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Rabbi's weekly Blog

a personal story

 

This time I am going to tell you a personal story.

For several years I had the sweet dream of traveling to New York together with my whole family. Not to New York for the sake of New York, but, rather, to the Rebbe, to his beit midrash in Brooklyn and to his tziyun in the holy Ohel in Queens. In other words, to take my children to the Rebbe. All of them had gone separately with me, but the dream was to go as a family. Dreams are intended to be realized – that’s what I believe, anyway. And so, we saved up our pennies, and planned the trip so that it would coincide with our son Mendel’s first haircut as he turned three. Like good Swiss residents, we purchased the tickets six months in advance, and so we allowed our excitement to grow.

On the day of the flight we got up early; everything was packed, and we were about to leave the house. One last look at the documents – everyone had visas, Baruch Hashem, but another glance at the passports showed me that the passports of the two oldest children would become invalid the following day… in other words, they had no passports – and therefore couldn’t fly. It’s hard for me to describe to you the shock that hit us. It was something that had never happened to me before. I confess that I felt completely broken. Usually I don’t collapse so easily. I’ve coped with crises in my life, but for some reason this left me in pieces. The shattering of the dream hit me like a wave – it was as if I could hear pieces of glass breaking again and again.

“We’re not going!” I announced as the tears fell, and shut myself in my room, overcome with pain.

Five minutes later the door opened gently. Thirteen-year-old Mossi and eleven-year-old Moshe came in, tears still in their eyes, but their voices steady. They looked at me and said: “Abba, you taught us that everything happens by hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence). You say all the time that Hashem is running the world, not us. Now is the moment of truth. Go with the rest of the family; we’ll spend the week by friends, and with Hashem’s help we will go with you some other time.”

It struck home. Perhaps I should have felt ashamed for collapsing? Perhaps I should have berated myself for breaking down? Perhaps. But I just remember a powerful feeling of happiness that filled me completely. I looked at them: a moment ago they were little children in my eyes, but now they were so big… It’s called nachat.

Only when we were already on the plane, calm and collected, did Devora and I understand that without the “mistake” with the passports we wouldn’t have experienced our children in that way that morning.

Tomorrow we will read Shirat Haazinu in the schul. This song includes praise of Hashem for “finding” us in the desert and watching over us like the apple of His eye. But also that we grew fat and rebelled against his Torah and mitzvot. The Leviyim would sing this song in parts every Shabbat, in spite of the fact that later on in the song there is talk about Hashem hiding His face, and that “I will use up my arrows against them,” - not only the good part at the end, that tells of the Redemption: “Nations, sing the praises of His people for He will avenge the blood of His servants.” Why, then, is the entire poem considered to be a “song”? Why do we sing to Hashem also about the moments of His hiding his face from us and the accompanying arrows?

That answer is that we sing and thank Hashem for the entire journey, and the journey of a man’s life is like the journey of a nation, including moments of beauty, redemption and salvation, but also moments of face-hiding that are not easy. And whoever knows how to look, will be able to see beauty and happiness popping up, paradoxically enough, especially at the times of the difficulty and the face-hiding.

 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same’ach!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

a personal story

 

This time I am going to tell you a personal story.

For several years I had the sweet dream of traveling to New York together with my whole family. Not to New York for the sake of New York, but, rather, to the Rebbe, to his beit midrash in Brooklyn and to his tziyun in the holy Ohel in Queens. In other words, to take my children to the Rebbe. All of them had gone separately with me, but the dream was to go as a family. Dreams are intended to be realized – that’s what I believe, anyway. And so, we saved up our pennies, and planned the trip so that it would coincide with our son Mendel’s first haircut as he turned three. Like good Swiss residents, we purchased the tickets six months in advance, and so we allowed our excitement to grow.

