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A precious stone

Friday, 24 April, 2020 - 6:29 am

 The fifteenth volume of letters of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father-in-law, is full of wonderful, special letters that the sixth Chabad Rebbe wrote to his daughter and son-in-law, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his Rebbetzin.

Personally, I learned a lot from these letters regarding a father’s relationship with his children. Highly recommended.

In a letter from Tuesday, 5 Elul 5689 (1929), about eight months after the wedding, the father-in-law, the Rebbe, wrote to his son-in-law: “Take a good look at the fine margalit that G-d gave you for many days and years, and everything good in the material and the spiritual. May Hashem Yitbarach give you chochmah, binah vada’at (wisdom, understanding and knowledge) to understand this matter well, [reaching] the real truth.”

A margalit is a precious stone, a gem, and it seems that the young groom, the future Rebbe, did not understand what his father-in-law meant about it.

Five months went by, and the father-in-law once again writes a letter to his son-in-law, and again, at the end of the letter he adds: “And about the good gift, the precious margalit, you still don’t know what I mean, or have you already solved this riddle?”

After a month, during Shvat 5690, the son-in-law answers his father-in-law: “The quality and essence of the good margalit, I have yet to understand its meaning, what it is.”

Another month went by, and on the 25th of Adar 5690, the birthday of his daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the father-in-law reveals to his son-in-law the solution to the riddle: “The good margalit that G-d gave you is my daughter, your wife, may she live (and that’s what I meant in my letter, but you didn’t read my words carefully).”

Often we do not know to define the people around us as gems.

“When you come to the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzaraas affliction upon a house in the land of your possession.” So it says in the weekly parasha, parashat Tazria-Metzora. If we pay attention to the style, we see that Hashem is telling of a gift that He will give us. And what is the gift? “A tzaraas affliction.”

Really? Is this a gift?

Rashi adds that this verse is a besorah – a piece of good news, no less. “I will place a tzaraas affliction – it is good news for them that afflictions will come upon them. Because the Amorites hid caches of gold in the walls of their homes during the forty years that Yisrael were in the desert, and because of the affliction, [the owner] will demolish the house and find them.”

When Bnei Yisrael came to the land for the first time, the caches were material ones, but, in my humble opinion, there is still an eternal and relevant message here for us, today more than ever. You see an affliction, you see tzaraas. I am telling you that there is good news here – a hidden treasure. Search for it. It is possible you will have to demolish something in order to do this, but you have hidden treasures waiting for you. Don’t miss finding them.

The entire world is coping with the affliction of the Coronavirus. It has forced us to stay at home, and now we have two options: one, to see it as an affliction, as a tzaraas, and nothing more. The other option is to read Rashi again, learn and understand that we have been forced to withdraw into our homes in order to search – and find – hidden treasures.

We have a rare opportunity to get to know our children on a deeper level, to see them more – physically, and that way to become familiar with them and understand them and their needs in all dimensions. We have the possibility of deepening our relationship with our spouse – to endless depths. Is the whole really greater than its parts?

I think that, more than anything else, we have been given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop our personal mad race of life, to stop and examine ourselves: who are we without the suit and the tie and what they represent?

Who are we when we are alone, only with ourselves?

What meaning do we have when we are less vital to others?

I am sure that there are treasures here. We have gems at home. I haven’t found all of them. I’m still searching – and hoping not to demolish too many things on the way.

Good luck!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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