Thursday, December 11, 2008
The following is a part two of the encounter that took place in the front of 770 where a group of Bachurim (yeshiva students) saw a young man in long hair and boots approach the Rebbe, who waved his finger around and then pointed at this man's chest.
What happened there? What did the Rebbe say? The encounter is retold by the former "young man" himself. Also attached, is a first time released picture of the Rebbe. Special thanks to the RebbeArchive@Gmail.com for the picture.
Mr. Elliot Relates:
It was January 1973. I was a law student at SUNY Buffalo and at the time had two serious questions on Judaism that were bothering me. So I called up Rabbi Nosson Gurary, director of the campus Chabad house, and asked him the questions. His reply to me was: "The only one who can answer you is the Rebbe. He is based in Brooklyn, New York. Go to him and he will help you."
Rabbi Gurari told me that the Rebbe came to 770 to daven mincha every afternoon at about 3:00, so this was the time I could possibly meet him.
I arrived at 770 from Manhattan, where I was staying with a group of friends. Rabbi Hendel, a relative of Rabbi Gurary, helped me out by lending me a kippah (skullcap).
I glanced around 770. Suddenly hearing it was the time for the Rebbe to appear, I hurried to the front of 770 outside.
There I was, decked in jeans, snakeskin boots, with hair down my back and a couple of earrings. The Rebbe, meanwhile, emerged from his car. Immediately I approached him, and we stood there, in front of the steps leading to 770.
"Excuse me," I asked, "are you the Lubavitcher Rebbe?"
"Yes," the Rebbe answered. Then he asked, "What is your name, and where are you from?"
So I told the Rebbe my name and family name. Then I said, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Ask," the Rebbe replied.
"Where is G-d?"
"I know, but where?"
This time the Rebbe replied with his finger. "Everywhere. He is in a rock. He is in a tree . . . ."
"I know, but where?" I pressed. "I really want to know where."
The Rebbe pointed directly at me. "In your heart. If this is how you ask."
I then asked the Rebbe, "Can I speak to you in English?"
I continued, "When we say 'Shema Yisroel' [Hear O Israel], whether it is a Black person saying it or an Indian saying it, there is one G-d for all of us. But does it have the same meaning for them as for us?"
The Rebbe answered, "The essence of a Black man is to be what he is; the essence of an Indian is to be what he is. But the essence of a yid [Jew] is tied to G-d through the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvoth. So for us it has a different meaning."
The Rebbe concluded that I should learn the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch [Abridged Code of Jewish Law] and begin laying tefillin [phylacteries] every day.
During our conversation, my contact with the Rebbe was so powerful that it left me virtually transported. After he said goodbye and entered 770, I began to cry. I felt that the truth I was looking for had come at last.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The following is a beautiful letter of the Rebbe that was sent to Mrs. Rose Goldfield, sister of the famed Chassid Reb Zalman Jaffe o.b.m. On March 17, 1975, Mrs. Goldfield, who resided in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Jerusalem, had lost her son in a car accident, which left her devastated. The Rebbe responded with a letter that ultimately consoled her.
As Rabbi Jaffe relates in his famous diaries, My Encounter with the Rebbe:
On Erev Pesach, 5735 [March 26, 1975], the Rebbe wrote to me a beautiful Pesach-letter. At the end was the following postscript:
"P.S. The copy of my letter is sent to you confidentially. I was prompted to write to your sister by your report, which is also what prompted me to write in unusual for me terms. May G-d grant that henceforth, at any rate, she will find a growing measure of peace of mind."
Attached to this letter below is an interesting picture of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbearchive@gmail.com.
By the Grace of G-d
5th of Nissan, 5735 [March 17, 1975]
Mrs. Rose Goldfield
13 Yam Suf
Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem
Blessing and Greeting:
I am in receipt of your correspondence, and trust that you received my regards through your brother R' Zalmen who was here for the Yud Shevat observance.
I must reiterate again what was said when you were here in regard to bitochon [trust] in G-d, that all He does is for the good. It is not easy to accept the passing of a near and dear one; but since our Torah, which is called Toras Chesed and Toras Chayim [Torah of kindness and Torah of life], our guide in life, sets limits to mourning periods, it is clear that when the period ends it is no good to extend it – not good, not only because it disturbs the life that must go on here on earth, but also because it does not please the soul that is in the World of Truth.
A further point which, I believe, I mentioned during our conversation, but apparently from your letter not
emphatically enough, is this: It would be contrary to plain common sense to assume that a sickness, or accident, and the like, could affect the soul, for such physical things can affect only the physical body and its union with the soul, but certainly not the soul itself.
It is also self-evident that the relationship between parents and children is in essence and content a spiritual one, transcending time and space – of qualities that are not subject to the influence of bodily accident, disease, etc.
