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Wednesday
Jul112018

A LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS AT A CHABAD HOUSE IN BRAZIL

Hundreds of communities are leaving Christianity and committing to the Seven Noahide Laws. * Senior clergy are admitting that Christianity is a big mistake and recommending the Seven Noahide Laws or conversion to their congregants. * Rabbi Yaakov Gerenstadt, shliach in the Brooklin neighborhood of S Paulo, has been working in the field for six years. Today, he is involved with about fifty communities throughout Brazil of gentiles who left Christianity, believe in one G-d, and look forward to the revelation of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach.

“For 2000 years we were misled and misled others. That person we believed in was cut off from the holiness of G-d. The Jewish religion is the only true religion. I call upon all of you to leave Christianity and choose one of two options: Either convert to Judaism or join one of the Noahide communities and fulfill the seven commandments that G-d bestowed on humanity as a whole.”

This surprising announcement was made last year by a senior priest in Brazil and shook up the Christian community in Brazil. 75% of the 200 million residents of the biggest country in South America identify as Catholics. This dramatic statement came in the wake of a cosmic shift in recent years in Brazil. Hundreds of churches have closed and priests are sending their followers to B’nei Noach communities that are sprouting up.

One of the people leading the way is Rabbi Yaakov Gerenstadt, director of the Chabad House in Brooklin in S Paulo. He is careful to direct people in accordance with Torah guidelines, as well as many sichos of the Rebbe on the proper way of relating toward B’nei Noach.

SUCCESS IN SHLICHUS IN SOUTH AMERICA

Rabbi Yaakov Gerenstadt was born in Rio de Janeiro and after learning in his youth in Petropolis he went to the Yeshivas Chassidei Chabad yeshiva in Tzfas and then to 770. He learned there until he married Bella Rochel Litzman of Nachalat Har Chabad.

After a year in kollel, he had two shlichus offers, one in Russia and one in the Imaginopolis neighborhood of S. Paolo Brazil made by the shliach, Rabbi Yitzchok Michaan. R’ Yaakov was inclined to the second offer and he received the Rebbe’s blessing in the Igros Kodesh, “success in the shlichus in South America.”

He started working in Imaginopolis at the end of 5755 and after five years he began opening to answers from the Rebbe about opening a new shul. At the same time, the shliach who brought him to Imaginopolis told him he could no longer pay him.

R’ Yaakov wrote to the Rebbe and after opening to the answer which said “consult with the Chabad rabbanim in your city,” he spoke to the shliach, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Gourarie, rav of the Mishkan Menachem Shul. R’ Gourarie encouraged him to open a Chabad House in a different neighborhood where there was no prior Chabad activity. That is how R’ Yaakov Gerenstadt ended up in Brooklin, which is also called Hipica Paulista.

He began working there on Shabbos Mevarchim Elul 5760. In the 17 years since then, he has wrought a transformation in Brooklin. He also runs the Ohr Menachem schools with 120 students.

A COURSE IN KABBALA FOR B’NEI NOACH

Six years ago was when a new phase in his shlichus began, following a meeting with Rabbi Boaz Kali, director of the Matteh Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach. R’ Kali had gone to Brazil to raise money for his work. R’ Gerenstadt was made aware of the many sichos about B’nei Noach and concluded that the work of shlichus to prepare the world for Moshiach includes the non-Jews too.

“At first,” he says, “my activities consisted of no more than giving out Sheva Mitzvos cards, but I felt it wasn’t enough and much more could be done. One of my friends came up with an idea – since the Rebbe says we can learn Shaar Ha’Yichud V’Ha’Emuna with non-Jews, since they are commanded to believe in one G-d, I should advertise a kabbala class for gentiles and they would come in droves.

“I adopted his great idea and after thoroughly learning the subject I prepared a well-researched slide presentation and started the first kabbala course for B’nei Noach. A few months later, I already had 80 students and I moved on to the next stage. I announced a series of classes focusing on the topic of the Seven Noahide Laws. I advertised the new course on the internet. To my surprise, I discovered that throughout Brazil there are many people who identify as Noahides, who were searching for someone to guide them on the proper path.

