Rabbi's weekly Blog

As i walked down Clarastrasse

It was one of those hot days. I was walking down Clarastrasse in Basel, dressed in a suit and hat, my white Tzitzit showing, while underneath I was being roasted by its woolen material. “People are probably sure that I’ve gone crazy,” I thought.

Three girls were walking towards me, laughing. I understand them: dressing this way on such a hot day is indeed ludicrous. But then, one of them suddenly approached me and said in English: “I’m Jewish too. Look – I even have a ‘Chai’ necklace. I hid it under my clothes because I was embarrassed to show it. But when I see you walking like this – walking proudly as a Jew – I also want to be that way.’ And as she was talking she pulled out the hidden “Chai” pendant and walked on, head up.

The Tzitzit was still roasting me, but the heat I felt was that of Jewish pride.

This week’s Parasha (outside of Eretz Yisrael) is “Behar” – “at the mountain.” I haven’t yet gone on a trip to Mount Sinai, but during a visit to Pilatus near Luzern, and to Brunni in Engelberg, I saw the power that a mountain projects. A mountain symbolizes pride, power, firmness and height.

“The soul did not go into exile, and it was not enslaved by the nations,” so said the Rebbe in his talks about Parashat Behar. The soul is a tall, firm, powerful mountain. The message the Rebbe gets from the name of the Parasha is firm and powerful as well: a Jew should be proud of his Jewishness; he shouldn’t hide it, neither from the backward nor from the enlightened. One shouldn’t hide a “Chai” from anti-Semites, nor remove a yarmulke in face of patronizing looks.

The motto of “Jewish pride” is a central point in all of the Rebbe’s activities, starting from when he was a boy. Activities such as menorahs in city centers, Tefillin in central bus stations, Mitzvah Tanks and Lag Ba’Omer parades are meant to show firmness and power as well, to be a mountain.


So, next time you walk down the street, remember: You are a “mountain”!


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

I pray for my children

“I pray for my children, that they won’t inherit my complexes” (in the original Hebrew: seritot – scratches, wounds), so sings the talented Chanan Ben Ari, and he is joined – both out loud and silently – by thousands of parents. This talented man manages to take everyday words and touch people from all sectors of society. He sings everyone’s feelings, and the truth is that he doesn’t sing at all – he prays; and tens of thousands pray with him. because that’s the way it is: Who doesn’t want to pray for his or her children? There is even a Yiddish version of this prayer.

I have Zoom sessions with parents who are searching for advice how to improve themselves. These are courageous people who look themselves in the face and wish to fix whatever is broken, heal the wound – and perhaps also the wounded – improve their listening skills, and, overall, know how to correctly express the love their hearts are filled with, allowing it to reach the son or daughter who are hiding behind a wall of silence, thinking that no one cares about them.

In one of these discussions, someone mentioned that song and said, “I really do pray that they won’t inherit my complexes.” I thought about it a lot and said to him, that so far as I know, even if I will succeed and they won’t inherit my complexes, they will probably acquire fresh, new ones – straight from me. Because that’s the way the world works. We pass on these things from one generation to another, get wounded or burned, deal with our wounds, but, apparently, we have no choice but to create new wounds in our children.

“You have seven children,” I said to him, “all sweet and good, may they be healthy. Each one is a world to himself, a completely different person, not only physically, but also emotionally; not only in the way he or she thinks, but in the way he or she feels. That is the reason that you can see children of the exact same parents, some of which will grow up and live with the feeling that their mother and father are the best in the world, and others will say otherwise, or even the opposite. Two children of the same parents, of the same family. One will live with the feeling that her mother is always there for her, and the other will perhaps experience the mother as someone who cannot accept her. And there isn’t much we can do about it. Every person has different feelings of deprivation, different tools they were given, and they will experience life in their own way. We cannot force them to feel what we want them to feel.

We can, though, wish to become better, more authentic human beings; so that the people closest to us will be able to really know us, know our hearts, know what really makes us happy and also what really saddens or worries us. They should be able to really get acquainted with us.

Pray that you should know to give your children at any given moment what you can give. But remember, there are times when you can give your all, and there are moments when you can’t – and that’s okay.

Pray that you will know to give them the tools to cope with the wounds that you and your wife will cause them, that they should know to rise above them and through them.

We will pray for ourselves – that we will enable the souls that Hashem has placed in our care to perform their mission in the world without fear.

“I pray for my children,” I sang with him, “that they won’t be afraid of my complexes, that they won’t be deterred by their own complexes, that they should always be happy.”

In honor of parashat Emor that we will be reading this Shabbat in the diaspora. This is a parasha of child education. As Rashi says about the first passuk: “Emor ve’amarta – ‘Say’ and ‘You will say’ – to warn the big ones about the little ones”. And the Rebbe was particular to understand the word lehazhir – to warn – as coming from zohar – to glow. In other words, the adults should make sure that the children shine like the heavenly lights.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

He who can do this, his portion is to be praised

 Last night, Yonatan Chavakuk, May Hashem avenge his blood, battled axe-wielding murderers; by doing so, he gave other people the precious minutes they needed to escape and save their own lives. But Yonatan himself was murdered, leaving a wife and five children.

Ashrei chelko – He who can do this, his portion is to be praised,” wrote Rabbi David ben Zimra approximately five hundred years ago, about actions like those of Yonatan. The Radbaz, who served as Chief Rabbi and leader of Egyptian Jewry at the time, was asked whether a person is obligated to sacrifice one of his limbs in order to save his fellow Jew.

“You asked me, and I will let you know my opinion about what you saw written, if the authorities tell a Yisrael (a Jew): Allow me to sever one of your limbs, which will not cause your death, or else I will kill a fellow Yisrael of yours, there are those who say he must allow them to sever the limb, since he will not die from that.”

The Radbaz’s answer defines Yonatan’s actions and qualities, but first of all, I must say that this discussion, the question and the answer, are connected and, indeed, arise from the passuk “You shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed,” a passuk that we will be reading in the diaspora tomorrow in parashat Kedoshim. This passuk actually demands that a Jew exert himself and even endanger himself in order to save his fellow. This, by the way, is a Jewish law that has been entered in the statute book of the State of Israel. I believe there is nothing like it in any statute book of any Western country.

The Radbaz sums up his responsum like this: “The civil laws of our Torah must go along with logic and reason; how could we think that a person should allow others to blind him in one eye or to sever his hand or foot so that his fellow not be killed? Therefore, I see no sense in this law.” In other words, there is no obligation to endanger oneself to that extent in order to save one’s fellow.

But then, the Rabbi of Egypt adds a few more words: “But it is a midat chassidut”, in other words, it is something that goes beyond the letter of the law, with a person doing something beyond what he is obligated to do. And he adds: “And he who can do this, his portion is to be praised.”

I don’t really think that Yonatan or any other person who ran towards the murderers in Elad barehanded thought at that moment about this responsum of the Radbaz, or even about the passuk,“You shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed,” but I do know clearly that this passuk is part and parcel of the education and values of the martyrs who were murdered, including Yonatan, and really part and parcel of each and every Jew. It is in our blood, in our mothers’ milk.

“And he who can do this, his portion is to be praised.”

My friends, we are still in exile. The Mashiach has not come yet, the redemption is not here yet. Jews are still being murdered just because they are Jews; our neighboring nation still teaches its children to murder. Normative people who know to love their own children go out and give out candies, indicating their joy over the brutal murder of Jews. 

If we continue to pray and ask Hashem that He declare an end to our suffering, we will merit the true and complete Redemption very soon.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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