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‘Mashiach now’ Or ‘Bauen Sie gut’

“Bauen Sie gut!” – “Build well!” That’s what German Ashkenazic Jews, the Yekes, wish each other before Seder night. This is an ancient custom that most of world Jewry knows nothing about. What a pity.

During the years I’ve spent in Switzerland I’ve learned that every local custom has ancient sources. We’re talking about communities that are hundreds of years old. Regarding this particular custom, for instance, Alsace Jews were wishing each other “Bauen Sie gut!” long before the Ba’al Shem Tov was born…

So what does this “Build well” mean?

Its source (as my friend, the historian Dr. Simon Erlanger explained to me) is a medieval translation of the song “Adir Hu, Yivneh Beito Bekarov” that appears in some versions of the Pesach Haggadah, the emphasis being on the word “Yivneh” – “will build.”

My learned friend Edouard Selig added to this that hundreds of years ago German Jews did not have Seder plates; they built from the matzahs and from the other components of the Seder a sort of “castle”, and that is the source of the wish, “Build well.”

Whatever the source is, this congratulation is seen as a Segulah that says: When you observe the Pesach Seder with all its halachas, you are thereby building the Holy Temple; in other words, you are furthering the coming of the Mashiach, an event that will include the building of the Temple.

If you ask me, I think all Jews should adopt that wonderful wish – Bauen Sie gut!

 

My friends, if you did not wish each other “Bauen Sie gut” on Seder night, you have a second chance this coming Shabbat, the last day of Pesach.

Whereas Ashkenazic Jews build the Temple at the first meal of Pesach, the Ba’al Shem Tov does that at the last one. The Ba’al Shem Tov declared the Se’udah (meal) of the last day of Pesach to be “Se’udat Mashiach” – the meal of the Messiah – since on this day the light of the Mashiach is present in the world.

 

Ribono shel Olam, Master of the World, ‘Mashiach now’ Or ‘Bauen Sie gut’, Choose either one, as You like; in any case, we’re ready!

 

Chag Same’ach!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Did you manage to get everything done?

 

Dear Friends,

 

How were Pesach preparations? Did you manage to get everything done?

If you did manage to do everything possible for Pesach, this post is not for you, and I hereby wish you a happy and kosher Pesach.

But if, like me, you didn’t get quite everything done, if there are some things that you didn’t find the time for, if you feel that perhaps you could have done more but didn’t, or if your parental conscience is working overtime because of your children who worked overtime, here is a true and very meaningful story:

The Mashpi’a (spiritual advisor), Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kesselman z”l, was one of the most special Chabad Chassidim of the previous generation. He built up people. Those who were influenced by him – and who are already marrying off their grandchildren – still speak about him with longing and admiration.

Once, a group of students came to his house for a sudden Hitva’adut (meeting). He was willing to sit with them, prevail upon them and give them spiritual counsel, but his wife was not so ready. She came in, frantic, and said: “I have nothing at home. There’s almost nothing to serve them. What should I do?”

He answered her, and his answer made the entire Hitva’adut worthwhile:

“What you have, give fully. No one is demanding what you don’t have.”

There are those who would say that that is an educational message; others will say that it is an important principle in life. I just want to say one thing: it is a true point! It is the Truth. What we have – we should give, but what we don’t have – no one is demanding from us.

Each one of us has something different in his or her pantry. There are those who have great financial ability; others have great personal warmth; still others are good at planning and organizing, and then there are those people who know how to improvise and find solutions to problems. No one has all these qualities together.

So, a moment before the holiday, we should remember: what we have, we should give. But what we don’t have – no one is demanding from us.

 

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and a happy and kosher Pesach,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

give the Rebbe a gift


Dear Friends,

About two months ago my wife and I had an anniversary – may we celebrate many more in good health! At the Kiddush after davening in the Chabad House, one of the participants raised his L’chaim cup and wished us, in the name of all those present ‘Mazel Tov.’ It was a happy and moving occasion, but nothing prepared me for the surprise that came a moment later.

A man approached me quietly and said, “I also get a Mazel Tov.” “Mazel Tov,” I said immediately, and then asked him: “For what?”

“Do you remember that you recommended that I buy the book Rebbe, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin? Well, I’m reading it avidly. Last Shabbat I read there a story about a Jew, whom the Rebbe asked in a personal meeting: ‘Can I ask you to do me a personal favor?’ The Jew answered, ‘Of course, Rebbe. For you I’ll do anything!’

“’The Rebbe said to him: ‘in that case, I would appreciate it if you would devote 15 minutes of your time every day to me.’

“’What should I do for you in those 15 minutes?’ he asked.

“’Put on Tefillin,’ answered the Rebbe. ‘That would be your personal present to me.’”

 

“A nice story,” I said to the man, “but I still don’t understand why you merit a Mazel Tov.”

“Well,” he said, “I read the story, as mentioned, last Shabbat, and I thought: Wait a minute, I too can do a personal favor to the Rebbe. I also want to give the Lubavitcher Rebbe a present. So I should get a Mazel Tov, because this week was the first week in my life in which I put on Tefillin every day.”

“Mazel Tov!!” I responded excitedly, tears coming to my eyes.

Since then, every week on Friday I receive a text message: “This week too!”

