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This story goes back to the time of the pogroms against the Jews in Israel in 1936.
The British government realized that the situation could not continue the way it was; the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs was just intolerable. So a commission, headed by Lord Viscount Peel, was dispatched to Palestine. The commission would later submit its proposals to King George.
One of the last witnesses to testify before the commission was the chairman of the Jewish Agency, David Ben Gurion.
On the witness stand there was a Tanach (Bible), and l'havdil a Koran and a Christian Bible. Each of the witnesses took an oath.
Ben Gurion's testimony lasted for over three hours.
He spoke about the long lasting connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, declaring that this was our home and that we demand from the British government and the rest of the world to recognize our right to the Land of Israel.
It was a very moving speech and the journalists who were present immediately ran to the telephones to relay Ben Gurion's impressive speech.
Lord Peel sat there coldly, without emotion, and did not display any excitement. Then, in a low voice, he spoke to Ben Gurion:
"May I ask you a personal question?"
Ben Gurion: "Sure."
Lord Peel: "Where were you born?"
Ben Gurion: "In Plonsk."
Lord Peel: "Where is Plonsk?"
Ben Gurion: "In Poland."
Lord Peel: "That is very strange. All the Arab witnesses who appeared before this committee, Nusseibah, Nasabiba, El Tal and El Husseini, were born here in Palestine. And almost all the Jewish witnesses who appeared before us were not born here.
"You say that this is your house, but someone else lives here now -- the Arabs. There is an international law which states that if somebody contests the right of someone who is holding on to property, he must submit a document -- proof of ownership -- or as it was called in the Ottoman Empire, a kushan, that this property belongs to him even though he was not born there."
Ben Gurion lifted the Bible that was on the stand and said:
"Lord Peel, surely we have a kushan, this is our kushan -- the Bible. The British are a nation that respects the Bible. Is our historical right, as stated in the Bible, less authentic than a document penned by some clerk in some land registry office? This is an everlasting document in which it is written: `To your children I have given this land.' G-d promised this land to our Father Abraham and to his descendants. There is no doubt that we are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Again, the reporters ran to their telephone booths to report about Ben Gurion's response.
(From an article by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Israel, printed in The Jewish Press)
"Breishit... -- In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the earth."
On this first verse of the Bible, Rashi brings the comments of Rav Yitzchak:
"Since the Torah is the book of laws, it should have begun with the first commandment, in the Book of Exodus. Why, then did it begin with the narrative of creation?
"The reason is in order to establish the sovereignty of G-d over the earth. If the nations accuse Israel of banditry for seizing the lands of the seven nations of Canaan, the Jewish people will tell them:
"The entire universe belongs to G-d. He created it and He granted it to whomever was deemed fit in His eyes. It was His desire to give it to them and it was then His desire to take it from them and cede it to us."
In a ruling by over 1,000 rabbis in Jerusalem on May 2, 1994,
"Absolutely no one, be it the government, Knesset or any other authority, has the right to relinquish any Jewish control on any part of the Land of Israel, which was given to the Jewish People... Relinquishing control of any part of Israel goes against the Torah and morality, therefore it has no value and the agreement is null and void....
Everyone should protest this catastrophe by signing petitions against it... All Jews should pray that the Al-mighty send us Moshiach now.
This week's Torah portion, Shelach, relates the story of the spies and their unwillingness to settle in the Land of Israel.
As we now stand on the threshold of the Messianic Era, when all Jews will return to the Holy Land, it is interesting to explore that event.
The spies' reluctance to leave the familiarity of the desert, their home for forty years, stemmed from the fact that it represented a radical change in their spiritual service.
For forty years the physical needs of the Jewish people had been met miraculously -- manna from heaven, fresh water from Miriam's well, clouds protecting them from their enemies -- enabling the Jews to concentrate on their relationship with G-d without distractions.
Settling the Land of Israel would involve embarking on an entirely new path, intimately involved in agriculture and necessitating direct interaction with the material world.
Yet embarking on this new path was precisely what G-d desired.
The sin of the spies, each one of whom was a righteous and upstanding Jew, was their rejection of this notion.
They worried that working the soil would take away precious time from their Torah study.
Rather than purify the material world through their practical mitzvot, the spies preferred to continue their G-dly service removed -- as much as possible -- from the world and its demands.
But this is not the Jewish approach.
The Divine mission of the Jew is to go out into the material world and conquer it, elevating physical matter by imbuing it with spirituality.
