Rosh Chodesh Elul

A Gut chodesh and a כתיבה וחתימה טובה לשנה טובה ומתוקה בטוב הנרוה”נ בגו”ר!

ב”ה א’ אלול, חודש הרחמים והסליחות, “מלך בשדה”, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק

Dear Alumni Sheyichyu!

Sholom U’Brocho!

Birkas Tanchumin to Rabbi Yisroel Mogilefsky, Rafi Mogilefsky, Avi Mogilefsky, Levi Mogilefsky and the entire Mogilefsky family over the recent untimely passing of their dear father R’ Michoel a”h. May the Eibishter comfort you בתוך שאר אבילי ציון וירושלים, and may you know only of simchos hereafter.

Mazel Tov to Shmully Wolosow on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Yehuda Leib Matusof on the occasion of his engagement. May he use out the special period of Yokor Mikol yokor to its’ utmost! Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Avremy Schochet on the birth of their son. May they bring him up lTOveCHuMAA”T mitoch harchovo, and to be a true chayol! (If anyone is aware of any mazeltov’s that I omitted please let me know).

Thank you as always for the feedback, it is much appreciated.

The Caribbean is a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (most of which are enclosed by the sea), and the surrounding coasts. The region is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and North America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America.

One of the U.S. islands there is the island of S. Thomas. With a land area of a little over 32 square miles, this popular vacation area has a population in the region of 50,000, with many more tourists in season. One of the beautiful and scenic areas of the world, the Island boasts stunning beaches and breathtaking landscapes.

 

It is a very desirable destination, with coconut-tree-clad mountains, verdant valleys of sugar cane and bananas, and seashore galore.

And, there is a shliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe there.

Who is the focus of today’s story.

One day, a man walked in to the home of the shliach, the de facto Chabad House of S. Thomas, and handed the shliach 3 dollar bills. By way of explanation, he told him the following:

’30 years ago, I visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He asked me where I live, and when I said S. Thomas, he handed me 3 dollars, saying these are for S. Thomas. For 30 years I had these dollar bills in my possession, not knowing what I was to do with them. Recently I heard that there is a Chabad Rabbi here trying to establish himself, and I realized that they must be for you, so here they are!’

But the story doesn’t end there . . .

One recent Shabbos, there were 2 guests visiting at the Bais Chabad. The mother was an elderly woman, who had survived the holocaust. She was accompanied by her son. Both were completely removed from any visible connection with Yiddishkeit.

They enjoyed a pleasant Shabbos meal with the Lubavitcher Rabbi. While they were farbrenging together, he apologized to them for the humble accommodations. He explained that he had plans of building a Chabad House, but there were so few local Jews and he had no source of funds.

On Sunday morning, they came to bid the shliach farewell, and he offered to drive them to the airport, which they gratefully accepted. On the way, the son related to the shliach how his mother had always wanted to get a dollar from the Rebbe.

‘If you can get her a dollar from the Rebbe’, he told the shliach, ‘I’ll give you money for your new building’. But the shliach said that he didn’t have any Rebbe-dollars from which he was ready to part.

When he returned home and shared the exchange with his wife, she was outraged. ‘You have three dollars’, she exclaimed, ‘those were not given to you, but to S. Thomas. They aren’t yours. You must give those to the lady for S. Thomas’.

The shliach rushed back to the airport, found the passengers, and handed them the dollar from the Rebbe. Two days later, the funds needed for his new building campaign were in his account, having been wired there by the young man!

30 years earlier, before the shliach had experienced all of the struggles of establishing a Chabad presence in the Caribbean, before he even set foot in the Virgin Islands (for that matter before he was bar mitzvah, and maybe even before he was born), the Rebbe had already taken care of his needs and provided the groundwork and foundation for his future center!

Of course, there is the obvious message contained therein: how often do we worry and fret and lose sleep because of our uncertainty about how we will successfully carry out the missions with which the Rebbe entrusted us. But, in truth, our worry and fretting are totally superfluous. We have to do our part, and undoubtedly have to work wholeheartedly. But, at the same time we need to realize that the success is not dependent on us; – we are merely a conduit for the brochos that have already been set in motion ages ago.

[A shliach was once instructed by the Rebbe to open a certain mosad. The task seemed almost impossible, yet the shliach put his heart and soul into it, and, miraculously, met with success. When he completed the mission, he was exhausted, overwhelmed and drowning in debt. But the task had been carried out.

Just then, he received a phone call from Rabbi Chodakov. He was being asked to open a second mosad, of comparable proportions. The shliach thought about his debts and about the toll that the last undertaking had taken on him, and he meekly expressed to Rabbi Chodakov that he didn’t see how he could possibly do it at this time.

‘In that case’, was the reply, ‘then I’m sorry to say but you’ll have to be fired’.

The shliach was flabbergasted. He asked Rabbi Chodakov, “I don’t understand, do you not believe me? Do you think that I am exaggerating the difficulty?”

