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THE BAAL SHEM TOV TELLS A STORY
TORAH IS WHAT 10 THE ESTABLISHES REALITY
Rabbi Yehoshua Neuhauser
4 D’var Malchus 25 Moshiach & Geula 35 Parsha Thought 48 Interview
WAY OF LUBAVITCH 14 BY Shai Gefen
BE MORE 20 DON’T RELIGIOUS THAN G-D
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Lipskier a"h
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SHOULD WE REFRAIN FROM ‘wild talk’ ABOUT THE REBBE?
A person might come and complain: This is “wild talk”! You are making claims that are historically unprecedented! How will the world react?! * Likewise with regard to the world’s argument that “they eulogized and embalmed him.” * Source materials compiled by Rabbi Shloma Majeski. Translations are in bold. Underlining is the emphasis of the compiler.
Translated by Boruch Merkur
In the addendum to the sichos of Shabbos Parshas VaYigash 5747, the Rebbe refers to the sentiment that it is “wild talk – vilde reid” to claim that a new era has begun, a new era necessitating that all the Jewish people prepare themselves for the imminent redemption – “imdu hachen kulchim – all of you, get ready” to build the Beis HaMikdash with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu: At first glance, a person might come and complain: This is “wild talk”! You are making claims that are historically unprecedented! How will the world react to these things being said all of a sudden?!
It is, therefore, first and foremost necessary to know that one should not be affected by the world [i.e., by a perceived public reaction]; he should not be concerned about what people will say, etc. Rather, since this is the truth according to Toras Emes, it should be stated openly. In fact, today’s global consciousness is ready to absorb this message. It just needs to be articulated. Likewise with regard to the world’s argument that “they eulogized and embalmed him.” It is necessary to respond by explicitly stating the facts
according to Torah. There is no concern about the reaction, etc., because the world is ready to accept the truth. The same applies to think tanks held to determine policy for the Jewish state: Don’t be affected, etc. Simply tell them to look it up in the “Bible” (something that is holy even to Gentiles), where they will find the words of Yeshayahu HaNavi (43:21) on the role of the Jewish people: “This nation I have formed for Me (in order that) they shall recount My praise”! As stated above, the public is ready to accept these words – the message simply needs to be communicated. If the message is said with conviction, if the words come from the heart, then they will surely have the desired effect, and in a pleasant and peaceful way, without having to negate the opposition (and without the need to wage war). Those who have been involved with this have clearly seen this positive reception for themselves.
(From the hashlamos on the sichos of Shabbos Parshas VaYigash 5747)
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THE BAAL SHEM TOV TELLS A STORY
A story about the Baal Shem Tov, presented for Shavuos, the day of his passing.
By Menachem Ziegelboim
It was a weekday evening when the holy Baal Shem Tov finished davening Maariv. When he turned around, his disciples noticed a particularly joyous look on his face. In the hours that followed, they could see he was unusually happy, but they had no idea why this was so. Someone finally asked him and the Baal Shem Tov replied that a holy soul, hewn from the purest of chambers, had come down to this world. “There were many obstacles – the mother had a very hard time in labor and she and her baby were in danger. The 'baal davar' (Talmudic term for a litigant, used as a euphemism for the Satan) himself fought them, and my prayers accomplished that the baby was born healthy. That is why I am delighted.” Eight days later, the bris of Menachem Mendel was celebrated in the town of Vitebsk.
(Nine months earlier): Liba was a refined, modest woman. She spent her time working
in her grocery store while her husband, R' Moshe, was one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. As he sat immersed in his Torah and avoda, she supported the household. That day she had many customers. She couldn't explain why business was suddenly going so well. Customers came mainly in the late afternoon until almost sunset. Liba didn't know that this was the work of the Satan. When all the customers finally left, she cleaned up the store so she could return home while it was still daylight. Then, surprisingly, in came the local priest. He had a long list of items he wanted to buy, which was most unusual. Liba looked at the long shopping list and her heart beat faster. It wasn't every day that a customer came in with such a long list. She had nearly gone to fill the order when she noticed the sun sinking in the west. She knew she had to hurry home and for a few moments she stood there hesitantly. Should she fill the priest's order and earn an amount of money it usually took her a week to earn? Or should
she close up shop and go home? At that moment, the Baal Shem Tov was standing and davening in distant Mezhibuzh, that Liba not fail this test. The woman told the priest she was closing the store and could help him the following day. The priest looked at her in astonishment. He knew she needed the money and he tried pressuring her, but she was firm about her decision. She closed the store and went home, happy that she had withstood the test. That night, a lofty soul descended to the world, the soul of R' Menachem Mendel, later known as R' Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. He was the leader of the Chassidim in Russia and Lithuania. Afterward, he led the Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel.
Little Mendele went to the Baal Shem Tov two times. The first time was when he was nine. His father took him to the Baal Shem Tov for a bracha. His unusual abilities were apparent already at this age.
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He quickly grasped his studies. Soon, there was no melamed available to teach him. Even his brilliant melamdim like the famous gaon R' Yosef of Pinsk and the gaon R' Yisachar Dov of Lubavitch conceded that his abilities were unusual. So his father sent him to the veteran melamed known for his brilliance. This melamed was lame and endured much suffering, but his teaching abilities were extraordinary. So Mendele went to R' Dovber's little hut and learned Torah with him. This melamed was none other than Rav Dovber, Maggid of Mezritch, who was the successor of the Baal Shem Tov in leading the Chassidic movement. R' Dovber was already mekushar, heart and soul, to the Baal Shem Tov at this time, and he would occasionally travel to Mezhibuzh to see his Rebbe. R' Dovber loved his young talmid. He soon saw how talented he was and he lovingly shared his Torah treasures with him. Then, one Shabbos, the boy felt that something had come between him and his teacher. It was Shabbos afternoon after the meal when the door to the local beis midrash suddenly opened and his melamed came in. Mendele was immersed in his learning, pacing the beis midrash to and fro. His eyes were focused on the volume in his hand and his hat was tilted to one side, with an air of self-satisfaction. The melamed stood in the doorway and said, “How many pages of Gemara did you learn today?” The boy looked up and saw his teacher with an expression on his face that bespoke his displeasure. “Six pages,” he answered. The Maggid nodded and said
Interestingly, although he was truly lowly in his own eyes, he was particular about his appearance. His manners and deportment were outstanding in their exactitude and resplendence. How did he combine both of these characteristics?
in a low voice, as though talking to himself, “If, from learning six pages of Gemara, your hat is tilted to the side, how many pages are needed for the hat to come off entirely?” Without waiting for a response, the Maggid left, closing the door behind him, leaving behind his bewildered talmid. Mendele had never heard his teacher speak this way before. Furthermore, he knew just what his melamed meant. He burst into tears, knowing how arrogance had taken root in his heart. He went to his teacher and knocked on the door to ask for his advice. “Tell me what to do. I know I took pride in what I accomplished and now I want to do t’shuva.” The Maggid's piercing eyes went straight through to the boy's neshama and he saw that the child truly regretted his behavior. “Don't worry, Mendel. After Shabbos you and I will go to the
Issue 879 • �
Baal Shem Tov and he will direct you.” Mendel was greatly relieved and a hopeful look replaced the despondency in his eyes. *** It took them three days to get from where R' Dovber lived to Mezhibuzh. They left on a Tuesday and arrived on Friday afternoon. After immersing in the river, the Maggid hurried to the house of his master. He did not take note that his talmid remained at the inn, busy arranging his hair. All of Mendel's acquaintances and teachers knew that he was very particular about how he dressed and how he looked. His clothing was always immaculate and dignified, his hat just-so, and his hair arranged carefully. This was despite the fact that inwardly, he was utterly battul and humble. The reason for his concern over his appearance will be explained shortly. Shabbos was quickly approaching. The Baal Shem Tov was already standing at his place in the beis midrash, ready to begin Mincha and Kabbalas Shabbos. It was his practice to welcome the Shabbos Queen while it was still day. The talmidim waited for a signal to begin but he kept waiting. The talmidim wondered at this but remained silent. The hour grew later and then finally, the door opened and in walked an unfamiliar boy. The Baal Shem Tov turned to him and when he saw the pure-faced child, his eyes lit up and he indicated to the chazan that he should begin davening. The talmidim found this most astonishing. That Shabbos was an uplifting one for the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples. The boy observed the goings-on. Shortly after Shabbos was over, R' Dovber and his student were invited to the room of the Baal Shem Tov. They were surprised by the unexpected invitation. They saw the Baal Shem Tov sitting there smoking his pipe, and his talmid R' Yaakov Yosef, later known as the Toldos Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye. They stood there in silence as their Rebbe sat, deep in thought. Then the Baal Shem Tov's voice broke the silence as he said, “There were oxen with a plow behind them.” The three of them stood and listened to the story. Even the young boy understood that there was deep meaning to this story. The Baal Shem Tov continued his story as he puffed on his pipe now and then (this too was an avoda, as Chassidim said his smoking his pipe was akin to the incense brought in the Beis HaMikdash). When he finished the story, the three left the room and looked in wonderment at one another. They understood that the tzaddik had alluded to everything that happened and would happen to young Mendele from the moment he was born, until the day he would die. “It seems to me that the story is self-explanatory from beginning to end,” said the Maggid of Mezritch. R' Yaakov Yosef said, “To me it is clear until half-way through the story.” Mendele said, “I only understood the story up until today.” also wanted guidance for how to proceed with his precocious talmid. The Baal Shem Tov said, “I see a boy who is truly lowly in his own eyes,” alluding to the incident which had precipitated the trip to Mezhibuzh. He indicated that there was nothing to worry about. Indeed, R' Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk was known for his sterling character but his humility was greatest of all. He never considered himself worthy. He would sign his letters with the phrase, ha'shafal b'emes (he who is truly lowly). This trait was apparent when he was in the beis midrash of the Maggid. His peers would say about him that his soul was from the aspect of malchus, which includes both regality and lowliness. Interestingly, although he was truly lowly in his own eyes, he was particular about his appearance. His manners and deportment were outstanding in their exactitude and resplendence. How did he combine both of these characteristics? R' Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye would compare this to a person who has an exceedingly precious stone. He was extremely worried that it not be stolen from him and finally came up with a plan. He hid the stone in the privy where it lay in the mud and filth, a place that nobody would think of searching. “The same is true for Mendel. He is utterly humble and he is afraid that his humility, no matter how he attempts to cloak it, would be a source of sustenance for klipos. This is why he hides it in a filthy place, within the attribute of arrogance!” ***
Before the melamed and his pupil returned home, the Maggid went back to the Baal Shem Tov's room to say goodbye. He
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Some years went by and R' Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk became the leader of thousands in Russia and Lithuania. One day he fell sick and his condition deteriorated from day to day until he lay unconscious. His followers sobbed, knowing that shortly he would be taken from them. Suddenly, the tzaddik woke up and looked at the people surrounding his bed. He smiled weakly and waved his hand dismissively as though to say, what are you worrying about? Then he said, “There is nothing to fear. From the story that I heard from the Baal Shem Tov when I was a child, I know that I have much time remaining to live and I still need to be in Eretz Yisroel.” *** More years went by and in Adar of 5537/1777, R' Menachem Mendel left for Eretz Yisroel with hundreds of followers and their families. He passed through Polnoye where he stayed in a local inn. He went to visit R' Yaakov Yosef who lived there. R' Yaakov Yosef had been the one to put the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings into writing. R' Mendel left the inn to see the tzaddik, his pipe in his hand, though not before removing his gartel. His clothes, as always, were splendiferous and his shoelaces were made of silver. The Maggid of Polnoye's Chassidim were apprehensive about the manner in which he made his way to the house of their Rebbe. They knew that their Rebbe was very particular about things like that and were afraid lest he be annoyed with R' Mendel. Two of the distinguished Chassidim dared to approach R' Mendel and say, “We know that the Maggid of Polnoye is likely
The handwriting and signature of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk
to inflict punishment on those who come to see him in such a manner. Perhaps it would be better if ...” However, they fell silent in the face of R' Mendel's quickened strides. When R' Menachem Mendel reached the Maggid of Polonoye's house, the latter came out to greet him and ushered him in with great respect. He prepared a place for R' Mendel to sit, despite being much older than him. They sat facing one another, R' Mendel smoking his pipe and R' Yaakov Yosef looking at him with undisguised love. An understanding look passed between them. They needed very few words to understand one another. “What part of the story are you up to now?” asked R' Yaakov Yosef. R' Mendel understood what this question meant. He was referring to the story that the
Baal Shem Tov had told them that Motzaei Shabbos. “Ah,” sighed R' Mendel. “I've already gone through more than half the story.” R' Yaakov Yosef looked at him and said, “Did you know that in the story it was alluded that you had to come to me?” R' Mendel nodded. “I knew. That is why I stopped here on my way to Eretz Yisroel.” Said R' Yaakov Yosef, “In the story, it was hinted that a young man would go along with you whose name goes from one end of the world to the other. Where is he?” A pleased look could be seen on R' Mendel's face. He turned towards the entourage of Chassidim who had accompanied him and pointed to a young man. “This is the young man who is accompanying me. His name is Shneur Zalman ...”
Issue 879 • �
THE TORAH IS WHAT ESTABLISHES REALITY
All of existence is derived from Torah. This is why the Torah has the power to control reality and even to change and establish a new reality within the parameters of the world. * About tax payments and how the Rogatchover understood it. * The aguna about whom kosher witnesses testified that her husband died and why the Tzemach Tzedek did not permit her to remarry. * Presented for Shavuos – Z’man Mattan Toraseinu.
