4 D’var Malchus
19 Parsha Thought
36 Tzivos Hashem

Nosson Avrohom

Dov Levanon

Refael Dinri

Nosson Avrohom
Nosson Avraham


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M.M. Hendel
Rabbi S.Y. Chazan

Boruch Merkur

2014-05-19 11:57:30 PM


The message conveyed here about the
redemption is (not about the correction for the
destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and exile per
se, but) about the special quality and perfection
of the redemption unto itself, the redemption in
its purity. * From Chapter Six of Rabbi Shloma
Majeski’s Likkutei Mekoros (Underlined text is the
compiler’s emphasis.)
Translated by Boruch Merkur

6. […] Given the time of
the year that Parshas Pinchas
is read, it is connected with
Bein HaMeitzarim [the threeweek period of mourning
the destruction of the Beis
HaMikdash]. It is fitting
then that reference to the
redemption in this parsha
expresses how it primarily
relates to and emphasizes the
correction of the destruction
of the Beis HaMikdash
and the [subsequent] exile.
Parshas Balak, however,
has no connection to Bein
HaMeitzarim [being read prior
to it]; it is above the concept
of destruction and exile. Thus,
it is not surprising that the
message Parshas Balak conveys
and emphasizes about the
redemption is (not the correction
for the destruction of the Beis
HaMikdash and exile per se,
but) the special quality and
perfection of the redemption
unto itself, the redemption in its
purity (even if prior to it there

was no state of destruction and
The notion of the redemption
in its purity is also underscored
in the manner by which the
Torah, in Parshas Bilam, testifies
about the advent of Moshiach, as
discussed in Rambam’s Laws of
When Rambam writes there
that “The Torah testifies about
him [Moshiach],” he first quotes
the verse, “And G-d, your L-rd,
will return your exiles and have
mercy upon you, and He will
return and gather you, etc. If
your dispersed will be at the
ends of the heavens, etc., G-d
will bring you.” Then Rambam
adds, “also in Parshas Bilam it
says, and there he prophecies,
about the two Moshiachs.”
Among the differences
between these two sources** is
that the verse, ‘And G-d your
L-rd will return, etc.,” mainly
emphasizes the redemption
from the exile, whereas Parshas
Bilam emphasizes the virtue and
perfection of the redemption
unto itself.*** That is, Bilam
prophecies about the Davidic

dynasty (the first Moshiach),
as well as its perfection in the
rule of the later Moshiach,
who arises from King Dovid’s
descendants (independent of
any discussion of exile). Indeed,
the prophecy of Bilam does not
mention exile. It speaks about
freedom from – even dominion
over – all the [Gentile] nations:
“They [the Jewish people] are
a people who live alone, and
they are not considered among
the [other] nations,” “They are
a nation, like a cub it shall get
up, and like a lion it shall rise; it
shall not lie down until it eats its
prey, etc.,” “He shall be exalted
from the kingdom of Agog, and
his reign shall ascend.” These
citations culminate with the
verse, “I see him but not now,
I shall behold him but it is not
close; a star shall shoot forth
from Yaakov and a staff shall
arise from Yisroel, etc.” – here
Rambam traces how Bilam,
who “prophecies about the
two Moshiachs,” progressively
increases in extolling the virtues
and praise of the Jewish people.
Accordingly, we can explain
and provide insight into the

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reason for the emphasis of the
exodus from Egypt in the section
of the Torah that discusses how
“he prophecies about the two
Moshiachs” (“The L-rd Who
took them out from Egypt,”
“The L-rd Who took it [i.e.,
the nation] out of Egypt”) – in
accordance with what is written,
“As in the days of your exodus
from Egypt I shall show them
wonders.” Namely, this verse
underscores how the redemption
by Melech Moshiach is not only
on account of the necessity of
taking the Jewish people out of
all the exiles that further plagued
the Jewish people after the
exodus from Egypt, but also – in
fact, primarily – how it is an even
greater increase and perfection
than the exodus from Egypt,
to the point of being “wonders”
(even were there not any exiles
that followed in its wake).

A similar message is derived
from what is written (in the
continuation of the parshiyos
read during Bein HaMeitzarim):
“These are the journeys (in the
plural) of the Jewish people,
who went out from the land of
Egypt.” That is, the exodus from
the land of Egypt is not only
comprised of the first exodus
and journey the Jewish people
took from Ramses to Sukkos,
but also all the individual
journeys from Midbar HaAmim
until Yarden Yericho, the River
Jordan. Here “Yarden Yericho”
alludes to the true and complete
redemption through Moshiach
Tzidkeinu, who is said to have
the unique ability to be “morach
(Yericho) v’dayan – to detect
through the sense of smell and
render judgment in cases of
Torah law.” These journeys are
a continuation of the ultimate
exodus from Egypt, emphasizing

the virtue and perfection of the
redemption unto itself (even
were there no need to rectify the
destruction and the exile).
7. On account of this
development, as we approach
the redemption, an additional
advantage accrues in this
generation (even with respect to
other years when 17 Tammuz
falls out on Shabbos Parshas
But first to preface: It was
explained above that the 17th
of Tammuz coming out on
Shabbos primarily emphasizes
the “tov – good [which is
numerically equivalent to 17]”
of 17 Tammuz, as well as the
Three Weeks. Namely, given
the preeminence of the concept
of redemption on Shabbos,
the destruction and exile is not
felt; the focus, rather, is on the
preparation for the redemption
[irrespective of the state of exile
that is being left behind]. The
same is true on a grander scale,
in terms of generations: The
closer we get in time to the true
and complete redemption, the
feeling of destruction and exile
during these days increasingly
diminishes, while the feeling of
preparing for the redemption
increases, which is the “tov” of
the 17th of Tammuz and the
Three Weeks.

In the lexicon of the Gemara
in explaining the reason why
“they called them ‘a fast’ and
they called them ‘a celebration
and joy’”: “During a time of
peace, they shall be [days of]
celebration and joy. Should there
be a royal decree [of a Gentile
nation upon the Jewish people,
compromising their ability to
observe their religion], it is a
fast. Should there not be a royal
decree but there is no peace – if
they want they may choose to

fast or to not fast.” That is, when
the power of exile is weakened
– “there is no royal decree”
– the strength of the “fast” is
diminished (however, if they
want, they may choose to fast),
and we get closer to the time
when there shall be “celebration
and joy.”

This concept is especially
pronounced in this generation:
Throughout all the previous
generations (from the time of
the tragic events of 17 Tammuz,
which also gave rise to the events
of Tisha B’Av), the month of
Tammuz was connected with
unhappy matters – destruction
and exile. However, in this
generation, an aspect of (joy
and) redemption has been
revealed in relation to the month
of Tammuz – the redemption
of my revered father in-law, the
Rebbe, leader of our generation,
on 12-13 Tammuz (whose rise
and perfection in a manner of
“Va’yachulu – and they were
completed” is established on the
day of Shabbos 17 Tammuz). In
the words of [the Rebbe Rayatz]
the baal ha’simcha v’ha’geula in
his famous correspondence: “Not
only did the Alm-ghty redeem me
on 12 Tammuz, but also all those
who hold our holy Torah to be
dear, those who observe Mitzvos,
even those who are merely called
by the name ‘Jew.’” Indeed,
12 Tammuz was a redemption
of all the Jewish people,
connected with the true and
complete redemption through
Moshiach Tzidkeinu, “for the
name ‘redemption’ is upon
it.” This is especially the case
as the perfection of spreading
the wellsprings outward began
then, reaching even the lower
Continued on page 27
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As a child he was angry that he was born to
the Jewish people. Today, he is a shliach of the
Rebbe to Russian speaking Jews living on Staten
Island, New York. * Meet R’ Eli Kogan, who has
built a warm community for Russian immigrants.
By Nosson Avrohom

R’ Eli Kogan, shliach to Staten
Island, relates:
“I went on mivtza t’fillin one
Friday, as I do nearly every week.
I have a route in which I visit
some stores belonging to Russian
immigrants. Over the years, we’ve
developed a warm relationship and
they wait each week for me to put
t’fillin on with them. Afterward,
we discuss Jewish topics. They are
all open to listening and learning.
“That week I walked into one
of the stores where I met someone
new, whom I hadn’t seen before. I
learned he was one of the partners
in the business. After I removed
the t’fillin from the arm of the

salesman, I asked the new person
whether he was Jewish. He said
he wasn’t. ‘The only connection
my family has with Judaism is
my wife’s mother who is Jewish.’
I told him that his connection to
the Jewish nation was a lot deeper
than he thought for his wife and
children are Jews.
“He was very surprised and I
could see he was pleased by the
information since many of his
friends were Jews. I decided to
strike while the iron was hot and
I told him he needed to tell his
wife and children and send them
to learn more about their Jewish
identity. His wife could attend

classes at the Chabad house and
the children should be sent to a
Jewish Sunday school. He was
receptive, and to my delight,
the children began learning in a
Jewish program.
“Thanks to this, a few more
Jewish souls were saved from
assimilation. When I recall this
incident, as well as other shlichus
stories, I am moved because I
see it as part of the prophecy of
Geula, ‘and the lost and forsaken
ones will come …’ These are the
sweet fruits of shlichus.”
During R’ Kogan’s nine years,
thus far, on shlichus to Russian

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speaking Jews on Staten Island, he
has built up a warm community.
His activities are many, broad, and
quite varied as he addresses the
needs of all ages. He works out of
a spacious building which he was
able to buy with donations from
his community.
He attracts many people
thanks to his excellent classes,
the t’fillos on Shabbos, programs
on Jewish holidays, one-on-one
conversations, the newspaper he
edits that reaches thousands of
Russian speakers in the world, and
his internet site.
“I don’t consider the people
who come to the Chabad house

as mekuravim. I don’t act like
the teacher who is elevated above
his students. I consider them
neshamos and treat them like
brothers, close friends. I truly love
every one of them and they feel it.”

R’ Kogan was born and raised
in Moscow, far from Jewish life.
wanted to discuss something
without our understanding it, they
spoke in Yiddish. The only time
that something Jewish was placed
on our table was Pesach. My

grandfather would walk to the big
shul and buy matza there which he
brought home. I did not like the
matza,” R’ Kogan admits.
When he was quite young,
his parents saw his aptitude for
mathematics and he was sent to a
special math school.
“Anti-Semitism in Russia in
those days was deeply entrenched
and I was bullied daily by my
classmates. The staff also made
sure to regularly remind me who
I am and which nation I belonged
to. I would angrily ask myself why
I had to be born a Jew. I would
often imagine what it would be
like to have been born to a normal

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family that was not hated, and to
lead a normal life.”
When he graduated, he
was advised to study applied
“I loved the field and wanted
to get into a top university, but
problems ensued. This university
was anti-Semitic and did not allow
in Jews. The ones at the top did all
they could to reject my request to
attend the school.
“One of the acceptance
requirements at the university in
those days was having to face a
medical committee. I was told my
teeth were not good enough. I
protested this surprising decision,

effort I exerted. Just being a Jew
disqualified me from entering this
R’ Kogan went to a different
university where he completed his
course of study.
“Later on I realized that there
were universities that accepted
Jews and those that did not. Not
surprisingly, when I was a young
man I was quite resentful about
being a Jew.”
The change began when he
completed his studies at the same
time as communism collapsed.
introducing philosophy courses

“The very next day he had himself circumcised.
Three days passed and the man got a phone
call from his lawyer who reassured him that all would
be fine.”
but they did not accept my request
for a review. In a rare moment
of truth, one of the doctors on
the committee whispered to me
that it was utter nonsense and
my teeth were fine. He said that
even if there was a problem with
my teeth, according to the law,
which he quoted, I could not be
disqualified because of that.
“I was still naïve and I sent
another appeal to the committee
quoting that law. They called
me back to see them and when I
got there, they wanted to test my
blood pressure. They told me the
results would be sent to my home.
The letter they sent me said that
due to high blood pressure I would
not be accepted to the university
because the academic rigors were
very strenuous and dangerous
for me. Of course, this was an
outright lie and that’s when I ‘got’
it, that it made no difference how
talented I was and how much

and young people flocked to
courses on self-awareness and
spirituality. I decided to try a
course on philosophy and this
aroused questions that we never
had occasion to ask before, like
why are we alive? What is the
purpose of this world? What is
our role as human beings in this
world? Why are we different from
one another?
“I never heard answers to these
questions. In Russia before the fall
of communism, whoever asked
these questions was considered
a nutcase. Thoughts and talk
revolved solely around work and
one’s profession.
“The course got me curious.
Philosophy prided itself on
providing answers but I felt they
were too superficial and wanted to
know the truth. I began looking at
all kinds of spiritual books.
“At a certain point, I concluded
that the source for all the spiritual

approaches was the Jewish
kabbala. Many of the books
quoted kabbala and I decided that
rather than study the imitations,
I would go to the source. I spent
days looking for someone who
could teach me kabbala. My first
thought was to go to a shul, for
the first time in my life, where I
could make inquiries.
“Heaven sent me to the
Chabad shul, Marina Roscha. I
walked in hesitantly and asked the
first bachur I met who could teach
me Hebrew and kabbala. The
bachur smiled and said that in the
shul there were classes in Hebrew
and I could join that same day, but
kabbala is the mysteries of Torah.
This was a Chassidic shul where
Chassidus is learned which is a
higher level than kabbala.
“He lent me some books on
Chassidus that were translated
into Russian and I read them
avidly. At that time, I walked
around on such an emotional
never experienced it wouldn’t
understand what I mean. At
that time, I knew nothing about
Judaism or even about Jewish
history. I always hated the
moment I was born to a Jewish
family, and then, in one moment,
I was filled with a powerful love
for my tradition and thanks to
Hashem for being born a Jew. I
hardly slept, I was so excited.
“After a few months of reading
books and frequent visits to the
shul, I decided to join the yeshiva
which had opened there. There
were outstanding bachurim who
I felt comfortable with, all of
them new mekuravim who went
through, more or less, what I had
gone through. We had a common
language. Among them were
R’ Nachum Tamrin the shliach
in Zhitomir, R’ Boruch Gorin
and R’ Boruch Kleinberg, today
shluchim in Moscow. I quickly

