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The disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch had begged their master many times to show them Elijah the Prophet. Their persistence paid off; when a gathering of poritzim, wealthy Polish landowners, was being held, the Maggid agreed.
The Maggid instructed his disciples to stand in a certain location and watch the poritzim ride by. The third poritz, he informed them, would be Elijah the Prophet. "If you are worthy," the Maggid added, "you will even merit to hear words of Torah from his lips."
The disciples followed the Maggid's instructions. They waited in the exact spot the Maggid had indicated. When the third poritz rode by they hesitantly approached his carriage. True, he looked like an ordinary, non-Jewish Polish poritz, but hadn't the Maggid declared that he Elijah the prophet?
Addressing him in Polish, they deferentially asked if they could speak with his lordship as they had an important matter to discuss. To their surprise the "poritz" responded with insults and curses, after which he rode off to join the other poritzim.
The bewildered and heartbroken disciples returned to the Maggid. They told him that they had seen Elijah the Prophet, for they didn't doubt for a moment that the poritz was the prophet. But when they asked to speak with him he responded with a barrage of deprecations.
The Maggid's response was unexpected. "You deserved the treatment he gave you! You were certain, for I gave you all the signs, that you were standing in the very presence of Elijah the Prophet. You should have addressed him in the Holy Tongue! You should have said, 'Bless us!' instead of speaking to him in Polish and timidly asking the 'poritz' for an audience. If you could still relate to him as a poritz after I told you that he is Elijah the Prophet, you deserve what you got!"
The Torah (in Deuteronomy) states, "You are a holy people to G-d your G-d." Every Jew is holy. Every Jew is, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, a trove of unlimited treasures.
But it's not enough to know in our heads that a fellow Jew is holy, that he has a wealth of goodness and G-dliness within him. It's insufficient to believe with absolutely certainty that what the Torah and great Jewish teachers of all generations have said about the worth of every Jew is true.
We have to relate to our brother or sister not according to what appearances tell us. From the beginning our entire interaction has to be in accordance with his or her true, goodly and holy nature.
Then, surely, we will merit to see Elijah the Prophet - the harbinger of the Messianic Era - and ask of him, "Bless us."
The sigh of a Jew over the suffering of another Jew breaks all the barriers of the Accusers, and the joy with which one rejoices in another's happiness and blesses him, is as acceptable by G-d as the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.
Reb Elimelech of Linznsk related from the Maggid: "Do you know what they say in Heaven? Love of a fellow Jew means loving the utterly wicked like the perfectly saintly."
"G-d forgoes love of G-d in favor of love of the Jewish people," Rabbi Shneur Zalman declared.
In this week's Torah portion of Vayeira, G-d tells Abraham that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorra. Then it says, "... And Abraham was still standing before G-d. Abraham came forward and said, 'Would You blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!'"
If Abraham was still standing before G-d, what does it mean that he came forward? Rashi explains that he didn't come forward in a physical sense, but rather, he prepared himself emotionally to defend Sodom and Gomorra from annihilation. He prepared to argue sternly with Him, to appease Him and to pray to Him.
First Abraham spoke sternly, saying, "Would you blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!" In appeasement he said, "It would be sacrilegious for You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are alike! Shall the Judge of the whole world not judge Fairly?!" Then in prayer he said, "Behold I have begun to speak to my L-rd, and I am dust and ashes."
We are taught about Abraham that he manifested the attribute of kindness and love. In last week's Haftora, G-d even referred to him as "Abraham who loved Me." So it seems strange and out of character that Abraham opens his argument with stern words. "Would you blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!" Why doesn't he begin with words of appeasement or prayer, and if that doesn't work, try stern words? That would be more in character with the Abraham we know.
When it speaks of Abraham's kindness and love, it is referring to the way he served G-d, in line with his nature. However, in this situation lives were on the line, and the angel tasked with destroying Sodom and Gomorra, were already on the way there. Abraham went against his nature and spoke sternly first, not making diplomatic calculations, because lives were in the balance.
The stories of our ancestors are lessons to us. Just as we inherit from Abraham the kindness and the love that he had, we must be ready to take action when it is called for, just as he did.
We learn from Abraham that when the well being of another is on the line - whether spiritual or physical - it is not a time for calculations, it is a time for action. Throwing yourself into the task with strong and effective action, even if it means going against your nature, is what is required. To save a life, we go the extra mile.
