Baruch Hashem

Shabbos Stories for Parshas Naso
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  Go Home He Is There
 
Here is a story heard from Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner who in the forty some years he served as chief personal secretary for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, witnessed many miracles. Here is one of them.

The Rebbe was truly the Moses of this generation and just as Moses'
main job was to take the Jews from Egypt and give them the Torah, so the Rebbe spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars saving Jews from their problems and spreading Torah.

Besides sending emissaries and opening 'Chabad Houses' throughout the world for this purpose every Sunday he would stand for hours in his headquarters in Brooklyn and hand out dollar bills and blessings to the tens of thousands of people that waited patiently in line.

Everyone that passed before the Rebbe was affected positively in some way. Some were encouraged to give charity, others to learn Torah and many adapted a completely Jewish lifestyle. For some it took years before the change was noticed but some were affected immediately as in the following story. 

This woman was an estranged mother with several mouths to feed that had saved up money for a year to fly from her home in Israel to seek advice from the Rebbe in Brooklyn.

Her story was a sad one indeed.  Over five years ago her husband had simply disappeared.  At first she thought he had been kidnapped and even called the police. But when they checked the house for a clue they discovered that all his clothes and belongings together with two large suitcases were also gone. He had abandoned her.

She was devastated. He had always seemed content, didn't have any bad habits, addictions or even debts that would make him do such a rash thing. They had an ideal home; there was no reason for him to leave. But after several weeks of waiting in vain for him to knock on the door again, it became clear that he wouldn't.

He was gone. 

So the poor woman, who was not religious at all, began going to various fortune tellers and 'seers' for advice and comfort. But it wasn't long before she discovered them to be empty pretenders and eventually she became attracted to the local Chabad house and found true Jewish spirituality.

She sent her children to Chabad schools and it wasn't long before she too was becoming more and more observant.

But now the problem of her missing husband was magnified; according to the Torah she was an 'Aguna'; a 'living widow' and was forbidden to re-marry until her husband either appeared and divorced her or could be proved dead.

Her only hope was the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  She heard that he was a great miracle worker who lived only to help people, especially Jews. If anyone could free her it would be him.

So she saved money, dollar on dollar until she finally had enough for a round-trip ticket, put her children up with her parents and flew to
Brooklyn. She would go every Sunday to 'dollars' .. No matter how long it took, until the Rebbe helped her. She simply could not go on like this. 

She arrived in Brookly on Friday morning, spent the Shabbat as in Crown Heights and early the next day got in line.  Finally, an hour later it was actually happening! She was standing before the Rebbe pouring out her heart.

"My husband left me alone with our children over five years ago. It's very hard for all of us. Please, Rebbe, please give me a blessing or tell me what to do."

The Rebbe waited for her to finish, gave her a few dollar bills and said.

"Here is money to give to charity in Israel. You must return home
immediately. Your husband will be waiting for you there. Bracha
v'Hatzlacha."   (Blessing & Success)

She took the dollars and before she knew it the line moved on and she was outside. She realized what she had to do. She returned immediately to her host's home contacted her travel agent and he very next day she was on a flight back home.

It happened so quickly it was almost as though she had never left but as the taxi pulled up to her address, there, standing on the front porch with his suitcases was . her husband!

When he saw her in the taxi he ran to meet her, crying and begging
forgiveness.

They sat on the front porch and he tried to explain. He didn't really know why he left back then but suddenly yesterday he was overcome with such guilt, remorse and longing for the beautiful life that he abandoned ...... that he realized his tragic mistake. He packed his things and returned.

She wasn't really expecting this and was overwhelmed. One thing for sure, it was the Rebbe. Whether he caused her husband to repent or not wasn't important. But now, as she came to her senses she realized there was another problem.

She was now an observant Jew while he remained just as they were years ago completely ignorant of Judaism.  It would be impossible for them to continue together. 

But to her total amazement he readily agreed to any conditions she set. He swore he would go to classes and do whatever the Rabbi told him. anything. Indeed, the main reason he ran away in the first place was because he had no meaning to hold him down.

And so it was. He began attending classes, in a very short time he
completely changed all his priorities in life and actually enjoyed every minute of it! Joy and peace returned to their household.

But the story wasn't over.

Several years later trouble again struck.  The woman suddenly became crippled. Her legs simply did not work and she couldn't stand on her own two feet.

They went from doctor to doctor sparing no costs but after all, even the best professors couldn't seem to pinpoint the problem. It was incurable. 

Finally their local Chabad House director urged them to write to the Rebbe and the strange answer was soon in coming.  The Rebbe wrote: 

"Her husband's Tefillin and the Mezuzot should be checked and the results given to ... the doctor!"

Without hesitation he gave his Tefillin and Mezuzot to be checked and the results came quickly; they were all 'kosher'. All the letters, parchments etc. were completely in order. 

The only problem was some minor fault in the sinews used to sew up the leather boxes of the Tefillin.

Of course the sinews were corrected. But now was the problem of giving the results to the doctor.  What would the doctor understand about the results of a Tefillin check?

But to everyone's surprise the doctor immediately understood the message. He had extensive tests done on the ligaments in her legs and, sure enough, that was the problem and the solution was soon in coming. 

So, because of the Rebbe's blessing both her husband and her health were returned.
 
Getting Through Prison and Beyond
by Raphael Avrohom Goldberg

Having grown up in a Jewish home with a father who is a reform cantor, I was not prepared to spend ten years of my life in a New York state prison. I don't think many of us are, regardless of our backgrounds. I committed a crime and rightfully so had to be punished. I fully understood that, but the punishment was frightening nonetheless.

From Rikers Island through my state confinement, I migrated towards other Jewish inmates and found a measure of camaraderie. More so I was reintroduced to Judaism. I had strayed after my marriage and while I always went to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, that was the extent of my involvement in synagogue life. I began to go more often in prison, and began to pray regularly. The solace I found made prison bearable.

Of course there were friends and family that morally supported me but the Jewish community in general and the Lubavitch Organization in particular became a major source of amenity. I wasn't personally known to anyone in the Lubavitch community but I was accepted because I was Jewish, and even given aid and support for that reason alone. The Lubavitch philosophy seems to be that any Jew in need is worth helping.

During my time of incarceration I began to conduct Shabbat services, and of course all holiday services as I read Hebrew and had a smattering of knowledge as to the requirements. I found the time devoted to these activities to be more than stimulation; I was more than just reintroduced to Judaism. I found a spiritual awakening and rebirth that told me I could not only make it through prison, but make it through anything. And that is what happened.

I was later diagnosed with cancer and my belief in G‑d, my prayer and the counseling and letters from Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer of Lubavitch as well as the support of the few other Jewish inmates got me through it. I was in effect a new person, putting the past of my transgression from Judaism behind me.

I am out now and follow the religion even more than I did while inside. I walk to shul every Shabbat, I light Shabbat candles, do the "borei pri hagafen" blessing on wine and "hamotzee" on bread each and every week at my little home and will not let non-kosher food enter my house. I happen to keep kosher outside, also, and that is new to me. I am still in contact with Rabbi Spritzer who has arranged for me to go to weekly Torah study classes given by Lubavitch.

Incarceration has created many obstacles for me. I am having a problem finding a job. I am told that my experience and knowledge is "the best I have ever seen" and as soon as my incarceration is discovered I am shown the door. I found that obtaining quality housing was very difficult as well.

I won't lie and say I don't feel the rejection. I do. It is only human and that is one fault I will always admit to. I am human. To cope I turn to my belief, I turn to G‑d, and I turn to the Jewish community for support and while the skeptic will laugh, I find that I am better. I find that I can get through anything, and I do. I am not a quitter but there are times I need the impetus to continue to do things like job-hunting due to the expectation of rejection. My morning prayers give me the stimulus that I need.

Why am I writing this? I have been helped by so many people who have led me back to Judaism. My life has become calm and serene and so much more manageable. I want to give back and return the love that I have received. If I touch one person, I have succeeded. All I can say is that I am an offender, I spent ten years in prison and I was as skeptical as anybody could be. I am a new person. G‑d works.

I wish anyone reading this the very best, and a speedy release. I am not unusual. G‑d helps every person who turns to Him. Try it. You won't be sorry.

 
Finding our Heritage
 
by Kirk Douglas

At Los Angeles' Synagogue for the Performing Arts, Kirk Douglas delivered the following talk:

When I was a poor kid growing up in Amsterdam, New York, I was pretty good in cheder, so the Jews of our community thought they would do a wonderful thing and collect enough money to send me to a yeshiva to become a rabbi. It scared me, because I didn't want to become a rabbi. I wanted to be an actor. I had to work hard to get out of it.

But it took me a long time to learn that you didn't have to be a rabbi to be a Jew.

You see, when I was fourteen, I got frightened by the story of Abraham and Isaac: G‑d orders Abraham to go up on the mountain and sacrifice his son, Isaac.

I remember the picture in my Hebrew school book.

Abraham with a long beard; one outstretched hand holding a large knife, and the other — a frightened little boy. And that kid looked an awful lot like me. A hovering angel was having a hard time restraining Abraham.

How could the angel convince Abraham that G‑d was only testing him? That picture stayed in my mind for a long time as I drifted away from Judaism.

I grew up, went to college, but my Judaism stayed stuck in a fourteen year-old boy's Hebrew school book.

It has been pointed out to me that no rational adult would make a business decision based on what they knew when they were fourteen. You wouldn't decide who to marry based on what you knew about love and relationships when you were fourteen. But many of us seem satisfied to dismiss religion based on what we learned at fourteen, and I was one of those people.

Of course, I was always proud to be a Jew, even though it would have been easier for me not to be.

Although I felt drawn to the mystery of Judaism, other aspects pushed me away: What did I have in common with those black-hatted bearded men with their long peyot?

But as time went on and I got older, I began to change.

The catalyst was my son Michael. One day he asked me: "Dad, where did my grandfather come from?"

That question startled me. I wasn't sure. I knew he came from Russia, from some place called Mogilev.

And then Michael asked another question: "Where did your grandfather come from?"

I suddenly realized how little I knew about my background.

Anyone who could tell me was long dead. I had no ancestors. This thought depressed me. It haunted me. I had no ancestors! Can a man know who he truly is, if he doesn't know who his ancestors were?

I was lying in my room pondering this question for the umpteenth time, when I happened to look up over my bed. There on the wall hangs my collection of Chagall lithographs, his Bible series. And then it hit me.

Here were my ancestors!

And what a famous group — Moses, Abraham, Jacob, and so many others! I began to read about them, and the more I read, the happier I felt.

I was very grateful to Chagall for reminding me what an incredible lineage I had. Then I found out that Chagall, a Russian Jew, came from Vitebsk, a town not far from my parents' hometown of Mogilev, in White Russia.

The more I studied Jewish history, the more it fascinated me.

How did we survive?

Lost in different parts of the world, among strange cultures — constantly persecuted. But our tormentors rose and fell, and we still hung on. The Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, all are long gone yet we remain, despite all the persecution.

And that is when I started to think that we should thank those pious, black-hatted, bearded Jews with their long peyot — for keeping Judaism alive for so long.

They understood something very deep that we more secular types never learned or forgot if we did. G‑d gave us the Torah — and that made us the conscience of the world.

Throughout my life, when I was moving farther and farther from Judaism, I always clung to a single thread — Yom Kippur. On that one day I fasted. I might be shooting it out with Burt Lancaster or John Wayne, or battling Laurence Olivier and his `Romans,' but I always fasted.

Two years ago, I went with my son Eric, who is a stand-up comedian, to the Yom Kippur service at the Comedy Club on Sunset Boulevard. This year, I spent Yom Kippur at a synagogue in Paris.

On one of my recent trips to Israel I took a walk through the Western Wall tunnel along the foundations of the Temple Mount, which takes you deep underneath the Moslem Quarter.

As I slowly walked along, following my guide, I let my fingers caress the huge stones that enclose the Mount where the Temple once stood. And then we stopped. My guide spoke softly: "This is rock of Mount Moriah."

I looked at this rough stone. "Mount Moriah?" I asked. "You mean..." She finished it for me. "Yes, this is where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed."

The picture from my Hebrew school book flashed into my mind.

But it no longer frightened me.

I had learned that Abraham lived at a time when sacrificing your son to idols was common practice.

The lesson of Mount Moriah was that G‑d does not want human sacrifice. It was very quiet in the tunnel, dimly lit, cool.

My guide's voice was barely above a whisper. "This is where it all started." I couldn't speak. She was right. This place represented the beginning of my doubts. And at long last, the end of them. Here, in the dark tunnel, touching the rock of Mount Moriah, I grew up.

I felt that I had come home. And yet I knew that my journey is not over. I still have a long way to go. Judaism is a lifetime of learning and I've just started. I hope it's not too late. If G‑d is patient, maybe He'll give me enough time to learn the things I need to know to understand what it is that makes us Jews the conscience of the world.

Beauty vs Ugly
 
The great scholar, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, was honored and loved by all. He was often invited to the Caesar's palace, for the ruler and his staff delighted in listening to this great sage's wisdom.

Despite his wisdom and knowledge, Rabbi Yehoshua was often the object of ridicule by those who didn't know him; he was hunchbacked and crippled. But, even for those who were disgusted by his appearance, once he began to speak, they were amazed with his sharp mind and great understanding.

The Roman Caesar had a beautiful young daughter who was quite conceited and spoiled. She ridiculed and abused her servants, and was accustomed to treating important guests to her father's palace in the same manner.

One day, she entered the hall where her father, some dignitaries and Rabbi Yehoshua were debating. She watched in amazement at the honor accorded Rabbi Yehoshua. Arrogantly, she called out, "Such glorious wisdom in such a disgusting vessel."

Rabbi Yehoshua, who was not surprised by her words, answered in a joking manner, "Tell me, please. In what kind of container does your father keep his wine? Not in earthen vessels?"

The Caesar's daughter was undoubtedly beautiful, but she wasn't very
bright. She didn't understand what Rabbi Yehoshua was hinting, and
answered, "What else should the wine be kept in?"

Said Rabbi Yehoshua, "Everyone keeps their wine in clay. If you are so
important, shouldn't your wine be kept in silver and gold?" Rabbi
Yehoshua was certain the foolish girl would understand he was joking.

But the girl, in all her chutzpa-ness, assumed she understood the rabbi's point and decided to broach the subject with her father. She convinced the Caesar that their wine shouldn't be kept in ordinary vessels, and against his better judgement he ordered the servants to transfer the wine to gold and silver urns.

At first, no one noticed a change in the wine. But after a while, the
wine spoiled. The servants, who were in charge of the wine, approached the Caesar. "Our master, all the wine has become vinegar! The whole time that it was stored in clay, there was never such a problem!"

The Caesar was annoyed that his good wine was ruined, but he was further distressed that he had listened to his daughter. He called her in and asked where she had gotten this idea.

"Who?" she answered, "Rabbi Yehoshua. You all think he's so smart. He
said we shouldn't store the wine in such simple containers."

The Caesar contemplated. Didn't the wise Rabbi Yehoshua know what would happened to the wine in such containers? Maybe be was trying to hurt the Caesar? But didn't he know he'd be punished?

The Caesar called for Rabbi Yehoshua and sternly asked, "Why did you
advise my daughter to put the wine in gold and silver vessels?"

"Just as she spoke to me, I spoke to her," Rabbi Yehoshua explained. "She told me it was a pity that such glorious wisdom was in such an ugly vessel. I answered her, that good wine, even that belonging to the Caesar, is kept in simple vessels. How was I to know that she wouldn't understand the simple meaning of my words?"

The Caesar understood that he had been foolish to listen to his daughter, but he didn't want to admit that his daughter had been wrong. He thought, then said, "Surely there are wise people who are also attractive."

Answered Rabbi Yehoshua, "If they weren't attractive, they would be even wiser. They would use all their energy and time for studying and increasing their wisdom. Some who are attractive become conceited with their beauty, and they never become wise."

The Caesar wasn't stupid. He understood what Rabbi Yehoshua was hinting about his daughter. He decided it was better not to discuss the matter any more, and bid Rabbi Yehoshua good-bye.

Sing a Niggun

A chassid came to see the Karliner Rebbe because he was depressed. "I don't know what to do," he said, "I'm not a good Jew, I don’t study enough, I don’t know enough, all I do is work, work, work. But I want to study more. Rebbe, I have a question. What do our great and holy rabbis study on Friday night?"

"Well," said the Karliner, "some study kabbalah."

"Oh," said the chassid, "that is not for me."

"No," said the Karliner, "that is not for everybody. But I am sure you study Talmud regularly? How does it go?"

"Rebbe, I am ashamed to admit it, I do not study Talmud regularly. You see, I grew up poor. I had to work from an early age to help out my family. I did not get much of an education. I find the Talmud very difficult."

"And if you study together with a friend?" asked the Karliner.

"My friends also work very hard, they don’t know much either. Besides, I have no time to sit in the study hall for hours. What else can I do?"

"Working hard for your family is a mitzvah," said the Karliner. "You can study the weekly Torah reading with Rashi's commentary and with Midrashim."

"Oh no," said the man, "I always found Rashi very difficult. As I told you, I hardly got an education. I struggle through the parshah each week, but I doesn't uplift me. I am a failure. Besides, I am really not a scholar. I prefer to work with my hands. My family is big, I work long hours."

"No Jew is a failure," said the Karliner sternly. "Every Jew can learn. And every Jew should learn. I know something for you. You certainly will enjoy telling beautiful stories about our great sages and tzaddikim (righteous people) with your friends and with your family!"

"I am bad at telling stories," objected said the chassid. "I always forget the important points, I mix them up and I am not a good talker either. Please, I can't do that..."

The Karliner leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and he began to hum. He hummed and he swayed back and forth and the chassid listened in amazement. This was beautiful. What a melody! And he began to sing along. He never had felt so wonderful before, so close to G‑d.

After a long time the singing stopped. The Karliner opened his eyes and looked at the chassid intently.

"Rebbe," the chassid exclaimed, "I understand. Oh yes, I do! I don't feel depressed any more. Thank you, thank you!"

And he went home and every Shabbat he sang the most beautiful niggunim (songs). But most of all he loved the niggun (song) of the Karliner Rebbe. And he did not feel depressed anymore.

 
MOSHIACH MATTERS

All the nations on the face of the earth must know: Our bodies alone
have been handed over into exile to be ruled by the nations of the
world, but not our souls... we must openly declare for all to hear, that
with regard to everything involving our religion - the Torah of the
people of Israel, with its commandments and customs - no one is going to impose his views on us, and no force has the right to subjugate us.

(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)