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Tuesday
Dec182012

THE ONE-MAN WEEKLY TAHALUCHA

On Simchas Torah 5711, sixty-two years ago, the Rebbe spoke in a unique manner about the privilege and importance of walking to shuls and reviewing a point or idea from Chassidic teachings. * Since then, the phenomenon has grown and spread, not only on Yomim Tovim, but every Shabbos. This is not something done only by shluchim or bachurim. Many balabatim have also adopted shuls where they repeat a point from the Rebbe’s sicha every Shabbos. * Beis Moshiach presents some interesting stories on this topic.

It was Simchas Torah 5711/1950, the first Tishrei that the Rebbe served as the leader of the Chabad movement. The Rebbe urged the Chassidim to go to shuls in various neighborhoods and repeat points from sichos and maamarei Chassidus.

At that time, the mivtza was not yet referred to as it is today, by the term “Hakhalas K’hillos” (holding gatherings). Although this name was first given in 5750, the phenomenon had already begun growing over the years.

NOT OBVIOUS

The Rebbe said many sichos regarding this request of his, to review Chassidus in shuls. It began with the Tahaluchos of the Shalosh Regalim, in which thousands of bachurim and married men visit shuls throughout New York, bring holiday joy, and review sichos of the Rebbe. Since then, this takes place not only in New York but throughout the world with pairs of men leaving from every Chabad shul to other shuls in their area and reviewing Chassidus there. And it takes place on Shabbos too.

Today we are used to it, but upon examining the mivtza when it first began, we discover that the Rebbe had to work to convince Anash to do this.

“You have to understand,” explained R’ Itzke Gansbourg in his memoir, “that what today is a given, that bachurim darshen in shuls, was out of the question fifty years ago. It would be like a three year old today asking to speak in shul.”

In one of the sichos, the Rebbe spoke about this topic and addressed the bachurim in particular. He said that since they are young and have the energy of youth, they should use that energy and go to shuls. The Rebbe concluded on an astonishing note:

“Each of us wants to see the Rebbe, my father-in-law, so he will resolve our questions, for each of us has questions (even those who don’t know they have questions), and in order to resolve them, we need to see the Rebbe. The solution for this is going to shuls on Rosh HaShana to inspire Jews, souls in bodies, for by doing so you are fulfilling the Rebbe’s wishes, and through this you will merit that the Rebbe will resolve your questions in a way of a soul in a body.”

What follows are some stories that we hope will inspire our readers to stop off in a neighborhood shul and repeat some point or idea from Chassidus or a sicha of the Rebbe.

THE SHLIACH WHO ADDRESSES 3000 PEOPLE EVERY SHABBOS!

R’ Menachem Mendel Friedman, shliach in Ohr Yehuda, has been visiting all the shuls in his city for twenty years. It was hard to get stories out of him, but this is what he finally shared with us:

Even after the opening of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Ohr Yehuda, you still have work to do?

Although the bachurim have plenty to do, I still personally visit 12-16 shuls on regular Shabbasos (as opposed to off-Shabbasos for the yeshiva or Bein Ha’z’manim) out of the forty shuls in Ohr Yehuda. There are also shuls that I visit at night, and the bachurim go by day, or I go in the afternoon and they go in the morning.

How much time do you spend in each shul?

Between four to seven minutes. I say a point, connected to Moshiach of course, and then go on my way.

What impact does it have?

Most of the people who go to shul in Ohr Yehuda, a traditional city, know me, but I don’t know most of them. I go to every shul in the city at least once a month, so I have to visit more than ten shuls every Shabbos. That’s why I have only a few minutes to speak and I don’t get to know anyone except for the people in charge. But the people see me and know me. People often approach me in the street, in the supermarket, or on line at the bank (and there were even times when I was out of the country) and say hello warmly as though we are old acquaintances. I don’t always recognize them, but they know me from shul. To me, he might be just another person in shul, but to him, I am the rabbi who comes to shul every Shabbos. Some consider themselves my talmidim. When you review a sicha in shul, your relationship with people as the shliach becomes personal to them.

