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TANYA ADVENTURES IN MOSCOW
YOUR ELDERS AND 12 ASK THEY SHALL TELL YOU
4 D’var Malchus 11 Open Forum 17 Parsha Thought 40 Tzivos Hashem 42 Young Chassid
INNER CIRCLES 20 THE OF MODESTY
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What a Rebbe Says About Another Rebbe, He Establishes For Himself As Well
On the occasion of Yud Shvat 5720, the Rebbe MH”M makes the case that a Rebbe’s claim about another Rebbe is equally intended as a claim about himself. This principle is fundamental in establishing what the Rebbe MH”M wished to communicate about his pivotal role in the era of the threshold of Redemption, especially in the wake of Gimmel Tammuz 5754. * Chapter 3 of Rabbi Shloma Majeski’s Likkutei Mekoros. (Bold text is the compiler’s emphasis.)
Translated and presented by Boruch Merkur
he Rebbe shlita began the farbrengen with commentary on the daily parsha, first prefacing it with the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, nishmaso Eden, on how to interpret the wording of the Mishna,* “Know before Whom you are destined in the future to be judged and to face reckoning.” At first glance this teaching is difficult to understand, for the regular order of events is that one first faces reckoning and then judgment is pronounced,** and in accordance with that reckoning, the assessment of
the case, the judgment emerges. What then is: judgment and [only thereafter] reckoning? It is in accordance with the Divine principle that one is only punished “with his knowledge,” according to his own concept of justice. That is, only if one had personally rendered such a ruling of punishment for a transgression done. This ruling is made, however, “without his knowledge,” in the sense that he is asked about someone else who had committed the same sin. As he “judges” this person, according to the severity of his
sin, that “reckoning” he made in “judgment” of the other individual is meted out upon him. As it applies to our discussion, our Sages have said: “The Attribute of Benevolence is more abundant than...” Thus, if regarding the Attribute of Retribution the Sages have said that in accordance with the judgment one makes on his fellow he rules upon himself, how much more is this true of the Attribute of Benevolence. My father in-law, the Rebbe, writes*** with regard to the day of the passing of his father (the Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, nishmaso Eden): “This is an auspicious day – for Anash and for talmidei ha’T’mimim – to connect to the Tree of Life … All of you – yourselves, your wives, your sons and daughters – should stand ready to receive the blessing G-d shall bestow upon you and upon us, granting abundant life, livelihood, and nachas from your children. This blessing is brought about by means of the arousal of great mercy [On High] … on the part of the Rebbe, whose hilula we mark. Indeed, you shall be amply
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blessed with children, health, and sustenance.” As my revered father in-law, the Rebbe, ruled with regard to his father, so he has ruled about himself about the day of his passing – that this day is an auspicious day to connect to the Tree of Life and to receive the blessing G-d shall bestow, granting abundant life, etc. This blessing is brought about by means of the arousal of great mercy … on the part of my father in-law, the Rebbe, whose hilula we mark.”
(From the Hosafos of Likkutei Sichos Vol. 6, pg. 283)
Our Sages have said that “The Attribute of Benevolence is more abundant than...” Thus, if regarding the Attribute of Retribution [which pales in comparison to the Attribute of Benevolence] the Sages have said that in accordance with the judgment one makes on his fellow he rules upon himself, how much more is this true of the Attribute of Benevolence.
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331 331 Kingston Kingston Ave.Ave. (quoted in Likkutei Maharan siman 113). nd discussed in NY 11213 *According to the Mishna (Avos 3:16), I further found this topic (2nd(2 Flr) Flr) Brooklyn Brooklyn NY 11213 Bina L’Ittim drush 63. punishment is exacted upon a man “with his knowledge and without his **See this addressed in Tosafos Yom Tov knowledge,” which is to be understood on Avos Ch. 3, beg.; Notzer Chesed ibid. Get Getyour your tickets tickets within within minutes! minutes! in light of what is written in Shmuel 2:12 ***Kuntres 3; Kuntres 36.
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Issue 896 • �
Another installment from the memoirs of R’ Zalman Chanin about the special shlichus from the Rebbe, together with his friend R’ Laibel Zajac, to print the Tanya in Russia. * R’ Zalman tells how frightened his father was of the trip to Russia, about the welcome they got at the Russian hotel, the endless rounds they made in the attempt to find one heater in all of Moscow, and about the bottles of mashke that were exchanged for bottles of gasoline. * Part 3
Prepared for publication by Avrohom Rainitz
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n the previous installment, I told about how, in Cheshvan 5752, when giving out dollars for tz’daka, the Rebbe told us to immediately arrange our paperwork so that by 19 Kislev we could print the Tanya in the fortress in Leningrad (now S. Petersburg) where the Alter Rebbe had been imprisoned. This instruction was a complete turnabout, since a few months earlier, when my friend Leibel Zajac had raised the idea of going to Russia, the Rebbe dismissed it out of hand. At that time, the Rebbe said that although the Iron Curtain had fallen, the government in Russia would not allow American citizens to come and print a Tanya in the street. Now, out of the blue, the Rebbe was telling us to go to Russia to print the Tanya, and not just in the street but in the military fortress in Leningrad! We got right to work. In those days, one needed a visa to every city he wished to visit, and so we had to decide ahead of time which cities we wanted to go to. According to Russian law, we also had to order and pay in advance for rooms in hotels we would be staying in. The Russians know how to extract money from tourists, and every step of the way we had to part with significant sums. Since we did not know precisely which cities we would be visiting, we asked for and obtained a visa to Moscow and its environs, and to Leningrad and its environs. This visa enabled us to visit all cities in a 20-30 kilometer radius of Moscow and Leningrad. We also requested a visa for Lubavitch. We kept the Rebbe’s warning in mind that in Russia it is hard to obtain supplies, from printing paper to a teaspoon. We went on
a grand shopping trip and bought anything we thought we might need during our two week stay in Russia.
MY FATHER SAID: DON’T YOU DARE CALL ME FROM THERE
When my father a”h heard that I was going to Russia, he was terribly frightened. He said to me: Do you know where you are going? The Chanin family is considered treif, and the minute they hear your name, they will arrest you! You just have to set one foot on Russian soil and they will immediately cart you off to prison! I calmed him and said that since I was going on the Rebbe’s shlichus, I was utterly confident that no evil would befall me. But it was hard for him to relax and he warned me not to dare call him from Russia, not even to say hello. “You have no idea where you are going,” he said somberly. Despite all my attempts at calming him, I could see the fear in my father’s eyes. He was literally ois mentch (completely discomposed). It was remarkable to see the fear the Russian government instilled in its citizens. Although decades had passed since he had left Russia, he was still sure that since he was on their black list and they had continued searching for him even after his escape, that they would vent their wrath on me and arrest me instead of him. He was absolutely convinced of this. (At the beginning of the 50’s, when R’ Mendel Futerfas sat in jail in Russia under Stalin’s rule, in one of the interrogations they asked him where my father was. R’ Mendel said he did not know. He really had no idea, because my father was abroad
and R’ Mendel was in jail for years already, so how could he be in touch with my father? The interrogator angrily said: Your Religion Minister (R’ Nissan Nemanov) and your Financial Minister (R’ Chaikel Chanin) slipped between our fingers and escaped. When we catch them, we will teach them a lesson … Years later, when R’ Mendel arrived in the United States and told my father, my father was terribly frightened so that even thirty years later he was still scared). But I wasn’t at all scared.
A RUSSIAN WELCOME
We took about ten suitcases with us and had to pay $8000 for our overweight bags! Upon arriving at the airport with all those suitcases, people looked at us like we were crazy. When we arrived in Moscow, we were carefully examined, but they did not keep us in customs and they let us take in everything we had brought. Besides the things we needed for printing and food, we took twenty pairs of t’fillin and a lot of mezuzos. R’ Zev Wagner welcomed us along with two fellows familiar with printing, who were responsible for the technical end of the printing job. He came with a big vehicle in which he loaded all our stuff and then drove us to the hotel. The first authentic Russian welcome we received was when we arrived at the hotel. The clerk told us we had to leave our passports with him. This demand frightened me, because how could we go around Russia without a passport when the police constantly conducted identity checks? Even on the roads there were patrols that
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it was no simple matter to print a Tanya on the street. The snow that had accumulated did not disturb us while in the vehicle, but we could definitely feel the cold. We were dressed warmly and the minimal heat in the vehicle was enough so we did not feel uncomfortable, but the ink in the printing press froze. We could not begin working and had to look for a heater to warm up the vehicle so that the ink wouldn’t freeze. Where would we get a heater? We took a taxi and went from store to store; mainly those designated for tourists where you pay in dollars and where you can usually buy everything. But at that time, after the revolution, the stores were empty. We were willing to pay top dollar, but when there is nothing to buy, that’s that. I was reminded of all the descriptions I had heard from my father about the long lines for bread and other basic necessities. I thought of those great Chassidim who stood for hours on line for bread until they were killed by a goy who threw them off the line in a murderous rage. Seeing is more powerful than hearing, and as much as I imagined it, there was no comparison to the reality I experienced on that visit to Moscow. For anything I wanted to buy, I had to stand on line, sometimes for hours. If that was the situation in Moscow in the 90’s, what could one expect of the nightmare under Stalin? The situation in Russia was awful. There wasn’t enough bread and even water was hard to get, because the water in the faucets was polluted, especially after the Chernobyl disaster. All over the hotel were posted sings warning not to drink the water
R’ Leibel Zajac printing the Tanya in the yeshiva of R’ Adin Even-Yisrael (Steinsaltz) in Moscow.
We were dressed warmly and the minimal heat in the vehicle was enough so we did not feel uncomfortable, but the ink in the printing press froze.
randomly stopped cars and all the passengers had to get out and let the police check the car and what it contained. Naturally, while “searching,” the police took whatever they could because they also needed to live … So go and travel in this country without a passport! The clerk reassured me that this is the protocol, that every tourist must leave his passport in the hotel. In the event that he has to leave the hotel, on each floor sat someone in charge of the floor, available 24 hours a day, who would give the tourist his passport. Upon returning, the passport had to be relinquished once again. We insisted that we were not going to leave our passports with them. This created an uproar and R’ Leibel said that in their office in New York they told him explicitly that after the overthrow of communism there was no need to give the passport to the clerk on the floor. We stood our ground and were given a room in the hotel even though we did not give up our passports.
As soon as we put our belongings down in the hotel, we went out to the big vehicle in order to get started with printing the first Tanya. The fellows in charge of technical matters quickly assembled the mobile printing press, but we soon realized that in the Moscow cold
8 � • 30 Tishrei 5774
until after boiling it. So, wherever they sold anything, there was a long line. That reminds me; when we walked down the street we passed a fruit and vegetable market where I saw some nice strawberries for sale. To my great surprise, there was no line. I thought of buying some strawberries and giving them to the printing team. I was sure that they would enjoy eating them, in the middle of a Moscow winter no less. R’ Wagner was walking with me and when I told him that I wanted to buy the strawberries, he took a small gadget from his pocket and checked them. He began to laugh and said: Do you know where these strawberries are from? From the Chernobyl area and they are containing nuclear fallout which is why they look so nice. You could figure out for yourself that if there is no line, it’s because people know it’s dangerous to buy these fruits and only ignorant tourists would buy them. It was only after several hours of running here and there that we found a used heater. The store owner felt bad for us and agreed to sell it to us. Boruch Hashem, it heated up the vehicle enough so that the ink was no longer frozen and we could begin to work. Toward evening we had finished printing the first Tanya on the street of Moscow. We were thrilled. After all the aggravation we had done it, even printing a complete book. We knew we were on the right track.
R’ Zalman Chanin in his room in the hotel in Moscow.
