In celebration of Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg’s 50 year anniversary serving as Rosh Yeshivah of Hadar Hatorah, coinciding with a special tribute dinner June 23rd at the JCM, we would like to present you with a compilation of stories and inspirations, previously unreleased, told over by Rabbi Goldberg at a couple of recent Alumni Shabbos Farbrengens.
Transcribed by Rabbi Bentzion Elisha
A Good Excuse
This Farbrengen is essentially a Kinus, a gathering, which makes it an important event. Whatever the official reason might be for a gathering, it is only an excuse, a good excuse for Jews to unite and come together. The Rebbe loved to gather and unite Yidden together in any way possible.
The importance of uniting Jews and coming together is emphasized in several places that teach us that when Jews unite the Shechinah dwells there, regardless of if there are Divrei Torah that are spoken there, just by the fact that they are together. “Tovim Shnaim Min HaEchad,” “Two are better than one.” “Hiney Ma Tov Umah Na’Im Sheves Achim Gam Yachad,” “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit (are) together. “Ish es re’ayhu Ya’azoru Ule’ochiv Yomar, Chazak!” “Man shall help his friend, and say to his brother: be strong!”
Even if no Divrei Torah are spoken by a gathering, just by the mere fact that Jews are together the Shechina, G-d’s presence, dwells there. The importance of uniting Jews and being together is emphasized and taught in various holy writings:
“Tovim Shnaim Min HaEchad,” “Two are better than one.”
“Hiney Ma Tov Umah Na’Im Sheves Achim Gam Yachad,” “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit (are) together. “Ish Es Re’Ehu Ya’azoru Ule’Achiv Yomar, Chazak!” “Man shall help his friend, and say to his brother, be strong!”
As is well known, a Chasidishe Farbrengen can accomplish what even Malach Michoel cannot accomplish…
The Potency of Storytelling
The importance of acts and deeds are famously encapsulated by the saying, ‘HaMa’aseh Hu Haikar,’ ‘action is the main thing.’
There is an interesting Chasidic twist on this expression due to the dual meaning of the wording used. In addition to action, the word ‘Ma’aseh’ also means ‘a story.’ In light of the second meaning, the saying, ‘HaMa’aseh Hu Haikar’ also expresses the importance of a story, ‘The story is the main thing!’ (A story has a special power to stimulate and bring about action unlike any other way…)
There is a known Segulah (an action reputed to improve one’s fortune) to enhance one’s Parnasah, livelihood, by telling a Baal Shem Tov story on Motzei Shabbos.
The Tzemach Tzedek once made three distinct points regarding the details told of this Segulah:
1. Not necessarily does this Segulah require a story told of the Baal Shem Tov, it could be of any Tzadik.
2. Not necessarily does this storytelling Segulah have to be on Motzei Shabbos, it can be told anytime…
3. Not necessarily is this a Segulah only for Parnasah, it can be beneficial in any aspect in one’s personal realm.
Inspired by both, this teaching of the Tzemach Tzedek of the immense potency in telling a story of any Tzadik anytime, and the alternative meaning of ‘Hama’aseh Hu Haikar,’ ‘The story is the main thing,’ let’s start with a story.
The Rebbe Who Went To Gehenom
Everybody in Berditchev knew that if you wanted the holy Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (a.k.a. the Berditchiver) to come to a Bris, a circumcision, it would have to be extra early. Just like Avraham Avinu, he rushed to do a Mitzvah as soon as possible, not to delay even for an instant. His haste in making the Bris as soon as possible in the morning even manifested sometimes by having a Bris before Davening!
Based on his famous characteristic rush for anything holy, therefore one time, his deliberate delay to attend his daughter’s son’s Bris was most unusual. The Rebbe was in his study in the shul, secluded, and the gathered crowd awaited his holy presence. He was designated and honored to be the Mohel and the one to name the new baby boy, but he wasn’t coming. After a long while, messengers were sent to check up on him who found him at his desk, in a trance. Although physically he was there, however he was really far, far away…
Hours went by and finally at 4pm the Berditchever Rebbe, exited his room and joined the restless people waiting. Finally the Bris was able to commence. He was honored to be the Mohel and also with giving of the name of the baby boy. To the surprised crowd he named the baby Moshe Yehudah Leib. The family members in attendance were perplexed; they didn’t understand who the baby was named after. However, nobody dared question the revered Rebbe.
During the celebratory meal after the Bris, the Rebbe announced that he will answer whatever questions posed to him.
His son-in-law took this opportunity to ask two questions that most people present were secretly harboring. “Why did the Rebbe break away from his usual routine of attending the Bris early in the morning, and instead come so very late in the afternoon? And in addition, the name you chose for our baby, Moshe Yehudah Leib, is named after who?” He inquired.
“Let me answer your questions,” the Berditchever Rebbe began.
”Today, the Sosover Rebbe’s holy Neshamah, soul, had returned to its Maker and ascended on high. I perceived his Histalkus, passing, and I followed with great interest his unique journey to the heavens which made a big commotion.
This holy Rebbe spent most of his life dedicated to the great Mitzvah of Pidyon Shvoim, redeeming captives. Many Jews made their living by renting inns and taverns from non-Jewish landowners. Many of these landowners were anti-Semitic and some intentionally jacked up the prices of rent beyond the paying ability of the Jewish renters. Falling into these debt traps these Jewish renters and their families were imprisoned in dungeons by their landlords, sometimes even starving them to death, unless a huge ransom was paid. The Sosover rebbe, dedicated himself to saving these innocent trapped Jews from impending death.
Up on high, instead of going to Gan Eden, the Sosover Rebbe insisted on going to Gehenom. The entire way there Malachim, angels, tried to redirect him to Gan Eden but he was adamant on going to Gehenom. As he entered Gehenom he was politely informed that he was in the wrong place and sternly told he cannot stay there. The Sosover rebbe point blank told the angels he will not be going anywhere else and he will stay in Gehenom regardless if they like it or not. The angels told him that if he wanted to stay, he would need to go and get permission from the Beis Din Shel Ma’ala, the supreme heavenly court. The Rebbe told them that he will not leave Gehenom, if need be, let the supreme heavenly court come down to him.
In honor of this great Tzadik the heavenly court came down to Gehenom to hear him out.
