Monday, June 16, 2014

You Don't Have To Worry About Parnassah

By Shimon Katzman
Back in 1990 a friend was having some problems. I suggested that he go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing. Although not a chasid, I greatly revere the Rebbe.
"Okay," he said, "but only if you come with me."
I agreed.
We came to 770 (Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn) on Sunday morning and waited patiently on line for four hours. Over 5,000 people had come to receive a blessing and a dollar to give to charity from the Rebbe. As we approached the Rebbe, I began to think of a problem I had at work. I was under so much pressure from my boss that I had considered changing jobs or transferring to a different unit. I decided to ask the Rebbe what to do.
The line moved quickly. As I approached the Rebbe, I blurted out my question of whether or not to change jobs. To my surprise, the Rebbe answered, "If you have kosher tefilin you don't have to worry about parnasa (livelihood)."
That's strange, I thought to myself. How could there be something wrong with my tefilin? The scribes who had checked the tefilin over the years had consistently noted how nicely they were written. They recognized the handwriting of the scribe and would add, "He is one of the best scribes in Israel."
Could it be that my tefilin were not kosher? Was there a possibility that I had not worn kosher tefilin for 30 years? Why, the mere thought of it scared me. I immediately went to a scribe and had him check them over.
"It's a very nice pair of kosher tefilin," the scribe said. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I was still puzzled by the Rebbe's remarks. Thus, two weeks later I returned to the Rebbe to clarify the matter.
"I checked my tefilin and the scribe said they're kosher," I reported.
"How can that be?" said the Rebbe as he handed me a dollar. "Is the scribe an honest, reliable Jew?"
"Yes," I answered. Once again I was surprised at the Rebbe's remark. I had a strange feeling. I went to another scribe. I told the scribe the entire story and he carefully examined the leather boxes for any imperfections. He used a light table to check the parchments for minute cracks in the ink that may render tefilin posul, not kosher. Once again, nothing was found.
Unsatisfied, I went to the Vaad Mishmeres STAM, an organization that had developed a way of checking Torah scrolls, tefilin, and mezuzot by computer scanning to see if any letters are missing. Again the results were negative.
Now, for the third time, I returned to the Rebbe. This time as I passed the Rebbe I said to him, "I checked my tefilin by two different scribes and by computer and they said they're kosher."
"Nu," said the Rebbe, "if two honest scribes say they're kosher, then it's not your responsibility; it's their responsibility."
I was totally upset! Obviously the Rebbe was very insistent that something was wrong. I went to a great rabbi and told him the whole story.
The rabbi said to me, "Even if the Lubavitcher Rebbe is like an angel who sees things that no person can see, the Torah was not given to angels. We can only be expected to do what humans can do."
"Yes," I said. "But what's going to be 'after 120 years,' when I'm standing before the Heavenly Tribunal and they say, 'Shimon, you never wore kosher tefilin in your lifetime!' "
"Listen," said the rabbi, "don't worry. Heaven cannot expect you to do more than you did. If they ruled here on earth that your tefilin are kosher then it's kosher and you've done your duty."
I was still not at ease, so I went out and bought the finest pair of tefilin money can buy. The following morning, on the eve of Yom Kippur, I put on the new pair of tefilin for the very first time.
The night after Yom Kippur my wife, Brocha, received an interesting phone call. For six weeks she had been vying for a new position in her school as the Assistant Principal. However, the principal refused to give it to her. He claimed that since the school was growing he wanted to hire someone from outside to do the job. My wife countered that since she had been doing the job of the Assistant Principal until now, she should receive the title and the increase in salary. For six weeks the principal had been interviewing candidates for the job.
That night, the principal called to tell her, "I've decided it's only right that you be the assistant principal. And you'll be getting a five thousand-dollar raise."
We suddenly recalled the Rebbe's words: "If you have kosher tefilin, you don't have to worry about parnasa." A few months later my boss left my department and the pressure was finally off.
But the story doesn't end there. For several years after buying the new tefilin I continued to wear my old tefilin. I would put them on after I finished praying.
During that time I had applied for various managerial positions and had requested that my titled be upgraded. I had four people working under me but I was unsuccessful in getting a managerial title. My boss would tell me, "There are no more managerial slots to be filled, the department has reached its limit."
Someone told me that there was an unused title of "supervisor." He recommended I speak to my boss about it. My boss said he would look into it.
Months passed. In the interim, I had stopped wearing my old pair of tefilin and was now only putting on the "new" pair. One day, my boss called me and said, "I have good news for you, you're finally being promoted to supervisor and that means you'll be getting a ten percent raise!"


by Steve Batkin
Europe is not a good place to have a car accident. But it does happen.
My wife, Annette and I were driving through Switzerland to get to France. Annette had a "premonition" that made her anxious about Switzerland but we took that route anyway. Annette drove.
At one point while we were driving, we entered a 5-way intersection. The way was clear so we proceeded. And then I saw a car heading directly for me from the side. I actually made eye contact with the driver, who continued towards me until he slammed into us.
Since we were hit on the side, we were thrown sideways. Annette's feet were bruised and I slammed my head on the door pillar. The police were there in about 45 seconds, directing traffic, towing our car to the side and making sure we were alright.
It seems that the Swiss want drivers to admit guilt or innocence at the accident scene. The one officer who spoke English told me that the accident was our fault because there was a white line on the pavement which indicated we were to stop. If we didn't admit on the spot that it was our fault we would have to go before a judge. Based on a police report which would state that we were at fault, the judge would find us guilty, so we might as well admit our guilt here and now, the officer "counseled" us. As we didn't feel we had much of a choice, we said we were guilty so we could go on our way.
The police drove us to the car repair shop, got ice for our bruises and waited until the garage could locate a replacement car. When they told us that the new car would have to come from Geneve (we were in Lusane), we realized we had some time on our hands. The police then volunteered to take us to the downtown area so we could continue our touring. We returned later by taxi, picked up our replacement car and were on our way. All of this took a mere 3 hours. Now that's efficient!
Upon our return to Connecticut, I realized that my sense of direction was gone. I could no longer find my way home from the bagel shop or the grocery store. If I went out on my own, I had to use my car phone and get directions. It often took 20 minutes to travel 2 miles because I went 15 miles out of the way trying to get there. A CAT scan and exam revealed no permanent damage, but my doctor said it was probably a concussion and my sense of direction would probably come back. Someday.
A few months later, we were asked to host Rabbi Laibl Wolf of Australia who would be a guest lecturer at the Chabad Center in Greenwich. I got lost taking him to his lecture, but eventually we got there. The next morning, we went for a walk at the PepsiCo headquarters. After a brisk hour walk, I realized that I could not find my car. I was utterly lost again. Rabbi Wolf led me, totally embarrassed, back to the car.
At home, Rabbi Wolf said he thought he could help with my memory problem. I was intrigued. How? Rabbi Wolf then began to explain to me, based on a talk of the Rebbe, that putting on tefilin would help.
My immediate reaction was that I had been fooled by Rabbi Wolf's entire presentation the previous evening. After having listened to his lecture, I had thought he was an enlightened educator, "despite" the fact that he was an Orthodox Jew. And here he was, telling me in essence, "Don't think about it. Don't understand it. Don't ask questions. Just do the mitzva."
Well, he was a guest. And as I'd always been taught to treat guests politely, I agreed to put on tefilin. It was as simple as 1, 2, 3. Just put it on, say the Shema and the subseqent v'ahavta paragraph, and take it off. That's all. Three minutes later he left and I went to work.
But my brain still felt like mush and I got lost again. Maybe it takes time to help, I consoled myself hopefully. The next morning I put on tefilin again, 1, 2, 3. I could barely find my way to work. After work I got totally lost again and could barely get back home.
This can't be what the Rebbe meant, I told myself. I decided to try and do some research. I looked in the Talmud. In the section called Brachot it says that saying the Shema properly includes saying the three paragraphs immediate following the Shema as well. Why? Because there are 248 words in the Shema and the subsequent 3 paragraphs and these 248 words correspond to the body's 248 limbs and organs. To make sure that all of one's limbs and organs stay healthy one needs to recite all 248 words.
I decided that the next day I would add the 2 paragraphs I hadn't been saying. Now, this may sound hokey, but my memory came right back! I haven't gotten lost since then, and what's more, I can even visualize directions in my head, which I was never able to do very well before.
Though I haven't been able to find out for sure, I figure that the word from those 248 words that keeps your brain healthy must be in the 2nd or 3rd paragraph after Shema. So everyday, before I exercise, I put on tefilin and say those 248 words. I don't know why, but it works.
Steve Batkin, an insurance salesman and engineer, lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife and children.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Well Deserved Spanking