By Rabbi Yehoshua Neuhauser Maggid Shiur in the Yeshiva G’dola Tomchei T’mimim in Ohr Yehuda
he grandson of the Rogatchover Gaon once showed his grandfather an itemized list of taxes that needed to be paid to the government. When the gaon examined the list which specified what the taxes were for, he said that some of them needed to be paid since that was fitting,
according to Torah, and they were included in dina d’malchusa dina, we need to follow the law of the land. But some of the taxes did not need to be paid because according to Torah, they were unacceptable. Amazingly, the government later informed him that there had been an error in the bill and
only some of the taxes needed to be paid. It was precisely the ones that the Rogatchover said needed to be paid, according to Torah! The Rebbe told this story, and it serves as an appropriate introduction to the subject of this article: the Torah establishes the reality of the world. However,
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first we need to clarify why it is that the Torah controls the world. Not only that, but where does the power of Torah come from to establish the reality of the world? Let us look at the first Rashi in Torah. Over there, Rashi questions why the Torah begins with stories of creation, while the Torah should have begun with the mitzva of “this month is to you,” which is the first mitzva commanded to the Jewish people. According to the Rebbe’s approach, “B’Reishis” serves here as a substitute for the mitzva of Kiddush HaChodesh, and thus there has to be some substantive connection between them. Indeed, it is specifically this mitzva which expresses the power of Torah to establish the reality of the world, to sanctify time. The answer to Rashi’s question is that since the creation of the world was “B’Reishis” – for the sake of Torah that is called “reishis” and for the sake of the Jewish people who are called “reishis” – it perforce operates according to the laws of the Torah which are established by the Jewish people. Therefore, when according to Torah nature is supposed to be a certain way, then this is the way it will be because its entire raison d’être is derived from Torah. *** The Torah effects the world on two levels. The first is the impact of the prohibitions of the Torah on the world. This is a level that is not perceived by the physical senses; it is spiritual and not visible to the eye, but nevertheless the effects are experienced. When a talmid chacham is involved in Torah and judges something to be forbidden or permissible, the p’sak din effects the item and changes it from one state to the
other. The following example illustrates this. The din regarding an ox that gored one time, a shor tam, is that the payment of half the damages is exacted from the body of the ox. R’ Yishmoel and R’ Akiva differ as to whether the p’sak of the Torah is simply a ruling that requires additional action to transfer ownership of the ox from the “damager” to the “damaged” (Yusham HaShor – its value has to be assessed and then payment transferred), or whether the ox automatically transfers to the possession of the owner of the “damaged” goods the moment it gores, because according to Halacha he is supposed to receive half the damages (Yuchlat HaShor – ownership transfers automatically and then it is assessed to see if the “damager” is due a refund). This latter opinion is somewhat novel, since generally in order to enact a transfer of ownership some act of acquisition (kinyan) is required. Here though, we are saying that the very p’sak of the Torah causes the kinyan – the ox is already the property of the “damaged” and nothing remains to be done but to execute the technical aspect of it and hand over the ox (which belongs to him already). The second level is much more tangible. On this second level, a change in the physical reality of the world, according to Piskei Torah, is experienced. Here is an example: Chazal say that the Rosh HaShana for trees falls out on 15 Shvat. Since there is no explicit source for this in the Torah, we can say that this date is “Halacha L ’Moshe M’Sinai,” established by Hashem and transmitted by the rabbis throughout the generations. However, the Rebbe proves through analysis of the
wording of the Gemara that the date for the Rosh HaShana for trees was established by sevaros (logical reasoning) and that the Torah gives the chachomim the ability to do this. From here we see that the Torah effects nature. How so? The Rosh HaShana for trees is when the fruit buds, the time when the blossoms fall off and the fruit begins to emerge, an utterly natural phenomenon. How can a fixed time for this be designated (especially according to the lunar calendar)? If we were to say that this date was designated in the Torah, then that would be one thing. However, if we assume that the establishment of this date was given over to the chachomim, the question is how can a natural phenomenon be established by Torah P’sak?! However, this is the power of a din in Torah. If there is a P’sak Din according to Torah which rules that the Rosh HaShana for trees is supposed to occur on a certain date, then it will fall on that date and that is when the trees will bud! But there is an even higher level in which a p’sak din transcends the
Issue 879 • �
reality of the world and ignores what already appears to be an existing reality. Generally, a person is unable to deny reality and say that that which he witnessed did not happen, but with the power of Torah one can ignore an existing reality and establish a new reality. The Rambam says that we are commanded to decide matters based on two witnesses, even though we do not know whether they testified truthfully or falsely. The Acharonim have already stated that according to this, the laws of testimony are a gezeiras ha’kasuv (scriptural decree) and there is no necessity to say that whatever they testified to actually happened. The Rebbe says that here we can see how the Torah is that which establishes what the reality is, even as opposed to the reality that we see. When the Torah says that we need to consider the testimony of witnesses, even in such a case where witnesses testify to an event that did not happen, this does not mean that the Torah is saying to adjudicate based on their words despite the fact that it did not happen. Rather, the Torah is saying it actually happened! So there is the reality of the world, in and of itself, and the reality of the world after the Torah dictates what it is. The Rebbe similarly comments on the following verse, “Do not veer from what they [the rabbis] tell you, right and left.” The Chazal explain this to mean, “Even if they tell you that right is left and left is right.” By the Chachmei HaTorah saying that left is right, it becomes right because the Torah decides that despite the fact that the Torah itself calls it left, it gives the chachomim the ability, through their P’sak Halacha, to change left to right! The Rebbe even says that it doesn’t mean just the Torah sense of right and left, but actual right and left. When the chachomim issue a ruling on a matter of actual reality that is different than the reality we experience, they need to be obeyed since this P’sak changes reality. *** On to another, deeper point in this subject of the Torah’s influence on the world: The Rebbe explains that the arguments between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel actually share a common denominator. The general basis for their differing views is whether we follow the “potential” or the “actual.” Let’s take the disagreement about lighting the Chanuka menorah to commemorate the miracle of the oil. Do we light eight lights the first night and then diminish each night, or do we light one light the first night and add one each night? According to Beis Shammai, on the first day, the jar of oil miraculously contained enough oil for eight nights (as it later turned out), so when lighting the menorah to recall the miracle, we consider the potential: on the first day, we have eight days of lighting ahead of us and that will be the number of lights we have. On the second day, we have seven days of lighting ahead of us and so we light seven, and so on. Beis Hillel says that we need to consider what we actually have right now; so on the first night we light one light, two on the second night, and so on. The two perspectives derive from the need to reconcile the Torah and the reality of the world. As far as the world is concerned, the main thing is what is practical and the relevant point is what is actually happening and not what might happen. That which is in potential form is not significant to created beings in this world, for who can guarantee that it will move from the potential to the actual? However, when speaking in terms of the Torah, of course the potential will be actualized. Furthermore, within the potential itself the thing is actually there already. According to this, it is not understood why Beis Shammai maintain their position, since the subject of their disagreements is the fulfillment of mitzvos in this physical world which establishes what takes place. How does a future “potential” get involved here? But that is the point. Torah controls the reality of the world. Just like the Torah has the ability to change the reality of the world, it also has the ability to change its parameters. So although from the perspective of the world the “actual” is the determining factor, the Torah maintains that the “potential” is the determining factor. The p’sak is carried out within the world itself and changes it. These two perspectives are expressed in all matters of Torah and mitzvos just like the issue of lights on Chanuka. The Rebbe once told this following extraordinary story. An aguna came to the Tzemach Tzedek. Kosher witnesses testified that her husband had died. According to the Halacha, the Tzemach Tzedek should have declared that the woman could remarry, and yet he said she should wait a while longer. After some time, her husband returned alive. When it comes to a P’sak Halacha, the one and only thing
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to consider is the Halacha; ruach ha’kodesh plays no role in a p’sak din. There is even the other story about the Tzemach Tzedek in which a severe punishment was paskened for a woman who behaved unacceptably. There was a tzaddik, great in Nigleh and Nistar, who said he did not see the impression of sin on her forehead. The Tzemach Tzedek said about this that apparently the sin had been erased by the
tears of her t’shuva, but since according to Torah it had been decided that the woman had sinned, that was certainly the case. The question arises then: since witnesses had come and testified that the woman’s husband had died, according to Halacha the woman was permitted to remarry. Why did the Tzemach Tzedek’s ruach ha’kodesh play a role here so that
he asked her to wait? The Rebbe says that the Tzemach Tzedek explained it thus: the Torah establishes the reality of the world so that even if the husband was no longer alive, if they paskened that she was permitted to remarry, he would have died! (However, by delaying the issuing of his ruling, the matter was able to be resolved without the man having to die.)
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Issue 879 • �
FROM BRAZIL TO B’NEI BRAK BY WAY OF LUBAVITCH
The Lukova-Volborz Rebbe z”l passed away on 4 Sivan 5761/2001. The ties between the Admur and the Chabad Rebbeim began over sixty years ago when the Rebbe Rayatz appointed him as his shliach in Brazil. * He moved, upon the Rebbe’s instructions, to B’nei Brak and disseminated the s’farim of his ancestors. * Over the years, he saw the Rebbe on a number of occasions. * Shai Gefen tells us of the background of the Admur of Lukova-Volborz and about his ties with the Rebbe as well as with the Chabad Chassidim.
When World War II began, he was miraculously saved from the Nazi firestorm when he crossed the border to Brisk in White Russia. That is when he began his numerous wanderings, which only concluded with the end of the war. He lost his entire large family in the war except for a brother. During the war he continued his holy work in teaching Torah and Judaism. The many miracles he experienced were astonishing as he was saved from Stalin’s decrees when hundreds of thousands of people were sent to Siberia. He was one of the thousands slated to be exiled to Siberia but he jumped from the train and was saved. He first became acquainted with Chabad during the war years when thousands of Jewish refugees, including himself, poured into Samarkand. He was beloved by the great Lubavitchers of the time who were there, such as R’ Nissan Nemanov and R’
yahrtzait. When he was a boy of five, he was orphaned of his father. By the age of sixteen, R’ Tzvi was serving as rosh yeshiva in Losice
abbi Tzvi Turnheim was born in Biala. His father was R’ Yair Elimelech, with whom he shares a
near Shedlitz where he taught Torah for a number of years. In his youth, he learned in Novardok where he was known for his many self-inflicted mortifications. His friends from that period say that he was caught on more than one occasion sleeping on foul smelling feathers.
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The Rebbe blessing the Admur of Lukova z”l at the end of a yechidus klalis
Mendel Futerfas, and he learned Chassidus with them. Starvation was rampant in Samarkand at the time and the Chassidim distributed food to the needy and sick. The Lukova Rebbe, who was captivated by the charm of the Chabad Chassidim, also helped in the work of spreading Judaism and helping the needy. A Jewish communist tattled on him as a result of which he was caught and sentenced to a year in Siberia. After serving most of his sentence, he was able to obtain a medical document which stated that he wasn’t fit to remain there and thus, he was saved. After the war, he returned to his town and birthplace where he had to face the stark reality that his entire family had perished. He married the daughter of R’ Yosef Eliezer Milgrom of Kiev who was a Chabad Chassid and whose sons-in-law were Chassidim, including R’ Yisroel Leibov, the director of Tzach for decades.
I didn’t want to take the money and said, “One should give money to the Rebbe, not take.” The Rebbe smiled and said, “You take money from other Jews, and am I not a Jew?”
After leaving the Soviet Union with the help of Lubavitcher Chassidim, by crossing the Lvov/Lemberg border in 1947, the Admur arrived in Paris where his relationship with Chabad Chassidim continued. He did tremendous work in disseminating Judaism. In Paris, he was invited to many places to speak, to return people’s hearts to their Father in heaven. It was in Paris that he found out that his brother was alive and living in distant Brazil. He already had a visa for the United States but he thought of going to Brazil instead to see his brother. He sent the Rebbe Rayatz a letter asking him where he should go. After a few weeks, he received a response dated 19 Shvat 5707 in which the Rebbe designated him his shliach to strengthen Torah and Judaism in Rio de Janeiro. Upon receiving this letter, the Admur changed all his plans and began preparing for the shlichus he had been assigned, a shlichus which continued for decades until the Rebbe blessed him and he made aliya. In Eretz Yisroel he founded the Lukova-Volborz Chassidus center in northern B’nei Brak. When he arrived in Brazil he found it a spiritual desert. These were the hard days after the war when many Jews were leaving their Jewish roots. Reform groups were also trying to gain a foothold in Brazil. Upon his arrival, he started a large yeshiva. Before he arrived,
Issue 879 • �
to sanctify it.” This would be the best memorial for your holy fathers … the greatest honor will be when you follow in the ways of your holy fathers who kept Shabbos with mesirus nefesh in all the towns in which you lived. With bitachon, believe in G-d to keep Shabbos despite the upheavals and oppressions that were your lot. Continue the chain of Shabbos for generations … With his Ahavas Yisroel and pleasant way of wording it, he was able to accomplish a great deal. He strengthened the Jewish organizations and opened new institutions. He gave shiurim wherever Jews lived. When the terrible news of the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz came, he arranged a public event for the Shloshim in the large Adas Yisroel shul. Thousands of Jews came to express their appreciation to the Rebbe, since it was in his merit that so much was being done to strengthen religious life in Brazil. The Admur continued his relationship with Chabad by corresponding with the new Rebbe. He had his first yechidus when he went to the United States for the first time for the wedding of his oldest son, R’ Boruch Isaac, in 5731. The yechidus took nearly an hour, with the Rebbe speaking to him about personal and communal matters in Brazil. The Admur asked the Rebbe for a bracha that he succeed in raising all his children to Torah and yiras Shamayim and marry them off. The Rebbe showered him with brachos. The Rebbe’s brachos were fulfilled with two of his sons serving as shluchim and the rest as rabbanim. The Admur brought the Rebbe his grandfather’s work called Avodas Yisachar. The
The Admur with R’ Mendel Futerfas
even religious Jews sent their children to yeshivos where they learned Torah for only three hours a day. The Admur decided that come what may, only Torah would be studied in his yeshiva. Regarding this decision and the rest of his work in spreading Torah and Judaism, he received
a special letter from the Rebbe Rayatz. Two years after he arrived in Brazil, the Rebbe wrote him a letter on 2 Sivan 5709 acknowledging his desire to found a yeshiva for older boys. The Rebbe told him to do so with the consent of the principal there and blessed him that Hashem should enable him to succeed in establishing talmidim who were G-d fearing and involved in Torah and avoda. The Admur worked on all things that needed strengthening. Among his famous activities was founding the Agudas Machazikei Ha’Yahadus V’HaAchava which produced announcements and letters that encouraged Jews to observe Shabbos and close their stores for Shabbos. R’ Turnheim used many languages in order to reach all the Jews who had come from various countries. Announcements said things like: Dear Jews, Fulfill the mitzva of “remember the Shabbos day
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Rebbe examined the volume and then asked him to print it even though he had brought along other recently published s’farim written by his ancestors. In the introduction to Avodas Yisachar, the Admur says that he saw open ruach ha’kodesh from the Rebbe. He had been in Eretz Yisroel and had visited an old relative in Yerushalayim, R’ Berish Turnheim. The latter asked him to print the Avodas Yisachar. “I didn’t tell the Rebbe about this, but the Rebbe knew what had taken place in Eretz Yisroel. “Unfortunately, the book wasn’t printed. At the second yechidus, when I went to the Rebbe over a year later, upon the occasion of my son, R’ Yosef Chaim Eliezer’s wedding (he is presently a shliach in Connecticut), the first question the Rebbe asked me was, ‘What’s with the s’farim?’ I was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say. I finally said that unfortunately, I had not printed them. The Rebbe asked me again to print Avodas Yisachar and took $100 out of his pocket and gave it as his contribution to the printing costs. I didn’t want to take the money and said, “One should give money to the Rebbe, not take.” The Rebbe smiled and said, “You take money from other Jews, and am I not a Jew?” After that yechidus, the Admur made great efforts to publish the volume. His son Yair Elimelech was involved in getting it to print and after a long while, the Rebbe received a new copy which gave him much nachas. The Admur of Lukova dedicated the seifer to the Rebbe. This is the same dedication that has been written in all the editions printed since then: Since the Lubavitcher Rebbe importuned
me several times to bring merit to the many by publishing this tome, and as per his directive which has strengthened me since, along with the fact that he gave from his own pocket a nice sum to enable the printing of the works of the righteous, I hereby am fulfilling his holy request with love and awe. May Hashem extend his days and may he merit to lead his flock, the congregation of Chassidim, and all our Jewish people towards Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days, amen sela.” The Admur printed the book in eight editions with over 10,000 copies. Because of the Rebbe’s request, the rest of the s’farim of the Admurim of Lukova and Volborz were also published such as his grandfather’s work, T’hillim – Divrei Ha’Am, Ohel Yisachar, the life story and divrei Torah from the Admur of Volborz, a Siddur with a collection of teachings of the Admurim and more.
