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Thursday
Jun292017

DOING BATTLE - WITH A SMILE

The first shlucha to raise a Lubavitcher family on an Israeli kibbutz and who had many kiruvim from the Rebbe. * An interview about genuine Chassidishe hiskashrus.

By Blumie Landau

The voice of Ziva Fash, the shlucha to Kibbutz Ein HaNetziv, brings back childhood memories. As children on shlichus in Beit Shaan, the Fash family was the only Lubavitcher family in the region. “Savta Zivais what we called her (considering that our biological grandparentswent to live too far away,” as we would complain to our parents). We would visit her house that was full of pictures of the Rebbe, from wall to wall, and we always came home with surprises and chocolate.

Even then we knew that Ziva wasn’t the typical person you meet any day. We heard half sentences and parts of stories that floated around the house about her and her family’s unusual personal relationship with the Rebbe, about the many letters she received, about fascinating private meetings in which the Rebbe inquired in detail about her, her life on the kibbutz, and the challenging shlichus there.

In Ziva’s words:

I knew your parents even before you were born, even before they married. For ten years (starting in 5736), I repeatedly wrote to the Rebbe about the need for shluchim in Beit Shaan, but the Rebbe did not respond. I suppose your father was too young at the time.

In Tishrei 5746, I was sitting in the women’s section of 770 when I noticed a girl walking around with a pushka with some coins clinking in it. She called out, “Donate to the Chabad House in Beit Shaan.” I was sure I was imagining things and did not hear well. I went over to her and said, “Tell me, whose Chabad House is it in Beit Shaan? I live five minutes away and there is no Chabad House there! If there was, I would know about it. What exactly are you raising money for?”

The girl took me to the window that looked down over the men’s section and pointed and said, “You see that bachur? He’s my brother, Yaakov Shmuelevitz. He is getting married soon and is going on shlichus to Beit Shaan. His kalla is also here and I will point her out to you soon.”

I was ecstatic that it was finally happening. We went outside and I met your parents for the first time. Our relationship has continued till today.

How did you come to the Rebbe?

It began with a strong interest I had for a drop of Judaism. I remember myself on the kibbutz every Friday, sitting next to the candles and crying and begging Hashem to send me a rabbi to teach me and explain to me what Shabbos is and what a holiday is about, someone to give me answers to all my questions. This was at the beginning of the 70s, 45 years ago. At that time, there were no computers in people’s homes, and certainly not like today when you can type “Rebbe” into Google and get tons of information. I said to G-d: The one thing I know is to dress modestly, so let’s make a deal. I will cover my hair and wear modest clothes and you send me someone to teach me about Judaism.

This is what I requested for two years. One day, two Lubavitcher women came to the kibbutz to give out Shabbos candles. Later on, one of them, Rochel Dunin, told me what brought them to the kibbutz. Her husband, Avrohom, was on one of his trips on public transportation, and a girl went over to him and asked where there was a class on Judaism she could attend. He asked her where she was from and she said she lived on Kibbutz Ein HaNetziv. She told him not to go there and look for her because the members of the kibbutz would not be happy to see a religious person. This is why R’ Dunin sent his wife to look for her.

When they came, the members of the kibbutz demanded that they leave, but I discovered them and asked them to come to my house. We spoke about everything and I felt they had been sent to me from heaven. We kept in touch and that is how I became involved with Jewish life and the Rebbe.

At first, of course, it wasn’t easy, but there were special moments too. For example, when Isser, my husband, and I decided to start observing Shmita, we had to order all our fruits and vegetables from outside of the kibbutz. I remember how when the boxes came to the house I suddenly started to cry. My surprised husband asked why I was crying when the food had arrived. I told him that this was the first time that I felt that in order to have food, for every cucumber and tomato, I had to ask Hashem; otherwise, I wouldn’t have any. This is because on the kibbutz we got everything for free. You just showed up in the dining room and took food. You didn’t need to ask anyone.

Until then, we were like the snake. A snake does not need to look up to heaven and ask for food. That is when I felt for the first time what it means to ask of Hashem. It was an unforgettable moment in our journey.