After waiting two hours, they finally reached the clerk but when he gave her the eighteen dollars, she said she did not have so much money in the register!
fortress, Petropavlovskaya Krepost in Leningrad, where the Alter Rebbe had been incarcerated, as the Rebbe had asked. Before we left, the Rebbe gave us eighteen dollars for us to give to tz’daka in Russia. Despite the practice of holding on to the bills received from the Rebbe and giving other bills to tz’daka, in this case the Rebbe told us to take these very dollar bills and exchange them in a bank. The Rebbe emphasized that we needed to change the dollars for rubles in an official way, and then give the rubles to tz’daka. As I said, on our first day in Russia, I went with the printers to arrange the mobile printing press and we printed the first Tanya. As we did so, R’ Leibel went to the bank to change the dollars for rubles. I think they told us that in only three places in Moscow could we officially exchange our dollars for rubles. One of them was the central bank of Moscow. After davening that morning, R’ Leibel went to the bank with R’ Zev and of course they had to stand in a long line. After waiting two hours, they finally reached the clerk but when he gave her the eighteen dollars, she said she did not have so much money in the register! To the best of my memory, the exchange rate at the time was between five and six thousand rubles to the dollar and she did not have that many rubles. She told R’ Leibel to come back
Issue 896 • �
STANDING ON LINE FOR HOURS
In the meantime, we tried getting permission to print the Tanya in the Peter and Paul
mosdos that existed at the time. Those who come from a Western country find it hard to believe that life could be this way. To have to stand on line for three days and waste all that time in order to exchange $18! We could have spared ourselves the experience if we had exchanged the money on the black market, but as Chassidim, that did not occur to us and we did what the Rebbe said. We don’t know what the heavenly calculations might be, but apparently it was important that we officially change the Rebbe’s dollars so that they would enter the Russian government’s coffers. We saw how matters of k’dusha are attained with great difficulty. who gave good advice. He said to bribe those selling the gasoline with vodka. We bought a lot of vodka on the black market where it is plentiful, since one can’t live in Russia without vodka. We took vodka and told the gasoline sellers that for every liter of gas they sold us, we would give them a liter of vodka. This ingenious idea worked better than we anticipated. Nobody refused our request and they gave us plenty of gas. The boxes of vodka also opened other doors. At first, when we printed on the street, we had to use the generator’s electricity. It made a huge noise and attracted the attention of all the passersby. We did not want to attract undo attention and so we came up with the following idea. When we stopped on the street to print a Tanya, we knocked on the nearest door and made the owner an offer: he would supply us with electricity and we would give him a bottle of vodka. Nobody refused this generous offer. This arrangement made life easier for us and we were able to print more Tanyas per day. That is when I understood the saying, “great is the power of a gulp.” It seems that within the seventy facets of Torah, this is one of them. About the continuation of our mission and the printing of the Tanya in the Rebbe’s apartment and in the fortress in Leningrad – find out all about it in the next installment. forcefully, citing the Rebbe’s clear words aimed directly at them. The pictures and articles can wait for another time.
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The Rebbe said to print the Tanya in the fortress where the Alter Rebbe was incarcerated.
A LITER OF VODKA FOR A LITER OF GAS
Another difficulty we had to contend with was the shortage of gasoline. We needed a huge amount – for the vehicle as well as for the generator that supplied electricity for the printing press. In order to obtain a few liters of gas one had to stand for hours on line. R’ Zev came up with an idea. He found some bachurim who volunteered to help us. They stood on line with a container and they brought us a few liters of gas every day. But it wasn’t enough. The vehicle and the generator guzzled the gas and it was hard to continue working that way. Hashem sent us someone begun to carry out extremely dangerous measures, intended as a “goodwill gesture.” Now is the time for Chabad askanim to take advantage of the doors that are open to them in government offices and to protest
the next day in the afternoon, because that is when they would be getting a cash delivery and she would be able to exchange his dollars. The next day, R’ Leibel went back to the bank. He waited on line for two hours or more and when it was his turn, he was told the same thing as the day before! We don’t have enough rubles, come back tomorrow. On the third day, after waiting for hours on line, he finally got the rubles in exchange for the dollars and we began giving out the money to tz’daka to the Continued from page 11 traffic light at the entrance to Kfar Chabad isn’t shut down. These are difficult times for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel as PM Netanyahu gallops toward dangerous concessions and has
10 � • 30 Tishrei 5774
WHAT IS THE TRUE ROLE OF A CHABAD REPRESENTATIVE?
This week in our open forum: We have a responsibility to the Jewish people. If we have connections, we need to use them for the greater good and only after that for our personal matters, as important as they may be.
here are pictures that seem to be a part of the very existence of every Lubavitcher, which we see from an early age. This time, I’m not talking about famous pictures of the Rebbe like the picture of the Rebbe with Moshiach’s Torah from Yud Shevat 5730, or the picture from Lag B’Omer 5750. I’m talking about the pictures of Lubavitcher askanim when they visit Israeli political figures. Everyone is familiar with the picture of R’ Mendel Futerfas, R’ Zushe Partisan, R’ Berke Wolf and R’ Shmuel Chefer with Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir. And everyone is familiar with the pictures that are publicized regularly of askanei Chabad from recent years visiting recent prime ministers as well as ministers and Knesset members. When you compare the pictures of askanim from the previous era to those of today, something immediately stands out. Something in these
pictures is missing (and it’s not the ties of the askanim of the previous generation). Without meaning to offend any of the askanim who surely do great work for Chabad mosdos in Eretz Yisroel, and without disparaging the tremendous good they accomplished on behalf of those who sent them (and obviously, without disparaging the political capital they generated through publicity on Chabad internet sites),
something is still missing. It is not the job of Chabad askanim to acquire funding for mosdos or to get legislation passed in some office. That is important and it definitely gives the Rebbe nachas, but our first responsibility is toward the Jewish people. If we have connections, we need to use them for the greater good and only after that for our personal matters, as important as they may be. When Chabad askanim meet with a Prime Minister or the Defense Minister, the goal ought to be very clear: to let them know the Rebbe’s warnings about the danger in giving away land to terrorists, or to let them know what the Halacha has to say about freeing murderers from jail. When giving away land is not the issue of the day, the meeting should be used to remind the Education Minister that there are still hundreds of thousands of Jewish children in Eretz Yisroel who do not know how to say the Shma. The goal should be clear and have nothing to do with pictures and hugs, but to attain things on behalf of Am Yisroel, Eretz Yisroel, and Toras Yisroel. Only after that can we think about additional benefits for Chabad institutions or to ensure that the Continued on page 10
Issue 896 • �
ASK YOUR ELDERS AND THEY SHALL TELL YOU
R’ Mendel Morosov, a senior Lubavitcher Chassid and unique source of reliable stories about Chabad Chassidim of previous generations, shares childhood memories. * About a trip to the Rebbe, t’kios with the Tzemach Tzedek, and the beginning of the Rebbe Maharash’s nesius.
By Yisroel Lapidot Photos by Itzik Roitman
his article was written minutes after a spontaneous farbrengen back in Elul, in the modest home of R’ Menachem Mendel Morosov. He lives on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Albany, a short walk from 770. R’ Mendel welcomed us with a warm smile. On the table were some pieces of honey cake, drinks, some glasses and a small bottle of mashke that was a third full. The latter is always on the table, ready for a farbrengen. It was a good opportunity to drink (no more than four shots of) vodka mixed with whisky. He said, “Zogt l’chaim,” and it didn’t take long for the sharp drink to take effect. R’ Mendel didn’t stop saying, “L ’chaim Chassidim, l’chaim!” He tells us to taste some farbaisen of honey
cake. Pointing at the mashke, he chuckles as he says, “For me that is also farbaisen.” Due to his age, the takana regarding mashke was never relevant. For those who don’t know, R’ Mendel Morosov is nearly 100 years old, may he live many more healthy years. He is a baal shmua (reliable transmitter) of stories about Chabad Chassidim of previous generations. He himself was born in Lubavitch, and apparently is the only Chassid of our generation who spent his early childhood years in the towns of Lubavitch and Rostov. R’ Mendel is the son of the well-known Chassid R’ Chonye, may Hashem avenge his blood, who served as the personal assistant of the Rebbe Rashab and Rebbe Rayatz. This explains how young Mendel merited
special signs of closeness from the Rebbe Rayatz. R’ Mendel’s mind is sharp and he has numerous memories of the days he spent with the great Chassidim, taking in their words and learning from their ways. He smiled throughout the farbrengen and was in high spirits. His Chassidic joking and laughter cloak a message that becomes progressively clearer as the time passes. The first story we heard from him did not have much to do with the ways of Chassidim, but was about “what not to be.” This is what R’ Mendel said: During the First World War, the Rogatchover moved from Dvinsk to Leningrad (and moved back to Dvinsk a few years later). So in my youth, I davened in the Chassidic shul where he davened.
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There was also a minyan of Misnagdim in the city, but one day, it seems their shul was closed, and a Misnagdic young man came to the Chassidic shul to daven Shacharis. Misnagdim begin their davening in shul with the Morning Blessings, and this man began to recite them out loud, forcing everyone to stop and answer amen. The Rogatchover’s place was on the eastern wall. He stood behind the chazzan’s lectern which was high, like in 770, and concealed the Rogatchover who was a short man. When he heard the Misnaged, he leaned over from his place and looked over the chazzan’s lectern. His eyes met mine and he smiled broadly and said, “Yingele, yingele, look at a Misnaged …” and he laughed.
TRAVELING TO THE REBBE
As is the way of Chassidim of earlier times, R Mendel “lives” the stories he tells at farbrengs. They fill him with energy and he goes into detail about them and the spirit of the times in which they transpired. He told of an unusual sort of trip to the Rebbe as follows: During World War I, when the Germans approached Smolensk which was near Lubavitch, we left Lubavitch and a few years later we moved to Rostov. My father was the gabbai for the Rebbe Rayatz. After a short while, when I was eight, the Rebbe moved to Leningrad (which is Petersburg today). Since my father was the gabbai, we also moved. In earlier years, a religious Jew was not allowed to live in Leningrad. It was a beautiful city,
but spiritually polluted. When we arrived there, there were already a few Jews. Many war refugees made their way there. But there still was no yeshiva. We were little boys who needed to go to yeshiva, and my father couldn’t learn with us because he was busy from morning till night in the Rebbe’s house. Having no choice, my parents decided to send me and my younger brother Herschel to learn in the Chassidic town of Nevel. They arranged with a young man, Eliyahu Volovskin, who was a melamed in Nevel, to look after us during our stay there. We learned by him, ate by him, and slept by him. He was young; I think he was newly married since he did not have children then. I remember the big room that we learned in. There was a
Issue 896 • �
Every time the cat walked past the door and your son-in-law thought that someone was watching him, he would run and open a book so everyone would think he learns.
large table in the center and that is where we learned. Our class had many children. We learned Chumash; I don’t remember whether we learned it with Rashi or not, but what I remember is that he was a Chassidic melamed. On Fridays and Shabbos he did not teach; he just told Chassidic stories. Every night we folded the table, put chairs together, put some shmatte over them and went to sleep. In Elul, all the talmidim of the yeshiva and the Chassidim of the town went to the Rebbe, to Leningrad. My little brother and I also went. I was very happy to return home, but my joy was marred because Herschel was very sick. Since we were still little children – I was nine and he was seven – we could not travel alone on the train. They sent us with a bachur from Tomchei T’mimim, Leibel Lipsker, who was 18. He accompanied us on the train. The trip from Nevel to Leningrad took twelve hours. Since my brother did not feel well, they arranged a special place for him to rest. I, on the other hand, was unable to sit for so long, and I walked around throughout the journey. After several hours of traveling at night, when the first rays of dawn could be seen, Leibel called me and said, “Mendele, you need to daven.” He brought me a Siddur and showed me what to daven. I suppose I finished davening too quickly for his liking, and he told me that I had skipped pages. I believed him. It was possible. I said: Okay, so I have to daven again. Then he said, “I will show you where.” He pointed at certain sections and said, “You skipped here and here, say this over.” I was amazed and I asked him how he knew what I skipped. He told me that he saw that some pages in the Siddur were illuminated and others were dark and the dark parts were where I had skipped. I told him, “But I don’t see that,” and he said, “You don’t see it but I do.” I couldn’t argue with him and I davened again (R’ Mendel laughed heartily). As a child, I believed him. After davening, I continued wandering around from one compartment to another. I found a compartment that was completely empty except for one old Jew who was sitting alone. He was a distinguished looking Chassid with a long white beard. I did not know him, but he seemed to know me; he called me over and asked me to tell him a Chassidic story that I heard from my melamed. I told him a story I had recently heard and from the expression on his face I could see he enjoyed it very much.
