DONT FOLLOW THE MAJORITY
Rabbi Yonatan Eibashets was the chief rabbi of Prague some 300 years ago and a major spokesman for the Jewish people. This was not an easy task in those days; all of Europe was either Catholic or Protestant and as the saying goes, they worshiped a suffering Jew and tried to make as many Jews suffer as possible. Rare was the day that did not see trouble. For instance one day the Bishop of Prague stopped Rabbi Yonatan in the street and asked him a question. "Rabbi, I have just been thinking. In fact, I've been thinking of this for several days…. You Jews certainly believe what it says in the Old Testament that we must go after the majority; (Ex. 23:2) correct? Well then, why do you not comply with your own rules and follow the vast majority who follow the Gospels? Why, I would estimate that your opinion is outnumbered over a hundred to one; hundreds of millions think you are wrong to not leave your Bible and accept our belief!!"
The Rabbi knew he was in trouble; if he didn't give an answer it would be interpreted as defeat and forced conversions could result. But if he angered the Bishop by saying one wrong word against their religion it could bring a wholesale massacre. He pretended to ponder over the question as he prayed to G-d for help. Suddenly he had an idea! He took a deep breath and replied. "Your highness, action speaks louder than words. You have asked a very wise question and I will try to give a befitting answer. Please let us go to the town square." They walked together until they were standing in the middle of the open market place. Only a few people were there when the Rabbi turned to the Bishop and said quietly, "Now, your Excellency, please do as I do; look up and don't stop pointing to the sky". The Bishop did so and in a short time people, seeing these two honorable men pointing to the clouds began to gather around and look up as well. "What do you see, your highness?" One of the braver members of the crowd asked. "The arch-angel Michael" whispered the Rabbi in feigned awe, "There he is in the clouds." "The Angel Michael!!" Whispered the man in reply as he crossed his heart, squinted even harder on high and fell to his knees in trepidation. In seconds the word spread and thousands of people were crowded in the square in various poses of submission. Women were holding up their babies, old people were weeping; grown men stood transfixed, hands raised in supplication, children were bowing. All were pointing to the clouds and echoing, "The Angel Michael!! The Holy Angel Michael.
"Now" said the Rabbi to the Bishop, "let us leave them and move to the Jewish sector". The Rabbi led the way through the twisting streets into the Jewish ghetto and soon they were again standing in the middle of the much smaller Jewish marketplace. This time the Rabbi pointed heavenward until a small group of people gathered around. "What is the Honorable Rabbi pointing at? Someone asked the Rabbi politely. "The Archangel Michael" he answered. "There he is in the clouds!" In no time a crowd of Jews had gathered with heads craned upward. "What is it?" someone asked. "What are we looking at?" "Dunno" someone else answered, "The Rabbi says he sees an angel up there. Do you see anything? All I see is clouds." "Maybe he just has a stiff neck" someone whispered jokingly. "I already have one" quipped someone else. People were scratching their heads, shrugging their shoulders and squinting at the sky until finally someone got up the courage to go up to the Rabbi and ask, "Excuse me Rabbi but are we supposed to see something up there? I mean, is the Rabbi sure he sees something? Is the Rabbi feeling all right?" The Rabbi stopped looking up, apologized for the error and, motioning to the Bishop, walked away toward the nearest synagogue with the Bishop following at his heels. "Please try to understand, your highness, I'm not trying to be rude but," he turned to the Bishop as they reached the door of the Shul, "But I'll have to ask you to please hide that cross around your neck before we enter." The congregation was just about to begin the reading of the Torah. (The Torah is read publicly four times a week) and when everyone saw the Rabbi they stood in honor, although they were surprised to see him accompanied by the Bishop. The Rabbi asked if he could read publicly from the Torah. Of course, no one objected, indeed they were honored. He took his place upon the podium, the first man was called up, made the blessing, (The reading was 'Yisro', just like this week and it begins with the words 'Vayishma YISRO') the Rabbi opened the scroll and began to read loud and clear in the ancient melody: "Vayishma MISRO.." Immediately the entire crowd yelled out in unison to correct the obvious mistake. "Yisro! Not Misro…… YISRO! YISRO!" When things quieted down the Rabbi again began: "VaYishma FISRO…" And again the crowd yelled "YISRO!!, RABBI, IT'S YISRO!! NOT FISRO!!" Three people ran up to look into the Torah scroll for a spelling error and when they saw that there was none they politely and quietly asked the Rabbi if he would please let someone else read. The Rabbi stepped down, excused himself and motioned for the Bishop to follow him outside. "You see, your Excellency" he said to the Bishop, "This is why we don't follow your 'majority'. These people are for the most part simple folk and they revere me as their Rabbi and leader. Every word I say to them is holy. But when I made just one small mistake in the Torah reading or lied to them about an angel, they refused to accept it. "But as you see, your followers don't care so much. Just as they just now bowed to a non-existent angel so too they believe a person can be G-d and can change not just one letter but the entire Torah! "So how can we leave G-d's Torah which we have been reading publicly four times a week for three thousand years without one change just because we are outnumbered by humans? So that is why we can't follow your majority."
STORY OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE:
The Chassidic movement, begun by the Baal Shem Tov some three hundred years ago, preached the omnipresence of G-d, the importance of serving Him with joy and the essential holiness of every Jew. But it met with much opposition by religious Jews who called themselves 'Misnagdim' who couldn't stand such ideas. And Rabbi Yaakov Greenburg from Borough Park was from a long line of them.
But when his father-in-law from Israel had to be hospitalized in Houston Texas for heart problems, he flew there accompanied him. He was there for several weeks and because the only Kosher Jewish facility there was the Chabad House (run by Rabbi Shimon Lazarof) and the food was of the highest kosher standards he went there to eat every day. Just sitting there with other Jews was a welcome break from the hospital.
His father-in-law miraculously recovered and before returning to his home in Israel, he thanked Rabbi Lazarof profusely for the wonderful hospitality and then turned to his son in law and requested that after accompanying him to Israel and returning to the U.S.A. he should go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn and thank him personally.
But when Rabbi Greenberg returned, called the Rebbe's office to make an appointment and was told that there was a waiting list of several months for he decided to suffice with just writing a letter of thanks and leave it at that. In any case he wasn't that excited about meeting the Rebbe.
Three years later his father-in-law passed away. Yaakov and his wife took the first flight to Israel for his funeral and when they returned one week later, waiting in their mail box was a letter written and mailed by the deceased just hours before his passing.
They opened it with trembling hands. It told them how much he loved them, was proud of them and thanked them for their care and prayers but on the last line; he repeated his request that his son-in-law should personally visit and thank the Rebbe for the hospitality of three years earlier.
Rabbi Greenburg had no choice. He went to the Rebbe's headquarters early the next morning and when the Rebbe's secretaries heard the story of the dying man's letter they set a private audience with the Rebbe later that week.
When the date arrived Rabbi Greenberg went into the Rebbe's office thinking that he would be out in a minute or so; after all. the Rebbe was a very busy man. In fact, he hoped that maybe he wouldn't have to speak at all; the Rebbe's secretary insisted that he write his request on a piece of paper and hand it to the Rebbe upon entering.
But he was in for a surprise.
First of all, just entering the Rebbe's room and seeing his holy kind face was overwhelming.
Then, when he handed him his note the Rebbe immediately responded, "You wrote me three years ago and caused me great pleasure to know that the Chabad House in Huston treated you and your father-in-law so well. Thank you. The reason that I didn't reply was because I was waiting for you to come here as your father-in-law requested; especially because there is a commandment to honor your wife's father and I thought you would fulfill what he requested."
Rabbi Greenberg was speechless. But he recovered sufficiently to say. "I finally am here. My father-in-law, of blessed memory, passed away two weeks ago."
The Rebbe, without changing his tone, continued on a strange note.
"In Hebrew, the word for heart 'Lev' has the numerical value of thirty-two (L=30 B=2) which is also the number of stings on the Tzitzis (woolen strings attached to four cornered garments).
"The heart and the Tzitzit have a connection. About Tzitzit is says: 'You will see them and remember all the commandments of G-d' (Num.15:39).
"Just as the heart must, G-d forbid, never stop beating even for one second so a Jew must never allow even one moment to pass when he doesn't remember G-d. Day or night, awake or even when he's asleep. Therefore, we Chassidim have a custom to wear Tzitzis (talit katan) even at night when we go to sleep."
The Rebbe then paused, smiled broadly and said.
"Your father-in-law was in the hospital in Houston where there are truly expert doctors. But in fact, the greatest doctor of them all is found everywhere. He is G-d Almighty and not only is He the true healer that gives all the doctors the ability to heal but He can heal where and when human doctors cannot.
"For instance, even what they call 'Cardiac Arrest'; when the heart ceases to beat and no doctor can help, G-d can and will help.
"And even if you will say that this is 'raising the dead'… so what? That doesn't bother me at all. We say three times a day in our prayers that "You Raise the Dead and are bountiful to save."
The Rebbe then thanked him for coming, shook his hand, blessed him and they parted.
Rabbi Greenberg was very impressed. But what the Rebbe said about Tzitzis and heart left him confused; it was clear that the Rebbe was getting at something but he had no idea what it was.
Three years later he was in Hong Kong for business purposes. He was talking to someone in a hotel lobby when suddenly it was as though someone hit him in the chest with a sledgehammer and knocked the wind out of him. There was unbearable pain and he lost consciousness.
He heard strange beeping sounds and opened his eyes slowly to see small blinking lights, doctors looking down at him and his wife crying. He had been unconscious in intensive care in Hong Kong for two days and she had flown in from New York.
"You had a cardiac arrest. Your heart stopped totally. " The doctor said. "You didn't respond to any treatment not electric shocks or anything. It was truly a miracle it started beating again. G-d Himself must have healed you. It was literally like the dead coming back to life!"
It was almost the exact language of the Rebbe. He told his wife to call the Rebbe's office, report what happened and ask for a blessing. Within a few hours she received a reply by fax:
"I prayed for your husband at the grave of my father-in-law for a complete and speedy recovery. Certainly, your husband remembers what I told him when we spoke about the importance of wearing Tzitzit even at night."
When he explained the answer to his wife she yelled at him for not heeding the Rebbe three years ago. From that moment on he began to wear tzitzit at night and also became a Chassid.
He had a brief remission of heart pain some years later, but he realized that the previous night he had forgotten to wear his tzitzis.
Rabbi Greenberg told this story at a Chassidic gathering in Miami Beach Florida in 1981 at which point he publicly announced that he had broken the family chain of Misnagdim and had become a fervent Chassid of the Rebbe.
THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE: A BAAL SHEM TOV STORY
One beautiful summer day some 300 years ago in the Ukrainian village of Mezibuz a fancy carriage stopped in front of the old Shul (synagogue) which was the ‘headquarters of the Baal Shem Tov (Besh’t for short). The driver opened the door and a well-dressed religious Jew stepped out, entered the simple building and asked if he could have a private audience with the Holy Tzaddik the Baal Shem.
A meeting was arranged and when they were sitting face to face the rich man looked at the Besh’t and was clearly disappointed. The only reason he came was out of curiosity. He wanted to see for himself who is this Holy Man that everyone was talking about is, and, frankly, he looked like every other Jew, it was obvious to him that he had come all the way to Mezibuz for nothing.
“Well,” said the Besh’t, “I see you want to leave. Shame you came all this way for nothing. Perhaps you would like to hear a story? I have a very good story to tell you.”
“Alright" said the visitor looking at his pocket watch, "You are right I do want to leave and have a long ride ahead of me.”
“Good!” the Besh't replied “I’ll make it short.
“Once, in the city of Warsaw, Poland there were two close friends, who were both religious Jews. They had grown up together, married just months apart, bought houses next to each other, went into business together and, when their business succeeded, become multi-millionaires together. Their friendship was so strong that they were like brothers.”