“Opposite our Chabad House there is a park and on the other side is a Catholic church. A few years ago, the priest there would agitate against Jews, but recently things changed. An old Christian woman stopped me and said, ‘Today, we prayed to G-d for your people, the Jews.’ When I told the participants of the seminar for B’nei Noach about this, they were not at all surprised, and they said that has long stopped being an isolated incident but a national movement. They said that in many towns in Brazil, gentiles prayed for the success of the Jews.

“One Jew, who frequently visits the Chabad House, told me that when he went for an outing on a cruise ship, a priest was sitting next to him. Whenever they served food, he made sure there was no pork. He thought the priest might be of Jewish origin, which is why he cared about no pork, but the priest said he was a gentile but refrained from pork products because that’s what it says in the Bible. This phenomenon is spreading at an astonishing rate. Last year, there were hundreds of Christian congregations that fasted on Yom Kippur.”

Are gentiles allowed to do other mitzvos, beyond their seven?

“In the early classes I focused only on explaining the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach, but they weren’t satisfied with a perfunctory performance of their commandments and wanted me to teach them to serve G-d! I checked the Rebbe’s teachings and saw that in a sicha, the Rebbe quotes the prophet Tz’fania about Messianic times, ‘For then I will transform the language of the nations to become a clear language so that all call in the name of G-d to serve Him as with one shoulder,’ and proves from this that even non-Jews can serve G-d. The prophet Yeshaya also alludes to this in his prophecy about the end of days, ‘Many nations will go and say, let us go and ascend the mountain of G-d to the house of the G-d of Yaakov, and he will guide us in His ways and we will go in His paths.’

“As part of their search for spirituality, they want to do additional mitzvos, beyond the seven. I checked things out with rabbanim, mainly consulting with Rabbi Moshe Kornweitz who is an expert in this subject, and we found that the Rambam writes explicitly in Chapter 10 of the Laws of Kings, that a non-Jew who wants to observe other mitzvos of the Torah in order to gain reward, is not prevented from doing so, except for two mitzvos: observing Shabbos and Talmud Torah.

“The Radvaz writes that if a non-Jew wants to do a mitzva of the Torah as someone who is not obligated to, not only don’t we stop him, but he will even receive a reward for his actions, as anyone who is not commanded to do but does it anyway, as long as he makes it clear that he is doing it not because he is obligated to. At the same time, according to the Radvaz, they should be prevented from observing mitzvos which require holiness and purity, such as mezuza and t’fillin.”

What motivates them to want to do additional mitzvos?

“I think that this longing comes as a result of our getting closer to the complete Geula when, according to the Ran, all the gentiles will convert and do all the mitzvos. In the Drush HaShvii of the Drashos HaRan, he writes that when Moshiach comes, ‘all the nations will return to our belief with all the details of the mitzvos and their particulars.’

“The Rambam does not pasken like the Ran, and as the Rebbe writes (Likkutei Sichos vol. 23, p. 179 in the footnotes) based on the wording of the Rambam in the Laws of Kings, it seems that he does not mean they will convert. But also according to the Rambam, it is clear that in the future, even the nations of the world will be on a higher spiritual level, for the Rambam writes, ‘and they will all revert to the true religion and won’t steal and won’t behave destructively, but will eat that which is permitted in peace like the Jewish people,’ and he adds that ‘the only occupation of the world will be to know G-d alone,’ including the nations of the world!

“This can be appreciated in a whole new light, in light of the D’var Malchus of Parshas VaYeitzei where the Rebbe says (Ois 18) that ‘all the birurim are already finished, including the birur of ‘Eisav is Edom,’ and he goes on to say, ‘Eisav is already nisbarer.’ In other words, Christianity is on the verge of bankruptcy.

“In Pri Eitz Chaim, Shaar 208 Chanuka and Purim, it brings that throughout the Torah, Eisav in Hebrew is written without a Yud, except for one time, in order to hint that Eisav pursued Yaakov to kill him. Eisav was unsuccessful in killing Yaakov but his soul was reincarnated in the founder of Christianity whose name is Yeshua, the same Hebrew letters as Eisav with a Yud. Indeed, he brought about the deaths of more descendants of Yaakov than any other man in history.

