What Do We Do Now? | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action | The Rebbe Writes
A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count | It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Avremel Kotlarsky
(Executive Director, Chabad Lubavitch of Rockland, NY)
The fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel (the Rebbe Maharash), had a chasid who was a successful businessman. Before undertaking any significant deal, he always consulted the Rebbe and followed his instructions.
One time, the chasid was offered a fabulous opportunity.
If successful -- and most certainly it would be -- he would make millions. The deal, however, required that he invest almost his entire fortune.
Before the chasid would make such a major move, he set off to the city of Lubavitch to seek the Rebbe's advice.
After hearing the details of the proposition the Rebbe Maharash told him that he should not go through with the deal.
The chasid was stunned.
He tried to "convince" the Rebbe that this was a sound proposal; he described all of the great profits to be made, but to no avail. The Rebbe's answer was final: NO!
A few days later, the would-be business partners came to the chasid. When they heard that he was not interested, based upon the Rebbe's answer, they began to laugh at him. "Certainly you didn't understand the Rebbe's words," they told him. "And anyway, maybe there were some important details you left out that would solicit a different answer. After all," they said, "isn't there a saying that 'according to how you ask, that is how you're answered?' Go back to the Rebbe and make sure to tell him all the details. You'll see, the answer will be different this time."
Back to Lubavitch the chasid went. "Rebbe," he pleaded, "obviously I did not explain myself well enough last time. We're talking about tremendous sums of money. I can become rich 'overnight' and give much tzedaka as well..."
The Rebbe listened patiently once again, and at the end of the "presentation" his answer was simple and direct: "No. It's not worthwhile."
The chasid made his way home, thinking about all the money he could have made, if only the Rebbe would have agreed. "The Rebbe doesn't even explain his reasons," thought the chasid.
But his friends and family wouldn't let up. "It's forbidden to lose such an opportunity," they cried. "Go back to the Rebbe again and certainly the answer will be different."
In his third attempt, the chasid tried everything, even begging the Rebbe to let him make the deal, but the Rebbe answered once again: "No."
When the chasid came home, he couldn't stand up to the pressure of family and friends, and contrary to the Rebbe's advice, he signed the deal. He quieted his conscience by telling himself that he would now really give a lot of tzedaka. Unfortunately, things did not go well. In a short while, the chasid lost all his money.
The chasid realized how wrong it was to not follow the Rebbe's instruction. Full of regret, he made his way back a fourth time to see the Rebbe.
The chasid spent a long time in private with the Rebbe. When he came out, he revealed only one thing the Rebbe had told him.
"There are people," said the Rebbe, "big businessmen among them, who come to ask my advice concerning important matters. Sometimes the issues are quite complex; matters which I have never engaged in, nor did my ancestors. So then why do they ask me my advice, and follow my instructions and counsel?
"There are three answers, each one matching a different type of Jew who comes to me.
"One person thinks, 'It's very simple. The Rebbe has Ruach HaKodesh -- Divine Inspiration! The Rebbe is a G-dly man, a prophet. It is G-d's words coming from his mouth and therefore we must follow him, no questions asked!'
"Another type," continued the Rebbe, "is a person who operates on a different level, somewhat more down to earth. 'The Rebbe studies Torah all the time and serves G-d with his entire being. His intellect is totally nullified to G-d's Will. Therefore, everything he says stems from Torah and certainly his words will be fulfilled.'
"The third type," explained the Rebbe, "says, 'The Rebbe meets so many people, from all over the world and from all walks of life. He has acquired an incredibly broad knowledge of worldly matters. With this knowledge and his ability to see things from many different angles, the Rebbe sees what others cannot. Therefore, we must listen to him.'
"Whichever group you might belong to," the Rebbe Maharash concluded, "you should never have gone through with the deal after hearing from me not once, not twice, but three times clearly 'no!'"
I remember the morning of the Rebbe's passing, when I walked into the Chabad House for Sunday morning services. One of the people who had come to pray asked me, "What do we do now?"
