Baruch Hashem
 
Welcome to the Shabbos Stories
for Parshas Korach 
 
JUST ONE CANDLE

It was shortly before Rosh Hashana a few years ago. I was on my way home in a cab to Crown Heights. I didn't notice until I was in my apartment that I had left my briefcase in the taxi. Trying to trace a particular cab in New York City is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but nevertheless I tried. There were precious Jewish books and important papers in that briefcase that I needed for my teaching job. But it was to no avail and I finally just gave up on it.

To my surprise, a few days later I received a phone call from a man called Sam, who told me he had my briefcase, and I could pick it up at his business in another part of Brooklyn. It seemed that an Irishman who had been in the taxi after me found the briefcase. When the taxi-driver said that he would not bother to try and find the owner, and just throw it away, the Irishman considerately took it. Looking inside for identification, he saw books with Hebrew letters, and decided to give the briefcase to the only Jew he knew, this Sam who went to the trouble of locating me.

When I went to pick up the briefcase, Sam and I got into a conversation about Crown Heights, which he remembered from his childhood, when he used to visit relatives who lived there. One thing led to another, we began talking about Lubavitchers in Crown Heights today, and Sam mentioned that he had a daughter who was somewhat interested in Judaism. I extended an open invitation for his daughter to spend a Shabbat with me, thanked him again for his kindness in returning my briefcase, and on that note I left.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Shabbat candlelighting campaigns was then gathering momentum with the goal that every Jewish woman and girl who lit Shabbat candles brought more spiritual (and physical) light into the world. With this in mind, I went back to Sam armed with a candlestick and a mezuza. I explained our aims and concerns, and again extended the invitation to his daughter to join my family and me for a Shabbat. But I never heard from her until I received this letter a few months ago:

"My name is Sarah G. I am the daughter of the man who found your briefcase in a cab some three and a half years ago. When he told you about my growing interest in Judaism, you gave him a mezuza and a candle-lighting kit for me, and said you hoped I would use it to bring a little more light into this dark world.

"I did begin to light Shabbat candles, and affixed the mezuza to the entrance of my room, where it still is. Lighting the candles was just the beginning for me, for it made me want to understand what was behind this mitzva, the holiness which I came to love.

"About a year after you gave me the candle-holder and mezuza, I had learned enough to start keeping kosher. It was hard but I stuck it out and have eaten only kosher food ever since.

"When I went away to college I studied Hebrew and began taking Torah classes one night a week with a few others. These classes made me want to learn even more, so I have decided to go this summer to the Bais Chana Institute in Minnesota to study. Although I am going alone, I am looking forward to the experience, for I know that once I get there I will not be alone, for there are many girls and women who have very little religious background. I think it will strengthen me and help me decide my future course, more college or more Jewish studies.

"I have been thinking about you for a while now and have always regretted not accepting your Shabbat invitation. I guess I just wasn't ready then. I had to learn for myself.

"I know that a long time has passed since you gave me the candlestick and since then you must have given out so many more you may not even remember giving one to my father for me. But I wanted you to know what it did for me. A mitzva is timeless; it is never too late for a person to learn. I surely was not going to let the passage of time get in the way of telling you that you did a great mitzva.

Sholom,

Sarah"

There is a P.S. to this letter. When Sarah came back from Minnesota she spent some time at home with her family before moving into Crown Heights. Her mother was so inspired by many of the things Sarah had learned that she decided to start studying Torah, too, on Sundays at Machon Chana Women's College.

The power of one Shabbat candle, or any mitzva, in fact, is truly magnificent.

I'm Grateful To Grow Up In the U.S.A.
by Jennifer Becker

I consider myself an observant Jew.

I have a Passover seder with my family; I light the menora on Chanuka; I fast on Yom Kippur; and I come to Chabad on Friday nights. I became a bat mitzva and confirmand and graduated from religious school at my synagogue. I am also a Sunday- and Hebrew-school teacher at Beth Tikvah (in Columbus), and I love passing on my knowledge of Judaism to the next generation.

I was raised in a Jewish household and came to accept these practices as a normal part of my life.

My family is from Kishenev, Moldova, a part of the former Soviet Union. Growing up, I would constantly hear stories from my parents and grandparents of just how different their lives were, not only culturally, politically and economically, but also in how they practiced Judaism. It was forbidden to openly practice Judaism in Russia, and those who defied the government had to pay the consequences.

My family would celebrate the holidays secretly in their homes, since going to a synagogue was not an option for fear of being caught by the police.

On Passover, my great-grandfather would secretly acquire matzah from the black market.

On Chanukah, my family would light the menorah privately in their homes, unable to display it in their windows as many of us do. Instead, they had a tree covered with ornaments prominently displayed, since New Year was the official holiday in Russia, and my family had to show their compliance with the atheistic government's orders.

My grandmother was a high-school English teacher but had to keep her religion a secret for fear of being fired. My mom and dad also couldn't reveal their Jewish faith without facing dirty looks and judgment from their peers.

