WITH THE WIFE’S CONSENT
December 26, 2012
Rabbi Yaakov Shmuelevitz in #862, Shlichus Stories

I asked him if he could give me examples of his wife’s contribution towards being mekarev people, and he sounded surprised. “What do you mean? There are no examples of cases where she does not play a prominent role!”

We are told that when the Alter Rebbe went to the Maggid of Mezritch for the first time, it was with his wife’s consent. He remained in Mezritch for a longer time than his brother, Maharil, who had gone without his wife’s consent.

A wife’s consent is a very important detail in life on shlichus. I would like to mention here, at the outset, a certain shlucha who has steadfastly maintained, “I will never prevent my husband from leaving the house for holy work even though there are times I really need his help at home with the children etc. If there is a shiur, davening, mivtzaim, or any other activity, I tell him – you can go; I’ll manage.”

From what I can tell, that is what most, if not all, shluchos do. Even if they don’t announce it, it is in the merit of this sacrifice and the extra effort that it takes to enable her husband to go out early in the morning as well as late at night, that they are true partners in the shlichus enterprise. Of course, this is in addition to the work that they themselves do as shluchos. They also provide counseling services and direction at all stages of planning and executing a program, and when necessary, encouragement and moral support when the going gets tough.

IT’S A PARTNERSHIP

In the pair of yishuvim Katzir-Harish, somewhere up north, there are 800 families. The shliach is Rabbi Avichai Cohen, together with his family. Throughout Katzir there is about a minyan of men who wear kippot, but even those who preserve the secular character of the yishuv declare that they are disciples of R’ Cohen. The women are disciples of his wife. In Katzir there are three shuls. R’ Cohen is the rav of them all.

R’ Cohen told me about one of the families, mekuravim, and the role a woman played in their lifestyle change:

It was Rosh HaShana five years ago and I was a new shliach. I had been on the yishuv for two weeks and was walking down the main road with a shofar in hand. A car stopped next to me. To be more precise, a driver slowed down because of a safety bump and he glanced at me for a second. I asked him if he wanted to hear the shofar and he said yes, so I blew it. He continued on his way, but following that encounter he came to shul for Mincha on Rosh HaShana. He continued coming to all the other t’fillos and has continued to do so until today. Today, he is an inseparable part of the shul and the Chabad family on the yishuv.

He once told me that he and his wife had only a civil marriage and although they have two children, they still had not had a Jewish marriage. He wanted a proper Jewish wedding. I checked to make sure that this was halachically okay (because sometimes, couples have civil marriages when the rabbinate will not allow them to marry) and then only one “little” problem remained. His wife was not interested. She refused, because agreeing to a chuppa would signal her consent to her husband’s becoming more religious.

At this point, the shlucha entered the picture. Many, many conversations were needed over a two year period until the woman finally gave her consent. They married on Chanuka. Since then, the family has continued to grow stronger in its observance of mitzvos.

All along the way, the husband and wife commented that the shlucha played no less a role than the shliach. The shlucha is both a rebbetzin as well as a friend and she had the means to explain, influence, change and build the family.

SHLICHUS AT THE SHABBOS TABLE

R’ Gedalia Katz and his family are shluchim at Yishuv Kadima, with a population of 18,000. Every Shabbos, they have at least one family as guests at their Shabbos table. R’ Katz emphasizes the role of his wife, not only in preparing the food and setting the table but mainly in the conversations that she has with the women of the yishuv.

The K. family came to Kadima from South Africa. They came with some Chabad background and yet they looked for a quiet place, without an official Chabad community. Without planning it, they found a beautiful Chabad k’hilla around the Katz Shabbos table. They also found a Chabad shul. Every Shabbos that they are on the yishuv they eat with the shluchim, and nearly every day Mrs. K. calls Mrs. Katz to schmooze. Every so often, they drop in to visit and learn a Chassidic concept and strengthen their connection to the Rebbe and to Chassidus.

Mrs. K. called the shlucha and told her that they had finally found a house on a nearby yishuv and they planned on moving soon. They were even planning the first shiur in Chassidus that R’ Katz would give in their new home. “However,” said Mrs. K., “your house is our true home. In your house we learned what a Chassidishe home looks like, and we will continue to visit you as often as we can.”

And they had thought they were going to a yishuv without a Chabad presence.

The G.’s are another family who are regulars at the shluchim’s Shabbos table. They are also mekuravim to Chabad for several years. For them too, their second home (or maybe their first) is the Katz home. The G.’s had been married for a number of years without children. One day, Mrs. Katz spoke about the growing interest in having a shiur for women on the topic of family purity. Mrs. G. volunteered to organize it as a segula to have children. The shiur began and Mrs. Devora Zilberstrom came every week from Kfar Chabad to speak. Incredibly, as soon as the series of shiurim began, Mrs. G. was expecting a child and she gave birth to a sweet boy they named Mendy. He also joined the Katz Shabbos table as a regular participant.

Some say that the reason the kalla walks around the chassan seven times under the chuppa is so that she will understand that from that day on, her life will revolve around her husband, around the home and the shlichus they establish together. Considering the stories in this article, sometimes an entire shlichus, including the activities of the shliach, revolves around the shlucha.

THANKS TO A HOUSE CALL AND A CUP OF COFFEE

One of the dynamic and successful shluchim in Haifa is R’ Yehuda Dunin. When I asked him if he could give me examples of his wife’s contribution towards being mekarev people, he sounded surprised. “What do you mean? There are no examples of cases where she does not play a prominent role! The shlucha is a full partner in accompanying, teaching and guiding entire families on the long road towards a life of Torah and mitzvos. It’s odd to speak in terms of examples.”

Yet, he gave me two examples.

Take the Y. family. The husband became interested and attended all the t’fillos and shiurim. His wife, however, not only didn’t participate; she opposed it. She didn’t want to hear a word about Judaism, not to mention a meeting or a visit with the shluchim. As I expected, my wife came to the rescue. She called the woman and invited herself (and her husband) for a brief visit.

“We showed up,” said R’ Dunin, “and the woman was all prepared for us with endless questions. We sat together, drank coffee, spoke, and addressed some of her concerns. The ice melted and we sat there for a few hours. The woman saw we weren’t that scary after all and a friendship was formed. We concluded that it was now their turn to visit us. They came for a Shabbos meal and then for another one. A year and then two years went by and today the family is united in their love of Yiddishkait and their home has a Chassidishe atmosphere.

The shlucha’s role is critical and it is only thanks to her friendships with women in the neighborhood that people get on board and establish religious and Chassidish homes.

WITH THE MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER’S CONSENT

When Rabbi Chaim Ashkenazi a”h passed away suddenly Erev Pesach two years ago, his son-in-law R’ Shlomo Halpern took over his position as rav in Tel Aviv. R’ Halpern took on this new role despite his busy schedule of teaching in Tzfas, providing guidance for chassanim in Eretz Yisroel and abroad, giving shiurim to men in the Haifa area, and living in Kiryat Shmuel.

It often happens that after a busy day of shiurim at the yeshiva in Tzfas, instead of going home to spend some time with the kids, he rushes off to a Siyum HaRambam or a farbrengen at the Nachalat Binyamin Chabad shul in central Tel Aviv. He sometimes sits until late at night with a young couple from the community in Tel Aviv who need guidance regarding their marriage or Jewish life.

As usual, his wife bears the brunt of it as she cares for six children, but she is a full partner in this new shlichus, which is in addition to his and her “regular” shlichus. They often go to Tel Aviv for Shabbos. Every two or three weeks, they pack up the family and take the train to Tel Aviv. The children are afraid of the numerous dogs in Tel Aviv. They are not used to this in Kiryat Shmuel. It is also hard to keep the children in all day in Tel Aviv. It is not like back home where there is an enclosed place to play and all the neighbors are religious. In Tel Aviv, when they open the door, they are right on the street, the famous Rothschild Boulevard.

However, the Halpern children have gotten a Chassidishe chinuch as well as a chinuch for shlichus. The Halperns lived in Beit Shaan for their first two years of marriage and were active in shlichus. The Halperns’ 6 and 8 year old boys join the bachurim from the Chabad yeshivas on mivtza t’fillin on Fridays. Sometimes, even 4-year-old Devori goes along and helps her big brothers give out candles for Shabbos.

Mrs. Halpern not only supports her husband and raises her children. When necessary, she substitutes and gives the weekly shiur to the ladies; she arranges everything that is needed for the Shabbos farbrengen in shul, and prepares the house on Rothschild Boulevard for the many guests who come from all over for the Shabbos meals.

The one who runs all this is her mother, Rebbetzin Ashkenazi, who hosts 20-30 people every Shabbos. Dozens of boys and men who, until not long ago, were part of the Tel Aviv street scene, are now Chassidim who daven regularly at the Chabad shul. The Rebbetzin gives a shiur every Shabbos to the Chassidic women of Ger, Belz, and other Chassidic groups who still live in old Tel Aviv.

Among her guests are top women doctors who live in the neighborhood, businessmen, a veteran tour guide who, thanks to her connection with the Ashkenazis, created a special tour for teachers tracing the histories of various courts of Admurim that were first established in Tel Aviv. Each of these tours ends at the Ashkenazi home with a conversation with the Rebbetzin about the Rebbe and Moshiach.

The Ashkenazi home on Rothschild Boulevard has served as a center of outreach for years. Rabbi Aryeh Kedem and others regularly give shiurim in Gemara, Halacha, and Chassidus. Menasheh Dziashvili pays for hundreds of D’var Malchus booklets, and numerous people in the area come every week to get one. When the Ashkenazi grandchildren come, they sit on the porch that is on the busy street and hand out brochures, booklets, and Shabbos candles to passersby.

Please daven for the author, Yaakov Aryeh ben Rochel, for a refua shleima.

 

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