LETTERS TO THE REBBE

I sent nine letters to the Rebbe before I went to see him and received one in return (although I received many since that time). It was when my oldest son, Mordechai, wanted to learn in yeshiva but the kibbutz did not agree to it. According to the rules on the kibbutz, all the children had to attend the local school.

I told my son: Don’t worry. I am going to the Rebbe and I will ask for a bracha to leave the kibbutz. I was sure that considering all the difficulties, the Rebbe would be in favor of this move.

Surprisingly, the Rebbe told us to remain at the kibbutz. In yechidus, he told me: With everything that you do at the kibbutz, there will be struggles and wars, but I am asking you to do battle with a smile on your lips.

My son remained to study at the kibbutz and was a role model to the other children. The Rebbe took my children’s chinuch on his shoulders.

When did you go to the Rebbe for the first time?

I went with my father, R’ Chai Ratzabi, for Tishrei 5737. My father had never been to the Rebbe and did not know what it was all about. He wasn’t moved by the preparations I made to see the Rebbe and made fun of it, but when he faced the Rebbe, after waiting in line for three and a half hours, he could barely speak he was so overcome.

He only managed to say: Ziva asks for mashke.

The Rebbe asked: Which Ziva? He repeated the question a few times and when he saw that my father wasn’t answering, he asked: Ziva Fash? My father was stunned. The Rebbe went on to ask: Ziva Fash, what is she to you?

My father answered: She is my daughter.

Then the Rebbe said: You have a daughter with good middos and delightful grandchildren. He gave my father a bottle of mashke for me.

My father said how in his great emotion he forgot the name of my family even though it is so short, just two letters in Hebrew. My father said, “That moment with the Rebbe was the moment that I decided to drop everything and do teshuva.”

As a result, before my first yechidus with the Rebbe, my father asked me to ask the Rebbe that it be easy for him to do teshuva. When I said this to the Rebbe, he said with a smile: He is in Boro Park, in an environment of religious Jews, and it’s hard for him, and you are the only one [on the kibbutz] and it’s not hard for you? Why does he want to do teshuva? Is he taking a lesson from you?”

Every year on Motzaei Pesach, my father went for “kos shel bracha” and the Rebbe would give him a bottle of wine for me. One year, my father was standing on line, as usual, and he said partially to himself and partially to those standing around him: I am going to get a bottle from the Rebbe.

The person standing behind him said: What do you think, that everyone gets an entire bottle?!

When it was my father’s turn, the bottles had all been given away, so the Rebbe poured wine for my father in the cup from which he drank water. The Rebbe said: This is for your daughter and the family.

I was at the end of a pregnancy and my father came with a cup and the wine just in time for the bris of our son Yossi. The baby was the first to taste of the wine that the Rebbe drank from. At the time, I did not understand why the Rebbe sent me wine from his cup when he could have poured into a regular cup as he did for everyone. Twenty years later, Yossi was saved from the hellhole of battle in the Philadelphi Corridor, and he recovered and got back on his feet to the astonishment of the doctors who called it a medical miracle. It was then that I realized that the Rebbe had long-range vision. That kos shel bracha, that drop of wine that Yossi drank, gave him brachos from the Rebbe, brachos that accompanied him and protected him during those critical moments.

Today, that cup is in our house in a safe place and we use it for family simchas, brissin and weddings. If someone wants to borrow the Rebbe’s cup, I agree only if I attend the wedding myself and bring it with me.

THE ONLY GIRL WHO RECEIVED A LETTER FROM THE REBBE

Ziva and her family received about 70 letters from the Rebbe, which is quite unusual. I asked her to share some of the more interesting ones:

In our home we made it a regular practice for the entire family to sit down once every two weeks to write to the Rebbe. Those who could write, wrote, and those who couldn’t, drew pictures. The Rebbe often sent letters in response, and in some of them he even spelled out the names of the children and referred to things they wrote to him. In one letter, the Rebbe wrote me, “Thank you very much for the nachas ruach you gave me with your children’s letters …” Every letter from the Rebbe gave us butterflies in our stomachs and was opened and read with great excitement.

