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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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The Darkest Night of Chanukah - 5th Night Story

It is my great honor to present my favorite Chanukah story…a little light dispels a lot of darkness.

It’s been my incredible merit to share this story, of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the 5th night of Chanukah, this being the 19th year I’ve shared it.  This is the original, via translation from Yiddish by a senior Shaliach of the Rebbe (Rabbi Avraham Korf of Florida), that I received in the earliest days of email and the Internet.  More information on the source at the end.

In the last few years I’ve seen various editions of it, as well as heard a few contesting it.  NO ONE contested it when it came out, and it’s told by those directly involved.  And as I said above, this is the original…

From the Hebrew weekly, Shav'uon Kfar Chabad, a wondrous account sent in by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Greenvald from 19 years ago...
Since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, may his merit guard over us, Jews all around me -- of every stripe and persuasion -- can't seem to stop talking about the Rebbe. At the synagogue I pray at, at work. It amazes me to see how every Jew seems to have a story about a personal encounter or experience with the Rebbe.

I say it's a mitzvah to tell these stories so that our children and children's children will hear about the Sanctification of G-d's name by means of a tzaddik who walked amongst us and was a faithful shepherd for all the children of the generation. It's widely known that Hasidim place great importance on tales of the righteous, as it is written, "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O ye Servants of the Lord" (Psalms). In order to comply with this precept myself, I offer a wondrous account about the Rebbe and my father. Until now this was known only in our family circles. I now find it incumbent upon me, after the Rebbe's passing, to tell the story publicly.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Zvi Greenvald, was born in Lodz, Poland, and was orphaned from his father at the age of 8. His mother was left with seven little orphans, and she worried much about the education of her eldest boy, whom she sent to live with a cousin, the exalted scholar Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may G-d avenge his blood. It was he who raised my father with great self-sacrifice. Understandably, he was concerned about my father's studies and even tutored him personally.

My father was almost 17 years old when there took place in Warsaw "The Great Wedding" -- the nuptials of the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. My father used to tell about this wedding almost as a spiritual exercise -- both regarding the wedding itself, in which participated the cream of Polish Hasidic leaders, and also that my father was able to meet personally with the young bridegroom. This meeting, my father would later realize, would portend much in the future.

A youth of about 17, my father arrived at the wedding together with his relative and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Zemba. On the morning after, Rabbi Zemba told him he was going to visit the bridegroom in the hotel, and if my father wished, he could accompany him. Understandably, my father agreed.
My father could not remember and repeat all that the two spoke about, but he did remember well the end of the conversation, before these two personalities parted ways. The Rebbe turned to my father and said, "In another few days, it will be Hanukkah. Do you know why many small synagogues hold festivals on the fifth day of Chanukah?" My father did not know what to answer, and he recalled that Rabbi Zemba just looked at the Rebbe waiting for an answer. Then the Rebbe, turned to my father and said, "The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies great darkness because this day cannot fall on the Holy Sabbath. And through the Hanukkah candles, the greatest (spiritual) darkness of the world is illuminated. And for this reason, the potential of Hanukkah comes to fruition specifically through the fifth candle, which signifies the darkness. And this is the function of every Jew, in every place -- in Warsaw or London -- to illuminate the darkest place."

As mentioned earlier, my father did not remember what the Rebbe and Rabbi Zemba spoke about during their long conversation. But he said he would never forget that all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud flew around the room. When they left the hotel, my father recalls, Rabbi Zemba was extremely excited and didn't stop speaking about the meeting to everyone with whom he conversed for several days.

After that meeting, nearly 10 years passed.

My father survived the Holocaust, first in the Ghetto, and afterwards in the Extermination Camps. His first wife and their five little children were slaughtered in front of his eyes. When the war ended, and he was left alive by the grace of G-d, he experienced a mental and physical breakdown. For two years, he moved from displaced persons camp to displaced persons camp, trying to learn if there were relatives -- close or distant -- who survived. In the end, it became clear that all his brothers and sisters -- each one of them -- was liquidated by the oppressor, may its name be blotted out.

In the year 5708 (ca. 1948), he traveled to the United States, to Philadelphia. There lived his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald of the Amshinov Hasidim, who he had never met because the uncle immigrated to America before he was born. But the uncle arranged my fathers travel to the U. S. and received him with great love, and did everything to make it easier for him and to comfort him after the portion of awesome suffering he underwent . . . Under pressure from his uncle, with the intervention of the Amshinov Rebbe, my father decided to put his life back together, married a second wife (my mother, of blessed memory).

She was a child of Karkov, daughter of Rabbi Zushya Sinkowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, of the elders of the Alexander Hasidim. Together with his sister, he succeeded in fleeing immediately at the beginning of the war, running from country to country until they set sail for Canada. There, they raised in the house another cousin, the great leader, Mr. Kuppel Shwartz, one of Toronto's leading Jews. Before my parents were wed, Mr. Shwartz took my father to New York for an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) to obtain his blessing.