The love and patience which Rabbi Yitzchak Shaul showed to all the people he met - men, women and children - were unsurpassed. Even animals and birds benefitted from his uniquely warm and caring personality. This, his father, Rabbi Nissan, had implanted in him since earliest childhood. His father always told him that one must love everything that G-d has made, and one must not harm any of His creatures.
Rabbi Nissan had had good reason to teach his son to be merciful, for, as a child, like many other children, Yitzchak Shaul had thought nothing of throwing stones at birds, chasing cows, goats, dogs or cats.
Rabbi Nissan had a favorite rooster. Each morning it crowed loudly, awakening Rabbi Nissan at the break of dawn, thus allowing him to begin his day. Rabbi Nissan looked after the rooster himself, making sure it had enough to eat, and keeping it in good health so that nothing would effect its excellent crowing. The louder the cock crowed, the more pleased was Rabbi Nissan. But not so little Yitzchak Shaul. As much as his father loved the rooster, so did his young son hate it. He delighted in persecuting the bird at every opportunity.
One day, unnoticed by Yitzchak Shaul, Rabbi Nissan came into the yard and observed his son's cruel behavior toward all of the farm animals, and the rooster in particular. Suddenly, Yitzchak Shaul felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and looked up to see his father's angry face.
"So, this is the way you spend your time! Ill-treating helpless creatures!" his father rebuked him sternly. "I could never imagine that a child of mine could be so cruel!"
The frightened little boy thought his father would surely give him a beating, he looked so angry. But this was not Rabbi Nissan's way. He was a teacher of young boys. But in all of his years of teaching, he had never laid a hand on his pupils, nor any of his own children. True, his "strap" hung on the wall of the class-room. But if a pupil deserved punishment Rabbi Nissan had only to indicate the strap on the wall, and tell him what he deserved, and it was always enough for the culprit.
Entering the house with his son, Rabbi Nissan asked him to bring the Talmud and open it to page 125. He told him to read the section relating to the injunction to look after chickens with gentle care. "See how the Torah thinks of everything," Rabbi Nissan enthusiastically explained to his little son. "In another part of the Talmud, we find that we must never sit down to a meal before first looking after our animals.
"Thus, we see that we must first of all care for the other of G-d's creatures before we look after our own needs. Yet, you, my son, have not only ignored this teaching, but have moreover shown a cruelty towards the poor creatures, which I could hardly have believed possible in a child of mine!"
Yitzchak Shaul trembled before the reproof and reproach of his father. He thought his father had finished with him when, instead, he heard his father saying in a very serious voice:
"You know that it is not in my nature to hit anyone, and I have never hit you, but this time, I am going to ask you to take down the strap which is hanging on the wall. I want you to understand the pain you have inflicted upon the creatures you have so thoughtlessly persecuted."
Yitzchak Shaul gravely took a chair and reached up for the strap which he had never before seen his father use. This in itself impressed upon him the enormity of his crime.
"Before I hit you," Rabbi Nissan said, "I want you to know quite clearly that the only reason I am doing this, is so that you will the better remember the pain you have inflicted upon the birds and other living creatures."
This was the first and last time Rabbi Nissan ever used the strap on Yitzchak Shaul, and he accepted them without a murmur.
Rabbi Nissan quickly went into another room without a backward glance, and a moment later Yitzchak Shaul heard his father crying, deep and painful sobs escaping him which he seemed unable to restrain.
When Yitzchak Shaul heard his father sobbing, he realized that it was all his fault for having made his father do something so contrary to his nature. This gave the little boy more pain that the actual hitting, and he determined, from that moment, never again to hurt anything or anyone.
He felt the pain a couple of days, and walked about full of regret and shame for his misdeeds. On the third day, he suddenly went up to his father, kissed him and asked him, with tears in his eyes, if he would forgive him.
Rabbi Nissan's eyes also filled with tears as he said to his son tenderly, "My son, you are still a little boy and I, your father, have to bear all your sins, which are not quite serious. But it would be dreadful if you grew up to be an unfeeling, cruel creature!"
Yitzchak Shaul felt a changed boy. Gone was his previous pleasure in his cruel pastimes.
From The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs

The Hidden Tzadik Who Saved Kobrin

Reb Leib Sarah's was born with the blessing of the Baal Shem Tov (Besht). Early on, he became famous as a miracle-worker, and he was sent on many missions by the Besht to aid Jews.
One day, as he stood in the marketplace of Berdichev, a Jew approached him and exclaimed, "Thank G-d, I've found you!" The Jew, named Reb Binyomin, was the head of the community of Kobrin, and he had a serious problem.
The small town of Kobrin belonged to the Count Upinsky. While the old count had been friendly to the Jews, inviting them to settle on his lands rent-free, his son and successor was a bitter anti-Semite. The young count was now threatening to expel the Jews and seize all their property unless they paid him both rent and interest for all the years they had lived on his estate.
Reb Leib listened attentively to this terrible story, and then promised to try to intercede with the count. The very next day Leib Sarah's travelled to Kobrin and stood before the nobleman, ready to plead the Jew's case. The count was momentarily startled by the sudden unexpected appearance of the stately old Jew, but he recovered quickly and demanded immediate payment of the "debt."
Reb Leib replied in measured tones: "Sir, your father never expected or demanded rent from the Jews, and I ask you in all fairness to cancel their debt, for payment had never been intended. In return they will pray for your success and well-being all the days of your life."
"I do not need their prayers, but their money I cannot do without!" was his angry reply.
Leib Sarah's shot the count a burning, penetrating look that had the effect of calming his anger. The count soon regained his composure and continued: "Listen, I am going to make you an offer in the strictest confidence; take care no Jew betrays me. Our Polish people are tired of the Russian Czar's oppression. We are organizing a rebellion and we want Jews to join our side. If you agree, the debt will be cancelled."
"No, sir, this we cannot do. Our religion commands us to support the government under which we live. We may not join you."
His reply enraged the count. "Get out," he screamed. "You will pay dearly for this!"
Reb Leib returned to Binyomin with news of his failed mission. "Now, I will send you to someone who can indeed help. But you must keep this strictly secret."
Deep in the forest was a small hut where a poor broom-maker lived with his wife. It was here Binyomin was to go with all his provisions for Shabbat. Arriving at the hut Binyomin saw an old woman sitting in a poorly-furnished room. Just then her husband arrived, his face showing no surprise at the unexpected guest.
Binyomin prayed under the fragrant fir trees, and then entered the hut to find the old man reading the Grace After Meals slowly like a small child. After quickly eating, Binyomin lay down on a bench outside and fell asleep.
In the middle of the night he was awakened by the sound of a voice singing Shabbat melodies. The voice came from the hut, but a heavenly voice seemed to echo back. The hut shone with a burning light; Binyomin quickly shut his eyes, and when he opened them again, it was morning.
The night's vision convinced Binyomin that the broom-maker was no ordinary man. He could hardly wait for the end of the Shabbat to reveal his mission.
But before he could relay his request, the broom-maker came to him and said: "The Guardian of Israel has heard the prayers of the Holy congregation of Kobrin. The count's decree is null and void. Go in peace, but never tell anyone about this Shabbat."
The next morning Binyomin returned home to hear what had occurred. On Shabbat morning a refinement of Russian cossacks stormed the count's castle, arresting him for treason. The governor it seems, had suspected Upinsky of traitorous activities. One day a letter was intercepted which said that the count had been unsuccessful in enlisting the support of the Jews for the rebellion. With this evidence the castle was seized and the rebellion quashed.
In appreciation of their loyalty, the Czar awarded the Kobrin Jews the land of the Upinskys as a perpetual free hold, rent and tax-free.
Adapted from Talks and Tales