He paused, looked up and asked his guest, “Are you listening?” When he nodded ‘yes’ the Besh’t continued.
“After several years they decided to open a branch in Paris with the idea that one of them would move there to manage the new endeavor while the other would remain in Warsaw. In this way they could expand their business to international proportions.
“Everything went smoothly. They traveled to Paris together, made the necessary connections, opened the business, bought merchandise and only after being sure that everything was running smoothly, they parted.
“At first, they wrote to each other twice a week, but as time went by, they corresponded less frequently until ten years later they were writing only three times a year to wish each other happy holiday.
“Then one year the partner in Warsaw ran into some bad luck, suffered some major losses, and suddenly found himself a debtor. With no other choice he used his last funds to buy a train ticket to his friend-partner in Paris with the hope of obtaining a loan.
“When he arrived at his friend’s home, weary and broken, told him of his situation and suggested the idea of a loan, his friend replied in amazement. ‘What! A loan? I should give you a loan!? Why that is ridiculous!!! I’m not giving you any loan! We are brothers!! Half of what I own is yours! Take one million dollars!!! Here!! It's yours!’
“They embraced and wept on one another’s shoulders, renewed their friendship and a week later the poor partner returned a new man with renewed hope to Warsaw, reinvested his freshly acquired funds and in a year’s time regained his wealth. Now he had both his riches and his old friend back.
"Again the cycle repeated itself. The first year they wrote twice a week the second less often until, just as before, after several years they were back to only holiday greetings.
"Are you listening?" The Besh't asked his guest and when he was sure that he was he resumed.
“The years passed until ten years later the wheel of fortune again took a bad turn, but this time for the partner in Paris. He too lost all his money in a series of unlucky business deals and with no alternative he set off to his partner in Warsaw. He wasn’t a young man anymore, and he was bit broken from the strain of his business and the journey was long and difficult. But he had no other choice; his friend was his only hope and knew he could depend on him. But he was in for a bitter surprise. When his friend in Warsaw happened to glance out the second story window of his mansion and see his partner dragging his feet down the path toward his door, a strange thought entered his mind. ‘Oh no!!! It’s him! Why did he have to come now!! I heard he's having troubles. If it's money he wants … why I’ll have to give it to him. That means I'll lose a really big deal that I’ve been working on for years!’
He paced back and forth in his warm plush room, poured himself a brandy, made a blessing, drank it down, loosened his collar, and called his servants.
“Well, you can imagine the disappointment of his poor friend when one of the servants came to the gate and informed him that the owner was away for an indefinite amount of time.
“It was already evening and he was so very tired from the trip. He sat down at the gate to rest for a few minutes and drowsed off to sleep. It must have been an unusually cold night that night, or perhaps he was not feeling well, but whatever the reason, the next morning they found him huddled up at the gate… dead.
“The poor partner’s soul went up to the heavenly court and when he was informed, after a very short trial, that he would go to heaven, he immediately asked about his partner. ‘Your partner’s selfish callousness was responsible for your death.’ Was the answer,’ his spiritual future is doomed.’ ‘If so,’ the poor man’s soul replied ‘I shall not enter heaven until he be given another chance.’
“So, after long deliberation, the heavenly court decided that the only solution was that they would wait till the other partner died. Then both partners would have to return to the world in new bodies. The stingy partner from Warsaw would be reincarnated to a rich man and the kind one from Paris would have to be reincarnated to a poor man who would collect charity from him.
Then, only after the newly-rich partner paid all his debt he owed from his previous incarnation would he be eligible for heaven.
“The soul of the departed man agreed and eventually they were both reincarnated.” The Baal Shem Tov paused, looked at his incredulous guest and continued.
“The bad partner grew up to be rich and his poor friend came every day to ask him for a handout. This went on for years until one day the rich man was in a bad mood and when the poor man knocked at his door a bit too loudly, the rich man lost his temper, opened the door, struck the poor man over the head with his cane and …. unintentionally killed him! Of course, he didn’t realize that it was the second time he’d killed the same man and that he just ruined his only chance for clearing his past!
"The rich man realized that he was in big trouble; he was guilty of murder! He looked about him desperately and seeing that no one was around, dragged the body to a side of his huge garden, dug a hole and buried him. And that’s the end of the story! Have a safe journey back home!”
The visitor did not move. He was sitting motionless … stunned and trembling as though he was about to faint.
“Are you all right?” asked the Besh’t. “Can I bring you a cup of water?” Tears were streaming down the man's face and his body was shaking severely as he covered his face and began weeping uncontrollably.
“That was me!” he sobbed, “I killed that man!!! I buried him in my garden.”
With these words he slid off the chair onto his knees and then rolled up into a ball on the floor and wept like a baby. “My G-d … My soul is destroyed!”
“No” answered the Besh’t “I didn’t tell you your story for nothing. There is always hope! Even for you. Give all your money to the poor and wander for the rest of your life helping others. If you are sincere, G-d will forgive you.”
STORY OF OVERCOMING DEPRESSION
It occurred some forty years ago when he ran the Chabad House in Holon and was doing 'Mivtza Mezuza'; namely going from house to house to explain the importance of putting a Mezuza on every door and how besides being a commandment of G-d and a blessing, also protects the home and those in it like a helmet protects a soldier.
He took young men from a local Chabad school, gave them thousands of pamphlets, told them to distribute them to every home in Holon offering to check Mezuzot for free and in a short time hundreds of responses arrived.
But one response caught his eye; it had the words 'URGENT URGENT' written on it in large letters and underlined twice.
It looked important.
He called the phone number written there, introduced himself and the voice on the other end said, "Chabad? Wow! Am I happy to hear from you!! Yes! I'm Ben Tzion S…. and it is very urgent. My wife is very ill and …. Well it says in your pamphlet that the mezuzot protect and bless so I want you to come check mine!"
That evening Rabbi Levi visited the home of Ben Tzion and heard his sad story. He was the owner of a successful factory in Tel Aviv but over a year and a half ago his wife came down with severe depression and his life had been turned upside down.
At first he thought it would just pass but it didn't. In fact it got to the point that she was unable to even get out of bed the entire day. He'd taken her to almost every psychologist and professor both conventional or alternative listed in the phone book but so far, except for losing his money, nothing worked all of them said she was too far gone.
So when he saw the pamphlet on Mezuza from the Chabad House he knew he had to give it a try.
Rabbi Levi immediately removed the Mezuza box on Ben Tzion's front door, opened it, removed the parchment and began checking to see if the writing was in order. It wasn't hard to find what was wrong. To his shock he saw an entire word; the word "Nafshechem" 'Your Soul' (Deut.11:13) almost completely rubbed out!
When he showed it to Ben Tzion he almost fainted. Could it be that this had something to do with his wife's 'soul'? He didn't ask questions. He bought a new mezuzah on the spot, Reb Levi put it on his door and took the rest of the mezuzot (one for each room) to be checked properly.
A day later he called Ben Tzion and Ben Tzion told him that his wife's state was slightly better; she even said a few words, but she still refused to get out of bed.
So Rabbi Levi paid him another visit and they called the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York for a blessing for his wife.
Two days later Rabbi Levi called Ben Tzion again but this time he didn't want to talk on the phone. "Rabbi, you have to come over!" he said excitedly.
When he got to Ben Tzion's house something had changed. Ben Tzion was smiling, the house seemed much tidier and there was the smell of food cooking.
"Let me tell you what happened" Ben Tzion said excitedly as he offered the Rabbi a seat. "Yesterday morning I went to work, like I do every day.
But when I came back, I smelled something burning! The first thought that crossed my mind was 'Oh no!! I must have left the fire burning from this morning when I scrambled some eggs! Thank G-d the house didn't burn down.' But when I ran into the kitchen I got the surprise of my life… it was my wife!! She was cooking!! She hasn't left her bed for over a year and she was standing there cooking!
"But do you know what got her out of bed?! You know what she told me! Here, I'll let her tell you herself."
Ben Tzion called his wife and she entered the room and told him what happened. It was the first time the Rabbi had seen her.
"It was the most amazing thing!" She said. "Yesterday I woke up feeling a little better but I was too miserable and afraid to get out of bed. I was just about to go back to sleep when suddenly this old man with a white beard appeared in my room!
"I never had seen this man before and don’t know how he got in the house. I was really surprised, but for some reason I wasn't scared. He wasn't scary at all. He just approached my bed and said. 'Get up! Get out of bed!' For some reason I couldn't refuse him. So I got up. But as soon as I did, he disappeared! I didn't see him leave and can't figure where he went. But in any case, since then I feel that I returned to myself! It was like I woke from a long deep sleep."
Rabbi Vilmovski took a card out of his pocket with the Rebbe's picture on it and showed it to her. "Oh!" She exclaimed. "That's him! He's the one I saw!"
Shortly thereafter they all flew to Brooklyn to the Rebbe to thank him. To this day, forty years later, they are still in touch with Rabbi Levi and the woman's depression has never returned.
STORY OF THE REBBE AND A DREAM:
When I was a student in CrownHeights, Brooklyn, I would devote my Wednesdays to the Rebbe's Mitzva campaigns. I spent the morning in Manhattan with the Mitzvah Tank and in the afternoon I would visit Jewish businessmen in their offices to encourage them to put on Tefilin.
It was the spring of 1989. On a Tuesday night, I had an incredible dream. I saw the Rebbe turning to me and telling me in Yiddish, "To have greater success in spreading Chasidic teachings you have to wear a tie."
I woke up. It was four o'clock in the morning. My first thought was, "Dreams are meaningless." I tried to go back to sleep, but I remained wide awake. Eventually the sun rose and I made my way to 770 Eastern Parkway for the morning prayers. My thoughts kept coming back to the strange dream.
The Rebbe entered the synagogue. On the way to his regular place, the Rebbe stopped and looked toward me. As he was looking towards me, I noticed that the Rebbe straightened his tie. A few moments later, after the Rebbe had already reached his place, he turned around toward the congregation. The Rebbe appeared to be looking for something, and when his eyes reached me, he again straightened his tie. Only then did he turn back toward his prayer book and the cantor started the prayers. After the conclusion of the morning services, the congregation began to sing. The Rebbe encouraged the singing and then looked in my direction as he straightened his tie a third time.
I left 770 and boarded the Mitzva Tank. As soon as we reached our destination, I got out of the Mitzvah Tank and started encouraging Jewish men to put on Tefilin. A middle-aged gentleman approached me. "Are you Jewish?" I asked him. Instead of answering my question, he asked me if I wanted to buy something from him. The man held an attache case, and he opened it up to show me a large selection of ties.
"A Jew must look nice," he told me, "and in order to look nice, you have to wear a tie." At first I told him that I wasn't interested but he was determined to sell me one, and I eventually agreed. I found a black tie to my liking. I asked him how much it cost and he told me a ridiculous price. I started to walk away but he ran after me and when I explained to him that I don't have that much money, he said that he would be willing to sell it to me for less. I took the two dollars out of my pocket that I had for the subway ride back and said, 'This is all I have. If you want to sell it to me for this amount - I'll buy it."
He agreed and then I asked him to enter the mitzva tank to put on tefillin, which he did. While in there I asked him why he was so determined to have me buy a tie, especially since he lost money on it. He told me the truth is that the night before he had a dream and a rabbi came to him telling him the next time a bochur comes along wanting him to put on tefillin, he should try to sell him a tie. I showed him pictures of the Rebbeim in the mitzva tank and he identified the Rebbe Rashab as the rabbi in his dream.
The gentleman helped me tie the tie properly. Then he left and I resumed my work of putting Tefilin on Jewish men. I was so preoccupied with what I was doing that I actually didn't make the connection between my dream, the Rebbe adjusting his tie, and the Jewish salesman's unconventional stubbornness in getting me to buy a tie.