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became a Tamim and R’ Tamrin
even convinced me to take charge
of the Igud Talmidei HaYeshivos.
There isn’t a day that goes by that
I don’t thank him for this. My
success today in shlichus is thanks
to that job that I had back then.”
R’ Kogan’s parents, seeing
their son become religious, were
at first opposed to what he was
especially my father who tried to
convince me to stop; he was sure
I had gone crazy. It was only after
I left for New York and produced
delightful grandchildren that he
became proud and happy. Today
we are on excellent terms.
“As director of ATaH, I would
write a report to the Rebbe every
week. We were told not to expect
a response and it was enough that
the Rebbe received the report and
we were blessed. To my surprise,
after sending off a report, we
received a response: Fortunate
are they and great is their merit.
I will mention it at the gravesite.
“We were thrilled by this
special treatment which spurred
us on to go on mivtzaim and
spread the wellsprings.”
After two years in Marina
Roscha, R’ Kogan flew to 770 with
some friends and went to learn in
the yeshiva in Morristown. Not
long after, he married and the
couple settled in Crown Heights
where he passed the smicha tests
while learning in the kollel. When
he finished learning for smicha,
he worked in the Lubavitch library
alongside chief librarian, R’ Berel
“My job was to make a catalog
of all the Russian language books
in the library. It was interesting
work but I was set on going on
shlichus. I ended up in Staten

With a group of talmidim in the Chabad yeshiva in Marina Roscha

R’ Kogan’s shlichus began
through the Bris Avrohom
organization, working alongside
R’ Avrohom Kanelsky in New
Jersey. At the same time he became
acquainted with the large Russian
Jewish community on Staten
Island and began working with
them, giving shiurim in Chassidus
and later with other activities until
he bought a building and moved
to the neighborhood.
don’t relate to American Jews, so
even someone who feels a little
connection to tradition will not
go to an English speaking shul.
This is why it is so important to
have targeted activities for them
that is meant for them and speaks
their language. When I began
working, I could not believe how
enormously interested they were.”
R’ Kogan did not leave his
home in New Jersey so fast. Every
day he traveled to Staten Island
to give shiurim. Every week,
he would go with his family for
Shabbos to stay with one of the

members of the community and
on Motzaei Shabbos they would
go home. “We bought the big
building we work in now just one
year ago.”
When we asked R’ Kogan
about his work, he divided it into
two areas, makif activities and
p’nimi activities. In the makif
arena he gives many lectures and
has a weekly broadcast for Russian
speakers which is listened to by
many Russians. He also publishes
a Jewish newspaper in Russian
that is printed and distributed in
the thousands and is also emailed
to about 4000 subscribers. In
the p’nimi arena he gives many
shiurim, there are t’fillos and
farbrengens, and the many oneon-one talks at the Chabad house
and house calls.
About 50,000 from the former
Soviet Union live on Staten Island
and his big dream is to get other
shluchim to open Chabad houses
around the borough. When he
talks about his community, R’
Kogan is excited, even enthused.
“These are people who never
visited a shul in their childhood
and never experienced Jewish life.
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R’ Kogan with a Jew who underwent circumcision

In fact, they were educated to
believe in atheism. Davening and
Torah reading are utterly strange
things to them. Every Shabbos, I
am moved when I see many Jews
who cannot think of a Shabbos
without t’filla and kiddush. There
are numerous people who changed
their lives around and keep
kashrus and family purity laws.
Without the world of shlichus,
where would they be today?”

The most powerful thing at
the Chabad house for Russian
speaking Jews of Staten Island is
the family atmosphere in which
every person feels close to the
other members. R’ Kogan relates:
“Three years ago we had
someone in the community
whose father became sick and
was in a coma. The father’s life
was sustained by life support
equipment, and after a while the
medical personnel recommended
taking him off the machines
because he would not regain
consciousness anyway.

“The son, who is very close
to us, consulted with me and of
course I vehemently opposed the
idea and told him the halacha.
Instead of that, I asked him to
make some mitzva commitments
that would help his father’s
condition. It was moving to
see how all the members of the
community joined in the t’fillos
and good hachlatos to help the
sick man. I gave him a dollar
from the Rebbe to place under his
father’s pillow.
“What happened was utterly
miraculous. After several weeks
his father woke up. The doctors
were so shocked that in the weeks
that followed, when he remained
there under observation, medical
students from all over the area
came to see this medical marvel.”
R’ Kogan has another story:
“We have a couple in the
community who are business
people. The woman made
a mistake in her financial
calculations and this was caught
by the IRS. The tax policy in the
US is very strict and the IRS asked
the court for a long jail sentence. It

R’ Kogan doing a radio broadcast

reached the point where it seemed
there was no natural means to get
out of it. Her husband even asked
to sit in jail instead of her but the
prosecution said no.
“I remember that difficult
period well. The entire community
shared in the couple’s pain. I
was very closely involved and
I suggested to the husband
that he undertake a big mitzva
commitment. He went to the
Rebbe and committed to being
circumcised, something he knew
about for a long time but was
very afraid to do. The very next
day he had himself circumcised.
Three days passed and the man
got a phone call from his lawyer
who reassured him that all would
be fine. The prosecutor on his
case had retired and the one who
replaced him was this lawyer’s
good friend so the jail sentence
was exchanged for a fine.”
R’ Kogan spoke about a special
community with many families.
He chose to tell us about one
particular family out of dozens:
“Three years ago, a Jewish
family joined the community

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R’ Kogan putting t’fillin on with a boy whose friend is already
able to help an older person put on t’fillin

straight from a neighborhood
church. This family had come
from Russia and sought spirituality
and a community, but no shul
took them in and they fell in with
Christianity and became members
there. One of their acquaintances
who became a member of our
community introduced them to us
and they have since come back to
the Jewish fold.
“We eventually made them a
Jewish wedding and today this
family is shomer Shabbos and

R’ Kogan is very particular
about not sufficing with Jewish
outreach that remains in the
category of “lights without
vessels” or in the category of
“being Jewish when it suits me.”
As someone who went through
the process himself, he speaks
to his mekuravim a lot about the
importance of doing mitzvos.
This comes up in his shiurim and
outreach activities. Each time, he
talks about the value of a specific
mitzva. If someone wants to give

the shliach a gift or ask for a
bracha, he has to commit to some
good deed. That is how many
mezuzos were put up and many
people began keeping mitzvos,
like kashrus and t’fillin, on a daily
When we discussed Mivtza
Mezuza, which R’ Kogan puts a
lot of effort into, he told us two
recent stories:
“A woman in the neighborhood,
who does not participate in our
programs, called me. She said she
heard about us and wanted us to
come and check her mezuzos. I
went to check them and found just
two mezuzos, at the front door
and in the kitchen. I could quickly
see that they were not kosher and
I bought new mezuzos for her.
“When I put up the new
mezuzos I asked her why she
had decided to have her mezuzos
checked. She said that her mother,
who had died, had come to her in
a dream and begged her to check
her mezuzos. When the dream
repeated itself several times, she
decided to take action.
“Last summer, my family went

to a bungalow and I stayed here.
I joined them for Shabbos. One
week, a question was bothering
me and I decided to write to the
Rebbe about it.
“The page that I opened to in
the Igros Kodesh had nothing to
do with my question. The letter
consisted of two paragraphs. In
one paragraph, the Rebbe writes
that it is known that in every matter
of k’dusha there is opposition. In
the second paragraph, the Rebbe
apologizes for allowing himself
to ask something, despite not
being asked. But he was sure that
I wouldn’t be angry and he asked
that I check the mezuzos in the
place my family lived.
“The next Erev Shabbos, when
I went upstate to the bungalow,
the first thing I did was check the
five mezuzos. It’s good I brought
along replacements because all
five were pasul!”

R’ Kogan bought a large
building for his activities and in
Staten Island, this is no mean feat.
I asked him how he managed to
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do this within a relatively short
time of having started his shlichus.
“It was a miracle that took
place with the Rebbe’s bracha; I
have no other explanation. At this
time, after the housing bubble
burst, the banks don’t readily give
mortgages and we did not know
how we could buy a building.
Before we left New Jersey for
Staten Island, we received the
Rebbe’s bracha and jumped into
the water, believing things would
work out.
“We looked around the area
with the help of real estate agents
and found a spacious building that
was perfect for our work. Where
would the money come from?

we entered the building debt-free.
The sums of money that people
gave were incredible and Russian
Jews are usually rational, thoughtout people. I have no doubt this
was supernatural.”
I asked R’ Kogan what the
best method is to influence Jews
like these to take steps in Jewish
observance. He said:
“I cannot say what is the best
way; I can tell you what we do.
We do things to make people feel
connected to the Chabad house
so that they feel that this is their
second home and we are their
family. We definitely do not regard
them as ‘material’ we need to
work with; rather, we love them

“The next Erev Shabbos, when I went upstate
to the bungalow, the first thing I did was check
the five mezuzos. It’s good I brought along replacements
because all five were pasul!”
We wrote to the Rebbe through
the Igros Kodesh and asked for a
supernatural bracha. The Rebbe’s
answer was to a Jewish community
in New York to whom he wrote
that he was sending his share and
his blessing for the building they
were putting up. I considered
this an on-the-mark response and
bracha. The Rebbe not only sent a
bracha but also his participation.
I immediately began the buying
process. I told my community
about it and asked for their help.
“Beforehand, I had calculated
how much I thought each
community member could give
and realized that the sum wasn’t
even close to what we needed. But
the reality exceeded my wildest
imagination; it was very moving
to see how people donated sums
of money they did not have;
they literally poured out all their
resources and boruch Hashem,

like brothers. When a Jew feels
that, he gets very involved.”
I asked R’ Kogan how he
handles the many intermarried
couples. He said:
“We do not push them to
divorce. If they do so, it is their
decision. But we do speak very
unequivocally about this, saying
we are happy when a Jewish child
or woman comes to shul but we
will not give any honors to the
non-Jewish members of the family.
We will absolutely not celebrate a
bar mitzva of a boy whose father
is Jewish and whose mother is not,
for he is a goy.
“There are some families like
this in the community and they
understand that this is a red line
that we do not cross. There is a
family whose mother is not Jewish
but lately she had been taking
serious steps toward conversion.
We do not get involved with this;

we refer potential converts to the
appropriate halachic authorities.
In shiurim we talk a lot about the
true essence of a Jew and how a
gentile who keeps mitzvos and is a
wonderful person and moral too is
still not a Jew. To many people this
is not easy to accept but this is our
Torah and this is what we go by.
“Lately, we have been putting
a lot of effort into Jewish youth
in order to prevent future
assimilation. We get together
once every two weeks at the
neighborhood community center,
deliberately not at the Chabad
house. During the course of
an interesting evening we learn
about Judaism and discuss Jewish
identity. This program, attended
only by Jewish youth, contributes
a lot toward strengthening the
Jewish spark, thus going a long
way to ensure that they will marry
As far as R’ Kogan’s extended
shlichus, out of the borders of
the neighborhood, via his radio
program, in Russian,
and a newspaper, he had this to
“This is work with tremendous
responsibility and we prepare for
every program and work to ensure
that the articles on the internet
site or newspaper are convincing
and on a high level. On Chabad.
org there are a number of rabbis
who respond to questions. It is
amazing to see how people care
about every mitzvah, as is seen
from the questions they ask. It is
astonishing every time to see how
the words of the Alter Rebbe that a Jew neither can nor wants
to be disconnected from Judaism
- come alive. Jews who were not
raised with tradition are careful
with every detail of mitzvos.
“A letter recently arrived from
a woman who lives in Ukraine.
She wrote that she is not Jewish
but from her acquaintance with

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A Chassidishe farbrengen with Russian Jews

Jews she knows that they are good
people, moral, and with a sense
of righteousness. She heard from
them about the Creator of the
world and feels that she wants to
get closer to Him. Since she is not
Jewish, she went to the church in
her city but was surprised to hear
in their sermons how Jews are the
source of all the world’s problems.
She had public debates with the
priests in which she told them, ‘I
know Jews personally; don’t say
lies!’ and put them in their place.
“She wrote that after going
several times, the guards of the
place went over to her and threw
her out and now she does not
know what to do. She asked
whether she can become a Jew
since she feels that Judaism is the
true religion.
“Obviously, her sentiments
seem in line with that of a Jew
and we need to find out whether
perhaps she is Jewish and is
unaware of it. There are hundreds
of thousands of people in the
former Soviet Union who do not
know they are Jewish. But even if
she isn’t a Jew, it was very moving
to read her letter. Letters like this
come from all over the world.”
What does R’ Kogan do about
chinuch for his children? He said:
“We live about forty-five
minutes from Crown Heights and
about an hour from Morristown.
There are shluchim in Russia or
other countries whose chinuch

problems are far more acute. Our
children travel for about an hour
every morning to school. The
traveling isn’t pleasant but it’s
“The children are very involved
in our shlichus. When mekuravim
see a child dressed as a Jew who
has Jewish eidelkait, reviewing the
parsha of the week, davening, or
helping arrange the shul, it makes
a good impression. There are
times when we want to make an
impact and are unsuccessful, and
when they see the children, they
melt. It’s no wonder the Rebbe
invested so much into children,
the Tzivos Hashem.”

