Baruch Hashem

Shabbos Stories for Parshas Tzav & Passover
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Miracles from the Rebbe
 
This Friday is the Rebbe's 111th Birthday.
In honor of his birthday .... here are two wonderful stories.
 
The Hostages Lit Their Menorah in Iran

"I first met the Rebbe during the lifetime of his father-in-law and predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchack of Lubavitch," related Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Hershberg, the past Chief Rabbi of Mexico. "I asked the previous Rebbe about a Rabbinic position I was offered in Chicago. He told me to consult his son-in-law.

rebbe3.jpg"I spent nearly an entire night with the Rebbe. Our discussion covered tractate after tractate of the Talmud, and the scope of the Rebbe's knowledge and his genius totally amazed me. From that night onward, I maintained a relationship with the Rebbe, and I consulted with him regarding numerous personal and public matters."

In 1980, during the Iranian occupation of the American embassy, Rabbi Hershberg was scheduled to travel to Iran for a public service project. Because of the tense atmosphere at the time, many tried to persuade him to postpone his trip. The Rebbe, by contrast, encouraged him: "Go with blessing," he answered. "You are certain to light the Chanukah menorah in Iran."

Rabbi Hershberg was puzzled by the Rebbe's closing words. He was not necessarily planning to stay in Iran for Chanukah. But if he would, there was no question that he would light a menorah. He did not understand the Rebbe's reference, nor the emphatic tone in his words.

Afterwards, it became clear. His mission in Iran took longer than expected, during which time he developed a relationship with some Iranian officials. He knew that there were six Jews among the hostages in the American embassy and he asked permission to light the menorah with them. "Just as we have granted permission for a priest to meet with the Christian hostages on their holiday," the Iranians replied, "we will allow you entry as well."

And so it was in the barricaded American embassy in Iran that Rabbi Hershberg lit the Chanukah menorah that year.

Check Your Tefillin

by Moshe Cheshin, translated from the Israeli newspaper, Maariv

The religious community in Jerusalem was recently astounded by an amazing story concerning the Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Rebbe is famous for enabling childless couples to conceive with his blessings for fertility. At first, this story was known only to a few people, but later it became the talk of the town.

The story revolves around a couple who had been childless for seventeen years. The woman had already been treated by the best doctors and professors in Israel. She had tried all the remedies, natural and supernatural. She spared no effort, but nothing helped. The couple visited various rabbis and sages, asking for a blessing for children. They had even discussed starting new lives, separately. In fact they had been at the point of requesting a divorce.

A friend advised them to write a letter to the Rebbe before they took this last, drastic step. They rushed a letter to the Rebbe, pouring out their bitterness and begging him for a blessing for children. With nervous anticipation they awaited the response. Ten days later, the hoped-for letter arrived from New York. With trembling hands and pounding hearts they opened it and pored over every word. A glimmer of light shone in their eyes. "The Rebbe instructs me to check my tefilin," the man said to his wife.

The RebbeThe man took his tefilin, and he and his wife went straight to a scribe who lived nearby. They followed the scribe's work with great anxiety. Nervous silence filled the workroom. Not two minutes passed before the scribe jumped from his seat as if bitten by a snake. He held his head in his hands and shouted, "Look what I see!"

The couple were amazed at what they saw. "Look at that! An entire word is missing! An entire word. And look at which word—rechem." He repeated the word slowly, emphasizing each letter.

The man turned pale. In the very first verse of the section beginning with the words "Sanctify for me the firstborn—peter rechem—of your animals." The word "rechem," which means "womb" was missing. Trepidation was soon replaced with joy. It appeared that this was the solution to the mystery of their years of childlessness.

He told the scribe to prepare new tefilin parchment for him on the spot. Then he sent a thank you letter to the Rebbe, describing what had happened. A second letter quickly came from the Rebbe, containing a blessing for children. The Rebbe wrote that he was now sure that the couple would be able to fulfill the words of the verse fully.

A short time later, the woman joyously informed her husband that she was pregnant.

A few months ago, a baby boy was born to the happy couple.