‘We would like to understand why you insisted on going to Gehenom instead of your rightful place in Gan Eden.’ The court stated.
‘I would like to request that the Beis Din, the court, pull out the books that recorded my actions throughout my life (every person’s actions are recorded up above) and see how I’ve toiled for most of my life to saved Jewish Neshamahs from captivity. Now, bearing in mind my life’s work, I’ve chosen to come to Gehenom instead of Gan Eden because there are so many people that are being held in captivity and suffering here for so long. I cannot let them stay here. I must get them out!’ The Sosover Rebbe claimed.
His incredible righteous plea created a great storm up in the heavens.
The Beis Din convened to assess what to do. After much deliberation they decided on their verdict. In their final announcement they revealed their thought process… ‘In honor of your life’s dedication to the redeeming of lives, we have decided to grant your request and let you redeem souls from Gehenom and transfer them to Gan Eden. As to how many, we have counted all the people you saved and added all decedents that would come from them. Their children, grandchildren etc. The number we calculated is 60,000 people. You are allowed to select 60,000 souls and redeem them!’
Triumphantly, the Sosover Rebbe marched into Gan Eden accompanied with 60,000 souls he redeemed from Gehenom!”
The Berdichever rebbe continued, “That is why I delayed coming to the Bris for all these hours, I was following these happenings with Sosover Rebbe after his passing. Now coming to the Bris right after witnessing all of this, what better name is there to give this newborn baby than that of holy Tzadik, the Sosover Rebbe, Moshe Yehudah Leib?!”
Acceptance with Self Sacrifice
One of the most unique ‘possessions’ of Czar Nikolai was the incredible dedication of his loyal soldiers. Because of his ability of to generate such fierce devotion he was able to succeed in many difficult battles and conquests.
In one mission, his army had to swiftly cross the Dunai river (Danube), however the area had no bridge and they had no time to build one quickly.
Czar Nikolai came up with a most unusual solution. He reasoned that they should send in some soldiers into the river, these first group would drown and then another group was to be sent and drown as well, their bodies lying over the first group. Numerous groups were to be sent in this manner until they will create a human bridge, enabling the Czar and the remaining army to cross the river. His plan was carried out swiftly with his loyal soldiers glad to give up their lives to help the Czar Succeed. The most commendable soldiers being the first ones drowned on the bottom of the river that will not have the privilege of having the Czars’ carriage directly roll on them, or even close to them, just happy to be helping the Czar with his mission.
This intense story of the literal self-sacrifice of the remarkably loyal soldiers of the Czar made a strong impression on the Rebbe Rashab. He decried that Yiddishkeit mustn’t be extinguished by those who oppose it and therefore we must also practice self-sacrifice to keep Judaism alive. Contemplating this story of Czar Nikolai crossing the Dunai river aided by his soldiers great sacrifice, he wondered who of his Chasidim should be the first soldiers to ‘go into the river of self-sacrifice,’ to enable the continuity and salvation of Judaism. The decided upon group would be the Bochurim, the Yeshivah students, since married men had familial responsibilities.
In the days of the Frierdiker Rebbe this inspiration of his father took on a more manifest form. The Frierdiker Rebbe sent out Bochurim to different locations to establish Yeshivahs. These educational enterprises had a goal of enlisting students, young children, and teach them Torah. These schools sometimes had very few students in attendance; however that didn’t matter, every child counted.
One of these heroic Shluchim of the Frierdiker Rebbe who established Yeshivahs when he was only a Bochur was my father, Rabbi Yosef Goldberg.
In one of these Yeshivahs that he established, two of the students were from Odessa. It was World War II and the Germans were fast advancing. My father received urgent instruction from the Chasidic committee that ran these Bochurim-run-Yeshivahs. They ordered my father to send the two students from Odessa back to their home. Their reason for this order was that they feared that the Germans would soon block the travel between where the Yeshivah was at the time and Odessa. As a result these boys could be separated from their parents.
My father had a strong character and he bluntly refused to send these students back.
“I was told by the Rebbe to accept Talmidim, students, not reject them!” He claimed.
No matter what pressure these older Chasidim exerted to make my father send the students away he was steadfast in his decision to keep them in Yeshivah.
Soon thereafter, the Germans captured Odessa, murdering most of the Jews in the city. The families of these two boys in Yeshivah were amongst those murdered. The only survivors of their respective families were these two boys. My father’s staunch insistence on carrying out the Rebbe’s wishes of accepting students with Mesiras Nefesh, self-sacrifice, and not rejecting them, saved their lives.
These two students eventually settled in Crown Heights and raised big families. I personally know them. Between these two boys, there are now a couple of hundred of descendants. All these lives enabled through my father’s simple adherence to the positive fulfillment of the Rebbe’s instruction.
Return of the Lost Children
It was 1968 that Rabbi Jacobson approached me to work at Hadar Hatorah. At the time there were also other offers I received and just as in every other life decision I approached the Rebbe to ask for guidance.
The Rebbe recommended I take the position in Hadar Hatorah with the condition, “Be’im Tehiye Mascurto Muvtachas,” ”On the condition that his salary is promised (in Hebrew the word promised has a double meaning for guaranteed.) When I showed Rabbi Jacobson the Rebbe’s response he immediately said he promises (guarantees) that my salary will be paid.
I started my job on Aseres Yemei Teshuva 5729, and ever since then, at least I’ve had the promise.
Since at times the pay was behind Rabbi Jacobson mentioned, “Where does it say that a person cannot die a Baal Chov, owing debts?”
During the year of 1969 I had some Parnasa problems in Hadar Hatorah and just at that time of financial difficulty a great opportunity presented itself to me, to become a Rosh Yeshivah in Australia. I heard the Rebbe was approached regarding this opportunity for me and was in favor of it. However I wasn’t sent a message from the Rebbe regarding this job offer. I thought that perhaps the Rebbe wanted to see some effort on my behalf, ‘Isarusa Delatata,’ ‘arousal from down below,’ so I wrote to him about it. The Rebbe’s response was interesting, he answered me that even though he thinks that I am qualified for the position as Rosh Yeshivah, as long as I’m in Hadar Hatorah I should not consider other options.