In a yechidus that took place afterward, he brought the volume to the Rebbe and could see how pleased the Rebbe was
A flyer announcing the Admur’s eulogy for the Rebbe Rayatz
Issue 879 • �
by it. The Rebbe asked him not to leave the place where he lived and to continue his shlichus and gave him numerous brachos. The Admur once said that his success in the education of his children was something he owed the Rebbe, who was a constant support to him and who begged him to renew the chain of his forefathers who had been killed in the war. *** In 5745, he moved to Eretz Yisroel with the Rebbe’s blessing and consent. His goal was to make a memorial to his ancestors. In 5748 he opened his beis midrash in the northern part of B’nei Brak, a place far from Jewish life. The purpose was to spread Judaism amongst notyet religious Jews. He opened a kollel called Dibbuk Chaveirim, started a network of after-school yeshivos for youth, and an institute dedicated to publishing his ancestors’ s’farim. For Yud Shvat 5750, which marked forty years since the Rebbe took over the nesius, the Admur went to the Rebbe. He attended the farbrengen which took place on Shabbos. The next day, he went by the Rebbe for dollars and being overwrought he burst into tears. He attributed all his success to the Rebbe. He asked for a special bracha for his work in B’nei Brak, because of the harassment from an irreligious neighbor. The Rebbe gave him brachos including that he succeed in spreading Torah and Chassidus in B’nei Brak. The Rebbe’s bracha was fulfilled when a week before the Admur’s passing he realized his dream and bought the building adjacent to his beis midrash. There had been nonstop fighting and scheming about it on the part of the neighbors.
Rabbi Tzvi Turnheim z”l, Admur of Lukova-Volborz
*** The Admur of Lukova always participated in Chabad gatherings in Eretz Yisroel. Despite his advanced age (he died at 87) he attended every event and disregarded his personal honor. The last public event he attended was the Lag B’Omer parade of 5761/2001. He blessed the thousands of children with Birkas Kohanim as he did at every kinus he attended. The Admur also attended the Moshiach and Geula events and took an active part in the fight for Shleimus Ha’Aretz. He regularly participated in the protest
activities of the Pikuach Nefesh organization. When former PM Shimon Peres was about to give away Chevron on the eve of the elections, the Admur gathered with other Admurim and cried before the prime minister not to give Chevron to the Arabs. As a result, the withdrawal was postponed until after the elections. (It was then given away when someone on the Right won the election). Peres told those close to him that it was the words of the old rabbi that touched his heart and made him decide to postpone the withdrawal.
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The Admur was involved in inyanei Moshiach and Geula and felt it important to raise awareness of this among all kinds of people. He would say that today Moshiach’s coming is not a “luxury” as people may once have thought; it’s what we need when there is no other solution on the horizon. Wherever he went, he constantly spoke about the greatness of the Rebbe and he was mekarev even those who were distant from Chabad to the Rebbe. He was known to make do with little. He fasted a lot on behalf of Klal Yisroel. He was humble and always smiled to those around him, honoring others with his graciousness. *** On Shabbos Parshas BaMidbar, 4 Sivan, he planned on having a kiddush in his beis midrash to mark his father’s yahrtzait. He went to the mikva
S’farim from the Lukova-Volborz Chassidus that were printed as per the Rebbe’s instructions
early in the morning. He then went home and lay down to rest for a few minutes at which time he passed away. This was a great loss to the Chassidic world at
large. His son, R’ Shmuel Turnheim was appointed the rav of the Lukova-Volborz beis midrash.
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Issue 879 • �
DON’T BE MORE RELIGIOUS THAN G-D
The following is a transcript of a farbrengen held in Morristown, New Jersey in late MarCheshvan 5753, with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak “Fitzy” Lipskier, of blessed memory. * Part 1
t’s so easy to say everything is treif. Why take the risk? It sounds like a frum attitude, but on the other hand, it’s a very stupid one. It’s not a good attitude. Frum is frum, but there’s also what they call “too frum,” “very frum” – and that means someone stupid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. There are some people who are so frum, everything is unkosher. Suppose that there was an emergency; somebody drops to the floor. What would you do? Would your first reaction be to run to the telephone and call for an ambulance? “It’s Shabbos! Are you sure?” That’s probably what the reaction would be. Why is that? Because the person is “very frum” – even more than G-d. Can you imagine being more frum than G-d? That’s called being “too frum.” If you’re more frum than G-d, then you’re in trouble because you’re not even religious. That’s about it. It says in Shulchan Aruch, our handbook for life, that any rav who is asked a question about whether one should violate the Shabbos in such a situation is a disgrace. Why? Because it should have been common knowledge
20 � • 1 Sivan 5773
that the Torah says to violate the Shabbos even when you’re dealing with a doubtful case of pikuach nefesh. Thus, if they came and asked you, you have blood on your hands. That’s pretty heavy. Furthermore, the Shulchan Aruch says “Mitzvah b’gadol.” You have a situation requiring immediate action, and you have the rav there, the big scholar. Who’s the one who should do it? You don’t say: “Send him, he’s not so frum anyway; he’s a baal t’shuva. Send the little guy; he’s not such a big chassid.” On the contrary, “Mitzvah b’gadol” – the rav should be the first one to run to the telephone and violate the Shabbos. This comes from a lack of knowledge, not knowing “the kosher ins and outs,” basically caused by stupidity and not learning properly. If you don’t learn properly, you come up with your own conclusions. You decide what’s right and what’s wrong, similar to the dog who became the posek. If you do that, you’re in bad shape. The simple fact is that we are living now in a very strange time – a pretty sick situation from a layman’s perspective. Believe it or not, this is the world that you, your shadow, and everything that’s part of you are going to face one of these days. You’re going to face the music. Are you ready or not? The day is going to come, and the answer is simple: The time to prepare is now. You want to take it easy? No problem. You can take it easy now. But if you take it easy now, you know what’s going to happen later. Then, it’s going to be too late. Ay, the previous Rebbe says, “It’s never too late,” but it is in a sense. Sure, you can always throw this one away and get another one. That’s a very fine attitude, and it happens here too. You don’t like
this chaver? Get another one, what’s the difference? If you can’t get along with a chaver for two hours, how on earth are you going to get along with somebody for twenty-four hours? Think about it. Maybe the time to act is now, not when you’re an old lady and retired. “I’ll make it up then.” It’ll be too late.
DOING T’SHUVA FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE
This reminds me of a rabbi I met once in a synagogue on Merkaz Shlichus about twentyfour years ago, when we went to visit some hick towns in upstate New York. The local people there called it a “Conservadox” shul. Officially, it was Orthodox by charter, and the rabbi was
said, “I don’t understand. You’re a rav, you’re a Torah scholar. You know better. How can you let them get away with this?” “Listen,” he tells me. “I have about two more years until my retirement (he was about sixty years old). If I try to teach them something or institute some new policies, I’m risking my pension. But when I retire, I’m moving to Israel and I’m going to do t’shuva for the rest of my life.” He was going to spend his life in t’shuva. Isn’t that a good attitude? It’s good for nothing. Why is he going to do t’shuva? For all the harm that he’s done? There’s no t’shuva you can do for that. The same thing applies here. T’shuva is not going to help you. When you mess up, you’ve
Since I was a young bachur and I didn’t know how to be subtle and beat around the bush, I went up to the rabbi and said, “I don’t understand. You’re a rav, you’re a Torah scholar. You know better. How can you let them get away with this?”
in charge of the city’s “Vaad HaKashrus.” Yet, his shul was the only shul that allowed treif to be brought in by any caterer. That gives you an idea of what kind of shul it was. It was Orthodox, but the three or four religious Jews in the city called it “Conservadox”. Nice name. The rabbi was clean-shaven, but he kept Shabbos, put on t’fillin. However, the members were basically non-observant, and they were taught nothing. They were led to believe that chillul Shabbos and eating treif was all right. Since I was a young bachur and I didn’t know how to be subtle and beat around the bush, I went up to the rabbi and
messed up. That’s all. You can do t’shuva on aveiros; you can’t do t’shuva on blowing your life away. You don’t usually get a second chance.
BE HAPPY IF YOU’LL BE A “RASHA V’TOV LO”
You know what’s going on in the business world better than I do. It’s a real safe place to be. You also have the institution of marriage. It’s heavy duty stuff out there. The only thing is that as a Jew, you’re fortunate to have G-d and He gave us the Torah which guides us through life. Torah is the essence of life, and for a Jew, there is no better way.
Issue 879 • �
It’s the only way to go. You don’t see it? It’s difficult? Everything is difficult. Anything worthwhile is difficult. You have to pay for it; it takes effort. If you value your life, you’ll do something about it. That doesn’t mean that from now on, you’re going to become a tzaddik – or even a beinoni. Don’t even try, there’s no hope. You’ll never be a beinoni until Moshiach comes. Ay, the Alter Rebbe says… Maybe I’m an apikorus for saying it: Be happy if you’ll be a “rasha v’tov lo” (a wicked person who prospers). Pretty good level? I’ll settle for that. But you can be a beinoni, if you want. All this is before you get to Moshiach. If you can’t even do the basics, forget about Moshiach. First, be a mentch. Be a responsible human being, but much more than that, be a Jew. Then, you can talk about Moshiach. That’s a whole new ballgame. Some of you may feel that you’re ready to retire. You can do that when you’re eighty years old. On his eightieth birthday, the Rebbe talked about the concept of retirement, in the sense that a Jew doesn’t retire. You know when you retire? When they retire your number. Until then, there’s no such thing. Of course, you get tired, you run out of fuel, you get burnt out. Some people are very much into taking care of themselves, they have to get their beauty rest – sleeping at least nine and a half hours every day with a nap in the afternoon. Life is too short, there’s no time to waste on stupidities. I have an idea: Make a resolution so it will be easier for you to do what you have to do now. When you become about ninety years old, you can sleep twelve hours a day. But now, you’re young. There’s too much to do. By the time you’re ninety, you’ll have no more strength for anything except sleeping. Put off the sleeping, the resting, and the leisure until you’re ninety. You can’t be young forever. There’s an old saying, “Youth is wasted on the youth.” Use the energy that you have now, because soon you won’t have it. “If I would have known…” You know what you would have done if you had known? Probably the same thing. It makes no difference. You know now what you’re supposed to do. You won’t believe how the secret to Creation is right in front of you. Today, the focus of a Jew, no matter what he sees or where he turns, must be on one central point that permeates everything he does – Moshiach. L ’chaim! (After giving the bachurim a first-hand account of the historic banquet at the 5753 International Shluchim Conference, R’ “Fitzy” proceeded to elaborate.) What’s really going on now? I don’t know. As we all understand, Moshiach hasn’t come yet. There may have been someone before now that people thought could be Moshiach, but no more than that. However, things now are slightly different. This is simply too heavy for the average person to digest. You have to understand the meaning. Confused? Join the crowd. First of all, many of you don’t know much about what was happening when the Rebbe started the mitzvah campaigns back in the fifties and sixties. It actually started in the forties, when the previous Rebbe was still alive. There were very few Lubavitchers, if any, living in Crown Heights in those days. Most of them lived in Brownsville or East New York, about a thirty minute walk away. Since there was no mikveh in Crown Heights then – not even on Union Street – about four or five people, including the Rebbe, would walk to Brownsville on Shabbos morning to go to the mikveh.
YOU CAN’T JUST BE FRUM FOR YOURSELF
As he was walking, the Rebbe would tell the Chassidim accompanying him: You can’t just be frum for yourself. Today, that doesn’t sound like anything new. Back then, this was something unheard of. When did the whole baal t’shuva movement begin? It started a little before some of you were born, that’s all. The Rebbe spoke then about how you have to go out and talk to people about Yiddishkait. Of course, America was a free country, built on the theme of “mind your own business”. You have no right to mix into other people’s lives. To tell someone such things was out of the question. To go to another Jew and talk to him about Judaism was absolutely crazy. Not so, the Rebbe said. You can’t just sit selfishly and keep yourself warm; you have to warm up and illuminate the world. When the Rebbe (in the days before Yud Shvat) saw that they couldn’t understand what he was talking about, he demonstrated. He walked up to a woman on Shabbos and said, “Listen, you know today is Shabbos. It’s not a day for work. Do your shopping before Shabbos; it’s a holy day. Light candles on Friday evening, especially since you want your son to come home in one piece (how the Rebbe knew that is another story). You have to do whatever you can to carry out G-d’s will.” The woman started crying, and she promised that she would keep Shabbos. This
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was a typical example of what the Rebbe wants us to do. How do you get people’s attention? What’s the problem? You get up on a car, you wave a handkerchief, and everyone begins to gather around. Once people start coming, you speak. Those who were walking with the Rebbe probably hid behind some car, as they didn’t want to be associated with him.
He walked up to a woman on Shabbos and said, “Listen, you know today is Shabbos. It’s not a day for work. Do your shopping before Shabbos; it’s a holy day. Light candles on Friday evening, especially since you want your son to come home in one piece. You have to do whatever you can to carry out G-d’s will.”
