Baruch Hashem

Please print these Stories before Shabbos, so you can read them on Shabbos!

During this Shabbos we read in the Torah how 70 Souls went down to Egypt. Here are some stories about Souls coming down to Earth.

The Rebbe Blessed them Twice
 
Phil and Elaine Brown were married for many years but had no children, even though they had visited several doctors and tried many kinds of treatment. One of the doctors told Elaine bluntly: "There is absolutely no chance that you will ever conceive naturally."

Hearing this, they decided to adopt, and went to a social service organization to fill out the papers. The case worker looked at their forms and said: "It's difficult to find Jewish children. The wait may be anywhere from a year to two or three or more." Still, the Browns decided to go ahead.

The agency examined their financial background, their education, their friends, their attitudes to children, their friends' attitude toward children, their attitude towards their friends' children, and dozens of other factors. After 13 months of questions, the agency finally asked for references.

At the time, Phil and Elaine lived across the street from Rabbi and Rebbetzin Zalmen Kazen, Lubavitch shluchim in Cleveland. Every time Rabbi Kazen would see Phil, he would say "hello" and invite the couple over for Shabbos dinner. Now, although Phil didn't know what to make of a Rabbi with a beard, the adoption agency wanted references, and so Phil thought that maybe he could combine business with pleasure. He could get a reference for the social service agency - after all, what could be better than a reference from a Rabbi? - and fulfill his obligation to the Kazens once and for all.

During dinner, Phil and Elaine told the Kazens that they were looking to adopt children. The Kazens told them that many couples had been blessed with children after receiving a blessing from the Rebbe, and suggested that the Browns try this route as well.

The Browns politely declined; they were not observant and did not want to make any commitments. Mrs. Kazen, however, is a very persistent lady. Ultimately, she persuaded the couple to send in a letter.

Several weeks later, the Browns received a reply. The Rebbe suggested they observe the mitzvah of taharas hamishpachah.

While they appreciated the Rebbe's concern and his suggestion, Phil and Elaine didn't feel ready for formal observance of any sort, and so they put the letter away. By this time, all their references had been checked, their personal character had been analyzed, and their bank statements reviewed. Still there was no child for adoption.

One day, a representative of the social service agency came for a visit; as part of the decision-making process, the agency wanted to inspect the home. The Browns graciously let the representative in, but it wasn't long before their attitude changed. The representative pulled open drawers, looked through closets, peered under beds and behind bookshelves. After going over every inch of their home, the representative departed. By that time, Elaine had made up her mind.

"Let's try the mikveh," she told her husband.

They did, and that month she became pregnant with the first of their many children. Shortly afterwards, the agency called and told them it had a child for adoption. The Browns, however, replied that they were no longer interested.

One day as Phil was cleaning out some drawers, he noticed the Rebbe's letter. He read it again and saw that the Rebbe had told him that in the month of ___ , they would hear good news. That was the month in which their first son Mordechai was born.

Several months afterwards, Phil's mother Sadie became so ill that she was hospitalized and lost consciousness. The doctor solemnly told the family to call all her children together. "She probably has only several hours to live," he said. "It is highly unlikely that she will regain consciousness. If she survives beyond morning, it will be as a vegetable."

Phil sat with his brother and two sisters. It was as if they had already started mourning.

And then Mrs. Kazen arrived. "Did you write the Rebbe yet?" she asked the Browns. "You'll see! He will give his blessing and everything will be all right!"

The family were amazed, and even upset. Their mother was on the verge of death, and here this lady was treating it in what seemed a cavalier fashion.

Phil's brother Burt was piqued enough to usher Mrs. Kazen out of the room, but not before she had secured Mrs. Brown's Hebrew name and that of her mother.

"I'll write the Rebbe for you," she promised as she was being pushed out.

A few hours later she came back. The Brown family were deep in sorrow, and hardly listened as she told them: "I spoke to Rabbi Chodakov, who caught the Rebbe as he was leaving 770. 'Tell the family there is no need to worry,' the Rebbe said. 'Let the doctors repeat the tests; they'll see they made a mistake. In the morning, everything will be fine.' "

The Rebbe's answer did not make the Browns feel any better. They could not understand how a Rabbi in New York could know their mother's condition more accurately than the doctors who were treating her. But in the morning, their attitude changed. Mrs. Brown woke up, demanded a cup of coffee, and read the morning newspaper. Her answers to questions were sharp and to the point. This lady was no vegetable.