On the day of the flight we got up early; everything was packed, and we were about to leave the house. One last look at the documents – everyone had visas, Baruch Hashem, but another glance at the passports showed me that the passports of the two oldest children would become invalid the following day… in other words, they had no passports – and therefore couldn’t fly. It’s hard for me to describe to you the shock that hit us. It was something that had never happened to me before. I confess that I felt completely broken. Usually I don’t collapse so easily. I’ve coped with crises in my life, but for some reason this left me in pieces. The shattering of the dream hit me like a wave – it was as if I could hear pieces of glass breaking again and again.

“We’re not going!” I announced as the tears fell, and shut myself in my room, overcome with pain.

Five minutes later the door opened gently. Thirteen-year-old Mossi and eleven-year-old Moshe came in, tears still in their eyes, but their voices steady. They looked at me and said: “Abba, you taught us that everything happens by hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence). You say all the time that Hashem is running the world, not us. Now is the moment of truth. Go with the rest of the family; we’ll spend the week by friends, and with Hashem’s help we will go with you some other time.”

It struck home. Perhaps I should have felt ashamed for collapsing? Perhaps I should have berated myself for breaking down? Perhaps. But I just remember a powerful feeling of happiness that filled me completely. I looked at them: a moment ago they were little children in my eyes, but now they were so big… It’s called nachat.

Only when we were already on the plane, calm and collected, did Devora and I understand that without the “mistake” with the passports we wouldn’t have experienced our children in that way that morning.

Tomorrow we will read Shirat Haazinu in the schul. This song includes praise of Hashem for “finding” us in the desert and watching over us like the apple of His eye. But also that we grew fat and rebelled against his Torah and mitzvot. The Leviyim would sing this song in parts every Shabbat, in spite of the fact that later on in the song there is talk about Hashem hiding His face, and that “I will use up my arrows against them,” - not only the good part at the end, that tells of the Redemption: “Nations, sing the praises of His people for He will avenge the blood of His servants.” Why, then, is the entire poem considered to be a “song”? Why do we sing to Hashem also about the moments of His hiding his face from us and the accompanying arrows?

That answer is that we sing and thank Hashem for the entire journey, and the journey of a man’s life is like the journey of a nation, including moments of beauty, redemption and salvation, but also moments of face-hiding that are not easy. And whoever knows how to look, will be able to see beauty and happiness popping up, paradoxically enough, especially at the times of the difficulty and the face-hiding.

 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same’ach!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

I’m all for copy-and-paste

I’m all for copy-and-paste when it comes to greetings and good wishes. Why not, after all? I choose to believe anyone who sends me a copy-and-paste, even if I’ve received that particular picture sixty-seven times, because every person has his own specific intention in sending that greeting and picture, and this is his way of blessing me, and it’s nice and pleasant. And, besides, I have 256 gigabytes in my iPhone, so I can receive good wishes until Chanukah without any problem.

And still, when you finish wishing everybody on your contact list “Shana Tova”, stop for a moment and wish yourself a good year. But this time not a copy-and-paste, and not just as a nice picture, rather, tell yourselves decisively, clearly and firmly: This year I will have a good year!

This is not a joke, and not a segulah – it’s not magic either. It is simply a worthwhile, practical way of doing things. This is how it works: there is a lot of good around us. Hashem gave all of us much good and has showered us with lovingkindness. If we just look around ourselves with a positive outlook, divested of jealousy and competition, and see how our bodies and souls are doing their jobs faithfully, day after day, and view our home and its inhabitants non-judgmentally, we will see how much good they have in them. The same is true of the society and country we live in; the chair and the bed; the slice of bread on the table. Viewing them that way, we will be able to say wholeheartedly, and even sing: “Thank You for everything that you have created, Thank You for what You gave me.”

If we do this, we will have a good year, because every morning will start well, and every day will be happy. A happy father infects the entire house with happiness, and a happy mother, too, infects the entire household with joy. And not only that – it reaches Hashem as well, because happiness is catching.

Here is what it says in the Zohar on parashat Tetzaveh

"תא חזי אי איהו קיימא בנהירו דאנפין מתתא, כדי הכי נהרין ליה מעילא כו' חדוא דבר נש משיך לגביה חדוא אחרא עילאה".

