in places far from the sanctity of Yerushalayim. I heard the next story from Levi Lifsh, when he was doing his year of shlichus in the Chabad yeshiva in Eilat. “Last Pesach there was a huge festival taking place in Eilat for thousands of young people. The atmosphere wasn’t exactly Chassidic, to say the least, but there is a group of Chassidishe men with mesirus nefesh who attend the festival with their wives and children. They put up a tent which becomes the Chabad house. They have minyanim, shiurim, kosher meals for Pesach,

and they see results, sometimes surprising ones. “Yesterday, a guy around 20 years of age walked into the yeshiva and asked to meet with Yuval Avitan, a talmid. He said, ‘I am his brother. After I see what Chabad did at the festival, I also want to learn here.’ “Yuval Avitan, was thirteen when his parents told him they were planning a family excursion on Chanuka to New York. Among other things, the trip included a visit to 770 for an hour and a half. To Yuval, this was the highlight of the trip. He saw how this is the headquarters of the Nasi Ha’dor and that hundreds of bachurim sit and learn Torah there and he decided that he also wanted to learn Torah. “When they returned home, Yuval discovered that there is a yeshiva in Eilat too. He asked his father to buy him tzitzis and a kippa and he went to learn in the yeshiva. A year and a half had passed and he had turned into a regular yeshiva bachur. His father occasionally showed up to remind his son not to go overboard; that it isn’t healthy to constantly sit without moving around. Then he would go with his father to play soccer for half an hour and return to yeshiva. “Yuval’s older brother continued life as usual and watched his baal t’shuva brother from the sidelines. Until yesterday. Yesterday, he walked into yeshiva and said that he also wanted to learn. He sat and learned for a number of hours. He came back the next day for the farbrengen, davening and shiurim.” Levi Lifsh made special mention of the rosh yeshiva, R’ Erez Bendetovitz, who is able to unite all the talmidim whose ranks include veteran bachurim

as well as those who just put a yarmulke on their heads. R’ Bendetovitz devotes all his time and energy to personal conversations and in providing individualized learning for each bachur. After all, the Rebbe said all is possible and it is never too late.

R’ Yehoshua Edot, shliach to moshav Binyamina, told me excitedly about an incredible hashgacha pratis that happened during mivtza t’fillin in Cozumel in Mexico. “Many years ago, my mother told us that we have two uncles who live abroad, one in Mexico and one in S Diego. We did not correspond with them and had no connection with them. “My son Nissim went on shlichus for a while to Cozumel to help the shliach, R’ Caplan. One day, my son stood in the center of town and offered t’fillin to passersby. A group of tourists arrived. My son asked who was Jewish and wanted to put on t’fillin. Some men began rolling up their sleeves. Then they got to talking and the tourists said they were a mixed group from Mexico and from other countries. “As they spoke, my son said that as far as he knew, he had an uncle who lived in Mexico. One of them asked for the name of the uncle and my son said, ‘Meir Adato.’ “The man nearly fainted. He took out his passport and said, ‘See? I am Meir Adato and this is my brother from S Diego!’ “Their hugs in the middle of the street were the beginning of a family reunion. They arranged to meet and learn more about the family and about Jewish life.” Nothing goes lost.

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By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

I was recently watching a video of a public symposium featuring a few Lubavitch Rabbanim. Here is how part of the dialogue went: Moderator: Why did the Lubavitcher Rebbe not pick a successor? Rabbi A: He is still living, and therefore there is no need of a successor. Rabbi B: We have his teachings and he lives through his teachings. He gave us direction until the time of Moshiach. Rabbi C: There was nobody worthy enough to be his successor. A Rabbi can be replaced, but a Rebbe can’t be elected or replaced. You are either born with it or not. Rabbi D: He DID choose a successor! Moderator (and other Rabbis): What?! Rabbi D: Yes, he chose us! I feel that the abovementioned “symposium” defines the “division in Chabad” that we find today: Those which take the approach of “Rabbi A,” tend to focus on the Sichos of 575152 and place a special emphasis on learning and connecting