It has happened that I’ve asked someone for a donation, and to me, this was the first time I was meeting him. He takes out a handsome donation and it turns out that he knows about and appreciates the work that we do and he is exposed to it every week.

How many people hear you say a sicha every Shabbos?

There are shuls with twenty or thirty people and shuls with two hundred people. I think that on regular Shabbasos, about 2000 people hear me. On “bigger” Shabbasos, it would be around 3000 people.

So you end up repeating the same sicha dozens of times. How do you feel about that? It doesn’t get to you after a while?

On the contrary! I may even repeat the same point at memorial gatherings, but when I repeat the point many times, I feel that it really gets through to me in an especially deep way.

There is a sicha of the Rebbe’s in which he explains the inyan of “echad.” The Rebbe compares the letter Dalet to a hammer that pounds and drives home and gets you to internalize something. That’s how I feel sometimes. Obviously, I try to offer some variety if I know that the bachurim are going to that shul and may have repeated that same point, but as to your question – it’s never too often for me.

Are you always welcomed with open arms?

There were certain shuls that asked me not to talk about Moshiach. You have to understand that opposition to Moshiach can be quite natural, and before responding, you need to understand where they’re coming from. People are afraid of disappointment. Sometimes they feel that Moshiach is something important, but constantly talking about it is overdoing it.

So I am on very good terms with the gabbaim and do as they ask, but I also explain to them, and at some point to all the people of the shul, that Moshiach is not an add-on to Torah and mitzvos; it’s the point of it all. As an example, I tell them that we all daven three times a day, “for Your salvation we hope all day.” Even after asking for this in the morning, we repeat the request in the afternoon and then again in the evening. As the Rebbe explained, we don’t say, “for Your salvation we hope each day,” but “all day.” We are constantly anticipating the Geula throughout the day.

Every t’filla is full of references to Moshiach and this is the reason why it is one of the thirteen principles of faith, for it is the purpose for which the world was created. When you explain and demonstrate that everything is based on Torah and Torah sources, and especially that you really believe it yourself, my experience has been that people accept it.

FROM RAMAT AVIV TO RECHOV HA’CHASHMAL

I heard the following story from the person it happened to, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“When I was a bachur on shlichus to the yeshiva in Ramat Aviv, I would learn with the bachurim on Shabbos before the davening. Our shlichus was mainly focused on the bachurim, but although I hadn’t planned on reviewing Chassidus in shuls, the Rebbe sent someone to me who got me to do this.

“It was a hot and humid Thursday afternoon and I was walking from the yeshiva with another shliach by the name of Yehuda to the dormitory on Rechov Chaim Levanon. On the way, we met a nice man who asked where we were davening on Shabbos. We said we would be davening in the yeshiva as we did every day.

“He asked, ‘Maybe you’ll come to my shul in the south of the city in order to complete a minyan?’ We had our shlichus in the yeshiva to do and had no interest in walking from the north of Tel Aviv to the south in that heat, so we declined. ‘We need to be in the yeshiva,’ we said.

“But he didn’t let up. ‘There won’t be a minyan without you,’ he begged plaintively. We advised him to look for Jews in his area, in the south or the center of the city instead of asking us to walk across town.

“I guess he knew what Lubavitchers are about and their weak spots. He responded that there weren’t any people around on the street early in the morning. Then he presented us with a strong inducement that we couldn’t refuse. He said, ‘You can also say Divrei Torah. We don’t have anyone to say Divrei Torah in shul.’

“So the following Shabbos, we got up early. At seven o’clock, after going to the mikva, we walked from the yeshiva in Ramat Aviv to the shul which I think was in the area of Rechov HaChashmal. Walking through Tel Aviv at that early hour on Shabbos was actually wonderful. The streets were practically empty of cars and there was a Shabbos feeling in the air.