THE STORY REBBETZIN SHTERNA SARA TOLD
As soon as we arrived home, my brother was taken to the hospital where he died. After this tragedy, my parents decided not to send me back to Nevel and I remained in Leningrad. I was
very happy to stay home. Some months passed and one day I took my little brother Sholom, who was in a baby carriage, and wheeled him from one room to another. The house was very small and when we walked through the living room, I saw my father sitting with a guest I did not know. The man had a long black beard and a smiling face. My father suddenly called me and said: Leave Sholom in the carriage and come here. I went over to them and my father asked me: Repeat the story that you told R’ Meir Simcha Chein on the train from Nevel to Leningrad. I didn’t know who Meir Simcha was. I did not know a Chassid by that name and I certainly did not remember that I had told him a story. It was only when my father reminded me of the old Jew I had met in the empty train compartment, who had asked me to tell him a story, that I remembered. I happily repeated the story: In the time of the Alter Rebbe, Chassidim tried to be mekarev young Torah scholars who would be able to absorb the depth of Chassidus. Those young men, who appreciated Chassidus, often needed mesirus nefesh to become Chassidim, for many of them were supported by their fathersin-law who were Misnagdim. When the father-in-law found out that his son-in-law had become involved with Chassidus, he would stop supporting him. It happened that a young man discovered Chassidus. When his wealthy father-in-law discovered that his son-in-law had become a Chassid, he told him that although he would not cut off support, he wanted to speak to the Alter Rebbe personally. The father-in-law went to
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the Alter Rebbe and complained: Chassidus ruined my son-in-law! Before he became acquainted with Chassidic teachings, he would sit and learn diligently for eighteen hours a day. Once he started learning Chassidus, he began skipping hours of learning and now he sits idly! The Alter Rebbe said: You are mistaken. Until now, your son-in-law learned three hours for you, so that you would see that he is learning. He learned another three hours for his mother-in-law, so she would see that he is learning. He learned another three hours for his wife, so she would see that he is learning, and another three hours for the neighbor, so he should also see him learning. He even learned a few hours for the cat – i.e. every time the cat walked past the door and your son-inlaw thought that someone was watching him, he would run and open a book so everyone would think he learns. He learned only a few hours for real, because Hashem said so. Now that he has studied Chassidus, he realizes that nothing exists except for G-d. You, your wife, his wife, the neighbor, and the cat don’t matter and so he doesn’t run to open a book each time you pass by. Nu, what’s surprising about him learning less? I said all this to the young guest. He stood the entire time with arms folded and a big smile on his face. After he left the house, I asked my father what his name was and why I had been asked to tell the story that I had told to “Meir Simcha” a few months ago on the train from Nevel to Leningrad. My father said: The guest who just left the house was R’ Shaul Ber Zislin (years later, he served as rav of the Chabad community in Tel Aviv) who heard the story
When he reached the words “This is the child I prayed for,” the Tzemach Tzedek inclined his head toward his son Shmuel, later to be the Rebbe Maharash.
from Rebbetzin Shterna Sara, the Rebbe Rashab’s wife. She said she heard it from R’ Meir Simcha Chein who told everyone he had heard it from R’ Chonye’s ten year old Mendele. great Chassidim went to his sons to hear Chassidus. The Rebbe Maharash, who was the youngest son, refused to say maamarei Chassidus. Furthermore, because of his manner of dress and other externalities, some thought of him as modern. Some time after the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek, a will was discovered in which it said that the Rebbe’s youngest son should perpetuate the Chabad leadership. The other brothers, each one an Admur of his own Chassidim, decided to leave Lubavitch and each of them went somewhere else. Most of the maskilim and great Chassidim were drawn to Kopust, Liadi, and Niezhin. A few simple people remained in Lubavitch. R’ Shmuel Grunem (later, the first mashpia in Tomchei T’mimim) was among the many who were undecided. He did not know whom to follow. He finally decided to go to the Chassidic town of Bobruisk in order to consult with one of the great Chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek, the mashpia R’ Shmuel Ber Borisover. Upon arriving there, R’ Shmuel Ber told him that he had decided to go to Lubavitch to the Rebbe Maharash because of three reasons, two of which I (R’ Mendel Morosov) still remember. R’ Shmuel Ber told R’ Shmuel Grunem that one time, when he was in Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek said a maamer and he quoted something from Eitz Chaim. At the end of the Shabbos
MEMORIES OF T’KIOS WITH THE TZEMACH TZEDEK
During the farbrengen, R’ Mendel recounted for us a moving testimony that he heard as a young boy from an old Chassid who had attended the t’kios on Rosh HaShana in the Tzemach Tzedek’s shul in Lubavitch for many years. This is what he said: When I was a boy, I met a Chassid by the name of R’ Peretz who was 93 at the time. He described to me in detail what Rosh HaShana in Lubavitch was like during the nesius of the Tzemach Tzedek: There was a platform in the center of the beis midrash on which the Tzemach Tzedek stood, and during the blowing of the shofar his holy sons stood there around the platform in a circle. Each one had a set place. Today, I don’t remember what the precise order R’ Peretz described was, but what I do remember is that the place of the Rebbe Maharash, the youngest son, was opposite his father.
WHY R’ SHMUEL BER BORISOVER WENT TO THE REBBE MAHARASH
After the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek, many of the
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at the very difficult place that the Tzemach Tzedek had spoken about on Shabbos. R’ Shmuel Ber realized that the Rebbe Maharash was familiar with the topic and he wanted to ask him for an answer to the question on the maamer. He went to the front of the house and began knocking at the door. He heard the Rebbe Maharash say, “Who is it?” “Shmuel Ber,” he replied. “One minute,” said the voice and to R’ Shmuel Ber’s astonishment, when the Rebbe Maharash opened the door, the Eitz Chaim had disappeared and the table was covered with newspapers in various languages. “What do you want?” asked the Rebbe Maharash. R’ Shmuel Ber told him the question and the Rebbe Maharash said, “Why did you come to me? How should I know the answer to this difficult question?” When R’ Shmuel Ber saw that the Rebbe Maharash was trying to dodge the issue, he decided to tell him what he had seen minutes earlier, through the window. “If you don’t tell me the answer, tomorrow I will tell the entire town what happened here at two in the morning.” So the Rebbe Maharash agreed to explain the Eitz Chaim to him. That was one reason he was going to the Rebbe Maharash. As to the second reason, R’ Shmuel Ber said that one time, when he was in Lubavitch for Rosh HaShana, he watched the Tzemach Tzedek during the reading of the Haftora on the first day, about Chana giving birth and naming her son Shmuel. When he reached the words “This is the child I prayed for,” the Tzemach Tzedek inclined his head toward his son Shmuel, later to be the Rebbe Maharash.
farbrengen, when the chozrim reviewed the maamer, they asked, “How does it fit with what it says in Eitz Chaim?” Nobody knew the answer. Even the great sons of the Tzemach Tzedek tried to find an answer but were unable to do so. At two in the morning on Motzaei Shabbos, R’ Shmuel Ber walked restlessly in the narrow streets of Lubavitch, preoccupied with the maamer that the Tzemach Tzedek had said. As he walked, he noticed a light
from the window of the Rebbe Maharash’s home. He was curious about what the Rebbe Maharash was doing so late at night. However, since the Rebbe Maharash’s house was considered up-to-date for those days, since it was a taller building and the windows were placed higher than the norm, R’ Shmuel Ber had to climb the outer wall. He had to be careful not to get caught. He peeked in through the window and saw the Rebbe sitting and learning Eitz Chaim
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THE ELUSIVE FOURTH SON
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
In the aftermath of the Great Flood that destroyed the world, the Torah records the rather strange story of how Noah planted a vineyard and became inebriated. His son Cham (usually rendered Ham) reported his father’s disgraceful condition to his brothers, who hastened to have him covered. When Noah discovered what his son Cham did to him he cursed him. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 70a), cited by Rashi, explains that Noah’s extreme response to his son’s uncovering his nakedness was due to the fact that Cham was not just disrespectful to his father by seeing him in his compromised state and reporting it to his brothers rather than covering his father himself. Cham actually committed a horrible crime by castrating his father. One of the proofs that support this oral tradition, as recorded in the Talmud, that it was a more serious crime than just seeing his father exposed, is the use of the phrase “when Noah saw what his younger son did to him.” The words “did to him” imply that he did not just gaze on him but that he actually did something to him. What was Cham’s rationale for committing this appalling act? The Midrash, cited in a
subsequent comment by Rashi, explains that Cham did not want his father to have another child. His reason was: “Adam had only two sons yet one killed the other because of the inheritance of the world and our father has three sons yet he still seeks a fourth son!” There are several questions that arise here. First, in the Biblical text the dispute between Cain and Abel revolved around Cain’s jealousy of Abel, whose offering G-d accepted while rejecting his brother’s offering. How does that reconcile with the Midrash’s contention that they were divided about inheriting the world? Second, why would two people be so concerned about who owns a greater share of the world? After all, there were only four people alive at that time. Was the world not big enough for the two of them? Third, what use to Cham would it be for Noah to be prevented from having another son? In a few generations, the world would once again be populated by multitudes of people who would have to divide it among far more than four people. What, then, did he gain by preventing his father from siring another child?
THE IDEOLOGICAL DEBATE BETWEEN CAIN AND ABEL
The following is based partly on a contemporary work, Avir Yosef. In truth, Cain and Abel were not concerned solely about material possessions. Theirs was not just a turf war as to who would control more territory. Obviously neither felt a need to be called the owner of the entire world when there were only four people in existence at that time. Rather, Cain and Abel knew that they were to be the progenitors of humanity. They were also sophisticated enough to recognize that G-d placed them in this world for a purpose which would be transmitted to future generations. If G-d did not confer a universal mission on them, why did he create just Adam and Eve, who would, in turn, have just two children? This was unlike all the other creatures, which were created in prolific numbers. It was obvious to them that they, the heirs of Adam and Eve, were destined to chart the course of humanity for all posterity. It was thus their responsibility to establish societal norms and direction for the future. It was also clear that Cain and Abel knew that their Creator wanted certain things from
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humanity as a quid pro quo for their continued existence. What precisely did G-d want from humanity? To what degree does a person have to recognize G-d’s role? These questions were the real crux of their ideological differences. In response to the challenge of these two questions, Cain inaugurated the idea of making an offering to G-d. In a crude sense, Cain’s notion was like paying “protection money” demanded by organized crime. Cain believed that if he could “pay G-d off” with a meager offering of produce (according to Rashi it was flax), that would suffice to keep G-d off the backs of humanity so it could grow independently of G-d. In truth, Cain’s idea was not as outrageous as it seems. to G-d in every moment of life, in whichever place or situation one finds oneself. G-d, and our relationship with Him, ought not to be viewed as a burden. G-d is not simply trying to get something from us in return for granting us our lives. G-d is our very life. Our recognition of Him is what makes our lives meaningful and joyful. Abel rejected the notion of compartmentalizing his relationship with G-d. Thus, his idea of an offering was to designate the best of his sheep and offer it to G-d. It was his way of expressing the sentiment that it was his greatest joy to serve G-d all the time. Moreover, he did not set aside the moment of making his offering as the exclusive time for his service to G-d; it was a time for added emphasis and devotion, were evolving. Shem, also known as Malkitzedek, the ancestor of Abraham, was a Kohen; a man who dedicated his life to G-d and who therefore merited that his descendants would receive the Torah and build the Holy Temple where G-d would dwell. Yafes—whose name means “beauty”—emphasized aesthetic beauty and the secular knowledge which uncovers the beauty that exists within nature. He was the progenitor of the Greeks and, by extension, Western Civilization as we know it today. Cham —whose name means “heat”— was an advocate for hedonism, devoted to allowing one’s passions for material and sensual pleasures to dominate. Cham was the ancestor of Nimrod, who rebelled against G-d and instituted idolatry. In truth, hedonism and idolatry often go together. Pagan gods were frequently used as projections of, and justifications for, sybaritic desires and depraved morals. Cham was convinced that these three competing philosophies would power many struggles for supremacy in the future, as indeed they have. How could the world tolerate a fourth philosophical approach? In truth, Cham committed a crime every bit as egregious as Cain’s transgression. In the interest of preventing dissent and struggle they perpetrated extreme acts of cruelty. Even if they were correct in their attempt to limit the ideologies that would vie for supremacy, the end did not justify the means. Moreover, the very premise upon which Cain and Cham acted was flawed. They were correct in concluding that G-d’s initial creation of so few
G-d, and our relationship with Him, ought not to be viewed as a burden.
much like the way we observe Shabbos and Jewish Holidays in our own lives. It was this divergence of views regarding the way humanity was to understand one’s relationship with G-d that shaped their dispute about dividing up the world. Each brother sought to ensure that the future course of humanity would follow his own philosophy.
