Thursday, May 12, 2005

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When is Kosher not Kosher?

From Hayom Yom, from Day to Day, for Nissan 27, the 12th day of the Omer...

The permissible, when done for one's pleasure, is completely evil, as the Alter Rebbe (the first grand rabbi of Chabad chassidus) writes in Tanya, Chapter 7, for we are commanded, "sanctify yourself with what is permitted to you."

One must introduce sanctity into those matters that are permissible so that they serve the purpose of enhancing one's Torah, mitzvot, fear-of-G-d and good character traits.


A story is told of the Alter Rebbe (the first grand rabbi of Chabad chassidus), he had a chassid and friend named Reb Shmuel Munkis. Reb Shmuel was a great scholar, chassid and tzaddik in his own right. In Russia, the police came to arrest the Alter Rebbe, and he was able to avoid getting caught a couple of times. He asked Reb Shmuel what he should do (flee or face the situation). Reb Shmuel responded like this:

"There is a story about one of the Rebbe's (grand rabbi's) who were students of the Baal Shem Tov. This Rebbe had a chassid (religious follower of the chassidic path) who he asked to work for him as his wagon driver. The chassid readily agreed, went out and purchased a horse and wagon. The Rebbe used him regularly for trips, and he made a living this way.

After some time, the Rebbe stopped going on trips and the chassid had no income. He waited a few months to see if the Rebbe would resume traveling, but couldn't wait any longer (after all, he had a family to feed). So, without complaint at this change in fortune he sold his horse and wagon, bought a cow and made a living selling milk.

Suddenly, a year later the Rebbe sent a messenger to the chassid to come with his wagon to take the Rebbe on an urgent trip. He regretfully sent back that he had sold his horse and wagon and had bought a cow to feed his family. The Rebbe responded, 'this is urgent, sell your cow, buy a horse and wagon and take me right away!'.

The chassid did so, again with no complaint. 'Hurry, hurry' the Rebbe urged. He quickly bought what was needed and off they went. The whole way the Rebbe kept pushing him to go faster and faster. While as an experienced wagon driver the chassid knew not to push it too much, the Rebbe obviously knew what he was doing, so he pushed on faster.

Finally, they topped a hill at maximum speed, and as they came down the wagon driver lost control. The wagon couldn't be stopped at the bottom of the hill and crashed through the fence, across the yard and into the fine mansion that was there. Out rushed an anti-semitic landlord with is dogs and pistol. Seeing who had crashed into his mansion (dirty Jews) he pointed his gun at the chassid.

The terrified chassid said, "Wait, it's not me who did this, it's his fault!" pointing to the Rebbe. The landlord turned to shoot the Rebbe, pulled the trigger...and nothing happened. He tried again, again nothing. He advanced on the Rebbe, but couldn't move!

The Rebbe instructed the chassid, the wagon driver, to leave, which they did.

At which point he turned to and yelled at the chassid, 'What were you doing, I could have been killed!". To which the chassid replied, "When the Rebbe asked me to become a wagon driver, I did without complaint. When the Rebbe stopped using me, I sold my wagon and bought a cow to feed my family without complaint. When the Rebbe asked me to immediately buy a wagon and take him on this trip, I also did without complaint. If the Rebbe's a Rebbe (a G-dly righteous saint and leader who has the right to ask such things from a person) he had nothing to fear (as G-d would protect him). Me however, I'm just an ordinary person with a family to take care of.'"

At which point Reb Shmuel said to the Alter Rebbe (the first grand rabbi of Chabad chassidus), "If the Rebbe's a Rebbe, he has nothing to fear, and if not, what right does he have to deny the chassidim (chassidic followers) the pleasures of this world?"


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