Friday, August 31, 2012

Elephants in Circus

Did you ever go to the circus? Remember those huge elephants that weighed several tons who were held in place by a small chain wrapped around one of their huge legs, and held to the ground by a small wooden stake? If those huge elephants wanted to, they could walk right through those small chains and that small wooden stake like a hot knife going through butter. But they don’t. Why is that?

When they were little baby elephants, they were chained down by those same small chains and the small wooden stakes. But to them, as babies, they couldn’t move. They tried and tried and tried again and could not release themselves from those chains and stakes. And then, an interesting thing happens. They stop trying. They gave up. They developed a belief system. 

Now, as adult elephants, they don’t try because they are programmed to believe that there efforts would be useless – in vain. They simply don’t try because the memory of trying as babies is their main program.
And as huge, adult elephants, they don’t even try. So they’re held in prison by their beliefs.
The same is true with the elephant in each of us. 

Story: Rabbi Levi Yitzchak - Looking for Chametz

Looking for Chametz
I then went on to tell a story about one of the greatest Chassidic masters, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Bardichev:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (1740-1809) spent his life acting as the self-appointed character witness for the Jewish people, engaging in a constant dialogue with Gd, pointing out the unique qualities of every Jew he met.
It was the afternoon before Passover, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was wandering through the streets of the Jewish quarter seeking out local smugglers. From one he quietly asked for a quote on contraband tobacco, from another he enquired about the availability of smuggled brocades and embroideries. No matter the merchandise he sought, everything was available for the right price.
However, when he started asking his newfound acquaintances to supply him with some bread or whiskey, those very same businessmen who had previously proved so accommodating balked. "Rabbi," said one, "are you trying to insult me? The seder will be starting in just a few hours and no Jew would have even a speck of chametz left in his home or business."
Not one merchant was able to come up with even a crumb of bread or dram of alcohol. No matter the price offered, not one merchant was willing or able to come up with even a crumb of bread or dram of alcohol. The town had converted into a chametz-free zone.
Thrilled with the results of his failed quest, the rabbi looked up to heaven and declared: "Gd Almighty, look down with pride at Your people! The Czar has border guards and tax-commissioners dedicated to his commands. The police and the courts are devoted to tracking down and punishing smugglers and black-marketers, and yet, anything one could possibly want is available. Contrast this with the faith and fidelity of Your Jews. It has been over 3,000 years since you commanded us to observe Passover. No police, no guards, no courts and jails enforce this edict—and yet every Jew keeps Your laws to the utmost!
"Mi k'amcha Yisrael – Who is like Your nation, Israel?!" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak exclaimed.

Dvar Torah: Moses’ Wealth

"Carve for yourself two stone Tablets." (Numbers 10:1)
The Rabbis, always sensitive to nuance, focus on the word "lecha" — "for yourself" — which seems superfluous. The verse could have states “Carve two stone Tablets.” What does it mean “Carve for yourself?”
The Talmud (Nedarim 38a) deduces that Moses was permitted to keep the chips of the second Tablets, which made him very wealthy.

Q) It seems a bit distasteful, that Moses is making money from the sacred Tablets containing the Ten Commandments!?

A) Rebbe Rashab.[4]
The second Tablets could not be compared to the first Tablets. While the first were created by G-d himself, the second were created by a human being—Moses.  He carved out the stone into Tablets and only then did G-d inscribe on the Ten Commandments.
It is from the “chips” of the Tablets that Moses acquired his true wealth. The first Tablets had no “chips,” they had no “left over” pieces that go to the garbage, they had no undesirable accessories. The second Tablets, in contrast, had many a chip. For they represented our confrontation with darkness and addiction, with promiscuity, insecurity and shame.

It is from the confrontation with our inner gravel, with our proclivities to depression, failure, weakness and capitulation, that we grow to discover an inner wealth not available in the heavenly, pure and holy first Tablets given by G-d himself to pure and innocent people.

Joke: Rabbi to the Rescue

The house was absolutely quiet. All the people slept peacefully. Suddenly, the telephone rang and broke the silence. Rabbi Fribich looked up at the clock over his bed. It was three o'clock in the morning. Who could be calling at such an hour?
The rabbi picked up the phone and heard the voice of a member of his congregation. "Rabbi, you must help me. I have been arrested for the crime of tax evasion. I have been placed in jail together with a bunch of addicts and criminals. I don't know what to do!" The rabbi replied, "I will do what I can to help you. Don't worry, everything will be okay."
 Later on, when the rabbi met the "prisoner" after he was set free, he asked why he had turned to him and not to a lawyer. The answer was, "Are you crazy? To call a lawyer at three o'clock in the morning?"

Story: Shlomo Karlebach & The Hunchback - Favors in the night....