My father told me that he trembled to see the change that had overtaken the Previous Rebbe, how age had crept up on him since the Warsaw wedding. (It was very difficult to understand the Rebbe's speech; one of the Hasidic elders who stood in the room explained what the Rebbe was saying). Mr. Shwartz told the Previous Rebbe that my father had been saved, but lost his family in the Holocaust. Then, from the holy eyes of the Previous Rebbe there began to fall streams of pure tears. The Rebbe blessed my father and wished him a long and good life. Before he left, my father told the Rebbe that he had been fortunate to be at the wedding of his son-in-law, the Rebbe, in Warsaw. Then, my father tells, the Previous Rebbe's eyes brightened and he said that since his son-in-law lived here, and he was at the wedding, he should certainly visit him to pay his respects.

Mr. Shwartz and my father left the Rebbe's chambers, and after they were shown where to find the chambers of the Ramash, as he was known then, they knocked and entered, saying they came at the instructions of the Previous Rebbe. My father was elated that the Ramash remembered him immediately. His first question was that my father should tell about last days of Rabbi Zemba because he heard he was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto but did not know any details.

After my father told all he knew, the Ramash said, "since the Rebbe told you to visit me, I am obligated to say to you words of Torah. And since the month of Kislev is close to Hanukkah, it is known the custom of many Hasidim," followers of the Baal Shem Tov, to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah. What is the reason? Since the fifth day can never fall on the Sabbath, if so, then it implies strong (spiritual) darkness. This is the potential of the Hanukkah candle -- to illuminate the greatest darkness. This is the mission of every Jew in every place he may be -- New York or London -- to illuminate the darkest place.

Needless to say, my father was startled as he had all but forgotten the very same thing that the Ramash had told him nearly 20 years earlier. And now, his memory was jarred, and he realized that the Ramash had repeated, almost word-for-word, what he told him then, in the hotel in Warsaw.
After his wedding, my father served as a rabbi and teacher for Congregation Adath Israel in Washington Heights. There we were born, my sister and I. My father remained there some five years, and, with the help of Mr. Shwartz in Canada, moved to Toronto and worked there as a rabbi and teacher in the Haredi congregations there.

Over the course of years, in Toronto, my father became close to the Satmar Hasidim in the city, since he ministered in his rabbinical work to these Hasidim. Though he never sent us to the Satmar schools, he sent us to educational institutions that were spiritually similar. Me and my brother were sent to the well known Nytra Yeshivah. Though my father's outlook was philosophically close to Satmar, he never spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the contrary, he always spoke of him in with praise and in especially respectful terms, as did his children.

In the winter of 5729 (ca. 1969), I was married. My father told me that even though I wasn't a Lubavitcher Hasid, he feels the need to go with me to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for my wedding -- just as he had done, even though he had not seen the Rebbe for some 20 years. I agreed with a whole heart.

But then, I learned it's not so simple to visit the Rebbe.

Only after negotiations with the Rebbe's secretary -- and only after my father explained to him that we could not wait several months to reserve a place in the queue for audiences -- did he agreed to place us in line, but only after we promised we would only ask for a benediction and would not detain the Rebbe. My father promised and we left Toronto on the appointed day. I don't remember the exact hour we entered the Rebbe's chambers, but it was closer to morning than night, if not dawn itself.
I saw the Rebbe's face for the first time in person. His face, especially his eyes, made a great impression on me. My father gave the Rebbe the customary epistle on which were inscribed the names of myself, my bride-to-be and my father's request for a benediction. The Rebbe took the epistle from my father's hands. Before he opened it, he looked at my father with a broad smile and said, "Not more than 20 years ago the time had arrived, especially as the Previous Rebbe sent you to me." My father stood, scared and trembling, and couldn't find the energy to open his mouth.
Meanwhile, the sexton banged on the door, but the Rebbe waved his hand as to negate the knocking, like someone who was saying, don't pay attention.

In the midst of all this, the Rebbe opened the epistle, glanced at it, and immediately began to give us his blessing, blessed my father with a long life and good years, and said, roughly, "Just as you rejoiced at my nuptials, may the Lord give you nachas and strength to dance at your grandchild's wedding." Tears poured from my father's eyes, and I was also elated. My father had been physically broken from all he had endured in the camps, and this benediction of the Rebbe's was especially dear.
Before we left, my father got together the strength to ask the Rebbe that since he had promised the secretary we would enter solely to request a blessing, and he has a pressing question, would the Rebbe permit him to ask it. The Rebbe smiled and laughed, and said (roughly): "Since the Rebbe the father-in-law sent you to me, I am obligated to answer all questions. And as before, we heard loud banging on the door, and the Rebbe signaled we should ignore it.

My father turned to the Rebbe and said that for different reasons, we had lived among the Satmar Hasidim and their fellow travellers for many years. There, we frequently hear complaints about the views of Lubavitch. "Even though I do not accept all the gossip that I hear, they have nonetheless succeeded in raising within me a great doubt about the Lubavitch view in connection with working together with the "wicked people." The verses are well known, such as "And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate." "How is it that Lubavitch can openly work together with those who battle against G-d and his Torah?"

