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Moshiach Matters | It Happened Once
One year has passed since the Tenth of Shevat, 5753, and the anticipation of the imminent Redemption has not diminshed.
The flurry of activity and excitement in the air on the Tenth of Shevat ("Yud" Shevat) last year--the anniversary of the ascension of the Rebbe as leader of Chabad-Lubavitch--was felt by everyone participating in the special gathering at 770 Eastern Parkway.
Residents of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the seat of World Lubavitch Headquarters, had gotten used to TV cameras and newspaper reporters buzzing around the neighborhood.
Over the past few years, the media had become frequent visitors to Crown Heights, looking for reactions to the riots, filming the Rebbe at dollars on Sundays and asking his opinion about world affairs, speculating about the Rebbe's statements concerning Moshiach and the Redemption, intrigued at the belief in a human redeemer.
So it was no surprise to anyone when the media took notice of events last year, Yud Shevat, 5753.
Was there going to be a "coronation" of the Rebbe as Moshiach, and would the Rebbe "accept"?
Was this to be a "proclamation" of the chasidim's belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach and that they were ready to accept him as such?
Or would it be more correct to bill it as a massive prayer gathering, calling out to G-d to fulfill His long-overdue promise of annointing a human redeemer who would lead the Redemption?
The central happening of the day was when tens of thousands, joined by satellite from countries all over the world, recited the now-famous words, "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V'Rabeinu, Melech HaMoshiach L'Olam Vaed--Long live the Rebbe, King Moshiach, forever and ever." This, more than being just a prayer for the Rebbe's life, was in effect, an acceptance of the Rebbe's leadership as Moshiach.
For leadership cannot be imposed or thrust upon the people; it has to come from the people themselves. This is reminiscent of the events surrounding a previous Yud Shevat 42 years earlier.
The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away on Yud Shevat, 1950.
Soon after the shiva was over, individual chasidim--from the most prominent of the elder chasidim to young yeshiva students--began approaching the Rebbe, begging him to accept the mantle of leadership.
Upon the completion of the thirty day period of mourning for the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe received petitions with hundreds of signatures, from Israel, England, and D.P. Camps in Germany proclaiming the chasidim's acceptance of the Rebbe as the Nasi--or leader, of Chabad-Lubavitch.
But the Rebbe had not accepted the leadership.
In fact, as an outward sign of his refusal, the Rebbe removed the long, black coat worn by chasidim for Shabbat and holidays that had been his garb during the entire 30 days of mourning and reverted to wearing a regular suit.
Though an Israeli newspaper from autumn, 1950, reported on a gathering of chasidim in Jerusalem from throughout the Holy Land at which point they "crowned" the Rebbe as the new Rebbe, the Rebbe did not accept the position or title.
In fact, when the Rebbe found out that a Lubavitch emissary in England had printed new stationary listing his institution as being "under the leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson," the Rebbe sent the emissary a telegram insisting that all of the stationary be destroyed.
The Rebbe did accept the request of some chasidim for "yechidut" -- a private audience with the Rebbe which involves the communing of souls. However, many more were refused than accepted.
As weeks and months passed, more and more chasidim began to publicly proclaim the Rebbe as the successor of the Previous Rebbe.
The Jewish world at large also began to acknowledge the Rebbe's leadership.
On the 26th of Tevet, two weeks before the first yartzeit of the Previous Rebbe, articles appeared in all of the New York Jewish papers stating that the chasidim had collectively given the Rebbe a "Pledge of Commitment," accepting his leadership.
The newspapers reported that the official acceptance by the Rebbe was expected to take place on the Tenth of Shevat.
When the Rebbe found out about the articles, he indicated to his secretary that the editors should be called and told, in the Rebbe's name, that he had not agreed to accept the leadership on the Tenth of Shevat. Three elder chasidim spoke with the Rebbe at length, begging him not to insist on a retraction. "The newspapers didn't say the Rebbe has accepted the leadership, only that the chasidim have accepted the Rebbe," protested one of the chasidim. Eventually the Rebbe agreed that the newspapers did not have to be called.
And then the eve of Yud Shevat arrived.
Representatives from Jewish communities throughout the world went to the Rebbe that evening and gave him "Pledges of Commitment" from their communities.