This reluctance on the part of some people was limited to the very first time the Jews were about to enter the Land of Israel.
When Moshiach ushers in the Redemption, no one will be ambivalent about the new era.
At that time, our return to Israel will be complete and wholehearted.
On the one hand, the Jewish people will return to an agrarian existence, symbolic of G-d's desire that we elevate the physical world through our service.
Yet at the same time, the substantial labor involved in this work will be done for us by others, as the Torah states, "And strangers will arise and tend your flocks, and the children of foreigners will be your farmers and vinegrowers," enabling the Jewish people to pursue their primary role, the uninterrupted worship of G-d.
This is also alluded to in G-d's promise to bring us to "a land flowing with milk and honey."
In the Messianic Era, the sustenance of the Jews will be as bountiful as the milk that flows by itself from the goat and the honey that drips from the date palm -- without our having to expend any effort. We will then be free to dedicate all our time to the joyful service of G-d.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe on 12 Sivan, 5744 (1984)
Continued from last week's L'Chaim:
An interview by Dov Halperin with Reb Avraham Genin of Moscow
One day, Reb Getche came to my store with Grisha Rosenshtein and said: "Avraham, we must go and make a bris." I trembled with fear. I didn't even know what blessing to say at a bris. But I agreed. They had to bring a Jewish doctor, since the bris was for an adult.
This "project" developed.
A Jew who wanted a bris would come to my shop as if he wanted to make a key. He would say to me, "Reb Getche sent me to you." I would close the store. We would go in a car and I would have to blindfold him so he wouldn't see where he was being taken.
It was very dangerous. A bris was illegal. People were sent to Siberia for less than this. I didn't always take them by car; sometimes we went by foot. I had a few "safe" houses of dear Jews who put themselves in danger to make a bris in their homes.
Many hundreds of brisim were made in the home of Babushka Charne, who now lives in Jerusalem. She was also afraid, but she was willing to make the sacrifice.
Once, at a bris, there was a knock on the door. Babushka Charne fainted from fright. I said to her, "Calm down," but she said: "Maybe it's my son; he might come in any minute."
I understood that she feared her son, who didn't know about the bris and might not be able to withstand interrogation. That's how life was.
The underground Lubavitch activists sent people from all over the USSR to have a bris. In the beginning, the youngest member of the family came. Then he would bring his father and then sometimes his father-in-law.
It was dangerous for all of us.
We made brisim for adults from age 15 to 45.
Before Babushka Charne let us use her apartment, I would ask around for people who were willing to let us use their homes for a bris. Everyone who agreed, put his life on the line.
There was only a mohel [person who does ritual circumcisions] for little children, Reb Motel Lifshitz. Giving an infant a bris also endangered the life of the mohel, the parents and everyone who participated.
I must point out Reb Getche's mesirus nefesh -- self sacrifice: he didn't miss even one bris.
He organized and attended hundreds and thousands of brisim until his last day.
Even when he was critically ill, he would go with me to every bris to give the Jewish name.
Although I was handicapped and exempt from the army, they stopped me for questioning scores of times. They called people from shul and interrogated them about me. We didn't have even one day without someone being interrogated.
It wasn't easy. My wife always said, "Stop, Avraham. You'll be thrown into jail." I couldn't, and more accurately, I didn't want to stop.
People said to me two years ago: "Now it's easy --go visit the Rebbe."
I gathered money, got permission and bought ticket. But I thought: How can I go to the Rebbe empty handed? What present can I bring the Rebbe?
I bought a bottle of vodka and made a farbrengen, a special farbrengen. Reb Getche, Reb Motel and the whole yeshiva came.
I passed the bottle around, went to each one, asked him to say "l'chaim" and wish the Rebbe health, long life and that the Rebbe should bring the geula -- Redemption. Someone wrote the blessings on the bottle.
I came to America and went straight to the Rebbe's house. That day was the Rebbetzin's yahrzeit and the Rebbe davened in his home.
We came to the Rebbe's house. I was very emotional. When I stood in front of the Rebbe, I don't know how it came out of my mouth, but I said, "I'm Avraham Genin from Marina Roscha."
The Rebbe smiled a great big smile. He looked at me and said: "Like Avraham, our ancestor."
Before I managed to recuperate from that statement the Rebbe gave me two dollars, another two dollars for the Marina Roscha shul, two more dollars for the yeshiva and two dollars for Reb Getche.