How Reb Moshe Leib Of Sassov Became A Chossid

The city of Brod was renowned for its Torah scholars, the most famous of whom was the sage Rabbi Moshe Leib. Like many of his colleagues at the time, he was wary of the new Chasidic movement that was then making inroads.
The sexton of Rabbi Moshe Leib's synagogue had a daughter who had been suffering for some time from a mysterious digestive disorder. When the sexton heard about the Chasidic Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, he decided to go to him to ask for a blessing for his daughter. The Rebbe gave him some food his wife had prepared, and instructed him to feed it to the girl. As soon as she tasted it her pains went away.
The sexton was filled with wonder and appreciation. He was so impressed by what had happened that he decided to share the good news with Rabbi Moshe Leib. He urged him to go to Rabbi Elimelech to see for himself.
At first Rabbi Moshe Leib was adamantly opposed to the plan, considering it a waste of time that could be better utilized studying Torah. "And besides," he countered, "you know I don't really believe in these newfangled wonder workers..."
But the sexton was persistent. "On the contrary," he said. "You, as a rabbi, have an obligation to check him out for yourself. If you determine that Rabbi Elimelech isn't a true tzadik (righteous person), you can persuade people not to go to him. But if you find that he really is a holy man, you will have succeeded in dispelling a lot of false notions."
In the end Rabbi Moshe Leib consented and traveled to Lizhensk. The whole way there he thought about what he would say to the Chasidic master, and composed various questions to test his scholarship and piety.
Rabbi Moshe Leib arrived in Lizhensk on a Friday afternoon. He was surprised when he saw that Rabbi Elimelech lived in a tiny little house - not the grand mansion that he had imagined. His surprise grew when he realized that Rabbi Elimelech himself was standing on the threshold, waiting for him. The tzadik extended his hand in greeting.
"Come in, come in," he said to him warmly. "I've heard so much about you. They say that you're one of the most distinguished Torah scholars in all of Brod." Rabbi Moshe Leib felt a surge of pride.
"Therefore," Rabbi Elimelech continued, "I'd like to tell you an interesting story." Rabbi Moshe Leib's face fell, but the tzadik didn't seem to notice.
"There was once a brave warrior who did battle with a ferocious lion and succeeded in slaying it. To commemorate his heroic deed, he skinned the animal and filled its hide with straw. He then placed the stuffed lion in front of his house so that everyone would know how strong and courageous he was.
"When the rumor spread that there was a lion guarding his door, all the animals of the forest came to see for themselves. They stood at a distance, too fearful to approach. But there was once clever fox who quickly perceived that the lion wasn't moving. He crept closer, and with one paw swiped at the beast. When he saw that it wasn't alive, he tore the skin apart and the straw fell out. All the animals laughed and returned to the forest."
Rabbi Moshe Leib looked at the tzadik, not comprehending his meaning. Why had he made the long trip from Brod to Lizhensk? To hear animal stories? He couldn't believe that Rabbi Elimelech had nothing more important to do on a Friday afternoon than tell tales. He was about to say good-bye and return to his inn when the tzadik continued. "No, don't leave just yet. I have another story to tell you.
"There was once a very poor man who had never in his life owned a new set of clothes. One day his luck changed, and he came into a large inheritance. The first thing he did was to summon a tailor and commission a fine new garment as befits a nobleman. The tailor measured the man from head to toe, and a few days later returned for the first fitting.
"The man put on the half-completed suit as the tailor rearranged the pins and basting stitches and made little markings with chalk. Ignorant of the way a custom garment is made, the man assumed the tailor was mocking him and threw him out of the house, despite his protestations."
That was the end of the story. Rabbi Moshe Leib, completely confused, went back to the inn to prepare for Shabbat.
Then it hit him: Perhaps the tzadik was talking about him with his strange tales? Maybe he was trying to tell him that he was only a "stuffed lion"? And like the poor man with the new set of clothes, could it be that he was only posturing as a nobleman? His whole life would have to be reconsidered...
That evening in the synagogue Rabbi Moshe Leib studied the tzadik in an entirely different way. He became an ardent disciple of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, and later a Chasidic master himself in the city of Sasov.

The Scar On Shloimele's Arm

Little Shloimeleh was the youngest of the family's nine children. He had a quick smile and intelligent eyes. Shloimeleh's favorite time was Friday afternoon, when his mother lit the Shabbat candles. He loved to watch them burn in their polished candlesticks.
But one Shabbat eve, when his mother had closed her eyes to recite the blessing, one of the candles fell on Shloimeleh's arm, badly burning him.
Time passed, and the burn eventually healed. But little Shloimeleh was left with an ugly scar on his forearm as a reminder of the incident.
Then WWII broke out, and Poland was invaded by the Germans. As part of the "final solution," all the Jews in Shloimeleh's town were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Reb Avraham, Shloimeleh's father, was forcibly separated from the rest of his family. It was the last time he would see his wife and children. Reb Avraham was later interred in a labor camp. Miraculously he survived the Holocaust, and eventually found himself in Russia.
Reb Avraham was now alone in the world. Physically exhausted and consumed with grief, he tried to lessen his pain by learning, praying, and teaching Torah and mitzvot (commandments) to Jewish children, many of whom had never been exposed to Judaism. Aside from organizing a secret yeshiva, he also served as a mohel (ritual circumciser). But of all his religious achievements, the tiny synagogue he established was closest to his heart.
Needless to say, Reb Avraham's activities were completely illegal; time and again he was cautioned by the Communist authorities. But Reb Avraham felt he had nothing to lose. After going through everything he had, what else could they do to him? He continued to spread Torah and mitzvot, and spent even more time in his little shul.
The most persistent of Reb Avraham's tormentors was a young Communist named Natishka. Reb Avraham could hardly take a step without being followed by him. Natishka repeatedly warned him that he would end up before a firing squad if he didn't shape up.
Around this time Reb Avraham decided to apply for an exit visa to Israel. He was very surprised when his request was approved. In truth, Reb Avraham had mixed feelings about leaving Russia. On the one hand, he was grateful for the opportunity to spend the rest of his days in the Holy Land. Yet on the other, he worried about the fate of his brethren. Who would keep the embers of Judaism burning after he was gone?
As the date of his departure grew near, Reb Avraham spent most of his time in his beloved synagogue. Emboldened by the prospect of imminent freedom, he abandoned some of his usual precautions.
One evening Reb Avraham entered the shul and lit several memorial candles in remembrance of his family. His eyes filled with tears as he recalled their faces. In a voice choked with emotion he began to recite Psalms, and the sound carried out into the street...
At that moment, Natishka happened to pass by and decided to investigate. When he saw what the Jew was up to he became incensed.
"When will you ever learn?" he screamed at him. "When will you finally give up your obsolete practices?" Once and for all, he would teach the Jew a lesson. He began to roll up his sleeves...
Reb Avraham remained tranquil. Having already been beaten many times, there was nothing new about the prospect of physical violence. "Shema Yisrael!" ("Hear O Israel"), he called out in a clear if somewhat trembling voice. "The L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One!"
It was then that he looked up and noticed Natishka's bare forearm, poised to strike. A long scar, evidence of an old burn, wound its way down his arm in a very familiar pattern...
"Shloimeleh!" Reb Avraham cried out. "Is that you, my son?"
The young Communist's face drained of color as his hand froze in midair. Inexplicably, his eyes were drawn to the candles' flames, as if they reminded him of something long hidden and repressed... A cry erupted from his throat as his eyes filled with tears. He embraced the elderly Jew and began to weep like a small child.
"Tatteh (father)!" he wailed inconsolably. "Tatteh, forgive me!"