The following morning, hundreds of chasidim went, together with the Rebbe, to the resting place of the Previous Rebbe.
At the grave, the Rebbe read the personal letters that had been given to him to read at this holy site. A group of elder chasidim publicly read a collective "Pledge of Commitment" from all Chabad-Lubavitch chasidim and then handed it to the Rebbe. At first, the Rebbe refused to take the letter, but finally he accepted it. As he read it quietly to himself, the Rebbe cried bitterly.
A farbrengen, a public gathering of chasidim, was scheduled for the evening following the Tenth of Shevat.
At 9:45 p.m. the Rebbe entered the crowded shul.
Jews from all over, not just chasidim, had come to witness this momentous event. The Rebbe spoke and the chasidim sang for nearly an hour. And then, suddenly, one of the elder chasidim stood up and called out loudly, "The assembled beg the Rebbe to say a Chasidic discourse... Favor us with a Chasidic discourse."
Until that time, the Rebbe had spoken at public gatherings numerous times, but did not generally share his own novel expositions on the Torah. Rather, he repeated and stressed the teachings of the Previous Rebbe.
A Chasidic discourse, a deep, philosophical treatise of his own, however, would be unprecedented. Everyone held their breath and watched the Rebbe closely to see his reaction.
The Rebbe looked into the booklet in front of him for a moment, a copy of the Chasidic discourse, "Basi Legani" prepared by the Previous Rebbe to be given out on Yud Shevat one year earlier and began, "In the discourse that the Rebbe gave out for the day of his passing, the Rebbe begins with the words [from the Song of Songs], 'I came into my garden.'"
Using, for the very first time, the special chasidic melody reserved for delivering a discourse, the Rebbe began to expound upon the Previous Rebbe's discourse bringing in his own insights and explanations.
It was clear to everyone present, that the Rebbe had finally accepted the leadership.
Another aspect of Yud Shevat last year was the belief by all who participated that an expression of desire for Moshiach of such magnitude on such an auspicious day might be the one act needed to make it a reality. Here, too, we see a parallel in an earlier Yud Shevat; this time 24 years ago in 1970.
At the height of World War II, the Previous Rebbe had given instructions for a special Torah scroll to be written in preparation for Moshiach.
The Previous Rebbe had urged his chasidim to see that as many Jews as possible participate in "buying" letters in the Torah scroll that was to become known as "Moshiach's Sefer Torah."
The actual writing began on 2 Iyar, 1942.
By the time the Previous Rebbe passed away in 1950, the Torah scroll was nearly completed. Nearly, but for unknown reasons, the Previous Rebbe had never given the go ahead to write in the last few words.
The twenty year anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's passing was approaching. Each year, on Yud Shevat, the present Rebbe had expounded on an additional chapter of the Previous Rebbe's 20 chapter discourse, "Basi Legani." This year, 1970, the Rebbe would complete this process with the explanation of the final chapter.
In the beginning of Shevat, the Rebbe announced that Yud Shevat would be the occasion for concluding the "Sefer Torah to Greet Moshiach." Whoever had not yet "bought" a letter should do so now.
In Israel, over 600 Chabadniks traveled throughout the Holy Land to offer fellow Jews the opportunity to "buy" letters in the special Torah scroll.
Thousands of Chasidim throughout the world streamed toward 770 for this momentous occasion.
Expectations were high that this was an especially auspicious moment for the coming of Moshiach. The conclusion of writing the Torah scroll was held on Friday afternoon, the eve of Yud Shevat.
The aged scribe who had originally written the Torah scroll took quill in hand to write in the final words of the Torah which commenced by describing Moses' greatness: "And there arose not a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the L-rd knew face to face... in the eyes of all Israel." The thousands of people packed in the shul watched the scribe's deliberate strokes breathlessly.
The air was thick with anticipation.
Everyone believed that at any moment they would merit to greet Moshiach. In voices choked with emotion, elder chasidim recited verses of prayer and thousands of voices repeated the verses in unison. And then, as everyone looked on, the Rebbe took out of a sealed box a magnificent, finely-worked, golden filigree crown. The Rebbe majestically placed the crown upon the Torah scroll. The Torah was then carried, under a chupa, to the ark.