May the merit of the kindness and love all of the Jewish people give be the mitzva (commandment) that tips the scale and sets in motion the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Teela and Saks
by Mica Soffer
In 2013, Chanie Loschak -living in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn where she had grown up - was a wife, mother of two children and expecting a third.
Proud of motherhood, Chanie says, "I also wanted a creative element to my life."
So she looked back at her childhood days when her mother Masha Gansburg would take her along to visit trade shows to discover new clothing for her children's clothing store "Young Timers Boutique" in Crown Heights.
"My mother would take me out of school twice a year to go with her and it was a highlight for me," says Chanie. "I used to dream about doing something with clothing because I grew up in my mother's store and it was always something that I loved."
Looking for a creative outlet, but without actual experience in the business, she turned to her mother for advice. "My mother is really my inspiration being an incredible and loving, warm businesswoman."
Her mother's tip: There's a need for quality, dressy skirts for younger girls. "She suggested that I go and create one with a specific fabric that she recommended. But after that I was on my own, to somehow create a skirt. I had no idea what to do."
Her next move was to go to the garment district of Manhattan, schlepping along her baby. She began stopping passersby on the street, asking about factories and didn't get much help.
Then, one energetic young woman took Chanie to the 14th floor of a nearby building and introduced her to Jack. "He spoke Chinese and could barely understand English," she recalls. Chanie asked about creating skirts.
"You have a pattern?" Jack asked. Chanie had no idea what he was talking about. Jack went on to draw a pattern and then explained that she also needed "grading" to create the skirts in different sizes. "I had no idea what any of this was about," she admits.
Not giving up, Chanie went through the entire process and finally had 125 skirts created. The only problem was the next step: Reaching the customers.
"My mother took a few for her store and a couple of her friends with stores in different neighborhoods also agreed to sell them," Chanie says, adding that they "probably agreed to sell them more as a favor for my mother."
And that is how her company, Teela NYC, was created. "Teela is the name of my mother's mother," she explains. "My oldest daughter is named after her. Because my mother is so involved in fashion, and my inspiration, I named the company in my mother's honor and for my daughter."
Since those initial skirts (which sold out), she has sold thousands more along with a full line of modest children's clothing such as dresses, skirts, tops, dress and casual wear for girls and boys.
"I did not go to college," says Chanie, 31 and today a mother of five children. "I learned everything hands-on. I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but thank G-d that turned into many dresses, then tops and skirts, and then we expanded to boys and baby lines. Now, I do everything from newborn to teen, casual and dressy, for both girls and boys."
As the demand for her product grew, companies and stores from around the world contacted her to sell her clothing line.
Before the new season, she sits down at a computer and creates designs herself relying on instinct and experience. "It's already second nature to me," she says. "I instinctively know what parents are looking for to dress their kids in and we use organic bamboo cotton - it's more expensive but makes our clothing luxurious and of a higher quality."
Teela NYC now has three warehouses. "We've had tremendous success," she says. "Customers have been asking for my items from all around the world. We sell throughout the U.S. and also in numerous countries including Israel, Canada, South America, England, France, Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium and even Kuwait."
Chanie is married to Rabbi Ahrele Loschak, Director of Chabad Young Professionals Brooklyn, a division of Chabad Heights.
"The hand of Hashem (G-d) is so obvious in everything that I do," she says. "Similar to planting, you can work hard on the field and the growth is up to Hashem. The same is with us: We can work and spend tens of thousands of dollars, and the success is ultimately up to Hashem."
Chanie tells about when they moved into a new warehouse and placed all their merchandise there to be shipped out for the next season. "Four days later, the building sprinkler system malfunctioned and the entire warehouse flooded. I literally could not believe the disaster.
"Thank G-d, we were able to salvage the majority of the clothes. The expense was huge, but I had trust in Hashem that this was for the best, and whatever the cost that was lost, was meant to be."
Another example of Hashem's kindness, she says, happened when the fabric company raised the prices without prior notification. "My husband, who is very resourceful, started searching online for companies. The one we randomly contacted turned out to be the wholesaler from which our distributor had been buying for us. We ordered directly from them for a lower cost. Hashem just sent us straight to them."
Chanie says this strong belief also comes into play when difficult news comes her way. "If I lose an account, I have the belief that I will get another bigger account. Hashem leads us every step of the way. The same is when I hear that other companies are copying our designs. I am ok with it because success is all in Hashem's hand."
