The following are Jewish stories for children. There are some for smaller children and some for older children. And there are stories for the child inside each of us. PLEASE NOTE: part 2 has been added underneath stories for kids so please click on that as well to see the newest additions. Read and enjoy them! Share with your family and friends. There are many good values to be learned from these stories as well as increasing faith in Hashem and in the miracles of tzadikim.
ROSH HASHANA STORY:
It was the day before the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanna in the town of Lubavitch, Russia some 150 years ago and Fival was going insane with worry.
His debts had reached unbearable proportions, and his lone asset; his hotel hadn’t had a guest for almost a half a year. The night before, his tormented soul didn’t let him sleep. And now, at the crack of dawn, he was already wandering the deserted streets of Lubavitch in aimless gloom like a madman.
Suddenly he heard a voice call out to him from above.
“Fival, what is wrong? What brings you here?”
Startled, Fival looked up to see that he had wandered into the Rebbe’s front yard and the Rebbe (the fourth Rebbe of Chabad. Called the MaHaRaSh meaning “our teacher the Rav Shmuel”) was standing on the second floor balcony of his home like a king looking down at him waiting for him to answer.
Fival was terribly embarrassed and had an urge to just run away, but he couldn’t hold back his sorrow.
“Aaai, Rebbe, what will become of me, oy Rebbe! I have so many debts I’m going crazy! REBBE HELP!!”
“But what about your hotel?” Asked the Rebbe
Poor simple Fival was trying to hold back the tears as he just waived his hand and shook his head blurting out, “No good! No people!”
The Rebbe became silent for a moment and then spoke in a very quiet voice, but Fival heard every word clearly.
“Fival, I see a lot of people coming to your inn for the Holiday. It’s still early in the day; you still have a lot of time. Prepare for at least one hundred guests.”
Simple Fival did not believe his ears. “One hundred, Rebbe? OOOH! Thank you Rebbe, thank you!!!”
He stood for a moment as though putting himself in gear, then ran out of the yard stumbling over his feet yelling out another few “Thanks” to the Rebbe as he went. He went directly to the butcher shop and from there to all the other food stores.
He used the Rebbe’s blessing and promise to convince each storeowner to give him another chance and in an hour he returned home laden with parcels. He woke his wife, told her the good news, ran outside and hired a few of the locals to help with the preparations, and after several more hours of joyous hard work everything was prepared for the onslaught of guests.
Ahhh! What a pleasure it was to see all the steaming pots and hot ovens filling the air with fragrant aromas, each promising a nice potential profit! His worries would be gone!!! And any second now the guests would be arriving.
But they didn’t. It was already five in the afternoon. In two hours the holiday would begin and there was still no sign of any guests.
“Don’t worry Fival! You always worry.” his wife chided him. “Have faith in HaShem”.
But at six she began to worry also, and at six thirty they were both in a panic. Fival ran in and out of his house, first looking up and down the road in both directions for guests, and then back inside to check the pots
“Are you sure you heard the Rebbe correctly?” His wife snapped nervously. “Are you sure you really saw the Rebbe? What will we do with all this food? We have nowhere to put it all. It will spoil, Fival! Fival! why aren’t you answering me!!? It’s a quarter to seven!! Fifteen minutes till the holiday!!!” But Fival was just sitting with his head in his hands.
Suddenly, the door burst open and several Jews frantically rushed in shouting, “Have you got a place for us to sleep!!?”
Fival took his head out of his hands, half-heartedly looked at them and asked. “How many are you””
“About three hundred all together! We were on our way to Vitebsk but we took a wrong turn. Do you have a place?”
It seems that his wife had been so busy yelling and he had been so depressed that neither of them noticed the multitude of wagons that had arrived.
The guests had to settle for cramped rooms and smaller portions of food, but miraculously everyone was tremendously satisfied, and after the holiday they paid Fival royally for his hospitality.
Fival went to the Rebbe to thank him. He had to wait a few days to get an appointment, but when he finally did, he was gushing with gratitude. But he was also curious. Why didn’t the Rebbe just tell him that the guests would arrive at the last moment and save him and his wife the tension and aggravation.
“I was looking from very high” explained the Rebbe. (He knew that Fival would think he was referring to his second-floor balcony) “From there even large distances seem very small.”
STORY OF REBBE RASHAB, 5TH LUBAVITCHER REBBE:
The Russian revolution was a bloodbath; the ‘Red’ communists were determined to destroy the ‘old order’ and overthrow the Czar at all costs, while the ‘White’ loyalists were determined to kill all the communists.
There were other armed factions as well, fighting raged in the streets and, of course, the Jews suffered the most especially at the hands of the pro-Czarists. There were a large number of Jews high in the communist ranks (the saying was ‘if you weren’t a communist you were never young’) and the ‘Whites’ decided to kill them all.
But the biggest anti-Semites were the Cossacks.
The Cossacks besides being fierce ‘White’ loyalist devoted to the Czar, were devout Russian Orthodox Catholics and bloodthirsty murderers – while the Jews were none of the above.
It’s no surprise that one of the favorite Cossack ‘pastimes’ were ‘Pogroms’, namely attacking Jewish towns and villages and killing everyone there. Tens of thousands of Jews found their savage deaths in this way.
It was in this atmosphere that the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Shalom DovBer (called the Rebbe RaShaB for short) called a young Chassid by the name of Rabbi Lezer Nanas (who later survived twenty years of hard labor in Siberia) into his office and asked him to deliver an important envelope to the Rabbi of Y’kat’rinoslav, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson.
When the first World War began taking its toll on Russia the Rebbe was forced to move his headquarters southward from ‘Lubavitch’ to ‘Rostov’ where Cossacks flourished and from there to Y’kat’rinoslav was an eighteen hour train ride!
Early the next morning as Rabbi Lezer went to the station to buy a ticket the full meaning of what he was doing hit him. For a Chassid to go into the streets was dangerous, how much more so on a train for so many hours! He was sure to be seen. And almost as sure to be killed! There were Cossacks everywhere.
But he comforted himself by remembering that a Rebbe never makes mistakes – that is what a Rebbe is; a leader, prophet and teacher who is always right.
So Reb Nanas whispered a prayer, bought a first class ticket just to be SURE nothing bad would happen (Cossacks NEVER traveled first class) and returned to the Rebbe for a final blessing. But try as he did he couldn’t conceal his fear.
“Rebbe” he almost cried, “I’m traveling alone and the trip will be very dangerous.”
“What?” said the Rebbe calmly, “A young man that learns Torah in Tomchei T’mimim (the name of all Chabad-Lubavitch schools) says that he is traveling alone?! “Alone? Why, G-d is with you all the time and in every place; the entire world is full of His glory.”
But Reb Nanas was living in the ‘real’ world, and he was scared,
“Rebbe, the Cossacks are everywhere and they hate Jews, they murder Jews!” he tried not to whimper.
But the Rebbe stood firm, “When the Torah says that G-d fills the entire world it means even where the Cossacks are!”
Encouraged a bit by the Rebbe’s words and his own cleverness for buying a first-class seat, he forced a smile and headed for the train. But when he boarded and opened the door to his ‘first class’ car his world blackened before him; it was FULL of drunken Cossacks! Maybe twenty of them; drinking, cursing, yelling and screaming!!
At first he considered just going back but it was too late, the doors locked and the train began to move so he tried to ignore his surrounding, thought of the Rebbe’s blessing, entered, found a corner and sat down.
The train moved slowly (in the end the trip would take seventy two hours instead of eighteen!) but Reb Nanas just tried to read a Torah book he brought along until he fell asleep and be calm. And it worked! No one even noticed him!
The next morning he woke at the crack of dawn with the hope that none of his traveling companions would awaken from their stupors while he prayed and when they did wake up they would continue to not see him, but he was in for a bitter surprise.
He was a few minutes into the Morning Prayer wearing his Tallit and Tefillin (prayer shawl and phylacteries) when one of the Cossacks opened one eye and shot a blood curdling look at him.
He tried to not think about it and pretend he saw nothing but it was done.
The Cossack left the room and returned a few moments later, face dripping with water, clutching a freshly opened bottle of vodka in his hand.
“Friends! Wake up!!” he yelled “Here I have a bottle of Vodka in one hand and a dead Jew in the other!” As he said this he reached into his bag and pulled out a rifle. Come, wake up and drink to our roommate the dead Jew!”
He took another swig from the bottle and passed it to the first one who sat up in bed. Then, when his hand was free, he shouldered the gun and pointed it at Rab Lezer yelling to his friends, “Come, wake up fellows!! I’m waiting for you till I pull the trigger! “
“Ehh!!” Yelled another Cossack who had sat up and realized what was happening, “What are you doing?! Are you crazy? You want to waste a bullet and dirty the place with blood while you’re at it. I have a better idea. First, pass the bottle!”
He took a long swig and he continued; now all of them were in various stages of waking up and were listening. “Let’s throw him out the window and see how he hits the rocks!”
Another joined in, “Hey! Good idea!! Ha Ha Ha!! Here, see? We’re going uphill. Soon we will be on the top and we’ll have some fun! Give me some vodka. Grab him!!” He motioned with his hand as he drank.
One of them opened the window and a freezing, snow-filled air blasted into the car while two others stood up from their beds and went to grab our hero.
There was no where to run and fighting was out of the question, each of them was at least twice his size, Reb Nanas realized that this was the end. “I probably wasn’t worthy of the Rebbe’s blessing” he thought to himself.
Then suddenly an older Cossack with a long handle-bar mustache and only one leg propped himself up with his crutch from his blanket on the floor, and yelled out;
“Helloo! Listen fellow soldiers!! Listen to me! I want to say something. Stop for a minute and listen!” When he got their attention he continued.
“I live in Rostov and opposite my house lives a Rabbi that thousands of Jews like this one here follow. Now you know that our enemy is the cursed Communists and many of the Communists are Jews. But they aren’t like this Jew here. In fact, the Communists, especially the Communist Jews hate that Rabbi and his followers even more than they hate us.
“Nothing would make those dirty Communist rats happier than if we killed this boy. Do you understand? Do you want to make the Communists happy? Do you?” Everyone grunted a disappointed ‘no’.
“So my advice is just forget it and leave him alone!”
And they listened!
The rest of the trip they totally ignored him. Just as the Rebbe said, “G-d fills the world, even where the Cossacks are.’
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
“Rabbi Yaakov you have a visitor” announced Rab Yaakov’s servant. The Rabbi looked up from his desk and saw entering the room a Russian nobleman dressed in his most formal and elegant uniform like a king.
Rabbi Yaakov, the head of the Jewish community in Bohemia, a Chassid (follower) of the Baal Shem Tov and also a very successful businessman, was well acquainted with the gentile nobility.
“Welcome” he said cordially as he stood and extended his hand to his visitor, “With whom do I have the honor of speaking”.
“I cannot tell you my name” said the stranger, shaking Rab Yaakov’s hand, “but I come on a very important and desperate mission; I must borrow from you five hundred Gulden (about $100,000).”
“Excuse me, but how do you expect me to….” Rab Yaakov stood back a half-step and looked the visitor in the eyes to see if he was normal, “…to loan you such a sum without knowing you? Have you any backers, any letters of reference, any credentials, any collateral, anything at all?”
“I have nothing and I can say nothing. You only have my word and my oath to G-d that I will pay.”
Rab Yaakov couldn’t believe his ears. He wanted to just tell the man to leave but something told him not to.
He sat for a minute deep in thought as the visitor just stood looking straight ahead and he finally answered. “I cannot give you an answer now. I won’t say no or yes, I must travel to my rabbi, the Holy Baal Shem Tov, and ask him. Please return tomorrow night.” The nobleman agreed and early the next morning the Rabbi set off to the Besh’t (acronym for Baal Shem Tov)
But Rab Yaakov was in for a surprise. The Baal Shem he enthusiastically encouraged him to make the loan but only on condition that he get some sort of written receipt.
Rab Yaakov returned home, that evening the nobleman reappeared, took the money, wrote an IOU that contained only the words “I owe Rab Yaakov 500 gulden” with no name or address and walked out the door into the night.
In the course of the next few years, when he happened to see the strange IOU among his papers, Rab Yaakov remembered the loan for a few seconds and thanked G-d that his businesses and investments succeeded so he didn’t really feel the loss. But still it puzzled him as to why the Besh’t insisted on such a worthless IOU and in the course of time he totally forgot the entire incident.
Fifteen years later tragedy visited.
he local Bishop, a vile anti-Semite spread a blood libel against the Jews and succeeded in getting all the local clergy to sigh an edict evicting all of them from Bohemia. The decree was to become effective six months from its signing and spelled disaster for tens of thousands of families.
Rab Yaakov sped to the Baal Shem Tov for help and again his advice was surprising; the Besh’t said that the only man in the world that had the power to rescind the evil decree was…….the Pope.
Someone had to travel to Rome and convince him.
The very idea sent shivers down Rab Yaakov’s spine. According to Catholicism, the Jews were the murders of god, the enemies of mankind and were it not for the hope they could be ‘converted’ there was no reason not to simply exterminate them. Any Jew caught traveling in Italy especially in the ‘holy’ city of Rome, would almost certainly be killed.
The next day Rab Yaakov bade his wife and family farewell, perhaps for the last time, set off on a ship and after several weeks, arrived on the shores of Italy.
Disguised as a simple peasant, he rented a donkey and cart and began traveling according to a map he brought along.
He just kept praying that the holiness of his task, the Baal Shem’s blessing and his excellent disguise would protect him. After all he did know a bit of Italian; certainly HaShem would make a miracle. How to get to the Pope would definitely be a problem but he would cross that bridge when he came to it.
On the third day of his journey as he was driving slowly through some town saying Psalms by heart suddenly he noticed his wagon was becoming surrounded by peasants.
He only understood a bit of what they were saying but he got the point quickly when someone jumped on the cart, grabbed his nose and yelled ‘It’s a Jew all right! Kill the Jew!!” and rocks started flying at him from all directions.
Rab Yaakov sensed that this was the end. Possibly this is why the Besh’t sent him; sacrificing his life would save the Jews of Bohemia. He closed his eyes, said ‘Shma Yiroel!’ and prepared to meet his Maker when suddenly a voice rang out and everyone became quiet.
Yaakov opened his eyes and saw an imposing figure striding through the crowd waving a sword.
He walked up to Rab Yaakov took a close look at his face, smiled wickedly, grabbed him by the neck and yelled out ‘I’ll take care of this Jew’ myself. Move aside!
He motioned to his victim to get off the wagon, to put his hands behind his back and to walk before him. They walked this way for about fifteen minutes until they reached a large mansion. He told Rab Yaakov to enter and as soon as they were inside he closed the door, told Rab Yaakov to turn and face him, dropped his sword to the ground and threw his arms around him hugging him for several minutes saying in Russian, “Ahh thank G-d!! It is you. It is you!! Thank G-d I came in time.”
Rav Yaakov was sure it was some sort of miraculous mistake; he had never seen this man before in his life.
“Do you remember me?” the man said as he held Yaakov at arms length and gazed lovingly into his eyes “You saved my life!!”
Yes, it was he. It was the nobleman that borrowed the money fifteen years ago. They shook hands gratefully both exclaiming “It is a miracle!!! Thank G-d a miracle!!”
They sat and when Rab Yaakov explained the reason for his trip the stranger seemed even happier. “My dear friend, I can help you, I am nothing less than a Duke and a very influential one at that. Do you know how much power a Duke has here in Italy? And to top it off I have very good connections in the Vatican. I can arrange you a meeting with the Pope.
It was like some sort of a dream. The next evening they were actually sitting before the Pope and Yaakov the Jew was explaining how it was the Pope’s duty to dispel these anti-Semitic superstitions and teach forbearance and tolerance and true justice.
The next day the Pope called a meeting of the Cardinal Court and put forth the suggestion that they rescind the Bohemian expulsion. When they objected, as he knew they would, he clapped his hands and a huge book was brought forth, put on an ornate table before him and the Pope announced;
This book contains all the Papal decisions in history from the foundation of the Church. It is, needless to say, full of cases against the Jews. I suggest we open the book and to whichever page it falls we will take it as a sign from heaven what to do in this case.”
The Cardinals agreed, the book was opened to an arbitrary page and the scribe read:
“In the year 1456 a Jew called Yehuda was accused by Cardinal Thaddeus of poisoning the well of the Church grounds in Venice.”
The Cardinals winked and smiled at one another in glee.
“But” the scribe continued reading, “the charges were discovered to be false and Cardinal Thaddeus was relieved of his position for two months because of the trouble he caused to the court.”
The Cardinals had no choice but to agree with the ‘sign from heaven’! A decree was signed nullifying the Bohemian expulsion and Rav Yaakov returned joyously and full of gratitude with the Duke to his palace.
When they arrived the Duke took Rav Yaakov into his study, closed the door, took out a stack of money out of one of his desk drawers and said.
“I’m returning the loan; exactly 500 Gulder. I would like to give you interest but I cannot, it is forbidden for me to do so. You see …….” he was unable to finish and tears were streaming from his eyes. Suddenly he burst out weeping and fell to his knees ….”I am a JEW!!!”
It took several minutes for him to calm down but finally he sat Yaakov down and began to tell the story.
“You see, I was born to a Jewish family in Russia, my name was Ariah Leib but poverty drove us from place to place until finally we ended up in Paris. It’s not important how, but I got involved with the wrong crowd and before my parents knew what happened I left Judaism and began traveling the world.
“I lived a totally wanton life until fate brought me to Italy and I found favor in the eyes of a very powerful and rich Duke. He was an old man when I met him and my keen wit and business sense made him so fond of me that, because he had no children of his own, he adopted me as his son.
“I had everything one could ask for, power, youth, success, pleasure and when he died I inherited even more.
“But it also brought me enemies; people that were jealous of my power and riches. They were very clever, they plotted behind my back bribed witnesses, forged papers and before I knew it I was charged with treason and sentenced to death. My friends, who believed I was innocent, succeeded after several years of court battles in getting the court to agree that if I would pay an exorbitant fine to release me from prison and even return my title and the rights to my properties. My friends helped me with some of the money I took loans on my properties but after all I still lacked some five hundred gulden, a small fortune, and had exhausted all my sources in Italy. So I asked for permission to return to Paris to collect there and it was granted but it wasn’t so easy. First of all people didn’t remember me and I was simply ashamed to ask for loans but also something else was happening inside of me. I didn’t understand what it was until one day as I was walking in the streets I happened to pass by a Synagogue and suddenly heard from inside the sound of a Shofar, the ram’s horn the Jews sound on Rosh HaShanna. Suddenly I felt drawn into the building and once inside I began to feel a strange revulsion for everything I had done in my past and a great yearning for the G-d of my fathers, the G-d of Israel. I took a prayer shawl out of the box at the door, put it over my head entered and began weeping uncontrollably.
“Then after several minutes I was approached by one of the congregants who took me aside heard my story and told me that as soon as the holiday is over I should travel to the Baal Shem Tov in the city of Mezibuz in the Ukraine and ask his advice.
“Well I did so, it took me a while but when I saw the face of the Baal Shem Tov I decided then and there to forfeit all my money, title and past and never return to Italy again but become a totally new man….a Jew!
“But he didn’t agree. He told me that the only way to completely cleanse my soul is to return to Italy, take back my title and lands and live secretly as a Jew but most important to develop connections with the Pope.
“He gave me your address, told me to dress up in my finest clothes go to your house and ask you for the money I needed but under no circumstances to divulge my identity. That is why I couldn’t sign the IOU.
“When I asked him how will I know when and if I have been completely forgiven, he answered, ‘When you save an entire Jewish community.’ That means …….. now.”
As the Talmud teaches; ‘In the place where Baalei Teshuva (repentants) stand even the righteous (tzadikim) cannot stand’.
MIRACLE STORY OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE:
The name of the hero of this story that occurred some 50 years ago was not given but we will call him Mr. Malka.
When Mr. Malka entered the room of the Rebbe of Lubavitch he almost forgot that his daughter was dying.
He had been born and bred in a ‘traditional’ Jewish home in French Morocco and although he had stopped being observant long ago when he moved to Israel and succeeded in business he had not forgotten the holy ‘Tzadikim’ he had seen when he was young.
But they were nothing like this.
The Rebbe’s eyes were filled with him with such joy and awe they left him speechless for a moment.
He handed the Rebbe the short letter he had prepared and burst out crying as the Rebbe read to himself. The letter read as follows:
“Dear Rebbe. I’m sure the Rebbe remembers that twelve years ago he blessed us for children and the next year my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, thank G-d. We had been married for ten years with no children and all the doctors had given up hope.
But a few months ago our daughter complained of headaches and we took her for tests. The doctors in Israel found that she has a large malignant tumor in her brain and her only chance is in the hospital in Boston.
Here in Boston the doctors say that they are willing to operate but admit that only a miracle can save her. Will the Rebbe please pray for our only child, I am willing to anything the Rebbe says. Should we make the operation or not?”
Mr. Malka was weeping almost uncontrollably. The Rebbe finished the letter, looked up at him and said.
“Now is the Jewish month of Adar. Soon will be the holiday of Purim and after that Passover. The Talmud tells us that in this month we MUST be happy! And you come into my room, and do the opposite? Did you ask permission to bring sadness into my room?!”
Mr. Malka was astounded. Was the Rebbe joking with him? “Rebbe! He cried out! It’s my DAUGHTER’S LIFE!!” And he wept even louder.