My daughter Sarah merited an unusual response from the Rebbe. One of the times that we wrote, little Sarah came over to me with her drawing full of scribbles and asked, “Send my picture to the Rebbe. I want him to hang it up in his room.” I thought, would I send this drawing to my father? Yes. The Rebbe is our spiritual father so I sent it. Sarah received a response in which the Rebbe wrote, “Thank you for the drawing that you sent me,” and he wrote many brachos.

The day that Sarah started first grade she came home crying and said she wasn’t going to school anymore. She was the only one with a skirt. Everyone else wore pants and they all laughed at her. None of my explanations and consolations helped and she kept on crying. Then I had an idea. I went over to the closet and took out the letter that Sarah had gotten and said to her, “Out of the entire school, you are the only one, the only one to receive a personal letter from the Rebbe. Not the principal, not the teachers, and not the students; just you!” I read the letter to her and she calmed down. After that, she did not complain again about being different at school.

The Rebbe wrote to my son Mordechai, “I was pleased to read in your letter that you made Mesibos Shabbos and many children came and it was very enjoyable …” And to my son Doron, who suffered from headaches, the Rebbe wrote, “Blessing for success and good health,” and the headaches simply disappeared.

That is just a small selection of the many letters that each of my children received. One time, two weeks went by and we didn’t write for some reason. After receiving our next letter, the Rebbe immediately responded “Upon receiving your letter after a long break.”

When I had yechidus, I brought pictures of my children and the Rebbe smiled and said, “You have the originals and I have the pictures,” and he thanked me twice for the photos.

We had another amazing answer from the Rebbe. At the start of our shlichus on the kibbutz we began with Mivtza Mezuza. After thirty years of no checking of mezuzos on the kibbutz, we decided the time had come. First, my husband and I went to an expert Lubavitcher sofer and he showed us how to differentiate between kosher, pasul, and one that needs fixing. Then we split up and each went to a different row of houses. As I went from house to house, checking mezuzos, it occurred to me that perhaps, as a woman, I cannot check mezuzos. I wrote this question to the Rebbe and you can see the answer in the Igros Kodesh, volume 29, page 62. The Rebbe just wrote: Many thanks for the good news about the success of Mivtza Mezuza.

Perhaps the Rebbe wrote it like this so as not to publicize to all that a woman can check mezuzos?

At the kibbutz, a pediatrician would come once a season to examine all the children of the kibbutz. I went to her with one of my children, a baby who was a few months old. The woman looked at him and immediately said, “I don’t like his behavior. He has too much energy.” The prescribed treatment for him was to put him for a few hours every day in a dark room with sleeping pills, over a two-year period.

I was vehemently opposed to this outlandish treatment and wrote to the Rebbe in tears that they were trying to convince me to listen to the doctor. The Rebbe wrote back: I was horrified to read in your letter that someone advised placing a small child in a dark room since she thinks he is too active. I was happy to read that you did not accept this shocking advice. May you and your husband together merit to raise him and all your children to Torah, chuppa, and good deeds.

KIRUVIM FROM THE REBBE

At my first meeting with the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked, “Are you willing to do me a favor?” He asked me to place a pushka in a prominent place at the kibbutz so everyone would put in tz’daka. The Rebbe said he wanted to be the first to put money in the pushka and he put in 300 liras. Then the Rebbe arranged dollars in separate piles on his desk for my husband and for each of my children and for my parents. The Rebbe asked whether I received dollars at the farbrengens. That year, 5737, the Rebbe brought dollars for the tankistin and told them to distribute the dollars to everyone present at the farbrengen. That Tishrei, there were seven farbrengens and at each one, everyone received two dollars.

I told the Rebbe that I had gotten dollars but they had all been stolen. The Rebbe counted the dollars and put another 14 dollars on the table. I remember seeing how the entire desk was full of piles of dollars which I would be getting. I left with a big pile of bills and everyone who saw me leave looked on in astonishment.

When my son Sholom became bar mitzva, we wanted to buy him nice t’fillin, but the kibbutz refused to pay for them. Nobody on the kibbutz understood what was wrong with regular t’fillin that every boy on the kibbutz received. I was in New York and I wrote a letter to the Rebbe and asked for a bracha that we have the financial wherewithal to buy t’fillin.