How does R’ Kogan broadcast
the Besuras Ha’Geula?
“We publicize the Besuras
Ha’Geula in a gentle way.
When working with Russian
Jews you need to focus more on
explanations and less on slogans.
“When I am asked who the
leader of Chabad is, I say the
Rebbe. I am used to the follow-up
question: but you don’t see him?!
I explain how the Rebbe is still
operating today in the world and
even more so than before Gimmel
Tammuz. I convey the message
using facts from the reality we live
in and talk about the essence of
the Rebbe’s leadership.
“When explaining the topic of
‘Rosh B’nei Yisroel,’ and what his

Putting t’fillin on at a fair for Russian Jews

role is, people understand it and
then it is easier to move on and
explain the concept of Moshiach
in Torah, and why the Rebbe
is the most fitting to redeem
us. The fact that many people
in the community experienced
miracles through the Rebbe’s
brachos definitely helps bolster the

R’ Kogan is the type of person
who always seeks to grow:
expanding the building so we can
accommodate additional people.
This past year we were crowded,
especially during t’fillos, and our
big dream is to also build a mikva
to service all Jews in the area,
mainly Russian immigrants who
will feel more comfortable.”
Two years ago, R’ Kogan
brought another shliach for
Russian speaking Jews who
opened a Chabad house in another
part of the neighborhood.
“The shliach is R’ Zev
Kushnirsky and he works in South
Beach. He is very successful in his
work and has a lovely community
and an active shul. Just a few
months ago, a moving event took
place; the joyous celebration
honoring the dedication of the
first Torah donated by mekuravim
and those who daven in the shul.
They held hakafos according to
the way of Chabad practice.”
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For over thirty years R’ Yisroel Leibov served
as director of Tzach (Tzeirei Agudas Chabad –
Chabad Youth Organization). Nearly all hafatza
activities that the Rebbe initiated in Eretz Yisroel
went through him. * Twenty years after his
passing, Beis Moshiach presents a look into the
life of a man whose story is the story of Chabad
activity in Eretz Yisroel. * Part 1
By Dov Levanon


Yisroel Leibov was
born on 28 Kislev
5671 in Nikopol,
Ukraine. He was
educated in the yeshiva in his
town but with the outbreak of war,
his family moved to Poltava from
where he went to learn in Tomchei
T’mimim from 5684 to 5686.
At the end of the 1920’s, the
family moved to Kutais in Georgia
where his father, R’ Menachem
for supporting the family fell on
young Yisroel. He began working
in business and quickly became a
seasoned businessman who knew
how to make money. From the
outset, he set aside most of his
earnings for tz’daka for Yeshivos

Tomchei T’mimim, and he made
do with little.
In 1937 he married and moved
to Kiev where his wife was from.
They lived there for four peaceful
years until the Germans invaded
Russia in 1941. Kiev was bombed
but the German army was still far
from the city. The government
made trains available for civilians
who wanted to flee the city. Each
time a train filled up, another train
pulled into the station and filled
up and moved eastward, making
way for the next train.
The extended family, R’
Yisroel, his wife and his mother,
his in-laws, two brothers-in-law,
their wives and children, loaded
all their belongings on two trucks

and hurried to the train station the
moment they were able to. This
was a Friday morning.
When they arrived at the
train station, they were happy to
discover a half-filled train. But
their joy was premature. The
Russian gentiles on the train
refused to allow them on. Why?
No good reason. Their pleading
was futile. They had no choice but
to turn around and go home for
On Motzaei Shabbos, when
they went back to the train
station, they heard about what
had happened to the train they
had hoped to take on Friday.
It had been bombed and many
passengers were killed.

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After a long trip via land and
sea, they arrived in Samarkand
in 1942. That is where most
survived the war had ended up.
R’ Yisroel’s business acumen
was immediately apparent once
again. He began selling soap
which he made and sold on the
black market. In those days this
was a serious crime with a stiff
penalty, but its rewards were
ample. Although he endangered
himself to earn this money, he
regularly went to R’ Mendel
Futerfas who was responsible for
the local yeshiva and brought him
most of his earnings. R’ Mendel
used this money to pay the salaries
of the teachers.

yeshiva, he gave a lot of money to
individuals too. His giving wasn’t
only monetary but emotional as
well. He would sit and listen to
people’s sorrows even though he
himself was an embittered soul,
since he had no children.
His brother-in-law, Pinchas
Sudak, was also involved in
dangerous business practices
and was nearly caught. He
miraculously fled his home at the
last minute when the police came
to conduct a search on the day
that the cooked soap was ready
for sale. R’ Yisroel, however,
was never harassed by anyone in
authority, perhaps in the merit of
the tz’daka which protected him.

However, the dangers did not
cease. One day, in 1946, his niece,
Bas-Sheva Sudak, met the local
prosecutor on the street where he
lived. The girl knew her and had a
relationship with her after bribing
her with jewelry a short while
previously in order to free her
mother who had been arrested.
She spoke with the prosecutor
who told her that she was about to
make an arrest.
The girl tried to inform her
uncle, but he did not believe that
a girl as young as she had access
to such secret information, and
he did not run away. That day,
his wife was arrested. It was
only when his niece used her
connections and her mother’s
jewelry yet again that she was
saved. One week later, the Leibov
couple was already on their way to
Poland and from there to Poking,
Upon arriving in Poking, R’
Yisroel got involved in communal
activity and was one of those
active in founding the first
Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in
free Europe. After the Chassidim
moved to Paris, R’ Yisroel was
appointed as a member of the
committee of Merkos L’Inyanei
Chinuch, the European division,
the hanhala of Beis Rivka and
the hanhala gashmis of Yeshivas
Tomchei T’mimim.
In 5709, R’ Yisroel and his
wife were one of the first couples
to move to the new kfar that
the Rebbe had founded in an
abandoned Arab village, Safraya.
A short while later he was
appointed chairman of the vaad of
Kfar Chabad.

Many immigrants arrived in
Eretz Yisroel in those days, mainly
from Arab countries. The Zionists

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settled them in transit camps and
various settlements and exerted
much pressure on them to send
their children to government
schools. At the same time, they
withheld money from them for
basic religious services like a shul
or mikva.
R’ Yisroel saw this and he
couldn’t abide it. As someone who
had seen government subversion
of the chinuch of Jewish children
in other places, and was moser
nefesh for their chinuch, he
could not remain indifferent. He
immediately joined Pe’ilim (now
Yad L’Achim), the organization
that fought for the chinuch of
Jewish children.
Every morning, no matter the
weather or the mood, R’ Yisroel
went out with a bit of food in
his bag, and walked to the main
highway where he took public
transportation or hitched a ride to
one of the new moshavim. There
he spoke to the rav, shochet, or
community leaders and inspired
them with impassioned words
about their responsibility to
preserve Jewish tradition among
their people.
At the end of a long day, he

would return to Kfar Chabad and
immediately sit down and learn
Ein Yaakov or Mishnayos with
Sometimes, R’ Yisroel would
get directly involved on the
education front. When he would
meet children of the right age, he
would try very hard to place them
in yeshiva dormitories. Many of
the children he got involved with
switched to Yeshivos Tomchei
T’mimim and went on to live
their lives as Chassidim in every
An example of a Chassid like
this is R’ Moshe Edery. After his
family arrived in Eretz Yisroel,
they were settled in a transit camp
in Ashkelon. The following month,
R’ Yisroel Leibov arrived in town.
He noticed the 11 year old Moshe
running around the marketplace,
trying to earn some money for his
family. “I was always concerned
about parnasa. I learned how to
sew shoes and I planted vegetables
around the tin hut in the camp.
The day R’ Yisroel met me, I was
busy selling pails of ice with petel
(raspberry syrup) to passersby.”
With his mother’s consent,
the brothers Yaakov and Moshe

were taken to Kfar Chabad. R’
Dovid Lesselboim met them at
the Beit Dagan junction, and from
there it was on to life in Tomchei
In the memoirs of R’ Shlomo
Shtentzahl, the rosh yeshiva of
Porat Yosef in Rechovot, he tells an
interesting anecdote that occurred
when he went with R’ Yisroel on a
registration campaign:
“About forty years ago, I went
with R’ Yisroel Leibov to the
transit camp in Be’er Yaakov in
order to look for children to place
in Torah schools. Immigrants
from all sorts of countries lived
there. On our way, we passed a
house with loud voices in Russian
coming from the yard. R’ Leibov,
a Russian himself, went over to
the people and spoke to them in
Russian. He saw a child walking
around and asked from where in
Russia they came.
“They mentioned the name
of some village and R’ Yisroel’s
eyes lit up and he said he had fled
through that village. When he had
spoken to the Jews there, they had
told him that a Jewish boy had
been born and there was no mohel
to do the bris. Leibov had escaped
with another Jew who knew how
to circumcise and he prepared
a kitchen knife for the bris. The
bris was performed with a minyan
of Jews. The people told Leibov,
this is the boy who had the bris,
the one you see walking around. I
think he arranged for this boy to
be placed in a religious school.”

His work with children was
blessed materially and spiritually,
but for the Rebbe this was not
enough. The Rebbe demanded
that he get involved in Chabad
activities at the Tzach activity
center which had been founded
at that time. When, in 5714,
he was asked to coordinate

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Tzach’s activities, the Rebbe told
him to make sure there was no
encroaching on R’ Leib Cohen
who served in that position until
that point. Only after ascertaining
that there was indeed no issue of
encroachment, since R’ Leib had
left the position, did the Rebbe
approve of R’ Yisroel taking the
Until he took on the role,
Tzach had just two centers in
Eretz Yisroel, one in Yerushalayim,
and one in Kfar Chabad which
served as a base for Anash from
Tel Aviv and Lud as well. The
activities focused on shiurim in
yeshivos and the “Evening with
Chabad” programs. It was run by
a few people who received a paltry
salary for nominal work.
Shortly after taking the
job, the Rebbe said that Tzach
should pay salaries to at least
some of the workers, according
to its financial means. R’ Yisroel
wrote to the Rebbe that under
the circumstances there was no
need for a full time position at
the activity center, and in any
case, the Tzach coffers could
not afford a salary like that. The
Rebbe responded that this was
the decision of the hanhala in
Eretz Yisroel, while hinting that
the decision about whether a full
position was needed depended on
the character of the directors.
The hint was understood and
the character of the director began
to show itself. R’ Yisroel saw to
the establishment of a nationwide
directorship for Tzach that
was comprised of various local
representatives in Eretz Yisroel
and began to open branches all
over the country. In 5718, R’
Yisroel was appointed chairman
of Tzach in Eretz Yisroel and he
served in this role to his final day,
for 36 years.
Already during his first years
in this position, the activities were

Even when he made a personal call from his
office, he would put a coin in the pushka near his


stepped up in a big way, with
many activists throughout the
country joining the work as he
oversaw the entire network and
was responsible for activities on
holidays throughout the country,
from Mivtza Dalet Minim to
Chanuka, mishloach manos and
shofar, and activities in Miron on
Lag B’Omer.
instructions from the Rebbe passed
through him. He did everything
quietly and effectively, becoming
one of the most influential people
in matters of Jewish life in Eretz
Yisroel, whether with spreading
the wellsprings or fighting the
wars of Moshiach for Mihu Yehudi
He accomplished all this
without being paid and continued
to live on the salary that he
got from Pe’ilim, work that he
continued, as the Rebbe told him
to do.

The burden of work at
Pe’ilim together with his work
for Tzach, demanded most of
his time. Throughout the day,
he was constantly on the road,
going from making a house
call to a government office and
from there to a shiur, etc. The
Rebbe acknowledged this in
an interesting manner when R’
Yisroel was in mourning in the
year 5720 and he wrote to the
Rebbe that his traveling did not
allow him to say all the Kaddishim
a mourner says.
The Rebbe wrote, “Obviously,
ascendancy of the soul cannot
come through a decrease in
Torah and mitzvos, and chinuch
al taharas ha’kodesh is a
fundamental aspect of that and the
merit of the many are dependent
on him (in an incomparable way

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to saying Kaddish), from which
we understand that you should
not diminish your holy work in
chinuch al taharas ha’kodesh;
on the contrary, increase it. In
order not to miss out (as much
as possible) in what you write
of, there is place to suggest that
in addition to saying Kaddish at
times you can manage to say it,
you can hire someone to say it.
Thus, your holy work will not be

As mentioned, the work of
Pe’ilim focused on Jews from Arab
countries. These simple Jews with
sincere faith were brought to Eretz
Yisroel and torn from their religion
one after the other. Their children
were sent to public schools where
they were taught heresy. The
Pe’ilim activists charged into battle
and fought for the soul of every
Since the new immigrants
from these countries were sent
to live in moshavim founded at
that time, the activists worked to
send as many Jews as possible to
religious yishuvim. That is how
Moroccan Jews came to Kfar

Mrs. Simcha Ohana told how
when she arrived by boat from
France, they were welcomed by
representatives of many parties
who promised them money if they
came and lived at their moshav,
since there was a big demand for
children of school age. But R’
Yisroel came and said: We don’t
have money but we have yiras
Shamayim and that is how the
Ohana family moved to a tiny
apartment in Kfar Chabad.
R’ Yisroel received constant
instructions and guidance from
the Rebbe about how to integrate
the Moroccan immigrants with the
residents of the Kfar. The Rebbe
told him to found a shul for them
in which they could daven in their
nusach, but the children were to
learn how to daven in the Chabad
ensure that there would be joint
and Anash. “They should often
farbreng together in order to
negate from the get-go any
consideration of division chas
v’shalom,” he wrote to R’ Yisroel.
When he wrote to the Rebbe that
due to his involvement with Tzach,
he was not involved with the
Moroccans, the Rebbe responded,
“This is a matter for Tzach, the

issue of the Moroccans in Kfar
In later years, when more
immigrants arrived including
those who already knew Lubavitch
from its work in Morocco, the
Rebbe said to give special attention
to these immigrants.
His extreme honesty was
legendary. He never took a penny
from Tzach. Even when he made
a personal call from his office, he
would put a coin in the pushka
near his desk. He never bought a
car so as to save on expenses and
he used public transportation.
Even when the costs of Tzach’s
activities grew, and raising the
necessary funds in Eretz Yisroel
became impossible, he volunteered
to travel to the US for fundraising
purposes and insisted on paying
for the ticket out of his own
pocket. “I am traveling to the
Rebbe shlita,” he would argue.
A few years later, when the
weight of his responsibilities in
Tzach forced him to leave his
position with Pe’ilim, the Rebbe
said to R’ Sholom Ber Lipschitz,
“Where will you get another such
honorable man?”
More about his life, his activities in
Tzach and instructions from the Rebbe, in
the next article, G-d willing.


