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Tuesday
Nov272018

IN THE BEGINNING

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

We recently celebrated 19 Kislev, the Rosh Hashana of Chassidus. It is a day on which we make good resolutions in our learning of Chassidus and acting in the ways of Chassidus. It is also the day that we begin learning the Hayom Yom anew. Over the last two years, we have spent much time learning in depth , and taking many lessons, from the various holy sayings that are brought down in the Hayom Yom. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss a very fundamental message conveyed by the Hayom Yom: The year begins on 19 Kislev and not Rosh Hashana!

There is much to say about this, but I would like to share an insight that was given over by my dear uncle, Rabbi Shalom Avtzon. My uncle, a mechanech and author, has made it his mission to bring the lives of our Rebbeim and the early Chassidim to the world through writing thorough biographies on each of them. They are truly treasures and masterpieces. Recently he began to publish a correspondence with a unique woman named “Malka,” who has a special relationship with the Rebbe.

Her story: Unbeknownst to me, I was adopted when I was an infant by religious Jews as their only child and was given a wonderful Jewish education. At that time, the records of adoption were sealed and my origin and birth parents were unknown and impossible to be discovered or revealed to anyone. When I was soon to be 12 years old (i.e., shortly before my bas mitzvah), my parents informed me for the first time that I am adopted. After much shock, we went to a great Rabbi (I don’t recall who it was) who explained that I needed to agree to become Jewish since my origin was unknown. I knew enough from my Jewish education that this was the completion of a conversion process.

I told the Rabbi that since it is my choice, I am not interested in being Jewish or going through the conversion ritual. My adopted parents, whom I still love greatly even after their passing, were visibly upset and told me that if I do not convert, I am assumed to be a non-Jew. I adamantly replied that it was fine with me (after all, that is how Hashem created me.) I stood firm in my decision, especially as I was extremely angry about not being told about my adoption until then, the possibility that I was not even Jewish, thus living a life which was false to my origins, and that my birth parents abandoned me. My adopted parents and the Rabbi tried hard to convince me, but I was not changing my mind. Finally, the Rabbi suggested to my parents that we go visit the Rebbe and ask his advice.

When we visited him, the Rebbe spoke to all of us and then asked if he can speak to me alone. I thought it was strange, but my parents agreed to step out of the room. The Rebbe then told me that I was born Jewish, from Jewish parents, who truly loved me and still love me from Heaven. He stated emphatically that they never abandoned me; rather, they had died in a car crash. He told me that it was G-d’s will (for whatever His reason was) that they die and I should be an orphan. He also told me that G-d is the Father of all orphans and I am loved by Him.

The Rebbe told me that even if I don’t go through the conversion process and “convert,” I am still 100% Jewish, since my birth mother was definitely Jewish. He then said that I should nevertheless convert, because that is what Jewish Law dictates that one should do in these circumstances (as there were no two witnesses that can testify that my parents were indeed Jewish, since, as noted, in those years the adoption papers were completely sealed). However, it does not change the fact that I am Jewish, regardless.

This was news and somewhat of a shock to me, since the Rabbi, whom I met previously with my parents, stated unequivocally that if I did not convert, I would be regarded as a non-Jew. I guessed that is Jewish Law. But the Rebbe told me that I was still a Jewess. At that time I had no understanding of the Rebbe’s greatness, I just thought that he is following a lenient opinion. How was I supposed to know of his Divine ability of knowing my history in our first meeting, especially when absolutely no one else knew it?!

Then the Rebbe continued that he knows that I might not believe him and may think that it is a trick to get me to listen to my parents and remain Jewish, so he told me that if I ever go to a certain city (the Rebbe mentioned the name of the city, but for the sake of this woman’s privacy I am omitting it), I should visit the Jewish cemetery there and say a prayer for my parents who are buried there.

