Rabbi's weekly Blog

Comparing and Elevating

The seventh and final days of Passover are the Comparing and Elevating of the holiday of Passover.

Passover signifies the first freedom, the exodus from Egypt, the redemption from Egypt. But not only that, Passover is also our freedom today; it is a special and opportune time for us, if we only desire, of course, to extricate ourselves from all that constrains and limits us from living as we truly wish to live, at our highest level, of ourselves.

When I say "us," I mainly refer to our holy soul.

Zalman Yaffe was a special Chasid who used to come every year for Shavuot from England to Brooklyn to be with the Rebbe. A special Chasid because unlike other Chasidim, Reb Zalman Yaffe spoke quite freely with the Rebbe, and the Rebbe, on his part, showed him special closeness.

After Shavuot of 1974 when he was about to bid farewell to the Rebbe towards his return to England, he told the Rebbe that he was very pleased with the blessing the Rebbe gave him the previous year and he wants to receive the same blessing this year.

The blessing was not ordinary; when the Rebbe blessed him, he suddenly added and said that the blessings would be "iber dem kop" in Yiddish, which translates to "over the head," and the implication is (I assume) that the blessing will be more than he can contain or more than he expects.

The Rebbe - as recounted by Zalman's grandson - seemed disappointed by the request and said to him in English: Have you no ambition?

What was good for last year is no longer enough for the next year. We are always required to advance further and upward. How is it that you are not aiming for more?

"Comparing and Elevating"

After the initial days of the holiday of freedom, after we began to deal with it with ourselves and collectively, and also asked and prayed for everyone, here come the final days of Passover, the seventh and last day of Passover, and they demand of us to aspire for more.

The seventh and last day of Passover signify both the conclusion of the holiday of Passover, the seal of the exodus from Egypt, but immediately and concurrently also elevate a stage towards the future redemption. We remember the exodus from Egypt and immediately request "as in the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show you wonders“ (Micha 7/15) in the future, final redemption, the one after which there will be no exile. We seek to complete the four cups and progress towards „VeHeveti - and I will bring you."

We will compare and elevate; tomorrow and the next day we will come from the exodus from Egypt and focus on the future redemption, the coming of our righteous Messiah.


Rabbi Zalman Wishedski


Am Israel Chai!

It's not easy to celebrate this year.

In fact, for me, this is the hardest year to celebrate the holiday of freedom.

So many children in Israel will ask this year Ma Nishtana for Mom, for Grandpa and Grandma, but not for Dad because he fell in battle.

So many people will sit at the most family-oriented holiday without a brother or sister, son or daughter, beloved mom or dad because they were killed or fell in battle.

So many families will sit at the Seder night while their family members are held captive in Gaza.

So many will sit on this most homely night in a foreign place because they haven't been able to return to their homes in the north or south for half a year.

In fact, all of us celebrate the holiday of freedom knowing that for many of us, freedom is still far away.

But I also know that we have gone through tougher times.

I know that once we experienced all of this already.

Most importantly, I know that we survived everything and reached where we are because we never gave up, not on the holiday and not on joy. Not on the matzah and not on the Maror, not on the wine and not on the Haggadah. We never gave up because despair is not part of the repertoire of the people of Israel.

I know that Am Israel Chai!

A kosher and happy holiday,

Rabbi Zalman Wishedski


at the Rebbe's table

Reb Meishke Sara's, the son of the renowned Muma Sara Katsenelbogen, may his memory be a blessing, once wrote the following in his notes:

"Once, I entered the Rebbe's chamber, and while I was in the holy presence, the Rebbe mentioned among other things, 'They say that you are proficient in Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law).' When I responded with a gesture of negation, the Rebbe said, 'They told me here at the table, and here at the table, one only speaks the truth.'

I won't delve into who Reb Meishke was, nor into the fact that being proficient in Shulchan Aruch in Soviet Russia was nothing trivial, certainly not about his famous mother, or even about his granddaughter, her husband, and their children who serve as emissaries of the Rebbe here in Basel.

I'll only speak about the mentioned anecdote, about the central and powerful, and in my opinion, chilling aspect of the Rebbe's words: 'Here by the table, one speaks only the truth.'

Today, the 11th of Nisan, is the Rebbe's birthday, which essentially means that for every chassid, there is also a birthday, the birthday of being a chassid is today. Much has been said about the Rebbe's greatness, about his genius, about his proficiency in the entire Torah, about the Shluchim worldwide, about the miracles that unfold, and also about his approach or viewpoint on life in general and Jewish life in particular.

Today, on the birthday of our being chassidim, I will attempt, with your permission, to express a few words as a chassid.

The Rebbe is our confidant.

Indeed, the Rebbe is the one who gains access to the most intimate places of our souls. A chassid who enters the Rebbe knew then and knows today as well, that 'Here by the table, one speaks only the truth.' Not only does a chassid know and knew, but from Reb Meishke Sara's story, it is clear that the Rebbe also knew and knows this. He is the one who knows his chassidim and his Shluchim best, he knows better than anyone else, and often better than they themselves, where they are being disingenuous and where they are authentic. He knew how to clearly say, 'Here by the table, one speaks only the truth.' And this is the essence of the chassid's longing. Here lies the essence of the yearning to travel to the Rebbe, to be with him, beside him, to feel close, to know that you are there, touching, present, because it may be the only place and moment in the world and in time where you are by the table where only the truth is spoken.