A Story:
One of the greatest Chassidic masters of pre-war Poland was Rabbi Kalonimus Kalman (1889-1943), the Master of Piaseczno. He would say that children at five years old already need a mentor: they need somebody to connect their souls to heaven. So in his Polish city if Piaseczno he founded one of the largest Jewish schools in Poland, gathering around him a kingdom of children. He ran a school with thousands of children, and he was their father, their mother, their best friend. In 1940, Rabbi Klonimus Kalman was deported with his family by the Germans to the Warsaw ghetto. There he wrote a most precious book called "The Holy Fire", Eish Kodesh, which recounted the teachings he gave in the darkness of the ghetto. He buried the book in a milk barrel underground the ghetto. In 1943 He was short near Lublin.  His entire family too was exterminated. After the war, his manuscript was discovered by a construction worker in Warsaw and was given to the Warsaw Jews. In 1957, someone finally realized what it was; it was sent and published in Israel in 1961. 
To Do a Favor
The famous Jewish composer Rabbi Shlomeleh Karlebach related this story:
When the book Eish Kodesh came out after the war was over, I couldn’t believe its beauty, it so pierced my heart. I asked everyone, “Where are those kids? The precious children who heard these teachings every week in Warsaw? I’d love to speak to them.” I was told that nobody survived.
But one day, a few years ago, I was walking down rechov Yarcon, a street near the beach of Tel Aviv. And there I saw a hunchback, he looked so broken and crushed. His face was beautiful, so handsome, but his body was misshapen. He was sweeping the streets. I had a feeling this person was special and so I said, “Shalom, peace unto you.”
He replied to me in the heaviest Polish “Alaichem shoolem.” I asked if he was from Poland. And he says, “Yes I’m from Piaseczno.” And I couldn’t believe it—Piaseczno. I asked if he had ever seen the holiest Kalonimus Kalmun, Piaseczno’s master. He said to me, “What do you mean, have I seen him? I was a pupil in his school from the age of five until I was eleven. When I was eleven, I went to Auschwitz. I was so strong they thought I was seventeen. I was whipped and hit and kicked and never healed---that is why I look the way I do now. I have nobody in the world. I’m all alone. My entire family was murdered.” And he kept on sweeping the streets of Tel Aviv.
I said, “My sweetest friend, do you know, my whole life I’ve been waiting to see you, a person who saw the Master of Piaseczno, a person who was one of his children. Please, give me one of his teachings.”
The hunchback glared at me. “Do you think you can be in Auschwitz 3 years and still remember teachings?!”
“Yes, I’m sure of it,” I said. “The Master’s teachings—how could you forget them?”
And so he said, “Well, wait.” He went to the water fountain to wash his hands. He fixed his shirt, put on his jacket, and then said to me one more time, “Do you really want to hear it?”
“I swear to you, I’ll share the teachings all over the world.”
So he began. “I want you to know that there never was such a Shabbos as this one in our childhood town of Piaseczno. We danced, hundreds and maybe thousands of children, and the master was singing a song to greet the holy angels, and at the meal he would teach between every course. After every teaching this is what the master would said:
“‘Kinderlach, gedenkt zshe, de gresteh zach in der velt iz tuen emetzen a tovah – Children, remember! The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor.’”
In Auschwitz
The hunchback sighed. “You know, my parents are gone, my whole family, no one exists anymore. And so I was in Auschwitz and all alone and I wanted to commit suicide. At the last moment I could hear my master say, “Kinderlach, children…do somebody else a favor. Do somebody a favor.’”
He looked me directly in the eyes. “Do you know how many favors you can do in Auschwitz at night? People are lying are on the floor crying, and nobody even has any strength to listen to their stories anymore. I would walk from one person to the other and ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ and they would tell me about their children, their wives, people they’d never see in this life again. I would hold their hands and cry with them. Then I would walk to the next person. And it would give me strength for another day. 
“When I was at the end again… I’d hear my Rebbe’s voice. I want you to know I’m here in Tel Aviv and I have no one in the world. And I take off my shoes, go down to the beach, I go up to my nose in the ocean, ready to drown, and I can’t help but hear my Rebbe’s voice saying, ‘The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor. Remember, my precious children, the greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor.’”
He stared at me again for a long time and said, “You know how many favors you can do on the streets of the world?”
And he kept on sweeping the street.
It was the end of summer and I had to go back to the States for Rosh Hashana. But when I returned to Tel Aviv, I went searching Yarcon, looking for my holy hunchback. I couldn’t find him. I asked some people, who told me, “Don’t you know? He left the world just after Sukkos.”