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By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

The name of the fourth book of
the Torah and this week’s parsha
is BaMidbar-“In the desert.”
Our Sages (Yoma 68b) also refer
to this book as the “Book of
The question has been raised
why we chose the name BaMidbar
when a dominant theme of this
book is the census (Pikudim) of
the Jewish people and not their
sojourn in the desert? Naming
a Torah book is not an arbitrary
exercise; the name must be
expressive of the very content and
character of the book.
A second question can be
raised based on the premise that
when two or more names are
given to one thing, they must have
a deep relationship to each other.
What, then, is the connection
between BaMidbar-In the Desert
and Numbers?

To answer these questions
we must focus our attention on
the way the Jewish Torah reading
calendar is set up. Without fail, we
read BaMidbar immediately before
the festival holiday of Shavuos,
the anniversary of the giving of

the Torah on Mount Sinai in the
desert. (In some years—as is the
case this year—an additional
Parsha, Naso is also read before
Shavuos. BaMidbar, however,
always precedes Shavuos.)
Our Sages of the Talmud
and Midrash expound on the
connection between the giving of
the Torah and the desert in several
First, just as the desert is
ownerless, so too Torah is available
and accessible to everyone. No
one person can claim exclusive
rights to the Torah.
Second, just as the desert
is a place in which no work
is performed, so too one who
dedicates himself to Torah is freed
from all mundane affairs and exile
Third, if the Torah had
been given after the arrival in
Israel, people would have been
preoccupied with their property
and livelihood. Therefore G-d gave
the Torah in the desert, where all
their needs were provided for, so
they had ample time and resources
to absorb the Torah.
Fourth, to be receptive to
Torah one must render oneself
hefker—free for all, i.e., egoless,
like the desert.

In truth, the desert is only one
of several metaphors used by our
Sages to describe the giving of
the Torah. The Torah was given
on Mount Sinai, the lowest of all
the mountains, to symbolize the
value of humility. Why then is the
primary prefatory Torah portion
named BaMidbar, implying that
the primary preparation for Torah
is the concept of the desert?
Moreover, in another Midrash
three elements are linked to the
giving of the Torah: Fire, Water
and the Desert. Yet, only the
desert is highlighted as a necessary
prerequisite for the receiving of
the Torah. Why not fire or water?
To answer this question we
must understand how these three
elements, fire, water and desert,
relate to the giving of the Torah.
One approach is that fire,
which rises above all else, is the
symbol of arrogance. Water,
conversely, by nature flows
downward and thus alludes to
the person who lowers himself to
others—humility. The desert, as
stated earlier, is also suggestive
of the person who is devoid of
ego. The question arises, what
distinguishes the symbol of
humility associated by water
with the symbol of a checked ego
represented by the desert? Why

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Parsha Thought
two distinct symbols for the trait
of humility?

The answer is that humility is
merely a description of behavior
toward others. One could act
humbly but not truly be humble.
Also, humility is not a positive
trait in all instances. For example,
when resolve, courage, confidence
and assertiveness are required
to carry out a certain mission,
some forms of humility can be

Yet Moses was also the most
authoritative leader, whose words
are a command to all of us.
His assertiveness was not only
consistent with his humility, it
was actually a most formidable
expression of it. Moses was simply
a transparent conduit for G-d’s
This may answer the question
as to why the Torah is associated
primarily with the symbol and
metaphor of the desert, rather
than with the symbols of fire and

Bittul allows us to combine assertiveness
and humility… The “desert” personality is
simultaneously the most humble person and the
most assertive and authoritative person because he is
channeling G-d’s authority.

How do we maintain healthy
humility and also be assertive
when necessary? It is only possible
with the “desert” mindset. As
stated, the desert is the state of
total self-abnegation, the Hebrew
word for which is bittul. Bittul
allows us to combine assertiveness
and humility. We become totally
receptive to the Divine teachings
of the Torah when we are selfeffacing. Once we receive G-d’s
Torah in its purest state and
are devoid of personal agendas,
our assertiveness (which may
appear to some as arrogance and
an inflated ego) is actually an
expression of G-d’s authority, not
our own. The “desert” personality
is simultaneously the most humble
person and the most assertive and
authoritative person because he is
channeling G-d’s authority.
Such was the humility of
Moses, about whom it was said,
“Moses was the most humble
person on the face of the earth.”

Torah, by definition is beyond
our grasp because it is Divine
knowledge. Since G-d is infinite
so is His Torah. Our own minds
are finite. It is impossible for a
finite being to receive that which
is infinite. The only way we
can be receptive to Torah is by
“removing” our personal identities
and become open and empty
vessels, ready to receive G-d’s
Hence, the concept of the
desert, which symbolizes Bittul,
is the single most important
ingredient in the process of
receiving the Torah. The other
elements of fire (assertiveness)
and water (humility) are merely
the consequences of our selfabnegation: by adopting a desert
personality we can confidently
assert ourselves while remaining
humble in our relationship with

To explain:
Assertiveness, in and of itself,
may signify an exaggerated sense
of self-importance, unjustified
confidence, mistaken trust in one’s
own abilities and the correctness
of one’s own ideas. A fiery and
passionate leader may be the
ultimate egotist. If so, he cannot
be trusted to impart the Torah’s
unadulterated teachings to others.
However, even if a person
appears to act like water, by
showing submission to others or
exhibiting signs of meekness, it
may actually be due to a lack of
conviction and insecurity rather
than to a humble spirit. Moreover,
ironically, this humility may even
come from an inflated ego. The
meek individual may simply be
afraid to show conviction and
fortitude lest he be proven wrong
and subjected to ego bruising
Both the “fire” and “water”
approaches may actually be
products of an inflated ego, which
will make it impossible to be
receptive to the Divine teachings
of Torah.
In addition, those who suffer
from a superiority complex, or
those who are overly humble
because of the insecurity that
complex (both of which are
signs of an inflated focus on self)
are hardly qualified to impart
knowledge to others. Their
arrogance and/or insecurity cloud
their teachings, driving a wedge
between them and their students.
Hence the Torah highlights
the “desert” ideal in the week
before the festival of Shavuos.
This reinforces the notion that
the desert personality, which can
successfully navigate between

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assertiveness and humility, is the
only one truly receptive to Torah.

We can now also return to the
original question of why BaMidbar
was chosen as the name for this
Book and Parsha.
Let us recall that the other
name of this book is “Numbers”
because of the census chronicled
in this week’s parsha. The
significance of this counting
underscores the value of each
and every member of the Jewish
Our Sages tell us that if even
one Jew were missing, G-d would
not have given the Torah. Just as
we could not get the Torah without
the “desert-bittul” imperative,
so too we could not receive the
Torah without each and every Jew
present and accounted for.
requirements appear mutually
exclusive. If we are in a state of

total self-abnegation how can we
be counted?
Upon deeper reflection, the
process of counting, in and of
itself, was the instrument by
which our true G-dly identities
were revealed to us. Counting
contradictory effects. On the one
hand, it establishes that you count
and are important. In Jewish law,
items that are counted cannot be
nullified in larger mixtures. On
the other hand, when we count
individuals, no one counts more
or less than the other. That is the
ultimate expression of bittul-selfabnegation.
Thus, when G-d counted the
Jewish people He was revealing
their true G-dly identity and
importance; this is the true state
of nullity relative to which all Jews
are equal and united as one.
Naming this book and
parsha BaMidbar-In the Desert
thus describes that which was
accomplished by the counting. The
process of counting was parallel

to the desert-bittul dynamic and
was the instrument by which this
dynamic was unleashed.

The Midrash states that
Moshiach will stand on the roof of
the Beis HaMikdash and declare:
“Humble ones, the time of your
Redemption has arrived.”
Why does he hail the people as
“humble ones?”
Because Moshiach, like Moses
whose soul resides in him, is the
catalyst that enables us to realize
our greatest potential. This makes
us worthy and able to receive the
G-dly revelations that accompany
the Messianic Age. By being
humble, in the “BaMidbar-desert”
sense of the word, and receptive to
Moshiach and the Messianic Age,
one makes the transition from
Exile to Redemption happen in the
most efficient and pleasant way.

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A stubborn Jewish mother, a fearful Chassid,
a boy hiding under the train seat and an
underground yeshiva. * Despite all the obstacles
in his way, the child grew up to be one of the
great men of our generation. * R’ Isaac Schwei
a”h – 26 Iyar 5748.
By Refael Dinri


abbi Isaac Schwei was
born on Simchas Torah
5693/1932 in Abo, a
port city in southwest
Finland. His father, R’ Mordechai
Eliyahu lived there, having been
sent there on shlichus by the Rebbe
Rayatz, to be involved in chinuch
and kiruv of the youth. Soon
after he was born, his paternal
grandmother arrived from Dvinsk,
Latvia with a request. Her father,
R’ Isaac Trivash, who was a big
talmid chacham and descendant of
Rashi, had come to her in a dream
and asked that her grandson be
named for him.
In 5695, R’ Mordechai Eliyahu
moved with his family to Narva,
the easternmost city in Estonia,
where he was appointed as rav.
He served in this position until

the outbreak of World War II in
R’ Mordechai Eliyahu’s house,
which was a house of Torah and
chesed, was open to wayfarers,
meshulachim and guests. Despite
Isaac’s father’s greatness, he
absorbed his main chinuch from
his mother, Bunia. His mother,
who grew up in the home of the
famous Chassid, R’ Aharon Yaakov
Veiler, was a model of mesirus
nefesh for the Jewish education of
her children.
With the outbreak of war, the
government said that from each
family in Narva one member had
to enlist to dig defensive ditches
around this border city. It was very
close to the border with Russia.
Most of the people drafted to
execute this hard and dangerous

labor were men, of course, but
not in the Schwei family. The
rebbetzin enlisted instead of her
husband saying that if something
happened, G-d forbid, he would
be able to raise their children,
which is something she would not
be able to do.
Afterward, the family escaped
the war by going eastward,
crossing the border into Russia,
to the village of Vobkent
in Uzbekistan. The family
experienced a great tragedy here
when the esteemed father died
a young man, leaving behind a
widow, all alone, with no Jewish
support system. The isolation was
so great that when, a short while
later, the oldest daughter Hinda
died, her mother had to bury her

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The next day, when the
Chassid was about to board
the train, she gave her final
instructions to her second son.
“Hide under the bench and keep
an eye on the Chassid and stick
with him.” A final kiss, a strong
embrace, and she pushed the
eleven year old inside, a moment
before the doors closed and the
train began to move.
The youngest son, Aharon
Yaakov, followed in the same way
when he was only seven years
old. Today he is the rav of Crown
Even after the war, when her
sons were older, her devotion
toward their learning did not cease
and she continued bearing the
burden of supporting the family.
She was not fazed by any work
that came her way, honorable or
demeaning, the main thing being
that her sons continue learning.

The Schwei brothers: R’ Isaac, R’ Aharon Yaakov, and R’ Boruch Sholom

Even during those terrible
times, the mother continued
with superhuman effort to
educate her children, despite the
circumstances, the terrible hunger,
and their losses. When she heard
that the gaon of Tchebin was living
in Uzbekistan as a war refugee,
she went to him and asked him to
teach her son Boruch Sholom. In
appreciation for this, she would
bring him two pails of water every
day and cleaned his house.
When she heard from R’
Eliezer Mishulovin that there was a
Chabad yeshiva in Samarkand, she
sent her three sons to this distant
city. The children were sent one
after the other. She first sent the
oldest, Boruch Sholom, together
with R’ Eliezer Mishulovin. When
R’ Mishulovin returned, she went

to him and received regards from
her oldest son who was learning
and doing well.
Then she pleaded, “You took
my first son with you and he is
sitting and learning Torah. What
about my second son, my Isaac’l?
He also has to learn. He also has
to get a bit more chinuch which
I cannot provide for him. Please,
take him with you to the yeshiva.”
“Impossible,” he told her sadly.
“He does not have identity papers
and if I take him, it will be too
dangerous. Aside from that, he is
still young and needs his mother.”
She wondered, “Young? Too
young to receive a Jewish chinuch
in a yeshiva and grow up as he
ought? Is there an age too young
for that?”