My father told the Rebbe that he requests forgiveness for the question, and did not mean to offend. Quite to the contrary, he really wants to understand the Rebbe's view so he can answer others as well as himself. The Rebbe then turned to my father with a question. "What would your neighbors do if a neighbor's daughter began to keep bad company? Would they attempt to return her to the way of Torah and the Commandments, or would they say, 'And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate and it is forbidden to involve oneself with the wicked; therefore, we should distance ourselves from her and not bring her closer?'"

The Rebbe did not even wait for an answer, and promptly added: "This zealous one would answer that with a daughter, the injunction of 'From thy flesh do not conceal thyself would apply.'" And then the Rebbe's eyes became serious, and he knocked on the table, and said: "By the Al-mighty, every Jew is as precious as an only child. With the Rebbe, the father-in-law, every Jew was 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'"

Then the Rebbe looked at me, and at my father with a constant gaze, and said: "One concludes with a blessing. As it is known, it is customary among Hasidim to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah with festivities. What is the reason? Since the fifth day cannot ever fall on the Sabbath, this signifies that it is the height of darkness. With the light of the Hanukkah candle, it is possible to illuminate the darkest thing. This is the mission of each Jew, to illuminate even the darkest places. It does not matter where he lives -- Toronto or London. Every Jew is veritably a part of G-d above, the only child of the Holy One, Blessed be He. And when one lights his soul with the candle of holiness, even the distant Jew is stirred in the darkest place."

My father was startled in the most shocking way. He didn't even hear the last words of the Rebbe's blessing, nor how we left the Rebbes chambers. All the way back to Toronto he was silent. Only two words: "wonder of wonders. Wonder of wonders."

Since then, about 10 years passed.

In the year 5739 (ca. 1979), my youngest brother was married in the city of London. The whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I flew to the wedding in an airplane. On the way to London, I saw my father was preoccupied. Something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he didn't want to say. Only after I asked several times, he told me. "A few minutes after I left the house in Toronto, the neighbor -- one of the dignitaries of our congregation -- came to see me, rivers of tears pouring from his eyes. He said he would tell me a story that he would not otherwise tell to anybody willingly, but that maybe I could help.

It turned out that the daughter of this community leader wavered very much in her ritual observance. In the beginning, the parents didn't really know about it, because she hid it from them. But two weeks earlier, the great catastrophe became known to them: she eloped with a Gentile to London. Since then, the atmosphere at home was one of crying and mourning, the 9th of Av.

All the efforts of relatives in London came to naught. Therefore, he asked my father, since he was travelling to London, maybe he would look into the matter, and G-d would be merciful. Maybe he could find the daughter and prevent her from descending into the depths of iniquity? My father was a close friend of this neighbor, and was affected greatly by the story. I also took it to heart and thought about what I could do in London.

The nuptials were held at a good and auspicious hour. On the first night of the Seven Benedictions, my father turned to the bride's father and told him the story about the neighbor's daughter. Perhaps he had some advice, who, where? Maybe he could look into the matter and do something? The bride's father, as soon as he heard the story, said to my father that he had no understanding of such matters, but did have a friend who was a Lubavitcher Hasid, who the Lubavitcher Rebbe had always charged with all types of errands. The man's name was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Glick, and if there's somebody who can help, it is this man, who had already managed to save from the streets of Europe many confused souls.

That night, the bride's father telephoned Rabbi Glick, told him the story and explained how pressing the matter was. Rabbi Glick asked for the telephone number of the girl's parents in Toronto -- perhaps they knew some details that would help, like addresses, telephone numbers. Perhaps they would give him some clue where to start searching. Rabbi Glick promised to do what he could.

I don't know where Rabbi Glick searched, where he went, nor with whom he consulted. But one night, about 10 days later -- my father and my mother decided to stay in London until after Hanukkah -- Rabbi Glick called the bride's father and told him to come immediately. "I have a very good surprise," he said.

The bride's father and my father hurried to Rabbi Glick's house. As they entered, they saw a girl sitting, crying. At the entrance of the salon, a Hanukkah candelabrum was lit. Suddenly, as my father looked at the menorah, he saw five candles lit, and he almost fainted and fell to the ground. He remembered the strange sentence the Rebbe had told him some 50 years earlier, then 30 years earlier and then 10.

"The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies the power of the Hanukkah menorah, and the mission of every Jew is to illuminate even" the darkest place -- Warsaw or London, New York or London, or Toronto or London . . ."

"What will that zealous one do when his daughter wavers ...with the Holy One, Blessed be He, every Jew is an only child ... With the Previous Rebbe, every Jew is 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'" There's no need to mention that the girl completely repented and became on observant Jew. There's also no need to mention that the zealous one shut his mouth and ceased speaking against Lubavitch.

When my father returned to Canada, he made every effort to obtain an audience with the Rebbe. He felt a need, a spiritual duty after what had happened, to see the Rebbe. But in those years, it had become very difficult to obtain a private audience. But the following month of Tishrei, the year 5740 (ca. 1980), my father succeeded seeing the Rebbe on the night that a group of holiday visitors had a group audience. My father said that from all the emotions that were coursing through him, he could not utter anything during the audience. When he tried to tell the story, he would break into tears. The Rebbe heard just a few sentences, turned to my father and said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

Every time my father would tell this story, he would say that the real wonder was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Even more than his vision of events to come from 50 years beforehand, was his heavenly humility of, that he said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

The chain of wonders has not stopped. On 14 Kislev 5748 (ca. 1989), exactly when the Seven Benedictions for my firstborn child ended, on the day which represented the passage of 60 years from the Rebbe's wedding in Warsaw, my father passed away -- all just as the Rebbe had blessed my father, that he should rejoice at the wedding of his grandchild.

