Baruch Hashem

Shabbos Stories for Achrei Mos & Kedoshim
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Help came from Yeshiva

Ann M. Mattson, Cottage Grove,
Published Wednesday, April 29, 2009

car-stuck-snow.jpgI am writing to tell you of an incident which happened to me on a wildly snowy Thursday afternoon. On my way home from work in Mendota Heights, my car had already gotten stuck several times. As I reached the unplowed streets of Cottage Grove, I knew I would be getting stuck again. I approached the 80th Street and East Point Douglas intersection, which is very busy. When the light turned red and the wheels lost their traction, I sat there spinning my wheels as many cars and even snow plows went around me without stopping.

All of a sudden, a white passenger van pulled alongside me and several young men dressed in black fedora hats and long overcoats jumped out of the van. Without the benefit of mittens or boots, they selflessly began pushing my car until I got moving again. And it took several of them to push to keep my vehicle moving! The van and passengers went on to follow me to my destination. I was very touched and unable to thank them, because I knew if I stopped again, that I would get stuck again.

I am making the assumption that these young heroes are Yeshiva school students due to their distinctive, formal clothing. The school is doing a very good job teaching the students about basic decency and courtesy. They cheerfully waved at me as I pulled away, trying to shake the snow out of their now wet shoes. They had put themselves at risk dodging other cars that probably couldn’t have fully stopped in that slop. I admire their courage and compassion. What a tribute to the school’s work and their families!

Ann M. Mattson

Cottage Grove  

A Jew is A Jew

by Chana Weisberg

Almost thirty years ago, my father was asked to lecture to a group of Jewish and non-Jewish students in a city that neighbored Buffalo, New York. Although he was reluctant to accept, he was urged to do so by the Lubavitcher Rebbe who directed him to focus his lecture on charity, as charity is a universal responsibility of both Jews and gentiles.

He began his lecture by telling the following story:

During the time of the Tosfot Yom Tov [Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, Chief Rabbi of Prague and Cracow during the 17th century and author of a commentary on the Mishna], there lived a wealthy individual who ostensibly never contributed to charity. After this miser died, the Chevra Kadisha [Jewish burial society] felt that he was unworthy of being interred next to any upright and respectable individual. They buried him in an area of the cemetery called hekdesh, where society's outcasts were buried.

A few days after the funeral, there was a tumult in Prague. Two prominent members of the community, the butcher and the baker, who had previously been extremely charitable and generous, suddenly stopped distributing their funds.

The poor people of the city, who had always relied on the benevolent pair for their sustenance, were in an uproar. Emotions ran so deep that the matter was finally brought before the Tosfot Yom Tov.

The Tosfot Yom Tov asked the butcher and baker why they had so suddenly stopped their acts of charity. In reply, they informed the Tosfot Yom Tov that they were not personally wealthy.

"We were only able to give so much charity because the 'miser' who died just a few days ago constantly supplied us with funds for charity. He strictly warned us, however, not to disclose from whence the money had originated, since he wanted the great merit of performing the mitzva anonymously. Now that he is gone, we no longer receive the funds, and are, unfortunately, unable to continue with this worthy work."

The Tosfot Yom Tov was so impressed by the modest behavior of this unassuming "miser" that in his own will he requested to be buried next to this humble man.

When my father completed his lecture, a participant from the audience, a priest, approached him and asked him to repeat the story. My father, about to return to his hotel, arranged a time to meet with the priest the following day. Thinking that the matter would be forgotten, my father was surprised when the priest actually arrived.

My father repeated the story for the priest but was astounded when, after concluding the story a second time, the priest seemed terribly disturbed and begged him to repeat it yet a third time.

Finally, the priest divulged the reason for his agitation. "Rabbi Schochet, that charitable man in the story was my ancestor."

Skeptically, my father calmed the young man saying that there was no connection between him and the story, which took place over 100 years ago. "Furthermore," he told him, "you are a gentile, while this man was a Jew."

The priest looked intently at my father and whispered, "Rabbi, now I have a story to tell you!"

He began by describing his background. He had grown up in the state of Tennessee. His father was a major in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. In Europe, his father had met a Jewish girl and fell in love with her. He brought her back home as his war bride, and no one knew of her Jewish background. A short time after their marriage, the couple was blessed with a child, who they devoutly raised in the Catholic Church. The child grew up and attended a seminary where he eventually trained to become a priest. In his early adulthood, the priest's mother died. On her deathbed, she disclosed her secret to her astonished son.