Although he went to yeshiva
at a younger age than the rest of
the boys, and without the ability
to learn Torah until then, he
quickly got into the rhythm of
the yeshiva and even surpassed
the other boys. He was gifted and
went from strength to strength in
his learning. Isaac soon became a
byword among all those in yeshiva.
He was beloved and admired
by his teachers and friends not
only because of his outstanding
abilities, but also thanks to his
good character and pleasant ways,
his refinement and his modesty.
Even when the yeshiva left
Russia in the famous escape, R’
Isaac continued his learning in
Poking and Brunoy. In Poking,
the family lived in the home of
R’ Yisroel Neveler who was like
a father to the young orphans.
In 5711, he went to learn in

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R’ Schwei told an interesting story that occurred when they fled the
communist regime:
We arrived in Poking, Germany with a group of Chassidim who traveled
from Bucharia (Uzbekistan) via Lvov. They traveled the usual way, by forging
documents and smuggling across borders. Fortunately, my mother knew
Polish and she became the group’s spokesperson.
In Poking, we were given a quantity and variety of food to which we were
unaccustomed. The Chassidim and rabbanim in the group began discussing
whether, considering the physical condition of the children, women, and even
the men, it was permissible or forbidden to eat the American canned goods we
were given.
I was a young bachur and I saw their deliberations, the back and forth
and the questioning looks on the faces of the Chassidim whom I considered
reliable authorities.
An aristocratic woman suddenly entered the room. The rabbanim rose in
her honor and cleared a place for her as they looked at her with respect. In a
refined way she said she wanted to say a few words and asked the pardon and
the permission of the rabbis. Silence reigned.
“I heard,” she said, “that there is a debate about the food we received and
you don’t know what to tell Anash to do. I hereby state that it is permissible
to eat this food without question. If you wonder how I can say this with such
certainty, it is because I received parcels from my son in the US and among
the products he sent me were canned goods like these. My son would only
send me food that is perfectly kosher.”
After the woman left the room, I heard R’ Avrohom Eliyahu Plotkin and R’
Avrohom Maiyor (Drizin) tell their families that they could eat the foods.
I did not know what to do and whether I should be stringent and not eat it.
I asked my friend, Shneur Zalman Morosov to ask his father (R’ Dovid Leib)
what I should do. I also wanted to know who that woman was who was so
respected by the great Chassidim.
I was told it was Rebbetzin Chana Schneersohn, the wife of R’ Levi
Yitzchok who had been the rav in Dnepropetrovsk until he was arrested and
exiled to a distant place where he died after much suffering. The Rebbetzin,
they said, was the mechutenes of the Rebbe (Rayatz) and her son was Ramash.
Of course, she could be relied upon 100%.

Hearing that this was an instruction from the
Rebbe, R’ Itche confidently said, “There is no
disease and there is nothing to worry about!”
Montreal. He was only eighteen.
After a few years of diligent
learning in the yeshiva in
Montreal, in which he acquired
a wide-ranging knowledge of
Shas, he was appointed in 5716
as the mashgiach in the yeshiva.
In a letter dated 28 Cheshvan,

the Rebbe asked R’ Gringlass to
inform him of the changes due to
this appointment.

While still a bachur, R’ Schwei
was appointed as rosh yeshiva
and since then, he was known,

especially among the talmidim of
the yeshiva in Montreal and the
talmidim of Yeshivos Tomchei
T’mimim around the world as
an outstanding pedagogue. He
devoted himself fully to every
talmid. Many of his talmidim
relate that to them he was not
merely the rosh yeshiva, but like
a father who looked out for their
material welfare. Some of them
became rabbanim, roshei yeshiva,
and mashpiim. Married men
would also consult with him.
In 5718, he married Golda,
daughter of R’ Chaikel Chanin.
The Rebbe was their mesader
After the wedding, he returned
to Montreal and continued his
work as rosh yeshiva. In addition,
he worked hard to build Lubavitch
mosdos in the city. He was one of
the founders of Tzach, one of the
founders of Beis Rivka, and other
mosdos, and he ran the summer
camp for decades.
He joined the beis din of the
Vaad HaRabbanim of Montreal,
as the Rebbe told him to do. There
his amazing talents were revealed
especially as it came to clarifying
halachic matters, and he became
one of the leading lights of the beis
During his work for the beis
din, he fought for the amendment
of Mihu Yehudi and shleimus
ha’aretz. Through his work in the
beis din, he developed connections
which enabled him to convey
the Rebbe’s message to great
rabbanim and to senior Israeli
Despite being a rosh yeshiva
authority, he was exceedingly
modest and fled from any
publicity. He was a big baal
tz’daka and was outstanding in the
mitzva of g’milus chesed, treating
every person warmly. And this was
all done in a low-key manner.

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R’ Schwei worked with new
baalei t’shuva who came to the
yeshiva. These men sometimes
left behind parents who were
very upset by their children’s
life changes. With insight and
sensitivity, R’ Isaac guided the
talmidim as he looked out for
them as a father would for his
children, until they were firmly
R’ Isaac passed away on
16 Iyar 5748 and is buried in
Montefiore cemetery in New York.
After his passing, his brother
R’ Aharon Yaakov published the
s’farim, Kisvei R’ Isaac, as the
Rebbe told him to do, which are
based on shiurim that he gave
and sermons he delivered. They
display his greatness in all aspects
of Torah, Nigleh and Chassidus,
p’shat and drush. Much of the
s’farim deal with deep analysis of
the origin of Jewish customs.

R’ Isaac Schwei (left) with his father-in-law, R’ Chaikel Chanin

At one time, a malignant
tumor was discovered in R’ Isaac.
He immediately asked the Rebbe
for a bracha. The response that he
received the same day consisted
of the words: consult with your
Taken aback by the Rebbe’s
answer, R’ Isaac spoke to his
mashpia who dismissed him
saying, “I don’t understand what
is wanted of me.”
R’ Isaac wrote to the Rebbe
again, saying the mashpia had
nothing to say. The Rebbe’s
response was to change mashpiim
and to ask his advice.
R’ Isaac asked R’ Yitzchok
Springer, the mashpia in 770,

R’ Isaac Schwei speaking at a meeting of Tzach

to be his mashpia. R’ Itche
agreed and then R’ Isaac asked
him what he thought about the
tumor. Hearing that this was an
instruction from the Rebbe, R’
Itche confidently said, “There is

no disease and there is nothing to
worry about!”
The following scans that were
taken that same day showed that
a miracle had occurred; the tumor
had disappeared
Check it out!! Educational and Fun!!
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By Nosson Avrohom


here was an uplifted
atmosphere in the dining
room used by the students
on K’vutza at 1414,
the second night of Pesach. The
bachurim sat together to farbreng
and between niggunim some of
them told miracle stories which
they witnessed or which they
Menachem Yitzchok Amram
told a story about his father, Yosef
The story I will tell you now,
happened around Purim time
in 5748. My father, who was
a strong, healthy man, began
suffering from headaches along
with other bothersome symptoms.
After going to the neighborhood
clinic, he was referred to Belinson
hospital where after undergoing
a series of X-rays and tests, the
doctors told him he had stomach
Words cannot describe the
broken heartedness of the family,
especially my father. My father
was released with instructions
to return the following week
chemotherapy which had only a
minimal chance of vanquishing
the disease.
My parents did not sit around
waiting for the treatment to
begin. They visited rabbanim,
Admurim, and kabbalists. They
visited nearly every famous rav
or mekubal, but they all had the
same answer, “We will pray for
you.” Other than that, nobody
was willing to make any promises.
Some recommended going to

organizations that are experts in
this field for their suggestions
about better medication or better
My father, who was worried
beforehand about his condition,
was in total despair after visiting
the rabbis. “If they can’t promise
me anything, there is no chance
I’ll make it,” he said.
At that time, we lived in
Shikun Hei in B’nei Brak. My
mother attended some shiurim
in Chassidus and upon getting to
know some of the active women,
she began moving toward Chabad
and the Rebbe. Her state of mind
was no better than my father’s.
One night, she wrote a long letter
about what was going on and sent
the letter to the Rebbe. She wrote
that she wanted to go to Crown
Heights to meet the Rebbe and
receive his bracha.
In the Rebbe’s answer, he
blessed my father and it was
understood that he agreed that my

parents should go to 770.
chemotherapy at Hadassah Ein
Kerem in Yerushalayim. It was
very hard to convince him to fly to
the Rebbe after the many visits he
had made to rabbanim. “It’s just a
waste of time,” he repeatedly said.
After several months of
medical treatment, there was a
two week break in which he was
supposed to rest. Somehow, my
mother convinced him that there
was nothing to lose and they
packed up and traveled to New
My father was in a very low
emotional state. His condition
deteriorated from day to day and
it was hard for him to eat and
sleep. He was very depressed.
They went to 770 around
Shavuos time. In Crown Heights
they were welcomed with open
arms by R’ Moshe Yaruslavsky
a”h, who arranged room and
board for them.
The first opportunity they had
to see the Rebbe, they stood on
the long line which slowly moved
down the street. After a few hours
of waiting they reached the Rebbe.
Even before my father stood in
front of the Rebbe, the Rebbe had
already looked at him lovingly.
Although my father was used to
meetings with rabbanim, he could
not conceal his excitement and
his body began to tremble. Later
on, he said that he felt it was like
an X-ray going through him.
The Rebbe’s holy eyes remained
fixed on him. My father received
a dollar for tz’daka and a bracha

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and although he moved on, the
Rebbe continued to gaze upon
him until he left the room.
Chassidim who watched this,
including R’ Yosef Hecht, shliach
to Eilat, were amazed by what they
saw and they asked my father why
he merited such regard from the
Rebbe. My father, who was also
amazed, told them what he had
been going through lately.
In the days that followed,
his physical wellbeing began to
improve. On Shavuos he was
able to go on Tahalucha like any
healthy person. My father became
a new man since that encounter
with the Rebbe. Something in him
changed. The smile returned to his
face as did color to his cheeks.
A few days later, he took pen
and paper and wrote the chain of
events and asked for a bracha for
a refua shleima. He gave the letter
to R’ Leibel Groner for him to give
to the Rebbe. A few hours went by
and the answer was: When you go
to Eretz Yisroel, consult with three
objective doctors.
My parents felt wonderful.

The meeting with the Rebbe
and his answer a few days later
reassured my father that all would
be well. He had finally gotten a
clear answer instead of nebulous
responses and assurances. A
few days later, my parents went
for dollars again and when they
passed the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked
him to be particular about wearing
tzitzis. My father was amazed by
this and said, “How did the Rebbe
know I was not wearing tzitzis?”
When they returned to Eretz
Yisroel, they followed the Rebbe’s
instruction. They went to three
top doctors, handed each of them
his medical file and asked for their
opinion. The doctors all agreed
that he should continue with the
Dr. Y, a senior doctor at
Hadassah Ein Kerem and a world
famous expert in transplants
and oncology, was pleasantly
surprised by my father’s change
for the better during those two
weeks. “First, you’ve put on
weight. Second, a smile and
joy have replaced your black
mood. What happened to you?”

Continued from page 5

of the year when the destruction
and exile took place (beginning
with the 17th of Tammuz),
the main emphasis is (not
the rectification of something
about it that is undesirable
but) the “tov” of the matter, its
inherent goodness, for this is
the preparation for the true and
complete redemption.

hemisphere. Indeed, from that
point, the wellsprings were being
spread throughout all the corners
of the world, which is the final
preparation for the advent of
Moshiach Tzidkeinu.
The explanation as to why
all these milestones are being
achieved only now is that
since according to all of the
signs mentioned among the
words of our Sages regarding
the generation of the Heels of
Moshiach [the final period of
exile, on the very threshold of
redemption], this generation
is the final generation of exile
and (of consequence) the first
generation of redemption.
Therefore, even during the time

(From the address of Shabbos
Parshas Balak, 17 Tammuz 5751;
Seifer HaSichos 5751, pg. 688-689)
*The innovation here is that even in
a state of destruction and exile the
redemption in its purity is felt, just
as if there were no destruction and
**In addition to the main difference
– that the verse, “‘And G-d your

My father told the doctor
about the Rebbe’s bracha and
before he could finish, the doctor
said, “Then you have nothing
to worry about.” He went on to
say that he referred every serious
problem that came up to the
Rebbe and he had already seen
open miracles that had no basis in
nature or medicine.
My father continued with the
protocol and after two months
the doctors took tests again to
see if there was any improvement.
Before their astonished eyes, the
scans showed that not only was
there an improvement, but the
disease had totally disappeared.
They found it hard to believe.
They decided to redo the scans
and got the same results.
They informed my father who
quickly informed the Rebbe. Then
my father made a thanksgiving
meal to thank G-d for the miracle.
He lived for another sixteen
years which he spoke of as a gift
which he was given thanks to the
bracha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

L-rd will return, etc.,” speaks about
the general concept of redemption,
through the Alm-ghty (without
mention of Melech HaMoshiach),
whereas Parshas Bilam, where
the details for the redemption are
recounted with respect to the two
Moshiach (see Likkutei Sichos Vol.
18, pg. 272, among other places).
***Accordingly we can explain the
reason why Rambam first mentions
the verse, “And G-d your L-rd will
return your exiles, etc.,” of Parshas
Nitzavim before the verse in Parshas
Bilam, which textually precedes it.
Namely, in order to emphasize the
progressively ascending order of
the redemption: First and foremost,
being redeemed from exile, and
thereafter, the special quality and
perfection of the redemption unto

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles, co-founder of the
internationally acclaimed Ascent Institute of
Tzfas, went through his own intriguing journey
in the world of sports and philosophy. Today,
he sends people to the Arizal’s Mikveh, and the
results are virtual spiritual revolutions. This is his
amazing life story with accounts of his personal
audiences with the Rebbe and a vivid description
of his wide-ranging outreach activities. Part 2 of 2
By Nosson Avraham
Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