After a few more hours with the Mitzvah Tank, I started my regular visits to the nearby office buildings. One office belonged to a young successful Israeli businessman. Each week I would be sent away with his secretary would tell me that the boss doesn't give permission for me to come in. I would leave some brochures on Judaism and move on. This time when I exited the elevator on this man’s floor of the office building he was in the hallway and noticed me. So when I asked his secretary if I could speak with her boss, to my great surprise she informed me that her boss wanted me to come into his office. I asked if he would like to put on Tefillin. At first he hesitated. Eventually he explained that he didn't know how to do it.
Naturally, I offered to help him. As he recited the Shema, tears started streaming down his cheeks. When he finished, he asked. "I've seen you for months through my camera. Today, you've never looked so sharp - and with a tie yet. What happened?"
Suddenly, everything made sense. I smiled. He said he wanted to share an amazing story that had occurred that night, one that led him to bring me into his office and agree to put on Tefilin. The man said that his father had passed away many years ago. During the past year he had been dreaming about him. His father told him that he had no rest, and if the son wanted to provide that rest, he had to put on Tefillin. Though he disregarded the dreams, they continued. Night after night, his father would come to him in a dream and ask him why he still isn't putting on Tefillin and that he needs to learn more about Judaism and get back to his roots.
The previous night, his father had asked the same question: Why aren't you putting on Tefilin? Unlike the other occasions, this time he answered that he wants to put on Tefilin with the young man who regularly comes to his office. However, he is too embarrassed because the young man does not look well-groomed, and he does not feel comfortable speaking with him.
As his father listened, another Jew, an impressive looking rabbi, suddenly entered the conversation. "If he will come tomorrow wearing a tie, will you put on Tefilin?" the rabbi asked.
"Yes, I would," the businessman said. The discussion ended, and his father and the rabbi disappeared.
As it turned out, I came that day wearing a tie. As soon as he had finished his story, I showed him a picture of the Rebbe, and I asked him if this was the rabbi he had seen in his dream. The man looked at the picture and nearly fainted. "Yes, this is the rabbi!" he whispered.
Now, it came my turn to tell him the entire chain of events that led me to buy the tie. Later, he told me that this was the first time in his life that he had ever put on Tefilin. We made a Bar Mitzvah celebration for him right then and there his office with his Jewish employees.
The amazing conclusion to this story came when the Rebbe spoke that night and afterward gave out dollars for people to give to charity. When I passed by, the Rebbe smiled, straightened his tie slightly, and said to me in Yiddish, "S'iz gel-oint (it was worth it)..."
HAVING FAITH IN THE REBBES BRACHOS:
There was a couple in crown heights who were not blessed with children for several years. The man was a car service driver. He and his wife went to the Rebbe to get a blessing for children. When the wife went by the Rebbe gave her two dollars and said” For the children that will be born”. He gave the same blessing to the husband when he went by separately.
They were thrilled and anticipated good news very soon. But weeks went by and weeks turned into months and still no children on the way.
The husband decided perhaps he should make a keli, a vessel, for the Rebbe’s bracha and so he went out and bought a baby stroller, and since the Rebbe said “for the children”, he bought a twin stroller.
Every evening he would push the carriage around the house and stop in front of the Rebbe’s picture and say “Rebbe, I did my part, now please fulfill the bracha.”
It was already after Gimmel Tamuz and the Rebbe was no longer physically accessible so the couple were in touch with Rabbi Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary, who gave them a lot of strength and told them that if the Rebbe blessed them, for sure it would happen.
Time went on. Still no children. Finally the couple decided to move to a new home. As they were packing the wife said “Maybe we don’t need to bring the stroller with us.” But her husband insisted.
However, moving to the new house did not bring news yet either.
There were many ups and downs: they remained strong in their faith but it was very difficult. They waited a total of 17 years! And finally, one day the husband was out driving his taxi and he got a call on his cell phone. It was his wife, in tears, saying she was expecting a baby! He pulled over the side of the road and broke down crying as well.
Sure enough the wife gave birth nine months later to twin boys! The Rebbe’s blessing was fulfilled fully.
THE POWER OF TRUST: A BAAL SHEM TOV STORY
Once the Baal Shem Tov told his disciples they were going to another city but he did not say why. They traveled until they reached a particular inn. They all got out of the carriage and the inn keeper was delighted to have the honor of hosting such special guests. He went about preparing them delicious food and drinks.
While he was serving them, there was a loud knock on the door. The inn keeper ignored it.
The Baal Shem Tov said to him , “Go ahead, answer the door.”
The inn keeper shook his head and said “No, that is my landlord knocking because the rent is due. He will knock three times before I have to go to pay. But anyhow I don’t have the money yet.”
Sure enough the landlord sent his servant to knock again a short time later. Again the inn keeper ignored him.
Finally the third time arrived and when he heard the knock, the inn keeper took leave of his guests, put on his jacket and started walking. He still did not have the money to pay his rent.
The Baal Shem Tov instructed his disciples to go outside and watch what would transpire.
As the inn keeper walked towards the landlords estate down the road, a carriage with horses stopped. The people in the carriage got out, spoke to the inn keeper, he shook his head and he kept walking while the carriage left.
But a few minutes later the carriage turned around, headed back to the inn keeper, the people inside got out again, handed over something to the inn keeper and again got into the carriage to drive away.
The disciples hurried to the carriage to find out what happened. The non Jews inside the carriage explained that they needed to buy some liquor and the inn keeper was willing to sell it, but he wanted a higher price than they wanted to pay. So initially they left. Then they had a change of mind and decided to go and pay the landlord what he was asking because they knew he was a trustworthy person.
“and how much did you pay?” the disciples asked.
The non Jews mentioned the amount which was exactly the cost of the rent the inn keeper had to pay!
The Baal Shem Tov told his disciples “you see, this is what I wanted you to learn from this trip. The inn keeper has such btochon, such trust , in Hashem that Hashem provided exactly what he needed. Even though it was at the very last second, you see how the inn keeper was so sure and not worried at all: he just started walking, positive that he would be sent the amount he needed to pay his debt. And sure enough it worked out that way. Hashem always helps when He sees we have so much trust in Him.”
STORY FOR PESACH
Rabbi Shlomo was a Talmudic genius renowned for his piety and austere devotion to G-d. Every waking moment of his day even when eating or just walking in the street he was deeply immersed in some Talmudic problem. But for the last few days he was pondering a different problem…. should he murder his son in law!
And all because of a book!
The scene; Vilna about 250 years ago. Orthodox Judaism was in turmoil over a new, Messianic movement called 'Chassidim' that seemed dangerously similar to the destructive heresies of an evil charismatic Jew Shabbai Tzvi some ninety years earlier who also got people excited about the Messiah, promised the redemption of the Jewish people and ended up trying to destroy Judaism and its holy commandments.
The Chassidim were attracting many serious Rabbis, their ranks were swelling
It was out of control! The Rabbis of Vilna decided to take drastic action and made decrees declaring that the Chasidim must be pursued and evicted whenever possible.
So you can imagine how Rav Shlomo, who was one of those Rabbis, reacted when dreaded book, "Toldot Yaakov Yosef" was discovered under his own son in law's pillow!!
he book, authored by Rabbi Yakov Yosef of Polnoy, who had been a great Scholar before he defected to the Chassidim, was filled with strange teachings that sent shivers down Rav Shlomo's spine like; we give G-d pleasure, G-d creates everything constantly, the righteous must repent and this world is more important than heaven.
He tried to save the situation but his efforts bore no fruit. Despite the arguments, bribery and threats both his daughter and her husband declared eternal allegiance to the Chassidim and divorce was out of the question. So, Rab Shlomo certain that he had two heretics in his house, was actually considering violence or worse.
When word got out what was happening the entire town of Vilna was in an uproar, everyone took sides, even the gentiles became involved and quickly the old Baron got involved.
He owned all the lands in the area and his word was final in all matters. When he heard of the uproar he summoned both Shlomo and his son-in-law with the book that began the war.
The next day they were all standing before the seated Baron in his study in his huge castle. One of his advisors, a priest that understood Hebrew, was standing next to him. The Baron asked to see the book and began examining it.
"Hmmm". He said out loud as he turned the pages filled with Hebrew script. "Aha!" On the bottom of the front page was written a few lines in Russian; "Yaakov Yosef of Polnoy!
He fell into deep thought for several minutes, looked up at Rab Shlomo and said, " You should be proud to have a son-in-law that follows the author of this book. I see the time has come to tell the story, please be seated."
Rab Shlomo shot a menacing look at his son in law as they all pulled up chairs, sat down and turned their attention to the Baron. What did he mean by 'the time has come'? The Baron cleared his throat and began.
"Over fifty years ago when I was a colonel in the Czar's army with two thousand men under my command, we were encamped near the town of Polnoy. It was the first night of your Passover holiday and a few of the Jewish soldiers requested permission to celebrate the in the town. When I granted them leave several of the non-Jewish soldiers also requested permission to enter the city and have a look at the celebrations.
"So I granted permission to some fifty of them too. But on the condition that they return one hour after midnight. They all left and returned and told me what they had seen. How they peeked in windows and were actually received well by the Jews. But when we took roll three of the soldiers were missing and the others didn't know why.
So I sent three more to find them and they returned with the strangest news: They had gone from house to house calling out and peeking in windows with no luck until they came to one a small wooden hut whose door was wide open.
Candles lit up the room brightly. An old bearded Jew sat at the table swaying back and forth with his eyes closed in deep contemplation completely oblivious to his surroundings. And standing in the middle of the room, paralyzed like statues, were our three soldiers!
"The men I sent rushed from the house in fear and reported the news to me. I mounted my horse, took a few mounted soldiers with me to see for myself. I found the house they spoke of, entered and it was just as they said; the old man was sitting there deep in thought, oblivious of everything around him with my three paralyzed soldiers standing like statues.
"I cleared my throat loudly, begged the old man's pardon and introduced myself. He turned to me, smiled, nodded and motioned for me to have a seat. 'I've come for my men' I told him. 'What have you done to them?'
"He looked at them as though for the first time and calmly answered. 'You have my word that I had nothing to do with this. They must have stolen something from the table, have your soldiers check them.'
Sure enough when my men made the check they found that each had taken silverware and when it had all been returned two of them returned to normal.
"'What about him?' I asked pointing to the third one, 'Oh' the old Jew replied, ' perhaps he put something in his boot.' Sure enough, the old man was right. He had stolen a silver spoon and when it was removed from his boot he too returned to his former self.
"The soldiers were really shaken up and after they recovered a bit they told me what had happened.
Earlier that night, after they finished looking through windows at the various 'Seders' and were about to return to the camp, they noticed one house with its door wide open so they entered. When they saw only the old man with his eyes closed, they figured he was asleep so they first ate all leftovers on the table and then, unable to control themselves, began filling their pockets with silverware. But as they turned to leave they suddenly discovered that they couldn't, they were paralyzed!
I ordered the men to apologize, put them under arrest and as soon as all the soldiers had left I turned to the old man and, well, he looked so holy and , well, friendly, that I couldn't resist; I had been married for years with no children. I asked him for a blessing. He blessed me with children and with long life.
"That was fifty years ago, today both blessings have been fulfilled. I am ninety years old and have children and grandchildren thanks to the blessing of that holy man. But he also told me that that when I had to tell this story his blessing for longevity would end … and now I see the time has come.
"That old Rabbi was the one who wrote this book you are angry about. Now just ask yourself." The Baron turned to Rav Shlomo and concluded. "Just consider; he had the power to grant long life and children and he didn't ask for any reward! Nothing at all for himself!! Could that be an evil man? Certainly not!! You should be happy that you have such a son in law!"
Rab Shlomo had become purified of hatred.
PASSOVER MIRACLE STORY:
The year1951; the war had ended in Europe but in Russia Josef Stalin, perhaps the most vicious mass murderer of all time, ruled the minds, souls and bodies of the U.S.S.R. through his propaganda, spies and secret police; the dreaded KGB.
Deep at night when people were in wrapped in cocoons of warm sleep oblivious of the fear and murder around them…. the KGB would strike!
