Rabbi's weekly Blog

A powerful presence

 Do you know people whose presence is felt the instant they walk into the room?

There are people who feel a need to be mentioned, so that it will be known that they have arrived.

There are those who will take it to heart if they are not mentioned or if they do not receive the honor they think they deserve.

But – there are those who have no need to be mentioned. They have such a powerful inner presence that when they are in a room it is sensed immediately.

Tomorrow, the Shabbat that we will read Parashat Tetzaveh, is the Shabbat in which most of the rabbis will mention Moshe Rabbeinu in their drasha. I even know what they will talk about: They will relate to the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned in this week’s parasha! This is interesting, because there are forty-two parashas in the Torah that tell of the period after Moshe Rabbeinu was born, and there is only one parasha in which his name is not mentioned – Tetzaveh. And it is precisely when Tetzaveh is read that Moshe Rabbeinu is very much present in synagogues worldwide, and has been for thousands of years, more than on those Shabbats when he is mentioned dozens of times in the Torah reading.

I don’t know the secret of Moshe Rabbeinu’s presence, but perhaps it was his humility.

Perhaps it is particularly the person who is certain that he is not worthy of being the savior, the person who is afraid he does not know how to talk, the person who stutters, the person who said in front of the entire nation: “Venachnu ma – what are we – that you complain about us?”. In simpler words: Who am I and what am I? maybe particularly such a person is the one with the greatest inner power.

Maybe in order to be a person with impressive presence, one has to be “humbler than any person on earth.”

So it seems, that in order to be present one’s presence does not have to be mentioned or written; rather, one should just be such a person.


Good luck!

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

the DNA of our brothers and sisters

In almost every Shul in the world there are “Meshulachim” who appear every morning. These are precious Jews, who have been forced to travel around and ask for donations. Some are collecting for their own personal needs, and others for yeshivas or other Torah institutions.

A few years ago I overheard a conversation between two people in the Shul in Basel. One approached the other, and, pointing to a Meshulach who was standing there, showing a letter and collecting money, said, “I’m not going to give anything to this one! I simply don’t believe him. I examined his letter, and the facts stated in it are untrue.” But his friend responded, “I actually will give him.” “But why?” asked the first. “He’s lying, after all!” His friend smiled and said, “He’s lying to you, but not to me. Because for the few coins that you were planning to give him, you examined his letter closely. I didn’t examine the letter at all. He held out his hand, and I simply gave him some money.”

I was moved by what I had heard. It was so Jewish in my eyes. It was one of those moments when you feel honored to be part of this nation.

In Parashat Terumah, Hashem asks Moshe to take and accept donations for the Mishkan (Tabernacle) from everyone: “From every man whose heart motivates him”. With this, Hashem imprinted in this nation’s DNA both sides of the coin. On one hand, there are those whose role is to take, in other words, to ensure the raising of the necessary funds for the goal they are in charge of, and on the other hand, there are those whose role is to give whatever their hearts motivate them to give – to various charitable causes.

Sometimes we run the risk of forgetting that Hashem created the world in this way, so that the giver can do an act of loving-kindness. In other words, the person accepting Tzedakah (charity) from us is providing us with the opportunity to perform an act of loving-kindness.

In the Midrash Rabba it says, “[King] David said: Master of the World! Make [the people of] Your world equal, as it says, ‘May he sit (sit – Yeshev; be equal – Yishveh) forever before God’. Hashem answered him, if I make the people in my world equal, how will Chesed (loving-kindness) and truth be demonstrated?”

In simple terms: If everyone in the world will be equal, there will be no opportunity for anyone to be kind to another.

It is no secret that as part of my job as head of the Chabad House, I must raise funds, since the Chabad House survives on donations alone. When Parashat Terumah comes around every year, I can bear witness to the fact that the Master of the Universe succeeded: the DNA of our brothers and sisters, the Jewish People, contain both sides of the coin – the givers and the receivers, and usually it is also done caringly and kindly.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Happy father = happy family

 Yesterday I was invited to a hitva’adut with the Chabad community in Rishon Letzion, and asked to speak about joy and happiness – as it says, “When Adar comes in, we increase happiness.” I chose to speak about “Happy father = happy family.”

The central message is twofold:

a.       A father should understand that he has the role of head of the family – the one who leads – and every act of his has meaning and consequences for the entire household, like in the food chain. And before you start imagining an Arabian sheikh, I will say that when I speak of the “head of the family,” I mean not so much the rights involved, but mainly the obligations.

b.      Speaking of happiness, the head of the family must understand that it is in his hands to make the day a happy day, or the evening a happy evening, and, in general, that the family should be happy.

