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Purim Paparazzi. Concepts Packaged in Purim Humor

February 16, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

It wasn’t that long ago that my partners and I were apprehended, imprisoned and reprimanded on the prejudiced, presumptuous, preposterous pretext that we jolted the proper protocol of the proud Pritish Empire! This prompted me to abandon my previous preoccupation, and to make Purim my priority.

Instead of joining an exasperated press probing into prominent people’s privacies, I would pursue celebrities like King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther and Vashti of Persia. I will serve a much greater purpose by getting a better picture, or portrait, of the Megillah’s principal personalities. It gives me the opportunity to report on the grand procession of Mordechai, Haman and his sons Parshandatha, Parmashta and Poratha, to name only three. Now, with the approach of Purim, I prefer to devote my expertise to promote the proper performance of the Purim procedures and its prerequisites.

Perhaps you are perplexed and perturbed why a prestigious publication such as this should make such a big production out of Purim, exaggerating it out of proportion to other projects or programs. Why must we twist ourselves into a pretzel with all this perennial Purim propaganda? I propose that this is precisely Purim’s Problem. If Purim is not paramount in your mind, it probably needs more and better PR.

Purim represents the promise of Jewish perseverance under pressure and persecution. Although it transpired in Persia approximately 2,300 years ago, Purim is not an ancient anachronism, but part and parcel of the present. As the Baal Shem Tov paraphrased the Talmud: “One who reads the Megillah backwards has not fulfilled his obligation,” for Purim is as current and contemporary as today’s newspaper.

Purim is pervaded by Divine Providence, as the Megillah prefaces with the Royal parties and profaning of the pure priestly vessels, the priceless perfumes, progressing with Mordechai’s premonition of peril, and the evil oppression and persecution perpetrated by Persia’s prejudiced premier, Haman, may he and all his conspirators perish. Esther and the Jews prepare to preempt Haman’s evil plot, while Mordechai is promoted to prominence, protected by purple and imperial paraphernalia. Purim’s profound principles may appear to be compromised by the peripheral pranks, silly improvisos, superficial pretenses, parodies and parades. Yet paradoxically, scriptural interpretation compares Purim to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year!

Purim pertains to each and every one of us. It speaks to every person of every profile and persuasion, from the lowest to the uppermost; from a protesting preppie to a presiding provost; from the poorest, perspiring paparazzi to the prim & proper president of Purdue U., or the paradigm of any other prosperous corporation.

Please permit me now to express my paranoia. If this prattling will continue to prevail, I may develop a permanent and perpetual purring like a cat, that will stray afar into perpendicular perspectives way beyond the parameters of this precious piece of PR. But without Purim, all these permutations are nothing but parenthetical presuppositions and superfluous superlatives that serve no purpose.

I will thus stop right now, and leave my impressive PR portfolio to the professionals. For a simple paparazzi like myself, this is enough, period. May the inspiration of Purim purimeate our whole year!

Rather than preach Purim principles in the abstract, we should be particular and specific, for proverbially, practice makes perfect. So here is a paragraph on Purim’s Five important precepts:

1) The Megillah parchment is proclaimed on Purim day, and the preceding night.

2) We send our friends and peers, by proxy, a pair of provisions: Hamantashen (poppy or prune), Perrier, Pringles, pirogen, pears, apricots, peppermint candy, or other appropriate foods portions, whether or not they have that persistent PR pronunciation, as long as they are edible.

3) It is imperative that we open our purse, and provide to the deprived on Poorim. We should proffer a coin (a least a quarter) each, to two poor persons. It is your prerogative how much to give, but the more the merrier. If you can’t personally locate poor persons, participate by placing the proceeds into a pushka/charity can.

4) On Purim we partake of a Party, and pour a L’chaim!

5) We say the appropriate prayers, express appreciation and sing G-d’s praises.

Happy Purim!

Masquerade!Purim Insight

February 16, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

On Purim, nothing is as it seems.

That ferocious monster is really sweet shy Sarah from second grade. That beautiful Queen Esther with the jewel-studded crown is really your brother Moishe. Is that a gigantic three-cornered-poppy-seed-filled-cookie walking down the street? And how did little Michael grow that luxuriant white beard?