The Rebbe spoke movingly about the significance of the occasion and ended with the prayer that we all merit very soon to go together to the Holy Land with the Righteous Moshiach.
Then, as in 1993, everyone who participated left convinced that they had been privileged to be a part of a major step toward the revelation of Moshiach.
The following is chapter 3 of the first Chasidic discourse ("ma'amar") said by the Rebbe, shlita--seventh Rebbe in the Chabad dynasty--on the first yartzeit of the Previous Rebbe in 1951.
This discourse expounds on the ma'amar prepared by the Previous Rebbe to be given out on 10 Shevat, the yartzeit of his grandmother, and ultimately the day of his own passing.
The fact that our Sages say that "all those who are seventh are cherished," rather than "all those who are cherished are seventh," indicates that the seventh's primary quality lies in his being seventh.
In other words, he is cherished not on account of his choice, desire, or spiritual service, but because he is seventh--and this is something that he is born into. Yet the fact remains that "all those who are seventh are cherished." It was for this reason that it was Moshe who was privileged to have the Torah given through him.
The Rebbe, of blessed memory, explained (soon after arriving in America) that even when we refer to the seventh of a series as being the most cherished, the special quality of the first is apparent.
For the whole meaning of "seventh" is "seventh from the first."
The Rebbe then explained the qualities that the first--our forefather Avraham--attained through his spiritual service, which was performed with total self-sacrificing devotion.
Not content with the above, the Rebbe adds that Avraham did not actively pursue mesirus nefesh [self-sacrifice].... Avraham's mesirus nefesh was incidental [to his actual service]. He knew that the main object of divine service was-that defined by the Sages' interpretation of the verse], "He proclaimed there the Name of G-d, L-rd of the world."
[For our Sages say,] "do not read vayikra--`he proclaimed,' but vayakrei--`he made others proclaim.'" I.e., let another man likewise proclaim [G-d's Name]. And if in the course of this service mesirus nefesh was called for, he could supply that, too.
Indeed, so estimable was Avraham's divine service and mesirus nefesh that even Moshe was privileged to have the Torah given through him because he was the beloved seventh--the seventh to the first. [It is to this relationship between them that the Sages apply the verse: "G-d told Moshe (referring to Avraham), 'Do not stand in the place of the greats.' "
It is true that the seventh of a series is very much loved and that this status comes not as a result of choice nor as a result of one's divine service, but as a finished product, merely as a result of birth.
Nevertheless, there are no inherent limitations that should cause an individual to say that this status is beyond him and that it is accessible only to a select few.
On the contrary, this is a situation similar to that which is explained in Tanna dvei Eliyahu and quoted in Chasidut, that every Jew, even a slave and handmaiden can attain the inspiration of the Divine Spirit.
[Similarly,] each and every Jew is obligated to say, "when will my actions equal those of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?"
At the same time we should not delude ourselves: We must know that we should "not stand in the place of the greats," and that the merit of the seventh of a series consists of his being seventh to the first.
I.e., he is capable of doing the divine service and fulfilling the mission of the first: "Do not read 'he proclaimed,' but 'he made others proclaim.'"
This, then, is why the seventh is so cherished: it is he who draws down the Shechina, in fact--the essence of the Shechina; moreover, he draws it down into this lowly world.
It is this that is demanded of each and every one of us of the seventh generation--and "all those that are seventh are cherished": Although the fact that we are in the seventh generation is not the result of our own choosing and our own service, and indeed in certain ways perhaps contrary to our will, nevertheless "all those who are seventh are cherished."
We are now very near the approaching footsteps of Moshiach, indeed, we are at the conclusion of this period, and our spiritual task is to complete the process of drawing down the Shechina--moreover, the essence of the Shechina--within specifically our lowly world.
Translated by Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg for Sichos in English. To hear the actual recording of the Rebbe delivering this discourse in Yiddish, call the Moshiach Information Center at (718) 953-6168. Press #2, then #5, #1, and #1 again.
The Rebbe with Mr. David Chase
"For the past twenty-odd years, since I had first met the Rebbe, my life can be described as a pocket full of miracles," says Mr. David Chase, one of America's foremost businessmen.
"And I don't mean only in my business endeavors.
"On the contrary, the greatest miracle of them may have been my ability to appreciate the message that the Rebbe conveys. My relationship with the Rebbe has given me and many others a sensitivity to matters which are beyond ordinary mortal understanding.
"For this reason, over the years, I have committed myself to advancing the Rebbe's work in many areas and to different people.
"The Rebbe's directives are so far-reaching and never ending.
"The Rebbe himself once described his 'insatiable appetite' for ongoing Jewish activity. Perhaps it is the Rebbe's total lack of self- concern and constant devotion to the welfare of others that has motivated me to regard my Lubavitch activity as a cherished labor of love.
"Once, at the annual meeting of the Machne Israel Development Fund, I told the Rebbe how pleased I was to be one of the soldiers in his army.
"'You are not merely a soldier,' the Rebbe replied. 'You are my general.'
"Some time later, when I came to receive a dollar on Sunday, I received a promotion: the Rebbe told me, 'I regard you as a five-star general.'
"I consider it my pleasure and duty to help others benefit from an association with the Rebbe, just as I have benefitted in both my business and private life. My activities bring me in contact with many public figures around the world, and I do no t hesitate to share my experiences with the Rebbe and his directives with Jews and non-Jews.
"I often visit my native land, Poland, where I have business interests. Prior to one trip to Poland, I visited New York and asked for the Rebbe's blessing. The Rebbe handed me an additional dollar, saying: 'Give this to a person in Poland who will benefit the Jewish people.'
"Due to my business endeavors, I have various contacts in the Polish government, and I contemplated who would be the proper recipient of the Rebbe's dollar. One day I found myself aboard a flight with the newly elected President Lech Walesa. I had several contacts with Mr. Walesa in the past, and it occurred to me that I would not be able to find a better person to whom to give the Rebbe's dollar. I approached him, handed him the dollar, and conveyed the Rebbe' s message.
"Mr. Walesa looked at me thoughtfully. 'I sincerely hope I will be able to live up to your Rebbe's expectation.'
"After this encounter, my acquaintance with Mr. Walesa grew and we became quite friendly. Some time later, Mr. Walesa personally invited me to accompany him on his upcoming visit to Israel. This trip was a major breakthrough in relations between th e two countries, and he felt that my inclusion in his delegation would be helpful.
"Though I was not inclined to accept the invitation, I saw this as a further step in enhancing the impact of the Rebbe's influence on 'a person who will benefit the Jewish people,' and I agreed. Mr. Walesa told me he wanted to express the regret o f the Polish people for their inexcusable behavior towards the Jews during World War II.
"As a Holocaust survivor myself, I insisted that his statement be forthright, without minimizing the issue or covering it up with bland diplomatic wording.
"Mr. Walesa surprised the Israeli government with his non-evasive statement of regret on behalf of the Polish government. Subsequently, former Prime Minister Shamir was very demanding in several points, including a change in the pro-Arab approach that had been advocated by Poland's previous communist leaders and a cessation of arms sales to countries hostile to Israel. Despite Poland's heavy financial loss, one could almost see the Rebbe's directive at work as Mr. Walesa agreed to one concess ion after another.
"Later, I accompanied him on a visit to the Diaspora Museum, where I pointed out the picture of the Rebbe which is displayed there. 'Is this my Rebbe?' Mr. Walesa asked, bowing his head in reverence. Mr. Walesa's response was striking. He was clea rly impressed and moved by the Rebbe's intense gaze. He actually lowered his head as if acknowledging his leadership.
"In many other instances, I have been privileged to bring the Rebbe's messages to people who might otherwise not have been exposed to them. The best way we can reciprocate for the good which the Rebbe showers upon us is to express his teachings, i deals, and principles in our daily lives."
Reprinted, with permission, from To Know and To Care.
In this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, we read of the different opinions among the Jews when they were faced with the Red Sea in front and the approach of the powerful Egyptian army from behind.
"Let us drown in the Sea," cried one group of Jews. "We must return to Egypt," declared another camp. A third party suggested waging war. The last opinion was to pray, putting everything in G-d's "hands."
Moshe spoke to each of these groups, explaining to them the folly of their suggestions. And he gave them the only possible solution to the seemingly impossible situation.
"We have been commanded by G-d to go forward. We must travel on to Mount Sin ai where we will receive the Torah and thus bring light to the world. This is the whole reason for our exodus from Egypt."
The suggestion of each of the four groups can be interpreted according to its simplest meaning and also according to Chasidut.
Drowning in the sea can also be understood as drowning in the sea of Torah, totally immersing in spirituality without consideration for our mission of elevating the physicality of the world.
The intent of those who suggested surrendering and going back to Egypt, was that they would study Torah and observe mitzvot in Egypt, spreading holiness and purity to that immoral nation. However, being forced into this compromise, the mitzvot per formed there would not have been carried out with joy and enthusiasm.
Fighting, too, was not an appropriate option. Firstly, it was recommended by those whose natural instincts were to be aggressive, not out of a higher motive. In addition, the mission at hand was to bring light into the world and this can never be achieved through fighting.
One might think that the last option, praying and putting oneself totally in G-d's hands, was the best. However, here, too, there is a problem. For just praying means giving the matter over to G-d without any effort on your part to rectify the sit uation.
As we can see, each option has its own good points and drawbacks.
The major drawback for each suggestion, however, is that they were not in keeping with G-d's command to the Jews to go forward, despite obstacles and seeming impossibilities. The Je ws were being commanded to do something that went beyond their nature, beyond their intellect.
And by following G-d's command, they would not only merit the splitting of the Red Sea as a nation, but each individual would breaks through his own person al Red Sea after which he can receive the Divine revelation at Mount Sinai.
This above explanation is based on a talk of the Rebbe 32 years ago, on the tenth of Shevat--the yartzeit of the previous Rebbe and the anniversary of the beginning of the leadership of the Rebbe, shlita. Yet, over 3 decades later, it is still so pertinent and timely. For, we have been given a command from G-d via the Moses of our generation, the Rebbe. "The Redemption is imminent. Be prepared to greet Moshiach."
The response to the Rebbe's message has been as diverse as the opinions of the Jews at the Red Sea. And yet, in truth, there is only one viable and appropriate response: to follow G-d's command and move forward by studying about Moshiach and the R edemption, by increasing our performance of mitzvot and by living with the imminent redemption as a reality in our lives.
May we merit very soon the full recovery of the Rebbe and that he lead us to the final Redemption, NOW!
G-d did not lead them the way through the land of the Philistines, because it was near (Ex. 13:17)
The Jewish people were led on a roundabout way to the Promised Land to afford their future descendants the strength to overcome and succeed even when the path is rocky and full of obstacles.
And the people believed in G-d, and in Moses, His servant (Ex. 14:31)
"A person who believes in the leader of the generation has faith in 'He Who Uttered and the world was brought into being.' Every single Jew, regardless of his spiritual attainments, must cleave to the Moses who exists in every generation, for thro ugh him he cleaves to G-d Himself.
And Moses said to Yehoshua [Joshua], choose for us men...and Moses and Aaron and Chur went up to the top of the hill (Ex. 17:9)
Why was it necessary to assemble an entire team consisting of Moses, Yehoshua, Aaron and Chur to fight Amalek? The Jewish people had not been behaving properly, and this is why they were attacked by Amalek. Indeed, the very name of the location where the attack occurred-- Refidim--is related to the Hebrew word pirud, meaning disunity.
At that time, the Jews were fighting amongst themselves and also rebelling against G-d. The first letters of the names Aaron, Chur, Yehoshua and Moses form the word achim--brothers.
Moses' call to the Jewish people was that if they would act as brothers and live in harmony, united in the study of Torah and observance of mitzvot, Amalek would never be able to penetrate the Jewish camp.
It is the task of every Jewish man, woman and child, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small, to bring about the Redemption.
This mission is unaffected by distinctions of prayer customs, ideological circles, or parties: It is the concern of the entire Jewish People.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
by Rabbi Ben Tzion Grossman
My niece, Chaya, is the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek and director of Migdal Ohr institutions in Israel. The events described below occurred immediately after Passover, 5745 (1985). Chaya was then sixteen-and-a-half years old.
The school Chaya attended, Bait Chana in Safed, had organized a special trip, which included a tour of the graves of tzadikim in the Galilee.
On the way to one of the graves, a friend of Chaya's rubbed against a pointed tree branch. The point snapped back into Chaya's eye. At that moment, Chaya's eye blew up out of all proportion, and her face became twisted. She was immediately rushed to the hospital.
After a preliminary examination in the intensive care unit, the doctors said that she had suffered a serious injury. They believed that her sight could never be restored.
As soon as my brother and family heard the doctor's prognosis, they took Chaya to the best eye specialists they could find. For the next six months they traveled with Chaya across the country visiting doctor after doctor, but nothing helped. All the doctors gave the same opinion: Chaya would never see out of that eye again.
Some time later, my brother was in the United States on behalf of Migdal Ohr Institutions in Migdal HaEmek. His friends had heard about the tragedy, and they suggested that Rabbi Grossman bring his daughter to New York and visit a famous eye specialist in Manhattan. My brother asked the advice of the Rebbe. The Rebbe responded that it was a good idea.
Rabbi Grossman called his family and asked that Chaya fly to the United States to be examined by the specialist. With her medical records in hand, Chaya set out. When Chaya arrived in New York she said that she wanted to ask for the Rebbe's blessing before undergoing the crucial tests. She knew that if this specialist came to the same conclusions as the doctors in Israel had, there really was no hope.
A few minutes before 10:00 a.m. Rabbi Grossman stood with Chaya at the entrance to "770," waiting for the Rebbe to arrive. The Rebbe arrived at exactly 10:00 and gave some coins to the children standing there to give to charity. Rabbi Grossman bec ame very emotional and cried out, "Rebbe I need a blessing for the recovery of my daughter!"
"Amen," the Rebbe answered, adding, "May she merit Torah, chupah, and good deeds." Then he stared closely at Chaya and said strongly, "A complete recovery!"
At that time, Chaya wore special dark glasses which covered her bloated eye.
After the Rebbe's blessing, Chaya left "770" and her father went into the shul there. Suddenly, Chaya's glasses broke. At the same time, she felt a change: The constant pain in her eye and the secretions which flowed from it were subsiding.
At first Chaya thought that she was imagining things, or maybe her glasses breaking had somehow lightened the weight on her eyes. But as the seconds ticked by, Chaya began to see normally. The pain and secretions had stopped. When Rabbi Grossman returned from shul and saw his daughter, he cried out, "Dear G-d, there is nothing wrong with the eye! It looks completely normal!"
It took my brother a few hours to calm down from the open miracle he had experienced. Only then Chaya reminded him that they had an appointment with the specialist. Perhaps there was no need to keep the appointment; she felt fine. At first, her fa ther agreed, but then he remembered that the Rebbe had said it was a good idea to see the doctor. They decided to follow the Rebbe's advice to the letter and keep the appointment.
Before examing Chaya, the doctor reviewed all of Chaya's records and arrived at the same conclusion as the Israeli doctors; there was no chance of Chaya ever regaining her sight. When he began to examine Chaya's eye, it was clear from the expressi on on his face that he was dumbfounded. "Just a minute!" he exclaimed. "I don't understand what is going on here. According to the diagnosis of the Israeli doctors, the situation is hopeless, but I don't see anything wrong with Chaya's eye! It appear s to be totally normal."
My brother told the doctor what had happened that morning during their visit to the Rebbe.
"Ah," said the doctor. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe gave you his blessing? Why didn't you tell me before? I know the Lubavitcher Rebbe quite well, and I can tell you many stories."
The doctor asked permission to perform a nuclear examination. The examination would reveal the eye's history including any abnormality which had occurred over the last twenty years. "I am curious," he said, "to see what the condition of the eye wa s before the Rebbe's blessing."
After the examination, the doctor was in complete shock. "I see nothing. Her eye has returned to its pre-traumatic condition as if nothing ever happened. You can throw out all these papers. They have nothing to do with you any more.
Today, thank G-d, Chaya is married and a mother. She teaches in her father's school, and whenever she has the chance, she tells her students her own story, to strengthen their faith in the tzadik and leader of the generation.
From Wonders and Miracles, vol. 2