When asked how she juggles family and work, Chanie admits she struggles like many other parents. "The workload is so high and keeps on growing," she says. "The only way I manage is because of the incredible support of my husband. He does most of the cooking and cares for the kids along with me."
When her fifth child was born, Chanie decided to cut back on her involvement in the business to focus on her children. "And then, Saks Off Fifth contacted me that they want to carry Teela. I felt like Hashem was saying, "You cut back, and I will make it easier for you to succeed." I really felt like Hashem was telling me that I was doing the right thing by cutting back to devote myself to my family," she says.
Rome, Italy, welcomes new Shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) who will expand Chabad's educational activities. Rabbi Meir and Mussie Shaikevitz moved to the Piazza Bologna square in the Nomentano district. The couple will be presenting adult education classes in the area during the evenings and teach in the ORT Renzo Levi High School in Rome.
The international Jewish Knowledge competition known as JewQ has students registered in over 60 locations. Run by CKids, Hebrew School children from around the globe - including Monaco, Canada, Denmark, Washington, D.C., and more - study and are tested on a wide range of Jewish knowledge, and receive a bundle of impressive rewards. Winners of the School Championships, and high-scoring children from each school qualify for the CKids Shabbat in NYC in March 2019. For more information about JewQ and the CKids Shabbat visit www.jewq.org.
11th of Cheshvan, 5721 
Mrs. Dvorah Groner
Blessing and Greeting:
I received your letter of Monday, Parshas Noah, and the two preceding letters. Although I have discussed the matter at length with your husband, who will undoubtedly convey to you my thoughts, I wish to put down in writing at least several points, in the hope that this letter will contribute to a happier outlook on the various matters about which you wrote in your letter.
First of all, in regard to your question, "Whose ship is it?" I am surprised that you should have any doubts about it, since, obviously, the ship is that of my father-in-law of saintly memory, our Nossi and the Nossi of our people. It is explained in the Zohar and in the Tanya at length that Tzadikim [the righteous] continue to participate in our world even in afterlife, and, moreover, in a greater degree that during their life on this earth, since in their exalted state they are free from physical limitations. Happy are they whom he has enrolled in his crew and has assigned to them various tasks. The more responsible a task is, the greater is the reward, of course, both in this world and in the world-to-come.
You mention other points in your letters, concerning opinions and attitudes of other people, the lack of appreciation, etc., all of which you seem to have taken in a rather sensitive way, which gave rise to your thoughts on the relative disadvantages of your husband's present position by comparison with his previous one. As I have emphasized to your husband, the difference between his present work and his previous work is not a difference of place or surroundings, but a difference of the essential quality and character of the work itself. For previously he was in the capacity of an employed "clerk", and as such, there were certainly a number of advantages. A clerk has definite hours, and upon completion of his day's work he can dismiss it from his mind, knowing that the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of his superior. He need only to do the task given to him, in his best way, and he can then feel no worries, responsibilities or other commitments. Furthermore, such a job arouses a minimum of envy, less nervous strain, etc.
On the other hand, when one has the task of an executive, upon whom the full responsibility rests, all the more so being at a great distance, and having to make decisions, and especially when he takes up such a job willingly and enthusiastically and is successful, it is bound to call forth envy. And envy is such a mental state that it evokes various feelings in the envious person and other expressions, which frequently are inconsiderate and unjustified and very often - the envious person himself regrets them. It is also obvious that such a position entails greater personal commitment, nervous strain, etc.
Obviously, one whose capacity limits him to a secondary position, such as that of a clerk, there is little he can do about it, as this is all that he can accomplish. On the other hand, one who has the capacity to be an executive and in charge of a responsible undertaking, if such a person should confine himself within the framework of a clerk's job, it would be a gross injustice even to himself, not to mention to the cause. It is written, "More knowledge, more pain," and the more knowledgeable and advanced person is inevitably involved in more complicated things. One can say: "I don't want to be on the higher level, so that I be spared the pain." But this would be like a person saying: "I don't want to be a human being; I want to be like an animal and be spared all the pain associated with human life."
Aside from the above general considerations and principles, if one considers the specific work of disseminating and strengthening Yiddishkeit [Judaism], the outlook assumes new dimensions. For our Sages say that the first word of the Torah, which is called Reishis...
