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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Eli Friedman
One day, Rebbetzin Chana, the mother of the Rebbe, told one of the Chasidim: When my son comes to visit me, after we spend some time together and he prepares to leave back to his office, I notice how he makes his way to the door in a peculiar way. As he goes, he straightens a chair here, rearranges something there, all on his way to the door. He does this in such a way so that without being obvious about it, he never shows me his back. He thinks I don't notice but I do.
Rebbetzin Chana passed away on Shabbat Shuva, 6 Tishrei, 1964. On the "Shabbat of Return" she returned her soul to her Maker. She is celebrated and remembered at this time of the year, in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
The timing of this remarkable woman's passing has its own meaning. What can we glean from this story that she told to polish our own Shabbat Shuva and Yom Kippur experiences?
Here's a thought.
What is the significance of not showing your mother your back? Is there something terrible about the back?
The sight of someone's back means that they're leaving. And a person should never leave his mother. It's disrespectful. After everything a mother does for her baby, then her toddler, then her adolescent, then her teenager, then her adult child, how could he simply walk away from her? She never once walked away from him; the chutzpa of him to walk away from her!
But as G-d would have it, people have an obligation to live their lives. Eventually a man has to leave his mother and go make a life for himself. In fact, the very act of leaving and becoming independent brings the mother great pleasure. And in that way, leaving mom is all part of honoring her.
Despite all that, leaving your mother is still not okay. Even though it's something we all have to do, remembering that it's not okay is also something we all have to do. Even as we leave to build our own lives, we reverently back out, careful not to show our backs, careful to avoid a thoughtless or careless departure. Because in truth, we should stay. We cannot, but we should.
When we leave with the feeling that we would much prefer to stay, when we "back out," we are saying, "I don't want to go and I know I shouldn't go, but I have to."
Backing out announces to Mother that her son is leaving only to go forth and live his life in the way she taught him to.
Mere mortals will remember this truth from time, on special occasions. The Rebbe, a man of truth, lived truth and moved with truth. A man like that cannot turn his back on his mother, figuratively or literally.
On Yom Kippur morning, synagogues everywhere will fill up to capacity. More men and women will arrive in droves for the Yizkor service. The souls of their dearly departed parents or grandparents will beckon them to shul and on the day that we ask to be inscribed for life, the children will remember those who gave them life.
And then, they will leave. The question is though, should they? If Yizkor is truly about spending time in the company of departed parents, at what point can someone say, "Okay, that's enough, nice spending time with you, see you next Yom Kippur"?
But can a person spend the rest of his life in shul? Would that even make his parents happy? But how do we walk out on Mother?
The answer, once again, is to back out. Yes, Yizkor ends; Yom Kippur ends. And the child must leave and return to "real life." But the son or daughter leaves only to go forth and live his or her life in the way Mom taught.
With Yizkor, one generation reassures the previous one that Am Yisrael Chai, we are still Jews, still Yom Kippur people, still tzedaka (charity) givers, still proud Jews. Walking out after Yizkor must not be the end of that reassurance. By backing out, the message is, I talked the talk, now I will walk the walk. Watch me and be proud.
Rabbi Eli Friedman, together with his wife Shaini, direct Chabad of Calabasas, CA
In this week's Torah portion, Vayelech, we have the commandment of Hakhel. "Assemble the nation, the men the women, the children... In order that they hear and in order that they learn and revere G-d... and will be careful to do all the words of this Torah."
Hakhel took place on Sukkot in the year after the Sabbatical year. All the Jewish people would assemble in the Holy Temple. The king, standing on a podium built for the occasion, would read selections from the Torah for all to hear.
While most mitzvot connected to the Temple are not done today, Hakhel is unique in that at least parts of it can be done, and not just in a "Hakhel" year. Though we currently have no king and no Temple (may it speedily be rebuilt) but the reasons, "in order that they listen, learn, revere and do," can still be implemented.
The prerequisite is that you are "assembled," meaning all of you are in a state of togetherness, with brotherly love. "Togetherness" sets the mood and opens the heart to hear words of meaning and chizuk (strengthening), "in order that they hear..."
When I started to lose my ability to speak, it made me much more aware of the power of speech. I had to decide what is truly worth saying. Now, unable to speak, I dream of what I would tell my family with my own voice if I could.
Words are powerful, when used correctly they can lift up a spirit, when abused, they can destroy.
Our children, spouses, and other relatives ache for our recognition and love. Especially during the holidays, when we spend so much time together, we need to make sure to use words that uplift and bring others close with love and kindness.