It follows that when a close person passes on, by the will of G-d, those left here can no longer see him with their eyes or hear him with their ears; but the soul, in the World of Truth, can see and hear. And when he sees that the relatives are overly disturbed by his physical absence, it is saddened; and, conversely, when it sees that after the mourning period prescribed by the Torah a normal and fully productive life is resumed, it can happily rest in peace.
Needless to say, in order that the above be accepted not only intellectually but actually implemented in everyday life, it is necessary to be occupied, preferably involved, with matters of "personal" interest and gratification. As I also mentioned in our conversation, every Jew has a most gratifying and edifying task of spreading light in the world through promoting yiddishkeit [Judaism]. Particularly, as in your case, where one can be of so much help and inspiration to children and grandchildren who look up to you and your husband for en-couragement, wisdom, etc.
Here is also the answer to your question, what you can do for the soul of the dear one. Spreading yiddishkeit around you effectively, displaying simple Yiddish faith in G-d and in His benevolent Providence, doing all the good work that has to be done with confidence and peace of mind – this is what truly gratifies the soul in Olam haEmes [World of Truth], in addition to fulfilling your personal and most lofty mission in life as a daughter of our Mothers Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and therefore also serving as an inspiring example for others to emulate.
It is possible to enlarge upon the above, but knowing your family background and tradition, I trust the above will suffice. I might add, however, that one must be aware of the yetzer-hara [evil inclination] who is very crafty and knows that certain people cannot be approached openly and without disguise. So he tries to trick them by disguising himself in a mantle of piety and emotionalism, etc.,
saying: You know, G-d has prescribed a period of mourning, which shows that it is the right thing to do; so why not do more than that and extend the period? In this way, he may have a chance to succeed in distracting the person from the fact that at the end of the said period, the Torah requires the Jew to serve G-d with joy. The yetzer-hara will even encourage a person to give tzedokah [charity] in memory of the soul, learn Torah and do mitzvos in memory of the soul, except that in each case it be associated with sadness and pain. But, as indicated, this is exactly contrary to the objective, which is to cause pleasure and gratification to the soul.
May G-d grant that, inasmuch [as] we are approaching the Festival of Our Freedom, including also freedom from everything that distracts a Jew from serving G-d wholeheartedly and with joy, that this should be so also with you, in the midst of all our people, and that you should be a source of inspiration and strength to your husband, children and grandchildren, and all around you."
Reprinted with permission from the forthcoming volume of My Encounter with the Rebbe, volume two, www.myencounter.com.
Friday, November 28, 2008
The following is part one of an encounter with a Jew from Buffalo, New York, who came to 770 to see the Rebbe. It was a meeting that lasted only sixty seconds but forever changed this person's life. Special thanks to Rabbi Shabtai Slavaticki for his recollection of this encounter, and to the RebbeArchive@Gmail.Com for the photograph.
A Stranger Approaches the
The door opened and the Rebbe stepped out. There was absolute silence, a complete hush. All eyes were focused on the Rebbe. Each one of us gazed at the Rebbe with his own private thoughts and feelings. Some of us looked at the Rebbe with love, others with awe, still others with a sense of shame. Many took the opportunity to pray.
The Rebbe strode in the direction of the waiting car, as Rabbi Krinsky Opened the door. In another moment the Rebbe would enter the car, the door would close, and he would begin the short trip home. I didn't notice him until the Rebbe was going towards the steps.
He was standing on the sidewalk, near the brick railing opposite the Rebbe's room. He was a tall young man, with a clean-shaven, refined-looking face. I judged him to be approximately 25 years old. The yarmulke perched atop his head looked slightly embarrassed, like a guest who had yet to find a comfortable position. In fact, the yarmulke revealed everything about him...
As soon as he saw the Rebbe come out of 770, he walked up the steps towards him, although we could sense his hesitation. It was also obvious that He was very emotional. I think we all stopped breathing. Who was this guy? And what did he want From the Rebbe? The Rebbe paused and turned his holy head in the young man's direction. We All saw him say something to the Rebbe, but we couldn't hear what it was. All we could do was watch from afar as the Rebbe gave him his attention. When the young man finished, the Rebbe looked at him and uttered a few words.
At the same time, the Rebbe lifted his holy hands into the air and made a wide, circling gesture. The young man was listening intently to the Rebbe's words.
But we could see that he was still somewhat tense, as if he was not entirely satisfied with the Rebbe's answer. For a few seconds he just stood there uncomfortably, hesitating whether or not to continue. Finally he seemed to gather his courage, raised his head and asked another question. We were all watching the Rebbe's holy countenance, and saw the faintest flicker of a smile and a look of satisfaction. It seemed as if the Rebbe had been
anticipating the question. With an expression exuding warmth and love, the Rebbe looked directly into the young man's eyes and said a few more words, pointing with his holy finger towards the young man's heart.