Nebraska, where there isn’t a single Jewish soul, you can’t get kosher meat, no Jewish school for your children? Are you nuts? What am I going to do out there? How am I going to support myself? What’s my Yiddishkait going to be like? Today, you don’t even understand what I’m saying. Forget about the rest of the world. In America. It takes a lot of guts to send shluchim to the other end of the world. You need real broad shoulders for that. The Rebbe said: Listen, you go, I’ll take care of you. Your children’s education? Don’t worry; they’ll grow up better than if they sit in Crown Heights – which was a good place to live back then. The yeshivos were excellent. Nevertheless, the Rebbe said, “Don’t worry. Go on mesirus nefesh, and G-d will take care of the rest.” If you were lucky and listened to the Rebbe, you made it. Nobody suffered out there. It was difficult at first, but they came shining through. Then, the mitzvah campaigns started. This was crazy altogether. Go out into the street and ask someone, “Are you Jewish? Come, put on t’fillin.” Today, what’s the big deal? When it was first announced that the Rebbe had sent student
Issue 879 • �
GO OUT WITH SELFSACRIFICE AND G-D WILL TAKE CARE OF THE REST
Years later, the campaign of sending shluchim began. Who would be so crazy to send someone to these places and who would be crazy enough to go? Nowadays, shlichus is a household word. Everyone’s looking forward to go out on shlichus and help other Jews. Not everyone thinks he can do it, but they wish they could. Back in those days, to go out to
shluchim to learn in Australia, people were stunned. Today, what’s the problem? You just buy a ticket. Then, it meant traveling for about two weeks. Traveling from Israel to America back in the fifties was unbelievable. I remember as a little shmendrick when the first plane came from Eretz Yisroel. All of Crown Heights would rent buses to go to the airport to greet them, and when they left, we were in buses to escort them to their return flight. We would dance around the El Al plane – can you get close to an airplane today? You don’t know what that means. We used to go inside the airplane and say goodbye to them. One plane came and it was something else. Shluchim to Australia? I remember when my brother was chosen as one of the first six bachurim to be sent there. This was in 1967, when the T’fillin Campaign started, during Chanukah before the [Six-Day] War. That year, the first group of six students from 770 were chosen to go to Australia. My brother came home and said, “Ma, I’m going to Australia.” I happened to be standing in the hallway. “What?? Are you crazy?” she cried. It was as if today you came home and said I’m flying to Mars tomorrow. That’s what it was like back in the sixties. Australia was the other end of the world. No fax machines in those days. He was there for two years. The parents were all crying – it was terrible. Now? It’s a different world. Things have changed a little bit. My son is going to Australia? Wow!! Fantastic! If only I could go! I can’t wait! I remember this – and it wasn’t that long ago. If you were here, you would remember. These are a couple of examples, and there are countless others. world – every “Tom, Dick, and Harry” and his brother, too. “A disgrace to the t’fillin! You take a non-observant Jew and you contaminate the holy t’fillin! Can you imagine what kind of impure thoughts he has when he puts on the t’fillin!” (As if your thoughts are so holy when you put them on...) “Did he go to the mikveh? Did he wash negel vasser?” Holy questions – literally coming from G-d Himself... And this went on and on. Books were written on it, newspaper articles criticizing the Rebbe were printed. Then came the Neshek Campaign. Can you think of something wrong with lighting Shabbos candles? You probably couldn’t for the life of you – whether according to nigleh, chassidus, or anything else. Yet, when the Rebbe came out with this mivtza, every Orthodox rabbi or so-called Jewish leader in the universe (as opposed to the non-religious who knew nothing, at least they didn’t campaign against the Rebbe) was up in arms: “What? Little girls lighting Shabbos candles – with a bracha? It’s going against the Shulchan Aruch! It’s a custom – and ‘minhag Yisroel, Torah hi’; you’re not allowed to make new customs...” And the list goes on, and this happened every time the Rebbe instituted a new campaign.
(To be continued be”H)
HOLY QUESTIONS ON CONTAMINATING T’FILLIN
Mivtza T’fillin – go out and put on t’fillin with other Jews. The opposition was phenomenal. Look back at the old “Thoughts of the Week.” They sound like ancient manuscripts written for primitive cavemen, explaining why you should put on t’fillin with a secular Jew. What are you going to accomplish? Would you ask that question today? Today, you don’t ask questions like that because we know the answer. Take a look at the thousands and thousands of Jews who are observant now because somebody took the time to put on t’fillin with them. Yet, in those days, the criticism was overwhelming, unreal. And who was criticizing? All the rabbanim throughout the
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MOSHIACH & GEULA
WILL THERE BE A DEFICIENCY IN THE SHAVUOS OFFERINGS THIS YEAR?
By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
Dear Reader sh’yichyeh, In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, there was a special service that took place on Shavuos. It was called “Hakravas Shtei HaLechem – offering of the two breads”. The “Shtei HaLechem” were two loaves of wheat bread brought from the new wheat. This special sacrifice, the only leaven ever brought to the Temple, was also “waved” before the presence of G-d and thus elevated. These breads represented the blessing of G-d’s influence and blessing on man’s earthly, physical needs throughout the year. These two breads were waved on the eastern side of the altar by a Kohen, together with an offering of two sheep for the festival. Being that we believe that Moshiach’s revelation is imminent and the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt, we need to address the following question: Will we be allowed to bring the “offering of the two breads” this year? To explain the question: The Torah tells us that on Pesach we bring a special barley offering to Hashem. On the holiday of Shavuos, we bring a The wheat offering to Hashem. Chassidic masters teach us that the difference is not coincidental. The Talmud tells us that barley is animal food, while wheat is “food for humans.” The Torah
is telling us, that during the time between Pesach and Shavuos, we are supposed to evolve from our natural animal nature to a human nature. What is the difference between an animal and a human: The animal walks on four legs with his head facing the earth, while the human walks on two legs and his head has the potential to see the heaven. If we are only concerned with physical and trivial pursuits, we are like an animal that only thinks about his next meal. This is also true for someone who learns Torah and does good deeds just to inflate his ego or fame. There was once a Chassid that came to the Baal Shem Tov, and during Seudas Shabbos, he really “dug-in” to his food. The Baal Shem Tov saw this and asked his disciples to close their eyes and put their on each other’s shoulders. When they did so they saw an ox wearing a Shtraimel and Gartel and eating Seudas Shabbos. From this story we see that a person could be involved in spiritual pursuits while still being akin to an animal. The Human on the other hand sees heaven. He realizes that Hashem has put him on this earth for a purpose. The purpose is to make a dwelling place for Hashem. The entire physical world will recognize and acknowledge the majesty
of Hashem. This is what our focus should be. This goal will be recognized in the times of Moshiach. And this is the purpose of the days of S’fira. The word s’fira does not only mean count, it also means to make shine. We must refine and purify ourselves so that by the time Shavuos comes around our Neshama will be our true existence. Based on the above it is apparent that the bread offering of Shavuos is a direct continuation of the barley offering of Pesach. Thus, we must ask: If we did not bring the barley offering on Pesach (because we were still in Galus), will we need to bring the bread offering on Shavuos? Most poskim posit that we will be able to bring the “two breads” even if we did not bring the barley offering on Pesach. The rationale for this is that the two breads are a continuation of S’firas HaOmer. And being that when Moshiach comes we will continue counting the Omer, we the Shtei will be able to bring HaLechem as well.
Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his indepth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.
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HA’RAV YAAKOV YOSEF O.B.M.
A WARRIOR FOR TRUTH
For many years, R’ Shabtai Weintraub (a.k.a. Shai Gefen) enjoyed a close connection with Rabbi Yaakov Yosef z”l, who passed away on 2 Iyar. * Recollections and stories of a great supporter of the Rebbe.
By Shabtai Weintraub
t is hard to write about Rabbi Yaakov Yosef so soon after his passing. He was a rare combination of brilliance and diligence, a tremendous disseminator of Torah and a warrior for Hashem’s battles in Shleimus Ha’Am and Shleimus Ha’Aretz. He gave great nachas to the Rebbe both for his tireless work on Mihu Yehudi and later, in his fight for Shleimus Ha’Aretz.
R’ Yaakov Yosef was born in Yerushalayim on 23 Tishrei 5707/1946, the second son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, president of the Moetzes Chachmei Yisroel. He learned in Porat Yosef and Kol Torah in Yerushalayim. After he married Rabbanit Nitzchiya, he learned in the kollel Kol
Yaakov and at Mosad HaRav Kook where he also acquired smicha. He began giving shiurim at the age of 26, replacing his father who was appointed as Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv. His father asked him to “at least preserve the minyan” at the Borochov shul. His son took this assignment seriously and began giving shiurim there. He also brought many other maggidei shiurim and breathed life into the place. These shiurim attracted many people. In later years, he was pressed into service on the political front and served as member of the Jerusalem City Council, representing Shas. In 1984 he was elected to the 11th Knesset elections on the Shas list.
He served only one term in the Knesset and then founded Yeshivas Chazon Yaakov, named for his grandfather, R’ Yaakov Ovadia. He also began serving as rav in the Givat Moshe neighborhood of Yerushalayim. R’ Yosef was also a member of the Kashrus division of Badatz Yisa Bracha and sat in on many sessions of the Beis Din Kehillas HaYirei’im, headed by Rabbi Yisroel Schwartz. Along with his greatness in Torah, he had a sterling character and was humble with everyone. Even his deepest shiurim were said in a down to earth style. He was beloved by thousands who attended his shiurim regularly. Hundreds of his shiurim on sections of Shulchan Aruch have been publicized and are accessible on CD.
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Photograph by Beirush Blinitzky
AS A CHASSID TO HIS REBBE
His acquaintance with Chabad began when he lived in Shikun Chabad in Yerushalayim. He sent his children to Chabad schools. R’ Yaakov Yosef saw the Rebbe when he left Eretz Yisroel one time on a mission for mosdos Torah in 5749. During that visit he participated in the Rebbe’s minyan for Mincha and received the Rebbe’s bracha. When he was a member of the Knesset he received a number of instructions from the Rebbe on the topic of Mihu Yehudi. His boundless faith in what the Rebbe said turned him into a veritable Chassid. In every interview and conversation,
he stressed that we are on the threshold of the Geula. I’ll never forget what he told me in one of the rare interviews he granted me, “We are at the conclusion of the birth pangs of Moshiach and we must quickly prepare for Moshiach’s coming. After the Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Bentzion Abba Shaul told me, ‘We finished the war of Gog and Magog and now Moshiach has to come.’” He also connected this to the burning topic of Shleimus Ha’Aretz, “The goyim want to lead us to the abyss, to destroy us, and Jewish leaders are leading the Jewish people towards a most difficult situation. The Gemara defines this situation as one in which Hashem is angry at the sheep and he places a blind leader to lead the flock who leads
the entire flock and they all fall. This is what is happening today, and there is no doubt that this is an inseparable part of the Geula process.” R’ Yaakov Yosef spoke of the Rebbe with tremendous admiration. At one of his shiurim delivered at the Meoras HaMachpeila he said, “The Rebbe of Chabad, seventh from Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Baal HaTanya, has tremendous knowledge of Shas and poskim, l’halacha and l’maaseh. He also knows a lot of Kabbala. The Rebbe is an incredibly brilliant man. He paved the way to be mekarev Jews to our Father in heaven. Until sixty years ago, few knew how to bring people back in t’shuva. He led the way. There are 4000 Chabad
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in the Rebbe’s campaigns. I saw the great respect and admiration he had for the Rebbe. A few years ago, I invited him to attend an event in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday that took place at the stadium in Ramat Gan. He told me that despite the many things he had to do and the shiurim he had to give, he felt he must attend in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday.
FIGHTING FOR SHLEIMUS HA’ARETZ
R’ Yaakov Yosef’s daily schedule was very demanding. From early in the morning until late at night he would teach Torah. He never agreed to forgo a single shiur. He gave at least forty shiurim a week for decades! When I arranged to interview him for Beis Moshiach or Eretz Yisroel Shelanu, it was either early in the morning before he left to give a shiur, or at night, in his home in Yerushalayim. Even if it was after a very busy day, he seemed as fresh as though his day had just begun. When he spoke about Shleimus Ha’Aretz, his tone of voice would change. I saw the great pain and the anger he had for the religious parties who did nothing in this regard. I remember asking him about the expulsion from Gush Katif and the fight he waged for Shleimus Eretz Yisroel when it often seemed as though he was a lone voice. He said, “The more important the fight, the more difficult it is. The yetzer ha’ra ignores things that aren’t important. We are fighting now to save Eretz Yisroel, Yerushalayim and the Holy of Holies. It’s only natural that the yetzer ha’ra will put up a strong fight.” During Operation Pillar of Cloud, when missiles landed
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef signed to the p’sak din that the Rebbe is Moshiach
Chassidim today, spread around the world, whose holy work is to be mekarev Jews to our Father in heaven. Thanks to them, tens and hundreds of thousands have done t’shuva. It is all with the Admur’s instructions. He is the first to breach the wall and he was followed by hundreds of organizations around the world. “The holy Zohar says: If the people of this world knew the greatness in drawing people close, they would run after this like they run after their lives. Chabad Chassidim save lives. There are many places that if they had no Chabad Chassidim, the Jews there would assimilate completely among the gentiles. Boruch Hashem, the Chabadnikim are doing a lot. “The Rebbe also saw what others did not see. Forty years ago, he said the Law of Return must be amended to prevent assimilation. But the members of Likud and Labor did not want to amend the law and as a result, sadly, we have tens of thousands of mixed marriages every year, here, in Eretz Yisroel! “The religious, back then, did not understand this, but
the Rebbe of Chabad knew what would happen. Today too, religious parties sit in the Coalition and don’t amend the law. Sadly, they bring goyim to the land of our fathers and the results clearly demonstrate that the situation is terrible. “The Rebbe of Chabad had vision and it’s a pity that today too, after seeing the results that the Chabad Rebbe warned about, that the religious establishment sitting in the Coalition conducts business as usual and does not amend the Law of Return.” *** After Gimmel Tammuz, R’ Yaakov Yosef signed on the p’sak halacha that the Rebbe is in the category of Navi and Moshiach and he even said so publicly. He fought discrimination against Sephardic girls in the religious school system. He noted that only in Chabad schools (where there are no discriminatory quotas) do we see students of all backgrounds learning together. This is thanks to the Rebbe, he said, who integrated all kinds of people no matter their ethnic origin. R’ Yosef actively participated
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in Ashkelon and Ashdod and all over the south, he said, “Whoever remained silent during the Disengagement, cannot say, ‘our hands did not shed this blood and our eyes did not see.’ Whoever remained silent or was a partner to Sharon’s plan, has a share in every missile and Kassam that falls on Sederot, Ashkelon and in the future of Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. They spoke about ‘Gaza First,’ and today we are in Yerushalayim. Let us hope that this is the end and there will be no more withdrawals.” After the Gush Katif museum opened in Yerushalayim, so people would not forget the expulsion crime that took place there, R’ Yosef veered from his usual habits and went in the middle of the day to pay a visit. He spent a long time there with the mashpia, R’ Zalman Notik. He greatly encouraged the founding of the museum. He said that it had the ability to prevent an expulsion from Yehuda-Shomron and urged us to advertise the museum and to bring public figures to visit. He was never afraid of what people would say and he was willing to sacrifice everything for the truth, especially when he knew that it affected matters of k’dusha and Shleimus Ha’Aretz. He was very willing to sign whenever I wanted his signature for things related to Shleimus Ha’Aretz. He constantly encouraged and did everything possible so that the public outcry and rabbinical protests should find the proper expression. On the eve of the Chevron Accords, he castigated PM Netanyahu. So too, in an interview he granted me during Olmert’s government, he castigated Shas for refusing to leave the government over the Annapolis Accords. He attended the rally of thousands,
Shabtai Weintraub giving Rabbi Yosef the book Pada B’shalom
“The more important the fight, the more difficult it is. The yetzer ha’ra ignores things that aren’t important. We are fighting now to save Eretz Yisroel, Yerushalayim and the Holy of Holies. It’s only natural that the yetzer ha’ra will put up a strong fight.”
