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Wednesday
Sep052018

WHAT WILL YOU DAVEN FOR THIS ROSH HA'SHANA?

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

We are currently in the last few days of the month of Elul. It is the month that the “king is in the field” and we can approach and ask for whatever we want. It is at this point that we must always realize what our priorities are.

In 1939, there was a woman who wrote to the Frierdike Rebbe (who, at the time was living in Otvotzk Poland), requesting a Bracha that she should be able to pay off all her debts. The Frierdike Rebbe (Igros Kodesh Vol. 4 pg. 511) gave her his holy Bracha, but reminded her that for Yidden, everything stems from their spiritual state. In that letter he explains what her priorities should be (HaYom Yom 9 Nissan): “Jewish wealth is not houses and money. Jewish wealth, which is eternal, is the observance of Torah and mitzvos, and bringing children and grandchildren into the world who will observe the Torah and its mitzvos.”

I would like to share a story that involved my grandfather, Rabbi Meir Avtzon a”h. After immigrating to the United States, he settled in Detroit, where he raised a family of fifteen children. My Zeide made Torah study, the development of the Jewish community, and the spreading of Torah his primary concerns. He worked hard at several jobs, but providing amply for his family and for the many tz’daka projects he undertook was always a challenge.

He and my Bubby, Rebbetzin Cheyenna a”h, bore the burden without complaint. Yet, as his children began to reach marriageable age, he began to feel some concern. At his next yechidus, he told the Rebbe that he and his wife had never worried about their own finances, but that he wanted to provide each of his children with at least a modest wedding and dowry. The Rebbe replied: “Material nadn (dowry) comes and goes; spiritual nadn stays forever. G‑d gave you the unique gift of being able to provide your children with a spiritual nadn. This is a genuine nadn. You can tell this to your prospective in-laws in my name when you sit down to discuss the wedding details.”

This reminds me of a letter that the Frierdike Rebbe wrote (Igros Kodesh vol. 10 pg. 115) to the famed Mashpia of Montreal, Rabbi Volf Greenglass. Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1917, R’ Greenglass grew up in the home of his parents, Avraham and Chava Greenglass, followers of the Alexander chassidic dynasty. When he was twenty years old, R’ Greenglass travelled to Otvotzk and enrolled in the Lubavitch yeshiva there. Attracted to the scholasticism and prayerful devotion that were a hallmark of the school, R’ Greenglass earned a reputation as a bright student who, nevertheless, exhibited a streak of free-spiritedness.

In little time, Otvotzk—a vacation spot for many Jews from Warsaw—became a war zone, a target of the Germans’ early bombing campaigns. Following instructions from the Frierdike Rebbe, R’ Greenglass headed to Vilna in neighboring Lithuania, and enrolled in the Lubavitch yeshiva there.

When the war caught up with them, R’ Greenglass and his peers were among the thousands of people who received transit visas from the selfless Japanese consul, Chiune Sugihara. They made their way by rail through Russia, stopping at the eastern port city of Vladivostok. From there they travelled by boat to Japan, and on to Shanghai, China. Nine of them, including R’ Greenglass, eventually received visas to Canada.

He, and his friends, became the foundation of the Chassidishe K’hilla that is in Montreal today.

In those early years, the Frierdike Rebbe pushed them to meet with Yidden that had come from Chassidishe families, and maybe had strayed a little bit in the new country, and to talk with them and strengthen them in their Yiddishkait. In one of his letters, Rabbi Greenglass wrote to the Frierdike Rebbe about three brothers he had met. They were from the Chassidishe city of Chalapenitz and one of them had even studied by the Chassidishe Melamed Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon Kazshdan.

The Frierdike Rebbe was very pleased with this report and wrote him back a letter describing this special Chassid. One of the things that the Frierdike Rebbe remarks is that he heard that this Chassid would go around and “explain to the rich people how poor they are in the ways of Chassidus, and explain to the poor people how rich they were in the true - and eternal – richness.”

There is a fascinating story told in the Gemara (Kalla 1:21) that brings out this point: One day Rabbi Akiva approached Rabbi Tarfon. Now, Rabbi Tarfon was from a very wealthy family, and he, himself, was a very wealthy man who owned many businesses and properties and gave much tz’daka. So, Rabbi Akiva asked Rabbi Tarfon if he would consider investing in the purchase of a city. Rabbi Tarfon knew that Rabbi Akiva was a very honest and virtuous man who always had Heaven in his thoughts. Rabbi Tarfon thought to himself that, if Rabbi Akiva was asking him to make an investment, this must surely be an investment for the sake of heaven. So Rabbi Tarfon said yes and immediately gave Rabbi Akiva four thousand golden coins and gave it no further thought.

Rabbi Akiva took the investment money and used the coins to support the poor students of the beis ha’midrash, the house of study, making sure that the poor students had money to pay for their schooling, buy food and clothing, and have a place to sleep. Sometime later Rabbi Tarfon met Rabbi Akiva walking along the road. Rabbi Tarfon remembered the investment and asked Rabbi Akiva “Last year, you came to me and asked if I would like to invest in the purchase of a city. How is the investment doing? Could I see where you invested the money for me?”

Rabbi Akiva smiled and said, “Of course I will show you your investment!” and he took Rabbi Tarfon to the beis ha’midrash, a study hall, where children were learning Torah, made possible through Rabbi Tarfon’s investment. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva stood at the door listening as the children were reading and reciting T’hillim. When the children came to the pasuk that one should spread his money to the poor, and the reward will remain forever, Rabbi Akiva stretched out his hand toward the children and said, “This is the city that I purchased for you.” Rabbi Tarfon stood there for a moment looking, then with a smile, he kissed Rabbi Akiva on his head and exclaimed to Rabbi Akiva, “You are my master in wisdom,” and he gave Rabbi Akiva more money for charitable investments.

 

Dear Chassidim!

As we approach Rosh HaShana, there are many vital and important things that we ask Hashem for. We ask for health and wealth for ourselves, family members and friends. We ask for peace in the home, community and world. We ask to grow in our learning and Yiras Shamayim. These are all valid, and much needed, requests. Yet, we must not forget the main request: “Meloch Al HaOlam Kulo Bikvodecha! - Hashem’s full glory and kingship should be revealed to the world!” with the coming of Moshiach!

We all know the famous HaYom Yom (25 Nissan): “Every individual is required to serve G‑d according to his nature and spiritual level. A person who can pierce pearls or polish gems, yet occupies himself with baking bread, is considered to have sinned, even though this too is a much needed task. The parallels to this in our Divine service are obvious.”

The message is clear: We must remember that, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” We must never forget that our main request, t’filla and demand is the Hisgalus of Moshiach. It is not just a request of Hashem; it comes with a New Years commitment on our part. We must add in our learning about, and teaching others about, Moshiach and Geula. When we do what is demanded from us, Hashem will take care of our needs.

In the words of the famous HaYom Yom (5 Tammuz): Once, in the course of a yechidus, the Alter Rebbe questioned one of his foremost and closest chassidim about his personal situation. The chassid lamented that he had lost all his possessions. The Alter Rebbe answered him: “You are needed — to illuminate your surroundings by studying Torah and by serving G‑d with your heart [in prayer]. As for your livelihood and the things that you need — this G‑d must give you. Do what you must and G‑d will do what He must.”

L’chaim! K’siva Va’chasima Tova!

 

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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