.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, March 30, 2007



From Bardichov to Japan - The Seder of the Recovering Alcoholic
by Yosef Y. Jacobson

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


How the Prisoners Saved Their Rabbi’s Daughter

Tonight and tomorrow, 9 Nisan, is the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1885-1969), affectionately known as Reb Aryeh, was a Rabbi who was known as "The Tzaddik of Jerusalem" for his kindness and attention to the poor, sick and downtrodden elements of society, and as "The Father of Prisoners" for his work with members of the Jewish Underground movements who were imprisoned by the British during the British Mandate period and with convicted criminals. Notwithstanding his activism, he behaved with extreme modesty and humility, exuding a quiet, personal warmth that touched many Jews, both religious and secular. Rabbi Levin was the subject of the book [pictured above], A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, by Simcha Raz.
Reb Aryeh is not known for Negina, but his life was certainly a Great Song to the One Above. Last year’s post, Tzaddik of Yerushalayim - in Our Time, can be found here.


The following has been adapted and excerpted from an article by Dovid Rosoff, author of Land of Our Heritage, Safed: The Mystical City, The Tefillin Handbook, and When Heaven Touches Earth. It appears on the Jewish Mag website.

AS EARLY as 1927, Rav Aryeh Levin began visiting Jewish prisoners who had been found guilty of political crimes like possessing a weapon or smuggling contraband into the country. The British overseers of Palestine stiffened their grip on the necks of the Jews in direct proportion to the Arabs’ penchant for stirring up violent riots. In response, the Jewish underground, comprising groups like the Hagana, the Palmach, and the Irgun increased their activities, which led to many of their members being jailed.
In 1931 the British authorities requested that the Chief Rabbi appoint a prison chaplain who would visit the captives on Shabbos. Rav Kook turned to Rav Aryeh Levin, who worked as the supervisor in the Eitz Chaim Talmud Torah, and asked him to take the position. Rav Aryeh accepted, on the condition that he would not receive any compensation for his time. Every Shabbos morning Rav Aryeh walked from his house in Mishkenos to the Russian Compound, where the main Jerusalem prison was located. He prayed together with the prisoners, sat and talked with each one, acted as an emissary between them and their families, and generally filled the vacuum in their lives. He never tried to force his religious values on them; at most he gave them a Book of Psalms to read. The inmates were captivated by his genuine warmth and sincerity, and the honor and respect with which he treated them.
The most heartbreaking situation he encountered was the predicament of the prisoners that were condemned to death. Rav Aryeh made every effort to appeal the sentences and reduce the punishment. Once he even threw himself in front of the High Commissioner’s moving limousine in order to present his petition to him. Concerning those he could not save, like Dov Groner, Moshe Barzani, and Meir Feinstein, Rav Aryeh said: “None of us has any idea how high is the spiritual rank of these martyrs.”
Mattityahu Shmuelevitz, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, wrote in a letter to a friend: “Yet there is one person in particular to whom I remain grateful first and foremost; a dear, precious Jew about whom you told me nothing; but it was he who stormed heaven and earth for me; and more important - it was he who brought me closer to my Maker in those fateful days... He left and we remained in the prison. He couldn’t take us with him out into the free world, but he always brought the outside world in to us.”


Very often, we read or hear stories of how a great Rabbi or Chassidic Rebbe foresaw what would happen to one of his followers, or how he saved him from a great distance in space or time. But it is rare indeed to read about the opposite – how the followers actually helped their mentor. But Rav Aryeh Levin merited such aid, as the following indicates.