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returned to the United
States, and shortly thereafter,
went on a backpacking trip in
California. After a lengthy period
of wandering, he found himself
renting an apartment farmhouse
with six friends from his years at
the State University of New York
at Binghamton. This was a unique
time. “Many people were getting
interested in macrobiotics, and I
had already become involved in this
hot new ‘trend’ in California.
“I and one of the others
became the cooks. We would
scrupulously in a macrobiotic
style. We were extremely busy.
One day, I ran into a friend who
worked in a famous macrobiotic
restaurant in Boston. He told
me about a special teacher in
the field of macrobiotics, and
he suggested that we ask him to
come to Binghamton to give a
lecture. When I called him, he said
that he was just about to start a
lecture tour throughout the United
States, and he happily agreed to
add a stop in upstate New York.”
This lecturer was none other
than Dr. Meir Abuchatzera, who
was privileged to receive special
attention from the Rebbe when he
instructed him to whistle during

farbrengens. At the time, however,
he was still a ‘fresh recruit,’
beginning his spiritual journey
into the world of Chabad. With the
passage of time, he had become
one of the three main ‘masters’ at
learning and application centers
specializing in macrobiotics.
“We became good friends.
He established his residence not
far from us, and he asked me to
help him in the preparation of a
book on the subject of alternative
medicine. He was the first person
to tell me about the Rebbe and the
teachings of Chassidus. I started
participating in his Shabbos meals,
eventually becoming Shabbos
observant. The tranquility and
detachment of Shabbos fascinated
“One day, I asked Abuchatzera
how he explains the fact that such
a dramatic percentage of people
involved in macrobiotics are Jews.
He replied that the very essence of
macrobiotics is proper balance, an
issue connected with the nature
of justice and truth, and Jews
are inherently drawn to pursue
truth. His words sharpened my
perception of the unique character
of the Jewish People. Later, long
before the establishment of the
Chabad Student Center at SUNYBinghamton, my friends and I—
all newly observant!—erected a
sukka before the Sukkos holiday

that attracted one hundred and
fifty Jews, mostly students, to
participate in the first night of Yom
tov. Even the local Reform ‘rabbi’
dropped in, and nearly all the
students decided spontaneously
to walk the two miles back to the
campus rather than drive...”
The first time that Yerachmiel
put on t’fillin since his bar-mitzvah
was during a visit to Crown
Heights on Purim 5732. “I was
privileged to stay at the home of
Rabbi Akiva Greenberg, of blessed
memory. Before we went to 770
for the Rebbe’s farbrengen, I
asked him to teach me something
Chassidic on the Purim holiday.
He smiled and said, ‘Pick one
drink and stick to it...’
farbrengen, I participated in a
farbrengen for baalei t’shuva
at Yeshivas ‘Hadar HaTorah.’
Except for myself, everyone there
was totally intoxicated. There
were moments when I thought:
What makes this different from
all the parties we organized
in college? However, when I
heard what issues the inebriated
bachurim were discussing, the
difference was quite apparent.
While drunkenness in college
led to decadence, the same thing
occurring in Crown Heights
caused people to focus on their
spiritual state.”

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Three months later, on the
eve of the Shavuos holiday, Rabbi
Tilles and four friends came to
spend Yom tov in 770. They were
particularly enthralled by Rabbi
Avraham Levi Lipskier, who
farbrenged with them for several
hours until the wee hours of the
“I eventually moved to Crown
Heights. While I had to work, I
learned conscientiously at night
in ‘Hadar HaTorah,’ mostly with
Rabbi Abba Pliskin, of blessed
memory, both before and after
my marriage. Shortly before the
wedding, the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi
Yisroel Jacobson, of blessed
memory, arranged a private
audience for me with the Rebbe.

down, I remained standing against
the wall near the door.
“After the Rebbe finished
speaking, he asked the parents
if any of them had a question for
him. My mother said that they
were all worried how the young
couple would make a living. The
Rebbe smiled and replied: ‘G-d
takes care of the sustenance of
four billion people in the world.
Surely He will be able to provide
for another two...’”
After their wedding, R’
Yerachmiel and his new wife
worked on the writing of Rabbi
Abuchatzera’s new book. The

there must be a reason. Suddenly,
I had a thought: Our landlord in
Flatbush, a Holocaust survivor,
liked us very much. After he
finished the Friday night meal in
his own home, he would come
down and join us at our table. We
had a one-year contract with him,
which still had a few months to
go. I realized that we needed to
ask his permission to leave before
we could move anywhere. With
much regret, he gave his consent.
I composed a third letter to the
Rebbe, including the landlord’s
permission. That same day, we
received a positive answer, and
we immediately signed the rental

“‘It’s very hot today,’ the man said. ‘Do you
know of a pool where we can cool off from the
In Tishrei 5738, Rabbi Tilles
and his wife received a gift from
heat?’ At first I was stunned that I was being asked such
his in-laws: airline tickets for an
a question in the middle of Shabbos. Then, I quickly got a extended trip to Eretz HaKodesh.
“We toured Eretz Yisroel for
brainstorm; I would send this fellow to the Ari’s Mikveh...”

The level of excitement within me
was very great indeed. As a ‘firsttimer,’ I was warned not to try to
shake hands with the Rebbe. But
as soon as I entered the Rebbe’s
office, he extended his hand to
me. At first I panicked, but then
I figured it out and handed him
an invitation to the wedding. The
Rebbe looked at the invitation, and
then he turned his head towards
the foot and a-half high stack of
letters near his desk. Among the
hundreds of letters piled there, he
immediately pulled out the note I
had submitted. I was amazed.
“Afterward, I was joined by
my future wife and both sets of
parents. The Rebbe got up from
his chair, walked toward them,
and invited them to sit on chairs
placed near the window. As I had
also been warned about not sitting

biggest difficulty was being so far
away from 770 on Shabbos and
Yom tov, and this pushed them to
search for an apartment in Crown
Heights. “The apartment we
found was located on the upper
floor of the Baumgarten home.
We asked the Rebbe for a bracha,
but none was forthcoming. In the
meantime, Mrs. Baumgarten told
us that there was another couple
that had been interested in the
apartment before us, but they
hadn’t received a bracha from the
Rebbe either. ‘Whoever receives
the Rebbe’s bracha first can move
in,’ she said.
“I submitted my request again,
but again there was no answer.
But the other couple didn’t get
an answer either. By this time,
I already understood that if the
Rebbe doesn’t give an answer,

six weeks, and this included a
visit to Tzfas. I was enchanted
with the city. The ‘Beit Chana’
Chabad high school for girls had
been founded a few years earlier,
and someone working there had
promised me a position with the
school as an English teacher if
we would make aliya and settle in
Tzfas. Around this time, I also had
a shlichus offer in California and
a regular job possibility in New
York. We decided to ask the Rebbe
for his advice and blessing.
“As soon as we returned to
Crown Heights, I submitted a
letter with my three options to the
Rebbe’s secretariat. We received
an answer a few days later. Under
the words ‘English teaching
position in Tzfas,’ the Rebbe drew
a line. It came as a tremendous
surprise for many people that the
Rebbe had instructed someone
other than the official shluchim
to settle in Tzfas. At a special pre-

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departure gathering that
friends organized for us
in Crown Heights, many
people came to take part,
including the Rebbe’s
secretary, Rabbi Yehuda
Leib Groner.”
The Tilles’ first stop
in Eretz HaKodesh was at
the immigrant absorption
center in Kfar Chabad,
and a few months later,
they began their trek
north - to the Holy City
of Tzfas. When Rabbi
Tilles speaks about the
shlichus in Tzfas, he adds
yet another interesting
anecdote: “In Tishrei
5741, I traveled to the
Rebbe for the holiday
season. Before returning
Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles at his computer
to Eretz Yisroel, I was
privileged to go in for a
avreichim, Rabbi Moshe Yaakov
‘yechidus.’ During this
private audience, the Rebbe gave Wisnefsky and Rabbi Shaul Leiter.
me several bills of Israeli liras and I remember the date well - Asara
said, ‘When you return to Tzfas B’Teives 5743 - when the three of
Ir HaKodesh, you will surely give us sat together to consider what to
do and how to do it. We decided
them to tz’daka.’
to establish a pre-yeshiva program
“When I told this to my fellow
for three weeks in Elul, giving
shluchim from Tzfas, they were
those who wanted to tour the Holy
very surprised. The Rebbe had
Land an opportunity to learn a
only said to them, ‘When you
little Torah. The program drew
return to Eretz HaKodesh...’”
four participants, three of whom
From 5740 to 5743, together went on to learn in regular yeshiva
with his studies in Tzfas’ programs.
“Tzemach Tzedek” Kollel, Rabbi
“The next activity was a fiveTilles entered a partnership with
day seminar program, organized
the well-known local artist, Yaacov
a”h Kaszemacher. The two
5744. We were hoping for 25established an art gallery in the Old
30 participants. Thus, we were
City. There were many people who
shocked when more than eighty
came into the gallery, ostensibly
young people arrived! Later, there
to inquire about the artwork on
were other extended Shabbos and
display, who instead asked us
holiday events.”
questions about Yiddishkait. At
A few months later, on the 18th
this point, I started to feel that
of Shvat 5744, the first answer
we must do something in the area
of spreading the wellsprings of from the Rebbe on the reports the
Chassidus to English speakers. young trio had sent arrived. Their
As a result, I made a momentous activities had apparently given the
connection with two of my fellow Rebbe much pleasure:

By the Grace of G-d
18 Shvat 5744
Brooklyn, N.Y.
To all the men and
Yerachmiel, Mr. Moshe
Yaakov, and Mr. Shaul
Yosef in Tzfas,
G-d's grace upon
them, may they live and
be well.
I was pleased to
receive the gladdening
activities in spreading
Judaism, permeated by
the light and warmth
performed with dedication and
We see clearly that projects
done with joy and enthusiasm
are especially successful.
May it be G-d's will that you
continue, in a manner of growth
and increasing light.
how much more so in our Holy
Land, "a land that G-d's eyes are
upon it, from the beginning of
the year to the end of the year,"
and especially in the holy city of
A timely note: This letter
is being written on the day
Yisro, the main theme of which
is the Giving of the Torah - the
Living Torah from the Living
by the entire Jewish people,
men and women, with the
enthusiastic call: "We will
do and we will understand!",
prefacing "we will do" to "we will

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understand." All the Jewish souls
of all generations until the end of
time were there and participated
in this call.
With blessings for success
and good tidings in all the
/the Rebbe's holy signature/
P.S. It is obvious that the
contents of this general letter
apply to each man and woman
involved, may they live and be
well, just as if it had been written
to each one individually.

After a year of intensive
activities, Ascent’s three cofounders came up with an idea
that would help the institute keep
in contact with its students, and
also reach Jews throughout the
world - publishing a quarterly
newspaper. “At first, there were
some concerns. I had been
involved in publications before,
and I knew how difficult it was to
churn out material on a consistent
basis. However, my two colleagues
convinced me to take on the
project, and I agreed to do so.
Over a period of fourteen years,
from the fall of 5745 to the winter
of 5759, we regularly produced a
magazine filled with Jewish and
Chassidic content.”
“I also taught at the ‘Machon
Alte’ Institute in Tzfas for baalos
t’shuva. One day, a baalas t’shuva
came into class and told the
other students about how she
had returned to her Jewish roots.
Over a period of several years, she
had lived in a ‘hippie’ commune
somewhere in California, until she
became disgusted by this lifestyle.
However, she couldn’t seem to
find an alternative. Then, she got
hold of a magazine from Eretz
Yisroel, which she mentioned by
name. After reading it, she decided
to become Torah observant. Of

course, this was the periodical that
we had produced, and it somehow
reached her.”
In recent years, Rabbi Tilles
has been running two Internet sites
operated by the ‘Ascent’ Institute.
He posts op-eds and Chassidic
stories, in addition to answering
questions posed by web users
throughout the globe. “The first
site is Ascent’s English site, and I
write a weekly story or take one
from outside sources, while Rabbi
Leiter composes his own article
on the weekly Torah portion. The
second site, ‘KabbalahOnline.
org’, contains articles on Kabbalah
and Chassidus, writings of the
Ari translated into English, and
more.” As part of his Internet
work, Rabbi Tilles comes across a
variety of different questions. “We
receive numerous questions at the
site on personal relationships and
reincarnation - subjects that really
grab people.”
Rabbi Tilles is known as
someone who can tell a good story
that can enrapture his listeners.
In the past eighteen years he has
publicized close to 900 delightful
ancient Jewish stories. These
stories have been posted on
numerous Internet site.
“In the past, I would only tell
stories verbally. In general, even
from a very young age, when
people would ask me questions, I
would answer them with a story.
During the Shabbos meals at the
home of Rabbi Abuchatzera in
Binghamton, my job was to tell
a story. When I came to Tzfas
and started giving classes at
‘Machon Alte,’ I saw that when I
told a story, the girls would start
listening most attentively. I then
organized that every Erev Shabbos
they would come to our house and
I would tell them a sicha from the
Rebbe and a story.”
• What is your creed when
it comes to writing and telling

Chassidic stories?
“I look for real stories with
a ‘Heavenly connection,’ albeit
containing some practical aspect
to them. On the subject of stories,
I am a Chassid of the Rebbe
Rayatz. I love to write stories
with all the details, occasionally
including personal information
on the story’s main protagonist
- his parents, his birthplace, his
life’s work. The details give the
stories greater credibility for their

Rabbi Tilles speaks with much
emotion about the institute he
helped found. “People always
ask us to open a branch in other
cities. However, I am certain that
the connection between ‘Ascent’
and the city of Tzfas is something
that cannot be produced anywhere
else. The examples are endless.
“One Shabbos, I was running
Numerous guests had arrived that
week, and at the start of the meal,
total chaos reigned. In the midst
of all this bedlam, a Jew came in
wearing short pants, accompanied
by a woman who was obviously
Gentile. ‘Who’s in charge here?’
he asked, and people directed
him to me. ‘It’s very hot today,’
the man said. ‘Do you know of a
pool where we can cool off from
the heat?’ At first I was stunned
that I was being asked such a
question in the middle of Shabbos,
and I thought that I should evade
the question diplomatically. Then,
I quickly got a brainstorm; I
would send this fellow to the Ari’s
(Laughing) “I explained to
him how to get to the ‘pool,’
located five minutes from ‘Ascent.’
About half an hour later, the man

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returned with complaints: ‘Where
did you send me? What was that
place! What is this place!’ he cried.
I just smiled. Six months later, I
heard from Rabbi Kasriel Kastel,
activities director of the Lubavitch
Youth Organization in New York,
that this couple had returned
from their visit to ‘Ascent’ with
an entirely different outlook. The
young man has begun learning
about his Jewish roots, while
his Gentile girlfriend began the
process of undergoing a halachic
“I recall another story that
also expresses the uniqueness of
Tzfas. One weekday, four people
came into ‘Ascent’: a man, his
two daughters, and his son-inlaw. The father told us that he
was a big expert in alternative
medicine, specializing in ‘crystal
healing,’ and he wanted to learn
what Kabbalah has to say on the
subject. In order to impress me
further, he pulled some ‘crystals’
out of his knapsack and tried to
perform a few mystical tricks.
However, he was unsuccessful.
He said that since it worked
everywhere else in the world, he
couldn’t understand what had
happened. I smiled and explained
to him that Tzfas is a mystical city
with a very unique atmosphere,
and therefore, the crystals won’t
work here as expected.
developed between us, and before
he and his family left, the man
asked for a suggestion on how to
utilize his remaining time properly
before they headed to Tel Aviv. I
recommended that he should go
to the Ari’s Mikveh. He listened
to my advice, and when he came
back, he was deeply moved. He
gave a generous donation to our
activities, and we warmly said
goodbye. Six months later, I heard
from some of our guests that there
was a wealthy man in Manhattan
(they told me his name) who had

Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles at his computer

told them about a big Kabbalist
in Tzfas who had changed his
life. Imagine that... He had left all
the avoda zara nonsense, became
observant, and became a major
contributor to several institutions
in the area where he lives...”

