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featured articles WeeKlY cOluMNs
traNsfOrMiNG tHe WOrld tHrOuGH teXt MessaGiNG
Menachem Mendel Arad
tHe ViZHNitZer reBBe Zt”l
Shneur Zalman Berger
dreaM 22 tHe aMericaNOf tHe aNd a dreaM reBBe
Sholom Ber Crombie
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D’var Malchus Mivtzaim Story Stories Viewpoint Parsha Thought Memoirs Young Chassid Shleimus HaAretz
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Rabbi Binyamin Schlanger
38 stOries frOM tHe eNds Of tHe WOrld
Beis Moshiach (USPS 012-542) ISSN 1082-0272 is published weekly, except Jewish holidays (only once in April and October) for $160.00 in Crown Heights. USA $180.00. All other places for $195.00 per year (45 issues), by Beis Moshiach, 744 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409. Periodicals postage paid at Brooklyn, NY and additional offices. Postmaster: send address changes to Beis Moshiach 744 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213-3409. Copyright 2012 by Beis Moshiach, Inc. Beis Moshiach is not responsible for the content and Kashruth of the advertisements.
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EXPEDITING OUR DELIVERANCE
there are absolutely no limits to the feeling of z’rizus, excitement and enthusiasm that gives rise to a constant spiritual state of alacrity. * the above should inspire us to action. First off, to publicize that we are presently in “the end of days,” “eis keitz,” during which time, “Many shall refine themselves and make themselves white, and be purified...”
Translated by Boruch Merkur
TO FILL THE LACK IN ALACRITY
The very fact that Moshiach Tzidkeinu still has not come proves that there is still a need to increase in all aspects of serving G-d, including increasing in z’rizus, alacrity – “going from strength to strength” to the point that “they have no rest.” Here I don’t mean z’rizus solely in terms of action, but also an emotional, heartfelt inspiration or enthusiasm. There are several limitations inherent to z’rizus in terms of expediting action, and the like. For example, the verse says, “Avrohom rose in the morning [in preparation for the binding of Yitzchok].” That is, he woke up immediately at the start of the new day, but not before then. There are things that simply cannot be done before daybreak. However, there are absolutely no limits to the feeling of z’rizus, excitement and enthusiasm that gives rise to a constant spiritual state of alacrity. This inspiration
transcends all measures and boundaries, resulting in “a person should always give precedence to Mitzva-related activities” (Nazir 23b), “a person should always run for the sake of a Mitzva.”
WAKIng THE DAWn WITH THE SOunD OF THE SHOFAR
A sort of illustration of how z’rizus defies measure or limitation is the well known story about the Alter Rebbe, who once rushed to perform the Mitzva of blowing the shofar as early as possible in the morning on Rosh HaShana, with the spiritual intent of bringing about the victory of the Czar’s forces [against Napoleon]. The Alter Rebbe sided with the Czar because he saw the spiritual condition under his rule as preferable [to the influence of French culture anticipated in the wake of a French victory over Russia]. Thus, in a move that transcends the constraints
of the regular order, the Alter Rebbe blew the shofar prior to davening. The saying of our Sages, “If you have seen kingdoms clashing with one another, anticipate the footsteps of Moshiach,” brings out this story’s connection to the coming of Moshiach (apropos to what was said above about having z’rizus with regard to the redemption). The Messianic sign of “kingdoms clashing with one another” applies to our generation as well, though it will not be manifested with the same devastation as in the time of the Alter Rebbe, G-d forbid. After all the horrors that befell the Jewish people since that time, especially in the last generation, etc., certainly we have fulfilled our obligation to suffer – more than we can bear! From now on, everything must be with kindness and with mercy, amidst tranquility, joy and gladness of heart. […]
HOW TO PREPARE In THE EnD OF DAYS
The above should inspire us to action. First off, to publicize that we are presently in “the end of days,” “eis keitz,” during which time, “Many shall refine
4 � • 5 Iyar 5772
themselves and make themselves white, and be purified” (Daniel 12:9-10). The call to action is for every single Jew to add in the refinement, cleansing, and purification of everything related to him, by means of adding one positive activity after another – one action, one spoken word,
even a single thought. For by and service that have been done Express service doing so, “he inclines himself Express service there should be a until now, Fully Computerized and the entire world to the sideFully Computerizedin refinement, further increase of favor, bringing to himself cleansing, and purifying, etc. – a 331 Kingston 331 Kingston and to the others salvation and totally thorough refinement. Ave. Ave. (2 Brooklyn NY 11213 (2nd Flr) nd Flr) Brooklyn NY 1121 deliverance.” (From the address of Shabbos Parshas Tzav, Shabbos HaGadol, 12 That is to say that since Nissan Moshiach Tzidkeinu has still Get your tickets within minutes! Get your tickets within minutes! 5747, bilti muga) not come after all our deeds Fax: (718) 493-4444 Fax: (718) 493-4444
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Issue 831 • �
ADD IN ACTS OF GOODNESS & KINDNESS
TRANSFORMING THE WORLD THROUGH TEXT MESSAGING
Technology in the service of Torah is an old story. Now, text messaging (SMS) has become a powerful tool which reminds thousands of Jews to put t’fillin on every day, along with a message that goes straight to the neshama. * Yisroel Asulin, who came up with the idea, tells us about “SMS-T’fillin,” its impact, and the segula for donors.
By Menachem Mendel Arad
ne fine day, the “SMS T’fillin” staff received a text message: “You don’t know what you’re doing for me! You’ve saved my life …” When they called the person back, they found out that he was a 45 year old Israeli who had apparently signed up for the service through a shliach. He was in the hospital after a bone marrow transplant and had been in total isolation for three months. It was just him and his telephone.
The man burst into tears. “If not for your messages every day, I would not be able to speak with you today. On one of my worst days, when I was experiencing a severe crisis, I had no more strength to live and I gave up on life. Then I got a text message from you, ‘G-d gives you gashmius. Elevate it to ruchnius. Put on t’fillin with joy and bring the Geula.’ I suddenly realized that I have to continue living. G-d gives me a mission and the
ability to carry it out. Since then, the strength to overcome the terrible loneliness, the pain and the treatment, has come from your text messages. They are a lifeline for me.” Stories like these are commonplace with over 10,000 subscribers to “SMS T’fillin.” I spoke with Yisroel Asulin, the man behind the idea and the activities. It started as a local project among his mekuravim in Eilat and has expanded
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exponentially across the country. “While on shlichus in Eilat, I made a commitment, as a gift to the Rebbe, to get forty people to put on t’fillin. Boruch Hashem, I was able to carry it out. Some of the mekuravim bought new t’fillin to replace their old ones and others started from scratch. “I thought it would be a good idea to send a text message every morning to remind them to put on t’fillin. I used my time on the way to yeshiva to speak with taxi drivers or people I met on the way, about putting on t’fillin. When someone said he was willing to do it every day but that he usually forgets, I promised to remind him with a text message. After a few months of such
offers, I had a list of nearly 400 people. They were divided in my phone into categories based on what time was convenient for them. They received the reminder along with a Chassidic aphorism, usually from the HaYom Yom of that day, translated into modern Hebrew.” For example, there are messages that say, “The King of the Universe wants you to be constantly happy,” “Shabbos – the day that gives you strength for the entire week,” or “Let your brain be in charge.” As the number of subscribers grew, Asulin and his friends founded “SMS T’fillin.” With the advent of bein ha’z’manim he campaigned among bachurim,
Anash, and the public at large to include more people in this wonderful service which is completely free.
DAILY DOSE OF CHASSIDuS
Until now, Yisroel wasn’t willing to be interviewed. However, knowing that an article in Beis Moshiach will provide our readers with access to this powerful tool convinced him. How easily any Chassid can make an impact on friends and acquaintances will be demonstrated by what R’ Aharon Kupchik, from the hanhala of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Beer Sheva, has to say: “I met a baal t’shuva and got to talking to him about what
Issue 831 • �
brought him to Lubavitch. He said that two bachurim met him at the t’fillin stand in Eilat and took down his phone number. From then on, for a long time, he received text messages that inspired him and motivated him to take on more and more mitzvos and customs and to be in touch with the shliach in his city. He advanced in his religiosity and went to a yeshiva where he became a Tamim. And it all began with a daily text message!” How does it work? “It’s simple. When you put t’fillin on with someone, you don’t start lecturing him about some new project that he can join. You just ask for his phone number. You tell him, ‘Starting tomorrow, you will get a daily text message that will cheer you up and remind you to put on t’fillin.’” Yisroel urges Anash to take advantage of this service and sign up their contact people whom, to the best of their knowledge, do not put t’fillin on every day. As for the skeptics he says, “Of the twenty people who were added to the list without their knowledge, only three asked to be removed (unsubscribing is easy – you do it by replying with the word “Geula”). In other words, seventeen of them are happy to receive the text message and even if they don’t actually put on t’fillin, they receive a ChassidicGeula message.” When he talks about the impact the text messages have on subscribers, he is dramatic. “The Rebbe demands that we transform the world today. How can we transform the world? In today’s day and age, a Chassid at home on an ordinary day, even without taking t’fillin on mivtzaim, can sit in front of the computer or tablet and simply sign up the people on his list so they receive a daily Chassidic message along with a reminder to put on t’fillin. That is how you can transform worlds in an instant.” The members of the SMS T’fillin staff, who encounter Israelis from all walks of life every day, through chats that are sometimes light and sometimes quite probing, have a different kind of outlook about the best way to reach people. Yisroel says, “The average Israeli believes in G-d and does not need us to convince him of the truth of the Torah and its eternal value. Polls show that 90% of Jews in Eretz Yisroel believe in G-d and the Torah and yet, 75% of them do not live what we would call a religious life. Our job is to get them to try it and see how good it is; to enable them to experience Judaism as it is illuminated by Chassidus. “Many people who work on bringing Jews back, waste precious time proving the veracity of Torah when this is a given to the average Israeli. What’s hard for him is to overcome the mindset that is burned into his psyche thanks to his secular education or because of the media, which claims that the Torah and mitzvos rob us of life when the opposite is true.” Asulin says that he has had countless hours of deep discussions with all sorts of people on this very point, specifically what the Rebbe says regarding the Geula, that it won’t take away our Olam HaZeh; it will liberate us from those constraints that limit, restrict, confine and obstruct, and how this applies to each and every Jew. In fact, that pretty much sums up what this amazing project called “SMS T’fillin” is all about, giving the recipient of the text message a daily booster shot of Geula-living: You are worthy, G-d loves you, put on t’fillin, do mitzvos and give yourself a great day and life. Or, as it would be said in Chassidus (translated into modern lingo), G-d wanted to do good to His creations. As for the feedback, it’s tremendously positive.