As they did to the Koblanov family.
The Koblanov family certainly took precautions to hide their religious practices the rest of the year but tonight was Passover, Holiday of Freedom. They were sitting, as Jews had done for over 3,300 years, around a simply 'decorated' Passover table celebrating the 'Holiday of Liberation'.
This night they weren't afraid. But it wasn't easy to feel happy either.
Three of them were missing. Their father Reb Eliezer had been taken away by police in the middle of the night a few months earlier for 'anti-revolutionary activities'. Then their eldest sister Chaya (leaving behind her husband and a small baby) and finally their mother Elka were arrested weeks later and taken to the fearsome Spolerki Prison to await 'trial'. Only a miracle would bring them back but the Jews lived on miracles.
Who knows when the next arrest would occur? It was hanging over their heads like a sharp sword. But what good would being afraid or getting depressed do? Their only hope was G-d.
They remembered the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his father before him: "Our enemies can control our bodies but nothing can control the Jewish soul."
And the words of Rabbi Akiva some 2,000 years earlier who defied the Roman prohibition of teaching Torah and when someone tried to talk him into compromising, he replied; 'Once a hungry fox tried to convince a fish to leave the stream saying, he'd be safer on dry land, 'Fool' replied the fish, 'If I'm not safe here where I'm supposed to be, for SURE I won't last in a place I'm not created for.' A Jew without Judaism is like a fish out of water!"
So the five that were left; two sisters Liba and Sterna, their younger 20 year old brother Kerpil. their older brother Mendel and his wife tried to be as happy as possible and even managed to sing a few songs of redemption at the Seder.
But a few hours after the Seder when the family was asleep it happened. The house shook, the windows rattled. The KGB broke in, took away Kerpil and a few hours later at the crack of dawn returned and took his two sisters. Then a month later Mendel was taken. Now the entire family of seven was gone.
A few months later the seven of them met again. But this time all in chains standing before the judge. At first, each was happy to see that the others were alive but when they heard their sentences, they almost wished they were dead.
Their father, Reb Eliezer, received ten years at hard labor in Siberia and the rest of the family got eight (very few people survived even the first year). Within the hour each was on a different train each headed for a different 'work' camp of the thousands scattered throughout vast Mother Russia.
Kerpil took it hard. He totally lacked the stamina necessary for the twelve-hour shifts, meager, bread diets and sub-zero weather. After a few months he was sure that he wouldn't be able to hold out.
But then two miracles occurred. The first; because he sat two months in medical school before he was arrested, he was unexpectedly appointed to the position of camp doctor which gave him slightly more freedom.
Then came the bigger miracle; one of the patients he treated turned out to be a Jew who, as a sign of gratitude, took a folded piece of newspaper from his pocket, carefully opened it on a table to reveal a piece of Matza (that he probably carried with him the entire year), broke off a small piece and put it in Kerpil's hand.
It was still several months before Passover but as soon as this small treasure was in his possession, he felt plugged in to a new source of life.
That Passover he found an empty room in the work camp, put the Matza before him, recited what he remembered of the Hagadda by heart, gave thanks for being a Jew, cried tears of joy and renewed his vow to always keep Passover no matter what!
But five years later it seemed he would have to break his vow. For four years he had survived hunger, fatigue, danger and cold and kept Passover religiously. But this year as the holiday approached, he felt very ill and every day weaker and colder until he was really worried.
For the rest of the year the bread kept him going and usually on Pesach he only ate vegetables that he cooked in a small pot he had secured. But this year it he was sure he wouldn't make it on such a meager diet. He felt as though he would pass out any moment… or worse.
And to make matters worse he had to work. If he didn't do his job he would be demoted, punished, beaten, even killed! But somehow, he dragged himself to work every day for seven days and almost finished the holiday in one piece! But he was finished. Outside of Israel Passover is eight days and he knew he couldn’t last another day.
Then on the last day of Pesach a soldier came to him with an order to appear immediately before the dreaded chief doctor of the camp; a middle-aged woman with mean, narrow eyes who was known as an anti-Semite and a bloodthirsty sadist to boot.
Kerpil's knees knocked as he dragged himself to her office. If she decided to fire him he would have to return to hard labor ,.. which meant sure death. He stood before her, pale as a ghost, certain that this Passover would be his last. She gave him a startled look and said, "You don't look good. I think you have to get out of here." Kerpil couldn't believe his ears… she was talking like a human being!
"You look terrible. Don't tell anyone I told you this" she continued, "But soon a group of officials will visit here to review all the prisoners. Since Stalin died (in 1953) things are changing. Just tell them that you regret your past deeds and I'm sure they will free you. You look terrible."
It seems that the poor diet of Passover was exactly what saved him!
A few months later the officials did arrive and over a half a year later….. just a week before the next Passover (!) Kerpil was freed!
But imagine his joy when he returned home to discover that just days before his entire family had unexplainably also been freed; all were alive and all miraculously had their sentences shortened in time to be home together for the holiday of Pesach!
That year at the Passover meal there were a lot of stories about self-sacrifice and G-d's miracles.
IN THE ARMY
There was once a young Chassid in Russia called Boruch Zalmanovitch who received a draft notice into the Russian army. When his mother saw it, she began crying, and his father too was unable to control his tears.
A draft notice in Czarist Russia was tantamount to a death warrant … especially for a religious Jew. First, the Czar used the army as a means to his diabolical plot to convert the Jews; secondly, all resistance to conversion was met with torture. Thirdly, the usual duration of service was fifteen years! And Finally, the Russian army usually lost its wars with terrible losses of life.
So the young Chassid traveled to the great and holy Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk to request a blessing to be exempt from the army. It was known that this Rebbe was as holy as Moses and, like Moses, could do great miracles to save Jews.
The journey was long and he was very nervous but finally there he was, in the Rebbe's room standing face to face with this awesome holy man. He handed the Rebbe a short note describing his problem and begging for salvation. The Rebbe read the message, then looked up at him and said lovingly, “I think you will make a very good soldier! You will be a credit to the King! Why do you want to evade the army? Meanwhile, until they come for you, go home and learn Torah!”
The young man was destroyed…Soldier? Army!?
When he returned home and told his parents, they again resumed crying and moaning. “Oy! What will be with us!!! If you are taken in the army, it will be the end of you!! It will break our hearts. Maybe the Rebbe made a mistake? Maybe you didn’t hear right? We will ask again. Or maybe go to a different Rebbe.”
But the young man wouldn't hear of it. He already had his answer “The rebbe doesn't make mistakes. He told me I will be a good soldier and a credit to the King. He told me to sit and learn till they call me and that is what I will do.”
The entire family was beside themselves, but they had no choice. To run away was impossible, and, who knows, maybe the little bit of learning he would do would make miracles.
So our young hero went to the yeshiva, sat down at a table, learned and ignored the induction papers. To those that asked why he didn't go to the draft board he said: "the Rebbe told me to learn Torah and that’s what I’ll do, HaShem will help me”.
So his mother brought him food and changes of clothes, the yeshiva gave him mattress and bedding next to his table and he sat and learned. The days passed, and before he knew it, the days turned into weeks and the weeks became months and still nothing from the army.
“It must be that the Torah is keeping them away” he thought to himself. “Maybe they even forgot totally about me.” But he lived in constant fear of being drafted
Even after a year passed, then another and then another, every time the large door of the Bait HaMedrash (learning room) opened, he shuddered with fear buried his face in the book before him and began learning with renewed fervor.
Then, after five years, it happened.
The door burst open revealing two huge Russian soldiers dressed in spotless uniforms with large fur hats, shiny high leather boots, huge swords hanging at their sides from their belts and stone faces. The very sight of them with their massive handlebar mustaches and cruel cold eyes threw trepidation into the hearts of everyone in the room. They stood there menacingly, their arms folded over their chests surveying everyone like a farmer looks at his cows, and then one of them bellowed:
“WE ARE LOOKING FOR BORUCH ZALMANOVITCH!!”
Slowly Boruch, stood up, cleared his throat, turned to them and said quietly, “I…I a..a..am Boruch Zalmanovitch”
All eyes turned to him as the soldiers approached him, and stood at attention.
One pulled out a small ornate box from his breast pocket, opened it, took out a gold medallion attached to a wide blue ribbon and solemnly hung it around Boruch’s neck without saying a word.
The other then produced a medium sized parchment scroll opened it and began solemnly reading; “His Royal Majesty The Czar hereby presents you with the highest distinction of our Country, The Golden Star, for valorous and devoted service.”
The Soldier kept rambling on about bravery and patriotism as Boruch went into a daze; he only heard the last sentence, “His Exalted Majesty The Czar therefore grants you, with the highest praises, complete honorable exemption from further military service”
The soldier facing Boruch put his hands firmly on Boruch’s shoulders and kissed him first on one cheek and then on the other, while the second soldier was pumping Boruch’s hand in a firm handshake.
They then both saluted, presented him with the document, turned on their heels and left the room.
everyone immediately surrounded the bewildered Boruch, shaking his hand, congratulating him, asking to see the document.
But as soon as he came to himself, he immediately ran out the door and down the street to the Rebbe’s house with the good news.
“You see, I told you that you would be a good soldier in the army!” Said the Rebbe smiling, “Of course I was referring to the army of HaShem. In fact, you did so well that even the Czar had to recognize it, although he didn’t himself know what he was doing. It was your efforts that caused the miracle; how else could the evil Czar possibly recognize G-d . It’s something like in the ‘Alenu’ prayer we say three times a day; ‘All the evil people in the earth will turn to You’”
LAG BAOMER MIRACLE STORY
In May of 1948, shortly after Israel declared statehood, the Jordanian army surrounded Jerusalem with their best trained, best armed forces and sealed it hermetically for several weeks. Several futile attempts were made by the fledgling Israeli army to bring in food and water but they all failed tragically and after a while the Jews of Jerusalem were suffering from hunger and thirst.
Only a few hundred Jewish soldiers with light weapons and limited ammunition were in the city and everyone knew that at any moment the Jordanian high command would give the word, Jerusalem would fall into their hands and all its inhabitants would be massacred (as had happened in Kfar Etzion a few weeks earlier).
Miraculously their first few attempts failed. Just a few days before Lag B'Omer they sent an expeditionary force of two tanks followed by several tens of soldiers to wreak havoc in the city.
The small force of Jewish defenders with no anti-tank devices seemed helpless against this armored force rumbling unhindered through the narrow streets until, suddenly, one of the Jewish soldiers bravely jumped from nowhere onto the first tank, lifted the hatch, which miraculously was unlocked, threw in a makeshift Molotov Cocktail and jumped off unharmed all under a hail of bullets. The tank crew made a hasty escape, the tank blew up blocking the road and the invaders retreated.
But everyone knew it wouldn't last long. Every day another Jew died or was injured from the incessant Arab mortar fire and the Jordanians had the most modern, best armed and most motivated of all the 6 or 7 Arab nations attacking Israel!
The Jewish holiday of Lag B'omer was approaching: Almost 2,000 years earlier, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai just before dying on that day revealed his deepest mystical secrets and declared it a day of rejoicing! Since then Jews have made fires and celebrated every Lag B'Omer.
A small group of Chassidim decided they had to make a fire and rejoice....but how!?
A fire at night (Jewish holidays begin at nightfall) would draw enemy artillery and everyone would be killed! (Previously the Jordanians had not used extensive artillery on Jerusalem because they were certain it would soon be theirs. But a fire at night would be an invitation for target practice!)
Then someone had an idea! In Jerusalem it is the custom to light Shabbat candles 40 minutes before nightfall; there was no reason they couldn't do the same with the Lag B'omer fire! They would light it early while it was still light and then rejoice quickly and quietly so as not to draw attention.
About thirty Chassidim showed up. They bought bottles of oil, several bags of old rags and even a few pieces of wood for the fire and made a 'parade', singing quietly, fearing every step, from the Synagogue of the Chassidim until the yard before the Shul of the Perushim.