We couldn't hear a thing, but we could tell that whatever the Rebbe had told him was completely unexpected. The young man stood there in shock, rooted to his place on the sidewalk. The Rebbe gave him a slight nod, and then continued on his way to the waiting car.
Groping in the Dark
As soon as the Rebbe had departed, all of us bachurim emerged from our "hiding places." Some went back inside 770, while others returned to whatever they had been doing. The most curious among us, however, just had to find out what the Rebbe had said. We watched the young man from a distance, trying to figure out how to initiate a conversation without seeming too nosy. The young man walked down the steps into 770 and took a seat on one of the benches in the back. He then lowered his head onto his arms and burst into tears. No one had the nerve to approach him. We stood to the side, unwilling to intrude on his emotions at such a time.
After about 15 minutes he seemed to have calmed down, so we walked over to him. We started very innocuously. Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
Of course, the whole time we were trying to ask more. Maybe we knew some of the same people, or perhaps we had something else in common? Our world is a world of lies. We often say one thing, while thinking something completely different. We say "bruchim habaim" and "shalom aleichem" in welcome, while actually meaning "tzeischem leshalom," good-bye. We bring up various topics, but we're only beating around the bush. There are some people who spend their whole lives dancing around the subject of life, but never actually talk about life itself. When will all the barriers fall away?
We sat down next the fellow and began to chat, but the whole time there was only one question on our minds. What had the Rebbe said to him? Would he agree to tell us?
We couldn't figure out a way to broach the subject. Then, as if quite incidentally, one of us "happened" to ask, "Why did the Rebbe raise his hands while speaking to you?" The young man smiled, as if he appreciated the cleverness of the Question. "I'm sure you want to know what I asked the Rebbe," he said." Let me tell you exactly what happened... To be continued next week.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"I am not what they call a Lubavitcher Chassid. However, I still support President Shazar's trip to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn"
Although the late Israeli President, Zalman Shazar OBM, visited the Rebbe several times throughout his lifetime, one particular visit in the summer of 1966 was of special significance, as it was the first made in his official capacity as head of the Jewish state. The following is a description of some the controversy that led to the meeting and a glimpse of what was discussed during the Yechidus.
"In the summer of 1966, at the invitation of their presidents, Zalman Shazar had set out on an extended trip to three South American countries: Uruguay, Chile and Brazil.
On his way back to Israel he stopped off in Washington to meet with President Lyndon Johnson, after which he was to continue on to New York, where he was slated to meet with a number of leaders of Jewish organizations. It was during this visit to New York that Mr. Shazar planned on visiting the Rebbe.
As Mr. Shazar well realized, paying a visit to the Rebbe was a controversial act, one which was sure to arouse intense opposition on the part of many in the Israeli government. President Shazar later related that after reaching New York, he had called the Rebbe's office and requested a meeting. "I don't care if it means that I won't be re-elected. I don't care if it's controversial. The only thing I'm concerned about is that it should not somehow damage the dignity of the State," Mr. Shazar related. The Rebbe informed the President he would consult his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, and give him his answer.
Rabbi Groner, one of the Rebbe's secretaries, recalls the day that Mr. Shazar called the Rebbe's office with the request for an audience:
"It was a Thursday; the Rebbe informed us that the next day, Friday, he would go to the Ohel. The Rebbe's stay at the Ohel was shorter than usual. When he returned, he asked us to tell Mr. Shazar that his father-in-law had said, 'No one ever goes away from Lubavitch.' Mr. Shazar immediately responded by saying that if so, he would definitely be coming to the Rebbe."
"The first thing the Israeli consulate did was to contact the Rebbe's office and suggest that the Rebbe come to the Israeli President, and not the other way around. When they were told that the Rebbe does not generally leave his neighborhood and that no meetings are held outside of Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway (except for a few rare instances when meetings have been held in the Rebbe's home).
The members of the consulate went so far as to try to convince the President himself: a hue and cry was raised that by Mr. Shazar going to the Rebbe instead of having the Rebbe come to him, the honor of the State of Israel was being compromised. [This is what prompted Mr. Shazar's initial question to the Rebbe about the damage to the dignity of the State]...
"Several members of the consulate then spread a rumor among the Israeli journalists in New York -- correspondents for the Israeli newspapers -- that President Shazar was ignoring diplomatic protocol by wishing to extend his stay in New York beyond the allotted time. No mention was made of why Mr. Shazar wanted to visit New York after his stopover in Washington. Nonetheless, the President stood firm, and insisted that a visit to the Rebbe be included in his schedule."