The Rebbe also asked me to commit to three things: to always keep kosher, to keep Shabbos, and to try and visit him once a year. I left his room somewhat confused, yet less angry – after all, maybe my parents did not abandon me as he stated. Thus, I finally agreed to “convert,” since according to the Rebbe I am Jewish anyways. I kept these conditions and had many unique audiences with the Rebbe.

The Rebbe personally gave me a copy of the Hayom Yom. I will share an insight/observation with you that is likely unknown or overlooked: There are various segments of observant Judaism with conflicting customs and laws (Sefard,  Ashkenaz,  Chassidic,  Litvish,  and many sub-groups). Nearly every area of observance has some differences based on the segment and the authorities they follow. It may just be in the vocalization of the words or a change in the order of some words and sometimes there are major differences, as we see the differences in Shulchan Aruch between the Beis Yosef and the Rama.

There is one area that all Jews, observant and not yet observant, agree on. Do you know what it is? Every Jewish calendar, no matter who publishes it, always begins from Rosh Hashanah, Tishrei 1.The Rebbe broke ground by establishing the first ever “calendar” which begins with a different date, as his begins with Kislev 19. This was a “revolutionary” breakthrough!  The publishing of a “new” calendar. A new beginning. A new way of making each day count.

That was the innovation of the Hayom Yom.  Not merely a collection of sayings and thoughts, but a new calendar to signify a new era. The Rebbe is telling us that the year begins anew when we resolve to begin to live with something new. Then each day has something new to live with. A new year without a resolve to begin anew is not enough.

She recently shared an amazing insight about Galus and Geula that was taught to her by the Rebbe:

Yaakov had a dream, but Rashi says it actually took place, so what purpose is there in Yaakov getting this revelation/ information through a “dream” rather than a vision (as “Chazon Yeshayahu”)? To clarify the question: Other dreams, such as Yosef’s and (l’havdil) Pharaoh’s and of the Sar HaMashkim and Sar HaOfim are prophecies of future events, but here Yaakov is “dreaming” of what is actually happening, so why the need to lie down and sleep – why could he not see these ascending and descending angels while fully awake (as he later sent real angels to Eisav or battles with Eisav’s angel)?

A dream diminishes reality because the person is not fully conscious. Moshe’s prophecy was superior to lower forms of prophecy (like Bilam’s) because it was while he was awake. (As an aside, the Rebbe once told me that the entire exile is no more than a dream, as the pasuk says “hoyinu k’cholimim,” and the example of comparing it to a dream is precise: just as by a dream, Chazal tell us that dreams are dependent on how they are interpreted, so too, all events of Galus are dependent on how we interpret them in our lives and what we make out of them in serving Hashem.) So the question is why did Yaakov experience reality in a dream and not directly.

Here is the explanation that I was told by the Rebbe: Yaakov was still in Eretz Yisroel at Bais El (which is distant from the border) when he saw the angels of Chutz La’Aretz coming to greet him (and angels of Eretz Yisroel ascending). (Likewise, upon his return at Machanayim, which is still a distance from the border of Eretz Yisroel, he is already greeted by the angels of Eretz Yisroel.)

Shouldn’t the angels of Chutz La’Aretz greet him only when he enters Chutz La’Aretz [and not earlier]?

The answer is that a person is where his mindset is. Yaakov was going to Chutz La’Aretz, so already in Bais El the angels of Eretz Yisroel ascended and he was escorted by the angels of Chutz La’Aretz, because his focus and mindset was on Chutz La’Aretz. A Jew in Chutz La’Aretz is a Jew in galus (exile), and galus is a dream. Upon his return, Yaakov’s mindset was on Eretz Yisroel. Already in Machanayim he was greeted by angels of Eretz Yisroel because his mindset was on Eretz Yisroel. This wasn’t presented as a dream, because a Jew’s reality is to be in Eretz Yisroel in a state of geula. Galus is presented as a dream. Geula is a state of awakening.

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought-after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.

 



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