We should be happy that this man, Holy to G-d dwelt amongst us. Since it is known that "The righteous are greater in their death than in their lives," certainly the Rebbe will cause a flow of blessings, salvation and comfort from On High, to each and all, until we merit to the promise of the verse, "And a Redeemer shall come unto Zion," in accord with the holy will of the Rebbe, soon and in our time. Amen.

-- Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald

I received this story 19 years ago via Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, a"h (who has passed away), the original founder of Chabad Online ( At the time I received this, an online web site was a new thing (for those who know 'net history, it originally came with a Gopher address), and a Jewish web site was a wondrous thing. It came with the stipulation that the site be advertised, which I have done here, and donation info provided. 

To donate to Chabad Online, click here.

It also came with the stipulation that this acknowledgment be included, though I don't know if the contact information is outdated or still accurate:

Translation provided courtesy of:
Rabbi Abraham Korf
Lubavitch Regional Director-Florida
voice: (305) 673-5664; fax: (305) 673-0269

via the Mystical Paths blog -

Friday, December 19, 2014

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Chanukah–Light on the Right

by Reb Aharon Rubin, author of Eye to the Infinite…

מזוזה מימין נר חנוכה משמאל

The Gemoro says that one should light the menorah by the door, the Mezuzoh on the right doorpost and the menorah on the left. The door, says the holy Reshash, is shaped like a letter ches. The ches, according to the Ari, is comprises of a vov connected to a zayin.

The vov symbolises the purely spiritual, the Torah, Olom HaBo. It is the side of the Neshomoh and the yetser hatov. The zayin on the other hand symbolises this world, the material, the nefesh habehamis.

When we affix a Mezuzoh, we make the brochoh לקבוע מזוזה – to affix a Mezuzoh. Mezuzoh ‘happens’ to have the same gematriah as the Name of G-d that means “my Master” – the name א-ד-נ-י. By affixing the Mezuzoh, we are throwing a spiritual lasso round a firm spiritual peg, affirming our kabolas Malchus Shomayim, fixing the Shechinoh within our homes.

The left side of the door is this world. It – most of the year – is the sleeping partner. It is affixed to the Vov, subservient to it, shlepped around and limping. It receives holiness from the right side but has no voice of its own.

Not so on Chanukoh. On Chanukoh the light of Techiyas hameisim was revealed, the left-over little jug of oil, the little bit – the ‘breath of the bones’ (הבלא דגרמי) – that is left over the niftar. From that, there sprung to life the light of the Menoroh – for eight whole days. Eight is the number of Techiyas hameisim, of the days of Moshiach.

Chanukoh is a revelation, a spark, from the times of Moshiach. It is where this world, the zayin, the gashmiyos, the apparent darkness of the vessel, will be transformed into light. Chap aran – nem a latkeh un mach a brochoh!! LeChayim!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

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It is Lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee Did Not Ask...

via Torah HaRav Aviner

Yehudah the Maccabbee is the one who started the Jewish rebellion against the Assyrian/Greeks, who’s victory we commemorate as Chanukah today.

It is lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee did not ask politicians, because if he had they would have told him that one must consider the possible international pressure, and he would have sat and deliberated and deliberated.

It is lucky that he did not ask too many military strategists and experts, because they would have told him that there is no chance of delivering "the strong into the hands of the weak," and they would have broken his spirit.

It is lucky that he did not ask statisticians, because they would have revealed to him the secret that we are "the few against the many," and he would have been afraid of the demographic demon.

He also did not ask Roshei Yeshiva, because if he had, they would have ruled that it is forbidden for yeshiva students to interrupt their Torah learning, and then there would not have been a delivering of "the heretics into the hands of those involved in Your Torah".

He also did not ask too many Rabbis, because if he had, they would have told him that it is forbidden to challenge the nations of the world, and that we do not rely on a miracle, especially where there is a real potential for danger, etc., etc...

He also did not ask the humanists, because they would have confided to him that one soul of Israel is worth more than a few kilometers of land and is more costly for the Nation.

He certainly did not ask those who are pure-of-heart, because they would have depressed his spirit, and preached to him that it is not proper to kill or to be killed.

He did not ask deep thinkers, because – with their great depth - they would have confused him and stopped him with discussions of the order of priorities: Perhaps the Nation takes precedence, etc., etc...

He did not ask the pacifists, because they would have illuminated his eyes to the greatness of peace, and told him that one should never use violence, and that goodwill will resolve everything.

He did not ask too many questions, but he fulfilled his national and spiritual obligation. He jumped into the lion’s den, with amazing self-sacrifice into the great battle which saved Israel. And then all of the politicians, all of the strategists, all of the statisticians, all of the Roshei Yeshiva, all of the Rabbis, all of the humanists, all of the pure-of-heart, all of the thinkers, and all of the pacifists became sages after the fact, and they lit Chanukah lights as a remembrance of the victory, and these lights illuminate our lives from those days until this time.