 

This coming Tuesday, the 11th of Nissan, we will note the Rebbe’s birthday. I thought it would be a good idea to learn from my friend – perhaps this is the right time to ask myself whether I too am willing to give the Rebbe a gift. It doesn’t have to be something big; perhaps, like in the original story, I can give him 15 minutes – only 15 minutes – of my day and spend them doing something positive that I haven’t done till now.

 

Would you like to join me?

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Whoever speaks to you, will also speak about you

 

Dear Friends,

 

When speaking about Lashon Hara (speaking evil, harmful speech of other people), I have a very clear rule. You can check for yourself and see that it’s correct: When someone is telling you something bad about someone else, you can be sure that he will tell someone else something bad about you. So what can we do? Simply stay away from a person who speaks Lashon Hara.

Parashat Tazria, which discusses the laws regarding the Metzora (usually translated – wrongly – as “leper”), says that a person who has been declared by a Cohen to be a Metzora will “sit in isolation; his dwelling will be outside the camp.” Since he is declared to be Tameh – “unclean” – he also causes other things to become Tameh, so it’s better that he sit outside the camp, with no one else around.

The Mishnah in tractate Nega’im discusses a case in which the Metzora did not leave the camp, but rather entered the home of a friend of his. It is clear to the Sages that the implements in this house become Tameh because of him – but not immediately. There is a minimal amount of time that must pass between his entering the house and his leaving in order for the vessels and implements to become Tameh; if he leaves the house immediately, they will not become Tameh.

What is this minimal amount of time?

“Rabbi Yehudah says, if he stayed long enough to light a candle.” In other words, if he stayed for as long as it takes to light Shabbat candles. Within that amount of time, the Metzora will not cause anything to be Tameh. A moment more – and everything will become Tameh.

Why did the Mishnah choose the example of lighting candles particularly in order to define the amount of time within which the Metzora doesn’t yet cause anything to become Tameh?

Here is a wonderful explanation from the Rebbe – a simple, one-plus-one calculation:

The Metzora, as is known, is punished with Tzara’at (“leprosy”) because of his speaking Lashon Hara. Actually, the Metzora represents Lashon Hara. The goal of Lashon Hara is to separate people, bring about disagreement and strife, and in the Rebbe’s words, “a separation of hearts.” This requires no explanation – its meaning is obvious.

In contrast to that, the stated goal of lighting Shabbat candles is “Shalom Bayit” – peace in the household. When there is light in the home there is peace. And we’re not talking only of the practical meaning, such as when the candles were the only physical source of light in the homes, but even when there is a large, light-producing chandelier, the Shabbat candles bring a sense of calm into the home, causing peace and quiet.

And so, it is clear that when a person is busying himself with “candle-lighting”, which represents Shalom Bayit, the Metzora, who represents separation of hearts, has no ability to influence the atmosphere and to cause Tumah. 

What have we learned from all this?

a. Whoever speaks to you, will also speak about you. b. Shabbat candles have the power to bring Shalom Bayit, even if there is a Metzora at the door who is trying to enter.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

he would remain hungry

 

Dear Friends,

 

Have you ever heard of the “Shalach”? If you have learned Chumash with Rashi this week, you not only have read about it, but you even know what the Shalach is and what its characteristics are. So – in the list of non-kosher birds in this week’s Parasha, there is a bird called “Shalach”. It is a bird of prey that operates during the day; it has a long body and a huge wingspan, strong feet with a vise-like grip, and a razor-sharp beak – all meant for catching fish. On a good day he dives into the sea or a lake and comes up with three to six fish.

I think that all its abilities, speed and power wouldn’t be worth a thing if he didn’t have the uncanny ability to see from high above what is happening in the water. Whereas others see just blue water, the sunset and a beautiful shore, the Shalach sees what all this beauty is hiding – a wonderful world of living creatures, all underwater. All he has to do is wait for the right moment, dive quickly and come up with a tasty fish.

The Gemara says in tractate Chullin as follows: “When Rabbi Yochanan would see a Shalach he would say the Passuk from Tehillim, ‘Your judgments are like the vast deep waters.’” Rabbi Yochanan saw in the Shalach a symbol of the law and justice that Hashem upholds in His world, including in its hidden parts – in the depths, known also as “the covered world”. For the Shalach manages to catch its prey only according to an account run by Hashem.

The teachings of Chassidut see in this a proof of Divine Providence (Hashgacha Pratit). The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything – great or small – that happens in the world happens according to personal Divine Providence, down to a leaf being detached from a branch, an apple falling off a tree, or a Shalach that ends the life of some fish or other.

With your permission, though, I will return to the eyes. I think the main thing is the eyes – the ability to see. For, like the Shalach, we too have eyes; we too are able to, if we only wish it – or, better, if we will only agree and allow ourselves to open our eyes – to see that under the surface of the water there is life. If we do so, we will be able to see that nature, fate and physics are like blue water, a shore and a breathtaking sunset. Deep under them there is a whole system of living beings. In other words, even the regular and logical things we experience are part of “Your judgments are like the vast deep waters” – personal Divine Providence of the Creator of the world.

If the Shalach would say to himself, “Oh, nonsense; there’s nothing there – only water,” he would remain hungry…

 

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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