Rabbi's weekly Blog

Every respectable synagogue has its beggars.

Dear Friends, Every respectable synagogue has its beggars. They come every day, stand there for a few hours and give the praying men the merit of giving tzedakah. In the famous Beit Midrash of Chabad, 770, in Brooklyn, there is group of elderly beggars of Russian origin. They have been there for several decades, and are an integral part of the scenery. The Yeshiva boys once asked one of them: “If you were to win the American lottery of hundreds of millions of dollars, what would you do?” The man answered immediately: “I would give every one of my beggar colleagues a million dollars so that they won’t come anymore, so that I’ll have the whole synagogue to myself.” Funny, isn’t it? I would call it a galut (exile) mentality. Even when the poor man becomes rich he thinks like a beggar. A person with a geulah (redemption) mentality will not go back to being a beggar after he has won the lottery. But don’t we think the same way in our lives? Do we know to dream, at least, beyond the limitations and conventions of the galut way of life? How many times do we want to do something but are certain that we will fail? How many times do we not even dare to dream of something, because it is beyond our conception? But if we take upon ourselves a geulah mentality, we will see that we can do so much more – and then we might even dare to dream big. Rabbi Shlomo Efraim of Luntschitz, the author of the “Kli Yakar” commentary, explains at the beginning of parashat Shemini that the number eight is beyond nature, since the nature of the world, since creation, is connected to the number seven. The world, after all, was created in seven days, and continues to work in cycles of seven. He brings what Chazal say in masechet Arachin, that in the times of Mashiach the kinor (lyre) will have eight strings. To my understanding, the kinor of the Leviyim in the Beit Mikdash had seven strings, while in the times of Mashiach it will have eight. Why eight? Because the days of the Mashiach will be something beyond nature. And so, there is no more opportune time than this Shabbat to look into this idea, to test our way of thinking and to attempt to think in a “shmoneh” mode – that of geulah. We should think like masters and not like hired help, because otherwise, even if we win the lottery, we will go back to being beggars. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

The Chabadniks’ talking points

A stranger who would have heard them this week would have thought that they have a list of talking points, or at least one message that they received from above to pass on.

Dryly and laconically, but simply, and with much confidence, they say: We’re simply doing what has to be done.

“We salute you,” I wrote to Rabbi Avremi Wolff, Odessa’s rabbi, a moment after he waved goodbye to the buses of orphans and remained behind in the city. He replied to me laconically: “It’s nothing. We’re just doing what has to be done.”

My wife spoke with her good friend, Chani Gopin. She and her husband Rabbi Shalom Gopin left Kiev, reached Iași, which they had just looked up in Wikipedia, and instead of resting after dozens of hours of travel, they boiled up a huge pot of eggs and their young children prepared cucumbers and other vegetables, so that the next batch of refugees, whom they hadn’t met yet, would have something to eat. “You’re super,” my wife told her, and she answered with the same message: “We’re just doing what has to be done, nothing special.”

Rabbi Mendy Glitzenstein, his wife Penina and their family took care of thousands of refugees, for days on end, without sleep. “Mendy, you are our heroes,” I said to him. but he just replied from the Chabad list of talking points: “We just did what was needed at that moment.”

Should I continue? This is what I heard from Rabbi Yossi Wolff, who remained in Kherson, under siege; from my brother Rabbi Pinchas, with all his activities, and so on all of them, even Rabbi Dover Orgad from Cluj (Klausenberg), who worked day and night to feed whoever showed up – and there were hundreds – and replied simply and confidently, stating that same dry and laconic point: “We are simply doing what is needed right now.”

If you think about it a bit, and go into it more deeply, you will see that indeed that has been the central message of Lubavitch ever since it was established: Before all and after all you just do what needs doing at that moment.

In the early 1970’s, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l asked to meet Chabad chassidim who had just managed to leave Soviet Russia. In the meeting between Rav Moshe and R. Yankel Notick z”l, who was one of those unknown heroes who were willing to give up their lives in order to observe the mitzvos of the Torah in Russia on a daily basis, Rav Moshe asked him: “How did you do this? To insist this way on every mitzvah, big and small, in face of the forces of evil?”

And R. Yankel Notick voiced the same message, from those same ancient Lubavitcher talking points: “Did we have any other choice?” That was what was needed, so that was what we did.

I don’t know, but I find this deeply moving – so dry and laconic but so simple a statement, said with such confidence.

Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda, was the leading artisan in the construction of the Mishkan for Hashem. He ran everything, he was consulted about everything. He knew everything. He actually was the person who built the Mishkan. My friend, Rabbi Auriel Silbiger, rabbi of Agudat Achim in Basel, told me last night that Betzalel is very special to him. He did everything, organized everything, and the moment after the construction was completed, he disappeared from the radar (almost completely). We hear nothing more about him, read nothing more. He just did what he was supposed to do and went back to his anonymity.

If you check, you will see that, in the second passuk already, the Torah sums up everything that Betzalel did in the following words: “And Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur of the tribe of Yehuda did all that Hashem commanded Moshe.” How dry, how laconic, how simple and confident.

A kind of talking point.

עושה שלום במרומיו, הוא יעשה שלום עלינו.

He Who makes peace in His Heavens, will make peace upon us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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