His calculation can be restated in a more sophisticated, but no less misguided, fashion. Cain knew that existence was to be a balance between our obligations to G-d and our own personal independence. Cain, however, believed that it sufficed to pay homage to G-d only on special occasions through special offerings. The rest of the time, he theorized, G-d would allow us to pursue our own separate interests. This, indeed, was and continues to be the belief of many people who relegate religion to holy days, holy places and holy people. Abel, on the other hand, did not emulate Cain’s attempt to give a modest offering to G-d. It was his belief that one must be mindful of one’s obligation
Let us return now to Cham. He saw how the ideological dispute between Cain and Abel about the future direction of humanity had proved so catastrophic. He was thus genuinely concerned about the future of the world now that three different philosophies of life
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humans was indeed a way of establishing societal norms for the future. They were also correct in concluding that humankind would inevitably divide into many groups with competing ideologies. They missed a crucial point, however. G-d began by creating one human being—Adam—and only later did he create Eve. This was an indication, directly from G-d, that there is only one overarching ideology that must permeate the diversity and complexity of the human race and its multifarious ideas. There is nothing wrong with having diverse ways as long as they all lead to one overarching goal. That overarching goal is at the heart of the Torah, which celebrates diversity but harnesses it to the engine that leads the world forward to its inexorable goal—the Final Redemption.
There is nothing wrong with having diverse ways as long as they all lead to one overarching goal.
as the “fourth leg of the Divine chariot” would have absorbed the powerful spiritual energies symbolized by the wine and would have reversed the sin of the Tree of Knowledge (which, according to an opinion in the Talmud, was actually a grapevine). Noah would have succeeded, but alas his overindulgence allowed Cham’s heated aggression to frustrate the emergence of that fourth leg. The rest, as they say, is history. The task before us in the present day is to drink that wine figuratively by studying the “Wine of Torah,” in other words, those parts of Torah that demonstrate its depth and joy and lead to Mitzvos. These are the teachings of Chassidus, which are a taste of the “Preserved Wine” that we will all drink from deeply upon the imminent arrival of the “fourth leg”: Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption in his wake.
The Kabbalists and Chassidic literature describe the three sons of Noah as representing the three primary emotional traits of chesed-kindness, g’vura-severity
and tiferes-beauty/harmony. These three traits are embroiled in eternal conflict when they are not under the direction of a Higher unifying power. When one has a clear vision of his or her destination, he or she knows when to turn right (chesed), when to turn left (g’vura) and when to go straight (tiferes). The Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe and great-great-great grandfather and namesake of our Rebbe) explains that the fourth son that Cham denied his father would have corresponded to the Divine attribute of Malchus (royalty). It was Noah’s ardent wish that by drinking the Messianic “Preserved Wine,” he would introduce the soul of Moshiach into the world. Contrary to Cham’s fearful belief, Noach’s fourth child would not have introduced yet another direction, leading to even more confusion and discord. On the contrary, Moshiach, who is characterized
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Issue 896 • �
THE INNER CIRCLES OF MODESTY
The following is a small glimpse into a quiet initiative that is gaining momentum and expanding into endless circles, a modern day phenomenon whose influence is burrowing deep into the hearts of Lubavitcher women and manifesting in a more refined outward appearance. Yes, the seemingly impossible is actually happening; groups of women are joining together out of a deep and true desire, sitting together and discussing how to increase the nachas to the Rebbe MH”M, and to represent him in a dignified manner. Here you will read about the latest “trend” to come out of Kfar Chabad, whose ultimate goal is to take the reigns of the fashion world in its hands, by getting ever more Jewish women to model the fact that greater modesty equals greater beauty.
By Racheli Dickstein
omewhere between elementary school and high school, at the point where colors are blurred and boundaries are being explored, the topic of tznius is given the place of honor. If you want to hear a collective “oh no,” get a bunch of teenagers together and announce, “Today, we will talk about tznius.” But it doesn’t have to be that way; the era of Geula has penetrated here too and things have changed. Meet Mrs. Rivky Greenberg
and Mrs. Yaffa Spinner, young N’shei Chabad from Kfar Chabad. How did it all begin? “Two years ago, R’ Ashkenazi, the rav of Kfar Chabad, addressed women involved in chinuch on the topic of tznius,” said Yaffa. “He made an impassioned call to do something that wouldn’t fade with time. My son was born a short while after this gathering, while the rav’s words were still fresh and echoed in my mind. During the birth, there were
some very emotional moments in which I asked the Rebbe that Hashem give me an idea and an approach. Gathering the girls and talking to them was not it. A change had to be made and something had to be done. “Another thing that moved me to take action happened after the birth. I went home and found my refrigerator full of food, thanks to the Shifra U’Pua organization in Kfar Chabad, but my children still wanted my soup. I tried to show them the array of delicacies
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that had been prepared for us, but they insisted, ‘We want your soup.’ “I learned a lesson from this in Avodas Hashem, that there are numerous things we can do for the Rebbe – Chitas, mivtzaim, learn Chassidus – but there is something that is a woman’s personal matter, which nobody else can do for her, and that is tznius.
discussed details of their dress code and then one girl showed her shoes and asked about them. The shoes were a strong color with a showy design. Some of the girls said the shoes were inappropriate, while others said that was being petty and after all, they were just shoes. “Then I asked them: Girls, are these shoes in the style that the Rebbe wants us to wear? This
“Tznius is just like a mother’s soup. I can promise you that the soup I made was nothing special, but I put my neshama into it, as a mother. That is what the Rebbe asks of us, to put ourselves into it so that the gift is uniquely ours.” “I will tell you at what point I realized that a change is needed,” said Rivky. “In my classroom, I gave a series of lessons on tznius. With one lesson, a very pleasant mood was created that invited conversation. The girls asked and
question gave them a yardstick by which to measure whether the shoes were okay or not. They were unanimous: no. “That was the first time I used that kind of question. It’s not the way I usually spoke, but after a second thought, I realized why I had asked it. When I went to high school, the principal was R’ Tuvia Blau. He always told us about the Rebbe’s letter to the school which said, ‘ … Obviously, a Chabad school is desirable in a number of
places, especially Yerushalayim, but specifically if it is run properly, and in Yerushalayim at least on the same level as the school that is there.’ “R’ Blau spoke to us a lot about how the Rebbe also has what to say regarding the style of clothing which is beyond the realm of Halacha. I also heard from my mother-in-law, Mrs. Sarah Greenberg, about how she was sent by R’ Mordechai Levin, the principal of Beis Rivka in Kfar Chabad at that time, to ask R’ Chadakov for tznius guidelines. The answer she got was: ‘Regarding tznius, find out what they do at Beis Yaakov and act accordingly.’ “Back to the shoes in the classroom, I suddenly found myself asking not whether it was halachically acceptable, but whether the style was appropriate. I realized that the Rebbe was talking to us then about style, which is beyond the letter of the law.” How do we apply this practically? “Yaffa and I shared our thoughts and feelings on the subject,” said Rivky. “Together with Mrs. Sarah Greenberg, we thought of ways we could take action that would be well received; first for ourselves, and then for whomever would be interested. We thought that the best possible way would be with a support group. If support groups work for dieting and parenting, why not for tznius? “We called women and told them about our new initiative. The first group consisted of fifteen women. The common denominator was the desire to do what the Rebbe wants with Kabbalas Ol, with the understanding that change is a slow process and that every move
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it’s about ‘how have I already improved.’ “Those who were in the first group started additional groups. Each woman is like a pebble thrown into a pond, creating more and more circles. That is why we called it ‘Circles – Come, Let’s Talk About It.’” “Something very special happens in the groups,” said Yaffa. “The participants say their minds are always working on the topic. Even if they continue wearing the clothes they have in the closet, they consider every detail and their next shopping trip is different. The process the women go through is in their minds. Who tells them what they can and cannot wear? They do! “The group provides a feeling of inclusion. It is also a place where the unvarnished truth is told. It’s all about taking it in stages; only you decide your pace. The change begins on the level of thought; you suddenly start thinking differently than you used to. It moves on to your speech, and then to action. “It’s important to emphasize,” added Yaffa, “that tznius is synonymous with beauty, as the Rebbe says in a sicha, ‘The primary element of prettiness and beauty, both physically and spiritually, depends on the woman, for as is known, beauty and the ability to beautify are particularly feminine attributes’ (20-22 Shevat 5752).’ What are your plans for the future? “The hisgalus,” smiled Yaffa, “that we should be ready to stand before the Rebbe at our very best. “We invite women who want to join ‘Circles – Come, Let’s Talk About It,’ to be in touch with us and join in the success.” Mrs. Sigal Berg started a
CIRCLES OF BLESSING
Malky Lipsker, a wig stylist in Kfar Chabad, hosts one of the “Circles” groups in her house. She tells about the change the group has had on her: “Hosting the group in my house gives me so much and has a tremendous effect on the children and the entire house. The concept of tznius is no longer frightening. On the contrary, I hear my family discussing the topic and internalizing the ideas. In general, since I’ve been hosting the group, I feel outstanding bracha in everything.” forward is important and is very precious! “Today, Boruch Hashem, there are sixteen groups in Kfar Chabad and surrounding cities. Each group consists of up to fifteen women so as to maintain a comfortable, intimate atmosphere. The meetings are friendly, honest, and empowering without being judgmental.” “The idea for groups came from the realization that you need strength for a transformation,” explained Yaffa. “It is hard to make a transformation on your own. A group can create a tone akin to that of a farbrengen. “We put together the first group of fifteen women who really cared about what the Rebbe wants. We met once every two weeks, weighed, discussed, sat, learned, and essentially worked on developing more keen eyes regarding the style of clothing the Rebbe wants. We invited people who received guidelines from the Rebbe like R’ Tuvia Blau, Mrs. Sarah Greenberg, and others. A cousin of one of the women in the group, who comes from a Chabad home and is the assistant principal in a Beis Yaakov school, heard about the group. She was very excited and said: You are Lubavitch and Lubavitch makes revolutions. Your taking action about tznius will affect us too! “Later on, we found out that the Rebbe encouraged R’ Gafni to have women speak in small groups because the impact is more powerful. Boruch Hashem, we were in sync with what the Rebbe said.” How does it work? “The groups have a goal and there are principles,” explained Rivky. “The goal is to carry out the Rebbe’s wishes regarding the style of dress. “The way to achieve the goal is through three principles. Principle number one is ratzonwill. If you desire it (and who doesn’t?), you are invited. The second principle is accepting the Rebbe’s ratzon with Kabbalas Ol, even if it’s hard. The final principle is that every step forward, as small as it might be, is exciting and very important. Nobody expects an entire wardrobe to be changed in a day. On the contrary, slow progress is desirable because it’s longlasting. “In the groups, you are accepted as you are and you are given the support to take the steps at your pace and your taste. Nobody is looking for ‘what else needs improvement.’ Rather,
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group. We asked her how she got involved. “I am a baalas t’shuva. A baalas t’shuva is someone who seeks the truth. When it came to tznius, I wanted to know what the Rebbe’s view is. “I opened a volume of Igros Kodesh, volume 26, page 324, to a very long letter all in Yiddish. The only word I could understand was ‘tznius.’ It took me a long time until I got a full translation of the letter with the Rebbe’s view on tznius. At the end of the letter, the Rebbe wrote to the recipient to influence her friends. “I, along with my mashpia, thought about what I can do. We decided to photocopy the letter and give it out to the women in the community. We added practical tznius guidelines and gave it to many women. On the envelope I wrote: From the Rebbe to You – the Secret to Brachos. Because the Rebbe says that a woman merits brachos by way of tznius.