Yes, this is also the source of the fear of getting closer because you won't always want to be seen, to be seen by others, and if you get closer, you won't be able to hide, because 'Here by the table, one speaks only the truth.'

Oh, Rebbe.

Shabbat Shalom, A kosher and joyous Passover,



Don't be an animal

I once heard a Darshan (preacher) say: When we call a human being by the name of an animal, whether wild or domesticated (such as: “he’s a snake,” “he’s a mule”), we are actually belittling the animal, since animals fulfill their destiny in this world by just being what they are – animals. But when a human being behaves like an animal he is not fulfilling his destiny – which is to be a human being.

Parashat Tazria, the Parasha that deals with the laws of purity and impurity of human beings, follows Parashat Shemini, which deals with different types of animals and their status – kosher or non-kosher. Rashi says in his commentary on the first verse that there is a reason that the laws regarding human beings come after the laws regarding animals. “The same way Man was created after all the animals and birds, so the laws regarding him were presented after the laws of animals and birds.”

What Rashi does not explain here is why Man was created last, on the sixth day of Creation, when the entire world was already in existence, after the inanimate, the plants and the animals had all been formed?

Our Sages said that Man was created last for two reasons, each one of which embodies a different end of the spectrum:

a. So that he will come to a completed world and will be able to begin to live in it according to human beings’ needs and requirements;

b. So that in case he misbehaves, one can always say to him: “The mosquito was created before you.” Don’t forget who you are and where you come from. Even a tiny and annoying creature like a mosquito came before you and was created before you. And not only was he created before you chronologically, but even in status he is above you, because he is fulfilling his destiny; and what can you say for yourself in that regard?

By the Rebbe, whenever there are two answers given to one question, there must be a connection between them. Here, too, the Rebbe puts the two answers together, making up one wonderful message:

Man is composed of body and soul.

The body is earthy, and has animalistic needs, and in order to ensure that he not degrade himself and become worth less than a mosquito, he has the refined, G-dly, spiritual soul. What he needs is proper management. When the soul manages him and guides the body, then the world will constitute for him a ready tool; but if not – if the body will be the one that manages and guides – then very quickly the person will find himself inferior even to a mosquito.

And I say, May we be successful J!

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski


The Gift of Rest

One day, during the corona pandemic, on yet another day of partial lockdowns and social distancing, I took a one-day train trip to the mountains. I wanted to get away for a few hours from the noise of the world and enjoy some internal peace and quiet, and therefore I decided to leave my phone at home, taking a book along instead. The book I took was Zman Shabbat (original English title: The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath) which had just been published in Hebrew by Maggid, translated by Ayelet Sackstein.

This wonderful book, written by the highest-ranking Jew in American politics, was eminently suitable for my day off. In it, Lieberman describes Shabbat, starting from the preparations on Friday and going all the way to havdala on Motzai Shabbat. It is laced with fine Jewish American humor and stories about special Shabbatot, and explains some Shabbat halachas as well.

Americans familiar with American politics would have enjoyed the book much more than an Israeli like me, but, in any case, what fascinated me most was the gap between the everyday senator and the Yosef of Shabbat, between the six-day-a-week vice-presidential candidate and the Jewish child he became on the seventh. Here is one example: “On Friday afternoon I would arrive home from school and immediately breathe in the fragrance of chicken soup, meat or kugel, or anything else that was cooking. I would go to the stove, remove the pot cover of the chicken soup, take a whiff and a spoonful. Years later, when for the first time Hadassah saw me doing this in my mother’s kitchen, she was upset.

“’How could you do such a thing?’ she asked me in her most well-brought-up tone.

“’It’s my tradition,’ I answered, smiling broadly, as if I were Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof.”

Too many times I hear and read that the Shabbat is seen as something heavy, hard, a day of forbidden things and permitted things, and even a day of bitter strife and subject to various political views. Joe Lieberman describes Shabbat as it is experienced by those who observe it – an enchanting, pleasant and elevated day, a day of different rhythms and flavors. For instance: “Among the special flavors of Shabbat there is also the flavor of instant coffee. You might think that the flavor of instant coffee is inferior to that of coffee from the coffee-making machine. I agree, but on Shabbat its advantage is that it is different.”

Even his description of walking in Washington rain at night for an hour-and-a-half, soaked to the skin, has a sort of softness to it, and describes the wonderful submission of a Jew who observes Shabbat.

Not for nothing does he say in the introduction to the book: “When people ask me: How can you stop all your work as a senator to keep Shabbos every week? I answer: How could I have done all my work as a senator if I wouldn’t have stopped and kept Shabbos every week?”

I remembered all of this because Yosef Lieberman z”l passed away last week, and I so much want to transmit his Shabbos experience, which is quite similar to my own, to anyone who thinks or feels differently, and also, because he deserves much honor for representing Judaism with such pride.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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