I also quoted what the Rebbe said during this season 29 years ago, at the beginning of the month of Adar 1992 (5752), when he spoke about increasing happiness in Adar. He went into detail: “[This means] to make oneself happy, as well as to make others happy, starting from the members of his household – the husband increases his efforts to make his wife happy, and the parents increase their efforts to make their children happy, in ways that naturally make them happy.” I think the message is clear. Anyone who has ever tried it has seen that it works. When the father comes home happy, he infects everybody else with his joyful state of mind.

Two hours before the Zoom was to start, I remembered my wife’s uncle, Rabbi Shalom Ber Gorelick z”l, who was, by all definitions – a happy Jew; not so-so, not sort of, and not even “In principle, I’m happy”. He was simply a happy Jew.

I thought it would be interesting to hear from his children what it is like to be the children of a happy father. I called up one of his daughters and asked her about this. It didn’t take her long to come up with an answer. Here is what she said:

A.    Forever young. I had a father who was forever young, even when he was sick, and even when he was in his last days, he was young. Because a person who is happy remains forever young.

B.     Happiness with mitzvot. Nothing was too hard. Even if there are many guests and it was very busy and crowded, when your father is happy and excited, you don’t feel the difficulty. Or, for instance, complete strictness when it came to the Chabad laws of Pesach – when it is combined with joy, you don’t feel the difficulty or the pressure – just the joy.

C.     As children and as adults we always felt comfortable asking, wanting to be spoiled and sneaking in requests even in matters beyond the letter of the law, because as a happy person, he would say to himself, “Nu, how wonderful it is that they are healthy children and that they have an appetite for something yummy, or that they want something or other. Baruch Hashem that they ask, Baruch Hashem that they want.”

D.    It’s catching – it was passed on to us, the children, and from us to the grandchildren; which means that my father has especially happy grandchildren, and he has only himself to thank.

One more note from me: there are only a few things that we can do and see instant results. Usually it’s a matter of a process, but here there are immediate results. A father who comes home with an approach of expansiveness and happiness will see the immediate results in his own family.


So – go for it!


Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Mentsch or human being?

“I get irritable on the road. I can’t control it – there is nothing I can do about it. That is the way I am and I have no way to change it.” So said to me this week a Jew whom I love very much, in the midst of a discussion that developed during a class. We spoke about the advantage of a human being over an animal, and that is one of the things that came up.

I too get annoyed on the road often, and I said to him: “I understand your anger on the road, but I am not willing to accept your belittling yourself. To me you are a human being and not an animal, and as such you have within you the basic ability to manage your feelings and instincts.”

The Admor Hazaken says in the Tanya that “The brain rules over the heart according to [a person’s] his inborn nature, for that is how man was created, that every man can, by the will in his brain, hold himself back and rule over the spirit of desire in his heart, so as not to fulfil his heart’s wishes in act, speech and thought, and to divert his mind completely from the desires of his heart, to the complete opposite.”

“You are a friend whom I appreciate very much,” I added. “I am not willing to let you make of yourself such a small creature, saying ‘I have no ability to change this.’ If you would say, ‘It’s hard for me,’ I would be the first to understand you, because I experience it in my life as well, but don’t lower yourself from the level of a human being to the level of an animal.”

What is a “mentsch”? when do we define a person as being a mentsch? Literally, mentsch means simply a human being, but this word connotes a person who behaves in an elevated way, doing somewhat more than what is expected of him, or, as explained in a dictionary I found through Google: “A person of integrity and honor, who exhibits humaneness in his relations with others.” That is the type of person we will point to and say, “He’s such a mentsch.”

But when a person slips and falls, when he is pulled by his whims and instincts, when an insult comes out of his mouth, when he gets angry and explodes, when he is badly hurt, when his feelings rule him, we will say: “Okay, what can we do? He is not an angel, he is just a human being.” And that is right and proper. That is the way we should indeed react.

But there is a difference – a very significant difference – between what we say before and what we say after. After the fact, it is okay to tell ourselves “I am human,” but before the act, before anything happens, before the fall, before the anger, before the insult escapes our lips, in my opinion we should strive upwards, to our higher tendencies, and say “I will manage my behavior. I will know to stop and hold back at the right moment. I will be a mentsch.”

In the Ten Commandments, the Torah demands from us to live our greatness, to be elevated people. Do not covet, do not commit adultery, do not steal. These are demands that one cannot make of a bird or an animal, domestic or wild. But from a person one can most definitely demand that.

So when we read the Ten Commandments tomorrow, before we look at them as obligations and demands, we should understand that here the Creator is determining and saying to each and every one of us: I see your greatness; I see your abilities. I see how man differs from animals.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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