THE TEXT MESSAgES gOT THE BACHuR BACK TO YESHIVA
About a year ago, a team of about fifty bachurim went on a special trip to visit the high schools in the south in order to sign up as many people as possible for their text messages. They went to a high school in Beer Sheva; there, they approached someone and offered a daily reminder to put on t’fillin. The guy exclaimed, “I don’t believe it! It’s them!” To the bachurim’s surprise, he told them, “A friend of mine has been getting the texts for a year now and he can’t thank you enough.” When he reached the friend by phone, the friend warmly thanked the bachurim and said that since then, he hasn’t missed a single day of putting on t’fillin. Of course, he highly recommends the service to anyone who will listen to him. As they continued on their way, they stopped at a junction in order to find out how to reach their next destination. After receiving directions and saying thank-you, they spontaneously asked, “What about t’fillin?” To their amazement, the person said, “Every morning I get a text about t’fillin.” When the bachurim found this hard to believe, he took out his mobile device and read the text he had
8 � • 5 Iyar 5772
gotten that morning. Many bachurim and Anash who go on mivtzaim use this medium in order to convince people to put t’fillin on during the week. One of them is Rabbi Yeshavam Segal of Kfar Chabad who goes on mivtza t’fillin in Rishon L ’Tziyon. One time, when he walked into a new store and suggested that the owner put on t’fillin, the man said that not only did he put t’fillin on every day, but thanks to his daily reminders he had gotten much more involved in Judaism. He had kashered his house, had begun davening at least one t’filla with a minyan every day, and had even joined the Tanya shiur in Rishon L ’Tziyon. Similarly, the shliach of Givatayim, Rabbi Beckerman, makes it his business to sign up everyone he meets, and he has already signed up the entire municipal workforce and even the mayor who belongs to the Kadima party. In the feedback from people who receive the text messages, there are wonderful stories. I can share a few with you here. One person who is currently receiving the text messages sent the following message, “I am in Germany. Thanks for the texts. I did not miss a single day. I would not have taken my t’fillin abroad if not for your text messages.” Rabbi Boruch Feldman, who has added many subscribers, recounts: I met someone whom I had convinced two years ago to put on t’fillin via these text-message reminders. To my surprise, he took out a notebook in which he had written down all the aphorisms in the texts and he said, “When I am feeling down, or when I don’t feel like doing mitzvos, I open this notebook
The caller assured him that he would be unsubscribed immediately, but the Arab pleaded, “Don’t delete me! Ever since I’ve been getting your text messages, I have changed my behavior and I am trying to be a better person.”
and get the strength to power on.” Once a year, the SMS T’fillin team conducts a survey to measure people’s satisfaction with the service. The responses are truly inspiring. One person said he was a yeshiva bachur in a non-Chabad yeshiva in Yerushalayim. A Lubavitcher bachur had met him while on mivtza t’fillin. He did not look at all religious. It turned out he was a very good student, from a good family, but due to certain life experiences, he had dropped almost everything and was out on the street. This student related, “All the conversations and pressure exerted by my family and rabbanim did not help. It was your text messages that brought me back to my family and to yeshiva. I thought – I am certainly worth no less than those irreligious people who get the text messages, so I decided to come back. Thank you, and please don’t unsubscribe me even though I put t’fillin on every day.” A fellow by the name of Assi Levy of Ramat Aviv said: “I did not sign up for your service, and I have no idea who gave you my phone number, but you don’t need to unsubscribe me. It took some time but I got used to it. I have been putting t’fillin on for three months now!” And there was even this story: On a call to one of those on the list being surveyed, they reached a young Arab. Oops! Mistake. These things happen. The caller assured him that he would be unsubscribed immediately, but the man pleaded, “Don’t delete me! Ever since I’ve been getting your text messages, I have changed my behavior and I am trying to be a better person.”
Issue 831 • �
MOnEY IS nO BARRIER
Everybody knows that in Israel, text messaging represents a significant portion of the monthly cell phone bill. Naturally, a project this big runs up monthly bills in five digits. However, Asulin is not only not nervous about initiating a new subscribers’ campaign which will increase the bills by thousands more sh’kalim, he’s actually relaxed about it. “If I get a text from 500 kids who want a daily text reminder, I can’t tell them no! When you know that you are doing something that Hashem wants, and there is nothing personal mixed in, you have nothing to worry about.” Asulin, who already owes a lot of money even as he continues to expand the project, has this to say to shluchim, “Fear of what will happen if you enlarge the budget will stop you from doing. Run, do, expand, and enlarge. The money will come.” He says this does not contradict what the Rebbe said about mosdos operating in a normal way, since the Rebbe himself said regarding schools, for example, that when children want to attend without paying, they must be accepted: “When a principal of a school, for example, wants to indulge his employees with an outing because this is important for their well-being, he needs to calculate whether it makes sense financially. However, when someone wants a text message to remind him to put on t’fillin – with all respect for the budget – financial considerations cannot prevent someone from receiving what we, as Chassidim, have to offer him. “At the same time, you need to oversee income and expenses
and do it in a systematic way with proper bookkeeping, nonprofit corporate status, receipts, a board, etc.” Our conversation went on to financial miracle stories that happened to Asulin or to donors of his project.
I SEnD THE BILLS TO HEAVEn
“There is a school in Eilat which is the flagship of our activities. An entire article can be written about it. It’s a school that had obscene graffiti on the walls. Once the students started receiving our text messages, a tremendous change took place. One of the students once asked me, ‘From where do you have the money to send these texts?’ I answered him with a smile, ‘I send G-d the bill and He sends the money.’” In order to understand how big this SMS T’fillin operation is and why it is this way, consider the following. In order for the system to operate professionally, it must be consistent (considering that one person putting t’fillin on one time is an entire world; all the more so for hundreds and thousands of people). In order for the text message to be effective, it has to be received at a convenient time. The computerized system (which is not directly connected to the cell phone company) sends thousands of text messages simultaneously every half hour. Today, the cheapest rate (which large corporations like banks and credit card companies receive) is 12-13 cents a text. That means that sending 10,000 texts a day costs at least 1200 shekels ($323) a day! In the beginning, a Russian man who worked for the cell phone company got involved. He
wasn’t religious but he loved the idea, and he lowered the price to 10 cents per text message under seventy characters. Despite the reduction, many were the time that the text ran over the seventy character limit, which doubled the cost. The bachurim continued sending text messages without a financial base to pay for them. At some point, they faced hundreds of thousands of shekels of unpaid bills. “The first miracle is that the company did not stop the texts for even a day. I know of another company whose service was cut because of a debt of 20,000 shekels. Later on, because of our payment problems, we met with the management. During that meeting, we discovered that a series of miracles had occurred. At one of the meetings of the corporate directors of the company, the accountant angrily asked, “Who allowed this to happen? How do you allow a customer to run up such huge debt?” The room was silent for a while and then one of the managers said, “I allowed it to happen. They are not customers. They are partners!” Their debt was reduced to 120,000 shekels ($32,254). “I have instructions from the Rebbe to deal primarily with the spiritual development of the project, i.e. adding people to our list, and so I am not that involved in fundraising. Boruch Hashem, the money comes in and whoever lends a hand sees open miracles.” Come on! Every director of every mosad makes the same claim... “I mean it! Whoever donates to a mosad of the Rebbe sees miracles. Furthermore, when someone makes a donation to SMS T’fillin, it goes directly for the text messaging. There are
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no salaries, no extraneous costs. The bachurim who are involved are all volunteers. Every shekel that is donated goes towards text messages that remind people to put on t’fillin.” After reading the Rebbe’s answer to him in the Igros Kodesh, Asulin spends most of his day learning in Kfar Chabad. He spends a small amount of time translating the daily HaYom Yom into text lingo and on overseeing the sending texts out to subscribers based on the lists in the computer database. Donations come in, as do miracle stories that donors experience. M.A. attended a Chassidus shiur with Asulin and heard about this wonderful project. He said he wanted to make a donation. Asulin told him that when a donation is made on a monthly direct deposit basis, it goes directly to the company that provides the text messaging. M.A. decided to make a monthly direct deposit, and a month later he excitedly reported that his monthly salary had doubled! The same thing happened with a man from Kfar Chabad who owns a small alarm company. After deciding to pay for 3000 texts a month, a short time later a new avenue of income opened for him that increased his monthly income significantly. Another person with an average income decided to stretch himself and give a fifth of his income to SMS T’fillin. He merited seeing open miracles and became a wealthy man.
MAInTAInIng A BALAnCE
The Chassidic agenda of SMS T’fillin is clear: When a Jew starts his day with a good action, word or thought, his entire day will be good. One mitzva leads
to another, and it doesn’t have to be something big. Any good deed draws another good deed in its wake. Even when the aphorism is explicitly about fulfilling a mitzva, Asulin maintains a balance. He doesn’t want to come across sounding like a policeman; he wants the recipient to want to do the mitzva. In addition, every message is connected to the Geula. The entire project is in fulfillment of the only remaining shlichus – kabbalas p’nei Moshiach Tzidkeinu. As for plans for the future, Asulin says, “We plan on starting an Internet site which will respond to all the questions and needs of Israelis that have to do with Torah and mitzvos, Geula and Moshiach. We also want to start an SMS Neshek to remind women to light Shabbos candles and provide the candle lighting time. We can’t do this directly, but would like this to be run by women; we would be happy to have it included in our text messaging system.”
EXPAnDIng IT FuRTHER
We want to thank the Rebbe
MH”M for the z’chus to be involved in a project like this that gives him so much nachas and definitely hastens his hisgalus. Additional thanks goes to Rabbi Erez Bendetovitz, the Chabad rosh yeshiva in Eilat where the SMS T’fillin idea was thought up, for his support and help throughout; Yosef Levy who runs the project very devotedly; Shmaya Hecht for his help in writing, wording and setting the ideological tone; to R’ Eyrah Frishman for photography and staying the course, and of course, to the numerous bachurim and Anash who are involved whether financially or in other ways and make this project a success.” Every one of us can connect hundreds of people to the Rebbe and remind them to do mitzvos. There are people that you know who can use a reminder to put on t’fillin or who would benefit from receiving an inspiring text message that will motivate them to do mitzvos. It is so easy to do this via email or text messaging. This applies even more so to those running Chabad houses whose guest books are full of phone numbers of people who have passed through. They usually don’t have the time to keep in touch with all of them. You can keep people in touch with the Rebbe all year through these messages and then, when you actually speak to them, you are not renewing an old relationship. All subscriptions and texts are absolutely free of charge, and you can include cell phone numbers from (nearly) all over the world. You really can “transform the world today.” To add people to the SMS list send an email to: SMStfilin@ gmail.com or visit our website: www.tfilin.net
Issue 831 • �
JEWISH CHAIN REACTION
r’ Dovid Dery is a lubavitcher living in crown heights, who owns an Israeli restaurant in Manhattan. he shares an amazing story with Beis Moshiach about one of his customers. * one little action can change a life.
By R. Studnitz
ne Sunday, a fellow walked into the restaurant, looking somewhat unkempt with torn jeans. I asked his name and he said it was James. James looked at the menu and ordered some shawarma. I was a bit surprised since he looked American. “How do you know what shawarma is?” I asked him. James responded in astonishment, “What do you mean? I’ve been eating shawarma all my life. I’m Israeli!” My curiosity grew even more and I said, “I don’t get it. Didn’t you say your name is James? James is an American name.” “Right. My real name is Chaim. James is the name that I use in the business world.” We began to talk and I interspersed our conversation with divrei Torah. I could see he understood what I said and that he was an intelligent person. After he visited the restaurant several times, I asked him whether he would be interested in learning the weekly parsha together with a student from
770 on the phone once a week. He said yes and when we parted he gave me his business card so we could keep in touch. When I looked at the card I was surprised to see the address of an exclusive building in Manhattan, and that James was the CEO of a big company on the stock exchange. I asked Shneur Schneersohn to learn with him and promptly forgot about the whole matter.
HALF A YEAR LATER
Half a year later, I asked Shneur what happened with James and whether he was learning with him on the phone. Shneur said that two months after they started learning together the man bought t’fillin, began having a shiur in his office, and started keeping Shabbos in a limited fashion. One day, I was standing at the counter in the restaurant when I saw a man wearing a kippa come in and order shawarma. He looked at me and I thought he looked familiar but couldn’t place him. After a few minutes, I was astounded when he came over and hugged me and said, “Dovid,
shalom aleichem, I am James. I visited your restaurant half a year ago. I was wearing jeans at the time and you suggested that I learn the parsha over the phone. You made the connection between Shneur Schneersohn and me, and you and I haven’t met since.” Once he reminded me who he was, the story came back to me and I did a double-take. He looked like a religious person and not at all the way he looked half a year earlier when he walked in for the first time. When he saw how surprised I looked he said, “You should know that you changed my life. Come, I’ll tell you what happened since we last saw one another.” This is what he said: “A short time after we met here in the restaurant, I began learning with Shneur Schneersohn once a week. We learned a sicha of the Rebbe on the parsha and I enjoyed it very much. One time, we learned the sicha in which the Rebbe says that we need to teach others what we know. If you know ‘Alef’ – teach ‘Alef.’ “At first, it was hard for me to
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accept this idea since I wasn’t at all religious so how could I teach Torah to others? But Shneur told me: Although you are not shomer Shabbos and don’t put on t’fillin yet, you still have to teach others what you know.”
When I looked at the card I was surprised to see the address of an exclusive building in Manhattan, and that James was the CEO of a big company on the stock exchange.
