January 9, 2018
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #1101, 10 Shvat, Ha’yom Yom & Moshiach

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

We are all getting ready for 10 Shevat 5778, the 68th Yahrtzait of the Frierdike Rebbe and the Kabbalas HaNesius of our Rebbe, which initiated the dawn of the Dor HaShvii, “the last generation of Galus and the first generation of Geula.” As such, it is very appropriate to learn a HaYom Yom that connects these two Tzaddikim.

We know that the Frierdike Rebbe had three daughters: Rebbetzin Chana, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, and Rebbetzin Sheina z”l. Even though they were private people, we know a few stories of the older two daughters. Regarding Rebbetzin Shaina, who, together with her husband, Rabbi Mendel Horenstein, was murdered by the Nazis on the second day of Rosh Hashanah 1941 (HY”D), very little is known.

Here are a few anecdotes about the sisters as recounted by the Rebbe:

As a child when she was crying, when someone would give her something to calm her down, Rebbetzin Shaina would say, “Know that I am not stopping to cry, I am just taking a break.” “Sometimes we stop doing something good; but there should always be a continuation, and at this moment it should only be an intermission,” the Rebbe said at a Farbrengen after telling the story.

Once, her grandfather the Rebbe Rashab told his young granddaughter that everything on Shabbos should be done in its honor. “Eat in honor of Shabbos, take a walk in honor of Shabbos, and the like.”

The young Shaina responded, “On all I agree, but one thing I do not understand. Is it possible to sleep in honor of Shabbos? How can one concentrate while sleeping?” The Rebbe later said that when one questions and sincerely inquires, trying to understand what he or she needs to do, this brings assistance from on High to be able to succeed in the goal. In fact, we should all strive that our sleep should also be in honor of Shabbos.

Rebbetzin Shaina got married in the city of Landvarov on 10 Sivan in 5692. It is a small city in the suburbs of Vilna. While currently it is part of Lithuania, at the time it was part of Poland. Since the wedding took place so close to the Yom Tov of Shavuos, the Frierdike Rebbe spent Shavuos in that town. Our Rebbe and Rebbetzin, who had been married already for a few years, came to join them as well.

On Erev Shavuos, the Frierdike Rebbe wanted to go to the Mikveh. Near Landvarov, the famous city of Trakai is located. Trakai is a historic city and resort in Lithuania. It lies 28 kilometers (17 miles) west of Vilna, the capital of Lithuania. Trakai is a town built on water, and the town is surrounded by lakes. The Rebbe accompanied the Frierdike Rebbe to the city of Trakai to go to the mikveh.

In the Rebbe’s diary from that time, he records an event that happened during that visit (HaYom Yom of 21 Teves): (The Rebbe [Rayatz] once met a water carrier with buckets full of water and said:) “When one encounters water, [he should quote the Baal Shem Tov, as follows]: ‘When one encounters water, he should say [in the name of] the Baal Shem Tov: When one encounters water, this is a sign of blessing.’”

After reading this HaYom Yom, two questions arise:

It is understood that water is a siman bracha and that when one sees water it is appropriate to mention that. Yet, why is it so important that this be mentioned “in the name of the Baal Shem Tov?”

Is there, perhaps, a special connection between the avoda of the Baal Shem Tov and what water represents?

In 5743, in a Sicha said on the first night of Sukkos, on which the Ushpizin is the Baal Shem Tov, the Rebbe addressed these two questions. The Rebbe explained that water has two unique qualities: 1) It connects things together. You can have lots of flour, yet you cannot have a batch of dough until water is added; 2) Water flows from above to below. That is why, in general, Torah is compared to water. Just as water comes from above to below and preserves its essence as a life-source, the same is true with the Torah. Torah is given from Hashem to B’nei Yisroel and even in this physical world retains its spiritual and G-dly essence. The same is true regarding the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov which are called “wellsprings.”

How does this translate into the avoda of a Yid?

Inside every Yid there is a part of Hashem, a “Cheilek Eloka MeMaal Mamash.” That is the true identity and essence of a Jew. Yet, many times there is a disconnect between our essence and our behavior. We are not in touch with our true essence. It is our avoda to reveal this part of us and 1) bring it all the way “down” and 2) “connect” it to our thoughts, speech and action. In addition, we must reveal G-dliness and elevate the physical world.

We find these two attributes in the Baal Shem Tov: 1) He was the one to reveal to all that every Yid, even a seemingly simple Jew, has this Neshama; 2) He taught that the person must work with, and elevate, the physical body and physical world. The following teaching of the Baal Shem Tov (HaYom Yom 28 Shevat) is well known: “‘When you see chamor, a donkey’ –  – when you carefully examine your chomer (materiality), your body, you will see… ‘your enemy’ –  – meaning, that your chomer hates your Divine soul that longs for Gdliness and spirituality, and furthermore, you will see that it is… lying under its burden placed upon it (the body) by Gd   namely, that it should become refined through Torah and mitzvos; but the body is lazy to fulfill them. It may then occur to you that … ‘you will refrain from helping it’ –  – to enable it to fulfill its mission, and instead you will follow the path of mortification of the flesh to break down the body’s crass materiality. However, not in this approach will the light of Torah reside. Rather …”you must aid it” –  – purify the body, refine it, but do not break it by mortification.”

In addition, the Baal Shem Tov is known for his miraculous ways and avoda that was beyond nature. So when we say “in the name of the Baal Shem Tov” that “water is a siman bracha” this shows that the source of the bracha should be higher than nature and causes it to come down and connect to this physical world.

There are many lessons that we can take from this HaYom Yom in our own Avoda to bring the Geula, but we will focus on one very important lesson: We must connect the message of Moshiach to the one that gave over the message, the Rebbe.

Regarding the belief in Moshiach, there are two components: 1) The belief in the era of Yemos HaMoshiach. 2) The belief that the era will be brought about through a human Moshiach. Both are integral. If one just believes in the era, but not in the person, the Rambam writes: “Anyone who does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but those of the Torah and Moses, our teacher. The Torah testified to his coming.”

The same applies to the Rebbe’s message about Moshiach. The Rebbe revealed to us the greatest “siman bracha,” the prophecy that Moshiach is coming. In addition to the actual prophecy, the Rebbe said that it should be “given over in the name of the Baal Shem Tov,” that people should know that it comes from the Rebbe. In his famous words: “And there is a directive in all of the above, that it must be publicized to all the people of the generation, that we have merited that the Holy One, blessed be He, selected and appointed an individual with free will, that he himself is immeasurably higher than the people of the generation, that he will be ‘your judges’ and ‘your advisers’ and the prophet of the generation, who will give guidance and advice regarding the service of the entire Jewish people and all the people of this generation, in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos, and as regards general daily life…until — the main prophecy — the prophecy of ‘immediately to t’shuva, immediately to Geula,’ and immediately ‘behold, this one (Moshiach) comes.’”

For the message to be completely effective and actually bring the Geula to this physical world, we must give over the message of Moshiach with the identification of the source of the message: the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach.

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

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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