everything with Moshiach. Those who take the approach of “Rabbi B” tend to take the whole Moshiach concept in moderation. They focus on the nostalgic history of the Rebbe, the “earlier” sichos, letters and writings of the Rebbe and there they find their solace. Those that take the approach of “Rabbi C” tend to be more cynical or apathetic to the future of Chabad. Wherever you find yourself in the above-mentioned discussion, please listen and internalize the words of “Rabbi D”! On 28 Nissan 5751, the Rebbe said the following words: “From what has been said previously about emphasizing the subject of Redemption (especially) at this time – emerges the absolutely incredible: how is it possible that notwithstanding all these things – we have not yet accomplished the coming of our righteous Moshiach in actual reality?! ...something completely beyond comprehension! “Equally incredible – that when ten (and many times ten) Jews gather together, and in a worthy time with regard to Redemption, and nevertheless, they don’t create an uproar to cause the coming of Moshiach

immediately and instantly, and it’s not inconceivable to them, G-d forbid, that Moshiach won’t come this night, and also tomorrow our righteous Moshiach won’t come and also the day after tomorrow our righteous Moshiach won’t come, G-d forbid! “Also, when they cry, ‘Ad Masai’ – it’s because they were told to. If they meant it and desired it and cried sincerely, with absolute certainty Moshiach would have already come! “What more can I do so that all the children of Israel should create an uproar and cry sincerely and cause Moshiach to come in reality, since all that was done until now, has had no effect, and the proof is, that we find ourselves still in exile, and most essentially – in an inner exile in Divine service. “The only thing I am able to do – is to turn the matter [over] to you: do everything in your ability – things that are in the nature of lights of Tohu, but, in vessels of Tikkun – to actually bring our righteous Moshiach immediately, instantly, in reality!” With these words the Rebbe redefined our role in the bringing of Moshiach. While

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historically we felt that the main responsibility was on the Tzaddikim – Rebbeim – and we would do our small part, the Rebbe shifted the responsibility onto us. It is not a message of desperation, it is a message of empowerment. The Rebbe – and all the Rebbeim – have prepared us for this special mission and we can, must, and will accomplish it. I want to share a small story: A little camel looked up to her mother inquisitively, “Mom, why do we have such big humps?” “My child, they are there to help us store water for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without drinking for long periods of time.”

“Okay. And why do we have three-toed feet?” “When we trek along desert sand, our toes will help us stay above the sand!” “Hmm... Mom, why do we have such long eyelashes?” “My child you’re brilliant today. They are to keep sand out of our eyes during our trips in the desert.” “So let me get this straight, we have huge feet to stop us from sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand out of our eyes, and these humps to store water.” “Yes dear,” said the mother. “So why are we in the Bronx zoo?”

We have all the tools we need to make it happen. Instead of focusing on what other are doing – or not doing – and blaming everyone else, let us look inside ourselves and ask ourselves, “What have I done, and what am I doing, to ease the birth pangs of Moshiach and make us worthy of the complete Redemption through Moshiach?! Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at

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Despite the suffering R’ Yisroel Neveler endured in his life – he lost eight out of his eleven children – he rejoiced in his lot and drew others into his simcha. * In Tashkent there were many chadarim, but his was the best. He guided his students in yiras Shamayim and implanted emuna in them, emuna in the ways of Chassidus. * He passed away on 9 Iyar. * Chapter two of his life’s story, which was recorded in the t’shura for the Melamed-Barber wedding.


s described in the previous chapter, R’ Yisroel was interrogated and taken from prison to prison. His family hired a lawyer in order to ascertain where he was being held, what he was being accused of, whether he would stand before a regular court or a troika (a three judge panel comprised of GPU agents, who operated outside of normal judicial procedure, without a prosecutor

or defense lawyer, and regularly sentenced people to 10, 15, or 20 years without batting an eye; if the accused was lucky, he got only five years), and whether he could be defended. The family knew that most lawyers were afraid to challenge the authorities even in court. Nevertheless, hiring an attorney was still preferable to facing the court without professional representation. “One day, a lawyer came

and told us that he managed to find out that the file of Yisroel Davidowitz (son of Dovid) Levin, in other words our father’s file, had gone missing. When we asked him whether this meant that our father had disappeared (i.e. killed or died of torture) or was it just that the file was misplaced, he responded that he didn’t know.” The family did not give up. After tireless efforts to locate

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people who had connections with those in charge of the jails in Moscow, and searching out every possible source of information, they finally found out that R’ Yisroel was in one of the prisons in the city and had not been sentenced yet.

