Baruch Hashem

Welcome to the Shabbos Stories
for Parshas B'Shalach  
Print these Stories before Shabbos, so you can enjoy them during Shabbos
 
A True Diamond - Amazing Story
 
Holtzberg.jpg
Story from Dena of Modiin Ilit, Israel
Sometime during the shiva for Rivky Holtzberg Hy"d, a young woman came into her parent's home, the Rosenberg home. She told Mrs. Rosenberg that she had something for her, and handed her a small package. Curious, Mrs. Rosenberg opened it and gasped. Inside was Rivky's diamond ring and one of her nicer Shabbos dresses.

"How did you get these?"

The young woman gently told Rivky's mother, "Let me tell you my story."
 
"I had been traveling in India. Somehow I ran into trouble with the law and ended up in an Indian jail. You cannot begin to imagine what an awful, horrible, primitive place it was... The only redeeming factor is that the jails there are quite disorganized, and those who are in charge are corrupt. Somehow I managed to escape.

"The first place I ran to was, of course, the Chabad House. Everyone knew that that's where you went when you needed help. Rivky welcomed me, fed me, and told me that it was vital that I get out of the country. I knew that - but I was very afraid. What if they would check me, check my passport? Then Rivky gave me one of her Shabbat dresses and her diamond ring. 'If you look very dignified, a well-dressed married woman with a ring on her finger, they won't look too closely at you. They will leave you alone. A woman with a diamond ring is in a different class. She's a respectable woman. She's not a criminal, someone who has escaped from jail. They won't bother you.'

"I took the dress and the ring and as you can see, I got out safely. And now I have come to give you Rivky's dress and her ring that she lent to me."

Rivky's mother took the possessions of her beloved daughter. Then she told the young woman, "I recently saw Rivky and noticed that she wasn't wearing her ring. When I asked her about it, she told me 'zeh b'shlichut.' It's on a mitzvah mission."
 
May the memory of Rabbi & Rivka Holtzberg live forever and be a blessing for us all.
The  Rebbe Crossed Them Through

The story begins with a ‘Farbringen’ (Chassidic gathering) of the Chassidim of the previous Lubavitch Rebbe in France shortly before WWII. The Rebbe’s son-in-law (who in another ten years would become the next Lubavitch Rebbe) was also present and he was the main speaker, but some of the other Chassidim also spoke.

One of them told of a miraculous experience that he had two years earlier. After escaping death in Russia the previous Rebbe had to move his headquarters to Poland and many Chassidim moved there to be with him. But in the course of his stay the Rebbe told many of them to leave Poland and settle in other countries, for instance the one telling the story was one of a group of five that the Rebbe told to go to France.

Now back in those days this was no small task; they had several borders to cross, among them dreaded Germany, and to make matters worse one of them had an non-valid passport and no time to get a new one; the Rebbe told them to leave immediately.

On the trains, one of them would lie on the bench and the other four would sit on him, covering him with their long winter coats to avoid the passport checks. And they even managed somehow to pass all the other borders. But the check post at the German border was notoriously dangerous, especially for Jews, and for Jews with no passports it was almost suicide.

They decided on some sort of plan, but as they neared the front of the line they heard shouting and screaming from inside the inspection center, then a pistol shot followed by a moan and silence. They tried to look as confident as possible but were really trembling inside, if it wasn’t for the Rebbe’s blessing they would all have turned back and returned to Poland on the spot.

But to their amazement when the first Chassid got to the window, the official snatched his passport from his hand and stamped it without asking questions! And so he did to the second. Then he began talking on the phone and stamped the remaining three passports without even looking at them!

But their problems were far from over; the place was full of cruel robot-eyed policemen and soldiers checking and rechecking everything and everyone that moved (probably that is where the shots came from) but strangely the police paid no attention to them! They walked through the station unnoticed, as though they were invisible, hailed a taxi, and left. One half hour later they were in a telegraph office sending a message back to the Rebbe … they were free! It was a miracle!!

The Rebbe’s son-in-law listened attentively to the story. When it finished he asked for the exact date and time of the miracle and when he heard the answer he smiled and said, “Now I understand something that was a mystery to me these last two years.

“The Rebbe, my father-in-law, had to have a nurse come in every day and give him an injection because of his health. (After his imprisonment and torture in Stalin's prisons he became increasingly paralized).