Father and son marveled at how Divine Providence had brought them together. Not long afterward they both emigrated to Israel. And each week thereafter, as they gazed into the Shabbat candles, they pondered their indebtedness to them for their reunion.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pouring Rain from a Cloudless Sky

In honor of the Baal Shem Tov’s Yahrtzeit, which occurs on the first day of Shavuos, we present a fascinating story of the legendary founder of the Chasidic movement, written by renowned author Rabbi Sholom Dovber Avtzon:
On one occasion, the Alter Rebbe asked of those who were at a gathering, if anyone knows a truly amazing story of the Baal Shem Tov. [A miracle, that only he and no other tzaddik, had the ability to accomplish].
One of the elder chassidim replied I know of one such wondrous miracle.
The Baal Shem Tov would often toivel in the mikva, either before or after saying tikkun chatzos. Often this meant to go to the river and toivel in it. During the frigid winter, that also meant first breaking through the ice on top of the river, and making a large enough opening in it and then toiveling in the frigid water.
One such winter night, the Baal Shem Tov remained in the water much longer than usual and the gabbai noticed that the torch he had was about to flicker out. The fire of the torch, not only illuminated their way, but it also served as a source of warmth for the Baal Shem Tov, when he came out of the freezing water.
Nervously, he cried out to the Baal Shem Tov that the torch was going to extinguish itself any moment.
The Baal Shem Tov told him to take a large icicle and light it. The gabbai did so and it burned exactly as a regular torch.
That is indeed a remarkable story replied the Alter Rebbe, but that does not show the unique greatness of the Baal Shem Tov. The Gemorah tells us that something extremely similar occurred with the great Tanna Reb Chanina ben Dosa.
One erev Shabbos Reb Chaninah’s daughter sadly informed him that they don’t have any oil to use to light the candles in honor of the Shabbos.
Reb Chanina inquired, “And what liquid do we have in the house?”
She answered; “We have a measurement of vinegar.”
Reb Chanina instructed her to fill the container with the vinegar. He then said “The One who said that oil [has the ability] to burn, can say to this vinegar that when it is lit, it would burn and give off light. And indeed that is what happened.
True Reb Channina was of the greatest taanaim and to be compared to Reb Chanina is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment. However, that doesn’t show the unique greatness of the Baal Shem Tov.
Does anyone else have a truly remarkable story?
Another chossid said, I will say a story.
There was a wealthy Jew, whose only daughter was becoming of marriageable age. While there were many promising young talmidei chachomim in his own town, he desired to have an exceptional talmid chocham as a son in law. After much effort, he indeed found one such young man. The couple were married, settled down and were extremely happy. The young man learned in the beis hamidrash and grew in his learning and Torah knowledge. Everything was going as desired.
Some years passed, and the wealthy father-in-law began noticing small changes in his son-in-laws conduct and observance of mitzvos. At first, he tried to dismiss them as insignificant changes, and perhaps his learned son-in-law has reasons to conduct himself in this new manner. After all he knows much more than I do, so who am I to question him!
But as the weeks and months passed, he began noticing that he was taking off much more time from his learning and was seen in the company of others who were known to be completely non-observant. This was a situation that he was no longer able to ignore and pretend all is well.
So one day, he sat down with his son-in-law and asked him, what caused this drastic change. Is he perhaps unhappy about something or is something or someone bothering him?
The son-in-law replied, I am extremely happy and fortunate. Your daughter is an excellent and kind hearted person. She is the perfect wife, and you are very gracious to us. A man couldn’t ask for more.
But you want to know if everything is perfect, what caused these changes? I will tell you. In my learning, I began having some questions about Hashem’s ability to do certain things that our sages stated had happened. I noticed that some of the great commentators also wrote that these things are exaggerations. So I no longer knew what is real and what is being said as a way of a moshol (a parable or metaphor).
Whoever I asked either replied that those are dangerous questions, that one is not allowed to ask or gave me such weak answers and explanations, that they themselves admitted weren’t complete answers, they weren’t satisfactory. So now I have my doubts about many things, such as does Hashem really care about such minute details, for example, when you wash netilas yodaim does it have to go until the wrist and a drop off makes it invalid or it isn’t so important. And therefore I decided not to do it all.
The father-in-law was torn with grief. This is the son-in-law that he had hand-picked for his wonderful daughter, who is so proper in her observance of every mitzvah. Is everything lost chas v’sholom. No! It can’t be, he said! I must find a way to correct this.
Turning to his son-in-law he said, my dear son-in-law, you are much more learned than I, and if the great talmidei chachomim of the town couldn’t answer your questions satisfactorily, I for sure don’t have the ability. However, I am asking you one thing, please come with me to a great sage and allow him to answer and clarify everything.
Wanting to please his father-in-law, especially as he always has the ability to say the answer this sage gave, was not a real convincing or even good answer, he agreed.
The father-in-law didn’t waste any time, but immediately set out with his son-in-law to see the Baal Shem Tov. They arrived in Mezibuzh on a bright sunny day and the father-in-law poured out his troubled heart to the Baal Shem Tov and pleaded with him that he does whatever is in his ability to bring the son-in-law back to the ways of Hashem.
The Baal Shem Tov asked them to join him on a small journey. With the father-in-law sitting on his right and the son-in-law sitting on his left, they left Mezibuzh. Once they were out of the city and on the road in midst of an open field, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the son-in-law and said, “Young man can it rain now?”
Looking up to the clear blue sky, the young man replied, “No, it can’t as there isn’t a cloud in sight.”
The Baal Shem Tov said, “And I say it can rain!”
Looking up once again, the young man looked in all directions to make sure that he saw correctly and indeed there wasn’t a cloud in sight, not even a little fluffy white cloud. So he smugly retorted and said, “That is an impossibility! No way in the world can it rain here at this very moment.”
The Baal Shem Tov smiled and said, “And I say it will rain momentarily!”
A few seconds later the windows of heaven opened and a deluge of rain came pouring down. The young man was bewildered at this happening. Not only is it pouring from a cloudless sky, but the Baal Shem Tov’s wagon remained completely dry. This is truly miraculous and beyond human comprehension.
Being an extremely intelligent person, he realized why the Baal Shem Tov showed him this and didn’t try to answer his questions verbally. Far be it that the tzaddik was merely showing off to him his powers. It was much more than that; he had clearly demonstrated, that stories of our sages which are beyond human comprehension, doesn’t mean that they never occurred or are not real. There are many happenings that human intellect says one way, but in actuality they happened the opposite way – the way he thought was impossible.
Once this question was answered, he realized that all of his other questions and doubts were based on this premise. And therefore if this was resolved they all have nothing to stand on.
Full of remorse he turned to the Baal Shem Tov and beseeched of him, to guide him back to the way of Hashem.
Hearing this, the Alter Rebbe said, that story indeed shows greatness of the Baal Shem Tov.
Compiler’s note: the Mashpia from whom I heard this story continued, possibly the explanation of the greatness of this story is based on another story that the gemorah related about Reb Chanina ben Dosa. Of whom the gemorah says that Hashem calls him “Chanina My son”.
Once Reb Chanina was travelling and it was raining. Reb Chanina davenned to Hashem and said, “All the people who are in their homes are indeed happy and grateful; as this rain is needed for their crops to grow. However, I am suffering from it. I am becoming wet and uncomfortable in my travels. Hashem heard his prayers and the rain stopped immediately.
When Reb Chanina arrived home, he once again davenned. But this time he said, Chanina is comfortable, but everyone else is in pain, they need the rain. Once again his prayers were heard and accepted and it began to rain.
But what do we see, as great as Reb Chanina was, he was able to either stop the rain or cause it to rain. The Baal Shem Tov was able to do both things simultaneously. Such was his greatness.
I will conclude with the following; on the first year after his histalkus, the talmidim gathered and many of them related a miraculous story of the Baal Shem Tov that they personally were privy to. That night the Baal Shem Tov came to one of his talmidim and said, “My greatness is not my ability to do miracles, it is my yiras shamayim even on the smallest detail of a halachah.
May each one of us, strive to emulate this each on their own level.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Money In The Honey