MESIBOS SHABBOS FOR ADuLTS
“Shneur convinced me and I had an idea of making ‘Mesibos Shabbos’ in which I would invite the hundreds of Jewish clients that the company serves, and relate to them the sichos that I was learning each week. “At the time, I was renting a large loft apartment with a partner in an exclusive Manhattan building and I decided to hold the parties there. I had five star catering and a guard at the entrance. I looked at the list of the company clients and employees, and invited any of them with a Jewish-sounding name. If I saw a ‘Levy’ or ‘Cohen,’ I invited them. Only invited guests were allowed in. “Well, my idea wasn’t bad at all and those parties were very successful. The place filled up and the highlight of the evening was when I reviewed a sicha of
the Rebbe on the parsha that I had learned with Shneur. It was such a hit that there wasn’t enough room for all the guests to attend on the same evening. Every week, different people were given a turn to attend. “I held these parties for a while and people were very happy with them. As time went on, it occurred to me that if I was teaching Torah, I could not hold a Mesibos Shabbos in which Shabbos was desecrated. Nor was it befitting for me not to keep Shabbos. “I slowly became more religiously observant and thank G-d, I married a religious woman. We moved to Canada and as you can see for yourself, I no longer look like the same person.”
“The story does not end there,” said James.
“A few weeks ago, I was in Manhattan when someone with a kippa, whom I didn’t know, accosted me and said, ‘Hey, Rabbi James! You changed my life! Thanks to you, I became a baal t’shuva!’ “I was flabbergasted. I didn’t recognize him at all. “‘I attended your Mesibas Shabbos every Friday night. I heard a point from a sicha of the Rebbe on the parsha. This gave me a lot of strength and I became religious.’” *** When James, who once again calls himself Chaim, finished the story, he said to me, “You should know that you changed my life. With that small thing that you did in arranging for me to learn with someone, you changed my life, the life of that other man, and who knows how many other people were strengthened in their mitzva observance!”
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THE VIZHNITZER REBBE ZT”L
Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager of Vizhnitz zt”l was a public supporter of the Rebbe and Chabad. * He fought publicly to have Rabbi Landau appointed rav of B’nei Brak and was one of the first Admurim who bought letters in a Torah scroll for his family members. He encouraged the initiative to learn a daily portion of Rambam. * Beis Moshiach focuses on the special connection between the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and the Chabad movement.
By Shneur Zalman Berger
At midnight on the night of 20 Adar, the senior Admur in Eretz Yisroel, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager zt”l passed away. He led his Chassidim for forty years and tens of thousands attended his funeral, led by Admurim and rabbanim. He was born on 13 Sivan 5676/1916 and his father was the Admur Rabbi Chaim Meir zt”l of Vizhnitz, author of Imrei Chaim. In his youth, he displayed great talent in learning as well as exceptional diligence. Even as a bachur, he temporarily filled his father’s rabbinic position in the town of Vilkhovitz. In later years, he led the Vizhnitzer yeshiva in the famous city of Grosswardein in Hungary. During the Holocaust he
fled with his wife (Rebbetzin Leah Esther, daughter of the Admur Rabbi Chaim Menachem Mendel of Dej) and daughter to Romania. After much travail, he miraculously arrived in Haifa in 5704 but was immediately arrested by the British having arrived without a certificate. With the help of Vizhnitzer Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel he was released two days later. Upon his arrival in Eretz Yisroel, his uncle, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, author of Damesek Eliezer, appointed him as rosh yeshiva of the Vizhnitzer yeshiva in Tel Aviv. He led the talmidim and his clear, deep shiurim became known far and wide. Kiryat Vizhnitz in B’nei Brak was inaugurated in 5708 and he was
appointed by his father as rav of the new Chassidic enclave. Over the years, a relationship developed between his father and Lubavitcher Chassidim in which he tremendously admired the work they did. When the Rebbe announced the T’fillin Campaign, the Imrei Chaim was one of the first Admurim who signed in support of this effort. When someone made a comment about his signing on behalf of Chabad, his response was, “You are denigrating the honor of a Gadol B’Yisroel. Lubavitch has proven itself. They have established generations of baalei t’shuva.”
When the Imrei Chaim passed away in 5732/1972, Rabbi
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Brak, there were those who did not want his will carried out in which he said that his oldest son, R’ Moshe, should succeed him. Chabad Chassidim, under the direction of the Rebbe, worked to unite forces in B’nei Brak around R’ Moshe. The Admur zt”l openly supported R’ Moshe and did a lot to promote his rabbanus and his superior kashrus supervision. When people wanted to ban Chabad at the end of 5748, the Admur zt”l opposed them even at the cost of splitting the Agudath Israel movement.
EnCOuRAgIng THE LEARnIng OF RAMBAM
The Admur zt”l encouraged the Rebbe’s enactment of daily learning of Rambam. For the first Siyum HaRambam, which took place in 5745, he wrote a special letter for the occasion that took place in Eretz Yisroel: “I join together with those who study our holy Torah in their joy upon the completion of the first cycle of the learning of Rambam,
Moshe Yehoshua was appointed as his successor in Eretz Yisroel. Since then, for forty years, he led the Vizhnitzer Chassidim. Vizhnitz, as well as its mosdos in Eretz Yisroel and abroad, grew. His strong leadership led the leaders of Agudath Israel to appoint him as Nasi of the Moetzes G’dolei Ha’Torah. The Admur zt”l was a great friend of Chabad and the Rebbe and supported the “spreading of the wellsprings.” He encouraged the takana to learn Rambam on a daily schedule and was among the first Admurim who bought letters in the “Torah Scroll for Jewish Children” for his grandchildren. When some people opposed the Rebbe’s mivtzaim, he strongly censured “those who oppose any
When the Admur expressed his surprise – how could he buy a ticket without knowing where he was going – he said that he was a Chabad Chassid and had been instructed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to go to the airport in London where he would find out where he should go from there in order to carry out an urgent mission.
which was arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe shlita. I send my blessing to all those who learn it and those who participate in the joy of this mitzva.” At the Siyum which took place in Yerushalayim in 5749, his son, R’ Menachem Mendel said, “I was asked by my father, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, to bring
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inyan of Torah and Judaism that is initiated by the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe shlita.” On a number of occasions he expressed his amazement over the enormous scope of the Rebbe’s holy work and the mesirus nefesh of his shluchim around the world. After the passing of Rabbi Yaakov Landau, rav of B’nei
of ‘spreading the wellsprings outward,’ to spread Judaism and Chassidus, and may he merit to increase the honor of heaven and the honor of Chassidus until the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.” After 27 Adar 5752, when tens of thousands of Jews prayed for the recovery of the Rebbe, the Admur told Chabad rabbanim, “Prayers need to be increased until Hashem has mercy on the Jewish people and sends the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe a complete and speedy recovery. The Rebbe’s net is spread over the entire world and there is no location where his power is not apparent and effective. We need him to have a speedy recovery so he can continue spreading Torah and Chassidus throughout the world.” Whenever there was news about deterioration in the Rebbe’s health, he sent his gabbai to instruct the talmidim of the Yeshiva G’dola of Vizhnitz to stop learning and say T’hillim. In the book Shemen Sasson MeiChaveirecha the author quotes wondrous things from Rabbi Mordechai Shlomo Steinmetz, Rosh Kollel of Vizhnitz in Har Nof: “We heard many times from the Admur of Vizhnitz about his great admiration for the greatness of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in all parts of Torah, Nigleh and Nistar, and his greatness in holiness and astonishing asceticism; as far as his greatness in leadership, he greatly admired his tremendous work and constant concern to spread Judaism throughout the world, even in forsaken places. “We heard from the [Vizhnitzer] Rebbe that on various occasions people came to him from afar and when he asked them whether basic Jewish
RABBI SHOLOM KuPCHIK IS MY REBBI In TAnYA
It was 5717 in B’nei Brak, in Yeshivas Vizhnitz. R’ Boruch Duchman, a senior Chabad Chassid who had just come out of Russia after much suffering, began regularly visiting Yeshivas Vizhnitz in B’nei Brak which was near his new home. R’ Boruch, who until then had been involved in teaching Chassidus to young men in Samarkand, began to influence the Vizhnitzer youngsters, talmidim of the yeshiva, in the ways of Chabad Chassidus. He did this with his trademark sincerity and pure faith. R’ Boruch did not teach in a structured way using a text. He had casual discussions with the talmidim in which he told them about the time he spent in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch under the Rebbe Rashab and Rebbe Rayatz. While schmoozing with them, he shed new light on the lives of mesirus nefesh of Lubavitcher Chassidim in the Soviet Union. He spiced his talks with quotes from the works of the Rebbeim. Many talmidim in Yeshivas Vizhnitz found these talks enjoyable and they took an interest in Chabad Chassidus. Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager was the rosh yeshiva at the time. He was the son of the Admur and later became the Admur himself. Although he realized that his students’ interest in Chabad Chassidim and the teachings of Chabad could draw them into Chabad, he encouraged them to continue talking to R’ Duchman. “He explained to us how important it is to become close to a Chassid like this who basked in the glow of tzaddikim of a previous generation,” recalls Rabbi Benzion Grossman. He was a talmid in the yeshiva at the time. “Although he knew that we were becoming acquainted with Chabad Chassidus and where this could lead, he always encouraged us to stay around R’ Boruch and to hear Chassidus from him. When older talmidim from Yeshivas Slobodka tried to visit our yeshiva in order to give us a taste of their approach, he absolutely did not allow this. The Rebbe zt”l instructed us not to have anything to do with them.” R’ Duchman received a letter from the Rebbe about this important work that he did, which contained detailed instructions. In a letter dated 28 Adar I 5719, the Rebbe writes, “I was pleased to receive your letter of 22 Adar I in which you write about your learning with the precious bachurim and family men, may they increase.” The Rebbe gave him instructions about the learning (Igros Kodesh, vol. 18, letter 6734). *** R’ Shlomo Kupchik was a Lubavitcher Chassid who learned in Yeshivas Vizhnitz in his youth. While learning there, he had a regular study session in Tanya with Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager. After the passing of R’ Shlomo, an older Vizhnitzer Chassid went to console the family. The family did not recognize him but realized he had been sent by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe. He mentioned that R’ Shlomo had once visited the beis midrash of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and when he was pushed around the Admur said to his Chassidim, “Don’t push him! He is my rebbi in Tanya!” and convey his holy blessing and wishes that the honor of heaven and honor of Chassidus increase. My father instructed me to convey, at this holy event with a multitude of people, his blessings and wishes to the venerable and holy Lubavitcher Rebbe, that Hashem should give him strength with good health and he should be successful in his holy work, as per his holy path in a manner
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The Admur zt”l with Rabbi Berel Lazar, shliach and chief rabbi of Russia
The Admur zt”l with the chassanim of the Chidon Seifer HaMitzvos
needs were met in their area, such as a place for davening, a mikva, etc. they responded that the Lubavitcher Rebbe made sure to have a mikva and Jewish school built even in their distant location. “One time, in the lifetime of his father, the Imrei Chaim, he traveled to communities of Vizhnitzer Chassidim in Europe on behalf of the mosdos. At the airport, when he boarded the plane, a religious Jew introduced himself and they greeted one another. When the Rebbe asked him where he was going, he said, ‘I don’t know.’ When the Admur expressed his surprise – how could he buy a ticket without knowing where he was going – he said that he was a Chabad Chassid and had been instructed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to go to the airport in London where he would find out where he should go from there in order to carry out an urgent mission. “This comes to teach us – concluded the Admur – how great the emunas chachomim (faith in the sages) of Chassidim ought to be so that they are ready, without questioning and without understanding, to always carry out instructions and orders
of the Rebbe to the fullest.”
In THE MERIT OF THE TZADDIK
The Admur took a great interest in the work Chabad is doing in the Ukraine and was amazed by the enormity of their work. On a number of occasions, he spoke admiringly to his Chassidim about the mesirus nefesh of the Rebbe’s shluchim in the former Soviet Union. The Admur visited Berditchev in the Ukraine at the end of 5754. At that same time, the shluchim were trying to convince a young Jewish man to undergo circumcision, but his grandmother was afraid and did not give her consent. The shluchim suggested that the Admur, who would be visiting their city, be the sandak for her grandson, which would be a great z’chus for her and her family. She agreed and the Admur was honored with sandaka’us. At the bris he cried, so overcome was he by emotion.