News of this wonder quickly spread through Jerusalem and made a deep impression in many circles. People began bringing in their tefilin for inspection, and scribes were willing to check tefilin free of charge. In fact, I have been told by those who were involved in the campaign that many tefilin were found to be missing letters, or words, or to have extra letters. In one case, they even found a pair of tefilin that had photocopies inside. They have now been replaced with tefilin written by hand on parchment as required by Jewish law.

 

The Impossible Seder

By Rabbi Tuvia Boltonimpossible seder

Five years ago a young rabbi was invited to a town in the former Soviet Union to arrange and conduct a Passover Seder for the area residents.

The recently ordained Rabbi arrived several weeks before the holiday to prepare. Trying to make the event as big as possible, he went to the town's mayor to find a suitable place to hold the festive ceremony.

After exploring several options, the Mayor decided that the best place in town to serve their purpose was the Communist meeting hall. When the Communists were in power, their party hall was usually the biggest building. The Rabbi and the Mayor went to look at the place, and sure en ough, it was perfect.

Publicity and posters went up, people were invited, and food was brought and prepared. New vessels were bought, the Passover cooking was supervised, and the whole building was cleaned and decorated with Passover themes.

All the hard work paid off. Three hundred people arrived for the Seder! Young and old, men and women came, all dressed in their nicest clothes with shining faces. Some came from nostalgia, some out of curiosity, and some to enjoy a good meal. But everyone, whether they knew it or not, came because they were Jews and tonight was Passover.

It took a while to get everyone seated and settled. The Rabbi made a short welcoming speech telling them what to expect. For some of them it was their first "Seder" in fifty years, and for many the first in their lives. Haggadahs translated into Russian were handed out, cups were filled with wine, Matzot were distributed, and the evening began.

Everyone followed the Rabbi's instructions, and listened to his explanations with great interest. They read aloud from their books how G‑d performed great miracles thousands of years ago, and how He took the Jews out of Egypt. They ate the Matza, drank four cups of wine, finished their holiday meal, sang, and even danced at certain times.

All went smoothly until the cup of Elijah. Rabbi explained that this fifth cup represents the future Redemption, when Moshiach will gather all Jews and make a beautiful new world with the revelation of G‑d everywhere.

Suddenly one of the older men stood up, banged on the table and said in a booming voice, "Young man! Excuse me please, young Rabbi!" The place fell silent. As they listened earlier to the Rabbi, they now turned to the impromptu speaker.

"We are very grateful to you for this beautiful evening with the wonderful food and wine you brought us. Everything is very nice, very beautiful and very tasty."

Everyone in the room shook their heads in agreement and wondered what he was getting at.

"Everything you said is also very interesting and nice." The man continued. "Beautiful stories; about miracles... nice Bible stories. We all love stories. But what you said about Messiah coming and making a utopia, building a Holy Temple and all this. Please Rabbi, we are grown up people. We are not little children to believe such nonsense! You are a very nice man and we are very grateful, but please save such foolish superstitions for your children, not for intelligent grown-ups. Please understand, dear Rabbi, this is nothing personal but you are naive. You are locked up in Yeshiva and we live out here in the real world."

Everyone shook their heads in agreement. The looked pitifully at the Rabbi as though to say, "We are sorry, but he's right."

The young rabbi however did not lose his composure. He waited a minute and replied.

"My friend," he said with a warm smile, "My friends!" he opened his arms and looked around the room.

"Do you realize where we are? Do you realize what we are doing? Do you realize what you are saying!? If someone would have told you fifteen years ago that you would celebrate a PASSOVER SEDER in the COMMUNIST MEETING HALL, would you ever have believe him? Fifteen years ago there was nothing more powerful than Communism, and nothing weaker than Judaism! Communism was the chief antagonist and enemy of G‑d, everyone in Russia was sure that Communism was right, and would win in the end. Yet here we are! The impossible has happened! Communism has not only fallen, its hall now serves Judaism! Is it really so far-fetched that Moshiach can change the world?"

The man looked at the crowd then back at the young rabbi, straightened up, smiled broadly and said..."BRAVO!!" And the crowd broke into applause.

Eliyahu Hanavee - Elijah the Prophet
 
Elijah the prophet is probably the most interesting and mysterious figure in
Judaism.

He lived in the beginning of the first Temple over 2,500 years ago and is
still alive to this very day!