We die with our hands open

It was taught in the name of Rabbi Meir:  When one comes into the world his hands are clenched as if to say: the whole world is mine and I will inherit it.  And when one takes leave of the world his hands are open, as if to say:  I have not taken from this world a single thing.
Fascinating: The Midrash examines what is the underlying reason for the contrast between the hands of a newborn baby and that of one who has just died. When a baby is born its hands are tightly clenched. In fact, one of the earliest “games” we play with our infants is placing our fingers inside their tiny hands and they clench their fist and grab it.
Whereas the hands of a corpse lay lifelessly wide open. Why?
The Midrash explains that a newborn fools himself into believing that he has the power to conquer the world. This is symbolized with his tightly clenched hands. It is as if he were saying that he will take hold and seize this world. However, when that individual dies, those same hands lay wide open in acknowledgement of the fact that he has taken absolutely nothing from this world. We die and we can take nothing.

Joke: Lower His Losses

Mark Ginsberg never pays his bills, especially not during this time of recession. Recently his friend saw him bargaining with a supplier.
"Hey, Ginsberg," Goldberg asks him, why are you knocking that man's prices down ? You're never going to pay him anyway.
Listen, answers Ginsberg, he is a nice chap. I just want to keep down his losses!

Story: Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach& the valuable precious stone

The Midrash tells a story...The sage Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach found a precious stone of great value hanging around the neck of a donkey he had bought from a non-Jew. Refusing to yield to the requests of his disciples who urged him to keep the treasure Providence had sent him, he returned the stone, saying, 'I bought a donkey, not a precious stone.' The Arab witness to the Sage's integrity thereupon exclaimed: 'Blessed is the G-d of Simeon ben Shatach.’
G-d's name becomes sanctified when those who claim to have a relationship with Him act in such a manner that makes it evident how faith transforms a life. Simeon ben Shatach would not have endangered his reputation nor violated the national law if he had decided to keep the stone. In returning the stone Rabbi Simeon moved a man to say: 'If this behavior is the child of faith, then faith is worth having. '

Story: Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach & $150

150 Dollars
In 1978, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the popular Jewish composer and singer, gave a concert in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. When the concert was finished, Reb Shlomo came across a young man sobbing. "Holy brother," he asked, "why are you crying your heart out like that?" The man, a non-Jew, told Reb Shlomo that he had just won a scholarship to a medical school in Paris, but didn't have the money for the plane ticket. Just that day, he has been totally unsuccessful in securing a loan. "How much is the plane fare?" Reb Shlomo asked. "A hundred and fifty dollars." Reb Shlomo went through his pockets and pulled out all his cash. He counted out the money and handed it to the man, who was stunned.
"You don't even know me. How do you know I'll ever pay you back?" "It's not a loan," Reb Shlomo answered. "It's a gift." The man was adamant that he didn't want charity, he wanted to pay back the money. Reb Shlomo wrote down his name and address, then added, "Repay me only when you truly can."
Ten years later an envelope postmarked Dubrovnik arrived at the Carlebach Shul in Manhattan, along with a check for $150 and a note: "Because of your great kindness, I am today a successful physician in Dubrovnik, with a thriving practice. I owe everything to you and will never forget you for the rest of my life." (Mandelbaum, Holy Brother, pp. 75-76)

Story: Rebbe of Nemirov goes to Heaven

By Yiddish WriterYehudah Leibush (Y.L.) Peretz. 