The Rebbe’s letter of consolation upon the passing of the Admur’s sister
TEnS OF THOuSAnDS AT HIS FunERAL
In recent years, the Admur’s
health was poor. He is survived by his second wife, two sons who perpetuate his leadership of Vizhnitz Chassidus – the older son is Rabbi Yisroel Hager of Vizhnitz and the other son is Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager, Av Beis Din of Kiryat Vizhnitz – and his sons-in-law who are leaders of thousands: the Skverer Rebbe, the Satmar Rebbe-R’ Aharon, the Belzer Rebbe, and Rabbi Menachem Erenster, Rosh Yeshivas Vizhnitz.
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TAMING THE WILD WEST
By Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz Shliach, Beit Shaan
hose of you who are not familiar with the work of shlichus in Chabad houses from up close, would never imagine the sort of lowly things a shliach has to deal with. Yet, sometimes it turns out that it’s there, in the “lowest place,” that the “highest level” of the “eighth” is revealed. In Chassidic maamarim from all the Rebbeim throughout the generations, the level of the “eighth” is explained at length. In Likkutei Sichos Inyanei Geula U’Moshiach, the Rebbe emphasizes that the name of last week’s parsha, Shmini, teaches us that this is not merely the eighth day of consecration but the highest level of the dwelling of the Sh’china. The Sh’china dwells and is revealed specifically within the daily activities that we do. This is provided that we know how to make of our homes and everything we do a welcome dwelling for the Sh’china. Nearly every shliach you will ask can tell you how shocked he was when he first discovered to what low levels of “this lowly world, of which there is nothing lower” he has to descend. Generally, before a shliach goes on shlichus, he views shlichus as
a spiritual pursuit that includes giving shiurim and interesting lectures to large and appreciative audiences. It is true that shlichus does consist of that, but there are also many opportunities for a “lowlier” sort of avoda, which is no less a part of the holy work. I am also still surprised sometimes when I have to deal with tragic matters such as helping a couple with shalom bayis and discovering what stupidities people are immersed in, or cases of crime and violence and things that I can’t elaborate on in a Chassidic publication. The following is one example of what shluchim sometimes have to contend with.
CRIME AgAInST THE CHABAD HOuSE
Rabbi Benny Nachum, shliach in the development town called Shlomi in Northern Israel, had his first shock a few years after he started on shlichus. At that time, many dubious sorts lived in Shlomi. The police force was overworked as they searched for drug dealers and sought to prevent crime and violence in the town. Those in the know nicknamed Shlomi “Texas” because of the Wild West type
shootings that went on there among gangs. Rabbi Benny Nachum knew all this but wasn’t afraid to go on shlichus there. On the one hand, he is extremely knowledgeable in maamarei Chassidus and the mysteries of kabbala. On the other hand, he knows how to talk to criminal types. He considered Shlomi a challenge and his life’s mission, and the results speak for themselves. However, even he was surprised when, one fine morning, he woke up to find that a drug den had opened across the street. The abandoned building located opposite the Chabad house had been taken over by a drug dealer who had moved in and set up shop. The dealer had made some renovations such as opening a window on the front of the house that looked out on the street (and the Chabad house), and Rabbi Nachum had a clear view of the drug trafficking from his house. In the dark of night, one could see underworld characters approaching the window, handing over their money and receiving drugs in return. The police soon showed up. Day and night they conducted surveillance, both undercover
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Chabad mosdos in Shlomi
and out in the open, opposite the house with the window, in order to amass evidence against the drug dealer. The dealer didn’t appreciate being under surveillance. He decided he would build a high wall around his house. One morning, two of his friends showed up and began quickly building a wall. They didn’t care that they had no official permits. Within two days, the wall was up and the entire area, which had already become a police target, turned into a fortress. The next morning, one of the women who attended shiurim at the Chabad house called to speak to Rabbi Nachum. “You know that my husband is a policeman,” she began, “and he needs to talk to you.” Rabbi Nachum new him well and invited him for a chat. The policeman came and explained what the shliach was already well aware of – that opposite his house was a fortified criminal enterprise, and because of the wall, the policemen were unable to observe the house from the street. He wanted to know whether the shliach would allow them to observe from the second floor and roof of his house, the Chabad house. The policemen showed up, set
In the dark of night, one could see underworld characters approaching the window, handing over their money and receiving drugs in return.
knocked down the wall, and the drug dealer was arrested. Surprisingly, a few days later, the drug dealer was back. Apparently, with the help of “inside information” that he received, he was able to hide evidence moments before the policemen entered the building and they found nothing incriminating. They were forced to release him due to lack of evidence. When he saw what the authorities had done to his nice house, he was very upset. The focus of his anger was the council leader of Shlomi, since he was the one who gave the demolition order. Within two hours, a group of felons had constructed a huge sign with coarse curses against the council leader written in large letters. They hung the sign on the demolished wall which faced the Chabad house, the main street, the shul and 550 students of the nearby school who passed by every day. “Back then,” said R’ Nachum, “I usually davened in the Tzeirim
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up their surveillance equipment, gathered information and took photographs, thanked the rav and went on their way.
DEMOLITIOn ORDER AnD ARREST
A few days went by, and one morning, Rabbi Nachum noticed traffic opposite the Chabad house. Police cars pulled up along with a municipal official carrying a demolition order. There were municipal bulldozers accompanied by numerous policemen and special police forces (Yassam). The drug dealer went out to the policemen and announced that he and his pals would bodily prevent the destruction of the building. Rabbi Nachum shudders even now when he recalls the exchange of blows. “I heard the fists from a distance of thirty meters. You don’t start up with Yassam.” Neither the screams of the drug dealer’s wife nor the assistance of some friends helped. The bulldozers
The worried congregants cheered upon his return as though welcoming a hero that emerged unscathed from a lion’s den.
shul. But the week that the sign went up, I happened to have davened in a different shul so I didn’t see the sign on Thursday, Friday or Shabbos morning. It was only when I went to daven Mincha on Shabbos that I suddenly noticed the repulsive sign. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The vulgar words with a disgusting picture engendered a feeling of holy zealousness on my part. It was clear to me that this sign could not remain facing the shul, the school, the Chabad house and my family with young children for even one minute.” Before the astonished eyes of the congregation, R’ Nachum climbed up the demolished wall and removed the large sign and dropped it in the rubble. This created a loud noise that could be heard at a distance. People knew this was the rumbling before the storm. They asked Rabbi Nachum to quickly come back to daven before the lowlifes showed up. Indeed, as soon as the davening was over, two ruffians entered the shul and one barked, “Who took down the sign?” Rabbi Nachum, who was still possessed of a spirit of zealotry and shlichus mitzva, faced them and said, “I took it down and don’t you dare put it back up! The world can turn over but that sign will not face worshipers and school children! If you wish, hang the sign in the building so only you can see it, but not facing the street!” Rabbi Nachum knew he had to show he was not afraid of them and so he left the shul and escorted them to the site in order to verify that they would not be hanging the sign back up. As they were walking out of the shul, the two toughs stopped and informed Rabbi Nachum in veiled though clear language, “Know that you are playing with fire.” Rabbi Nachum responded in kind, “You are playing with fire! The Sh’china is a consuming fire. Make sure you don’t hang that sign back up facing the shul and Chabad house.” In the meantime, the shliach and the two men entered the site as the other worshipers followed them with their eyes and a heartfelt plea that the rabbi should make it out in peace. A candid conversation ensued between the shliach and the men. The latter showed the shliach the destruction wreaked by the arm of the law to explain why they had hung the sign. The shliach looked around and said, “Do you know why all this happened to you? Because there are no mezuzos here!” “So why don’t you bring us mezuzos?” they asked. The shliach promised to bring mezuzos the next day. On that friendly note, he left the dangerous building and went back to the shul. The worried congregants cheered upon his return as though welcoming a hero that emerged unscathed from a lion’s den. After Maariv, he went home. His wife asked him to explain the shouting she had heard from the shul, and he told her what had happened. She felt insecure and wanted a bracha from the
Rebbe. She wrote a letter which she placed in a volume of Igros Kodesh. To her amazement, she opened to a letter in which the Rebbe related and explained the story in the Gemara about Rabbi Meir who had dangerous gangsters living in his neighborhood and he prayed that they die. His wife Bruria taught him to pray that they repent. After a letter like this, which contained blessings and the conferring of strength, Rabbi Nachum took twelve mezuzos to his neighbors. Since then, a wonderful friendship developed which led, over the years, to the repentance of all those involved with the former den of iniquity. The owner of the building bought t’fillin and started using them daily. He still continued (temporarily) to deal in drugs, and was caught and sat in jail for several years. However, upon his release he was like a new man. He renewed his friendship with Rabbi Nachum. Today he makes donations to the Chabad house, his children attend the Mesibos Shabbos, and the entire family has become more religiously observant. They left their life of crime and opened a small grocery store. Even the police readily concede that the house is no longer a target of theirs. Rabbi Nachum emphasizes that thanks to the impact of mitzvos and Chassidus, the entire town has changed for the good. Today, there isn’t a single drug dealer in Shlomi. The town is clean and there are many baalei t’shuva living there that were formally part of the gang of criminals involved in this story. The former “Texas” is now a town full of shiurim, battei midrash, and hundreds of mekuravim to the Rebbe and the Chabad house.
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HACK YOUR SELF
By Rabbi Yisroel Harpaz
magine if you could hack your self. If you were to take a journey into the mainframe of your mind, what would it look like? Would you find the various components of the circuitry humming in harmony, or would you see a messy collection loose screws, stray wires and burned out pathways? Would the transformers all be in place, or have they shut down from lack of use? Would it even let you in, or would you be blocked by some firewall of trauma or And whatever it is you found in there, would you have the courage to confront it, or would you choose to replace the dusty cover and continue ignoring the problems until the entire system crashes?
figure ourselves out for real. It is the ultimate system overhaul that systematically separates fact from fiction by exploring each detail and facet of our emotional and psychological make-up, to understand where we are and where we need to get to. In the journey of our lives, most of us make the mistake of trying to find ourselves, even though intuitively we know that true enlightenment and happiness come from letting go of ourselves. You can’t lose yourself without knowing your self, but you certainly can’t lose yourself if you’re obsessed with yourself. The subjectivity of this approach is at best futile, or even maddening. Some of us somehow manage to avoid this mistake and instead seek the euphoria of an objective, omnipresent truth. But in the quest for objectivity we tend to lose sight of our place in all of it. In removing ourselves from the equation, the objectivity denies the significance of individual existence and providence. The balance then is to seek my own inner truth – one that holds true in both the objective and subjective realities, encompassing both who I am as an individual and how I fit into the cosmic master plan. By extension, everything that follows from this refined and redefined self is that much more truthful and sincere, making the self a fitting conduit for something greater than the self. I usually like to think that my primary purpose lies in achieving something by harnessing and utilizing the strengths of my unique individual talents. But perhaps an even greater and less obvious purpose lies in confronting the challenges I face by pealing away the layers of falsehood, fantasy and disillusionment that clog each of the 49 components of my psyche until each one shines. And once the system is hacked, I can make it whatever I want it to be.
Reproduced with permission from Exodus Magazine
Let’s face it. The greatest obstacle we face in the pursuit of peace and happiness is that we are full of belief systems that govern they way we perceive ourselves, the world and role in it. Prejudices about ourselves and others, conditioning that is the product of our education and upbringing and the intensity of life experiences and our reactions to them all contribute to the internal clutter. The question is how much we’re aware of the effect these belief systems have on our daily lives, and the extent to which they can manipulate us and even dominate us if left unchecked. The counting of the Omer is a 49-step program designed to strip away the belief systems and
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THE AMERICAN DREAM
AND A DREAM OF THE REBBE
Tzvi Naiman achieved the dream of every Israeli and was living the good life in Los Angeles. However, his neshama sought something else, something real. He was inspired on an ordinary Friday in Baltimore and things took off from there.
By Sholom Ber Crombie
zvi Naiman was born in Yerushalayim to parents who had arrived in Eretz Yisroel after the war. His father is a scion of a distinguished Litvishe family and grew up in a religious home, but he left Jewish practice in his youth and integrated into secular Israeli society. His mother’s family is from a HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz (which is virulently anti-religious). Tzvi was raised in an irreligious home, though his parents tried to preserve some tradition and provided him with a minimal Jewish education. The family celebrated holidays with the father’s religious relatives. “We celebrated every Pesach together and had a proper Seder. I remember the entire family sitting together and singing Modzitzer and Tolna niggunim.
