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The Path to Wealth

 A Jew of German background heard the rabbi in Schul, on the Shabbat when parashat Re’eh is read, mention the pasuk, Aser te’aser - You shall surely tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of the field, year by year.” He listened carefully. The Rabbi brought the wonderful conversation between Rabbi Yochanan and his young nephew, the son of his sister and his friend and famous challenger, Reish Lakish.

Rabbi Yochanan said to his nephew: “Say a pasuk.”

The nephew then quoted the pasuk of “You shall tithe…” and asked his uncle, “What does the expression there, aser te’aser?”

“It means: tithe so that you will get rich (aser bishvil shetitasher),” replied Rabbi Yochanan. In other words, a person who is careful to give his tithes is promised that he will be wealthy.

The young boy didn’t let it go at that (see the beauty of the Gemara, which considers it legitimate for the young nephew to argue with his great uncle, Rabbi Yochanan): “How do you know that?” How do you know that a person who tithes indeed becomes wealthy?

Rabbi Yochanan replied: “Go try it.” Give the tithe and test Hashem.

The nephew still wasn’t satisfied: “Is one allowed to test Hashem?”

Said Rabbi Yochanan: “You are right. Ordinarily one should not test Hashem. But in anything connected to ma’aser, it is permitted.” And he brought, as proof, the pasuk from the Prophet Malachi, where Hashem says, “Test me.” “Bring all the tithes to the storage house… Test me if you will, with this, says Hashem Tzva’ot; see if I do not open up for you the windows of the heavens and pour out upon you blessing without end.”

So, said the Rabbi in his Shabbat sermon, whoever brings tzedaka to the Schul has Hashem’s promise that he will be rich and get back at least ten times what he gave.

On Motzai Shabbat, when the Rabbi was still putting drops of wine into his pocket for mazel and bracha, the Jew knocked on his door, holding an envelope that contained one thousand dollars. When the Rabbi finished counting the money in Yiddish, this Jew said to the Rabbi: “You said this morning that I will get ten times that amount, right? I’m expecting to receive ten thousand dollars in return.” The Rabbi became alarmed and said, “Listen, see, I meant that…” But the man was already out the door, happy with the promise.

For three weeks the man pursued the Rabbi: “You promised me ten times the amount. You said Hashem promises wealth. Where’s the money?” This – for three weeks. Every time the poor Rabbi would see this man in the street he would immediately cross the street or turn around and hide until he was gone.

One day, the Jew chased after the Rabbi. The Rabbi tried to run away, but the Jew caught up with him and said, “Kvod HaRav, listen: Hashem paid me back. Today I made a deal and earned ten times the amount. I wanted to tell you that you were right.” And then he continued in Yiddish: “Hashem’s word is reliable, but he doesn’t quite stick to schedules.”…

I heard this so-Jewish story from my friend, R. Benny Ben Ami z”l, who passed away suddenly around this time of year, two years ago. Whenever Benny had a chance, he would give tzedaka, more than the conventional amounts. He would give happily and with a full heart; and his heart was as wide as his shoulders. His broad grin and his laughter appear in front of my eyes whenever I think of him. I have a feeling that he tells this story in Gan Eden as well.

We are not supposed to observe the mitzvot in order to receive the reward for them, but even if we do so, Hashem’s promise still stands. The Rebbe once wrote on this topic: “In spite of the fact the mitzvahs in general, tzedaka included, should not be done for the reward, but rather because Hashem, the Creator and Master of the World commanded us to do so, still, Hashem promised aser te’aser – that you will become wealthy both materially and spiritually.”

And anyone who is not sure of this is told by Rabbi Yochanan: “Go try it.”

 

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

the technological innovations

I hereby state that we have filtered internet in our home.

The charedi public in general has decided to disconnect from the new technology. Many do not have a computer at home, no email, no WhatsApp – and not even SMS on their phones. Sometimes it seems that they are afraid of all technological innovations.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe had a different approach to the issue.