Saving Their Rabbi’s Daughter from Paralysis
SHABBOS IN Jerusalem’s central prison was as one would have expected. There was happy anticipation in the air as the prisoners waited for the arrival of Rav Aryeh Levin, who would bring some light and hope into their otherwise drab existence. Rav Levin arrived on time for his regular weekly visit. As usual, he had the prisoners join in Shacharis (the morning prayer service); and as usual, when the time came, he began reading the weekly portion from the Sefer Torah (scroll).
As he was in the middle of the Torah reading, one of the Arab guards approached and asked him to come outside, as there were people waiting for him. Rav Aryeh, however, had no wish to interrupt the reading and motioned to the guard to be so kind as to wait until he was finished.
A few minutes passed by and once again the guard appeared with the same request. Once more, though, the rabbi motioned to him to wait until he finished reading from the Sefer Torah. Soon, however, the captain of the guard himself came, and asked Rav Levin to accompany him. There could be no further doubt: something quite serious must be afoot. Rav Aryeh asked one of the inmates to continue the reading, and he left the cell with the captain of the guard.
Once outside, he saw his son-in-law waiting for him at the prison entrance. In his heart he knew at once that some accident had occurred. However, he did not utter a word, and with the wisdom of silence between them they set off by foot to the Sha'arei Chessed neighborhood, where his married daughter lived.
As they reached his daughter’s home, Rav Aryeh saw members of the family and medical doctors gathered there. It was then that he learned the news: his daughter had been stricken by paralysis. The only comfort the doctors could give him was that in their opinion, her total incapacitation would likely give way to partial paralysis over the course of time, and perhaps in a number of years she would recover completely. After an emotional meeting with his daughter, he reminded members of the family that “the rescuing help of the L-rd can come in the twinkling of an eye.”
That night, when Shabbos was over, the Arab guard from the prison knocked at his door. Burning with curiosity, the inmates at the jail had bribed him to go to Rav Levin’s home and find out the reason for his sudden departure. Rav Aryeh explained what had happened and told them not to worry.
The next Shabbos the prisoners flocked around him and asked how his daughter was. “As well as can be expected,” he said emotionally.
During the Torah reading, an unusual thing occurred during the Mi Sheberach (“may he be blessed”) prayer recited after each of the seven aliyos, in which one asks the L-rd to bless and protect the man just called to the Torah. It is customary that the man called to the Torah pledges a sum to charity.
As Rav Aryeh duly recited the Mi Sheberach for the first prisoner called to the Torah, he was taken by surprise to hear the man announce that he was pledging a day of his life for the recovery of the good rabbi’s daughter. When the time came for the Mi Sheberach of the second called, he announced that he forfeited a week of his life for the sake of the sick woman. The third man called pledged a month of his lifespan; and so it went. At last it was the turn of the seventh man, Dov Tamari, who later became a professor at the Technion in Haifa.
“What is our life in prison worth,” he cried, “compared to our rabbi’s anguish? I pledge all the remaining days of my life to the complete recovery of our rabbi’s daughter!”
Rav Aryeh looked at the young man and burst into tears. He was moved beyond words to see how devoted these men were to him and how much affection they bore him. Unable to continue with the prayer service, he shook hands warmly with every single one of the inmates and went straight home.
That evening, after Shabbos, members of his family came to tell him that his daughter was beginning to show signs of recovery: she had started to move some limbs. A few days went by, and her health returned completely, in utter contradiction to the medical prognosis, which predicted a long period of illness and convalescence.


In 1965 (5725), four years before his passing, Rav Levin was honored at a ceremony assembled by the veteran underground resistance fighters from the Mandate period. Timed to take place on his eightieth birthday, it was held in the courtyard of the old central prison in the Russian Compound.
Rav Aryeh stood up to speak. “The importance of this assembly is that it has brought friends together. Moreover, this good meeting is taking place on the other side of the prison bars...It particularly makes my heart glad to see the families of the prisoners, especially the little children, since I have always loved small children.”
Then he added, “I do not know if I shall be privileged to be with you again like this. All I ask of you is this: Tell your children: There was an old Jew in Jerusalem who loved us so very much!” With that he burst into tears, and among the thousands of people there, not a dry eye was to be found.

Zechuso yagein Aleinu – May Reb Aryeh’s merits protect us!
UPDATE, EREV PESACH: from our good friend, Yisrael Medad of My Right Word:
A friend of mine at Yeshiva University and close to us Betarim was Benji Levine, grandson of Rav Aryeh (he is well known for his famous Four Jews skit). When I told him that I was taking my junior year off to go to Israel for a year in the framework of the Zionist youth movement leadership program (Machon), he asked me to please convey personal regards to his grandfather. So, when I arrived in Jerusalem in late August 1966, I sought out Emmanuel Hanegbi, Lechi veteran, estranged husband of Geula Cohen and father to Tzachi. I told him that I need to see Reb Aryeh as soon as possible. Coming from NY, I really wasn't aware of how compact Yerushalayim is (well, was) and as we were in the old Herut branch offices behind the Mashbir, he said no problem and he locked up and we walked out and around and into the neighborhood behind Machaneh Yehuda and right into his house which was all of two rooms (it still is a Yeshiva today). He welcomed us in and when I told him the purpose of my visit, his eyes lit up and then he took my hand into both of his and sort of rubbed my hand. Immediately, my hand and then body grew warm. I had heard of this special ability of his and thought it metaphorical but I give testimony now that the warmth was real and physical and it is something I will never forget. He died in Nisan of 1969 and many saw that of one of his last acts of running away from kavod [honor] as he had specifically asked that there should be no hespedim [eulogies] at his funeral. Many felt that as he didn't trust anyone to really fulfill his last request, he somehow arranged it that his be niftar [pass away] in Nisan when no hespedim are said in any case.