After reciting the Shema prayer, she confessed, "I want you to know that you are Jewish." She informed him of his heritage and told him that his great-grandfather was buried next to the well-known sage called the Tosfot Yom Tov. She then recounted, almost verbatim, the story that my father had told in his lecture.

At the time, the priest, who was unaware of this information, imagined that his mother was delirious. Although he felt uneasy about his mother's parting words, it was only a temporary, fleeting emotion. As he got on with his life, he soon for got the entire episode.

"Rabbi," cried the priest, in a state of utter emotional turmoil, you have just repeated this story, detail for detail! You have just reminded me of my mother's parting words, and I realize now that the story must be true, or it wouldn't be so well known. Yet, what am I to do? I am a reputable priest with a large congregation of devoted followers."

My father offered to assist him in any way. He emphasized to him, however, that according to Jewish law, he was indeed Jewish. He encouraged him to explore his heritage, and he put him in contact with people in his city who could guide him. With that, the newly-found Jew departed. My father then understood why the Rebbe had suggested the topic matter.

He had no further interaction with the man, and did not hear from him again. Several years ago, when my father was on a visit to Israel. A Jew with a beard and a kipa approached him at the Western Wall and wished him "Shalom Aleichem [ Peace unto you]!" My father, who didn't recognize the individual, was completely taken aback when the man exclaimed, "Don't you recognize me, Rabbi Schochet? I am the former priest whom you met in Buffalo."

The Rebbe Saved Both Brother & Sister
Mrs. Raizel Estulin o.b.m. the mother of Rabbi Naftali Estulin in L.A.
California had recently arrived in Israel from Russia when she got a chance to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York.

It was a lifetime opportunity and without hesitation she took it. In Russia there were Chassidim that only dreamed of seeing the Rebbe in person but never thought it would actually happen. There were times that if someone succeeded in smuggling just a picture of the Rebbe into Russia the Chassidim would make a minor celebration. 

A few weeks later her dream came true; she was standing before the Rebbe in his office in 'Yechidut' (private audience) and it was infinitely more than she ever dreamed of.

The Rebbe asked her many questions about her family, the situation in Russia and her transition to Israel and after giving her many blessings added that she should devote time to the Shabbat Candle Campaign (going out to encouraging women to light Shabbat candles).

But Mrs. Estulin explained that she hadn't yet gotten used to the Hebrew language and was very afraid that in the anti religious attitude that prevailed in Israel.

But the Rebbe just smiled and said, "You do what you have to and if anyone every gives you problems, just tell them that you are a Chassid (follower) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

She returned to Israel and that very Friday went to a local hospital with some other Chabad women and began going from room to room, patient to patient passing out Shabbat Candles.

But, as fortune would have it, she met up with exactly the wrong person.

She must have been in her sixties with a mean look to begin with, and as soon as Mrs. Estulin entered the room she angrily snapped "What do you want here?"

Our heroine hesitantly replied, "I have Shabbat Candles if you would...."

The woman's face turned scarlet with anger, she sat up in bed and began to yell, shaking her finger in the air, "You get out! You religious people are all parasites! Superstitious rodents! You hear me!!? Get out of MY ROOM!!!"

Mrs. Estulin jumped back in shock! All she wanted to do was make people feel food and instead she was bringing this woman to the verge of some sort of fit.  She stumbled back trying to make some gesture or say something over the screaming so as not to leave on a bad note when suddenly she remembered what the Rebbe told her to say.

"I am a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe!" She blurted out keeping her eye out for flying objects. "He sent me!"

Suddenly the woman fell silent, a look of surprise covered her face and she repeated, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe? Sent you?"

Mrs. Estulin could not fathom what just happened. This woman was obviously anti-religious. how could she possibly be so deeply affected by the mention of some Rebbe's name?  The woman had spoken with a Russian accent so Mrs. Estulin took the cue and asked her in Russian, with as friendly a smile as she could muster up, how she knew the Rebbe.

The woman first apologized for her outburst, tears began to fill her eyes and she began her story.

The story began some five years earlier when her brother left Russia for the U.S.A.