what follows is a translation by Harvard Yiddish professor Ruth Wisse.)
Early every Friday morning, at the time of the Selichos Prayers, in the days before Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe of Nemirov would vanish.
He was nowhere to be seen - neither in the synagogue nor in the two study houses nor at a minyan. And he was certainly not at home. His door stood open: whoever wished could go in and out; no one would steal from the Rebbe. But not a living creature was within.
Where could the Rebbe be? Where should he be? In heaven, no doubt. A Rebbe has plenty of business to take care of just before the Days of Awe. Jews, G-d bless them, need livelihood, peace, health, and good matches. They want to be pious and good, but our sins are so great, and Satan of the thousand eyes watches the whole earth from one end to the other. What he sees, he reports; he denounces, informs. Who can help us if not the Rebbe!
That’s what the people thought.
But once a Litvak (a Jew from Lithuania where they opposed the sentimental emotions and spiritual feelings of Chassidim and their Rebbes) came, and he laughed. You know the Litvaks. They think little of the holy mystical books but stuff themselves with Talmud and law. So this Litvak points to a passage in the Talmud - it sticks in your eyes - where it is written that even Moses our Teacher did not ascend to heaven during his lifetime but remained suspended two and a half feet below. Go argue with a Litvak!
So where can the Rebbe be?
"That’s not my business," said the Litvak, shrugging. Yet all the while - what a Litvak can do! - he is scheming to find out.
That same night, right after the evening prayers, the Litvak steals into the Rebbe’s room, slides under the Rebbe’s bed, and waits. He’ll watch all night and discover where the Rebbe vanishes and what he does during the Selichos Prayers.
Someone else might have gotten drowsy and fallen asleep, but a Litvak is never at a loss; he recites a whole tractate of the Talmud by heart.
At dawn he hears the call to prayers.
The Rebbe has already been awake for a long time. The Litvak has heard him groaning for a whole hour.
Whoever has heard the Rebbe of Nemirov groan knows how much sorrow for all Israel, how much suffering, lies in each groan. A man’s heart might break, hearing it. But a Litvak is made of iron; he listens and remains where he is. The Rebbe - long life to him! - lies on the bed, and the Litvak under the bed.
Then the Litvak hears the beds in the house begin to creak; he hears people jumping out of their beds; mumbling a few Jewish words, pouring water on their fingernails, banging doors. Everyone has left. It is again quiet and dark; a bit of light from the moon shines through the shutters.
Finally the Rebbe - long life to him! - arises. First, he does what befits a Jew. Then he goes to the clothes closet and takes out a bundle of peasant clothes: linen trousers, high boots, a coat, a big felt hat, and a long, wide leather belt studded with brass nails. The Rebbe gets dressed. From his coat pocket dangles the end of a heavy peasant rope.
The Rebbe goes out, and the Litvak follows him.
On the way the Rebbe stops in the kitchen, bends down, takes an ax from the bed, puts it into his belt, and leaves the house. The Litvak trembles but continues to follow.
The hushed dread of the Days of Awe hangs over the dark streets. Every once in a while a cry rises from some minyan reciting the Selichos Prayers, or from a sickbed. The Rebbe hugs the sides of the streets, keeping to the shade of the houses. He glides from house to house, and the Litvak after him. The Litvak hears the sound of his heartbeats mingling with the sound of the Rebbe’s heavy steps. But he keeps on going and follows the Rebbe to the outskirts of town.
A small wood stands just outside the town.
The Rabbe - long life to him! - enters the wood. He takes thirty or forty steps and stops by a small tree. The Litvak, overcome with amazement, watches the Rebbe take the ax out of his belt and strike the tree. He hears the tree creak and fall. The Rebbe chops the tree into logs and the logs into sticks. Then he makes a bundle of the wood and ties it with the rope in his pocket. He puts the bundle of wood on his back, shoves the ax back into his belt, and returns to the town.
He stops at a back street besides a small, broken-down shack and knocks at the window.
"Who is there?" asks a frightened voice. The Litvaks recognizes it as the voice of a sick Jewish woman.
"I" answers the Rebbe in the accent of a peasant.
"Who is I?"
Again the Rebbe answers in Russian. "Vassil."
"Who is Vassil, and what do you want?"
"I have wood to sell, very cheap." And not waiting for the woman’s reply, he goes into the house.
The Litvak steals in after him. In the gray light of early morning he sees a poor room with broken, miserable furnishings. A sick woman, wrapped in rags, lies on the bed. She complains bitterly, "Buy? How can I buy? Where will a poor widow get money?"
"I’ll lend it to you," answers the supposed Vassil. "It’s only six cents."
"And how will I ever pay you back?" asks the poor woman, groaning.
"Foolish one," says the Rebbe reproachfully. "See, you are a poor, sick Jew, and I am ready to trust you with a little wood. I am sure you’ll pay. While you, you have such a great and mighty God and you don’t trust him for six cents."
"And who will kindle the fire?" asks the widow? "Have I the strength to get up? My son is at work."
"I’ll kindle the fire," answers the Rebbe.
As the Rebbe puts the wood into the oven he recited, in a groan, the first portion of the Selichos Prayers.
As he kindled the fire and the wood burned brightly, he recited, a bit more joyously, the second portion of the Selichos Prayers. When the fire was set, he recited the third portion, and then shut the stove.
The Litvak who saw all this became a disciple of the Rebbe.
And ever after, when another disciple tells how the Rebbe of Nemirov ascends to heaven at the time of the Selichos Prayers, the Litvak does not laugh. He only adds quietly:
"If not higher…"
For in Judaism, there is one thing even higher than heaven: bringing it down to earth.
The holy is heaven, says Rabbi Schnuer Zalman in Likkutei Torah.[13] The holy of holy is when heaven is brought down to earth.



 It was the coldest winter ever...

 Many animals died because of the cold.

 The poor little porcupines, realizing the dire situation they were
in,decided to group together, this way, they covered themselves; but,
the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though
 gave off heat that would save to each other.

 After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from another
and soon they began to die...alone ...and frozen.

 Even though they are little animals, they had to make a life or death
choice... either accept the quills of their companions or disappear
from the earth!

 Wisely, they decided to go back to being together; this way they
learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close
relationship with their companions, but the most important part of it
was that the heat that came from the others allowed all to survive.t

 Therefore, the best relationship is not the one that brings together
perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live
with imperfections of others and can admire the other person's good

 The moral of this story: