Rabbi's weekly Blog

You have an underwater observatory

 This week I was interviewed for a magazine that is due to come out during the month of Adar, the month of simcha.

The interviewer asked me, among other questions: “So, really, how do you give to another person, even someone that you don’t know very well, the power to be happy even when he is coping with challenging situations?”

“It’s like Kri’at Yam Suf (the Splitting of the Sea)”, I replied.

Yes, like Kri’at Yam Suf. But not because it’s as hard as Kri’at Yam Suf, but because it’s the same act as that Splitting of the Sea.

When one goes underwater one sees a whole wonderful world that is normally hidden from us. Whoever has visited an underwater observatory was probably astonished to see the wonderful, colorful scene of the fish, the other sea creatures and the plants. It is a fascinating, brilliantly colored world, which is completely hidden by the water. Someone who stands on the shore and looks towards the sea will not know anything about what is happening underwater. But the moment he dares and dives in, he will see the wonderful treasures.

All of us, too, have hidden worlds. Sometimes we go through our whole lives without getting to see our underwater worlds, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have them – beautiful, colorful and full of life; it just means that we haven’t yet gone down to see what we have and what we don’t.

It is precisely when a person is going through a challenging period that he acquires direct access to the hidden treasures, to that wonderful, hidden world. And then, especially then, he will discover that he has a tremendous treasure of powerful emunah (belief), survival and coping abilities, including the ability to feel simcha in any situation.

These are treasures that we all inherited from our forefathers, foremothers and grandparents. In our nation, in most cases they didn’t bring with them material wealth – indeed, materially, most of them were penniless survivors of catastrophies, but they brought with them spiritual wealth, powerful emunah, joy in any situation, head lifted high no matter what the challenge might be.

They left us this legacy and all we have to do is split the sea that hides it all, dive in and reveal it. It works, my friends – and I can say that from experience.

We are facing Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Kriat Yam Suf. It’s a good time to visit our underwater observatories.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Mind changing words

 I was nine years old, and didn’t quite understand. The Rebbe spoke for many hours. I understood the Yiddish, the words themselves, but I did not understand the message, nor did I remember it. When I complained, my father said that my soul understands.

It was at the Hitva’adut of the 10th of Shvat, 5746 (1986), the first Hitva’adut that I participated in. Since then, I have gone back to its printed version it from time to time, and each time something else there touches me for the first time, as if it was intended precisely for me.

The 10th of Shvat was the day in 5710 (1950), when Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Chabad Rabbi, passed away. It is the also the day when, a year later, in 5711 (1951), the seventh Rebbe, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, accepted upon himself the leadership the Chabad movement. As such, this day is a very significant one for me, as Chabad chassid. To tell the truth, this is a significant day for every Jew who has ever been influenced by the Rebbe, whether directly or via his chassidim and shluchim, his words and his many writings.

But back to me: The Rebbe accepted upon himself the leadership long before I was born, and certainly influenced my life through my parents, may they live, but the first direct, internal connection with him for me was made actually on the 10th of Shvat, 5746. And so, I return to my first Hitva’adut, study it once more. I would like to share with you a few lines from it that for me are mind changing. I will not explain, I will not go into details; I will just bring them word for word (in translation, of course), as they are written down in the book:

Regarding all the calculations about the state of the world and his personal state – whether he is worthy or not worthy etc. – he should know and remember that he is not being requested to do something new that never was before, change the state of the world or change his personal state, but rather to return the world or himself to its real state as it was created by the Holy One, Blessed be He – “To gani (My garden), to ganunei (My very own garden), to the place that was the main place in the beginning.”

In simpler words:

When a Jew sees something undesirable in the world or in himself, he should know that it is not coming from Creation itself, for the creation of the world and of man – both Jew and non-Jew – was in the form of “And G-d saw everything that He did and behold, it was very good.” – not just “good”, but “very good”. So, anything undesirable was a change in the reality of creation. Therefore, his work in fixing this thing is not doing something new, but rather returning it to its true state, as it was created by the Holy One, Blessed be He.”

End of quote.

L’chaim, Jews! L’chaim v’livracha!