Friday, March 23, 2007



This Shabbos, the 5th of Nisan, is the yahrzeit of Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apta, also known by the name of his sefer, the Ohev Yisrael. Be sure to check out last year’s post, The Joy of the Ohev Yisrael, for a lot more about him and his Negina.


The following has been excerpted and adapted from this week’s English HaModia magazine. It was written by Shia Ellen.

The Apta Rav was the only one of the four spiritual heirs to the Rebbe Reb Elimelech who served as a Rav as well as a Rebbe, and in 5560 [1800], he accepted the position of Rav in the city of Apta, one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities in Poland. In honor of their new Rav, the venerable shul in the city changed its nusach from Ashkenaz to Sfard. It was in Apta that thousands of began to flock to him for brachos [blessings], and he soon became famous as a miracle worker, in addition to being a posek [Halachic decisor].
For nine years, he served as Rav in Apta, and then to the astonishment and consternation of its townspeople, he accepted the position of Rav in the distant town of Yassy, Romania. The people of Apta had formed a remarkable bond with their Rav, and he too had a special affection for them. He promised the residents that he would always be referred to as the ''Apta Rav'' and for the rest of his life, when he signed his name, he added, "of Apta." To this day, the Jews of Apta have the eternal merit that the name of this great tzaddik is forever linked with their town.

Why did he leave?
This question has puzzled many historians over the years, prompting various, often unlikely, theories. Many biographers seem unaware of the following two explanations.

According to Rebbe Yissachar Dov of Belz, the Apta Rav heard a voice from Shamayim [Heaven] proclaiming that HaRav Meir ben Shmuel was to become the Rav of Apta. Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel realized that since the town could only have one Rav, it meant that either he would move to another town, or pass away from this world. It was then that he decided to move to Yassy. Shortly thereafter, HaRav Meir, the author of sefer Ohr LaShamayim, became the Rav in Apta.
[the HaModia author notes that he heard this from the present Belzer Rebbe Shlita].

According to the Munkatcher Rebbe, author of the sefer Darkei Teshuva, when the Apta Rav agreed to take the position in Apta, he insisted on a large salary. When he left, he told them the following story:
"My father, Reb Shmuel, was a poor melamed [teacher-tutor] in a small town. His older brother, a very wealthy man, lived in Apta. Due to various calamities, my father and his brother had been separated from each other when they were eight and ten years old, and had no knowledge of each other's whereabouts. My uncle died childless, and left his young widow with very little information about his brother. Being childless, she was required to get chalitza from this unknown brother - but how was she to find him?
"The Rav of Apta at that time suggested that she send the letters to all the Rabbanim in all the neighboring countries, telling them that there was a widow in Apta searching for so-and-so to give her chalitza. She should also announce that when the brother comes and fulfills his obligation, she would give him half of what she inherited from her husband.
"She followed his suggestion, and one such letter arrived at the town where my father lived. The Rav called him in and said, 'I know you don't have money to make the trip to Apt, but seeing that you stand to return home a very wealthy man, I will lend you the money for the trip. Pay me back when you return.'
"My father went home, and told my mother the story. She said, 'A great mitzva has come your way. This is one mitzva that most people never get a chance to fulfill, and indeed, no one wishes for such an opportunity. Now that you have the chance to do this singular mitzva, you should do it for its own sake, and not for the sake of the money involved. In fact, you should not accept any money for it.'
"My father agreed, but my mother wasn’t satisfied. 'The yetzer hara [evil inclination] for money is very powerful. You may agree with me now, but when you are faced with that huge sum of money, who knows if you will be able to overcome this yetzer hara? Therefore, take my Korban Mincha Siddur in your hand, and promise that you will not take even a single penny.'
"He then returned to the Rav and told him that he did not want to borrow the money from him. 'Who says I’m the real person?' he argued. 'Perhaps I only seem to match the description, so how will I be able to repay you? I will go there by foot and see what happens.'

Engraving for the tractate Yevamos, illustrated by Mich. Richey, Amsterdam, 1700-04. The engraving shows the widow holding the "chalitza shoe" which she has removed from her brother-in-law's foot. (Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem)

"My father took his bag and walking stick and set out for Apta. He came to the Rav of Apta, and it turned out that he was the person they had sought. When the chalitza was completed, the woman insisted that my father take half of his brother's inheritance, but my father insisted on keeping the promise he had made to my mother and steadfastly refused to take any money.
"The widow insisted that she had no wish to keep this money, and if he would not accept it, it should remain in the community’s possession.
"My father’s actions caused a great tumult in Heaven. It was decided to reward him; and so, although my parents were very old, they were blessed with a son. I am that son," concluded the Ohev Yisrael. "Now you know why I consented to come here and be the Rav, but only for a large salary. I was only taking back the money that had been due my father, but was left in the hands of the community. Now that I have received the full amount, I can leave here and go to Yassy."