I must say that I found the Rebbe’s response very enigmatic. On one hand, when he spoke to the Rabbis from Australia he was in favor of me accepting the position of Rosh Yeshiva there, on the other hand, personally to me he said that I should stay in Hadar Hatorah.
When Rabbi Serebranski from Australia followed up with me about the position, I told him the Rebbe’s response to me. He said that they will wait for me and keep the position open until I leave Hadar Hatorah and come to them. However, since the Rebbe said that as long as I am working in Hadar Hatorah I shouldn’t entertain other offers, I just stayed in Hadar Hatorah. One year went by, two years went by, and Rabbi Serebranski would keep asking me again and again about accepting the position of Rosh Yeshivah; however I was following the Rebbe’s directive, to stay. After three years of waiting had passed, Rabbi Serebranski told me that he can’t wait any longer; he had to have the Rosh Yeshivah position filled. Since I didn’t accept the position he went on to hire someone else, Rabbi Cohen.
As is natural for a father, my father wanted me to continue in his footsteps and become a Rosh Yeshivah like himself. My father served as Rosh Yeshivah for fifty years. My younger brother became a Rosh Yeshivah in Israel and naturally my father wanted his older son to be a Rosh Yeshivah as well. He completely accepted my work in Hadar Hatorah since the Rebbe chose that for me, however the nature of a father wanting ‘the best’ for his son would return as a comment or a lament of what could have been.
One of my students at the time, Ezriel Wasserman, was engaged to be married to a girl from Tunisia. He flew to France and stayed in the Brunui Yeshivah, where my father was the Rosh Yeshivah, in the interim before the wedding. Relating to his stay I received a call from my father who marveled how he was so impressed with Ezriel, how he Davened and how he learned, he was a gem.
“If only you had him as a student, and no other, it was all worthwhile! “ He then declared.
The Rebbe was very fond of Hadar Hatorah and wanted it to be close to him, within his Daled Amos. He was extremely proud of the return of the lost Jewish children.
Prerequisite for the Blessing
The Rebbe’s usual blessing for a couple upon their engagement was given with the following condition, “Be’im Yachlitu Shneyhem Shbeitam Yiheye Meyusad Al Hatorah VeHamitzvah… Sheiyhe Hashiduch BeShaah Tova Umutzlachas.” “If both of you will decide to build your home based on Torah and Mitzvos…May the Shiduch occur on an auspicious and successful hour.”
His blessing was given only on the condition that the married couple’s home will have Torah and Mitzvos as its foundation.
(Rabbi Wircberg related how before his engagement, he first sent a letter to the Rebbe to receive a Bracha, a blessing, before they would proceed. He eagerly went to 770 to see what the Rebbe’s answer was daily; however he received no answer for seven straight days. Finally, Rabbi Binyamin Klein, the Rebbe’s secretary, asked if he specified in his letter that he and his potential bride will be establishing their future home based on Torah and Mitzvos. Rabbi Wircberg said that he didn’t since nobody told him to specify that in his letter. He rewrote his letter and soon later he received the Rebbe’s blessing. The Rebbe answer was given, as he had done numerous times, by underlining parts of the letter sent to him. He underlined the words Bracha, Torah and Mitzvos. This emphasized that the two, the Rebbe’s blessing and that the foundation of their home be on Torah and Mitzvos are dependent upon each other.)
This generation seems to have lost the art of sitting by a Farbrengen.
It used to be that when a father was away from home on a Shabbos the kids would know that he is by a Farbrengen. Now excuses come to escape a Farbrengen or a Shiur…
When a child asks how come the father has to go away during the weekday to work and not stay at home with the child he would accept and understand the explanation given. The father isn’t selfish, going on excursions instead of spending time with the family, but rather he is busy trying to make a Parnasa, a livelihood, for the family so there is food to eat, a house to live in, clothes to wear. He is out of the house to help his family.
A child can understand this, “father is working for me…”
Just like getting Parnasa Begashmius, a physical livelihood, a father must get Paranasa BeRuchnius, a spiritual livelihood.
When a father goes to a Farbrengen on special occasions, or a certain Shabbos, it isn’t to escape spending time from the family, but rather it is to regenerate the father so he can imbue and inspire Yiddishkeit in his home.
A person can come up with various excuses why attending a Farbrengen could be compromising his Shalom Bais, marital harmony, but that is a completely false excuse.
A wife is described as an ‘Ezer Kenegdo,’ a helpful companion b her husband’s side. ‘Kenegdo’ though has a double meaning, it could mean ‘by his side,’ or alternatively it could mean ‘against him.’
A person who tries to escape a Farbrengen or a shiur using his wife as a ‘Seir Le’Azazel,’ a scapegoat, saying that his wife would be ill effected and that she would mind essentially is using his wife ‘Kenegdo’ against his true good. In reality, she would want him to go to the Farbrengen, or stay longer by one.
In addition, using his wife as an excuse he is helping, through his objections of staying by a Chasidishe gathering, his ‘Kenegdo, the one who is against him, the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination.
Meanwhile, the effects of a Farbrengen are to renew one’s energies in Avodas Hashem, would be positively felt by his wife and children. His wife would love it as well as his children.
It is great for Shalom Bais and in case your wife doesn’t know how to say ‘Bore Pri Hagafen’ by herself, I give her the heter to make Kiddush on challis and say hamotzie lechem min haaretz…
The Shalom Bayis also improve because he is out of the housee and when he comes back his inspiration is meant to trickle down to the household. Attending a Chassdishe Farbrengen, and adhering to (Kvius Itim Latorah) makes the house blossom.
The house blossoms as a result, as it can be illustrated by the wording used in the Bracha given to a newlywed couple by Chasidim, “Binyan Adei Ad Al HaTorah VehaMitzvah Eich Shehem Moarim BeTorahs Hachasidus.” “An everlasting edifice founded on the Torah and its Mitzvahs as they are illuminated by Chasidus”
Attending Farbrengens and Shiurim strengthen the foundation of one’s home. When the foundation is strong the household is a solid structure, however when the foundation is weak, the house gets shaky, (perhaps a structure can last a year or two but…)
My son recently told me that when he was little he had an impression that women make Havdala. In those days the Rebbe would often make Farbrengens on Shabbos and at the conclusion of Yomim Tovim. Those ending a Yom Tov would last for hours as they were also sealed with a Kos Shel Bracha, the Rebbe would pour some wine and bless those in attendance. My children would know where I was, I was by a Farbrengen and my wife would make Havdala.