What do we do now? The Rebbe told us that the Redemption is at the door; that we must prepare ourselves and the whole world for the revelation of Moshiach. It was true that even while the Rebbe was critically ill we believed that G-d would heal the Rebbe; that the Redemption we so eagerly awaited and anticipated would be heralded in with the revelation of the Rebbe as Moshiach, and that he would miraculously lead us to the Holy Land.
What now? Who will lead us on? Was the Rebbe wrong? Is the Redemption, after all, a beautiful dream to take place in another time, another place, but not in this "real" world of sorrow and pain?
Some people see in the Rebbe a great charismatic leader.
Others see a Torah genius.
Others emphasize the Rebbe's knack for finding the right button to push in the hearts of his followers, his admirers, or any stranger who approached him at Sunday dollars.
Others speak of the Rebbe's organizational skills and his foresight that has put him light-years ahead of prevailing thought.
The final word is that the Rebbe is a G-dly man.
The Rebbe is not "us-plus" so to speak, a person who is merely more brilliant, more sensitive, more insightful, more spiritual, and capable of leadership than we.
Rather, his teachings and personal life reveal him to be carved from a different substance altogether.
His every word -- carefully chosen and full of meaning; his every move -- calculated, corresponding to Divine Emanations in a world concealed from our sight; someone transplanted from another world, to bring light to a darkened world, to lead the final generation of exile to Redemption.
The Rebbe is revealed to each person as he perceives the Rebbe.
Like the three types of Jews who came to the Rebbe Maharash, every individual relates to the Rebbe on a different level.
Not once, not twice, nor three times, but literally hundreds of times -- publicly and privately, in writing and verbally -- the Rebbe has told all Jews of this generation what we must do in these last moments before the Redemption:
"...Do everything you can to bring Moshiach, here and now."
(28 Nisan, 5751-1991)
"...Publicize to all people that we have merited that G-d has chosen and appointed an individual incomparably greater than all other people in this generation as the judge, adviser and prophet of the generation to give instructions and advice in both the Divine service and daily activities of all Jews... up to and including the main prophecy, "Redemption is imminent" and "Moshiach is coming."
(Shabbat Shoftim, 5751-1991)
"All the service which was expected of the Jewish people in exile has been completed and perfected and we are now ready to receive Moshiach... Moshiach not only exists, but is also revealed. All that remains is for us to receive and greet Moshiach in actual fact."
(Shabbat Vayeira, 5752-1991)
"Every shaliach [emissary of the Rebbe] must prepare himself and all the Jews of his neighborhood, city, etc., to greet Moshiach through explaining the concept of Moshiach, as discussed in the Written and Oral Torah, in a way that each and every individual can relate to.... Since this is the necessary service of the time, it is self-understood that this is incumbent upon every single Jew, without any exception."
(Shabbat Chayei Sara, 5752-1991)
The Rebbe has told us to learn more about Moshiach and the Redemption; to start "living with Moshiach" by increasing our "acts of goodness and kindness," performing mitzvot and to share this message with others.
Whatever group we belong to, regardless of how we define ourselves and at what level of faith we may operate, we should listen to the Rebbe. There is no question that all that the Rebbe said will be fulfilled. There is no question that what the Rebbe said is not open now to reinterpretation. There is no question that we will see the Redemption very soon unfold before our eyes, precisely as the Rebbe said. There is no question what we must do now, for everything the Rebbe has said to us , all of the directions that he has given to this generation, must continue on and with greater strength, with more vigor and vitality.
We are the generation of the Redemption. And we will make it happen.
Let us commit ourselves to fulfilling the Rebbe's directives, and then we will be able to see the realization of the Rebbe's most important prophecy, the revelation of Moshiach in the true and complete Redemption.
The Cabbie Speaks
by Penina Abramson
We were already on the subway headed back to Crown Heights when I said I felt "a little unsafe." The number three subway train to Brooklyn at 1:00 a.m. is not exactly a bastion of law abiding citizens and three religious girls from the suburbs seemed somewhat incompatible with the setting. So at the next stop the three of us got out to take a cab.