There they quietly arranged their materials in a small pile, lit the fire, held hands, formed a circle around the fire and resumed their stifled singing.
They had every intention of making it quick but something happened. Suddenly they weren't afraid….only happy! They totally forgot the enemy around them, sang louder, began clapping their hands, smiling, dancing and jumping with the joy of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Before they knew it they were singing at the top of their lungs, drenched with sweat and dancing with their eyes closed. A half hour had passed! It was getting dark!
Suddenly the enemy cannons opened up and fire and explosions woke them from their ecstasy. Never had they experienced such a barrage of artillery! Destruction was everywhere. The Jews scattered in all directions, obviously this was the attack on Jerusalem they had expected and dreaded. Each man ran to his home to his family.
Buildings were falling; bombs were bursting with horrific destructive force. Close to a hundred Jews, rushed to the safest place they knew - the Synagogue! There G-d would save them!
The one writing this true account, Rabbi Avraham Yonaton Gotlieb, recalls how one Rabbi, Zev Isenbach, stood at the podium and read Psalm 91, 91 times begging G-d for mercy and protection.
Suddenly another Jew, Rav Yosel Eichler, appeared in the Shul with a large bag on his shoulder and began distributing its contents, small loaves of bread dipped in oil, saying, "Don't forget that today is a holiday! This is for the joyous meal in honor of Rebbi Shimon!!"
After over an hour the bombardment suddenly stopped and it was totally silent! The dreaded Jordanian attack never came. (Later they discovered that not one person had been injured.)
Suddenly one of the Jewish soldiers ran in, waving his arms, with a wild, look screaming, "What did you do?! What did you do?! Are you crazy?! Are you all insane?! Did you light that fire and sing!? Was it you!? You don't know what a miracle just happened!!"
He calmed down and continued. "The Jordanians retreated!! One of the Arabs came and told us!
They were watching our every move with binoculars and planning to attack. But when they saw the fire and dancing and heard the singing they figured that we were happy because we got reinforcements with some secret weapons and we were about to attack them!
"That's why they fired all their cannons! Their commander ordered them to fire artillery to cover their retreat!! They ran away! It was a miracle! A miracle from Rabbi Shimon!! If it wasn't for your dancing and singing, they would have killed all of us for sure!"
The next day, the day after Lag B'omer, the two chief Rabbis of Jerusalem; Rabbi Minzberg and Rabbi Chazan, raised white flags and entered the Jordanian camp with an offer to surrender Jerusalem. But only on certain conditions; that all the populace would be allowed to leave unharmed etc.
Amazingly the Jordanians agreed to all the terms! It seems they were still under the effect of the Lag b'Omer scare and were happy they had not been attacked by the Jewish 'forces',
Some one hundred years ago in Czarist Russia two wealthy Jewish businessmen decided to make a partnership and finalize it by a great Rabbi, an expert in monetary laws Rav Yitzchak Yoel Rafalovitz.
The papers were signed and they agreed that each would deposit the large huge sum of one thousand rubles with the Rabbi on condition that if either of them purposely broke the agreement the other would receive all the money.
Now it just so happened to be that in Russia in those days Rabbi's were not allowed to officiate over monetary cases or agreements, these were to be judged only in civil courts. But Rabbi Rafalovitz had no choice. These Jewish businessmen did not trust the civil courts to give them justice and if he didn't act as a judge there would be no law and order.
But the case turned sour. Several years later one of the partners came to the Rabbi with the sad news that the other had embezzled huge sums and after investigation it was found to be true.
As per the contract the Rabbi gave all the deposit money to the jilted partner (which only covered a portion of his losses) but when the crooked partner heard about it he immediately reported the entire thing, with papers and documents signed by the Rabbi as proof, to the police.
Rabbi Raflovitz was in big trouble!! He knew that no lawyer would take his case; there was too much evidence against him and none for him; he had indeed broken the law.
The next day there was a knock on his door and two policemen presented him with a subpoena to appear in court. In just over a week he was to stand trial and didn't have a chance! He would be sentenced to life in prison! If he tried to run his family would be jailed and he probably would be caught anyway.
And if that wasn't enough, a few days earlier his pregnant wife complained that she didn't feel the child in her womb and she just returned with the news that her doctor said that the fetus was dead and they had to operate and remove it or... But she didn't believe him. Or rather she didn't want to believe him. But on the other hand, what if he was right?! She was confused and very scared.
It all happened at once! Worse than the worst nightmare!
Suddenly it occurred to him. He would travel to his Rebbe Maharash, Rebbe Shmuel of Lubavitch (The fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe). It was his only chance.
He got to Lubavitch on Wednesday. In just a week would be the trial and what about his wife and baby! Every second was precious!
He was lucky! He immediately got an audience with the Rebbe (some people waited weeks) and before he knew it, he was standing in the Rebbe's office pouring out his heart about himself and his wife and breaking into tears. It was urgent!
"Rav Yitzchak Yoel!" the Rebbe smiled and said in a friendly tone. "What's the hurry? Why are you rushing so? In any case you will stay here for Shabbat. Sent a message to your wife you will stay here for Shabbat and after Shabbat we will discuss your problem."
Rav Rafalovitz was surprised. But the Rebbe's answer strangely calmed him down. He was right, the trial would only be next week and maybe his wife's situation was not so bad. But then again…..
The next two days he tried to sit and learn but it was futile. He simply couldn't get the worries out of his mind and when Shabbat rolled around although the calm and holiness of the day of rest had a good influence on him, he still was troubled. In fact, when the Rebbe said a long complicated 'Mimor'; a Chassidic discourse filled with deep kabalistic terms and explanations his mind was so turbulent that he almost did not hear a word.
"But after Shabbat it will be different!" he thought to himself. "After Shabbat I'll see the Rebbe and he will solve everything."
And sure enough, shortly after it was dark and the Shabbat was over, he was admitted to the Rebbe's office and stood there waiting for salvation.
"Did you understand the Maamar I said on Shabbat?" The Rebbe asked him.
"Maamar?" He sheepishly answered. "Ehhh I'm sorry Rebbe but I had trouble concentrating. You see…."
"Then go learn it," the Rebbe concluded, "The Chassidim did remember and they wrote it down. When you know it by heart come back and we'll talk."
Rav Rafalovitz left the room, found a young man who had written down the Rebbe's discourse from memory, copied it over and spent the entire night learning it until the next morning when he entered the Rebbe's office for the third time it was etched in his memory.
The Rebbe listened to his repetition of the 'Maamar' and blessed him with success in the trial and Mazal Tov on the child his wife would give birth to in another few months.
He thanked the Rebbe profusely. He rushed to the telegraph office where he sent his wife an urgent message not to make the operation and not to worry. Then, early the next morning he made his way to Petersburg where the trial was to take place in a few days. But he was still nervous; how could he possibly be found innocent when he was, in fact, guilty?
In Petersburg he stayed at the home of a good friend who after he heard what had happened, suddenly shouted, "Ah! I have an idea!! Listen. Every morning there is an old Jewish peasant woman that delivers milk to all the houses in this area and one of those houses is that of the Judge who will be presiding over your case.
This milk-lady is liked by everyone and she told me that Judge's wife often consults with her. So this is my plan. Tomorrow morning when she delivers the milk we'll start crying and when she hears your story I'm sure she'll help. Or rather G-d will help.
Sure enough it worked. When she heard them weeping and heard the explanation, she told them not to worry… that she would take care of it.
When she brought milk to the Judge's house and was greeted by his wife she too began to cry. Tears were streaming down her wrinkled cheeks as she explained to the Judge's wife that a 'relative' of hers, an honest, upstanding, caring, righteous man, a loyal citizen, was falsely accused because of a mistake he made and, with no money or powerful friends she is afraid that he will be found guilty for a crime he did not commit in the trial here tomorrow.
The Judge's wife called her husband, the milk lady repeated her story and the Judge listened, was impressed and promised he would do what he could.
But the next day the Judge saw it wouldn't be simple. He looked through the accusations and the one-sided evidence and realized that the poor Rabbi didn't have a chance. None whatsoever! But suddenly he had an idea.
He called the court to order and called one case after another putting off the Rabbi's case until last. Then, just before it began, he announced a recess. Everyone stood and as he was walking down the aisle to leave the courtroom he 'happened' to pass the prosecuting lawyer and witnesses and mumbled to them under his breath, "You clowns don't know what hot water you got yourselves into!"
The prosecution was stunned! What could he have meant? Perhaps they had made some mistake!
Knowing that this Judge always took long breaks they left the courtroom to reconsider…. where had they gone wrong?
But this time the Judge returned quickly, took his place behind the desk and called out. "The State versus Rafalovitz! Will the prosecution step forward! …… WILL THE PROSECUTION STEP FORWARD!!!
When no one answered he looked around, raised his gavel high, brought it crashing down on a small shiny block on his table and yelled, "The prosecution has forfeited! Case dismissed!! Court dismissed!!"
He stood, handed the Rabbi the portfolio containing the incriminating evidence, informed him that he was cleared of all charges and assured him that he would be sent a letter of permission to judge all monetary cases as a government official, in the near future.
Rabbi Rafalovitz was stunned! He was free! He only had to wait a few months and the second blessing of the Rebbe also came to pass: To the disbelief of the doctors his wife gave birth to a healthy, baby boy!
HOW SHABBAT BRINGS BLESSING AND PROTECTS
Shortly after the war, there was a young married man who wanted to go to America with his wife and small children in order to try his fortune there. He was waiting at the dock to board the ship. His father accompanied him. It was a sad time, not knowing when or if they would see each other again. He had managed to secure visas for himself and his family but his father was not ready to leave yet as he had an elderly mother to take care of still.
Before departing the son hugged his father and said “I don’t know when we will see each other but I hope it will be very soon.”
His father said to him “My son, you are going to America, a land of opportunity. But promise me one thing: no matter what you end up doing, you will always keep the Shabbat.”
His son promised him.
The family sailed to America to begin their new life there.
But every job the young man took required him to work on Shabbat. Back then it was almost impossible to find a job that did not require working on the Shabbat. The young man would work from Sunday to Thursday and then on Friday he would be fired for refusing to work on Shabbat. He then went to get another job and did the same. This went on for some time but left no security or stability for the family.
After a while they reached such a level of poverty that they did not even have proper food at home . The children were starving. His wife was starving. He also was starving. They did not even have food to put on the table for Shabbat.
His wife approached him and said “My dear husband, I know we have always kept the Shabbat but we have no food for our children. What choice do we have? Maybe you can find a job and do the least amount of chillul Shabbat (breaking Shabbat) that you can and just do your best to minimize any problem. When things change for the better we will again be able to keep Shabbat properly.”
Her husband responded “I promised to my father to always keep the Shabbat. And I promised to my Father in Heaven as well. How can I break the Shabbat?”
His wife looked downcast. “I don’t know but what can I answer our children when they have no food to eat?”
So the young man got a job and the boss insisted he had to work on Shabbat. The first Shabbat arrived. The young man prepared himself a bag with a small amount of food that he managed to scrape together and he set out for the factory which was within walking distance.
But as he got close to the building, he suddenly felt a sense of fear sweep over him. He stood outside the building, unable to enter. How could he break the Shabbat? He had promised his father….
He stood like that the entire day and after Shabbat he returned home, a broken man.
His wife approached him and said gently, almost with shame in her voice, “My husband, how was your first time breaking the Shabbat? How did it go?”
He looked down at the floor and said “I didn’t do it. I didn’t break the Shabbat.”
She looked surprised and he continued “I couldn’t do it. I promised my father. I promised Hashem. I couldn’t do it.”
She asked him “but what did you do all day?”
So he said “I stood outside the building the entire day and I prayed to Hashem. I begged him to help me. I told him a promise is a promise and He needs to help me to continue fulfilling this promise.”