For four years, the Apta Rav served as Rav and Rebbe in Yassy. While many in the community recognized the great privilege of having the tzaddik in their midst, others did not; and while today the very notion seems incredible, the Apta Rav was viciously persecuted by segments of the Jewish community.
It is said that when family members saw how much the Rebbe was suffering from the actions of these individuals, they asked him what he did not curse the offenders.
''In my youth, I asked Hashem that any curse I utter turn into a blessing," the Rebbe replied. ''My request was granted. If I were to curse these individuals, I would actually be blessing them.''

On 18 Kislev 5572 [1811], the Rebbe Reb Baruch, Rebbe of Medzibuzh, was niftar [passed away]. The Jews of Medzibuzh had become accustomed to having a venerable tzaddik in their midst. Only half a century earlier, the Baal Shem Tov had resided there. For the past twelve years, it had been his grandson, the Rebbe Reb Baruch, and for the twelve years before that the Rebbe Reb Baruch’s older brother, Rebbe Moshe Chaim Efraim of Sudylkov, the author of the Degel Machaneh Efraim, had served as their Rebbe.
The community decided to invite the Apta Rav to relocate to Medzibuzh, and in 5573, he left Romania and became Rebbe in the city of the Baal Shem Tov. Two years later his close friends, the Chozeh of Lublin, the Kozhnitzer Maggid, and Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, were all niftar within months of each other. The last surviving member of this unique group, the Apta Rav, was now considered the oldest Chassidic Rebbe of the time. All major decisions were sent to him for arbitration, and his word was feared throughout Eastern Europe and even as far away as Eretz Yisrael. Like the two previous tzaddikim who lived in Medzibuzh, the Rebbe Reb Baruch and the Degel Machaneh Ephraim, the Apta Rav lived there for twelve years.
Shortly before his petira [passing], he bade farewell to the table at which he had studied, the bookcase full of sefarim, and to the mezuza on the doorpost. He returned to his bed and began to say, "Ha’aderes vha’emuna, l’Chai Olamim – Strength and faithfulness are His, Who lives Eternally," and it was with these words that he departed this world, on the fifth day of Nisan 5585 [1825].

Zechuso yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Ohev Yisrael's merits protect us all!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Parshas Vayikra - The Niggun's Influence on the Soul

Bringing the lambs and the wood for Korbanos [sacrifices]. Courtesy of the Machon HaMikdash [Temple Institute] website.

I’ve just discovered a new website dealing with Negina called…Nigun.Info, from which the following was posted, slighted adapted (such as the connection to this week’s parsha) for Heichal HaNegina by me.
From the book Shirat HaLev [The Song of the Heart] by Shmuel Stern - Translated by Gita Levi:
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov wrote (Likkutei Moharan, Part II, Paragraph 63) that every shepherd has his own unique melody, his own niggun, born of the grass, and the place to where he leads his flock to graze, and so forth. The shepherd himself is benefited by this niggun. This is because spending so much of his time amidst the herd could result in a descent of the shepherd from his standing as man down to the level of beast. The niggun spares him from this descent. The niggun is surely as a spiritual distillation, refining men's spirit from that of the beasts. As the Ramban writes, "There is nothing as subtle within the realm of physicality as music." That is to say, that the niggun is found on the borderline of physicality, at the point of connection with the spiritual. Therefore the niggun is bestowed with the power to raise us from the material and physical to the realm of spirituality; to enable the ascent from the level of beast to the level of human.
Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi interpreted the Talmudic passage "All bearers of collars go out with a collar and are drawn by a collar" to imply that humans, the singers of songs, are drawn out from beastliness through song. [In the Talmudic text the word "shir" is used for "collar"; this Hebrew word also means "song".] (We've blogged on this, here.)
In the Holy Temple, the Levites would sing their song, accompanying the sacrificial animal's ascent towards heaven. For through sacrifice, the animalistic ascends to a level of spirituality. The Levites' song accompanied and facilitated this ascent of the bearer of the sacrifice. Through the Levites' song, the man offering the sacrifice was aroused to absolute teshuva [repentance] and thus neared his Maker.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The Rebbe Rashab's Negina

Today, 2 Nisan, is the 87th yahrzeit of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, known as the Rebbe Rashab.