.... Considering further that the work concerns education of Jewish boys and girls, which is not only of vital interest to themselves but also to posterity, for all generations to come, we arrive at a further dimension, namely, the second interpretation of Bereishis: "For the sake of the Jewish People who are called Reishis."
Furthermore, there is the added dimension in that the work is carried on in a country where Judaism is still in its infancy, requiring a real pioneering spirit to transform the whole of Jewish life in that remote continent. What a challenge and opportunity such work offers to the qualified person!
continued in next issue
EZRA means "help." As related in the book of Nehemiah (12:1), Ezra the Scribe led over 2000 Jews back from Babylonia to the Land of Israel. He was at the forefront of the Jewish renaissance which culminated in the building of the second Holy Temple.
EFRAT means "honored, distinguished." Efrat was the wife of Caleb ben Chetzron (I Chronicles 2:19). Efrat is also the site where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried; it is another name for Bethlehem.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Monday, the 20th of Marcheshvan, is the birthday of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, born in 5621 (1860). Often referred to as "the Maimonides of Chasidut" for his terse and practical summarizations of complex subject matter, he also founded Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in 1897, which continues to flourish around the world.
It was during the years of the Rebbe Rashab's leadership that the famous Mendel Beilis blood libel case occurred in Russia. Accused in 1911 of the age-old charge of ritual murder when the body of a Christian boy was found near a brick oven owned by a Jew, Mendel Beilis, an innocent employee, was arrested and ordered to stand trial, despite the absence of any incriminating evidence. A two-year anti-Jewish campaign ensued, culminating in the trial itself. The judges had been carefully selected for their narrow-mindedness, and the jury consisted of ignorant peasants who believed in the myth of Jewish ritual murder.
The Rebbe Rashab helped the Jewish defense attorney, Oscar Gruzenberg, prepare his case. He provided him with books to consult and also sent a letter of encouragement and support. In the letter, the Rebbe also instructed him to conclude his defense with the verse "Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad" ("Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One"). The Rebbe also gave Gruzenberg a blessing to succeed in his objective.
Oscar Gruzenberg listened to the Rebbe's advice. At the end of his very lengthy presentation in court, he turned to the prisoner sitting on the defendant's bench and said, "Mendel Beilis! Even if these judges close their ears and their hearts to the truth and find you guilty, do not be discouraged. Be as willing for self-sacrifice as every other Jew who ever gave up his soul for the sanctity of G-d's name with the declaration, 'Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One!'"
Mendel Beilis was acquitted.
He looked and behold three men were standing over him. (Gen. 18:2)
According to Midrash Rabba, the three men were angels who appeared as a desert merchant, a produce merchant, and the captain of a ship. The world is divided into three parts: desert, inhabited land, and water. Each part of the world has an angel appointed over it. Thus, the three disguised angels represented the entire creation. On the passage, "These are the chronicles of heaven and earth when they were created," our Sages say, "Read not 'behibaram,' but read 'beAvraham.' " This alludes to the fact that the entire world was created for the sake of Abraham.
And he said, my L-rd, if I have found favor in your eyes, pass not away from your servant. (Gen. 18:3)
According to the Talmud (Shabbat 127a), Abraham was speaking to G-d and asked Him to wait until he brought the guests into his home; for the mitzva of welcoming guests and taking care of their needs is greater than welcoming G-d.
Abraham said to the young men, "Stay here with the donkey....We will worship and then return to you." (Gen. 22:5)
The words "Stay here - shvu lachem po" can also be translated as "you shall return." Abraham saw that the Holy Temple would be built and then destroyed, and that the Jews would be sent into exile. He also saw that Moshiach would bring us back and rebuild the Third Holy Temple. Abraham told them "you shall return" to rebuild the Temple. "With the donkey" refers to Moshiach, who is described as "a humble person riding on a donkey."
(Bereishit Rabba 56:2 as quoted in Discover Moshiach)
Yaakov was a clever young man, who lived in a small village in White Russia. He studied Torah assiduously, and indeed, amassed a huge body of knowledge. In the same village lived several Lubavitcher Chasidim, who had long been trying to convince the talented lad to come with them to the Rebbe.
But Yaakov, who was not raised in a Chasidic home, was not interested. "I don't need a Rebbe," he would answer them. "If I come across a problem in the Talmud, I just keep studying till I solve it myself."