Why do we disguise ourselves on Purim? Because on Purim nothing is as it seems. Was the banishment of Vashti simply one of those things that happen when a debauched Persian emperor gets drunk? Was it just coincidence that Mordechai happened to overhear a plot to kill the king? Did Achashveirosh choose Esther to be his queen because she happened to be the most beautiful woman in the empire? Was it plain bad luck for bad Haman that he happened to come visit Achashveirosh just when the king was having Mordechai’s heroic deed read to him? Was it Esther’s charm and Achasveirosh’s flippancy that made the king suddenly hang his favorite minister?

Purim was instituted because the Jewish people at the time understood that it was G-d Himself who did all of the above, to save His people. He was just disguising Himself as a Persian palace soap opera.

When G-d took the Children of Israel out of Egypt on Passover, the entire neighborhood, from Giza to Gaza and from Memphis to Mesopotamia, resonated with the miracles wrought by the G-d of the Hebrews. When a small jug of oil burned for eight days on Chanukah, the most skeptical Hellenist saw that it was an act of G-d. Purim (“lots”) is unique in that the most miraculous of salvations was shrouded in the garments of nature, luck and coincidence. G-d was hidden and remained hidden–His name does not once appear in the entire Megillah (Scroll of Esther)!

Purim is a masquerade. The Scroll of Esther (“I shall hide”) is scrolled up. Even the poppy-seed filling is barely peeking out of the folds of dough of the Hamantash (or is it prune?), not to mention the wholly concealed meat (chicken?) filling in the kreplach.

Not paradoxically, Purim is also the most joyous festival on the Jewish calendar. It’s great to celebrate miracles, but how often does a miracle come your way? Far more exhilarating is the realization that nothing is as it seems, that G-d is always pulling the strings, even when things seem to be “just happening.”

Purim Celebration 2010!

February 16, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Chabad Prospect Heights presents our 6th annual community Purim party!

Saints Win! Saints Win!

In what is being described as the biggest upset in history, Mordechai and Esther, true saints, beat out Haman and Achashverosh in an amazing display of defense and offense, rarely seen before by the Jewish people! Join us as we celebrate.

Saturday, February 27
At Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights 603 St. Johns pl.
Havdalah service 7:30
Megillah Reading: 7:45
Light Buffet | No Fee

Sunday, February 28 – 10:30am | Megillah reading 11:30am
At Franklin park bar & lounge 618 St Johns pl. Subway: 2/3/4/5/6 to Franklin Ave.

Experience the sweetest Purim you’ve ever had! Featured entertainment by the world famous Danny the clown, performing his renowned show of Magic, Juggling, Animal balloons and face painting.

  • Masquerade in Costume contest with prizes
  • Sumptuous Purim feast
  • Assorted Hamentashen bar
  • Dance to the beat of Live Music by Shmuli!
  • Danny the clown’s Magic show & Juggling act *Animal Balloons
  • Face painting

Suggested donation* $18 Adult $10 Children
*No one is turned away due to lack of funds

Sponsors welcome! Contact Rabbiari@brooklynyid.com

Road Work: A Story about The Rebbetzin (the Rebbe’s wife)

February 4, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

Told by Chessed Halberstam

Note: Chessed Halberstam worked in the employ of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, for eighteen years — from 1970 until the Rebbetzin’s passing in 1988 — performing household chores and serving as the Rebbetzin’s driver.

The Rebbe requested that I try to see to it that the Rebbetzin gets out of the house every day for fresh air. Usually we would drive out to a park in Long Island. In the years that my son, Ari (may G-d avenge his blood1), was a young child, we would often drive by his school on Ocean Parkway to take him along; the Rebbetzin enjoyed playing with him, pushing him on the swings in the park playground, etc.

One day, as we neared the park, we found our regular route closed off due to road work, and were forced to proceed instead on a parallel street. As we drove along that street, we heard the sound of a woman screaming in Russian. When I stopped at the next traffic light, the Rebbetzin turned to me and said: “I heard a woman screaming; can you go back and see what that was about?”