Adapted from Chabad.org:
The fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn ("Rashab"), was born in the White Russian town of Lubavitch in 1860. After the passing of his father, Rebbe Shmuel [the Maharash] (in 1882), he assumed the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch.
Famed for his phenomenal mind and analytical treatment of Chabad Chassidus, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber wrote and delivered some 2,000 ma'amarim (Chassidic discourses) over the 38 years of his leadership. In 1897, he established the Tomchei Tmimim yeshiva, the first institution of Jewish learning to combine the study of the "body" of Torah (Talmudic and legal studies) with its mystical "soul" (the teachings of Chassidus); it was this unique yeshiva that produced the army of learned, inspired and devoted Chassidim who, in the decades to come, would literally give their lives to keep Judaism alive under Soviet rule.
In 1915, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber was forced to flee Lubavitch from the advancing WWI front and relocated to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. In his final years, he began the heroic battle against the new Communist regime's efforts to destroy the Jewish faith throughout the Soviet Union.
Rabbi Shalom DovBer passed away in Rostov on the 2nd of Nissan, 1920. His last words were: "I'm going to heaven; I leave you the writings."

* Song reveals the beauty within the soul.

* Once at a Lubavitch farbrenghen [gathering], a group of talmidim from the Rashab’s yeshiva, Tomchei Tmimim, sang a known niggun in an imprecise manner. The Rashab admonished them, noting that a niggun is a matter of beauty, which brings out the beauty of one’s soul, and precision in a niggun is the epitome of beauty.
The Rashab would say that when our Sages tell us that we should say over in our Rebbe’s name, it does not only apply to a Dvar Torah or a minhag [custom]; but even to part of a niggun. One should give over a niggun with its original tahara [purity] and precision, including how and when it is to be sung.

* A niggun must be learned, and it deepens you.

* Chabad Chassidim often sang moving niggunim before go into a yechidus [private session] with their Rebbe. The Rebbe Rashab once heard how a Chassid sang a niggun, and the Chassid was very moved with a strong feeling for the Rebbe. The Rashab noted that the Chassid had relived his experience of yechidus with the Rebbe.

* According to the teaching of the Arizal, it is a mitzva to sing on Shabbos. Shabbos is the time that all of the 'worlds' are elevated, which is accomplished through niggunim. A niggun causes a stirring in the soul, which is an elevation and a dveykus [attachment] to Above.
We see this, when a person ponders on a certain [Torah] matter without a niggun, his pondering affects his soul, but it is hardly noticeable, for it is without liveliness or fervor. But when he sings aloud, during his pondering, the ascent of his soul is perceptible, for it is full of life and fervor.

The Rebbe Rashab’s Niggunim:
Niggun Hachana, sung before the Rebbe gave over his Chassidic Torah discourse.

Niggun Rostov, also called “The Rebbe Rashab’s niggun.”

In Chabad’s Sefer HaNiggunim, Niggunim #17-19 are listed as from the Rebbe Rashab. They are his Nusach [chant tunes] for the pasukim [verses] recited before Tekias [blowing of the] Shofar, the blessings thereon, and the verses recited afterwards. You can find links to them on this page.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Don't Forget Birchas Ilanos!

Today, Rosh Chodesh Nisan, is the first opportunity for Birchas Ilanos, the blessing recited over the flowering of fruit trees.

Be sure to check out the links in the first post to learn more about this special blessing!

As last year, I hope to be joining the Bostoner Rebbe Shlita here in Yerushalayim later today for this special mitzva!

Sunday, March 18, 2007



Tonight, the 29th of Adar, is the 141st yahrzeit of Rebbe Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowitz ZT"L of Radomsk, (1801-1866), author of one of the best-known classics of Chassidic literature, "Tiferes Shlomo." The Chassidic Dynasty of Radomsk in Poland has existed for over four generations. Rebbe Shlomo, its founder, became Rav of Radomsk in 1842.

Last year’s post, THE MUSICAL TALENTS OF THE "TIFERES SHLOMO", has much about his Negina and his relationship to Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir.