The first cab we hailed refused to take us because Crown Heights was too out of the way. The second cab we hailed refused to take us because he didn't know where Crown Heights was. Finally at 1:30 in the morning on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 14th Street, a cabbie pulled over and said, "Where to, ladies?"
I couldn't place his accent right away. He tried to make small talk but we ignored him. Then over the radio came a news report from Israel: "... Over 15,000 people attended Nachum Waxman's funeral today in Israel," reported CBS. Before the three of us could muster up a response to the tragedy, the driver asked us, "Are you Jewish?" to which we cautiously responded, "yes." It was then that I noticed the name on his I.D. card: William Guttman.
Who was William Guttman, leisurely driving a cab through Manhattan on the night shift? I tried to recall the nationality of my fifth grade teacher whose accent I was sure this man shared. Finally I asked him as he had just asked us, "Are you Jewish?"
"With a name like Guttman, what do you think?"
The notion that we could have mistaken him for anything but a Jew seemed to stir up in him a distilled pride. "Where are you from?" I asked, figuring Russia or perhaps Morocco.
William Guttman was a survivor.
"My parents lived in Budapest. I was four years old when they took us. My mother worked in the frau lager and then they put her in the gas chamber. My father died in the labor camp. I never really knew my parents. I don't even know if I have brothers and sisters."
He had a matter-of-factness about him. This is who I am.
"I went to an orphanage after the war," he continued, "and the Red Cross took me to America. I had no family when I came. I married an Israeli but we are not religious. I don't have the yarmulke and I work seven days to help my son be a doctor. He finishes medical school in two months."
"You must be so proud of him." "Yes. I'm not religious. But I have a lot of mazal."
Mazal, he said to us. How does a Jew who survived Auschwitz believe that he has had mazal? Then he asked us, "Your parents are Chasidim?"
The Chasidim of our families got lost somewhere between the shtetl and suburbia a long, long time ago. My memories from youth had little to do with Budapest and my concerns were not bound up with survival. And yet we told William Guttman that we were Lubavitchers.
William Guttman was from the old country, from the camps, but we were the Lubavitchers? It seemed incongruous. We asked him if he had heard of Lubavitch.
"Lubavitch, I know it well. I have a mazal'dike dollar from the Rebbe. He's the best Rebbe in the whole world. He's not a man like I am a man. I went to him and he gave me a dollar and told me I'll have mazal and my son will have hatzlocha (success). Everything since then is good. Everything for me since I spoke to the Rebbe is good. I wouldn't give away my dollar if it was the last dollar I owned."
There was a deep sincerity, a power of conviction, in what he stammered out in his broken English. "The Rebbe spoke to me in Hungarian," he claimed. "He was from Hungary, did you know?"
I was going to correct him and then thought better of it.
The Rebbe was from Hungary to a Hungarian Jew. And from Brazil. And from Hong Kong. And from wherever the Jew whose eyes he looked into was from. And again he repeated, "I'm not religious. And my wife is not religious. But she called the Beth Israel Hospital every day to see how the Rebbe was doing. When he passed away we cried for three days."
The weight of his words barely had time to sink in before he added, "I think he's coming back. The Rebbe is a leader. He is a great soul and a great soul doesn't die."
I told him, "I think you're right. In the meantime, the Rebbe left us with instructions and showed us how to fulfill our obligations as Jews."
And he answered, "When you're born a Jew, it comes with obligations. You know it's special to be a Jew. Look, how many Jews are there?"
William Guttman told us he didn't keep Shabbat and he didn't wear a yarmulke. But he cried for three days; the Rebbe was like a father who blessed him for the rest of his life. This is the love the Rebbe has for every Jew. The power of our connection with the Rebbe.
"Zie Gezunt--be well," he said as we got out of the cab. He left us speechless until finally the one of us who had never met the Rebbe said, "Meeting that man brought me closer to the Rebbe." As I gingerly shut the door, I began to wonder how many William Guttman's there are from one end of the world to the other.
Regarding 10 Shevat - The yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe
Yud Shvat is Wednesday January 11, 1995
Among the 16 directives suggested by the Rebbe in connection with Yud Shvat:
In the morning and afternoon give charity to an institution related to the Previous Rebbe; participate in a Chasidic gathering; learn about and tell others about the Previous Rebbe; visit centers for young people and tell them about the love the Previous Rebbe had for them and the hope he had that they would use their energy, warmth and vitality to strengthen Judaism.
3 Tamuz, 5710 (1950)
...Many are seeking an explanation of the characteristic greatness of the Chabad leaders in general, and the leader of our generation, my father-in-law, of blessed memory, in particular, in terms of the following designations: A man of great self-sacrifice, a great Torah scholar, a man of integrity, a tzadik, a possessor of Divine inspiration, able to perform miracles etc. etc.
These praises are even more significant as they are defined by the teachings of Chasidut.
Yet in all this, the main point is absent.
Furthermore (and this is essentially the main point), the Rebbe's special greatness is by virtue of his unique relationship with us, his congregation of Chasidim, and with those who are connected to him. And this is because he is the Nasi -- the leader of Chabad.
For in general, the Nasi is called "the head of the community of Israel": in relation to them, he is their head and brain; it is through him that they derive their vitality. By cleaving to the Nasi, they connect and unite themselves with their source Above.
...Each and every one of us should know, that is, he should study and fix in his mind, that the Rebbe is the Nasi and the head, it is from him and through him that everything both physical and spiritual flows, and it is through connecting one self with him ([the Rebbe] has already indicated in his letters how to do this) that one connects and unites oneself with one's source, and the source of sources, ever higher and higher.
4 Iyar, 5710 (1950)
...As I do not know you personally, and therefore do not know which approach would be the most readily acceptable to you in explaining my views, I will use the simplest terms to illustrate the matter, for certainly, simpler is better:
Every individual, at every moment and with every action he is poised to take, stands at a crossroads (at least in the personal sense), and can proceed either to the right or to the left. In particular, at a time of great communal turmoil and shock, each and every one of us has a general mission and must take certain action.
"Histalkut" means ascent from one plane of existence to a higher, more spiritual plane; the "body follows the lead of the head," as the two are attached. Therefore, each and every one of us who is connected to the Rebbe, the leader of thousands of Jews, must likewise strive to ascend to greater spirituality, by taking actions such as these, which previously he might not have taken...
17 Elul, 5710 (1950)
...Every Jewish man and woman should know that each good deed he or she does hastens the end of the exile and darkness, and brings the true and Final Redemption through Moshiach Tzidkeinu that much closer. This is the only way to achieve redemption of the Jewish people, as Moshe Rabbenu told the nation of Israel over three thousand years ago (as related in the Torah of G-d, Parshat Nitzavim, chapter 30) at length.
Concerning your request that I mention you at the grave of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, I will certainly do so. As regards your having written that you do not understand this matter: Surely one does not need to first study the effect eating, drinking and sleeping have on the physical body and the soul before doing so. Rather, one goes right ahead and acts even though the full repercussions are not totally understood. The same holds true for the matter at hand.
As for what you wrote concerning the appearance of conversing with the dead, G-d forbid, and directing one's thoughts to an entity other than G-d, Heaven forbid: You can certainly understand on your own that this is not the case, as Calev, the son of Yefuneh, as well as many Tannaim, Amoraim and tzadikim throughout the generations have conducted themselves thus.
In short, in answer to your question, when people came to the Rebbe for a blessing they did so not because of the superiority of his physical body, but because of the superiority of his soul.
Death only pertains to the physical body, for the soul is eternal, especially the soul of a tzadik, to whom Gehinom ["hell"] and punishment have no relevance. The passing of a tzadik is merely a departure, an ascent to a higher plane, and cannot therefore be termed "death," as is explained in the Zohar (volume 3, page 71).