We drove back to the beginning of the street. There we saw a woman standing on the curb and weeping, while near her workers were carrying furniture and household items from a house and loading them on to a truck belonging to the county marshal. At the Rebbetzin’s request, I parked behind the marshal’s truck and went to learn the details of what was going on. The marshal explained that the woman had not paid her rent for many months and was now being evicted from her home.

When I reported back to the Rebbetzin, she asked me to go back and inquire from the marshal how much the woman owed, and if he would accept a personal check; she also asked that I should not say anything to the family being evicted. At this point, I still did not realize where all this was leading, but I fulfilled the Rebbetzin’s request. The sum that the family owed was approximately $6,700. The marshal said that he had no problem accepting a personal check, as long as he confirms with the bank that the check is covered; he also said that if he received the payment, his men would carry everything back into the house. When I informed the Rebbitzin of the details, she took out her checkbook and, to my amazement, wrote out a check for the full amount, and asked me to give it to the marshal.

The marshal made a phone call to the bank, and then instructed his workers to take everything back into the house. The Rebbitzin immediately urged me to quickly drive away, before the woman realized what had transpired.

I was completely amazed at what I had seen and later, when we were in the park, I could not contain myself and asked the Rebbetzin what had prompted her to give such a large sum to a total stranger?

“Do you really want to know?” asked the Rebbetzin.

“Yes, I do,” I replied.

“Then I’ll tell you,” she said. “Once, when I was a young girl, my father2took me for a walk in the park. He sat me down on a bench and started to tell me about the idea of hashgachah peratit (’specific divine providence’).3 Every time — said father — when something causes us to deviate from our normal routine, there is a divinely ordained reason for this; every time we see something unusual, there is a purpose in why we’ve been shown this sight.

“Today,” continued the Rebbetzin, “when I saw the ‘Detour’ sign instructing us to deviate from our regular route, I remembered my father’s words and immediately thought to myself: Every day we drive by this street; suddenly, the street’s closed off and we’re sent to a different street. What is the purpose of this? How is this connected to me? Then I heard the sound of a woman crying and screaming. I realized that we have been sent along this route for a purpose.”

1. Ari Halberstyam was murdered by an Arab terrorist in 1994, in the infamous Brooklyn Bridge shooting.
2. The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. (1880-1950)
3. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder of Chassidism, taught that, “Everything that occurs, and every detail thereof, is by Divine providence; if a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by G-d to serve a specific function within the purpose of creation.” Thus, “Every single thing that a person sees or hears, is an instruction to him in his conduct in the service of G-d.”

Jewish Guilt

February 1, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

by Yakov Tauber

When you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you shall not cause blood [to be spilled] in your house, when he who falls shall fall from it(Deuteronomy 22:8)

Among the many interestingmitzvot enumerated in the Torahreading of Ki Teitzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) is the mitzvah of maakeh–the commandment to built a fence around one’s roof, lest someone fall from it and hurt himself. In its broader application, this includes the prohibition to “raise a dangerous dog, or keep a wobbly ladder in one’s home”–to own or maintain in one’s possession anything that can cause injury to a fellow (Talmud, Bava Kama 15b).

The commentaries note the curious terminology employed by the Torah–”when he who falls shall fall from it” (ki yipol hanofel mimenu).Rashi explains: “Even though this person deserves to fall anyway, you should not be the cause of his injury.”

A guy climbs up on my roof in the middle of a snowstorm, decides to do cartwheels on its icy ledge, falls and breaks his nose. I could blame his foolhardiness, I could blame the weather, I could blame G-d (since nothing happens unless G-d wills it); instead, says the Torah, I should hold myself responsible. Given the type of guy we’re dealing with here, this was bound to happen anyway; but the very fact that it happened on my roof means that it is my responsibility–it even means that I could have somehow prevented it.

“Jewish guilt” entered American literature half a century ago, and dozens of Woody Allen movies and Bernard Malamud novels later, the idea evokes a caricature of neurotic self-absorption: the Jewish father who, sixty years later, still blames all his son’s failings on the fact that he couldn’t afford the bicycle his kid wanted for his seventh birthday; the Jewish mother who’s convinced that her failure to impress the shul president’s wife marked her family as social outcasts for all generations; the Jewish rabbi who believes that all the world’s troubles are caused by his own sins. Quite a self-centered, dismal and pessimistic view of the universe.