This was adapted and excerpted from RABBI SHLOMO HAKOHEN OF RADOMSK, by Rabbi Dovid Ebner:
Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen was born in 5563 (1803) into a Chassidic family. As a youth, he became a Chassid of Rebbe Meir of Apt, who was a follower of the holy Seer - the Chozeh - of Lublin. It is told that when he first came to the latter’s court, Rebbe Meir already recognized him as possessing unusual qualities of saintliness.
At the age of 30, he became the Rabbi of Radomsk in the Lodz province of Poland, and served in that capacity for the rest of his life. However, he began to attract followers who wanted him to assume the role of a Rebbe as well as that of the Rav of the community. Much as he sought to avoid taking on such a position, he was eventually convinced to do so, and in 1843 he accepted the role of Chassidic Rebbe. His charismatic personality, human insight, and ecstatic prayer attracted thousands to the Chassidus of Radomsk. When he led prayers, the synagogue would be filled to capacity.
He once taught that David HaMelech was on a higher rung than Aharon HaKohen: “When Aharon suffered misfortune, he remained silent and uttered no word of complaint. But when David faced misfortune, he sang Tehillim [Psalms].”
His assumption of the title of Rebbe met with the approval of even the Rebbe of Kotzk. He remarked, “The Rabbis teach that ‘words which proceed from the heart, enter the heart.’ I think this must mean that one cannot try to correct the ways of his fellowman unless he has examined himself and rooted out of his own heart that which he finds objectionable in the other. Rabbi Shlomo is such a man.”
The Radomsker Rebbe was a man whose mind and heart sang with praise to His Creator. On the 29th of Adar, 5626 (1866) he returned his soul to G-d.


from The Third Temple, an introduction by Reb Dovid Hertzberg
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach ztl shared the following parable from Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk: Imagine there's a father and child. The child is crying, so of course being the compassionate father he is, he consoles his son. But what happens when the father is also crying? If the son is a really good child he puts his pain aside and consoles his father. How do we understand this? The Holy Temple is in ruin and we cry a billion tears over the loss of our house. But when our eyes are opened we see that G-d consoles us in his utmost compassion and promises us, we will soon merit to once again see our house rebuilt. From our tears we see how much G-d is crying in his state of homelessness. We make ourselves strong and console G-d with the words, please cease from weeping for I promise you that very soon you will have your new house to dwell in and this Holy Temple will last forever.


The following story is excerpted from Rabbi SY Zevin’s “Treasury of Chassidic Tales on the Torah.”
During the Polish rising against Czarist Russia, a squad of Polish soldiers seized a certain wealthy and respected Chassid who lived near Radomsk, and prepared to sentence him to death for having allegedly refused to supply them with grain and wine that they had demanded of him.
His wife and friends immediately called upon Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk, who was renowned as a miracle worker, and told him, with much weeping and wailing, about the Chassid who was a mere hairsbreadth away from death.
"There is no need for all this uproar," said Rebbe Shlomo. ''The rebels will not kill him, and the whole episode will end up as no more than a matter of money."
He then told them to seek out the rebel chief and to address their entreaties to him.
Following the camp of the rebels, the relatives found their chief and begged him to spare the life of the prisoner. He received them cordially, and averred that a prisoner such as this, who refused to provide his fighters with provisions, certainly deserved to be fined thirty thousand gold rubles. In a flash, the relatives were off to fetch the required sum in cash, and in minutes they were back to ransom their loved one from certain death.
Their first thought thereafter was to bring the glad tidings to the Rebbe: his blessing had been fulfilled. As the family arrived exultant, Rebbe Shlomo asked the freed man: "In what manner did they let you go?"
When he answered that he had paid a fine of thirty thousand gold rubles, the Rebbe commented: ''Is it right that they should take such a vast sum from you? No! You will not lose the money, either. You will get it back."
All those who were present wondered at the Rebbe’s words. Everyone knew that the rebels never let out of their grasp anything they managed to lay their hands on, and who would dare take such a fearsome adversary to court?
A long time passed, and the episode was almost forgotten by all concerned. In the meantime, the Czarist regime had quashed the rebellion, and had taken all the loot that the Polish rabble had pillaged - including a bag loaded with thirty thousand gold rubles. A journal entry in the rebel camp informed them that this sum had been received from a certain individual in payment of a fine. They promptly summoned the former prisoner, and returned his money in full.
His friends recalled the assurance of their Rebbe, and observed that every word of his had come true – clearly a miracle. They hastened to give him the good news, but when he heard their excited report, he answered angrily: "Away with you! What makes you come and confuse me with stories of miracles? Off you go! I don't want to hear any more of your miracle stories!''
One of the venerable Chassidim who was present took the liberty a little later of turning to the tzaddik with a query: ''Rebbe, please enlighten us. Why did you now tell these Chassidim so harshly that they should not retell the miracle? For the fact remains that something miraculous did take place. In the first instance, you assured this man that he would lose his money but not his life, and that is exactly what happened; then you told him that he would even get his money back - from the very teeth of that pack of wolves - and this also came true. Is there no value in recounting incidents that show what tzaddikim are capable of doing? Why then scold the Chassidim and drive them out?"
"Your question is in place,'' replied the Rebbe, ''but allow me to tell you a story of the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem once earnestly requested one of his disciples to accept a rabbinical post. The disciple refused. The Rebbe spoke to him as if in anger: 'Indeed! Here I am trying to set you up in an easy job, where you will be able devote yourself to the study of Torah while occupying a position as a rabbi - and you're not interested?! This just goes to show that you don't take the obligation of Torah study seriously' - and so he continued, with more words of severe reproach in the same vein.
"The disciple, however, did not swerve from his stance: 'No, I do not want to be a rabbi.' At this point the Baal Shem told him that he had only been putting him through a trial.
"So, too, continued Rebbe Shlomo, heaven sometimes shows even great tzaddikim signs of greatness miraculous exploits, with the intention of putting them to the test, of seeing whether it will make them proud, and cause them to grow lax in the service of their Maker.
Even Moshe Rabbeinu was put through such a test. For when he interceded at Sinai for his People who had sinned in worshiping the Golden Calf, the Almighty spoke of destroying them, and said: 'I will make you into a great nation.' Now had he agreed to accept this promise he would have perished, G-d forbid, for it was mentioned only to test him. He however withstood the test, and answered that if G-d would not forgive His People, 'erase me, please, from your book.'
"Who knows, then,'' concluded Rebbe Shlomo, ''what is behind these miracles they are talking about? Perhaps they are brought about only as a test. Why should they make such a fuss about miracles?"
Zechuso Yagein Aleinu - May Rebbe Shlomo's merits protect us all!