"One day the nurse came in and saw a frightening sight: the Rebbe was sitting rigidly in his chair, eyes slightly open and completely unresponsive. She was sure that he was having a catatonic attack of some sort, and immediately called the Rebbe’s wife. When the Rebbitzen entered she began weeping frantically, but before they called a doctor they called for me.

“When I entered I also was shocked at first, but then I noticed something that made me realize that there was nothing to worry about; it was almost imperceptible but the Rebbe’s lips were moving, he was saying or reciting something!

“I bent down and listened and then straightened up and announced that there was, in fact, no cause for alarm …the Rebbe was saying “Az Yashir Moshe” (The song that the Jews sang after crossing Yam Suf. (Shmot 15:1 –19)!! “After ten minutes the Rebbe opened his eyes and returned to normal.

“I never asked the Rebbe for an explanation but now I have it. It was the exact same time that your miracle was occurring. The Rebbe was passing you all through the German inspection like Moshe passed the Jews through the sea!

The Rebbe
by Tzvi Freeman



 

No one rises above the earth by tugging at his own hairs. A prisoner cannot free himself from his prison. He needs first to bond with one who is already free.

And so, at an early age, I was looking for someone who could guide me — a mentor, a guru. But who will be your guide when you beat your own path?

My path has always been like those of the deer in the forest — skipping over, squeezing and breaking through, steering far from the clear highways that everyone else travels.

On my fifteenth birthday I dropped out of high school. The year before I had been on the honor roll, and this year I was the grade ten president — but now I had no interest in following the established order.

When my parents made it clear that room and board were contingent on my completing high school, I found a tutorial college that allowed me to take my exams that spring. And so, I found myself two years ahead of the game. Free — in my father's words — to associate with the fringe members of our society.

These were the early 70s in Vancouver — Canada's San Francisco. I gave classical guitar lessons and organized the "Anarchist Discussion Group" of the Vancouver Free University. I learned Tai Chi, yoga, became a strict vegetarian, and attended countless "Encounter Groups." I hitch-hiked around Canada, the U.S., Israel, Europe and the U.K. I found souls traveling and dabbling on every kind of path I never had imagined.

I returned with a broader mind, but still a craving empty soul. None of what I found was for me. When you search, it doesn't matter where you look — the last thing you'll find is your own self.

I decided it was important to be able to do something well, and for me that would be music. I approached a well-known composer who lived in Vancouver for private lessons. She agreed, but after a few sessions, commanded one of her graduate st dents to take me by the hand and register me at the music college of the University of British Columbia. This was not the place I wanted to be, but I decided I would learn something. At the same time I began seriously practicing meditation, teaching yoga, and became fascinated with Lao Tse.

Nevertheless, my soul's stomach was as empty as ever. Perhaps, I wondered, what I need is to go off and hide in a Zen monastery for a few years. The conflict of spirituality and sensuality, the metaphysical and material career was ripping me apart. There was no real direction, only confusion. I remember praying with all my heart — not for any answers, not for any revelation — only that I should be able to talk heart to heart with my G‑d, because life in such a complicated, convoluted world makes it very hard to talk sincerely with your G‑d.

When a fish finds the ocean, it must dive in. When I first heard a talk of Chasidic mysticism, it didn't matter that I had no comprehension of most of what was being said. Rain comes as a stranger to a land parched for generations by drought, but the earth remembers. What to my mind was foreign, to my guts was home.

The first splash of native waters came from a traveling student of the Rebbe. I recall how he explained to me that our purpose was to perceive the G‑dliness within every created thing. From between his words I perceived that there was much more. At least a few thousand years of collective wisdom and beauty.

I wanted to know who taught this stuff. I wanted it explained to me. They told me there was a Rebbe in New York. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe."

My first reaction was inspiration. I had to find out more about this man. After that, friends, relatives and acquaintances began to cool me off. They told me this was idol worship. They told me I was surrendering my power of thought and independence.

My intellect had to concur. Where was all my background in anarchist philosophy? After all, these were the reasons I had failed to follow any other guru or mentor more than a few steps. I did not want my mind taken away. I wanted my own path. I did not want to be swallowed alive by a larger ego.