“After about an hour’s walk, we arrived at the shul. There were foreign workers standing around and no Jews to be seen. We realized how right the man, who turned out to be the gabbai, was. The shul was small and old; it was a point of spiritual light within the galus of southern Tel Aviv.

“Without us, as he said, there would have been no minyan. At the end of Shacharis there was a Kiddush and I was asked to speak. I don’t remember what I said. I just remember that when I finished, the gabbai announced, ‘When these boys get married, I ask that they invite me to their wedding and I will give them a gift.’

“Although I was starting to get shidduchim suggestions, the gabbai’s announcement made me smile. Who said I would continue going to this shul until I did a shidduch? And who said we’d be in touch until the wedding? And if I invited the gabbai, who’s to say he would come? And if he came, what sort of gift would he bring? It sounded like an empty promise.

“Well, I was in the middle of seeing someone at the time and a week later, on Thursday, I became engaged. We walked to the shul again that Shabbos. I didn’t feel comfortable announcing that I had a mazal tov, but my friend felt differently. When I finished reviewing a sicha, he told the few people there that I was a chassan.

“They were all excited for me and showered me with brachos. The gabbai repeatedly said that he would give me a gift, as he had said he would.

“The next day, in the middle of learning Nigleh in yeshiva, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, and to my surprise, there was the gabbai of the shul standing there with a smile. He shook my hand warmly and pressed an envelope into my hand.

“I had planned on giving my kalla a gift of Sifrei Halacha, written in language that was easy to understand. I had wanted to give her a sum of money so that she could buy the s’farim she liked, but I didn’t have a shekel to my name. Nevertheless, I had full bitachon in Hashem. When I opened the envelope, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was exactly the amount of money I had wanted to set aside for the gift.

“The next day, I was able to give the gift to my kalla along with the wonderful story of bitachon. I learned that when you do what Hashem wants of you, He will take care of what you need from Him.”

LAUNCHING A CAREER IN PUBLIC SPEAKING

In the Simchas Torah Sicha of 5711, 62 years ago, the Rebbe spoke to the bachurim who went to do hakafos in other shuls and acknowledged the difficulty in going to a “strange” shul and reviewing a sicha or a Chassidic concept:

“Although the nature of a person who goes to a strange place is not to feel as confident as in the place he comes from, this is not so for Jews. As we see that even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash when “we were exiled from our land,” Jews stand strong to fulfill Torah and mitzvos with mesirus nefesh.

“From this is understood as it relates to going to shuls. Although you are going to a strange place, without knowing what kind of shul it is and what kind of Jews you will meet there, there is no fear lest they be affected and influenced without being able to have an influence on them, for with the Jewish people, wherever they go, they stand firm as in their own place. And in our case, this means going to shuls with all the strength one finds in the Rebbe’s shul and with this strength, influencing them and being mekarev them to the Rebbe.”

R’ Itche Gansbourg was a Chassid who spoke all over town. He was a dynamic and active doer, and he was never afraid of the microphone. He always made himself heard loudly. He told about the first time he spoke:

“On 11 Shevat 5711, when the Rebbe officially accepted the leadership of Chabad, all of Anash in Eretz Yisroel resolved to be mekusharim to him, heart and soul, and to carry out the special role of the seventh generation – to bring the Sh’china down to this material world and to actually bring the Geula.

“This is not the place to describe that year, replete with events, in detail, but I will tell a personal story that will illustrate the huge change the Rebbe wrought when he became Rebbe.

“It was Shabbos, Parshas R’ei 5711. At the farbrengen that Shabbos, the Rebbe asked everyone to go to shuls where they lived and to tell people that the Torah and mitzvos are the “cities of refuge” in our days. Someone who fell short in his observance of Torah and mitzvos could be saved by observing Torah and mitzvos.

“The Rebbe asked that they convey this message to all Chabad centers around the world. After Shabbos, we received a message in Tel Aviv from the secretariat about what the Rebbe said.

