Baruch Hashem
 
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What Wedding?

Thousands of Jews were crowded into the huge synagogue of the Chabad Chassidim in Brooklyn New York to hear the Lubavitcher Rebbe speak. And although it was Shabbat and he didn't use a microphone somehow every single person heard every word he said. Not only religious Chassidim but all sorts of Jews were there and even those who didn't understand a word of Yiddish were hypnotized by the awesomeness of the man. It was said that he could do miracles, tell the future and that he never made a mistake, some even said he was the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for thousands of years.

Mr. Dovid Asulin came to see for himself and, although he didn't exactly belive all the stories, he was glad he came. He had been born in Morocco. There everyone believed in Tzadikim; unique Jews who were more G‑dly than human. So all this wasn't completely new to him. In fact since he moved to France twenty years ago he had almost forgotten about the Tzadikim and now he felt at home.

This was his first visit to America, he was going for business, and his friends told him that if he wanted an unforgettable experience he had to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And it was just as they said.

After about two of listening, with ten minute pauses between topics people began to stand up and form lines to the Rebbe which eventually became one line and when they reached him he would give each one a bottle of vodka.

Mr. Asulin didn't understand that the bottles were only for those people that were making special events throughout the world, he thought that everyone was entitled to a bottle. So he got in line as well!

When it came his turn and he was face to face with the Rebbe, the Rebbe smiled, gave him a large bottle and said in French "This is for the wedding."

He was amazed; how did the Rebbe knew he spoke French! That was astounding, it just verified all the other stories he had heard. The Rebbe certainly had uncanny powers!

But one thing for sure...it also proved he wasn't infallible. Dovid had been happily married for years! What he said about the wedding was clearly wrong.

A week later he returned to France, unpacked, and when he showed his wife the bottle they had a good laugh over what the Rebbe said.

But when he visited his local Chabad house (Rabbi Chiam Malul in Cartel France) the Rabbi didn't agree with Dovid's conclusion and assured him that in time he would see that it was no mistake.

"The Rabbi is certainly a bit brainwashed." David jested to himself, "But he is a nice man, very dedicated. So what if the Rebbe made a little mistake." and forgot the entire incident.

Months later he happened to open the cabinet where he had put the bottle and it reminded him of his experience in Brooklyn. "You know" he said to his wife, "It's a shame that this should just remain unused. Let's make a party, invite all our friends and family and give them all to drink a Le'chiam. It will be fun for everyone and a blessing as well. And I'm sure they will all come."

They began making plans. At first they thought of making the party at their home but at the last moment decided it would be less trouble to move it to the small wedding hall of the local synagogue (in Rancee near Paris) and to have it catered by a local kosher restaurant.

The day of the party arrived and the guests began arriving in good spirits. A small band played happy music and people were exchanging greetings and handshakes. But as they were sitting down to begin the meal the Rabbi of the synagogue entered the room with a smile, looked around for Dovid and when he found him took him aside and whispered something in his ear.

Dovid turned to the crowd and said: "The Rabbi needs nine men to join him to make a minyan. It will only take a few minutes, who wants to come? I'm going to go."

In no time he had the required number following the Rabbi to the next room for what they thought would be prayer (Jews are supposed to pray in groups of at least ten adult males) but they were in for a surprise.

In the room stood a bride and groom alone; it was a wedding!

In fifteen minutes the entire ceremony was over. Dovid and the other men shook the groom's hand, wished the newlyweds 'Mazal Tov' and gingerly asked where the wedding meal would be (they also were wondering why there were no guests but were ashamed to ask).

When the groom answered that no meal had been arranged Dovid joyously announced that they were invited to his. Dovid's informal party suddenly became a real wedding.

The band played merrily and the men began to dance on one side of the room with the groom and the women on the other with his new wife and when the dancing finished they all sat down to eat.

Then in the middle of the meal Dovid stood, held up the Rebbe's bottle, cleared his throat for silence and told the story of the Rebbe saying it was "For the Wedding!". Now he understood that the Rebbe wasn't mistaken at all.

"What!" exclaimed the bride. "That bottle is from the Lubavitcher Rebbe for my wedding?" and she burst into tears; she was weeping from sheer joy.