People who spotted the chai necklace that my mom wore would shout things like "Go back to Israel." The Jewish cemetery where my grandfather was buried was vandalized; some of the graves were knocked down, and others, covered with swastikas and words of hate.

After years of facing discrimination, my family decided to immigrate to America. This was not an easy decision to make, since my dad would be leaving his parents and sister behind. But they felt it was a necessary one.

So, in August 1979, my mom, dad, grandparents, great-grandfather and older sister (who was then only 4), arrived in the United States. They weren't allowed to bring most of their possessions, so they basically had to rebuild their lives from scratch.

This past summer I finally got the opportunity to visit the land that my family came from. Seeing the rundown buildings, the disheveled landscape, and the overall disorder of things gave me a whole new perspective on the stories I had been hearing for years.

While I knew of the hardships my family had had to put up with when they lived there, being there in person gave me a better understanding and appreciation of them. My parents and grandparents left behind everything they knew so that my sister and I would not have to face the same life of discrimination they had.

Being here in the U.S., celebrating Shabbat in the warmth and comfort of the Chabad House makes me realize how lucky I am that my family made that sacrifice for me.

The next time you go to the synagogue, light Shabbat candles, celebrate a holiday with family and friends, or just wear your favorite Star of David necklace, take a moment to reflect on how lucky you are to be able to practice Judaism openly
.

    Jennifer Becker is from Solon, Ohio. She is studying dentistry at
    OSU College of Dentistry. Reprinted with permission of the author
    from The Cleveland Jewish News.
 
Marrying Jews Only?

Rabbi Greenberg knew the young man by the name of John and his mother. John had begun living a Torah life some ten years earlier through Rabbi Greenberg's direction and inspiration and often brought his mother along for Shabbat meals and other functions in the Chabad House. She also began to warm up to Judaism. But in one area she was stubborn; education.

Despite Rabbi Greenberg's efforts, she refused to allow her son to leave the public school where he was learning and enroll in a Jewish Torah school.

And at first it seemed she was right. There was nothing to worry about. John actually got stronger and stronger in his Jewish observance and seemed to be totally unaffected by his gentile surrounding. Or so it seemed.

But today's disappointing revealed the opposite. It seems that the entire time he was in the public school he was tightening his connection to a gentile girl classmate of his and yesterday he announced that ….. they were serious and wanted to get married.

The boy's parents never dreamed it would come to this. They admitted that they erred about his education but what could be done now? Was it too late?

Rabbi Greenberg wracked his brains and tried talking to him from every angle but it didn't work. In fact every Shabbat John and his parents ate in the Chabad House with all the other guests but nothing the Rabbi said or did had any effect.

Then, a few hours before one particular Shabbat he read a story in a Chabad publication, rather a story within a story, that he hoped might convince John to abandon his plans.

That Shabbat evening Rabbi Greenberg opened the magazine and read:

"One Rosh HaShanna Rabbi Yitzchak Gershovitz, the Rabbi in Prague, Czechoslovakia, had over one hundred guests in his Chabad House and at the Rosh HaShanna meal he told them a story about a man who he convinced to leave his gentile girlfriend by telling him a story. Rabbi Gershovitz relates the story as follows:

"'A few years ago a man entered the Chabad House in Prague and asked me to tell him a story. It sounds strange but when you run a Chabad House for a while you'll see that nothing is strange. Anyway, all of a sudden this story popped into my mind about Rabbi Slavtitzki in Belgium: And this is the story I told him.

"'A middle-aged Jewish woman entered Rabbi Slavtitzki's Chabad house in Antwerp Belgium together with her twenty year old son and begged him to help. The boy wanted to marry a gentile girl and she was at her wit's end.

"'She had already taken him to two top rabbis but their words didn't help.

"'The first one explained how marrying 'out' breaks the glorious chain of Jewish self-sacrifice that has been holding the Jews together since the Patriarch Abraham. And the second Rabbi explained eloquently with charts and cold statistics that only ten percent of intermarriages succeed and the resultant families are usually disasters.

"'But after a bit of thought her son decided that the Rabbis could preserve the chain without him and about the success rate, well, if ten percent succeeded …. Then he would be in that ten percent.

"'So Rabbi Slavtitzki boldly suggested that they fly to Brooklyn to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe and amazingly the young man agreed.

"'The next day they flew from Antwerp to New York, spent the Shabbat in Crown Heights and early Sunday morning they stood in line for 'dollars' (the Rebbe gave out dollar bills, advice and blessings every Sunday to thousands of people each Sunday for several years)."

[The reader is asked to remember that this story about Rabbi Slavtitzki is being told by Rabbi Gershovitz at his Rosh HaShanna meal as the story he told to a visitor. And it is all part of Rabbi Greenburg's story to John]

"After a few hours of slowly progressing, finally the big moment came and they were standing face to face with the Rebbe.

"Rabbi Slavtitzki told the Rebbe why they had come upon which the Rebbe looked at the young man with him, smiled and said, 'I envy you!'