Rabbi Chodakov corrected him. ‘I know on my own how challenging of a task this is, and I don’t need you to tell how impossible it is for you to carry out. The problem is, rather, that it now appears that you feel that the first mosad that you opened was yes within your abilities’!]

But there may be also an additional, deeper message.

The Caribbean is comprised of hundreds of tropical Caribbean Islands. They make up such scenic settings that some call it paradise, others refer to it as heaven-on-earth. Needless to say, there is much to enjoy, see and do. So, people flock there from all over.

They come to swim and snorkel, to dine and dance and to worship the sun. They come to get a taste of paradise.

With the exception of one person.

He’s there for the opposite purpose; – to help everyone else come to the realization that this is not paradise at all, it’s very much the opposite. It’s not in any way heaven on earth; rather it is the depth of depravity of the earth.

Heaven is the diametrical opposite of everything that the Caribbean Islands represent. Heaven – paradise – is shunning worldly pleasures and earthly indulgences, and substituting them with the true and genuine pleasure that can be derived solely from the pursuit of G-dliness. Heaven on earth is turning off your cell, taking your phone off the hook, and losing yourself completely in a blatt gemoro or a maamar chassidus. Paradise is the excitement and ecstasy that can be experienced in a soulful davening or the performance of a mitzvah.

And this message can prove very difficult for a shliach to the Caribbean to communicate. You see, when we live in Toronto or New York or Chicago, what’s our olam hazeh already? The crowded streets, the smog from the busses and the jungle of metal and steel? Here, it can indeed be easier to convince someone that true Paradise lies in much loftier pursuits.

[They tell a story about a fine frum excellent boy who decided once that he was fed up with his Judaism and wanted to ch”v leave the path of Torah and mitzvos (or, as they say today, go OTD). Ready to commit his very first aveirah, he set out deciding what it should be. To turn on a light on Shabbos? Out of the question! He just couldn’t. Shabbos is after all Shabbos. Perhaps to steal something? But how could he even entertain the thought of taking something that wasn’t his?! And so it went.

Finally he decided that his aveirah would be eating something not kosher. But where to find non-kosher food? His home was strictly kosher, and he surely wouldn’t find anything there! He racked his brains (he had never realized how difficult it could be to be a sinner), when finally he hit upon the perfect solution: In the house there were some candles that were made out ofcheilev; – non-kosher fats, thus rendering them pure treif (and an issur koreis, to boot). With a rebellious look in his eyes, he grabbed a candle, stuffed it into his mouth and swallowed.

Later, he rejoined his friends and whispered to them ‘I gotta tell you the truth, aveiros are not all they’re made out to be].

But in the Caribbean, where people are convinced that they’re already in paradise, there it can be a very daunting task to open their eyes to a very different reality.

And the same holds true for each of us. Sometimes the yetzer hora comes to us to entice into activities that no sane person would consider to begin with. He tries to convince us to swallow the candle, or the like. And while overcoming our evil inclination always presents a challenge, the challenge is one that we can sense from the start is surmountable.

But other times the yetzer hora presents us with a “Caribbean beach”, with something that could be confused with heaven. It drags us to the depth of purgatory and makes us think we’re already in gan eden. At those times the struggle is not about whether we say every word in davening or skip a few, but it is a struggle in which we imagine that to follow the directives of shulchan aruch would be to forfeit the real pleasures and enjoyments in life. And even though deep down we know what’s really right, still the appeal and lure of the Caeibbean appears impossible to resist.

At such times it pays to remember that – as daunting and difficult it may be deemed – the Rebbe has already paved the way for us. Long before we laid eyes on this so-called paradise on earth, the Rebbe already laid the foundations for establishing a clear distinction between heaven and earth. He already provided us with whatever assistance we may need – including something as mundane as money – to establish a presence that will counteract the distorted messages facing us.

Now, it is in our hands to take advantage of this opportunity. By increasing our efforts in learning and davening, we reveal how even the Caribbean Sea with all it’s tropical wonderlands is no more than a tool to allow Hashem’s Kingship to be proclaimed in the world. A maamar chassidus, a blatt gemoro, an inspired davening; – these will open our eyes beyond the superficial glitter of the worldly avoda zara’s, and enable us to elevate ourselves to a more spiritual experience.

Then, and only then will we truly experience “heaven on earth”!

L’chaim! May we all do our part to not allow ourselves to be confused or distracted by the world around us, but, rather, to realize that it is merely a place to greet the King, and may the Eibishter, especially now that He’s joined us in the field (and in the Caribbean) do His part to make His Kingship be visible throughout the universe, and to reveal heaven and paradise on earth, with the immediate hisgalus of Moshiach Tzidkeinu TUMYM!!!

Rabbi Akiva Wagner

לזכות ר’ שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ”י ממש בטוהנוהנ”ג

 

 

 

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