Our families value our words and remember them. Your actions are equally, if not, more important. Create a loving atmosphere, focus your attention on them. Listen to what they have to share with you. They want you to know them, and to be proud of them.
When you have set a loving atmosphere, then you can discuss G-d, Torah and mitzvot. Their ears and their hearts will be open to hear and to learn, to revere G-d and to keep His Torah.
Consider making a get together with your family and friends. Create an atmosphere of togetherness, speak to their hearts with love and kindness, make them feel "most important."
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
by Rabbi Chaim Bruk
In honor of Yom Kippur, a day of introspection, and Yizkor, I've written a heartfelt letter to my maternal great-grandparents, Shmuel Zanvil and Menucha Kraindel Goldman, who together with six of their children were murdered by the Nazis (may their memories be erased) leaving my Zayde, Reb Shimon, as a sole survivor, the only remaining branch on what was a beautiful family tree.
Dear Elter Zayde & Elter Bubbe,
I am writing to you almost 80 years after your lives were snuffed out by the Nazis (may their names be erased). You, along with six of your beautiful children, Chana, Leah, Tzvi Hirsh, Chaim, Yakov and Yosef, were murdered in cold blood, because fellow human beings believed that you were inferior and not worthy of the oxygen you breathed. You never merited meeting any of your grandchildren, you never had the opportunity to see the amazing family your one surviving son Shimon created together with his beloved Esther.
Every Shabbat morning, as I studied and chatted with my Zayde, your beloved Shimon, somehow he'd bring the conversation back to Shedlitz (Siedlce) and you guys. With a twinkle in his eye, and an occasional tear rolling down his cheek, he'd share as much as he could remember of his beloved family. He would talk about how you'd admonish him for playing soccer during services, how kind you were to visiting Jews who needed a place to eat while in town and how, despite your unhappiness about the spiritual direction some of your children chose, you never ceased loving them with all your heart and soul. Shedlitz, his cherished hometown, was always on the tip of his tongue and the one picture he carried with him, physically and internally, was that of your daughter, his beloved sister Chana and her fiancé, who were both murdered before their wedding day.
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about you. I live in a world that doesn't necessarily think of the Holocaust as it used to. In Europe, the Middle-East and even here in the US, there are those who trivialize the incalculability of the Holocaust. I assure you that your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including Chavie and me, will never forget and will keep reminding whoever will listen. We won't remember in sadness, we won't carry bitterness in our heart; we will reminisce with conviction, ensuring that our children and the communities we live in, from Johannesburg to Paramus, Waterloo to Kuai, Toulouse to Monsey, will never forget that for every survivor there was an incredible family and heritage left behind in the ash heaps of Central Europe.
In our prayers, every Monday and Thursday, we turn to G-d and we tell Him "Gaze down from heaven and see that we've become an object of scorn and derision among the nations. We have become considered like sheep led to the slaughter, to be slain, to be obliterated, to be stricken and to be disgraced. Nevertheless, we have not forgotten Your name. Please don't forget us." I meditate on this prayer twice weekly and think of you. How proud you'd be of your family today and how we will never let your Kiddush Hashem, your G-dly sanctification, which you experienced in death be wasted.
As I stand in shul at Yizkor on Yom Kippur, I will think of all of those I adore and love. My mother Chanchy, my grandparents Reb Shimon and Esther Goldman, my Saba and Savta Mendel and Chana Brook, my Rebbe of righteous memory, and a few others, and this year I will think of you. I will think about how, despite all odds, we haven't forgotten G-d's name and that we haven't forgotten yours either.
We have not forgotten your name: For close to 70 years, on 12 Elul - the day he was told that Shedlitz was lit aflame and his family slayed - your son Shimon would stand in Shul and say Kaddish for his entire family. In a voice of yearning, sadness and honor he'd cry bitterly and memorialize his treasured family.
We have not forgotten your name: After naming his first child for his beloved Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak, my grandfather named his three other children Menucha Kraindel for his mom, Chana Leah for his two sisters and Shmuel Zanvil for his father. His love for ya'll was real and boundless.
We have not forgotten your name: my brother Yanky is Yakov Yosef for two of your sons and so many of your great grandchildren are named for you. You are part and parcel of our family story and we ponder often on how lucky we are to be the bearers of your torch.
We have not forgotten your name: You were devoted to Torah-Judaism and to a Chasidic lifestyle and, while we shifted from Gur to Chabad-Lubavitch, you'd enjoy so much nachas to know that we continue that sacred lifestyle promulgated by the holy Baal Shem Tov with beards, modest dress, joyous lives and the study of Jewish mysticism.