“Hosting the group in my house gives me so much and has a tremendous effect on the children and the entire house.”
“When I heard of the support groups, I spoke to Yaffa and Rivky and together with them I formed a group. I learned many things, like the concept that tznius includes a lot more than dress and that it is expressed in the little details. We are planning to start another group here soon.” What does tznius mean to you? “Tznius is like a large channel for a woman through which she may receive all the bounty that Hashem wants to shower on her,” says Sigal. “We have the merit to be the channel for this abundance. In Chabad, we try to be particular and to do things in a beautiful way, and B’ezras Hashem, in tznius too. “We all need to prepare to welcome Moshiach in the proper way, and being vigilant about our clothing and appearance effects everything we do.”
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Issue 896 • �
A PREORDAINED MEETING AT THE BOMBAY TERMINAL
The shliach waited in the terminal of the Bombay airport for his flight. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder – someone he had never met before wanted to speak with him. It turned out that the man had received an amazing answer that morning from the Rebbe MH”M, thereby closing a thrilling and miraculous circle.
By Menachem Ziegelboim Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
he siren suddenly blaring through the streets of Kiryat Malachi that fateful Thursday morning was a sign of impending trouble. Shortly afterwards, a terrible tragedy took place. A three-story residential building sustained a direct hit from a Grad missile fired by Hamas terrorists based in the Gaza Strip. Among the four people killed was Mrs. Mira Rut Scharf (may G-d avenge her blood), shlucha of the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach in the
distant city of New Delhi, India. She and her husband, Rabbi Shmuel, had come to Eretz Yisroel to visit family and friends. They were looking for a little peace and tranquility, along with an opportunity for their children to enjoy some proper education from established Chabad learning institutions. They felt that it was most important for them to see other Chabad children and the faces of true Chassidim. This is something that usually doesn’t
happen the rest of the year in the thick smog and pollution of the capital of what was once the crown jewel of the British Empire. In addition to their other demanding outreach activities, R’ Shmuel sh’yichyeh and his wife Mira hy”d, were busy with the construction of a kosher mikveh in New Delhi. It was only due to the strength of the m’shaleiach that this project began to take form. It developed brick by brick,
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a magnificent structure designed to help purify the Jewish People. Every additional ceramic tile brought more joy to the shluchim couple. Every new pipe installed during the mikveh construction energized the hearts of the young Chabadnikim, located in a remote outpost far from any normal Jewish community. A mikveh construction project demands much toil and great care, regardless of where the shlichus is located – all the more
so in a place such as India. The impossible conditions led to an extremely slow and cautious building process. For example, digging pits was done by hand, and the sand was removed by a team of donkeys! Even preparing the concrete was done manually without the standard mixers used in most developed countries. For purposes of halachic supervision, the Chabad House brought mikveh expert Rabbi Grossbaum from the United States. Thus,
while the technical problems continued to mount, the Scharfs were delighted that their dream was becoming a reality. The construction was nearly complete when tragedy struck. Rabbi Scharf spent several agonizing months in physical rehabilitation for the injuries he suffered in the Grad missile attack. During this difficult period, he made certain that his children, cruelly deprived of their mother, received continuous and
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loving care. Despite this unfortunate situation, the Chabad House in New Delhi kept up its operations on a daily basis, around the clock. Replacement shluchim have maintained the institution’s vital services, while R’ Shmuel remained in Eretz Yisroel with his children, as they recovered from their physical and emotional scars. Even as he was confined to his bed, R’ Shmuel continued his intensive fundraising activities on behalf of the Chabad House and its programs. In fact, the Chabad House has not closed for a single day. This is the will of the Rebbe, and this undoubtedly is what Mira Rut would have wanted. While the mikveh building is almost finished, its progress has recently stalled. R’ Shmuel has long known that G-d’s ultimate demand from any given individual is no more than his inherent abilities can handle. But his strength had been totally spent, and he was simply unable to continue his fundraising efforts to complete construction on this beautiful and magnificent structure of purity in the heart of New Delhi. which gave a significant push to his outreach programs, R’ Shmuel headed back to Eretz Yisroel. The plane made a stopover in Bombay, where he prepared to board a different aircraft for the final leg of his journey. The shliach was spending the intervening time walking around the terminal, when he suddenly felt someone place his hand gently on his shoulder. “Shalom Aleichem,” came a pleasant voice behind him. R’ Shmuel turned around and saw a Jewish man standing before him. The shliach could see from the man’s attire that he was a businessman. “Aleichem Shalom,” R’ Shmuel replied warmly. The two began a brief discussion, and R’ Shmuel discovered that the man was a respected entrepreneur who spent most of the year on business in India and actively supported the Chabad Houses throughout the country. While the shliach had heard the man’s name before, this was their first face-to-face meeting. They talked for a little while longer, when suddenly the businessman stopped the conversation and turned to a more serious matter. “R’ Shmuel, how can I help you?” he asked directly. The shliach didn’t have to think long. He was very troubled over the situation with the unfinished mikveh. The situation was very discouraging: While the construction was reaching its final stages, a most important component still remained – the filter and purification system for the immersion pool. “I need a purification system for the mikveh water. As someone who knows his way around India, you are obviously aware of the fact that the water in New Delhi is muddy and polluted, to the point that it’s impossible to immerse in it.” “How much?” the businessman asked. “Three thousand dollars,” the shliach replied, forgetting momentarily that there were still a few things left to finish in the building phase. “Tell me,” the businessman inquired with a strange flicker in his eyes. “When was the last time you were in the Bombay airport?” The shliach furrowed his brow as he thought for a moment. “I think it was seven years ago.” The businessman’s expression suddenly changed. His eyes brightened and his whole face shone with excitement. “I also don’t come into this terminal very often,” he said. “Even when I escorted my mother to the airport, I let her off at the terminal entrance and continued on my way. Today, for some reason, I decided to accompany a friend to the airport and inside the terminal itself – something that I haven’t done for years. A few minutes after we parted from one another, I suddenly meet you in the terminal and you tell me about the urgent need for a filter costing $3,000.” The shliach nodded his head. Yes, he understood the incredible Divine Providence here, although he had already experienced many occurrences of this type on his shlichus. Then the businessman suddenly dropped a “bombshell.” “You won’t believe the answer I received this morning from the Rebbe.” “From the Rebbe?”
THE REBBE ESTABLISHES THE AMOUNT OF THE DONATION
The wheels of the aircraft touched down in New Delhi, containing the shliach R’ Shmuel Scharf, who had come to his place of shlichus just a few weeks earlier for a series of meetings and to get a first-hand update on the status of local Chabad activities. He also wanted to make a serious reappraisal of the possibility of returning to the Indian capital together with his children. At the conclusion of his visit,
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(top left): Rabbi Shmuel Scharf, the Rebbe MH”M’s shliach in New Delhi, India (top right): Various stages of the mikveh construction
“Yes, indeed,” said the businessman, who was pleased to see the surprised look on the shliach’s face. “I woke up this morning very worried over some major delays in one of my business deals. I didn’t know what to do, and so I decided to write a letter to the Rebbe. I opened the volume of “Igros Kodesh” that I take with me everywhere. The answer was as follows: Greetings and Blessing! His Pa”N was received from the pious, charitable, etc., chassid, Rabbi Menachem Shmuel Dovid HaLevi Raichik, to be read at the Tziyon of my holy and revered father-in-law, the Rebbe. Also received is the check with the amount left open in order that I should set the amount as I see fit. In accordance with the fact that this month is the month of miracles, and these are days of miracles, salvations, and wonders, the amount should be set as per his first charitable contribution, corresponding to all the mitzvos – three thousand shekels. Furthermore, since our Sages of blessed memory have
said that it is a greater mitzvah when it is fulfilled by the person obligated than by his shliach, and the giving of tz’daka must be done specifically with joy and gladness of heart, the check is enclosed herein in order that he can fill it out in his own handwriting, and as mentioned, with joy and gladness of heart, and then return it. On a related issue, enclosed is a copy of a sicha on the concept of tz’daka and the holidays during this month. May it be G-d’s Will that there shall be fulfilled in him the conclusion of this sicha – ‘And test Me now therewith, etc., give maaser in order that you shall become rich.’ With a blessing for health and success in all his endeavors included in his Pa”N, and with his emphasis on constantly increasing in tz’daka, and as in the teachings from these days of Chanukah – increasing from day to day, and with a blessing for good news in all the aforementioned. This time, it was the shliach’s turn to be left speechless. The circumstances, the request, even the amount he had “picked out
of thin air” (while the cost of the filter was much greater) – everything matched the reply this businessman had received from the Rebbe just a few hours earlier. It goes without saying that the businessman immediately pledged to give the necessary amount, exactly as the Rebbe himself had requested... • The facility is almost ready for actual usage, only the ‘small jars’ are left to finish, such as setting up the ventilation system and putting the final touches on the building process. Only $4,500 is needed to cover all outstanding expenses. There can be no question that even Avraham Avinu, who set up his tent in the wilderness and called it by the Name of the Everlasting G-d, can take pride in his shluchim-children, who established an everlasting house, a house of purity, in the heart of this city of idols. Those interested in giving their support to this project can contact R’ Shmuel Scharf by calling 972-58-670-7700 or sending an e-mail to 770delhi@ gmail.com.
Issue 896 • �
JEWISH REVOLUTION IN VOLGOGRAD
From being a lonely Jewish child, totally ignorant of his Judaism and living among countless Gentile children, Rabbi Zalman Yaffe followed a long journey until he began serving as the Rebbe MH”M’s shliach in Volgograd, Russia. The city that earned its place in history when it halted the Nazi invasion had been virtually gutted of any Jewish presence; only a few Jewish sparks still remained. Rabbi Yaffe and his family came to the city and created a massive Jewish revival. In an interview, Rabbi Yaffe tells his life’s story, along with the story of his shlichus and the ever-present Divine Providence.
By Nosson Avraham Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
ituated on the western bank of the famous Volga River is one of Russia’s largest and most prominent cities, Volgograd. During the regime of the tyrant Stalin (may his name be erased), it was known by the name Stalingrad. It was at that time that it became an industrial city and a vital transport link. The city still serves as a
large industrial center, the largest metropolis in the region, fifty miles long, north to south. The city has an impressive record, and this includes a rich and most vibrant Jewish history. About one hundred and twenty years ago, a large synagogue was built in the center of the city, followed by another one a few years later.
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Jewish children in Volgograd after a challa baking workshop
As the years passed, the Jewish population continued to grow, as the local community developed with the building of new mikvaos and the establishment of Torah institutions. The city also had many Chabad Chassidim living there. However, all this was brought to an end when the Communist Party seized power
nearly a century ago, after persistent battles with the White Russian Army under the leadership of General Anton Denikin. Immediately after the Communists conquered the city, party activists and secret police started implementing their cruel decrees. They began by closing the main synagogue, and within a short period of time they had shut
down every Jewish institution. With an iron fist, they crushed the city’s magnificent Jewish community, and an atmosphere of heresy soon began to pervade the younger generation. The city’s main claim to fame stems from its historical role during the Second World War while it was still known as Stalingrad. It was the site of one of the most critically important battles in the conflict between the Soviet Red Army and the German Wehrmacht. Volgograd is known as the city that stopped the Nazi blitzkrieg in its tracks before it reached Moscow. The Germans sent no less than a thousand bombers each day to turn the city into rubble. At least five million residents, including many Jews, were killed in the attacks. All the city’s buildings were reduced to ashes, save for one historic landmark and two others – the buildings that had previously served as the city’s synagogues. To this day, the shuls bear signs of the bombing raids on their outer walls, a silent testimony to what the city endured during those days of terror. When the war ended, many local residents returned to the city. However, the Communist authorities exercised absolute control and prohibited all religious activities. As a result, there were no public displays of Judaism in the city for many years. Regrettably, most second – and third-generation Jews were subsequently assimilated among the Gentiles. Throughout these years, there was one family that maintained a secret minyan, albeit with much difficulty, and worked with tremendous self-sacrifice to keep the Jewish flame burning in the city. The ones who restored the
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extensive outreach work that the shluchim conduct on a regular basis. They run a school, a kindergarten, a mikveh, an active Chabad House, seminars for young people, summer camps, and a series of intensive yearround programs. Rabbi Yaffe is known as one of the most successful shluchim in Russia, and we asked him to tell us his secret. “I have to admit that the avoda of shlichus is no easy job. There are many hardships along the way. Not every story has a happy ending, and sometimes our labors need to last more than a day before they begin to bear fruit,” he noted at the start of our interview. “Only recently, I invested a considerable amount of time devoted to one of my community members. We learned and farbrenged together, but I soon discovered that he had returned to his old ways. While I was very frustrated and nearly broken, I wouldn’t let it effect me. We are here on the Rebbe’s shlichus to work and to work hard. If someone goes out on shlichus and tries to count his successes, he might find himself getting frustrated all too quickly.”