In honor of the anniversary of the passing of King David on Shavuot, we present this story from his youth.
Once there lived in the Land of Israel a very wealthy Jew. Upon his death, he passed on to his wife all of his great wealth. The widow decided to leave her city in search of a place with less memories. Her main concern before going on her journey, was to find a place where she could safely leave her vast inheritance.
She came upon the idea of hiding her gold coins in earthen containers, which she filled with honey. She then asked one of her late husband's close friends if he would watch over her jars of honey while she was away. The friend was happy to oblige.
Months passed. One day, the friend was preparing a festive meal for his son's forthcoming marriage and they had run out of honey. The friend remembered the honey which had been left in his safekeeping by the widow. "Certainly there can be no harm in my borrowing some of the honey," the friend conjectured. "I will replace it tomorrow," he assured himself.
Imagine the friend's surprise when he dipped a large spoon deep into the honey and it came out with two gold coins stuck to it. Again and again the friend dipped the spoon into the honey, and each time it came up with a small fortune. "No one but the widow and myself know that there is money in these earthen jars," thought the friend. And with that, he emptied the jars of all the gold. The next day he quickly refilled the jars to the very top with the sweet, golden syrup.
A few weeks passed and the widow returned to her home-town. She had found a suitable home in a different village where she was certain she would be able to start a new life for herself. When she asked her husband's friend for the honey jars back he was only too happy to return them to her. She thanked him for having 'guarded' them for her all this time.
The widow hurried home with the jars and, once inside, set out to retrieve the gold coins she had placed there months before. At first, she did not become alarmed when the spoon came up empty. But as the minutes passed, and she did not come up with one gold coin, she became hysterical. She took each jar to the back of the house and poured out the honey. She searched inside the jars but found nothing.
Beside herself with grief, the widow ran to the "friend's" house, only to find that he denied any knowledge of the gold coins. "You left jars of honey in my care and I have returned the exact jars of honey that you gave me."
The widow had no choice but to take him to court. The judge, however, noting that there had been no witnesses to the widow's claims that she had put gold in the jars, could not come to a verdict. He sent the case to a higher court, which eventually referred it to King Saul, himself. King Saul, however, also had no clue as to how to decide the case.
While on a walk in the countryside, the widow began to sob bitterly. A young shepherd noticed her bent and broken figure, and approached to offer his assistance. The widow smiled at this innocent lad, and told him her sad story.
"I have an idea that might help prove that the jars were filled with gold," said young David. 'Go to King Saul, and tell him that David, son of Jesse, would like to come to his court and to help settle this matter.'
The widow was touched at the young boy's sincerity. "My dear child," she said, "I have been sent to the King by the highest court in Israel, for they could not reach a decision. How, then, do you think that you will be able to help me?"
"Certainly G-d will help you. Just maybe, that help is meant to come through a young, simple shepherd such as I," David replied. The woman went to King Saul with David's request.
King Saul was intrigued with the young boy's offer and invited him to come to the court. The "friend" was also summoned to the court. Over and over, the thief swore on all that was holy that he had returned the exact same jars that he had been given.
"What do you say about this, my son?" asked King Saul to the young shepherd.
David asked that one of the jars be brought to him and in this way he would be able to prove the truth in the widow's words. David lifted the jar above his head and smashed it against the floor. He then carefully inspected the shards of pottery that were at his feet. Triumphantly, he help up one piece of the jar and waved it in the air. Stuck to the pottery was a gold coin that had been overlooked by the thief, and the widow.
The thief's evil deed had now been proven. All of Israel heard of the wisdom of the young shepherd, David, who later became one of the greatest kings of the Jewish people and from whom Moshiach is descended.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Shavuot Miracle In Tunisia

Matzliach "the Antique Dealer," as he was known, lived long ago in Tunisia. He was a great lover of Torah, though not an outstanding scholar. And, though he was not very rich, he gave charity generously.
He was particularly known in the Jewish community for his special custom in connection with Shavuot, the festival of the Giving of the Torah. Every year he invited ten scholars to his home on the first night of Shavuot. He prepared a fine feast for them, and after the meal they would recite the special "Tikun" prayers and study Torah the entire night.
Matzliach started this tradition when, years earlier, he learned of the custom to stay awake on the first night of Shavuot. At the time, he was greatly surprised to hear that the night before G-d was to give the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai, they did not stay awake! Indeed, they slept soundly, so that when G-d descended on the mountain early in the morning, His chosen people were not there! It wasn't that the people were not eager to receive the Torah, but rather that they wanted to be well rested and refreshed for the great moment of Divine Revelation.
And so it became the custom of Jews everywhere to make up for this by staying awake the night of Shavuot, in this way "correcting" what had happened. In fact, this is what "Tikun" means - correction.
One year when Shavuot approached, Matzliach found himself in a difficult situation. Business hadn't been good and not only didn't he have money for his usual feast, but he didn't even have the funds for food and wine for the holiday. Sadly he told his wife Mazal about his predicament.
"I still have my precious earrings," Mazal said, taking them off and giving them to him. "Take them to the pawnbroker to get a loan until things improve."
Matzliach took the earrings to the pawnbroker and received a tidy sum.
As he was walking home, Matzliach met the chief rabbi of Tunisia, Rabbi Hai Tayeb.
"You saved me a trip," the Rabbi said. "I'm going around collecting for our poor, so they can celebrate Shavuot with joy."
Without hesitation, Matzliach gave the Rabbi the money he had just received from the pawnbroker.
On his way home, as Matzliach wondered what he would tell his wife, he heard his name called.
"His Majesty sent me out to buy a set of antique coffee-cups. I have no idea where to get them," said one of the servants of the ruler. "But you are an antique dealer. Get them for me, and you will be amply rewarded."
"I will try my best," Matzliach promised. The dealer he went to had such a set and was happy to sell them off cheaply to Matzliach.
Matzliach went to the Royal court and was introduced to the King. "Just what I wanted," he said. Then he asked how much he owed for the cups.
After hearing the price, the surprised king asked, "That's all you paid for these precious cups? The ruler of Tunisia is not looking for bargains. You shall be paid their full value!"
Matzliach left the king's palace with a large sum of money. Walking home, he met the Chief Rabbi again.
"I can now afford to double my donation," Matzliach said happily.
"Thank G-d, we both did well today," the Rabbi said. "Have a happy Shavuot."
Indeed, it was a happy holiday for Matzliach and his wife Mazal. And what made them happiest was that this year, too, they could observe their custom of celebrating Tikun-night as before.