To Speak or Not to Speak
A certain man had horrible Shalom Bayis. As soon as he would step into his house his wife would open her mouth and rattle off complaints about various things. Then he would retaliate and answer her back, and soon a full blown argument would result.
Once they went to a rabbi to help them with their marital state of disharmony.
After hearing out each one the rabbi offered a remedy, a special Segulah for Shalom Bayis.
“Let me share with you a very powerful Segulah for Shalom Bais. Just before you open the door and welcome your husband into the house,” the rabbi suggested to the wife, “Take a cup of water and put the water in your mouth. Don’t drink it, though,” he warned. “Just keep the water in your mouth for a few minutes. This Segulah will do wonders for your marriage…”
There is a famous story told of the Mittler Rebbe that relates to speaking.
A Chasid once came to the Mittler Rebbe, his Rebbe, complaining about the Rebbe’s demand of his Chasidim to publicly speak, share and review the Chasidic teachings they’ve learned from him with the different communities of Jews that they encounter.
He confessed to the Mittler Rebbe that he felt so self-satisfied from his public speaking and teaching of Chasidus, since he was so good at it, that he felt his ego was being affected, he was becoming conceited, and he hated it and as a result he wanted to stop.
“Even if it turns you into an onion, nevertheless, Chasidus must be taught!” was the Mittler Rebbe’s legendary reply.
Just as an onion is added to the pot to help flavor the broth and chicken, sometimes you need to sacrifice your own personal growth to give and help others. Needless to say, if someone does get ill affected from a job well done, and they stink, like an onion, of arrogance and inflated ego, that will need to be rectified appropriately as well, nevertheless, the dissemination the wellsprings of the inner aspects of Torah must go on.
(Likewise, In the Gemara I encountered a certain vegetable called Sheves. Its only culinary use was the flavoring of other food. It was completely consumed in cooking to flavor the other ingredients.)
Behaloscha is always after Shavuos and there must be a connection therefore between them.
Jews are compared to a Menorah which was kindled by Aharon, who was a Cohen.
It states in Halacha that a Menorah is Kosher to be lit by a Zar, not a Cohen. As it relates to inspiring our fellow Jew, a person doesn’t have to be an official Shliach, emissary. Every Jew is a Shliach of Hashem to add light unto oneself and others around him.
The Chandelier Story
There is a parable told of an individual that wanted to expand the living quarters of his house by transforming his attic from a place of storage to an extra living space. He went up to his attic and began cleaning and clearing it up. He brought a big box into the attic into which he placed all the things he wanted to remove from there and discard. When his cleaning was complete he needed a rope to tie up the box so its contents would be secure and not fall out as he moved the box out.
After a brief search he found a thick rope that was attached to one of the beams of the ceiling and was strangely enough connected to the floor.
“This rope would be perfect to tie up my box with,” thought the homeowner.
As he set about to cut the rope and started cutting it, all of a sudden a booming crashing sound filled the air as the rope was finally cut. As he rushed downstairs in a panic to see what happened, he saw his expensive crystal chandelier all shattered to bits on the ground. He then realized that he himself brought this upon himself since he was the one who cut the rope that held up the magnificent chandelier.
We all must have our priorities in the right order. We must realize what must come first, what must come second, etc. What is of the utmost importance and what is secondary.
There are certain foundations upon which an entire building is built on. Without a strong foundation the building can collapse. The foundation doesn’t have to be made with all the fancy designs and eye pleasing architecture. That could come later, for the rooms above it. The foundation must be strong as it enables the structure built on top of it to safely last.
The foundation of a Bochur in Yeshivah, on which all depends upon, as has been explained by the Rebbeim, is Shmiras Hasedarim, keeping the Yeshiva’s set schedule and times. If a Bochur starts doing his own thing during these set times, even if he has good reasons and justifications, such as if he wants to learn the subject matter slower, etc. it will not turn out good.
There has to be a Kabalas Ole, accepting and carrying the yoke of the set schedule that was set by the Rebbeim.
The foundation of a Baal HaBais, a married individual is Shalom Bais. When a person has Shalom Bais, a peaceful relationship with one’s spouse, everything falls into place, and all is good. If that foundation is lacking, it could endanger the entire ‘building.’ Besides the foundation there are other important rooms and spaces, amongst them is, “Kvios Itim LeTorah,” establishing set times for learning Torah, Davening , prayer, and so on. However, the Shalom Bais that is a solid foundation is specifically one which is based on Torah and Mitzvos.
If for the sake of Shalom Bais one cuts corners in his Yiddishkeit and weakens his observance of Torah and Mitzvos then he must know that his whole foundation isn’t stable and really he is endangering his marriage as it says, “Lo Lerashaim Shalom Amar Hashem.” ” There is no peace for the wicked.”
By lowering one’s dedication and practice of Yidishkeit for the sake of Shalom in ones’ relationship, he will actually get quite the opposite of Shalom, because there is no real Shalom Bais without the strong commitment and adherence to Torah and Mitzvos.
Rock or Horse
Once while a Shliach of the Frierdiker Rebbe, in a Yeshivah he established in the Soviet Union, my father had a particular student with whom he constantly seemed to have difficulties with. The student would wake up late and wouldn’t adhere to the day’s schedule among other things.
One time my father faced the boy saying, “I’m not asking you to answer my questioning you, why you did what you did. I’m also capable of answering a question. I’m asking you in order to emphasize that there is a question, nevertheless, I wish there was no question to ask altogether.
There is a story in the Gemara about Rabbi Akiva that tells us that he was inspired to learn Torah from a rock. He saw a rock by a river with a hole through it. He observed that water drops falling on that rock made that hole after some time. He figured that if water drops can make a hole in a rock, then surely the words of Torah can pierce and permeate his mind, a completely uneducated 40 year old man.
Based on this story, I simply don’t understand. It clearly states in the Gemara that even water can make a hole in a rock, and I spoke to you again and again and again about improving your learning and attendance in the Yeshivah, however nothing seemed to have worked. Now it became clear to me why that is so. In the Gemara it says that a rock was affected by the water drops, specifically a rock. A horse on the other hand is completely different. If water drops fell on a horse they would not ‘permeate’ and make a hole in it, since the horse would constantly shake the water drops that fell on it off. A rock lets the water in, a horse doesn’t.