Entering the covenant of Avraham Avinu. Bris mila for infants, boys, and adult men.
glory of Torah and poured new Jewish life into Volgograd were the shluchim of the Rebbe, Rabbi Zalman Yaffe and his wife, who arrived in the city eighteen years ago. “Within a few days after our arrival, we founded a Chabad House, rented a building for a shul, and got straight to work. It was hard in the beginning, and over the years there were moments when we thought we had reached the level of our endurance. However, we were sustained by the cases of Divine Providence that we saw every step of the way,” Rabbi Yaffe
recalled. In 5763, after investing considerable time and effort, the shliach succeeded in getting the municipal authorities in Volgograd to return the first synagogue to the Jewish community. With the help of some generous monetary contributions, the facility has been expanded, renovated, and transformed once again into a multifaceted Jewish center, more magnificent than it was before the Communist takeover. Today, the activities at the shul represent one aspect of the
AN INTRODUCTION TO G-D
Rabbi Zalman Yaffe was born far from the place of his shlichus, in the city of Ibn Frankov, near Lvov, Ukraine. His family had virtually no connection to Torah and mitzvah observance. “Both of my parents were engineers by profession. The only crumb of Yiddishkait in our home was the presence of the Yiddish language, which they spoke whenever they didn’t want the children to understand them. “In later years, when I was approaching maturity and developing an interest in my
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Jewish identity, my father told me about the Beis HaMikdash and Dovid HaMelech. These were the only things he knew about Judaism, and he shared them with me. When I asked to hear more, he didn’t know how to respond.” The ones who constantly reminded him of his Jewishness were his fellow students. As far as he knows, he was the only Jew in his school. “Racism and antiSemitism were deeply rooted within the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people. Even my best friends would make me feel second-class. I always had to make a great effort to prove myself them. However, it was in their merit that my Jewish identity became stronger. I had an intense longing to know what it was about Judaism that made them hate me. Why do they spit at me? Why do I have to suffer? I asked my parents these questions on numerous occasions, but they didn’t seem to know any more than I did.” When he was drafted into the Soviet Army in 5746, he was classified as an aircraft mechanic. “There were other Jewish soldiers on the base, and we worked together as a team. While we didn’t do any mitzvos, not even observing Yom Kippur or Pesach, we still did everything as a collective unit, part of the DNA of the Jewish People. We helped one another and enjoyed being together. The other soldiers already knew that we were Jews and lived as a unified group. “During my military service, the world’s most dangerous nuclear accident took place with the explosion at the power plant in Chernobyl. While the Soviet government tried to hide the extent of the catastrophe from its citizens, we knew exactly what
Jewish pride. The public menorah in the courtyard of the Volgograd synagogue.
had happened there as part of our duties in the army. I remember that the incident aroused great fear throughout the base. No one was certain how much damage had been caused by the nuclear leakage and how far it would spread.” After he had been released from the army, R’ Zalman joined his parents, who had recently immigrated to faraway Siberia, where they worked as engineers for a major pipeline company. Around this time, the Bolshevik regime that had controlled the Soviet republics for over seventy years had collapsed,
and a spirit of democracy spread throughout the former Communist nations. The gates of the Iron Curtain flung open, and many Jews fulfilled their dream of immigrating to the Holy Land. It was then that he heard from his parents for the first time about their desire to live in Eretz Yisroel, the homeland of the Jewish People. “Inspired by my parents, I decided to begin the process of making aliya. In order to receive an immigrant visa, I had to present documentation proving that I was Jewish. I returned to the city of my birth, and I started
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learning there in a Hebrew ulpan sponsored by the Jewish Agency. The teacher was Chabad Chassid Rabbi Moshe Kalatnik. In addition to the Hebrew studies, he instilled within us a sense of Jewish pride, speaking about the values and meaning of belonging to the Jewish People.” The rabbi’s words captivated him, and Rabbi Yaffe described the feeling as that of cool water for a tired soul. “He succeeded in kindling the pintele yid within me. I felt that this was the first time that someone had revealed to me the precious secret of my heritage. Among the younger generation of Jews, there was a tremendous spiritual awakening after years of repression, like a dam bursting open. For the first time in my life, I heard about who I really was, about my true essence as a Jew, something that I had been searching for most of my life. Rabbi Kalatnik would host us in his home, where we would read and learn together out of old s’farim, naturally on Jewish themes, and our souls were revived. “It wasn’t long before I became a baal t’shuva and connected with my inner world. When I felt that I had ripened sufficiently, I consulted with Rabbi Kalatnik and asked him to recommend a good yeshiva where I could learn Torah. He gave me two options – the Chabad yeshiva that had recently opened in Kiev or the yeshiva established by the shluchim in Moscow. I chose the latter option and flew to Moscow. I came in to the Marina Roscha Synagogue and got right to work on my Torah studies.” As Rabbi Yaffe recalls those days, he describes them as “the most beautiful period of my life.” His days were filled with the study of Torah and the strengthening of his soul. “With every passing day in the yeshiva, my enthusiasm grew and intensified. The rosh yeshiva was Rabbi Uri Kamishov, and the mashpia was Rabbi Dovid Karpov. They regularly received the assistance of young shluchim who had come from Beis Chayeinu, charismatic, chassidishe bachurim. I also became acquainted with Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan, and I saw that Chassidim were special people representing the ultimate truth, and I wanted to be like them.” After spending a year in the yeshiva, the decision was made to immigrate to Eretz Yisroel and continue his Torah studies there. Rabbi Berel Lazar, who was then beginning his own shlichus in Russia, suggested that he enroll in Yeshivas Chassidei Chabad in the Holy City of Tzfas. “As soon as my plane landed at the airport, I boarded a bus and headed straight for Tzfas. It stands to reason that while the yeshiva in Moscow provided the foundation for my Judaism, the yeshiva in Tzfas and its understanding staff transformed me into a Chassid. In addition, I also found a group of Chassidim in the local Chabad community who had arrived in earlier immigrant waves from the Soviet Union. They welcomed me with open arms. Among the more influential members of this group were Rabbi Dovid Aharon Notik and Rabbi Shlomo Raskin. I often spent Shabbos with them, and I felt that their home was my home.” In Tishrei 5753, after two years of learning in the Tzfas yeshiva, he traveled for the first time with his friends to Beis Chayeinu. “I received a fair dosage of pushing and shoving, but when I saw the Rebbe for the first time during the High Holiday season, I felt as if I was looking at an angel of G-d. There was a tremendous physical sensation that consumed my entire being. To this day, I have no explanation for it. At that very moment, I felt that I had become connected to the Rebbe with every fiber in my body.” When he returned to Tzfas from 770, he concluded his studies for certification as a shochet for both poultry and livestock. He worked for a while at a slaughterhouse in Kiryat Shmoneh until he received a phone call from Rabbi Kogan, asking him to return to Moscow and help him with the sh’chita there. While in Moscow, he met his future wife, and shortly thereafter they were married in Eretz HaKodesh. They established their place of residence in Tzfas, but not for long. The telephone rang again, and this time it was Rabbi Berel Lazar, suggesting that they forego their pleasant lives in Tzfas and go out on shlichus. “After receiving the Rebbe’s bracha, we returned to Russia and arrived in Volgograd in 5756.”
STANDING NEAR THE PEELING WALL AND REQUESTING WITH ALL HIS HEART
More than a million people live in Volgograd today, including about five thousand Jews, Rabbi Yaffe estimates. “In relation to other large cities in Russia, we’re talking about a very small Jewish population.” Before the Yaffes landed in Volgograd with all their belongings, R’ Zalman came on his own to familiarize himself with the location. When he arrived in the city, he found fifteen middle-aged Jews who met together from time to time and recalled the days of a once
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flourishing community. “They got together for prayer services once a month on Rosh Chodesh. The minyan was organized by a man named Dovid Kolital, and he kept the embers of Judaism glowing as best he could. As part of the prayer services, they would say Kaddish in memory of those Jews whose yahrtzait fell out during the month. Since the synagogue had been taken over by the Communist authorities, the minyan took place in a room set aside by the local branch of the Jewish Agency. Dovid Kolital served as the baal koreh, chazan, and Chevra Kadisha; he essentially did it all.” The younger crowd didn’t participate in any of the Jewish activities, a clear sign of the community’s decline. However, the shliach’s arrival changed all that completely. “When I met with R’ Dovid, I explained to him the reason why we had come and our plans to bolster the Jewish community. As I finished my explanation, he got up and proceeded to hug and kiss me. He had been praying for some young blood to breathe new life into the next generation, and he promised to help me in whatever way he could. A week later, my wife and two children joined me.” The initial days on shlichus are well known for their humble beginnings. However, what kept this family from breaking down and maintaining their activities at full force were the numerous cases of Divine Providence they experienced at every turn. “Some of the community members secured a place for us to live prior to our arrival. However, it was a totally rundown apartment with only two rooms that were damp, moldy, and malodorous, and all the walls were cracked and
Rabbi Zalman Yaffe farbrenging with his community in the Volgograd synagogue
unstable. In short, the place was simply unfit to live in, and most certainly not for shluchim seeking to host a house full of guests. Finally, when our young daughter was sitting under the bathroom sink, and it unexpectedly came loose and nearly fell on her head, we realized that we had to find a normal place to live immediately.” Just a week after their arrival, the shluchim were looking for a new home. “I took the telephone numbers of several real estate agents, and I immediately asked each of them to find a suitable apartment according to our basic requirements. They all promised to get back to me, and I was certain that I would receive a flood of phone calls. Unfortunately, I ended up waiting for nothing. No one called back. When we saw that the house search was going nowhere, we decided instead to focus on looking for a proper facility for Chabad House activities. “We went out with the realtors to see some buildings, but nothing seemed appropriate.
We later realized that the main stumbling block confronting us was the fact that most of the city’s residents were sworn Communists. Even after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the Communist Party still received ninety percent of the vote from Volgograd citizens. None of them wanted to see a resurgence of religious activities taking place in their buildings, especially not Jewish activities.” After three weeks of intensive searching without success, Rabbi Yaffe felt very discouraged. He even began to consider abandoning the shlichus. What are we doing here? he asked himself. Perhaps we would have better success in another city, he thought. We’ve been in the city now for nearly a month, living in a dilapidated apartment, and without a proper place to hold our activities. “I stood before the peeling wall in the house and cried from the depths of my heart, ‘Alm-ghty G-d, I’m in this city on the shlichus of Your faithful servant, the Rebbe, and I came here of my own free will.