“Mi L ’Hashem Eilai” that took place in Tel Aviv, and the huge gathering following the expulsion from Gush Katif, “Lo Nishkach v’Lo Nislach” (We Won’t Forget and We Won’t Forgive). When people wanted to leave the country because of the security situation, he warned them not to go, relying on the Rebbe’s opinion. He told me, “If they continue making withdrawals, we will not be able to continue living in Eretz Yisroel. But Moshiach has to come speedily and bring the Geula and so we cannot leave Eretz Yisroel. Before the Six-Day War the situation was also bleak and many left or were about to leave, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe promised, ‘Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not slumber or sleep,’ and there will be miracles. And there were. We are confident that, despite the situation our leaders are leading us towards, the Jewish people will rest securely in its land and Hashem will send us his anointed one, the righteous redeemer.” I’ll never forget the interview he granted me during the period of the expulsion from Gush Katif. He warned that whoever kept quiet and did not protest, would be held to heavenly account for every missile that fell on Jews from Gaza. He made no concessions when it came to Shleimus Ha’Aretz. Because of pikuach nefesh, he did all he could to warn people, even when it seemed he was a lone voice. Continued on page 37
Issue 879 • �
OHR MENACHEM THE LIGHT OF A CHASSIDISHE CHINUCH
This is the first and only elementary school yeshiva in the United States which continues to operate during the summer months. The children are happy to be learning in a school that insists upon following the Rebbe’s horaos. * This school, which opened a few years ago with just thirty children, has become a significant educational institute with nearly three hundred talmidim!
s Shavuos approaches, we are reminded that we received the Torah thanks to our children being the guarantors. One of the main mitzvos of chinuch entails a father teaching Torah to his son. These days, before we merit the complete Geula, the hardships of galus are at an all-time high, bringing in their wake the most difficult tests, which make it ever more challenging to lead a proper Jewish life. The greatest threat appears to be aimed at the younger generation, at the
chinuch of Jewish children. More than ever, strong winds of exposure to outside influences and modernization are blowing within the religious camp, and sadly we are seeing the signs of this in our own communities. This makes the existence of Ohr Menachem in Crown Heights all the more encouraging. If you take a peek into the classrooms, you will see children davening slowly and sweetly and learning Torah diligently. What a pleasure it is
to listen in to their pure voices as they review their p’sukim or the words of the davening.
BEAUTIFUL TORAH IN A BEAUTIFUL VESSEL
Anyone who is involved in chinuch in some form or another, knows that the Chassidishe atmosphere in Ohr Menachem, the high level of learning, the individual attention for each child, the chinuch for hiskashrus to the Rebbe – have all revolutionized chinuch in Crown Heights.
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“Every week, they invite one of the teachers to give them a shiur in the D’var Malchus”
Without spotlights and without a state-of-the-art building, on one of the quietest streets in the neighborhood, what began as a small initiative on the part of some parents, with thirty boys, has grown into a significant yeshiva with nearly three hundred children. Last year, due to the growing demand, the preschool children were moved to a new and spacious building that was built as a school by the city of New York and given to Ohr Menachem to use. Here, and
in the other buildings used by the higher grades, you can see how much work the hanhala gashmis is investing to maintain and beautify the school. The preschool classrooms provide a wonderful atmosphere for learning. What caught my eyes is the special relationship between the students and their teachers. There is a family atmosphere here. In today’s world, it is not necessarily a matter of course that students respect and esteem their teachers. An outsider may
not appreciate it, but there is a unique sense of harmony that pervades the place. In conversations I had with members of the hanhala, I heard about some of the foundational principles that inform the educational philosophy of the school: the teachers are all Chassidish and yerei Shamayim; no more than eighteen children per class; there is an emphasis on good middos and Chassidishe sensibilities, and all members of the staff have a weekly shiur on the D’var Malchus.
Issue 879 • �
back to the original meaning of the term. Our goal is to stick as closely as we can to the value known as ‘taharas ha’kodesh.’ “There is a sugya in Meseches Chagiga which is about ‘a Kohen or chaver who eats Chulin al taharas ha’kodesh.’ When the Mikdash stood, even food that was considered Chulin (ordinary) was eaten by people on the level of purity which is required for kodshei kodshim, so they would always be prepared to eat food b’tahara, and also, as an extra shmira. “I don’t know whether the concept of ‘chinuch al taharas ha’kodesh’ is borrowed from there or not, but we can learn a lot from this. First of all, it is imperative to adopt a positive approach, not just one of negative refraining. In other words, in addition to avoiding ideas from the outside, worldly assumptions, secular studies, etc. we need to invest most of our energy into educating children to a Jewish, Chassidish way of life. “It is not enough that the curriculum consists only of Torah and no secular subjects, but the children’s entire day needs to be permeated with tahara and k’dusha; namely that the atmosphere be one of Chassidishe yiras Shamayim. Whether during recess, meals, on the bus – the children should be talking about learning contests or Chassidishe dates, not nonsense. ‘In all your ways, know Him,’ this is the chinuch that the Rebbe chose for his children, ‘dem Rebbe’ns kinder.’”
TO BELIEVE IN THE TALMIDIM LIKE THE REBBE BELIEVES IN US!
One of the things that I think we need to learn from how the Rebbe taught us, his Chassidim and talmidim, is on the one hand, that the Rebbe believes in us. He sees and brings out our good qualities so that we attain levels that even we did not believe we could achieve. On the other hand, the Rebbe expects much more of us than we actually do, and it is very hard to satisfy him since we operate based on our lower assessment of ourselves. This is how I try to look at a talmid: First, to bring his uniqueness and unique qualities to his attention until he feels and understands it – and – Secondly, to demand of him, being that he is capable, to behave and learn accordingly. It’s not at all easy! It requires tremendous effort and it is usually a long process. But just as the Rebbe doesn’t despair of us, we cannot, G-d forbid, despair of the Rebbe’s children. When I tried to find out what makes this school unique and why it was necessary to open yet another school when there are wonderful mosdos, Oholei Torah and Lubavitcher Yeshiva, I did not hear a negative word about other schools. On the contrary, I was told they are all good. If so, why did Ohr Menachem open? The idea of opening this school was that of parents who were looking for a school that would be more particular about matters of yiras Shamayim and Chassidishkait. To achieve this, they set the bar high with demanding entrance requirements. It is interesting that there are parents who changed their way of life to be more Chassidish so that their children would be accepted into the school. What is “chinuch al taharas ha’kodesh?” “Our approach is ‘chinuch al taharas ha’kodesh,’ says R’ Menachem Mendel Yuzewitz, menahel of the school. “Over the years, the phrase has become overused and we want to go
STAFF AND HANHALA
R’ Yuzewitz, himself born in Crown Heights, says that to achieve this they work hard to recruit staff members who, aside from their abilities to run
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a classroom and teach, are role models of middos tovos and yiras Shamayim. “That is the only way we can implant the foundations of Toras Ha’chassidus and Darkei Ha’chassidim in the children.” There are special learning and conduct contests, which instill a spirit of Chassidishkait and living a life of halacha, at home and at recess. “We have learned that the best recipe for warding off negative influences such as the Internet is to strengthen emuna, which children are drawn to naturally.” All the educational and Chassidish activities in the school are supported by the Vaad HaChinuch, which consists of R’ Aharon Ginsberg, R’ Yisroel Greenberg, R’ MM Hendel, R’ MM Yuzewitz, and R’ MM Scharf. The members of the vaad meet now and then to discuss the chinuch of each class as well as specific children who need special attention. General spiritual questions are decided upon by the Vaad HaRuchni, which consists of R’ Sholom Dovber Lipsker, R’ Refael Wilschansky, and R’ Chaim Serebryanski (the latter just joined after the passing of R’ Yitzchok Springer a”h who was a member of the Vaad HaRuchni for many years and contributed greatly towards the Chassidishe shaping of the school). R’ Yuzewitz takes this opportunity to thank the members of the Vaad HaChinuch as well as the members of the Vaad HaGashmi, who dedicate many hours of their time to move the school forward in the ways of Chassidus. “When educational decisions are made in a forum like this, of Chassidishe educators, whose only desire is to do what the Rebbe wants, I feel
confident with their decisions.”
One cannot but be impressed by the simcha radiating from the faces of the children. Those boys whose learning style is less “book oriented” are given a special curriculum, appropriate for them, which is prepared by their devoted teachers. “The basic goal of the school is to provide each talmid with the tools for him to progress with
greater ease and make strides in his learning.” The Rebbe MH”M says that real chinuch is when afterward, the one being educated no longer needs the help of the educator. This is true for every grade and age. Ohr Menachem sets out a clear progress chart for each of the classes, and moves its students forward with the challenges they are ready to handle. One of the painful realities about young people in the United States is that when a young child is not successful enough in reading and writing lashon ha’kodesh, his learning suffers tremendously in his yeshiva years. This is why the hanhala sees it as a high priority to ensure that every child, without exception, masters lashon ha’kodesh by the end of pre-1A. So when they enter first grade, they know how to read fluently and can focus on learning. The children’s health being no less important, for recess the children have access to a big park right near the school, which other children in Brooklyn can only dream about.
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SCHOOL IN THE SUMMER
It happens every year. It’s the end of Sivan and summer is around the corner. As the rest of the family is getting into end of the year mode in anticipation of going to the Catskills, schools are closing and there is an air of excitement as children look forward to summer vacation and going to camp. In the midst of the pre-summer frenzy, two young boys walk down the street, talking amongst themselves in Yiddish a bit loudly, although in refined tones, “So how many prakim of Tanya do we need to learn by heart in order to be the Sar HaElef in ‘Der Rebbe’s Armei’ contest?” A curious passerby asks, “What yeshiva do you go to?” They straighten up proudly and answer in unison, “Ohr Menachem!” Having school in the summer was a tough hurdle, mainly because of the parents, says the menahel. “The children, who are educated throughout the year that we must obey the Rebbe’s horaos, accept the fact that they continue learning in school while their friends in other schools have vacation. However, the adults got used to going to the country and now they are ‘stuck’ in the city with their kids. “However, since these are Chassidishe parents, after all, who want to do what the Rebbe asks, we called them to a meeting and presented the Rebbe’s sichos to them on this subject. After showing them a video of a sharp sicha of the Rebbe, in which the Rebbe says that the Torah is our life and when we take a child on vacation it is as though we are taking life from him, their opinions changed.”
LIVING WITH MOSHIACH
“Nowadays,” declared R’ Yuzewitz, “chinuch to hiskashrus to the Rebbe is expressed in a chayus for inyanei Moshiach and Geula. Chinuch is about preparing for the Geula. When this is the approach, you see children who are excited and who ‘live with’ the constant anticipation of the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M. “Even when a child needs to be rebuked and he needs to improve his behavior, it is important to remind him of the time we are living in and how in another moment he will be pointing and saying, ‘There is the Rebbe.’ That is the reality they live and which they talk about amongst themselves. To the children, it’s not just a sicha of the Rebbe. It’s the reality. “For example, a few months ago, the children in seventh grade decided on their own to have a weekly shiur in the D’var Malchus. Every week, they invite one of the teachers to give them a shiur, and afterward, they have a contest with prizes. It is all arranged by the members of the class. “In addition to proclaiming Yechi after davening and at assemblies, the teachers instill in their students the sense that the longing for the hisgalus of the Rebbe needs to be something that affects every aspect of our being and our behavior. We accustom the children to write to the Rebbe often, to report to the Rebbe about the good things they do to hasten the Geula. In general, we teach the children to always think – what does the Rebbe want of me, in every detail, and how can I bring the Geula.” On the night of Simchas Torah 5752, the Rebbe said that when you see a Jewish child, you are seeing Moshiach, and in Crown Heights you can point at a child like this who learns in Ohr Menachem.
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By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
THE END IS WEDGED IN THE BEGINNING
In Torah study, there is a rule that there always is a connection between the end of one text and the beginning of the next. As we begin a new book, the Book of BaMidbar, also known as Numbers, let us reflect on the connection between the end of the preceding book, VaYikraLeviticus, and the beginning of BaMidbar and see what lessons we can derive from this connection. VaYikra concludes with the law concerning tithing of animals. A Jew was required to take every tenth animal of his flock and offer it as a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Torah then adds the following admonition: “He should not select a good or a bad one, nor should he offer a substitute for it.” In other words, when the person counted ten animals, the tenth one is holy and cannot be exchanged for a superior or inferior one. This command is followed by the concluding verse in VaYikra: “These are the commandments that G-d commanded Moses at Mount Sinai for the children of Israel.”
BaMidbar begins with G-d’s command to Moses to take the census of the Jewish people. What is the connection between the end of VaYikra and the beginning of BaMidbar?
However, we must still search for the connection between the very last verse of VaYikra, which summarizes the idea that the commandments of the Torah were given to Moses and the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. How does this theme tie in with the idea of no substitution and counting? Upon reflection it seems that the verse concerning the giving of the Torah is the linchpin that links the two foregoing forms of exclusivity and reveals their joint meaning. At first glance, the connection between Torah and the theme of reciprocal exclusivity between G-d and the Jewish people seems fairly simple. Just as there is no substitute for G-d or for the Jewish people, so too there is no substitute for the Torah and its Mitzvos. The very same commandments that were given at Mount Sinai are no less relevant today than they were then. A basic principle of Judaism, in fact, one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith enumerated by Maimonides, is that the G-d given laws are immutable. No one can abrogate them or even slightly change them. Just as G-d is immutable, so are His teachings and commandments.