The reason all of our conversations had no effect is because you shrug them off like a horse would shake off water!”
There is a major epidemic plaguing today’s generation called ADD, Attention Deficient Disorder.
Many people suffer from not being able to concentrate and sit still for enough time to absorb anything. Distractions seem to cloud people’s minds and we see ill effects of this deficiency in education of kids and trouble in people of all ages.
This attention deficient which prevents many from sitting still can also be linked to a certain mindset pertaining to Yiddishkeit.
Some people have entertained an ADD mentality to various Torah practices or customs where they don’t let sink in and absorb into their lives. They can attend Farbrengens and Shiurim, however the content and messages delivered conveyed there seem to fall on deaf ears, intentionally. The restless noncommittal ‘ADD reasoning’ is that ‘this doesn’t apply to me.’
All aspects, everything in Torah, Chassidus and Darkei Hachsidus is personally meant for each and every one of this generation.
How do I implement this, that or the other is a different question. To clarify any topic in Torah as to how it personally applies to an individual’s life in a specific way a Mashpia or Rov should be consulted. This is the way the issue can be addressed properly and tailored to that person’s life situation. But first and foremost the awareness that all the details of Torah do ‘apply nowadays’ and ‘apply to me,’ should be understood and ingrained.
The mindset that any aspect of Torah ‘doesn’t apply now or to my life,’ is not only false, but it is not a healthy one, it stems from a type of ‘spiritual ADD.’
This can also be illustrated with a fish. A fish out of water jumps wildly and is almost impossible to hold unto while a fish in water is calm and swims about deliberately. A person can be mistaken and think that the fish is much more lively when it is out of water, however the opposite is true. Out of water the fish jumps about because of desperation and nerves, however it’ll die outside of its proper environment. Likewise a person might feel more lively jumping about, ‘out of the waters of Torah,’ but this is not true, just like a fish needs water, a Jew needs Torah, his true life and soul supporting environment.
The Point of No Return
It was sometime in the 1960’s that I met him. I looked up and was met with his striking image. He had long black hair, a long black beard and he was wearing tight pants with patches.
“What is your name?” I asked him.
“David,” he said.
“I wanted to learn in Yeshivah,” he then said.
We took him to Rabbi Jacobson, the director of the Hadar Hatorah Yeshivah, who interviewed him.
“Do you know anything about Yiddishkeit?” He asked.
“No,” he answered. “I just know that I’m Jewish.”
“Do you at least know Aleph Beis?” Rabbi Jacobson continued.
“What is that?” he quipped back.
After years of learning he got married and established a family with 8 children. He moved to Israel and unfortunately had lived through some bad experiences.
Years later, one day I look up and I see, and older man with long white hair, a long white beard and tight pants with patches.
“David, is that you?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said. ”It’s me!”
“What happened to you?” I asked, wondering about his visible regression.
David was a clever guy. His answer was sharp.
“David is spelled with a Daled, Vov and a Daled again. Since the spelling order of the name has two Daleds on either side of a Vov, you can read the name in both directions. Likewise with me, at first I went in one direction, and now I am going in the other direction!”
Somehow Hashem planted a little spark of inspiration into me and an idea came to me as to how to answer back.
“You should know that there is another way of spelling David. In Divrey Hayamim, David is spelled: Daled, Vov, Yud, and Daled. There is a Yud after the Vov. In this order you cannot read the name backwards. Once the Yud is introduced into the name, Yud symbolizes Hashem, you cannot go back!”
Never Give Up
It important to know that a Jew should never ever give up hope!
Yi’ush, giving up hope, has no part in a Jew’s dictionary.
At times, there might be Atzvos, sadness, or better yet Merirus, bitterness, however one shouldn’t give up. Giving up isn’t an option!
At every age and at every stage there are different challenges and obstacles to overcome.
The Gemara states that, “Lephum Gamla Sachna,” “according to the camel is the load…” Every person has a load to carry. And according to one’s capabilities is the load that is placed on him.
“Lo Ba Hakadosdosh Baruch Hu Betrunia Im Briyusav,” Hashem doesn’t demand of a person what is beyond their capabilities. Whatever burden you might face you were also given the powers to succeed and overcome.
There is a very interesting Halacha that relates to the conquest of Eretz Israel. The Halacha states that where laying siege on a city it is not allowed to completely surround the city. A little opening must be set so that the people in the city will be able to run free, and save themselves.
This Halcha applies to, and holds true, in everyday life as well. No matter what the situation a person faces, even if he thinks he is completely surrounded from all four sides by the problem, and there is no way out, no hope, that is not true.
Hashem leaves a space through which to escape, and save oneself by doing the right thing, that which Hashem demands of him. There is always a chance and a way to perform that which needed of him in his Avodas Hashem.
There is no such thing as failure when it comes to leading a Jewish life.
Even though every person has different abilities and therefore different challenges, by never giving up, a person can hold unto Torah and Mitzvos and succeed in his Avodas Hashem, in his life mission of serving The Creator.
Me’ayin Yavo Ezri
When a person is feeling overcome with challenges, not knowing where help will come from, there is an interesting Chasidic teaching that comes to the rescue based on the verse in Tehillim, “Me’ayin Yavu Ezry?” from where will my salvation come?”
The Chasidic perspective of the verse is, “Me’Ayin, Yavu Ezry!” “From Ayin, that lofty level of G-dliness that is beyond the world, my salvation will come!”
When a person doesn’t know where his help will come from, since in a natural manner it seems impossible, he should rest assured and have faith that his salvation will come beyond the natural realm from the heights levels of G-dliness.
The Test of Miracles
Whenever a person experiences a certain ‘miracle,’ a personal redemption from whatever troublesome situation, he must realize that it is a test.
An elevating experience can be expressed in Hebrew as ‘Hisnasos,’ however it is closely related to the expression ‘Lenasos Etchem,’ ‘to test you.’
Hashem isn’t merely elevating an individual from whatever situation from which he needs salvation alone, this elevation is also a test.