In 1960 (5720), Rabbi Nachum Goldschmid began to broadcast classes on the Tanya on Kol Yisrael. That same year, Rabbi Yosel Weinberg began to broadcast classes on the Tanya on the American radio. In 1970 (5730) the Rebbe’s hitva’adut was broadcast live for the first time – worldwide, and a year later, in 1971, there were already advanced video cameras at 770 that filmed the Rebbe’s hitva’adut. From the beginning of the 1980’s, when in Israel there was still only one television station, the Rebbe’s hitva’aduyot during the week were being broadcast on cable TV in the United States.

On Shabbat parashat Ekev, 5748 (1988), the Rebbe brought a proof from the week’s parasha that one shouldn’t be afraid of the world and of what it has to offer. Moshe Rabbeinu tells in the parasha how after the Sin of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the Tablets, Hashem said to him: “Make for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones.” In other words, one should go forward with the building of a Mishkan (Tabernacle) for Hashem, with the new Tablets being the first sign of the decision to build it.

But, wait a minute – at the beginning of the book of Devarim, where the words “Di Zahav” are mentioned, Rashi says that those words hint to the fact that they sinned because of the gold. “He (Moshe) rebuked them about the Calf that they made because of all the gold they had, as it says, ‘I gave them much silver, and gold they used for the Ba’al’” and then the Rebbe asks: If they sinned because of the gold, why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu forbid them the use of gold – forever?

But we see the exact opposite: In order to show them that they were forgiven for the Golden Calf they had made, they were told to use gold for the Temple. In other words, not only did Moshe not fear gold; he went even further and used it for holy purposes.

The Rebbe learns from this that “even when we encounter something that others use for the opposite of kedusha, there is no need to get excited about this, and it must be used for its true purpose, which is the honor of Hashem.” In a footnote, he continues: “And according to this, in relation to the development and revealing of gadgets that were discovered in recent generations, that in spite of the fact that they can be used for purposes that are the opposite of Torah, and as we indeed see that some do, Rachmana litzlan – in any case they should be used for holy purposes – the dissemination of Torah and Judaism and such like. And especially those who use them for trade, it is for things like that that these natural powers were created and that these aspects of wisdom were revealed.”

It is known that chassidim are wise, and a chasid knows when not to go overboard. With the clear knowledge that everything was created for Hashem’s honor, a person also has to set limits for himself before he goes into all types of media in order increase Hashem’s honor: to examine where, how much, and for what purpose.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

I used to believe; now I simply know.

 I used to believe; now I simply know.

I used to believe in Divine Providence (hashgacha pratit). I heard stories, listened to lectures and went to classes, studied essays; this belief was also instilled in me at home, from the moment I was born. I believed in it.

Nowadays I don’t believe in Divine Providence – now I can see it; I know that it exists.

For the first thirty years of my life, more or less, when something happened that seemed to be upside-down, illogical, leaving me stuck or getting in the way, I needed the faith that I had saved up, all those stories and classes.

Nowadays, when something like that happens, I smile at it and know that it is for my own good, and sometimes also try to guess what the future will bring: “It will be interesting to see how all this will turn out to be for the good, and when exactly I will see it happening.”

Why is that so? It is very simple. When you live with an awareness of Divine Providence, and learn to look at everything that is happening around you as coming from that Divine Providence, you get used to seeing how Hashem arranges the puzzle of life in a wonderful way. You also learn that He is a bit wiser than you.

I used to say that “If the Master of the World would just listen to my advice, everything would be better.” Today I say, “It’s a good thing that He doesn’t listen to my wise ideas.”

 

On Shavuot 5723 (1963) the Rebbe explained the famous passuk from this week’s parasha, parashat Va’etchanan, “Ata horeta – You have been shown in order to know that Hashem, He is the G-d. There is none beside him.” Also, the passuk shortly after that, “You shall know this day and take to your heart that Hashem, He is the G-d in heaven above and on the earth below – there is none other.”

