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WOUNDED SHLIACH: I WANT TO RETURN TO MY SHLICHUS
BEGINS 14 CHINUCH AT HOME
4 D’var Malchus 13 Viewpoint 31 Parsha Thought 34 Moshiach & Geula
AUTHENTIC 22 BRINGING JUDAISM TO RUSSIA’S JEWISH STATE
“ALL THE DOORS ARE OPEN FOR MOSHIACH TO COME”
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MOSHIACH BRINGS THE RIGHTEOUS TO T’SHUVA
The connection between t’shuva and the advent of Moshiach is in the sense that the whole point of Moshiach is to bring about innovation, resulting in an entirely new existence. * Inspiration for t’shuva in the month of Elul.
Translated by Boruch Merkur
The Messianic King plays the unique role of bringing profound and fundamental change to the world, as alluded to in the verse, “and all the descendants of Sheis will be obliterated,” meaning the world [as we have known it, will be “obliterated,” i.e., it will cease to exist as it had up until the Era of Redemption, and it] will undergo a change from its very foundation (the name “Sheis” being etymologically linked with “Even HaSh’siya,” the Foundation Stone upon which the entire world is founded, hosheses). All of Creation will be brand new, a completely new existence, as in the verse, “the new heavens and the new earth.” There is, of course, such a thing as a new structure built upon an old foundation. But a truly new construction is when the base, the foundation (ha’tashtis) of the entire structure is also new. To elaborate: Moshiach corresponds to the level of Yechida [the most inner, essential dimension of the soul]. By extension, all aspects of the Messianic Era stem from the
[general] aspect of Yechida. Thus, with regard to Torah, in the Era of Redemption there will be the fulfillment of the testimony, “A new Torah shall be issued forth from Me,” meaning not just that we shall have deeper insight into Torah but something entirely new will be established in Torah, something connected with the aspect of Yechida. Indeed, this profound innovation in Torah, at the level of Yechida, has an impact on the entirety of the world’s existence. It is said, “He looked into the Torah and created the world.” Thus, when G-d looks into “a new Torah,” the automatic result is “the new heavens and the new earth.” On this basis we can formulate a lesson in our service of G-d: Since the accomplishments of Melech HaMoshiach will be truly innovative (both with regard to Torah and as a result of that, also with regard to the existence of the world), it is understood that this applies also to our deeds and service to evoke and
hasten the advent of Moshiach. Namely, our approach must be specifically in a manner of fundamental innovation. It does not suffice to add to yesterday’s service of G-d, exceeding our former spiritual achievements incrementally. Rather, our entire approach to serving G-d must undergo profound innovation, resulting in a new structure, as it were, established upon and emerging from a new foundation, literally new. With this idea in mind we can shed light on the saying, “Moshiach comes to bring the righteous to do t’shuva,” connecting the service of t’shuva with the coming of Moshiach. With regard to the impact of t’shuva, it is explained in several places that through t’shuva a person becomes an entirely new being, for which reason there is no basis for exacting punishment, etc., for this is not the same person who sinned but an entirely new individual. Hence, the connection between t’shuva and the advent of Moshiach is in the sense that the whole point of Moshiach is to bring about innovation, resulting in an entirely new existence.
(From the address of Shabbos Parshas Balak 5744)
4 � • 3 Elul 5773
Boruch Hashem, Elul 5770 5773
jhanv lkn r"unst e"f ,uthab ,j,
P .O.B. 288 Brooklyn, New York 11225
URG REQ ENT UES T! HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES ANXIOUSLY LOOKING FORWARD FOR YOUR GENEROUS ASSISTANCE!
To every member of the Lubavitcher community:
During this month of preparation for Rosh Hashonoh, the ”head” of the New Year, we fondly recall our Rebbe’s words that this is an especially auspicious time for strengthening our deep bond of Hiskashrus with the ”Rosh Bnei Yisroel,” the ”head” of the Jewish people and leader of the generation. Our Rebbeim explain that an important way to strengthen Hiskashrus is by participating in an organization is Kupas Rabbeinu, which seeks to continue many of the Rebbe’s activities and concerns without change from the way he would conduct them himself.
the Rebbe’s activities and concerns, consequently, by supporting an organization that brings together a number of these activities, the Hiskashrus is greater and stronger. Such
Every year at this time, the Rebbe would call upon us to contribute generously to help needy families with their extra expenses for the coming month’s many Yomim Tovim. This also coincides with the special emphasis during this month of giving extra Tzedokah, (indicated in the Hebrew letters of the word ”Elul,” as explained in many Sichos etc.), as a vital way of preparing ourselves for the new year and arousing Divine mercy upon us. See sicho in the Hebrew text of this letter. We therefore appeal to every individual man and woman to contribute generously to Kupas Rabbeinu, enabling us to fulfill the Rebbe’s desire to help all those who anxiously await our help. The greater your contribution, the more we can accomplish. Please do not forsake them! Your generous contribution to Kupas Rabbeinu will be the appropriate vessel for receiving the abundant blessings of the Rebbe, who is its Nasi, that you may be blessed with a Ksiva Vachasima Tova for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually. May it help to bring the full revelation of Moshiach - our Rebbe - immediately now! Wishing you a Ksiva Vachasima Tova for a good and sweet year,
In the name of Vaad Kupas Rabbeinu Rabbi Sholom Mendel Simpson Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner
P.S. Of course, you may send to Kupas Rabbeinu all contributions that you would send to the Rebbe; all will be devoted to the activities to which the Rebbe would devote them. You may also send Maimad, Keren-Hashono (this coming year 5771 - 385 5774 – 385 days), Vov Tishrei, Yud Gimmel Tishrei Magbis etc. to Kupas Rabbeinu. P.S. Please send all correspondence only to the following address. KUPAS RABBEINU / P.O.B. 288 / BROOKLYN, NEW YORK 11225 Eretz Yisroel address: KEREN KUPAS ADMU"R / P.O.B. 1247 / KIRYAT MALACHI / ISRAEL
I WANT TO RETURN TO MY SHLICHUS
When the shliach in Dagestan, R’ Ovadia Isakov, returned home after sh’chita late at night, an assailant lay in wait and shot him. The Chabad community around the world was shocked by the news and said T’hillim for the critically injured shliach. * The shliach was airlifted to Eretz Yisroel and boruch Hashem, he is doing much better.
By Nosson Avrohom
6 � • 3 Elul 5773
Derbent, a city in Dagestan which is near Islamic Chechnya, was asleep. Darkness shrouded the streets and old ramshackle houses. In Derbent, where crime rules, nobody wants to be the address for an errant bullet or even a deliberate one. People are indoors. Rabbi Ovadia Isakov, shliach of the Rebbe here for the past nine years, had finished shechting chickens in a slaughterhouse several hours away from his home. At 11 o’clock at night he drove up near his house. He parked his car and as he walked toward his house, he noticed someone he did not recognize waiting for him on the steps of his building. Despite the darkness, he could see that the person was a Moslem. R’ Ovadia wasn’t particularly nervous. He was tired from the day’s exertion. He had no way of knowing that he was heading into the clutches of an anti-Semite. When he was ten meters away from his house, the stranger began walking toward him. Another few seconds passed and the man drew out his gun and shot R’ Isakov in the chest, aiming for his heart. R’ Isakov instinctively swiveled which in retrospect is probably what saved his life. The assailant shot one bullet and hit the shliach in the right side of his chest, near the liver. R’ Isakov had the presence of mind to run toward the joint courtyard with the neighbors and began screaming for help. The assailant pursued him with his weapon drawn, wanting to finish him off, G-d forbid. When windows began opening though, he was frightened and ran away. R’ Isakov was conscious all this time and told the neighbors what had happened.
R’ Isakov in his hospital bed in Petach Tikva
The neighbors called the police and emergency services who arrived quickly. Before he lost consciousness, R’ Isakov managed to provide the police with a description of his attacker who had not worn a mask. Throughout this time, Mrs. Isakov was home with the children and did not hear what was going on outside. In an exclusive interview with Beis Moshiach, through an interpreter, his wife said that because of the noise of the air conditioners and the closed windows, she did not hear her husband’s screams and maybe it was better that way. She is a refined, gentle person whose close friends say was always afraid to live in their place of shlichus, but followed her husband in her desire to be in the Rebbe’s army. In the primitive hospital in Derbent, the doctors did all they could to save R’ Isakov’s life. They knew that the hemorrhaging in the stomach area had to be
stopped; otherwise his life was in immediate danger. They brought him in for surgery. It would take hours before the story of the attack would be seen and heard on the news in Russia and Eretz Yisroel. The news swiftly made its way to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, led by R’ Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia and the Rebbe’s shliach. It was decided that a team of Israeli doctors would be flown in so as to take R’ Isakov to a modern hospital in Eretz Yisroel. Time was working against the shliach and the chances of his recovering depended on professional treatment. The doctors in Derbent classified his condition as critical with immediate danger to life, which made the intervention by an advanced medical team a necessity. The news spread. Children in camps said T’hillim for him. Lubavitchers around the world worriedly followed the news and everyone hoped for the shliach’s recovery.
Issue 891 • �
time, it was Ovadia’s turn to be surprised. What threads was the man talking about? He decided to pay a visit to a beis midrash, “a place where Jews learn” in Moscow. He sat down on the side and listened to a class given by a man he did not know. The man was Rabbi Berel Lazar who saw how interested the art student was and urged him to go to Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim there in Moscow. From there, he went to the Chabad yeshiva in Kiryat Malachi. His wife Miriam attended Beis Chana in Dnepropetrovsk. After they married, they went on shlichus to Derbent, the place he knew so well. He quickly took over the running of Jewish life and was recognized as the leader. After getting a taste of the big city of Moscow and Eretz Yisroel and living in modern civilization, it wasn’t easy returning to Derbent to live. Dagestan is a beautiful place, a land of mountains and picturesque towns. If not for its corrupt government, Dagestan could easily have a booming tourist based economy due to its natural gifts. But Dagestan has a problem. It is incredibly derelict. There is not even a single hotel in the whole country. Its infrastructure is crumbling and the roads are in complete disrepair. If that wasn’t enough, the awful security situation is enough to scare off tourists. Most residents of Dagestan are Moslem. In the marketplaces of Derbent, the typical greeting is “Salaam-Alaikum.” Once communism disappeared, mosques were built all over the country and in the evening you can hear the cry of the muezzin echoing in the streets. Walking around in Derbent is like entering a time machine and returning to a different era. The streets are filthy, cracked and full of potholes. The houses, cars and people are covered in sticky Caucasus mud. Tough looking men in black, with stocking caps, congregate on the street corners and draw suspicious glares. The danger increases at night when the streets are shrouded in darkness. There are no street lamps in Derbent. And yet, R’ Isakov chose this place as his place of shlichus, in order to ignite the spark of Judaism and turn it into a roaring fire. In an interview that he previously gave to Mishpacha, he was asked how he is able to live under such wretched conditions. What gives him the strength? “The Rebbe taught us that the way to get close to G-d is by helping others, so we are here. My wife is a preschool teacher and our children are role models of how Jewish children should look, how to behave in shul, how to say a bracha, and how to learn Torah. With our presence here, we are making an important contribution to the spiritual flourishing of the community.” R’ Isakov has been able to slowly build the community from the foundation. The high point for the community has been the building of the Jewish Center. The Dagestani media called the event a “historic occasion,” when it took place two years ago in the capitol city of Makhachkala. The inauguration of the Jewish Center, which includes a beautiful shul, a mikva, a preschool, a Jewish museum, a library, guest rooms, a soup kitchen, a kosher restaurant, a hall for events, and more, was most impressive. The Jewish community building in Derbent is like a miniature world onto itself, a
BUILDING UP THE COMMUNITY
Derbent, the second largest city in Dagestan, has a population of 100,000 out of which 300 families are Jewish. In 1991, their numbers were ten times as large. Most Jews left for Eretz Yisroel and the United States. How did R’ Isakov end up in this faraway place? The answer is simpler than the question. R’ Isakov was born in Derbent and raised in the era of communism by Jewish parents. He spent his childhood without any knowledge of Judaism. His artistic abilities attracted notice and he was awarded a scholarship by the Russian Academy of Art in Moscow. It was a valuable scholarship for six years of study. He knew he was Jewish but in his great ignorance he thought that Jews are a type of Christian, a lower class of Christian. One day, the teacher who taught art and drawing introduced him to guests as one of the best up-and-coming Moslem artists. Ovadia said, “I’m not Moslem. I’m Jewish.” The teacher gave him a look and replied, “If you are a Jew, where are your threads?” This
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sort of Jewish Noah’s ark that is disconnected from the Dagestani sludge outside. On the first floor is the mikva. On the next floor is the shul and offices. On the top floor is the preschool, the only Jewish school in Dagestan as of now. On the top floor are the guest rooms as well as a kosher kitchen that provides cooked food for the preschool children and for community events. A private plane with a delegation of three dignitaries left Moscow for the capitol of Dagestan in honor of the celebration. The Republic of Dagestan hosted the delegation with the honor it deserved. The president’s deputy greeted R’ Lazar as soon as he landed and in a long, armored convoy, they set out for the city. When a mezuza was put up on the doorway of the new building, the new president of Dagestan was there. He had chosen this event as the first one he would attend in his new position. The addition of three new Sifrei Torah to the shul, with great pomp, added to the excitement. The president was most impressed by the beauty of the new building and expressed his amazement to the participants of the event. The event was covered by all the Russian media and made a huge Kiddush Hashem. It raised the level of respect for Jews all over the former Soviet Union. Most astonishing is the fact that the building of the Jewish Center was funded entirely by the local community. The community in Derbent has awoken from its long sleep of decades, and in recent years has leaped forward. “Members of the local community paid to renovate the old shul and turn it into a magnificent Jewish Center,” said
He knew he was Jewish but in his great ignorance he thought that Jews are a type of Christian, a lower class of Christian.
joined by the Kuzarim, the large Jewish kingdom that existed there 1300 years ago.