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Alone and together

 This week I would like to describe a little episode to you, which, besides being very moving also expresses unusual strength.

My brother-in-law, my wife’s eldest brother, Rabbi Zusha Gorelick, is a quiet person, almost unassuming. But really he is one of the heroes of the Jewish revolution that has been taking place in Russia in the past thirty years.

He is not the head of some institution; he doesn’t even have a shul. He is “only” a mashpia (spiritual guide) in the Chabad yeshiva in Moscow. But he lives a life of pure truth, clarity of thought and extraordinary devotion to his students. The result is that boys from far-flung cities in Russia, sent by Chabad shluchim to the yeshiva, have become Torah-true chassidim of the first order.

There is a saying that a good manager knows to choose good people to be by his side. Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia and the person who is responsible for the Jewish revolution in the former Soviet Union, is known to have a sharp eye that knows to identify special people. More than 25 years ago, he knew already to hire R. Zusha as the yeshiva’s mashpia, a role that Zusha, together with his family, has fleshed out to include the essence of family, fatherhood, warmth, love, Torah learning, personal counseling – in other words, everything and anything.

This evening R. Zusha’s son became engaged. Mazel Tov! The “L’chaim” party that includes a family gathering took place in the Chabad neighborhood in Kiryat Malachi, but due to the Corona, Zusha and his wife, parents of the groom, could not participate physically in the event. Moreover, because the yeshiva is in a suburb outside of Moscow, they have almost no friends and certainly no family members close to them. So, they are sitting almost alone in faraway Moscow and watching the goings-on in Zoom.

I felt a bit sorry for them; it pained me to see the distance and the difficulty, but then I saw what a real chassid is. R. Zusha simply pulled a melodica (google that one!) and started to play simcha tunes in typical excitement, drawing all the participants into moments of inner joy.

I am familiar with the Chassidic saying, “The Admor Hazaken, Ba’al HaTanya, acted so that a Jew is never alone.” But this time I got to view this phenomenon live.

A Jew is sitting alone in some remote place in Russia, when his son is celebrating his engagement to his chosen one far away. It looks like he is alone; one might think that he is sad and heavy-hearted. But he isn’t alone at all. He is joyous and is making others joyous. He has his faith, Hashem is with him, the Rebbe is with him and all his friends and acquaintances are with him, so why shouldn’t he take out his melodica and start dancing?

The Admor Hazaken was truly successful in his mission.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

work hard but not too hard

The man had a medical consultation business. He had young children at home. He worked hard and earned well, but one day he complained to me that he barely sees the children. His office is open until 6:00 in the evening, and by the time he gets home the house is in disarray, the tired children are on their way to bed, and the wife, too, is in disarray and exhausted as well.

“So stop working at 5:00,” I told him.

“One less hour in the office,” he replied, “means much less money per month.”

“So try it for just one month,” I suggested.

He agreed, and this month has lasted ten years. For ten years he has been coming home at a time when he can still spend time with his family, see and be seen, and sometimes even tell a bedtime story to the little ones.

Why was I reminded of this anecdote?

Because the Rebbe learns from this week’s Parasha a similar and very interesting lesson. It says in the Torah about the Egyptians that they “embittered the lives” of Bnei Yisrael. The Rebbe explains that that means giving them work that had no limit and purpose. A person is willing to work hard if he knows that a) the work will come to an end at some point, and b) that it is useful. Purposeless work is unimaginable torture – it embitters one’s life.

The Rebbe, in his talk on one of the nights of Pesach of the year 1959 (5719), spoke of the relevance of this to the life of every Jew. Work must have its limits. A person has to go out and provide a livelihood for his family, but he shouldn’t be totally immersed in it every day, all day. There are other, much more important things in our lives that are, indeed, the reason we go out, exert ourselves and labor away. There are the family and children; one’s spiritual life; there are Torah and Mitzvot, and there is the holy Neshama (soul) that would like some of our time and attention.

One should find time for daily Torah learning, praying and doing acts of Chessed, and, of course, one should spend time with the family and children when they are still awake and alert.

So when we read and learn of how the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forefathers in Egypt, we ought to check and see whether we are perhaps embittering our own lives…

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.