Translation from the Aramaic: “Come and see, if he is standing with a lit-up face from below, so too they light up for him from above etc. The joy of a person brings upon him a different joy from Above.”

In short, copy-and-paste is not an invention of the WhatsApp generation; the Zohar wrote about it two thousand years ago.

 

Gmar Chatima Tova – may you be sealed for a good life -  

Wishing you a good and sweet year, and Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalman Wishedski

In his present state

 It’s the morning of Rosh Hashana. The Rabbi is walking to Shul and on the way he sees old Isaac sitting in a coffee shop with a newspaper. “Isaac!” says the Rabbi, almost shouting. “Isaac! Today is Rosh Hashana; today Hashem is judging everyone for the coming year, and you are sitting in a coffee shop?”

Isaac smiles and answers: “Rabbi, I am 95 years old already. All my friends have gone to Heaven a long time ago. I have a feeling that the Master of the World has simply forgotten about me. Believe me, Rabbi, the last thing I want to do now is to come to Shul and remind him that I exist.”

Now, seriously: someone once asked me a simple question:

“Hashem knows me, after all. He knows what I’ve done in the past and knows how I will behave in the future. Do you really think that if I do a one-day teshuva, on Rosh Hashana, this will help? Can teshuva for one day affect an entire year?”

I told him the story about Yishmael, the story that we will read in the Torah on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Yishmael and his mother Hagar were sent away from Avraham and Sarah’s house. They were in the dry desert, and their water ran out. Yishmael cried and asked for water, but his mother couldn’t help him. She had no water in the desert and she left him in a shady spot and went to cry out her heart far away. “And she went and sat herself down at a distance, some bowshots away, for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat at a distance, lifted her voice, and wept.”

A shocking scene – the worst thing that can happen to a mother.

But then there is a turnaround: “An angel of G-d called Hagar from heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for G-d has heeded the cry of the youth in his present state.” The angel called out to Hagar and said, “Calm yourself, Hashem wants to help him. He won’t die.”

In the Midrash it says that at that moment angels appeared before Hashem and said, “Master of the World, you know that his descendants are going to put your children to death by thirst, and now you’re giving him water in the desert?”

And that’s what happened, as we know. The Babylonians who destroyed the Temple and exiled the Jews from the land allowed many of them to die of thirst. To this day, we suffer quite a bit at the hands of Yishmael’s descendants.

So why? Asked the angels. What are you helping him and giving him water?

I judge a person only according to his situation at the time of the trial – “in his present state,” replied Hashem. “I don’t judge his future or his descendants. I judge him at this moment, as he is now. “In his present state.”!

This is said in the Gemara in masechet Rosh Hashana as well: Rabbi Yitzchak said, a person is judged only according his deeds at that moment. In other words, a person who did Teshuva, regretted his past actions and resolved to do good deeds in the future, Hashem relates in his judgment to his actions today.

How does this work?

In the Chassidic teachings it is explained thus: It says in the Gemara in masechet Kiddushin, “A good thought is added on to a deed.” In other words, when we make a good resolution, Hashem gives us a chance and already takes into account the thought and the resolution we have made in our heart as if we have already done these deeds, as if we are already like that, and even gives us an advance salary, as it were. And so, there is definitely power and meaning to my acts and thoughts on this one day, especially if it is Rosh Hashana, because when he judges me, he is judging me according to who I am after I have done teshuva, even if this is so far confined to the heart alone.

That is the reason that we read the story about Hagar and Yishmael on Tosh Hashana. We must know one very clear thing: as with Yishmael, we too are judged according to our situation today.

And Isaac, if he would have known this, certainly would not have remained in the coffee shop on Rosh Hashana.

Wishing everyone a k’tiva v’chatima tova – to be written and sealed for the good, a good, sweet year, a year of happiness and joy, good health and wealth,

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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