His wife shed a few tears, perhaps tears of happiness at the wonderful husband she had, and she went about finding a few crumbs of bread to put out as a melave Malka meal.
The next day their young son, a young boy of eight or nine years, wanted to go outside to play a bit. He felt very weak, not having eaten properly for a few days, but he went out and after a few minutes he needed to sit down on the ground to rest.
While he was sitting there, a very wealthy man was walking by. The man noticed the young boy on the ground and said to him “Why are you sitting here on the street?”
The boy looked up at him with big brown eyes and said “I got tired because I have not eaten for a few days.”
the man asked why he had not eaten so the boy said they had no food at him. His parents and siblings also had not eaten.
The wealthy man said “Take me to your house. Do you live near here? I want to see your family.”
So the boy led him to their house.
The wealthy man entered the small apartment, noticing the poverty that was very apparent.
He spoke to the boy’s parents and he asked the father “Why is it your family has no food? Do you not have a job?”
The man replied “Because I made a promise to my father years ago to always keep the Shabbat and I have been unable to find work that always me to keep Shabbat….so we don’t have anything to eat in general. This past Friday , out of desperation, I almost broke the Shabbat in order to work but at the last moment I could not do it. I couldn’t break the promise I made to my father….and to my Father in Heaven.”
The rich man looked very impressed. He said “Well, first thing I want to do is buy you food. I am going to give you money to go out and buy milk, meat, bread….whatever you need. And here is extra to buy clothing for your family. Tomorrow we will talk more.”
The wealthy man went back to his house quite shaken up. He told his wife what had happened. She also was shocked.
The man told his wife “We had a similar situation when we came to America years ago. We also told Hashem we would not work on Shabbat. We made that promise. But we broke it. We worked on Shabbat and we are still not keeping Shabbat today! But that poor man did not give in…”
His wife looked at him earnestly and said “My dear husband, it is never too late for us to fulfill our promise to Hashem. Let’s begin keeping the Shabbat again now.”
And so it was, the wealthy man and his wife became shomer Shabbat.
The also employed the poor man to run their factory and eventually even gave the entire business over to him.
So by keeping Shabbat, the poor man became wealthy and the wealthy man was inspired to keep Shabbat too.
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
It is a custom to say a story of the Baal Shem Tov (or in general of a tzadik) on motzoi Shabbat, Saturday night after Shabbat. So here is a story of the Baal Shem Tov:
Some of the Baal Shem Tov’s opponents decided they had to stop the Besht and his new Chassidic movement. Theydecided to accomplish this by issuing a powerful ban (a cherem) against the Baal Shem Tov.
So that nobody would be able to obstruct their plans, the Rabbonim involved all swore not to reveal their plans to anybody and even to conceal where their meeting would take place.
The night of the meeting arrived. All the participants made their way to the designated spot. After giving the guards a prearranged password, they were allowed admission.
As the meeting was about to start, one of the guards came in and announced” Honored Rabbonim, I am sorry to inform you that a terrible mistake has occurred. There are only supposed to be 250 Rabbonim present, however, according to our count, 251 people gave us the password. There is someone here who was not invited!”
Shocked by this announcement, everyone wondered who the extra person could be. And how did anyone find out about this meeting?
Visibly shaken, one of the organizers arose and said “With the power of the Torah, the Beis Din demands that the uninvited guest announce himself and reveal to us why he is here.”
Everyone was quiet as they saw one person get up without hesitation and say “my name is Yisrael ben Eliezer. I am the person against whom you are planning to make a ban. However, you should know that the way you are going about this is against Torah law. The Torah states that one is not allowed to judge someone unless the judgment is made in his presence. It also states that judges must conduct a thorough investigation, but here we have 250 distinguished rabbonim who are ready to judge me severely in my absence and without questioning my accusers.”
The Rabbonim were clearly embarrassed. What the Baal Shem Tov said was true. One of them stood up and said “Please tell us one thing. How did you find out about our meeting? Who broke the vow and informed you?”
The Baal Shem Tov replied “Nobody broke the vow and no one here told me about it. Your plans were revealed to me from Heaven so that I could come and prevent such great Rabbonim as yourselves from transgressing Torah law. Furthermore, you should know that you, the 250 Rabbonim present, are reincarnations of the 250 great leaders who joined Korach in his fight against Moshe Rabbenu. If I don’t stop you from carrying our your plans, the outcome will be as terrible as back in the days of Korach.”
Upon hearing these words, the Rabbonim trembled. The meeting was canceled and many of those present went home ashamed of their actions.
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
The Baal Shem Tov (Besh't for short) had many pupils and one of them was a great and holy man by the name of Rabbi Wolfe Kitzes.
This Rab Kitzes was a truly humble man, a servant of G-d, a genius and a genuine pauper without a kopek to his name which made life difficult and marrying off his daughter impossible.
One day the Besh't called Reb Kitzes to his office, and he arrived to find the local matchmaker (shadchan) standing there with a list of names in his hand.
Pick one," said the Besh't to Reb Kitzes. "The time has come for your daughter to marry."
Reb Kitzes looked at the list and his eyes widened in horror.
"But, but..." He stammered as he looked up in disbelief. "These are the wealthiest families in the…" But the Besh't was waiting for a reply. So with no other choice he pointed to a name and the shadchan set off to the city where the prospective in-laws lived to finalize the match.
Everything went smoothly; the family was pleased with the match; who would turn down a holy pupil of the Baal Shem Tov! It was agreed that Rabbi Kitzes would pay A dowry of two thousand rubles (a small fortune) before the wedding. They shook hands, made a toast, l'chiam, and the shadchan returned to the Besh't with the good news.
But, when Rabbi Kitzes heard the news he had trouble being happy. Where would he get 2,000 Rubles? It was a custom for the groom to send gifts to the bride before sending the dowry, and he didn't have even that. In fact He didn't have money for shoes! Where would he find money to send gifts no less the 2,000 ruble dowry?
Two weeks later he received a letter from the father of the groom asking why he hadn't received the customary gifts and hoping that everything was all right.
Rabbi Kitzes ran to the Baal Shem with the letter but all he got from the master was a vague smile.
Then, two weeks after that another letter arrived demanding an explanation. Why had they ignored the previous letter?! But when the Baal Shem saw it he reacted just as calmly as the first time.
A month later the third letter arrived; the groom's father was angry. If a reply was not received immediately the engagement was off. Reb Kitzes read it again and again and each time became more depressed; he desperately wanted the match but he also couldn't stop being realistic. Maybe it was better to just call the whole thing off. But on the other hand, this is what the Besh't told him to do. And the Besh't wasn't worried. He was confused.
He took the letter to the Besh't.
This time the Besh't said that he should write back, apologize for the delay and invite the groom and his entire family to Mezibuz (the city of the Besh't) to rejoice together with the Besh't several days before the wedding at which time all the gifts and moneys would be paid in full. Rab Kitzes' spirits rose a bit. But two days later when he received a letter saying they were on their way he began to panic.
True, he should have more faith. True, Chassidim are supposed to always be happy! True, he should have more trust in the Rebbe and in G-d. But what would happen if...things just stayed the way they are?! After all, who was he that G-d should make him a miracle? He had been poor all his life, why should things be different now?
With a heavy heart he walked slowly, letter in hand, to show it to the Besh't and ask for more encouragement. As he was walking a stranger stopped him and asked for directions to the Baal Shem Tov. Nothing unusual in Mezibuz. "Come, I'm going there myself." And they walked silently together, both sunk in their own problems.
When they reached the house and entered, they were both ushered into the Baal Shem's office.
The Besh't asked them to be seated and, seemingly ignoring Reb Kitzes' explanation that they didn't come together, turned to the stranger and said, "I want to tell you a story. Is that alright?" Surprised by the question the stranger shook his head in agreement and the master began.
"About fifteen years ago a Jewish businessman from the Ukraine was returning home in his personal carriage, with his personal driver, from Prussia where he had just made a small fortune on a lumber deal. He tucked the money in a secret compartment under his seat and drowsed off to sleep, satisfied with his success.
"After a few hours he woke abruptly; unexplainably the wagon had stopped in the middle of a forest! He opened the door and shouted out to the driver if everything was all right and when there was no answer, he got out of the carriage to have a look for himself.
"But no sooner did his feet touch the ground then someone grabbed him from behind, pushed him to the ground, tied his hands and feet and turned him on his back. To his astonishment it was his 'trusted' driver waiving a sharp hatchet in the air and threatening to kill him if he didn't hand over all the money immediately.
"He pleaded with the driver for mercy; to leave him at least some of the fortune but when he saw that he meant business he told him where in the carriage he had hidden it. The driver tied him to the tree, went inside the carriage, found the money, climbed back on the wagon, took the reins in his hands and almost began to ride. But then he paused, climbed back down walked over to the bound Jew and announced.
"'I made a mistake. If I leave you alive maybe someone will find you or you'll untie yourself and go to the police. I've decided to kill you! "
"The poor businessman wailed and begged but the thief calmly said, 'You can shout as loud as you want. We are so deep in the forest no one will ever hear you!! I'm giving you ten seconds to pray' and yelled out 'Ten! Nine! Eight!....
"The Jew closed his eyes and wept bitterly. He prayed to G-d with all his might and swore that if he was saved, he would give a tenth of all his wealth to the poor, even a half. But the driver kept counting; 'Seven, Six Five!!' 'Even everything!! I'll give everything to charity!!'
"Suddenly a rifle shot rang out! The Jew opened his eyes to see the driver standing with his hands raised above his head yelling 'don't shoot'.
The overseer of the lands 'happened' to be passing by and, hearing the commotion decided to investigate. G-d answered his prayers!! He had been saved!!
"Yes, it was the miracle he had prayed for," continued the Besh't. "But weeks later, after he returned home and got comfortable, he not only forgot his vow, he took a turn for the worse and stopped giving charity altogether. "
"Years passed. The Jew was blessed with children, a beautiful girl and boy, but he refused to open his heart or hand to the poor every time he found another excuse. Even when, several years ago, his daughter became sick and tragically died he did not connect it to his vow.
"Now, just weeks ago his son also became similarly ill and when the doctors gave up hope he decided to come here for a blessing. And that's the end of the story."
Before the Besh't could say another word, the stranger yelled out "OY, OY!!! It was ME!! It was me!! I completely forgot about that vow in the forest! Oy! OY! That was me!!"
"It's not too late" The Besh't replied. "Don't worry. I'm not going to ask you to give all your wealth or even half. Give ten percent as you first vowed. Here!" he pointed to Reb Kitzes, "Begin by giving him four thousand rubles."
The stranger gave him the money right then and there. The Besh't invited him to stay for the wedding and a week later when the wedding was in progress, he received a letter that his son had fully recovered.
STORY OF ARIZAL:
The holy Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal) was born in Jerusalem in 5294 (1533). When he was a young boy, his father passed away and he moved with him mother to the home of his uncle in Egypt. In Egypt, he learned Torah from Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi, author of the Shitah Mekubetzet and from the Radbaz. While in Egypt, he delved deeply into the holy Zohar. Elijah the Prophet was revealed to him and he discovered a new, deep method in Kabbalah. As per the instructions of Elijah the Prophet, the Arizal made aliyah to Tzfat and taught his method of Kabbalah to Rabbi Chaim Vital, who wrote his teachings in book form. The Arizal’s most famous book, which includes the main points of his method, is “Eitz Chaim.’ The Arizal passed away at the early age of 38 and is buried in Tzfat. The Arizal’s method and teachings of Kabbalah have been accepted by all branches of the Nation of Israel until this very day.