As a child, I wanted very much to be like them. I felt a tremendous longing for religious life. The niggunim and the atmosphere always fascinated me. As a child, I thought it was natural to be part of a religious family.” However, the boy grew up and felt estranged from religious life: “I was repelled by a faithbased mindset and favored rational understanding and philosophy. I was an avid reader of philosophical books. As I got older I moved away from the traditions I had grown up with and eventually, while in the army, decided to drop tradition entirely. It felt trite to me to keep just a few Jewish practices, just to fulfill some obligation. I said to myself that if one day I would discover
that this is actually the truth and would decide that one should keep Torah and mitzvos, then I would not be satisfied with a few symbolic gestures and would go all the way.” Tzvi used his free time to study philosophy. He sought the truth but based his search on logic. He studied science and tried to understand the secret of existence. Today, he realizes that he was lacking Chassidus that bridges faith and science and explains how “there is nothing but Him” within nature, but back then, he saw science as a contradiction to Torah. As part of this process, Tzvi also distanced himself from the Israeli education that he received. The day he completed his army service he was on a plane to Los Angeles.
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He had an uncle there who promised to open the door to the wide world for him.
He put his letter into a volume of Igros Kodesh and was amazed to read the letter that began with the words, “Dear Mr. Zerubavel, the dream that SHABBOS MEAL In THE MIDDLE OF THE FESTIVAL you had is a sign and wonder and should not be treated “I flew to Los Angeles on a lightly by you...” The Rebbe was writing about a dream one-way ticket and had no idea the poet had yet to have, which was an incredible thing. if I’d ever return to Eretz Yisroel. I continued to move away from He also discovered that this is the only letter in which the the little Judaism that I knew Rebbe seriously addresses dreams…
and did not even make Kiddush on Friday night. In Los Angeles, I encountered materialism in the fullest sense of the word. I stayed with my uncle who is very wealthy and has it all. He lived in Malibu, which is a well-todo coastal city. As his relative, I lacked for nothing. I worked for him around the clock including Shabbos and Yom Tov and was far removed from any spiritual pursuits. “After a few months, I felt that I had already reached the summit. There is no bigger dream for an Israeli kid than life full of material pleasure. Having gotten this far, I began to feel an emptiness. “I had an offer to fly to a job at a festival in Baltimore on the East Coast. Since I was starting to feel disgusted with the sparkling life of California, I accepted the offer. I went to Baltimore for a few weeks and suddenly felt a yearning for k’dusha. I can’t explain it, but on the last Friday that I was there, I dialed 411 and asked for the number of a Chabad house so I could go there that night. “I didn’t know much about Chabad, but I remembered Chabad at the airport when I left Eretz Yisroel. I saw the logo ‘Chabad – Your Address for Everything Jewish’; it stuck in my mind. I had once heard that Lubavitcher Chassidim host Jews abroad, but I had never connected Chabad with Lubavitch. So when I called for information I asked the operator to give me two addresses, one for the local Chabad organization and one for Lubavitch. “I called the Chabad house. The shliach, Rabbi Kaplan, graciously invited me to his home for the entire Shabbos. I arrived feeling apprehensive, thinking that their goal is to get me to do t’shuva. All I wanted was to spend Shabbos with them and get a taste of home. “It was a marvelous experience and I was surprised to discover that they didn’t force me to do anything. They gently suggested that I go to shul with them and I was happy to do so. “At night, I dreamed that I
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while standing opposite a Chabad house. “I was absolutely stunned by this since it all seemed to occur naturally, as though it was the most obvious thing that there would be a Chabad house across from where we were standing.” The next day, Tzvi visited the Chabad house and asked to speak with the shliach, Rabbi Levi Cunin. “I asked him some questions about Judaism and the Rebbe. Then I asked him, ‘How is it that you Chabadniks refer to the Rebbe as being alive?’ Till today, I don’t know why this question occurred to me, but I had heard things about this in the past and I was interested in knowing what lay behind the belief of Chassidim. R’ Cunin, in his inimitable manner, asked me whether I believed that G-d could put an elephant through the eye of a needle. I said that I had to think about it. He said I had a lot to learn in order to understand what emuna is.” Tzvi became involved at the Chabad house and visited on Shabbasos. The atmosphere and the people drew him in. Once again, he experienced Shabbos and Yomim Tov and reconnected to Jewish life. “I would drive to the Chabad house for Shabbos and did not feel that there was a problem with this. I decided to strengthen my ties with Judaism and be more connected with Jewish life.” After some time, he felt it no longer suited him to live in his uncle’s house and he decided to rent a small place for himself in the Jewish neighborhood in nearby Fairfax. “When I checked out the room I saw a picture of the Rebbe on the wall. I asked the landlady why it was hanging there and she
BAR MITZVA AT AGE 70
After becoming a baal t’shuva, Tzvi discovered that his oldest uncle, his mother’s brother, had never put on t’fillin. The grandfather had come from Munkatch, but had broken his ties with Judaism after the Holocaust, and the family that was raised on the kibbutz knew almost nothing about Judaism. Tzvi decided to make a bar mitzva for his 70 year old uncle and invited him to the Kosel where he put t’fillin on with him for the first time. He gave him a gift of t’fillin that had belonged to his father.
saw a ship on the sea with a man on board who had a white beard and a shining face. He made encouraging motions with his hands. It was an awesome vision and when I woke up it was hard for me to calm down. I lay in bed without being able to sleep and in the morning, I noticed a picture of the Rebbe hanging in the living room of the Kaplan home. I immediately connected the man in my dream with the Rebbe. I told R’ Kaplan my dream and wondered how I had seen the Rebbe in a dream when I had never gazed upon his picture before. “Thoughts about the Rebbe, who sends his Chassidim to far flung places in the world, began to disturb me. Why did the Rebbe do this? What motivated his Chassidim to care about every Jew like me, who finds himself in the middle of Baltimore, spending Shabbos with strangers? And
why did his face shine?”
CHABAD HOuSE AT THE CROSSROADS
Tzvi returned to Los Angeles with nagging thoughts. The trip from the airport to his uncle’s house took a few hours in the course of which he began to think about eating kosher. He began to feel uncomfortable with being indiscriminate about what he put into his mouth. When he arrived in Malibu, his aunt was waiting for him in her car. When they made a stop to do some shopping, he shared his thoughts with her. Without much ado, his aunt pointed out a sign on the upper floor of the building across the way which said: Chabad House – Malibu. Tzvi was astounded by this. He couldn’t believe the serendipity of discussing his desire to renounce treif food
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said that the previous tenant had left it. Once again, I felt that the Rebbe was watching and guiding me and that wherever I went, he was with me. “At this time, I went through a very deep spiritual journey in terms of my longing for spirituality and the truth. I realized that everything I had thought or believed until that point was based on the insights of human minds that were based on some rational system or another; but they were not connected to a higher truth. I suddenly felt that something true was speaking to me. Far from home I was meeting people who had faith, and for the first time could listen to them without preconceived ideas or a negative attitude.”
Tzvi felt the pull of Judaism and asked G-d to give him a sign so he could be assured he was on the right path. “One day, I went to an area where many Israelis live so I could buy kosher food. I wasn’t keeping kosher yet, but I tried to buy kosher food from time to time. I met an Israeli in a store and I asked him about Israeli food. In response, he told me he was on his way to a party of Israelis and he suggested that I join him. I was happy to do so.” When Tzvi walked in to the party, he was surprised to see a hall full of Israelis, many of whom wore a kippa, and there was Jewish music playing in the background. Some Chabad Chassidim welcomed him and they said it was Chai Elul. He had come to the Chabad house for Israelis in Los Angeles, which is directed by Rabbi Amitai Yemini. “I couldn’t get over it. Once again, I had inadvertently ended
up at a Chabad house.” At the entrance to the hall were a number of tables around which people were sitting and writing on white sheets of paper. Tzvi was invited to write a letter to the Rebbe. He wrote briefly about what he had recently experienced and asked for a bracha. He put his letter into a volume of Igros Kodesh and was amazed to read the letter that began with the words, “Dear Mr. Zerubavel, the dream that you had is a sign and wonder and should not be treated lightly by you ...” Later on, he discovered that the letter had been written to R’ Dovid Leselbaum of Kfar Chabad for a relative of his, the poet Zerubavel. The Rebbe was writing about a dream the poet would have a few days later, which was an incredible thing. He also discovered that this is the only letter in which the Rebbe seriously addresses dreams, for in most letters on the topic, the Rebbe dismisses them. However, at that moment, without appreciating the double significance of the letter he had opened to, Tzvi was still taken aback by what he read. He found it hard to digest the precision
because I suddenly grasped the extent of all the small details of keeping mitzvos that apply throughout the day, but still I decided to be careful about mitzva observance. That Elul I was very inspired and I walked around with a strong feeling of having found the truth.”
YOM KIPPuR In 770
Tzvi ordered a ticket for Baltimore so he could spend Yom Kippur at the Chabad house there. Before that, he had heard about 770 and as one person
At a Lag b’Omer parade
“I felt I had been wronged. Why hadn’t anyone told me that there was a Judaism like this?”
of the answer that responded so specifically to what he was going through, considering that his whole process of return had begun with a mysterious dream in which he had seen the Rebbe. Tzvi felt that he had received a clear sign that there is Divine Providence, which was leading him step by step, and that there are no coincidences. “The change was difficult
described it, “It’s a place where 24 hours turn into 48 hours and every minute is precious.” He found the stories about 770 intriguing but he had no plans of going there at that point. On his flight from Los Angeles, the pilot unexpectedly announced that the plane had to land in New York. Tzvi went over to the stewardesses and asked to be allowed off the
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plane. After some back and forth, they allowed him to take his belongings and leave. There he was, in New York, looking for the red brick building he had heard about with the address of 770 Eastern Parkway. To his amazement, when he asked a black man on the subway whether he knew the place, the man said, “Sure, it’s the house of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” Tzvi arrived at 770 on Erev Yom Kippur and immediately felt at home. “I felt I had come to my natural place. I felt I had come home.” He stood during the t’fillos, crushed in the crowd, and nothing bothered him. “The crowding merely added to the elevated feeling that I had. I have no rational explanation for what I felt. Till today, I remember that feeling with nostalgia. In the middle of the davening I began to sob and I felt an outpouring of the soul and a tremendous yearning to be a part of what I was feeling. All the Chassidim crowding in the shul with a bittul, all packed together without any feeling for their individual selves, had a huge impact on me. I thought – how is it possible that I haven’t known this Judaism until now? I felt I had been wronged. Why hadn’t anyone told me that there was a Judaism like this? Religious Jews had been depicted as arrogant and I thought they did not know how to relate to people different than themselves. In 770 I felt that they all truly loved me. People spoke to me and made sure I was provided with warm hospitality. I felt that I had found where I belong. I had never seen anything like this and wanted to get better acquainted.” Tzvi stayed in 770 for Sukkos, in the course of which he got to see the joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeiva and Simchas Torah. The tremendous simcha, the dancing and excitement won him over. He joined in the simcha as though he was a Chassid like everyone else. For the first time in his life, he cried with joy and did so more than once. “As someone who came from the big world out there, I had met people who tried all sorts of ways of achieving happiness, but here there was genuine simcha without the need to chase far out experiences; just plain simcha of Chassidim who know how to dance and truly rejoice.” between faith and science and that the Rebbe teaches us how Hashem’s Torah illuminates everything within creation. “One of the things that made a great impact on me was Tanya’s discussion about ‘a tzaddik who has it bad and a rasha who has it good,’ and questions about the meaning of life. The very fact that there is a spiritual world and a spiritual reality that affects the world impressed me very much. Until then, I had thought that Judaism only deals with heaven and hell. I didn’t know it discussed the hidden, inner dimension of the world. I was astounded to discover in Chassidus the idea that the world was created out of nothing. I realized that there are spiritual worlds and a lofty spiritual reality that we cannot fully apprehend, but we can learn about it and understand how things operate and affect our lives in this world.” Today, Tzvi is working on an Internet project that will help Chabad houses around the world. As a hi-tech person who is an expert on creating data networking systems, he worked for Aish HaTorah. There, he saw that they have a cooperative network between all their branches worldwide. The network enables the sharing of data on whoever visits one of their branches so that a colleague in a different branch can pick up where the other one left off. With this new project, Tzvi plans on connecting thousands of Chabad houses. “We received many brachos from the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh for this undertaking and we hope that it will be another step in completing the only shlichus that remains to be done – kabbalas p’nei Moshiach Tzidkeinu.”
