A freilichen un hatzlocho’dige Yud Shvat!

ב”ה ליל ועש”ק פר’ בשלח, שבת שירה, יום הגדול והקדוש העשירי בשבט, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק

Dear Alumni Sheyichyu!

Sholom U’Brocho!

Mazel Tov to Yisroel Rosenzweig on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Levi Raichik )lraichik@gmail.com (on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Mendel Rosenblum (mmenachemr@gmail.com) on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Levy Cole 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. Yonasson Gellman on the birth of their daughter. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs, Zevi Weinberg on the birth of their daughter. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Mendy Avtzon on the birth of their daughter. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Shua Brook Shua Brook (shuabrook@gmail.com) on the birth of their son. Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Levi Eckhause 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.

In connection with trip many are taking to the Rebbe (either literally or figuratively) in connection with Yud Shvat, I would like to share the following:

There was a chosid who used to travel to the Rebbe every year by foot. Despite the fact that there were various means of transportation available, the chosid insisted on making the tedious journey by foot. As he advanced in age, the trek became more arduous, but the chosid stubbornly clung to his practice of walking the entire way.

When asked why he wouldn’t consider other much more convenient and comfortable modes of transportation, the chosid explained: ‘I am performing such a lofty mitzvah, that I have the merit to perform each year, and I have no intention of sharing it with a horse!’

However, with all due respect to this illustrious and dedicated chosid, I would humbly beg to differ with him. In fact, I think that we must go out of our way and deliberately share the mitzvah with our horses, and if we fail to do so then I fear that we may be defeating the whole purpose of the journey. You see, we may get to 770 and have a very inspiring and uplifting experience by the Rebbe. Perhaps we’ll daven like we haven’t davened in a long time. Maybe the atmosphere of the daled amos of the Rebbe will imbue our farbrengen with a unique flavor.

But with all this, the horse may be left back at home. In which case, when we return, loaded with all of our spiritual baggage, and we begin to interact with the animal again, we may experience a very rude awakening. Because, in the event that it has not been involved, we’ll still find ourselves dealing with the exact same issues as before we left.

Which would be very unfortunate.

Not only because it would be annoying and frustrating for us, but because it is not in accordance with Hashem’s plan. Because the G-dly plan is to effect a change in the beasts as well. And, as long as there’s no change in them, there’s a crucial ingredient – the main ingredient – missing from our avodas Hashem.

The gemoro in Pesachim (8B) speaks about the protection afforded to Jews who travel to Yerushalayim, saying that “[while you’re away] your cow will graze in the meadow and no creature will harm it, and your chicken will pick in the garbage heap and a weasel will not harm it”. Indeed, the Posuk promises that our livestock will be safe and sound while we’re engaging in כשם שבא ליראות כך בא לראות – in perceiving the revelation of G-dliness in the Beis Hamikdash.

That’s wonderful!

But what are they doing (unhindered and unchallenged)? They’re picking in the garbage heap! They’re wallowing away in the mud! And, once we come back and start dealing with them again – with our animals – then, inevitably, that’s what we have to be associated with once again.

Which is why chassidus (and especially the maamar Bosi Legani of this year) instructs us to involve the animal, and to make it a participant. Not just a ‘silent partner’, which it will always be regardless, but an active participant.

Which means: don’t get caught up in the ecstasy of being in a holy place and a holy time, and use that to forget about the way you are and the things that you’re into a whole year (not you, of course, but the beasts in you). Because, you can forget about them, and they won’t disturb you at the time, but they won’t forget you, and, eventually you’ll have to deal with them again.

Rather, chassidus expects us to translate everything to our own lives, to apply it to our own animal. Although that means remaining conscious of it’s vulgar mindset instead of losing ourselves to the loftiness of the moment, it is what we should – must – do. It means relating the most spiritual aspect of our experience to the most coarse and uncouth aspect of our existence. So that we can elevate and transform that part of ourselves.

There was a chosid, who was a poet and wrote many songs and poems, and who merited a very close relationship with the Rebbe, and was shown many kiruvim.

When this chosid became engaged, he was in yechidus with the Rebbe, and he remarked that he had written some poems to his kallah. The Rebbe asked to see them. The chosson, however, was uncomfortable, and said that they were an expression of his feelings to his bride-to-be, and not the type of things that he felt were appropriate to show to a Rebbe. The Rebbe dismissed his concerns, saying “mir vet dos nit shatten”! [they will not cause me any harm].

Perhaps we all come to the Rebbe, likewise, intending to bury the animalistic instincts somewhere deep within us. We feel that they are not good company in such a holy place, they are not appropriate for the presence and area of the Rebbe, and that they would be better ignored until we come back to where they’re ‘more at home’.

But the Rebbe dismisses these concerns. Our worst vices won’t do any damage to 770 or to the Rebbe ch”v; – on the contrary, the Rebbe would like to see them, so that he can help us correct them and transform them. Rather than hiding our beasts from the Rebbe, it is there that they should be most involved, so that the experience doesn’t pass them by ch”v.

So, our mission, it would seem, is to not leave the horse behind, but to yes share the mitzvah with it (and with the rest of the beheimos and chayos).

When bochurim would stand in line, awaiting their turn to enter the room of the Rebbe Rashab for yechidus, the mashpia R’ Hendel would approach them, crying and beseeching, begging them “kinderlach hobt rachmonus oif zich, bahalt nit deine chesronos fun Rebben, derzeil em altz, er vet aich arois-shleppen fun blotte”! [don’t come and try to portray yourself to the Rebbe as a big chosid, on the contrary; – make sure to display all of your faults to him, because he will lift you up out of the mud].