At that point, Phil's brother Burt decided to adopt a chassidic lifestyle. "The Rebbe didn't just give a blessing," he explained. "He set a time. That's putting yourself on the line. When he proved right, I felt I had to make a commitment."

The Joy of Shabbos

One Friday night the Baal Shem Tov was about to make Kiddush when he suddenly laughed out loud. In the middle of the Shabbat meal he laughed again, and a few minutes later he laughed a third time. No one dared inquire why, but immediately after Shabbat his disciples approached Reb Zev Kitzes and begged him to find out what was going on. (Reb Zev Kitzes used to sit with the Baal Shem Tov on Saturday nights while he smoked his pipe.)

When Reb Zev Kitzes asked the Baal Shem Tov why he had laughed, the tzadik replied that he would show him. He ordered his driver to ready the horses and wagon, and the entire group of disciples piled in for the ride. Throughout the night they traveled, without knowing their . When dawn broke they saw that they had arrived in the city of Kozhnitz.

After the morning service, the Baal Shem Tov asked that Reb Shabsai the bookbinder be summoned before him. The head of the Jewish community was very surprised by the tzadik's interest in this particular individual. "What I mean to say," he explained, "is that I'm sure he's a fine and honest man, but he's not exactly what one might call a Torah scholar. In fact, he's a very simple person." Nonetheless, the Baal Shem Tov was adamant about speaking to him. Reb Shabsai the bookbinder was summoned, together with his wife.

When the two of them were standing before him the Baal Shem Tov said, "I want you to tell me what you did on Shabbat. Tell me the truth, and do not leave out any details."

"I will tell you everything," Reb Shabsai replied, "and if I've done something wrong, I beg you to show me how to make amends. I am a simple bookbinder," he began, "and when I was younger and stronger and could work long hours, my livelihood was plentiful. Every Thursday I would buy the necessities for Shabbat, and on Friday mornings close up shop at ten o'clock, in order to go to the synagogue to prepare myself for the holy day. Now that I am older, however," he continued, "I find that I cannot work so hard, and we have become quite poor. But I refuse to relinquish my former habit.

"This past week, Friday morning rolled around and I did not even have enough money to buy flour. But I decided that it would be better to suffer in silence than ask for charity. I asked my wife to promise me that even if the neighbors noticed we had no food, she would refuse to take any gifts. Rather, we would willingly accept whatever had been decreed from Above. Not having any other way to honor the Shabbat, my wife set about sweeping our humble home with a broom, removing the dust from every nook and cranny.

"That Friday night, instead of going home right after Maariv, I remained in the synagogue until everyone was gone. I was afraid someone might ask me why there weren't any candles burning in the window.

"Unbeknownst to me, while cleaning the house my wife had found an old dress with silver buttons on the sleeves. Overjoyed at her find, she had immediately sold them for enough money to provide a very sumptuous Sabbath meal. When I came home and saw the house brightly lit and the table fit for a king, I was very disappointed, assuming that she had been unable to withstand the temptation of accepting charity. Nevertheless, I decided to say nothing that would disturb the sanctity of the Sabbath.

"I made Kiddush and we washed for the challa, but after the fish I couldn't control myself any longer. Very gently I chided her for having accepted our neighbors' generosity, but before I could even finish she told me what had happened. My eyes filled with tears of happiness, and without even thinking I grabbed her arm and began to dance with her around the table. After the soup I was again overcome with joy, and we danced for a second time, and for a third time after dessert. All in all, three times I was overwhelmed with gratefulness that G‑d had allowed me to rejoice in the Sabbath directly from His holy hand. But Rebbe," he added worriedly, "If I've committed any sin, please tell me how to correct it."

At that the Baal Shem Tov turned to his disciples and said, "I want you to know that the entire entourage of heavenly angels was dancing and rejoicing with Reb Shabsai and his wife. That is why I laughed aloud those three times."