The Rebbe handed Mr. Shazar a copy of a booklet containing a Chasidic discourse that had been written exactly 100 years previously and was about to be published. The Rebbe told Shazar it was being printed in honor of his visit and said that he was giving him the first copy.
Mr. Shazar said to the Rebbe, "There are some people who are not friends of the Land of Israel, among them --, as contrasted with the Rebbe, who loves Israel."
The Rebbe responded, "Inside, they also love Israel."
Everyone else then left the room and a private audience between Rebbe and Chasid, a true communing of souls, continued for an hour and a half. After the audience, the Rebbe led President Shazar to the smaller study hall on the first floor of 770 and gave him a tour of the premises, complete with explanations. When Mr. Shazar walked into the Rebbe's private office, the Rebbe pointed to his desk and said, "This desk has heard the cries of many Jews. I could not have brought it with me had I come to visit you."
President Shazar presented the Rebbe with a large box made of olive wood. It contained a parcel of letters written by the Rebbe Rashab (the Previous Rebbe's father). The letters, which had been part of the Previous Rebbe's library, had disappeared during the Holocaust. Years later they resurfaced in the public library of Warsaw, from where they were redeemed. The Rebbe kept this box on his desk for many years.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
"I will always remember my first visit to Lubavitch"
Remember--I will always remember my first visit to Lubavitch. It happened some thirty years ago.
Though a Chasid of Wizhnitz, I had heard of Chabad and its renowned leader. A foreign correspondent for Israel's evening paper "Yediot Achronot," I had thought of doing a story about the way Lubavitcher chasidim celebrate the liberation of the first--or the "Alter"--Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi from Czarist prison.
When I left in the early morning hours, I still belonged to Wizhnitz, but I was already caught by something or someone one finds only in Lubavitch.
I remember: in a "shul" that seems both huge and intimate, thousands and thousands of chasidim, young and old, from all over the world, are dancing vertically, as if not moving from their place, yet forcing their rhythm onto the entire universe.
Their eyes closed, they sing as only chasidim can. Ten times, fifty times, they repeat the same words, the same tune, and the song bursts their chests and lights a thousands flames in their eyes before rising higher and higher, up to the seventh heaven, if not higher, to the "Heichel hanegina," source and sanctuary of all songs.
The center is the Rebbe. The Chasid in me looks at him with wonder. There is something melancholy and profoundly moving about his personality. Disturbing and reassuring at the same time. He feels what everyone here feels, he helps all attain the unattainable. In his presence, one feels more Jewish, more authentically Jewish. Seen by him, one comes in closer contact with one's own inner Jewish center.
Am unable to take my eyes off him. His gaze encom- passes everyone and everything. I have rarely witnessed such control of and concern over such a large assembly. Thousands of eyes follow his most imperceptible movements.
When he talks, everybody listens breathlessly, absorbing every word, every sigh. When he sighs, the whole world sighs with him and us.
I remember: hours long I stood there, at 770 Eastern Parkway, as in a dream, looking at the Rebbe who was looking at his followers. At times, he smiled and night vanished from their lives. There were moments when he seemed serious and somber. And, between songs, his fervent listeners trembled between fear and hope.
Suddenly I saw myself as a child again. Spending a Shabbat at the court of the Wizhnitzer Rebbe. There, too, the souls became strings and played ancient melodies.
Yet here in Lubavitch it is different. The world is different. Countless invisible
cemeteries separate the past from the present. In Lubavitch I think even about Wizhnitz in a different manner.
What the Rebbe of Lubavitch is doing, what he is accomplishing here can be felt beyond Lubavitch.
This I came to understand much later. As I began traveling around the country, I discovered the Rebbe's emissaries in the most forsaken places. Were it not for them and their devotion, were it not for the mission entrusted onto them by the Rebbe, in the forty-two years of his leadership, who knows how many Jewish souls would have been lost to our people.
It is part of the Rebbe's greatness that he knows whom to send where and when. Not all their accomplishments have been made public. Some must remain secret. When they will be revealed--soon, I hope --they will surely increase the existing admiration for the Rebbe's vision.
Thus the Jewish people owe the Rebbe a great debt of recognition and gratitude. I do, too. I have learned much from Lubavitch in Lubavitch.
Had I not participated in the "Chag HaGeula" of Chabad some thirty years ago, I wonder whether I would be who I am now.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
In honor of Vov (6th) Tishrei, the Yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson the Rebbe's mother, I would like to present a beautiful handwritten letter that Rebbetzin Chana wrote to Mrs. Esther Alperin A"h (Director of the Rebbe's Shluchim in Brazil) Mrs. Alperin shared a very special and unique relationship with the Rebbetzin. Special thanks to Rabbi Yossi Alperin.