“Shabbos morning, I remembered what the Rebbe had said and didn’t know just what I was supposed to do. You, the reader, must understand that what today is a given, that bachurim darshen in shuls, was out of the question fifty years ago…

“In any case, since the Rebbe said so, it had to be done. We lived on Rechov HaKishon on the border of Tel Aviv – Yaffo, and I decided to try my luck in Yaffo. I began walking in the direction of the center of Yaffo. On the way, I saw a Yemenite shul but they had started davening very early. When I arrived, they had already finished davening and were starting to leave the shul. That was the case in the next shul too.

“I walked about half an hour until I reached the center of Yaffo and the main Ashkenazi shul. The people who davened there were Poilish Chassidim and they hadn’t started davening yet. I went over to the gabbai and told him that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had sent me to address the congregants.

“To my surprise, he readily agreed and I began thinking about how to deliver the first drasha in my life. In the meantime, I found out that there was to be a Kiddush after the davening and I figured I would be speaking then. That would make it easier for me because after a L’chaim, it’s easier to speak.

“However, to my surprise, right after the Torah reading the gabbai went up to the bima and called upon me to speak. There were over a hundred people and I felt weak in the knees.

“Thinking that surely the Rebbe would help me, I went up to the bima. As I said, I had never spoke in public before, and I did not know what to say or how to say it. I began with the story of the Baal Shem Tov who, before his passing, told his disciples their path in life. To one of them, he said he should tell stories that he witnessed with the Baal Shem Tov.

“‘I too received instructions from the Lubavitcher Rebbe to speak to you. I am not a speaker and I don’t know how to speak, but I will tell you what the Rebbe said.’

“I repeated what the Rebbe said and it seemed as though they enjoyed it, as well as the fact that when the Rebbe makes a request – even a young bachur like me can speak. Since then, I made it a point to speak regularly in public and give over the Rebbe’s words.”

FROM ANGER TO GRATITUDE

R’ Yosef Yitzchok Zilberstrom is the mashpia of the Chabad community in Lud. He, together with many men from his large community, young and old, cover all the shuls of Lud and Ramle every Shabbos. They do this in an organized way so that not a single shul is excluded.

R’ Zilberstrom told us of an extreme situation in which one of the people yelled at him because of how he referred to the Rebbe:

“As I always do, when I review a sicha of the Rebbe, I use all the usual descriptive titles (i.e. Melech HaMoshiach). One time, when I went to a shul in Ramle, someone got up and loudly said, ‘How dare you say things like that?’ There was no commotion and no argument ensued, but that was a clear protest against what I said.

“Since I saw that it wasn’t the time or place to respond, I smiled and didn’t react. A few weeks later, it was my turn to speak in this shul again. I debated about whether I should go or I should ask someone else to go. If I went, should I use those same titles or should I give in ‘for the sake of peace?’

“When I got to the shul, I decided that since the Rebbe said, ‘Hinei zeh, Moshiach ba,’ and ‘he points with his finger and says zeh’ – in other words, it is possible to point and show who Moshiach is – I would say what I usually say. Interestingly, not only didn’t that man call out, he came to me afterward and exclaimed, ‘Thank you rabbi for explaining the significance of Chai Elul, the birthday of the two luminaries.’ As we continued talking, he told me that 18 Elul is his anniversary.

“I saw, yet again, how the Rebbe is right when he says the world is ready. A person might ask a question or not understand something; our job is to explain, but the world is definitely ready to accept ‘his malchus willingly.’ We cannot be fazed. We have a mission from the Rebbe and when we speak from the heart and with all our heart, people accept it.”

THE SECRET TO 
A GOOD SPEECH

When I spoke with my friend R’ Menachem Ziegelboim of the Beis Moshiach staff about this article, he told me a story.

“For a few years, I reviewed a sicha of the Rebbe in a shul in Ramat Gan on a regular basis. To their credit, I was always warmly welcomed. Sometimes, I would review the sicha before the Torah reading, and sometimes afterward. Either way, they always gave me the floor. It was a pleasure to go there.