The Arizal was the first to reveal awesome secrets of Kabbalah, never before revealed in the world. Not only was there prosecution against him in Heaven, but down on earth, as well, there were some Tzaddikim and rabbis who thought that it was forbidden to reveal these secrets to the public – and that even if God had revealed those secrets to him, he should just keep them to himself. There were even great rabbis who considered excommunicating him. The greatest rabbi who wanted to excommunicate him was the Maharshal, Rabbi Shlomo Luria, who was also a relative of the Arizal. The Maharshal was the Chief Rabbi of Lublin, the foremost center of European Jewry at that time. He was considered the Torah giant of his generation and he was very unhappy that the Arizal was revealing secrets of Kabbalah. He joined with the Ram”a – the famous commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, according to which we determine Jewish law and who lived in his community in Lublin, and added another important rabbi in order to excommunicate the holy Ari.
The Arizal saw all of this with his ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration). In order to prevent the excommunication from ever happening, he sent two of his students – one, his distinguished student, Rabbi Chaim Vital, and an additional student – on a mission. The Arizal did not take this action to preserve his personal honor. He was revealing the secrets of Kabbalah for a reason- to hasten the redemption – and this had to be safeguarded.
How were the Arizal’s students supposed to quickly get from Tzfat to Lublin? For that, the holy Ari arranged a cloud.
The students boarded the cloud at the Ari’s behest and quickly arrived in Lublin (performing another important mission on the way), just in time for the Friday afternoon prayers. Although they looked pious, nobody knew who they were. When the Silent Prayer was over, the shaliach tzibbur leading the prayer waited for the Maharshal to complete his prayer, as was the custom. The entire congregation was respectfully waiting when one of the Arizal’s students said to the synagogue’s beadle, “Why do we have to wait for this rabbi, when all that he is doing now is thinking about the wheel of a wagon?” Prayer is the time to think about God, but this pious-looking man is saying that hundreds of Jews are waiting for the rabbi, who is thinking about a wagon wheel.
The beadle was very upset. They may look pious, but they are shaming the rabbi. As he did not know what to do, the beadle went to the rabbi, himself, told him what had occurred and asked him what to do. After all, insulting the rabbi is an insult to the Torah that he learns, and the rabbi must punish them.
The Maharshal carefully listened to the beadle and said not to do anything to the guests. Later, he explained that on every Friday afternoon, before he concludes the Silent Prayer and takes his three steps backwards, he reviews in his head all the rulings on Jewish law that he had handed over during that week to ensure that he had not erred, Heaven forbid. He related that he did this review at the end of the Silent Prayer, for then his head was the most clear. “At the end of the Silent Prayer,” he said, “I was thinking about one of the cases that I had this week, which revolved around a wagon wheel. So these two guests have ruach hakodesh. They knew what I was thinking.”
The Maharshal invited the two important guests to spend Shabbat with him in his home. When cutting the challah loaf after Kiddush, something strange happened. An ant had apparently crawled into the challah, and the Maharshal had cut it in half. It was an awkward moment. One of the guests, who was sitting next to the Maharshal took his scarf and passed it before the rabbi’s eyes. Suddenly, he saw the ant as if it was the size of a camel. The Maharshal was very taken aback. An ant in the challah was bad enough, but when it looked the size of a camel, it was truly frightening. The guest then took two challah loaves out of his large pockets. These were special loaves, still warm as if they had just been removed from the oven, similar to the shewbread in the Holy Temple. The pious guest told the Maharshal that these were gifts from his holy rabbi, the Ari. He continued to tell the Maharshal that they had come from Tzfat on a cloud. The Arizal had seen with his ruach hakodesh that there would be a problem with your challah, so he sent you two special, heavenly challah loaves, which have the holiness of the Temple shewbread.
The Maharshal began to wonder if it was really correct to excommunicate the holy Ari. He asked the two guests to accompany him to his cellar. The Maharshal himself was also a great Kabbalist – but he kept that fact hidden. He did not learn or teach Kabbalah in public. In the cellar, he began to expound upon a deep Kabbalistic thought.
The Ari’s students listened to the Maharshal’s explanation and then Rabbi Chaim Vital opened his mouth and just said the first verse of the Torah: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” At that moment, the Maharshal suddenly felt and saw that the heavens were created anew and the earth was created anew (as will be the case when the Mashiach come – there will be new heavens and a new earth). The Maharshal understood that the power of the Torah of the student of the Ari was much greater than his own power. When he spoke, nothing was created, but when the student said just one verse, a new heaven and earth were created.
This convinced the Maharshal not to excommunicate the holy Ari. Excommunication can only be performed by someone greater than the subject of the excommunication, and the Maharshal understood that the Ari was greater than he, and if so, he apparently had the power and permission from Heaven to reveal the secrets of Kabbalah to the Nation of Israel.
This is a wondrous story, from which we learn that sometimes a Tzaddik must invest tremendous effort in order not to be misunderstood: “And you shall be clean from God and from Israel.” The greatest rabbi of the generation, the Arizal’s cousin, was planning to excommunicate him. In order to prevent that, and in order for the Maharshal to understand just who the Ari was, he performed an entirely supernatural act, thus revealing his stature.
STORY ABOUT A SECRET BUILDING IN RUSSIA
Behind a certain Shul in a small town not far from Leningrad is a small run-down hut in which is found an even smaller Mikva (Purification pool) that has been out of use for years known as Shlomo Zalman's Mikva. The reason it still there and people know its name is as follows.
Shlomo Zalman Shlozman was a sworn follower of an evil genius by the name of Lev Dovidovich Bronstein.
Exactly how many deaths this Bronstein can be held responsible for will probably never be known, but as one of the major figures in the bloody Russian Revolution and the founder and commander of the ruthless 'Red Army' it was undoubtedly in the tens of thousands.
Bronstein was better known as Leon Trotsky.
Before he was driven from Russia in the late nineteen twenties by his arch enemy Stalin his power was almost unlimited and his influence on the youth, especially the Jewish youth, was deadly.
He was a charismatic speaker that could hold crowds of thousands spellbound for hours with his impassioned rhetoric and fiery message of world dominion, progress, justice, equality and total change; just what millions of dissatisfied Russians, especially intellectual ones like Shlomo Zalman Shlozman, were waiting for.
Shlozman grew up in a religious home. His parents were happy, clean-living, devoutly observant Jews as were his grandparents and their grandparents before them for thousands of years stretching back to Sinai.
But now there was a NEW ORDER!! Comrade Trotsky taught that the Jews had no future as a separate race; rather their destiny was assimilation into the new communist culture that would change the entire world.
Shlozman took to it like a fish to water. No longer was he an individual … he was a communist with a responsibility to save all humanity! He began with his Jewish friends. They should leave their old superstitions and pool their energies in to the fight for a NEW future … with a TRUE leader!!
He didn't have to work hard. Most them were already as enthusiastic as he. They broke completely from the Torah and devoted themselves body and soul 24/7 to 'The Party'.
Five years passed. Communism triumphed in Russia and conquered the hearts and minds of all its citizens. The rich were stripped of their wealth, new names popped up into the spotlight and Shlozman was one of them. He rose in the ranks and so great was his devotion to the future and disdain for the past, especially his own, that when the news of his father's death reached him, he was so busy saving the world he that showed no sign of emotion.
Time passed and one morning he woke with a crazy urge to look up the Jewish date (The Jews have a unique calendar) just from curiosity he told himself.
He found a Jewish calendar flipped through the pages till he found the present date and was surprised to see that tomorrow would be exactly one year from his father's passing. His father's image flashed in his mind and he sort of choked up, almost cried. But he didn't…. No place for nostalgia or family, he thought. He didn't give it much thought.
"Know what ….. I'll say Kaddish." He said aloud to himself without knowing why. (Kaddish is a few sentences praising G-d that are said by mourners in the presence of a 'minyan' i.e. ten Jews.) 'That would be easy' he thought to himself. 'Just say a few words in the synagogue and finished.'
But it wasn't as simple as he thought.
In the town where he lived were three synagogues. At six a.m. sharp he casually strode into one just before their morning prayer began. But to his amazement as soon as he entered everyone there took one look at him, hastily packed up their Tefillin (phylacteries) and prayer shawls and without raising their eyes, made hasty departures.
In seconds he was standing in the synagogue alone.
Shlomo Zalman was angry at first; who did they think they were!? But in seconds he realized why they ran… they were afraid of him! They knew him and figured he probably came to make some sort of trouble. Maybe even to have them all arrested!
Undaunted he made his way to the second synagogue only to have the same results; as soon as they noticed his presence they began coughing and making their ways to the exit.
He should have just forgotten about saying 'Kaddish' but he didn't… he couldn't. What began as a simple whim was becoming a necessity … he had to say it! He was wondering what was happening to him. Till now he had been a rational, practical, athiest Communist; was he going mad?
As he walked quickly to the last synagogue, hoping he hadn't missed the prayers, memories of his youth began to flicker in his mind and tears flooded his eyes but he took his mind off it. "Ahh". He smiled and thought to himself as he read the name of the Synagogue over the door. " I'm not going to be late here. This is the Chassidic Shul (Synagogue) they don't start so early!"
But when opened the door he got scared; He was afraid they would run from him again. "I must have fallen pretty low if everyone ran from me like I was a monster. Maybe I really am a monster!" he thought to himself. He didn't want them to run from him again. He wanted to say Kaddish. After all, he was a Jew.
This time when he entered, he kept his eyes on the ground, put a skullcap on his head that he found at the entrance, hunched over and walked to the back of the room hoping no one would notice him. It worked! No one even looked at him and when they did, although they clearly suspected him (everyone in Russia suspected all strangers) they didn't run.
An old Chassid approached, stuck out his hand in greeting and Shlomo Zalman asked if he could say Kaddish for his father.
"Kaddish?" Answered the old fellow. "What about Tefillin? Have you put on Tefillin today?"
That caught him off guard. When he didn't reply the Chassid removed his own Tefillin from his arm and head, told Shlomo to roll up his sleeve and in moments. for the first time in years, he put them on.
The old Chassid gave him a prayer book, opened it and pointed to a paragraph, pounded on the table and yelled out… "Kaddish!" said a few sentences aloud and signaled Shlozman to read the age-old prayer. As he said the words for his departed father something warm and real woke up in him. His Jewish soul.
Shlozman never returned to his friends. That synagogue became his home. He let his beard grow, changed his way of life. And when he heard the Communists were closing all the Mikvas he decided that defying them was the perfect way to correct his evil past.
If they caught him it meant almost certain death but that never discouraged him. The Jewish children that would be born in purity due to his self-sacrifice would be his correction and his revenge. he owed too much to G-d to let the enemy win.
He built an innocent looking shack not far from the Synagogue in the guise of making it his home, and then spent night after night digging a hole there, bringing in pipes, cement and water all according to Torah qualifications until after a few months there was a secret mikva that no one would destroy!
It was used by the Jewish community for over forty years in the hardest times and miraculously was never discovered by the communists. In fact, because of it hundreds, even thousands of Jewish children were conceived and born according to Torah purity and a serious crack was put in the Iron Curtain.
He eventually changed his name, married and had children that he raised to be Chassidim of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.