A few days later, I got a phone call from Rabbi Klein who said he had an envelope for me from the Rebbe and when I would be in the vicinity, I should pick it up. Of course, I did not wait but went from Boro Park to 770 right away. When I arrived, R’ Klein took the envelope from his pocket which contained $400. The Rebbe wrote, “A loan for five years.”

After a while, I had the money to return but I waited for five years to go by and only then did I repay the loan since in the meantime, there was much blessing in this money.

One year, I very much wanted to attend the annual gathering of N’shei Chabad. Every year, this convention gave me the strength to continue on shlichus, considering I was on the kibbutz alone. We were in dire financial straits at the time and I couldn’t pay for a ticket.

Like a daughter writing to her father, I wrote about this to the Rebbe. Before long, I received an envelope from the Rebbe which said, “Express” on it (the convention was the next day). In it was the amount of money needed to buy a ticket. On the envelope was written: Enclosed is her money that was held in safekeeping by me.

The Rebbe did not want me to be embarrassed to take the money, just like the Chassidim who would give away what was theirs and say, “Take this piece of bread that was in safekeeping by me.”

I went to the convention and told the ladies, “The Rebbe sent me the money so I would know that attending these conventions is important to the Rebbe.”

When we printed the Tanya at the kibbutz, the Rebbe sent a $20 bill as his participation. The printers claimed it was sent for them too, and wanted to divide the bill. I maintained that we could not cut it and if the Rebbe had wanted to, he could have sent two $10 bills, but since he sent just one bill it meant it was for me.

Where are all these bills? Do you still have them?

Not a single one. All of them were given out. I saw so many miracles that these dollars accomplished, wouldn’t it be a shame for me to leave them locked up in a drawer?

The last dollar that I had, I brought to a shliach who wanted to raffle it off at a Lag B’Omer parade that is attended annually by 1500 children. There is an amazing story with this dollar. There was one kid who was so sure that he would win the dollar that he convinced his entire extended family, including the grandparents from both sides, to come to the parade and hear how his name would be announced on the loudspeaker as the winner of the dollar from the Rebbe. The family, who were not observant at the time, understandably scoffed at the boy, but they showed up anyway. Remarkably, the boy won! The shliach called me to say, “You have no idea what your dollar accomplished. Over time, the entire family drew closer and began to observe Torah and mitzvos.”

How do you continue that special relationship with the Rebbe, today?

Everything is the same. When I need something, I ask the Rebbe like a daughter asking her father, and the Rebbe delivers. I decided to go l’chat’chilla aribber and registered in a group of women traveling to the Rebbe, although I had no idea how I would pay for a ticket. A few days later, the organizer called and informed me that the group was canceled due to not enough people registering. I was very pained, and I said to the Rebbe, “But I want to come to you!” Suddenly I got a phone call that guests would be arriving and to prepare anything except for a l’chaim and some cups. When I heard the knocks at the door, I opened it and all I saw were cameras. What is going on here, I asked the guests. “Come sit down in the living room and we will tell you; you and your husband won the raffle held by Hisachdus HaChassidim for tickets to the Rebbe!”

The tickets included transportation to and from the airport, along with a driver available to us for the entire time that we were by the Rebbe. Just what we needed. The Rebbe took care of every detail.

In conclusion?

When they invite me to give a talk or speak at a farbrengen, I start off by saying l’chaim and then inform the audience in advance of my talk, “Look, I don’t believe in the words of the Rebbe, in Moshiach and all of that.” One time, the lady in charge opened a pair of shocked eyes and said, “If so, please come down from the stage!”

“One second,” I said to her, “allow me to explain myself.” I spoke about the answers that we have from the Rebbe and the miracle stories that continue until this day, and I said to the crowd, “You tell me, after such amazing displays of attention from the Rebbe, after we have seen time and again how farseeing the eyes of the Rebbe are, and how the Rebbe sees and knows what is happening and what will happen. After all of the words and prophecies are being fulfilled one after another, of course I don’t believe; I have absolute certainty in the words of the Rebbe that Moshiach is coming immediately!

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