He then offered the couple a choice: Either they could live out their days in honor and wealth, or they could be blessed with a son in their old age (having been childless till then). Reb Shabsai's wife immediately chose to have a child, whereupon the Baal Shem promised she would give birth the following year, to a boy they should name Yisrael (the Baal Shem Tov's own name). He also asked to be invited to the brit, so he could serve as sandek and hold the baby.

Indeed, the child grew up to be one of the greatest sages of his generation, known as the Kozhnitzer Magid.

 

The Reincarnated Prince

Some three hundred years ago, the name of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov spread throughout Europe as one who was willing to do anything, even perform miracles like Elijah and Moses, in order to help another, especially a fellow Jew.

One evening a middle-aged couple came with a desperate request; they wanted a child. Despite their prayers, good deeds and various remedies and treatments, they had failed to conceive a child in all the years of their marriage.

The Baal Shem Tov closed his eyes, put his face into his hands, lowered his head to the desk before him and his consciousness soared to the spiritual realms.

Minutes later he sat upright, looked at them sadly and said: "There is nothing I can do. Continue praying, continue your good deeds. May G‑d have mercy. But it is beyond my ability to help you."

The woman burst into bitter tears; her husband turned his face aside and wept silently, his body shaking.

"No, no!" she cried. "I won't believe it. I will not accept no for answer. I know that when a tzaddik (righteous person) decrees, G‑d must fulfill. I want a child!" Her cry pierced the walls and broke the holy master's heart.

He lowered his head again for many long minutes then looked up and said: "Next year you will have a child."

The couple was speechless. The man began trembling, took the Baal Shem Tov's hand kissed it as his wife showered thanks and blessings. They backed out the door, bowing, weeping and praising G‑d and His servant the holy Rabbi Israel.

Sure enough, two months later the woman conceived, and nine months thereafter gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

The couple's joy increased day by day as the child grew. Their baby was beautiful! His eyes sparkled with life and his every smile filled their lives with warmth and happiness. At the age of one year, it was obvious he was something special; he was already walking and talking. As he approached the age of two they began looking for a tutor to begin teaching him Torah. They planned to take him to the Baal Shem Tov; they would show him what his blessing had brought.

But on the morning of his second birthday the child didn't wake up.

The neighbors came running when they heard the screams, but nothing could be done. As miraculously as the boy had come, so mysteriously and tragically had he departed this world.

The funeral was enough to make the heavens cry. After the week of mourning they returned to the Baal Shem Tov to inform him of the tragedy. But the Baal Shem Tov understood better then they could possibly have imagined.

"Your child," he said to the grieving parents, "contained a lofty soul which had made a huge sacrifice to save thousands of people. But this soul needed you to achieve its tikkun ('rectification') and become spiritually complete. That day, when you came to me, I looked into the heavens and saw that it was impossible for you to have children; but when I heard your cries and saw the depth of your pain, I realized that this special soul was destined to be yours for the short span of its return to physical life. Sit down, dear friends, I have a story to tell you."

 

Several hundred years ago lived a king who was childless. He was rich and powerful, but he desperately desired a son to carry on the lineage. He ordered that all his subjects hold daily prayers in their houses of worship that G‑d should grant their sovereign an heir.

One of his advisors suggested that the reason the king was childless was because his Jewish subjects did not pray for him sincerely enough. The only way to make them do that, said this advisor, was to oppress them.

The next day the king issued a public proclamation stating that if the queen was not blessed with a child within in the next three months, all the Jews would be expelled from his kingdom. With all the neighboring countries closed to Jewish settlement, the poor Jews had nowhere to go. Their cries and prayers rose from every synagogue in the land.

A call resounded through the heavens for a soul willing to descend into the spiritually desolate environment of the royal palace in order the save the Jews of that land. Finally, one very holy soul agreed to make the sacrifice.

Shortly thereafter, the queen became pregnant and soon gave birth to a son. The king was overjoyed and showered the Jews of his realm with presents and favors.

At the age of two, the child could already read and write, and when he was five years old he had surpassed all his teachers and learned all they had to teach. A master teacher — a priest whose fame as a genius and scholar had spread far and wide — was brought from afar to teach the prodigy.