“It was Shabbos Chanuka when I went to the shul one week, and I discovered that they already had a guest speaker who was in the middle of speaking. Shabbos Chanuka is an especially festive Shabbos. Speakers enjoy talking about the symbolism of light, about the menorah, purity and impurity, the Maccabees versus the Yevanim, etc.

“I sat down and waited for the rabbi to finish talking. In the meantime, the gabbai quietly came over to me and whispered, ‘In honor of Shabbos Chanuka, another two rabbis have asked to speak,’ and he motioned to another two people, whom I did not recognize from previous Shabbasos, who were sitting not far off.

“Oy, I thought to myself. The people won’t have patience to listen to four speakers! What should I do? Should I get up and leave or stay?

“I can tell you that it wasn’t my honor that I was concerned about, but about what the Rebbe wanted me to do. On the one hand, I thought, I am a shliach and a shliach doesn’t quit. On the other hand, the people here are not talmidei chachomim, and they might enjoy hearing a good vort but nothing more, so they won’t have the patience to listen. Yet … can I just leave? Do I come here in my honor?

“The consideration that a shliach doesn’t leave his post won out, but it was still a problem. I had plenty of time to think because the speakers went on and on. In the meantime, I said T’hillim as per the custom on Shabbos Mevarchim and remained doubtful.

“When I finally got up in order to speak, the gabbai announced ‘Rabbi Menachem is the last one for today.’ I couldn’t help but hear a silent sigh of relief. I looked at the crowd and it was impossible not to see the weariness in their eyes. They were hungry. What did they want already? Just to be able to go home and eat.

“That speech was the shortest one I ever gave. I think it was all of sixty seconds in length. I repeated an idea from a sicha about how each day we add one more candle than the day before. ‘Why then, don’t we begin with eight candles? To teach us that what we did today has to be much better than yesterday and what we did today is not enough for tomorrow. A candle represents a mitzva and a Jew must always add a ‘bit more.’

“Just sixty seconds. That is how long those loyal to me from among the congregants still tried to be generous. Even those who realized that they were doomed to sit for another fifteen minutes were pleasantly surprised.

“That was the only time I was ever applauded. That goes to show how important a concise talk, which contains a complete thought and a practical lesson, is. I also learned how it is truly possible to get all that into sixty concentrated seconds.

“In short, the secret to success is brevity.”

 

WHEN LUBAVITCHERS WERE ASHAMED TO REPRESENT CHABAD

The first time the Rebbe spoke about reviewing Chassidus in shuls was Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim 5710 (From Toras Menachem 5701 p. 214):

Regarding going to shuls, the way it used to be was that when they asked you where you were from, they would say, from Dokshitz, because they were afraid of saying from Lubavitch lest they be chased away.

But today, we are at a time when there is no need to be fazed but one can say openly: We had and we have a big Rebbe, the Rebbe my father-in-law, and we are here on his shlichus!

The truth is that it is not possible to hide the fact of being “Lubavitchers.” Even if you’ll dress as others do, with all the hiddurim (making sure the color of your socks matches the color of your tie, having a cigar in your mouth and speaking fluent English, etc.) they will identify you as “Lubavitchers,” so you’re better off saying so from the outset.

… The truth is, they would not chase you out because of being a “Lubavitcher” – for “every person who has Yiras Shamayim, his words are listened to” – but because your external appearance does not match the p’nimius, which is why they give a false reason and say they are chasing you out because you are a “Lubavitcher.”

You need to say the truth, that you come on behalf of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, and speak with a breitkait (broadness) and don’t be fazed by anyone, like the analogy (brought in Chassidus) of an exceedingly wise man to whom those who are not intelligent are not considered by him to be worth anything at all. Though you must be careful not to offend anyone and “the words of the wise are heard when they are gentle,” at the same time, you need to go with “breitkait” and not feel daunted by anyone.

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