“You want to cure your daughter by sadness? By being sad in Adar!?” the Rebbe replied.
Suddenly Mr. Malka understood that the Rebbe was serious. “Rebbe” he said, trying to stop weeping, “Tell me how to be happy! I’ll do anything! Just tell me!!”
The Rebbe answered, “Adar is happy because in it everything ‘Turned over!” (All the enemies of Jews were either eliminated or became friends) And then said in it in French, “Turned over! Everything Turned Over!!” as he held out his hands and turned them as though turning over the world.
If Mr. Malka was confused when he entered, he was more so now. The Rebbe was disagreeing with all the doctors! Does that mean not to heed their prognosis?
The Rebbe said a few words of blessing, Mr. Malka realized the conversation was over, bowed and backed out of the room saying thank you.
But when he closed the door behind him he slapped himself on the forehead. One minute! The Rebbe didn’t tell him what to do! He left the room without even getting advice! What about the operation?
He wanted to go back in the room but someone else had already entered, ten people were waiting and the Rebbe’s secretary standing at the door told him that in any case he couldn’t enter again. He should write his question down and the Rebbe would answer.
Mr. Malka did what the secretary said. He wrote the letter, gave it to the secretary, waited for almost an hour and then, when there was no reply, returned to his daughter and wife in the hospital as though in some sort of strange dream. The world around him was dark and crumbling!! His daughter was dying. But the Rebbe said it would turn over and he should be happy.
He called the Rebbe’s office and the Rebbe’s secretary told him that the Rebbe answered! The Rebbe wrote that he had already told him what to do and if he still had doubts he should consult another doctor.
Mr. Malka called a Professor that he knew in France who, when he heard the details, said he agreed with the other doctors and there was obviously no alternative; he should make the operation and pray.
The next day his daughter entered the operating room. The operation was to take eight hours. He and his wife sat at the edge of their seats in the waiting room, pale as ghosts, reading Tehillim (psalms) and smoking cigarettes. He remembered the Rebbe’s advice “Everything will turn over” and even tried to force a smile once in a while but stark reality stopped him.
Suddenly, after an hour, the operating room door burst open and two doctors came out with distress written on their faces.
“Are you the parents of the young girl?” one of them asked nervously.
Mrs’ Malka fell on her husband’s shoulder and began to weep hysterically. Mr. Malka held his wife’s hand and stood stoically to accept the dreadful news. “Yes…. We are.”
“We don’t understand it. Never seen anything like it! The x-rays we took yesterday show clearly a large tumor! There has been some sort of miracle …. We began the operation but it seems the tumor is gone. There is NO TUMOR in your daughter’s brain!!! “
The Malkas were beside themselves with joy. But it was short-lived. His daughter simply did not awake from the anesthetic. A week passed then another and the doctors were pessimistic. The operation had done damage and nothing they did aroused her from her sleep.
Again, beside himself with grief, Mr. Malka traveled to Brooklyn to the Rebbe and personally gave a letter to one of the Rebbe’s secretaries. Five minutes later the secretary returned with the Rebbe’s reply.
“I will pray for a complete healing and you will have good news. It will be fulfilled the sentence in the Book of Ester ‘The month that was transformed from sadness to joy and the Jews received what Mordechi wrote for them'”
He ran outside to a pay phone to tell his wife the good news but when she answered she had even better news. Their daughter had just regained consciousness!!!
But the problems still weren’t over; the girl’s speech and memory were severely impaired. The doctors advised all sorts of therapies but to no avail. None of the treatments worked and just before Passover her parents had no choice but to check her out of the hospital.
They spent the holiday with friends in Flatbush and on the last day of Passover Mr. Malka remembered that in Morocco when he was a boy he used to attend the Moshiach Meal on Achron shel Pesach that Rabbi Mendel Lipsker, the Rebbe’s emissary there, made each year. He remembered that Rabbi Lipsker said once that the Rebbe is the Moses of our generation.
He decided he would visit the Rebbe again.
He traveled to Crown Heights (Chabad headquarters and main synagogue) and sure enough the Rebbe was speaking to a huge crowd of thousands that filled the immense room thirstily drinking in the Rebbe’s every word.
The Rebbe spoke for hours, but he paused between speeches and suddenly his eyes turned to Mr. Malka and he motioned for him to approach! Malka walked on the tables, was boosted up to the Rebbe’s place and when they were again standing face to face the Rebbe gave him a two pieces of Matza and said:
“The Zohar calls Matza the food of faith and the food of healing. Usually faith brings healing but in your case it will be the opposite. Why should your daughter suffer because of you? Give your daughter this piece and it will bring her healing and this piece will help your faith.”
Then the Rebbe smiled and concluded, “Tomorrow is the holiday of Memuna for the Moroccan Jews and in a few weeks will be the month of Iyar. Memuna means faith and Iyar is the initials for ‘I am G-d your healer’. But in your case the healing will be before the faith.”
Mr. Malka returned home after the Rebbe’s ‘Farbringen’ gave his family the news and ate the Matza together with his daughter. The next day she began speaking normally and her memory returned.
And a week later he bought a pair of Tefillin and decided to be an active Jew. Thus the Rebbe reconnected Mr. Malka and his family to their faith. Such is the power of a tzadik.
STORY OF A HIDDEN TZADIK:
Some 200 years ago on a freezing, snow stormy night on a desolate road in the middle of Poland, a Jewish businessman’s wagon, laden with goods, was stuck deeply in the mud. Perhaps the ice broke under the wheels but the wind was whistling so crazily it would have been impossible for the driver to hear. One thing for sure, the wagon wasn’t budging.
The driver tried all the tricks he knew; whipping, prodding, begging them turning the reigns this way and that, but nothing helped. The horses strained until they were exhausted, another few hours in the cold and they would certainly freeze to death unless the wolves got them first. Not to mention the robbers who filled the woods. The horses and the contents of the carriage would be easy pickings. The situation was desperate.
The businessman was at the end of his wits. He turned to the driver and yelled at him over the blizzard to run to the nearest town; perhaps there he could find someone with a horse or two or a few strong men to come back and help. They had to do something fast. He would wait here in the carriage until he returned.
The nearest town was the city of Apta, perhaps a half hour’s run from where they were. The driver took a swig from the small vodka flask he carried and began running. But when entered the town it was well after midnight and except for the screaming winds and snow the streets were empty; enveloped in total, black, awesome, frozen silence.
The driver stood alone and looked around, all lights were out, everyone was certainly warmly curled up under their blankets fast asleep. But he couldn’t go back. With no choice he began walking, calling out, knocking on doors, hoping to find some sign of life… but in vain. It was so hopeless he wanted to cry.
He saw a dimly lit Synagogue; he had to get out of the cold.
He entered the silent building, tried to warm himself up and after a few seconds burst into tears.
Suddenly he heard from a corner of the room someone say something. He looked up to see a thin, young man who had probably been sitting and learning Torah by candlelight looking at him. “What’s wrong?” the young man repeated. “Why are you crying? What happened?”
The driver walked over to him, dried his tears, shook the young man’s hand and told him the whole story; where the carriage was stuck, how he had come looking for some help and added that possibly there was a tavern or some other place in the town where they could find strong fellows or maybe a horse or two to help push the carriage.
The young man told him not to worry, closed his book, put on his coat and told him to follow him. The driver couldn’t believe his ears! It was a miracle!! He thanked the young man profusely and thanked G-d for sending him. Soon there would be help! The driver followed him out of the Synagogue into the street but to his surprise the young man didn’t turn right or left; he kept walking straight…. out of the town in the direction of the carriage!
The driver tried to protest, to explain that it was senseless to go alone, the wagon was too heavy and too deep in the mud! They had to go back and get help; bring a horse or even three. But the young man just kept walking swiftly through the swirling snow and freezing wind until they arrived at the site of the carriage.
When the businessman saw they had arrived he jumped, half frozen, out of the carriage in joy. But when he saw that this skinny fellow was all the driver had brought he held his head in agony and cried out. “No! NO!!! Are you insane?!!! What good with he do?!!! For this I have been freezing in the cold for over an hour?! For this?! Who knows if the horses aren’t frozen dead already? How is this matchstick going to get us out? Oy!! HaShem!! Have mercy!!”
But the young man just said quietly. “You have already been stuck here too long. I hate to see it when people are stuck. The time has come that you should continue in your journey.”
There was something so simple in this young man’s words that it caught the driver by surprise. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean, go back up to your seat, crack your whip over the horses and continue in your journey.” He replied.
“What, you don’t think I already tried that?! I tried that already!!! And what will you do?” The driver asked.
“I’ll get in the coach and return with you to Apta”.
The certainty of the young fellow made the driver, without a further thought, jump up onto the carriage, climb to his place, grab his whip and snap it over the horses and amazingly, the horses, as though they had just been waiting for this, with no effort pulled the carriage smoothly out of the mud …… to freedom!!
The businessman and the driver turned in astonishment to the young man who waited for the businessman to enter the carriage, then entered after him and motioned for the driver to go. Minutes later they entered Apta and when the carriage stopped the young man alighted and walked quietly off into the darkness without saying a word.
Before they could digest what just happened the irresistible smell of freshly baked bread wafted softly into their nostrils. The bakery of Apta was preparing for the morning customers and they were really hungry. They followed the smell and in just moments found themselves entering the bakery and being greeted by its owner, a religious Jew. “Welcome! Welcome honored guests! Come and partake of freshly baked bread! Come wash your hands and sit down” he said in the friendliest voice possible.
It was like a dream; they had suddenly been transported into a warm pleasant, new world. They washed for bread while the baker prepared some hot tea and as they ate they excitedly told their host every detail of the miracle that they had just experienced.
“Young man? Miracles? I know everyone in this city” the baker said “and I can tell you for sure there are no young, skinny miracle workers here. Must be someone from another city, or maybe it was Elijah the prophet! You know it says in the Talmud that he makes miracles! But one thing for sure, you should have asked him for a blessing! I mean, if he could free wagons then who knows what else he could do for you?!”
Suddenly the side door of the bakery opened and a thin figure wrapped in an old winter coat slipped into the room. The baker’s smile faded and a look of disgust darkened his face. “Oy! That’s my son in law! What a lazy bum! The whole day I work like a slave to support his family and you know what he does?! Nothing! He sits and learns Torah and drives me crazy!”
The driver’s face became pale. That’s him! Tha… that’s the one that … took us out of the mud!!”
As soon as the baker understood what happened his eyes widened like saucers! “Him? He’s the Tzadik (miracle worker)?!” He fell with a thud on the chair behind him totally confused, mumbling, “It can’t be! It just can’t be!”
As soon as the baker’s son in law heard the thud and the commotion he ran to his father in law’s aid but when the latter came to his senses he fell to one knee, took his son in law’s hand and began to beg his forgiveness.
That night a hidden ‘Tzadik’ became revealed to the world; a great miracle worker who would help thousands ‘out of their problems known as “Ha’Y’hudi HaKodesh M’Pashiska” (The Holy Jew of Pashiska).
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
It seemed like Mr. Geltman’s millions weren’t going to help him now. He was on his deathbed gasping for breath, surrounded by family and friends. The best doctors and professors in Europe and Russia had unsuccessfully treated him, and now it was only a matter of minutes.
Suddenly the door burst open and his son-in-law entered the room leading a very distinguished-looking man.
“This is the King’s personal doctor, Professor Zaritzki,” he announced anxiously. It was a miracle that I found him…..”
The Doctor approached the sick man and motioned for quiet, so he moved the family to a side of the room and continued in a whisper.
“The Doctor was passing through our town. I was really lucky to get in to see him. At first he refused. I really had to talk fast, but finally he agreed to take on the case as a challenge.”
“It is very serious,” Said the professor worriedly, bending over his patient. “Maybe a day ago I could have done something, but now, I think it’s too late.” He thought for another second and continued. “I’m taking a big chance but….”
He took out a pad of paper from his coat scribbled something on it, gave it to one of the boys standing in the room and said,
“Here! Take this and run to the pharmacy as fast as you can, every second counts. Run!”
The boy dashed out the door and down the stairs, while the Doctor returned to the patient to check his pulse. But as soon as he did, a look of surprise came over his face. He ran to the window and called to the boy and motioned to him.
“Young man!! Come back up. Yes. Come back immediately!”
All eyes were on the professor as he wrote a new prescription, took the previous one from the boy, and threw it away and told him to run as fast as possible. “Strange” he mumbled to himself as the boy dashed out the door. “Very unusual.”
He returned to the patient once again, lifted one of his eyelids, suddenly gave another startled look, ran to the window and recalled the boy again.
“Quite remarkable! He seems to be improving,” he said aloud. In fact it did seem that Groisboich was breathing a bit easier.
The same scenario repeated itself five times. Each time a different prescription was written, and each time the condition of the patient improved before the boy reached the street.
After a half hour Mr. Groisboich actually asked for water, and in less than an hour he was sitting up in bed and drinking soup.
“I don’t believe my eyes” Said the doctor wiping his brow, obviously shaken to the essence of his being. “I’ve never seen the likes of it in my life! Why, the man was as good as dead less than an hour ago.”
“Thank you doctor. You saved my life,” whispered Mr. Groisboich to the professor, “Thank you.”
“I? I saved your life? My friend, I did nothing! I don’t even understand what happened here. It’s most incredible! I just stood here and watched a miracle. I can’t explain it.”
“I can!” Said Mr. Groisboich weakly, “There is only one explanation. It a holy Jew called the Baal Shem Tov.”
No one in the room had the faintest idea what he was talking about.
He sat up even straighter and continued. “It was over ten years ago. I decided to visit a Jew called the Baal Shem Tov. Probably you never heard of him, but there was a lot of talk. Some said he was a miracle worker and a holy prophet, but others said that the whole thing was a bluff. So I was curious.
“I traveled to the city of Mezibuz where he lived, and the next day I was standing before him in his study. I tried to see something unusual, but I have to admit that I wasn’t very impressed. True there was something about his eyes, but nothing worth getting so excited about.
“What brings you here?” Asked the Besh’t (initials of Baal Shem Tov).
“I just came to hear a word of wisdom.” I replied in a friendly tone.
“So he looked at me and said: “Just remember that G-d gives every doctor an angel. A small doctor has a small angel and a big doctor has a more powerful angel. And that angel is the one that does the healing.”
“I waited a few seconds for him to continue, and when he didn’t, I got a bit angry; “Excuse me!” I said, “Doctors? Angels? What is it supposed to mean to me? I’m no doctor. And I’m not sick either. What type of wisdom is that? It took me several days to travel here…… and now I have to return with this?! “
“But the Baal Shem just looked down, implying that the meeting was over.
“Thoroughly disappointed, I left the room, traveled home, and didn’t even tell anyone about it for fear of saying Loshon HaRa (Slander). But it was pretty clear that this man was nothing to get excited about.
Years passed, ten years. I succeeded in life, became wealthy and famous, married off all my children, and totally forgot that meeting. Then, a few months ago I became ill.
At first the doctors thought it was nothing, but it got worse. I went to bigger and bigger experts but nothing helped until, well you saw my condition when you entered….I was dying.
But now, the whole thing came back to me; the Besh’t must have been referring back then to what just happened now. He foresaw it all.
It was your angel that healed me, doctor. In fact it is your angel that has been healing ALL your patients.”
The professor was dumbfounded. He felt like a little child. He didn’t want to believe it but he couldn’t deny the facts. In fact he had done nothing, his very presence had succeeded where all the other doctors had failed.
He stood for a moment in deep thought and then asked. “Tell me, where can I see this holy man?”
He went to the Baal Shem and …………….activated his Jewish soul.
It seems that this professor was a Jew, who had left Judaism in order to succeed in life. But now that he had clear evidence that all along he had only been a vehicle for a power greater than himself he started rethinking his life. He became a religious Jew and found happiness and meaning in his life.
A STORY OF FAITH AND SELF SACRIFICE:
Hundreds of years ago in a port town far from Israel lived a wealthy and influential Jew who we will call Yaakov (although his name is not given in the story).
He had been born to a poor family and his childhood was spent in poverty. At the age of three years old his parents sent him to Torah school but he had a simple mind and never really understood what was written in the books. The only book that made some sense to him was the prayer book: the Siddur. There he grasped the simple meaning of most of the prayers
But what he lacked in erudition he made up in personality. His good heart, honesty and pleasant disposition made him many friends. And he was industrious.
As soon as he was old enough to work he learned to be a butcher, opened a store, succeeded in business and in no time his name and reputation spread until he somehow found favor in the eyes of the local duke who gave (or perhaps sold) him the right to collect the toll and taxes from all the ships that entered the city harbor.
Yaakov became a rich man from his percentage of these taxes but he was always honest, never forgot his humble roots and was always on the watch to help someone in need, Jew and gentile alike.
Once normal day a large, sleek cargo ship entered the docks and after Yaakov routinely boarded and collected the tolls and taxes, the captain, a heavyset, mustachioed coarse-looking fellow took him aside behind some crates where no one would see them, winked at him and asked in almost a whisper if he wanted to buy something precious.
“What?” Yaakov replied.
“I can’t tell you.” Answered the captain, “But I guarantee you that you’ll like it and won’t regret that you bought it.”
“I can’t buy something before seeing it.” Yaakov said. “Tell me what it is and how much you want.”
“What it is, I already told you that I won’t tell you. How much?” The captain rolled his eyes, tapped the fingers of both hands together, looked at Yaakov and said, “Ten thousand gold pieces!”
Yaakov took a step backward. “|Ten thousand!? Why that is a fortune! Who would pay a fortune for a cat in a bag! I want to see what you have to sell or forget it!” Yaakov was already thinking to himself that possibly it was stolen goods, drugs or contraband. But his interest certainly had been aroused.
“No! You can’t see it.” said the captain. “But I can tell you that if you don’t buy it now I’ll throw it in the sea and never sell it to you.”
Yaakov became more curious. Impulsively he stuck out his hand to shake hands and said, “Alright! I’ll pay. You have my word. Just show me what you have and I’ll give you the money, Ten thousand gold pieces.”
The captain looked Yaakov straight in the eye and arrogantly declared. “I told you I won’t show it to you till I have the money here!” as he pointed to his open palm. “Now I won’t sell it to you either unless you give me TWENTY thousand!”
Yaakov was shocked but being the seasoned businessman he was he didn’t show it. “Good!” he said. “Fine! I’ll give you Twenty thousand. But first I want to see what it is.
“Now I won’t even sell it you unless you give me FOURTY THOUSAND! And I’m not showing you anything!” the Captain almost yelled. “And if you don’t pay” …. he moved his face close to Yaakov’s and whispered, “Then I’ll throw it into the sea.”
Yaakov almost turned his back to leave. But something in his heart told him to stay. The captain was doubling the price each time he asked so he dare not ask again. He blurted out,
“Good! I’ll pay! I pay the forty thousand.”
“First give the money …… BEFORE you see the goods” sneered the captain. “You have an hour….no! A half an hour! But I’m warning you……… if I see you coming with police I’ll give the order to throw it in the sea! No evidence and no deal. And you’ll never see it. But I guarantee you will be VERY pleased.”
Yaakov ran home, got the money and in just minutes was back on the ship counting it out to the captain. “Now, bring me what I bought!”
The captain laughed villainously. “Ha Ha HAA. Bring it? Haaaa haaa!!! Just wait here a minute and what you bought will walk here on two legs. Haaaaa Haaaa!”
He descended the steps to the belly of the ship laughing and talking aloud all the time. After a few moments, from the bottom of the stairs came the sound of chains dragging on the ground. It grew louder until through the open door emerged human beings! Bent over, emaciated, dragging themselves with expressionless faces, tens, perhaps hundreds of them, torn, filthy garments hanging from their skeleton-like bodies. Prisoners!
In a few minutes two hundred Jews; men, women and children were standing before him. They had been taken captive by the captain and his pirate crew and Yaakov had saved them.
The captain gave a sign and his men began unlocking the chains, then he turned to Yaakov, winked and said, “Well my friend …… How do you like them? Maybe you regret paying so much? Ehhh? Haa Haaaa! Well you should know that I would have thrown ‘em all into the sea! The whole smelly bunch! I couldn’t find anyone to buy ‘em. They’ve been there for a month. They just took up room and I couldn’t stand the sight of ‘em anymore.”
Yaakov took them off the ship, brought them to his home where he gave orders to take care of them and then ran to the duke’s castle to try to get the pirates arrested. But when the duke’s men arrived at the docks the pirates had already set sail and escaped into the open sea.
Yaakov provided the captives with all their needs including doctors to nurse them all back to health and gradually he got to know them and heard their sad story. It seems that the captain and his pirates attacked their village, burned it to the ground killed all the elders and children and kidnapped anyone they figured they could sell as slaves. For weeks they were in the dark, stuffy belly of the ship with no light or air and only water and stale bread to keep them alive.
After several months Yaakov got to know all of them and even find them jobs and homes in fact one of them, a modest 18 year old girl, exceptionally G-d fearing, intelligent, pleasant looking and kind, impressed him as being a perfect match for his oldest son.
When he spoke to her about it she blushed with gratitude and humbly tried to decline saying how could a penniless nobody like her possibly be a match for such a respectable person as his own son. But Yaakov understood that she was flattered by the offer.
He gave her a beautiful necklace to show that he was serious and after a few meetings with his son she accepted the offer and the joyous preparations began.