This new tutor was of a different caliber altogether. It seemed that he had mastered every form of wisdom in the world and his very presence radiated a thirst for knowledge. The young genius could not get enough of his new teacher. He became attached to him more than even to his own father the king. He spent every moment of the day and most of the night with him absorbing more and more wisdom and learning; and the more he absorbed the more he desired.

But the priest demanded his times of privacy. He had an agreement with the king that for two hours of every day he would lock himself in his room and no one, not even the King himself, was allowed to enter or disturb him in any way. It was on this condition that he accepted the task of teaching the prince.

But the prince was curious. He could not tolerate the idea that his beloved master was withholding something from him. He had to know everything!

One day, the young prince managed to hide himself in his teacher's room before the priest's daily two hours of seclusion. The priest entered the room, locked the door securely behind him, and searched the room thoroughly. Somehow he failed to discover the prince's hiding place and he proceeded in his strange daily ritual.

First he removed all the crosses from the walls and from around his neck, and put them in a box outside his window. Then he took out a large white woolen shawl with strings at the corners, wrapped it completely around his head and body, and began weeping like a baby.

Then he took out two small black boxes with long black straps attached to them, tied one to his left upper arm and the other above the middle of his forehead. After that he began to pray, swaying, singing and crying for over an hour. Finally, he took out a large Hebrew text and began reading from it in a sing-song voice, swaying back and forth all the time.

Suddenly, he stopped and listened intently. The faint but unmistakable sound of another person in the room had caught his ear. The priest was terrified. He jumped from his chair, hurriedly removed the black boxes and shawl, stuffed them in a drawer, and began to search the room. It did not take long for him to discover his young pupil, who had been observing everything with rapt fascination.

The priest begged the boy not to reveal what he saw. If the king found out he would certainly be beheaded. But the prince's curiosity had been aroused. He swore that he would never tell anyone what he saw in the room, but only if the priest would explain what he had just done and teach him what it was all about.

So the priest had no choice but to reveal that he was a Jew, doing was what Jews have been doing for thousands of years: praying and studying the Torah and fulfilling its commandments. He had been compelled to hide his faith during one of the many decrees of forced conversions that Jews were subjected to in those times; now he was forced to assume the guise of a alien religion on the pain of death.

"You must teach me your ancient wisdom!" the prince insisted. "I knew that you were hiding something from me. In everything that you taught me, I always sensed that there was something more there, something deeper and truer, that you were withholding from me!" In vain did the "priest" plead that he would be subjecting them both to mortal danger. "If you refuse to teach me," the prince threatened, "I'll tell everyone what I saw in this room."

For several years they learned Torah together, until the boy announced that he wanted to convert to Judaism. His desire became so strong that teacher and pupil made up a story about going to Rome to further their studies and instead escaped to another country where the boy converted and never returned to the palace again.

 

"The prince became a great and famous sage," the Baal Shem Tov concluded his story, "living a life of saintliness and good deeds. When he passed on from this world and his soul ascended to the heavens, it was the most luminous soul that had returned from earth in many generations. Only one blemish dimmed its shinning perfection: the lingering effect of the fact that it had been conceived, borne, and fed for two years in the spiritually negative environment of the royal palace. All it lacked to attain the true heights of its glorious potential was for it to return to earth and be conceived, given birth to and weaned in the holy atmosphere of a righteous home.

"When I saw the depth of your holy desire for a child, I know that you were worthy parents for this righteous soul."

 
What Rav Mendel Learned in Siberia

Rabbi Mendel remembered a story that he heard when he was a prisoner fifteen years earlier in Siberia.

It seems that from everything he heard and saw in the years he was imprisoned in the 'work' camp Rav Mendel tried to learn a lesson in the service of G‑d, and usually he succeeded. But there was one story that, try as he could, he couldn't figure out what was the spiritual point …. until now.

The prisoner telling the story had been a deep-sea diver in the Czar's navy, imprisoned now by the Communists, and his story was as follows:

"It occasionally happened that one of the ships of the Czar's navy would sink, sometimes because of a storm at sea, or because it struck a rock, or sometimes in battle.