R. Yitzchak Caro explains that the law against substituting a sacrifice also applies to our relationship with G-d. Just as we are not permitted to substitute another animal for the tenth one, we cannot also substitute anything else for G-d. The beginning of BaMidbar, which is about G-d’s command to count the Jewish people, teaches us that this relationship is reciprocal. Rashi explains that counting the people was G-d’s way of showing His love for them. When one counts something it demonstrates that one ascribes value to those particular items. Counting the Jewish people suggested that G-d would never exchange them for any other nation. Just as we cannot substitute anything for G-d, so too G-d will never look for a substitute for the Jewish people. This reciprocal love that we have for each other is captured by King Solomon in the Song of Songs: “My beloved is to me and I am to My beloved.”
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When G-d “looks” through the prism of Torah at us, it helps to spotlight and magnify our innate qualities and render us worthy of His greatest blessings. Chassidic thought explains that the Torah is like a microscope through which hidden qualities are identified and magnified.
Indeed, the Talmud, commenting on the words in the last verse of VaYikra : “These are the commandments…” states: “A prophet may not introduce any new laws from Sinai onward.” The Torah as it was given then cannot—and will not—ever be substituted. Contrary to a misconception that came from non-Jewish sources, Moshiach will not change the Torah, G-d forbid, or in any way diminish its importance or replace it with a new Torah. Maimonides explains that, on the contrary, Moshiach’s role is to strengthen our observance of the Mitzvos and enable us to fulfill all of them in the most complete fashion. The first lesson that emerges from this bridging between VaYikra and BaMidbar is: When a Jew is faithful to the teachings of the Torah and subordinates his will to it and not the other way around, the Jew demonstrates his fidelity to the notion that there is only one absolute G-d, which, in turn, will enhance G-d’s absolute and exclusive love for us. other than G-d, not only that there is no other G-d. Everything that exists is a manifestation of G-d’s creative power. What appears to be an independent existence is only a mirage. The reality of the world is that it is an extension of G-d’s will. If G-d would withdraw for one instant, the world would revert to utter nothingness. Hence the world’s true nature is G-d. However, G-d possesses and uses the power to conceal His presence, which He did to enable us to uncover it through our actions. The very word for world in Hebrew—Olam— means concealment. How then do we pierce through the veil of concealment to see the reality of G-d’s exclusivity? We do so through the Torah. Torah is called a light for good reason. In addition to lighting up our lives with direction and meaning, it illuminates the reality of existence. Torah enables us to remove all of the covers that obscure the reality of G-d. The teachings of Kabbala, and particularly Chassidus, are directed to this end. Thus, Torah is the means through which the lesson of the ending of Leviticus comes to life. When the message of Sinai is clear, as indicated in the very words “These are the Mitzvos…” and we do nothing to dim the Torah’s radiance, we become acutely aware of G-d’s exclusivity.
TORAH: TELESCOPE AND MICROSCOPE
The Torah is also the means through which the exclusivity of the Jewish people is highlighted. This premise is based on the Chassidic interpretation of the verse: “Look down from Your holy abode in heaven, and bless your people Israel…” The Hebrew word for heavenShamayim-is a composite of two words: eish and mayim, fire and water. Shamayim thus is a metaphor for the Torah which is itself compared to both fire and water. When G-d “looks” through the prism of Torah at us, it helps to spotlight and magnify our innate qualities and render us worthy of His greatest blessings. Chassidic thought explains that the Torah is like a microscope through which hidden qualities are identified and magnified. When we remain faithful to the dictates of the Torah— as indicated in the last verse of VaYikra—it enhances our unique status and makes us worthy of being counted, which is the theme of the beginning of BaMidbar. In short, the Torah serves both as a telescope and a microscope. As a telescope the Torah enables us to see far beyond the limits of human reasoning to recognize the reality of G-d’s exclusivity. As a microscope the Torah enables G-d and us to see beneath the facade of our beings, so we can discover and actualize our innate holiness.
TRUE MEANING OF EXCLUSIVITY
Upon further reflection, we can find a deeper understanding of the connection between the exclusivity of Torah and the exclusivity of G-d and the Jewish people. The unity of G-d implies that there is nothing else in existence
THREE KNOTS, TWO CONNECTIONS
There is yet a third message conveyed by juxtaposing the theme of Torah with the theme of exclusivity of G-d and the Jewish people. This message relates
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to the connection between G-d and the Jewish people. To put it succinctly: The link between G-d and the Jewish people comes through Torah. The degree to which we are connected to G-d, and He is to us, is commensurate with the degree of our fidelity to the Torah. This idea of Torah linkage is alluded to in the words of the Zohar: “There are three knots that are tied together, Israel is bound to the Torah and the Torah is bound to the Holy one Blessed is He.” A question has been raised about the way the Zohar puts this. If we are connected to Torah, and the Torah is connected to G-d, then there must be only two knots. Why does the Zohar speak of three? The answer given
in Chassidic philosophy is that there is a third connection that we enjoy with G-d, one that is direct. We are connected to G-d as well as to the Torah. However, that connection between us and G-d can only be appreciated and activated through the medium of Torah. In effect, there are two avenues through which we connect to G-d: The first is indirectly through Torah. However, the Torah also illuminates the other more direct and unconditional connection we have. It may be suggested that concluding VaYikra with the theme of fidelity to Torah alludes to the power Torah has to reveal the deepest bond we have with G-d.
In times of exile, we don’t see clearly the role that G-d plays in this world and we certainly do not intuitively see G-d’s exclusivity. Likewise, the status of the Jewish people is left compromised due to galus conditions and conditioning. To remove the screen that separates G-d from us and us from Him, it is imperative that we turn on the lights of Torah, specifically, the parts of Torah that are designed to bring unfiltered light to the world—the light that existed on the very first day of creation that transcended the limits of the world. These are the very teachings of Chassidus, particularly, the parts that discuss the theme of Geula, the ultimate, true and complete Redemption.
Continued from page 29 There were also those who were angry at him for not falling in line with his family’s views, but the honor of heaven and the inviolability of halacha reigned supreme for him.”
INSPIRATION FROM THE REBBE RAYATZ
Two years ago, he was arrested on suspicion of incitement to racism for his endorsement of the book Toras HaMelech (The King’s Torah), which discusses when it is permissible for a Jew to kill a gentile. He remained fearless and did not report to the police for questioning, because “divrei Torah have no place in interrogation rooms. Although one must obey the law of the land, that is only when there is equality before the law. When the Justice Office has a department for special projects whose only purpose is to persecute those
faithful to Eretz Yisroel, while they remain silent in the face of announcements of murder and hatred on the part of the Left, we must protest and not report for questioning. Boruch Hashem, I and Rabbi Lior were able to rouse public opinion to the fact that Jews are being discriminated against. The purpose of the current investigation was to denigrate the honor of the Torah and not for law and order.” The Thursday before he was arrested, I went to his shiur in Rechovos and gave him the new book, Pada B’shalom about the arrest of the Rebbe Rayatz. His children told me that over Shabbos, R’ Yosef read through the entire book and he told them that he would interact with the police following the Rebbe Rayatz’s approach, i.e. not answering them and not fearing them. He later said that the book gave him the strength and inner
fortitude to see what Jewish heroism is, without fearing the authorities. He even read to the police the part which describes the interrogator threatening the Rebbe Rayatz with his gun, and the Rebbe not flinching but saying that one who has one G-d and two worlds is unafraid of “that toy.”
TIFERES OF TIFERES
R’ Yosef’s mesirus nefesh for Torah was apparent this past year when he was ill and suffered terribly, but continued giving shiurim, even in distant places. He passed away on 2 Iyar, Tiferes of Tiferes in the presence of his family and rabbanim. I attended his funeral, which took place shortly before Shabbos. Tens of thousands came to pay their final respects to a talmid chacham whose entire life was dedicated to Hashem, His Torah, and the Rebbe’s battles.
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AN AUSPICIOUS TIME TO ASK FOR THE GEULA
When a Jew has a problem that bothers him, especially if he is on shlichus and there is a problem that interferes with his shlichus, this is an auspicious time to ask for the Geula, to daven and hope with utmost bitachon that it will all work out.
By Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz Shliach, Beit Shaan
n an unusual sicha said to hundreds of Chassidim and bachurim who had returned from Tahalucha the night of Shavuos 5751, the Rebbe quoted from a Poilishe Rebbe that Shavuos is an auspicious time to daven for the Geula. The Gemara in P’sachim states, “all concede that on Atzeres (Shavuos) ba’inan – we need, nami lachem (lit. also for you, i.e. that one must celebrate through physical means).” The Rebbe explains that the words “nami lachem” are numerically equivalent to the word “keitz.” In other words, for Shavuos, all concede that ba’inan (lit. we need, but can also be translated as we ask) for the “keitz,” that we need to ask and daven for the Geula.
Perhaps we can explain the concept of asking for the Geula in a number of ways: 1) literally, the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu immediately, 2) when a Jew has a personal problem that bothers him, especially if he is on shlichus and there is a problem that interferes with his shlichus, then this is an auspicious time to ask for a personal Geula, to daven and hope with utmost bitachon that it will all work out, as illustrated by the following stories.
A MIRACLE IN THE OFFICE OF THE OFFICIAL RECEIVER
R’ Shimon Yardeni is a shliach
in Azur for over twenty years. He held a dinner a few years ago in order to raise money for a spacious building that would contain a shul and the manifold activities of his Chabad house. This is the astounding story that took place a number of years before the dinner. For many years, the municipality of Azur had refused to approve giving R’ Yardeni and the Chabad community a building. During those years, the k’hilla wandered from place to place. The davening on Shabbos took place in private homes, in preschools and sometimes, even on the street. Ten years ago R’ Yardeni finally got permission to put a caravan near the center of town.
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The area where the caravan was set up belonged to a nonprofit corporation whose head office is located in the center of the country and has branches in various towns. As long as the corporation wasn’t using the land, it did not oppose having a caravan belonging to Chabad as well as another shul that operated there for nearly fifty years. Every few months, R’ Yardeni received reminders from the corporation that they were about to sell the land and he would have to move the caravan, but the land was never actually sold and the Chabad house continued to operate there. About a year and a half before the dinner, R’ Yardeni was told that the land had gone into receivership (Israel follows the British system of receivership, which differs somewhat from the American system of bankruptcy). It was even publicized in the real estate listings and the papers that the land would be sold to the highest bidder. Some businessmen were interested in the land and even registered to participate in the auction. Most of the contenders were residents of Azur who knew and respected R’ Yardeni. Some of them even promised to let him build a Chabad house on the land if they won it. To strengthen his position, R’ Yardeni also registered as a contender in the bidding, even though knowledgeable people said the land itself was worth several million shekels, which wasn’t quite what he had available in his bank account. In the months that followed, R’ Yardeni saw many miracles. He gave the official receiver a much lower bid than the generally accepted assessment, and
R’ Yardeni with mekuravim
The miracle happened and it was even better than we anticipated. The angry neighbor announced that he was moving to another neighborhood.
miraculously was able to pay an advance of a tenth of the amount of his bid. Other contenders were wealthy people who submitted high bids of their own. R’ Yardeni was apprehensive. The receiver finally called all the bidders to a meeting. The meeting was tense, with everyone wary of everyone else, and nobody ended up winning the bid. A lawyer joined the meeting and brokered an arrangement in which five contenders would buy the land together and each of them would receive a fifth of the property. One of the people involved had already told R’ Yardeni that he would give him his fifth, which was plenty of space for a Chabad house. Even after the agreement between the parties, there were inexplicable delays on the part of the official receiver. R’ Yardeni, who had already paid tens of thousands of shekels and wanted to start building the Chabad house, called the man’s office every few days to see what was going on. He too could not explain the delays. He always told R’ Yardeni, “Pray, pray.” And R’ Yardeni prayed and prayed but was still left hanging. One day, R’ Yardeni woke up early in the morning and went to the Chabad house. Having a few moments, he began reading chapters of T’hillim in a highly inspired frame of mind. “It cannot go on like this,” he said to Hashem, and said a few more chapters of T’hillim until people began showing up for Shacharis. His prayers were answered. As soon as Shacharis was over, his cell phone rang. On the line was the official receiver, “You can come and sign the contract, the deal is ready.” R’ Yardeni was thrilled. It was
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a historic occasion. Later on he realized that the date was historic too. It was the same date that the Rebbe Rayatz bought 770. Apparently, it was an auspicious time to ask for redemption. astonishment, I opened to a letter on the subject of calendars! The Rebbe wrote that I needed to trust in Hashem and not stand with my finger on the calendar but hope for Hashem’s salvation with complete trust that it would all work out. That night, there was a farbrengen at the Chabad house. I told everyone not to worry because the Rebbe said that all would be fine with the calendar. Mind you, the printing place said the calendars were still not ready. Friday morning, Erev Rosh Hashanah, the calendars were ready. They came in a taxi to Beit Shemesh and were even able to give them out to residents and donors that same day. The donors paid whatever they owed and even apologized for shouting. prayed and wrote to the Rebbe and looked forward to a miracle. The miracle happened and it was even better than we anticipated. The angry neighbor announced that he was moving to another neighborhood. His apartment was available to be rented and a Lubavitcher family now lives there.
