Parshas Vayechi

ליל ועש”ק פר’ ויחי, שבת חזק, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק

Birkas Tanchumin to Mendel Groden on the untimely passing of his brother. המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבילי ציון וירושלים and the future should contain only revealed simchos until speedily ומחה ה’ דמעה מעכ”פ.

Mazel Tov to Shmery Labkowski on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Dani Chitrik on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Zevi Slavin on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Aaron Rafkin on the occasion of his engagement. May they use out the special period of Yokor Mikol yokor to its’ utmost! Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Sender Dubrawsky on the birth of their son. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Ephraim Carlbach on the birth of their son. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Dovid Perl on the birth of their daughter. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Eli Deitch on the birth of their daughter. May they bring them up lTOveCHuMAA”T mitoch harchovo, and to be true chayolim/os! (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.

Recently I attended the l’Chayim of my brother-n-law Shmery Labkowski (who also served as magid shiur in Yeshiva this year). During the simcha, the mechutan, R’ Tuvia Zilbershtrom, spoke, and shared the following story:
One of the young men who was studying at the kollel didn’t show up for a few days. Rabbi Zilbershtrom became concerned, and contacted the man’s wife to ask about his whereabouts. “He’s in jail”, the woman sadly informed him. It turns out that the young man hadn’t cooperated with his army responsibilities, and one day the military police showed up, and arrested him as a draft evader.
Rabbi Zilbershtrom was, understandably, devastated, and immediately decided that he must go and visit his student. He ascertained the young man’s location, and verified which bochurim travel to that jail every Friday for mivtzoim. He immediately contacted them, and informed them that this week he would be accompanying them.
When Friday came along, R’ Zilbershrom was part of the group of dedicated Chassidim who were en route to the prison. When they reached their destination, and Rabbi Zilbershrom prepared to enter the prison, he was instructed by his young colleagues to bring in a package of candies with him.
Reb Tuvia, who already had with him a shofar (this was during Elul) and a pair of tefillin, found this suggestion very puzzling. He was after all not visiting school children, but grown men, in their middle ages, many with families. He decided that the idea was not very logical, and ignored it.
After he entered the prison, and approached the first inmate to do mivtzoim with him, the prisoner turned to him and asked: “Rabbi, do you perhaps have some candies?”
Rabbi Zilbershtrom was flabbergasted! Nonetheless, he didn’t hesitate, but immediately ran outside to the car, and retrieved the package of sweets that he had previously left behind. He returned to the prisoner, and immediately proceeded to distribute them amongst the inmates.
When he finished, however, he couldn’t contain his amazement, and returned to the first prisoner, and asked him outright why he was interested in candies?!
“Last week”, the prisoner began his tale, “the bochurim from Chabad came to me, and one asked me to put on tefillin. But I vehemently refused”.
‘I smoke on Shabbos’. I informed them, ‘so how can I possibly put on tefillin’. The bochurim continued to pressure me, but I continued to resist, with the reasoning that it would be incongruous for me to put on tefillin and then smoke on Shabbos.
Finally one of the bochurim gave me two candies. ‘One is for you to eat right now’, he informed me, ‘and the other, you should take into your mouth just before Shabbos. By sucking on the candy, you will avoid the urge to smoke.’
“Today is Friday”, the soldier concluded his tale, and tonight will be Shabbos, and I am afraid that I will be unable to withstand the temptation to smoke. Therefore I needed a candy from Lubavitch, so that I should be spared the urge to smoke on Shabbos”!!
Remarkable! A candy from Lubavitch is the antidote against being tempted to sin, the strength to overcome ones challenges!
What is this “candy from Lubavitch” that helps save a person from being conquered by his temptations? And why was the need specifically for a candy from Lubavitch? Why not a tefillin from Lubavitch, or a shofar from Lubavitch (both of which the Rabbi already had with him)? Aren’t they holy enough, and Lubavitch enough? Why the insistence on a candy?!
A candy is sweet (generally speaking). In fact it tastes good. Even children (who don’t like spinach and peas and all the other healthy junk) will always go for candies!
The candy from Lubavitch tastes good. It’s sweet and delicious.
And that is the ingredient to counteract the evil inclination.
Because, even though the foundation of serving the Eibishter is unconditional kabolas ol, it doesn’t end there. We have to develop a taste for Yiddishkeit. Our Torah and Mitzvos need to be sweet and enjoyable to us.
This is something that is emphasized in countless Pesukim and maamorei Chazal. The Torah is compared to a delicacy, an enjoyable pursuit, a precious treasure etc. There are halachos (such as which species are unfit for a Lulav) that are based on the premise that the Torah is supposed to be pleasant.
When we experience the candy from Lubavitch, that sweetness and deliciousness, then we find less appeal in other pleasures. That is what protects against the urge to smoke on Shabbos.