"Now, ships are worth a lot of money, just the metal and the equipment alone were often worth millions, so the navy developed a means to lift the ship from the ocean floor so it could be towed to shore and fixed or at least partially salvaged. And that's where I came in.

"What they would do is situate two towing-ships on the sea above where the sunken ship was. Each ship would lower a long, thick chain with a huge hook on the end, and I would dive down, attach one hook to the front and the other to the rear of the sunken ship. Then the towing-ships would reel in their chains, lift the sunken one from the ocean floor and tow it in to shore.

"Now, this was all fine when the sunken ship had been under for less than a month or so, but after that the ship began to rust and the hooks would bring up only huge chunks of iron, leaving the rest of the ship behind.

"So someone developed a brilliant idea. The two tugboats, instead of lowing just one chain each, would spread a huge, hollow, rubber mat with thick rubber walls over the place where the sunken ship was. Inside the entire length of the mat was a large flat sheet of steel with several hundred steel ropes attached to it. The ropes ran though special airtight holes in the lower rubber wall in a way that no water could get in and no air would escape, and at the end of each dangling rope was a hook.

"My job was to go down with a few other divers, lower the mat, spread it over the sunken ship and attach the hooks to as many places as possible. Then a motor on one of the two tugboats would pump air into the mat and slowly inflate it. It began to pull upwards until … WHOOPA!! Suddenly the entire ship lifted at once and could be towed to the docks and eventually hoisted to dry land for repairs."

"For years I've been trying to connect this story to some lesson but just now I began to understand what it is," said Rav Mendel.

"The ship is like the Jewish people; rusty and falling apart because they have been sunk in exile for almost two thousand years. Not one thing or person or idea will get them out. But they must be salvaged and fixed somehow.

"So the Rebbe's idea is to save them; to save the ship! And we Chassidim, are the Rebbe's deep-sea divers. We have to attach a hook to every single Jew … put Tefillin on as many Jews as possible, do any mitzvah we can with them, and then when enough 'hooks' are attached …WHOOPA!!! HaShem will pull everyone up TOGETHER." 

What is the Moral of this Joke?

The joke is told about a Rabbi that loved to play golf. One Yom Kippur (Holiest day of the year, lit. the 'Day of Forgiveness') he's sitting in his seat in the front of the huge congregation listening to the Cantor when he suddenly gets this big urge to go golfing (which is forbidden on Yom Kippur for about ten reasons).

He tries to dismiss the thought, to think of something else but to no avail; his body and his whole being is longing for the game. He knows that nothing will help. Without thinking too much he stands up and silently slips out the door, next to his place, which leads to his study. Closing the door behind him, he removes his prayer shawl, quickly takes his wallet out of his desk drawer, slips it into his pocket as he opens the back door and is outside.

The sun is shining brightly, a beautiful day as he briskly walks to the corner, takes a quick turn down the next block and, still walking, not looking back, removes his yarmulke, puts it in his pocket, puts on a pair of shades and flags down a cab, "Country Club Golf Course please, and step on it if you can!"

A half hour later there he is, teeing off on the first of eighteen holes… and he FEELS GREAT! The wind is at his back, the sky is clear as he swings back and…WOW!! What a drive!!!! He can't believe it as he watches the ball fly like a missile until he can't see it anymore. "Wow! Wow!" he keeps saying to himself as he jumps into his golf cart and heads toward the hole "What a drive! What a drive!" Yes, dear readers it was a hole in one. And so it was on the second hole and the third and the fourth, in fact it was the perfect game. NEVER had such a game been played in the history of golf; eighteen holes in eighteen strokes!!!!


Meanwhile in heaven, the angels were going wild, and their dissatisfaction reached G‑d Himself. "Can it be that a Jew, a RABBI yet, transgresses the holiest day and gets such a reward?" The voice of HaShem thundered in reply "What reward? What are you angels talking about? Reward? Ha Ha! I just gave him the worst punishment of all, hell on earth! … It's true that he got eighteen holes-in-one, but who is he going to tell about it?"

What is the moral of the Joke? Please send me your answers to Do1Good1@aol.com