We have not forgotten your name: My youngest daughter Chana Laya is named for her Bubby, my beloved mom. And she's our family's living embodiment of the Chana Laya her Bubby was named for. So, it lives on in Bozeman, Montana.
I often wonder what you were like and I would've loved to meet the people who shaped the life of my beloved Zayde. From what he told me, you guys were awesome and, while you didn't have much, you were always grateful for what G-d gave you. It wasn't easy for Zayde to let go of you and run that day in the market place, but he knew in his gut that it was his only chance to survive, and he was right. Since Zayde Shimon passed, I light a candle on the 12th of Elul in his stead, as your flame will remain lit forever.
As I stand at Yizkor, I will remember those who came before me, who shaped those who guided me and who, despite being gone for decades are a living inspiration to their hundreds of descendants.
This Yom Kippur, as you sit around in heaven with all your seven children, with your daughter-in-law my Bubbe Esther, with your granddaughter my mom Chanchy, please remember us, think about us, seek out your great-grand-children and their children and intercede on our behalf. Tell G-d that you've given enough for the Jewish people, it's time for Him to give back to your family with blessings of health, financial stability and Nachas from our children.
While you're at it: Tell Him we've suffered enough and we need Mashiach already, enough is enough.
A proud heir, Chaim
PS: Please give Mom a hug for me. I miss her dearly.
Rabbi Chaim and Chavie Bruk direct Chabad of Montana
Rabbi Shmuel and Chaya Zalmanov are the newest emissaries of the Rebbe in Moldova and will be opening a Chabad center for Israelis and Hebrew speakers in the country. The Zalmanovs are the grandchildren of Rabbi Zalman Abelsky, of blessed memory, who served as Chief Rabbi and the Rebbe's emissary in the former Soviet republic. Rabbi Boruch and Adeli Zimmerman have moved to Arizona and are joining the other emissaries at Chabad Oro Valley serving the northwest suburbs of Tucson - Oro Valley, Marana and SaddleBrooke.
Bedtime Parsha - Bereishit
Bedtime is the perfect time to tune into your child's thoughts and feelings. These short Torah stories, one for every night of the week of each Torah portion in Genesis, will be a springboard for you and your young child to have interesting and loving discussions. Written by Yaffa Leba Gottlieb, published by BSD Publishers.
In the Ten Days of Teshuva, 5736 
...Inasmuch as we are now in the propitious days of Aseres Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Return), it is well to remember that this is the time of the year which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found, call on Him when He is near." This "nearness" is described as the "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark." May G-d grant that this be reflected in the daily life throughout the whole year, in all aspects, both spiritual as well as material.
Indeed, since all expressions used by our Sages, as all words of Torah, are exact, the said expression, "nearness of the Source of Light to its spark," is particularly meaningful. For, the proximity of the Source of Light increase the spark's flame and power, and so in the spiritual realm, where the nearness of G-d, the Source of Light and Source of Blessing, sets the Jew's heart and mind aglow with love of G-d and awe of G-d, stimulating him (and her) to observe and the channels and vessels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
With the blessing of Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo [be fully sealed for good] and good things in all above,
5th Tishrei, 5736 
I received, with considerable delay, your letter of Elul 6, in connection with the Induction of your esteemed Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick.
However, a blessing is always timely, especially in the propitious days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which our Sages identify with the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found; call on Him when He is near." This special nearness to G-d, the Source of Blessings, surely brings Divine blessings, materially and spiritually.
I am therefore pleased to take this opportunity of extending to you and the entire Congregation prayerful wishes that your association with your esteemed Rabbi be blessed with much Hatzlocho [success].
...As is well known, a Jewish congregation is called Kehilla Kadisha, a Holy Congregation. To make this a reality, it is the function of the synagogue to inspire each and all of the members and worshippers to carry the holiness of the Mishkan Me'at ("Small Sanctuary") into their homes and homelife, in fulfillment of G-d's desire v'shochanti b'sochom - "I will dwell among them" - within each and all of them.
Rabbi Gutnick has the additional distinction of being a Kohen, of whom it is written, "A Kohen's lips preserve knowledge and Torah is sought from his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). In addition to being the traditional teachers of our people, kohanim have been also chosen by G-d "to bless His people Israel with love," and these blessings include, of course, well-being and prosperity in every respect, materially and spiritually. May G-d grant that this be so for your entire Congregation with your esteemed Rabbi, and in a growing measure.