LEARnIng CHASSIDuS REVEALED A nEW WORLD
At this point, Tzvi decided his life had to change. He resolved not to return to Los Angeles and he went back to Eretz Yisroel. A few weeks after he returned, he joined a tour to the graves of tzaddikim in the Galil. They went to Tzfas and while there, he had the idea of looking up the bachurim whom he had met in 770 during Tishrei. He went to the yeshiva intending on staying a few minutes but the atmosphere drew him in. He told his friends on the tour that he would not be continuing with them, since he was staying to learn in yeshiva. He spent half a year there. “I related to the ideas in Chassidus, in Tanya. I remember farbrengens and mashpiim who made a tremendous impression on me. I was particularly taken by the idea that in Chabad, the Rebbe gives us the strength to work on our own and that we are expected to do the work. The truth of Chassidus and the demand that every Chassid be involved in avoda spoke to my heart. In Chassidus I also learned that there is no contradiction
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A seemingly routine response in Igros Kodesh leads a yeshiva student to a very successful shlichus in Italy.
Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry
or yeshiva student Mendy (not his real name), this was an ordinary letter. He read the Rebbe’s answer again, received just a few minutes earlier, and he didn’t see the need to change anything. Yet, his friend sitting near him was very excited: “Mendy, you must travel to Italy!” Mendy, a student in the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva in 770, was far less enthusiastic than his friend. The original plan was to travel to visit his family in Eretz HaKodesh and then to participate in a family simcha about two weeks later. In the answer received in Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach writes to a Chassid about his visit to Italy, and how he would surely print outreach material in Italian for the locals. Mendy saw this response as a general bracha before a journey and did not think for a moment to pass through Italy. He called his travel agent and ordered a ticket; the cheapest ticket had a stopover for an hour and a half in Amsterdam. “Quite reasonable,” he thought to
himself, as he bought the ticket. However, his friend sitting near him objected. “Mendy, the Rebbe is writing that you should travel to Italy. You can’t ignore that and simply go straight back to Eretz Yisroel!” “This is an answer like any other,” Mendy insisted. But his friend was unrelenting. “When you write a letter to the Rebbe before setting out on a journey, do you always get a reply with a bracha for a specific destination?” On the scheduled date for Mendy’s departure he was fully packed and ready to go when he noticed that he was missing something. “Oy, where’s my passport?” The most important document for his return trip was not in its proper place and he was forced to postpone his flight. Losing a passport in a foreign country is no simple matter. The procedure begins at the police station, where one is required to declare that the passport was lost or stolen. Upon receiving police authorization, he can then go to the Israeli consulate
to request a travel document to return to Eretz Yisroel. This travel document is not a passport, and the bearer of such a document not only still needs a visa to travel anywhere else in the world, but in addition the Israel Ministry of Interior sometimes issues the travel document for a period of only seven days, solely for the purpose of returning to Eretz Yisroel. In addition, this procedure involves costly service charges. And afterwards, upon returning to Eretz Yisroel, the whole process of getting a new passport and visa begins. That would mean another expense of several hundred dollars and the unbearable tension before the interview at the American Embassy to receive an entry permit to come to Beis Chayeinu.
TEn HOuRS In ITALY
All these thoughts were going through Mendy’s mind as he was placing the call to his friend, Chabad travel agent Shneur Smadar. With his usual vigor and energy, Shneur got to work.
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“Mendy,” he said, “I have a ticket for you for next week without any service charge for the postponement. But the stopover will be a bit longer – ten hours in Italy…” Italy. Mendy froze as he realized who was really behind this whole drama, and at that moment he made his decision without a moment’s hesitation: “Go ahead.” He now had a week to get organized. He was already starting to plan his next steps as he crossed the wide boulevard between the famed dormitory at 749 Eastern Parkway and Beis Chayeinu. He would head straight to the 71st Precinct police station on Empire Boulevard to report his lost passport, and the next day, he would go to the Israeli consulate in Manhattan to sign the necessary papers for a travel document. As he crossed the street, he started walking towards the offices of chabad.info, located a few houses away from 770. He worked there during his free time, helping to make the website a continued success. He figured he would make a quick stop there before continuing on to the police station. As he sat down in front of the computer and casually pulled open his desk drawer to get something, he was astounded to see…the missing passport. He had no idea how or when the passport ended up in his office. Yet, he was positively stunned by the incredible Divine Providence in finding the passport just half an hour after arranging his travel plans through Italy. He now felt an absolute obligation to fulfill the second part of the assigned mission – printing Jewish educational literature in Italian. His friend who had previously been on shlichus in Italy came to
assist him. When they arrived at the airport, they discovered that Mendy wasn’t the only Lubavitcher on the flight. In the long and twisting line to the check-in counter, there stood a young bachur whose eyes lit up when he saw Mendy. “Mendy, you speak English, don’t you?” he asked. Mendy nodded his head hesitantly, unaware that he was about to embark on one of the most amazing adventures he had ever experienced in his young life.
THE LOST COuSIn
“Before leaving for 770,” said the young Tamim (we’ll call him Zalman), “a baal t’shuva yeshiva bachur (we’ll call him Tomer) came up to me with a fascinating
story and a request. “Tomer had an aunt who had spent some time in Europe in her youth, and she became acquainted with an Italian Gentile man. A relationship developed between them, and they got married. While Tomer’s family was neither ultra-Orthodox nor outwardly religious, they were very traditional and loyal to the values of Judaism. When they heard that Tomer’s aunt was in an advanced state of pregnancy, several family members traveled to Italy to meet with her. It isn’t clear what steps they took or what they gave her to drink, but at the end of the visit, the totally mixed-up girl was placed on a flight with an airline ticket arranged in advance. “After a few weeks in Eretz
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Yisroel, Tomer’s aunt gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and on the eighth day, the infant was brought into the covenant of Avraham Avinu to the great joy of the entire family. Shortly after the bris, the new mother took her newborn son and ran from the family home, heading straight for the airport. She returned to Italy with the baby and decided to raise him there. Furious with the family, she was determined to cut her child off completely from Judaism – no Jewish education, no connection to the faith of his forefathers. “This Jewish child had now grown up to be a man, as he continued to lead his life ch”v as an Italian Gentile. In the meantime, Divine Providence had brought his cousin Tomer
to the path of t’shuva, and he had become a full-fledged Chabad Chassid. But Divine Providence wanted more than that, and Tomer, studying in 770, remembered his cousin living in Italy. “Tomer started looking for a bachur who came for Tishrei and was going back to Eretz Yisroel via Italy. The problem was that it was a bit too late, as most of the T’mimim who came for Tishrei had already returned to their yeshivos in Eretz HaKodesh. Among those still in Crown Heights, very few seemed to be going back through the boot of Europe. The only one he found was me,” said Shneur as he concluded his strange story. “Tomer approached me and managed to get me all excited about the idea of a Jewish boy who grew up without any Jewish background. He presented me with a mezuzah which he had especially bought and asked me to give it to his cousin. He then handed me a slip of paper with a telephone number and disappeared. I was thrilled about this special mitzva in which I was privileged to take part, never considering the fact that I had no way to connect with this person who knew not a word of Hebrew. It was only here at the airport when the light suddenly flashed on for me as I saw you.”
WHY DOn’T THEY EXPLAIn THIngS TO ME?
Immediately after the plane landed in Rome, they got straight to work. Calling the number they had been given before their flight, they spoke with Tomer’s cousin. He was most pleased that his cousin overseas had sent his friends to see him, and he agreed to meet with them in the city center. Accompanying him
to the get-together was a nonJewish Italian woman with whom he was living. The meeting and conversation were most pleasant. After a few minutes, while the Gentile woman went to get a cup of coffee at the vigorous encouragement of the T’mimim, they got right to the main point of discussion. “Would you like to put on t’fillin?” the bachurim asked him. “Absolutely not!” he said angrily. “I don’t do these things of yours!” As the two stood in surprise, he proceeded to attack them. “You’re Jews! You’re always acting with coercion and violence! You snatched me in order to give me a circumcision. Every conversation I have with someone from the family can be summed up with ‘Do this and do that. Put on t’fillin, learn Torah, etc.’ Why should I do all these things? Has one of you ever tried once to explain it to me? Has anyone ever tried to give me something to read so I could understand what this religion is anyway?” One can just imagine the shock on his face when Mendy pulled out an informational Torah brochure in Italian from his suitcase. “You know what?” he said, as he rolled up his sleeve, “Let’s give it a try.” He then graciously took the mezuzah gift sent by his cousin Tomer, promising that he would put it up by the front door of his house. This is yet another neverending story of a reawakened Jewish spark, a Jewish soul hidden under the depths of spiritual impurity, saved by the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach. And who knows? Perhaps this was in the merit of the self-sacrifice of his mother’s family that he should enter into the covenant of Avraham Avinu.
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THE FIVE BOOKS AND FIVE MODES OF SPEECH
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
This week’s “twin” parsha discusses, in vivid detail, the laws concerning the unusual disease called tzaraas. This disease can manifest itself on one’s body with skin lesions or discoloration of one’s garment or even of one’s house. The Torah discusses at length how this person, garment or house is to be treated and purified. According to the Talmudic Sages these diseases occurred as a result of the sin of lashon ha’ra, speaking ill of others. In this twin parsha, the Torah employs the expression “This is the law (Torah)” in relation to tzaraas five times. This has prompted the Midrash to state: “Whoever speaks lashon ha’ra is tantamount to violating the five books of the Torah.” Commentators point out that there are allusions to lashon ha’ra in each of the Five Books of Moses, which explains why a violation of this law is considered to be the equivalent of violating each of these five books. In Genesis we read of Adam pointing the accusing finger of guilt at his wife, saying that she had given him to eat of the forbidden fruit. One may add also the story of Joseph who would offer negative reports of his brothers to his father Jacob.
In Exodus we read of how Dasan and Aviram—the two Jews—reported Moses’ killing of the Egyptian taskmaster to Pharaoh. In Leviticus we have, as stated, almost two entire sections devoted to the subject of tzaraas which was a punishment for lashon ha’ra. In addition, the Torah commands us in this book not to be talebearers, a form of lashon ha’ra. In Numbers, we have the story of Miriam, Moses’ sister, who mildly slandered her brother Moses. We also have the story of the spies who slandered the Land of Israel when they returned from their mission of scouting the land. And in the book of Deuteronomy we read of the command to be careful in observing the laws of tzaraas, which, as noted, was a result of lashon ha’ra. What is the significance of these five books containing each an allusion to lashon ha’ra? And what difference does it make if these references were contained in one book or in five? Upon reflection, we must conclude that lashon ha’ra is not just given an “honorable” (or, more precisely, a dishonorable) mention in each of the five books. There is an organic connection between the central theme of
each of these books and lashon ha’ra.
THE FIVE PERIODS OF HISTORY
The Book of B’Reishis/ Genesis, as its name suggests, is about the origins of the world and of the Jewish people. It is about the seeds that G-d planted in the world at large and then in the Land of Israel in particular. When Adam sinned, he might have been forgiven if he had accepted full responsibility. Instead he put the blame on Eve. Adam could not be the father of the Jewish nation whose role it would be to make the world a “dwelling place for G-d.” Indeed, Adam was even expelled from the Garden of Eden because he could no longer tend to it. In the end, he did not even merit to be the father of humanity. All of his descendants, except Noach and his immediate family, perished. G-d, as it were, “had” to start all over. The first rule of leadership is to assume responsibility for your actions. In a somewhat different vein, Joseph’s negative reporting caused a rift between him and his brothers that resulted in his sale and ultimately the Egyptian bondage. It undermined the genesis of the Jewish people. The Book of Shmos/Exodus is about liberation. It is also about
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the Jewish people becoming a unique nation when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. That experience equipped them with the knowledge and the spiritual energy to fulfill their mission to transform the world into G-d’s home. But this process was in peril when Moses heard the two rebels Dasan and Aviram slander him and ultimately inform on him to Pharaoh. Moses was concerned, Rashi tells us, that this vice could prove to be a setback for their liberation. A people that turns against its own cannot survive as a people. G-d’s “experiment” with the nascent Jewish nation was in danger of being aborted; Moses was apprehensive. The third book of the Torah, VaYikra/Leviticus, is about the unique role a Kohen plays in the service of the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. It is a book about holy places, people and offerings. The Hebrew name VaYikra, which means “And He called,” refers to the special endearing way G-d communicates with Moses, and by extension, to all of Israel. Nothing can distance one from holiness and from this endearing relationship with G-d more than lashon ha’ra. Thus, the person afflicted with this disease must be exiled outside of walled, i.e., holy cities in Israel. Holiness cannot tolerate the person who searches for the negative in others and exposes it. The very word metzora, which is used by the Torah to describe the person afflicted with tzaraas (incorrectly translated as leprosy), connotes, “one who discovers negativity” or/and “one who exposes negativity.” This obviously does not apply to one who exposes another’s flaws in order to help them deal with it or to protect unsuspecting people from being
This attitude is what undermines Jewish continuity because Jewish people can only thrive when they have a cohesive existence under the guidance of competent leaders. To slander the leader threatens to unravel the chords that bind us together as a people and threatens our very existence.
harmed. The fourth book of Numbers is about the Jewish nation’s traversing the desert (hence the Hebrew name for the book “BaMidbar”) under the leadership of Moses. This sojourning in the desert was a portent of the journey of the Jewish nation through all of history on the way to the Promised Land of the era of Redemption. Lashon ha’ra often manifests as people criticizing their leaders. Miriam in a subtle and unintentional way, and the spies in a more crass, vulgar and rebellious fashion, directed their barbs against Moses and indeed against G-d. This attitude is what undermines Jewish continuity because Jewish people can only thrive when they have a cohesive existence under the guidance of competent leaders. To slander the leader threatens to unravel the chords that bind us together as a people and threatens our existence amongst what is Biblically called, “the desert of nations.” In addition, the name Numbers is a reflection of the census taken by Moses. It was his way of regimenting the Jews into a cohesive group to ensure survival and an efficient march through the real and virtual desert. Lashon ha’ra against the leader and the destination, which is to enter into the Land of Israel, renders the census an exercise in futility. And finally, the Book of Deuteronomy is a book in which Moses restates the Torah. It is known in Hebrew as the book of D’varim, which means words. It is the ultimate book of communication. Moses communicates the Torah to the Jewish people in a restated version of it. This was so that the teachings of the Torah would be relevant, accessible, meaningful and palatable to the Jewish nation that was about to embark on the final leg of its journey— entering into the Promised Land. The book of Deuteronomy is also about the final goal and destination of the Jewish people which is to leave exile and return to the Promised Land with Moshiach. The restatement of the Torah by Moses can also be viewed as a sample of the new dimensions of Torah that will be revealed in the Messianic Age by Moshiach. Towards this end it is crucial that one does not misuse the gift of speech that can pour cold water on our hopes and aspirations. Improper speech can sow doubts and cool off our enthusiasm for Moshiach and Redemption and, G-d forbid, complicate the onset of the Messianic Age and the receiving of the new dimensions of Torah. In short, seeing the negative in others, taints our Genesis/
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humanity; Exodus/status as a nation; Leviticus/holiness; Numbers/journey through exile and Deuteronomy/final transition into Redemption. Redemption of a united people. Moshiach is about building the third Beis HaMikdash and thereby revealing the hidden dimensions of holiness of the world at large and of the Jewish people in particular. The belief in and hope for Moshiach is what makes our sojourn through the desert of nations a shorter and more manageable trip. Moshiach, who, as our Sages tell us, embodies Moses’ soul, is also the ultimate communicator of Torah’s essence, making even its most esoteric teachings accessible and understandable. All of these qualities that parallel the Five Books of Moses can be undermined and tainted when our speech and thoughts focus on the negativity of others. Conversely, positive speech has the capacity to: reveal the Garden of Eden and make the entire world a Garden of Eden; liberate and sanctify the Jewish people; enable them to travel smoothly and quickly through the last moments of exile and become receptive to Moshiach’s teachings.
FIVE In OnE
In truth, all five elements are inherent in Moshiach and Redemption. In that age, G-d’s plan will become a reality: the entire world will become a Garden of Eden, a reality that eluded Adam. Moshiach is obviously all about
Continued from page 35 things, and how it leads to worse and worse topics. This is the Lashon Hara – bad talk that can affect even a person who has perfected his inner self. “Have you ever sat around with friends talking about nothing important, and eventually discovered yourself saying something that you never
should have said? This is the type of Lashon Hara that brought Tzaraas. Sure you didn’t mean any harm, it’s superficial, but then Tzaraas too is only skin deep. Yet it indicates a deficiency hidden deep inside. The Tzaraas is a warning to the good, well meaning person to stay away from chatter that may lead to harm.” Ms. Stern paused before
concluding: “I would tend to think that this would apply to conversation by electronic means, as well. Make sure that whatever you say or send will not lead to harm.” The class was over, but the lesson would remain with them forever. The above lesson is based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 22 p. 65-69.
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32 � • 5 Iyar 5772
E s t h e r ’s P a r t y G r i l l
A STORY FROM ZEIDE: THE JEW VERSUS THE BEAR
zeide did not say whether the bear never got up again or just lost consciousness, but now all the brawny shkotzim fled in every direction. why? Because yisroel Koshitzker went over to the large boulders. the shkotzim thought he was going to pay them back but good, but yisroel merely grabbed the rocks and hurled them one by one in order to vent his agitated spirit. It was, after all, a large and angry bear…
By Rabbi Yehoshua Dubrawski a”h
OnE AgAInST A HunDRED
As I described in previous chapters, my grandfather – R’ Mendel Dubrawski z”l, my father’s father – learned deep into the night with his usual niggun. This gave me unimaginable pleasure. The stories that he told in the evenings at the table enthralled young and old alike. He apparently was unaware of his power of speech, his command of the language and the beauty of his expression. I swallowed up his descriptions of Jewish heroes with delight. I’d like to share at least one episode that Zeide told, about a Jewish hero in the area. He was called Yisroel Koshitzker. Zeide did not personally know him, but he had met an older man who, in his youth, had wrestled with Yisroel Koshitzker (Zeide did not remember his name). This older man was no slouch himself. The proof? It happened
one Motzaei Yom Kippur in the shul where this man davened. At the conclusion of the holy day, the Jews were in an elevated mood and a refined state of being, and they happily hurried home to break their fast. As the crowd streamed out of the partially darkened hallway to the only exit of the shul, someone shouted, “Fire!” Of course pandemonium ensued and everyone began running to the one door. It was a tremendously dangerous situation in which people could have been trampled, G-d forbid. The shouting of the rav, telling people to calm down because there was no fire, was of no avail. It had been an irresponsible joke of a fool or the outburst of a mentally ill person. But people immediately realized that not a single person was leaving the shul. People screamed but it did not help. Nobody left the shul.
After some time, when they saw that it had been a false alarm, they began leaving the shul in an orderly manner. Why hadn’t a single Jew left earlier and how had the danger been averted? They finally found out that it was the smart idea of that man. He was no youngster at the time, but he was as tall and powerful as a rock. He quickly apprehended the great danger of hysterical people pushing towards one exit and went right over to the door. With one hand he held the lintel and with his powerful body he blocked the door and nobody could budge him. They pushed him from all sides but he would not move until things quieted down. In the end, they praised him and were amazed by his heroism. It was this man, simple and straight, who smilingly said that he had once wrestled with Yisroel Koshitzker in his youth.
PRIVATE COLLECTIOn AgEnCY
Yisroel Koshitzker was also simple and straight. He earned money thanks to his strength. He did not make a fortune though. In those days they knew nothing about prize fighting and selling tickets in advance. For the most part, he worked as a watchman who could take the place of
Issue 831 • �
several ordinary watchmen. One time, a wealthy Jewish businessman poured out his heart to him. What was the problem? The local squire had borrowed a large sum of money from him and he did not want to repay the loan. Trying to take the squire to court was a waste of time. He jokingly asked Yisroel Koshitzker whether he could see to it that the squire paid him what he owed. He was quite surprised when Yisroel Koshitzker said he was willing to do it. The merchant promised to give him a nice percentage of the money. Yisroel handle a healthy, ravenous bear. If you can face off against my bear, you will immediately receive the money that is owed plus some extra.” Once again, the squire was taken aback, perhaps even more than before, when Yisroel responded in the same measured tones that yes, he was willing. The squire was overjoyed. He would make a big show out of it and would invite friends and fellow squires. Let them come and see how the bear finished off the Zhid. Hordes of people gathered at the appointed time, farmers, guests, officials and squires. They sat with the honorable squire and his family on upholstered chairs. The time had come, and the bear was brought in an iron cage and placed in the center of the fenced-in area. Yisroel Koshitzker was already standing there and waiting. They opened the cage and the bear emerged, shaking his head this way and that. Then he turned to Yisroel and held out his paw as though he wanted to play. Yisroel firmly struck the outstretched paw and the bear withdrew it. After some time, the bear tried again, more irately, to extend its paw to Yisroel. Yisroel once again gave him a mighty blow with his fist. The bear withdrew its paw again and angrily rose up and threw himself at the man facing him. Yisroel jumped forward and butted the bear with a powerful head-butt. With great speed, he butted the bear’s head a second and third time, and the bear collapsed to the ground. Zeide did not say whether the bear never got up again or just lost consciousness, but now all the brawny shkotzim fled in all directions. Why? Because Yisroel Koshitzker went over to the large boulders. The shkotzim thought he was going to pay them back but good, but Yisroel merely grabbed the rocks and hurled them one by one in order to vent his agitated spirit. It was, after all, a large and angry bear… The squire soon ran over with a bundle of bills.
“If you are so strong that you are unafraid of my powerful henchmen, perhaps you can handle a healthy, ravenous bear. If you can face off against my bear, you will immediately receive the money that is owed plus some extra.”
went to the squire and told him he had come to collect the money owed to that Jew. The squire was shocked by his nerve. With a smirk, he ordered him to scram. “I will tell my servants to break your bones and throw you to the dogs!” Yisroel calmly replied that he wasn’t afraid of his shkotzim. Yisroel’s cool demeanor made a strong impression on the squire and perhaps he was reminded of a famous Jewish hero. He said, “If you are so strong that you are unafraid of my powerful henchmen, perhaps you can
THE HINT THAT WAS UNDERSTOOD
The squire arranged the event. He designated a field not far from his castle and fenced it in with gates and boulders. He also secured a band of hefty paruvkas (powerful gentile workers) who would have the job of ushering in the starving, angry bear. He informed Yisroel Koshitzker when the battle between the bear and himself would take place. He assumed the bear would trample the Jew within two minutes.
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Radio Moshiach & Redemption
"The quickest way to reveal Moshiach is by learning the Torah sources about Moshiach & redemption" t"ab,wv grumnu ghrz, p"a 1620-1640 AM around Crown Heights & Boro Park & 1710 AM in parts of Brooklyn 24/6 worldwide live broadcast: www.RadioMoshiach.org
By M.E. Gordon
No one was ever bored in Ms. Stern’s Parsha class. She never failed to find ingenious ways of presenting the lessons, which made them unforgettable. This morning was a perfect example. When the eighth graders came to their classroom, they discovered a sign on the door: Tzaraas Clinic – Cohen Stern, licensed practitioner, specializing in diagnosis and treatment of underlying causes of Biblical Tzaraas. As they entered, the girls almost didn’t recognize their classroom. It had been transformed into a doctor’s waiting room. There were illustrated charts on the walls depicting all of the different types of nega’im and the Torah’s instruction for each case. Ms. Stern, wearing a doctor’s white coat, and holding a clipboard, welcomed her students and gave instructions. “Today you are all Kohanim, training to recognize possible Tzaraas, and finding out how to declare it Tamay or Tahor. As Kohanim, who are rooted in chesed, and responsible for the spiritual welfare of the people, your training will include how to rectify the underlying deficiency that causes the symptoms of Tzaraas.” Ms. Stern paused to make sure that all of the girls were ready to hear what they needed to do. “There are task sheets on each chair. Please take one of each, and fill in the missing information, using the charts on the wall for reference. When you
finish, you will put your papers into your schoolbags. At home, I would like you to take a Chumash and find the p’sukim that discuss each type of nega and mark them down on your paper on the appropriate lines.” After the girls finished their task, Ms. Stern called for their attention. “Now that you know about the different categories of Tzaraas, we are going to talk about who it affects and why.” Using the whiteboard to write the key words, she asked her students: “Who would have been
more likely to get Tzaraas – a Tzaddik or a Rasha? All those who say Tzaddik raise your hands.” Two hands went up. “Who says that a Tzaraas patient is more likely to be a Rasha?” The majority of the students raised their hands. Ms. Stern called on one of the girls who had raised her hand for “Tzaddik.” “So, Chavie, why do you say it’s the Tzaddik who is more likely to get Tzaraas?” “I don’t really know, but I saw Malky’s hand up, and she usually has the right answer.”
Her classmates giggled. “Malky, how about you? Why did you choose Tzaddik?” “Morah, I just figured that the less likely answer must be the right one...” Everyone giggled again. Ms. Stern gave a mock sigh, “Oh dear, you both happen to have chosen the correct answer, that the good person is more likely to get Tzaraas, but we still have to find out why this is so. “The Rambam tells us that Tzaraas only existed in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, when the Yidden were on a higher level. The Alter Rebbe explains that this is because only someone on a very high level, a Tzaddik who has purified his inner self, can get Tzaraas. Just as Tzaraas only affects the skin, the outside surface of the person, the deed that causes it is also superficial.” At this point Rina raised her hand, and Ms. Stern gave her permission to speak. “But Morah, doesn’t it say that Tzaraas is a punishment for Lashon Hara? Lashon Hara is compared to the worst sins. How can you say that Lashon Hara is a superficial sin?” “Excellent question, Rina. The Rebbe explains this very point in a sicha. As a prime example of the Lashon Hara that causes tzaraas, the Rambam brings the incident with Miriam. She did not have bad intentions when she spoke about her brother Moshe’s personal business. Moshe himself was not upset by her words. Then the Rambam goes on to describe what happens when people waste time, talking about meaningless Continued on page 32
Issue 831 • �
THE REBBE ON ‘PEACE NOW’
Translated by Rabbi Binyamin Schlanger
gIVIng THE LAnD AWAY
The [Torah] tells the story of the spies from which we learn a real message for our times. By way of introduction: The story of the spies took place whilst the Jewish People were not in Israel but in the desert and were not short of anything. They ate manna, a food without any waste, they drank water from the well of Miriam and benefited from the Clouds of Glory which destroyed the snakes and scorpions, straightened their way forward and un-soiled their clothes. When they stood on the threshold of entering and conquering the Land they sent out spies to investigate. Upon their return the spies recommended that it is better to remain where they are with all the benefits and not to endanger themselves by entering the Land, because, “the nation there are powerful,” and “the land devours its inhabitants.” The intention of the spies was to prevent the people from being endangered. In reality, however, the very opposite took place. It was the
spies who endangered the Jewish People! The message for our times is simple. In those times the Jewish people were still in the desert where they had all the benefits; so the spies argued to remain there. In contrast, today, G-d has handed to the Jewish People the Land of Israel [not, however, ‘independent’ since never has there been such dependence on the gentiles as now. Yet, in a spiritual sense the Jewish People are the masters [with some control in material matters]. Now there arrive some Jews who scream “peace now!” They are joined by the communists and Arabs who demand that Israel must hand over portions of the Land of Israel from the sovereignty of Israel. They do not say “be passive,” as the spies argued to remain in the desert, but [instead] they argue to actually give away the sovereignty of the land of Israel! The argument of “Peace Now” – as is the argument of the communists and Arabs – is based exactly on the thinking of
the spies in their time, i.e., the nation inhabiting the land is too powerful for us to overwhelm. Do not conquer and put down roots in the land of Israel! Since there dwell in Jerusalem 60,000 Arabs [in 1980] they are far more powerful than the Jewish people living there, quoting the spies – “they are stronger than us,” therefore, Jews must not be allowed to live in the Old City [of Jerusalem]. If Jewish people already live there, they should be evicted by all means available. The Old City must be given away, including the Temple Mount and the spot of the holy of Holies – to the Arabs! They raise the same argument about Hebron. Since there live there 50,000 Arabs , they are stronger than the Jews who live there. And they raise further arguments in favor of the Arabs – that they are descendants of Abraham the patriarch who is buried in the Cave of Machpela in Hebron. Therefore, we must not allow Jews to live there, and those that are there already must be thrown out! They argue further that any lands that the
36 � • 5 Iyar 5772
Arabs demand must be handed over to them, since they are more powerful than us! The spies argued: “All the peoples who we saw there are giants who fell from the skies” – one is a giant murderer, the second is a giant in armed robbery, the third is a giant thief, the fourth a great diplomat, one knows many languages, and more. And on top of all these arguments they announce ‘Peace Now!’ In addition to all their arguments they offer peace, and the peace will be NOW – peace unto Israel! And more! They argue that giving away the lands to the Arabs is human justice! Thereby danger to the Jewish People will be averted since it is a land which devours its inhabitants. If we annoy the Arabs and not give in to their demands, they will eat us alive. And if we do give in to them,
These people bring down terrible danger onto Jews and onto the Land. These people are the ‘demolishers and destroyers’ from amongst the Jewish people and of the land of Israel. Yet they shout “peace now.” There is nothing greater than peace, but G-d says, “The wicked have no peace [to offer]!”
giving the land away, there will be peace NOW! Who argues this? Jews and Jewish communists. These people bring down terrible danger onto Jews and onto the Land. These people are the ‘demolishers and destroyers’ from amongst the Jewish people and of the land of Israel. Yet they shout “peace now.” There is nothing greater than peace, but G-d says [Isaiah 39:17], “The wicked have no peace [to offer]!” [From the farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Shlach, 1980.] Dear reader, please take a few moments to copy, paste, and email this sicha to 10 friends, asking your friends in turn to email the same to 10 further friends, ad infinitum. Thereby you will be taking a strong and active part in the Rebbe’s battle to protect the lives of millions of Jewish people whose lives are so endangered. This is, as the Rambam writes, Milchemes Hashem, and we will, Be”H, see it through to the final Nitzachon! Please go to http:// beismoshiachmagazine.org/truepeace/ where you will find the current sicha.”
Issue 831 • �
STORIES FROM THE ENDS OF THE WORLD
Stories of miracles and Divine Providence that were told by visitors to Chabad houses in the Far East
By Eliyah Sebbag
38 � • 5 Iyar 5772
MILITARY EXEMPTIOn In A CHEESE SHOP
Meir Naparstek relates: A few weeks ago, we heard an interesting story. One of the people eating with us on Shabbos was a man of nearly seventy. This is the story he told: About fifty years ago, I was attending an exclusive university in Paris. I loved it and was completely immersed in my studies. At the time, my goal was to become a doctor. Then one day, a draft notice came in the mail. I was 23. The law at the time was that every citizen of eligible age was drafted, regardless of their being a student. Of course, my medical studies were in jeopardy, because if I interrupted them for a long time I could permanently lose my standing. Since I had done three years already, this posed a big problem for me. My mother commiserated with me, but we couldn’t do anything about the situation. A Lubavitcher Chassid lived near us. When he heard about my plight from my mother, he suggested that she ask the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a bracha. My mother is an innocent sort of person who doesn’t ask many questions. She brokenheartedly sat down to write a letter to the Rebbe. The Rebbe’s answer came as an utter shock. It said: “Regarding the offer of a job in a cheese shop, accept it and with joy and gladness of heart.” My mother naturally could not understand the connection between a job in a cheese shop and my problem with the French army. She consulted with the Chassid who had referred her to the Rebbe. He told her that the Rebbe had meant it literally, that she should take a job in a cheese
shop. My mother took the Rebbe’s answer seriously, and visited many shops and cafes in search of a job. At one of these cafes, the owner said that he needed another employee and was happy to hire her. Her job was to slice cheese for customers. Among the many customers who frequented the shop was an old, poor man. Every day he would visit the shop and talk to my mother. My mother would always give him a piece of cheese at her expense. This went on every day for a period of time.
left without a word. On the third day, he couldn’t restrain himself and he said, “Perhaps something happened that I can help you with?” My mother told him it was a matter that had nothing to do with him and he surely could not help. “Tell me anyway,” he pleaded. My mother gave in and told him about my situation. When she finished, he smiled and asked her, “Do you know who I am?” “No,” she said. “I don’t know you personally.” “For half a year you gave me
The shluchim and their children with mekuravim at the Chabad house
When my draft date arrived, my mother was in a panic. She was so distraught that she did not pay attention to the people around her. The old man who had been used to her personal attention, suddenly encountered a glowering, tense woman. He left that day without his daily piece of cheese. The next day, the same thing happened and he
a piece of cheese and you don’t know who I am? I am the father of the chief of staff of the French army! Stop worrying. One conversation with my son will fix everything.” And that’s what happened. Within a short time I was released from the army. I did well in my studies and became a doctor. We were all amazed by the Rebbe’s vision. We also
Issue 831 • �
got to see the Rebbe’s spiritual revolution in France, thanks to his tireless shluchim. Till this day, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. of coffee. Since he was a guitar teacher, a guitar was brought from somewhere and he began playing. At the end of the day, when we suggested that he put on t’fillin, he refused. After supper and a Chassidic story, the shliach and I escorted him out. For some reason unknown to us, we kept walking with him. It was dark outside, rainy, and the roads were muddy. After we climbed the mountain for half an hour, we arrived at his home. When we walked in, I recoiled when I saw that the walls were covered with crosses and on the shelves were dozens of statues and impure images. There were also incense candles for idol worship. All this belonged to the owner from whom he had rented the place, although he definitely chose to leave them where they were. In the meantime, the fellow went off to the kitchen to prepare chai. In the room was a large fireplace, and since it was cold outside, we had an excuse to light the oven. We pushed logs inside and as soon as the oven began to burn, we removed all the abominable items from the walls and shelves and tossed them into the fire. The items that were too large, we threw into the wadi. He was still busy preparing chai, and by the time he finished, there was nothing left of the klipos. When he came into the living room, he immediately noticed the bare walls and shelves. We calmed him down by saying he shouldn’t worry, we would pay the landlord for all the damages. He was already under the “influence” somewhat, and so he wasn’t too worried about it. We sat around the table and he urged us to drink with him. Since it contained milk, we didn’t touch it. When he wasn’t looking, we poured it into the fireplace. We continued farbrenging with him and then said Shma with him before we left. We thanked him for his hospitality and asked him to visit the Chabad house again. He promised to come early in the morning to wake us up. We left for the Chabad house, feeling our way in the dark and the mud and somehow made it. We were filthy and had to take showers. The next morning, as promised, he showed up. At 8:30 he knocked at the window. The first thing he said was, “I came to be a Jew for a day.” He immersed with us. The water was freezing and it was quite an effort to immerse. Then he went to daven. He insisted on davening every word from the morning brachos till the end of Shacharis. After Shacharis, he sat down to learn and to eat breakfast. He davened Mincha, and then Maariv, with great kavana. Throughout the day, he sat with us in the Chabad house. We discussed Jewish topics and he asked many questions. We all felt that he had had a personal exodus from that which had held him captive. We hope he finds his way to Judaism and as the Rebbe said, “t’shuva was already done.” May we immediately see the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M.
Ariel Nagar relates: In our shlichus in Vata Canal, India, we were mekarev someone in an unusual way. Unfortunately, this man was deep into klipa, but in one moment we were able to get him to drop it all. We took drastic measures, and boruch Hashem, it worked out well. One day, we heard about a guy who had taken a vow of silence. According to what we were told, he ate an extremely powerful hallucinogenic mushroom and withdrew into himself, speaking to no one. Whoever tried talking to him found himself talking to the wall. The fellow did not utter a word. He had rented a place on a mountain, where he spent most of his time. He did not go out except to buy food. One day, he decided to go out, apparently to buy the local beverage called chai. That day, the weather was nice and he was strolling about. The Israeli tourists who knew him from before were happy to see him. They convinced him to visit the Chabad house and inexplicably, he agreed. He showed up and was open to listening to everything, except that which had a whiff of Judaism. We tried every way possible, but he remained closed off. We sat with him over a cup
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