The second book of kings (2:11) tells us that Elijah actually ascended
bodily to heaven in a chariot of fire and never died. In fact the Talmud is
filled with stories of him appearing to deserving tzadikim (often in the
guise of a beggar or even a gentile). Similarly he appeared to other holy
Jews long after the Talmud was written and he is actually present every time
a Jewish child is circumcised.

Here is one of the most outstanding stories of them all.

One of Rabbis that Elijah frequently visited was the 'Amora' Yhoshua Ben
Levi (who lived almost a thousand years later).   The Talmud tells us that
Elijah taught him secrets, arranged him a visit alive into heaven and even
got him an audience with Moshiach.

The story goes that once Rabbi Yhoshua ben Levi had not seen Elijah for a
long time. He so longed for another visit that he fasted and prayed until
finally Elijah revealed himself and even promised to grant him a request.

Rabbi Yhoshua, always interested to learn more about serving the Creator and
knowing that there was no one better to teach him than Elijah, requested
that he be allowed to accompany Elijah for one day in his travels.   "This
will be of great help to me as I will learn untold wisdom from such an
experience."

But Elijah replied, "Sorry, I must refuse you this. You will see things that
your mind will not be able to bear, and it will only slow me down when you
ask for explanations."

But Rabbi Yhoshua promised that he would not ask or even be surprised by
anything he saw. He gave his word that he would cooly look on like a neutral
observer.

And to his unbounded joy Elijah agreed.  But if he asked even one question
he would have to return home.

They set off together walking on the road until they came to a dilapidated
hut surrounded by a rickety fence, with one skinny cow in the back yard.
Elijah approached the door, knocked and an old Jew opened up and invited
them in.

"Guests! Guests!" the old fellow yelled out. His wife came out from the
other room with a loaf of bread in her hand, smiling and bidding them both
to wash for bread while she heated some water for tea.

While they were eating the old couple brought out two straw mattresses,
arranged a comfortable place for them to sleep and bade them good night.
"That was wonderful!" Elijah said to Rabbi Yhoshua. Such kind people!  I'll
have to reward them!"

Early the next morning when the couple was still sound asleep Elijah woke
Rabbi Yhoshua, took him quietly out of the house to the yard where the cow
stood and prayed to G‑d with all his might, "Please G‑d, may it be your will
that this cow....drop dead!"

And so it was!  The cow fell over and breathed its last breath.

"What?!" Exclaimed Rabbi Yhoshua shaken to the essence of his being. "What
did you do that for?!  Why, this is their only possession! They were so nice
to us!"  But Elijah warned him sternly, "Remember the agreement! Be silent
and watch! One more question and we part our ways! " 

They walked the entire day until they saw a large mansion in the distance.
As night began to fall they arrived there and knocked on the door.   A rich
man opened up flanked by a few servants, took one look at the visitors,
mumbled something to one of his men and walked away.

The servants showed Elijah and friend to a bleak corner of the house and
left them there with no mattress, food or even water the entire night.

Early the next morning Elijah woke Rabbi Yhoshua and told him they were
leaving.   But on the way out he pointed to a wall that had fallen and
needed fixing, prayed to HaShem that the wall be miraculously fixed and
before their eyes bricks began jumping one on the other plaster began flying
and in no time the wall stood on its own completely plastered and finished.

Rabbi Yhoshua almost yelled out again, but held himself back this time and
remained mum.

Again the walked the entire day down dusty forest roads, through towns and
fields past farms and factories. Elijah explained wondrous secrets of the
Torah while Rabbi Yhoshua kept silent and listened.  

Near nightfall they found themselves in a town and turned to the nearest
synagogue. It was a truly magnificent edifice made of marble and decorated
with fine engravings and tapestries.   But the Jews praying there were
strangely cold and indifferent. No one even approached the guests to say
hello and surely not to arrange lodging. Elijah and Rabbi Yhoshua were
forced to sleep, or rather sit, on the cold marble benches the entire night.


Early the next morning when most of the townsmen arrived at the synagogue
for prayer Elijah took Rabbi Yhoshua by the hand to leave and at the door
turned around to the congregation and announced: "May G‑d bless you all and
make you all into great leaders!"  Rabbi Yhoshua was having difficulty
keeping quiet.