R’ Yisroel was in prison for thirteen months, from Elul 5697

until Tishrei 5699. After Yom Kippur 5699, a telegram came from one of his sons who lived in Moscow which said, “Father arrived healthy and whole.” The family was ecstatic. There were copious tears, but this time, they were tears of joy. After a while, they found out from fellow inmates about his outstanding behavior during his arrest and interrogations. He knew all the t’fillos by

heart and he would daven for hours. Prisoners regarded him as a holy man and treated him with reverence. He did not eat throughout Pesach. He saved up sugar cubes in advance and sucked on them throughout the holiday. On the last days he was so weak that he had no strength to get off his bed. The other inmates had pity on him and on Motzaei the last day of Pesach they quickly gave him hot water (from a special vessel that he
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go home to eat...” [The inference being that it just happens to take 26 hours to complete the day’s prayers – Ed.] According to the inmates, nobody dared to approach him during those 26 hours. The other prisoners admired his conduct and lowered their voices so as not to disturb the Jewish “rabbin.” “We all concluded that the rabbi would be released soon,” one of them told the family. “We said, someone who prays and cries and beseeches G-d so much – it is not possible that G-d will not have pity on him. He will surely get out of here quickly.” Indeed, the next day the jailer came and announced, “Levin, take your belongings and come with me,” and he was immediately released. After pressuring her, she agreed to send her daughter to public school for the upcoming school year that began in September. She bought her daughter a briefcase, pens, books etc. and her daughter was very happy. She would finally be going to school like all the girls. She began school and less than a month later were the Yomim Nora’im. Then her father came home the day after Yom Kippur. Of course, she did not go to school until Sukkos and then was off throughout the holiday. The day after Simchas Torah, she took her schoolbag and got ready to leave. R’ Yisroel noticed and asked her where she was going. She innocently replied, “To school!” R’ Yisroel exclaimed, “Which school? What school?” She said, “What do you mean? I have been going to school since the beginning of the school year.” “What?! To school?” “Yes. They told Mama that if she sends me to school there was a greater likelihood that your sentence would be reduced and maybe they would even free you. And see, I went to school and you were freed.” “If so,” said R’ Yisroel grimly, “I’m going right back to jail.” This was said with such forcefulness and sincerity that the little girl was shaken up. She saw how far her father was willing to go with mesirus nefesh for his children’s chinuch. His release from prison was conditional on his following the law, but R’ Yisroel did not dream of abandoning his former pursuits. R’ Reuven Kaminetzky, his student in Yegoryevsk had this to say about those days following his arrest and release:

The letter releasing him from jail, from the KGB file

In the stormy exchange the son vowed: I will never call you Tatty again. Days passed and on Shvii shel Pesach the son got Maftir…

agreed to drink from) so he could make Havdala and eat something to revive himself. “Yisroel,” they would say to him, “you need to live. You are a tzaddik. You will outlast them.” On Yom Kippur, he stood for all 26 hours in a corner of the cell and prayed and cried (starting from before sunset on Erev Yom Kippur until after the stars emerged the following night). His family knew that he did this every year, but they were still astounded to hear that he maintained this practice in prison. They recalled that he once said humorously, “Who fasts on Yom Kippur? Most people just finish the prayers and

There is an epilogue to this story, which perhaps more than any other event, embodies R’ Yisroel’s resoluteness when it came to the chinuch and guidance of his children. When R’ Yisroel was in jail, friends of the family went to his wife and said: Your husband is in jail and his life is in danger. They know that you don’t send your daughters to school. Since only your youngest daughter is obligated by law to attend school, perhaps you should send her. Then they might release your husband or at least minimize his sentence.

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“After R’ Yisroel returned from jail, he once again organized the talmidim and continued secretly teaching us. The conditions were very harsh and we had to take great care, but we continued to learn until the outbreak of World War II.” R’ Yisroel and his family traveled eastward when the war began, and after many travails arrived in Tashkent. The situation there was much better. The government was focused on annihilating the German army and wasn’t preoccupied with persecuting religious reactionaries. The city was full of Jewish refugees from Poland and the government allowed them to conduct themselves as they pleased. R’ Meir Gurkow writes in his memoirs, “In Tashkent there were many chadarim, but the best one was that of R’ Yisroel Neveler. Aside from his being an expert and experienced teacher in terms of pedagogical methods and techniques, he would educate and guide his students in yiras Shamayim and implant emuna in their hearts, a pure and strong emuna in the ways of Chassidus. He prepared his talmidim so that they would be ready to enter yeshiva as T’mimim.”