Then the Rebbe looked at my bottle. I gave it to him and said,
"This is from the Marina Roscha shul, from all the students in the yeshiva who wish the Rebbe good health and years and that the Rebbe should lead us to the geula." The Rebbe looked at me with his holy eyes. His holy bright eyes. Those eyes. His look kept us strong all those years."
The police investigated me when I returned to Russia, asking where I got the money to travel and how much money the Rebbe had given me? I laughed at them. What am I? A smuggler?
Reb Avraham looks at his watch. I feel like sitting with him forever. Tomorrow morning, Avraham will be back at his booth, as he has for the past forty years. It will be business as usual. He will close his store for two hours, and run to make brisim.
But no longer in hiding.
Now it's no longer a secret.
Some people don't come to my store; they call me at home all night. "This or that emissary from the Rebbe sent me to you. We want a bris. When can you make it? When should we come?" I need to answer these questions. But now I don't need to seek them out. They come on their own straight to the shul.
I merited to visit the Rebbe, shlita, he should be well and bring the Redemption. I want to go to Israel, but only if the Rebbe gives me permission. So far, I didn't get permission to leave.
Please excuse me. I need to get going. You see that you wasted your time. Why don't you go hear something from the big Chasidim, the shluchim? Why do you need to write about me, a simple Jew who knows nothing!
The front page article in L'Chaim issue # 315 incorrectly stated that there is a Midrash which speaks about the Jews giving the Land of Israel to the Arabs before the Redemption. This comment is actually based on the words of a prominent rabbi and not a Midrash. Jewish teachings, however, in numerous places speak of the Arabs erroneous claim to the Holy Land.
Study Torah at your own convenience with the Gutnick Computerized Communication Center.
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A project of Sichos in English.
Letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
13 Cheshvan, 5734 (1973)
I trust that the eleven students who were sent from here to form the nucleus of the new yeshiva in Miami Beach have duly conveyed to you my personal regards.
In addition to the letter I sent with them, I am enclosing an additional copy and also a copy of the English translation, which I hope will be of interest to you.
The purpose of this writing is to reiterate the oral message of congratulations conveyed through the students, and to wish you mazal tov again on the far-reaching turn in the development of the Oholei Torah Center in Miami Beach through the establishments of the Yeshiva.
May G-d grant that this Torah Center, which you have made possible through your generosity, continue to advance and develop with gigantic steps, especially in view of its importance to serve as a pilot project.
Moreover, I trust that this development will be both steady and at a rapid pace, which, in this case, at any rate, will not inhibit the progress, but to the contrary.
Indeed, in light of the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that a person must learn from everything around him how better to fulfill his purpose in life, especially in fundamental matters, our present jet age and supersonic transportation should inspire in us the idea of time-saving in the spiritual realm.
A distance that not so very long ago took days and weeks to cover, can now be spanned in a matter of hours, and a message that took as long to communicate can now be transmitted instantly.
If this could be accomplished in the physical and material sense, surely the same should be true in the spiritual realm, whether in the area of personal achievement or in the area of effecting a change in the environment.
To be satisfied with less in the realm of the spirit would be like arguing to return to the era of the horse and buggy on the grounds that this was satisfactory in olden days, all the more so since spiritual matters have never been subject to the limitations of time and space.
If anyone entertains any doubt about his ability to meet a challenge which Divine Providence has "thrown into his lap," suffice it to remember that G-d does not act despotically or capriciously, and most certainly provides the necessary capacity to meet the challenge, and to do so joyously, which is the way of all Divine service, as it is written, "Serve G-d with joy," and which, incidentally, is a basic tenet of the Chasidic approach to all matters.
28 Iyar, 5734 (1974)
To the Students of Grade 2
Oholei Torah Day School
Your teacher sent me your notebooks in connection with your assignment, "My Plans for the Summer," which I looked through with much interest.
I wish you a happy and healthy summer, and since every person has a body and a soul, a healthy person is one who is healthy both in body and in soul.
As a matter of fact, the soul is the more important part of a person, and when the soul is healthy it helps the body to keep in good shape.
Since you are fortunate to be students of the Oholei Torah Day School, you surely know that the soul, like the body, needs constant nourishment, and the nourishment of the soul is the Torah and mitzvot.
During the school year you spend time partly in the study of Torah and partly in the study of other things, such as English and arithmetic, etc. However useful these other things are, they do not make the soul healthier, for, as mentioned above, the soul receives health and strength only from Torah and mitzvot.