Early Morning at the Kotel

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

   Early Morning at the Kotel   


       Early this morning, when we were putting on our tefillin at the Kotel, one of the men from a small group of Korean visitors stared up at the dark sky, threw his arms up into the air, and started screaming! He wasn't screaming because someone was bothering him. He was screaming out to G-d, but it wasn't a pleasant song, it was just loud and harsh. Maybe, if I hadn't seen them reading their so-called, "new bibles" I would have been more patient with him.

     Sometimes, early in the morning, especially on Shabbos when it is very quiet, a few black Africans come and sing and dance close to the Kotel. Their "songs" must be in "tongues," the x-ian, evangelical exercise of releasing their feelings through meaningless mumbles "…muglehamperistagbulitwatkididdo!" They jump in small jerking dance steps, shaking their arms and heads, and mumble out loud. I move away from my regular place, close to the Kotel, and I sit further away and wait for them to leave. It bothers me to hear them while I begin the early quiet prayers that I say before davening.

     I yelled out to the Korean in Hebrew, knowing full well that he would not be able to understand, "Be quiet!"

      The rabbi who specializes in the mystical teachings of Torah called over to me saying, "Leave him alone. It's a segula!"

     A segula is a spiritual remedy. I assume (if he was serious), that somehow having a gentile screaming out for help from G-d at the Kotel will relieve some Jews from having to scream out for help in his country.

     Then a yeshiva rav came over and semi scolded me saying, "Leave him alone. They are a sign of the Redemption. King Shlomo wrote that in the End Days all of the nations of the world will come to His house to pray."

     I quickly rebutted, "King Shlomo said, 'to His house,' to pray as in His house, not to bring their idolatry with them."

     He asked how I knew they were idolaters. I told him to go look at the books they had open in front of them.

     The Kotel draws all kinds of people from all over the world, most are simply tourists, but also some of the most righteous people in the world, and some of the nuttiest. What do these two totally different kinds of people have in common that the Kotel should be such a draw to both of them? Holiness draws people who are not so attached to the ground, and neither holy people nor nuts are firmly attached to the ground. (Obviously, for entirely different reasons)



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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To Be a Mench–The 1st Candle

by Rebbitzen Rachel Wheeler at Mystical Paths

To be a Mentch -

For the 1st candle of Chanuukah - (For the memory of my father)

When my father (z”l) passed away 23 years ago and I felt that the world would not be the same anymore, a relative condolences me and said: “One of last nobles has just passed away”. I cried and quietly agreed.

My father (z”l) was born in Vilna (at the 1st World War) on the 1st candle of Chanuka, he was named Meir. (To shine light upon)

The Kabbalah says that when a baby is born, the parents receive a spiritual aide from heaven to know what is the right name for him/her, what is his/her Shlichus (mission) and Tikun in this world.

My father z”l lived out his mission, without too many sophisticated words, and at times with no words at all. With humbleness, modesty, peace, and with a great compassion towards others.

He was expert in listening. He had such a generous listening that when speaking with him, miraculously my thoughts would become clear, and I would get inner answers to my questions.

When he spoke he had encouraging, empowering words. He did not need positive thinking or empowerment workshops. He did not need coaching or Psychology courses in order to learn how to do it - he was “it”. Empowerment was his essence, his being.

In troubled times, my father used to call me on the phone and leave a message on my answering machine saying: ”Lift up your head, please remember you are not alone. kisses, Abba”. With such a warm, quiet, loving, full with faith (in me, in that everything will turn out ) voice. So much warmth was transmitted from the phone, so much was expressed in very few words. Soon after – everything looked different. Everything was different, for me.

He did not just say words: not hi and not bye….he did not use sophisticated words, he meant each word that came out of his mouth. He was a role model for the Mitzvot of “loving your fellow man”, without any selfish motives, without pride, without preaching, without patronizing and putting the other down. He was simple and authentic in his whole essence - to put light out there. He was a peace pursuer (like Aharon Hakohen), and so many times he was out there putting peace in impossible situations as the only light in the darkness; as the first candle on which he was born and he Baruch Hashem was shining light. In the essence of “a little bit of light expels a lot of darkness”.

This year I decided to write about Abba. To shine more light out there with his memory.

Abba brought out a quality that is mentioned a lot, but very few really understand its meaning. Abba WAS a mentch, a true mentch.

When does someone becomes a mentch?

Once I thought that after 50 everybody automatically becomes a mentch. When I passed 45 I understood that there are those who might never be a mentch in their lifetime.

Once I thought that a man after becoming a father, after understanding that “There are many devices in a man's heart; but the counsel of G-d, that shall stand” (proverbs,19,21); after being kicked and smashed by life challenges – then maybe he will be become a mentch. And then I saw those that became a father (time after time Baruch Hashem) and even became grandfathers, but still have not become a mentch.

And then I started to notice that there are men around even young ones that have it, and then I started to notice those that did not have it and they developed it. Developed? May be it just happened to them?

