the varied customs of our people

Friday, 22 July, 2022 - 5:58 am

I grew up in Kfar Chabad, which, by definition, is a village where all the residents are Chabad Chassidim. It was and is a wonderful place to live – a place of Torah and Chessed. All the people there are Chabadniks, so that I almost never found myself among Jews who were not Chabad Chassidim. There was only one person in the village who wore a Shtreimel on Shabbat – it stood out among all the fedoras – but he, too, was a Chabadnik.

Only when I was seventeen years old and went to learn in a Chabad Yeshiva in Jerusalem did I become acquainted with the vast and wonderful variety of Jews, the varied and wonderful foods that had been brought from all the different places of exile to the holy city, and, of course, the special customs of the many Jewish communities. For the first time, I saw that the Chabad customs were often different from those of other communities. It was then that I also understood the importance of preserving one’s customs. The love and connection and I felt towards the Chabad customs that I had acquired in my parents’ home and in my teachers’ homes crystallized into the most solid pillar of my life.

One of the more noticeable points of difference was, without doubt, the issue of joy on the Shabbatot Bein Hametzarim – the period of national mourning about the destruction of the Temple. I had come from Kfar Chabad, where the joy is actually accentuated on those Shabbatot – and Chabadniks know how to be happy. And here I saw communities in which the Lecha Dodi was sung to the same tune as the Kinot – the lamentations said on Tisha B’Av – and in which people wore less respectable clothes than usual, because of the mourning. For a curious person like me, it was absolutely fascinating. I remembered that the Rebbe would always increase the joy on those Shabbatot, and in his lessons he would explain this, using something of a one-plus-one logic. Since one is forbidden to mourn on Shabbat, and since one should not lessen the usual joy, so it won’t look or seem as if we are less joyful because of the mourning, so surely we should be joyous.

And why be more joyous than usual? Here the Pnimiyut – the inner aspect of the Torah – comes to the fore and teaches us: Shabbat is the representative of the future redemption in our lives, so much so that the future redemption is called “a day that is all Shabbat”. A Jew who observes the Shabbat comes out of a week of everyday material living and in one moment – upon lighting the candles – ascends to a dimension of spirituality and holiness. This is just like the true and complete redemption, for when it will come, speedily in our days, we will leave six thousand years of material exile and enter the spiritual seventh millennium.

So, if we are happy on every Shabbat, because it is like the World to Come, so in order to bring the redemption into our lives on the Shabbatot between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’av, we need much more happiness than on an ordinary Shabbat.

How wonderful are the varied customs of our people.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mashiach Now!

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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