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Bring this “other” person closer


to bring this “other” person closer

“And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.” So it says in the description of the Exodus from Egypt at the beginning of Parashat Beshalach that we will read tomorrow. Why did Moshe Rabbeinu take them? “Because he (Yosef) had firmly adjured the Children of Israel, saying, God will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here with you.”

Like his father, Yosef wanted to be buried in the Holy Land, and therefore he made a special request, which was fulfilled by Bnei Yisrael. He was buried, as we all know, in Shechem, in Samaria.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe objects to the use of the words “bones” – “Atzamot”. We are talking here about a truly special person: he was the viceroy of Egypt, and we call him “Yosef HaTzaddik.” It would have been more fitting to say, “And Moshe took Yosef’s coffin.” This would have been the minimal amount of respect shown to Yosef, what anyone would have wanted said in reference to a relative of his. But, instead, we have here, “Yosef’s bones.”

But if that is the way it is expressed, there must be some special meaning attached to it, and the meaning of “Yosef’s bones” is that, beyond the fact that Moshe personally, physically, brought Yosef’s body to the land of Israel, together with this body he also brought Yosef’s “Atzmiyut” – Yosef HaTzaddik’s essence, for the benefit of all future generations. What was Yosef’s essence? Helping others. He devoted his life to other people. Every public figure today says that he is on “a mission.” Yosef was the role model for people whose mission is to work for the benefit of the public.

Even his name includes a similar message: “And she named him Yosef, saying, May Hashem add to me another son.” So said Rachel, Yosef’s mother, when he was born. The inner meaning of this, says the Rebbe, is that there is a son who is considered the “other” son, because he is different in his behavior, his deeds and perhaps even in his looks, and Yosef’s mission is to bring this “other” person closer and give him the true feeling that he is a son, for that is the truth: we are all members of this nation, the Children of Israel. How typical for the Rebbe to espouse such a commentary.

And so, Moshe Rabbeinu brought to the land of Israel not only Yosef’s casket, but also Yosef’s “Atzmiyut” – Yosef’s acknowledgment and understanding, outlook and perspective, that perspective that will teach all of us to look at the other and understand that he is also a child. In every class in school there is that “other”, and every one of us, each one from his point of view, has such an “other” among his acquaintances, and certainly among those who are not his friends and acquaintances. Here one must bring up the awareness of the “bones of Yosef” and remember that these “other” people are his brothers and sisters, the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. And in the merit of this, we will be granted that most desired blessing, “Bless us all, our father, as one, with the light of Your face (= the Heavenly Light).”


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

He who works all day has no time to make money

 “He who works all day has no time to make money.” Are you familiar with this capitalistic sentence? I love this sentence. I think there’s a lot of truth to it. Not only in terms of finances, but in terms of life in general. Sometimes we are so immersed in what we are doing that we forget to live.

In this week’s parasha, parashat Va’era, it says, “And Moshe spoke thus to Bnei Yisrael, but they didn’t heed Moshe, because of shortness of breath and hard work.” Rashi defines “shortness of breath” in a few simple words: “Anyone who is troubled, his breath is short and he cannot draw long breaths.” Bnei Yisrael believed Moshe Rabbeinu, as it said in the previous parasha: “And the people believed and they heard that Hashem had remembered Bnei Yisrael.” They also heard what Moshe Rabbeinu said. They heard what he said – but they didn’t heed him. They were not open emotionally to really listen to what he was saying, for, as we said, they were in a state of “shortness of breath and hard work.” They could barely breathe.

How many times have you heard yourself saying: “There’s no way I find time now to go to a lecture of a class! I would like to be with my family, if I could. But I am working hard, I can barely breath”? How many times do we miss the good things in life due to shortness of breath and hard work?

We are not in the Egyptian exile. We are not enslaved to a cruel ruler and subject to beatings like our forefathers were in Egypt. But we are enslaved sometimes to technology, to modernization, to Western conventions. Most of the time we manage quite well, but we don’t really live. Because someone who works hard has no time to make money. 

And someone whose breath is short cannot lift up his head and see that there is a rich spiritual and value-based life that is within easy reach.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

From a plain and simple human point of view

Two sons are born to Moshe Rabbeinu in this week’s parasha, parashat Shemot. Both their names refer to his situation in Midian, with each of them describing a different feeling. The first he named Gershom, explaining: “For I was a stranger (ger) in a foreign land.” The second he named Eliezer – “Because the G-d of my father helped me (be’ezri)and saved me from Pharaoh’s sword.”

The commentators bring up the question as to why he didn’t name them according to the chronological order of these events – first he was saved from Pharaoh’s sword, when the latter wanted to kill him, and only afterwards he escaped to Midian and became a stranger in a foreign land. It would have been more fitting, then, to name his eldest son Eliezer, and his second one Gershom. The commentators bring various explanations for this.

The central commentary says that when Moshe’s eldest son was born, Pharaoh was still alive, and therefore he could not say outright “and saved me from Pharaoh’s sword.” Pharaoh died before his second son was born, and only then could he name his son Eliezer.

Sometimes I like to read the scriptures from a plain and simple human point of view. It seems to me that it is possible to see here an interesting human process.

When a believing person goes through a difficult period in his life, there are two main feelings that will arise in him, at least initially.

One of them, usually the first, will be recognition of his condition. This is accompanied by some pain, of course. It is not always easy or pleasant to face reality straight on, but it is very important to know the situation, be familiar with it and recognize it. The second feeling, which often comes later, will be that of gratitude. It is amazing to me that the faith of people who are going through a difficult and challenging experience is actually strengthened, and they are filled with gratitude. Perhaps this is because during difficult moments we learn that nothing can be taken for granted. In one minute life can be shaken up, turned upside-down. We learn to appreciate the regular, routine stability when it exists. And yes, we feel a need to thank Hashem for what we have, even if at the same time we will be putting in our petition for what we don’t yet have.

Perhaps that is why Moshe decided to name his first son Gershom, and his second – Eliezer.

A similar process can be seen with Yosef Hatzaddik. He named his first son Menashe, which refers to the difficulty and the distance from his family and his father’s home, saying “G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household.” His second son he named Efraim, referring to his thankfulness and gratitude: “G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

It is important to recognize reality; it is no less important to thank Hashem.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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