How do you teach somebody to become a mentch? Who really knows what it means? Who in our times wants to be a mentch? Everybody wants to make their next billion, to be famous , to buy more real estate, to conquer the world, to be charismatic, to reach the peaks, to be “more” (this attitude is not only for the unobservant as the Rebbe Maharash is saying that Yetzer Hara is sometime comes in disguise of a Tzadik).

Many may ask, what is the relevance of being a mentch in our times? Will it get a high rating?

No, it is not the trend (yet). The western society is more interested in how to break the code of the world and to magnetize more money and more success.

But I’m sure that in the upper worlds being a mentch gets a five star rating. I am sure it rips the heavens wide open, it reaches heights like the sound of the Shofar. It passes all the heavenly screens!!!!!!

Here down on earth I saw a mentch. In his quiet mode, with his loving and warm look, with compassion, forgiveness, a true understanding of the difficulty the other is confronting (even if the other is hurting) with no grudge. With authentic passion to help the other, with full generous listening, with humbleness, with true integrity and endless patience. With inner limitless warmth, with the depth of a soul touching another soul, and with endless devotion and dedication….

In these times when we have become so loud, vulgar, rational, achievement oriented, and outspoken I miss his tall ,handsome figure, the deep look, the broad shoulders, the humbleness, the eternal inner wisdom, the endless love, I miss this giant Neshama and purified soul.

What an amazing quality…….. where is it? did it disappear?

I do believe it didn’t disappear, in spite of the impression that it is diminishing like an endangered species…….

In the Zchut of my father my wish is that we will all learn to identify and cherish these qualities of being a mentch. That we will learn to dig down to the depth of our being, from all the places we were hiding it so well - to bring this light out with humbleness into our life.

To the Aliya of the soul of my father Meir Ben Abrahahm Itzhak z”l

Happy and Lichtich Hanukkah

Copyright © 2014 Rachel Wheeler


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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The Holy Old City

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

The Holy Old City


     "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courtyards with praise, give thanks to Him, bless His Name."[i]

     King Dovid gave us this wonderful tool. Dovid was the beloved of Hashem so he knew how to come into Hashem's Presence. His words were not merely instructions on how to enter G-d's physical, Holy Temple. They are instructions for every generation, showing us how to come into Hashem's very Presence today.

     Thanking Him moves us through the outer gate. Then, to come even closer, we move on from thanking Him to blessing Him… calling to mind all of His greatness that we can. The more we recall, the brighter the glory.

     At the very entrance say such things as, "Thank you for bringing me this close, for my life, my health, my family. Thank you for showing me that you are real, for showing me that I can approach your Holiness…" and you will find yourself inside His outer gate. 

     Now, tell Hashem just how great you think He is. "Hashem You fill and surround all. You are the very Source and Being of life. To see You is the very purpose of my life. You are all that I want…." and you will find yourself in His inner courtyard, and you try to cling to the tiniest glimmer of the radiance of His Presence, for even the briefest second.


[i] Psalms 100:4 

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The Holy Old City

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

  The Holy Old City  


     "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courtyards with praise, give thanks to Him, bless His Name."[i]

     King Dovid gave us this wonderful tool. Dovid was the beloved of Hashem so he knew how to come into Hashem's Presence. His words were not merely instructions on how to enter G-d's physical, Holy Temple. They are instructions for every generation, showing us how to come into Hashem's very Presence today.

     Thanking Him moves us through the outer gate. Then, to come even closer, we move on from thanking Him to blessing Him… calling to mind all of His greatness that we can. The more we recall, the brighter the glory.

     At the very entrance say such things as, "Thank you for bringing me this close, for my life, my health, my family. Thank you for showing me that you are real, for showing me that I can approach your Holiness…" and you will find yourself inside His outer gate. 

     Now, tell Hashem just how great you think He is. "Hashem You fill and surround all. You are the very Source and Being of life. To see You is the very purpose of my life. You are all that I want…." and you will find yourself in His inner courtyard, and you try to cling to the tiniest glimmer of the radiance of His Presence, for even the briefest second.


[i] Psalms 100:4 


Monday, December 15, 2014

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Hospital Culture

Spotted at a hospital in Jerusalem, Israel…


What kind of hospital posts a sign like this? "Hi, we know you're going to get angry and yell about our service - so don't as we won't listen to you. We won't listen to you if you don't yell either, by the way. Thanks for visiting and don't forget to pay on your way out (or we'll repossess your kidney?)”

(I’m not disparaging this hospital, I’m disparaging the sign.)


Sunday, December 14, 2014

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Starcraft for Shabbos

Starcraft is a popular computer game worldwide, and has actually turned into a national sport in Korea.  And now, they’ve introduced Starcraft for Shabbos…

(Spotted in a mall store in Israel…)


Now they are turning computer games into board games (instead of the reverse).  How…retro.  But good for Shabbos!

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Dreams Dreams Dreams

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

Dreams Dreams Dreams


     Hashem used dreams to reveal His plans to Yosef. Then He linked those dreams to more dreams, and these dreams led to even more dreams. Dreams, dreams, and dreams.