Regards to your Husband.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Why didn't Chabad establish its headquarters in Israel? What is a Rebbe? What is the Chabad method to meditation and reflection? The above mentioned questions are from a first time released Yechidus with the Rebbe and the Directors of the Hillel Foundation. This fascinating Yechidus took place during then summer of August 1959. I would like to thank all the Editors from The Avner Institute for all of their efforts in helping to publish this Yechidus. Special thanks to Rabbi Groner, one of the Rebbe's Secretaries, for allowing this Yechidus to be released for the first time from his Archive.
Attached is an interesting picture of the Rebbe thanks to the "Rebbe Archive".
Rebbe: If I remember correctly, when we met last time it was discussed that everyone must always be going mechayil al chayil (from strength to strength). As a year has elapsed in between, probably every one of us is more efficient. I would like to hear besoros tovos (good news) about your achievements.
Question: "Chayil" also means a soldier of war. Is there any connection to going from "strength to strength?"
R: Yes, a solder is forced to go to war; he must go higher even against his will.
Q: Why didn't the Lubavitcher movement choose to go to Israel instead of the U.S.?
R: The Lubavitcher movement came to the U.S. in 1940, when the British Mandate was in full power. If you have a certain amount of energy and it is your intention to use it to a maximum of efficiency, you must apply it where it can be used to maximum efficiency.
Q: Do you mean that there are more Jewish people here that will be helped by your ideals?
R: There is more possibility to help more people in Brooklyn than in Tel Aviv.
Q: Is that why you chose Brooklyn, and not some other city like Chicago?
R: The real reason is because my father-in-law wanted a place where he could influence a great number of students. And this can be done more easily in Brooklyn than in Baltimore or Chicago.
Q: If the British Mandate had not been in Israel, would he have chosen Israel?
R: I don't believe so; you do not have the possibilities there that you have in the United States.
Q: Did the entire Lubavitcher movement come to the U.S. at one time, or did they come as individuals?
R: Lubavitcher congregations were established in the U.S. over fifty years ago. They invited my father in-law (the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe) as a political rescue from Poland, which was under German occupation. The Hasidim in the U.S. intervened through the State Department. They explained to the State Department the advantages of having his leadership here in the U.S., and through the American Embassy in Berlin they were successful in having him leave and come to the United States. But, I believe, that even had there been a choice between the two million Jews in the U.S. or the hundred thousand in Israel, where they had already established yeshivas and Yiddishkeit (Judaism), he would have chosen the harder field to work with and not the most convenient. There was more challenge here in Brooklyn.
Q: Lubavitch is systematic, and the neo-Orthodox in Israel do not have some of the frustrations of the Jews in galut (exile).
R: It has no connection with being Orthodox or systematic. It deals with choosing a spot where you have no help or choosing a spot where you can rest twelve or fifteen hours a day. It doesn't depend upon the ideal but whether the human being is seeking an easy way out or seeking to accomplish something, and in a certain period of time. My father-in-law always sought something that was difficult to perform, that no one wanted to do voluntarily, and began by doing something revolutionary.
In 1940, Orthodoxy in the U.S. was going down. In Israel, it was going up, and in Europe it was at the same level more or less. When my father-in-law first heard that the Hasidim were trying to bring him to the U.S., his first thought was that this is a place where his energies can best be applied. Neo-Orthodoxy is trying to fight assimilation while it is still only a seed, as it is much easier to annihilate something when it is beginning than after it is fully grown.
Q: Are you not concerned with assimilation?
R: That is our prime interest. Twenty years ago there were three reasons for assimilation: 1) escape . . . 3) rescue. Now assimilation is looked down upon by all three groups.
Q: Please state your attitude about devekut (Divine ecstasy).
R: Do you have a specific question in mind?
Q: No. I wanted to hear the Lubavitcher interpretation.
R: Every human being, by his connection with G-d Almighty, has no limitation to his possibilities, because he has in his store not only his own energy but an open channel to receive additional energy from above. To have this channel open is called "devekut." You can be a very long distance from the powerhouse and you can become closer and closer to entering the powerhouse itself. And you can become a part of the Being we call G-d Almighty. That is the maximum of devekut. It does not mean that the soul parts from the guf (body), because the body is also a creation. It becomes not only closer and closer, but it becomes forlorn in Divinity. And yet, soon after that, he can eat his seudat Shabbat (Sabbath meal) and go to his business after Havdalah (close of Shabbat) – it is not like nirvana. In devekut you have no existence in yourself, but you are a part of G-d that is permeating all your being with His divinity. It is not in a hidden form, but it is functioning in your body just as your heart, leg, etc. are functioning.