In truth, it is a self-centered view, but in the most positive sense of the word. And rather than dismal and pessimistic, it is the most encouraging and optimistic perspective of reality in the history of human thought.

Think about it: the notion that we, as creatures of choice, are responsible for all that occurs within our domain also implies that we do have control over what happens there, that our choices and actions do make a difference. The notion that even though my choices and actions overlap only a miniscule area of another person’s life, and an even smaller area of human history, what I choose and do will profoundly influence the fate of the guy dancing on my roof, the achievements of the community of which I am a part, and the course of humanity’s progress through time. What I choose and do will even make the difference between death and life, between failure and success.

The Rebbe would often say: if you see your fellow Jew traveling down a self-destructive path, and you seek to set him straight but fail, the fault is yours. The reasoning behind this conclusion is both profound and simple. Our sages have declared that “words that come from the heart enter the heart.” So if your words did not enter his heart, this can only mean that they were not spoken in complete sincerity. Had you been truly sincere–had you spoken with no objective in mind other than his good–your words would have entered his heart and would have had their desired effect.

The guiding principle behind Judaism’s perspective on reality is: If G-d has placed me here, that means I can make a difference. The fact that I can make a difference means that it is my responsibility to do so. It also means that I have the power to do so–for G-d does not place a responsibility on me without providing me with the ability to execute it successfully.

We will never be free of “Jewish guilt”–it’s hardwired into our Jewish soul, programmed into our spiritual DNA. But how will it blossom in our life? Will it surface as a neurotic, debilitating pessimism, or as an empowering confidence in our ability to effect true change in our lives, the lives of our fellows, and the world as a whole? That, of course, is up to us. And the more we understand the dynamics of this sense of responsibility we carry in our souls–where it comes from and what its purpose is–the better we will be able to actualize to its innately positive function.

When the Rebbe Asked me for $100 Million

February 1, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

…And then He Began Quoting Zorba The Greek

By Gordan Zacks (for the Yeshiva.net)

In tribute to the 60th anniversary of the leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, this Monday, 10 Shevat (1950-2010)

In 1969, I was the Chairman of the Young Leadership Cabinet of the national United Jewish Appeal. As such, I was invited to deliver the keynote address to the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds Annual Conference, being held that year in November in Boston. The theme was “Youth Looks at the Future of the American Jewish Community.” I spent six months preparing for this talk. Usually, I speak extemporaneously with at most a one-page outline. This time — because of its importance — I elected to read the entire speech.

In it, I thanked my parents’ generation for supporting the creation of the state of Israel and rescuing survivors from the Holocaust. In its aftermath, two million Jews had been delivered through their efforts from lands of oppression and resettled to lands of freedom. Nonetheless, I pointed out that we faced a disaster in the field of Jewish education. We ran the risk of losing more Jews through assimilation than we had saved through affirmation. We needed to address the failure of our Jewish educational system to inspire many young Jews to continue to be Jewish. I recommended that we create a national Jewish research and development venture capital fund to invest risk capital in innovative approaches to make Jewish education relevant to young people and to create an Institute for Jewish Life that would manage the process.

To fund this Institute, I proposed that the Jewish community endow the Institute with $l00 million of State of Israel bonds for a pe¬riod of ten years. The purchasers would receive a tax deduction. At the end of ten years, they would get their principal back. The Institute would get the use of the interest. Annually it would provide about $6 million in revenue. We would have ten years in which to evaluate the results. If the concept didn’t produce worthwhile results, that would be the end of the Institute. Ultimately the idea was adopted in an abbreviated form with funding of $3.5 million. In this truncated version, it failed in its mission and was eventually closed. Still, it stimulated a lot of discussion about Jewish education, and placed it right behind rescue as a priority for the American Jewish community.

In December 1969, I received a call from a man named Leibel Alevsky. He was a rabbi with the Lubavitch movement in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He said the Lubavitcher Rebbe wanted to meet me. Given the tone of the phone call, I thought I was being invited for a royal audience. I immediately said yes to a date in January, but I didn’t even know who the Rebbe was! My rabbi gave me some background and urged me to go ahead with the meeting. On the appointed day in January, Alevsky and I were finishing dinner in his home at 11:15 at night. We got a call that the Rebbe would see me now. I walked with Alevsky to a modest building to find 300 people — from around the world –each waiting at the Rebbe’s headquarters, the Chabad Center, in the middle of the night for an audience with the Rebbe!

Later I learned that the Rebbe held these audiences three times each week, lasting from sundown often until the middle of the night.

I went in alone to see the Rebbe. In his office, illuminated by a single ceiling light, books were stacked from the floor to the ceiling. He was a slight man with translucent skin and absolutely clear whites of his eyes — the sclera encircling his sparkling blue irises, his beard outlining an impish grin. The Rebbe was sixty-seven at the time. He looked at me in such a penetrating way that I felt like I was being x-rayed.

“Mr. Zacks, I have read your speech,” he began, “and it’s clear you have taken good care of your mind. I can look at you, and it’s clear you have taken good care of your body. What have you done to take care of your soul?”

No small talk about how I was or if I had a pleasant trip. I was stunned.

“The Jewish house is on fire,” he continued. “We have an emergency, and this is not the time to experiment with new ways to put out the fire. Instead, you call the proven and tested fire department. We are that fire department. We — the Lubavitchers — don’t have drugs or intermarriage problems with our children or kids opting out of Judaism. Our tradition works, and our children are being educated. We have a worldwide outreach program that contacts and impacts non-observant Jews and saves souls. Give us the $100 million, and we will spend it to correct the problems that you are concerned about.”

“Rebbe,” I asked after pausing for a moment, “what if the house is on fire, but people have forgotten your telephone number?” “G-d will provide,” he answered me.

“There are millions of Jews whose houses are on fire,” I said to him. “Most of them are Jews who will not call you, either because they have lost your number or they won’t accept the lifestyle compromises you expect. They’re still worthy of saving in their own way, and they are entitled to a quality Jewish education that makes Judaism relevant to their lives. That’s why we need this Institute.”

“Do you believe in revelation, Mr. Zacks?” he asked me next.

“I believe in G-d and I believe he inspires… but I don’t believe he writes,” I answered.

“You mean, Mr. Zacks, that there is this vast structure G-d has created of plants, animals, food chains, stars, and planets. And, that the only creature in all of creation that doesn’t understand how to fit in and live their life purposefully is the human?”

I told him yes.

“What about the complexity of the human body? What about the jewel of the human cell? How does the body ingest food and renew itself with absolute consistency?”

I had no answer.

“Why, Mr. Zacks, is the nose always where the nose belongs? Why are the eyes always on the face for generation after generation?”

I could only shrug my shoulders, but my respect for him deepened by the moment.

“And, how can you account for the brain and the mind? How do they steer this remarkable system in a purposeful and precise way? And, what about how we fit into the earth’s ecosystem, where we inhale the oxygen that plants so wonderfully manufacture for us? Could this all be accidental?”

How could I answer him?

“And, beyond what happens on earth. What about all the heavenly bodies in the sky that seem to follow such a perfect order and don’t collide with each other? Is man the only creature on the planet earth without guidelines for living its life? Should man ignore the Torah given to us by G-d as a roadmap to guide us? This is the missing link which connects us to the complexity of Nature!”

So it went. Comment after comment. More times than not, I could not begin to answer his points.

He quoted Kazantzakis’ book Zorba the Greek to me during our conversation. “Do you remember the young man talking with Zorba on the beach, when Zorba asks what the purpose of life is? The young fellow admits he doesn’t know. And Zorba comments, ‘Well, all those damned books you read — what good are they? Why do you read them?’ Zorba’s friend says he doesn’t know. Zorba can see his friend doesn’t have an answer to the most fundamental question. That’s the trouble with you. ‘A man’s head is like a grocer,’ Zorba says, ‘it keeps accounts… The head’s a careful little shopkeeper; it never risks all it has, always keeps something in reserve. It never breaks the string.’ Wise men and grocers weigh everything. They can never cut the cord and be free.