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Please help us to organize things and get to work. “I had no idea how fast G-d would hear my prayers. The very next day, a Jewish man approached me and said he wanted to speak with me. He wanted me to know how good he felt when he saw a Jew walking through the street, and he asked what he could do to help me. I told him about my search for a residential apartment and a facility for Chabad activities. He said that he had a Gentile friend with a building that had been available for rent for some time, and we went together to see him. When I went into the building and saw that it wasn’t suitable for our purposes, I recalled another friend who also had a building for rent. We went to check the second place, and we discovered search for a place to live for our family. I began to retrace the success of the previous day. I stood before that same wall of peeling paint and spoke to G-d. I thanked Him for the activities facility, and now I asked for His special assistance in finding a residential apartment. The next morning, I was awakened by the ringing of my telephone. There was a realtor on the line, and he asked if I was still looking for an apartment. When I said yes, he replied that he had found a good place for us, and we went together to check it out. “I came to a large apartment, the type that could enable us to host numerous guests. Furthermore, it was going at a price far less than the previous offers. We signed a contract that same evening, and within a few and I answered, ‘Rabbi Zalman, Shalom.’ There was total silence on the line. After a few seconds, a woman’s voice asked, ‘You’re a rabbi?’ I said yes, and she replied that she was actually calling her friend, but she had apparently dialed the wrong number. I took the opportunity to ask her if she was Jewish, and she said that she was. We set a time to meet, and she and her family have been among our core supporters ever since.” One story follows another, and Rabbi Yaffe recalled yet another that took place during the early days of his shlichus. “A journalist for one of the local newspapers had arrived for a scheduled interview regarding a certain law that had just been passed by the city government. She wanted to know what the Jewish community thought of the new legislation. She had been looking for Jews in the city, and she finally came to me. When she had finished the interview, I felt the need to ask her about her religious background, and she replied that she knew that her mother was Jewish. I proceeded to tell her about our activities, and this reporter also became an integral part of the renewed Jewish community. She eventually introduced me to another family, a Jewish couple with a daughter, and they have helped us out a great deal too.” The following summer, the shluchim succeeded in organizing a Jewish seminar outside the city for twelve Jewish families. Similarly, the shluchim organized a camp for Jewish boys and girls. “At the conclusion of the summer camp, we invited the mohel, Rabbi Yeshaya Shafit, from Moscow to perform a circumcision on five boys. During our first year
“I quickly placed a mobile call to certain highranking officials in Volgograd, who came to our assistance and even got the KGB involved. A few minutes later, the two policemen came back and apologized for taking my passport.”
to my amazement that it was exactly what I was looking for. It had an event hall, separate entrances for men and women, a kitchen, and offices; the price was ridiculously low. For a brief moment, I hesitated about signing the contract, worried that there might be some hidden problems. While I was concerned over a possible case of fraud, my wife, an attorney by profession, checked the building from top to bottom and found everything in proper order. We signed the contract that night. “I returned home very happy. Things were finally starting to jell. Now, we had to resume our days, we had moved into our new home located just a few minutes away from the Chabad House. The Divine Providence was crystal clear!”
GATHERING THEM, ONE BY ONE
The work during those first few years was very difficult and exasperating. “We had to gather the local Jews, one by one. There was no sense of Jewish awareness, and we had to create it from scratch. “I remember a story that took place during that period. The telephone rang in my home,
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in operation, forty-five Jews underwent circumcision, while thirty-five couples have married in accordance with the law of Moshe and Yisroel.” After Chabad activities had been well established and the circle of supporters continued to grow, the time had come to open a Jewish school. “Rabbi Lazar strongly urged me to advance this initiative. I was still a young man at the time, and I didn’t know enough about the tremendous investment and resources required to found a school. Nevertheless, I had faith in the power of Divine Providence, and I slid into the driver’s seat with an attitude of ‘L’chat’chilla Aribber.’ We felt that the Rebbe was accompanying us every step of the way. We quickly found a highly professional educator to serve as principal according to the spirit of Chassidus, and by Divine Providence, we located a large and spacious facility surrounded by trees and foliage. We began running a Jewish school, later adding a kindergarten as well. To this day, everything has been operating superbly and we have achieved much success.”
Activities with young people of all ages
THE POLICE ARRIVED A MOMENT LATER...
When I asked to hear some more stories from his shlichus, Rabbi Yaffe replied by emphasizing that his shlichus is no story. “This shlichus involves a lot of hard work every day,” he immediately pointed out. However, he eventually did consent to relate a few interesting occurrences. “A few years ago, I was returning via train from Moscow, where I had been staying with a group of students from Volgograd who had gone there for a seminar on Judaism.
Russian policemen had a number of ways of getting money out of people. One method was to check to see if someone was missing any documents, and then the person would either pay the policeman a bribe or be sent to jail. As luck would have it, two police officers boarded our train. They apparently thought that I was a wealthy man and dealt with me accordingly. After they asked me to show them my passport, they claimed that one page was missing a signature. They alluded to something, but when I claimed that I didn’t understand what they meant, they informed me that they would report me to the authorities and take me off
at the next stop for immediate imprisonment. “When I realized what their intention was, I quickly placed a mobile call to certain highranking officials in Volgograd, who came to our assistance and even got the KGB involved. A few minutes later, the two policemen came back and apologized for taking my passport. They claimed that they actually wanted to return it to me, but since the matter had already reached the higher echelon, they had to go with me to the Volgograd police station, where I would taken in for questioning. While I was happy to hear that I wouldn’t have to get off at the next station,
Issue 896 • �
I was distressed by this ending to a most successful seminar on Yiddishkait. I wasn’t expecting this at all. “When we arrived in Volgograd, several policemen were already waiting for me at the platform. They gave me back my passport, and after a short ride, I was brought into the office of the deputy station commander. He started asking me some questions for the protocol, such as who I was and what I was doing in the city. I told him about the shul that had been returned to us by the municipal authorities and the activities we were conducting there, the kindergartens and day school we had established, and the seminar on Judaism we had just held in Moscow. As I was speaking, this tough police officer, whom I was meeting for after he had been introduced to his Jewish roots and began fulfilling mitzvos.” Rabbi Yaffe had another story that made waves throughout the city when it happened. “I don’t know how this happened after so many years of oppression, but the faith of many people in our community is simply amazing. They love to read T’hillim in Rostov at the Rebbe Rashab’s gravesite, which is six hours away from Volgograd. I always ask myself where this pure devotion comes from. While these people were not educated to have such emuna, this next story that took place in the merit of davening at the Tziyon of the Rebbe Rashab caused many Jews from Volgograd to make the trip themselves. “Our community leader long journey. During the trip, I noticed that he had an unusually dejected look on his face, and I asked him what he was so worried about. “He told me that he hadn’t slept for a week because his businesses had been losing a great deal of money every day – about three hundred thousand dollars – and [Russian] President Medvedev was about to close them down. As a result, he wanted to make this trip to the Rebbe Rashab in Rostov and request his blessing. The journey took place on a Thursday evening. He arrived in Rostov, recited the Maane Lashon and said T’hillim at the gravesite in a flood of tears, and eventually we headed back home. “When I met him again on the following Monday, he had a look of sheer joy on his face. ‘What happened?’ I asked in bewilderment. ‘I just heard that Medvedev has implemented the executive order imposing a ban on gambling operations.’ “He smiled and related the following. It turned out that the same evening that he had returned from Rostov, a local Gentile had called him to ask if he could buy his businesses. Apparently, the Gentile didn’t believe that the president would carry out his declared policy, and he made an offer to purchase the casinos cheaply. However, our community leader was a very shrewd businessman. He told this non-Jew that there were other potential buyers, and this eventually raised the price to something that made the transaction worthwhile for the current owner. The purchase money covered all his outstanding debts and also enabled him to invest in new business interests. “Immediately after the signing
“Immediately after signing the contract and the money changed hands, policemen came knocking at his door to demand that he close his business as mandated by executive order. He informed them that the business had a new owner and they had to speak to him...”
owned three gambling casinos, which were completely legal business establishments prior to the election of Dmitri Medvedev to the presidency of the Russian Federation. Immediately after his election, the new president announced that he would make gambling illegal, but many people in Russia simply didn’t believe his declarations. In any event, one fine day, I received a telephone call from our community leader, asking if he could travel together with me to the Tziyon of the Rebbe Rashab in Rostov. I agreed, and we set out on our
the first time, was beginning to shed tears. I was both stunned and confused. After he calmed down a bit, he told me that he was Jewish. Naturally, I added his name to my growing list of contacts, and we were regularly in touch with one another. Not long afterwards, he passed away at a relatively young age. When I heard the news, I thought to myself that this was an amazing case of Divine Providence. If I hadn’t made that unnecessary stop at the police station, I never would have found him. Now, his soul had returned to its Maker,
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of the contract and the money changed hands, policemen came knocking at his door to demand that he close his business as mandated by executive order. However, he informed them that the business had a new owner and they had to speak to him... “This story spread throughout the city and left a powerful impression. If we had previously traveled each Rosh Chodesh to the Rebbe Rashab’s Tziyon by car, today we need to order buses.” How you do deal with the high level of assimilation, a plague that confronts every shliach in the countries of the former Soviet Union? Yes, we have a community in which many Jews have intermarried. It’s very difficult to convince a Jew with a family to leave his or her nonJewish spouse. Therefore, our main activities concentrate on preventive methods for the next generation. We hold annual seminars for young people, and a considerable portion of the lectures and activities focus on the importance of Jews only marrying other Jews. You are the only Torahobservant Jewish family in the city. How does this effect your children’s education? How do you manage to give them a proper Chassidic education? The subject of education is one of the most difficult issues, not just for the shluchim in Russia, but for the shluchim in
every other city and country far from Chabad centers. When I speak with my wife about this, she says that we have to rely upon the Rebbe, and this is exactly what we do. Our older daughter has already begun learning at Machon Chaya Mushka in Moscow, and the physical distance is very difficult both for us and for her. The other children are together with us, and they are part of the shlichus. The Rebbe repeatedly says that the world is ready for the Redemption. To what extent can you see this in your activities? We try to include the message of Moshiach in every lecture. There are those who ask questions in search of deeper answers on the issue, and then we get into more detailed explanations. People tend to accept them rather well. In general, they understand that without the Rebbe, we wouldn’t have come to this city. In fact, they realize that all the activities we do are on the shlichus of Melech HaMoshiach. As to your question regarding the extent that it permeates our activities, I’ll tell you something that will illustrate this point. On a recent Sunday, I traveled to the Rebbe Rashab’s Tziyon in Rostov with one of our supporters. In the middle of our journey, he suddenly turned to me and said, “We’ve traveled several times to Rostov; what about a trip to
770?” His words simply amazed me. I was not expecting him to say anything like this. I tried to determine how serious his declaration really was. “You want to see New York?” I questioned. He raised his eyebrows and said, “If there’s one country that I’d really like to see, it’s Australia. When I come to New York, it’s only for the Rebbe...”
EVERYTHING BUILT WITH GREAT MAGNIFICENCE
When we asked Rabbi Yaffe to conclude the interview with a report on his future plans, he explained that with regard to the Chabad institutions, everything is already fully established. As a result, his main interest now is to reach every Jew in Volgograd and widen the circle of Chabad friends and supporters. Rabbi Yaffe asked if he could conclude the interview with an expression of thanks to all those who have stood by his side – “to the shluchim of Russia and the outstanding Jewish philanthropists, R’ Levi Leveiv and Nadiv Mirilashvili, for their tremendous assistance via the Ohr Avner Foundation. “Similarly, I wish to give a big thanks to the Rebbe’s shliach, the chief rabbi of the Russian Federation, Rabbi Berel Lazar, who helped me a great deal with his wisdom and his unique grace, always available to answer any questions and offer advice, regardless of the issue.”
Check it out!! Educational and Fun!!
Issue 896 • �
NOT EVERYTHING IS MEANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD
A compilation of little-known stories, most of which are published here for the first time.
Presented by Mendy Goldman
EXAGGERATED LOWLINESS ALSO COMES FROM PRIDE
R’ Chatshe Feigin, may Hashem avenge his blood, once farbrenged with the T’mimim. At a certain point, one of the bachurim said, “My deficiencies are frightful. Nobody is in as lowly a condition as me.” R’ Chatshe replied, “You are arrogant.” He went on to explain. “To you, it is a given that you must be above everyone else. However, you are not such a fool as to think that your qualities are outstanding. So, in your pride, you think are you outstanding in your deficiencies. I hereby inform you that you don’t have outstanding qualities, nor do you have outstanding deficiencies. You are average.”
life was devoted to the Rebbe’s wishes. One time, he was asked what gave him this “ratzon.” He said that in his youth, he had once seen the shliach R’ Gershon Mendel Garelik lying on the floor during the recitation of the bedtime Shma and crying that he wanted to see the Rebbe. “That led me to understand that there are those who are focused completely on the Rebbe for real.”