It must permeate not only your actions but your understanding and intelligence. Performing a mitzvah is the action itself—like putting the tefillin (phylacteries) on your head—you can put it on your head and at the same time think about business or politics. That is called machshovot zerot—your thoughts are in another world. You can think about the perush hamilim (meaning of the words) itself but it touches your understanding only and goes no deeper. If you say the blessing with hitlahavut (enthusiasm), then it not only touches your understanding but your feelings also. If this hitlahavut goes deeper and much more, then it can bring him to a stage of ecstasy till he forgets the environment around him. That is, it permeates all your faculties.
A mitzvah can be performed limited and no more, but if you perform it to a maximum, then it brings you to ecstasy and even the movement of your head and involuntary movements are also under the impact of this mitzvah. Thus the saying of the Ba'al Shem Tov (founder of Hasidism) that every day before his prayer he was afraid that he may not come out of this activity alive.
Q: Shabbatai Zvi and his followers used mystical Kabbalah to break away from halacha (Jewish law), as they considered Kabbalah the true procedure for themselves. Perhaps this way may be the reason the [18th century scholar] Vilna Gaon objected to Hasidic teachings?
R: As for comparing the movement of Shabbatai Zvi to the Hassidic movement—every movement that is started by someone of the Jewish people has some common point because it was started by a Jew. Shabbatai Zvi also was a scholar not only in Kabbalah but in halacha, but after a few years he deviated from the right derech (path). It became something that not was only deviant just the opposite of Judaism.
Hasidism and Kabbalah are called in the Zohar penimiut (inward). That includes that there must be something hitzoniut (outward). Kabbalah is not something that you can dissect and throw away one thing, because if you accept one part if it is a necessity that you accept the other part. When someone comes to a conclusion against halacha, he is deviating. If you are logical, you must come to the conclusion that Kabbalah and Hasidism must exist; because without them there is something missing. The same thing--if you accept Kabbalah and negate halacha, you are negating something that is a part; and you are negating the basis on which you are standing.
The Vilna Gaon did not negate Kabbalah, because he had his own group and he learned Kabbalah. In his opinion, it was something not to be learned with a large group, but to be taught to only a select group, as the others are not able to grasp Kabbalah and must be satisfied with halacha. But there must be a select group above them that learns Kabbalah.
Shabbatai Zvi negated halacha. In the time of Shabbatai Zvi there was a group of Catholic priests that translated Kabbalistic manuscripts and studied Kabbalah. But this is not considered Jewish Kabbalah, as the Catholics did not put on tefillin. It is just like someone in Sorbonne, Brooklyn College, or some other university who can learn Kabbalah without putting on tefillin. For true Kabbalah cannot be separated from halacha. The terminology of these two kinds of Kabbalah is penimiut and hitzoniut (true and false Kabbalah): the body and the neshama (soul).
Q: How do you start with your students? Should I begin to talk to them about hitlahavut or just do the mitzvoth?
R: Now is such an era that you must choose with every individual his own approach. If you can take him with hitlahavut or devekut, do it that way. But the main thing is the actual mitzvah and you can choose your own approach. If you estimate your congregation or audience that it can be approached more effectively by explaining hitlahavut, then choose this way. The mistake is if he begins with one thing and then goes no further. If he begins with ma'asah (actual mitzvah), then he has the most essential part of it, and if the audience goes to sleep you have achieved the essential. But if you begin with devekut or hitlahavut and then they go to sleep, they will not know about the most important part—ma'asah bepoel (actual doing).
Q: I came across a great amount of children who expressed bitterness against their parents. Can you suggest an approach to turn this bitterness into love?
R: Although there is no general remedy that will apply to each individual, nevertheless there is one common point. In growing up he must encounter difficulties and obstacles in his way—the world is changing, his body is changing, and this presents obstacles to him. He needs someone for a scapegoat, ashma. The only person who has been with him all his life is his parent, and if he has no strength of character to say to himself that he must overcome these obstacles—even if it is connected with the biggest event in his life—then he must find someone to put the finger on. His road is not easy to go on. He must choose his father and mother to blame, because he knows his teacher only one or two years and he experienced these difficulties before that. If he can put his finger on his mother or father, he has a perfect excuse.
Explain to your audience the real reason they choose their parents for their accusations, but do not stress this point too hard. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow they will be less bitter. Do not expect them to stand up on the first day and say "ashamnu (I have sinned)."
Q: How is it that I saw that the leadership of Lubavitch was transmitted through a daughter not through a son?
R: You probably mean after the son of the Alter Rebbe ("Old Rabbi"--Shneur Zalman of Liadi, first Lubavitcher Rebbe). He had two sons but they begged the son-in-law to take over the leadership.
Q: Is it ideals and not heredity that decides the leadership?
