busy hands and a free head

Friday, 20 November, 2015 - 4:36 am


Dear Friends,


R. Chaim Moshe Alperowitz was one of the most special Chabad Chassidim who immigrated to Israel in the 1930’s. He was a man of truth. It was not easy to make a living at the time, and he had to search for a way to earn money so that he would be able to support his family.

The Dead Sea Works had just been founded, and he was given a job there. It was hard physical work that was not entirely suited to his abilities, but he would go there, work for six days and come home once a week with his paycheck, and that’s what counted.

One day, an office position became vacant in the company and the managers offered it to him, saying “It’s hard for us to see you working so hard. It will be easier for you in the office.”

Much to their surprise, R. Chaim Moshe refused, and explained himself immediately: “The physical work is difficult, but while I’m doing it only the hands are working, while the head is free for the really important things – Torah and Avodat Hashem (serving Hashem). If I work in an office, it will indeed be easier physically, but my head will be occupied with this-worldly matters. I prefer busy hands and a free head.”

In this week’s Parasha we read about Yaakov Avinu who was on his way to Charan. On the way, when he lay down to rest, he took “from the stones of the place and arranged them around his head.” Rashi says, “He made them like a gutter around his head, for he was afraid of wild animals.”

The Rebbe explains that Yaakov was not afraid of physical wild animals, but of spiritual wild animals – evil spirits and the evil aspects of the world, which threaten to take control of one’s mind and behavior. He was afraid of surrendering to the material world and becoming addicted to society’s demands; the society in Charan was not exactly suited to a person whose essence was “A wholesome man, living in tents.” So it’s clear that in order to protect oneself, one must protect the head, and therefore it’s better that the hands be busy, but the head be disengaged.

I think the message is quite clear and understandable, with no further explanation needed.


May we all have a peaceful and restful Shabbat!


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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