“Your problem, Mr. Zacks, is that you are trying to find G-d’s map through your head. You are unlikely to find it that way. You have to experience before you can truly feel and then be free to learn. Let me send a teacher to live with you for a year and teach you how to be Jewish. You will unleash a whole new dimension to your life. If you really want to change the world, change yourself! It’s like dropping a stone into a pool of water and watching the concentric circles radiate to the shore. You will influence all the people around you, and they will influence others in turn. That’s how you bring about improvement in the world.”

“Rebbe, I’m not ready to do that,” I told him. I remained firm despite the incredibly woven tapestry of the universe he presented to me.

“What do you have to lose?” he asked, “One year of your life? What if I’m right? It could gain you an eternity if I’m right, but only cost you one year if I’m wrong.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said as we wrapped up our hour-and-a-half conversation. The normal audience with the Rebbe was thirty seconds to a minute. Three hundred people were still waiting to come in at one in the morning.


The Rebbe took people the way they were. His ultimate goal was to bring you to the ways of Jewish life, but his means were not confrontational and demanding. You could literally feel his warmth and love in addition to the power of his vast intellect. Once he established the Chabad Center at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, I don’t think he ever left it. Yet he was totally wired into the events of the world. I sensed this in my first meeting with the Rebbe. He radiated compassion, love, and respect for others — a servant leader totally committed to serving G-d through helping others.

The Rebbe wrote me letters encouraging me to devote myself to Jewish education. Over a series of years, I received five letters from him saying that he wanted to send his representative to me to spend a year teaching me how to be Jewish. I responded to each of them and declined.

Beginning in 1986, the Rebbe had a receiving line on Sunday in which he passed out a dollar bill to be given by the recipient as tzedakah to charity. His reasoning: “When two people meet, something good should result for a third.” People waited in line for as long as four hours to be greeted by him and receive his blessing and the dollar bill. The Rebbe was eighty-four when he started doing this. An older woman in the line asked him how he could manage to perform this demanding task. “Every soul is a diamond,” he answered. “Can one grow tired of counting diamonds?”

In 1987, my youngest daughter, Kim, had just returned from Israel and she wanted to participate in the custom of Sunday Dollars. I said fine I would take her. I neither called nor told anyone who I was when we arrived. I stood in line with her. It had been seventeen years since I had seen the Rebbe and ten years since he wrote me his last letter. When it was our turn to speak with the Rebbe, he looked at me and asked “What are you doing for Jewish education?” His eyes had the same penetrating look that had scanned me seventeen years earlier and asked, “What are you doing to take care of your soul, Mr. Zacks?” It was as though I had just walked back into his office. In truth, hundreds of thousands of people had filed past him over those years.

“You are amazing!” I exclaimed to him.

“What has that to do with saving Jewish lives? What are you doing for Jewish education?” he retorted. He may not have gotten exactly what he wanted from me, but the Rebbe surely taught me the power of changing yourself to influence others. He wanted to enlist me as his fundraiser for Jewish education. While I certainly considered his invitation, I declined it. Still he may have been the most charismatic man I ever met. He had an incredible aura to him, partly because he was such a combination of charisma and pragmatism. This man came out of the scientific community to return to the religious life. Every Israeli prime minister and Israeli chief of staff found his way to the Rebbe’s doorstep when they came to the United States.

The most amazing thing? The Rebbe saw himself as perfecting G-d’s will. He had no power in the sense that a police commissioner, a general, or a tax collector does. He had no one enforcing his decisions. What he did have was the authority of his holiness, which caused others to connect to him. It wasn’t his title that gave the Rebbe authority. It was his presence and his profound grasp of bringing the principles of the Torah to life in himself and in others. The Rebbe didn’t declare himself a leader. His overpowering presence inspired those around him to declare him their leader and to revere him. Through earning respect and trust, people endowed him with leadership.

About ten years after I first met the Rebbe, I attended a dinner in Cleveland at the home of Leibel Alevsky. At the table with us was the man the Rebbe sent to the Soviet Union to save Jews. When the Rebbe sent him on this mission, he didn’t give him a plan or give him money! This was during the Stalin era. The anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist mentality of the Soviets may have been at its very worst. The Rebbe’s designate went to the Soviet Union, lived and worked by his wits, and figured out how he could smuggle Jews out to Poland by train. He succeeded. At the same time, he was smuggling in prayer books, religious articles, and calendars for those still in the Soviet Union. And, he set up secret schools to teach Hebrew. The Lubavitchers are incredibly resourceful people, whose outreach is one-on-one.