But during the summer vacation, when you are free from other things, you have an opportunity to learn more Torah and do more mitzvot, and in this way to give your soul a chance to become really strong and healthy, and to also gather strength for the coming school year.
I have written more on this important subject in a special message to all students, which your teacher will surely read and explain to you.
So I will conclude with the prayerful wish that you should, with G-d's help, make the most of your summer vacation along the above lines, and G-d will surely bless you with a truly healthy summer, healthy both in soul and in body.
King Solomon [Shlomo] was the son of King David and Bat Sheva.
He was anointed king at the end of David's life with the full acceptance of the people, who called out, "Yechi HaMelech -- Long Live the King."
He ascended the throne at the age of twelve and reigned for forty years. His reign was marked by peace and prosperity.
In the fourth year of his reign, he constructed the Holy Temple with the materials that had been gathered by his father.
Solomon was known for his wisdom and piety, and kings and queens of other realms were drawn to his wisdom and to see the magnificence of his court.
Solomon composed the books of Proverbs, the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastics.
The 28th of Sivan (June 7 this year) marks 53 years since the Rebbe came to the United States.
The Rebbe, shlita, and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka (of blessed memory) were in France during the early years of World War II.
In 1941, with tremendous effort on the part of the Previous Rebbe -- who was already in the United States -- the Rebbe, shlita, and Rebbetzin were able to travel to Portugal, and from there to Barcelona. In Barcelona they boarded a ship to the United States.
The trip itself was quite dangerous, with the ship being stopped numerous times en route by Nazis.
On the 28th of Sivan (June 23 that year), 1941, the Rebbe, shlita, and the Rebbetzin arrived on the shores of New York.
The Previous Rebbe, who, because of ill health, was unable to greet his daughter and son-in-law personally, sent four of his most eminent Chasidim to greet the Rebbe.
The Previous Rebbe informed them, "I am selecting you as my emissaries to go and welcome my son-in-law, who is arriving tomorrow. I will reveal to you who he is: Every night he says the Tikkun Chatzot prayer over the destruction of the Holy Temple; he knows by heart the entire Babylonian Talmud with the commentaries of the 'Ran,' the 'Rosh' and the 'Rif'; he knows by heart the Jerusalem Talmud, Maimonides' Mishne Torah and Likutei Torah with its commentaries. Go and greet him!"
The 28th of Sivan was established as a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the rescue of the Rebbe, shlita, and Rebbetzin from the fires that raged in Europe.
It also marks the beginning a new era in Chabad outreach with the establishment by the Previous Rebbe of the Lubavitch publishing house, the educational branch of Lubavitch and Machne Israel. All three vital organizations were under the directorship of the Rebbe.
May the 28th of Sivan this year be the ultimate day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the rescue of the Rebbe and the entire Jewish people from these last moments of exile, may G-d send the redemption NOW!
A land which eats its inhabitants (Num. 13:32)
According to Rashi, the spies reported that wherever they went they saw Canaanites burying their dead.
They falsely concluded that something was wrong with a land in which funerals were so commonplace.
Unknown to them was the Canaanite custom of storing the bodies of their dead until a prominent person passed away, at which time all funerals took place on the same day, in the belief that the more important person would surely bring the others along with him to the afterlife.
The spies' arrival in Canaan happened to coincide with the death of the famous and righteous Job. Thus, the entire country was involved in funeral preparations.
The land of Israel does indeed consume those who merely "inhabit" it (from the word meaning "to sit" or "settle").
A Jew must never relax and sit complacently when it comes to spiritual matters, but must always strive to better himself and ascend the ladder of holiness.
(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)
Speak to the children of Israel and say...they shall make themselves fringes on the corners of their garments...and you will look at it and remember the commandments of G-d (Num. 15:38-39)
In addition to reminding us of the Torah's 613 mitzvot, looking at the tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of a four-cornered garment also reminds us of G-d's promise to bring every Jew back to Israel from the four corners of the world when Moshiach comes.
Observing the mitzva of tzitzit, which brings us to full Torah observance, hastens the Final Redemption and the fulfillment of G-d's vow.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita)
Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children (Num. 14:18)
G-d lessens the iniquity of parents whose children behave righteously. In their merit, G-d forgives the parents their sins.
It was Friday afternoon and Reb Yossele was on his way home after a long day's work.
He was a peddler who made his living selling new pots and repairing old ones throughout the little villages of White Russia.