R’ Isakov at that time. “In other places, you have to get donors on board to pay for a building as beautiful as this, while here, in the distant Caucasus, the locals have paid for it entirely on their own.” In order to appreciate the magnitude of this generosity, you have to dig a bit deeper to the roots of this Caucasian Jewish community. Dagestan is a mountain area in the northern Caucasus Mountains, and since the dismantling of the Soviet Union, it has enjoyed full autonomy. Like its neighbor Chechnya, its population is primarily Moslem with a small but growing radical fringe. They say that the Jewish settlement in Dagestan began in the time of the Babylonian empire. According to the tradition of Dagestani Jews, the first Jews arrived in the area during the Assyrian exile, following the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash. They were
Derbent, on the Caspian Sea, stands out among Dagestan’s cities with its breathtaking scenery. It is a short distance from Iran and Chechnya. The history of the city is thousands of years old as you can see in its large, fortified walls, which in their better days also protected the tens of thousands of Jewish families that lived there. For many years, the Jews of Derbent lived religious lives. There were dozens of shuls, schools and mikvaos in every city until the communist decrees cut the links in the glorious chain of generations. In the 1930’s, every third person in Derbent was Jewish. There were about 30,000 Jews in the city and dozens of shuls and schools. The last school in the city was closed in 1937 under communist government pressure.
Issue 891 • �
Over the years, the Jews left, died, or disappeared. The Jews of Derbent underwent three major demographic crises. The first was in World War II, when 900 Jews were killed fighting the Germans. The second crisis occurred around the year 1972, when the Iron Curtain opened a bit and thousands of Jews took the opportunity to leave for Eretz Yisroel. The third crisis occurred in 1992-1994 when nearly everybody else left. Unlike Russia, observant Jews here were not persecuted as long as they were discreet about their religiosity. There were always rabbanim in the city but there wasn’t Jewish chinuch, because it was forbidden by the government. That is how a generation grew up whose only Jewish awareness came from the practices they saw at home. Up until recently, young local Jews had no idea what Torah or Shabbos is. And yet, the Jewish spark within the Jews of Derbent had not gone out entirely. Jews kept up regular secret minyanim with mesirus nefesh. They ran shiurim and arranged for clandestine kosher slaughter. The Rebbe Rayatz sent R’ Simcha Gorodetzky and R’ Shmaryahu Sasonkin there and the two worked diligently to strengthen Yiddishkait. In later years, following the great emigration from the CIS to Eretz Yisroel, the situation changed so that hardly any rabbanim and spiritual leaders remained throughout Dagestan. The first change for the better began about ten years ago when R’ Ovadia Isakov returned to the country as a shliach and began to restore its Jewish character. Since he came, there are minyanim and plenty of shiurim. He also started a preschool and kosher sh’chita; he conducts funerals and takes care of whatever is needed in a Jewish community. The list of tasks that are on R’ Isakov’s shoulders is never ending. He is the rabbi, responsible for the mikva, responsible for the kosher food that comes from Moscow, he makes shidduchim and when necessary, buries the dead. He is also the chazan, gabbai, baal koreh, darshan, memorial services leader, teacher, and he visits the sick, looks out for the elderly, and brings Jews back to the fold. Additionally, he is a talmid chacham and Chassid, and is a husband and father of four children. Oh, and he is also the shochet who shechts hundreds of chickens for the community. which is where I met him. Both of us learned in the kollel in Moscow.” When R’ Lifshitz heard about the attack, he was shocked. “I knew instantly who it was and rushed to call the embassy in Moscow. I asked them to do all they could to save him and to make sure he was not left alone. They said they knew about it already and someone was taking care of the matter. I was extremely anxious because we knew he was seriously injured. We who were born and raised in Russia know how things work there. In places far from Moscow, it seems as though the communist regime still rules. People can simply disappear, and the medical services there are not ideal, to say the least.” R’ Lifshitz said his wife tried numerous times to reach her friend, in vain, which made them exceedingly nervous. “Those few hours were extremely tense. When she finally managed to get through, my wife only became more nervous. The shlucha was very confused and was not speaking coherently.”
R’ Eliyahu Lifshitz, one of R’ Isakov’s good friends who lives in the Chabad community in Tzfas, tells of those nerve-wracking hours. “For the last five years, the Isakov family has spent time, every so often, in Tzfas,” said R’ Lifshitz. R’ Isakov visited them regularly. “He would come to visit and then return to his place of shlichus. He takes care of his community as he does his own family. Despite the major hardships, he is unwilling to leave and look for a replacement.” One of the main reasons the family stays in Tzfas is their children’s chinuch. “In his place of shlichus, he is the only one who can teach them. There is no school and no teacher or tutor. He is the only religious Jew. His wife is a close friend of my wife. Both of them learned in Moscow,
THANKS TO HASHEM’S KINDNESS
After all the arrangements were made, cutting through lots of bureaucratic red tape thanks to connections that Lev Leviev and other highly placed people in Eretz Yisroel and Russia have, a private plane left Eretz Yisroel with advanced medical equipment, a surgeon, a paramedic and an emergency care doctor. The plane flew directly to Makhachkala, being paid for by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia. They knew that the faster they got there, the higher the chances of saving the shliach’s life. A
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Russian helicopter was waiting, at the service of the medical team, and it rushed them to the hospital where the shliach was located. That saved them a trip of 200 kilometers to the hospital and back. The Dagestani doctors helped the members of the delegation in every way. “We flew him by helicopter to the airport and within 3-4 hours were already in Eretz Yisroel,” said Dr. Ilia Kagan, who brought R’ Isakov to Eretz Yisroel and is treating him in Beilinson hospital. He reported that the shliach was in critical but stable condition. “His life is still in danger, but we are optimistic. He is undergoing exams and operations. “It was a complicated flight with the rabbi still unconscious and on a respirator. Throughout the flight, the medical team did not stop caring for him for a minute,” said Mati Goldstein, head of the Magen division of the Zaka emergency service team, whose plane it was. “An ambulance that waited near the runway whisked him away to the hospital in Petach Tikva.” Miraculously, before Shabbos, the doctors announced that R’ Isakov was doing better. The irreligious media called the enormous improvement a miracle. The reporter for Channel 2 said, “The doctors say the rabbi’s improvement is thanks to professional treatment, but I’m telling you, as someone who has been following this story, that this is an open miracle.” The Jewish Federation of Communities in the CIS announced to the media on Erev Shabbos: “Thanks to G-d’s kindness, the complex operation to save the shliach’s life went unusually well. The senior doctor said that they managed to stop the bleeding in
R’ Ovadia Isakov on Chanuka with children in Dagestan
According to the tradition of Dagestani Jews, the first Jews arrived in the area during the Assyrian exile, following the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash.
the liver, and the function of the internal organs that were injured is satisfactory. His general appearance is much improved. The shliach is fully conscious now and is talking with the bachurim whom we sent to stay with him over Shabbos. The family thanks all the Chassidim and the shluchim, among all of Klal Yisroel, for their prayers.” The shliach’s family was flown from Derbent to Moscow on Thursday and spent Shabbos with the Chabad community there. On Monday afternoon they flew to Eretz Yisroel to visit their father and husband who is recovering from the operation. Another dramatic improvement began on Sunday when R’ Isakov was transferred from the ICU to a regular department. Dr. Kagan told a press conference that “the rabbi is fully conscious and his current condition is light to moderate.” R’ Isakov was able to speak
Chief Rabbi Dovid Lau visiting the wounded shliach. R’ Yaakov Glauberman is in the middle.
and told a little bit about what happened to him. “Things like this are always happening. On Sukkos, they threw a bomb at the mikva which is near the shul; they threw a big rock at our house and now this.” He said that he and his family do not live in fear because they are used to life in the city. He even said he wants to return to his shlichus. “There is a good community there and many
Issue 891 • �
THE NEW CHIEF RABBI PROMISED TO VISIT DAGESTAN
R’ Isakov has been visited by a nonstop stream of high level visitors. The first to visit him was the newly elected Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Dovid Lau. R’ Lau’s good friend, the Chassidic askan, R’ Yaakov Glauberman, accompanied him. The latter told Beis Moshiach that R’ Lau himself asked him to arrange a visit even before he knew of the improvement in R’ Isakov’s condition. “The story of the attack on the shliach touched him and he felt he must visit him,” said R’ Glauberman. “I want to strengthen you in the continuation of your shlichus,” said R’ Lau to the shliach emotionally. “After you recover and return to your place of shlichus, I will come and visit you,” he promised. R’ Isakov’s family told R’ Lau that on Motzaei Shabbos, R’ Isakov asked to be told a story of the Baal Shem Tov, as is customary at a Chassidic Melaveh Malka. This moved R’ Lau and all others present. T’hillim should still be said for speedy recovery of Ovadia ben Zahava Chaya. Those who would like to make a donation to the shliach’s work can make a deposit to the account in Bank HaDoar, in the name of Chaya Miriam and Ovadia Isakov, account #23237969. Update: Only one week and two days after he was shot and critically wounded in an attack near his home in Derbent, Rabbi Ovadia Isakov was released from the hospital on Sunday.
families and someone has to work with them.”
In the meantime, the Dagestani police are working to catch the perpetrator or the organization that sent him. “He has lived there for nine years already. Nobody knows why this happened. It’s a very Islamist area and I am afraid it’s connected with that,” said the shliach, R’ Boruch Gorin, spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. This is not the first antiSemitic act that R’ Isakov has experienced. Until now, the incidents involved property. Two years ago, a rock was thrown into his bedroom when he and his family were home. The Jewish community was attacked that same week when hoodlums broke the windows of the nearby shul. The Moslem community in the area has grown and in recent years has been augmented by Al Qaeda radicals whom the Russians have been fighting unsuccessfully. Despite attempts by the government to show that the city is tolerant of all religions,
it seems as though the tolerance for Jews has reached an all-time low. The Jews of the community hope that perhaps now, after what happened, the government will properly address the issue. After diplomatic efforts and the intervention of the shliach, R’ Aharon Gurewitz, who is the head Jewish chaplain of the Russian army, the local police is making great efforts to locate the attacker. R’ Gurewitz met with the local police in Dagestan. He remained in Derbent on Shabbos in order to support the Jewish community and the mekuravim of the Chabad house who were in shock over the shooting of their beloved rabbi. The president of the Republic of Dagestan told R’ Gurewitz that he instructed security forces to make every effort to capture the assailant and to find who backed him, if it turns out this was organized terror whose purpose is to harm Jews. He affirmed his commitment to enable full freedom of religion and guaranteed the full freedom of open, Jewish activity without fear.