“What’s going on in recent years is really amazing, starting in 5751, how Eisav is going through a profound refinement process. After thousands of years of persecution, Crusades, the Inquisition, pogroms, and expulsions, suddenly Eisav starts admiring and loving the Jewish people. As mentioned previously, less than a year ago a big priest in Brazil announced that Christians were wrong and misled others for 2000 years and called upon his entire audience to abandon Christianity and choose either to convert to Judaism or join the B’nei Noach. This is literally the start of the fulfillment of the prophecy in Yirmiyahu, ‘The nations will go to you from the ends of the earth and say, our ancestors bequeathed us lies, nonsense, and there is no usefulness in them.’”

ABOUT 50 NOAHIDE CONGREGATIONS

“Following this dramatic announcement, we got many requests from gentiles seeking to join B’nei Noach communities. Those who come to us feel as though they’ve discovered a great light. Many of them have been searching for many years. They wandered from religion to religion, from sect to sect, until they came to the truth.

“Today, we run nearly fifty communities of Noahides throughout Brazil. Every center has a leader who is in direct contact with us and participates in a video conference call twice a month. Occasionally, we have a special conference and hundreds come to attend it. There is a huge desire to hear the truth and people fly for hours to come and learn. We guide them in how to run these communities, especially in how to instill the longing for Geula and belief in the imminent revelation of the Rebbe as Moshiach.

“By the way, many of the Noahide leaders are former priests who discovered the lies they were living with. We recently had a priest come and say that after exposing the lies of Christianity, he gathered his congregation, about 300 people, and told them the truth. He closed the church and sent everyone home.

“I said to him, it’s a pity you did just half the job. You should continue leading them, but tell them the truth. Now that he has learned the truth about the Seven Noahide Laws from us, he started to reorganize his former flock; but for now, he only managed to retrieve a small number of his people.”

A CHUPPA, K’SUBA, AND YECHI ADONEINU

“One of the things we came up against when we started working on this was their need for ceremonies. They were used to various ceremonies, and when they became Noahides, they had no Christian ceremonies anymore and nothing to replace them. This is especially troubling to them when they marry. There is no Noahide marriage ceremony.

“After researching the subject, we found that the Rambam (Laws of Kings, chapter 9, Halacha 7) refers to the possibility of a chuppa for Noahides too, and we got hold of a special wording for a marriage contract edited by Rabbi Emanuel Shochet a”h for Noahides. We translated it into Portuguese and arranged a chuppa ceremony for Noahides. As part of the ceremony, we explain the importance of observing the Seven Noahide Laws, tell them about the Rebbe MH”M, and the ceremony ends with the groom proclaiming, ‘Yechi Adoneinu.’”

MOSHIACH – FOR GENTILES TOO!

When you walk into the Chabad House in Brooklin, you can’t help but notice that the place has a strong Moshiach influence, whether it’s the paroches that adorns the aron kodesh or the covering for the bima.

For those who want to know why it’s so important to publicize that the Rebbe is Moshiach, Rabbi Gerenstadt explains, “The Rebbe said to prepare the world to welcome Moshiach. Preparing means that people know what to expect, that the Rebbe will redeem us and we need to welcome him, to accept his malchus.”

The work with Noahides is imbued with Inyanei Moshiach and Geula. Members of Noahide communities believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach and look forward to his revelation. They have a band that plays songs of Geula such as Yechi or “V’Haya Hashem L’Melech al kol ha’Aretz,” and Moshiach flags wave proudly at their events.

At a seminar with Rabbi Boaz Kali, dozens of them stood in line to write to the Rebbe and received wondrous answers.

AND B’NEI NOACH WILL BE YOUR HELPERS

In the courses they learn that in Messianic times the nations of the world will recognize the supremacy of the Jewish people and will rejoice at the privilege to serve the Chosen Nation. By way of preparing for Messianic times, many of them have started helping now. They sense the truth, that this is their purpose. One of them, for example, comes to the Chabad House every day, from seven in the morning until seven at night, to supervise the workers in the kitchen. This is completely voluntary on her part. And she brings her husband’s tithes.