Monday, March 12, 2007


Update from Lizhensk

Hyde Park’s Chadrei Chareidim reports that thousands of Jews had arrived by yesterday [the yahrzeit] for Tefillos [prayers] at the Rebbe Reb Elimelech’s kever [gravesite] in Lizhensk. Among them were the Rebbes of Nadvorna, Rachmistrivka, Koidinov, and Atniya; Rav Rafael Abuchatzera, Rav Yekutiel Abuchatzera, Rav Yisrael Hagar, Rav Menachem Mendel Hagar, Rav Menachem Ernster, Rav Y.D. Grossman, and scores of other Rabbanim and public figures.

Sunday, March 11, 2007



Today, 21 Adar, is the 220th yahrzeit of The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, and, like his Rebbe, he became a “general of generals” in that many of the greatest Chassidic Rebbes of Poland, Galicia, Rumania and Hungary were amongst his talmidim. “It is told that before he died, Rebbe Elimelech bequeathed the sight of his eyes to the Chozeh of Lublin, the spirit of his heart to the Kozhnitzer Maggid, the soul of his mind to Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, and the power of speech to Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt. His disciples said, ‘Nowhere else than at Rebbe Elimelech’s can your hear a bit of truth.’ ” [Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Chasidic Masters, p. 55].

Here are last year’s posts:
The Shechina Sings in His Throat and The Lullaby

How the Rebbe Reb Zusia brought the Rebbe Reb Elimelech to Chassidus:
Stoking the Fires of Divine Service


The following is my freely adapted translation of a story appearing in this past Shabbos’ Sichas HaShavua, by Zalman Ruderman, adapted from the sefer Tzentaros Zahav [Golden Pipes], Vol. 1, by Rav Mordechai Gerlitz.


The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk would seclude himself once a year, during the 40-day period between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur. At this time, he would be alone in his room, totally involved in Divine Service. Except in the most urgent of cases, no one was allowed to disturb him. Knowing this, his Chassidim made sure to bring their questions or problems to him at other times of the year.

One year, there was a very unusual occurrence which happened far from Lizhensk. A boy, the son of wealthy parents, began to act very strangely. Day after day, in both speech and action, his manner was…weird, to put it mildly. Shocked and embarrassed, his parents didn’t need a doctor to tell them that something was seriously wrong with their son. They summoned the best doctors in the area, to try to bring their son back to normal. They spared neither money nor effort in this regard. The loving parents even had to hire a special guard to be with their son, to insure that he would bring no harm to himself or others.

In their frantic search for a cure for their son, they heard that there was a tzaddik in the town of Lizhensk, whose prayers and blessings worked wonders. Although it was a very long journey, the father took his young son with him and set out for Lizhensk, with the hope that the tzaddik could help the young lad recover from his condition.

As they approached the outskirts of Lizhenk, the boy suddenly noticed a poor man in tattered clothing, walking along the way. Turning to his father, the boy said, “Abba, please give the poor man some money.” The father, who had not heard a smooth, sane sentence from his son in a very long time, was surprised at these words, which were uttered very calmly. With a good feeling in his heart, the father took out a large silver coin from his pocket, called the poor man over to him, and gave it to him with a big smile.