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By Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz
In the struggle between the Divine and the animalistic within us, one of the most crucial battlegrounds is the arena of meditative prayer. Often dismissed as a pastime reserved for the religiously devout, prayer is so central to healthy spirituality and the conquering of the human condition that it alone can be the deciding factor that tips the scales one way or another. Ignoring this mysterious practice, or even approaching it in the wrong way, casts a long shadow of doubt on our ability to grow spiritually at all. Central to any spiritual ideology is the goal of becoming more aware. Prayer, simply speaking, means that we take some time out of our day to meditate about who we are, where we come from, who created us, and for what purpose we are alive. The goal is to get our priorities straight, and then live life according to these ideals – without succumbing to the dictates of societal pressures, material necessity or passing temptations. Prayer itself generates a heightened sense of awareness, which affects our daily conduct, and our ability to be selfdisciplined and remain true to our ideals. That’s why the ideal time for prayer is first thing in the morning. The morning is a seed that grows and dictates what the day ahead will look like; how we spend our mornings is a statement about what is important
in our lives. When we start the day focused on the transcendent, zeroing in on the Divine and the purpose of existence, then that focus is transplanted into our daily activities. We become kinder, more sensitive and more spiritually aware throughout the day. Our pursuit of material gain and pleasure suddenly take a back seat to the quest for truth and spiritual enlightenment. We become focused on what is truly important – helping others, spending time with family, being good to ourselves, and gaining wisdom. Granted, effective prayer requires a conscious investment of the self, and cannot be accomplished by mumbling the words by rote. Aside from the fact that we insult G-d (and ourselves) by making light of our relationship, if the meditative aspect of prayer is missing, then the entire activity actually becomes destructive. Instead of achieving a higher level of
awareness and refinement, this type of prayer actually causes us to be less aware and less refined, since we start off the day by making a statement that spirituality is not important – we’ve got more important things to do (gotta get to work, ya know). And so the day – and life – that follows becomes a haze of mixed priorities and missed opportunities. Meditative prayer is, in a sense, the root of all kindness and spiritual activism. When we pray thoughtfully, we are being good to ourselves by amplifying the role of the soul in our lives, which helps us overcome challenges and sets our priorities straight by making spirituality the focus of life. This helps us live more peaceful, meaningful and fulfilling lives, improving our own lives and those of the people around us, and, by extension, the entire world.
Reprinted with permission from Exodus Magazine
Issue 891 • �
CHINUCH BEGINS AT HOME
With the new school year around the corner, we spoke with R’ Yisroel David, a guidance counselor in the Chabad elementary school in the Krayot. We asked a lot of questions and were happy to hear answers from someone with plenty of chinuch experience. To his credit, he did not avoid a single question, not even the tough ones.
By Nosson Avrohom Photos by Pinchas Pizem
Yisroel David has been in the field of chinuch for nearly forty years. He started out as a teacher, and in the past decade he has become a school guidance counselor. He is quite successful in this role in the Chabad elementary school in Kiryat Shmuel. Teachers and principals from many other schools also consult with him and benefit from his years of experience. R’ David is known as an excellent speaker. His approach is to set aside the conflicts and
varying opinions, preferring to focus on issues of substance. In chinuch there are no magical incantations; if you ask R’ David he would tell you that he expects parents to be much more involved in their children’s chinuch. As far as he is concerned, parental involvement is most of the solution to everything challenging in the field. Those who know him know that he champions hard work, the kind that doesn’t allow for taking the easy way out. He is not taking the responsibility away
from the school, but is providing a wake-up call to a key force in the educational futures of our children. “It often happens that we see problematic behavior in children, and when we meet the parents we see where the problem is coming from. When a child goes to school and has a hard time toeing the line, then it’s obvious that at home he is not expected to toe the line.” What is the role of a teacher? What is the role of the parents?
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Issue 891 • �
How can we prevent the dropping out syndrome and how can we identify it in its nascent stage? These are some of the questions we asked R’ David.
RABBI YISROEL DAVID
LOVE IS NOT A CONTRADICTION TO SETTING BOUNDARIES
Today there is a lot of talk about love in chinuch; with all that love, are the boundaries lost? It’s a matter of balancing boundaries and love. You can set boundaries lovingly. Setting boundaries in the proper way is important and helps the child himself. A parent who does not set boundaries does not necessarily love his children even if he says loving things. Boundaries provide children with security. There is no recipe about how to combine the two; it’s different depending on the parent. Every parent has his red lines. I know parents who are extremely particular yet whose children love them very much; they feel secure with them. I also know parents who are more liberal, whose children don’t feel loved; on the contrary. So it very much depends on the personality of each parent. What’s clear is that a balance is needed between the compliments and love that we, as parents and teachers, shower on the children and students, and setting limits that ultimately help the children and make them feel secure. There needs to be distance between a student and a teacher, between a child and his parents. A teacher or parent is most definitely not the child’s friend. In setting limits there is the “asei” and the “lo saasei.” When we punish a child and rebuke him, we always speak about their actions and not about them. We don’t say, “You troublemaker,” or “You chutzpinyak.” Instead we say, “That was the wrong thing
THE ROLE OF THE GUIDANCE COUNSELOR
After years of teaching, R’ David was asked by the principal, R’ Avrohom Pizem, to become the guidance counselor in his school. What is the role of the guidance counselor? The definition of the job is “concern and responsibility for the emotional health of the staff and the students.” I would add, “And the parents.” As counselors, we need to identify the strengths as well as the weaknesses of our students and to come up with ways of improving, helping or even treating them. I always say that a counselor is like a doctor in the emergency room. He provides the initial diagnosis and advises the teachers and parents. The tasks include meetings, talking with students, evaluations, and filling out of forms. In addition to the clerical work, there is a lot of thought that goes into every decision, the looking for solutions, and mainly a lot of responsibility. As far as how a Lubavitcher guidance counselor is unique, well, with a Chabad chinuch of Ahavas Yisroel and genuine caring for every Jew, his ability to be accepting and tolerant of, and unwillingness to give up on, any child, is far greater than it would be otherwise. We are trained in our hashkafos to look inside at the neshama, and in this way, the work to ensure that every child remains within the school system is far greater.
R’ David was born in Haifa in a Mizrachi home. He finished high school and then studied education in Kiryat Noar (Boys Town) in Bayit Vegan. He was drafted, and after serving three years in the army he began working in the field of education, at first in a yeshiva high school in Miron and then in a yeshiva in Nahariya. In 5735 he married, and the David family moved to Kfar Chassidim. A year later, they moved back to Haifa and settled in Kiryat Shmuel where he was one of the pillars of the young religious-Zionist community. There is where he first encountered Chabad Chassidus, thanks to a Tanya shiur given by the shliach R’ Yigal Pizem. “I was exposed to the depth of Judaism which I had not been aware of before, and it fascinated me. I didn’t miss a single shiur and R’ Pizem knew how to present the deepest concepts in a way that we could grasp it.” Then he met R’ Reuven Dunin and began attending his farbrengens. Shortly afterward, he became a Lubavitcher Chassid himself. In 5743 he wrote his first letter to the Rebbe, and in Tishrei 5746 he went to the Rebbe for the first time. “I felt I had come home.”
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to do,” or “What you said was chutzpadik.” The child knows the difference, and it is extremely important. We do not seek to set in stone the bad thing he did. When we tell a child, “You are the problem,” then what motivation will he have to do better the next time? He will think, “If I am a troublemaker, then why do they expect me to act differently?” In a certain school there was a teacher who did not get along with a student. He was a veteran teacher who saw red when he saw this student and the student acted accordingly. The student hated the teacher and constantly disturbed the class. Any day that the student was absent was a reason for the teacher to celebrate. It reached the point where the teacher told the principal, “It’s either me or him.” I sat down with the parents and the teacher. In that school, there are no parallel classes to the one the child was in, and I gave them two options. Either he could go up a grade or down a grade. In the end, we decided to put him up a grade. The staff prepared the two classes for the change and he was promoted. He did amazingly well and his father told me later on that once again his son was happy to go to school. The lesson here is that sometimes the fault is not the student’s but ours. We stigmatize a child and find it hard to drop our negative view. The child senses whether we are pleased with him or not. Neither a parent nor a teacher can ever allow himself to feel that a child offends him personally.
R’ Yisroel David receiving Kos Shel Bracha from the Rebbe MH”M
One of the advantages of the teachings of Chassidus is that those who learn it can change their middos. I expect those who consider themselves to be Chassidim to make progress and not remain stuck.
how to set clear boundaries. We are always talking to parents and explaining how to do this. There is a problem in this generation in that parents are perpetually busy trying to survive financially, and many of them don’t have the mental focus to handle their children and to be consistent with them. However, even that is a far cry from totally caving in to the child. A child cannot get whatever he wants, even if he employs all sorts of manipulation. He does that to test us. A third grader comes to school with a high end cell phone. I ask the mother why he needs it. She says she doesn’t want him to feel that he’s the only one without it. If he has a cell phone, he can call home whenever he feels lonely. What nonsense! The mother
THE PARENTS AND THE SCHOOL
How involved, if at all, should parents be with what is
going on at school? That’s a complicated subject. I think that chinuch, for the most part, begins and ends at home. The child who goes to school with no limits set at home will behave in school the same way he does at home. Based on the way a child behaves in school, I can readily know what is going on at home. Even if a parent tells me that everything is fine at home, I don’t believe him. Teaching boundaries begins at home. Parents must understand that limits convey security, love and caring. Don’t be afraid to impose limits. A child without limits is like a child walking on the edge of a roof without a railing. He will be constantly nervous about falling. It is critical that parents know
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is so diverse and broad; there is whom to ask, whom to consult with. Be one of those who seek to learn and know. What about children who are not doing well in the classroom and need help, but whose parents blame the school? It’s a big problem that every school deals with. We do our best to explain things to parents, but if they don’t want to hear it, there is not much we can do. Sometimes we are torn because we see what the child is going through and we know what can help him, but the parents are in denial. Sometimes, I find myself pleading with parents to save their child. There are cases where we know that a child belongs in a special education classroom, but the parents refuse. I respect where they’re coming from, but disagree with them. We had a student who was dyslexic. He was in fifth grade already when the parents finally “got it,” and agreed to put him in a specialed class. A teacher in a regular classroom does not have the wherewithal and the training to deal with the problem, and this child had lost out on five years. He was close to bar mitzva age and had zero self-confidence. With the parents’ agreement, he was sent to a lower grade class. He made progress every day and did very well. A while ago, I went to daven in a certain shul and whom did I see going to the amud? That same boy.
A TEACHER’S TEN COMMANDMENTS
As a school guidance counselor, R’ David wrote up ten principles for us, for teachers. “A teacher who reads this and can answer yes to all of them is what I consider a professional teacher who is doing a fine job. If a teacher cannot answer yes to all of them, I invite him or her to think about it and improve.” 1) Do you love your students like your own children? Not half-love or unconditional love, but genuine love? 2) Do you know your students well? What does his home look like? Where does he sleep? Who are his parents? What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses? 3) Do you find the time to talk with your students about matters having nothing to do with what you teach? I’m talking about conversations outside of class time and about subjects that are not directly related to class studies. 4) Do you enlist the parents to work with you? Parents who see eye-toeye with the teacher are a tremendous help. 5) Are you always prepared? Even experienced teachers have to review what they teach, prepare and change things from the way it was taught previously. 6) Are you knowledgeable in the material that you teach? Do you have more than a superficial grasp of the material so that you can give a lesson on more than one level? 7) Do you make an effort to keep the lessons fresh and exciting so the students are focused and their interest doesn’t wane? 8) Do you say encouraging words to your students? Children, certainly young ones, must receive a lot of attention and encouragement on a daily basis. If you give compliments, they must be genuine. 9) Do you adjust the material to the level of the class? It is possible that last year you had a class on a higher or lower level. 10) Do you set limits and have clear rules and enforce them? It is the last principle but the most important. The rules need to be few in number and the students need to know that they are engraved in stone. simply didn’t withstand the pressure he exerted on her. Today it’s a cell phone, and tomorrow it will be something bigger. Parents tell me, “But my child was crying...” I say to them, so what? Set boundaries today so that tomorrow you won’t be the ones who are crying! Generations do change you know … We learn and grow. We don’t stay the same. That is true for teachers, true for parents, and true for children. If you don’t know how to go about it, learn, ask, and consult. One of the advantages of the teachings of Chassidus is that those who learn it can change their middos. I expect those who consider themselves to be Chassidim to make progress and not remain stuck. We shouldn’t be frightened by the fact that our children are savvier than we are when it comes to technology and they know things that we are clueless about. We would have a clue if we put in the effort to learn. The job of school guidance counselor today
WHY DO CHILDREN FROM “GOOD HOMES” ALSO EXPERIENCE UPHEAVALS
How can we expect children to concentrate all day in school, and how can we protect them when they are exposed to endless enticements?
