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Wednesday
Sep132017

SPREADING THE WORD

As you put the chicken in the oven on Friday afternoon, dozens of bachurim and men go to spread Chassidus in hundreds of shuls across Eretz Yisroel and New York. * More than 30,000 brochures of “Acharis HaYamim” and other Chassidic pamphlets are distributed every week to a broad spectrum of communities, which include the teachings of Chabad written in a way that anyone can understand. When people go to shul for Shabbos, they are exposed to fascinating Chassidic ideas thanks to men and bachurim who spread the light of Chassidus. * Beis Moshiach brings you behind the scenes.

By Yaron Tzvi

A spontaneous farbrengen in a Litvishe yeshivaThe idea of distributing Chassidic material in shuls isnt new. In the first years of the Rebbes nesius, there were talmidim from the yeshiva who put sichos of the Rebbe in shuls in religious neighborhoods, but it was all done on a very small scale.

We’d like to shine the spotlight on the work of R’ Chaim Tal who has spread the wellsprings for three years now, to hundreds of shuls in Eretz Yisroel and abroad. He started an organization called Yafutzu Maayanosecha which distributes material through dozens of volunteers. He also uses the internet and other means. The main work is done by distributing the brochures called Acharis HaYamim.

How did this project begin and what is the scope today?

Over the years, there were bachurim who went from 770 to give out sichos of the Rebbe, booklets of D’var Malchus and Yechi HaMelech, but over time, this diminished and even stopped.

Three years ago, I wrote to the Rebbe about a personal matter and the answer I opened to was to continue this hafatza. I called the guys who were active in giving out these booklets and began sending out a car every Erev Shabbos.

Then, Mendy Elkayim and I started publishing Acharis HaYamim which contains Chassidic teachings from the Alter Rebbe (Likkutei Torah and Torah Ohr), and primarily, the D’var Malchus from the Rebbe’s sichos. Over time, we started to build a database of places, addresses, and contact people to help out locally. We set up a distribution center and started spreading Chassidus in nearby areas. Eventually the distributions spread out to the greater New York area. Now, every Friday, nine teams, about thirty people, go out. Mendy Maatuf and Mendy Gabbai arrange the rides.

In B’nei Brak there is also a base of activities that works to reach as many places as possible in Eretz Yisroel.

How do you manage to spread Chassidus on such a large scale within a few hours on a Friday?

Actually, the distribution begins on Wednesday night.

THE ADMUR SAID TORAH AT HIS TISH FROM ACHARIS HAYAMIM

The activists are aware of the sensitivity within certain groups to the Rebbe’s sichos, and for this reason, the cover page on the booklet does not give away the contents. Acharis HaYamim is the name of the booklet and the first part has teachings from the Alter Rebbe, though the main body of the pamphlet contains messages from the weekly D’var Malchus.

“The kovetz is meant for people who are seeking the truth,” says R’ Chaim. “This isn’t the typical d’var Torah on the parsha to say at the Shabbos table, nor is it the routine manner of spreading Chassidus. It is a calculated call to truth-seekers with the Rebbe’s words of truth, although in a different format.”

Every week in the United States, 22,000 copies are printed of Acharis HaYamim. Teams go to various areas of New York such as Flatbush, Williamsburg, Boro Park, Monsey, and Lakewood in New Jersey, where they go to hundreds of shuls.

The highlight of their work is the personal connection. Every vehicle that goes out serves as a mobile Chabad House. People meet them as they give out the booklets and ask questions. Some buy s’farim and even arrange shiurim in Chassidus. On special days in the calendar, they make Chassidishe farbrengens in neighborhoods where they distribute the booklets.

“By the way, it is my pleasure to mention the many bachurim who help out, including Arele Kenig who puts a lot of work into finding new places for distribution, making connections, and distributing booklets.”

What feedback do you get?

Excellent feedback! There are already the first offshoots of shiurim and farbrengens.

The truth is that at first, we did not know how it would go over, but when you operate with the power of the meshaleiach, there is nothing to worry about. It grew organically and a great demand developed. The hafatza led to an array of shiurim, chavrusos and farbrengens in the distribution locations.

All throughout, we get signs of encouragement for doing the right thing, whether in letters we open to from the Rebbe or in the siyata d’Shmaya in fundraising, as well as cooperation and feedback in the field. People have called for more material on certain topics in inyanei Moshiach and Geula, or some ask for explanations on material in one booklet or another. Some ask for a source for a sicha which, due to a printing error, was left out.

The shliach in Boro Park said he ended up in an out of the way shul and saw a Poilishe-Chassidishe Yid learning from one of the Yafutzu booklets. One of the distributors went to the home of a distant relative in Boro Park where, to his surprise, he saw a pile of Yafutzu booklets arranged in order. When he asked about it, his relative told him that he takes the booklet from shul on Erev Shabbos and learns it with his children at the Shabbos table.