And it is up to each of us to develop that taste. Don’t learn merely because you have to. Make learning Torah, nigleh and chassidus, your favorite pastime (which is the reason for the halachik requirement to learn in the place where “libo chofeitz”). Don’t daven at length because you want to fulfill your obligation as a chassisher bochur, to be yoitzeh. Daven, instead, because you look forward to the exhilarating experience of connecting with Hashem.
It is something that we are expected to work on, and therefore is something that we are able to achieve. Every person, in his own ways and in his own areas, has to work on discovering how to enjoy his Yiddishkeit. In the words of a prominent mashpia: “A bochur needs to be infatuated with Chassidus”.
This is the candy from Lubavitch. And this sweetness can overpower the desires of the evil inclination, and dispel the darkness that it spreads.
When the Alter Rebbe went to Minsk, and spoke before a group of misnagdim with many questions, he said to them: טעמו וראו כי טוב הוי’, and that was more convincing than any argument.
The Alter Rebbe told them “TAAMU”! Taste the sweetness and delightfulness of G-dliness, and automatically all of the difficulties will disappear! Take the candy of Lubavitch, savor its sweetness, and you’ll be less likely to be drawn to foreign pastures.
In the past week, there has been a tremendous amount of media attention to Beit Shemesh, a city in Eretz Yisroel. I know most of you aren’t exposed to any news sources, so I’ll give you the basic story: Apparently, a group of frum residents were frustrated by the unwillingness of the non-religious (or MO) members of the populace to conform with their standards of tznius, and embarked on their own campaign, allegedly harassing and spitting at anyone whom they felt wasn’t dressed accordingly. This in turn raised the ire of many others against them, turning into a major conflagration, and everyone is having a grand old time.
Now, I can’t possibly know what truly happened from afar (and I definitely would not give very much credibility to the secular media). Even were I to know what took place, I am ignorant of much of the background, and am, at any rate, not in any position to judge anyone. (We also have to consider the possibility that much about the reaction we have to these stories may be connected to the different characteristics between Americans and Israelis. What we Americans see as being rude, humiliating, insulting and degrading, may be, for an Israeli, his routine way of saying hello. OK OK, just kidding! No offense to the Israelis).
Whatever I say now, therefore, is in discussion of the subject matter itself, in light of the attention it’s being given of late, with no intention to judge any actual people or events unknown to me.
So having made that disclaimer, let me say the following: It seems to me that if a person goes over to someone doing someone wrong and spits at them, why, there seems to be a basic problem with that individual’s relationship with the Eibishter. He seems to view the Eibishter as some big beastly bully, who’s standing over him with a bat, waiting to bash him as soon as he does anything against the Torah.
Such a view would definitely explain why his reaction to someone else’s wrongdoings would be to attack them and belittle them. It seems that his religion is a Yiddishkeit where everything is by force and coercion, with no sense of love and enjoyment. It seems like a Yiddishkeit that is completely devoid of the sweet taste, of the “taamu”.
If, instead, one’s Torah and mitzvos were an expression of their love of Hashem, were an experience they anticipate and take pleasure in, then unquestionably their reaction to someone lacking in these areas would be also with love. If there is a Jew who is not yet following Torah (whichever aspect of it this may be) the way he should, you’d try your best to share with him the beautiful and precious treasure that he’s unfortunately overlooking. And you would have no doubt that if you communicate it to him properly, he’ll join you.
You’re, after all, loving it, and if you can just get the chance to explain it to others, they’ll certainly begin to love it too. With that mindset, you’ll be certain to deal with others with an exclusively positive approach. After all, you are excited about the product, so you’re confident that anyone else will be as well.
So, perhaps the message from all the hype that’s going on, is that we have to re-examine our relationship with the Eibishter, and the way we experience Torah and mitzvos. Of course we need the shofar of Lubavitch, to awaken us and strengthen our kabolas ol. But we also have to find our area of enjoyment, our candy.
If you don’t like pilpulim, perhaps you’ll enjoy girsa. If you don’t appreciate halacha, maybe you’ll enjoy midrashim. Discover your portion in Torah, that appeals to you. Engage in it, not just because you’re supposed to, but as your own personal project. Live it, and love it!
And the same thing is true with regards to davening, and every other aspect of Yiddishkeit and chassidishkeit. In fact, our entire relationship with the Eibishter should be and could be something that we enjoy, love and treasure. Of course, we all have that to some degree, but this is something that we can always increase in. Our Yiddishkeit and chassidishkeit will become enhanced and enriched for it.
So smile, and get out those candies. We’ll be happier, healthier, and, rather than alienate anyone, chances are that our lifestyle will become even more attractive and addictive.
And, if nothing else, at least the dentists will make a better living!
L’chaim! Let us all use out this month of Teves, when גוף נהנה מן הגוף – as chassidus explains that man enjoys G-dliness – to increase our enjoyment in every aspect of Yiddishkeit, and may the Eibishter provide us all with the ultimate sweetness and the ultimate enjoyment and the ultimate candy, – 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!