And this is achieved by our conscious effort to include our guf and nefesh habehamis. Communicate with them, focus on them, and channel every detail of your experience into something that they can learn from and grow from.

Last Shabbos I was in LA, where I heard the following story from R’ Benny Forta, an old classmate and friend, who spent the 2 years of shlichus there with me (he was kind enough to subsequently write out the story for me, so that I can get the details straight (for a change), and it follows):

“When I was 12, I went to Crown Heights for Yud Shevat (it was Shnas HaShloshim), for the sake of getting a yechidus before my Bar Mitzvah. I went in with my parents, and at some point my father told the Rebbe that I was going to be Bar Mitzvah, and the Rebbe asked me to say something I had learned in Gemorah, Halacha, or Chassidus.

After drawing a blank in abject terror (having been caught by surprise by the question) and needing a reminder of what I was learning, I started saying the first Mishnah in Kedushin (which was what we were learning at the time). I was listing the 3 ways with which a woman is acquired, but when I got to Kesef the Rebbe interrupted, and asked “vos maint kesef?” [what does “kesef” mean], so I explained the machlokas Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel. The Rebbe nodded and asked again “ober vos maint kesef” so I explained further (shoveh prutah, 8th of issar, etc.). The Rebbe then asked again “ober vos maint kesef” so I added Rashi and Tosfes (regarding shoveh kesef kekesef). The Rebbe asked one last time “vos maint kesef” and I stared in silence. After a moment (well, it felt like hours) the Rebbe asked “practish, vos tut men” [practically speaking, what is done], and I finally understoos and replied that we give a ring.

Which explains how we can ascertain whether or not we’re involving the NHB. Making the animal and active participant means finding the practical relevance of everything. There can be the profoundest pilpulim, the loftiest ideas and the most powerful conclusions; – if, however, I can’t define what difference they make to me practically in my life, then it is an exercise of the nefesh ho’Elokis, that leaves the beheima behind and untouched.

It requires, perhaps, sacrificing on the loftiness of the experience, while focusing instead on the more mundane implications. But it is the only way to communicate with our beheima.

For example, you can contemplate, understand and discuss the fact that the greatness of the Eibishter is completely beyond our comprehension. He is omnipresent and omnipotent and omniscient (and a bunch of other fancy words). All this is true, and it’s the closest we can get to describing somewhat of His greatness.

But, chances are that the whole discussion will leave the animalistic soul bored and apathetic. It’s not that he agrees or disagrees; – the whole thing just doesn’t mean anything to him, and he couldn’t care less one way or the other.

But, how about if you say “the Eibishter is greater than the super bowl”!

Or “learning a maamar chassidus is more interesting and enjoyable than watching a mnovie”.

On the one hand, you’re talking like an animal and thinking like an animal and behaving like an animal just to make such a comparison! What’s the matter with you?! Is that a way of expressing the greatness of the Eibishter?!! Don’t you realize what a belittlement it is for Him to praise Him in such a manner?!

On the other hand, this is precisely the language that will mean something to the beheima. Indeed, it is talking like an animal, but that is precisely why it is an effective way of communicating with the internal animal. And, because this statement means something to him, he will never remain indifferent; – he will either strongly disagree, or – if you can finally convince him – will agree and accept.

And then he will definitely not remain indifferent, because agreeing to this statement will inevitably have very practical relevance to him. Simply stated, if he accepts that the Eibishter is greater (and more exciting and more meaningful etc.) than the super bowl, then it follows that – when given the choice – he should rather spend 2 hours learning chassidus than watching the . . (and yes, this can also be taken as a practical suggestion to any beheimos who are reading this who may have considered otherwise . .)

Sure, it is much easier (besides being more inspiring) the first way. There is no effort involved, because it is only the nefesh ho’Elokis that is involved, and the nefesh ho’Elokis is very conscious of all of this anyway. But as soon as you start making G-d preferable to a super bowl, you’re talking to your nefesh habehamis. And to explain this to it in a convincing way is a real challenge.

But that is the purpose of everything: involve the animal, address the animal, so that you can affect the animal. Make sure it is very much a part of your journey.


Yud Shvat, we will all, surely, spend much time farbrenging about various lofty subjects. We will speak/hear about the Rebbe, about hiskashrus and about the nosi hador. We may hear about the various definitions of a Rebbe; – the Rosh Bnei Yisroel, the yechida haklolis and simana be’alma of G-dliness etc.

But it is up to each of us to make sure that our horses are also present at these farbrengens, and active participants in all of these discussions. Whatever it may be that you hear (or say) about the Rebbe, ask yourself, what does that mean to the beast in you? What aspect of the greatness of the Rebbe has some bearing on his life and existence? And the surest way of determining this is by asking (and answering) “practish, vos tut men”, by ensuring that everything has some very concrete and definable practical application to your day-to-day life.

So, jump onto your horse, and ride together to the Rebbe. And make sure that both of you will grow and improve from the experience!

L’chaim! May we all do what is necessary to elevate the lowest dimensions of the world and transfoem them into a korbon for the Eibishter, and may the Eibishter in turn focus on the lowest tachtonim, and bring them to the ultimate closeness with Him, 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