When an individual experiences a Chesed, kindness, from Hashem, he must appreciate it and thank Hashem for it; however what will you do with it? What will you do the morning after? Will you Daven with a Minyan? Will you have more Kavana, intention, in your prayers? Will you learn more Torah? Will you do more Mitzvos in a manner which is more Mehudar, beautiful?
An Hour of Shachris A Must
Rabbi Nissen Nemenov, the famous Mashpia of the Brunoy Yeshivah in France, once asked the Rebbe in a Yechidus, private audience, regarding the length of the Shachris Davening.
Was the requirement depicted in the Tanya of one and a half hours of Shachris prayer too much to demand of Bochurim these days?
The Rebbe answered in the affirmative. An hour and a half is too much to ask of nowadays Bochurim, however an hour is practical and appropriate to ask. At least an hour of Davenng Shachris should be required.
To Daven properly one has to say the words and have an understanding of what he is saying without hurrying.
From the Yechidus Rabbi Nemenov had with the Rebbe we can learn that a full hour of Davening Shachris is necessary to Daven properly. (Not just for Bochurim, but for everyone.)
It is impossible to say the words of Shachris and adequately fathom what one is saying if he is rushing and can barely hear himself expressing his uttered words of prayer.
One of the things I am very proud of in the Minyan of Hadar Hatorah is that we are the only Minyan in Crown Heights that actually Daven Shachris for a whole hour, unrushed.
Regarding Davening it says, “Tefilah Betzibur Lu Timaas,” “Public prayer will not be rejected.” When Davening with a Minyan one is assured that his Davening will be especially heard by Hashem.
In addition, learning Chasidus before Davening is extremely important. To ensure one learns before Davening Shachris and actually Davens Shachris for an hour, it’s important to be on time. To be on time a person has to wake up on time. For a person to wake up on time an individual has to go to sleep on time. Wasting time at nighttime will not help anyone be on time for learning or Davening.
The Am Aratzim Shul 1
There was once a Shul which exclusively catered to Am Aratzim, ignoramuses.
Not only was it designated for them, you had to be an Am Ha’aretz in order to be admitted as a member, otherwise you would not even be allowed in. Not only the members had to be completely ignorant, but this requirement extended to the entire Shul staff including the Baal Kore’e (the public Torah reader) and the Rabbi.
One time on Shabbos Parshas Korach, as he started reading the Parsha, the Baal Kore’e suddenly stopped. He found a mistake in the Torah scroll! As the whole Shul started pondering what is going on, the Gabai asks the Baal Kore’e regarding the delay.
“There is a mistake in the Sefer Torah! The word Korach is spelled with a Kof instead of a Chaf!” The ignorant Baal Kore’e exclaimed.
“That is a big mistake!” the clueless Gabai agreed. “We should ask the Rabbi what we should do.”
This Shul had a very special Rabbi who of course was especially qualified for the position of this Shul because he was completely and utterly ignorant.
The Gabai approached the rabbi with the ‘serious’ dilemma and showed him the ‘obvious’ misspelling of the word Korach.
The rabbi thought for a moment before saying, “It is true, this is a big error. Korach is spelled with a Kaf and not a Kof. However it is Kosher.”
“How is it Kosher?” questioned the Gabai.
After a slight hesitation the Rabbi answered, “Es Chatasi Ani Mazkir Hayom (my sins I mention today). When I was a young boy in Cheder I was a really bad student. Whatever I learned went in one ear and out the other. However I do remember a Rashi I learned about Sarah, Avraham’s wife. He described her as ‘Kof ke’Chaf,’ when she was 100 she looked like 20. There we learn that Kof and Chaf are the same. If that is the case, Kof and Chaf are interchangeable and therefore this Torah scroll is perfectly fine and perfectly Kosher!”
Since it was Shabbos and they had no other alternative, they went with the Psak, ruling, of the rabbi and continued reading from the Kosher ‘misspelled’ Torah scroll.
Needless to say, right after Shabbos, they fired the Rabbi. After hearing his reasoning and ruling, he was way too much of a Talmid Chacham, scholar, for their Am Aratzim Shul…
(Note: Korach is spelled with a Kof not a Chaf. There was no mistake with the Torah scroll’s spelling. The mistake was with the Baal Kore’e, Gabai, and Rabbi, who all merited their association to the Am Aratzim Shul, as this tale illustrates.)
Kosher Connection 2
The letters of Kof and Chaf are not interchangeable, however the word Hiskashrus, which in this context means a connection or bond to the Rebbe (spelled with a Kof) and Kashrus (spelled with a Chaf), are interdependent.
A person cannot be Mekusher if he is not Kosher!
The prerequisite for attaining Hiskashrus, and to be a Mekushar, a person who is connected and bonded with the Rebbe, is to first ‘become Kosher.’
A Chazir, a pig, has split hoofs, one of the signs of a kosher animal, nevertheless it doesn’t chew its cud, the second sign needed to indicate that an animal is Kosher.
A Chazir, as it were, shows to the world its ‘Kosher split hoofs’ while announcing, ‘Look, I’m Kosher, I’m Kosher!’ However this Chazir’s announcement is worthless and just doesn’t cut it, it must also have the second sign of chewing its cud to really be Kosher.
Likewise it is with a person. An individual can be completely ‘full’ and saturated with various subjects of Torah, Shas and Poskim. He can even show off his ‘split hoofs,’ and seemingly this person appears to be Kosher. However it just isn’t enough to know, a person must also ‘chew his cud,’ he must chew his food again. Only when the individual learns and reviews his learning, and then reviews again and then learns it yet again, until his Torah learning truly is internalized, permeates and trickles down into his behavior in everyday life is he truly Kosher…
A person’s Torah knowledge has to be brought into action, knowing must lead to doing and being.
Screaming, ‘Rebbe! Rebbe!’ while doing whatever one wants, making up unasked for and finding foreigner ways in the name of one’s connection to the Rebbe, isn’t what makes a person Mekushar. Nor is it real Hiskashrus, or right, when one uses his supposed Hiskashrus to force people to listen to him and do as he says since, ‘I am Mekushar.’