THE CALENDAR ARRIVED AT THE RIGHT TIME
I heard the following story from R’ Eliezer Weiner, shliach in Beit Shemesh. R’ Weiner has been working in Beit Shemesh for over twenty years and, boruch Hashem, there is a k’hilla with preschools, an elementary school, a number of shluchim, and a busy Chabad house. Every year, the Chabad house prints a beautiful calendar which is funded by the advertisements paid for by local businesses. As told by R’ Weiner: Twelve years ago, there was a printing delay. It was three days before Rosh Hashanah and the calendar still wasn’t ready. The donors called and pressured us because they wanted to distribute the calendars to customers before Rosh Hashanah. Some of them said that if they didn’t receive the calendars on time they would not pay what they owed us. The pressure was tremendous and I didn’t know what to do. I informed the printing place that even if the calendars would be ready in the middle of the night, they should call me, but they didn’t call. Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos that year and it was Thursday. Help! I was alone in the house and wanted to write to the Rebbe to ask for a bracha, but I was so nervous that I wasn’t able to write. I went over to the bookcase and took out a volume of Igros Kodesh. To my
MISNAGDIM WHO BECAME FRIENDS
Many shluchim tell about people with negative feelings about Chabad, who besmirch, oppose and interfere with the shliach and his work. Sometimes, they are key people with positions of influence in the city and their opposition influences many people. Generally, after a while, people see that the reality is different than they thought and then they become friends and even partners with the shluchim. One shliach, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me about the situation in his area since he came on shlichus a few years ago. As soon as he arrived, he learned that the head of the religious council is not a friend of Chabad, to put it mildly. He prevented any cooperation with the Chabad house and even spoke against it wherever and whenever he could. Years went by and even he saw that the Chabad movement, as well as the shluchim, don’t seek to harm anyone; on the contrary, they help all those in need and spread Judaism graciously, and even smile at those who oppose them. Little by little, his opposition dissipated and today, he is friends with the shliach. “In our city,” says the shliach, “there was also a problem with one of the senior government officials who is in charge of all
THE RIGHT TIME AND THE RIGHT PLACE
R’ Shabtai Fisher, shliach in Givat Shmuel, relates: A few years ago, we were about to open another preschool in Givat Shmuel. We rented a building after checking with all the neighbors that they didn’t mind having a preschool there. Then we started renovations. In the middle of renovations, one of the neighbors who had previously given his consent, began protesting against the opening of a preschool. I reminded him that we had discussed this and he had agreed, but it didn’t help. Not only was he now opposed to it, he began inciting the other neighbors against us too. Some neighbors, who were friends of his, were influenced by his opinion and joined him in asking us not to open the preschool. We could only pray that the man would calm down, and that’s we did. We
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the preschools. She didn’t like Chabad and gave orders to all the preschool teachers not to allow Chabad to do any activities with their children. Obviously, this interfered greatly with our work. We spoke to her a few times and asked for a meeting but she was unwilling to cooperate. My wife wrote to the Rebbe and we waited for a miracle. “The miracle occurred. Not all at once, but gradually. Here and there, the woman met with us on various occasions and was exposed to our work around the year, and something in her heart softened. One day, we called her and she responded. She began praising the work of Chabad and in the end, she asked us to prepare an annual program for all the preschools to be done throughout the year.”
Now, for a story of my own. Out of the group of principals
of the ten schools in Beit Shaan, there were two principals who did not allow Chabad representatives to enter their schools. (They were not opposed to Chabad. They were very serious types who were very particular about order and learning without interruptions, and they did not allow anybody to enter the classrooms during school time). Whenever we wanted to give out material in the schools, these two principals insisted that we leave them with the secretary and the teachers would give it out themselves. Of course, there is no comparison between a teacher distributing material she was asked to distribute and a Lubavitcher excitedly telling the class about a day camp or Lag B’Omer parade. One year before Lag B’Omer, I decided to make a special effort to visit those two schools. I called the principal of one school, whose name is Meirav, and said, “Good morning, you know that this morning there was
a discussion in shul about the meaning of the name ‘Meirav?’ (I aroused her curiosity and went on:) It turns out that the name Meirav is associated with Lag B’Omer, both with Rabbi Akiva and with R’ Shimon bar Yochai.” The principal said she’d be happy to hear more. I explained that Meirav means water of the rav and has to do with the spring of water in the cave where R’ Shimon was, and the drops of water that R’ Akiva saw wearing a hole in the rock, thanks to which he went and learned Torah and became a rav. Mei-rav. After this little lecture, when I asked permission to enter each classroom for one minute to announce the Lag B’Omer parade, she granted it. The other principal’s name is Gil. I told him that Gil are the same letters as Lag and I asked him for a one-time allowance to enter the classrooms. He agreed.
Continued from page 50 official capacity was behind that report. Nevertheless, no one has denied the report. I can speak for myself when I say that I know that no one stands behind that story. It’s not my job to deny every report that someone makes in our name. I don’t have to deny everything. Anyone who wants to check can do so before publicizing such news items. In response to a question on this matter, Knesset Member Moshe Gafni said that all options are open. No one has accepted responsibility for those purported statements.
Apparently, we can expect a difficult parliamentary term on the diplomatic front as well? Will Yahadut HaTorah stand firm against the further dismantling of Jewish settlements? In the meantime, the Bayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party is in the government, while the prime minister officially declares the policy of “two states for two peoples,” and I don’t see anyone shocked by this. We know that the Rebbe said that even talking about giving away land poses a threat to Jewish lives, yet I don’t see that this keeps them from sitting in the government. In practical terms, no one has presented any workable diplomatic proposals at the
present time. A few words in conclusion. As Jews instilled with a firm belief in G-d, we are certain that the Torah will never be forgotten in Israel. The Jewish People have survived throughout the generations in the merit of Torah study, in spite of all the cruel edicts. We hope that someone in the government will regain his composure and understand that the ultra-Orthodox are not the enemy. There are far more important problems to tackle at this time. I hope that all the talk about persecuting Torah scholars will remain merely as talk and soon pass from the world.
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CLOSING THE GENERATION GAP
We sat with R’ Yaakov Moshe Spitzer, one of the leaders in the Sanz-Klausenberg community, and his son, R’ Yonasan Spitzer, shliach in moshav Mata. * How R’ Yonasan became a Lubavitcher Chassid. * What the Klausenberger Rebbe had to say about the Rebbe, about Lubavitch, and about shlichus. * Part 2 of 2
Interview by Nosson Avrohom photographs by Dovid Kotler
GROWING INTEREST IN CHASSIDUS
R’ Yonasan began learning Chassidus when he was a high school boy. “As I said, I had an inexplicable interest in Chabad. I felt a need to learn Tanya. I went to Yeshivas Toras Emes one day and met two bachurim, one the son of R’ Zajac of Brazil and the other one was from the Butman family, who is a shliach in Hadera now. One of them learned Kuntres U’Maayan Mi’Beis Hashem with me, and the other learned Tanya with me. At a certain point, I began bringing
friends along and we would learn together. To me it was a “Torah Chadasha.” S’firos. Supernal worlds. Amazing explanations of the inner meaning of mitzvos. The bond between the Jewish people and Hashem. These subjects are usually not spoken about in Litvishe yeshivos; if they are, it’s only in the form of trite clichés. “This went on for a long time until someone tattled on us to the hanhala. One of the staff members asked me why on an off-Shabbos did I get off the bus at the stop near Toras Emes rather than the stop near my parents’ home. The mashgiach
threatened me that if I didn’t stop, he would tell my father. “I was a young kid and despite the great loss I felt without learning Chassidus, I stopped my encounters with the bachurim from Toras Emes. I continued only after I had graduated high school and was in beis midrash, Yeshivas Slobodka in B’nei Brak. I yearned for Chassidus and a Lubavitcher who lived in the neighborhood, whom I told that I wanted to learn Chassidus, referred me to the mashpia, R’ Zalman Landau. “I met him every Thursday in his home and we learned Chassidus. We learned Tanya,
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maamarim and sichos. To me, R’ Landau was a type I had not met before; someone who worked on himself, someone who learned and implemented what he learned in his personal life. When he explained what real t’filla is, he davened that way himself. “In yeshiva, I became known as the Chabadnik. In general, in the Litvishe world it’s known that there are bachurim who are considered Lubavitch even though, outwardly, they look like everyone else. I was considered the Chabadnik of the yeshiva, because the closet in my room was full of pictures of the Rebbe and Chabad s’farim.
“My room in yeshiva was known as an interesting room. There were bachurim who came to my room to learn Tanya from Lessons in Tanya. Others came just to debate and ask questions on the topic of Chabad. The top guys in yeshiva didn’t stop harassing me. But I just ignored them. There were some who would not make Kiddush on wine that I had touched, thanks to what that rosh yeshiva in B’nei Brak said. “One day, I saw that my Tanya had disappeared from my room. I was very upset. I loved learning it. The theft resulted in my learning with R’ Zalman
Landau in the Alexander shul. About fifteen boys from the yeshiva participated. The shiur went on for a long time until someone tattled. The mashgiach called me to his room and gave me a choice – either I would stop learning Chassidus and schlepping bachurim along with me, or I would have to leave the yeshiva. I responded respectfully, but had no intentions of stopping to learn Chassidus. It was my spiritual oxygen. During the meeting with the mashgiach, I saw my Tanya lying there in a corner. I asked him how he got it and he tried to dodge the question. I said, ‘The mashgiach has spoken a lot lately about theft
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and here is an outright theft!’ He gave the Tanya back to me. “A relatively quiet period ensued. The shiur with R’ Landau continued and I remained in the yeshiva. You have to understand that the Litvishe approach provides you only with technical know-how but is devoid of feeling. Chassidus provided me and my friends with enthusiasm. I remember how one Thursday night some friends and I were sitting in one of the rooms with plates of steaming chulent, when one of them asked – does anyone have any idea what G-d is and how He looks? “Some said it was forbidden to discuss this and others gave their answers. Sadly, some of the answers cannot even be written here. This intensified the interest of myself and my friends in hashkafa and emuna. When you are raised with Chassidus, you don’t know how fortunate you are. Chabad resolves numerous questions in emuna as a matter of course. “Along with the shiur with R’ Landau, I discovered the Chassidus library near the yeshiva. I would go there every week. One day, at the beginning of 5753, I heard that R’ Mendel Wechter would be giving a shiur in Chassidus there. I went and was hooked. R’ Wechter asked me to bring other boys from yeshiva which I did. Together, we began learning Tanya and Likkutei Torah. “We kept our shiurim with R’ Landau and R’ Wechter a secret, for obvious reasons. The hanhala of the yeshiva was very fearful of Chassidus and it was absolutely forbidden to bring sifrei Chassidus into the yeshiva. “Since our secret was known by many people, it eventually got out. One morning we were discovered by the rosh yeshiva’s brother-in-law who looked shocked. He quickly recovered and began chastising us about learning Tanya which he said was heresy. ‘It says there that a Jew has a neshama which is literally part of G-d. Do you realize what you’re learning?!’ he shouted. ‘Is Hashem something tangible that you can touch?’ “The next day I was called into the rosh yeshiva’s office. He said he knew that I was the one who organized the shiur and he gave me an ultimatum. Either I stopped or I would be expelled from the yeshiva immediately. I tried to defend myself and asked him why they made learning Chassidus into such a serious thing when it was m’chazek me and the others in emuna and yiras Shamayim. That bachurim went to the beach on Fridays to relax was okay but learning Chassidus was not?! “He stuck to his guns and was unwilling to accept what I said. ‘If it doesn’t suit you, you can leave.’ He called my father and told him about the Tanya shiur I organized. My father came to the yeshiva and it was most unpleasant, but I did not agree to forgo learning Chassidus. I told my father that he should tell the rosh yeshiva that Tanya is Torah and if I couldn’t learn the Torah I wanted to learn, I would not stay. I preferred leaving the yeshiva.” he wouldn’t stay in that yeshiva. I tried to calm things down and went to speak to the rosh yeshiva, R’ Moshe Hirsch. He said they did not want to expel Yonasan; they hadn’t really planned on doing that. He said he was a bachur who learned seriously and it would be a pity if he left. “Alas it was too late, because Yonasan was already planning on switching to a Chabad yeshiva. I wanted him to grow up as a Sanzer Chassid. The Lubavitcher Rebbe and Chabad Chassidus were important to me, but I didn’t think he would turn into a fullfledged Lubavitcher. What father doesn’t want his son to follow in his footsteps? I remember seeing the Klausenberger Rebbe at that time and telling him, sadly, that my son had switched to a Chabad yeshiva and had become a Lubavitcher Chassid. The Admur said, ‘They are great people. If I let you read the kvitlach I get from young boys with questions in emuna, you would dance for joy that your son is not only not floundering when it comes to emuna, but is finding his way within Toras Ha’chassidus.’ “I told him that I wanted him to follow me in Sanz but the Admur reassured me. Today, I am happy that my son is doing great things, and in his shlichus he is being mekarev many Yidden. But back then, I found it hard to accept. It’s not easy when things happen and you don’t know where they are going and how they will develop.” R’ Yaakov Moshe Spitzer wanted to share what he heard from his teacher in Kfar Chassidim, R’ Elya Lopian, fifty years earlier, about how the machlokes between Chassidim and Misnagdim is based on error. “R’ Lopian was the ‘R’ Yisroel Salanter’ of the previous
SHOCKING THE FAMILY
R’ Spitzer sat facing his son, listening as though hearing this for the first time. He nodded and said, “I wasn’t pleased by how Yonasan was behaving. I think you can learn in a Litvishe yeshiva and remain a Chassid without rocking the boat. I remember how Yonasan told me that if he wasn’t allowed to learn Tanya,
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generation. When he was 90, he addressed us talmidim and said that what it says in Nefesh HaChayim, Shaar 4, that he went into a shul and did not find Gemaras but only sifrei musar, and that due to our many sins, people learn sifrei yira and musar exclusively and don’t even have one complete set of Shas, and this is not what Hashem wants, and this will result in there not being any talmidei chachomim – all this is in error. Why? Because I visited Sanz, said R’ Lopian, and I met a gaon ba’Torah. “Today, in Litvishe yeshivos, they learn musar and in Chassidishe yeshivos they learn Nigleh. That’s why I did not understand why Yonasan couldn’t remain in yeshiva and continue learning Chassidus. Why did they make him leave? In recent times, unlike previously, there is inclusiveness.” R’ Yaakov Moshe fell silent, looked off into the distance, and then smiled and said, “Nu, that was something that happened in the past. Today, obviously I’m happy about his choice. Heaven brought it about. It’s the root of his neshama.” Upon R’ Landau’s advice, Yonasan began learning in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Migdal HaEmek in the month of Elul. Like in all Chabad yeshivos, during Elul there is an air of anticipation for the trip to the Rebbe for Tishrei. “That Tishrei in Crown Heights, I underwent the final ‘crushing’ on my path to the world of Chassidus. Each farbrengen I attended added another layer to the great joy I felt on my way to becoming a Tamim. Although the physical circumstances were not pleasant, and I had never experienced anything like that before, I was
“I recently met the Ponovezher rosh yeshiva, R’ Dovid Povarsky. He told me that if R’ Wolpo had remained in the Litvishe yeshiva world, he would have been one of the g’dolim and would have gotten a lot of kavod. I told R’ Wolpo what he said and he dismissed it. Nu, what can you do, that’s a Lubavitcher for you ...”
