LEARNING THE D’VAR MALCHUS WITH CLOSED EYES
April 9, 2018
Beis Moshiach in #1113, Blindness, Feature

By Yaron Tzvi

Photos by Yosef Edery“Did you learn the Dvar Malchus for this week yet ?” The answer is probably yes. Learning the Dvar Malchus of 5751-2 is basic spiritual nourishment in the life of a Chassid, without which he cannot begin to appreciate the sweetness of the holiness of Shabbos.

But what should someone do if he cannot see? How can he learn the D’var Malchus? Doesn’t he too need to know the great news that the Rebbe broadcast during those years about the existence of Moshiach, Moshiach’s activities in the world, the grand seuda which is ready, and more? A person like this is waiting for his personal Geula as well as the general Geula, even more than others are. So why shouldn’t he have the opportunity to access these treasures?

Well, now he can, because the D’var Malchus of 5751-2 is being printed in Braille.

THE CHAVRUSA WHO IS REALIZING A DREAM

The one who took this holy task upon himself is Shneur Oryan of Kfar Chabad. From a young age, he dreamed of converting the text of the D’var Malchus into Braille.

This aspiration of his began to take form when he was of high school age. He had a good friend by the name of Yosef Chaim Ben Dovid. Yosef Chaim, now married and living in Lud, is blind from birth. They met in yeshiva and became chavrusos.

Thirteen years after they parted ways as chavrusos, Oryan decided to turn his dream into reality. He got his friends R’ Tom Buzaglo and Yosef Yehuda Ribak involved, and the three of them worked on producing the five volumes of D’var Malchus in Braille. The deadline they set was Rosh Chodesh Shevat, the day that Moshe Rabbeinu began explaining the Torah in seventy languages. There is no better date for translating the Torah into Braille.

How do you get started on such a project?

“The first thing I did was call my good friend, R’ Yosef Chaim Ben Dovid, and tell him about the project. When he said, ‘Call me tomorrow, I’m in the middle of a Tanya shiur,’ I realized that he was still seriously involved in his learning. The next day, I called him and told him the idea and he was very excited. Since his father, R’ Aryeh, works in a special print shop for Braille, called Mesilla, we were able to collaborate. That’s how the project got underway.”

What was the goal?

“We wanted to launch a new hafatza project to include Chassidus and Inyanei Moshiach and Geula, starting with the D’var Malchus, in various media suitable for the blind, and to get them into libraries and clubs for the blind in Eretz Yisroel. In addition, we want to set up a special website for the blind to learn Chassidus, a Beis Chabad Braille, if you wish.”

The inspiration for this originated from the Rebbe himself when, in the sicha for Eikev 5751, the Rebbe spoke about the printing of Tanya in Braille as another step in the spreading of the wellsprings outward, which hastens the revelation of Moshiach even more.

Shneur Oryan: “What the Rebbe said about Braille made a deep impression on me. The Rebbe spoke about the publication of the Tanya in Braille and then mentioned the direct connection this has with the Geula. From this I understood that there is a place for translating other inyanei Chassidus into Braille. I decided that one day I would do it with the sichos of 5751-2.

“Things moved along with incredible Divine Providence. From the moment I took on the project, I’ve seen much help from the Rebbe along with people’s readiness to help, including people who are not yet religious. They were all happy to help out.”

YOSEF CHAIM’S PERSPECTIVE

We all met, Shneur Oryan and his former chavrusa, Yosef Chaim Ben Dovid. Yosef Chaim was born and raised in Brooklyn. His parents, who were mekuravim to Chabad, lived in Crown Heights from when he was four until eight years old. “As a baby, I was taken by my parents to the Rebbe for dollars,” he says, with obvious satisfaction.

“When I was eight, we made aliya and we lived in Kfar Chabad where I attended school. Then we moved to B’nei Brak. Today, after marrying in 5775, I am part of the Chabad community in Lud.

“I am blind from birth,” he says. “I have never seen, but I can shed light on the topic of the importance of providing Torah material for the blind in general, and especially Inyanei Moshiach and Geula.

“First, I would like to take this opportunity to convey an important message. There is a powerful need to make material of Torah and Chassidus, including websites and Chabad publications, accessible to the blind. We don’t have that today, and it’s a great pity.

“With a computer, it is easier for us than with Braille, since Braille requires you to hold heavy books. On the other hand, there is an advantage to Braille literature in that it can be used on Shabbos when a computer cannot be used, or when a person wants to learn at a slower rate.

“I think that in today’s day and age, the time has come for Chassidus, including Chabad materials that are not just Chassidus, to be accessible to the blind. Someone who wants to convert a website or publication into one that is accessible for the visually impaired can do so by consulting with professionals and it requires a very small investment. And the benefits are huge – providing material for a large audience who has no other access to it. The fact that this is a demographic that currently does not have enough accessible learning material convinces me that as soon as people will get to work on it there will be a great demand for it.”

R’ Yosef Chaim does not only talk about helping the blind; he is a man of action too. A few years ago, he produced a book called “Seeing With Closed Eyes.”

“In the book, I explain how to help the blind. The book is distributed over the internet. There was a big demand for the book, and a year later an updated edition was produced. I put in a lot of work in order to teach people how the blind see the world, and how to help them, physically and spiritually.”

THE REBBE SEES INTO THE FUTURE

Louis Braille was a French gentile who lived 170 years ago. When he became blind he developed a universal language for the blind. Braille consists of a combination of raised dots that the blind learn to identify, which can be used to form words and sentences. The blind use their fingertips rather than their eyes to read.