Two months later the wedding hall was decorated, guests came pouring in from near and far, rich and poor, gentile and Jew. The duke and his family were given a special place of honor as were the two hundred captives who had completely recovered from their ordeal. Everyone wanted to be part of this ‘rags to riches’ story. The band was playing, the tables were set and the mood of the entire crowd was elated.
Yaakov was all smiles as he moved among the guests welcoming and joking with them when he noticed that one of the redeemed prisoners smiled only when he saw that Yaakov was looking at him. But if not he almost looked sad.
He was a young man in his twenties and his somber face stood out in the joyous atmosphere. Yaakov figured that either he was ill, or perhaps he was thinking about his family and friends that had been killed by the pirates or perhaps he was still in shock by the great changes.
He approached him and asked if everything was all right. But the young man just looked up and began weeping so that he couldn’t reply.
Yaakov waited till he calmed down and asked again if there was anything he could do for him but the young fellow just dried his eyes, apologized and said that everything was all right. But Yaakov, after several minutes of prodding and questioning, finally got him to reveal the truth.
“In the village where we lived before the pirates came, tonight’s bride and I had agreed that after we saved up enough money we would be married. But then the pirates came and it all changed.
“But that’s all in the past. It’s the way G-d wanted it. Now we both owe our lives to you. If it wasn’t for you we would all be dead. And your son is such a fine person and I see that she likes him. I’m sure they will be happily married. So please don’t pay attention to my tears, they are also tears of happiness.”
Yaakov thought for a moment and then decided to test the young man; he offered him a fortune if he would be willing to look for another bride. “After all you were both young and your decision to marry wasn’t really based on much. With this money you would be set for life.”
But the young man answered. “If given the choice I would not trade her for all the money in the world, but now I’m so grateful to you that I’m happy that she is marrying your son! I gladly relinquish her for free.”
Yaakov went to his son, explained the entire story and his son declared that he was not in any way willing to cancel the wedding for any reason! Rather the occasion must go on. However, instead of his son standing under the chupa with the bride, the son willingly gave up his bride to be so that she could marry her true beloved. And he rejoiced with the bride and groom with a whole heart.
This is a story of true kindness, honesty, self sacrifice and faith.
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (called the Baal Shem Tov, or “the Besht” for short), was well-versed in the secrets of the Torah and of creation. But also knew the greatest secret of all: what each man’s purpose is in this world.
Those who believed this completely and followed his directives were called his chassidim.
To each of his chassidim the Besht revealed his task in life, and one, who is the hero of our story, he instructed to become a wandering storyteller. He should travel from town to town and from village to village and tell people stories about the Baal Shem Tov.
“You will know when your mission is achieved,” the Besht added.
Shortly thereafter the Besht passed on to his eternal rest. For the next ten years the chassid diligently and joyously carried out his assignment, wandering from town to town telling the “Baal Shem Tov stories” he had witnessed or heard about.
One day, someone told him that there was a rich Jew in Vitebsk who actually paid money for such stories: ten rubles (at that time a huge amount) for every new one, and five for those he had already heard, plus traveling expenses. It was a two-day journey, but to our hero it seemed like minutes. He knew many stories and he really needed the money!
When he arrived at the rich man’s plush home, it was already late Thursday evening, and he was so tired from the road that he wanted only to sleep. But there would always be tomorrow.
But he woke late on Friday, and by the time he finished praying, it was already time to get ready for Shabbat. But there would be Shabbat.
Unfortunately, that evening at the Shabbat dinner, try as he could, he just couldn’t remember any stories, not even one. He thought that after a good night’s rest his mind would be sharper, but it wasn’t. And the next day it was the same thing: he would begin a story, and suddenly his mind would go completely blank.
He thought that perhaps he was going mad. No matter what he did, he had no results. He even remained for another two days, but it was obvious that something very strange was going on: he, who knew hundreds of stories about his great teacher, having witnessed many of them himself, and having told and retold them countless times over the years, could not remember anything! He had forgotten everything; he had no other choice than to shamefacedly give up.
The wealthy man was very disappointed, but nevertheless, against all hope, he accompanied the chassid in the carriage ride to the train; perhaps at the last moment some story would pop into his mind—but it didn’t.
They got out of the carriage and walked to the station, where the rich man bought the chassid’s train ticket, slipped a few silver coins in his pocket so he wouldn’t feel completely broken, and escorted him to the train.
Then, as he put his foot on the first step going up to the car, he remembered . . . “A story!!! I remember a story!” he shouted.
“Come, come back to my carriage,” said the rich man excitedly. “Please, let’s not waste a moment!” They returned, entered, sat facing one another, and the chassid began:
“Once the Baal Shem took ten chassidim (I was one of them) and told us to get in his carriage shortly before Shabbat. We didn’t ask any questions, being used to such journeys. We entered and sat down and, as usual, we immediately felt as though the carriage was flying in the air. Moments later, we landed.
“We got out and found that we were in a place we had never seen before. It was a large town square that was completely deserted. Even the stores were all closed, and off to one side stood a stage or pulpit, that looked recently built, surrounded by several large crosses and flaming torches, as though there was about to be some sort of large outdoor church ceremony.
“The Besht told us to follow him as he quickly left the square, walked quickly through some winding streets, and in just minutes went through the gates of what was obviously the Jewish ghetto. He stopped before one of the houses and began pounding on the door, until a small peephole opened up and someone frantically whispered from inside.
“‘Are you mad?! What are you doing out there?!’ Several bolts and locks clicked and slid until the door opened and the owner frantically motioned for all of us to enter, slamming it shut behind us.
“‘Tonight is one of their terrible holidays! The worst of the worst!!’ he said, short of breath, as he was reclosing the bolts and locks as fast as possible. ‘You’re lucky I let you in! In another few minutes the entire town square is going to be filled with bloodthirsty Jew-haters from all around, and the devil himself, Bishop Thaddeus, yemach shemo (may his name be blotted out), will give his annual Easter speech. It’s full of venom against us. Come, follow me—we will make place for you in our underground shelter. Come! We mustn’t waste an instant! Before they start going wild.’
“But the Besht turned to one of his pupils and calmly said, ‘Go back to the square, and when the bishop begins to speak, go up to the stage, pull on his robe, and tell him that I wish to speak to him urgently.’
“The owner of the house was shocked! He watched in wide-eyed astonishment as the chassid actually began to reopen the bolts, open the door and slip outside. He didn’t know if he should lock them again or not; he’d never seen anything like it in his life! It was like seeing someone walk into a burning furnace!
“The chassid, once outside, made his way back through the winding streets ’till he reached the square. It was already filled with thousands of people, and more were silently arriving from all sides. A strange, cold silence hung in the air, and it was beginning to get dark.
“The bishop strode to the front of the stage, as if from nowhere, and stood imposingly before the crowd in his bright crimson robes and high pointed red hat. The torchlight danced weirdly in his eyes and made the huge golden cross hanging around his neck gleam diabolically. To make matters worse, the fires and huge crosses surrounding the stage reminded the chassid of the stories he had heard of the Inquisition. But he pushed all these thoughts from his mind, waited for the bishop to begin, closed his eyes for a moment, whispered Shema Yisrael, and with his head down, began gently pushing his way to the podium.
“Amazingly, no one even noticed him. They were so transfixed by the bishop that they just moved out of the way, and before he knew it, he reached the front. He took a deep breath, said another Shema Yisrael, grabbed the robe of the bishop and pulled twice.
“The bishop was just beginning his tirade when he felt the tug at his garment and looked down. He was startled, outraged, his face became livid with anger; but before he could utter a sound the chassid looked him in the eyes and said, ‘My master and teacher, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, wishes to see you, and he says you should come urgently.’
“Suddenly the bishop’s face became pale and his eyes opened wide, as though he was afraid. ‘Not now!’ he whispered after a few seconds of confusion. ‘Tell him that I can’t come now. Later! Tell him later. Go away!’
“Miraculously, the entire crowd was all still standing like statues, as though hypnotized, and noticed none of this. So the chassid backed his way out and returned alone to the Besht, convinced that he had fulfilled his mission.
“But the Besht wasn’t pleased. ‘Go back and tell the bishop that if he doesn’t come now, it will be too late.’
“Without hesitation the chassid turned and did as he was told. He left the house, returned to the town square, pushed his way through the crowd, and pulled on the bishop’s robe just as before.
“But this time, when the bishop heard the Besht’s message, he was really stunned. He took a few steps back, put his head in his hands, and then, turning his face to heaven, he yelled to the crowd: ‘I’m receiving a message from the Lord!! I must be alone!’
“He motioned the chassid to leave, watched him as he walked toward the Jewish section, and then he himself descended from the back of the stage and headed in that direction, holding his hat under his arm.
“Minutes later he was standing with the chassid before the house in the Jewish quarter. ‘Tell him to remove his crosses before he enters,’ said the Besht from inside. The bishop did so, and as he entered the house and saw the face of the holy man, he fell to the floor and began weeping like a baby!
“The Baal Shem turned to the others and explained. ‘This man was born a Jew. He even had a bar mitzvah. But shortly thereafter he was lured to the Church and eventually became the anti-Semite he is today. I saw in heaven that now was a propitious time to bring him to his senses.’
“After the bishop stopped weeping, the Besht told him to stand and follow him into a side room, where they closed the door and spoke for several minutes. No one knows what they said in there, but after a while the bishop came out dressed in different clothes, left the house, and no one has seen him since. And that is the end of the story.’”
The chassid looked at the rich man and saw that he was smiling with contentment; he liked the story. He liked it so much that he put his hand over his eyes and tears began rolling down his face. He was crying, weeping from sheer happiness.
“That is the story I’ve been waiting for,” he said.
He dried his eyes, looked at the chassid and continued. “I am the bishop in your story. The Baal Shem Tov told me in that side room to live a life of repentance until someone came and told me my own story. Now I know my prayers have been accepted by G‑d.”
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
Once there was a very rich Chassid (follower) of the Besh’t (Baal Shem Tov) who we will call Zalman who owned several large forests and a huge factory for making matches. He and his wife lived in a palatial mansion gave much charity and were very good hearted. But one thing made them miserable; they had no children of their own.
He had traveled the long journey to visit the Besh’t many times but could never bring himself to complain about his problem; after all he had so much to be thankful for. But lately his wife became really impatient, no day went by without her shedding tears and he was beginning to feel it.
So the next time that he went to the Besh’t he found himself standing before the holy man begging for a blessing.
The Baal Shem looked at his Chassid very seriously and answered, “I’m sorry, Zalman, I can’t help you” He paused a minute and added “Unless you are willing to forfeit all your wealth. You see, in heaven there are three gates of success; Health, Wealth, and Children and it has been decreed that only two are open to you. You have health and wealth. If you want children you will have to forfeit one of the others; my blessing can only draw down what is waiting for you. Go home and ask your wife if she is willing to live a life of poverty”
Without hesitating the Chassid declared; “Yes, yes! I don’t have to ask her. My wife told me before I left, that her life is not worthwhile without a child; she said that she is willing to sacrifice everything. Please, please give us the blessing” he begged.
Zalman’s six-day journey home seemed like minutes, such good news! But when he arrived his wife stood at the door, wringing her hands in worry with a very solemn look on her face. ” Come in and sit down Zalman” she said to him in a broken voice, “We’ve had some terrible luck while you’ve been gone, just sit down and listen, I’m sure it’s all for the best. A few days in the middle of the winter was a heat wave! Well all those trees your workers cut down, over two million rubles worth of lumber that you had waiting on the icy river, flowed away before we could put our stamp on them or tie them together. It’s a huge loss, Zalman, we’ll never get those logs back! Then, as though that wasn’t enough, the very next day there was a fire in the factory, no one knows how it started, but we lost everything.” She was really weeping now as she continued, “I know everything is from G-d Zalman, but we’re wiped out. Only the machines are left and who knows if they work. The creditors are already knocking at the door and, I’m afraid we have nothing to pay them with. Zalman, are you all right? Why are you smiling? Zalman, what are you doing”
Zalman was ecstatic! He stood and yelled, “It’s the Baal Shem’s blessing!” He began singing and dancing, “We’re going …. We’re going to have a CHILD!!! A BABY!!!”
“Zalman, really?” His wife joined in, “Really? Oh, thank G-d Boruch HaShem!!!!”
And so it was; just as the Tzadik (holy Jew) said it would. They lost their mansion, their lands and the remains of the factory to pay off the debts, and they began living near the docks in an old wooden shipping crate that Zalman managed to make livable.
Zalman tried to work with no success, so he began to beg and in no time he was literally living from hand to mouth. But to their great joy his wife became pregnant and a year later they were hugging a beautiful child. So it was again the year after that, and after that until ten years later they had ten children. After every few additions Zalman joined on another shipping crate to his ‘house’.
[This illustrates what blessings are; bringing down to the physical what is waiting in the spiritual (incidentally that is also what happens when the Cohanim give their blessings). That is why the Besh’t couldn’t bless him with all three gates and why Yaakov had to give his sons specifically the blessings he gave. But there are also surprises as we will see.]
After all this, it happened that the Besh’t came to visit the city where Zalman lived. He situated himself in the large Chassidic Shul (Synagogue) and in no time the word spread and the place became packed with people who came from near and far to see him to ask his advice or to receive his blessing. Zalman also quietly entered the Shul and stood in a corner, for him it was sufficient just to look at the face of his holy Rebbe. But suddenly the Besh’t called his name and beckoned him to approach.
” Nu Zalman” asked the Holy Man “How is the family?” “Thank G-d! Thank G-d!” he answered, “I and my wife are very happy, we have, Borouch HaShem (Thank G-d) ten beautiful children.”
“But I see you have no money. Correct? Well, take my advice. Go to Minsk. There are more people there, more donations and you also can help others there. Here” the Besh’t continued handing Zalman a small pouch of coins, “This will hold your wife and family until you return. May G-d give you success.”
The next day Zalman was on his way to Minsk. He arrived on Friday morning and had just enough time to find a place in the Shul guesthouse to put his things away, rush to the Mikva (Jewish bath house) and hurry to the Shul to find himself a seat in the beggars section. Sure enough, after the Shabbat prayers one of the rich members of the community invited him home as his Shabbat guest.
Zalman enjoyed the good hot meal in the plush home, it reminded him of how he once lived many years ago, but he noticed that something was wrong. The sad look on the rich man’s face betrayed a broken heart.
He thanked his host for the meal and asked him why he was sad. It seems that this rich man had a 30-year-old daughter that no one wanted to marry. She had had three close calls but each time something happened. The first groom suddenly got inducted into the Russian army, the second got very ill and the third fell into a bad crowd and left the community. Everyone thought she was cursed and no one wanted to even consider her for marriage.
“What are you waiting for” said Zalman to the rich man, “The Jewish people are not orphans, G-d has given us a real Rebbe. The Baal Shem will help you like he helped me, don’t worry my friend, salvation is near!”
Early Sunday morning they began the journey and in less than two days they were actually standing before the Besh’t.
“When you arrive home you will have good news.” Said the Baal Shem Tov to the rich man, “Just remember at the wedding of your daughter give your poor friend here a nice wage for his matchmaking, Don’t forget! A nice matchmaker’s wage”
Sure enough two days later when they returned to the rich man’s home his wife and daughter were waiting at the door to greet him with joyous smiles on their faces.
It seems that the first fiancée, the one that had been drafted, was suddenly and mysterious honorably discharged from the army, and the first thing he asked when he got off the carriage that brought him home was, if the rich man’s daughter was still available! The Rabbi of the community then spoke to him for over an hour and declared that the young man was normal, whole and healthy and there remained only to set the date of the wedding.
The wedding was immense! Over five thousand guests attended, hundreds of long tables laden with food and drink were arranged and the band was playing lively music as the huge crowd stood around the ‘Chupa’ (Marriage canopy) waiting for the bride and groom to arrive and the ceremony to begin. The rich man was circulating around, laughing, shaking hands and receiving Mazal Tovs when suddenly from the crowd the Baal Shem Tov appeared, took him by the arm, and pulled him aside. “Tell me, did you give your poor friend his matchmaking wages?” he asked. “I certainly did,” replied the rich man “I gave him two thousand rubles” (about twenty years wages).
“Not enough” said the Besh’t.
“All right then I’ll give him ten thousand” he answered with a smile “I guess I really do owe it to him”.
“Still not enough” said the Besh’t. “I don’t think you understand what I mean” the Tzadik continued, “Tell me how much are you worth? Everything, with all your assets and investments, give me a rough estimate”
The rich man began sweating profusely, he loosened his collar, wiped his brow thought a minute and, still a bit confused answered, ” I suppose about three million rubles”
“Give him half!” Said the Baal Shem.
The rich man was totally shocked! Eyes wide as saucers he staggered a half step back, caught his balance and whispered in disbelief, “Half? Half of all I own?”
“Let me ask you a question” continued the Baal Shem “Were you always rich or did you become rich”
Well,” he regained his composure, wiped his brow again and totally ignoring the crowd in the background replied “The truth is that I used to be poor, in fact I used to beg for money. But one morning, it was over ten years ago, I walked down to the river just to be alone, and suddenly I saw a huge unmarked log floating in the water. I got a few strong men gave them a few kopeks an they pulled it from the river, loaded it on a wagon and took it to the lumber yard where I sold it for a good price. The next day there were five logs and the day after twenty and after that a hundred. All this time no one else came to bother or compete with me, it was like a dream. Needless to say I became a rich man in a few weeks. Then I heard about someone selling machinery from a burnt down match factory, so I bought it all for a tenth of the worth and began my own company. Since then things have only been going up.”
“Realize, my friend” Said the Baal Shem “That all you have once belonged to your poor guest! Give him half and everyone will be happy. You both will be rich, he has children you have a groom and soon you will both have grandchildren as well!”
Moral: One of the jobs of the Tzadikim is to ‘bless’, i.e. to draw down into the physical world all the good things that are waiting for us in the spiritual worlds another is to teach us to be partners with G-d, the source of all blessings. .
ANOTHER BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
In the Ukraine one Saturday night sat the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples eating their motzoi Shabbos melave Malka meal. Suddenly the Baal Shem Tov saw with ruach hakodesh that the Rav of the town was in trouble and there was an accusation against him….and unfortunately he was deserving of punishment. This is the story of what happened:
The Rav, Avraham, lived in a town where there was also a poor Talmudic scholar that subsisted from community support. Once a week someone would go from house to house to collect money for him.
But when Rav Avraham discovered that people were using this as an excuse not to give to other causes he expressed his dissatisfaction which his congregants understood as an order to stop giving him donations. In time the income for this poor scholar dwindled so that he didn’t have money to prepare for preparing the Shabbat meal. And when that happened he and his wife burst out in tears.
Shortly thereafter, in an unrelated incident, one member of the community began using his power and influence to force another congregant who happened to be simple fellow, out of business. The latter complained to Rav Avraham who reprimanded the rich man but not as strongly as he should have. As a result the injustice continued until one day the simple man had to close his store and on that day he too wept.
The tears of both the scholar, his wife and the simple man burst through to the highest heavens and began to accuse; the Rabbi shirked his responsibility and thereby disgraced both the Torah and Judaism.
It was decided by the heavenly court that Rab Avraham would be given into the hands of the Satanl!
The Rabbi’s custom each Sabbath was to pray the first half of the daytime prayer alone in his home and then go to the Synagogue when the cantor began his repetition of the prayers. But this Shabbat suddenly, in the middle of his prayers, he felt strange lust enter his heart. Instead of being enraptured with the awesomeness and nearness of G-d as usual, he only wanted a drink of brandy.
He stopped his prayers thinking that the idea would leave him but it didn’t. It became a burning desire! Suddenly he felt that without brandy he would die! Before he knew it he had downed three full cups, removed his prayer shawl and was running down the street in the direction of the … church!
“I want to see the Bishop!!” he yelled insanely as he pounded on the massive church door. “Let me in!!” the fire of apostasy was burning in his and heart and when the Bishop heard the yelling he immediately understood what was happening.
He ordered his servants to take the Rabbi to his home and provide him with cakes and more brandy until he was free to deal with him. They did as they were told and as soon as he saw the refreshments he grabbed the bottle in one hand, the food in the other and began eating and guzzling like an animal… until he fell unconscious on the floor.
The Baal Shem saw all this from afar and was desperately occupied in the upper spiritual worlds trying to find a way to save this unfortunate pupil. He discovered that the only thing that would help him was to do a ‘pure’ commandment; only because G-d commanded it.
But it was hard to find.
It seems that almost every good deed that Rav Avraham did, or had ever done, contained some selfish motive of earning heaven. Nothing was done with only love of the Creator.
AHA!! The Besh’t had found it! … Eating the Melave-Malke meal after the Sabbath! As strange as it may seem, this was the only commandment that the Rabbi did, and was able to do purely for
The Besh’t knew that he had to work fast; his only chance was to somehow get him to eat this meal before the Bishop got to him!
The Besh’t tore off a piece from the loaf of bread before him, added a whole loaf from the 12 always before him at the Shabbat meals, wrapped them in a cloth and handed it to one of his holy pupils saying,
“Take this and go. HaShem (G-d) will guide and help you!”
The pupil had already seen such things from the Besh’t: Sometimes the only way to get things done is by implicit trust in G-d.
He took the bundle, put on his coat and walked into out of the room into the cold Ukrainian night not knowing why or even where he was going.
He said words of Torah by heart as his feet led him out of Mezibuz (the Besht’s town) to a lone, moon-lit, forest road. Suddenly the wind began blowing and the road became strewn with rocks and pebbles making it almost impossible to proceed.
“This is obviously from the forces of evil” he thought to himself as he forged ahead, praying as he went.
Then the road turned into deep sand but he only prayed more intensely and pushed on trying not to become discouraged.
Then darkness and snow blinded him for an hour or so but when he regained his sight he found himself in a different place altogether. It was as though he had jumped hundreds of miles away.
The snow was gone, in the moonlit distance he saw a Church and in just moments he was standing outside of a house that he sensed was his destination. He entered and saw an unconscious Jew lying on the floor in soiled Shabbat garments filthy with vomit and mud surrounded by idols and icons. Gevalt! He knew this man! It was Rav Avraham!! He recognized him! This must be what the Besh’t sent him for!
He took some water from a nearby faucet and splashed it on the unconscious Rabbi’s face but when he woke he began mumbling anti-Semitic remarks and demanding more brandy. The Chassid, however, paid no attention rather he helped Rav Avraham to his feet, led him to the faucet, filled a vessel he found on the floor and insisted that he wash his hands for bread.
Miraculously he consented.
“Come, now lets eat some of this bread” coaxed the Chassid. It took some maneuvering to get the Rabbi’s attention away from the bottle but as soon as he took the first bite of the Besht’s bread a startling change came over him.
He let out a deep, frightening moan, looked down at his dirty garments then at the crosses and statues that hung on the walls and stood up in amazement. “What happened to me?” he screamed. “What have I done?!! NO.. NO!!!!! What have I done!!! We must leave here quickly!”
He grabbed the Chassid’s hand and staggered out of the room, away from the house, back to the forest path from whence he came and then began running madly in the darkness. Suddenly they were back in Mezibuz.
The Besh’t was still sitting at the table surrounded by singing Chassidim when Rav Avraham stumbled in, filthy and heart-broken and collapsed on the floor. Another soul had been saved.
True, this story sounds fantastic; But there are many stories about Jews that I personally know who have returned to Judaism in no less miraculous ways.
AMAZING BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
Zalman, a chassid of the Baal Shem Tov, was on his way to the docks, his ship was leaving in another hour and he had to hurry.
He checked his pocket again for the tenth time to make sure his ticket was there and…there was the shipyard!
Just two days ago the Baal Shem Tov told him that he should pack his bags and prepare for a dangerous mission to, of all places, India but refused to divulge the reason; saying ‘you’ll know when you get there’.
Zalman located the ship he was looking for, boarded and in no time he was on his way to India!
It was the middle of the fifth night at sea, Zalman was sound asleep when suddenly his room began shaking and he was thrown onto the floor. Still half asleep he put on his shoes and trousers and tried to open his cabin door to go on deck to see what was happening when suddenly everything seemed to turn over. The door flipped open and water began gushing in. The ship was sinking!
He somehow pushed his way out and the next thing he knew he was in the cold ocean with boxes and things floating all around him.
He grabbed for dear life, luckily there was a rope tied around a nearby box for him to hold. He was alone, freezing and drowning in the black endless ocean. He screamed “Help!” but his voice was lost in the roar the waves and the rain. An empty lifeboat floated past. With his last strength he reached up, grabbed hold pulled himself up and over the side, covered himself with several blankets from the survival box and, shivering with cold, fear and exhaustion, curled up on the floor in a ball, said a prayer of thanks to G-d and closed his eyes.
He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep, but what woke him up was that the boat wasn’t rocking and it was very warm. He removed the blanket. The sun was shining. He peeked over the side of the boat.. He was on an island. Land! Trees! He stood, raised his hands to heaven and yelled “Thank you G-d! You saved me!”
He stepped onto the beach tired, hungry, confused, and thirsty. Where was he? What day was it? How could he exist without water, or food? Maybe there were wild animals?
He heard the bubbling of a brook nearby and he walked in that direction. It was a brook alright and right next to it was….a paved road!! The island must be inhabited by civilized people! He was saved!
He drank his fill and began walking. Then after an hour or so in the distance he saw a house! Several houses! He approached the first one and..there was a Mezuzah on the door! It was like a dream!! “Thank G-d!! It’s a miracle!!” he thought to himself for the tenth time as he knocked gently at the door. It wasn’t even closed. He pushed it open a bit more and yelled in Hebrew, “Hellooo! Anyone here?” But there was no answer.
He continued to the next house and the next and the one after that, but they were all the same; the doors were open, each had a Mezuza and each was empty.
He walked on until he found what looked like a grocery store, took some bread and vegetables left a note to ‘the owner’ listing what he took, went to a nearby house, put a note on the front door that he was sleeping in their front room, ate the food and fell asleep; the first decent sleep he had in days.
Early the next morning he was awakened by noise. He sat bolt upright, looked out the window and…the street was filled with Jews, hundreds of them, dressed in togas rushing in all directions.
It looked like a scene from thousands of years ago. Some were carrying food, others pots, some other things! He went outside and tried to stop someone, but everyone said the same thing, “Shabbat!! Soon will be Shabbat! Have to rush, sorry!!”
Someone stopped for a moment, asked our Chassid if he would like to go to the bathhouse, gave him a change of clothes and rushed away with our hero hot at his heels.
Things were so intense that it was impossible for him to get a word in, so he just followed his new friend. They washed, immersed in the Mikva, put on new garments and rushed out. In minutes they were sitting in the Synagogue that was rapidly filling with people.
He tried to strike up a conversation but to no avail, everyone was reading from scrolls and preparing seriously for something. Suddenly the room fell silent and a holy man appeared at the door, it must have been the head rabbi. His face shone and his white garments and heavenly gaze made our Chassid feel he was completely in another world.
The Rabbi walked slowly to the front of the room, took his place and the prayers began. The cantor had a beautiful voice and the melodies were nothing short of celestial; our hero was hypnotized.
The prayers ended, and before he could come to himself the man sitting next to him invited him to his home for the Shabbat meal and he readily accepted. ‘Finally’ he thought to himself, he could find out what was going on. But it wasn’t so simple.
As soon as they left the synagogue his host began asking all sorts of interesting questions and giving even more interesting and unique answers on the weekly Torah portion.
In fact it was so interesting that after the meal was finished our hero realized that he had not spoken a word and was so tired he couldn’t keep his eyes open.
This same scene was repeated the next day; beautiful melodies, wonderful words of Torah, delicious food, overwhelming exhaustion and sleep, but no chance to get information.
That evening, after the Shabbat, he found himself standing in the Synagogue with several hundred people forming a long line; any moment the Rabbi would enter and say ‘Havdala’ (a short benediction made over wine after Shabbat ushering out the holy day) and the long line was because everyone wanted to dip a finger in the Rabbi’s wine.
“Now”, thought Zalman to himself, “after they finish I’ll have a chance to talk to someone!”
The Rabbi entered, walked to the front of the line and faced the people. He filled the cup with wine lifted it, said the “Havdala” prayer, drank and left a bit of wine in the plate for people to customarily to dip their fingers in it and pass it over their eyes for good luck in the coming week. But as they did so, one by one they disappeared!
Zalman watched in horror as the line became shorter and shorter before him until he was standing alone facing the Rabbi. But before he could utter a word the Rabbi smiled, dipped his finger in the wine, passed it over his eyes and .. disappeared!
Zalman was alone!
The next week passed as the first. He was alone in the village; he took food from the grocery and continued signing. Suddenly on Friday the streets were filled with people again, rushing about to prepare for Shabbos with no time to talk to him.
He went to the Mikva, then to the Synagogue. Everything was exactly the same as the Shabbat before. Try as he could it was impossible to talk to anyone. Until finally came the moment he was waiting for. He stood at the end of the line as the Rabbi made ‘Havdala’, watched as the people disappeared before his very eyes and after a short wait was again standing alone before the Rabbi.
The Rabbi again smiled and dipped his finger into the wine, but before he could touch it to his eyes the Chassid grabbed both his arms and yelled “NO!! I’m not going to let you go till you tell me what you are doing here. Who are you? Where am I? I want some answers!!”
“Alright,” answered the holy Rabbi, “I promise you that I will tell you, you can release my arms. You have my word.”
The Chassid let go and the Rabbi began. “The people you see here are all.. dead!”
“We are a community that died some 2,500 years ago. We lived in Jerusalem and when we saw that people were turning to idolatry and other transgressions we tried to make them stop. But no one listened so we decided to uproot ourselves and make a new village in the desert far from humanity.
“Then, one terrible day we saw smoke coming from Jerusalem, we sent a runner to find out why. When he returned, half dead, with the news that the Temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian armies everyone became depressed and within a year we all died from melancholy and broken hearts.
“Of course anyone that mourns so deeply for the Temple certainly has a place in the world to come. So when we were in heaven they made us a deal; either we could remain in heaven until the raising of the dead or we could stay in heaven for six days of the week and one day we could spend the Shabbat in this world, and we chose the latter; nothing is like Shabbat in this world.
“But” The Rabbi changed his tone and became very stern, “Now that you know our secret you have to make a decision. Either you can live as we do; six days in heaven and one on earth, or you must leave!”
“Leave?” Said the Chassid, “How can I possibly leave? I can’t possibly sail home. I’ll die out there at sea.”
“No,” answered the holy man. “I have here a piece of parchment with a holy name of G-d written on it” He produced the parchment from under the table before him. “If you look at this name and then imagine where you want to be, you will actually be there in a matter of moments.”
The Chassid saw that the Rabbi was serious and that now he had to make a decision. At first it seemed obvious. ‘I’ll choose to live like them!! I’ll be in heaven six days a week! Eternal bliss!!’ But then he thought again.
‘Hey!! What do I care about bliss and heaven?’ he said to himself.
“I want to be with the Rebbe; with the Baal Shem Tov in Mezibuz.”.
“Good” Said the Rabbi “Take this parchment, look at the letters on it till you’ve memorized them. Then close your eyes and imagine the place you want to be. Under no circumstances open your eyes until you feel your feet firmly on the ground. Do you understand?”
Zalman said ‘yes’.
“Oh! One more very important thing. When you arrive at your destination you must immediately, before you do anything else, throw the parchment toward the sky and a hand will come out from heaven and take it. Do you understand?”
Again the Chassid said yes. The Rabbi gave him the parchment he memorized the letters. Suddenly everything became dark and he was surrounded by fire. He closed his eyes, imagined Mezibuz and felt his feet lifting off the ground and wind rushing by him. He held on to the parchment as his only connection to reality and then .. His feet were on the ground.
He opened his eyes and .. Mezibuz!!!! He was back home! He couldn’t believe it!!! Then he remembered his promise to the Rabbi. He took the parchment and drew his arm back over his shoulder to throw it but … someone grabbed his hand from behind!!
“NO!! Let go!!” He screamed. He turned around and saw .. The Baal Shem Tov!
“This is what I sent you for” the Besh’t said with a smile.” I need this parchment to save Jews. The Rabbi won’t mind.”
STORY OF COMMUNIST RUSSIA:
Communist Russia was the worst possible place on the globe for Judaism. After the revolution of 1917 the ‘Party’ began closing Synagogues and forbidding the learning of Torah and in the early 20’s it was dangerous to even look ‘Jewish’ in public or practice Judaism in private. Only card carrying Communists could get jobs and anyone caught doing a Jewish ritual even in private would lose any position of importance and face interrogation or worse.
In such an environment occurred, in the city of Gomel in 1924, a sensational trial with a Jewish theme that made all the newspapers.
A high-ranking Communist official who happened to be Jewish, discovered that his wife, without his knowledge, had their baby son circumcised eight days after he was born and was suing for divorce.
The courthouse was overflowing; even the standing-room bleachers and public galleries were full to capacity and the Communists made sure it was well-publicized; they wanted everyone to see how ridiculous religion was and the punishment for following it.
The judge, who happened to have a Jewish name (to BE Jewish was not a crime… to ACT Jewish was), sat austerely in a large chair behind a large, thick table and before him stood several burly young Yevsektsia (Communist Jews against Judaism) ‘security’ ready to keep order.
The first to take the stand and testify was the husband.
“I want a divorce!!!” He yelled angrily. “I came home to find my child crying. When I went to change his diaper I saw that he was bandaged up. ‘Circumcised’ she says! Just like that. I was surprised, disgusted and angry at once. Then she insisted that she had nothing to do with it, which is an obvious lie. And even if it’s true still makes her at fault! Isn’t she supposed to guard the child? And, frankly, I don’t believe her. I mean, comrade judge, can one possibly live with a woman tells lies because her mind is too small to accept the new order?! I want a divorce!!”
The judge thanked him, told him to step down and called the defendant; his wife. She was red-eyed from crying and as she passed her husband he turned his head in disgust so as not to look at her.
“Comrade Judge.” She said trying to choke back her tears and occasionally dabbing her eyes. “I am innocent. I swear I am a loyal Party Member and a good wife but my husband will not let me explain. What happened was like this. A few days ago I had to go out shopping to buy some food. I have no baby sitter, so I waited for the baby to go to sleep, locked the door and ran to the market. Anyway, I when I came back home, it couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes later, maybe twenty, my door was open and the baby was gone!! Gone!!!” She wept uncontrollably for a few seconds, blew her nose with a small kerchief and continued.
“So I ran into the streets asking people, searching like a crazy woman asking everyone if they saw my son until about a half an hour later I see my parents and in-laws walking in the distance. So I ran to them yelling and crying and what do I see? They are carrying my baby! They just had taken him for a walk!! That’s what they said. I was so relieved and happy!! But when I got home I saw what had happened! He had blood on his diaper!! Oy!! How could my own parents have mutilated my baby!!! MY BABY!!” And she began wailing so loudly she had to be escorted from the witness stand.
The judge told her to be seated and the grandparents took the stand. The four of them stood before the Judge like wax figures of thousands of years ago. The men sported long white beards and wore worn-out, long black coats to their knees while the grandmothers had their hair covered with large kerchiefs tied under the chin. The judge asked if they had anything to say in their defense.
One of the grandmothers who spoke Russian better than the others stepped forward and said in a thick Jewish accent, “Your Honor”. The Judge cut her short and said authoritatively, “‘Your Honor’ is an outdated title of the old regime. You are to call me ‘Comrade’.
“You Honorable Comrade” she said as a few snickers came from the crowd. “Although I don’t see what’s so bad about our einikel (Yiddish for grandson) having a ‘Bris’ (circumcision) like everyone but I want you to know that we didn’t mean to do it…..
It just happened.”
There was a second of total silence and then, like an explosion, the crowd burst into howling laughter repeating the words ‘Just happened!’ Haa Haaaa! Just happened!! Hooo!!’. Even the Judge had to turn his face to a side until he could regain enough seriousness to pound his gavel and call for silence.
The old lady was obviously lying and when things returned to normal he leaned forward, narrowed his eyes and asked her sarcastically. “Happened?! And how, Babushka, can such a thing as a circumcision just ‘happen’?”
“I tell you Your Comrade Honorship.” She continued as though talking to someone on the street. “You see; we went to our daughter’s house to take the baby for a long walk for his health. My daughter doesn’t take him for enough fresh air. Anyway she wasn’t home but we have a key. So we took him, our little sweetie, and went for a long walk. Then suddenly in the street from nowhere some Jew walks over to us that we never saw before and asks if we want a bris. We answered, what’s the question? So before we know it he makes a brocha (blessing) and that’s it! Circumcised!!”
The crowd was already on the edge of pandemonium and this was it! The laughter was like thunder and it just got louder and louder. The judge pounded on the table, screamed for silence, stood up and stamped with his feet but nothing helped. People were in tears, holding their stomachs and a few actually fell into the isles! Totally out of control.
The Judge motioned to the Yevsektsia thugs and when they turned to the crowd and gave a few menacing glares the crowd became silent.
“But you should know, Comrade Honorable Judge,” The old woman continued as though there had been no disturbance. “We are happy.”
“Happy?! Who is happy? “Exclaimed the Judge in exasperation. “And about what!?”
“Ahh, we are all happy that our dear einikel is one hundred percent Jewish….. just like you Your Honorable majesty! Aren’t you proud and happy you are circumcised?”
That was it! The crowd went wild! Whistling and hooting! Even the Yevsektsia toughs couldn’t control the waves of sheer glee. The Judge didn’t even try. He had no choice but to wait for the noise to subside, tell the grandparents to be seated, call the husband back and try to bring this fiasco to an end.
“Tell me, dear Comrade. I see from your record that you are a good, loyal hero of Communism and hold a very responsible position. Is there any other reason, that is, do you have any other reason for divorcing your wife?”
“No, Comrade Judge, none whatsoever; she cooks my meals, cleans my shirts and is a good wife. Except for this!”
“Well” The Judge continued “If I tell you that she is not guilty and has no part in this terrible and ridiculous act would you consider returning to her and dropping the charges?”
“If that is the decision of the court ….. yes, of course Comrade Judge.”
“If so, the decision of this court is that your wife is innocent of all the charges. It is totally the fault of your superstitious parents and in-laws for allowing this act to be perpetrated. They will be fined 50 rubles and you may return to your wife. Case dismissed!!
No one in that room including the Judge had any idea that it was all a staged trick! The couple wanted to have their son circumcised and still retain their government positions and this was the only way they could do it! They played their parts perfectly.
The name of the ‘Mystery Mohel’ that circumcised the child from nowhere was Rabbi Chonya Shagalov; was one of the thousands of Chabad Chassidim of the time that risked their lives daily just to do a favor for someone else and whose offspring are Chabad Chassidim throughout the world still risking everything to help others.
Story of Tzemach Tzedek:
The scene is Czarist Russia in the early eighteen-hundreds.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel, nicknamed The Tzemach Tzedik (third Lubavitcher Rebbe (1789 – 1866) was famous throughout Russia for his holiness, wisdom, all-encompassing knowledge and the many open miracles that he performed, especially regarding deserted wives (Agunot)
Agunot are estranged wives who according to Jewish law cannot remarry unless they have proof of either divorce or the death of their husband.
Such a woman once appeared in Lubavitch (The place of the Chabad Chassidim and their leader, the Tzemach Tzedik) with three small children.
For several years she tried in vain to locate her missing husband until finally her wanderings brought her to the door of the Tzemach Tzedik as her last hope. With no home to call her own she asked if she could receive his blessing, advice or some thread of hope.
But the Rebbe did not give private audiences to women and for some reason also did not respond to the urgent letters and notes she sent to him.
But she didn’t go unnoticed. The Chassidim had mercy on her, found a place for her and her children to live and even found her a job in the communal kitchen hoping that eventually the Rebbe would notice her. But he didn’t. The Rebbe was a very occupied man, every second of his day was precious, he rarely left his room, never entered the kitchen and seemingly didn’t even know she existed.
Months passed with no breakthrough until one of the Chassidim had an idea and put it into action.
The Rebbe had many young grandchildren. This Chassid befriended one of them and convinced him to go to his Grandfather, the Rebbe, and ask “What will be with the kitchen-lady?”
It worked; the child entered, entered the Rebbe’s study, innocently asked the question and the next day received a written reply: The Rebbe said to, “Let her wait.”
Now there was hope! The Rebbe answered! He said she should wait. So they waited. But nothing happened.
Meanwhile hundreds of Jews and occasionally non-Jews were constantly pouring in from all corners of Russia and Europe with all sorts of requests and problems for the Rebbe. About a month later one of them was a well-dressed, for all appearances, wealthy non-Jew, who asked to see the Rebbe privately and was told to wait a moment.
The secretary entered the Rebbe’s room, informed him of the new visitor and the Rebbe said to let him in.
When the visitor heard that he could enter he took his place before the Rebbe’s door and prepared himself; fixed his tie, straightened his suit, smoothed his hair back, stood straight, chest out, turned the door knob and stepped in.
But as soon as he saw the Rebbe his eyes widened, he put his hand to his open mouth, let out a moan, fell to his knees, and toppled over unconscious on the floor!!
The Rebbe’s secretary heard the noise and when he entered, the Rebbe told him to bring the kitchen-woman, two witnesses and a scribe. A few moments later the stranger regained consciousness, his wife and the others arrived moments later and she took one look and identified him! It was her husband! He confessed, admitted that it was true and that he would do whatever he was told whereupon the Rebbe gave orders that he should immediately give her a bill of divorce. A half hour later the story was over.
But the visitor did not leave Lubavitch. That evening he again went in to the Rebbe and the next morning he appeared in the Synagogue with a suitcase, asked the Chassidim if they would remind him how to put on Tefillin and when he finished told them the full story.
Ten years ago things weren’t going well for him in business and he decided he deserved more. So without telling his wife or anyone else he simply left home, took a train to a faraway part of Russia where there were no Jews, married a gentile woman and even went so far as to go to the local priest and change his religion.
He went into business and in a short time became a very rich man. He built himself a mansion, had many servants, the simple townspeople there treated him like a king and he felt he finally was living the life he wanted.
So it went for almost ten years. He continued.
“Then just a few weeks ago, as I was returning from his business a shocking thing happened. With no warning an bearded, old ewish man with a large staff appeared in the distance. He came toward me until we were face to face, looked at me menacingly and said in Yiddish ‘You left a wife and children. It’s time you returned and gave a ‘get’ (bill of divorce)!!’. And then turned and walked away.
“At first I couldn’t believe my eyes and was really shaken. But I returned home and an hour and a few shots of brandy later I calmed down and convinced myself that it must have been an illusion. Perhaps I’d been working too hard. And I put it out of his mind.
“Until two days later it happened again.
“This time in a different place. I was walking from the market when he again appeared. I wanted to turn and run but for some reason I couldn’t. I just stood there frozen until the old Jew stood before me, shook his staff and said, but this time in an angrier tone. “You left a wife and children. Go back and gave a ‘get!!!'”. and again turned and walked away.
“Now I was really shaken. I wanted to tell someone about it, to talk to someone but there was no one to tell, I had no friends there. And this time the brandy didn’t help; it was too real to dismiss.
“I was scared. I couldn’t think of anything else. I was both afraid it would happen again and strangely hoped it would. Suddenly I realized that I was a sinner. I had abandoned my family and in fact it wasn’t right. I was so confused I didn’t know what to do. So I decided that if the old man returned I would try to talk to him. That way I would know if it was just an illusion and if not…. what he wanted me to do? How could I divorce my wife? After all it had been years and I had no idea where she was.
“Sure enough a few days later, just when I wasn’t expecting it, the old man again approached me but this time with fire in his eyes. He lifted his staff and said, “If you don’t give her the ‘get’ I am going to split your head!”
“Trembling and almost paralyzed in fear I screamed out “Don’t hit me! Please! I’ll do what you want! Anything!!! Just tell me where to go! Where is she?” And he answered “Go to Lubavitch.” And disappeared.
“The whole thing shook me so much that, although I had never heard of such a town, I just ran home, threw some clothes in a small suitcase, stuffed a wad of money in my pocket, told my wife I was going on a business trip and left.
“After several weeks of wandering I finally met some Jews, they told me where Lubavitch is and after another week I arrived here, asked some of the townspeople if there were any Jews in the town and they, assuming that I came to see the Rebbe, directed me there.
“Well, that’s what happened.” He concluded,
“But that wasn’t all” he continued wiping the sweat from his forehead, “After I gave the divorce and left the Rebbe’s room I began to realize the terrible mistake I had made. So I went back to the Rebbe’s secretary and a few hours later I was given permission to see the Rebbe again. I told him what I had done, broke down crying and begged for help. “Rebbe, what will become of me? How can I fix the mistake I made?’ And he answered
“’Wander from door to door and beg. That is your cure.’”
“But why did you pass out in there?” one of the Chassidim asked. “We heard that you fainted when you saw the Rebbe.”
“Why did I faint? I’ll tell you why!” he replied, “because…… that old man with the staff that I saw a thousand miles from here …… was him! It was your Rebbe!!! I never have been so scared in my life!!”
They say he spent the rest of his life wandering from town to town telling his story, and wherever he went the Chassidim befriended him.
REBBE RASHAB AND THE AGUNAH
One day, she awoke early with a nebulous feeling that something was very wrong. Maybe it was just that everything looked so desolate in the stark grayness of the morning. She got out of bed and looked around the one room dwelling. The children were sleeping soundly, huddled under the ragged blanket like a litter of kittens in the one bed they shared.
She never expected that her husband would leave, and without warning… She opened the heavy wooden door and allowed her eyes to wander across the empty yard. The fear in the pit of her stomach made her nauseous, and she walked inside and sat down on a chair. It was true — he was gone.
The next day it was a little easier to think, to plan. She would travel to the Rebbe Rashab. Only the holy Rebbe would know how to help her out of this terrible situation. Sympathetic neighbors watched her little ones, and even lent her the money for the trip, and soon she was sitting nervously on the train traveling to the Rebbe’s court.
When she alighted from the train, she had no trouble finding the Rebbe’s synagogue, but gaining a private audience with the Rebbe was another thing altogether. Some had been waiting for days, some for weeks, some even longer. Finally, one man told her, “Your best chance is to write the Rebbe a letter. Explain the whole situation, and he will surely answer you.”
The poor woman, now even more distraught, wrote the letter. The Rebbe’s shamash (assistant) took it and promised to present it to the Rebbe at an opportune moment. Not more than a couple of days passed when the woman was called to the shamash . “Come quickly,” she was told, “The Rebbe has answered your letter.”
The woman came running to the Rebbe’s residence. “Here,” said the Rebbe’s shamash, “here is your answer.” She unfolded the sheet of paper and on it was written but one sentence: “Go to Warsaw.”
What could it mean? she wondered. And how in the world would she get to Warsaw? It was wartime; she had no money; she had small children.
Perplexed, she returned to her town and showed the Rebbe’s answer to the Chasidim there. “If the Rebbe says, ‘Go to Warsaw,’ then go to Warsaw you must,” they concurred. They gathered money for the woman and soon she was sitting on the train to Warsaw.
When she arrived in the metropolis, she had no idea where to go or what to do, for the Rebbe had given her no further direction. Suddenly, she was stopped by a Chasid.
“What do you need?” he asked. She replied that she had come to find her husband. The Rebbe had sent her to Warsaw, but she had no clue where to begin her search. “Go to — Street. There is a factory where many immigrants go to work. You will most likely find your husband there.”
With nothing to lose, she made her way to that street and asked to speak to the foreman. He was a kind-hearted man and, after hearing her story, allowed her to search through the list of workers. Her eyes widened with shock as her husband’s name leaped up at her from the page. She went to him and pleaded with him to return home with her. He remained adamant until she told him how she had managed to find him. If the Rebbe had sent his wife to him, then he would return home with her.
She decided it was only right to return to the Rebbe’s court and thank him for the miracle he had done for her, and so she traveled there once more.
This time, as well, she was not permitted to enter the Rebbe’s chambers. “Wait until the Rebbe comes out to pray, and then approach him,” she was told. So, she waited by the door, mentally composing the words she would use to thank the Rebbe. Suddenly the door opened. Upon seeing the Rebbe’s face she fell down in a dead faint.
The Chasidim surrounded her, all wanting to know what had happened. When she was revived she told them, “When I saw the Rebbe’s face, I realized that the chasid who had suddenly appeared and helped me on the street in Warsaw was the Rebbe!” Word of this amazing happening spread like wildfire. The Chasidim calculated and figured and finally determined the exact time that this strange meeting had occurred.
It had been on a day when the Rebbe had not prayed publicly with the minyan as usual. The Chasidim had been concerned about his welfare, and one young student had gotten up the nerve to climb up a tree and peer into the Rebbe’s room. He put his face near the window, and looked in. There stood the Rebbe, looking like nothing he had ever seen. The Rebbe’s face was aflame and his eyes were peering into the distance, totally unseeing. The boy was so overcome by the sight that he lost his balance and fell to the ground.
This story was related by the one who had been that young student during World War I and had himself witnessed the events described here.
BAAL SHEM TOV STORY:
Fival was a simple Jew. He had a little farm in the Polish countryside where he eked out a living for his wife and four children.
But he had a dream.
From the minute he heard about the Baal Shem Tov (Besh”t) he longed to see him. He heard that this man was like Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon in one. For years he saved and scrimped until he finally he had enough for the journey and to hold his family till he returned.
The weather smelled of winter. It was the Jewish month of Elul the month of “Teshuva” (spiritual return). Then there would be the month of Tishrei; Rosh Hashanah! Yom Kippur! Succot!! Hundreds, even thousands of Chassidim would be there together; learning, praying, hearing the words of the Holy Besh”t, and seeing his holy face. He couldn’t wait!!
After a five-day journey cramped in a wagon with ten other Chassidim he finally arrived in the town of Mezibuz.
What he heard was right! Even the sky and the air were different here; every molecule seemed to be shouting, ‘Rosh HaShanna is coming!! The King of the Universe is near!!’
He was so excited! Everyone was heading into the Shul (Synagogue) and he followed, suitcase in hand. In another minute he would actually see the Rebbe!! He would see the Baal Shem Tov in person!!
But he was in for a big surprise.
The room was packed with hundreds of Chassidim when suddenly everyone became silent; the Rebbe was entering!
The Besh”t appeared from a side door, gave a quick penetrating look around the room and suddenly his eyes fixed on Fival.
Fival was in awe. This was the moment he had been waiting for! But why was the Besh”t staring at him? Everything was dreamlike; he vaguely felt that he was the center of attention, but all he saw was the master’s eyes gazing deeply at him. Suddenly the Besh”t lowered his head in deep thought, or perhaps prayer, then looked up angrily and called out
“Fival!! Fival!! Fool!! Idiot!! What are you doing here?”
The silence was deafening; the Chassidim were afraid to breathe. Something very strange was going on, something was very wrong.
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself!?” exclaimed the Besh”t, pointing at him. “How dare you come into a holy place like this!!!”
Fival was confused, embarrassed to the bone. His head was spinning, he tried to move but he was frozen.
“Leave!!” Shouted the Besh”t after another moment of silence. “Leave here immediately!!!”
Fival started backing up, afraid to turn his back on the Holy man but afraid to stay even another second, his heart was thumping and a cold sweat clung to his forehead.
He felt the door at his back, turned the knob and stumbled outside, back first, on the street. He was whimpering, disorientated, he stood up, sort of brushed himself off, walked over to the carriage stand, paid for the five-day journey home, climbed in and …… was on his way back.
After a few hours the wagon stopped. “What happened?” he asked, “Why are we stopping?”
“What! Never rode in a wagon before, Jew?” answered the driver, “It’s almost night, we can’t travel at night! Here, look outside. See? It’s dark and here’s the inn. See? We’ve stopped at an inn.”
Poor Fival was so bewildered by his encounter with the Besh”t he didn’t know if it was day or night. He didn’t notice anything. He got out of the carriage clutching his old suitcase and dragged himself into the inn.
To sleep was out of the question, he was trying to digest what had happened. He sat at table in a corner and tried to remember, maybe he did something wrong, some sort of sin… maybe it was a punishment. It’s true he didn’t learn much Torah. But that couldn’t be what the Besh”t expelled him for; the Besh”t loved every creation of G-d, especially every Jew! He was lost in dark thoughts.
He vaguely heard the sound of another carriage stopping before the inn, and then singing. It got louder and louder until the inn door burst open and a group of ten Chassidim entered in good spirits. These were Chassidim on their way TO the place he just left! They were just hours away from the Besh”t, and they were very happy.
“Give us Vodka!” Sang one of the group, “Tomorrow we’ll be with the Rebbe!!” “Ooy!” Groaned poor Fival quietly to himself, “Ooy! “The Rebbe”!” And he began to weep.
He watched from the shadows as the Chassidim pushed a few tables together, sat down, and began pouring small cups of Vodka for one another, making l’chayims, saying words of Torah and singing but all this only made poor Fival more depressed. He was glad that they didn’t notice him. Head drooping, he was looking down at the table when suddenly he felt two Chassidim grab him under the arms, lift him to his feet and pull him over to their table. They noticed him.
He tried to resist, to protest, to beg them to leave him alone, but to no avail. They had decided that he must be one of the opposers of the Rebbe (a.k.a. Misnagdim) and that they had an obligation to make him happy.
It wasn’t long before they forced him to take a drink and say l’chayim with them, then another until he too was singing and dancing. He was totally drunk and the happy surrounding made the hours pass like minutes.
“Aha!! What was that? The Rooster crowed! It was dawn!”
The Chassidim paid for the drinks, piled back into the wagon, (accompanied by a very drunk Fival still clutching his old suitcase) shouted, “We’re going to the Rebbe!!” and began another song.
Five hours later they were in Mezibuz, out of the wagon and on their way to the Baal Shem’s Shul. Two of them had their arms under Fival’s and were “carrying” him with them.
“Ahh yes!!” mumbled Fival, not realizing that he was back in the exact same room where the Besh”t evicted him the previous day.
The room was filled with Chassidim. Suddenly the room fell silent, the side door opened, the Baal Shem entered, looked around and his eye again caught Fival. Fival looked up and when his eyes met the Baal Shem’s it was as though someone threw a bucket of freezing water on him.
He snapped to rigid attention, and then began changing colors; red from shame, white from fear, green from dizziness, he wanted to run, to back out the door but he was too drunk and confused.
“Welcome Fival!!” Shouted the Tzadik (Holy Jew) as he opened his arms to welcome him. “My beloved Fival! Where have you been?! How I worried about you!!”
Now Fival was really mixed up. His mind was spinning like a merry-go-round “What’s going on here?” He thought to himself “Could it be that maybe yesterday never happened; I never was evicted and it was all a dream. Or maybe NOW I’m dreaming!!”
The Besh”t beckoned him to come and the Chassidim moved aside making a path for him. He took Fival’s hand in his and explained,
“My dear Fival, you’re probably wondering why yesterday I shamed you and put you out and today I’m treating you like my best friend.
Well, I’m sure you didn’t know it but yesterday when you entered, the Angel of Death entered with you; dancing over your head. I knew that you wouldn’t live another week to see Rosh Hashanah.
“So I put my head down and tried praying for mercy. But to no avail. So I tried something else; it is known that embarrassing someone is public is like killing him, So I tried shaming you. But that didn’t work either; death was still dancing over your head.
“So I thought to myself, maybe with the angel of death you have to be clever: So I decided to evict you.
“I figured that if I tell you to leave you’ll probably catch the first carriage back home. And because your home is a five-day journey so you will have to stop at an inn at night. When you get to that inn I reasoned that you probably wouldn’t want to sleep so you’d probably sit awake at one of the tables. And that would meet you up with Chassidim.
“The Chassidim on their way here also would also have to stop at that inn. And they also wouldn’t be able to sleep because they’d be too happy.
“Now everyone knows that when someone is really happy they can’t bear seeing someone sad. So probably when they saw you they would try to cheer you up by making you sit with them and have a little vodka. Now when the Chassidim drink vodka they don’t just make a blessing and drink, they also say “L’Chayim” which means ‘To Life!’
“Well, maybe you don’t know it, Fival, but according to the Torah when even three observant Jews sit together they are considered a Judicial Court. In other words, when more than three Jews raised their cups to you and declared: “To Life!” this was a legal decision for life that overrode the power of the previous Heavenly decree (because the Torah was given to humans to change the entire creation).
“And I see that it worked: the angel of death has departed. Welcome to Mezibuz!!” The Lechiam of the Chassidim saved your life!!”
Some one hundred and fifty years ago in Pressburg Germany there lived a rich Jewish factory owner with his wife and three daughters who was a very kind man. He gave much of his wealth to charity until tragedy struck.
In the prime of life he suffered a fatal heart attack leaving his wife alone to care for the family and manage his affairs the most immediate of which was finding someone to say Kaddish for him after his burial.
(It is a Jewish custom that after one’s passing his/her sons say a special praise of G-d called ‘Kaddish’ three times a day for 11 months, and say it again three times on every anniversary day of the passing. but this man had no sons, only three daughters.)
She found a young man from a nearby Yeshiva (Torah academy) to say the Kaddish but a thought crossed her mind. What about all those Jews who pass away and have no one to say Kaddish for them?
It so bothered her that she went back to the Yeshiva, asked to speak to the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) and told him that she wanted to pay for a ‘general’ Kaddish to be said for all those people for whom kaddish is not being said.
The Dean agreed, another young Talmudic student was paid to say a ‘general mourner’s Kaddish’ for that coming year. And so it continued for the next several years.
But then she experienced another tragedy. Her finances took a turn for the worse; in fact, for the worst. Almost overnight her business failed and she found herself deep in debt, three daughters to marry off – and …. what about the Kaddish? The whole thing was a nightmare.
She decided to trust in G-d. ‘Next year will be better’ she told herself as she begged her creditors to be patient, took the small remnant of her jewelry to the pawnbroker and got enough money to pay for one more year of Kaddish and the rest to barely live on.
But the next year things were even worse. The creditors became more demanding, her daughters kept getting older and the oldest just got a very serious offer for marriage.
With a heavy heart she returned to the yeshiva begged the Dean to agree to say just one more year of Kaddish promising she would pay later and left the building depressed and heartbroken.
As the door closed behind her and she was standing in the street she burst into tears.
Then, as though from nowhere, a well-dressed elderly man approached her and said, “Excuse me, but is everything all right? Did something happen? Perhaps I can be of assistance?”
He seemed so kind and sympathetic that she poured out her entire sad story. What did she have to lose?
“How much money do you need?” He asked when she finished. “That is, to pay all the debts, marry your daughter off and support yourself for another year?”
She smiled at the question; surely he wasn’t serious. it would take a small fortune. He wouldn’t be able or want to pay such an amount. After all she never saw this man before in her life.
“How much?” she said quietly, wanting to end the conversation, “I’m afraid it would be several thousand – at least fifteen thousand marks!” she replied; “But now I must be going. Thank you so much for your interest. I’m sure G-d will help.”
“Just one minute!” he said as she turned to go. He pulled out a checkbook, found something to rest it on and when he finished writing said. “Here! Please, it’s for you.” He said loudly enough to keep her from leaving, then handed her a check…… for twenty thousand marks!
As she stood there astounded, wondering if it was all a dream or perhaps some sort of trick, he continued,
“It’s a large sum. You can cash it in the bank down the block. Go to the manager, but I’m sure he will want witnesses. I haven’t got time to go there with you, I must be on my way, but we can get witnesses from the Yeshiva here.” He opened the door of the Yeshiva and asked her to follow him in and to please hurry.
They went up the stairs to the large learning hall. It was almost empty as it was lunch break. Only two conscientious pupils remained learning. The elderly man walked up to them, produced identification, explained that he wanted witnesses, they signed the back of the check he returned it to the woman and told her to hurry to the bank before it closed.
Still not totally believing this was for real, she thanked him profusely, ran down the stairs, then to the bank, showed the check to one of the tellers and was referred to the manager. Once in the manager’s office, just catching her breath, she presented him with the check and when he saw it his eyes opened in amazement.
He looked at her then at the check then back at her again. He did this several times until he leaned forward and asked in an unusually serious and quiet voice. “Where did you get this check? Who signed this? Is this some sort of joke? Who gave you this? What did he look like?”
She explained the whole miraculous chain of events and pointed to the signatures of the two witnesses on the check.
“Where are these people?” he asked “I want to see them.”
Moments later they were standing in the yeshiva. The young men readily verified their signatures and described the elderly man. The manager shook their hands, thanked them and headed back to the bank with the woman.
All the way he was strangely quiet, looking repeatedly at the signature on the check and occasionally wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. When they returned to the bank and had the money transferred to her account he was constantly whispering to himself and wiping the sweat from his brow.
When she asked if everything was all right he asked her to sit down and began.
“The man who signed that check was my father.”
He wiped his brow again, again looked at the check and almost whispered “He passed away four years ago.”
“Just last night he appeared to me in a dream and reprimanded me for leaving the Torah and its commandments. He even said that if it wasn’t for some woman that didn’t even know him no one would even say Kaddish for him. He was really angry, but I didn’t take it seriously. After all it was only a dream. So I thought!
“But I was wrong. Now I see that my father is not as dead as I thought! The one that is really dead is me. I left G-d for money. So now I have decided to start doing what G-d wants and not just what I want. From today on I will do what my father wanted, what G-d wants: I’m returning to Judaism.”
[The two witnesses were Reb Yhosua Grinvald who became head Rabbi of Austro-Hungary and Reb Yosef Chiam Zunnenfeld who became the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The author claims the story was verified by Rabbi Zunnenfeld’s great grandson].
STORY ABOUT RASHI:
It was a few hours before sunset. The table was set in the old, one-room synagogue with a few meager pieces of fish, cucumbers, onions, potatoes and two loaves of bread. But the two candles, the white tablecloth and the bottle of wine betrayed that something festive and important was about to happen.
It was a brit; the celebration of circumcision that Jews had been making on their eighth day old male babies since the days of Abraham. But this was not just any brit.
It was the brit of the first born child of a simple, poor Jew by the name of Reb Yitzchak (Isaac) after twenty years of marriage!!
That’s right! For twenty years G-d had not answered his and his wife’s prayers – until now! There were about twenty guests and they had been waiting for several hours, but for some reason Reb Yitzchak wouldn’t allow the event to begin. The small crowd was getting impatient he just kept telling everyone to wait for just a few more minutes.
Suddenly a stranger with old, patched up garments entered the door and looked around. Perhaps seventy years old he was obviously some sort of vagabond or wanderer and looked like someone who needed a meal and a handout. But as soon as he entered Reb Yitzchak smiled with joy and yelled out “Let us begin”.
He escorted the newcomer to the large chair that had been placed in the center of the room, sat him down and announced that he would be given the honor of being ‘Sandek’ (the one who holds the child at the time of circumcision) an honor usually reserved for either the father of the child or the most honorable person present.
After the circumcision was finished and the name Shlomo (Solomon) had been given to the child, they all sat down to the meager ‘festive’ meal and after a few minutes the old ‘Sandek’ stood and asked for silence.
He said “This baby’s name is Solomon after King Solomon. It is written about King Solomon that when G-d offered to give him any one thing he wanted, he chose wisdom (Kings 3:5-9). So also I bless this child that he should be as wise as King Shlomo (Solomon) and teach wisdom to all the Jewish people.”
After the meal the guest shook Rab Yitzchak’s hand and left. And Reb Yitzchak explained to those present.
“Does anyone here know who that man was? I do. And soon so will you. The story is a long one but I will make it short.
“For years my wife and I lived at the edge of poverty. Our house was, and still is, a one-room ruin and many nights we had to go to sleep hungry. But what bothered us most was that we had not been blessed with children. We prayed, did good deeds, gave charity, saw Rabbis, doctors everything possible with no results.
“Well, one day I happened to be walking at the edge of the river praying to G-d for some sort of miracle when suddenly a glimmering in the mud caught my eye,
“I bent down, picked it up and… lo and behold. it was what looked like a large precious stone. Huge!! I ran to the jeweler and after he examined it for a minute or so he declared that not only was it a genuine diamond but it was the largest stone he had ever seen in his life and was worth …. millions!!
“I excitedly ran home, told my wife about the amazing miracle and we decided that because it was dangerous to keep it in the house, we should sell it as soon as possible and give most of the money to charity.
“I took the stone and left the house to try to find a buyer but moments after I left the jeweler arrived. He excitedly produced a bag of golden coins, poured them on the table, offered my wife a small fortune for the gem and told her to take the money and think about it.
She would have taken the money, after all we agreed it was necessary to sell the stone, but the jeweler blurted out in glee that the priest would be really pleased. He had been searching for months for a diamond like this to be used as one of the eyes in the massive statue in the church!
“When my wife heard that she almost fainted. The stone would be used for idolatry!!! But she hid her emotions and calmly answered that she would have to ask me.
“Of course when I came home and heard the story I refused. I was sure that if G-d wanted us to be rich He would do it in a completely permissible way.
And sure enough He did!!! (or so I thought at the time).
“Early the next morning there was a knock at my door and when I opened it there stood the local duke with an offer. He wanted me to accompany him for a one week sea journey for business and offered a very high wage. He said that he would be dealing with Jews and needed a Jew with him to help. He heard that I was honest etc. even gave me an advance fee and waited for an answer.
“Needless to say I took the offer and the next day we set sail. This would save me from the Jeweler and would give me time to think.
But after a few days at sea the Duke approached me with several of his men and pulled out an even larger bag of coins than the jeweler did. He must have figured out that I would be afraid to leave the stone at home with only my wife to guard it. He offered all the money for the diamond because he too wanted it to donate to the Church. He said that if I refused it wouldn’t be good for me and my wife… I might get lost at sea. And he was dead serious.
I was stuck!
There was nowhere to run. And the duke kept repeating that it was enough money to make me a rich man and that he could have just killed me and taken the stone anyway so I sort-of owed him a favor!
“I had to think fast I didn’t want that he should have that stone … so I did a trick.
“I kissed the diamond as though saying good bye, held it up the sun and declared ‘Ahhh, just look at this beautiful gift from heaven but I need the money and ….. what won’t a man do to save his life!!’ and then suddenly ‘slipped’ on the deck and the diamond jumped from my upraised hand over the railing of the ship and into the churning sea below us.
“I even screamed in horror held my head in feigned disbelief and began weeping so convincingly that the duke actually began to comfort and console me. But inside I was rejoicing that I avoided being a partner to idol worship.
“At that moment suddenly everything became silent, I didn’t hear the wind or the roaring sea or anything around me rather a voice, like an echo, that seemed to issue from heaven and said: ‘Rejoice Reb Yitzchak. You lost riches but you will have a son that will illuminate the Torah like a precious gem’
“And this is what we were celebrating today! Nine months ago my wife became pregnant and eight days ago she gave birth to our son! That very night she gave birth I fell asleep and had a dream. A holy Jew with a long white beard and joyous eyes appeared to me and said,
‘Ask what you want the child to be blessed with and it will be given.’ Immediately I yelled out ‘Wisdom!
“‘The holy man smiled and said, ‘Because you requested wisdom as did Melech Shlomo (King Solomon) so your son should be called Shlomo and he will enlighten the Jewish people with his wisdom in the written and oral Torah.’ Then he added, ‘Tomorrow wait for me. I want to hold the child at the time of circumcision.’
“That man,” continued Reb Yitzchak, “was the stranger who came today, I’m certain that he must be none other than Elijah the prophet” (who attends every Jewish brit but is rarely seen or recognized).”
This story actually occurred some 900 years ago and the miraculously born child, was none other than the great Shlomo ben Yitzchak, a.k.a. Rash’i, whose genius commentaries are found on every page of the Pentateuch and Talmud and have made the Torah clear and kept Judaism vibrant to this very day.
A PURIM STORY:
Shlomo was getting to the age when he should begin looking for a bride. The custom of ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem (Yerushalmis) was to marry young and he was already nineteen. But as much as he tried he just couldn’t seem to find anything.
So he was very happy when his aunt in Brooklyn called and said she had found what she thought might be the perfect match for him. The girl was attractive, serious, intelligent, the same age as he from a good family, her father was a known Talmudic scholar and she was interested.
Now the only problem was how to get there. First of all, the problem of money for tickets and also in those days (1951) it was no easy matter getting permission from the army to leave Israel. But after several months of nerve-wracking efforts he finally was on the ship to America.
The girl was all they said she was. They met several times, found favor in each other’s eyes, decided to marry and even got engaged with an engagement party. But then for some reason, a week after the party she changed her mind and a few days later officially broke the engagement.
Shlomo was heartbroken. He was virtually alone in the U.S.A. he couldn’t really stay by his aunt and uncle for long. His parents wanted him to come back home but he couldn’t bear to return empty-handed. The other alternative was to go to a Yeshiva and continue learning Torah, but he wasn’t in the mood for that either. He was confused.
So he decided that rather than making the wrong decision he would just wait till his mind cleared or till something came up.
He was too unfocused to learn Torah, he had to calm down first. So with a lot of free time on his hands he spent some of it wandering around the streets and met another young Yershualmi like himself, also with time on his hands, who convinced that, because it says in Pirke Avot (2:2) “Torah without work will bring to sin”, to go with him to Cleveland where he said he had connections and they could find work.
Sure enough in Cleveland things were better. Shlomo found work, began speaking English and after month or so concluded that he should acclimate to his surroundings, as the Talmud clearly teaches: ‘When one goes to a city one should do according to their customs”.
The first thing to go was the Chassidic garb and payot (earlocks), then his Tzitzit and beard. Soon he found himself skipping the prayers, then neglecting to put on Tefillin and finally, little by little he dropped all the commandments. After a year he was a different man; earning a lot of money, dressing well and free as a bird!! Or so he thought.
All this time he kept in touch with his aunt and uncle in Brooklyn and they, not aware of his change, invited him to visit them for the festive holiday of Purim.
Of course he dressed well and even put a Yarmulke on his head so they would think that he was still observant but he was surprised at their shock when they opened their door and didn’t recognize him. He hadn’t realized how far away from the Torah he had gone.
But he recovered quickly, put on a debonair smile, stepped right in and began talking as though nothing had happened. Exactly the opposite; he tried convincing them that they should explain to his parents in Israel that “America is different. Time is money.” And that he was the same Shlomo.
Purim in the day, after finishing the sumptuous Purim meal, he went for a walk. His relatives lived in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn so it was no surprise to see a few Lubavitcher Chassidim running in the street (although there were very few of them back then). He stopped one of them, said “Happy Purim!! Where are you headed?” “The Lubavitcher Rebbe is speaking.” They answered, “Why don’t you come?”
A few minutes later Shlomo found himself in a large room, perhaps a Synagogue, together with some two hundred, well-dressed, religious Jews all in good spirits. Several shook his hand wished him “A frailachen Purim!” and even offered him a l’chiam but he declined….he hated alchohol. He decided he had had enough and turned to the door to leave when suddenly the Rebbe began speaking. “It states in the Talmud that when Moshiach arrives the revelation of G-d will be so great that it will outshine the holiness of all of the Jewish holidays. All of the Holidays will be negated except for Purim. In fact, the Zohar says that Purim is even higher than Yom HaKipurim “The Day of Atonement” the holiest holiday of the Year! It says that Yom HaKipurim is only LIKE (Ki) Purim. “But can this be?” The Rebbe continued. “How can a happy, drinking festival like Purim be higher than the holy and solemn Day of Atonement?”
Shlomo’s curiosity had been aroused. The question was a good one. The Rebbe paused and continued.
“The reason is, because on Purim the Jews were willing to sacrifice their lives rather than deny their Judaism… M’sirot Nefesh! The decree of Haman was ‘To kill, destroy and annihilate all JEWS’. Only Jews were in danger, so anyone that even temporarily denied, even in speech alone, their Judaism would escape.But although the decree hung over their heads for a full year, not one Jew even THOUGHT to deny their Judaism. That’s why Purim can erase sins and arouse sinners to repentance in a way that even Yom Kippur cannot. Because just as their self-sacrifice influenced G-d to forgive all the sins they had done previously so G-d forgives everyone today … in a happy way!!
“That was a nice answer! “Shlomo thought to himself. “This Lubavitcher Rebbe is a pretty smart fellow.”
But the Rebbe didn’t stop.
“For instance, an observant G-d fearing young man can fool himself by saying, “Torah without work brings to sin” and “When one goes to a city one should do according to their customs” and ‘Time is money’ until he falls so low that he stops acting like a Jew; no Tefillin, no kosher, no Shabbat! He says that ‘America is different.’ In fact, he falls so far that Yom Kippur passed him by and didn’t affect him at all.
But Purim has more power that Yom KiPurim. It can stir the essence of his Jewish soul and bring him back to his senses.”
Shlomo began to blush. “Could he be talking about me?” He thought to himself… “nahhh, no way!” He concluded. “It’s just a coincidence”. He wanted to leave but then the Rebbe continued,
“It could be that he even came all the way from Jerusalem where there is a complicated law about places that are ‘close but not seen’, or ‘seen but not close’ (Aruch Chiam 688:2 Jews that are close or within sight of Jerusalem observe Purim differently). In other words; he is close but he thinks he is not seen, he might even see but he is still far away.”
Shlomo realized that the Rebbe meant him! He must have some sort of X-ray vision! But he comforted himself by saying that at least no one in the room knows what the Rebbe is talking about…. and turned to go.
But everyone was staring at him and smiling! “The Rebbe is looking at you!” someone said.
He turned back and the Rebbe was motioning for him to make a l’chiam. Someone gave him a small plastic cup but the Rebbe shook his head ‘no’ and indicated with his hands he should give him a big one.
Shlomo tried to protest, but in vain. They brought him a big cup, filled it with vodka and everyone in the room waited for him to finish it. “Well, that’s that!” He thought to himself. But everyone was still smiling and staring at him. The Rebbe was motioning for him to drink a second. He complied and didn’t remember what happened afterward.
The next morning, he woke up on a bench in the synagogue with a few other sleeping Chassidim strewn about him on the tables. His modern suit was filthy with vomit and his head was pounding.
He staggered back to his aunt and uncle’s house, told them only half of the story, took a shower and asked if he could borrow his uncle’s Tefillin to pray with.
That morning he prayed ‘Shachrit’ (Morning prayer) as never before. A few weeks later he returned back to Israel and a few months after that returned to look and act like a Yerushalmi but with a completely different heart; Judaism was dear.
Today he is happily married with children and grandchildren of his own.
STORY OF BAAL SHEM TOV:
There was once a very wealthy Chassid who was known for his holiness and erudition. We will call him Reb Yaakov.
One day, Reb Yaakov was standing before the Baal Shem Tov almost in tears.
“I can’t understand it” he moaned “Everything I do is failing. I used to have such business sense. It’s as though I’ve been cursed! Has someone cursed me?”
The Besh’t (abbreviation for Baal Shem Tov) said nothing. Reb Yaakov tried to wait for an answer but the silence was unbearable.
“Every time I make an investment it fails. Every hunch I have is wrong. I’m losing money hand over fist! If it keeps up I’ll lose it all. What should I do?!”
The Besh’t looked up at him sadly and said. “Do you have a snuff box?”
“Of course!” He replied as he nervously fumbled in his jacket pocket producing a small, finely decorated, golden box that he proceeded to open.
But the Besh’t paid no attention and continued.
“About a half year ago you were sitting in Shul (synagogue) with some of your friends you took that box out and offered them snuff. Do you remember?
“I… I don’t.. that is…almost every day some of us we sit together after Shachrit (morning prayer) and …
“Do you remember about a half a year ago that you took out your snuff box and offered everyone to take a bit of snuff but when you saw the Shul beggar get up from his seat in the corner and approach to take some you closed it and put it back in your pocket. Do you remember?”
Reb Yaakov was deep in thought… he tried not to remember but suddenly it was clear as day. He didn’t want that bum to get too close. He looked smelly and disgusting. Not only that but he had been in the middle of telling a joke to his friends and didn’t want to disturb it.
“Well”, concluded the Besh’t “Maybe it meant nothing to you at the time because your success and wealth blinded you and hardened your heart! But you really shamed that man to the essence of his being. So, it was decided in heaven that you will lose all your money you and be given to him!”
Reb Yaakov was stunned, he couldn’t believe his ears! But it was happening, it was true! He was losing everything at a frightening pace… and now that he thought about it, he hadn’t see that beggar for months. He seemed to have disappeared. It was a curse all right; but it was he that had cursed himself!!
As in a dream he looked at the Besh’t imploringly and stammered… “Is there any way I can….”
“There is only one way you can get your money back.” The Besh’t said. “You have to reverse the process. If you find him and ask him for a pinch of Snuff and he refuses you.. then he will lose it all, just as you did, and your wealth will return. But if not… everything is lost.”
Reb Yaakov returned home and his bad luck continued. Within a few weeks he lost everything including his house and belongings just as the Besh’t said he would.
It was then that he discovered that that Shul beggar (whose name was Issac) had, in fact, miraculously become a rich businessman ‘overnight’, was now making daring million-dollar investments and was surrounded by some of the wealthiest men in the country.
Several times Reb Yaakov, who was now a pauper, considered just going up to Mr. Isaac when he left his house in the morning and asking him for snuff but decided against it. He would wait for a better opportunity… a time when Isaac was busy.
And finally, it came.
One morning on the Shul bulletin board was an open invitation to everyone in the city, in two weeks, in the massive town square.. to the wedding of….Mr. Issac’s daughter!!! a real G-dsend!!
Two weeks later Reb Yaakov was there with a foolproof plan.
The wedding ceremony was just about to begin, the band played solemnly and then stopped as the couple stood under the wedding canopy with hundreds of people gathered around. The Rabbi finished all the blessings, the groom broke the glass cup, the band broke into joyous playing and everyone began dancing, shaking the hand of the groom and the father of the bride, slapping them on the shoulders and yelling Mazal Tov!!! Isaac was surrounded by people, smiling, shaking hands…. Totally occupied!!!
And at that very moment; at the height of the festivities Rab Yaakov ran up, pushed through the guests to Mr Issac, tapped him on the shoulder and said…
“Give me a pinch of snuff!”
Mr. Issac looked at him strangely… hesitated.. turned back to the person that he had been speaking to… (aha!! He’s ignoring me!! Thought Reb Yaakov!!) said ‘excuse me’ .. turned around, snuff box in hand and offered it!”
Reb Yaakov fainted. A doctor was called. He was carried to a side room and after a few minutes Mr. Issac appeared.
“He’ll be alright” said the doctor. “Maybe it was too warm or something.”
“But why is he weeping?” Mr. Issac asked.
“I’ll tell you why” Reb Yaakov replied weakly. Remember me? I’m the rich man that refused to give you a pinch of snuff a while ago in Shul and because of that I lost all my riches and you gained them. Well, just now when you didn’t act selfishly as I did back then I lost my only chance to regain my wealth.” And he resumed crying bitterly.
But the story has a happy ending.
When Mr. Issac heard the story he calmed Reb Yaakov down, invited him to the wedding feast and assured him that he had nothing to cry about. He would provide him with a home and a job for the rest of his life.
Story from Koheles:
A story. (Ko Asu Chachmeinu vol. 3 pg. 121 from Koheles Raba 3:8)
Many hundreds of years ago a successful Jewish businessman left his home in Caesarea, Israel to a distant country to make money. Usually he traveled alone but this time took his 16-year-old son with him to introduce him to the world of business.
The trip was successful, and on their way back he filled a small chest filled with the solid gold coins that he had earned and put it in one of their large wooden suitcases.
They loaded their baggage in the hold of the ship they chartered to take them home and were assured by the ship’s captain that no one would touch it. But our hero, who we will call Reb Yitzchak (although in the story he was not given a name), was a bit uneasy, so he figured that when no one was looking he would sneak down into the hold to check in his suitcase whenever possible.
In the middle of the first night of their journey he tiptoed silently out of his room onto the rising and falling deck under the starry sky when suddenly he heard people talking. He stopped and was about to return when what they said caught his attention.
“Listen mates! You know our two passengers? Well I happen to know that the older one’s got a lot of money in one of his suitcases.”
“Money?” one of them almost whispered. “Is it a lot? How do you know?”
Reb Yitzchak recognized the voices; it was two of the sailors that he had heard shouting orders earlier. Obviously unaware that they were being overheard they continued.
“Heh heh!” the first sailor replied, “This afternoon I was in the hold and he didn’t see me. He went down there; opened one of his suitcases and inside there was a small chest. Well, he opened it and you couldn’t believe it! It was filled with Red Crowns! Filled!! I mean… there must be a fortune there! Maybe….five fortunes!!”
“Ha ha aaaha!!!” All five of them laughed and chuckled.
“But what can we do? I mean, they’ll go to the police when we get to port and we’ll get caught for sure!”
“Not if they happen to,” here the sailor lowered his voice, “sort of….. fall overboard! Get it? Then everyone’ll be happy; we get rich, they get a good sleep and the fish get a good meal! Ha haaaaa!! We might have to give the captain something too…. You know, maybe there are SIX fortunes. Haa Haaaaaa! What do you say mates? Ehhh?? We can do it tomorrow afternoon when the captain is asleep and we are far out to sea. What do you say? Are you all with me??”
Reb Yitzchak began to tremble as the sailors were laughing and making toasts to their plan. A cold sweat covered his body. He had never faced death before. He had to think fast but what could he do? He was no match for them, they were armed and murderous and there were five of them.
He tiptoed back to his room, woke his son, told him what he heard and suddenly had an idea.
Early the next morning shouts and screams came from Reb Yitzchak’s room.
“Lazy bum! Wake up! Wake up I said!!! I’ve had enough of your sleeping! Enough!!”
The sailors gathered around as suddenly the door burst open and Reb Yitzhcak, dragging his son by the neck of his pajamas pulled him out of the room.
Here! I want you to see something!” He shouted at the boy, ignoring the spectators. See! Look in the sky!! See! Know what that is? It’s the sun rising! The sun! You lazy good for nothing! How do you think it gets in the sky? Never saw it rise did you! Cause you always sleep! Never earned a penny in your life and you never will! You think you’ll live off me do you? Well, just watch this!”
Reb Yitzchak threw his son to the deck, ran like a madman through the door that led down into the belly of the ship with his son yelling after him. “Who cares about you or your money! I want to sleep! LEAVE ME ALONE… GO MAKE MONEY!”
Reb Yitzchak came up with a crazed look on his face carrying the small chest on one shoulder. Then, before anyone could do anything, he ran to the rail of the ship, opened the chest with a key and screamed. “All you want is my money! You bum! Welll….. now ….. WORK FOR IT!”
Saying this he tipped the chest over and the sailors watched in horror as all coins went spilling over the side, splashing unceremoniously into the ocean – forever.
The wide-eyed sailors held their heads in disbelief, “What a maniac!” One said. “What a temper! Whew! Lucky he didn’t kill his son!” said another. “There goes our plan!” said a third, as one of the others nudged him to keep quiet.
Yitzchak then pulled his son by the ear back into their room yelling “Now look what you made me do you lazy fool! Because of you etc. etc.!”
Several days later the ship arrived in Caesarea and after the two passengers emerged safely from the ship Yitzchak’s son turned to his father and said sadly. “Good, father, we saved our lives but now we lost everything we worked for. What will we do now?”
“Hashem will help!” answered Reb Yitzchak. I think that King Solomon will not let us down.
“King Solomon?” repeated his son. “What has he got to do with this? How can he help?”
“Well, it was from him I got the idea how to save ourselves. I just hope the judge agrees. Come! Let’s see.”
The boy didn’t understand a word but he saw that his father was not worried or sad in the least which encouraged him.
Reb Yitzchak wrote a note to his wife that they had arrived safely, had his suitcases and the note taken to his house and headed straight for the home of the mayor who was also the judge of the city to tell him what had happened.
The mayor immediately told his police to apprehend the sailors, have them brought to jail and placed in separate rooms.
The mayor was a clever man and he sensed that Reb Yitzchak was telling the truth. He questioned the sailors one by one telling each one that the others confessed until finally all of them admitted that they had spoken about throwing Reb Yitzchak and son into the sea.
He then brought them all together to hear their defense.
“True,” One of them said “We did talk about stealing his money. But, well, we were drinking! Right? And, well….. that’s no reason for him to throw it in the sea. Right?” He looked at his friends who all were nodding their heads and rolling their eyes at the judge, shrugging their shoulders with palms up in innocence.
“After all,” said another, “HE threw his money away! We didn’t do anything but talk a little. And we didn’t even talk to HIM!! We were just ….. well…. Talking! He’s the crazy one!” He too looked at his friends who were nodding and smiling pathetically as before.
“True, true” said the judge quietly as though agreeing with them. “All you did was talk. And, after all, this man is from the nation of King Solomon. You must have known that he was familiar with the book of Koheles (Ecclesiastes).
“Ehhh?” they all said almost in unison “Koheles?”
“Yes,” Repeated the Judge, “Koheles. In that book written, by the wisest man ever, it says clearly that there is a “Time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones” (3:5). Are you familiar with this?”
Not understanding what the Judge was getting at and certain that he was agreeing with them they just mumbled various things, shook their heads knowingly and kept smiling.
“My dear friends,” the Judge continued, “This Jew realized that despite the hard work that he put into amassing that gold, the only way he could save himself from your evil plans was to take the advice of King Solomon and “cast away stones”.
“But King Solomon also foresaw how to rectify the situation” the judge continued: “He wasn’t called the wisest man for nothing. Now it’s time for you to complete the saying, “A time to gather stones” “
“You must gather ‘the stones’ he cast away and repay his loss.
“But if not” He continued …… then I find you all guilty of attempted robbery with intent to kill and sentence you to life imprisonment at hard labor gathering stones. Take your choice. In any case for you it will be ‘a time to gather stones!”
Needless to say, they took the Mayor’s advice and did what they made Reb Yitzchak do: forfeited all the money they had to save their lives. And Reb Yitzchak rejoiced in his regained wealth.
STORY OF REBBE MAHARASH:
The fourth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch was called Morenu HaRav Shmuel or the Mahara’sh for short.
He lived the shortest of all the Chabad leaders (1834-1882) but his life was filled with many open miracles. Here is an example.
The Sabbath had entered hours ago but Rabbi Yerucham, one of the elder Chassidim (followers) of the Rebbe Maharash was still praying. He was swaying back and forth with his eyes squeezed shut, humming a slow Chassidic tune and occasionally praying a word or two in deep concentration.
He wasn’t requesting anything from G-d or even praising and extolling His unlimited kindness, power and mercy.
Reb Yerucham was uniting with the infinite; offering up every fiber of his mind, heart, body and soul to his Creator.
One of the ‘mystical’ teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, explained by the Rebbes of Chabad in their ‘Maamorim’ (Chassidic discourses) had conquered his thoughts and emotions and made it impossible for him to pray quickly.
An hour after everyone had left the Shul (synagogue) he finished praying and briefly laid down on the old bench he was sitting. His wife knew he would be late. She was patiently waiting for him at home to begin the Sabbath meal but now he was so exhausted he decided to take a short rest.
He closed his eyes and drowsed off.
Suddenly he heard a noise and sat up to see that he was not alone. It took him a few seconds to realize that it was the Rebbe!
‘Gevalt!’ He thought to himself ‘it’s the REBBE!’ The Rebbe was standing in the front of the shul with his back to him unaware that he had been there sleeping. “The Rebbe probably thought that no one was here and came to pray alone” Rav Yerucham thought to himself.
The Rebbe suddenly turned as though he heard his thoughts, smiled and said. “Ahh, Reb Yerucham, I’m glad to see you!” (The Rebbe was very fond him). “Good Shabbos!
“You know what I was just doing? I was escorting my father! (The ‘Tzemach Tzedik’; the third Chabad Rebbe who had passed away years earlier). “He was just here to visit me. Do you know how I learned how to escort him? Well I’ll tell you.”
Reb Yerucham couldn’t believe his ears. The Holy Rebbe was actually revealing mystical secrets to him as though he was giving the time of day! The Rebbe continued:
“When I was a young boy my father and I had a set time that we would learn Torah every day in his room. These times were very precious to us both and neither of us ever missed or even came late.
“One day, I arrived at the appointed time and found to my amazement that the door was closed! I couldn’t figure it out. Usually the door was wide open for me. My father was very punctual and dependable to say the least; it wasn’t like him to cancel our daily routine without at least sending a message and he certainly did not forget.
“At first I just stood there not knowing what to do but when I heard people talking inside I decided to take a peek through the keyhole.
“I saw my father talking with two very distinguished Jews who were seated around his desk. They looked very familiar, but I couldn’t place them.
“I watched and listen until Suddenly I realized who they were and I couldn’t believe my eyes!
“The older one was my great-grandfather; the Alter Rebbe (Rebbe Shneur Zalman who wrote the ‘Tanya’ and began he Chaba’d movement) and the other, his son my grand-uncle the Mittler Rebbe (Rebbe Dovber, the second leader of Chabad) both of whom had departed this world years earlier!
“I was so hypnotized by the awesome sight that I didn’t even move when my father approached the door and opened it.
‘Aha, Shmulik!’ He exclaimed joyously when he saw me, ‘Come in!’
“He turned to his guests and said ‘Here is my Shmulik’! To which the Alter Rebbe replied, ‘tell your Shmulik to say a Chassidic discourse. (Ma’amar)’
“I was never shy as a child so I approached the two visitors until I was close enough to touch them, pointed to the Alter Rebbe, and said to my father,
“I would rather that he says the Ma’amar (Chassidic-kabbalistic discourse) and with G-d’s help I will repeat it.”
“And saying that, I reached out and grabbed my Grandfather to see if he was really real – and he was! He was actually physically there!
“My Grandfather said the Ma’amar as I requested, I repeated it word for word as I promised and after I finished they all agreed it was very good. In fact, I still remember what he said and if you want, I’ll repeat it to you in a minute.
Then my father ‘escorted’ them away. And from how I saw my father ‘escort’ them …. I learned to do it. And that’s how I knew how to escort my father just now.”
STORY OF ARI HAKODESH:
In the mid-16th century, a converso Jew from Portugal moved to the holy city of Safed. Deprived in his youth of the opportunity to practice the religion of his fathers openly, he was overjoyed to finally be able to do.
Years later, he heard a talk by the rabbi of the synagogue he attended about lechem hapanim, the “showbread” which was offered in the Holy Templeeach Shabbat (see Leviticus 24:5–9). After discussing the various laws and procedures governing the preparation of this offering and touching on its mystical significance, the rabbi bemoaned the fact that, because of our sins, we no longer have this ready means to propitiate G‑d.
The Jew took these words to heart. When he arrived home, he asked his wife to prepare two special challahs on Friday. He related to her all the details he remembered from the lecture on the showbread. She should sift the flour thirteen times, knead it while she was in a state of ritual purity, and bake the dough very well in their oven. He told her that he wished to present these loaves as an offering to G‑d; hopefully He would consider them an acceptable sacrifice and eat them.
His wife loyally fulfilled his request, and early that Friday afternoon, when no one was likely to be in the synagogue, the man brought the loaves there under his cloak. He prayed and cried that G‑d should look upon his offering with favor, and eat and enjoy the lovely, freshly baked bread. He went on and on, like an errant son begging his father for forgiveness. Then he placed the loaves, wrapped, in the Holy Ark, beneath the Torah scrolls, and quickly left for home.
The shamash (caretaker) of the synagogue arrived later that day to complete preparing the shul for the holy Shabbat. One of his duties was to check that the Torah scroll was rolled to the proper place for the reading the next morning. When he opened the Ark, he was surprised to see that a package had been neatly placed inside. He opened it, and there were two fine-looking challah loaves! He had no idea where they had come from, but he didn’t think too much about it; he simply decided to take them home and eat them—after all, they looked and smelled delicious!
And they were delicious. The caretaker was delighted with this unexpected fringe benefit of his job.
That evening, the Jew waited impatiently for the end of the prayers. When everyone had left the synagogue, he approached the Ark in great trepidation and swung open its doors. The loaves were not there! He was so happy. He hurried home to share his joy with his wife. He innocently proclaimed that G‑d had not disdained the poor efforts of such insignificant people as themselves. Indeed, He had accepted their two loaves, and eaten them while they were still warm!
“Therefore,” he exhorted her, “let us not be lazy, for we have no other way to honor Him, and we see that He loves our bread. Every week we must try to give Him this pleasure with the same care and devotion that we did this first time.”
His wife was swayed by his wholehearted excitement, and gladly cooperated. Every Friday morning she faithfully prepared two beautiful loaves, paying careful attention to every detail, great and small, and every Friday afternoon he delivered them to the synagogue, and earnestly prayed and pleaded with G‑d for their acceptance.
And every Friday the caretaker would come along and happily eat the delicious challahs. And every Friday night the Jew from Portugal ecstatically informed his wife that once again their meager offering had been accepted.
So it went, for many weeks and months.
One Friday, the rabbi of the synagogue stayed much later than usual, until the afternoon. It was the same rabbi who had given the speech about the “showbread” that had so inspired the converso from Portugal. He was standing on the bimah (reading platform), reviewing the sermon he planned to give the next day, when, to his surprise, he saw one of his congregants enter carrying two loaves of bread, walk up to the Ark, and deposit them inside. He realized that the man was unaware of his presence, and he heard him utter fervent prayers for G‑d to accept his offering and enjoy the challahs.
The rabbi listened in astonishment. At first he was silent, but as he began to understand what was going on, his anger rose. Finally he was unable to restrain himself any longer, and burst out in fury: “Stop! You fool! How can you think that our G‑d eats and drinks? It is a terrible sin to ascribe human or any physical qualities to G‑d Almighty. You actually believe it is the L‑rd who takes your measly loaves? Why, it is probably the shamash who eats them.”
At that moment the caretaker entered the synagogue, blithely expecting to pick up his challahs, as usual. He was a bit startled to see the rabbi and another man standing there. The rabbi immediately confronted him. “Tell this man why you came here now, and who has been taking the two challahs he has been bringing each week.”
The caretaker freely admitted it. He wasn’t embarrassed at all. He couldn’t understand why the rabbi was so agitated, and why he was yelling at the other man, who looked so unhappy, whom he knew to be an unlearned but sincere Jew.
As the rabbi continued his rebuke, the man burst into tears. He was crushed. Not only had he not done a mitzvah as he had thought, it seemed he was guilty of a great sin. He apologized to the rabbi for having misunderstood his lesson about the showbread, and begged him to forgive him. He left the shul in shame and despair. How could he have been so wrong? What was he to do now?
Shortly thereafter, a messenger from the “Holy Ari,” Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, strode into the synagogue and approached the rabbi. In the name of his master, he told the rabbi to go home, say goodbye to his family, and prepare himself: by the designated time for his sermon the next morning, his soul would have already departed to its eternal rest. Thus it had been announced from Heaven.
The rabbi couldn’t believe what he had just heard, nor could the disciple explain it to him. So the rabbi went directly to the Ari, who confirmed the message and added, as gently as possible: “I heard that it is because you halted G‑d’s pleasure, the likes of which He hasn’t enjoyed since the day the Holy Temple was destroyed. That is what He felt when this innocent converso would bring his two precious loaves to your shul each week, faithfully offering them to G‑d from the depths of his heart with joy and awe, and believing that G‑d had taken them, until you irrevocably destroyed his innocence. For this the decree was sealed against you, and there is no possibility to change it.”
The rabbi went home and told his family all that had transpired. By the time of the sermon the next morning, his soul had already departed to hear Torah in the Heavenly academy, exactly as the Ari had said.
FOUR STORIES ABOUT THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE:
1. Rabbi Chazan was on an El Al flight from New York to his home in Israel. The flight was full and his seat was between a Chassidic Jew in a long black coat, his face turned to the window, and an elderly apparently secular Jewish woman in the aisle seat reading one of the English newspapers that were handed out.
Rabbi Chazan said a cordial hello to both of them as he buckled his safety belt and after takeoff began to read a Chabad weekly publication he brought along.
It didn’t take long before the woman noticed the Rebbe’s picture prominently displayed on the front cover and, as though replying to his cordial hello of a half-hour ago said. “Ahh, that is the Lubavitcher Rebbe, correct? My husband had a big miracle with him. Are you a Lubavitcher?”
Rabbi Chazan answered yes and she told him the following story:
She said that her husband had passed away just months earlier. Both of them were doctors and had run their own successful private clinic in New York. They were both secular Jews but while she had some background in Judaism her husband was totally secular with no religious background. His parents and even his grandparents had never set foot in a synagogue. But somehow one of his friends convinced him to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe just for the experience.
She wasn’t sure how it happened but when he did make the visit he returned home a different man. He said that the Rebbe had spoken to him and had given him three one-dollar bills and three blessings; one for himself, one for his family and one for the clinic. While previously he had been very somber he became more positive and jovial and although he didn’t become religious his whole attitude toward Judaism changed.
Then, several years later the dollars of the Rebbe went missing. They searched the entire house and came up with nothing until they asked their nine-year-old daughter about them and she said that she saw them in the drawer and, thinking that they were nothing special, bought some candies with them.
Her husband was broken. He felt that the Rebbe was the most positive person he had ever met and these dollars were connected to his blessings.
But he was reluctant to return to the Rebbe to ask for replacements since he felt that these had been lost due to his negligence.
It took five years of his wife’s urging until he did return. He stood in line that Sunday with thousands of others (Every Sunday for several years the Rebbe gave out dollar bills to encourage the giving of charity) and when his turn came the Rebbe looked at him in a way that he was sure he remembered him, smiled, said ‘Blessings and Success’ and gave him, instead of the usual single dollar that he gave to everyone else…. three crisp dollars.
This impressed her husband till his dying day and because of this he began to put on Tefillin and both he and his wife began correspondences with the Rebbe and received many answers from him. Now she was on her way to Israel to give a large donation to some religious organization.
2. Meanwhile, her story caught the interest of the Chassid sitting on the window side who was listening intently and when she finished he began.
“I am a Skverer Chassid and I also have a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” In fact, I teach young children and I just told it to my students.
“Like your husband, a good friend of mine went to the Rebbe almost twenty years ago, also stood in line and got a dollar and a blessing. He kept that dollar in his wallet for years.
“Anyway, just like your husband he too lost the dollar and it made him feel really bad. Years passed, but he couldn’t get the loss out of his mind and for some reason he delayed going back until in 1992 the Rebbe had a stroke .
Well, he didn’t forget the dollar. About ten years after that he decided he would simply go to the Rebbe’s headquarters in Crown Heights (770 Eastern Parkway) where he got the original dollar and just ask the secretaries for another dollar.
Maybe it seems foolish because in fact they don’t have such dollars but for him … but it worked! But not like he thought.
He went to the office, asked for a dollar and when they gave him the bad news that they had none he left brokenhearted. But instead of going home he just wandered around the area for a while and went into a grocery store to get a bottle of soda. He paid for it with a ten-dollar bill which was all he had and noticed that on one of the dollars he got as change was written something in pen on the top border; It was a Hebrew date followed by the words:
‘Dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’!
He was shocked and elated. The Rebbe gave him a dollar! The Rebbe knew he wanted a dollar and arranged for him to get one, albeit in an unusual fashion.
So said the Skevere chassid: “I just told this to my students to show them how holy people like the Rebbe never really die.”
3. Now for the third story. When the plane landed in Israel Rabbi Chazan bade his neighbors goodbye, went down to collect his luggage and took a taxi home. It was late at night and the taxi driver, sensing he had a good listener, began pouring out his problems. He related how bad his luck had been lately and how he was considering stopping putting on Tefillin because they weren’t working and, in any case, he had to work on Shabbat in order to make ends meet so it was hypocritical to do one commandment and not the other.
Rabbi Chazan listened quietly and replied.
He explained that, first of all he shouldn’t think so much about what he receives but rather about the pleasure G-d gets every time he puts on Tefillin. And regarding his luck he should have patience for the blessing of Tefillin to manifest. And finally he certainly should not stop putting them on just because he doesn’t keep another commandment, in this case Shabbat. It would be like throwing away your pants because you have no shoes.
And finally, the Rabbi convinced him that G-d is the one that gives livelihood and certainly he won’t lose by keeping G-d’s Shabbat. Exactly the opposite; if G-d provides for over six billion people daily it should be no problem for him to provide for one more that keeps Shabbat.
“Wow!” Said the driver. “That’s really right. That sounds like something the Lubavitcher Rebbe would say (in fact Rabbi Chazan had read it in one of the Rebbe’s letters)!” And he pulled out a large poster that was rolled up under his seat. “Just now I saw some boys putting up these posters with the Rebbe’s picture on it and asked them for one. You know what? You’re right! I’m going to put this up in my front room. Maybe I will stop working on Shabbat!”
So we see that by total ‘chance’ G-d arranged it in all these three stories, one after the other, that exactly the right people would meet at exactly the right time and place in order to bring positive results.
4. But there is one more story. This was told by Rabbi Moshe Antezada who serves the Persian community in the city of Netanya. This relates directly to circumcision.
One evening, about 15 years ago, a man and wife visited him and told a sad story.
The man had been suffering from depression and paranoia for the last several years that, despite the treatments and medicines the best professors had to offer, were getting worse and worse.
They were just about to give up and admit defeat when they heard that it was possible to get advice from the Lubavitcher Rebbe through his books of letters and were now asking Rabbi Antezada’s help. (There are presently 26 books of letters the Rebbe wrote to people in just the first years of his leadership with advice on almost every possible problem that people could have. Some say that by randomly opening one of these books one can find answers to problems).
Rabbi Antezada wasted no time. He asked the man to write his problem on a piece and then inserted the paper in one of the books.
But the answer he received was disappointing.
“In reply to your letter in which you write that you have the possibility to help Mr. __ to have a Brit (circumcision) I don’t understand why you delayed it until you gathered the money. Also you write that seeing he is well beyond thirteen years of age he was given general anesthetic before the circumcision; if so a Rabbi should be consulted to see if this is proper.” (vol. 15 pg 343)
Although it seemed to have nothing to do with their problem he felt it was his duty to just read it aloud and let them decide for themselves what to do.
They listened, thought for a moment and then asked him for an explanation. He suggested that perhaps something was wrong with the man’s circumcision and to his amazement the couple looked at each other, stood and exclaimed that because his parents thought the traditional way was primitive, his ‘Brit’ had been done by a non-Jewish doctor when he was a baby!
They shook the Rabbis hand and left.
Several months later Rabbi Antezada met Rabbi Yaron Yamit, the head of Brit Yosef Yitzchak, an organization that provides proper circumcisions for older Jews that had never been circumcised (very common among Russian Jews where circumcision was forbidden) and found out that the man he met underwent a proper circumcision by him and returned a few weeks later with the news that his emotional and psychological problems had completely left him and he felt truly happy for the first time in his life.
STORY IN COMMUNIST RUSSIA:
The year was 1950 in Russia. Communism was ready to conquer the world with its bold ideas of equality, opportunity, hope and freedom from economic oppression. Russia was excited and inspired with hope and vision but perhaps the most excited were a big percentage of the Jews there.
Millions of Jews had jettisoned their Judaism as a thing of the past and a vestige of the dark ages. Now the wisdom Marx the bravery of Lenin and the leadership of the great illuminator Stalin (may his name be cursed forever) would revolutionize the entire world! Communism would end the worries of mankind!
And one of these Jews was Abrasha Yafe.
His father, Reb Avraham, had been a religious Jew; a Chassid and follower of the Fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch. But Abrasha was a card-carrying totally devoted Communist with a high party position, aspirations even higher and NO time or place in his heart for religion.
He was brought up religious but hadn’t done anything Jewish for over ten years, since he was fifteen years old; he had seen the political light, communism would save the world and Judaism was totally and simply OFF his agenda.
Abrasha married a girl that shared his ideals who by ‘coincidence’ was also Jewish. Her grandparents had been observant. Her parents were only marginally so, but she was totally communist through and through and also a party official, although not as high up in the ranks as he.
So it was no surprise that when their first child, a boy, was born, they considered him no more than another potentially good party member.
But Abrasha’s mother, whose name was Chaya Basha was religious and she saw things differently. She confronted her son; her grandson would be make a Bris (be circumcised) and that was all there was to it!
Abrasha tried to ignore her, to turn away and change the subject or get occupied in other things but she refused to be ignored. She maneuvered herself in front of him and repeated “my grandson will make a bris! Do you hear me? A bris!”
So he sat down opposite her at the kitchen table and he calmly asked her to listen to reason. He explained that circumcision in our days is outdated, unnecessary, dangerous, foolish, primitive, superstitious, painful, and even against Russian law, but she just repeated that Jews since Abraham have been doing it and her grandson will be no exception.
So he tried a different angle. If anyone found out that he had ANYTHING to do with ANY sort of religious ritual his past and future would be destroyed. He’d get fired from his job, lose his salary, his rank his benefits, his security, his friends all his accomplishments and all of his hopes. How would he provide for his wife and baby? And worst of all… he might be imprisoned or even killed for being a spy or a traitor! He begged her to forget the idea.
But she just stared at him in a way he had never seen before, put her hand on her heart, leaned forward and said, almost in a whisper, “If you refuse, I will kill myself.”
Abrasha began to shake! He couldn’t even look her in the eyes! She was serious. He was trapped! He cleared his throat a few times, stood and went to the bathroom. Washed his face, returned to the table and …….. made two conditions.
First that the ‘Brit’ (circumcision) would be in total secrecy so NO ONE would know. Secondly, that neither he nor his wife would be present. That way if the police discovered the ‘crime’ and arrested him he could claim that he knew nothing about it….. his old superstitious mother took the child when he wasn’t looking.
Chaya Basha clapped her hands with joy, put on her coat and went immediately to Chanuch Hendel Galperin, who was a Mohel (circumciser) and who agreed on the condition that he would invite the guests, she should not mention it to anyone and only on the day of the Brit itself would he divulge the location where it would be.
When the day arrived, late in the afternoon he notified Chaya Basha, who brought the baby, and nine Chassidim who, with the greatest secrecy, speed and efficiency made their separate ways to a small inconspicuous third floor apartment. The door was locked, the window shades were drawn and closed, the child was circumcised and given the name Yisrael (after Yisrael Baal Shem; the Baal Shem Tov) everyone said ‘Mazal Tov’ quietly and then came the meal! (After a brit a festive meal is made.)