King David And The Madman

Shavuot is the anniversary of the passing of King David. The following is a famous story of King David from his youth
Before King David was anointed king, he was a shepherd and he spent his time tending his flocks in the hills, fields and forests of the land of Israel. His brilliant mind delved into all that he saw, and he tried to understand G-d's world. Many of G-d's creatures were beautiful, others were useful to man.
One day David saw a madman wandering through the fields. His clothing was torn, and the distracted look in his eyes bespoke a total loss of reason. David began to reflect on the man's condition. "G-d, you have created a world filled with beauty and perfection. Your creatures are wondrous to behold, but this I do not understand. Why did You create madness, which is good for nothing. Here I have seen a poor, destitute man who wanders completely bereft of reason. What purpose could insanity serve in Your world?"
G-d replied to David, saying, "David, do you really believe that I have created insanity in vain? One day you will see what it is for. One day you, yourself will be in need of madness and you will pray that I grant it to you."
When David was anointed by the prophet Samuel he was force to flee from King Saul who sought to kill him. David fled to the land of the Philistines, where King Achish gave him refuge. Achish didn't know that David was the new king, and he had hoped that David would help him defeat Saul.
Others in the king's court, namely the brothers of Goliath, whom David had slain, recognized him. They bided their time until they felt that the king would give David over to them, and said, "This is the very same man who killed our brother. Let us have our revenge on him."
But the king was unwilling to have his guest murdered. After all, it was likely that the young warrior would help in the war to defeat the Jewish king. He responded to them by denying their identification of young David. "It couldn't be David. He would never come to us for help. Besides, even if it was him, he killed your brother fairly, in battle."
The two brothers were angrier than ever and determined to get their revenge. They stirred up discontent among the other members of the king's royal guard, and taunted the king, saying, "Since one of the conditions of David's battle with my brother was that the winner would rule over the loser. Are you willing to become David's vassal?"
The king began to fear for his crown. He called David into his private chamber and cross-examined him about the death of Goliath. David saw that the king was no longer his ally, and he was frightened. He turned to G-d and prayed, "Please, Master of the Universe, help me now."
"What are you asking of Me; what kind of help do you require?" G-d responded.
"Let me become truly mad so that the king will not want to kill me."
"Do you remember when you asked Me why I created insanity? I told you that one day you would ask me to make you insane. Now, that has happened and you understand very well."
Immediately, David became obviously insane. The brothers of Goliath tried to bind him and bring him before the king, but he whirled and spun in circles. He spit and screamed and tore at his hair. He took a piece of charcoal and scribbled all over the palace doors, "Achish owes me a hundred times ten thousand pieces of silver. His wife, the queen, owes me fifty."
David ran through the palace from end to end. Achish had a daughter who was insane. She was kept in a locked room in the palace. When she heard David scream, she would scream back, and when she would scream, David would answer. The ruckus was unbearable to the king.
"Aren't I surrounded by enough insanity? Do I have to have this madman here as well? Get him out of here! It is obvious that this can't be David. David is a brilliant scholar and soldier; this man is completely insane."
Everyone at court agreed with him. Even Goliath's brothers saw that this was the wrong man. David was forcibly expelled from the palace. When he found himself free and no longer threatened his sanity returned to him. And he understood that everything that G-d does is good and has its purpose in the world.

Shpoler Zeide Shavuot Services

A group of Chasidim of the Shpoler Zeide from a rural area had been suffering for years under the heavy yoke of their cruel landlord, a high-ranking member of Poland's nobility, who owned all the land in that area. He was constantly raising the rents on their homes and the leases for their businesses.
What hurt most, though, were his vicious anti-Semitic twists. He had tried to force them to open their businesses on Shabbat. But his most recent depravity was the worst: he had issued a degree that in all buildings on his extensive properties, a depiction of the Christian god had to be displayed. The Shpoler Zeide's Chasidim travelled to their Rebbe to tell him this latest tale of woe.
"I've waited a long time for that wicked man to change his evil ways," said the Rebbe furiously. "He must be taught a lesson. It is time for him to hear the Ten Commandments. This is what you must do: Gather for the Shavuot holiday at the home of the Chasid with the largest property. But first, invite the landlord and all of his noble friends to come hear the festival morning prayers. As for you, prepare yourselves for the holy occasion of Receiving the Torah. I will come to join you. So, go in peace and don't worry."
The Chasidim were eager to carry out the Rebbe's instructions. The villagers who went to invite the poritz were received pleasantly, much to their surprise. He promised that he and his associates would attend. He immediately launched preparations for a huge party for all the noblemen in the region, the highlight of which would be the spectacle of the Jewish prayer to which they were all invited.
The Shpoler Zeide arrived in the village on the eve of Shavuot. They quickly realized there would not be enough room on the largest farm for so many people. The Rebbe told them to go to the nearby hill, and raise up a large tent there.
On Shavuot morning, the grassy lands around the hill were crowded with hundreds of Jews, waiting in nervous anticipation. A significant number of non-Jewish landowners and nobility in the region also waited eagerly, looking forward to the wonderful spectacle their host had promised them.
The Rebbe approached the platform to lead the prayers himself. The Jews began to pray with enthusiasm. The gentiles - seeing an old man with a long beard, covered with an oversized white shawl, chanting loudly the words of the prayers - all laughed heartily. But when the Rebbe called out powerfully, "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad," their laughter ceased. It was as if a lion had roared. They were gripped by terror. How could a puny, absurd Jew make them afraid? But they couldn't shake the mood. It was as if the Rebbe's voice continued to reverberate off the hillside. A few minutes later, the praying Jews stood silently, reciting the Amida prayer, after which followed the joyous singing of Hallel and chanting of the Akdamot. The festival joy was palpable. The Rebbe signaled for the Torah scroll to be brought out. The Shpoler Zeide then summoned a very tall, distinguished man to be the Torah reader.
The reader's voice was both musical and powerful. When they reached the section of the Ten Commandments, the atmosphere altered radically. It had been a beautiful, clear, spring morning. Suddenly, the heavens darkened, and tremendous peals of thunder boomed out. Fright took hold of everyone.
The reader's voice rose in volume and intensity. "I am G-d who brought you out of Egypt." Though he did not know even a word of Hebrew, amazingly, the landlord understood everything that was being read. "You shall not have other gods before Me. Do not make any statue or image..." The landlord trembled as he thought of how he had demanded the Jews put up graven images.
When he heard "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy," his knees buckled. Why had he tried to force the Jews to open their businesses on the Sabbath?
His friends were similarly affected. They too felt they understood the commandments directly. Each one thought about his sins and was seized with fear. Their faces were deathly white. Many of them fainted. After a few moments which seemed like an eternity, the reading drew to a close and the noblemen recovered somewhat. Deeply embarrassed, they slipped away one by one.
After the prayers were concluded, the Jews sat down to the traditional dairy meal. The Shpoler Zeide related: "I assure you that the poritz and his friends will remember today for the rest of their lives and they will never afflict you again. To accomplish this I was forced to trouble Moses himself to come and read the Torah. You have a great merit, my friends, to have been here today.
The Rebbe continued, "Know that your landlord has in him a spark of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law and the priest of Midian, who came to the Jews in the desert and acknowledged the existence of G-d...and that Israel is His chosen people."
After the holiday ended, the duke requested that the Rebbe come to see him. The two men spent hours together alone and the next morning the Shpoler Zeide returned home.
From that day on, the landlord's attitude towards his Jewish tenants changed dramatically. They were able to live in peace, without any unfair pressure from the landlord. Not only that, but with his own money he paid for the construction of a synagogue for the Jews on his estates, insisting, though, that it be built on the hill where the holy rabbi had come to pray.
Translated and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles.