     The first dreams were Yosef's dreams that caused his brothers great disdain for him and led to them selling him as a slave into Egypt. But really those dreams should have been welcomed, if only the brothers had understood their meanings.

     Yosef's first dream was of his sheaf rising up, and their sheaves bowing down to his. The sheaves were of grain so they represented sustenance. The brothers did not know that there was going to be a severe famine, and they would have to go to Yosef for grain in order to survive. Had they known that this was going to happen they would have been very thankful for Yosef's sheaf being able to provide for them and their families.

     Yosef's next dream, of the Sun and Moon and 11 stars bowing down to him, made his brothers even more furious, but had they known that indeed Hashem was going to elevate Yosef to kingship they would have been proud to have such a brother.

     Hashem gave Yosef those two dreams that led to his slavery and to his imprisonment. Then, He gave two dreams to Pharaoh's servants. Their dreams also had to do with sustenance, Pharaoh's sustenance. Because of Yosef's two dreams he was imprisoned, and because of their two dreams he was taken out of prison.

     Then came Pharaoh's two dreams, which were actually one in that they dealt with the same subject, but it was repeated so it came to Pharaoh twice. Pharaoh's dream was also about sustenance, sustenance of his entire area of the world. Then, Hashem used Pharaoh's dream to elevate Yosef from the dungeon to the throne, and to save the world from famine.

     Hashem led them from this dream to that dream, and then from that dream to this dream. Dreams, dreams, dreams. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

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The Beinoni Niggun

Direct Link.  Very powerful niggun – start at 1:10.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


An Energy Healing Experience

A family member of mine asked…

I’ve been ill for some time.  I had this experience today and ask for your comments on it...

I went for a medical massage today, my chavrusha paid for it.  The idea being, I think, that the pain and the illness are causing tension and tightening of muscles, which reinforces the pain and illness.

Anyway, the woman performing the massage talked about energy healing and feeling my energy through touch and I became concerned - is there "energy healing" approaches that are considered kosher?

The woman was a frum woman (an orthodox religiously observant Jewess) in a very charedi (extremely strictly religiously observant) community - but given all I've read on Mystical Paths, I thought she may not know the root of her work.

She waved her hands over me and it made me really uncomfortable, making me think it could be avoda zara (a form of idol worship or from the practices of non-monotheistic religions).

Should I be worried and/or avoid such things?


Reb Akiva answered…  This one is more tricky than others. Most forms of this are a problem, some forms might be ok, and most forms are probably shtuss (shtuss – silliness, meaning in this case having no objective basis in reality – no physical action is occuring) in addition to being avoda zara. 

YET the mind/brain itself has a great ability to deal with some types of problems - and even if shtuss it may subject a strong believer in the healing action (person / energy / act / medicine) to the placebo affect and therefore be effective simply on the basis of believing in it.  The placebo affect (believe in a health / medicine solution and it will have a positive impact) has been proven to work with problems that could respond to direct brain / nervous system responses (meaning things like pain, tension, even some types of swelling or nervous system problems).  Even healing speed and immune system response can be affected, as the mind is unconsciously activating natural body abilities in response to the believed-yet-fake treatment or medication.  (In other diseases, such as cancer, the placebo affect has been shown to, in about 25% of the cases, affect pain and appetite, but not actually help with the cancer / tumors.)

From the patient’s perspective the result can be the same (as if the healing technique was real) as a treatment, that is, real body impact. 

If it makes the practitioner happy and she's not muttering any kind of names, referring to any entities, or foreign terms, just ignore.  There is certainly strong historical belief in spiritual healing, including within Jewish sources.  Similarly we have stories of doctors who have healed just by being there. Again, do they have a malach (angel) of healing following them around, or help people focus their own abilities (invoking a placebo effect), or?

If someone said they want to do Reiki or some system of energy healing, I'd avoid it as prohibited. If a sincere religious person says they "feel some healing energy and want to move it around" - I wouldn't pay for it, but I wouldn't be afraid or avoid it.  (In the next answer, Reb Gutman explains why I AM WRONG – it should be avoided.)

Reb Gutman answers… Hashem (G-d) heal you fully and quickly.

Energy healing is wrong and it does not heal anyone. It is rooted in the wrong assumption that a natural feeling can heal. It surely is used in avodah zara (foreign religious practices but meaning idol worship or non-monotheistic religions – involving other gods and entities) too, but obviously the practitioner you visited doesn’t know it. The physical aspects of it, ie the feelings the person being worked on feels themselves do no harm (nor good) but thinking that they are special or proper spiritual “energy” does harm.

If you read Coming Back to Earth remember when I sat on the corner in NY and thousands of people came and sat by me to feel the “energy.” It can be palpable but it has no healing aspects to it at all unless someone thinks that he or she is being healed by it and then that person will have a psychological “healing” ie in their mind.

I assume that you are trying the mainstream medical advice. Alternatives can sometimes help.  Massage and acupuncture can help with certain problems but don’t put your entire hope in the alternatives systems. I’ve seen a number of people find great relief in diet change.

Hashem bless you and your family to have only joy.

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Who Would Have Thought?

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

Who Would Have Thought?