sorrows down to the bottom. He had eleven children but only three survived. Three of his children who were born when he was in Rostov, twins and a daughter, died young; one twin shortly after birth (Russian medicine at the time was poor and sanitary conditions were abysmal) and the other twin lived only a few months before succumbing. Another daughter died at the age of one and a half. When they were in Klimovich and made shoelaces, one of his daughters, Esther Hadassah, went out to bring shoelaces to a nearby town. This was something the members of the family took turns doing, but this time she went and did not return. All attempts at locating her failed and her whereabouts were never discovered. While they were in Yegoryevsk before the war, the oldest

R’ Yisroel with his friend, R’ Moshe Zelivansky in Poking, Germany

“If so,” said R’ Yisroel, “that’s very good because then one can fulfill the mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel with him in the fullest sense.”

We cannot fully appreciate the unique character of R’ Yisroel if we don’t examine his family situation. All those who knew him say that simcha was always apparent on his face; that he constantly smiled as though he was the happiest of men. However, not everyone knows that R’ Yisroel drank a cup of

daughter Rishe became sick with meningitis and died two weeks later, leaving behind a husband and three little children. When the war began, Russia drafted all men from the ages of 17-45 to the front lines, and even older men to serve in the rear guard. Among the younger recruits was Dovid, his 27 year old son, who never returned from the war. He left behind two children and a pregnant wife. Another daughter, Rivka, moved to the town of Pochep near her in-laws, the Posners, after she married. Her husband

was drafted and she tried traveling to her parents with her daughter, but before she left the town the Nazis conquered the entire area. All the Jews, including Rivka and her baby and her husband’s entire family, were gathered in one place and were murdered by the Nazis. In a letter that she sent to her parents before the massacre she wrote, “I so much want to join you, to be together again, but all around me is burning ...” *** In Tashkent there was a severe famine due to the war

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more, and was tipsy, he closed his eyes and began to cry. He leaned on his hand and after some time, as though being awoken from a dream, he wiped his eyes, said l’chaim once again, and cried out, ‘Even when they are tearing pieces of flesh from you, say that it’s good.’ He repeated this line many times with tears coursing down his face and beard and moistening the table. Silence reigned. Many could not withhold their own tears and there were those who said that he repeated this line eight times for the eight children he lost. “Then he recovered and exclaimed, ‘It is Purim today. We need to rejoice. Yidden, say l’chaim!’” There is no pen that can describe the greatness of mind and elevation of spirit of R’ Yisroel, who knew how to rise above all his sorrows and continue learning, teaching, observing and fulfilling – and rejoicing and making others rejoice.

p. 54 Letters that R’ Yisroel wrote to the Rebbe Rayatz after leaving Russia and arriving in Germany

and it was then that the jewel of the family, Itta Henia, died. This daughter was an example to all in her behavior, middos, and yiras Shamayim. She could not bear the sight of her father suffering from hunger (food was distributed according to coupons and there weren’t enough) and she began bringing her portion of bread to her father. She would tell him that she had managed to buy bread on the black market. Due to lack of nutrition she became sick with dysentery. The doctors could not save her and she died on 26 Shevat 5702 at the young age of twenty. Her death was the hardest of all the blows the family had been stricken with. Her mother walked about in a daze. The family’s spirits plummeted. But Purim fell out within the Shloshim. R’ Yisroel got up in the morning to daven and hear the Megilla. He returned a few hours later with a

firm stride, opened the door with a smile and called out, “Ah gutten Purim!” His wife barely had time to recover from his happy voice, when a group of people from the minyan followed him in. They looked pathetic with their patched up clothes, their pants tucked into their boots and tied with string, but R’ Yisroel’s simcha was contagious. Bottles of mashke were opened and remnants of food were served. You could not recognize R’ Yisroel, who less than a month ago had suffered the loss of his eighth child. The Chassidim sat and farbrenged and R’ Yisroel was the main speaker. As to the following Purim, his son-in-law (and nephew) R’ Shmaryahu Feldman recounted: “While farbrenging with the Chassidim, after saying l’chaim once, twice, three times and

In Tashkent, R’ Yisroel served openly as a melamed. His love for his talmidim was legendary, and they reciprocated that love, even if he punished them now and then. Most of the talmidim who learned with him in Tashkent, love him till this day. When you speak to them today, they tell you that R’ Yisroel was “one of a kind.” You ask them to elaborate and they find it hard to do so. They might remember some detail or another but they will quickly add, “That’s not it. R’ Yisroel was more than that. This story and that explanation pale in the face of who he truly was. It’s better not to try and quantify it.”