• Is there a difference
between the people to whom you
reached out thirty years ago and
those you encounter today?

“There’s a great difference.
people were searching for the
unvarnished truth. They were
more spiritual, looking for greater
depth and inner meaning. When
we asked the students what they
were learning in college, they
mostly said philosophy and social
sciences. This was an entirely
different generation, and they
had been raised on hatred and

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estrangement towards Judaism.
However, when they encountered
the light of Torah, they followed it
all the way.
“People now are far more
willing to listen and the level of
opposition has been reduced.
However, they are in no rush
to make major changes in their
lifestyles. Thus, to a certain
degree, the t’shuva process is
more difficult and complex than
ever before.
establishing lucrative careers,
and people are only interested
in a taste of spirituality without
really eating. People don’t want
anything too deep that might lead
them to a major transformation of
their lives. There’s a feeling that
they have neither the time nor the
emotional ability for something
really profound.”
• Quite
encounter American Jews who
are members of Reform temples.
What is the best way to show
them their mistake and lead
them to the path of truth?
“Many Reform Jews come to
us at ‘Ascent,’ including ’rabbis’
both male and female, and it’s
amazing how many of them tell
me that their great-grandfather
in Europe was a Chassid or
Torah scholar. I tell these people
how obvious this is, because if
they didn’t have any genuinely
Orthodox roots, they would have
become totally assimilated a long
time ago. For example, at the end
of the nineteenth century, the first

Reform temple was established
in Manhattan - ‘Congregation
generation ago investigated the
status of the progeny of its first
board of directors and where
these descendants are today.
Regrettably, already thirty years
ago, all of them were Gentiles.
These are the facts, and I explain
them to anyone willing to listen.
Orthodox Judaism is what
continues and maintains our
traditions. The historical reality
has proven that anyone who
deviates from this path eventually
“A Reform Jew wants to feel
Jewish, but without making any
commitments. He tries to have an
experience without making any
effort, and it turns out that this
simply doesn’t work.”
Shortly before Purim, ‘Ascent’
held a unique evening introducing
Rabbi Tilles’ first book, ‘Saturday
Night - Full Moon,’ a collection
of Chassidic stories with a special
supplement on various customs
relating to Melaveh Malka. This
is the first seifer in a three-volume
series, including one of stories on
Shabbos and the Jewish holidays.
• The Rebbe asks that
everything be instilled with
the concept of bringing the
revelation of Moshiach. How do
you do this at ‘Ascent’?
“Each of us at ‘Ascent’ deals
with the subject of Moshiach
b’ofen ha’miskabel (in a way
that will be accepted by those
whom we seek to influence) in
his own personal style. Since I

have been privileged to run the
weekly Melaveh Malka, the meal
of Dovid Malka Meshicha, it goes
without saying that this gathering
must include a discussion about
Moshiach. We bring quotes
from the Zohar regarding how
those eating at this meal must
mention the connection between
Dovid HaMelech and Moshiach
Tzidkeinu, and its meaning in
these times. A full section on this
subject appears in my new book.
Furthermore, all of our activities
include spreading the words of the
Rebbe throughout the world.
“The Rambam states that one
of the signs of Moshiach is his
teaching of Torah to the entire
Jewish People. Over the past eight
hundred and fifty years since
then, I don’t believe that anyone
has understood these concepts
as well as they do today, in this
generation of such tremendous
technological development. The
Rebbe’s teachings are available via
videos, internet and smartphones,
as well as print publications,
and can be found everywhere.
This applies with even greater
force on the subject of Moshiach
Tzidkeinu. In my case, a person
can sit in some isolated location of
the world and send me a question
on Shulchan Aruch, Chassidus, or
Kabbalah, and receive an answer
within a few minutes.”
Saturday Night, Full Moon is
available for purchase in Tzfas
KabbalaOnlineat Ascent and,
publishers,  Menorah-books.
com, and very soon in all major
Jewish bookstores.

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‫?עושים שמחה בניו יורק‬
‫מאפרת מקצועית לשירותכם, דוברת עברית ואנגלית‬

A professional makeup artist at your service
‫ תמי הולצמן‬Tammy Holzman


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By Y Schreiber

organized material.
Yitzi: That’s hard …
Shmuli: Shavuos is coming
Yitzi: What topic do you
Shmuli: So what if it’s hard?
and we have to do something in
a course?
think until we come suggest for
honor of the Yom Tov. Aside from We have to
Mendy: The best is something
ific ideas about what
the Rebbe’s instruction that all up with spec
h and
give the Rebbe a gift current, inyanei Moshiac
Jewish children should go to shul we can do to
ple who have joined Geula.
to hear the Ten Commandments, of a lot of peo
s Ha’Torah before
Shmuli: Nice! How about
which is a big project in itself, we in the Kabbala
learning Hilchos Melachim in the
have to brainstorm about what to Shavuos.
g to the Rebbe’s
Mendy: First of all, start two Rambam accordin
do in honor of Shavuos.
would make a terrific
men and one for sichos? That
Yitzi: What makes you bring shiurim, one for
year women, in addition to the usual course!
that up all of a sudden? Last
Yitzi: Why would people want
we didn’t do anything …
Yitzi: How do you plan on to come and lear
Shmuli: Is that a reason not
en the course is
to attend
Shmuli: Wh
to do something now? On the getting people
nicely introduced with ads and
we didn’t do
Let’s brainstorm …
contrary, because
rs that are well designed, it will
anything last year, let us add
Shmuli: Maybe we can flye
people the feeling that this
something now to give the Rebbe construct a course for the summer give
is something serious and worth
in which participants will study
d devoting time to once a week, even
Mendy: Aha, I see. Yitzi, listen, one topic thoroughly. We nee
twenty if they already attend a
Shmuli is always thinking big. If to plan classes for about
a, and shiur.
you pay attention you’ll realize that weeks, until Rosh HaShan
Mendy: And the shiur can
to every week there will be a lesson.
before every Yom Tov he wants
videotaped and can be sent
do yet another big thing. Shmuli,
Yitzi: What do you gain with be
to the dropbox of those who
what direction do you want us to that approach?
participated. We are talking about
think in?
Shmuli: There is a difference non-Lubavitchers and they use
Shmuli: I’m thinking that we when someone sees that every
computers a lot.
ought to make a big campaign week there is a shiur on a different
about learning Torah.
topic as opposed to a course on
Yitzi: But then people won’t attend
one topic which addresses it in
Yitzi: Meaning?
just watch the
provides a lot the shiur. They’ll
Shmuli: Our goal should be to all its details and
tion. People enjoy video …
get as many people as possible to of informa
Shmuli: A video of something
attending classes with welljoin in Torah study.

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put a lot of work now into this
you have already seen is useful.
Yitzi: And if it’s not convenient
course so that it will be successful.
And since the shiurim will be
If it’s successful, that will get for us?
formatted on a high level, many
Mendy: That is why we are the
people to join a winter course and
people will find the video an
the shiur will continue after the Rebbe’s shluchim. We will
excellent supplement to the notes
ourselves so that another Jew will
yomim tovim.
they took. It will enable them to fill
Mendy: We need to take learn Torah.
in things they missed during the
of the pool of
Shmuli: If we cannot sit and
shiur. A video can only help people advantage
r and start learn with them personally, we will
participants in the shiu
understand things better.
When it
arranging individual chavrusos bring someone who can.
Mendy: You can also put
be’s mivtzaim, we
comes to the Reb
with them.
highlights of the upcoming shiur at
Right. There is nothing don’t skimp on money and
the end of the video which will also
about the Rebbe’s
y in a personal way. This will bring
show that the course is serious and like Torah stud
is deeper and has a hisgalus!
The learning
Mendy: Amen.
greater effect on the soul of the
the women?
Yitzi: What about
ning it.
person lear
Shmuli: What we need to
Mendy: You can take the same
want to remember is that these shiurim will
Yitzi: Why would they
idea of a course and do it in a way
come and learn with chavrusas? lead to a demand for more
that suits them.
them to in different styles and for different
There is nothing attracting
Shmuli: (thinking) It’s a lot do that, especially when they don’t audiences. The Rebbe said that we
of work, but worth the effort. If know what they are going to learn need to conquer the world with
people register before Shavuos and with the shliach.
Torah study, preparing it for the
we start the shiurim during the
our opportunity to
Shmuli: In the classes that Geula. Now is
“yemei ha’tashlumin,” that will be
est which is actually
are part of the course, we can tell fulfill his requ
great and justify the effort. It will
to his shluchim and
people that certain topics can be his instruction
give us tremendous satisfaction to
expanded upon, after all, there is Chassidim.
come to Shavuos, Z’man Mattan
Mendy: We need to stop with
a lot to learn in inyanei Moshiach
Toraseinu, with new shiurim.
but it cannot all be the questions and focus on action.
and Geula,
Yitzi: What will we do after this covered in a course. Those who are As the Rebbe said, action is the
summer course is over?
interested are welcome to follow main thing.
Shmuli: We’ll continue with up with private learning with the
Yitzi: You’ve convinced me.
another course … We need to shluchim at times convenient to

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Authentic Chassidic stories told by R’ Zalman Leib
Estulin a”h, as he heard them from the people they
happened to.
I knew one of the elder
Chassidim (from the Chabad
Chassidim of Kopust), R’ Yechiel
Luria. He told me that in his youth
he went to Liozna where he met
a very old man, about a hundred
years old, whose mind was clear.
The man told him two things he
personally remembered about the
Alter Rebbe who was then called
the Maggid of Liozna:
1-Before one of the holidays,
many Chassidim came to join him.
The zal could not contain them
all and it was decided to hold the
holiday farbrengen in a palatial but
old and neglected building that was
located in the forest on the edge of
the town. Even the large hall there
was quickly filled by Chassidim,
and the building which was not
in use for years began to make
ominous creaking sounds.
Rebbetzin Shterna, who was in
the room adjacent to the hall, told
the Rebbe: What do you want from
the Chassidim? It is dangerous to
remain here! Listen to the creaking
The Alter Rebbe reassuringly
replied, “If so, they can leave.”
Everyone left and only the Rebbe

remained until the last ones left. As
soon as the Rebbe left, the building
noisily collapsed.
2-On Simchas Torah the Rebbe
would do hakafos with his students
and the rest of the Chassidim
would watch and rejoice on the
sidelines. One year, the Rebbe
drew one of the householders of
the town into the circle. Dance,
dance, he urged him.
The Chassid danced and
danced until he tired. Continue
dancing, urged the Rebbe, and the
Chassid danced until he had no
strength left at all and only then
did the Rebbe leave him alone. This
was regarded as most astonishing.
A few months later, this
Chassid became very sick. The
doctor who visited him told the
family that he would not be able to
recover, according to the natural
order of things.
That same night, a messenger
was sent by the family to the
Alter Rebbe. A light was still lit in
the Alter Rebbe’s home and the
messenger knocked on the door.
When the Rebbe opened the door,
the messenger said that the father
of the family was mortally ill.
The Rebbe told him: He danced
well on Simchas Torah and there

is no reason for concern. Go in
peace and Hashem will send him a
complete recovery.
Of course, the man fully

I knew a Chassid from
Moscow by the name of R’ Boruch
Tappelson (Refaelson) who told
me about how his father became
close to the Tzemach Tzedek:
My father was the rav of a town
and was considered a Misnagdic
rabbi. He received a low salary,
but since he was expert in the
monetary laws, he also served as
an arbitrator in dinei Torah which
earned him some money.
One day, he was asked to
arbitrate in some serious dispute.
According to his plan, he would
be able to return to his town for
Shabbos. The din Torah ended to
the satisfaction of both sides and
he was paid, but on his way home
he realized that it was taking too
long. If he did not want to risk
spending Shabbos in the forest, he
had better find a Jewish place for
He soon saw that he was near
the town of Lubavitch. Oh well, he
thought. After all, the Chassidim
are G-d fearing. I will go there.
As he looked for a place to stay,
he met a Chassidic rav from his
area. After exchanging greetings