"'The young man was, understandably, confused. He wrinkled his brow, shrugged his shoulders and asked 'why'. The Rebbe continued:

"'If G‑d has given you such a special challenge He must have given you special powers to overcome it as well. And if you overcome this challenge you will be given even more special powers. I personally have never had such a challenge. I can only envy you and give you my blessing that you reveal and use all your special powers for good."

"'The Rebbe's words struck home; the young man decided to live a Jewish life and cancelled the engagement. When Rabbi Slavtitzki asked him what exactly convinced him, he replied: 'The first Rabbi my mother took me to spoke of the past. And the second Rabbi spoke of the future. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke of who I am NOW.'

"'Well," Rabbi Gershovitz concluded, "When the visitor heard the story he was very impressed and a few weeks later he sent me a letter saying that it inspired him to leave the gentile girl he was dating and a year later he married a Jewish girl and has established a Jewish home"

Rabbi Greenberg continued:

"When Rabbi Gershovitz finished the story to his Rosh HaShanna crowd it was obvious that one man there was especially moved, as though the story had begun a storm in his soul.

"And sure enough the next day in the daytime Rosh HaShanna meal after the Morning Prayer that man stood up and announced.

"'Last night we heard a story about the Rabbi in Belgium and Today we read in the Torah about how Abraham took his beloved son Isaac to sacrifice him (that is the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh HaShanna). Well, like the story about the fellow in Belgium .. I too have a gentile girlfriend. Her name is Cristina.

"'And like Abraham I too have decided to make a sacrifice for Judaism! I have decided to sacrifice Cristina! We will not get married."

Rabbi Greenberg finished his story and saw that it had a deep effect on John. He was locked in deep thought as though he had heard a voice from the beyond.

"My girlfriend's name is also Cristina" he said almost in a whisper.

It wasn't long before John also decided to follow the examples of the three men in the stories he heard and raise a Jewish family.

And that isn't the end. Several years later Rabbi Greenberg told these stories to a group of visitors from Brazil and later got a letter from one of them, a Jewish girl, that because of the four stories she left her gentile boyfriend.

 
I Wont Tell You,
Because You Won't Listen
Every evening Reb Yisrael of Vizhnitz used to take a half hour stroll with his assistant. On one such evening, when they approached the house of a wealthy banker, Reb Yisrael stopped and knocked on the door.

The Rebbe's assistant wondered what this was all about. A servant answered the door and the assistant dutifully followed Reb Yisrael in.

The host received his guest with great respect. The rebbe took the seat offered him and sat for quite some time. Not a word was said between the two men.

The host knew that it would be disrespectful to directly ask the Rebbe the purpose for his visit, and so whispered his question to the assistant. The assistant, however, could be of no help since he himself did not know the reason for the intrusion.

After some more time passed, the Rebbe bid his host farewell and rose to leave. As a mark of respect, the banker accompanied the Rebbe the entire way home, back to the Rebbe's house. While standing outside the Rebbe's door, the banker could contain his curiosity no longer.

"Excuse me Rebbe, for my impertinence, but may I ask what was the purpose of of your visit?" questioned the banker.

"I went to your home to fulfill a mitzva (commandment)," answered the Rebbe, "thank G‑d, I was able to fulfill it!" "Which mitzva?" asked the bank manager in surprise. "Our Sages teach," explained the Rebbe, "that just as it is a mitzva to say something which a person will listen to, so too it is a mitzva not to say something which one is certain will not be listened to. In order to fulfill this mitzva properly, one must go to the person who will not listen to. And that is exactly what I did," said the Rebbe with a smile.

The bank manager's curiosity was now truly aroused. "And what is it Rebbe," asked the manager, "that you refrained from saying to me? Maybe I will listen."

"I am afraid I can not tell you. I believe you will not listen."

The longer the Rebbe refused, the more curious the bank manager became. He continued to press the Rebbe to reveal that which he wouldn't do.

After some time, the Rebbe finally relented. "very well. There is an impoverished widow who owes your bank a large sum of money for the mortgage on her house. In a few days, your bank is going to take her house away from her, she will be out on the street. I had wanted to ask you to overlook her debt, but since I knew you wouldn't listen, I didn't ask you."

"But how could you even have considered asking me of such a thing?" said the amazed bank manager. "This woman owes the money to the bank, not to me personally. In addition, it is a tremendous amount of money."

"It is just as I had thought," said the Rebbe, sadly. "You did not want to hear." The conversation was thus ended. The Rebbe entered his home, and the bank manager went back to his.

But the Rebbe's words gave him no peace. He thought about them over and over again, until he finally paid the widow's debt out of his own money.

MOSHIACH MATTERS

The Torah that was given on Mount Sinai also includes, "All the new concepts to be developed by an experienced Torah scholar." In an expanded sense, this also refers to the new concept developed by a child today when he expresses his hope that Moshiach will come. This will bring about a new expression of G‑dly influence, for G‑d, motivated by His great love for the Jews - a love that relates to children as reflected in the verse, "Israel is a youth and I love him" - will bring about the Redemption in an unlimited manner.

             (28 Sivan, 5751, the anniversary of the arrival of the
                                      Lubavitcher Rebbe to America)