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R’ Lipa Klein was willing to relate one incident that he cannot forget: “When we were ten year old children, we learned Chumash BaMidbar with R’ Yisroel Neveler in Tashkent. We got up to the section on korbanos in Parshas Pinchas, and to the Rashi on the words, ‘command the Jewish people.’ R’ Yisroel began reading the Rashi about the parable of a princess who died and then abruptly stopped. He cried and minutes passed before he could continue. We realized that the parable reminded him of his daughters who had died. He did not speak but we could sense the powerful emotions he was feeling.” Many of his talmidim from those days recall the stories he would tell them on the afternoons of fast days when they did not learn. He would tell stories and they would sit with open mouths as they swallowed every word. “R’ Yisroel was a mesmerizing storyteller. Each story that he told us was related so vividly that it was as though we watched it unfold.” When the first Chassidim who arrived in the US from Europe (after leaving Russia) had yechidus with the Rebbe Rayatz, he asked them, “Is Yisroel Neveler still telling stories?”

At a Sheva Brachos in Poking. R’ Yisroel is sitting in the center. On his right is R’ Nissan Nemanov and on his left is R’ Yechezkel Brod

When he chastised someone sharply, they were never embarrassed. The proof is that all those who “got it” from him would tell it over to others afterward. R’ Shaul Brook said, “I was once sitting and teaching Ein Yaakov in shul while R’ Yisroel stood in a corner talking to one of his friends. This disturbed me

G’dolei and Ziknei Anash in Poking. From right to left: R’ Aharon Gopin, R Peretz Mochkin, R’ Yisroel

and I said: Either be quiet or go out. I didn’t realize that Yisroel Neveler was one of those talking. “R’ Yisroel immediately stopped talking and with a smile on his face he came over to me and said, ‘I want to tell you a little story. A rav and his son once had an argument. In the stormy exchange the son vowed:

I will never call you Tatty again. Days passed and on Shvii shel Pesach the son got Maftir. When he read the Haftora he reached the verse, v’oivai tata li oref, and did not know what to do. His father was in shul and how could he say ‘tata’ which was just like Tatty? He said ‘gata’ instead, and people corrected him; he

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home to all in need and was very involved in the community. He did a lot in the area of shalom bayis, for example, spending hours listening to the aggrieved parties, putting in all his effort, authority and powers of persuasion, until he succeeded in bridging differences and creating shalom. Each time he was successful, his face shone with happiness. His involvement with other people’s problems took up a lot of his time and energy. Lubavitchers and non-Lubavitchers alike would pour out their hearts to him and R’ Yisroel was gracious to all and tried to help everyone. When they asked him about this, he would explain that he was fulfilling the mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel. For example, there was a man in Poking who opened a nightclub with singers etc. Everyone kept their distance from him, because in addition to the kind of work he did he was a coarse individual and none too bright. One day though, he came to R’ Yisroel who devoted quite a bit of time to him, listening to him and trying to help him. When the man left, R’ Yisroel’s daughter asked him, “Why did you have anything to do with him? He doesn’t have even one good quality.” “If so,” said R’ Yisroel, “that’s very good because then one can fulfill the mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel with him in the fullest sense.” Although his life was full, as he was busy with community matters and taught nonstop, his suffering left a deep impact on his body and soul. While his family (aside from his wife) left in 1948 for France and from there to Eretz Yisroel, he remained in Poking because of his poor Continued on page 26