Nonetheless, one time his curiosity got the better of him, and he accompanied the Chasidim to the Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber (known as the Rebbe Rashab). They arrived in Lubavitch on Friday. That Shabbat, Yaakov found himself in an unprecedented state of spiritual elevation.
After Shabbat, as they prepared to leave, Yaakov wrote a short note to give to the Rebbe, as was customary. He trembled as he waited his turn for a private audience. When Yaakov entered the Rebbe's room he found the Rebbe sitting and studying a book. The Rebbe did not lift his eyes to look at him. Yaakov walked to the desk and placed his note on it. The Rebbe gave no sign that Yaakov was even in the room.
Suddenly the Rebbe stood up and paced back and forth. As if talking to himself, he began to speak in Russian: "On! Nyet on!" ("It's him! It's not him!") On! Nyet on!..." The Rebbe paused for a long while then pronounced: "Nyet on!" He then sat down and resumed his study.
Yaakov left the Rebbe's chamber confused and puzzled. Not only had the Rebbe ignored him, but his strange words kept reverberating in his head. Yaakov did not know what to make of it.
One day Yaakov was reading the newspaper when he noticed a contest sponsored by the University of Petersburg. Whoever solved the mathematical problem printed in the paper would win 300 rubles. Yaakov saw the contest as a personal challenge. He studied the problem and sent off his answer by mail. A short time later a letter arrived from the University informing him that he had won. Enclosed with the letter was a personal invitation from the head of the mathematics department, and a train ticket.
Yaakov traveled to Petersburg. The professors were initially surprised by Yaakov's traditional Jewish attire, but quickly discovered his rare genius. After awarding him the monetary prize, they offered him a full scholarship to the University, which Yaakov accepted.
In the beginning Yaakov maintained his Jewish way of life. But the more he progressed academically and socially at the University, the further away from Judaism he wandered. The external trappings were the first to go; eventually Yaakov completely abandoned Judaism.
A few years later Yaakov was appointed as a full professor. Of course, beforehand, Yaakov had to renounce his Judaism and convert to Christianity. But he didn't blink an eye as he furthered his academic career.
As time passed, however, Yaakov's conscience began to bother him. Although he deeply regretted his actions, he was unable to rectify the situation. In those days, a gentile who converted to Judaism or a Jew who accepted Christianity but later rescinded were subject to the death penalty.
By that time Yaakov had become an accomplished hunter; the sport served to divert his attention from his frequent pangs of conscience. One day while out in the field, Yaakov's horse began to gallop uncontrollably. The reins were useless, and it was clear that barring a miracle, these were the last seconds of Yaakov's life. At that moment Yaakov resolved to repent and return to G-d. Incredibly, the horse stopped galloping and came to a halt.
That night Yaakov packed a small bundle and left his house, leaving everything behind him for good. He wandered from city to city and from town to town, terrified of being discovered. His return to Judaism had endangered his very life, but his resolve to live as a Jew was unwavering.
One day, while Yaakov was dining at an inn in a remote village, the police burst in and began to check the patrons' identity papers. Yaakov, who was not carrying any identification, was taken into custody.
At the police station, the officer kept scrutinizing the photograph in his hand, then glancing up at Yaakov. From the corner of his eye Yaakov saw that it was a picture of himself as he used to look at the University: clean-shaven, nattily attired, and with a carefully styled lock of hair on his forehead.
The investigator was clearly hesitant. Unable to decide he began to mutter under his breath. "On!" ("It is him!") A second later he changed his mind. "Nyet on!" ("It's not him!") "On!" "Nyet on!" Back and forth he went, studying the photograph and Yaakov in turn. "Nyet on!" he ultimately concluded, and ordered that Yaakov be freed.
Yaakov left the police station flabbergasted; he knew where he had last heard those very words. Immediately he set off for Lubavitch, and remained there for the rest of his life.
When the angels come to save Lot and his family, they used a strange expression: "Take your wife and two daughters who are found here." The word "found" is superfluous. The Midrash explains that "found" implies something lost. The expression "found" is also used regarding David, "I found David my servant," referring to Moshiach (from the House of David), who will be "found" in a strange place, as if he came out of nowhere. According to the Midrash, the verse "take your wife and two daughters who are found here" refers to two important discoveries: Ruth the Moabite and Na'amah the Amonite, whose ancestors were Lot's two daughters. These two daughters would be the progenitors of David and Moshiach.
(see also Talmud Yevamot 63a. 77a. Zohar I 110b)