That conflict continued for many years. There are some things you know inside, but the ego and all your rationalization refuses to allow that inner knowledge to take charge.

Nevertheless, today I find myself a chasid of the Rebbe and still my own self. The Rebbe just never matched the ego-consuming demagogue I had so much feared.

For one thing, the trappings were always conspicuously absent. No majestic flowing robes. No magnificent estate. No private jet. A modest home in good taste and a bare bones office. Nothing on the outside to distinguish him from any of his chasidim.

As for my rebellious spirit, in the Rebbe I found the ultimate rebel. I could even say, you don't submit to the Rebbe — you rebel with him.

It's a long tradition of the Rebbes of Lubavitch to defy the monster the world feigns to be, to follow an inner knowledge, rather than the superficial perception of the flesh eyes.

In the 60s, the rest of the Jewish Establishment looked on in disdain at what was happening to their youth and cried, "Student unrest! Hippies and freaks! This is certainly a deranged and lost generation."

The Rebbe declared, "Finally the iceberg of America is beginning to melt! Finally its young people realize they do not have to conform! They have smashed the idols of their parents — they need now only be led back to the living waters of their great-grandparents."

The Rebbe told his chasidim to go out and bring Jewish youth in touch with their roots. He was ridiculed for it for years. Only after the strategy began to work did those who had mocked him jump on the bandwagon as well.

The Rebbe took this radical attitude into his way of running things as well. Lubavitch became an organization where action came from the bottom up. Rarely, very rarely, did the Rebbe demand something specific be done. There were always suggestions. Chasidim were expected to take the initiative and do what they thought would work. Several times the Rebbe thwarted plans to create a rigid hierarchy of decision making within Lubavitch. Each person must find his mentor, and each mentor his mentor.

The Rebbe has been held prisoner too long in a little box of stereotype and preconception. People simply don't look in Brooklyn for modern day gurus — not at a rabbi in 18th century clothing. Perhaps had he hailed from the mountains of Tibet or taught psychoanalysis at Berkeley.

A well-known author came for a private audience with the Rebbe. After he left the Rebbe's office, he turned to the Chasidim, and accused them, "You are thieves! You are stealing from the entire world! You have taken the Rebbe and made him exclusively your own, as though he were a Rebbe just for you Lubavitcher Chasidim. But the Rebbe is the Rebbe of the entire world!"

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

You sit on the subway, a young woman enters. She might be 30 years old but she sounds like she is 90. She says: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Debra... I have no home, I am hungry, trying to get something to eat. Please help me!..."

Some passengers drop quarters and dollars into her worn-out cup. She smiles and thanks them and quickly disappears into the next train car.

You might ask, why do I bother to write about this episode? Hundreds of beggars roam the streets of New York in a struggle to survive. Some of them collect cans and bottles, others look for food in garbage cans so as not to starve. Unfortunately it is as common to see peddlers and hungry people, as it is to see taxi drivers and mail-deliverers.

What should I do about my naivete? As many times as I see street ridden people, I still can't believe that within our luxurious society there are hundreds and thousands of miserable people living in the gutters and in the cold.

My curiosity about these shadowy people began when I was a young child. I recall driving through the Bowery with my dad and watching old men approach our car, offering to wash the windshield. My father would always roll down the window and give them a nickel or a dime.

"Who are these people?" I asked. (Those who knew my father, Reb Gershon Jacobson, the editor and publisher of the Algemeiner Journal, will appreciate his answer.)

"They're bums," my father answered.

"So why are you giving them money?" I asked.

"Because this is how they make a living!" he answered.

When I was a rabbinical student, one freezing Saturday night I was returning from New York to my studies at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, New Jersey. My friends and I stopped for pizza and then drove down Canal Street to the Holland Tunnel. As we stopped for a red light, I noticed a beggar standing at the corner holding out his hat.

There was one hot slice of pizza left in the box. I rolled down the
window, said good evening to the man and handed him the box with the slice of kosher pizza. We all watched to see what he would do. He alked over to the other paupers who were sleeping in cardboard boxes. He oke them up and mumbled "hot pizza." There were four of them, three men nd a woman. They divided the slice of pizza among themselves equally. he light changed and we drove off feeling sorry yet amazed.