Some days business was good, especially before the holidays, when the housewives had to prepare special foods and found they were missing a necessary pot or pan. Other times he had barely enough to live on. Today had been a good day, but Shabbat was approaching and he was anxious to get home.
The sun shone brilliantly and the wind shuffled the leaves just enough to feel pleasant against the skin. Suddenly, the wagon stopped and tilted to one side.
Yossele couldn't believe it, but a glimpse confirmed his worst suspicion: the axle had broken.
With the tools he kept in his wagon he set about fixing it, but the sun had risen high by the time the repair was completed.
Reb Yossele was nervous. He had unexpectedly lost a lot of time, and his village was still quite a distance. What could he do but continue on and hope for the best?
The sun had set when Reb Yossele slunk into the back road of the little village. All the Jewish men were in the shul praying the evening service, but Reb Yossele didn't go; he was too ashamed and horrified at what he had done. For Yossele had never violated Shabbat before in his life.
His shame and guilt plagued him all through Shabbat, and when the first few stars lit the evening sky he made his way to the home of his rebbe in the hopes of receiving advice on how to purify his soul of the transgression. He reluctantly and with great difficulty told the whole story to the tzadik.
"Indeed, this is a difficult thing," the rebbe said.
"Your atonement must fit the seriousness of the transgression. You must afflict your body by lying in the snow and immersing in the frozen river. This will cleanse your soul and bring you to complete repentance."
Reb Yossele listened with wide eyes to this prescription for teshuva. He sighed and a tremor ran through him. He thanked the tzadik for his help; he was willing to do anything to erase this miserable blot from his soul.
One early frigid morning, after an attempt at immersing in the river, he sat in his cottage despondently wondering what he should do. How he longed to do the teshuva that would cleanse his soul from the transgression which overcame him accidentally, and yet was devastating him. Reb Yossele roused himself and walked to shul for the morning prayers. This morning the room buzzed with news of the impending visit to a neighboring town of the famous tzadik, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Reb Yossele suddenly felt less tired. He even smiled. The Baal Shem Tov would surely help.
Two days later, Yossele set off to visit the Besht.
He related the entire episode of the Shabbat desecration and the penance prescribed by his rebbe. The Baal Shem Tov listened and then said, "Buy candles and set them in the study hall this Friday ."
Yossele could hardly believe his ears. Could it be so simple? But, the Besht was unquestionably a great tzadik, and Reb Yossele trusted his words completely. He went straight to the store and purchased the candles.
That Friday Reb Yossele joyfully brought the candles to the study hall, set them in the candlestick holders and lit them.
But suddenly, to his shock and horror, a large dog ran into the room, grabbed the candles in his terrifying jaws and ground them into crumbs. Reb Yossele's eyes brimmed with tears. G-d did not want his teshuva!
Reb Yossele sadly returned to the Besht and told him about the dog. "It seems that your rebbe isn't pleased with my advice, but it will be all right. Go and buy more candles and place them in the study hall just as before. You have my promise that this time it will be just fine. And when you return home, please tell your rebbe that I would like him to be my guest next Shabbat."
Reb Yossele relayed the message to his rebbe who was very happy to receive an invitation from the Baal Shem Tov.
On Friday morning the rebbe harnessed his horses and set out for the town where the Besht was staying, a short distance away. But things didn't go right. He made a right turn at the junction, but it brought him down the wrong road. Then he turned back, but got lost in a thicket.
Each wrong turn led to another, and he became hopelessly lost.
As the sun began to set, he had no choice but to walk toward his destination. With each step he berated himself.
How could he have been so careless? How did he lose his way?
When the rebbe arrived at the door of the Baal Shem Tov his host was standing with kiddush cup in hand, waiting to recite kiddush over the wine.
"Now you know exactly how Reb Yossele felt when he desecrated the Shabbat. Before this evening you had never transgressed, and therefore, you couldn't understand the pain that a person feels when he sins. You thought that penance must be painful and difficult, but really, all that a person needs to atone is a truly broken heart."
Two joyous Shabbat meals occurred simultaneously -- one in the home of a sinless Reb Yossele, and the other at the table of the two tzadikim.
Regarding what is written in Song of Songs (4:8), "Sing from the beginning with faith," in the Messianic Era, we will sing from the beginning -- even before the miracle -- merely on the promise of the Prophet. We will not wait until his word comes true, so strong will be our faith
(Shnei Luchot Ha'Brit)