When she calmed down she explained. This was her second marriage. Her first ended in a bitter divorce that, coupled with the fact that she decided to be an observant Jew, resulted in a major rift in her family and none of her relatives showed up. No one came from her husband's side either but his reason was more simple. He converted to Judaism and simply had no family.

She felt so uncertain and alone that she felt she was going out of her mind. Then someone suggested she write a letter to the Rebbe. And a few weeks ago she did it and in the letter she asked for some sign that the marriage would succeed. "And here you are with the Rebbe's blessing!!"

The I.O.U.
 
The man was horrified. 'Please believe me,' he pleaded, 'I paid your saintly father a few days before he passed away...'

Many years ago there lived in Tunisia a wealthy Jew who was a most charitable man. Nothing made him happier than when he could be of some help to his fellow Jews when they were in need. Of all his good deeds, his favorite was to lend money without interest to small merchants, storekeepers, or workers who were hard up and in need of a loan to tide them over a difficult period.

Avraham never asked for security and charged no fee for his service. All he asked was that the borrower sign a note marked "I.O.U." for the amount borrowed. And when the due date for payment arrived, he never pressed for payment; he was ever ready to allow the debtor more time if needed.

Once a Jew came to this very kind man to seek his help. He told Avraham that he wished to open a store which he hoped would provide a living for his growing family. But this would require an amount of money which he did not have.

"How much money would you need to start you off in business?" asked the benefactor.

"I would need to borrow 500 rial," answered the man. "But it would take quite some time before I could repay it," he added hesitatingly.

"That is not a problem," Avraham reassured him. He gave the visitor the amount of money he needed, saying, "You need not worry about making any payment for the first twelve months. May G‑d bless you with success."

The man signed the I.O.U. note, thanked his benefactor gratefully, and left full of hope and with a light heart.

At the end of the twelve months, the man found that he was just where he had been a year earlier. He had not earned anything at all, but had only used up the loan to feed his family. Shamefaced and broken, he went to see the kind man who had lent him the money. He told his benefactor that he had lost all the money he had borrowed and that he had despaired of being able to make a living from the store which was empty of merchandise.

"A Jew must never despair and never lose hope. G‑d has many ways of providing a Jew with his material needs. You must have gained some experience during the twelve months you were a storekeeper. I will try to find you a job with a merchant who is a friend of mine."

True to his word, the good man did indeed speak to his friend, and the merchant happened to need a trustworthy person to help him in his business. The poor Jew was overjoyed at his good fortune, especially as he was given a very nice salary.

The first thing he did was to get a box in which to put his savings. Each week, when he received his salary, he put in it ten rial toward the debt which weighed so heavily on his mind.

Before the year was over, the box was full and added up to the amount of his debt. The man immediately took the money to Avraham. His face was all smiles as he handed over the money, saying "Today I am a very happy man, for G‑d has helped me and enabled me to repay my debt in full."

Avraham began to look for the I.O.U. note which the man had signed, in order to return it to him, but he could not find it.

"Excuse me," he said, "I know how eager you are to settle your debt, but I cannot accept the money from you until I find and return the note to you."

"Never mind the note," the man began to plead. "Please take the money; I was so looking forward to this moment. I am not worried about the note. I know you will destroy it when you find it, and it will not be used against me. If you could trust me—a poor man, without security, I surely can trust you. Please, do me a favor, let me repay my debt now. Take it, please."

Reluctantly Avraham agreed to take the money, on condition that the man come back in a day or two to pick up the I.O.U. note, and the man left in a happy mood.

A few days later, Avraham suddenly passed away. The whole town mourned the passing of this wonderful Jew. Particularly saddened were the many poor and needy Jews whom Avraham had helped so generously.

After the week of mourning (shiva) the heirs began to look through their father’s papers. They came across the I.O.U. note in the amount of 500 rial. Knowing that their father was always careful to return or destroy an I.O.U. note that had been paid, the heirs felt certain that this debt had not been paid. So they came to the man who signed it and asked for payment of the debt, which was by now two years old.

The man was horrified and bewildered. "Please believe me," he pleaded, "I paid the money to your saintly father a few days before he passed away," and he went on to tell them what had happened. "You see, it was I who insisted that your father accept the money in payment of the debt, even though he could not find the note at once, for I was of course certain that as soon as he found it he would destroy it immediately. . . ."

The heirs, two sons of Avraham, were not entirely convinced, and suggested they take the matter to the Rabbi of the community.

The Rabbi carefully heard both parties in the case. He examined the I.O.U. note, and asked the defendant if the signature on the note was his.

"Yes, Rabbi, the signature is mine; I did sign it. I do not deny that I borrowed the money on the note, but G‑d is my witness, I paid the debt."

The Rabbi gave the matter some thought, then said, "It is a difficult case; I must give it further thought before I can make a decision. Come back tomorrow."

The Rabbi handed the note back to the two brothers. "Hold on to it, and bring it back with you tomorrow."

During the night, the Rabbi prayed for Divine help on this matter.

The following day, when the claimants and the defendant appeared before the Rabbi again, the Rabbi wanted to have another look at the note. When it was handed to him, he unfolded it and everyone was astonished to see that the note had a long tear right where the signature was!

The two brothers stared at each other.

"Did you tear the I.O.U. note?" they burst out simultaneously.

"No, of course not!" was the answer.

"My dear friends," interrupted the Rabbi, "Let me explain what happened. Your father, may he rest in peace, was truly a saintly man. In his lifetime he never touched a cent that was not his, and never wronged anyone. Yes, he was blessed with riches, but he knew what to do with it; he was most generous in helping others in every way possible. Now that his soul is in heaven, he certainly does not wish to wrong anyone, nor to see anyone hurt by him, however indirectly. Obviously, he could not look down from heaven and see an innocent Jew hurt on account of him, nor to see you, his beloved sons, doing something wrong, even if unintentionally. . . .

"It is clear, therefore, that it was your father himself who is responsible for tearing up the I.O.U. to prevent it from being used to collect a debt that had already been paid. May he be a source of inspiration and blessing to you and all the Jewish people."

Only G‑d Knows!

 

The Alter Rebbe explained the verse, "You know the secrets of this world" as follows: The "secrets of the world," the explanations for the events that transpire over the course of our lives, are known only to G‑d himself.

He then told the following story: A Jew earned his livelihood as an agent of local shop owners. His job was to buy merchandise in a distant city and transport it back to his town.

Once, on his way back to town, his carriage, loaded with merchandise, got stuck on a muddy road. Despite the combined efforts of the wagon driver and himself, the carriage would not budge.

The Jew was devastated. "What shall I do? All the merchandise will become ruined by the mud! How will I ever be able to pay back this loss?" he wailed.

Just then a wealthy man happened to pass by. He readily lent a hand to the two struggling men, but try as they could, they couldn't budge the wagon. In his concern for the agent, the rich man lifted his hands helplessly.

"Dear G‑d," he sighed. "I would gladly help this man with my money. However, what is really needed here is pure physical strength, and that I do not have.

At the same time, a short distance away, another incident took place. A hefty, muscular man, who earned a meager livelihood by doing heavy physical labor, was on his way home from work. Suddenly, he heard a commotion and sounds of wailing down the road.

"Somebody is in trouble, I must go help," was his natural reaction. He followed the sounds and came across a heartbreaking scene. A poor family was being led off to prison, surrounded by guards. Without hesitation, the strong man began pulling the guards away.

The guards protested, "Hey, what are you doing? We have nothing against these poor people. The local poritz has instructed us to place them in prison because of years of unpaid rent. If you prevent us from carrying out the sentence, he will send more soldiers."

"How much do they owe?" inquired the man.

The guards stated an enormous sum. The man juggled the few coins he had in his pocket and heaved a sigh. "Dear G‑d, You know that if any measure of physical effort could help, I would offer it without question. However, it seems that only money can save this family, and that I do not have."

The Alter Rebbe concluded the story saying: "Many of us would have preferred for G‑d to have reversed the circumstances and thus, allowed both individuals to be helped. However, this is precisely the meaning of the verse: 'You know the secrets of the world'--only G‑d knows."

 

 

The Awakening

The minute she saw her mother, Anna pounced on her with the question: "Tell me, are we Jews?"

Anna was a young teenager when circumstances brought her face to face with a big crisis in her life.

But let me tell you her story.

Anna was born in Hungary into an intellectual family. Her father was a young doctor with a fine reputation and practice. Her grandfather was a professor of languages, highly respected in the academic world. Anna had only a faint recollection of him, for he died when she was still very young. She vaguely remembered one evening when her grandfather came in looking very serious and sad. She had always known him as a happy man, who loved to play with her and tell her funny stories, and she could not understand why he was so sad that evening, and almost ignored her. He went straight to her fathers study and they talked there for quite some time. From that time on, a kind of gloom had settled over the house. It was only years later that she learned about the sad events that befell them and other Jewish families. A wave of persecution overwhelmed the Jews of Hungary. Her grandfather was dismissed from his position for no reason except that he was a Jew. It was a blow from which the old man never recovered.

It was then that Annas father decided that his child should never know of such tragedy.

Annas parents had not been observant Jews. They considered themselves Hungarians in every respect. Religion had no place in their life. That they should suddenly become the objects of contempt and animosity by their neighbors and friends was beyond their understanding. So Annas father and mother decided that their child should never know of her Jewish birth. They would emigrate to some country where nobody would know they were Jews.

Annas father made the rounds of the South American consulates, where he filled out application forms for immigration visas. He soon found out that most doors were closed to Jewish refugees. It then occurred to him to approach a priest who had been his patient once, and the latter gave him a certificate that he and his wife and daughter were Catholics. However distasteful this was to Annas father, it was his only opportunity to escape with his family. After that, it did not take very long before he received a visa for himself and family, including his widowed mother, and they emigrated to a South American country.

This was a big wrench for them all, especially for Annas sick grandmother whom they took along with them. She had suffered so much during the war years that her mind had given way and she was in a sad state. Anna, who loved her grandmother dearly, knew not to pay too much attention to some of her ramblings.

Annas parents took up the study of Spanish in night school while working at temporary jobs in the daytime. They made a meager living, but hoped to improve their situation when they mastered the new language.

As for Anna, being a bright girl, it took but a few months for her to become proficient in reading, writing and speaking Spanish. In fact, towards the end of the school year she even managed to gain good marks in most of her subjects, and competed with some of the top students in her class.

While this naturally gave Anna much satisfaction and encouragement, she suddenly began to sense a feeling of resentment on the part of her fellow students. Her teachers were so pleased with her work and progress that they often singled her out for praise in class, pointing out to the students that, if Anna, who was a foreigner and had problems with the language, could do so well, there was no reason for the native Spanish-speaking students to fall behind.

This line of talk by teachers or parents often creates the opposite of what they hope to achieve. And so it was in Annas case. Instead of applauding her efforts, her obvious progress and success, the students in her class resented her more than ever.

Things came to a head from a totally unexpected quarter, namely, the political situation in the Middle East! When the news flashed across the world that fighting had broken out between Israel and the Arabs, Anna became very interested. Inexplicably she felt a personal involvement; she somehow related it to herself. Here was she, only anxious to "live and let live" and do the best in her power to make a personal contribution to those around her, yet, not only was she not appreciated, but was made to feel rejected and even persecuted!

And there was this little country of Israel trying to make a home for herself and her people, and all she asked for was to be allowed to live in peace with her neighbors, and even help where she could. Yet all the nations around hermany times her number and strengthattacked her and threatened her with total destruction!

In the lunch-room one day, Anna voiced her opinion about the mideast situation and was immediately pounced upon by the students near her.

"Listen to her, girls," called out one of them scathingly. "She sounds like an Israeli herself!"

"Why do I have to sound like an Israeli to see that Israel is being treated unjustly and slandered unfairly?" countered Anna.

"Because you are siding with Israel when the newspapers say that the Jews have no right to be in a land where the Arabs lived for centuries."

"What newspapers?" asked Anna. "And why are the newspapers more important than the Bible?" retorted Anna. "According to the Bible this land called Israel which was once called Palestine and before that was called Canaan, was promised to the Jews by G‑d as a possession for ever, and every student of that Bible knows that."

"Listen to her giving us a sermon!" burst out another girl mockingly. "Im beginning to believe a rumor thats been going around. My mother says she heard someone say that your grandmother talks as if she is Jewish. And if it is true that she is Jewish, then you are probably Jewish too. In which case you have no place in our school, which is a German school for German students."

"How dare you talk to me like that," cried out Anna, and burst into tears.

Anna could hardly wait to get out of school that day. She rushed home as fast as she could and tried to question her grandmother. But the poor old lady did not seem to understand what Anna wanted, and her replies had no connection at all with Annas questions.

So Anna had to keep her impatience to herself until her mother came home from her job. The minute she saw her, Anna pounced on her with the question: "Mother, tell me, are we Jews?"

"Whatever on earth brought that on?" exclaimed her mother, anxiety showing in her eyes.

"Mother, yes, or no? Are we Jews or arent we?" After a slight pause her mother began, stammering:

"Well, I suppose . . . that is to say . . . what I mean is . . . I suppose, yes. I guess you could say we are Jews."

"What do you mean, you could say we are Jews? You never told me that before, Mother," Anna burst out accusingly.

"My dear daughter, you know something about the anti-Semitism that existed in Hungary. That is why your father and I decided it best that you never know that we are Jews. Then you would never be the object of anti-Semitism and persecution."

"But you see, Mother, the truth must eventually come out somehow. I feel quite bewildered, and can hardly put my feelings into words. I feel you were definitely wrong in keeping the truth from me. I am not a baby any more and it was unfair of you not to tell me we are Jews."

"My dear Anna, your father and I were really afraid to tell you; afraid of your reaction. That is why we kept silent. Your grandparents were observant Jews once, but when we were forced by circumstances not of our choosing, to hide and live as non-Jews, it became easier to continue living that way even after the necessity had passed."

"Mother, you know me, and how I detest dishonesty. Now that I know that I am Jewish I cannot possibly return to that German school, nor can I have any further association with those anti-Semitic German girls! They pride themselves on being a superior race. As far as I am concerned, they are the lowest of the low."

Annas mother listened without interruption. Annas outburst had come upon her like an unexpected clap of thunder.

"Mother, Im serious. I shall not return to that school. I know there is a Jewish school in our neighborhood. Of course Im sure they would not accept me as a student there immediately, as I dont know the first thing about their language or subjects. However, instead of going to camp, as you had planned for me for the school vacation, I shall look for a summer job to enable me to pay for private lessons to prepare me for enrollment in the Jewish school. As you know, I have a flair for languagesI must have inherited that gift from Grandpa who, you told me, was once a University professor of languages. So, once I learn how to read and write Jewish and Hebrew, I am determined that the Jewish school is the one for me!"

"Are you sure, Anna, that you realize what you are planning?" asked her mother hesitatingly. "It will be no easy matter to make this drastic change in your life."

"I was never more sure of anything in my whole life," replied Anna firmly. "I see now why I felt so close to the situation in the Middle East. I really feel a kinship with our people in their miraculous victory against their attackers."

"Anna, you always were grown up for your age, and today you sound very mature indeed," said her mother.

"Mother, dont you think it would be right for us allfor Father and you and meyes, even for poor Grandmato come out and declare openly that we are Jews, and proud to be so! Of whom should we be afraid? No one would respect a person, anyway, who was ashamed to declare his true identity."

"Anna, you make me feel so ashamed. You are speaking as if you are the parent and I am the child. You are right in all you have said."

"I cannot condemn you, Mother, for I did not have to go through the awful experiences that you did. Im sure that you acted as you thought best. However, now and for the future, let us turn over a new leaf, and may G‑d bless us with success."

"Anna, between the two of us we will convince Father of the advisability of our resolution. What a pity it is that Grandma does not understand enough to appreciate our return to being Jews. It would have made her so happy! I only hope, that Grandpa, may his dear soul rest in peace up in Heaven, will know what we are doing, and be proud of us."

Anna and her mother hugged each other affectionately, and happy smiles lit up their radiant faces.

2 Years of Purity
 
A woman once came to the Baal Shem Tov and begged him to bless her with
a child. The Baal Shem Tov was unwilling at first, but when pressed, he
finally assured her that within a year she would bear a son.

A son was born to the woman and her husband that year. The little child
was a source of great joy to them. When her son was two years old, the
woman brought him back to the Baal Shem Tov to receive a blessing from
the tzadik. The Baal Shem Tov held the baby and kissed him before
returning him to his mother. As soon as the woman returned home,
however, the baby became sick and, within a few days, passed away.

The woman returned to the Baal Shem Tov and asked bitterly, "Why did you
bless me with a child who would only live for two years?"

The Baal Shem Tov answered her: "Listen carefully to the story I am
about to tell you."

"A childless king once asked his wisest advisor how he could solve the
dilemma of not having an heir.

" 'No one can help you except for the Jews,' said the advisor. 'You must
tell the Jews that if within a year your wife does not give bear a son,
they will be expelled from your kingdom. They will then pray that you
beget a son.'

"The king issued the advisor's decree. The Jews gathered to pray, recite
Psalms and fast. They entreated G‑d to save them from this decree and
their voices reached the heavens.

"A very lofty soul in heaven heard the outcry and told the Alm-ghty that
it would be willing to be sent to the world below and live as the king's
son. In this way it would save the Jewish people from being expelled
from their homes and their land.

"Within the year, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. At a
young age the prince's genius was evident. Everything that he was taught
he grasped immediately.

"One day, the prince told his father, 'I have learned all I can from the
teachers in this kingdom. Please find me a new teacher with whom I can
study something in which I can delight!'

"A call for a unique tutor went throughout the king's empire and beyond.
Soon after, a wise and saintly looking scholar approached the king and
offered to teach the prince. 'I have only one condition,' demanded the
scholar. 'When I am alone in my study no one, not even the prince, is to
enter.' The king readily agreed, caring only to please his beloved son.

"The prince was enchanted with his new teacher. Day and night he studied
with the scholar, always thirsting for more. The prince was only
separated from his teacher while he slept and at those times that his
teacher insisted on being alone in his study.

"One day the prince succumbed to his curiosity and entered his teachers'
quarters. He opened the study door and was astounded to see his teacher
swaying back and forth, covered with a white and black cloth, and
leather straps around arm. He gasped and the teacher turned around to
see his shocked disciple.

" 'You were not to enter,' the teacher said firmly. The prince just
nodded mutely. 'Now that you know my secret, I must leave the kingdom,'
said the scholar sadly.

" 'But I know nothing,' cried the prince, for he had never seen a Jew in
talit and tefilin.

" 'I am a Jew,' explained the scholar.

" 'Then I too will be a Jew,' said the prince.

"Try as he did, to dissuade the prince, the scholar was unsuccessful.
Eventually he agreed to teach the prince Torah. As soon as they began
studying, the prince realized that he had found that which had seemed to
elude him his entire life. Years flew by, with the prince always at the
scholar's side. He drank in the words of Torah, never tiring of it.

" 'It is time for me to become a Jew," said the prince, now a young man,
to his teacher.

" 'You can not remain prince if you were to become a Jew,' warned the
scholar. 'Is it not better for you to stay here and eventually become a
benevolent and just ruler?'

"The prince was adamant. He told the king that he needed to learn
first-hand about his father's vast country. With the king's reluctant
permission, the prince and scholar traveled away from the palace toward
the border of the kingdom. The prince crossed the border, converted and
settled down to a fully observant Jewish life.

"When the prince died, his soul ascended to the World Above and not a
single count could be charged against him. What could be said about a
soul that had the self-sacrifice to descend to the world in order to
save a Jewish community from a terrible decree, and who had rejected the
royal crown to become a Jew?

"But then, one angel said, 'For his first two years he was nursed by a
non-Jew.' It was decreed that this soul, being so lofty, would need to
descend into this world once again and be nursed by a Jewess."

The Baal Shem Tov said to the woman compassionately, "You need not be
sad that you merited, for two years, to nurture this lofty soul."

                           
MOSHIACH MATTERS
The Baal Shem Tov writes in a letter to his brother-in-law that on Rosh
Hashana of the year 5507/1746, his soul ascended to the heavenly realms
where he was granted the privilege of entering the palace of the soul of
Moshiach. He asked Moshiach, "Master, when are you coming?" Moshiach
responded, "When your wellsprings [teachings] will be disseminated
outward."