The Lubavitchers are the essence of true believers. As I traveled abroad, I first noted their presence in Morocco. They ran schools for kids in the ghetto. That may sound noble, but not earth-shattering until you understand the kind of “social security system” that prevailed in Morocco at the time. Children were the system. At birth, many infants –Arabs and Jews both — were maimed and deformed by their parents so the kids could beg more effectively! The Lubavitchers bought the children from their parents for one more dirham than the market value of the child begging on the street for a year, and then they gave the children an education.

You could see the evidence of the Rebbe’s positive work all over the world in places like the Soviet Union, Morocco, and Iran. How did these devout Lubavitchers get there? The Rebbe would simply say, “Go to Morocco and save souls.” They didn’t get a dime or an ounce of organizational help. They saved thousands and thousands of Jews physically, and they spiritually changed many more. The conviction they are doing G-d’s work carries them forward. Their passion brings them to college campuses all over the United States. They will send out a representative wearing payos and a black frock coat and open up a Chabad house on campuses like University of California at Berkeley. They get kids off narcotics and give them a spiritual jolt instead of a buzz on drugs. “Get high on G-d!” they preach. Their individual missions are great illustrations of the power of one. The Rebbe’s passion for saving Jewish souls lives through them.

Unlike every other Jewish figure in this book, the Rebbe was not a Zionist. Though very supportive of the state of Israel and its defense forces, he felt that redemption would only be ushered in by the Messiah. He also drove home the point that a commitment to the state of Israel does not exempt us from fulfilling age-old Judaic commandments. In fact, it should actually elicit more loyalty to the Torah. The Rebbe was completely devoted to fulfilling G-d’s will.

The essence of the Rebbe’s teaching is celebration of G-d. The Chabad radiate a wonderful joy of life that is a reverberation of the Rebbe’s spirit. I wish I could believe the way they do, with their absolute confidence in their answer. Their sheer love in celebrating the Jewish traditions with singing and dancing is unmatched. Nothing equals the celebration of a Shabbat with a Chabadnik. The food is homemade, delicious — though not necessarily healthy for your arteries — but it’s only the beginning of the positive energy that flows in each Shabbat from celebrating the birthday of the world!

*) Mr. Gordon Zacks was general chairman designate of the National UJA and was a founding member and chairman of the Young Leadership Cabinet of the UJA. Excerpted from his book Defining Moments, published by Beaufort Books. Our thanks to Rabbi Aryeh Caltman (Columbus, OH) for sending us this chapter of the book with permission.

Shabbaton/Dinner – RSVP Friday, Feb 12

February 1, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

A monthly taste of paradise in Brooklyn.

Acclaimed educator and noted scholar Rabbi Yosef Raskin from Sefad, Israel to address event.

Join us for an evening of song, great food, sensational people and insightful discussion..

As our community continues to grow, we want to introduce all the wonderful people, neighbors and friends to each other creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere, where people can meet, mingle, pray and sing and share Torah thoughts. Shabbatons/Dinner are held at Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights 603 St Johns pl.

To RSVP, please reply to this email or call 347.787.0864. Vegan menu available upon request. The Friday night dinner and special program is by reservation. Cover is $18 mailed to: Chabad Prospect Heights, 340 Sterling Pl. Suite 1A Brooklyn, NY 11238 or by clicking on the PayPal link below.

Friday Feb. 12th Program Notes

5:45pm Joyous and uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat service
6:30pm Delicious catered Shabbat dinner with Parsha discussion led by Rabbi Ari
7:00: Guest Speaker

Lecture at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Greene

February 1, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Join the Jewish student club and faculty members at Brooklyn Techincal High School for our monthly lecture on the topic of Tu B’shvat (15 of the month Shvat on the Hebrew calender) the New Year for trees and the subject of blessings over food and in general.

Thursday, February 4th @ 2:45pm on the 6th floor.

Refreshments and handouts sponsored by Mr. Eliezer Abromski & NCYS.

Call 347.787.0864 for more info.