His daughter related: I once went with my father to one of the villages to buy an animal and shecht it. This had been arranged ahead of time. My father shechted the animal and examined it and when it was found to be kosher we took the parts we wanted and left the rest for the goy. Suddenly, we heard people approaching. My father and I ran to hide, leaving the goy alone. A few minutes later, when realized that they were his family members, we came out of hiding, paid him, and took the meat and went home. We distributed the meat to those families who had ordered it. The next day, my father’s conscience bothered him because, for those minutes that we hid, the goy was alone with the meat. This was basar she’nisalem min ha’ayin (meat that a gentile may have had access to while unsupervised by a Jew) and how could he have given Jews this meat? When Chassidim told him that it wasn’t a problem considering the short time it had been left alone, he wasn’t satisfied. He could not get over it and refused to shecht anymore. He wrote a letter to the Rebbe Rayatz and asked for a tikkun t’shuva. The Rebbe responded that there wasn’t a shadow of a doubt of a problem, and his anguish was a tactic of the yetzer ha’ra to deter him from his avodas Hashem. Nevertheless, my father was bothered by this all his life. This was a man who was truly a yerei Shamayim.

Yisroel’s grave in Poking, Germany

Yisroel’s grave in Tzfas – where he was moved 15 years later

said ‘lata,’ ‘shata,’ and each time, they corrected him. His father realized what was going on and he went over to his son and said: I am willing to leave the shul just so that you don’t read it wrong.’ And R’ Yisroel left.”

R’ Yisroel was able to leave Russia in 1946 for Poking, Germany. He was in a free country and was able to openly sit and learn Torah, but here too, as in Rostov, he did not suffice with Torah study. He opened his

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Businessmen, public figures, contributors, friends and graduates of Yeshivas Chanoch LeNaar came to a special dinner held on Wednesday, the 24th of Adar, at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, as a salute to ten years of activities by the yeshiva and its institutions. Guests of honor participating in the event that evening included Rabbi Yona Metzger, chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, rav of Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wilschanski, one of the Rebbe’s shluchim in Eretz HaKodesh and the head of Yeshivas Chassidei Chabad in Tzfas, and Rabbi Yeshayahu Hertzel, chief rabbi of Natzrat Ilit, alongside representatives of the Israel Ministries of Education, Industry, Trade, and Welfare, the Ort Sci-Tech Schools Network, the Yedidim Fund of Toronto, and others. The guests were welcomed by the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Wilschanski, and the directorgeneral of Chanoch LeNaar Institutions, Rabbi Shneur Lipsker. During the evening, speeches were delivered by representatives of the rabbinate and the government of Israel, and the invited guests watched a detailed multimedia production on the yeshiva and its programs. Ort Network executive director Tzvi Peleg stated that he is doing everything possible to enable Chanoch LeNaar Institutions to train young ultraOrthodox men for the workforce, while stringently observing

The gala Chanoch LeNaar dinner

the principles of the chareidi community. He also declared that his organization would be making a sizable donation to the yeshiva in honor of the event. The Mayor of the City of Tzfas, the Hon. Ilan Shochat, proudly announced that Tzfas had been awarded a special prize in education for its video presentation on the Ort-Chabad technological institute. He noted that this honor was a source of great pride for the entire city. The climax of the evening came when Chanoch LeNaar rosh yeshiva Rabbi Eliezer Wilschanski announced on behalf of the yeshiva administration and faculty that they would soon be accepting more students. He called upon the institution’s growing circle of friends and

supporters to assist in opening the gates of opportunity to all those interested in participating in this program. The Chanoch LeNaar Troupe entertained the crowd with a special artistic production. They invited vocalist Yishai Lapidut to join them in singing “Aleh Katan”. This song aptly symbolizes the students’ successful achievements, thanks to the faith and inspiration they receive from Chanoch LeNaar. This was followed by a professional on-stage tambourine performance, later accompanied by Music School singing star Ilay Avidani, and the Shai Barak orchestra. Michoel Caplin Productions. Photos: Yisroel Berdugo.