willing to put up with it all, because I felt that I was finally finding what I had been looking for.” Yonasan remembers how shocked his father and other family members were when they realized that he was becoming a Lubavitcher. “Throughout that time, in Slobodka and even before that, my father did not know how deeply connected I felt to Chabad. Maybe that was a good thing, because if he would have known, maybe he would have tried to stop me. It was a shock to him. I remember it well. I remember how one Shabbos my younger brother wanted to join me on a trip to the yeshiva in Migdal HaEmek and at the last minute he did not come along, giving me various excuses. When I asked him later on what the real reason had been, he said my father had forbidden him to go. He was afraid that he too would
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become a Lubavitcher. “My father loves Chabad, but in hindsight, being more mature now, I think that maybe I made the switch with undue drama and this scared him. You need to understand that I wasn’t a Chabadnik who learned in Litvishe yeshivos, but I had become a ‘Lubavitcher’ with everything that goes along with that. “When I would go home from yeshiva, I would bring new practices and explain to my father the proper way of doing things and what Chassidus says about everything. “I would go daven at the Chabad shul in Har Nof and when I would return home, I would see that they had already finished eating. Maybe I should have davened with my father close to home but I didn’t think of that at the time. I was like someone discovering a new and magical world, which made me into a more p’nimius’dike Jew and I didn’t think much about how I was going about it.” chinuch in the frum world is very strongly in favor of isolation. They look askance at going out to the world with all its pitfalls.” R’ Yaakov Moshe Spitzer remembers his reaction about Yonasan’s going on shlichus: “I’ll tell you the truth. At first, the Klausenberger Rebbe was opposed to shlichus. He even spoke against it a number of times. He explained that it wasn’t the way of the Baal Shem Tov, who had his talmidim living in Jewish communities and working within Jewish communities. But in the final fifteen years of his life, he changed his opinion. I once asked him what made him change his mind and he gave me three reasons. “The Admur founded the organizations Mifal HaShas and Kollel HaShas. A certain brilliant young man who came from Russia where he was niskarev by Lubavitch, learned in these programs. This fellow had worked in Russia’s space program. “When the Klausenberger Rebbe visited Yerushalayim, I took care of all the details of his visit. That Russian fellow came over to me and asked to see the Admur. I told him that the Rebbe was very busy, but he insisted and said he was learning Eruvin and he had some questions. When I heard this, I let him in and he spent over an hour there. “When he came out and left, the Admur told me how amazed he was by this young man who until recently did not even know the Alef-Beis, and now he was involved in Eruvin. Later on, he told me that we had to think how many people could be saved and brought to that level of proficiency in learning. He counted this as the first reason for changing his mind about
THE KLAUSENBERGER REBBE WAS AMAZED BY THE SHLUCHIM
Yonasan learned two years in Migdal HaEmek and after a year on K’vutza he went to Australia to learn for smicha. Over there, he was more involved in the world of shlichus. Part of the time he did mivtzaim under the auspices of the Chabad house for Israelis. He found it hard getting used to. “A born and bred Lubavitcher who grows up with shlichus is more exposed to the world. He isn’t fazed by the craziness. It took me time. When my father heard where I was, he simply didn’t know how to take it. The
shlichus. “There was another reason. The Admur lived in Union City, New Jersey, when he was in the US. That is where Gross’ printing press is located. The Gross brothers printed Siddurim and Chumashim and are very well-known in the printing world in America. The Admur lived nearby. Every day, he would meet a group of employees of the printing house at his shul. They learned between Mincha and Maariv. They had the appearance of Jews of fine stature with long beards and who were serious about their learning. “One day, the Admur asked them to come in to see him. He was impressed by their learning and wanted to find out more about them. They told him they worked for Gross, but that wasn’t enough for him. He asked where they came from. Each one began telling about himself. The first one came from Australia where
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known to him. “The Klausenberger Rebbe asked them whether there was a minyan in the city and they said that not only was there a minyan, but the shul also had a mikva and there was a Chabad school too. He saw how a Chassid could be sent to a distant place and not only not be influenced by it, but be the mashpia. “The Klausenberger Rebbe once told me, ‘This approach never was and never will be ours, but I envy the Olam Haba of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.’ In general, the two Admurim thought very highly of one another. Over the years, I heard many words of praise from my Rebbe for the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” he was niskarev by Chabad. The second came from somewhere in the US where he was niskarev by the local shliach, and so on. This amazed the Rebbe and also helped change his approach to the institution of shlichus. “The third reason he told me had to do with the time he was sick and had to undergo open heart surgery in Texas. We told him there was no minyan of religious Jews there so he took along a group of Chassidim. As soon as his entourage debarked, they were greeted by a group of Lubavitchers who all had beards. They said that their Rebbe, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, had sent them a telegram telling them to welcome the Klausenberger Rebbe and to help him in every way possible during his operation and recuperation. The group wondered how the Lubavitcher Rebbe knew about this, but anyone who met the Rebbe knows that everything was
MY FATHER HELPS ME IN MY SHLICHUS
In 5760, after a year and a half on shlichus, R’ Yonasan married Devorah Leah Wolpo, daughter of R’ Sholom Dovber of Kiryat Gat. “I take the blame for my son becoming a Lubavitcher,” said R’ Yaakov Moshe with a smile. “But today I am proud of it. He married the daughter of R’ Wolpo, a mechutan I greatly admire. He is versed in all areas of the Torah. I know few like him. “I recently met the Ponovezher rosh yeshiva, R’ Dovid Povarsky, and he told me that if R’ Wolpo had remained in the Litvishe yeshiva world, he would have definitely been one of the g’dolim and would have gotten a lot of kavod. I told R’ Wolpo what he said and he dismissed it. Nu, what can you do, that’s a Lubavitcher for you ...” R’ Spitzer said it was only in
recent years that he got to know the inner world of Chabad. “I have been learning Tanya for three years with R’ Yaakov Goldschmidt and we recently made a siyum. All these years I wanted to learn Tanya, but couldn’t do it on my own.” R’ Spitzer is happy that he was able to learn it properly and finish it. He recalled how he got to know Chabad as a child. “When we came to Eretz Yisroel in the fifties, we went to the Chabad school that was in a shul named for the Baal HaTanya in Mea Sh’arim. My teacher was R’ Gershon Henoch Cohen, the brother of R’ Avrohom Hirsch, rosh kollel in Kfar Chabad. I remember in 5711, when the Rebbe first took over the nesius, they made a big seuda in the school. Later on, my father switched me to Shomrei Emunim, but apparently those seeds of Chabad grew and reappeared in my son Yonasan, many years later.” Yonasan responded, “My father definitely went through a lot over the years. In the past, he didn’t quite get what mivtzaim are about, but today, what’s hard for him is the idea of going away on shlichus. He wants to know why you can’t do mivtzaim while living within a religious neighborhood. “I must say that my father helps me a lot in my shlichus and I want to publicly thank him for that. This shlichus is different than the shlichus I did in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Yerushalayim. Shlichus on a moshav is more one-on-one. It’s personal and not easy, but our job is to prepare yet another place to greet Moshiach and we do this happily until we will merit to be redeemed with the true and complete Geula.”
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BREAKING THROUGH AN IMPENETRABLE WALL
In the face of the threatened loss of state budget allocations for ultraOrthodox institutions, “Beis Moshiach” Magazine turned to Knesset Member Meir Porush (Yahadut HaTorah), who has been working day and night to minimize the pending damage. In an exclusive pre-Shavuos interview, he spoke with great concern about the dangers, the chances of success, the Bennett-Lapid alliance, and the diplomatic front.
By Sholom Ber Crombie Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
t’s not easy to get hold of Knesset Member Rabbi Meir Porush these days. His busy schedule has been quite full in recent weeks with meetings and discussions on the issue of the serious decrees that the new Netanyahu government is planning to impose upon us. Together with his fellow ultra-Orthodox Knesset Members, he is trying to speak to other legislators, including members of the governing coalition, and find those willing to listen to the pleas of the chareidi community. Dreadful government policy has taken the form of one legislative proposal after another. It began with a bill for compulsory military conscription for yeshiva
students, presented last year during the waning days of the Eighteenth Knesset, and has now progressed with the harsh economic initiatives proposed by the new minister of finance, Yair Lapid. This is compounded by a new decree issued by the minister of education, “Rabbi” Shai Piron, who wants to compel all ultraOrthodox Talmudic institutions to include secular studies in their curriculum. All this is in addition to the proposed changes to the “Arrangements Law,” threatening to cause grave harm to full-time kollel students. At this stage, it appears that the new government is doing everything possible to burn all its bridges with the ultra-Orthodox
communities and strike against them on every front. It is for this very reason that since the beginning of the current parliamentary term, the chareidi MKs haven’t had a free moment to spare as they have been forced to deal with a variety of new schemes designed to undermine the principles of traditional Judaism. When I finally got Rabbi Porush to sit down for a brief interview, he was worried that it would take up a lot of valuable time. He was just then between meetings with several prominent officials in an effort to reach an understanding on the new government policy initiatives. I shared my observation with
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Rabbi Porush that he wasn’t very happy about doing the interview. “Listen,” he replied in a tone of deep concern, “do I have any choice? This is my job. It’s my responsibility to protest against these dangerous edicts.”
EFFORTS TO DESTROY THE WORLD OF TORAH
Do you think that there’s a chance to change something? It seems that no one in this coalition is prepared to listen to the ultra-Orthodox community. The coalition is not in lockstep with Lapid. There are other people in this government with whom we had some excellent working relations in the not too distant or even recent past. They proved to be quite mindful and concerned for the needs of the ultra-Orthodox community. We have to alert these people to the dangers of new decrees, as we find a way to break through the current atmosphere of inflexibility and stem the tide against these policies. Nevertheless, it appears that the legislation against the ultraOrthodox is already on the move. All the proposals thus far have still just been on paper. We have
to penetrate the wall built by the Yesh Atid Party, get Netanyahu and Bennett to pull back from the brink, and stop the religious persecution. What are the main issues confronting you now? There are numerous issues, such as military conscription, the planned assault on kollel students, slashing the yeshiva budgets, and more. We must remember that we still haven’t come to the matter of the state budget, where we can expect to find significant cutbacks in allocations to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and support from the Ministry of Education for yeshivos gedolos and kollelim. According to what they’re saying now, if we don’t provide enough yeshiva bachurim to the army, they will penalize these institutions and their students. We are now in a very difficult situation on all fronts. The government has declared its intention to weaken the country’s yeshiva institutions if they don’t adhere to state-imposed directives on subject matter. The yeshivos k’tanos will suffer if they don’t teach secular studies, and they will cause untold damage to the yeshivos gedolos if they don’t obligate their students to enlist in
the army. As for the kollelim, the government wants to administer a mortal blow to their future existence as well. They announced that kollel students will no longer receive an exemption on paying municipal taxes, and if their wives work while they sit and learn Torah, they will lose their rights to send their children to daycare centers. What do you expect to happen? How do they say it in Lubavitch: “It shall not come about.” That’s what is going to happen. “It is the counsel of G-d that endures.” Are you in touch with representatives of the coalition? I recently spoke with the minister of housing, Uri Ariel, and he says that he wants to help. At least, that’s what he said. I hope that the more sane elements within the coalition will help the policymakers to come to their senses. Sometimes, they simply say one thing and act another way... In any case, we are demanding that they stand ready to help the ultra-Orthodox community, and there are some good people out there who want to do this. You sound optimistic. We learn from experience, and we believe in G-d’s Divine promise that Torah will not be forgotten “from the mouth of your seed and from the mouth of your seed’s seed from now and to eternity.” Today, the government’s objective is to make it impossible for Jews to sit and learn Torah. They are trying this through legislation designed to force chareidim to enlist in the army. By striking against the tools providing for fulltime Torah study, they surmise that if ch”v the government
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assistance will stop, Torah study will decrease. Since we are Jews instilled with a fervent belief in the Alm-ghty, we have complete faith that the Torah of Israel will not be forgotten and no decree can cause harm to the study of Torah. of primary importance to the national religious community. We promised to support the settlements in every Knesset vote, and we were prepared to go the full route in all matters pertaining to the defense of Eretz Yisroel. We would also take action to oppose any possible freeze on the right to build in Yehuda and Shomron. When we were asked about the Shas Party, we told them that if we joined forces, our rabbanim would make a commitment that if a moment of crisis arose, they would go to the Shas Council of Torah Sages and ensure that they would follow the same course of action. We offered Bennett an opportunity to make a genuine alliance with us. Not just for the purpose of entering the coalition, but to work as a unified front on all issues related to the territorial integrity of Eretz Yisroel. In a meeting held at the HaPoel HaMizrachi headquarters in Tel Aviv, he gave us a clear promise that he would join forces with us. But he decided to go with Lapid. I wish to make it clear: If he wanted to join the coalition and receive a senior government post, that’s fine. But not in the prevailing situation with all the critical issues facing us today. Even if he would have said that he needed a political agreement in order to join the coalition, and only Lapid could provide that necessary partnership, I might be able to understand that. However, he easily could have attained his desired goals through an alliance with us. Perhaps you have to make a personal accounting of how the settler population has been ignored over the years? Maybe the time has come for a new strategy regarding the connection to the overall religious community? The prevailing debate is over the decrees that threaten to cause serious harm to the Torah world, and that’s what we have to deal with now. I’m not saying that there’s no room for some more in-depth contemplation in the long term, but now is not the time for that. Perhaps in the near future. For the moment, anyone who wishes to help strengthen Torah study is invited to join the battle. From my vantage point, all those who stand at our side now will find us at his side in any future struggle. Can we expect mass demonstrations in the near future? Will the chareidim be heading out into the streets? I’m not the one who makes the call for such demonstrations. When the time comes, we’ll take the necessary action.
THOSE WHO WORK WITH US, WILL FIND US AT THEIR SIDE
Are you disappointed with Naftali Bennett, who forged a political alliance with Yair Lapid to boycott the ultraOrthodox? If a politician wants to enter the governing coalition, he may choose to do so, even without the ultra-Orthodox, and this doesn’t have to be a cause of concern. However, the guiding principles of this government are known to us all, as is its underlying policy of ill-treatment towards the Torah observant sector. Bennett entered an alliance with Lapid, and together they imposed a political boycott on the chareidim. They didn’t enter the coalition because of us, but they boycotted us and proclaimed that they wouldn’t join a coalition with the ultraOrthodox. This alliance is antichareidi. But he claims that was the only way for him to enter the coalition. He claims that he made the covenant with Lapid in order to protect other issues of considerable importance to him. I want to tell you something: Just prior to the election, I went to see Bennett together with my parliamentary colleagues, Rabbi Uri Maklev and Rabbi Moshe Gafni. We made a firm pledge that if he would form a united bloc with us, we would join the battle on all those issues
DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVES ARE NOT ON THE AGENDA RIGHT NOW
It’s no secret that a sizable percentage of Chabad chassidim voted for Yahadut HaTorah in the recent Knesset elections. I am very pleased that considerable portions of the Chabad community voted for Yahadut HaTorah. I think that this was something very important to Chabad and to Yahadut HaTorah, making it far easier to stand firm on those principles important to the entire Jewish People. Recently, the media reported the existence of a memorandum stating that Yahadut HaTorah would support the dismantling of isolated settlements. As far as I know, no one in an Continued on page 41
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