"You ask how you can be bound to me when I do not know you personally... the true bond is created by studying Torah. When you study my discourses, read the talks and associate with those dear to me... and you fulfill my request... in this is the bond."
This coming week, on 10 Shevat, we commemorate the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. The above lines were written by the Previous Rebbe in response to the question of how to become bound with him.
The tenth of Shevat is also the anniversary of the Rebbe's acceptance of leadership. How do we maintain and enhance our connection with the leader of our generation? By studying his talks and by following his directives.
In a talk in 5746 (1986) the Rebbe said: "Every single Jew must perform his Divine service in a manner similar to and befitting the days of Moshiach and the subsequent era of the Resurrection of the Dead. This is exhibited first and foremost through faith, anticipation and knowledge that supernatural events will occur in the days of Moshiach, namely, the Resurrection of the Dead....
"Belief in these concepts must be with certainty, and must be as unshakably firm as the belief in the Ten Commandments. Obviously the belief in the Resurrection of the Dead requires that same degree of certainty and anticipation. This must be emphasized so much more in our present generation, when many Messianic signs are unfolding.
These constitute a clear indication that Moshiach is already present in the world. Moreover, he is already a prominent Jewish leader, 'a king from the House of David, deeply absorbed in the study of Torah,' etc. Therefore, in our present generation, great emphasis must be placed on belief in the coming of Moshiach and anything which relates to it."
In these last moments before the true and complete Redemption, may we fill our time with only good -- the good of Torah and mitzvot; with study of the Rebbe's teachings (especially those relating to Moshiach and the Redemption as the Rebbe emphasized numerous times the importance of such study in preparing ourselves for the Messianic Era); and with fulfilling all of the Rebbe's directives, until the time that we are reunited with the Rebbe once again -- "and he will redeem us."
And Moses said, With our young and with our old we will go (Exodus 10:9)
Moses mentioned the children before the elders as the need to remove them from Egypt's corrupting influence was more urgent.
The young were in greater danger than the older generation, who were already firmly rooted in their Judaism.
We do not know with what we will serve G-d until we arrive there (Exodus 10:26)
We cannot appreciate the value of a life of Torah and mitzvot "until we arrive there" -- until we are in the World to Come. Only then will we understand the full significance of our service in this world.
(The Gerrer Rebbe)
Also the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh's servants, and in the eyes of the people (Exodus 11:3)
It is very unusual for a person to be well-liked by both the nobility and the common folk.
Ordinarily, an individual who is popular among one class is scorned by the other, for each group has different criteria by which they pass judgment.
Moses' greatness was reflected in the fact that he was respected "in the eyes of Pharaoh's servants" -- the ministers of Egypt's upper class -- as well as "in the eyes of the people."
With a mighty hand G-d brought us forth out of Egypt (Exodus 13:14)
G-d's "mighty hand" was directed not only toward Pharaoh and the Egyptians but toward the Children of Israel, as some Jews preferred to remain in slavery and were redeemed by G-d against their will.
Likewise, G-d will redeem us from our present exile with a "mighty hand," taking with Him even those Jews who might prefer to remain in exile.
This month shall be to you the beginning of months (Exodus 12:2)
The mitzva of the sanctification of the month is unique in that it brings holiness into the realm of time.
Through this mitzva, a regular day is transformed into Rosh Chodesh -- the beginning of the month, a day that is especially holy.
Other mitzvot have the ability to bring holiness into only a limited area: the objects used to perform a mitzva. The mitzva of Rosh Chodesh, however, has the power to cause time itself to become holy.
Once the Jewish court has declared a certain day to begin the month, the entire month -- and the entire cycle of the year --is thus affected and sanctified as well.
The Rebbe Finds a Way
by Rabbi Preger
It was right before Purim, 5753 (1993), when we received a phone call asking if we could accommodate a couple from Borough Park -- Gerer Chasidim -- for Shabbat in Crown Heights.