Others come to clean the Chabad House and many of them make donations and get others to donate to the Chabad House as well. They know what it says in the Gemara that in the future, seventy gentiles will grasp each thread of a Jew’s tzitzis and they sometimes say, “We are already holding the rabbi’s tzitzis.” One of them even asked Rabbi Gerenstadt to reserve one strand of his tzitzis for when the Rebbe comes.

“A few months ago,” said Rabbi Gerenstadt, “a woman came into the Chabad House and gave me bundles of bills, a very nice amount. She said, ‘These are my bikkurim.’ I was happy to accept her donation even though I am not a Kohen. I asked her to explain herself and she said that she saw our classes on the internet and decided to give us a donation. When she came near the Chabad House, she didn’t have the nerve to walk into such a holy place and she prayed to G-d for a sign. Before she finished speaking, a Noahide came out and invited her in. She considered this a clear sign.

“The next day, she came again. She said that her husband had been murdered and she had filed a suit against the government but did not believe she would win. She made a promise to G-d that if she won, she would bring the tithes to the Jews. In the wake of her donation, she became involved in our work and today she is one of our biggest activists.”

Does your work with non-Jews come at the expense of your work with the Jewish community?

“First of all, I saw in a sicha that just as it’s a mitzva for us to influence Jews, we have an obligation to teach the nations the seven mitzvos. As the Rambam says, ‘Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded by G-d to compel all people of the world to accept the mitzvos that B’nei Noach are commanded.’ To ensure that this is not done at the expense of Jewish outreach, we added manpower and we are bringing another shliach to help with outreach to the Jewish community.

“It is important to emphasize that the work with non-Jews is done separately from the work with the Jewish community. The members of the community greatly esteem our work with Noahides, because they consider it a very important step toward stamping out anti-Semitism.

“Another point to consider is that many shluchim who are not involved with gentiles devote hours of their day to raising funds. Thanks to our work with non-Jews, we get nice donations that cover a large part of our regular activities. This too is connected with Geula, as the Rebbe once said that just like before they left Egypt they ‘emptied out Egypt’ to the point that the Egyptians lent them items against their will, so too with the future Geula. So instead of being busy with fundraising, it’s better to work with Noahides!

“As for using the money we get from them, the Rambam differentiates between tz’daka that non-Jews give, which can only be given to poor non-Jews and not to poor Jews, and tz’daka that a Ben Noach gives, which can be used for Jews.

“Here’s a story for you. The leader of a Noahide center in Brazil is an engineer who closed a big construction deal with the city. Unfortunately for him though, the city did not pay in full and in the meantime, elections were held and a new mayor was elected. At first, the engineer was happy with the election results because the new mayor was Jewish, and he was sure that the Jew who belonged to the priestly kingdom and holy nations would surely pay what he was owed.

“To his sorrow, the new mayor denied the debt. He did a little research and found out that the mayor did not observe mitzvos and understood immediately that this was the source of the problem. He decided to start a campaign to get the mayor to do t’shuva! Every day, he sent the daily Chitas to the mayor and his assistants, and importuned the mayor’s assistants to convince him to put on t’fillin, because once he would do mitzvos, the city would flourish economically. The engineer himself went every day to the municipal plaza and gave out Sheva Mitzvos cards to every passerby.”

To conclude the interview, Rabbi Gerenstadt shared an idea that he had when he learned the D’var Malchus:

“The Rebbe says that Yaakov represents vessels of Tikkun and explains that Yaakov thought that Eisav was already fully refined and the ‘lights of Tohu’ could be joined to the vessels of Tikkun. Actually, Eisav was not ready for this; it will only happen with the future Geula.

“Considering what the Rebbe says at the end of that D’var Malchus, that today the birur of Eisav is completed, when you take a gentile (Eisav) and turn him into a Ben Noach, then that is the birur and the synthesis of the lights of Tohu in the vessels of Tikkun. For 25 years we have been trying to come up with a plan of how to carry out what the Rebbe said about combining lights of Tohu with vessels of Tikkun. We have an excellent opportunity to do this by working with the nations of the world.”

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