This is how a conversation went between them: One of them would say to another – How are you? What’s new with you? The other would reply – What can be new already? Sometimes I give it [the yetzer ha’ra] a whack and sometimes it gives me a whack, and I ask Hashem that the final wallop should be given by me.
R’ Nachum Goldschmidt taught Maamarei Chassidus in the Lubavitcher shul in Nachalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv. R’ Michoel Dworkin, who was much older than he, would attend the shiur. Once, in the middle of a shiur, R’ Nachum asked a seemingly difficult question on the maamer. About thirty people were sitting in the shul and they all sat and thought for ten minutes or so, but were unable to resolve the difficulty. At a certain point, R’ Michoel felt that the question had turned from a “question in the maamer” into a “question on the maamer.” He got up and said complainingly to R’ Nachum, “By whom, amongst all these people, is the matter not settled? It is an accepted fact to all of us that what is written in the maamer is the absolute truth.”
GIVING THE FINAL BLOW
During his nesius, the Mitteler Rebbe worked on the Chassidim so they would be on a very high level in matters of Avodas Hashem. R’ Mendel Futerfas would say that when great Chassidim met, they spoke about matters of yichuda ilaa and yichuda tataa. Simpler Chassidim could not quite relate to yichuda ilaa and barely knew how to daven, but the Mitteler Rebbe elevated them too.
LOVE FOR THE REBBE – WITH A P’NIMIUS
R’ Moshe Slonim was known as a Chassid whose love for the Rebbe burned in his bones. His
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WALKING THROUGH WALLS FOR THE REBBE
R’ Pinchas Altheus said to the Rebbe Rayatz: A certain Chassid and I both believe in what the Rebbe says. The difference between us is that if the Rebbe would tell him to go through the wall, he would go until the wall, touch it, and become convinced that the wall is there. I, on the other hand, would go there with the intention of moving onward.
was somewhat inebriated) asked, “How do I get on the Rebbe’s wagon, at least with one foot?” The crowd expected to hear a deep explanation on the topic of hiskashrus. Instead, R’ Yoel said, “Five packages to Russia.” The man asked again, “And how do I get on the Rebbe’s wagon with both feet?” R’ Yoel answered, “With ten packages to Russia.”
understand (daas) everything.
A NEW GENERATION OF HISKASHRUS
The shliach R’ Moshe Lazar said: One of the great novelties that the Rebbe introduced to the seventh generation is how to properly relate to the Rebbe. When I learned in Crown Heights, it was in the lifetime of the Rebbe Rayatz. We did not attribute any special significance to our contact with the Rebbe. We did not value catching a glimpse of the Rebbe, hearing him etc. And nobody bothered to explain it to us. However, there was R’ Berel Baumgarten who instilled in us a little of the proper attitude toward the Rebbe, but as I said, this was our Rebbe’s chiddush.
THE SIN OF THE EITZ HA’DAAS
Chassidim would say on the phrase “Cheit Eitz Ha’daas” that it means the deficiency (cheit, from the root to miss the target) which results from my stubborn insistence (eitz – wood, i.e. solid and unbending) on trying to
HOW DO YOU CONNECT?
At the beginning of the 70’s, some Lubavitchers in Crown Heights raised money to help Jews in Russia. During that period, R’ Yoel Kahn farbrenged in 770 and a Lubavitcher (who
Continued from page 42 and esrog – how the lulav and esrog represent four kinds of Jews – and the idea of the lulav and esrog is to bring everyone together – for we all have our unique avoda to do, in bringing the true and complete Geula! There was an elderly Jew who introduced himself to us as Baruch – though he hadn’t used his Jewish name for so very long.
He asked us why is the Geula not here already – for look at the amazing work we’re doing here, on the Sukka Mobile! I explained to Baruch, that there is no explanation; “Why?” That is indeed the question! This is why we need to proclaim “Ad masai?!” When will the Geula be here already? Baruch told us he feels too old to learn about the mitzvos, but he’d be happy to come on
board, once the Geula came. We told him too late! He already was on board! Furthermore, you’re never too old to learn! The Torah is for everyone, young and old! You see how amazing it is, doing mivtzaim. I hope that you do mivtzaim too; come on board, in doing the Rebbe’s shlichus, and together we’ll bring the true and complete Geula, today! B’suros Tovos, Your Friend, Solly the Sefer
Issue 896 • �
A YOUNG SOLDIER’S
had come to the Rebbe for Tishrei 5773.
The impassioned speech delivered by Levi Friedman, a representative of Camp Machane Moshiach, at the Tzeis’chem L’Shalom gathering for all the guests who
hen they asked me to speak at the Kinus as the children’s representative from “Camp Machane Moshiach,” even before they told me what to say and how to say it, I immediately said I was willing and even that I very much wanted to speak at the Kinus. No doubt you are wondering why. It’s very simple; I felt I must tell all the guests who came to the Rebbe shlita what we, the children, felt here during this month. Or more correctly, about
the change that took place within us. Many of you probably heard the story I am about to say, and they also told it here today, but since the Rebbe says we need to publicize miracles, and it’s a mitzva to tell as many people as possible, I will repeat it, especially so you can hear it from our perspective. It all began that Friday, when we returned from mivtzaim in Manhattan. We arrived at 770 for Mincha with the Rebbe. Within a
few minutes, we heard that what unfortunately had happened with many of the Eshel apartments had happened to us too, and firemen had come to the gym [where the children of Machane Moshiach slept]. When firemen come, that means you have to clear out and there is no place to sleep. Considering the number of campers and staff members and the alternate arrangements that would have to be made, we had to begin to devise plans immediately.
40 � • 30 Tishrei 5774
Within a few minutes, Rabbi Mendy Hendel arrived. He is the one in charge of Eshel and is constantly seeing to our needs. He began talking and negotiating with the police who were there. Everyone saw that the situation was not good. And now I will tell you what happened from the perspective of us soldiers. After Mincha, the unit commanders told us that we could not go to the gym and in the meantime we could stay in 770 until further notice. Most of the soldiers were down in the dumps. The younger soldiers were really worried. Everyone knew that if, G-d forbid, we would have to leave the gym, it would be really hard to find places for all of us to sleep, and on Erev Shabbos, no less. Suddenly, the commander Mendy announced that he was taking us on a special tour of 770. We soldiers were excited and all joined the tour. After about twenty minutes of interesting stories about 770, Mendy stopped and told everyone to be quiet and listen to what he was going to say. Then he told us that right after the firemen came, he wrote about the situation to the Rebbe and asked for a bracha. In the letter that he opened to in the Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe wrote an entire letter about the avoda of the Kohen in the Beis HaMikdash. At the end of the letter, he wrote, “Surely you keep the three shiurim – Chumash, T’hillim, and Tanya.” Mendy told us that if that is what the Rebbe wrote, this is what we had to do and it would
help! If we wanted to see bracha and hatzlacha in this situation, we all needed to decide to be more particular about learning Chitas, each one adding in the way that he could. Mendy concluded by saying that we would pause for twenty seconds and make a hachlata about Chitas, then we would go to the Rebbe’s room and tell the Rebbe about our good hachlata and that we ask that the Rebbe help that the gym be given back to us. Not even fifteen seconds went by from when we began thinking about a hachlata and Mendy got a text message. All excited, he read it out loud to us. It was from one of the people in charge of Eshel and it said: “Didan Natzach! We have the gym! Not one thing he [the Rebbe] said will be returned empty-handed.” We burst into a Didan Natzach dance and then went to stand next to the Rebbe’s room and relayed the good news with our thanks. Thank you for the gym that was restored to us! T’mimim and dear guests – we soldiers learned that the Rebbe is chai v’kayam! The Rebbe is always with us. The Rebbe runs the world, and if the soldiers of Camp Machane Moshiach need a gym, it makes no difference what the municipality of New York thinks; they will have their gym! If you think that it was only through this story that we experienced this idea, you are mistaken. Throughout this entire month that we were in camp, they taught us just this one thing: that the Rebbe lives here, in 770! He is with us in a physical body at every t’filla, with every sicha, and every farbrengen. No concealment or anything else will take this firm faith away from us. This is what we got from
camp, the responsibility to publicize to the world that the Rebbe is alive. To teach the sichos of the D’var Malchus, to live with them constantly, to get our friends involved. In short, when we return to Eretz Yisroel, when they see us, what will they see? Moshiach! They asked me to say all kinds of things, but I think there is no more important inyan than this. In conclusion, I would like to thank some people who deserve a heartfelt thank you for their involvement and devotion to us children throughout the month. On behalf of all the soldiers of Camp Machane Moshiach, the commanders, the staff and all the others, thank you to R’ Sholom Ber Drizin and R’ Mendy Hendel, who are the people behind the Hachnasas Orchim organization who ensured that we had food and lodging. I would like to thank the generals and staff members of the camp who were endlessly devoted, throughout the month, to every detail of camp. Acharonim Acharonim Chavivim – the ones mentioned last are beloved – the ones who, thanks to them, I experienced a real Tishrei! They are my commanders in camp. Thank you for all that you gave me, for putting your all into everything you did. The one thing that was your priority throughout the month was us, your soldiers, our gashmius and mainly our ruchnius. There is no more time to talk; we need to move on. We have to bring about the hisgalus already. So let us proclaim together the proclamation that is the essence of our lives: Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L ’olam Va’ed!
Issue 896 • �
The Humor Corner
“Before Rabba would start to teach his students, he would tell them a funny story.” – Shabbos 30b One cold, snowy morning, Chatzkel was late for school. “You’re half an hour late,” said Rabbi Friedman, the melamed, when he came into the classroom. “I’m sorry, Rebbe,” said Chatzkel. “It was all icy on my way here. In fact, it was so icy, that every step I took forward, I took two steps back.” “Oh, really?” said Rabbi Friedman, raising an eyebrow. “In that case, how did you get here in the end?” “Well, after fifteen minutes of trying to get to school,” said Chatzkel, “I decided to give up and head home.”
From Bubby’s Delicious Recipes:
Extraordinary Esrog Jam
Ingredients: 4 leftover esrogs 12 cups sugar 6 cups corn syrup 6 cups maple syrup 4 cups water 10 teaspoons cinnamon 12 teaspoons red pepper 1 cup of very hot herbal tea Peel the esrogs, and grate the peels. Give the fruit to someone who thinks you can make good jam with the actual fruit of the esrog! In a large bowl mix together the grated esrog peel, the corn syrup, maple syrup, 6 cups of the sugar, and red pepper (don’t sneeze!). By now your wooden mixing spoon will be stuck; saw off the handle and discard. Let mixture stand for eight days; make sure no one throws it out by mistake. Add the very hot herbal tea (if you brewed it eight days ago, don’t forget to reheat it, so it will be very hot again!), then the cinnamon and the rest of the sugar. Pour water into a large pot, add the mixture (I don’t know how you’ll get the mixture out of the bowl; that’s your problem, not mine!) and boil on high flame overnight. The next morning mix well, and let stand for five more days. Refrigerate, and serve the esrog jam on toast.
Guess where I was all Chol HaMoed Sukkos? On the Sukkah Mobile! We drove around, downtown, so that anyone could come aboard and have some tasty kosher nosh. We asked all the Jews if they’d like to shake the lulav and esrog. Many of the Jews hadn’t heard about this mitzvah – in fact, some told us the only “mitzvah” they knew of was eating bagels and lox. We were quick to inform them that eating bagels and lox is not a mitzvah – unless, of course, you wash and say HaMotzi – and if you’re eating in the Sukka, there’s another mitzvah right there! The bachurim and I, we took turns explaining to Jews all about the lulav Continued on page 39
Adventures of Solly the Sefer
42 � • 30 Tishrei 5774
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