The couple with their young child arrived Friday afternoon, but it wasn't until during the Friday night meal that we had a chance to chat.
Mr. B. told me in a whisper, "My wife does not know that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was our shadchan (matchmaker)."
My guest continued, "A few years ago, my brother-in-law came to the Rebbe during 'Sunday dollars.' He asked the Rebbe for a blessing for his sister, who had been married for quite a few years without being blessed with children. The Rebbe gave him three dollars and a blessing. Exactly nine months later triplets were born.
"About two years ago, my wife and I were having problems in our marriage. Conditions worsened to the point that we divorced. I remained in New York and my ex-wife moved to Israel.
"I went to the Rebbe one Sunday and asked for a blessing to find the right match. The Rebbe gave me a blessing as well as a dollar.
"A little over a week later, soon after the Rebbe had his first stroke, the Rebbe appeared to me in a dream and told me, 'Do not search for another wife; return to your first one. If you have any doubts about the matter, wait until Purim and you will have a yeshua (salvation).'
"I was a bit confused by this dream, so I discussed it with several Lubavitcher Chasidim, who advised me to wait until Purim to see what happens before I decide.
"On Purim a rabbi from Bnei Brak in Israel contacted me and informed me that my wife was interested in getting back together. We worked out our differences and our family was reunited once again. Since tonight is the first anniversary of our remarriage, I thought we should celebrate it here in Crown Heights and be together with the Rebbe."
Not long after this occurrence I attended a wedding in Borough Park, and I recounted the story to a group of Chasidim, most of whom were Satmar. One of the men who happened to be sitting next to me told me that when his wife was hospitalized in Rochester, Minnesota, the only ones who came to visit her and raise her morale were Lubavitcher Chasidim.
"A Rebbe who has such emissaries as dedicated as these in such far-flung places, even without performing miracles, is definitely worthy of re deeming the Jewish people from this dark exile and bringing us to the Redemption," he said.
B. R. from Jerusalem wrote the following in the Kfar Chabad Magazine recently:
As is known, many people who wish to ask the Rebbe for his blessing or advice put the letter or note in one of the Rebbe's books, such as the 34 volumes of Likutei Sichot or 24 volumes of Igeret HaKodesh.
I will preface my personal experience by saying that one needn't rely on me as to how to proceed with a question for the Rebbe or how to interpret what happens. I will, however, simply share my own personal experience.
These last few months, my wife and I had a strong difference of opinion as to what to do about moving to a new apartment. Two weeks ago the situation intensified to such an extent that we had to take immediate action, otherwise the possibility to move would be totally lost. Yet, we still did not know what to do as we could not come to an agreement between ourselves.
My mashpia (spiritual guide and adviser) suggested that I write a letter to the Rebbe, which I did. I pulled off the shelf the first volume of Igeret HaKodesh that came to my hand and put the letter between its pages. I then reopened the book to glance at which page I had rested the note in. How surprised and shocked I was to see the following letter on that page (Igeret HaKodesh vol. 20, page 165).
The Rebbe writes [translated]:
Concerning his question about the matter of the dwelling, according to what I heard from the Rebbe, my father-in-law, when it comes to matters of one's actual dwelling place, one must consult with his wife, the foundation of the home, as it says, "All the glory of the king's daughter is within." It is understood (that in a pleasant and peaceful manner) he may explain to her his reasons and considerations which differ from her viewpoint, and he may even try to persuade her, but if he doesn't -- it must be according to her opinion."
This is what the Rebbe writes, and the advice to me was obvious.
Our Sages explain that, in contrast to other living beings which were created in pairs, man was created alone.
So that every individual should say, "The world was created for me," and thus appreciate that his conduct can affect the totality of existence.
The coming of the Redemption depends on every single individual. Simply put, were people to open their eyes, the door would open and Moshiach would enter.
(The Rebbe, 7 Tevet, 5752)