Again, just as the previous days, they walked until sunset and found
themselves in yet another town.  But here the reception was different. As
soon as one of the inhabitants saw them he approached them and begged them
to come to the synagogue for the evening prayer.

They agreed and after the prayer everyone there surrounded them and actually
vied for the honor of having them as guests.   But when Elijah insisted that
the would rather sleep in the synagogue the sexton of the synagogue brought
mattresses, blankets and food for them and made sure they were comfortable
before they went to sleep.

Early the next morning Elijah took Rabbi Yhoshua out of the synagogue,
lifted his hands beseechingly to heaven and prayed, "Creator of the
universe!   May it be your will that only one person in this town be a
leader."

When Rabbi Yhoshua heard these words he felt as though he was going mad -
exactly as Elijah had said!

Why, he thought that Elijah helped Jews and now with his own eyes he saw him
praying that the righteous be punished and the wicked get rewarded... and
G‑d even ANSWERED his prayers!!       

"Enough!! Enough!" Rabbi Yhoshua exclaimed.   You were right! I can't take
it!  Why did you kill that poor couple's cow and fix that evil man's wall?
And blessing the cruel community while cursing the kind one! Why? Why!?
Where is the justice? The mercy?"

Elijah listened calmly and replied. "You ask excellent questions. Now I will
tell you the answer and explain the deeper meaning in everything you saw.  

"The old couple; I killed their only cow because I saw that in just hours
the old Jew's wife would suddenly pass away.  I prayed to G‑d that He
transfer that tragedy for another one; that the cow should die instead of
her.  Believe me she will do much good in the world. 
 
"I fixed the rich man's wall because if he would have begun work to rebuild
that wall he would have uncovered a treasure chest buried in its foundation.
That's right, he would have been rich beyond imagination. Now the fool will
rejoice in this cheap miracle and will never even guess what riches are
hidden under his very nose.   Not only that but soon the wall will fall
again and will never be rebuilt.

"Regarding the two cities;   "There can be no bigger curse than many
leaders. On this is the saying 'Too many captains will sink the ship.'  Why,
when everyone is a leader and no one is willing to be a  follower there will
be no peace, only constant bickering and discord. That is the 'Blessing' I
gave to the first city.

"But on the other hand if there is only one leader and everyone is willing
to follow to him there will be peace and progress as the saying goes 'One
head can found a city.'  That was the blessing I gave to the second
congregation.

"But now that you have asked we must part our ways.   Just remember from now
on, whenever you see what seems to be the righteous suffering or the wicked
prospering do not ever doubt the judgment of the Creator.

Now you have learned and seen that things are not as they seem to be. in
fact they may be exactly the opposite: what seems to be a curse is really a
blessing and so the opposite."

With this Elijah blessed Rabbi Yhoshua and they each went their own ways.
 
It's the Baseball Season .... Here Is A Well Known Story

(Dis)Ability

In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. At a Chush fundraising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered an unforgettable speech.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, “Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything G‑d does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. He cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is G‑d’s perfection?”

The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by the piercing query. “I believe,” the father answered, “that when G‑d brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child.”

He then related the following story about his son Shaya:

One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys they knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, “Do you think they will let me play?”

Shaya’s father knew his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father understood that if his son were chosen to play it would give him a sense of belonging.

Shaya’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for reassurance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, “We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up at bat in the ninth inning.”

Shaya’s father was ecstatic as his son smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs, but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again. Now there were two outs and the bases were loaded. With the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up at bat.

Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew it was all but impossible to win because Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. As Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps forward to lob the ball in softly so Shaya could at least make contact. When the first pitch came in, Shaya swung clumsily and missed.

One of the other boys approached Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher, waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, they swung the bat together, and hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first basemen. Shaya would have been out, ending the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it in a high arc to the right field, far beyond reach of the first basemen.

Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first! Run to first!” Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman, and tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood the pitcher’s intentions, and threw the ball high and far over the third basemen’s head. Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second!”

Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, “Run to third!” As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya run home!” Shaya ran home, stepped on plate and all eighteen boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a ‘grand slam’ and won the game for his team.

“That day,” said the father softly with tears rolling down his face, “those eighteen boys reached their level of G‑d’s perfection.”