Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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Living Jewish–Also the Small Print

imageLiving Jewish is an absolutely awesome Jewish Chassidic Weekly Torah Newsletter in English.  We’re collaborating with the publisher to make the full content available online, via downloadable PDF, as well as sharing some of the articles here.

Click here to visit the newly built download site, and download this week’s Parshat Re’eh newsletter.

Here’s a sample article:

ALSO THE SMALL PRINT

Many years ago in Tel Aviv, a distraught stranger appeared on the doorstep of Rabbi Aharon of Belz (who lived in the Holy Land in his later years after his miraculous escape from the Nazis). There was no doubt that the stranger was not a traditional Belzer Chasid.  When the Rebbe's attendant explained that it was not the usual time for visitors, the man declared that he would not leave until he was admitted. After a brief consultation with the Rebbe, the attendant let him in. From the other side of the closed door, the attendant was shocked to hear the Rebbe raising his voice.  He could not imagine what could have prompted the saintly Rebbe, who was the epitome of refinement, to employ such a tone of voice when speaking to another Jew. The whole matter was quite curious. A short time later the door to the Rebbe's room opened and the man walked out. His eyes, which he kept averted on the floor, were swollen and red from crying. Without uttering another word he was gone.

Not long afterward, the Ohr HaTzafon (“Light of the North”) synagogue on Ibn Gabirol Street acquired a new attendee. A gentleman in a light-colored suit and beret began to show up every morning and always took the same seat.

His first day in shul, he had asked someone to find him a volume of Brachot, the first tractate of the Talmud. Opening the Gemara to the first page he had then asked, "And where is Rashi's commentary?" The helpful congregant had pointed out the small letters on the inner margins. Taking the huge tome with him into a corner, the stranger had sat a long time staring at the text. For the first few days he hadn't even turned the page, a look of intense mental exertion on his face. The man was strangely quiet, almost inanimate. Every day around noontime, after several hours of study, he would close the volume and leave.

Over the next few weeks the man gradually found his voice. One could tell that he understood what he was learning, and indeed, was enjoying himself. The man always studied the Gemara with Rashi's commentary. One finger was always on the text; another was always on Rashi's explanation. Over the course of time the other congregants grew accustomed to the stranger, who by now sported a beard. They referred to him as the "baal teshuva," someone who had recently returned to religious observance, but despite their attempts the man seemed uninterested in emerging from his shell of isolation and loneliness. And so the situation continued for many years: ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty.  Eventually it came to the attention of the Belzer Rebbe's attendant that the mysterious gentleman who sat and learned Gemara in the Ohr HaTzafun synagogue was none other than the visitor who had insisted on seeing the Rebbe so many years before. In the end, the man revealed his secret:

His name was Levi Yitzchak; he had been named after the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, from whom he was descended.  Born in Russia, he had attended cheder (school for under bar mitzvah age boys) as a child. But after the Bolshevik Revolution his parents had been forced to send him to Communist schools, where every last vestige of Judaism had been uprooted from his heart.

Years ago he had come to Israel, where he expected to live out his life much as he had till then. One day, however, seemingly out of the blue, he found himself thinking about his late parents. Their memory soon became an obsession; no matter what he did, he could not rid himself of it. The disparity between his present lifestyle and his early childhood was just too great; his conscience bothered him night and day. The more he sought relief, the more it eluded him. Things got so bad that he seriously considered suicide, G-d forbid. Then one night he had a dream, in which an elderly Rabbi appeared to him. The next morning, he was even more agitated. Wandering the streets of Tel Aviv he had entered synagogue after synagogue frantically searching for relief from his dreams, but to no avail. Some time later he happened to visit the study hall of the Belzer Rebbe. When he saw the holy tzadik he recognized him as the nocturnal visitor of his dream. That very day he had insisted on speaking with him and had poured out his heart, including his plan to do away with himself.  "I've already forfeited the World to Come," he had wept bitterly, "and in this world I can find no peace.”

Upon hearing these words the Rebbe had raised his voice and thundered, "What are you saying? G-d forbid that you should do such a thing. G-d forbid, do you hear me?" After a long talk the Rebbe had put his holy hand on Levi Yitzchak and said, "The tikun [rectification] for your soul will be to study Gemara with Rashi's commentary -- a lot of Gemara with Rashi. Now go home and begin a new life.”

Levi Yitzchak had followed the Rebbe's advice, and his peace of mind was soon restored. And ever since, not a day went by that he didn't learn Gemara with Rashi.

[Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles]

2 comments:

Neshama said...

Thank you very much. I was/am looking for more Torah articles/shiurim for my Shabbat reading material.

josh said...

Awesome! I discovered them about a year ago when someone started to send them to my city and it has since become one of my 'must have' parsha pages that my Shabbat is not complete without. FWIW, even back issues are relevant since it is not with material purely on the parsha.

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