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Tuesday
Apr122016

SMALL FLAMES, GREAT LIGHTS

In an earlier issue of Ateres Chaya, Moran Kors wrote a brief article about how a small loving gesture done with warmth and a smile, of giving Shabbos candles to a typically free spirited Israeli teenage girl, started the process that took a few years until she became a baalas t’shuva. As a shlucha herself today, her message was that small actions to increase light have far reaching ripple effects beyond what the person doing the deed can ever realize or imagine. Following that article, Rocheli Dickstein sat down with her for a farbrengen to find out how to increase light in the world. * Come and reveal the light within you. * A little light dispels a lot of darkness

GEMS IN THE KING’S CROWN

Please introduce yourself.

I am the mother of four delightful children. My family is my priority. We are shluchim in Ohr Yehuda and I give shiurim on the parsha and on Bayis Yehudi at the seminary started by Mrs. Chaya Mushka Thaler in Ohr Yehuda. I also run the Tzivos Hashem club which has fifteen children, and I work with the neighbors in my building. I am also a mashpia in Ohr Chana high school.

I love teenagers, not an easy age, but they have a lot of sincerity and sweetness to them. In the high school I also give classes on emuna in the twelfth grade, and together with another teacher am responsible for HaNivcheres which is a program whose purpose is to encourage the girls to develop spiritually. Besides that I am a kalla teacher and am involved in family purity in the city.

Those are a lot of activities!

Yes … Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that it’s me. There is someone else who does everything. I have the merit of being the channel. Furthermore, if not for my husband’s tremendous support, none of that could be done. Being active motivates me. Every morning when I get up I feel that I have an important job to do and a big z’chus. Everyone does something. Nobody is sitting around with folded hands. The point is to pay attention to small actions.

Let’s talk about that.

Turning over the world is not something which is done with great fanfare. For example, at my work in the high school I encounter many girls. Is it possible to change all of them? Perhaps, but that is very hard. So you start with the small things; distributing Shabbos candles, for example. I get the girls to think about how it’s not a big deal. Once a week, one small candle, one minute and you’re done. But it’s something that has the power to create a ripple effect. It will create a small change in the recipient and this change will cause another change, and after many small changes will come the inner, deep change, a change that can bring the Geula.

Speaking about the high school, I want to tell you a little story about small actions. All kinds of girls attend the school, most of them are not from religious homes. There are girls who are there because that’s what their parents decided. One of these girls approached me one day and said she wants to switch to an irreligious school. I tried to explain to her that here the staff is so devoted and caring and she would not have this level of devotion over there. But nothing helped. She said: I love Hashem. A lot. But I don’t have the strength for all this. I’ve come to you after I made my decision and all I want is to write to the Rebbe and receive a bracha.

We sat down together to write while I kept wondering what the Rebbe would say that would convince her to drop the idea of switching schools. Then we opened volume 3 of Igros to page 344 and the answer consisted of two sentences: We do not know the secret of divine providence and perhaps the purpose in you coming to that place is to add precious gems to the crown of the King of all kings, the Holy One blessed be He.

I explained it to her and she suddenly got it. She understood that she really does not understand why she is here and she really wants to leave but … by being here she is adding gems to Hashem’s crown. She is doing something for Him! She is doing Him a kindness, and after all, she loves Him so much …

Incredibly, this convinced her to stay and lately she even kept two Shabbasos in a row, boruch Hashem. It’s a story that illustrates the fact that by doing a small thing – all I did was write to the Rebbe with her – a big change can occur.

I can tell you further – you do not always have to work on the other person. Sometimes you need to work on yourself and when I resolve the issue for myself, that affects whoever I come into contact with. There was a time when we were going through a challenging time. I sat down and thought about how I need to keep moving and not allow obstacles to divert me from my spiritual work. I worked to understand that the one who is running all this is not the person I had to deal with but Hashem. I decided to accept the situation as it was and know that the nature of Hashem is to do good, and since this is so, I needed to look for the good and understand what this test was teaching me. What did Hashem want to show me?