CHANUKAH IN PERSIA When Rabbi Avraham Hershberg miraculously escaped from Europe to the U.S. just before Germany conquered Poland his talents didn't go unnoticed. He had been one of the most successful pupils in Yeshiva (Torah Academy) Chachme Lublin in Poland and soon after he arrived, he was offered a job as Rabbi of an orthodox community in Chicag. But as much as he wanted the job he said he would only accept if there was a Yeshiva there where he teach Torah. But there was no such Yeshiva in Chicago at the time and no one was interested in making one. So he sent letters, made requests and was finally advised to take his problem to Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch who lived in New York. He was the only one interested in breaking the spiritual ice of America and actually doing something about it. So he traveled to Brooklyn, told the Rebbe his problem and after a short pause the Rebbe assured, "There will be a Yeshiva in Chicago!" The next day ten young Chassidim set off to Chicago to establish a Yeshiva and Rabbi Hershberg took the Chicago rabbinical position and began teaching Torah as well. In 1950 Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak passed away and his son-in-law Rebbe Menachem Mendel, became the seventh Rebbe of Chabad but Rabbi Hirshberg's connection to Chabad continued. In fact when the Jewish community of Mexico offered him to become their chief Rabbi it was the new Rebbe who advised him to accept the appointment. Now our story begins. In 1979 the pro-American regime of Iran was overthrown by a radical Islam coalition led by Ayatollah Khomeini. In the chaos that followed, Iranian youth took over the American embassy and held its fifty-five staff-members as hostages for almost a year and a half. That's where Rabbi Hershberg comes in. Before the Revolution he had been very involved in a massive secret program directed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to get thousands of Jewish children out of Persia and give them Jewish educations in America and Israel. So, when the Rebbe was informed that the Iranian government had given the Red Cross permission to send a group of clergymen to visit the hostages, he used his influence to get Rabbi Hershberg included in the group, although none of the hostages were reported to be Jews. Preparations were made to for Iran leave and although the Rebbe had given his blessing Rabbi Hirschberg visited the Rebbe to ask for yet another blessing. He was afraid. Iran wasn't exactly a safe place for foreigners, especially Jewish ones and he and his wife were worried! The Rebbe assured him there was nothing to worry about, blessed him again with success but added that he should be sure to bring Chanukah candles with him and light them when he arrived. Rabbi Hirschberg was comforted by the blessings but couldn't figure what the Rebbe was talking about regarding Chanukah which was two months away, and plans were to leave the next day, but he packed a chanukah Menorah and candles anyway. Unexplainably the trip was delayed and then delayed again until two months later they arrived in Iran….. one day before Chanukah! If it hadn't been for the Rebbe's words he would have been afraid to light his Menorah at all, and certainly not in public. He might have lit in his hotel room to attract as little attention as possible every night for the duration of their stay. But now, with the Rebbe's prophetic blessing, he felt empowered. As soon as they arrived, even before he got settled in his room, he boldly asked one of the Iranian officials for permission to light his Chanukah Menorah for the Americans in the embassy. He was hoping that there was at least one Jew there. Amazingly permission was granted and even more amazing when he got in the embassy, faced them all and took out his menorah six of them stepped forward and announced that they were Jewish! But these poor Jews, as all the hostages, were tired, afraid and miserable. They had been there for a long time and the tension and uncertainty was definitely taking its toll. But as soon as the first candle was lit the faint yellow light spread over their faces and for the first time since their captivity, they smiled, then began humming a song, then clapping their hands and finally all were singing and dancing! But that was just the beginning. The next day Khomeini invited all these clergymen to participate in a massive public prayer with an attendance of almost one million people! Rabbi Hershberg relates, "We were standing on a platform with Khomeini and other important government and religious figures and I looked out at the sea of humanity before us. Then, at one point the loudspeakers blared out what must have been a prayer and suddenly everyone, hundreds of thousands of people, simultaneously dropped to their knees and then put their heads to the ground. Everyone bowed down …. except for me! I simply never even considered doing it. "Well, after the prayers, two officials approached me and told me that Khomeini wants to talk to me. I thought to myself, that's it! At least I'll die for the sake of Judaism. But then remembered the Rebbe's blessing and became calm. I followed them with the greatest certainty and when I got to Khomeini a few of his servants told me in English that he demands an explanation as to why I didn't bow down. "So, I calmly turned to him and explained in the most positive way that I could muster up that I didn't bow for two reasons. First, I'm a Jew that believes in G-d, and second I don't understand their prayers. So I could not bow down without knowing what they are saying and to whom they are bowing. "Well, he was really impressed with that answer, I think he liked my simple straightforwardness and when I saw that, I asked him if I could meet with him privately at some time. "Miracle of miracles… he agreed! The next day we met in his room, after a short friendly conversation through a translator I asked him to please be more kind to the Jews in his kingdom. Amazingly he promised to consider it. "It was hard to believe how the Rebbe's blessing turned everything around. I don't know why Khomeini put me on that stage with him and why he accepted my explanation but it was a miracle! It comes out that there were either some Jews in that huge crowd or the prayer had been televised but my appearance on that stage made a tremendous impression on all the Jews who saw it, and the next day I heard that thousands of Jews packed the synagogues in Iran, many for the first time in their lives! "Not only that, but Khomeini kept his promise! That next Elul (the last month in the Jewish year) he passed an edict saying that for the entire month Jews were allowed to break the curfew and walk in the streets at 4 a.m. to their Synagogues for 'Slichot' (a series of early morning prayers said before Rosh HaShanna)." On the plane returning home Rabbi Hershberg began to understand that not only did the Rebbe's blessings come miraculously true above all expectations but even more, the real miracle was the Rebbe's actual love and care for others; it not only actually awakened the identity of many Jews, but it also impressed and changed the actions of the leader of Persia.
STORY OF MONSIEUR
"The Rebbe" the story of Rabbi David Aharon Newman:
" I was born in 1934 in the town town of Ukraine. When I was a little boy, my parents emigrated to the Antwerp, where a great Jewish community lived of about fifty thousand Jews.
Unfortunately, peace in Belgium didn't last long. In 1940 the Germans invaded Belgium and immediately began Jewish transportation to the extermination camps. We realized we had to escape from Belgium. We crossed the border and moved to the neighboring country of France. I was then only six years old, but I was quite mature to understand that we were fugitives.
We arrived in Marseille, where my grandmother lived - with my mother and daughter - my mother's sister. A group of chabad followers lived there and we were warmly welcomed, but the problem was that there was nothing for us. No food, nothing. The war continued, and there was a huge shortage of food and no shelter for all the refugees that got there. Roaming from home to home, from place to place, a few months later the Nazis (yemach shemom) invaded Paris and the situation worsened more.
In the midst of the chaos, my family had to split up and only after the war I returned to see them. Meanwhile, I was sent to an orphanage in Marseille. In the orphanage there were many Jewish children. Many of them were three or four years old and some of the children knew that their parents were killed. Others did not know what happened to the their parents. I would often hear the crying voices of children calling their parents, who were not there to answer them...
The war increased, and the situation worsened. Food was a rare commodity and many days went by and we were very hungry.
And then, at the beginning of the summer of 1941, our savior arrived. We didn't know his name - we called him ' Monsieur ' - mister in French. 'Monsieur' would come with a bag full of long french baguettes, and tuna or sardines, and sometimes he would also bring potatoes. He stayed with us every day to make sure all the children ate. Some of the children were in such a difficult situation, that they didn't efven want to eat.
The same children would sit on his knees. He would tell them stories, sing to them and feed them with his own hands. He would sit on the floor next to some of the kids, and even feed them with a spoon. And he wouldn't leave before he made sure everyone ate.
He was like a father to those sad little children.
He knew every child in his name, even though we didn't know his name.
We loved him when he was close to us. I remember a child who was surprised by his friends who sat on the knees of 'Monsieur' and heard his songs and songs. That child pretended he didn't want to eat to draw his attention so he could get to sit on his knees.
'Monsieur' came day after day for a few weeks. And in my opinion, many of the children that were then in the orphanage owe him their lives to him. I know if not for him I certainly wouldn't be here.
The War finally ended and I returned to Antwerpen with my family. Then we left Europe and started life anew. On 1957 I came to live in New York. My Uncle asked me to go and meet the Rebbe of Lubavitch. Of course I agreed, and we scheduled a date for the meeting.
When the day arrived , I came to home 770 and sat to wait for my turn. I read some psalms and watched the parade of people, women and children included, from all the corners of the world who came to see the Rebbe. Finally, it was my turn.
The Rebbe smiled at me and greeted me and said “This is Aharon!:”.
I thought to myself, how does he know me in my name... and suddenly I felt like I was about to pass out - I stood in front of ' Monsieur '! Now I realized that the Rebbe was our ' Monsieur '. And he recognized me even before I recognized him! Unbelievable! Then I learned how he had come to Marseille.
Rebbetzin chaya moussia tried to escape Europe and to organize the necessary documents. She traveled back and forth between to Marseille. Surely she heard about the existence of the orphanage and the poor group of children that were in it, and the Rebbe came to our help.
STORY OF ZECHARIAH:
Some two hundred fifty years ago in Russia, near the area where the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shneur Zalman, lived, there was a crazy man. He had been a normal, sensible religious Jew with a wife and family until one day he suddenly lost his mind and began screaming and thrashing about for no apparent reason.
His family was shocked, his friends tried to help, his neighbors shook their heads in pity and the Rabbis prayed but it didn't help. So they collected money and went for professional help.
But the doctors also were at a loss and couldn't figure out what to do. They just scratched their heads and shrugged their shoulders and said that perhaps just it would go away as suddenly as it came. Or perhaps they had to be patient and gradually he would improve. But the years passed and he didn't.
To have him committed to an asylum was out of the question. There he would be treated like an animal and would be thrown together with dangerous maniacs.
Then someone suggested that they try the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shenur Zalman. So they bound him, got him into a carriage, and after several hours were in the town of Liazne entering the Rebbe's office.
In the presence of the Rebbe the madman was fairly still, once in a while giving a grunt or some other non-human sound and occasionally waving his hands but surprisingly when the Rebbe said he wanted to tell them a story and asked them to be seated he sat and they untied him.
The Rebbe began. "It says in the Talmud (Gittin 57b) that when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel and his troops entered the First Temple to destroy it they noticed there was a pool of blood bubbling on the floor of the Temple courtyard. The commanding general then gathered the Cohanim (priests) and asked for an explanation and they explained that it was the blood of a little-known Jewish Prophet called Zechariah (not the famous one who lived years later in the beginning of the Second Temple)."
When he saw they were all listening, the Rebbe continued.
"Now please listen closely. The accepted story is that the Jews stoned him to death because he stood in the Temple courtyard and told them things they didn't want to hear; enumerating their sins and threatening them with death and exile if they didn't repent.
"But, in fact, that is not what happened. The story is quite different. The motive in killing him was much more positive."
The Rebbe looked at the crazy man and then at his family to make sure they were listening and continued.
"The fact is that only a few men stoned Zechariah and they were 'Tzadikim;; totally righteous Jews, perhaps the only Jews that had not sinned in those days. And they stoned him in order to save everyone else.
"So, in fact, he did not anger anyone he didn't even speak. As soon as he stood before the crowd these holy men understood what he was about to say.
"They knew that he was about to prophesize the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jews to Babylon. And they also knew that because his words were prophesy, as soon they would be uttered the decree would be sealed unless the Jews repented. But they were aware that the Jews weren't ready to change their ways.
"So they decided that they had to make the ultimate sacrifice even if it would cost them both this world and the next! They knew that by killing him they would die as sinners … but so great was their brotherly love that they didn't care about themselves; only about stopping that prophesy and possibly averting the decree of death and destruction.
"But perhaps you will ask why didn't the prophet Zacharia himself refuse to make his prophesy? Certainly, he had no less love for his fellow Jews than those who killed him. Why didn't he just keep quiet?
"And if you try to explain that if he did so he would be punishable by death (which is the law regarding a prophet that refuses to prophesize). If so, then why didn't he give his life as those who killed him were willing to do?
"The answer is that a true prophet is nothing more than a conduit for G-d's messages and he knows that G-d is good. In other words, his entire essence exists only to give over his prophesy with no worry of its repercussions.
"But those who killed him did worry and they felt they had no choice but to make a desperate attempt to save the Jewish people from tragedy and exile. So they murdered him.
"Now, the tortured souls of those Tzadikim who murdered Zechariah have been in limbo for almost two and a half thousand years; They couldn't enter heaven because of their sin of murder. And the gates of hell also would not admit them because of their pure intentions. So they have been waiting to be corrected
"That is why you came to me." The Rebbe concluded.
"These souls entered your father's body and made him insane in the hope that someone could find some redeeming quality in their sin and free them. And that is what I did.
"When I learned "Zechut" (merit) on their deed I made a 'Tikun' (correction) on their souls and now both they and your father are released."
Suddenly the insane man closed his eyes briefly, smiled with relief and began to breathe easily. He was cured!