“Where are you headed, my generous Jews?” asked the poor man.

“We are on the way to Lizhensk, to ask the Rebbe for a bracha [blessing] for a cure for my son who is next to me,” responded the father in a sad voice.

“Does he really need a cure? He looks to be of sound body and mind to me! Why waste your time? You should just turn around and go home!” was the unsolicited advice of the poor man.

Still surprised by the sane behavior of his son, the father answered, “Yes, you appear to be right – my son seems to be perfectly well. However, since we’ve come this far, and are already on the outskirts of Lizhensk, it makes no sense to turn back now, without seeing the holy face of the tzaddik!”

“Of course, you may do as you wish,” said the poor man. “But you should know, that at this time the tzaddik secludes himself with his Creator. Everyone avoids going to him at this time, and you should also avoid taking too much of his time. When you go in to see him, keep your words very short, and leave immediately…”

Taken aback by these words of the poor man, who was so protective of the tzaddik, the father of the boy nodded to him, and they parted ways.

Upon their arrival in Lizhensk, the father and son stayed at an inn, where the father wrote out his kvittel [a petition on paper] in brief, to which he added a large sum of money as a pidyon nefesh [a 'soul redemption'] – 12 gold pieces! Upon speaking to the Rebbe’s Chassidim, the man confirmed that indeed the Rebbe Reb Elimelech only saw the most urgent cases at this time.

When he approached the Rebbe’s gabbai [attendant] near his room, he briefly explained his predicament, which was indeed deemed to be a most urgent case. He also mentioned the name of the far-away town from which he came, together with his son. He asked that these efforts not be turned away, and promised not to take up too much of the tzaddik’s valuable time.

The gabbai went into the Rebbe’s room to ask if he would receive them, and was answered in the affirmative. The father presented the Rebbe Reb Elimelech with the kvittel that he had written, and placed the 12 gold pieces on the table.

The Rebbe looked carefully at the father and his son, and then quickly glanced at the money on the table, and let out a deep groan. “What a strange world, indeed! To Eliyahu HaNavi they give one silver coin, and to Elimelech – 12 gold pieces! What a shame, what an embarrassment!”

As the father was digesting this news that the poor man he met on the way, who had ‘diagnosed’ his son as completely healthy, was none other than Eliyahu HaNavi, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech extended his hand to him, to bid him farewell. The Rebbe then gave him his bracha and returned to his Divine Service.

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v’al Kol Yisrael – May the Rebbe Reb Elimelech’s merits protect us all!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


This Too Shall End - POST-Purim Torah

I just recently returned home from a wonderful Purimdik weekend in Tzfas and the North of Israel, where we enjoyed a fantastic Purim seuda at a very dear and close friend's home, Yad HaLevi. After being inspired himself with some Purim beverages, he inspired us with some Divrei Torah, which have a post-Purim message for all of us.
First, he mentioned that someone came to Rav Elazar [Luzer] Koenig of Tzfas. The man was broken, having just gone through a painful divorce, compounded by losing his job. Rav Koenig did not answer him with platitudes, but merely said, "Sometimes we have to serve Hashem from whatever state we're in -- even from extreme pain."
My host then shared the following, which appeared in last week's English HaModia, in the magazine section. For those who want more info on Rav Hutner, my post on him is here. [And BTW, the pic there is from a Purim seuda; behind him, his talmidim are dancing!]
This Too Shall End
A Purim vort by HaRav Yitzchak Hutner Zt"l
Late one Purim night, following hours of imparting insights into every aspect of the day, after joyous merrymaking with talmidim as a multipiece band poured out his favorite tunes, having consumed an entire bottle of wine which would have dimmed the faculties of anyone with less mental facility, the Rosh Yeshiva said the following:
David HaMelech [King David] says in Tehillim, ''The spirited rush of the waves, You calm and still'' (89:10). An alternate translation is "the waves You praise."
Chazal [our Sages] say that the waves are indeed praiseworthy, for they know that as soon as they hit the coastline, they cease to exist.
Nonetheless, as long as the roaring breakers rise in the sea, they do their duty, obediently raising havoc and storm.
I don't mind, the Rosh Yeshiva said on that night, if after Pesach I am left with a little freedom; nor do I mind if after Shavuos I stay with a bit of Torah. But how would it look if, after Purim, I were to remain tipsy?
For that I am indeed laudable. I am fully cognizant of the fact that in a few hours everything will come to an abrupt end. Pretty soon the wine will cease to have an effect on me, and all revelries will be brought to a close. But until then, until the very last moment, I will continue to celebrate, ardently and wholeheartedly.
Is this not, in fact, a parable for all of life?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?