It took me an entire morning, among a myriad of other activities, and in the evening I got a phone call from a girl who looked to me as her mashpia. She had a certain issue that all the conversations I had on the subject didn’t help pull her out of, but that evening, after I worked on myself since the morning, she called to say that the issue was resolved. My test and her test were not identical but the Rebbe once answered me in the Igros Kodesh: “A person who sneezes in the North Pole affects everyone in the world!”

In the world there is the concept of the Butterfly Effect, which means that even the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can cause small changes in the atmosphere that can result in a tornado somewhere else in the world. The fluttering wings start a chain reaction that can lead to a major change. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings, there may have been a significantly different outcome.

The Rebbe says something even more amazing. When you sneeze, it affects everyone in the world, not just those at the other end of the world but everyone. And what are we talking about? A sneeze. An act that a person does spontaneously, unintentionally. So if something like this affects everyone, all the more so when it is a serious, intentional action. As small as it might be, it affects everyone. When we daven to Hashem for life, health and strength, we need to know that this strength that He gives us was not given only to us but to everything around us too.

THE HARVEST WILL
COME – EVENTUALLY

But we don’t always see results. Actually, most of the time we don’t see results.

True, so what? Who says our job is to see results? We need to thank G-d for every time He shows us what we managed to accomplish and to know that Hashem does the rest. In T’hillim 46:11 it says “Desist, and know that I am God.” First of all desist. When you free yourself and free up everything else, you can attain the knowledge of “I am G-d” – Hashem runs the world, not you. In our building, most of the people move in and out but we have one neighbor who is living here for five years already. Before every holiday we go door to door with a holiday kit. I take my cues from the way they respond to me and know how to speak and whether to say anything, but that neighbor always opened the door with an annoyed look. She knew that I planned on giving her something and she accepted it. But always with that look. I decided that I would not give up and I continued knocking at her door, giving her the holiday kit, and getting her irate face in return. The last time I knocked she opened the door with a smile and asked, “Tell me, you haven’t given up on me?” So, no. I did not give up.

Boruch Hashem, He sends other people who give me the strength to go on. For example, with another neighbor, when I knocked on her door before Rosh HaShana with a kit that had candlesticks and honey, I said to her, “With this kit you can increase the light in the world.”

She was very moved by this and invited me to come in. She said that she had a dream about an older rabbi who told her to do more good. She did not remember what he looked like but his words remained with her and she didn’t know what to do about it. What did it mean to do more good? Then about three days after she had the dream, I knocked at her door with a kit whose purpose was to increase goodness. Since then, whenever she meets me on the street, she reminds me of that Friday and tells me that since then she has not missed lighting candles.

If we think about it – every time she sees me, she is reminded of the mitzvos that she does. This memory connects her to goodness and is likely to cause her to do more good. And all this is thanks to what? Thanks to one small kit and one little line. That’s all.

We need to know that we never go alone. People see us and connect us directly to the Rebbe. We can never know how much power there is to our words, actions and thoughts. I always pray that Hashem give me the right words because every word can be valuable.

Apropos of t’filla, someone once said to the Rebbe, “I don’t know how to harness the body to serve Hashem.” The Rebbe answered, “Through a chapter of T’hillim.” Our prayers have a lot of power. Just recently I received a reminder about this. At the Tzivos Hashem club they did a nice craft of Modeh Ani on a board in the classroom.

One of the mothers came in to pick up her daughters. Since the club began, she came in only that one time, the time that I am telling you about. She looked at the words, “Modeh Ani,” and looked, and looked, and looked and I was sure she was about to complain that I was brainwashing the children, but then she looked up and there were tears in her eyes. She told me that she had attended a religious school for first and second grades, and the “Modeh Ani” we made reminded her that once upon a time she had davened every morning and she missed it!

I asked the woman in charge of the daycare center, Mrs. Chaya Friedman, for the CD they use in the morning which has a shortened form of the davening that is appropriate for daycare and gave it to that family. The woman later told me that her husband goes to work early and their mornings are a crazy marathon. But since she got the CD from me, that is how she wakes up the children and the entire house starts the day with t’filla.

You might think, what did I do already? A small craft with the kids? Yes. A craft with the children got an entire house to daven, and when the morning starts that way the entire day looks different. Aside from the fact that through children you can powerfully influence a home, our job is just to do. To make receptacles within nature is our job; the rest is up to Hashem.