With prayerful wishes for a Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Toivo for a good and sweet year,
5th of Tishrei, 5721 
Students of Grade A and Gan of the
Beth Rivkah Academy,
I was pleased to receive your good wishes for the New Year. I also send my prayerful wishes to you, your parents, and your teachers, for a very happy and successful year in every respect.
It is written in our holy Torah that a great measure of happiness for every Jewish boy and girl depends upon their conducting themselves in their daily life in accordance with the Will of G-d. In doing so, they bring G-d's blessings not only upon themselves, but also upon their parents and families.
May G-d grant that you will have good news to report about your good progress in your studies and in your daily conduct.
Wishing you, each and all, a Chasimo and Gemar Chasimo Toivo.
5th of Tishrei, 5721 
...I was very pleased to read in your letter about the improvement in the observance of the Mitzvos in the family, and may G-d grant that this continues in a growing measure. Needless to say, if you will show a living example, and act with affection and respect, it will have a considerable effect.
I trust that you are taking full advantage of the present days of Divine benevolence and forgiveness, the Ten Days of Repentance, and the month of Tishrei in general, since these days inaugurate the New Year and have a lasting effect and influence throughout the year...
ADAM is from the word "adama" meaning "earth." In Genesis 2:7 we read of the creation of the first person Adam: "Then the L-rd G-d formed the man (adam) from the dust of the earth (adama)."
ADINA is Hebrew for "delicate" or "refined." In I Chronicles 11:42, we read of a warrior known for his bravery in King David's army, Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite. In more recent times, Adina is used as a feminine name.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
One of the unique points about Yom Kippur is the special service of the Kohein Gadol - the High Priest, who performed the Yom Kippur service on that day by himself.
For the part of the High Priest's service which was performed in the two outer halls of the Holy Temple, he wore gold clothing. The part of the service performed inside the Holy of Holies, however, was performed in plain white clothing.
Although the physical Holy Temple was destroyed - and we eagerly await its rebuilding - the spiritual Sanctuary within every Jew - his Holy of Holies - remains totally intact. Thus, each individual Jew is personally responsible to perform the special service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur.
The High Priest wore gold clothing for a large part of his special service to remind us that we should use the most precious and beautiful materials available in serving G-d; we should perform mitzvot in a beautiful and enhanced manner.
The white clothing of the High Priest, worn in the Holy of Holies, is a reminder though, that it is not enough to only do those mitzvot that involve us in material matters. Those mitzvot that are purely spiritual in nature, such as prayer and Torah study, must also be performed.
At the end of his service, the High Priest said a short prayer that the year should be a good year materially for himself, his tribe and all the Jewish people throughout the entire world.
This, too, is part of the service of every single Jew on the holiest day of the year and in the Holy of Holies of his heart. Each Jew on Yom Kippur should also pray for a good year not only for himself and his family, but for the entire Jewish people.
From the Yom Kippur Prayer
We are like clay in the Creator's hand
Bricks of clay can build an opulent mansion or a wretched hovel; so too it is with us. The only question is the type of edifice we wish to build -- a palace to bear testimony to G-d's glory, or a destitute and poverty-stricken shack.
(Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli)
For with You is forgiveness, that You may be feared
How does being forgiven lead us to fear G-d? Would not G-d's perpetual mercy have the opposite effect on a person, knowing that he will always be forgiven? This may be explained as follows: A poor person who has borrowed a large sum of money is only able to pay back half of the loan, not in one lump payment, but in many smaller payments stretched out over several years. If the lender accepts these terms and is kindly and understanding, the borrower is far more likely to exert himself to try to repay the entire amount. If, however, the lender is intransigent, insisting that the entire loan be repaid immediately, the borrower will despair of ever being able to return the full sum. The lender's kindness and mercy, therefore, lead the borrower to fear him all the more.
The King who forgives and pardons our transgressions
How can we be so certain when saying this blessing that G-d pardons and forgives our transgressions? The Rozhiner Rebbe explained: "When I was a little child, we once had apples in our house. I desperately wanted an apple but my father didn't want to give me one. What did I do? I made the blessing over the apple in a loud voice and motioned to my father to quickly give me an apple so I wouldn't have uttered a blessing in vain. He didn't have a choice but to give me the apple. It is the same with us. When we call G-d 'the King who forgives and pardons...' G-d doesn't have a "choice" as it were, and he must forgive us. Otherwise we would be saying G-d's name in vain.
In Berdichev lived a man named Hirshele who was a failure in every business enterprise he attempted. Needless to say, he was not a happy man. His neighbors disregarded him, and his wife was always nagging him to bring home some money so they could have food on the table.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, he hoped to have a small bite to eat before the fast, but with what should his wife have prepared a meal? Instead of even a meager meal, Hirshele received a tongue lashing from his frustrated wife, and set out early for the synagogue. His stomach gurgled as he trudged to the shul, where everything gleamed and shone in anticipation of the great day.