Chaya Basha produced a few small loaves of bread, a bottle of vodka, some herring and some salad and the meal began! L’chaims were poured and soon the Chassidim were singing a merry ‘nigun’ (Chassidic song) on the verge of standing up and dancing.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door!
A deathly silence fell over everyone. Chaya Basha took the child into the bedroom told the Mohel to quiet him down, put her finger to her lips that no one should talk and called out, “Who’s there?”
No reply. Just more knocking!
She approached the door and again called out, who is there!? The person on the other side whispered something. “Who?” She repeated. Again mumbling.
Could it be the KGB? Was it a trick? She had no choice. If it was KGB and she didn’t open they would break it down and arrest everyone for resisting arrest. Meanwhile one of the Chassidim cleaned any sign of the ceremony and, luckily the baby had fallen asleep.
Cautiously she opened one latch after another and when the door opened there stood her son, Abrasha!
Without saying a word, he entered, closed the door behind him, approached the table where everyone was sitting, pulled out a chair and sat down. Someone poured him a L’chaim. He took the glass and raised it but before he could drink, one of the Chassidim produced a yarmulke, put it on his head and said, “maybe make a blessing” (it is a commandment to make blessings to thank G-d before eating. The yarmulke is worn to enhance the fear of G-d).
He made a blessing and downed the small cup. The Mohel put his hand on Abrasha’s shoulder and said, “Tell me, have you ever heard of a Chassid by the name of Avraham Yafe? I knew him. He was a wonderful man.”
When Abrasha heard the name of his departed father he began swaying slightly back and forth, closed his eyes and sang a slow beautiful ‘nigun’ that his father used to sing. Everyone joined in.
After a few more l’chaims, he began reminiscing warmly, how his father would pray for hours, the songs he sang when he prayed, the stories he told etc. And so it continued until sunrise. As the rays illuminated the window shades, one of the Chassidim suggested to Abrasha that he make a resolution. Abrasha just shrugged his shoulders as to say, ‘what for?’
But the Chassid didn’t give up. “Abrasha!” he said warmly. “I knew your father well. He was a very genuine and honest man. He really believed in G-d and he also believed in you, Abrasha.
He believed that neither of you would let him down. I’m sure that in heaven your father has no rest until you do what the Creator wants! Abrasha! Put on Tefillin, keep the Shabbat, eat only kosher food. Only then will you and your father be happy.
Abrasha thought for a moment, stood, put his hand on his heart and said … agreed! The next day he told his wife that he decided to turn over a new leaf and a few weeks later he miraculously found some excuse to leave his political position and get a job where could become an observant Jew.
It seems that the circumcision of his son removed the spiritual ‘foreskin’ of his heart as well.
THE POWER OF THINKING GOOD:
Boruch was in trouble. His daughter was twenty-five, getting older every day and now a matchmaker came up with a good suggestion!! Oy! A good suggestion!! He not only had no dowry to offer…. he, as all the other Jews he knew of, including the ‘suggestion’ himself, barely had enough to live on.
He needed at least three thousand Zloty to barely cover the wedding, house and other expenses but all he had to offer were debts!
With no alternative Boruch set out by foot to see the great Tzadik (Holy Jew) Rebbe Elimelich of Lezinsk [One of the foremost pupils of the Magid of Meseritz, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov] for help.
Boruch was very timid and quiet by nature but now he was desperate. He knew that only the Rebbe, like Moses in his time, could miraculously free him from ‘Egypt’.
The next day he was standing before the holy Tzadik humbly pouring out his heart, crying and trembling. Just to stand there was a humbling experience how much more so to beg like a pauper.
The Rebbe heard the story and smiled calmly, assured him that there was absolutely nothing to worry about, took a small leather bag from his desk drawer, removed from it three ten-Zloty coins, put them on the table and pushed them before Boruch as if to say…. ‘Here’s what you’ve been waiting for’!
Boruch looked at the coins stunned. His eyes widened in disbelief and he almost began to cry from confusion. He was afraid to look up at the Rebbe. Something crazy was going on here. There was no possibility that Rebbe misunderstand what he said. But thirty Zloty was close to nothing. A wedding with one musician and twenty guests would cost at least five hundred. And he needed to buy clothes, food, rent and furniture. What could he possibly do with thirty Zloty?!
But, reminding himself that the Rebbe certainly knew what he was doing and hoping that the Rebbe didn’t notice his dismay, he took the coins as though they were worth millions, forced a smile, said thank you many times, and humbly backed out of the room.
Prodding slowly on the road back home he couldn’t help thinking negative thoughts. What would he tell his wife and daughter? What would he say to his friends? To the groom? The groom’s family? The matchmaker? This was the end!! No one can make a wedding with thirty Zloty? He needed another miracle!
About a half-hour into his walk he heard someone yelling in the distance from behind him.
“Hey, Hey there!! Hey, Stop!!”
He turned to see one of the Rebbe’s Chassidim running after him waving his arms. “Stop!! Hey!! Stop!!”
‘Aha!’ he thought to himself. “See! The Rebbe was testing me! What a fool I was for doubting!!! For sure I’ll soon have the rest of the money I need!!!” The Chassid caught up to him and was still huffing and puffing as he spoke trying to catch his breath.
“The Rebbe sent me…… to say that he made ….. a mistake! He gave you …… he wants to…….. he told me to tell you…….. I should take back one of the coins. He gave you too much.”
Boruch was too numb to react. Too much? He mechanically took the three coins from his pocket, handed one over to the Chassid who put it in his own pocket and with a brisk ‘Thanks! Have a good day’ ran back toward the city leaving the perplexed Boruch alone ten Zloty poorer.
Now he was really confused. But the idea popped into his mind…. There is a Chassidic saying “Think good and it will be good.” For sure these bad thoughts weren’t helping… and they were driving him insane! After all, twenty Zloty is better than nothing! At least he wasn’t totally penniless.
An hour later, still trying to think positive thoughts on his lone trip, he saw, something not good in the distance. What looked like three young men huddled over a bonfire on the side of the road. “Oy!” he thought to himself… “This means trouble!”
But instead of cowering as usual he put his hand in his pocket, felt the coins, remembered his resolution to think good, pictured his Rebbe’s face and stood straight, smiling.
As he got nearer one the boys held up a leather bag and said. “Hello! Hey there, Jew! Want to buy a good purse? Here, come here, have a look!”
Boruch approached, took the bag and saw was truly a fine piece of work, well sewn with golden inlays. He opened it to have a look at the lining and there was….. foreign currency; German marks!!! Perhaps twenty notes of large denominations!! The boys probably had no idea what they were but he recognized them. It was a small fortune!
“Hey, you like the pictures Jew? You can have the pictures too.” They said. “Just give us thirty Zloty and it’s all yours; purse and pictures. Only thirty Zloty!”
Boruch almost passed out! Thirty Zloty?? Why that is what he HAD! “But all I have is twenty!!” He thought to himself and began to get depressed like always. But the coins in his pocket reminded him to be positive. Nothing good would come from bad thoughts. He remained calm, closed his eyes and prayed for an idea…. And suddenly he had it!”
“Listen fellows. You know what?” he said confidently, “I don’t have enough for the bag. But I’ll give you twenty Zloty for the pictures.”
The boys winked at each other concealing their glee, what a fool! Twenty Zloty for some colored papers!! It was like selling the purse twice!! They took the coins, gave him the ‘pictures’ and as he resumed his trip slapped each other on the back and tried not to laugh too loudly.
As soon as he was out of the sight of the boys Boruch took out the bills and counted. Twenty One Hundred Mark bills, why each was worth a thousand Zloty. It was a fortune!! He was rich!! He and his entire community were saved! It was a miracle!!
But when he arrived home and showed his wife she reminded him that he couldn’t take the money until he was sure it was ownerless. Maybe those boys stole it. Maybe someone lost it and they found it. In any case he had to find out.
So the next day he returned to Lezinsk to tell the Rebbe what happened and either discover the true owner of the purse or give a big donation to the Rebbe and invite him to the wedding.
But just before he entered the city he heard someone yell to him. Hey Mr. Jew!! Hey!! That’s you!!! He turned to look and it was those gentile boys that had sold him the ‘pictures’, but now bandaged from head to foot.
“Hello there Jew. You’re the one we met with the purse, right? Well you’ll never guess what happened. See how we’re all bandaged up? Well, as soon as you faded out of sight, we got into an argument about how to divide the money and the purse, you know, who gets what. Well, it got a little violent and … well…. somehow the purse fell into the fire and well, that was the end of it. We just left it there to burn. Who would buy a singed purse?
“But then this huge wagon comes storming up from the direction of the city, stops where we are, and who gets out but that devil the Baron. He asked us if we saw his purse on the road. And when he saw it there in the fire he started cursing, jumping around and screaming at us, beating us with his stick like a madman… for a stupid purse!! I mean the thing wasn’t worth more than 50 miserable Zloty!!
“And he ordered his servants to beat us up too. What a maniac! For a stupid purse and some pictures!! And he’s supposed to be a rich man!
“Lucky you didn’t buy the purse. If he would have caught you, he probably would have killed you. He almost killed us and he really hates you Jews.”
Suddenly Boruch understood. The twenty Zloty the Rebbe gave him was exactly what he needed to make him rich … and teach him a big lesson about thinking good.
THE POWER OF PRAYER
One Friday afternoon a van with eight teenage boys, students of the Chabad Migdal Emek yeshiva in northern Israel, was traveling on a winding road in the Galilee. They made a circuit every Friday, visiting different settlements in order to give the residents an opportunity to lay tefillin, have their mezuzot checked, and send out pamphlets explaining various mitzvot.
After hours of traveling and outreach work without a moment of rest, the time had come to return to the yeshiva. They were tired, hungry, and thirsty. “Let’s have a short rest by the roadside,” said one of them. “There seems to be a nice spot over there.”
The boys exited the van and searched for a suitable place. Resting in the shade of a large, ancient olive tree, they drank soda and breathed in the clear air of the Galilee hills.
One of the boys went to lie down in the shade of a different tree a short distance away from his companions. In exhaustion he fell fast asleep.
After ten minutes, the boys returned to their van. Since all of them went to different places each Friday and the team frequently changed, nobody noticed that one of the students was missing.
After about an hour, the boy awoke and to his surprise discovered that the van had disappeared. He ran to the road, but there was no trace of the van.
Here he was, alone on a dusty road in the Galilee, and Shabbat was approaching! How would he make his way back to the yeshiva on time? Where would he stay for Shabbat? Where would he eat the Shabbat meals? Where would he pray and listen to the Torah reading? And how would he be able to shower and change his clothes in honor of Shabbat?
He started to walk briskly along the road. Perhaps he could reach the main road and find a car that would take him to the yeshiva. But the road was silent and no cars were passing by on that late Friday afternoon.
The sun cast its red rays on his face as it set on the western horizon. The boys hastened his steps in order to reach a settlement before the entrance of the day of rest. However, the only settlements he could see were Arab villages where naturally he had no desire to spend Shabbat.
Since carrying on Shabbat was forbidden, he removed whatever he had in his pockets and placed them under a stone. He was careful to leave a certain sign in order to find them later.
Darkness had already descended upon the Galilee hills when the student reached a Jewish settlement. It turned out to be a kibbutz where the members were non-observant. Walking on one of the concrete paths, he encountered a member of the kibbutz and said, “Excuse me. I have nowhere to stay in this area for Shabbat. Is it possible to find a place for me to stay in your kibbutz?”
“The kibbutz secretary lives in the third house on the right. You should ask him,” the member answered.
The student went to see the secretary, who understood his situation and showed him a room where he would sleep. The secretary also invited the young man to supper in the kibbutz dining hall. The student thanked him but felt that he could not eat there, as the kibbutz lacked a kosher kitchen.
Instead, he asked for two whole loaves of bread (not baked on the kibbutz?–YT) and some raw vegetables. Afterwards he prayed the Shabbat evening prayers alone, much of which he fortunately knew by heart, in his room. He made Kiddush on the bread and ate his Shabbat meal–bread and tomatoes.
The next morning he awoke when the sun’s rays penetrated his window. He prayed again by heart and read the Torah portion in a Bible from the kibbutz library. By noon he had his meal, consisting of the same menu as the night before.
With many hours left until the end of Shabbat, he took a pleasant walk through the kibbutz and saw the many children strolling around. An idea crossed his mind. “If I’m still here, maybe I should try to make a children’s gathering and tell them something about Judaism!”
He approached the children and asked if they wanted to participate in a small Shabbat party. A big group readily agreed. A few youth counselors from the kibbutz also joined, in order to see what was going on.
The yeshiva boy started to sing Jewish songs together with the children. They all happily joined in with loud voices, clapping their hands. He told them about the weekly Torah portion and a number of Chassidic stories. All the children gave him their full attention. This was the first time in their lives that anyone had introduced them to authentic Judaism. They enjoyed every moment of the party.
Towards the end, the yeshiva boy said to the children:
“You should know that everything that happens in the world is by Divine Providence. The Creator of the world prepares the steps of each man. Wherever he goes, he has a certain Divine mission to fulfill, although we are not always able to understand the purpose of everything that happens.
“For instance, look at what happened to me and where I am this Shabbat. I was supposed to be together with my friends in my yeshiva right now, and instead I ended up here, together with you.
“I am one hundred percent sure that it was not by pure chance that we decided to stop that van exactly next to those olive trees on the side of the road. It was not by chance that I fell asleep under a tree at a distance from my friends. It was not because of ‘luck’ or ‘bad luck’ that my friends continued the trip back without noticing I was missing. Neither was it a coincidence that no cars passed by on the road and I continued by foot until I reached the first Jewish settlement on my way, which was your kibbutz.
“Why did I have to come here? Well, I do not know the answer to that, but I am sure that…”
His speech was suddenly interrupted. One of the girl counselors jumped up and exclaimed, “I know the reason for your being here!”
All of them present turned around and stared at her in amazement.
“I have always taken an interest in my religion,” the girl continued, “and I always wanted to learn more. I heard that Lubavitchers organize evenings with explanations about Judaism, and I asked several times the head of the cultural committee here to invite them, but he always turned down my request.
“Finally I decided to do something entirely different. I turned to G-d for help! During this whole week I have been praying to G-d to send a Chabadnik to our kibbutz. And here you are!
Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Greenwald first saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe when he attended the Rebbe’s wedding at the age of thirteen in Warsaw in 1929.
He had been orphaned at a young age and was brought up in Warsaw by his mother’s cousin, the famous Torah giant Rabbi Menachem Zamba who lived there. When Rabbi Zamba attended the wedding, along with hundreds of other Torah figures, Avraham went along.
The day after the wedding Rabbi Zamba and the boy went to the Rebbe’s hotel room to personally wish him Mazal Tov. The Rebbe received them warmly and as they were about to leave after a friendly and lively Torah conversation, the Rebbe turned to them and asked,
“Do you know why it is a custom by many Chassidim to make a special celebration on the fifth night of Chanukah?”
Neither of them answered…so the Rebbe continued,
“The purpose of the Chanukah lights is to illuminate the spiritual darkness of the mundane world. The fifth night of Chanuka is the only night of the holiday that can never fall on Shabbat so it represents the greatest darkness as it cannot receive the holiness of Shabbat. And this is the job and ability of every Jew, whether in Warsaw or in London, to illuminate even the darkest places.”
Time passed. Avraham Tzvi got rabbinical ordination, married and had five beautiful children. But Poland became a graveyard for Jews in the early nineteen forties.
The Germans conquered Poland and, together with the anti-Semitic Polish population, systematically plundered and murdered millions, among them his beloved mentor Rabbi Zamba. Avraham saw his wife and children slaughtered before his very eyes and suffered years of hell in various concentration camps, But despite it all he miraculously was still alive when the war ended, a shadow of a man, broken in mind, body and spirit.
An uncle of his, Rabbi Moshe Greenwald who lived in America, upon hearing that he was still alive contacted him, offered to buy him a plane ticket and convinced him to come to the U.S.A.
Then year or so later he introduced Avraham to a woman who also survived the holocaust and they agreed to marry. The year was 1948 when the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak was leading the Chabad movement and the bride’s mentor, Rabbi Kopel Shvarts of Toronto who was an admirer of his, took Rav Avraham to New York to receive his blessing.
The Rebbe asked Avraham a few questions about the holocaust. wept like a baby when he heard the replies, blessed him and then suggested that since he had been at his son-in-law’s wedding in Warsaw 20 years earlier, he should go to him as well and say hello.
When they entered the Rebbe’s room the Rebbe recognized him immediately, asked regarding the death Rabbi Zamba at the hands of the cursed Nazis and concluded by saying,
“Since the Rebbe, my father in law, sent you to me I will say a Torah idea about Chanukah, since we are in the month of Kislev.
“It is known that there is custom by those who follow the Baal Shem Tov to make a special holiday on the fifth night of Chanuka. Why? Because that night never can fall on Shabbos which is the greatest darkness. That is the power and novelty of the lights of Chanuka and the duty of every Jew, no matter where he is, whether in New York or in London, to illuminate the darkest spiritual situations.”
Rabbi Avraham was amazed that the Rebbe repeated exactly what he had said twenty years ago in Warsaw. And perplexed as to why he again included London. He didn’t dream of the importance it would have to him one day.
After his wedding, Rabbi Avraham settled in Toronto working with Satmar Chassidim as a Rabbi and teacher and there were born his children, two boys and a girl.
At that time Satmar Chassidim were very opposed to Chabad’s attitude toward non-observant Jews. So although Rabbi Avraham and his children were surrounded by a constant bombardment of hatred and discord.
His children grew and eventually his son, Moshe Ciaim, met a nice girl and they became engaged. Rabbi Avraham decided to take him to the Rebbe for a blessing before his wedding as was done to himself years ago.
A month before the wedding in 1969 he again was standing before the Rebbe’s door (the Previous Rebbe had already passed away in 1950 and now he was at the door of the Rebbe’s son in law, the new Rebbe).
As soon as Avraham Tzvi and his son entered the room, the Rebbe immediately recognized him and said “Well, it’s about time, after twenty years!” Rabbi Avraham was astounded but after a few seconds he came to himself sufficiently to give the Rebbe a small page upon which he had written all his requests.
The Rebbe looked at the page and gave a long string of blessings the last of which was ‘Just as you rejoiced at my wedding may you merit to rejoice at the wedding of your grandchildren’.
When Rav Avraham saw how friendly and open the Rebbe was he decided to unburden his mind.
“Rebbe, may I ask a question?” The Rebbe nodded his head in agreement and Avraham Tzvi continued. “I have many super religious neighbors, that speak against you and against Chabad and I simply don’t know what to tell them. They say the Rebbe is wrong for befriending every Jew, even big sinners, when the Torah says that G-d Himself hates them (Psalms 139:21) and it is forbidden to help them. What should I answer?”
The Rebbe looked sternly and answered. “I’m sure that this same ‘super-religious’ Jew would agree that if it was his daughter that left Judaism it would be different…because on one’s family it says ‘From your flesh don’t turn away’ (Isaiah 58:7). Well, in G-d’s eyes every Jew is dear like an only son…. and in my Father-in-law, the Rebbe’s, eyes EVERY Jew an only child. “’
Then the Rebbe smiled and concluded, “Let us finish with a blessing… The reason that many Chassidim make a special celebration on the fifth night of Chanukah is that that night represents the greatest darkness because it can never coincide with Shabbos…and nevertheless the lights of Chanukah illuminate it. That is the job of every Jew whether in Toronto or London. Every Jew is a portion of G-d, HaShem’s only child. And when we light that soul with a flame of holiness it can bring it from the furthest and darkest place.”
Ten years later in 1979 it became time for Rabbi Avraham to marry his second son. This time the marriage was to be in London and, for some reason he did not have time to enter to the Rebbe for a blessing before traveling for the wedding.
But before he left for England his next-door neighbor, one of the most important Chassidim in Satmar, came to him in tears with a desperate and urgently secret request.
His daughter had run away with a non-Jew and was living somewhere in the huge city of London. At first she hid it from them but when they found out, it was too late…. and now she was gone. He apologized to Rav Avraham over and over again for the trouble but he was at his wits end. Perhaps there was something he could do in London after the wedding?
Rabbi Avraham was stunned and broken by the terrible news. He promised he would do what he could and rushed off to catch his plane. But in his heart he knew he could do nothing.
The problem weighed heavily on his heart and he simply couldn’t get it off his mind. Several days after the wedding, when his in-laws asked him what was wrong, he told them.
They answered that if anyone could do someething it was Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Glick. He was a Chabad Chassid that had a reputation as one who the Rebbe gave much responsibility to and who had saved several Jewish girls from similar plights. They called him, explained the terrible situation and Rabbi Glick promised that he would contact the girl’s parents for more details and then do what he could.
Ten days later Rabbi Glick called Rabbi Avraham back and told him to take a taxi and come to his home urgently.
Moments later Rav Avraham arrived, and there sitting on the sofa crying profusely, was his neighbor’s lost daughter! “It’s a miracle of Chanukah!” said Rabbi Glick as he pointed at the Chanuka lights. “A true miracle!” The girl was very regretful and wanted to return to her home and to a proper Jewish life.
Rabbi Avraham was stunned. There were five lights in the Menora!
That night the fifth night of Chanukah! Those five lights succeeded in awakening a Jewish soul that had wandered into the ultimate darkness! Suddenly he understood the Rebbe’s repetition of the city ‘London’ each time he mentioned the fifth candle.