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a stop or a journey

Friday, 17 July, 2020 - 8:06 am

A dear Jew, whom I love and respect very much, called me this week. He is over 60 years old and is about to purchase a large business in a new place where they speak a foreign language. Quite a challenge, an initiative coupled with a vision and much courage.

He called me to set a time to meet with me and receive a blessing for his business. He is a believing Jew and he understands that the business and the investment are a vessel for G-d’s blessings. Therefore, together with careful and orderly business planning, he wants to make a plan for a blessing. We will sit together, talk about the mezuzahs to be installed, about a tzedakah box in the office, about a ma’aser (tithe) to be given to charity and about his willingness, in principle, to employ and give a livelihood to people close to him as much as possible. And, of course, after all this, we will write a request for a bracha from the Lubavitcher Rebe and send it to the Ohel – and ask that it be read there and also torn up there on the Rebbe’s grave, as is the custom, going all the way back to Calev ben Yefuneh.

Among other things, my friend mentioned that he is rather old to be starting a new business – “don’t forget that I am already sixty-something years old.” I responded spontaneously, telling him, that he still has fifty-something years until 120. But then I added: “Look, in America, the presidential candidates and the president himself are all seventy-something years old!”

Now, on Erev Shabbos of parashat Matot-Masei, knowing that he reads my letter every week, I wish to add a few more sentences:

Parashat Masei tells us about the travels of Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness. Forty-two journeys, spread over 40 years. The truth is that these were not journeys but rather resting places. The Torah is actually listing 42 places where Bnei Yisrael camped in the wilderness, but it doesn’t call them chanayot (resting places), but rather masa’ot (journeys).

Look: everything that we go through in life can be defined as a stop or a camping place, or as part of a journey. This is significant, because what we define as a stop or a resting place will stop us and our spirit from continuing forward. And what we define as part of a voyage, not only will not stop us, but will even serve to give us the strength to continue our journey.

Clearly, the Torah chose the second option. In this week’s parasha it defines the resting places of Bnei Yisrael as journeys, because every resting place in the journey was not a stopping place, but rather another stage in the journey to the Promised Land.


On the 11th of Nissan, 5732 (1972), when the Rebbe turned 70, he related to this and said that he was asked whether he will retire from his work because of his age. As usual, with much clarity and sensitivity, the Rebbe said that a person has to examine himself according to how he feels and not according to his age as recorded in his passport. In his words: “There is no need to look at the passport, but rather at the personal feeling.” And so, if a person feels young and capable, he should not be put off by the number written in his birth certificate.

A person’s journey must not stop as long as he is capable of continuing. Above, I brought an example from the American presidential candidates. And now I have an example and a model from Chabadniks who went off to be shlichim and actually started a new career at the age of sixty-something:

In 5749 (1989) my wife’s grandparents, Rabbi Netke and Tzippa Barchan z”l went out to serve as the Rebbe’s shluchim in Riga, Latvia. They were at retirement age already but they chose to go out on a shlichut in spite of what was stated in their birth certificates.

This week we heard that their children, Rabbi Eli and Chasya Neimark, their daughter and son-in-law, are following their lead and going out as well to a shlichut in Hanover, Germany, where they will be part of the activities of the Chabad House there. For them, too, the number in the passport says “Go rest”, but they have chosen not to rest but rather to continue on their journey.


Wishing them success!


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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