The Rebbe specified how a person can become Mekushar to him very clearly:
“You ask how you can be bound (Mekushar) to me when I do not know you personally…”
“…The true bond is created by studying Torah. When you study my Ma’amarim, read the Sichot and associate with those dear to me – the Chassidic community and the Tmimim – in their studies and Farbrengens, and you fulfill my request regarding saying Tehillim and observing Torah-study times – in this is the bond.” (HaYom Yom, 24 Sivan)
When a person connects to the Rebbe he is connecting to what the Rebbe is bonded with…
Truth is Constant 3
In Hilchos Taharos (Parah Chapter 8, Halacha 9), regarding the subject of water fit to use for Mei Chatas, a sin offering, Mayim HaMechazvim, deceiving waters, are disqualified from being used. Mayim Mechazvim are waters of a spring that dries up and stops running sometimes, even once up to seven years. Since its waters aren’t constantly running, and dry up every so often, its waters cannot be used for purification even during those years it does have a water flow since Mei Chtas require Mayim Chaim, living waters. Mayim Chayim are considered Chaim, living, as long as the spring is one whose water continuously flow without stopping.
This idea naturally relates to an individual’s quest for truth. On the journey of one’s life an individual wants to attach himself and cleave unto something that is absolutely true, eternal truth. Nobody intentionally wants to connect to that which only appears to be true sometimes, or most of the time, like Mayim HaMechazvim, deceiving waters that stop running at times.
A relative ‘sometime truth’ isn’t true at any time. Real truth is constant. An individual seeks an eternal truth; he wants to attach himself to real life, something that is constantly truthful, eternally alive, Mayim Chaim, living waters.
In the section of the Tanya where the Alter Rebbe comforts the Chasidic community in Israel after the Histalkus, passing, of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Hurodok (Igeres Hakodesh pages 290-294), he expounds upon the extraordinary life of a Tzadik. There he explains at length that since a Tzadik’s life is Ruchnius, spiritual, a Tzadik essentially doesn’t die since Ruchnius never dies.
Once, a Chasid of the Frierdiker Rebbe came to him with a request for a Bracha for his son who wanted to voyage to America, a very difficult journey at the time.
The Rebbe advised him that his son shouldn’t go on his desired trip. The father related to his son that the Rebbe disapproved of his intended journey to America; nevertheless, this boy didn’t want to listen.
The son boarded a ship set to head to America, but unfortunately, the ship sank on route, and this boy sadly drowned along with the rest of the passengers.
After the Shiva of his beloved son, that Chasid went to the Rebbe and bitterly asked him, “If you knew that my boy will die if he ventures on this trip, why didn’t you tell me? Surely then he would’ve listened and he would be alive today and perhaps you would have saved the many passengers on the boat.”
“Believe me;” said the Rebbe, “Not always do I know why I’m saying what I’m told to say. I’m merely relating what is given to me from Above. But this much I do know, the once it comes out of our mouth you have to listen. If not…”
Born This Way
There was once a man who drove his family insane with his craziness. He was absolutely convinced that he was a mouse!
Every time he saw a cat on the street, or when one stepped out of an alley, or appeared anywhere, he completely freaked out and frantically ran for cover.
The matter was exasperated by the fact his neighbor owned a cat that comfortably walked outside, literally scaring this man to death.
At one point this man’s family decided that enough was enough, this craziness cannot go on ignored any longer, and had the man admitted to a mental hospital.
For a couple of years he was counseled and received proper psychiatric care until he appeared to be cured. Finally, he realized and accepted the fact that yes, he was a human.
Before being released, he had an interview test with one of the psychologists in the hospital to see if he was finally cured and fit for the outside world.
“So, are you a human being or are you a mouse?” asked the psychologist.
“I am a human being!” declared the patient.
“Does that mean that you are not afraid of cats anymore?” the doctor probed.
“Of course I’m not! People are not afraid of cats.” The patient said in a matter of fact manner.
“Well, I want to inform you that after reviewing your progress here with us, we have decided that you are ready to go home.” The satisfied psychologist said with a warm smile on his face.
“What do you mean?” Shrieked the patient, noticeably distressed, sinking into his chair.
“Well, we feel that you are well now. Aren’t you? Didn’t you just tell me that you are a person, you are not a mouse? So what are you afraid of?” asked the psychologist.
“Doctor, I know that I am human being, you know that I’m a human being, but my neighbor’s cat doesn’t know that. The cat still thinks that I’m a mouse!”
While describing the difference between ‘nature vs. nurture,’ Teva Rishon, an individual’s first ‘primal’ nature, and Teva Sheni, second ‘learned’ nature, Rabbi Jacobson illustrated the difference between the two in a Shiur with an amusing parable.
Two philosophers argued about what is most powerful, an individual’s first nature or second nature. Their heated debates made waves and soon even the king heard of it. The king meddled into this philosophical fight and challenged the views of the two and put their arguments into an experiment. The two would each have a chance to prove their point on a cat. The first philosopher who argued second nature is most powerful, trained the cat to hold food trays and serve them. At the announced face off the cat was dressed nicely and a festive meal was served. All the onlookers were watching the cat amazed. The trained cat seemed to completely transcend from its animalistic nature and was actually serving food so elegantly. The second philosopher was also there. He also witnessed the miraculous transformation of the cat. However he wasn’t there alone, he was holding a little mouse. He was waiting for the ripe moment and when the cat had food tray full of delicacies balanced on his paws oh so finely he let the mouse free right in front of the cat. The cat immediately noticed the mouse and contrary to its training, let the tray and all that’s on it drop to the floor as the cat chased the mouse.
Rabbi Jacobson used this story to emphasis that a Neshamah’s, a soul’s, first nature and inclination is its very bond and connection with Hashem. As we recite every day in the morning Brachos,”Elukai Neshamah Shenatata Be Tehurah Hee…” “My G-d, the soul you have given me is pure…”
As much as an individual can be influenced and conditioned by the world’s environment, essentially this learned worldliness isn’t stronger than his holy core nature, who he really is, and his seamless union with Hashem.
Alive, with the Rebbe
There is an interesting passage in the Gemara, ‘V’Chi Rebbe Lo Shana, Reb Chiya Minayin,’ ’If Rebbe didn’t teach it, where does Reb Chiya get it from.’ (Eiruvin 92:a; Yevamos 43:1; Niddah 62:2)
The literal meaning of the passage is as follows: If Rebbe, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi (who compiled the Mishnayos) didn’t mention it in the Mishna, then where does Reb Chiya (who compiled the Braysos) get this from. (Sometimes Reb Chiya mentioned something not found in the Mishna.)