In order to transform text into Braille, a computer word file can be arranged in a special program and printed in Braille with the help of special technology. In 5763, Mesilla Publications, a company devoted exclusively to publishing in Braille, published the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch in Braille. It ended up being spread over twenty volumes.

“My father went to work there in order to be able to help me and other blind people,” says R’ Yosef Chaim. “Some of the books were printed there because of my needs, like the siddur. First they produced a siddur in Nusach Sefard, and in 5762 they produced the T’hillas Hashem Chabad siddur. Over the years, the Tanya was produced in Braille as were the first four volumes of Likkutei Sichos and the Rambam’s Seifer HaMitzvos.

“So I don’t lack for what to learn, but I always wanted to learn the weekly D’var Malchus. For a while, Shneur Oryan would send me the D’var Malchus as a word file and that is how I learned it, through a computer program that translates it into Braille or that reads the words to me. Lately, we started learning the D’var Malchus for Parshas Eikev, where the Rebbe talks about the Torah being available in Braille. I was very moved by the Rebbe addressing this.

“The Rebbe’s approach, as is known, is that anything technology has to offer should be used for hafatza, and the Rebbe, typically, thinks of everyone, including the blind. For example, the Rebbe encouraged shiurim on Tanya on the radio, and that’s a tremendous thing for people like me. I use the shiurim on the phone line a lot and listen to Rabbi Wolpo’s shiurim.

“Much of my ability to learn is thanks to the Rebbe’s pushing for hafatza through permissible use of multimedia for good purposes and to spread Judaism. I feel indebted to the Rebbe and one of the ways of paying back is by helping with this project.”

CHABAD HOUSE FOR THE BLIND

“After speaking with R’ Yosef,” said Shneur Oryan, “I realized that it’s not enough to translate into Braille. We also needed to make an internet site containing readily accessible materials so the blind could easily learn there.

“After our conversation, I got to work on it and the first website for Chassidus and Geula and Moshiach that is also suitable for the blind was made: www.דבר מלכות.com.”

R’ Shneur never personally saw the Rebbe, but he feels and knows that the Rebbe gives him kochos. Before he was born, the doctors found a certain problem and his father wrote to the Rebbe about it. He received a letter with a bracha for an easy birth and the Rebbe added a handwritten note which said, “Including success in mivtzaim.”

“I consider this a bracha for me too, and I therefore try to be involved in spreading the wellsprings as much as I can.”

Shneur’s daily schedule is packed. He spends most of his day on shlichus in the yeshiva in Romema in Yerushalayim. In his free time, he is involved with an organization he started called “Olam shel Geula,” which spreads the Seven Noahide Laws.

“But this project for the blind excites me,” he says. “It’s the realization of a dream. I see heavenly assistance throughout. Many people, from Anash, the frum world, and the not yet religious world, have helped with this amazing project.

“The Rebbe once spoke about this, that as part of the promises of the Geula, the blind will be healed, and he added that then they will be ‘satiated with light’ in the positive sense, but we want to provide them with the tools for that now.”

This project happened quickly. On 10 Teves, Oryan first spoke with R’ Aryeh Ben Dovid. By the end of Teves the printing of the material in Braille was already happening. “Kuntres Beis Rabbeinu Sh’B’Bavel” was printed first.

“I spoke with various institutes for the blind in Eretz Yisroel and they are very enthusiastic about the project. We want it to include special libraries for the blind, clubs for the blind, hafatza on the internet, and producing easier access material for the blind, as well as arranging shiurim and chavrusos for the blind. It’s literally a Chabad House for the blind, quite unique!”

This project restored the connection of the former chavrusos after thirteen years.

“One of the first things that Yosef Chaim said to me is that today the world of Braille is becoming very advanced; he can receive emails and the computer will translate it into Braille,” says Shneur. “I sent him the words, ‘Yechi …’ and he reacted with a smile. Then I sent him the D’var Malchus for Eikev which he did not know, in which the Rebbe talks about Braille. Yosef Chaim was excited that the Rebbe referred to people in his situation.”

THE PATH TO GEULA IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS

“Today, I learn the daily T’hillim and try to learn Chitas with the computer,” says Yosef Chaim. “I go to shiurim or listen on the phone. I learn Tanya every day with the computer, as well as the HaYom Yom. Kehos put out a disk with the Igros Kodesh and a friend helps me write to the Rebbe. I really want to learn the D’var Malchus and only now is this becoming a reality.

“When Shneur came to me with the idea of making the D’var Malchus in Braille, right away I pointed out that it pays to make it accessible by computer, and he made a website. It’s a simple technical matter: today, in sixth grade, all the textbooks are provided for the blind via email. Without technology, we’d be lost. I am working with Shneur and his friends for this project and hope that in the not-distant future, a Geula community of the blind will develop, if I can call it that.

“I hope that my call to the public here will alert more and more sites and people to the awareness that there are blind people who, if you don’t make the material accessible, will never know that it exists, and accessibility is a simple technical matter. I also call out to all Chabad publications and websites and ask them to be pioneers in this. If the Rebbe referred to us, then surely there is room for this, and the time has come.

“If only Moshiach comes soon and then everyone will be healed and Moshiach will heal the greatest sickness of all, the galus. Moshiach will give us the eyes to see and heart to know and the ears to hear with the true and complete Geula, may it be soon.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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