Moshe In Heaven Receiving The Torah

Before the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d brought Moses up to Heaven in order to teach him the entire Torah. Moses, who walked about in Heaven as one walks on earth, was greeted by an angel who asked him, "What are you doing here, son of Amram? What business do you, a mortal who lives in the physical world, have coming to the holy Heavens?"
"I did not come of my own will," replied Moses confidently. "Our Master has ordered me here in order to receive the Torah and bring it back to the Jewish nation."
When the angels realized that Moses had come to take the Torah from the Heavens and bring it to the Jews, they raised a mighty cry. Would they now be parted forever more from their beloved Torah?
G-d therefore told Moses, "Go and speak with the angels. Convince them that they have no need for the Torah and that they have no reason to regret that it is being taken from them."
But Moses was frightened by the fiery angels. "I am surprised at you, Moses," chastised G-d. "When I first appeared to you from the burning bush, you had much to say. You were not afraid to ask and to argue without end. Why are suddenly frightened by angels who are merely My servants?"
Emboldened by G-d's words, and holding on to the Heavenly throne, Moses gathered his courage and began. "Whatever was written in the Torah was not intended for you," Moses told the angels gathered nearby. "What does the Torah say? 'I am G-d your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt.' Were you ever slaves in Egypt? Did G-d rescue you from there?" Moses asked the Heavenly servants.
"The Torah also says, 'You shall have no strange gods before Me.' Do you worship man made idols? Do you have an inclination to steal, to covet what belongs to others? Do you have parents that you must honor them? If not, what use do you have for the Torah? You cannot observe its positive commandments nor its prohibitions."
Hearing these arguments, the angels had to concede that Moses was right.
Moses remained in Heaven for 40 days and 40 nights, learning the entire Written Torah and Oral Tradition. Moses knew when day or night had passed on earth by the activities of the angels. When he saw the angels preparing the manna which the Jews were to eat the following day, he knew that it was day. When the manna fell, he knew it was night time on Earth.
One day, Moses saw G-d sitting on His mighty, exalted throne, adding crowns to the letters of the Torah. He asked G-d to explain the reason for these decorations and was told, "In many years to come there will be born a great tzadik (righteous person) by the name of Akiva the son of Josef, who will reveal many hidden secrets of the Torah. He will know how to derive laws and Torah thoughts from every letterhead and crown which I am now adding to the letters."
Moses begged to be shown this tzadik. G-d showed him a building which housed many disciples sitting in rows upon rows. At their head sat a man who resembled a heavenly angel. Moses approached the men but could not understand what they were saying, and he was very grieved.
Then, suddenly, Moses heard one of the students ask the angelic-looking man how he knew all he had been teaching them. Rabbi Akiva replied, "Everything I am teaching and innovating before you in Torah is a direct transmission of what Moses received upon Mount Sinai." Moses was comforted by these words but asked G-d, "If You intend to create such a great person, why do You not grant him the privilege of bringing the Torah down to the Jews?"
"I have especially chosen you to bring the Torah to My children," G-d told Moses. "But because you were so modest in thinking that Rabbi Akiva is more fitting than you to transmit the Torah to the Jews, I will increase your wisdom and knowledge." And at that moment, G-d opened the 50 gates of wisdom, allowing Moses to pass through 49 of them. Moses's wisdom was so great that no other person in the world could compare with him. And it is from Moses, of all our other great teachers, that we will learn Torah when Moshiach comes.

The Shavuot The Tzemach Tzedek Became Rebbe

When the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the "Mitteler Rebbe") passed away, there were three prospective successors.
Though all three were immensely qualified for the leadership of the Chabad movement, all three unanimously declined all the importuning of the Chasidim. These three were: Reb Chaim Avraham, the brother of Rabbi Dov Ber and youngest son of the Alter Rebbe, Reb Menachem Nachum, the Mitteler Rebbe's son, and the Tzemach Tzedek, the son of the Alter Rebbe's eldest daughter.
As time passed, the pressure among the Chasidim to find a successor escalated, though it seemed that no solution was in sight. Finally, despairing of a solution being found, two of the Chasidim declared, "It is impossible to be without a Rebbe!" They decided to travel to Ruzhin with the intention of accepting the Ruzhiner Rebbe as their Rebbe.
The Ruzhiner Rebbe, Reb Yisrael, was the grandson of the Mezritcher Maggid, and so highly thought of for his enormous piety that he was called the "Holy Ruzhiner."
These two Chasidim travelled to Ruzhin for Shavuot. As was the custom there, (as well as among many other Chasidim) the Ruzhiner distributed shirayim -- food from his table -- to his Chasidim. It was Yom Tov and the Ruzhiner began to distribute wine from his own cup to each of the Chasidim. The two Chabad Chasidim also wanted to participate and receive wine from the Ruzhiner and they proffered their cups for the "cup of blessing."
The Ruzhiner, however, refused them, saying, "If you want some wine, you may take it yourself, but I will not give it to you."
The two were very surprised and protested, "Why won't you give it to us, after all we have come here in order to accept you as our Rebbe?"
Upon hearing those words, the Ruzhiner sat down at the table and began to deliver a deep Chasidic discourse based on the theme, "The Giving of the Torah began, not at Mount Sinai, but at the burning bush."
He explained in great depth that when G-d gave Moshe the task of taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt, G-d told Moshe to "tell the Jews that I have remembered you and want to take you out of Egypt."
Moshe's reaction was strange. He replied that he was afraid the Jews would ask him what is G-d's name. To this G-d replied, "Tell them My Name is, 'I will be what I will be.' "
The Ruzhiner posed the question, "Why did Moshe ask this question of G-d? For Moshe did know G-d's name as he had been handed down a tradition that it was spelled Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei[1]! And why did G-d answer, 'I will be what I will be.'"
The Ruzhiner elucidated the point through the use of numerical equivalents which are often used to explicate texts. He explained that the numerical equivalent of Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei is 26, while that of the words "I will be what I will be" equals 441 which is " emet" -- truth. G-d desired that Moshe be able to reveal to the Jews the truth.
"The word 'emet'," continued the Rebbe, "is also an acronym for, "Torat Menachem Emet" ["the Torah of Menachem is truth"].
When the two Chabad Chasidim heard these words being spoken by the Holy Ruzhiner, they realized that he was intimating that they should return home to the city of Lubavitch and that the Tzemach Tzedek, whose name was Menachem Mendel, should become Rebbe.
Upon arriving in Lubavitch two weeks later, the Tzemach Tzedek had already acquiesced. The returning Chasidim repeated to their fellows the discourse they had heard from the mouth of the Holy Ruzhiner in regard to the word "emet" intimating that the Tzemach Tzedek should be the Rebbe.
The Chasidim recalled with amazement that the Tzemach Tzedek had delivered the same discourse that very same Shavuot, but when he reached the part which identified the acronym of emet with his name, Menachem, he merely hesitated and smiled to himself. Now, they all understood why he had smiled.