R: Only ideals. Only someone who has the aptitude in a certain direction. If you have a father who all of his life has consecrated himself toward certain ideals so that it permeates his very existence, it must also permeate his wife and children. If he is permeated by a certain idea, the first subjects to be impressed by it will be his son or his daughter. If the subject is Torah or Kabbalah, the son is more adaptable than the daughter. [Aside to the only woman present: "You will excuse me for saying this, as it is not my idea."] The reason for the leadership is not because he was his son, but because he has a maximum of piety, education, and hitlahavut; he received it from his father and his environment and thus has a bigger chance. The Tzemach Tzedek (third Lubavitcher Rebbe) was an orphan from the third year of his life, and the Alter Rebbe took care of his education personally. Thus, he had more chances to receive this education than even the sons of the Mittler (Second Lubavitcher) Rebbe.
This is the answer for an intellectual. If you are a Hasid you must accept a more spiritual explanation: Rebayus (leadership) is not motivated by something accidental or monetary but by something above us. The son of the Mezritcher Maggid (successor to the Ba'al Shem Tov) was his successor for only five years. After that he was niftar (passed away). It is not dependent upon something physical, but something spiritual and divine.
I wish you a kesiva vechasim tova (Happy New Year), and next year I will ask you more forcefully about your achievements.
Q: In camus or aichus (quality or quantity)?
R: You know that Einstein said that camus always transfers into aichus (mass into energy). There is an interesting quotation in Midrash Rabbah that if there had been one Jew missing of the six hundred thousand at Sinai, G-d would not have given the Torah. Not a Jew like Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) but even the Jew that had a pesel mika (idol) in his tent—had he been missing, the Torah would not have been given. Nine Moses' cannot make a minyan (quorum of ten Jewish men) to say a kedusha, even though there would be a tremendous power of quality; but if you have ten in quantity you can say kedusha. Similarly, the Midrash says that in giving the Torah you must have six hundred thousand. That is the best proof that quantity and quality have a transformation from one into the other.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
"I have been to many funerals in my life, but I have never seen someone cry with as much pain as the Rebbe cried for that soldier." -Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau
The following is an unbelievable encounter that one of the Rebbe's seceretaries experienced with Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka obm in the winter of 1966. Also included as an interesting picture of the Rebbe Part (101 in the series) special thanks to Rabbi Asher Lowenstein.
"It was a winter morning in 1966, about 3:30 A.M. The Rebbe had left for home already—an early night considering that there had been no yechidus that night.
Just then a woman frantically phoned the Rebbe's mazkirus (secretariat), saying that her little baby had just fallen and was hurt badly. The doctors were arguing over procedures because of the baby's critical condition. She desperately needed a bracha (blessing) and advice from the Rebbe on what to do.
The Rebbe's secretary explained apologetically that it would have to wait until the morning and that he would ask the Rebbe first thing.
The mother pleaded, "It's a matter of life and death. I need an answer now."
The secretary decided to dial the Rebbe's house, and if the phone would be answered, he would ask mechila (forgiveness) for calling so late. He dialed uneasily, worried that it was improper; the Rebbetzin answered.
"Ver ret (who is talking)?"
The secretary gave his name and immediately said, "I am sorry for calling so late," and proceeded to give his mechila speech – how "it was a chutzpah (nerve) to call at such a late hour, but there is a lady here in desperate need. She says it is a matter of life and death." He described her plight.
The Rebbetzin exclaimed, "Why are you asking mechila? Adaraba (on the contrary), my husband and I were sent to this world to serve Yidden twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By your calling us you are helping us fulfill our shlichus."
The following encounter is a very unique and special Shlichus that The Rebbe sent former prime Minster of Israel Menachem Bagen to save the life of Jewish girl in France. The encounter was related by Rabbi Binyomin Klein from the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretaries. Also included is an interesting picture of the Rebbe (part 104 in the series) To learn more about the Rebbe visit www.inspiringageneration.com
Thursday, April 3, 2008
The following is a fascinating encounter between a young Lubavitch girl from crown heights who was going through a very hard time in her personal life, and the Rebbe's involvement in helping her through the hard time's she was experiencing. It's an excerpt from the new book on the Rebbe "The Rebbe Inspiring a Generation" to see more on the book visit www.inspiringageneration.com
The Rebbe's care for every Jew, compassion for everyone's troubles, and sympathy for another's concern's were legendary. At times, people who experienced the Rebbe's consideration simply did not believe that he could really be so concerned with their petty matters.
Rabbi Kaplan relates that that when he was in Kollel he was asked to help a teenage girl who was going through a rebellious phase in her life and was emotionally distraught. The Rebbe was working to help her find her way in life, and Rabbi Kaplan was to interpret and explain to her the Rebbe's responses.
When the Rebbe wrote to her the he felt her pain, she reacted strongly; she plainly did not believe that the Rebbe or anyone else could really feel someone else's pain.