The first verse is describing a relationship that comes down from above: You, Hashem, are the one who showed us to know that You are the G-d.” that is the faith that we received, the one we learned and read about, and received at home as well. The second is describing a relationship from the bottom up. Here, it is not Hashem who is teaching, but rather the human being, out of his life experience and with his own resources, reaches the understanding that “You shall know this day.” It is more knowledge, less belief.

And from this comes the other difference between the two psukim. What a person receives from an external source will not settle completely in his heart. The person might be convinced, and certainly he or she will believe, but the heart will still have its doubts – it has its own rules. But when a person reaches an understanding through life’s experience, working from the bottom up, then immediately after “You shall know this day,” he will experience “and take to your heart.”

Shabbat Shalom – and smile, because all is for the good!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Go towards the lands of the Amorites

Enough of sitting here near Mount Sinai – get up and go towards the lands of the Amorites, the Ammonites and Moabites. That’s what Moshe Rabbeinu said to the Jewish People at the beginning of parashat Devarim, thousands of years ago: “Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. Turn yourselves around and journey, and come to the Amorite mountain and all its neighbors.” Leave the pure and holy place where you are now living; get up and come to a place that is considered to be distant, alien and even against Torah and mitzvot.

So said the Lubavitcher Rebbe to his chassidim over sixty years ago.

In a wonderful letter to the directors of the younger faction of Chabad, dated Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5718 (1958) the Rebbe encouraged them, based on the above-mentioned passuk from Devarim, not to remain at home but to go out and be active; not to stand, but to walk. In today’s language we would say, “Step out of your comfort zone and go seek challenges.”

As usual, the Rebbe says it better than me, and therefore I will quote: “’Enough of your dwelling by this mountain,’ even though this is the place where the Torah was given, because a person should go from strength to strength, and also – not be satisfied with his actions and self-decoration, but also influence others, including the others who are outside. Therefore, ‘Turn yourselves… and journey’ – but the journey in itself and passing through a place is not enough, rather ‘come’ – in pnimiyut.”

But wait a minute, the Amorites and their neighbors symbolize the opposite of kedushah, holiness. They symbolize a place where there is distance from, alienation and even resistance to Torah, kedushah and anything holy. But is there a place in the world that we can define as such, like the Amorites and their neighbors? One who is familiar with the Rebbe’s Torah knows already that by him there was no place that was distant, no place that was alien, because the world belongs to Hashem. Moreover, the Shluchim of the Rebbe in the world know that every place they arrived in and was considered cold and alienated, pretty soon showed itself to contain kedushah and the warmth of Torah and mitzvot despite what it looked like to anyone who lived in what is generally called a “city of Torah” and the like. Therefore, one should pay attention to the wonderful careful reading of the Rebbe’s words, when he is defining a place that is like the Mountain of the Amorites: a place where in face of the nation, all of whom are tzaddikim, it seems to them “the Amorite mountain and all its neighbors.”

It is clear from the letter that he doesn’t want all its readers to get up physically and change their geographic location. It is also clear that the Rebbe is asking every one of his readers to move a bit, to advance, to walk, to be a walker, to leave the place he is used to, his comfort zone, and move along.

The letter opens with praise to the addressees for the many activities they are already engaged in, but as usual, the Rebbe immediately warns them that the place they have arrived at and that has become a spiritual comfort zone, like Mount Sinai was for those who left Egypt, is a place where one can stagnate, and therefore he immediately mentions the passuk: “Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. Turn yourselves around and journey…” Move on, don’t stay in place.

The Rebbe concludes with the rest of the passuk, wishing them well but also guiding them to a destiny: And by doing so they will fulfill the destiny of “When Hashem your G-d will broaden your boundary until the great river, the River of Prat (Euphrates).” In other words, the goal they should aim for is the complete and true Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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