One time, some guys in Williamsburg excitedly told me that their Admur repeated ideas from Acharis HaYamim at his tish. We were very excited to hear this.

Mendy Elkayim:

One time, one of the distributors had second thoughts about it all. He said that he spent an entire night working on distributing the booklet but he had no idea how many people actually learned them. At the very next shul that he went to, he got his answer. Some fellows went over to him and said that they waited for it all week and it strengthened their belief in Moshiach.

One time in Lakewood, a non-Lubavitcher called to ask for more material. He said that in one of the booklets he saw an article from a Chassid about believing in the Rebbe being Moshiach. He had an unexpected complaint. “Isn’t it a shame to waste pages on that? Bring quotes from Moshiach about himself!”

In another instance, before the yahrtzait of the Minchas Elozor of Munkatch, we published a letter from him along with timely teachings from the Rebbe. In one of the shuls, they asked us why we didn’t just quote the Rebbe!

In general, people treat it with respect. They wait for us to arrive with the booklets and to farbreng a little. Sometimes it happens in the middle of Thursday night. They nearly always ask us to stay another little while and tell them a vort from the Rebbe. Shiurim and chavrusos have started, as a result, on inyanim in Chassidus and Moshiach and Geula.

A Vizhnitzer Chassid called and wanted to write to the Rebbe because of what he read in the booklet. He wanted a bracha for his son before his wedding. He indeed opened to a bracha for a wedding and the date on the letter was the date of the wedding he was making which, of course, created a big stir. Then he wrote other letters to the Rebbe and saw amazing divine providence.

WHAT TAKES PLACE BEHIND THE GABBAI’S BACK

You mentioned working on the material and preparing it for your target audience. What’s the line between preserving the wellspring and making it suitable for the outside?

We are very particular about preserving the actual wording of the Rebbeim, not only because of its holiness, but also because it is more accepted on the “outside.” At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that unlike a Lubavitcher child who has heard about two souls, yechida, the world of Tohu, etc., a child (and even a bachur) from another group is unfamiliar with these terms. Thus, it is not always possible to quote something verbatim. This is precisely the challenge that the editing team of Yafutzu has. I should mention that the editorial team consists of Mendy Halperin and Mendy Gruzman. Rabbi Michoel Golomb, mashpia in 770, supervises them and goes over the material before it is printed.

Making it suitable for the outside does not only entail reworking the material but also, and mainly, choosing the topics. Poilishe Chassidim, for example, are interested in avodas ha’middos, so the Yafutzu team looks for material on the subject. The typical Litvishe reader wants more scholarly material in the pilpul style and they include material like that as well.

Does writing “Yechi” and addressing the “hot” topics about Moshiach not adversely affect the hafatza?

Yechi, which is printed on the booklet, makes people realize that this is authentic and true. We don’t excise or paper over what the Rebbe said and therefore, it is accepted more readily.

The bachurim who do the hafatza and are out in the field, dismiss the question. “Whoever asks that question is someone who never went around giving out the booklets. You cannot understand it until you see for yourself how interested people are, of all groups, in the material. Yes, sometimes we experience opposition, but that is only on the surface. In the end, those are isolated cases. Infrequently, we come across a gabbai who asks us not to distribute the material in his shul but as soon as he leaves, the members of his k’hilla ask us to continue because they look forward to reading it.

“On some occasions we noticed that those who are uncomfortable taking a booklet to read in front of everyone, might ‘just happen’ to sit down at a table where there is a copy, so that from a distance and without standing out, they read every word.

“Most of those who take the booklets encourage us not to be fazed by antagonism and to continue what we’re doing. People are tired of what they were sold over the years and they want the truth, the Rebbe’s truth. Many seekers of G-d know that the ‘stuff’ they get from the Rebbe cannot be found elsewhere. When someone sees things clearly in the Rebbe’s holy wording, he understands that this is not an invention or a ‘Chassidishe sentiment.’ The Rebbe spoke explicitly about the hisgalus of Moshiach, about the Nasi Ha’dor being Moshiach, etc. They respect what the Rebbe said.”

CAPTURING HEARTS AND MINDS

In Eretz Yisroel too, tens of thousands of copies of Acharis HaYamim are distributed.

“When we thought about how to bring the outreach to Eretz Yisroel, we contacted Rabbi Ehud Hakak, who took responsibility for giving them out. The booklets are given out by a team of volunteers in B’nei Brak, Beitar, Beit Shemesh, Yerushalayim, Tzfas, Haifa, Petach Tikva, Rechovot, and Chatzor, mainly in the religious neighborhoods.

In order to get a picture of the hafatza in Eretz Yisroel, we spoke with R’ Hakak, who said:

“People find it very interesting. The truth is that it wins people over not only in the chutza but within communities of Anash. I know that Anash study the booklets and they have become weekly study material for many. Many repeat a point from the booklet at the Shabbos table or on mivtzaim.

“Of course, we go to numerous places that are not Lubavitch, and wherever we go we see enthusiasm for it. It brings the light of the Geula into many homes.

“Recently, some of the guys went to a Vizhnitzer yeshiva. They were surrounded by bachurim who asked questions about the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach. We explained at length about the Nasi Ha’dor and how death is not possible for him. They listened and one of them apologized and said that the questions came from a desire to understand and not, G-d forbid, to ‘start up.’ Many of them escorted the bachurim to their car in order to get more booklets on other topics.

“I call upon Anash to get involved and help expand the hafatza in Eretz Yisroel. We need more manpower, more vehicles, in order to reach more places. Whoever can help should contact us. It’s a tremendous project of achdus and of spreading the wellsprings.”

Where do you get the money to fund this project?

Mendy Elkayim: “Actually, the funding is a problem. There are wealthy people who help us on a regular basis and there are also occasional one-off donations. Likewise, the T’mimim in 770 take part in financing it. We thank R’ Zev Cadaner who donates the printing of the booklets in New York.

“The costs are high and they consist of printing, vehicles, gas, mezonos for those doing the distribution etc., and it adds up to several thousand dollars a month in the US and many thousands of shekels in Eretz Yisroel. We would like to find a print house in Eretz Yisroel that will donate the costs of printing.”

WHEN MISNAGDIM CHASED THE CREW

We asked the Yafutzu Maayanosecha staff about difficulties in the course of their hafatza work. They admit that they still exist “until Moshiach comes”:

“We once sent a car to Monsey. A few hours later, in the middle of the night, the team got stuck in a snow storm. They could not continue and they called the administration back in Crown Heights. We weighed what to do. The area was completely snowed under and it was dangerous and difficult to keep going, but we knew that many Poilishe Chassidim who live in Monsey, wait for the T’mimim in order to hear a Chassidishe vort or to farbreng. The hafatza had to go on.

“We sent another car to continue with the distribution as well as a tow truck for the car that was stuck. With Hashem’s help, it worked out and the hafatza continued till the morning under difficult weather conditions.

“In another instance, we arrived late at night at the big Satmar shul in Williamsburg and gave out Acharis HaYamim. One of the people there began yelling at us not to give it out there and even spoke in unusually threatening terms. Their chevra got up and stood around us. We said that there are people who are interested in the material which is why we give it out there. He began yelling in all directions, ‘Does anybody here really want this stuff?’ To his surprise, most of the people said they want it to continue and held out their hand to get one.

“One of the most heart-pounding experiences for us was when we gave out booklets late one night in Lakewood. Our group of T’mimim left a shul after finishing their distribution. They noticed a group of youngsters running toward them. They were exhausted and did not feel like getting into debates with angry teens, so they began to run too. They quickly entered their car and planned on going over to the next place.

“To their surprise, the young people behind them were more determined than they thought. They entered their car and drove it forward, blocking the T’mimim’s car. The T’mimim were surrounded by a group of young guys who seemed determined to make a scene. One of the T’mimim said to his friend, ‘We are shluchim of the Rebbe and nothing will happen to us; there is nothing to worry about.’

“They lowered their window and to their utter surprise, one of the teens said, ‘Do you have any booklets left for us?’ The T’mimim breathed a sigh of relief and quickly supplied them with what they wanted amid hearty blessings of ‘Good Shabbos’ and ‘Moshiach now.’”

***

That might sum up the story of this organization which discovers, time and again, that the walls are only imaginary as the Rebbe mentioned at a farbrengen – that in truth, there is no real opposition today to spreading the wellsprings and spreading the Besuras HaGeula. Wherever you go, no matter the age or the group or k’hilla, there is an interest in the message of the Navi Ha’dor, without cover-ups. As the Rebbe put it, the world is ready.

What are your plans for the future?

We received requests from a number of communities for material appropriate for children. Among the many Chassidic groups, there is a desire to pass the teachings of Chassidus on to the next generation, but they are not used to studying Chassidus in a methodical way, so we serve as an alternative for them. We decided to launch a phone line which will offer the opportunity to write to the Rebbe and to hear shiurim and niggunim, all in the atmosphere of Acharis HaYamim (the End of Days).

Additionally, we are planning to expand the roster of farbrengens by having cars travel to different locations on auspicious days in the calendar. The main thing being that we actually get to live Acharis HaYamim already in the most literal sense.

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