What do you mean by making receptacles within nature?

In the Torah it tells how Yaakov prepared to meet with Eisav. The words Rashi uses to describe his preparations are, “hiskin es atzmo (lit. he fixed himself),” indicating that he made a correction within himself. It wasn’t in his nature. He did not really want to do this but Hashem wants us to make a receptacle, i.e., take appropriate action, so he did. Yosef, by way of contrast, also made receptacles within nature, by asking the butler to mention him to Pharaoh. Why did Hashem punish him with an additional two years in jail? Because, as Rashi writes there, “He hung his burdens upon the butler.” He did not appoint him as his messenger, but thought that the butler himself would be the source of his salvation (of course this was a subtle “sin” and Hashem is particular with tzaddikim like a hairsbreadth).

From Yaakov we learn that we need to take appropriate action and always in a way of self-correction, i.e., not to be fazed by the world, not to put your mind or heart into things overly much, but trust in Hashem that He will help us do what needs to be done. In connection with this, here is an interesting story that I heard. Someone went by the Rebbe for dollars and asked for a bracha for a refua. The Rebbe told him to go to a certain doctor and do as he advised. The man said, “I could have gone to a doctor on my own. I came to the Rebbe for a bracha!”

The Rebbe said, “And what do you care if the bracha is conveyed through the doctor?”

It’s an enlightening story about the importance of taking appropriate action. At the same time though, it is very important to do everything with joy, with a feeling of how fortunate we are that we have a Rebbe and that we are Chassidim. The Rebbe Rayatz says that a soldier who goes out to war sings a victory march and that is what helps him win. Our war is the war of galus, a war of attrition. We are in a constant war of inclinations, but if we are happy and understand that this is our power which enables us to win, then this power will enable us to bring the Geula.

Our small deeds can accomplish great things. Every week I send a text message with a Chassidic aphorism and the time to light candles to about 140 girls from the high school where I teach. One day, one of them told me that she had planned on doing something that is inappropriate for someone who is religious (she didn’t say what), but thanks to my text message she refrained from doing it. Did I know that my little text would cause that? No. By divine providence I found out.

On the other hand, sometimes we pour heart and soul into something and don’t see results. We may even get a negative reaction. I once saw an excerpt from the Rebbe that spoke to me. The Rebbe said that the Torah promises, “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy.” When someone plants, he is sure there will be a harvest, the question is when and who will be the reaper.

The Rebbe said this to Professor Shlomo Eckstein of Bar Ilan University. In his youth Eckstein was a youth leader in the B’nei Akiva youth movement in Mexico. He told the Rebbe in yechidus that the work of chinuch was wearing him down. They, the youth leaders, put their souls into the boys and then the boys could leave religion entirely and even assimilate. The Rebbe answered him with the line I quoted earlier and gave an example of leaders in a youth movement who address their group and a Jewish child passes by who doesn’t know what they are doing there. He sits in a corner and listens. The leader speaks about our being children of Avrohom Avinu and the boy leaves in the middle. The leader knows nothing about him. He leaves and goes on his way, grows up, and decides to marry a gentile. Her parents agreed to the marriage on condition that the wedding take place in a church. On the way to the church the fellow remembers – he doesn’t know from who he heard it or when – that he is a descendant of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov and he cannot continue on to the church and he leaves them and goes back to his roots. Whenever I feel disheartened, I remember this story and it gives me a shot in the arm.

To summarize:

I want to end with a parable that a good friend told me. Four children are sitting and watching a puppet show. They suddenly notice a hand. Child A thinks, it’s a hand. He doesn’t connect it with anything, surely not to a puppet or the show. Child B understands that the puppet moved because of the hand, but doesn’t understand that all of the moves the puppet made before and afterward were because of the hand. Child C thinks, if the hand moves the puppet now, then before and afterward it also controlled the movement even though we didn’t see it. Child D is the smartest of all. He knows that puppets cannot move on their own.

May we merit to be the last child who sees whose Hand manipulates everything, and flood the world with light and give the Rebbe a lot of nachas so that, with Hashem’s help, the G-dly Hand will bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

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