An innovative Chasidishe saying is based on this: ‘V’Chi Rebbe Lo Shana,’ if you didn’t go the Rebbe for Rosh Hashana, if you are not connected to the Rebbe, ‘Chiya Minayin,’ from where do you get your Chayos, liveliness and inspiration?!
With three biographies recently published about the Rebbe, becoming bestsellers around the country, there has been a lot of public attention revolving around him right now.
I was Zuche, merited, to be by the Rebbe’s Farbrengens for over thirty years, and I saw what I saw, nevertheless, it is interesting for me how every person has a unique perspective, and therefore picks up and sees something a little different from another.
Even though I didn’t read these biographies I did hear an interesting point from one of the books, which impressed its author, Telushkin, who highlighted it in the introduction for his book, the Rebbe’s absolute positivity.
The author highlighted that this even extended to the positive usage of words the Rebbe chose to use. In example, instead of the word deadline, which connotes the end of life, the Rebbe opted to use the word due date, which describes the beginning of life; Instead of using the Hebrew word for hospital, Beit Cholim, which literally translates to ‘house of the sick,’ he selected the words Beit Refua, house of healing.
If we reflect on this point of positivity, it seems to me that only the Rebbe could find the positive in every type of individual. Only by viewing others through the Rebbe’s perspective can the positive point within any kind of person be excavated and revealed.
The Necessary Innovation
We recite and declare the following passage during Shachris, the morning prayer, “Hamechadesh Betovo Bechol Yom Tamid Ma’ase Brereishis,” “He recreates the Work of Creation out of his sheer goodness, everyday constantly.”
Regarding Hashem’s constant daily vivification of the entire creation there is an interesting question posed.
Why is it that He needs to create the universe every single day? Isn’t it enough for Him to have created the universe once and have that creation last henceforth independently?
Daily recreation (in light of Chassidus, creation reoccurs every minute, every second) is necessary since without His constant vivifying of the world it will cease to exist.
In the impossible situation where He would’ve created the world once and let it be self-sufficient, it would insinuate that there is something other than and independent of Hashem. That cannot be since, ’there is nothing besides Him,’ ‘Ein Od Milvado.’
A simple example of this can be illustrated with a sandcastle. After a sandcastle is made can someone remove every grain of sand and yet still have the sandcastle? Absolutely not! Likewise, Hashem cannot create and afterwards remove Himself from the creation. There is nothing but Him…
In Hashem’s constant creation lies a daily personal message for each of us.
The cycle of creation is reflected in a person’s life experience. In the morning he is energized and after a long day, at night he is exhausted. Likewise, when embarking on a worthwhile pursuit, initially an individual’s drive and enthusiasm is strong, however as time passes by, he gets tired and his resolve, inspiration and dedication can weaken, running out of steam.
It’s important to remember that the reason a person is alive is for a singular purpose, ‘Ani Nevresi Leshamesh Es Koni,’ ‘I was created to serve my Maker.’ However, to attain and maintain one’s Chayus, liveliness, vitality and strength in his life’s mission, one cannot operate on auto pilot, doing the same thing, in the same measure, the same way, every day, forever…
By recreating the world daily, Hashem is teaching us to emulate him in our own ‘creation’ of our life, and fulfillment of our lives’ purpose.
We must, ‘Machadesh Betovu,’ we need to make a ‘Chidush,’ innovate, refresh and create a new, in the realm of ‘His Goodness,’ our service of Hashem in the His Torah and Mitzvos, ‘Bechol Yom Tamid,’ every single day.
We must never be satisfied with past achievements, or attainment of whatever level. Allowing oneself to rest in stagnation or hover at the same place is out of the question. We need to do something more than ever before, do something different, continuously.
Introducing a Chidush to one’s Avodas Hashem every day (week, and month) is a crucial, vital necessity!
Better is Better
To illustrate the importance of increasing one’s efforts in the realm of Kedusha, holiness, on a daily basis, Rabbi Hillel Paritcher shared the following story.
There was a coach man whose son wasn’t able to keep up with the studies in Cheder so his father instead chose to teach him his own job as his vocation. The son shadowed his father and followed his Seder, daily routine.
After waking up early in the morning they first would pray, then they would eat and then and only then they would conduct the business affairs and travels.
One day after Shachris, the morning prayers, the son readied himself to eat. However it was Shiva Asar Be’Tammuz, the 17th of Tammuz, and the father informed the son that today they will not eat; it was fast day after all.
The fast was difficult for the son, but somehow he pulled through. The next day the son was extremely nervous, perhaps his father started a new Seder, and he will be fasting from now on every day. He was frightened that he will be hungry from now on. . After Shachris he apprehensively approached his father asking if today they will be fasting as well.
His father smiled and declared to his son, “Today is not yesterday! No we will not be fasting today.”
No matter how it might have been yesterday, that was yesterday. Today should not be like yesterday, it should be better! This doesn’t only apply if there was a lack the day before, even if yesterday was truly very good, today must be even better.
This idea is encapsulated by the Frierdiker Rebbe’s famous saying, “If good is good, is better not better?!”
* In merit of Rabbi Yerachmiel Binyamin ben Rabbi Menachem ‘Halevy’ Klein.
Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg is an admired and beloved educator who merited to be called a Lamdan, a diligent scholar, by the Rebbe. He is the Rosh Yeshivah of Hadar Hatorah and a Meshiv in Tomchey Tmimim in 770 where he answers questions on all Shas and Halacha.
Hadar Hatorah is the world’s first Baal Teshuvah Yeshivah (for Jewish men with little or no formal background in Jewish knowledge or practice) literally transforming thousands of lives since its founding in 1962.
It offers full time and part time curriculums as well as shorter learning retreats such as Yeshivah Shabbos and the ten day Yeshivacation, both in Brooklyn (winter) and their Catskill Mountains campgrounds(summer).
Telephone (718) 735-0250
Rabbi Bentzion Elisha is the author of the book,’18 Frames of Being,’ available on Amazon, and an award winning photographer.