The Rebbe responded that when she will grow up and merit being married and having a child, she will see that, as the child begins to teeth and be in great pain from it, she will actually feel the child's pain. That, concluded the Rebbe, is how I feel your pain. Rabbi Kaplan ends by mentioning that the Rebbe's efforts helped her to straighten out her problems and help her find happiness.
Friday, March 7, 2008
In connection to the massacre that took place in Yerushalayim today, in which the lives of a number of Yeshiva Students were taken from this world. The following is a very moving and uplifting "Yechidus" that took place with an IDF commander and the Rebbe, regarding the Death of two Israeli Soldiers following the Yom Kippur war in 1973. it's an Excerpt from the new book on the Rebbe to see more information about the book click: www.inspiringageneration.com also included is an intresting picture of the Rebbe (part 94 in the sereis)
"Battle weary and depressed by the constant fighting, the officer expressed his wish that there be no more combat with enemies. Being realistic, however, and acknowledging that it was highly plausible that there would more conflict, he asked the Rebbe's opinion on whether there would be another war, or whether perhaps the Arabs had been so discouraged, during the Yom Kippur War, that they would never muster the confidence to fight again.
"At the moment," came the reply, "the Arabs are merely unable to attack. However, given time to recover and regroup, they will surely seek opportunities to instigate conflict. To further crush their forces and minimize the chance of future clashes, the army should have advanced to Damascus and Cairo when it had the chance. Although the government did not approve, the army should have continued anyway–ignoring the lack of permission from the government. It was a crucial and perilous moment, and we should have continued pressing the main cities.
"Why didn't Arik Sharon continue going into Cairo?" the Rebbe exclaimed. "He was just one hundred kilometers from there! Excusing the decision, the government claims that there was insufficient fuel to reach there. However, this is very difficult to accept; the Egyptians seemed to have no shortage of fuel, and if Sharon, as conqueror, had decided to use that fuel, no one could prevent him.
"Have you ever flown over Cairo?" asked the Rebbe, staring inquisitively at the officer.
"Yes," the officer responded, proceeding to describe with minute detail the layout of the city.
"In that case," challenged the Rebbe, "why didn't you take the necessary planes, fly there, and conquer the city yourself? Coming in with those planes, you would have easily surprised them and effortlessly taken control. If that had been accomplished, with Cairo in our hands for even a very short period, the present situation would be completely different. "
Unable to persuade the Rebbe to accept his position, the military officer asked about something which had been troubling him for a long time. In a devastating fashion, his close friend Zurik was recently murdered during a terrorist attack, just two years after Zurik's losing his brother Udi in the latest war. It was inconceivable that one family should deserve to bear so much anguish, losing two members in a short span. How could G-d have permitted this? Where was He?
Distressed at the tale of sorrow and unable to control his tears, the Rebbe began to weep. He finally replied, "Indeed, the story you tell me is frightening and upsetting; we are tempted, when hearing such an account, to question G-d and conclude that He does not really dictate what transpires in this world. We must, however, remember that we mortals cannot aspire to understand the intricacies of His divine wisdom.
"Having studied Torah all my life, at seventy-three years old and still studying and adding to my Torah knowledge, I feel that I have attained a level of wisdom. Nonetheless, the extent of my wisdom is ridiculous when compared to G-d's. Therefore, we must not come to preposterous conclusions based on our judgment of events around us. Although there is much we do not comprehend, often in retrospect we come to an appreciation of the righteousness of His decisions. Perhaps time will demonstrate the virtue of Udi's and Zurik's premature deaths; perchance, many Jewish fatalities were avoided as a result of these casualties."
"Are you worried," asked the officer, moving to a new topic, "about living as a Jew here in Brooklyn, in a non-Jewish environment?"
"As a soldier you are surely aware," answered the Rebbe, "that during the time of combat there is no chance to reflect on your fear. You must fight with courage and sincerity, regardless of how you feel. Similarly, when I am immersed in my work, even if the extraneous conditions are unfriendly, I have faith and trust in G-d, because He alone controls what takes place here on earth, and is looking out for the interests of every Jew."
"But," persisted the Israeli, "why don't you move to Israel? Your revered stature and dynamic manner will certainly influence the political and religious scene. Aware that many people questioned you regarding this, I have heard several different replies, but, the replies are unsatisfactory, and for me the question remains."
The Rebbe answered, "Living in Israel and enduring the responsibilities that would come with it, my influence on world Jewry would be restricted. Inevitably, my controversial position on issues would limit my capability of communicating with Jews, both outside of Israel, in Moscow, for example, and in Israel; in fact, even this conversation would be impossible in Tel Aviv. I find this place the most conducive for my work."
Copyright © Menachem Kirschenbaum 2007