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A peaceful blessing

Mrs. Rachel Pinson, the Chabad emissary in Tunis since 1960, once went into the Rebbe for a private meeting, known as a yechidut.

The security situation for the Jews there was not good at the time. It was a period of danger, and she brought her fear with her into the Rebbe’s room. When the Rebbe asked her about Tunis, “My heart beat hard,” she said. But, on the other hand, “while I was with the Rebbe I felt so tranquil.”

I am trying to experience that paradox for a moment. On one hand she felt distress and talking about Tunis might arouse that unpleasant feeling even more, and on the other hand, being in the same room with the Rebbe made her feel tranquil. So what could she tell the Rebbe when he asked her about the situation in Tunis, when she was overwhelmed by these two contradictory feelings? What would I have said if I had been there? I don’t know.

But here is what she said – brilliant, in my opinion: 

“I ask that to be able to maintain the feeling of tranquility that I feel here.” In other words, she was saying it all: May I be able to feel in Tunis the sense of calm that I feel here, in your room. 

And the Rebbe, who always doubled and tripled everything, replied immediately: “Not only for yourself; pass that feeling on to others as well.”

I don’t know whether she understood at that moment what a bracha (blessing) she had received. For the Lubavitcher Rebbe didn’t speak thoughtlessly. He really meant that she should get such a blessing. But since then, she has definitely noticed that people who meet her say to her: “Oh, Madam Pinson, when I speak to you, my mood improves immediately. You are like a ray of light for us.” “And I immediately respond,” she says, “It’s not from me, it is the Rebbe who gave me such a gift, when he said ‘Not only for yourself; pass that feeling on to others as well.’”


I had the privilege to go into the Rebbe, into his tziyun, this morning (Thursday). It was very early, and most of the time I was there alone. I hadn’t come from Tunis, but like any good Jew, I too was somewhat heavyhearted. I came with a burden, and I noticed that slowly, this burden dissipated, and a feeling of tranquility filled my heart. And when I left and learned with a friend a ma’amar (article) of the Rebbe about “the King in the Field”, I understood that that must be the feeling when the King is in the Field – this is the simple explanation of the words there, “and smiles at everyone.”

The ma’amar I studied is from 5746 (1985), about the words “Ani ledodi vedodi li”. It is a short article that at first glance seems to be a collection of short Chassidic sayings. But looking at it a bit more broadly, comprehensively and perhaps more deeply – which one can do by studying this ma’amar a few times (including listening to the audio recording of the Rebbe himself) – enables one to understand that there is a fascinating perspective here on the month of Ellul.

The Rebbe mentions three points:

a. The parable about the King in the Field from the Admor Hazaken (the first Chabad Rebbe), is printed as a ma’amar on Parashat Re’eh, and not as a sermon for the month of Ellul.

b. The ma’amar is printed on page 32 (which numerically translates into lev – “heart”).

c. In this book of ma’amarim (Likutei Torah/Torah Or) which is in the order of the weekly parashas there is no ma’amar on parashas Shoftim, in spite of the fact that we have enough sayings of the Admor Hazaken on psukim from Shoftim.

And this is the perspective, in my humble opinion:

a. Re’eh – “See” – is an illuminating kind of seeing. For in the month of Ellul, when the king is in the field, his expression is that of light: “May Hashem make his face shine on you.”

b. Page 32, lev – well, it’s no coincidence, because the event of Ellul is one of the heart. The main point of the “King in the Field” is a heart-to-heart connection.

c. Judges, by nature, deal with rift and not with union, with separation and not with connection, with din (justice) and not with chessed (loving-kindness). Well, in the above-mentioned book of ma’amarim there is no separate ma’amar for the parasha of Shoftim, because it is less connected to the Chassidic concept of Ellul, the light of the smiling heart and face of the King in the Field.

Like Mrs. Pinson felt in the Rebbe’s room, like I felt this morning in the ohel of the Rebbe, like all of us are permitted to feel and can feel every day of this month.

Wishing us all success,

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

do you know me?

What happens when a court decides unanimously that the defendant is guilty, that he indeed committed a murder?

According to the accepted practice worldwide, he receives the full punishment. But, surprisingly enough, according to Torah law, he is exempt from any punishment! As the Rambam wrote in Hilchot Sanhedrin: “A Sanhedrin (high court of law)  … and all all of them said he is guilty, then he is let off.” This ruling is based on what it says in Masechet Sanhedrin: “A Sanhedrin who was unanimous in its indictment, [the defendant] is let off.”

Why? What’s the logic in this?

On Parashat Ki Tisa, 5745, the Rebbe explained this in a deep and long discussion, involving delving into the murderer’s soul, finding the good in it, and learning an amazing instruction for each and every one of us.

This is what the Rebbe said: “From this we can understand that each and every Jew, whoever he is – even if he is in the lowest state – as for his internal and true existence, he is good. And therefore, it is certain that no matter what the situation is one can find some redeeming feature.

“That being so, if the court was unanimous about his being guilty, in other words, there was no one at all who could view him favorably, it must be that they didn’t really see him – didn’t see his inner essence – since he for sure has some good in him. That being so, that court cannot indict him since they don’t really know him and he is exempt from punishment.”

My friends, if that is so regarding a murderer, it certainly should be our attitude towards each and every Jew, especially when it comes to our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We must not only search for the good in every person, but mainly approach them taking into account that we are not seeing everything, because every person has some good in him or her, even if it is hidden.  So much so, that even the Sanhedrin, who were granted the authority to judge capital-punishment crimes, cannot produce a verdict if they haven’t found the hidden good in the defendant.

“And from this we learn a teaching concerning disseminating Torah and Judaism,” the Rebbe summed up. “When you meet a Jew in the street who seems to have no redeeming features, you should know that this is just his external aspect, but in his internal aspect and his essence – he is a Jew! And if one sees only that he “sinned”, and does not see that ‘he is a Jew’ – that is proof that one is not seeing his true reality, and so, one’s judgment of this ‘sinning’ person is no judgment at all!”

This week we have entered the month of Elul, the month of mercy and Selichot. This Shabbat we will be reading Parashat Shoftim. Now is the time to look into these matters and judge other people, and ourselves as well, according to the Lubavitcher’s Rebbe approach – to understand that there is good in all of us, and if you don’t see it, then you are not in apposition to judge him or her.

So simple? Yes!


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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