In Russia they had been very close. They had lost both their parents when they were children and all they had in the world was each other.

Her brother succeeded in medical school and became a very successful doctor, almost the head of an entire department in a hospital.  But his wage was pitiful and he decided to try to get out of Russia. He had heard that in America, the land of opportunity, he could earn a fortune.  There, it was said, doctors were in great demand and in no time he would become rich and respected.

But he got a cruel surprise.

When he finally arrived there (after much red tape and frustration in
getting out of Russia) there was no one to meet him in the airport and it didn't take him long to discover that no one was waiting for him in America either.

All the hospitals he went to for work turned him flat down; his degrees and experience in Russia meant almost nothing. He would have to go to university for another year in order to get a job anywhere, but he had no money for that.  In fact he barely had money for rent.

He tried for several months to find work or make some sort of connections but with no success ,,,, until he began to give up. In another few weeks his money would be gone. then what would he do?! He couldn't return to Russia. In those days in order to leave he had to forfeit his Russian citizenship and most of his possessions as well.  And in any case he had bought a one way ticket to the U.S.. Now he wouldn't even have rent money.

He became more and more depressed and his depression only brought more disappointments until he felt he was going insane and decided that he simply couldn't take life any longer.

After several sleepless nights he decided there was no solution other
than... (G‑d forbid) the worst.

He walked down the Manhattan street in a daze toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The honking of horns and the crowded streets around him seemed to be miles away, in just a few minutes he would be there.

Suddenly he heard from behind him a young man call out to him. "'Scuse me mister but are you Jewish?  Did you put on Tefillin today?"

For some reason he glanced there briefly and saw a young bearded man standing beside a small table holding out a small black box with a leather strap attached to it. But he turned away and resumed walking toward the bridge.

But that glance was enough for the young Chassid.  "Hey!" he yelled as he approached my brother. "Please, if you're a Jew then come take your Jewish blood pressure. You'll feel good! And it only takes a minute!"

Well, to make a long story short he my brother put on the boxes for a few minutes and they get to talking.

Of course my brother tells this Chassid his whole story and when he got to the part about why he was heading toward the bridge, well that's when the young fellow promised that he could get my brother an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

And he did it!  He took my brother with him to Brooklyn and that very night he got him in to talk the Rebbe!

Well, I don't know what exactly happened in there or what the Rabbi said, but he talked to him for a long time, it was like a half an hour and I know he encouraged him and even gave him some connections. But my brother came out a different man.

In fact, afterwards he wrote me a letter telling this entire story and ended by saying "Just know and always remember my dear sister, that if today you have a living flesh and blood brother it is thanks to the Lubavitcher Rebbe."

The woman dried her eyes and held out her hand to Mrs. Estulin. "In Russia I was an atheist and I still am now.  But maybe things will change. maybe give me those Shabbat Candles and tell me what to do."
  Crazy as a Horse

Rabbi Mendel Futerfass was a Chabad Chassid that was put into Siberia for his Jewish activities.

For over five years he suffered terribly, and was always in the shadow of death. But afterwards he said that those were the best years of his life.

“There is a saying in the name of Rav Zusia of Anipoli” He once told me, “that from a thief you can learn seven lessons on how to serve G‑d” (hard work, positive attitude, etc.). “Well, it’s obvious that Rav Zusia had never sat in Siberia,” he continued with a twinkle in his eye, “because if he did, he would know that there you can learn THOUSANDS of things from a thief.”

For instance, one of the prisoners in Rav Mendel’s camp was an old Cossack imprisoned because of his loyalty to the Czar. Although the Cossacks were usually rabid anti-Semites, ‘misery loves company’. One long cold Siberian winter night, when they were sitting in the barracks (the guards were afraid to let them work outside in the dark) he opened his heart to Rav Mendel and began reminiscing about....his horse.

When he spoke his eyes became moist and his voice filled with emotion.

"Aaahhh!!! A Cossack horse!!! There is nothing in creation like a Cossack horse!!!! A regular horse in Russia cost one month’s wages - five rubles. A workhorse cost up to ten. But a Cossack horse cost five hundred, six hundred rubles!!

You see, the Cossack horse was different than all other horses, incomparably different! A Cossack’s horse had a different heart.

Not only it would do anything for its master; jump into fire, over trees and even houses. Anything. And it was stronger, faster, and braver than anything alive.

But most of all, it had a different heart.

I will explain," Continued the Cossack, pausing and drawing deeply on a cigarette.

“How did they catch a Cossack horse? Do you know? Well I will tell you, this is a story!”

He exhaled and leaned back in his chair as the smoke was pouring from his mouth and nostrils.

"The Cossacks were experts at this. There was a special group that would wander the mountains and fields on horseback looking for herds of wild horses.

This was very important because a Cossack without a horse is like a Cossack without legs, like a cripple, do you understand?

Then, if they were lucky and found a large herd, say of a thousand, two thousand horses. They would stampede them and get them all running in the direction of the nearest river. Like I say, they were great experts, and sometimes they would run for days until they got there, but when they did they would start screaming and shooting their guns in the air and force the herd into the widest, deepest part of the river. You see, horses can swim,and so they had to get over, through the current to the other side, or die.

Now, on the other side was waiting another group of Cossacks. The whole thing was planned from the beginning, and they would watch to see what the horses did.

There were always three types of horses; the majority were the regular horses that would make it to the other side and run away to live their lives. Then there were older horses that couldn’t get across and would
unfortunately drown. And there were the young horses, that had the stamina so they didn’t get tired, but didn’t have the strength to cross over, so they just floundered in the middle of the river."

His voice became serious, and he sat a bit straighter.

"But sometimes... Not always, but sometimes, there was a fourth type; maybe only one or two at the most, that were sort of crazy horses.

They would make it across, but instead of running away, they would turn around, look back into the river to see if there were horses in trouble and then jump BACK in to save them."

There were tears in his eyes now, he was leaning forward with arms outstretched as though grasping for the past.

"They would swim to the young horses, grab them with their teeth by their mane and start dragging them in. They just couldn’t stand to see their fellow horses in danger.

The Cossacks would throw some paint on these special horses and chase them for days until they caught them. Then it would take several months of hard work until they trained them. But the main thing was the heart; it was a horse with a heart.

This was a Cossack’s horse!!!"

Rav Mendel said that he immediately got the point.

The Cossack’s horse is a Chassid.

A Chassid has to be ‘crazy’ and risk everything for his fellow man; he can’t stand to see his brother in danger of drowning. He can’t bear to just live for himself; learn Torah and do the commandments just in order to cross the
river of life and get into heaven.

A Chassid has a different heart. And this is the secret of “brotherly love” that the Baal Shem Tov strived to teach.

The Reward Of Being Happy
As you probably know, the goal of Chabad is to improve the entire world, beginning with the Jews, through Torah education. Put into high gear by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Shneerson, in the Fifties and Sixties, the effects of this outreach began to be felt in various countries until, in the early seventies the Rebbe declared that he was going to "break the shell" of one of the biggest enemies of the Torah; atheistic free-thinking France.

He sent representatives to open Chabad Houses throughout the country, and the success was phenomenal! Within a year there were hundreds of young French Jews thirsting to learn Torah and live a Jewish life.

One of these representatives was one Rabbi Shmuel. Although he did not know a word of French, the Rebbe called him into his office and assigned him and his wife to a certain French city, blessing them and adding several times encouragingly. "It is important that you always be happy (b'Simcha) because the French people hate an angry face."

From the minute they arrived they also met with success, at first slowly and with many difficulties, but after two years there were almost a hundred children, all of them from non-observant backgrounds, learning in the large building Rab Shmuel had rented and converted into a school.

But then "lightning" struck. A government building inspector appeared on the premises and announced that he was checking the place.

For three days he poked around until finally he unceremoniously handed Reb Shmuel a long list of "hazards", and announced that if every fault on the list wasn't fixed, his school would be closed down. He estimated that the repairs would cost over twenty thousand dollars, and he gave him three months to complete the job....or else.

Reb Shmuel saw black! He had trouble even coming up with the monthly rent and teacher's salaries, how could he possibly come up with such a huge sum in such a short time? But he remembered the Rebbe's words about being b'Simcha and hoped for the best.

For the next two months he tried various solutions. He made a dinner, sent out letters of appeal and even asked a few rich people for donations, but nothing worked. In fact every time he thought about it he became depressed. Then suddenly he recalled a chance meeting he had over a month ago.

He had taken the express train to Paris and as fate would have it he accidentally got on the wrong coach. While he was searching for his seat another passenger interrupted and said good heartedly, "You must have made the same mistake as I did. See your ticket? It says coach 18 and this is 17. No problem! See there are a lot of empty places. You can sit next to me."

The man turned out to be Jewish and a chief assistant for a French Parliament member. They talked for the entire two hours of the trip, and Rab Shmuel remembered that as they approached Paris the man gave him his calling card and warmly invited him to call him if he ever needed anything.

Funny he had never thought about it before but now he was desperate. He franticly searched his office and finally found the card! He called the number and when there was no answer decided to travel to the office in person.

But when he entered the building the secretary at the entrance had bad news. The man he was looking for was abroad on business and would not return for "quite a while."

Rab Shmuel didn't even have time to become depressed, suddenly behind him he heard people at the door saying, "Oh hello Mr. Blan, How are you Mr. Blan?" He turned and saw a young well-dressed fellow shaking hands with people and remembered that he had read in a newspaper somewhere that "Blan" was the name of the building commissioner for his city!.

He said a prayer of thanks to G‑d, excitedly walked over, shook the young man's hand and asked him if he was in fact the commissioner.

"Ahh, no no." He replied cordially. "You must mean my father. If you would like to meet him you can call and make an appointment. Here is his number." He said as he took a card out of his wallet.

Suddenly in a spirit of "chutzpah" he looked the young man in the eyes, smiled slightly and said, "I want YOU to call. It is very important."

Like magic, the young man shook his head yes, went to the phone and returned just moments later announcing that his father would see him at his office in two hours.

Two hours later Rab Shmuel was standing opposite the elderly commissioner explaining his terrible dilemma; in two weeks he was to be evicted, one hundred children would be on the street. He was hoping that the old man would give him a few rooms in some other building until he could arrange something else.

"Sit down please" Said the commissioner "Do you mind if I ask you a question, Rabbi?"

Rab Shmuel was a bit apprehensive but he sat down and said he would be glad to answer to the best of his ability.

"Tell me, Rabbi, what you think about your Israeli Prime Minister Begin giving the Sinai desert back to the Arabs?"

Now Rab Shmuel was really in the "hot seat". The French were notoriously leftist, pro-Arab and opposed to anything that reeks of racial oppression; especially if the Jews do it. One wrong word and he could say good-bye to his school

But on the other hand The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very opposed to returning the Sinai.

It crossed his mind to try to be diplomatic and evade the question, but he shuddered at the thought and just blurted out. "Mr. Blan, I am a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and he said that returning of the Sinai is a big mistake and will lead only to tragedy."

The old man looked at him deeply and said. "I just returned from Israel last month, I was there for a week. I'm even a representative here in France for the Weitzman institute. I want to tell you that the returning of the Sinai is the most insane thing in the world.....Completely insane!"

He then took out a Bible from a drawer put it on his desk and continued. "In this book it says that Israel belongs to the Jewish people. If G‑d said it, that is good enough for me. No one has the right to give that land back! No one in the world!"

He paused again and said, "Rabbi, I'm going to write a letter about your school to the Building Minister in Paris. He is the one that makes the decisions not me, but I think everything will be all right. Please give me a call in a week."

A week later the Rabbi was again sitting opposite the commissioner waiting to hear the answer. The commissioner just spread a set of blueprints on his desk and said. "Do you understand blueprints? This, Rabbi, is your new building! It's yours. See? It's two stories high, and about three thousand meters square. Here I will call my driver and we will drive down to see it. You can move in whenever you want."

The Rabbi was dumbfounded! A huge building! Completely his! He was expecting only a few rooms! Even more amazing, in France there is a very strict separation of Church and State, this was probably the first building ever given by the French government to a religious institution!

When the Commissioner saw the joy in Rab Shmuel's eyes he said, "Rabbi, I want to tell you something. You know why I am doing this? You told me that you were a Chassid, right? Well, I asked one of my friends what a Chassid is and he told me that Chassidim are Jews that are always happy. That made me feel good. You know, I know several other religious Jews, but they aren't like you, they always have angry faces, and I hate an angry face!"

Rab Shmuel understood what the Rebbe meant with those exact same words over two years ago.