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we shouldn’t get confused

 

During the 1980’s the relationship between the Satmar chassidim and Chabad was not good. There were quarrels and disagreements, and it was most unpleasant. A young Satmar woman from Jerusalem had developed cancer and had come to America for treatment. She knew that the Lubavitcher Rebbe sees people on Sundays, blesses them and gives them a dollar for tzedaka. She also knew that, come what may, she was not going to miss the opportunity to receive a bracha that she should recover.

The woman was staying with her sister in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Satmar stronghold, and in a quiet moment, when they were alone, she asked her sister to take her on Sunday to Crown Heights, a ten-minute drive from Williamsburg. But there was a problem: the sister was married to a very important Satmar chassid, and she knew that her husband would be hurt and even get angry if she goes to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive a bracha. But the Jerusalem woman wouldn’t give in. “I came especially from Israel. I am sick, I have young children. The Rebbe blesses, and his blessings help. You must come with me.”

“I’m willing to come with you,” said the sister from Williamsburg, “but on the condition that we won’t tell my husband anything. He will be very hurt and angry if he will know that I went with you.”

They stood together with hundreds of women in the line to the Rebbe. When they reached him, the Jerusalem woman said, “I am sick with cancer, and request a blessing for a complete recovery.” The Rebbe looked at her, heard her, and gave her a dollar for tzedaka, but instead of blessing her with a complete recovery, he blessed her with his regular bracha: “bracha and hatzlacha (success)”. And then, when her sister from Williamsburg came before him, the Rebbe gave her a dollar and wished her “a complete recovery”.

“We came for nothing,” said the American sister. Not only did I go against the will of my husband, but the Rebbe didn’t understand and didn’t hear. He gave you a blessing of ‘bracha and hatzlacha’ and I was told I should have a complete recovery.”

When the chassid came home in the evening, his wife told him immediately what had happened to her that day. She asked that he not be angry, but forgive her and understand that she wasn’t able to withstand her sister’s pressure. She also told him what happened at the Rebbe’s house – that he had confused her and her sister.

The man, who was a serious person, paled immediately and said, “Come, get into the car. We’re going to the hospital. You shouldn’t have gone to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but if you went already, you should know one thing: the Lubavitcher Rebbe never gets confused! If he told you ‘Have a complete recovery’, that means that you are ill!” they went, and indeed it was discovered that a disease was developing and they had arrived there in time to stop it from spreading. The sister from Israel, as you’ve probably guessed already, was completely well, as if there had never been any disease.

Dear friends,

There are moments of truth in life, moments when one shouldn’t get confused, but rather look straight ahead and do what has to be done. That chassid from Williamsburg knew that despite everything he thinks or wants, there are moments of truth – and when the Rebbe “got confused” and wished his wife a complete recovery, he understood that he must rush her to the hospital. We too have to remember these moments of truth, and when the sun is setting, and the Heavenly gates are about to be shut, when Hashem is holding the seal in his hand, one mustn’t miss that moment!

I pray and wish everyone a year of good health and pleasure, a good livelihood and serenity, a year of complete, real Redemption.

 

Gmar Chatima Tova,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Just a story

 

I won’t write much on this Erev Rosh Hashana – just a story from the Zohar, Parashat Miketz (page 201b):

Rabbi Abba sat at the gates of the city of Lydda. He saw a person who had fallen asleep on a dirt hill. Suddenly, he saw a poisonous snake approaching the man, but just as the snake reached him, a piece of wood broke off from a tree-root and killed the snake. When the stranger woke up and rose from his place, the hill he had been sleeping on broke apart and a big chasm formed underneath – but nothing happened to him, because he had risen already and left the hill. So he was saved once again.

Rabbi Abba approached him and said, “Tell me what you do, for the Holy One, blessed be He, just made two miracles for you. Such miracles don’t come for no reason.”

The man answered: “All my life there was no one who harmed me whom I didn’t allow to make peace with me, with my forgiving him. This is what I will do to anyone who causes me pain, and I don’t pay attention to all the bad things that people do to me; moreover, from the day they harm me onward I try to do good to them.” In other words, I forgave anyone who ever harmed me, made peace with him and even tried to repay bad with good.

Rabbi Abba wept and said, “The actions of this person are greater than those of Yosef Hatzaddik – for Yosef paid back good for bad, but they were his brothers, and it was proper that he have mercy on them, but what this person does is more than what Yosef did. He is worthy of Hashem performing miracle upon miracle for him.”

My brethren and friends, I have nothing to add.

Please accept my heartfelt wishes for Ktiva V’chatima Tova, a good sweet year, or, perhaps in two words: Mashiach now!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Chessed Chinam

 

“Chessed Chinam”.

This is a phrase that I used to hear and still hear from my father very often. Hashem has done “Chessed Chinam” with us –has treated us well without our having done anything to deserve it. My father says this not only when there is some huge, surprising  miracle, not only when he speaks of his surviving life in Soviet Russia and of his escape from there. No – he says it also about seemingly standard, trivial events such as the birth of a child or a grandchild, or just when you’ve told him that everything, Baruch Hashem is as usual, and all is good – that too is a Chessed from Hashem.

In this week’s Parasha Rashi explains this.

At the end of the Parasha Moshe calls together the entire Jewish People and speaks to them of the miracles that Hashem performed for them since they left Egypt. “He said to them, You have seen everything that Hashem did in front of your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and his servants and his entire land – the great trials that your eyes beheld, those great signs and wonders.”

At the end of his speech Moshe adds one more, slightly surprising sentence: “But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day.” In other words, Hashem performed miracles for you, but you didn’t really relate to them as anything important, as if you didn’t see or hear that these were miracles. Or, as Rashi puts it: “to recognize the acts of lovingkindness (Chasdei) of Hashem and to cleave to him.”

But – how can one say that they didn’t see nor recognize the miracles? We all remember Shirat Hayam (the Song of – where they all stood there, recognized the miracles, and sang and thanked Hashem!

This question is brought by the Rebbe in his Likutei Sichot (vol. 14). As usual, the Rebbe explains the issue through a careful reading of Rashi, bringing in the Chessed Chinam that I mentioned above. Rashi does not say they didn’t have aheart, eyes or ears to recognize the miracles they experienced, because it is clear that they saw and even were excited about them. Rashi says “to recognize Chasdei Hashem” Chassadim – acts of lovingkindess – are not the great miracles such as the plagues brought upon Egypt or the Splitting of the Sea. Chassadim are the everyday things, those that we are already used to – those small miracles that are concealed within nature and we take them for granted. This is what Moshe Rabbeinu is coming to tell us at the end of the Parasha: you’ve gotten so used to everything working out well, that you have not noticed – not seen nor heard – the small Chassadim of the everyday.

We are all human beings; we get used to the good very fast and forget to recognize the everyday Chassadim and to thank Hashem for them. So Moshe Rabbeinu comes in this week’s Parasha and says: Open your eyes, pay attention, listen – Hashem is doing Chassadim with you every morning and every evening. Recognize this, and cleave to Him and to His ways.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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