Talmudic Preparation For Shavuot

The two famous rabbis, Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg and Reb Pinchas of Frankfurt were brothers, the sons of the Rabbi of Tchortkov, Reb Tzvi Hirsh Halevi Horowitz. Even as small children they were known as prodigies.
When they were quite young their father took over the duty of teaching them Torah.
It was a challenging job and he taught them as quickly and as much as their brilliant minds could absorb. When they were both well below ten years of age, they were already learning the Talmud with several commentaries.
As part of their schedule, they would learn the laws which pertained to the next approaching holiday. And so, when the holiday of Chanukah ended, their father began the study of the tractate Megilla. Having completed it by Purim, they began learning the tractate dealing with the laws of Passover, which they finished right on target; the day before Pesach.
Shmelke, the elder of the two boys then said to his father, "Now we have to begin learning the tractate Shevuot if we want to finish it by the time Shavuot comes along."
"Do you think that Shevuot deals with the laws of the holiday?" asked their father smiling, for that was not the case.
"No," replied the boy. "I know it deals with the laws of oaths, but I have a reason why we should study it now. On that first Shavuot, all the Jews took an oath at Mount Sinai to keep the commandments of the Torah, and that promise has been binding ever since. I want to learn the laws of oaths so I can understand how important it is to keep a promise and how serious it is to break one. I figured out that there are forty-nine double pages of this tractate and forty-nine days between Pesach and Shavuot, and if we learn a double-page every day, we will finish in time for Shavuot.
Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh was pleased by his son's erudite reasoning and he happily agreed to learn according to his suggestion.
By the time Lag B'Omer had arrived (the thirty-third day of the Omer), they had reached a section in the tractate which mentioned a law in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Little Shmelke jumped up from the table excitedly: "Father, Father, you see how wonderful! This is the day of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's yahrzeit, the thirty-third day of the Omer, and here his name is mentioned. Not only that, but it says '...and they laughed in the land of Israel,' and everyone knows that it's a custom to make a big celebration in Israel on this day!" The father and sons finished exactly as they had calculated, although they had to study a double-page every day.
The following year when Pesach had passed, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh again asked his sons what they wished to learn in preparation for the holiday of Shavuot. This time the younger child, Pinchas, answered: "I think we should begin the tractates of Ketubot (marriage contracts) and Kiddushin (the laws of marriages)."
Questioned his father, "What do they have to do with Shavuot?"
"That's easy. On Shavuot, G-d took the Jewish people to be His -- it was like a wedding -- and said the words, `And I have betrothed you to Me forever.'
You taught us that He held Mount Sinai over our heads like a marriage canopy. The holy words of the Torah were like our marriage contract, and He gave us a gift as well -- the Oral Torah. That is why I think we should learn the laws of marriage contracts and betrothals -- so we will know that the `wedding' of Israel and G-d was a valid one and that both G-d and the Jews are obligated to fulfill all the points of the contract."
Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh couldn't help beaming with pride from his son's well-reasoned words.
The three scholars learned the two tractates in record speed, finishing two double pages a day until, forty-nine days later, they celebrated both the holiday of Shavuot and the successful completion of their studies.

Kosher Money

Rabbi Meir of Premishlan was a great tzadik whose holiness was acknowledged by Jews from far and wide who sought advice and blessings from him.
One day a woman was admitted into his study. As soon as she set eyes on the tzadik she burst into tears. "What is troubling you?" Reb Meir asked. The sobbing woman could barely speak, but she managed to get out the words, "Rebbe, I have no children; please give me your blessing."
The Rebbe was full of compassion for the woman's pain and he replied to her, "May it be G-d's will that your request be fulfilled."
Armed with the holy man's blessing, the woman confidently went home and waited for his words to be realized. Not a year had passed by when Rabbi Meir received a letter from a distant city from a person he did not know.
When he read the letter and removed the papers contained in the envelope, he was shocked to find a bank note for the tremendous sum of three hundred rubles.
The letter read: "My wife has just given birth to a child thanks to the Rebbe's blessing. I beg the Rebbe to accept this gift in gratitude."
Far from being pleased, Rabbi Meir's distress was apparent, as he extended his hand to put the bank note on the far side of the table as if he wanted to remain as distant from it as possible. Then he called his sons to come to him at once to discuss an important matter.
When they arrived, he brought them into his room and pointed to the letter: "Today I received a letter which is brimming full of errors and falsehoods. For one thing, it refers to me as a holy man, a tzadik, and that is patently false. Secondly, the entire premise of the letter is false, for this man credits me with the birth of his son. How ridiculous! What do I have to do with such lofty matters as birth and death? Am I a tzadik that I have control over these things? I have therefore decided to return the money to him at once."
His sons were shocked. The eldest spoke first. "Father, we are very poor. Perhaps G-d has taken pity on us and decided to end our poverty through this man. Maybe it would be wrong and ungrateful of us not to make good use of it." Everyone agreed.
Only the Rebbe staunchly maintained that the money must be returned to the misguided sender.
They turned the matter over this way and that, but it became clear that no consensus could be reached. The family decided to bring their dilemma to a rabbinical court, a beit din. The judges listened to both sides of the case and then reached their decision: The Rebbe should keep the money. It was true that Reb Meir was such a modest man that he denied being a tzadik whose blessings could have helped the childless woman, but the woman and her husband obviously thought differently. In their estimation it was the Rebbe's prayers that brought about the birth of their child, and they gave the money purely as a gift from their hearts. Therefore, it was perfectly fine to keep the gift.
The Rebbe and his sons left the rooms of the beit din in very different moods. The sons were satisfied that their opinion had been upheld by the judges. The terrible poverty in which they lived would be alleviated at least for a time. Their father, however, was brought no peace by the decision. For although the rabbinical court had ruled that he was completely justified in keeping the money, his own heart was uneasy. He decided to take the problem to his wife, the rebbetzin.
As his life's companion and a woman whose vision was always clear, she would be the final arbiter of this case, for he trusted her judgment completely.
The Rebbe and his sons entered the house and asked the rebbetzin to come and sit with them; they had something of great importance to discuss with her. When the family was seated around the table, the Rebbe filled her in on all the details of the problem, leaving out nothing, but stressing his own unease with the reason for receiving the gift.
Her sons, on the other hand, stressed how much easier their lives would be now, since G-d had clearly wanted to help them out of their troubles by sending them this money.
She listened wordlessly to both sides and then turned to her husband. "My dear husband, all your life you have guarded yourself from even tasting food that had a question about its kashrut. Even when you discovered that it was a hundred percent kosher you refrained from eating it, because its permissibility had been in question. Now we are faced with the same situation, the only difference being that the question is on the kashrut of money and not on food. Why should you act any differently now?"
Rabbi Meir smiled at her. He stood up, walked into his room, took the bank note and put it into an envelope which he addressed to the sender. That very day it was deposited in the post and the hearts of the tzadik and tzadeket were content.