Hirshele felt even worse as he looked around at the congregants, each wearing a stark white kittel and talit. Hirshele tried not to listen to the angry growling of his poor stomach, but the harder he tried, the less success he had.
Then a thought entered poor Hirshele's head. It was certain that he wasn't going to get anything to eat, but just maybe Reb Baruch, the wealthy businessman who sat at the first row near the eastern wall, would give him a little smell of his snuff. That would, perhaps, revive his spirits enough to allow him to pray.
Hirshele cautiously approached the front of the synagogue and tapped Reb Baruch on the back: "Shalom Aleichem, Reb Baruch. Maybe I could have a little sniff of your tabak?"
Reb Baruch turned with an incredulous look on his face. Who could have the nerve to bother him now, interrupting his prayers on this holiest of nights, to ask for some snuff? When he saw it was none other than Hirshele, the pauper, he just looked at him, and with an unmistakable tone of disgust said only one word: "Now?!"
Hirshele turned stiffly and made his way back to his seat, as humiliated as he had ever been. "Humph," he thought, "I'm not even worth a sniff of tabak."
No one in the shul had witnessed the little episode, but on High, the ministering angels were in an uproar. How could the wealthy man have humiliated his poverty-stricken brother like that? It was decreed that in the upcoming year, things would be radically different. The wheel of fortune would turn and Hirshele would be on top for the first time in his life. Reb Baruch, however, would be on the bottom.
And so, right after Yom Kippur, Hirshele received an unexpected inheritance from a deceased relative, and invested in some merchandise. Hirshele made an enormous profit and reinvested it. Again, he had the wildest success, and from that time on, whatever he set his hand to was successful. At the same time, Reb Baruch began losing money at every turn. He went to his rebbe, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who asked him, "Can you think of any dealings you may have had with Reb Hirsh?"
At first Reb Baruch could think of nothing, but then he remembered Yom Kippur when he refused the snuff to Hirshele. "That must be it!" said Reb Levi Yitzchak. "Because of your actions, it was decreed that you would lose your money and that he would become wealthy."
Reb Baruch was stricken with remorse. "How can I atone?" he cried. Reb Levi Yitzchak just looked at him. "It won't be easy. All I can say is that when you approach Reb Hirsh and ask for a sniff of snuff and he refuses you, then you will have something to bargain with."
Many years passed and Reb Baruch was unable to extricate himself from his crushing poverty. Reb Hirsh, however, continued to prosper. He was now a respected member of the community and when his daughter reached marriageable age, she was betrothed to the son of the rabbi of Zhitomir.
The whole town looked forward to celebrating the great event. Reb Baruch's anticipation was perhaps greater than most, for he had a plan to recoup his wealth. As the young couple stood under the wedding canopy surrounded by their happy parents, Reb Baruch quietly came up to Reb Hirsh and said, "A sniff of tabak, Reb Hirsh?"
Without a thought, Reb Hirsh removed his gilt snuff box from his coat pocket and handed it to Reb Baruch. Reb Baruch immediately fell to the ground in a dead faint. A stir went through the crowd. When Reb Baruch regained consciousness, Reb Hirsh asked him, "Was it something I did which caused you to faint?"
"Please come with me to some place where we can speak privately," replied Reb Baruch. The two men sat down and Reb Baruch explained everything that had transpired and related the words of Reb Levi Yitzchak. They agreed to go together to the tzadik and follow the advice he would give.
Reb Levi Yitzchak listened to the story and turned to Reb Hirsh. "Are you willing to give a percentage of your wealth to Reb Baruch?" Reb Hirsh decided to divide his great wealth with Reb Baruch and the two lived as close as brothers, in prosperity and health for the rest of their lives.
The Zohar teaches that Moshiach will motivate even the righteous to turn to G-d in teshuva. What is teshuva? Returning to G-d by focusing on the G-dly spark within each one of us. In the Messianic era, everyone will realize the mortal limitations which constrain them, and will seek the inner core of their spiritual potential. Similarly, it is the expression of the potential for teshuva that will serve as the catalyst for the Redemption. For striving to reach our spiritual core will serve as the catalyst for the revelation of G-dliness throughout all existence. As Maimonides writes: "Israel will be redeemed only through teshuva. The Torah promises that ultimately, Israel will return [to G-d], and immediately will be redeemed."
(Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eli Touger)