I recall another story. When I was studying in Los Angeles, I went with my friend Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Brafman to do laundry. In the laundromat there were always derelicts and bag-ladies. On this particular night, a man about 35 years of age, was going through the garbage. I noticed that he found an empty container of milk and tried squeezing a drop of milk into his mouth. I approached the man and said: "Excuse me sir, but would you mind if I asked you a question?" He said: "Go ahead." I asked him: "When was the last time you had a real cup of milk?" he shrugged his shoulders, grinned and responded: "When I was five years old."

I gave him some money and told him to go next door and buy a container of milk and a piece of cake. He returned a few moments later and asked if he could take a container of chocolate milk.

"Absolutely," I said.

This act of charity cost me a dollar and change.

When I returned to the laundromat, my friend said to me: "You know, Boruch, I just found a dollar." I said: "Wow, Chaim, you are a rich man! But that dollar really belongs to me; I just spent a buck helping a poor man, so heaven returned it to me."

Some people are scared to give charity because their funds might be depleted. Nonsense, I say. The more you give the more you get.

Others argue that we must be cautious when distributing charity, to make sure the funds are allocated properly. But sometimes it is a life or death situation. One of the reasons we don't make a blessing on the mitzva (commandment) of giving charity, like on all other mitzvot, is because if we pause even for a minute, the beggar might be gone.

Most importantly, charity is accomplished not only by distributing money, but in many other ways - by giving advice, educating a fellow human being, visiting the sick, having guests for a meal, returning lost property. Sometimes even a simple smile can be a great act of giving.

There is a story about Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (1834-1882) and his wife, Rebbetzin Rivkah. Rabbi Shmuel would travel often, sometimes his wife would travel with him, and on several occasions his wife stayed home. Before departing, Rabbi Shmuel would give Rebbetzin Rivkah money for all the necessary living expenses, including large sums for distributing to charity. Being that Rebbetzin Rivkah was very generous, the charity allowance would run out quickly, and she would pawn off her personal belongings to earn extra charity funds for the poor.

On his return, Rabbi Shmuel would immediately ask his wife where she sold her belongings and gladly redeem every last item.

We might not all be able to emulate this type of generosity. But surely we can afford a dollar a day, or a loaf of bread, or at least a smile and a word of encouragement, to our friends, our neighbors or a stranger in the dark.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested something beautiful and powerful:

Every kitchen should have a charity box, to remind us before each meal that there are needy people who don't enjoy three meals a day, or even a kitchen. We ought to help them any way we can.

Being Happy Cured Your Son

A distraught Jew once came to the Gerer Rebbe and begged for a blessing to save his dying baby son. The doctors had given up. The boy was in a deep coma. The man showed the Rebbe the x-rays and medical papers. Trembling silently, he stared at the Rebbe's face for a sign of encouragement.

The Rebbe examined it all for a few minutes, sifting through the papers and negatives, looking at them one by one, turning them this way and that. Then he stacked them neatly, handed them back and said with an encouraging look, "G‑d will help".

The Chassid thanked the Rebbe profusely, backed gratefully backed out of the office, closed the door behind him and ran out of the building on wings of joy; the Rebbe was optimistic!

He ran to the store and bought whiskey, fish and cakes. He then ran to the synagogue inviting everyone to come to his home to celebrate; the Rebbe said that HaShem would help! His son would live!!

That whole night they rejoiced with the good news. They sang danced, said l'chiam and said words of Torah. The next morning he called the hospital and the doctors said there was an improvement. The child was feeling better!

A week later the boy was sitting up and two weeks later he was released, completely healthy! A MIRACLE!! Just as the Rebbe said!

That very day the Chassid appeared before the Rebbe with a big check and infinite gratitude.

"Thank you Rebbe, thank you!! You saved my son, I owe you everything!!" he said as he handed over the check.

"What's this?" said the Rebbe, "Your son?"

"Yes, of course Rebbe. You said that G‑d would help, and He did!!! It was your blessing. Thank G‑d! I went home and rejoiced the entire night after that blessing!"

"Ahh" smiled the Rebbe. "That? Well, thank G‑d your son is better but it wasn't because of me. I didn't bless him. You gave me all those x-rays and papers that I barely understood. I saw that I couldn't do anything. So I just said 'G‑d will help'. The fact is that I didn't do a thing.

"Your happiness was what cured your son."