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and the obvious questions the rav
invited him to stay with him. He
was quite willing and joined him,
but for the t’fillos he joined a side
minyan. He excused himself by
saying that davening with the
Rebbe took longer than he was
accustomed to and could cause
him bittul Torah.
The next day, when they
finished the meal, the Chassidic
rav went to rest. My father
commented: It’s a long day. It
would be better to learn a bit and
then rest.
No, said the Chassidic rav.
Toward evening, the Rebbe says a
maamer and I rest so that I will be
alert when I listen. I advise you to
do the same.
What about bittul Torah, asked
my father. I’d rather learn another
daf of Gemara than run to a
farbrengen with the Rebbe.
The Chassidic rav tried to
convince him that Chassidim who
were outstanding Torah scholars
as well as great rabbanim made
great efforts to come, just to be in
the Rebbe’s presence. Hashem had
arranged things so that he arrived
here without any bother. Would he

forgo the privilege which required
no effort?
Each remained true to his
convictions. The Chassid went to
rest. About an hour later he jumped
up and began quickly heading
toward the Rebbe’s beis midrash.
My father was still learning.
When he saw how quickly the
Chassid left, he wondered about
the great importance attributed
to the maamer. He saw more and
more people running down the
street, rushing to get a spot. He
began to think that maybe it was
worthwhile, after all, to go and
hear the maamer. He went back
and forth in his mind.
He finally decided that since
he could not concentrate on his
learning in any case, he would go
and see what was happening. As
he approached the big zal, he saw
the Chassidim pushing inside. The
zal was packed and he pushed in
too. He thought: If I came already,
at least I should hear a bit. Within
a few minutes he found himself
standing opposite the Rebbe,
listening to how the Rebbe spoke
about the vegetative power which
has an infinite aspect to it since

from one seed come many seeds.
As he spoke, the Rebbe said,
“Out of one seed can come even
three hundred seeds.” This phrase
annoyed my father and he thought:
Three hundred – really? As though
the Rebbe counted them! And the
Chassidim believe this. True, the
Chassidim believe whatever they
are told …
He was still thinking these
thoughts when the Rebbe suddenly
turned in his direction and said:
What three hundred? Of course,
three hundred! Rabbeinu Bechayai
says so. And then the Rebbe
continued the maamer.
The Chassidim who heard this
wondered about it while my father
understood it quite well. This
affected a complete change in him.
After Shabbos, my father went
to the Rebbe for a private meeting
and as they spoke, the Rebbe asked
him whether he would agree to
learn with his grandchildren. He
even promised to pay him more
than the salary he received as a
rav. After experiencing the Rebbe’s
ruach ha’kodesh, of course he
R’ Boruch concluded: My
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father became so connected to the
Tzemach Tzedek that he would
say: If the Rebbe would tell me to
put my finger through a cement
wall, I would do so immediately
with complete faith that my finger
would go through.

The old Chassid known as R’
Peretz the Elder told me, “One
morning, after I donned tallis and
t’fillin and waited with the other
Chassidim for the Rebbe Maharash
to come in, I began feeling terrible
pain in my head. The pain was
unbearable. It felt like my head was
going to explode. I sat down dizzily
without sensing what was going on
around me.
“In the meantime, I did not
realize the Rebbe had entered the
beis midrash. Everyone stood up
and only I remained seated. The
Rebbe passed me and as he did, he
straightened the t’fillin on my head
so they would be centered. Then
he continued to his place. The pain
vanished instantly.”

R’ Leib Ravzin told me how
he came to be accepted to learn in
Tomchei T’mimim:
I heard about the yeshiva and
greatly desired being accepted
as a talmid there. After being
interviewed by the dean, the
Rebbe Rayatz, I was told I was
not accepted. The entrance
requirements were tough and I
had not made the grade. I was very
disappointed and did not rush to
go home. After such a long trip and
after finally arriving in the place I
had yearned to be, where was I

I remained in the vicinity of the
yeshiva and in order not to starve,
I decided to go to the kitchen after
the meal and take leftovers. As I
ate from the leftovers, the Rebbe
Rashab suddenly walked in. I stood
there, frozen in place.
The Rebbe gently asked me,
“Bachur, what are you doing
I poured out my heart,
emphasizing that it was very
important to me to learn in yeshiva.
The Rebbe told me he would take
care of it and after a short while,
I was called back to the Rebbe
Rayatz who informed me I had
been accepted.
The Rebbe Rayatz explained the
reason for the change: Generally,
my father does not get involved in
which talmidim are accepted. He
relies on my judgment. But in this
case he felt he had to get involved.
The reason? Because usually, the
Rebbe does not enter the kitchen
except on rare occasions. That
day, as he was deep in thought, his
feet carried him to the kitchen and
since this was out of the ordinary,
he realized he had come there for
some purpose.
As he wondered what spiritual
reason brought him there, he found
you. After hearing what you had to
say, he realized that heaven deemed
you fit for the yeshiva. That is why
he decided to change the protocol
and have you accepted.

R’ Leib Ravzin told me:
I was once walking around
Lubavitch in the winter while
dressed in summer clothes. The
Rebbe Rashab saw me and asked,
“Do you know how to be mehader
(punctilious) in the mitzva of ‘be
very protective of your souls?’”
I remained silent, having no

The Rebbe said, “By wearing a

R’ Leib Ravzin also told me:
When I received my draft
notice, I went to the Rebbe, like
the rest of my friends, to ask for
a bracha to be exempt. The Rebbe
had three responses. One who
received a bracha with the wording
“Hashem should help that they
won’t look you at all” (or “won’t lay
their eyes on you”), knew he would
get an easy exemption. One who
received a bracha with the wording,
“Hashem should help you,” knew
he would be released but it would
be difficult or he would only get
a temporary postponement. And
one who received a bracha with
the wording, “Hashem should help
you wherever you may be,” knew
that he would be drafted and the
Rebbe’s bracha would protect him.
I received the third blessing
and knew what awaited me. I went
to the draft office and naturally,
my attempts at getting myself
exempted did not work. I was
drafted but felt calm. I knew that
the Rebbe’s bracha was with me.
Indeed, during the battles I
experienced the following. It was
during World War I and one of
the tough battles between the
Russians and the Germans. During
a lull in the fighting my fellow
soldiers decided to let loose a bit.
Of course, their victim had to be a
Jew and who was a Jew? Me! They
grabbed me and began throwing
me around like a ball, tossing
me from one to the next. I felt as
though my bones were dislocating.
This went on a for a long time until
they finally tossed me aside. I lay
there on the ground and remained
lying there silently. First, in order

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not to arouse their interest and
second, because I simply had no
strength to get up.
In the meantime, the unit
returned to the front. After resting
a while, I got myself up and headed
in the direction they had gone.
When I reached the battlefield, I
was shocked to see that they were
all lying there, dead. That was one
of the few times the Germans used
chemical warfare which caused
many losses on the Russian side.
I stood there, astounded. In
my ears echoed the Rebbe’s words,
“Hashem should help you wherever
you may be.”
I was still considering what to
do next when a rescue delegation
came from headquarters. I heard
them talking excitedly, “We heard
they used gas and we came to see
whether there was anyone to save.”
Since I was the only one there,
they were very happy to see me
and they sent me to back to the
command center to recover from
the experience. I even received a
medal for my bravery as the only
soldier who survived from his unit.

R’ Bentzion Maroz told me
about his miraculous release from
the army:
Before we had to present
ourselves, I went to the Rebbe
Rashab for a bracha and advice
about how to proceed. To my
surprise, he referred me to the
draft office which was run by an
avowed anti-Semite. The Rebbe
also told me to be careful not to
remove my yarmulke and that I
should visualize his face.
When I went to that city, I
first went to one of the wealthy
Chassidim of the Rebbe Rashab to
ask for his help. When this Chassid
heard where I was coming from,
he rejoiced. First, we farbrenged.

We sat down, we said l’chaim,
I reviewed all the sichos and
maamarim that had been said
recently, and we were in another
When dawn broke, he went to
daven and to take care of things for
me. When he returned, he said he
had spoken with one of the doctors
on the committee and hoped for
the best.
When I went over there, I
did not need any doctor. When
I was ordered to undress for an
examination, I vehemently refused
to remove my yarmulke as I
visualized the Rebbe’s holy face.
My stubbornness made a
commotion and that anti-Semite,
who was the head of the committee,
came over to see what was going
on. When he saw me insisting that
I remain with my head covering, he
began to shout, “Do we lack insane
people? He is crazy. Send him out
of here!”

Another story from Bentzion
One time, when I went for
yechidus with the Rebbe Rashab, I
asked him about what is explained
in Tanya, chapter 18, that even the
lowest of the low is ready to give up
his life for Kiddush Hashem. How
come I don’t feel I can do that?
The Rebbe answered: The day
will come when you too will reveal
this power.
Many years later, during World
War II, I was sick and hospitalized.
It was around the time of their
holiday. Some youngsters saw me
there, an old man with a white
beard, and they decided I looked
the part of the gentleman who
gives out gifts on their holiday.
They ordered me to join their
At first, when I saw their
threatening faces, I was afraid

to refuse. I was already thinking
how perhaps it was not outright
forbidden, because after all my
role would merely be to distribute
gifts, especially when this entailed
danger to my life, for these
drunkards were likely to kill me if I
did not accede to their request.
Then I recalled that yechidus
in which the Rebbe foresaw that a
situation would arise when I would
need to reveal the power of mesirus
nefesh within me. I immediately
refused and boruch Hashem, they
left me alone.

At a farbrengen of the Rebbe
Rashab, when R’ Yaakov Landau
who told this story was present,
some wealthy Polish Chassidic Jews
were present too. The Rebbe spoke
about tz’daka and turned to them
and said they should put down
their money and give it al daati i.e.
in a way that the Rebbe could use
his discretion as to what to take.
One of the wealthy men
responded immediately. He took
a wad of bills from his pocket and
put it all on the table. However,
his colleagues were afraid lest the
Rebbe take a large sum from them
and they delayed in taking out their
During the farbrengen, the
Rebbe took a small sum from the
wad of bills and returned the rest to
the wealthy man. When the other
wealthy men saw that they had
been nervous for nothing and they
wouldn’t lose much, they wanted
to put their money down too, but
the Rebbe refused and said, “Now
it is too late.”

R’ Landau told me that the

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Rebbe Rashab was a very great
machmir (stringent). On his
travels, he did not sit on an
upholstered seat because of fear of
shatnez. After a trip, he koshered
the utensils he used while traveling
in fear lest they came in contact
with something forbidden. And
many other stringencies.
The Rebbe Rashab once said to
R’ Landau: I inherited my nature
to be stringent and my frumkait
from my grandfather, R’ Avrohom
of Brody (the Rebbe Rashab was
a descendent of his through his
mother, Rebbetzin Rivka).

R’ Landau told me that
following the passing of the
Rebbe Rashab, he was in a terrible
financial state. In order to keep
himself alive, he had to get hold
of some cash with which to buy
some merchandise that was
recommended to him, through
which he could earn a bit of
money. He poured out his heart at
the Rebbe’s gravesite.
After doing so, it occurred to
him to speak to the Rebbe Rayatz
to see whether he could be of help.
When he went to the Rebbe, the
Rebbe told him he had nothing,
but he would make an effort to get
him the money he needed from
After obtaining the necessary
money for him, the Rebbe Rayatz
said, “Before you came here, my
[deceased] father came to me
when I was half awake and half
dreaming. He said to me, ‘Yankel
came to me in bitterness and
poured out his heart. I ask you to
do what you can to help him.’”

R’ Yaakov Landau would often

say, “It is to my credit that I revived
the Rebbe Rayatz.” He told me the

with certain changes but this is
how I heard it from him many

In the early years of the Rebbe
living in Rostov, I accompanied
him on a trip to Moscow. On the
way, the Rebbe felt uneasy and he
said, “I sense that the Cheka (the
secret police that preceded the
KGB) are following us.”

Afterward, they asked a Jewish
seamstress who was there, to
translate a page of calculations
of income and expenditures of
the network of Yeshivos Tomchei
T’mimim that they found among
the papers.

Shortly after we returned to
Rostov, the police surrounded the
house and were posted at the doors,
allowing people to enter but not to
exit. They quickly piled everything
they considered suspicious, notes,
calculations, letters, etc. on the
table in one of the rooms. They
put some documents there that
could be considered the most
incriminating due to their content
– letters arousing worldwide
public opinion against communist
coercive tactics. (In his letters to
the Rebbe, R’ Landau said it was
a call against the regime called,
“Kuma Yisroel L’Menuchasecha”).

This seamstress did not know
how to read and write in Hebrew
but she cleverly made believe she
could read. After a few seconds
she said to them, “This is a grocery
receipt! What do you need this
nonsense for?” And she threw the
papers in the garbage.

The Rebbe stood there, his face
white. I realized what the Rebbe
was concerned about and decided
to take action. I slowly approached
the table and at an opportune
moment I quickly slipped the
incriminating documents into my
pocket. Over the next few minutes,
I shredded them with my fingers
into little bits. When the job was
done, I asked to be excused, saying
my stomach hurt and I had to go
out. Unwillingly, the commander
sent me with an escort to the
outhouse where I emptied the
contents of my pocket until nothing
When I went back inside,
I waited for the right moment
and whispered to the Rebbe, “I
burned the chametz.” The Rebbe’s
face changed completely, for he
understood what I meant. His
color returned and I saw that I had
revived him. (This story appears

R’ Mendel Leib Abramson, may
Hashem avenge his blood, told me:
revolution, the economic situation
religious Jews. It became quite
When the Rebbe Rayatz went
to Moscow, the economic situation
was so bad that I did not have
the few coins in my pocket that I
needed to pay for the trolley to go
and see the Rebbe (although he had
been well off before communism).
I had to walk a long way.
When I had yechidus, I handed
the Rebbe three full pages. The
Rebbe took the pidyon nefesh and
answered all my questions.
When I began to walk out, he
called me and said, “Until now,
you asked about spiritual matters.
What about material things?”
“I don’t care about gashmius at
all,” I said with a dismissive motion
of my hand.
The Rebbe smiled and said,
“It doesn’t bother you, but your
gashmius affects me greatly,” and
he blessed me and my situation
improved a bit.

42 � • 23 Iyar 5774
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2014-05-19 11:57:45 PM

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