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Shleimus Ha’aretz

Translated by Rabbi Binyomin Schlanger

In the Talmudic tractate of Sota, the Mishna (Chapter 7, Mishna 5) states: “When the Jewish People crossed the Jordan River and arrived at Mount Grizim and Mount Eval in the Shomron, etc.” The Mishna continues to describe the epic event whereby six of the legions of Israel ascended Mount Grizim and the other six legions ascended the facing Mount Eval. Together with the Holy Ark, the Priests and Levites who remained in the valley between then turned towards Mount Grizim and uttered great blessings, to which the entire Jewish People responded Amen. The story goes on with more detail. Thereby the Mishna lays down the ruling that both Mount

Grizim and Mount Eval are connected with the Shomron. Now since this a clear Mishnaic decision, we have a principle that when “one (a judge) who makes a mistaken ruling on a theme brought in a Mishna, the ruling is to be annulled, (and the case must be retried)” since on such an explicit law a mistake is unacceptable.  On this basis it clearly understood that there remains no room to dispute the fact that the Shomron is part of the Land of Israel, and cannot be relinquished: not to Arabs, Americans, nor to any of the seventy nations, since this is within the exclusive ownership of the Jewish People!  And even more: The very blessings of the Land of Israel are

dependent upon the mountains of Grizim and Eval. It is not a mere coincidence that G-d gave His blessings on a mountain merely because this was a lofty spot. Rather, it is a matter of absolute certainty there is an inner connection between G-d’s blessings to the entire Land emanating specifically from Mount Grizim. Because of this the Mishna states its ruling:  “Mount Grizim and Mount Eval are in the Shomron.” From here it is evident that Mount Grizim and Mount Eval are the source of blessing for the entire Land of Israel. Further: the Mishna states that these were in the Shomron. Thus it is clear that the Shomron hold the balance of the entire Land of Israel.
(From a public address Shabbos R’ei, 1977)

We find ourselves now at the time of the end of the Exile. We hear the footsteps of Moshiach. From time to time there are occurrences which remind us of this. These events are not accidental; rather they are

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directed by Divine Providence to awaken the Jewish People to be purer, to be greater, and not G-d forbid to the contrary. Very recently several new occurrences took place, upon which each of us can contemplate and find many pointers from which to learn. I will consider two points which are relevant both generally and specifically. The teaching of the Baal Shem Tov is well known: Whatever a Jew sees or hears has within it a message in his service to his Creator. Certainly this is true when he sees an event of a more general nature that is not just relevant to him alone or to a small number of Jewish people, but to a great number. Then certainly this is a wider message. Not always does one expose all happenings that take place, because this may well cause pain to Jewish people. We see, however, that a matter of shocking proportions has turned sour. And the situation remains status quo even though there are those in the government who make out as if they know nothing. Until this very day it remains registered in official documents that the legal owner of the old city of Jerusalem, over the Temple (These Mount, is a gentile.  places remain sacred since we have a ruling that the holiness of a given location is preserved into the future and can never become nullified, as Maimonides writes that the Sh’china does not become null; this remains the Halachic ruling.) They know who this is and offer tacit agreement until this very day. No one wishes to get involved. Rather, they silence the entire matter. The same remains true of the Cave of Machpela and its surrounding area. Official documents record that these belong to a Gentile! This runs contrary [not just to love of Israel], but to the love of

justice and honesty! Simply said, this is just as they took over many locations for security reasons and paid for them in a manner of pleasantness and peace. Similarly they could have done this regarding the place of our Temple and the Cave of Machpela. Regardless, this status quo remains until this very day. The agents of whom we spoke, who are responsible for this matter, make out as if they know of nothing. This is in spite of the fact that the matter is public knowledge. Elijah the Prophet called out at Mount Carmel to the Jews who served idols: “How long will you continue to waver between two opinions?” If you wish to choose a specific path – make the choice! “If the Master is G-d – go after Him,” but don’t waver between two views. In one respect this is much worse than idol worship.  The main point is that in this instance they are not even wavering between two views. Immediately after the military powers of Israel conquered Jerusalem and Hebron, they already knew that there is an

official paper from the time of the Turkish occupation in which documents unjustifiably and incorrectly state that the Temple Mount and Cave of Machpela belong to a gentile. This Arab did not make a purchase (for 400 silver shekels as did Abraham our Patriarch)! Regardless, they left the documents of ownership as they were. 
(From a public address, 13 Tishrei 1977)

Dear Reader, Please take a few moments each week to copy, paste, and email this sicha to 10 friends, asking your friends in turn to email the same to 10 further friends, ad infinitum. Thereby you will be taking a strong and active part in the Rebbe’s battle to protect the lives of millions of Jewish people whose lives are so endangered. This is, as the Rambam writes, Milchemes Hashem, and we will see it through to the final Nitzachon!  Please go to http://  where you will find the current sicha.

Issue 876 • �  


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