     Who would have thought… coming all the way from Australia… that the highlight of the entire trip to Israel would be putting on tefillin at the Kotel! And don't forget that old man yelling at us about marrying only a Jewish girl, and making the world a better place…. Makes you feel good about being a Jew! Huh? Never really thought about it before. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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Yud Tes Kislev

Yud-Tes Kislev is considered the Rosh Hashana of Chassidus (at least by Chabad).  On this day the first Rebbe of Chabad was released from prison and a death sentence for the “crime” of teaching Torah and Chassidus in Czarist Russia.  Because the charges had been formulated due to his teaching chassidus, it was clear that the ending of the charges meant an ending of accusations both in this world and the upper worlds against the secrets of chassidus being brought down.

via Lma’an Yisme’u

Early in תרפ"א, the Frierdiker Rebbe (the 6th Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch), his mother Rebbetzin Shterna Sara, his three daughters, and many bochurim, became very ill. The doctors said that the Frierdiker Rebbe's situation was serious, but Boruch HaShem, on Yud-Tes Kislev, his health took a turn for the better. Instead of farbrenging, he wrote the following letter to the temimim and Anash:

On this holy day, which is the Rosh HaShana for Chassidus and for kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim, every individual should do his avoda conscientiously, and beg that HaShem give him the strength to go in the way of the Alter Rebbe. On this day, as the Alter Rebbe stands before HaShem, asking that we and our children be strong begashmiyus uveruchniyus, everyone should give tzedaka to the mosdos that follow the will of the Alter Rebbe. Every person, young and old, should undertake to learn Torah every day, each according to his level, and should accept upon himself ol malchus Shamayim for the entire year. Keep in mind that on this day all of the Rebbeim, from the Baal Shem Tov on, are helping us. Be very careful with this day because it is holy.

The Frierdiker Rebbe concludes his letter with the words, "lechayim velivracha".

(אגרות קודש מוהריי"צ ח"א ע' קכ"ב)

The Alter Rebbe (the 1st Rebbe of Chabad Lubavtich) said regarding Yud-Tes Kislev, "Whoever rejoices in my simcha, I will take out from distress to relief, from gashmiyus to ruchniyus, and out of Gehinnom."

The Tzemach Tzedek (the 3rd Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch) explained that "rejoicing in my simcha" means holding onto the Alter Rebbe's "door-handle" ("kliamkeh") - by learning Torah and by doing avoda.

(סה"ש תרצ"ט ע' 315)


Tuesday, December 09, 2014


The Appalling Ignorance of YNet, aka Israel’s Yediot Achronot newspaper (translation: The Last Source or The Knowledge Source), reports the following about the stabbing attack inside Chabad’s world headquarters, 770, synagogue…


It says, “Stabbing at NY Chabad house”.  It also reports the WRONG health status for both the attacker and the victim.

Calling at stabbing inside Chabad World Headquarters and one of New York’s largest synagogues a stabbing at a Chabad house is like me reporting on Israeli elections (their top news headline) as “some parliamentary stuff going on inside Israel”.

This is the newspaper that is pushing through a law in Israel to BAN their competitor IsraelHaYom (Israel Today) because IsraelHaYom has a free distribution model, besides less biased and more knowledgeable reporting, and is crushing YNet in the marketplace.  Therefore it must be unfair!!!

Now, let’s see what they have to say.  Remember, a rabbinical student was STABBED IN THE HEAD/NECK…

A young haredi man was stabbed and wounded early Tuesday morning in a Chabad house in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.

Not a young man, not a STUDENT RABBI, a “haredi man” – the Israeli term for orthodox Jews who wear hats and are very strict in their religious observance.  Rabbi, who cares?

Not in the world headquarters of Chabad, it’s just a Chabad house.  Like any other of the over 1,000 around the world.  No big deal.  It’s not the HEADQUARTERS or anything (it is).

The victim was an Israeli haredi, who is among the hundreds of yeshiva students at the school. 

Do these reporters actually check ANY of their information?  The attack was in the middle of one of New York’s largest synagogues, and the World Headquarters of Chabad.  Yes, the victim was Israeli (note the focus on haredi – it’s not so bad if it’s a haredi who’s attacked), and yes he is associated with a rabbinical training program of Chabad – which indeed has hundreds of students.  But the relevance is a small group were learning Torah in the 770 synagogue late at night and were attacked with intent to kill by knife.

Witnesses told Ynet that the attacker was dark-skinned and entered the Chabad house armed with a knife, before stabbing the young man in the neck.

Dark skinned?  Nice euphemism, more likely lack of knowledge.  He was African American in appearance (just look at the pictures Mr. Reporter!)

Although the circumstances were unclear, some tied the incident to recent anti-Semitic attacks.

Man, not associated with synagogue or community that uses synagogue, enters synagogue with knife and stabs someone.  I guess he could have just been needing some random knifing practice, perhaps before going out on a mercenary job.  Or maybe, oh I don’t know, he was looking to stab some Jews?

Ynet, your reporting on Jewish religious issues is PATHETIC, DISGUSTING, INACCURATE, INCOMPETANT, AND SEVERELY BIASED.

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