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Rabbi's weekly Blog

thanks "The Giving"

 

Dear Friends,

Something struck me when I was at the Conference of Shluchim, the annual meeting of Chabad Shluchim, who, once a year, gather from all over the world in New York. David learned with me in the Yeshiva in Brooklyn twenty years ago, and today lives in California. Asher, a very close friend for many years, lives in Omsk; Moishe and Davidi are two brothers who grew up with me in Kfar Chabad and live in Bangkok; A few years ago I connected with Shaul thanks to WhatsApp; he lives in Oslo.

Today I met them and many, many others, and they all – all – had something in common: their faces were lit up with inner joy, the type of joy that radiates outward.

Now, when I am sitting for a moment and reconstructing the past few days, I think I know the source of this light and joy: giving. Yes, it’s the giving that does it. Most of the time, these people are busy giving of their time, knowledge, energy and even their money to others. They are giving of themselves all the time. Giving has a knack of repaying the giver with light and inner joy. It is not for nothing that the Hebrew word for “gave” – Natan – can be read in both directions, because when we give we actually receive.

Do try this at home! It works!

 

Shabbat Shalom and regards from the world over,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

First have something to eat..

 

Dear Friends,

This week I want to share with you a beautiful commentary on the Parasha that I heard last week during the “Shabbat together” meal, from the young and gifted rabbi of the larger Basel community, my friend, Rabbi Moshe Baumel.

When Avraham reached the land of Canaan and began to work on convincing people to believe in what he believed in – one G-d, or monotheism – he built an altar to Hashem in every significant place he reached. In Parashat Lech Lecha we read of three altars that he built: one in Elon Moreh, in other words in Shechem; another between Shechem and Hevron, where the settlement of Beit El is today; and the third, after he returned from Egypt, in Elonei Mamre, which is identical with Hevron.

He built altars, brought sacrifices, invoked Hashem’s Name everywhere, but it didn’t really change anything. He invoked Hashem’s Name, but the rest of the world didn’t join him. Everywhere he went, the first thing people wanted to know was how beautiful his wife was, and was she his wife or his sister. Hashem was the G-d, but not yet “El Olam” – not yet recognized by the world as such.

Only at the end of Parashat Vayera, after the unpleasant incident with Avimelech, who took Sarah, and after the tragedy of Sodom and Amorah – only then did Avraham do something different. Today we would say that he was recalculating his route. He started thinking outside the box of altars, and the Torah tells us that he reached Beer Sheva and planted an Eshel there. Our Sages explain that the Eshel was not a tree, but rather an inn where people could rest, eat and drink. Indeed, in Hebrew the word Eshel is the acronym for Achilah (eating), Shetiyah (drinking) and Linah (sleeping). And then – surprisingly enough, it was there, where instead of building an altar he simply provided people with a good meal, something to drink and a bed to rest on, that he started to influence the world, as it says, there, “And he planted an Eshel in Beer Sheva and he invoked there the name of Hashem El Olam.”

As my grandmother used to say: “First sit and have something to eat, and then we’ll hear what you have to say.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Barack Obama was right

 

Dear Friends,

Clinton or Trump, Democrats or Republicans. Either America has gone crazy, or else it has come to its senses. The world is in turmoil; the two sides were never so divided, so extreme. The Jewish perspective is especially fascinating. The conservative Satmar Chassidim and the liberal Jews somehow joined together in their support of Clinton, to the extent that some sat Shiva over the elections. And besides them were whole communities who supported Trump actively and awaited him like one awaits the Messiah.

And only Barack Obama said something very wise: “The sun will rise in the morning.” Guess what? He was right.

He was right, because the rising sun is what will come and reveal to us in time who is good and who isn’t, and whether there is reason to be joyful or otherwise.

But this sentence might be dangerous as well. We might become indifferent and fail to act, thinking, what difference does it make, anyway? No matter what, the sun will rise in the morning. The more I think about it, the more I see that one can call this “worshipping the sun.” When we latch on to that thought, we turn the sun into a god. We have to remember that it is not the sun doing the work; it is only supplying the light by which we can see what people did or are doing.

I do not know if Avraham Avinu, when he was searching for the Creator of the world and removed the sun from the list of candidates, did that from the same reason. But I know that Avraham Avinu taught us to do and not to be indifferent; to care and to always move forward. Avraham Avinu got involved in what was going on around him, was concerned for people he did not know, offered them Turkish coffee in a small cup with a hot pita straight from the oven, and perhaps also a bit of olive oil prepared by Sarah. Avraham did not say, “The sun will rise in the morning” when G-d decided to destroy Sodom. He prayed for them as if they were his voters before elections. Avraham cared.

The sun will rise tomorrow, of course. The question is what will we see by its light, and as long as we are alive, we should do things, and do them because we care.

And if we are talking about caring, it is right to mention Leonard Cohen z”l who passed away this morning. The day after the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973 (5734) he got on a plane in Greece, came to Israel and performed for the soldiers in order to encourage them. He cared, and did what he was able to do for them. And in the morning the sun rose and shone on his deeds.

Tomorrow morning, too, the sun will rise. It will be interesting to see what its light will reveal to us.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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