Thursday, November 18, 2010

Im Lovon Garti - Taryag Mitzvos Shomarti

A man once came to the Maggid of Mezeritch. He was shocked to see how empty the Maggid's home was. There was hardly any furniture and the few basic pieces he did own were all made of simple boards or stumps of wood. The man could not restrain himself and asked the holy Maggid why his house was so bare.

The Maggid responded with a question of his own: "And where is your furniture?"

"In my home, of course." answered the man.

"Why don't you have any with you?" asked the Maggid .

The man looked at the Maggid in surprise. "I'm on a business trip now. Surely a person doesn't need his furniture when he is in the middle of a journey!"

The Maggid smiled. "I, too, am on a journey. This world and all its possessions are only temporary."


In this week's Torah portion, Yaakov Avinu relayed this very same message to his brother Esav. "I have lived with Lavan", he said, "and I have acquired many possessions - oxen, donkeys, sheep and servants."

The word "garti" - "I have lived"-has the numerical value of 613, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Yaakov's message, teaches the commentator Rashi, was -"I may have lived with Lavan for many years, but I kept the mitzvot and led my life according to the Torah."

"Garti" also comes from the root "ger", meaning a stranger, a person who knows that he's not really at home.

Yaakov was saying that everything he earned while working for Lavan - the oxen, donkeys, sheep and servants - are not really important. The entire time he was living there, he was like a stranger, because acquiring these things is not what his life was all about.

Yaakov's real life centers around his neshamah, his soul.

Until Moshiach comes, we, Yaakov's children, are also strangers. Although we may be successful and acquire many possessions, this is not what we are really living for. Like Yaakov, our lives should center around our neshama. That is what really matters to a Jew.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joy Sweetens Severity - fell off horse...

The Mittler Rebbe, (who's anniversary of his release of prison we celebrate today,) was known for his unusual fondness for activities promoting joy. He even had a kapelya, a choir of musically gifted individuals who sang various melodies. Moreover, some of his Chassidim excelled in horse riding stunts and performed tricks and stunts for the Rebbe. Reb Nochum, one of the Mitteler Rebbe’s sons, was part of this horse riding group.

Once, the Rebbe suddenly instructed his kapelya and horse experts to begin their mode of entertainment. This was extremely unusual, for the Rebbe only used them on special dates. The Rebbe gazed out of the window at the Chassidim performing all kinds of antics when suddenly a horse reared and threw off its rider. It was Reb Nochum, the Rebbe's son.

"Your son has fallen off his horse," they informed the Rebbe,"He seems to be in critical condition."

But the Rebbe motioned for them to continue their singing and horse riding. And so the Chassidim continued with their tricks on their horses, while Reb Nochum lay motionless on the floor. All were wondering at the Rebbe’s seemingly uncaring attitude. "It’s nothing serious," the doctor who examined Reb Nochum proclaimed. "His foot is broken. He’ll be fine in a couple of weeks."

"Today was meant to be a harsh day for my son," explained the Rebbe. "I saw grave accusation against him in the Heavenly Court. The prosecution was very powerful; I could see no way out. However, joy sweetens the attribute of severity. I therefore, called upon my kapelya, instructed them to sing and asked for the horse riders to gladden everyone with their antics.

"The joy created by the singers and horse riders tempered the strict decree against my son, but a small portion of the decree remained. That is why he fell off his horse and hurt his leg, because this became the physical manifestation of the remaining decree. However, I continued with the happy activities to lessen even this lesser decree and, G-d willing, Nochum will recover in the very near future."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The story of two suits, for the prince

A man once came to the Chassidic master Rabbi Yerachmiel of Pshischa:

"Rebbe, I am a tailor. Over the years, I have earned quite a reputation for my expertise and the high quality of my work. All the nobles in the area order from me.

Several months ago, the prince himself asked that I sew him a suit of clothes from the finest silk in the land. But when I brought him the finished product, he began yelling and cursing: 'This is the best you can do? Why, it's atrocious! Who taught you to sew?' He ordered me out of his house and threw the garment out after me.

"Rebbe, I am ruined. All my capital is invested in the cloth. Worse still, my reputation has been totally destroyed. No one will dare order anything from me after this. I don't understand what happened! This is the best work I've ever done!"

"Go back to your shop," advised Rabbi Yerachmiel. "Remove all the stitches in this garment, sew them anew exactly how you sewed them before, and bring it to the prince."

"But then I'll have the same garment I have now!" protested the confused tailor.

"Do as I say", commanded the rabbi, "and G-d will help."

Two weeks later, the tailor was back. "Rebbe, You saved my life! To be honest, I had little faith in your strange idea, but with nothing to lose, I did as you said. When I presented the result to the prince, his eyes lit up. 'Beautiful!' he cried. 'You have more than lived up to your reputation. This is the finest suit of clothes I have ever seen.' He rewarded me handsomely, and promised to send more work my way.

"But I don't understand -- what was the difference between the first suit and the second if the cloth was cut and sewn in exactly the same way?"

Explained Rabbi Yerachmiel, "The first was sewn with arrogance and pride. The result was a spiritually repulsive garment, which, though technically perfect, was devoid of all grace and beauty.
"The second suit", continued the wise rabbi, "was sewn with a humble spirit and a broken heart, investing in the garment an inner beauty that evokes awe and admiration in everyone who beholds it."