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R’ Yisroel David (center) with the staff of the school
That’s a million dollar question which all schools, Chabad and not Chabad, are dealing with. Today we know that even in schools that have only Lubavitcher children, the situation is far from satisfactory. Children come with stories and experiences from home that don’t necessarily fit with what we are teaching them in school, which is why I repeat that the most important thing is the home. The home is the foundation. If the home is healthy and loving and if the home cooperates with the school, the child won’t seek emotional reinforcement in other places. When a child feels good, he doesn’t look for love and attention elsewhere. A child naturally copies his parents. He learns from his parents’ behavior how to behave and react. If the home is based on clear Chassidic values, we will see children who are more protected. The home needs to be a defensive wall for the child, protecting him from all kinds of enticements that he may encounter. If parents do
this right, the chances are greater that the child won’t fall. The same is true for learning; if the parents promote learning and its importance, the child will learn. And yet, we see children from “good homes” who aren’t doing well. Let me word this carefully. I assume that even in homes that seem fine and protected, there are chinuch mistakes. Not everything that looks good from the outside is good on the inside. In addition, we believe that everything is in the hands of Heaven. There are Heavenly considerations that we are not privy to. We believe that we must do what we can to achieve the maximum success by providing a child with the best chinuch so that he can withstand what the world has to offer and remain a Chassid. But I can tell you that I’ve seen many times, that even those who went off the derech remember their childhood chinuch. At a certain point, most of them return to some degree or another, so that in chinuch
we don’t always see immediate results. We should never say, why bother with this child when nothing will come of him. We can never know what will happen in the end.
IDENTIFYING A CHILD WHO IS GOING “OFF”
How do you identify a child who is going off? How does it start? What are the reasons? There are many causes, but the main one has to do with problems the child was dealing with, which were not addressed and treated properly in a timely manner. Parents often think that problems will disappear and they push off treating the child. They don’t realize that he is miserable in school or every time he tries to interact socially out of school. Dropping out does not begin when a child announces that he is “dropping out” from school, or that he is abandoning Judaism. It starts long before that, in the lower grades when he goes out to recess and comes back in late,
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or when he goes out for a drink during class and returns fifteen minutes later instead of a minute or two. I expect a teacher to notice this and to tell me about it so that we can properly assess the situation. At this early stage we already consider it a subtle form of “dropping out,” because we know that this is the start, and we had better stop it in time before it turns into full out rebellion. A child who sits in class and doesn’t want to be there is frustrated. Who can sit day after day in a place he doesn’t enjoy? And if he does not learn, then he knows less and then he feels inadequate compared to his classmates. When a child feels inadequate, he tries to boost his image by doing things that make him feel good and strong. It can be by bullying or with other unacceptable behavior. So it is very important to identify and treat this as early as possible. When you realize that there are these subtle symptoms or even more overt ones, what can you do about it? What do you advise parents to do? The most important thing is not to abandon the child, not to give up on him. Our natural inclination as parents and even as teachers is to not see the child in front of us, because it is hard for us to handle a child who has turned his back on us. If the child is not around, it hurts us less. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a subconscious maxim that repeats itself. It’s absurd, but we end up welcoming everyone but our own child. When a child drops out or shows signs of dropping out, the most important thing is to talk; not to avoid talking about certain things, but to ask and take an interest, even if we don’t like what we hear. Ignoring it is the worst thing of all. Ignoring it is interpreted by the child to mean you don’t care. When you yell at him, you already hate him, so there is no point in screaming and ranting; that will only distance him. Lots of love and open communication can bring him back. However, as I’ve said, the best thing of all is to notice the signs in time. needing to live with Moshiach and to instill Moshiach within everything. What is the best way to do this when it comes to chinuch? In our school, there is a bachur-shliach whose job it is to arrange Chassidishe activities connected to Moshiach. He serves as a kind of shliach and I recommend this to every school. Children relate to him and look forward to working with him. Besides that, of course we have activities and shiurim about Moshiach in class too, but in order for the message to get through, it’s important that it not be restricted to class time. What responsibility, if any, does a school have toward its students during vacation? That’s an excellent question. I think the responsibility is on the parents. During vacation, I expect teachers to call each student for a brief conversation, and to ask the parents to preserve the successes that were gained in the previous school year. The children should be occupied during vacation and not bored. The shorter the summer vacation, the better.
THE BENEFIT AND DAMAGE IN OUR LONG VACATIONS
The Rebbe talks about our
Anywhere, Anytime !
CHITAS INYONEI GEULA & MOSHIACH RAMBAM SHIURIM IN LIKUTEI SICHOS KODESH
LIVE SHIURIM 0NLINE
,ww,j jhanu vkutd hbhbg owwcnr hyuekc ohrugha asue ,ujha
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sgu okugk jhanv lkn ubcru ubrun ubhbust hjh
MOSHIACH & GEULA
YOU CAN BE LIKE REBBI, YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER
One has free volition to be entirely righteous, like Chanoch or Eliyahu, or Rabbeinu HaKodesh. * Source materials compiled by Rabbi Shloma Majeski. Translations are in bold. Underlining is the author’s emphasis.
Translated and presented by Boruch Merkur
Shedding further light on the eternal life of Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi, the first Rebbe of Munkacs, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira (the B’nei Yisachar), writes two interpretations of “ki kavor sikb’renu ba’yom ha’hu – you shall surely bury him on that day” (D’varim 21:23). This verse speaks about what is to be done with the body of the ben soreir u’moreh, the “rebellious son” described in the Torah. After he is stoned to death, his body is suspended from a tree, but before nightfall it must be taken down and buried: “Ki kavor sikb’renu ba’yom ha’hu.” (There are two inferences to be drawn from this phrase, both of which are alluded to [in the same phrase] in the Torah. The first interpretation is: surely a sin will be found “ba’yom ha’hu – on that day” to justify the fact that this person was buried. Here “on that day” refers to the days the person lived in this world. [Some sin or inadequacy can be found to justify the punishment of death to which the person was subject.] (Of course, there were a number of people who died [not
on account of any sin at all, but solely] by the “bite of the snake.” [That is, they would not have realized their mortality at all were it not for the human condition established by the first sin, eating from the Tree of Knowledge.] Thus, we may assert that the Torah also alludes to a tzaddik who is recognized as such, and to that extent it is certain that [upon his death] his mortality can be traced solely to [the sin of Adam eating from] the Tree [of Knowledge, inheriting, as it were, the venom of “the bite of the snake”]. (The Torah alludes to this tzaddik’s condition in the second interpretation of “ki kavor sikb’renu ba’yom ha’hu.” Namely, if he truly was a tzaddik gamor, one who is utterly righteous [having never committed a sin], not even ever having gratuitous benefit from permissible things or experiences throughout his lifetime in this world, then certainly his burial will be for no more than “ba’yom ha’hu – on that day.” His apparent demise, before the eyes of the world, is solely on account of the fact that the world is judged
according to the majority. But he lives and shall [continue to] live with a body and soul in the manner of Rabbeinu HaKodesh [Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi].) The reason for this is that “kil’las Elokim talui (for he that is hanged is a reproach unto G-d),” meaning here that the “reproach” [i.e., mortality, death] issued from Hashem yisborech upon Adam HaRishon, the First Man, and meted out to him [and his descendants] throughout future generations is “talui,” it depends upon whether or not one is able, with his own free volition, to be [entirely righteous] like Chanoch or Eliyahu, or emulating Rabbeinu HaKodesh, or Rebbe Achai Bar Yoshiya (Shabbos 152b). And being that you [the individual Jew] know all this [i.e., one is aware that it is his choice whether or not to be completely righteous], there is, therefore, a warning to you: “Do not defile your earth” – (meaning the material substance of your body, which is crafted from the earth, by means of swearing off the bitterness of worldly delights) – “which G-d, your L-rd, gives to you” (meaning to say that He grants you the capacity to polish it [i.e., your body] and make it shine, like the luminance of the sky, that it too should be “for our Alm-ghty G-d”).
(Igra D’Kalla, Parshas Ki Seitzei, pg. 664)
Issue 891 • �
BRINGING AUTHENTIC JUDAISM
TO RUSSIA’S JEWISH STATE
How a native of Birobidzhan became the shliach in this unusual Jewish State.
By Nosson Avrohom
irobidzhan, the capital of Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region, is located in the former Soviet Union, near the border with China (only a four hour trip). Rabbi Mordechai Scheiner was the Chabad pioneer here, as he and his wife revitalized the central shul and gave a spiritual shot in the arm to the assimilated Jewish community. They also built a Jewish museum. His student, Rabbi Eliyahu Riss, who was actually born in Birobidzhan, took over the shlichus three years ago. The history of this area is intertwined with the history of
the Jewish people oppressed under communist rule. This area was designated by the Soviet government, in 1928, as a Jewish alternative to Palestine. In 1934, it was given autonomous status and the Yiddish language was declared its official language. Thousands of Jews moved there or were forcibly sent there. The area is 36,000 kilometers long. The winters are cold and dry with lots of snow. Spring is moderate, summers are hot and humid, and the autumn is dry and pleasant. For many years, tens of thousands of Jews lived here, albeit without anything Jewish.
Stalin’s goal was to destroy Judaism, which is why he and his advisors had the idea of bringing Jews to this faraway place, disconnected from other Jewish communities, and constructing a new environment for them. Authentic Yiddish was changed to modern Yiddish; the Hebrew books were in the spirit of the Haskala. The vision was to create a secular, autonomous Jewish region. The train station of Birobidzhan, which has the name of the town written in both Russian and Yiddish over it, was inaugurated in 1936 and recently
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renovated. There is a statue in the entrance with a menorah on it, an obvious Jewish symbol. The leadership of Birobidzhan consisted of assimilated Jews and Russian communist party members. The street signs and stamps were written in Yiddish, as was the newspaper. This all came to an end during the terrible Stalin purges in the years 1936-1938, which signaled the beginning of the end of the Jewish hegemony in the district and caused many to leave. However, until this very day, all the official addresses in the town are written in two languages, Russian and Yiddish. The name
of the town and the function of the office appear in Yiddish and Russian on all official documents. In 1958, Nikita Khrushchev, head of the Soviet Union, admitted in an interview with the French newspaper, Le Figaro, that the plan to settle Jews in
Birobidzhan had failed, even though thousands of Jews lived there until the beginning of the 90’s, when many moved to Eretz Yisroel. In the community’s ledgers today, about 2000 Jews are listed, but according to R’ Riss, there are many hundreds
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THE BIG MIRACLE AND THE ANGEL FROM HEAVEN
me coins for tz’daka and wished me luck. “It was extremely difficult driving with minimal visibility. Each vehicle that passed me in the opposite lane sprayed snow on my windshield. After an hour of driving, I stopped the car and said the T’fillas HaDerech. I continued driving another few minutes and then heard an explosion. It was a matter of seconds. The car spun around and then came to a stop in the opposite lane where a passing car hit me and threw me on to the side of the road. I was in shock. Opposite me was a big American truck. The terrifying sound of its air horn still echoes in my ears. I felt myself hovering as around me there was a cacophony of shouts and calls for help. “When I recovered somewhat, I got out of the car and couldn’t understand why people were backing off from me. I looked at the car that I had just exited and saw that it was totaled. The driver of the truck recovered first and he said that he had called for an ambulance, but had told them they should come to extricate the person who was killed. The rescue people finally showed up and gave me a tranquilizer. They checked me out and saw that I had no injuries whatsoever. One of them, a Christian, said that they believe that every person has a protective angel. ‘Your angel seems to be one of those that sits near the Creator,’ he said. I told him that my protective angel is the Lubavitcher Rebbe whose shliach I am. “I thought of the astounding hashgacha pratis in that nobody else had joined me on the trip. The place where I had been sitting was the only area that wasn’t destroyed. If people had been sitting in the back or in the front passenger seat, they would not have survived.” in shul and didn’t even daven there. He had brought a Torah with him and organized a minyan for Shabbos in his home. He got clear signals to stop.
R’ Eliyahu Riss will never forget last Yud-Tes Kislev: “I will celebrate this date like my birthday, because on that day, my life was saved from certain death. “My wife was in Moscow, soon to give birth. I remained in Birobidzhan in order to take care of our Chanuka preparations. I spent the previous Shabbos with the shliach, R’ Yaakov Snetkov in Khabarovsk. 19 Kislev fell out on a Monday and he suggested that I stay on and attend the farbrengen. But there were some urgent matters that I needed to take care of, including a delivery of meat from Moscow. We arranged that I would return to Khabarovsk with some other people on Monday to attend the farbrengen. “On Monday, I had a list of four people who were going to come with me to the farbrengen, but oddly, hours before the trip, one by one they canceled. I remained with one other person and then he too told me, an hour before the trip, that his wife vetoed his going. I tried to convince her, but she was adamant that he not go. “This had never happened to me. I found it so strange. I ended up leaving alone. The next day there was a blizzard, but I left for home because I had to set up the menorah in the center of town. R’ Snetkov gave
more. Part of his shlichus work entails finding them. R’ Mordechai Scheiner and his wife decided to go to Birobidzhan on shlichus.
Nobody was awaiting them. His relationships with the heads of the community were good, thanks to his personality. He did not sit on the “eastern wall”
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He spent a month in the only hotel in town until he found a suitable apartment. He will never forget the time he spent there and he doesn’t wish it on anybody who succeeds him. Fortunately, the one who took over after him was his student, R’ Eliyahu Riss. Since R’ Riss and his wife Michal have taken over, there has been a noticeable Jewish awakening, mainly among the young people with whom he has a common language. He arranges shiurim for young and old and he appears on the television program Yiddishkait. Tourists visit Birobidzhan from all over the world, and most of them visit the community and the shul. They realize that Judaism in this town is not just history, but is something alive and perpetuated daily by the Rebbe’s shliach.
RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS
R’ Riss was born in Birobidzhan in 1990. When he was two, his family moved to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Moshav Arnon near Tzfas. “We lived there for thirteen years. My parents were farmers and were given land on the moshav. For many years they maintained hothouses with roses. I attended public school for four years but didn’t like it. I would go home each day in a bad mood. “I was raised in a highminded home which emphasized learning and excellence. I didn’t see this in the school where teachers spent most of their time with discipline problems. The alternatives looked no better and my parents were beside themselves. One day, my father met a neighbor, a Lubavitcher Chassid, who heard my father’s plaint and suggested that he send me to the Chabad School in Tzfas. He promised that I would
On Rosh HaShana there was a concert in honor of the New Year and on Chanuka they came to eat ponchkes (a Polish pastry).
also learn secular studies there. “We were not a religious family, but we had respect for tradition and my father agreed.
I remember the first day as one of the best. The students, for the most part, learned and read a lot and the conversations
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the entire district. The crumbs of tradition that had clung to me at home vanished over time, and my friendships with non-Jews threatened to erase my Jewish identity.” One day, he felt a strong desire for someone to remind him of his Jewish identity. He had heard from his parents about the shliach R’ Mordechai Scheiner, and he wanted to meet him. “I missed my fellow students in the school in Tzfas, the teachers, the Jewish atmosphere. I turned on the TV and to my amazement, I saw R’ Scheiner talking about the parsha. He spoke well, which intensified my desire to meet him. I pressured my parents and they registered me for his Sunday school.” For several months, Eli saw the shliach but was shy to talk to him, until Chanuka. “The shliach’s wife went up to the second floor and asked some of us children to come to the shul where a photo journalist was waiting to take a picture of us with dreidels and a menorah. I volunteered. When the photographer finished, Mrs. Scheiner said we could keep the menorahs but should return the dreidels to her husband who was in the shul. “I returned the dreidel to the shliach without daring to open my mouth. I was so annoyed with myself. Then I noticed a boy who was still holding a dreidel and didn’t now what to do with it. I ran to the shul and gave it to the shliach and said in Hebrew, ‘Here’s a sevivon, one of the children forgot it.’ R’ Scheiner was surprised by my good Hebrew and he asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Birobidzhan. I became his helper. His children, who only spoke Hebrew, had a new friend.
R’ Riss next to the bookcase in the shul
R’ Riss farbrenging
were intelligent. The teachers were courteous and very wise; I considered them role models.” The school changed Eliyahu’s life. From there he went to learn in Migdal HaEmek, but not for long. “My parents returned from a two week visit to their hometown and announced that we were moving back to Birobidzhan.
They sold their business and possessions and I flew back with them to the place that I didn’t really remember. “Since I wasn’t fluent in Russian, I had private tutors and then my parents registered me in public school. My mother took a job in her field as a theater director and my father was the assistant educational director of
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Every Sunday, I was chosen to put t’fillin on with visitors.” In the summer, R’ Scheiner suggested something that the boy could not refuse, a trip to a Chabad camp in Moscow. “I was thrilled. I was finishing ninth grade. Camp was two weeks of fun and another two weeks of learning in yeshiva. My parents approved. The atmosphere was wonderful. Although the schedule was intense, I felt it was the best place for me. I stayed on to learn in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Moscow for three years. “In the meantime, my parents returned to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Tzur Hadassah. R’ Scheiner left Birobidzhan; throughout these years, I was sent with some other bachurim from the yeshiva to Birobidzhan for Yomim Tovim. The community and its leaders loved me because they saw me as one of them. “I finished learning for smicha, and after three years of learning I flew to New York to be part of K’vutza. Until then, I had not dreamed of shlichus and thought I would live in a Chabad community when I married. However, being in 770 changed my priorities.” When he returned to Moscow, he became a teacher in the mechina program. He also began listening to shidduchim suggestions. His condition was that she had to be someone willing to go on shlichus. He was engaged within a year to his wife Michal, and after they married he learned for a year in kollel. At this point, they were at a crossroads. They had an offer of shlichus in America, but the members of the community in Birobidzhan asked him to come to them. “It was quite a dilemma, but I remembered that Chazal say that the poor of your town take
R’ Riss supervising the milking
precedence. We decided to go to Birobidzhan.”
YIDDISH WITHOUT YIDDISHKAIT
“We are less than one percent of all those who live in the district, 180,000 people. I’m convinced that the true number of Jews is a lot more than 2000. There are Jews who are not registered in the community’s records and there are some who don’t know that they are Jewish. Nearly every week I come across Jews who say, ‘My mother is Jewish, but I’m not.’ There is ignorance. Judaism won out over the communists, but in the meantime many were lost.” The early months in Birobidzhan for the newly married couple were not easy. The nearest shliach is R’ Yaakov Snetkov, who is in Khabarovsk,
Shechting a chicken
200 kilometers away. From Moscow, the distance is eight hours by plane till Khabarovsk, and from there, it’s another few hours driving until Birobidzhan. “We had many dreams about what we would do and how we would do things, but the reality is that the work of shlichus is a complex job, all day, every day. On shlichus there is no vacation;
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there is no rest on Shabbos. We work around the clock and that is something that takes getting used to. “My wife went to Moscow from a small city. She got her degrees there in university and all her life dreamed of living in a big city. So much for her dreams … Here we are, in a small distant town. It’s hard. But we are on the Rebbe’s shlichus. There is no kosher grocery store and no Chabad community. We stick it out because of the nachas we give the Rebbe. We tried to quickly recover from the initial shock. My wife started a club for women, and many ladies, even those older than her, consult with her and ask her questions.” Because of the history of the daily as well as on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Many people have heard about the significance of their being Jewish for the first time. The shluchim’s arrival is felt throughout the town. In a meeting that took place in Moscow between the governor and Rabbi Lazar, the governor thanked him for the shlichus that is infusing the town with new light and life. One of the interesting things about the shul in Birobidzhan is the library. “The purpose of establishing the library in the shul was to disabuse the local Jews of the idea that ‘Russia is different.’ The shelves of s’farim are a declaration that nobody has the authority to dictate a new Judaism as the communists tried When we saw how much Jewish pride we had inspired in him, we decided we had to enable him to do the mitzva too. We stopped the vehicle in the middle of the road, brought him into the sukka, and showed him what to do. We were blocking the road and the cars behind us began honking, but he didn’t care and he yelled, ‘Quiet! Don’t you see I’m doing a mitzva?’ That’s an enormous change; that a Jew in Russia takes pride in doing a mitzva.” R’ Riss also began giving classes on Chassidus. “At first, only three people came to the shiur, but then the numbers grew and dozens began to come. There was someone who I invited and he said to me that he only goes to shul on Yom Kippur. One day, he came to the shul while I was giving a shiur. Since then, he does not miss a single one. He also began putting on t’fillin every day.” In Birobidzhan too, Jews find out about programs and classes via text messages. “People who were not born and raised in Russia will never appreciate the revolution taking place here. Previously, people came to shul on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur but only to socialize. On Rosh HaShana there was a concert in honor of the New Year and on Chanuka they came to eat ponchkes (a Polish pastry). They knew nothing about kashrus, just that it’s good and fresh food. Now, Jews come to daven in shul and attend Torah classes.”
“I told him that my protective angel is the Lubavitcher Rebbe whose shliach I am.”
district, the Jewish community is highly esteemed by the municipal authorities. “Every high-ranking visitor who comes to the area will be taken by the mayor and his people to the community’s institutions, to the shul and the Jewish museum. Many groups of students who come here from all over Russia, make our shul their first stop. On these visits I discover dozens of Jews who did not know they are Jewish. When I spoke this week to one of these groups, a student who identified as a gentile said that her maternal grandmother was Jewish and was even religious. Of course I informed her that she is Jewish too.” Since the shluchim arrived the shul has started to be active daily. Jews are in and out throughout the day and there are minyanim
to do in Birobidzhan. The sole authority is what is written in the Torah, Halacha and Chassidus.” R’ Riss recalls an interesting incident that took place on Chol HaMoed Sukkos last year, which shows what a change the town has gone through. “We offered the Dalet minim in the center of the business area where the entrance and exit are guarded by security guards. After we enabled 25 Jews to do the mitzva, we folded everything up, got into our vehicle with the sukka, and headed for the exit. The guard in charge of the parking lot ran toward us. We were sure he wanted money because we had stayed inside for such a long time. How surprised we were when we heard him shouting, ‘I am also a Jew and I even visited Eretz Yisroel!’
INVESTING IN THE YOUNGER GENERATION
One of the main goals of his shlichus is his work with young people. “In addition to the classes
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in the middle of the week, there are programs on Erev Shabbos that are attended by many young people. They gather in shul for the Friday night davening and then the girls walk with my wife to our home where they set up for the meal and she talks to them about Torah and mitzvos. I stay with the boys and learn something on the parsha from the Rebbe’s sichos with them. When we go to the house, we make Kiddush and the boys themselves repeat the d’var Torah. “A lot has come of this. We see boys and girls when they are first starting out and know zero about Judaism, who today are knowledgeable in the Rebbe’s sichos. A shidduch is currently in the works between a girl who lived with a gentile for years and is now seeing a Jewish boy who is a regular at our house. “When we work with Jewish youth, our main goal is to save them and prevent assimilation. Sometimes, non-Jews come to us who want to be a part of our community. When they sit in shul we don’t send them away, but we give them no honors and they realize on their own that they don’t belong. The biggest problem is with intermarried families. The typical Russian considers someone with a Jewish father to be Jewish.”
HISTORIC VISIT OF THE PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA TO BIROBIDZHAN
The community in Birobidzhan was excited to host the president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev. One can readily understand how excited the Jews of Birobidzhan and all of Russia were at the sight of the president smiling at the children of the community and his looking respectfully at the Sifrei Torah in the shul. Medvedev’s visit was historic not only for the Jewish community but for the entire town. It is the first time that an acting president visited the town, an event that generated a lot of preparations for weeks in advance. The streets were closed to traffic for a few days before the visit. There was a strong police presence and heightened security for the shul. Those who are not government officials hardly ever join official presidential visits, but this time, Medvedev’s office contacted R’ Lazar a few weeks before the visit and asked him to come along. “The president would like to visit the shul and see the Jewish community,” was the message. Indeed, this was the highlight of the visit. During the visit to the shul, the president went with R’ Lazar to see the library. He looked at some ancient Jewish books, Yiddish books with stories of the Baal Shem Tov, Chassidic customs, and more. The president was then welcomed in the shul sanctuary by a group of children from the community who had prepared a song and presentation on a Jewish topic. The president took great interest in the content of the presentation and even signed his autograph for one of the children who was celebrating a birthday that day. Medvedev told R’ Lazar how pleased he was to see the children of the community flourishing. The district governor, Alexander Vinnikov, also joined the delegation. He had been elected just two months earlier and is a Jew who is devoted to the development of the Jewish community. He announced that he would designate land near the shul for a mikva to be built, the first in the history of the entire area. “There is no question that the president feels warmly toward the community,” said R’ Lazar afterward. “He spoke a lot about the work of the rabbis and shluchim who serve in all the communities and how important their work is. He said that he believes that they should be helped in any way possible. He declared that the rabbanim and shluchim are the future of the Jewish community.” Medvedev’s visit galvanized the work of the Jewish community. “Jews who until now hesitated to come to shul come proudly, since they have seen how the president has taken an interest in the community,” says R’ Riss.
“THE BIROBIDZHANER SHTERN”
The local television program, Yiddishkait, focuses on Jews and Judaism and the shliach talks about the parsha and concepts in Judaism. “The program is very popular. R’ Sheiner is the one who started it, but he had to pay for each program individually. In recent years, the municipality bought
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‘Of course he lives here; he has a regular spot on the Yiddishkait program.’ Our child promptly got the checkup she needed.” *** “We are interviewed on television about every holiday and they make a news item out of it which opens the main broadcast. The same is true for the local papers. They ask me to write something up for a special page that they designate for this purpose.” By the way, in Birobidzhan there are three newspapers and the logo is in Yiddish on all three. There is one called HaKehilla and the most widely read one is called The Birobidzhaner Shtern (Star). How do you get along with government officials? What do they think about Chabad activity? “They are very respectful. Not only that, but they also help us. The local government wants Jewish life to flourish here; this is the character they want the town to have because of the tourists. They recently redid some streets and the statues they put up along the walkways were of religious Jews with sentences in Yiddish written underneath. In general, government officials and police officers leave their doors open for us.” I know that many shluchim in the CIS have run into financial difficulties in recent years. How are you financing your activities? “Boruch Hashem, there are local donors. R’ Lazar also helps us a lot, and I want to tell you what happened as a result of an accident (see sidebar). A car that we bought was totaled in an accident. As a result of the accident, we had big debts that continued to grow. There were tens of thousands of dollars of debt that I saw no way of paying back. In the meantime, I also had to cover my other activities. “One day of Chanuka, my wife was in Moscow and I was standing facing the menorah that I had just lit and I pleaded in tears. I looked at the Rebbe’s picture and said, ‘Rebbe, you sent me to this town and now I have a large debt. If I don’t pay it soon, it will only get bigger. Please help me.’ The next day I went to Moscow and told R’ Lazar what was going on. He enlisted the entire community and the mosdos to help me. After a few months the entire debt was paid off down to the last dollar.” What are your plans for the future? “First and foremost, you have to remember that we need to maintain what we already have, and it’s a lot. In addition, we have three big plans: a preschool to start in Elul, to build a big Jewish center for which we already received land from the municipality, and to build a mikva.” R’ Riss asked that we end the article with his thanks to two people, the first being his wife Michal. “We just visited Eretz Yisroel and I told my wife that maybe we should stay until after Tisha B’Av, but she refused. ‘It’s very enticing,’ she said, ‘but what about the Jews of Birobidzhan?’ Her mesirus nefesh is a tremendous help in this shlichus. “I would also like to thank R’ Berel Lazar for his help and his nonstop caring. I feel that I can call him at any time with any question. Although he is busy with big and important things, he always finds the time to take an interest in the smallest detail of our shlichus.”
this specific program and pays for the broadcast. They ask me to come and speak on the program and the feedback is very positive. “We recently had to take our baby to the local clinic for a routine checkup, but we were told that since we were not registered as residents of the town, we could not be treated. ‘We don’t provide treatment or exams for someone who does not live here,’ said the secretary. We didn’t know what to do. How could we explain that we are residents here? They wouldn’t believe us without a signed document. Help came from an unexpected direction. One of the doctors passed by and when she realized what the problem was she smiled. ‘Don’t you know the rabbi?’ she asked the secretary.
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THE TWO TIERED CROWN
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
PREREQUISITES FOR THE SANHEDRIN
This week’s parsha discusses the role of the Sanhedrin, the most authoritative body in Jewish life. Any question in any area of Jewish practice could be brought to its attention for resolution. The Sanhedrin’s decision was the final word in all matters of Jewish law. The Torah introduces the types of questions that must be brought to the Sanhedrin for resolution with the words: “If a davar-matter of law eludes you.” The word “Davar-matter” is translated differently in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. In the Babylonian Talmud, it is translated as “matters of Halacha-legal matters.” The Jerusalem Talmud translates it as “matters of Agada.” Agada refers to the non-legal parts of the Talmud that deal with morality, ethics, history and stories of the great Sages. Agada shares the same root as Hagada, telling the story of the Exodus. Agada is about the stories of the Jewish people and their relationship with G-d. The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that the Sanhedrin has to be proficient in matters of Agada as well as matters of Jewish law. The question is,
why? If Agada, by definition, is non-legal, why would it matter if the judges of the Sanhedrin were not experts in it? And what is the crux of the dispute between the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds?
TELLING US WHO IS THE CREATOR
Our Sages tell us, “If you want to know who said and the world came to be, you must learn Agada.” Agada is the key to appreciating the Torah’s Divine authorship. To master Jewish law without believing that it’s Divine renders a judge deficient in his ability to render an accurate legal decision. This would explain why the Jerusalem Talmud emphasizes the need for the members of the Sanhedrin to be versed not only in Halacha but also in Agada. This approach is consistent with what our Sages teach us in the first chapter of Ethics of the Fathers (which we customarily will read and, in fact, study this Shabbos): “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and handed it over to Joshua, Joshua to the elders and the elders to the prophets.” The Rebbe asks, why does it refer to them as prophets? What role does prophecy play in the transmission of the Torah? Doesn’t the Torah forbid a
person from using prophecy to decide matters of Torah? Since the Torah was given to us on Mount Sinai, it is no longer in heaven, as the famous Rabbi Yehoshua declared when his colleague Rabbi Eliezer sought Divine support for an opinion. Once the Torah was given at Sinai, Rabbi Yehoshua declared, it was exclusively in the hands of the Sages to transmit and interpret it in accordance with rules that were also given at Sinai. In the event of a dispute, the Torah instructs us to follow the majority. Why, then, does the Mishna mention the prophets as transmitters of Torah? The Rebbe answers that although prophecy is not the medium through which a matter of law is determined, prophecy, which entails a close connection to G-d, is the inspiration needed to go in the right direction. When the Talmudic sages decided a matter of law, they were guided by Divine inspiration to look in the right direction. They did not, however, render any decisions based on their prophetic inspiration alone. We thus learn that although we are not prophets, we must have a connection with G-d, based on a profound awareness of His presence in our lives, as a prerequisite to proper Torah study. A rabbi who provides
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It is the ornament that expresses royalty in its subordinate to the king’s orders and the implementation of his unadulterated, pristine and august state and ideas and agenda. elicits the most profound reaction from his subjects. But the crown also possesses
direction to others must certainly be guided by an awareness of the Divine source of Torah. The Rebbe’s analysis is consistent with the Jerusalem Talmud’s assertion that the Sanhedrin had to be proficient in Agada, because it is that part of Torah that generates an awareness of and reverence for G-d. And that awareness and reverence, in turn, is what guides the judge to make the proper rulings in matters of law. say that the judge cannot be a thief, either. He cannot properly recognize the legal dimension of Torah unless he also appreciates its Divine origin. And if it takes the study of Agada to acquire that awareness, then so be it. It need not be mentioned as a separate area of endeavor for the judge for it is subsumed in the knowledge of law that he must possess. Halacha is only Halacha if it is the word of G-d and is seen as G-d’s will, not some human system of jurisprudence.
DIVERGENT APPROACHES OF BABYLONIAN AND JERUSALEM TALMUD
However, this explanation begs another question. The above analysis merely transfers the question to the Babylonian Talmud that defines the “matter” strictly as Halacha and omits the mention of Agada. If Agada leads to recognition of the Divine authorship of the Torah, which is indispensable for rendering accurate decisions, why does the Babylonian Talmud not require it? Perhaps the answer lies in the different approaches of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. The Babylonian Talmud is the Talmud of exile, while the Jerusalem Talmud is associated with the Land of Israel, where the exile was not as intense. There is no question that the Babylonian Talmud recognizes the necessity of the study of Agada to be qualified as a judge. That is a given and it need not be mentioned. After all, it does not
WILL AND DELIGHT
Indeed, Halacha, the laws of the Torah, is an expression of G-d’s will which transcends even His wisdom. In other words, the study of Halacha transcends the study of other theoretical parts of Torah and is compared by the Talmud to a crown. Just as the crown sits above the head of the king, so too the teachings of Halacha transcend even G-d’s wisdom or “Head,” as it were. The Jerusalem Talmud however speaks of the knowledge contained in Agada as a separate and independent endeavor beyond its role as a prerequisite and accessory to the study of Halacha. If we return to the analogy of a crown, the crown itself has two functions. The first is that it literally covers the head and protects it; figuratively, it is an accessory to his mind. When a subject of the king sees the crown, it reinforces his respect for the monarch’s royal decrees and his need to submit to them. In other words, the crown is
an independent character that has nothing to do with the king’s role as the one who issues decrees to his nation. The exquisite bejeweled crown evokes the most profound sense of awe, reverence and devotion to the King himself that transcends his orders. It is the ornament that expresses royalty in its unadulterated, pristine and august state and elicits the most profound reaction from his subjects. In Chassidic parlance, the crown is a metaphor for the faculties of both will and delight. Will influences and controls our intellect, emotions, and all that we think, speak and do. It encompasses our entire personality just as the crown envelops the head, which controls the body. But the driving force behind will-power is the delight that one experiences from doing the things that one wants to do. In other words, delight is the inner dimension of the crown and will is its outer manifestation. So it is too with respect to the crown of Torah. The outer manifestation of the crown is G-d’s will expressed in Halacha. We must realize that Halacha is not a human creation, but is G-d’s very crown! The last thing a person would want to tamper with is the king’s crown! But beneath the surface of the will is a deeper level of Divine delight that one acquires only through the study of Agada and its related study of Jewish mystical texts, particularly the teachings of Chassidus. In the famous exchange between Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (known as the Alter Rebbe)
32 � • 3 Elul 5773
and Rabbi Pinchas of Korits (a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov), the Alter Rebbe explained the reason for the proliferation of the mystical teachings of Torah. He provided a parable of the king who agreed to pulverize the crown jewel and dilute it in water to save the life of his son, the prince. Similarly, the teachings of Chassidus are like the crown jewel. They are G-d’s innermost thoughts that express His innermost essence. We need to disseminate its teachings to save us, G-d’s children, from spiritual death. These teachings of Chassidus were kept secret for millennia because the crown was off limits to the world. But as we come closer to the time of Redemption,
it is time for these teachings to Sanhedrin must impart these be disseminated to help us cope teachings to inspire greater with exile and prepare us for the fidelity to Halacha, to be sure, but imminent arrival of Moshiach, also as an independent domain of when these teachings will be fully study to give the people a taste of the future. revealed. The lesson for us is clear. We Hence, the Babylonian Talmud, that reflects exile in its have to study the inner dimension deepest form, omits the mention of Torah today more than ever of Agada because it is the part of before for two reasons: First, it is the crown that is an accessory to an indispensable part of Judaism, Halacha. It is a part and parcel of without which our observance of Express Expressservice service Halacha. Without an awareness the Mitzvos lacks the respect for Fully Fully Computerized Computerized that Halacha is His will, it is not the Commander of the Mitzvah. And second, by immersing Halacha. 331 Kingston Kingston Ave.Ave. teachings of However, the Jerusalem ourselves in the 331 nd nd Flr) Flr) Brooklyn Brooklyn NY 11213 NY 11213 (2 (2 Moshiach, we prepare for the Talmud, which is more closely final Redemption, when the connected to the future Age of King’s Crown will be accessible Redemption, highlights the study Get Getyour your tickets tickets within within minutes! minutes! of Agada as an independent area in all its glory to the entire world. Fax: Fax: (718) (718) 493-4444 493-4444 of study for the Sanhedrin. In their role as Jewish leaders, the
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Issue 891 • �
MOSHIACH & GEULA
KEEP ‘EM BUSY AND THEY’LL HAVE A GOOD LIFE
By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
Dear Reader sh’yichyeh At the conclusion of each chapter of Pirkei Avos, we say: “Rabbi Chananya ben (son of) Akashya says: The Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to give Israel merit; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos (commandments) in abundance, as it is written: ‘G-d wanted, for its [Israel’s] righteousness, to make the Torah great and mighty.’” This maxim of R’ Chananya is not a part of Pirkei Avos. It is the final Mishna of Tractate Makos, a section of the Mishna which deals with a number of topics of civil law. There is, however, a universal practice to recite this Mishna at the conclusion of any Torah study session held in a synagogue. The reason for this is that it is common to recite the “Rabbis’ Kaddish” at the conclusion of a study session, and this Kaddish may only be recited after the study of Scriptural verses or of Midrash. Since many areas of study do not involve such topics, it became customary to recite this
Mishna at the conclusion of any study session. Although Pirkei Avos itself is a Midrashic work, this custom is maintained here as well. In the classic “Talks and Tales” series the following insight is related: At first glance, it seems that Rabbi Chananya tells us that because G-d favored us and was pleased with us, He gave us a Torah without end and many duties or precepts to perform. Would it not have been easier and better for us if we had a small Torah and but a few duties? The true wisdom of Rabbi Chananya will be understood with the help of the following story: Once upon a time there lived a young man who had no experience in business. For some time after his marriage he was supported by his father-inlaw, so that he could continue studying. But then came the day when the father-in-law said to him: “My boy, it is time you went out into the big world and found
“But you kept me so busy,” the young man complained laughingly, “that I hardly had a chance to have a good time.”
your own way in life. Here, take this sizable sum of money. Go to the Big City where you can buy and bring back fine merchandise, and make a nice profit. By the way, I have a good friend there, and you will do well to listen to his advice.” The young man took the money and made his way to the Big City. After finding himself a room in a Hotel, he went to look up the old friend of the family. The young man told him about the purpose of his coming to the Big City, and how much money he had, promising to do everything the old friend would advise him to do. “Leave it to me,” the old friend said, and the young man left him and went back to his hotel. Immediately, the old friend went from one factory to another, selected the finest merchandise and ordered it for the young man’s account. In the meantime, the young man returned to his hotel and was thinking how best to spend his time. But the next moment bills and invoices began to pour in from various manufacturers. There was a lot to do: to check the bills, inspect the merchandise, watch the packing, and so on. Every day, during his entire stay in the Big City, the young man
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was kept so busy that he had no time to think of anything else. Then he realized that he had spent all his money, and had bought as much merchandise as he could. He went to the old friend to thank him for his help and to bid him good-bye. “But you kept me so busy,” the young man complained laughingly, “that I hardly had a chance to have a good time.” “My dear young man,” the wise old friend replied. “You ought to be very grateful to me for having kept you busy doing such good business. I have seen other young men come to this Big City on business. But they soon forget what they came for and get busy having ‘a good time.’ Before they look around, they find their money spent on nothing, and when it is time to go back, they go back empty-handed and in shame. You, on the other hand, will come back loaded with fine merchandise, and your future will be assured.” This is what Rabbi Chananya had in mind. G-d wanted us to be worthy. When we come to this Big City, the temptations are many. So G-d gave us a great Torah and many precepts. ‘We are kept busy buying the best merchandise — the Torah Mitzvos. Not only will our and life be a full one, a happy one, and a worthy one, but the Torah that we learn and the precepts that we do make us worthy, pure and holy. We thank G-d for the Torah and Mitzvos; they are not
a burden. They are the greatest gift that G-d gave us; they show us how much He really loves us. Chassidus explains this saying of Rabbi Chananya on a deeper level: “L ’zakos es Yisroel,” translated as “to make meritorious,” also means “to refine.” The goal of the Torah mitzvos is to refine the and Jewish people. This intention is manifest in Pirkei Avos, which teaches us to lift our ethical conduct above the limits of human wisdom and cultivate it according to G-d’s desire. Refining the Jewish people and the world is the crux of
bringing Moshiach: Hashem wanted to enable the Jewish people to speedily merit the coming of Moshiach, so he gave them many physical mitzvos to do. Every physical mitzva brings K’dusha into this physical world. Hence, the more Mitzvos done, the quicker the world is elevated, the quicker Moshiach can come. Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.
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Issue 891 • �
‘ALL THE DOORS ARE OPEN FOR MOSHIACH TO COME’
A Chassid “creates an atmosphere” and when we’re talking about the great Chassidim, their influence is that much greater. * The following are highlights from an entire chapter on the enormous influence of R’ Shmuel Levitin a”h on the lives of Chassidim in New York, about the limud z’chus with which he would defend the T’mimim and Chassidim in yechidus to the Rebbe, about his optimistic approach to life despite the personal suffering he endured, and the great love he had for the bachurim.
R’ Shmuel Levitin was held very dear by the Rebbe Rayatz and was counted among the G’dolei HaChassidim. The Rebbe Rayatz asked him to take his place as the chazan during the year of mourning for his mother, Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah and on 13 Tishrei, the yahrtzait of the Rebbe Maharash (perhaps also on the yahrtzait of the Tzemach Tzedek and the Rebbe Rashab). Starting in 5700/1940, R’ Levitin served as the mashpia in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in New York and was the main speaker at the farbrengens of the elder Chassidim. The Rebbeim appointed him as rav of 770 and sold to him the chametz on Erev Pesach.
A CLOSE CHASSID
R’ Levitin came to the United States in Elul 5698/1938 and was a significant reinforcement to Chabad in New York. He was born in 5643/1883. His father, R’ Zev Wolf, was a Chassid of the Rebbe Maharash and a mashgiach in the yeshiva in Lubavitch. The Rebbe said about
him, “A Jew that had the merit of hearing Chassidus from the Rebbe [Rashab] even before I was born.” The Levitins were considered special even back in Lubavitch, in no small part because R’ Zev Wolf’s father-in-law was none other than R’ Gershon Ber of Pahar, the outstanding oved.
The Rebbe’s secretary, R’ Groner, said the following at a farbrengen in Nachalat Har Chabad in 5739: “R’ Levitin demanded of the secretaries: Take advantage
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of being in the presence of the Rebbe to be melamed z’chus (speak well) on Jews. This ought to be standard practice. If the Rebbe asks you questions, speak in their defense.” R’ Levitin’s demand is in line with the approach of Chassidim of the previous generation who held it was forbidden to tattle on a Jew to the Rebbe. Some of them even said that lashon ha’ra said to a tzaddik is especially harmful. R’ Mendel Futerfas was known for his utter devotion to the Rebbe and because of this, he refused to speak negatively about any Jew to the Rebbe. When the Rebbe said, “I need to know what is going on in Eretz Yisroel,” referring to a certain dispute, R’ Mendel kept quiet. R’ Levitin did not stop defending Anash and the T’mimim to the Rebbe. For example, in 5721, one of the bachurim davened Shacharis close to sunset in the basement of 770. The Rebbe suddenly passed by that area and someone whispered to him about this bachur’s late davening. The Rebbe asked who it was and the person told him the bachur’s name. R’ Levitin was present and he said to the Rebbe, “He is wearing Rabbeinu Tam t’fillin.” The Rebbe said, “As far as I can tell, they are Rashi t’fillin.”
R’ Gershon Mendel Garelik relates that one Friday night, as he left for home, the Rebbe noticed bachurim napping in the small zal after the meal in the dining room. R’ Levitin spoke well of them and said the lesson to learn is that if they are sleeping, they should be provided with negel vasser and blankets. R’ Menachem Mendel Wolf wrote down an incident which
R’ Shmuel Levitin with the Rebbe in the early years of the nesius
Issue 891 • �
illustrates R’ Levitin’s good nature, as he heard it from the Rebbe Rayatz’s son-in-law, Rashag: “The Rebbe once spoke about children being guarantors for their parents. R’ Levitin said to the Rebbe afterward that in the Talmud Yerushalmi it says that in Yavneh they annulled the role of children as guarantors (i.e. that minor children’s lives not be taken for the sins of their parents). He added, ‘When I was in Moscow, I heard from R’ Hillel, the nephew of R’ Hillel of Paritch that there was once an epidemic in a town of Chernobyl Chassidim and many children died. “‘The Alter Rebbe passed by the area and since they were afraid that he would refuse to pass through a town of Chernobylers they led his entourage in a certain way that ‘forced’ him to pass through. While he was there, they told him about the epidemic and the Rebbe went to the shul and said, ‘In Yavneh they annulled the role of children as guarantors,’ and the epidemic immediately ceased.” At one of the Yom Tov meals in the Rebbe Rayatz’s apartment, R’ Levitin said to the Rebbe, “The fact that all Jews say the prayer, ‘do not take away Your holy spirit from me,’ means that all Jews have ruach ha’kodesh.” The Rebbe said, “That’s a good vort.” The Rebbe consented and R’ Levitin said he knew many Jews who kept Shabbos even as they fled. He spoke at length about someone from his community who refrained from chilul Shabbos and lost all his money. When he finished speaking, the Rebbe smiled at him and stopped talking on this topic. The Rebbe Rayatz, who was standing next to R’ Levitin, enjoyed what he said and said to him, “Rav of Rakshik, say l’chaim.”
R’ Levitin’s practice to speak well of Jews, especially to the Rebbe, began during the Rebbe Rashab’s nesius. This is what happened: R’ Levitin was voted as the rav of Rakshik in Lithuania and the Rebbe Rashab saw to it that his appointment would be recognized by the government. His job lasted until the Cossacks invaded Rakshik during World War I. They demanded that the Jews leave their homes and they all fled deep into Russia. One of the Jews of the town feared that his possessions would be ruined by the Germans who were approaching the area. He asked R’ Levitin whether he would be allowed to take his possessions in a certain way on Shabbos and was told no. The man obeyed and lost all his money. After a time, the man met R’ Levitin in Dvinsk and thanked him for saving him from desecrating the Shabbos. In 5677-8, in the midst of World War I, R’ Levitin went to the Rebbe Rashab in Rostov. At the Simchas Torah farbrengen, the Rebbe spoke in a tone of “g’vura” and noted that many acts of chilul Shabbos occurred during the war and Jews fled from their towns on “the holy day” (i.e. Yom Kippur). R’ Levitin, who was standing near the Rebbe, mustered the courage and said l’chaim to the Rebbe and asked to speak.
NACHAS FOR THE REBBE
R’ Levitin’s relentlessly positive outlook on others is worthy of special admiration considering his terrible personal circumstances. His wife and several other relatives perished in the Holocaust. R’ Levitin’s defense of Jews to the Rebbeim came from a desire to bring them simcha. He always tried to minimize the severity of various things and to present them in a favorable light. In the first years following the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe sat at Yom Tov meals, mainly on Rosh HaShana, very much closed within himself as he looked at the Rebbe Rayatz’s empty chair now and then. R’ Levitin refused to put up with this and asked a lot of questions in order to get the Rebbe to talk. R’ Shlomo Zarchi adds: “At the 11 Nissan farbrengen of 5712, which took place in the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe said a maamer on the verse, ‘Hashem, open my lips,’ from chapter 51 of T’hillim. The Rebbe cried as he said the maamer, especially when he expounded on the verse, ‘I will teach deliberate sinners Your ways.’ “At the conclusion of the
One night of Chanuka, during the years when the Rebbe would give Chanuka gelt to the bachurim in 770 who learned Chassidus, a talmid of the yeshiva on Bedford who had just begun taking an interest in Lubavitch joined the line. When it was his turn, the Rebbe asked him, “Do you learn Chassidus?” He kept quiet because he barely knew what Chassidus was. R’ Levitin came to his aid and said to the Rebbe, “He will learn Chassidus.” The Rebbe smiled and gave the bachur a dollar.
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maamer, R’ Levitin wished the Rebbe, ‘Let me hear joy and rejoicing,’ quoting from the beginning of the chapter. In response, the Rebbe quoted the continuation of the verse, ‘let the bones that You crushed exult,’ with a big smile.”
The daas of the Rebbeim is Daas Elyon (supernal knowledge) and sometimes, they pushed aside R’ Levitin’s encouraging words. For example: In Elul 5798/1938, before he went to the United States on shlichus from the Rebbe Rayatz, R’ Levitin had yechidus. The Rebbe looked very moved, it being ten years since they had last seen one another. Those were terrible times for Judaism in Russia and before he went in, R’ Levitin was warned by the Rebbe’s household: 1) don’t give sad news about what is going on behind the Iron Curtain, for it will affect his health, 2) refrain from expressing sadness over the change in the Rebbe’s appearance due to his health. R’ Levitin zealously followed these guidelines and even repeated an encouraging vort to the Rebbe: “It says, ‘I have left you for a brief moment’ – in the Future, they will look at the suffering of exile as at a brief moment.” The Rebbe refused to be consoled and said, “Yes, it’s but a moment, but it’s a bitter moment.” When he left the yechidus, he spoke about this to Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah who said, “Your grandfather, R’ Gershon Ber of Pahar, would say, ‘The word ra (evil) cannot be uttered, but the word mar (bitter) is an antidote.” The Rebbe’s painful approach towards “a brief moment” in
R’ Levitin at a farbrengen standing behind the Rebbe as the Rebbe said the maamer
which the Jewish people suffer, was expressed again a year and a half later. It was on Purim 5740/1940, when he said his first maamer after arriving in the United States. At the end, he mentioned the verse, “I have left you for a brief moment,” and gazed at R’ Levitin who was standing next to him with a piercing, sad look. R’ Levitin felt that the Rebbe meant to say, “Now do you understand what I meant?”
Another example: On 5 Teves 5725, the members of the hanhala of Tomchei T’mimim in 770 had yechidus. R’ Levitin took the opportunity to give the Rebbe nachas and, at the end of the yechidus, when he was alone, he said, “The bachurim are working on hafatza!” The Rebbe said, “Is that how you console me? Since 5715 the doors are open for Moshiach to come, as per the response
of Moshiach, “when are you coming, when [the wellsprings] spread forth, etc.” but there is a dearth of recipients. R’ Levitin noted that hundreds of men attended the Rebbe’s farbrengen and the Rebbe’s reaction was, “If these two hundred men would go out afterward and review Chassidus in the shuls – for actually, they can review Chassidus in every shul, and even yeshivos allow it, and there are no opponents. And even those who seem like opponents [and he mentioned some names] are also not opposed, and Chassidus must be spread, learning it oneself and spreading it ‘outward,’ with all the connotations, for then Moshiach would have come already and it would be good materially and spiritually and all obstacles would be removed. “Even though the niggun, ‘U’faratzta’ was only revealed in 5718, it is ten years already that all the doors are open for Moshiach to come and everything is still open.”
Issue 891 • �
CHASSIDIM AND MISNAGDIM
R’ Levitin promoted Ahavas Yisroel, but he differentiated between Chassidim and Misnagdim when it came to ideological disputes. R’ Menachem Zev Gringlass related: “The Rebbe Rayatz sent R’ Levitin to speak with one of the great Litvishe rabbanim about the importance of having Jewish studies in the morning in Jewish schools. The Litvishe rav told R’ Levitin that Chassidim are always fomenting disputes, to which he responded, ‘Because of the machlokes of the Misnagdim against the Chassidim the Alter Rebbe was arrested, and thanks to the ‘machlokes’ of the Chassidim against the Misnagdim we have the letter the Alter Rebbe wrote after he was released, ‘Katonti,’ [in which he asked Chassidim to refrain from reacting to their opponents.] “R’ Levitin added, ‘The Misnagdim admire the Chassidim but hate them. The Chassidim do not admire the Misnagdim but love them.’”
Anipol. R’ Pinchas thought, “He is probably a simple Jew for he is not learning a difficult tractate like Yevamos or K’subos, but a tractate with a lot of Agadata. He hesitated but finally decided to talk to him. “I was at your master and he told me to talk to you in learning.” R’ Zushe looked surprised, “To talk to me?! What is there to talk about with me?” It seemed that only because the Maggid said so would he talk to the guest in learning. R’ Zushe said to the Baal Haflaah that he was learning the tractate Brachos where the Gemara raises the question, “Nine people and an Aron (Kodesh), can it be included to form a minyan? Rav Huna says, is an Aron a person?!” R’ Zushe asked, “What was the reasoning of the Gemara then? Why would we think an Aron could be counted towards a minyan?” R’ Zushe answered the question: An Aron is a piece of wood that is full of Torah, so there might be the conjecture that it has become (on the spiritual level of) a person. To that R’ Huna retorted that although an Aron is full of Torah, it is still a piece of wood and an inanimate lump remains an inanimate lump and is not a person!” R’ Pinchas got the message and went back with great humility to the Maggid and became one of his great disciples.
often call R’ Levitin to his room in the middle of Seder. R’ Levitin would hurry to his room, change his outer garment and only then go to the yechidus room. In 5703, he told the talmidim when he came out: “‘The Rebbe said, ‘You were taken out of the zal in the middle of the learning,’ and he asked where the bachurim were up to in their studies. I said that I was learning with them the maamer ‘Tuv Taam V’Daas.’ The Rebbe explained the maamer to me so my sudden summons would be a benefit to the learning and not the opposite.’ The Rebbe was even particular about the mashgiach’s keeping to the times of learning.” R’ Levitin’s insistence that the bachurim keep the s’darim came from his great love for them. When he felt the need to offer someone a gentle admonition, he would say to them, “Either way, if my point is correct, then you gained by hearing good advice. If I am not right, that’s even better.’ Being a p’nimi, R’ Levitin sincerely meant every word that came out of his mouth and he was happy to be proven wrong.
R’ Levitin described how the gaon, R’ Pinchas, author of Haflaah zt”l, came to be a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. What he recounted was written down by R’ Gringlass and expresses the difference between the approach of the Chassidim and the Misnagdim. Here is a summary: When he first arrived, R’ Pinchas was told by the Maggid to talk in learning with the itinerant sitting next to the oven. He left the room and found an ordinary Jew sitting with a tallis and learning the tractate Brachos. It was R’ Zushe of
R’ Levitin’s love for the talmidim was also expressed in the positive way he viewed them. He told them they had to reveal their true essence rather than to change. He said: Czar Nikolai I suddenly announced that he would visit an army camp the next day at ten o’clock. One of the soldiers had a high fever and he went to swim in the river. Suddenly, he noticed the czar coming. He quickly got out of the water and stood there naked at attention. The czar asked him why he looked like that and the soldier
KEEPING THE S’DARIM
Under the guidance of the Rebbeim, R’ Levitin was particular that the bachurim keep the s’darim. R’ Yitzchok Dovid Groner said: “The Rebbe Rayatz would
40 � • 3 Elul 5773
said: My master, the czar, do I serve you or my clothes? Here I am. Czar Nicholas enjoyed this response. R’ Pesach of Malastovka explained the lesson to be learned: When making a spiritual accounting before davening, you discover that the spiritual state of the soul garments is not good. Yet you should know that the etzem HaNeshama (the very essence of your soul) cleaves to its source and serves G-d fully.
התוועדויות • סיפורים אמרות • הנהגות • פרקי חיים
to the Rebbe and does not feel his own independent existence, you can see the Rebbe through him.’”
המתאר את גישתם החסידית, ניו־יורק" הינו פסיפס- "אוצר החסידים תלמידי- דמויות ההוד החב"דיות,יורקŒשל גדולי המשפיעים בניו .הישיבה בליובאוויטש וסניפיה
התוועדויותיהם של המשפיעים נפרשות ומציגות את משנתם , עליהם הושתתו תביעותיהם החסידיות, מאות הסיפורים.החסידית .מטביעים את חותמם בספר
Shazar attended one of R’ Levitin’s Tanya classes and R’ Levitin repeated this story about the czar. At the end of Shazar’s visit, the Rebbe asked one of the Chassidim what the shiur had been about. The Chassid told the parable about the czar and the Rebbe smilingly asked: Did it look as though Shazar understood the parable? R’ Levitin’s optimistic approach came across in how he spoke. He told about Rashag who told the Rebbe that his maamarim during the Ten Days of Repentance showed that our spiritual state is not what it’s meant to be. The Rebbe reacted in surprise, “What do you mean by not the way it’s meant to be?! It is the way it is meant to be.” R’ Levitin concluded from this that speech is significant and we should not “open our mouths to Satan.” He said someone once asked the Rebbe Rayatz for a tikkun for a situation in which he had sinned. The Rebbe responded dismissively regarding the severity of the matter but the man insisted that it was a serious sin. His saying so made it serious and the Rebbe gave him a tikkun.
Otzar HaChassidim – from which this chapter on R’ Levitin was taken
SHLIACH OF THE REBBE
R’ Levitin did tremendous work in the country of Georgia, having been sent there by the Rebbe Rashab for nine years. His success was held up as an example by the Rebbe Rayatz and the Rebbe. On his first visit to Lubavitch, after traveling to Georgia, he complained to the Rebbe Rashab, “It is hard to instill Chabad concepts in the local Jews.” The Rebbe said, “The Jews, when seeing the Rebbe’s shliach, imagine what the one who sent him [i.e. the Rebbe] is like!” R’ Sholom Dovber Gordon described a similar sentiment expressed by R’ Levitin years later: “When R’ Levitin arrived in the US, a certain Chabad Chassid began acting like a Rebbe. He wore a shtraimel and gave brachos to people. R’ Levitin wanted to contrast hiskashrus to the Rebbe with what this Chassid was doing and he said, ‘The advantage of glass is that you can see through it. That is the advantage of a Chassid, that if he is mekushar
R’ Gordon added: “R’ Levitin stood out in that period of time for his powerful longing for the Rebbe Rayatz. He sang the niggun, ‘Oy Rebbe, ניו־יורק ven vellen mir zich zen (when will we see one another),’ and his inspiring words at his farbrengens left their mark on me.” R’ Levitin’s longing for the Rebbe came from his absolute hiskashrus to him. When the Chassidim parted from the Rebbe Rayatz in Tishrei 5688/1927, they sang the niggun, “HaBeinoni” as the train began to move. The Rebbe Rayatz once reminded R’ Levitin of those difficult parting moments and said, “Remember when you stood as they sang ‘HaBeinoni,’ and imagine how you looked then, so brokenhearted.”
עושרן החסידי של הדמויות. בהן נבדל מרעהו- תכונותיו השונות ומעניק מבט נפלא על דרכה של,החב"דיות מקבל ביטוי מרתק .חסידות חב"ד מהווים אף מאסף היסטורי, המובאים בספר,סיפוריהם של המשפיעים :לכ"ק אדמו"ר נשיא דורנו מהם רבים הנוגעים,לאירועים שונים בתולדותיה של חסידות חב"ד עדותו הנדירה של הרבי אודות תאריך ראשית נשיאותו ובאיזה דין תורה מינהו הרבי הריי"ץ לדיין? על איזו הכחשה היסטורית ויתר את אירועי ליל שמיני עצרת תשל"ח ואיזה קונטרס הדפיס כדי להציל הרבי ואלו חמישה מאמרים אמר בחדרו הקדוש? כיצד צפה הרבי ?תמימים משריפה .חיבור מרטיט ומרגש עם ניחוח חסידי אמיתי
ואת,ספרנו מציג בחדות את ייחודיותו של כל אחד מהמשפיעים
THE REBBE TESTIFIES
After R’ Levitin’s passing on 18 Elul 5734/1974, the Rebbe explained that reaching a level of is’hafcha depends on a clear awareness that the totality of the existence of this world is only for the purpose of sifting the sparks of holiness within it. The test as to whether a Jews feels that his material concerns are merely a means towards a spiritual end is when he recalls an experience that prevented him from serving Hashem: reliving the physical suffering testifies that he is not holding at the level of is’hafcha, but when his memories are focused entirely on the absence of avodas Hashem that the suffering caused, this indicates an elevated spiritual level.
Issue 891 • �
To illustrate this, the Rebbe gave R’ Levitin as an example: As an example of this in daily life, of people who actually felt this way – as each person must know his own soul – it would be right to mention the Chassid, R’ Shmuel Levitin, whose Shiva ends today. He once told me, when nobody else was present in the room in 770, about when he had been imprisoned in Siberia; details of what happened including a description of his spiritual standing at the time. He had no s’farim and he wondered about the wording of the morning brachos. He did not remember whether it was “ha’nosein l’ya’eif ko’ach” or “ha’nosein l’ayeif ko’ach.” Just think, what remained in the memory of this Jew after ten or twenty years of exile and imprisonment, something which he cared about very much, which is why he did not forget it – not the suffering of a difficult galus like exile to Siberia, lacking basic human needs, but this confusion over not remembering the exact wording of the morning brachos! We see here how great is the effect of the Rebbeim on those who are mekusharim to them, that they can attain a level like this in which that which bothers them is not the pain of the suffering of the body but confusion in avodas Hashem. Surely this is so after his passing, for the Rebbe, my father-in-law, takes care of him in all the matters necessary after the parting of the soul from the body and all the more so, at the conclusion and completion of the Shiva. revealed to the world; as for the real Moshiach, nobody is waiting for him.” R’ Levitin explained that ordinary people look forward to Moshiach’s coming for the money that will grow on trees when Moshiach is actually about the revelation of G-d in the world. The Rebbe stood looking into a seifer but was close enough to hear the conversation. Suddenly, he turned to R’ Levitin and said, “You hear Shmuel! When Moshiach comes, even your foot will be healed” (from which he suffered terribly). Thus, the Rebbe expressed the physical accomplishments of Moshiach along with the spiritual. R’ Shneur Zalman Gurary related that when he had yechidus on 16 Cheshvan 5724, the Rebbe said, “When Moshiach comes, even the skin on R’ Shmuel’s feet will be healed.”
From Otzar HaChassidim – New York, edited by R’ Yosef Ashkenazi.
MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL
On another occasion, the Rebbe alluded (apparently before his nesius) to R’ Levitin’s estrangement from material matters. It was when R’ Levitin was talking in 770 with a Chassid about what this world will look like when Moshiach comes. He quoted the line, “The Moshiach people are waiting for won’t be
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