Saturday, 12 February 2011

Reading the Story of a Tzaddik at the Conclusion of Shabbat: An Amazing Story!

One of the ways of bringing blessing to the new week - is to read a story about a Tzaddik at the conclusion on Shabbat. Indeed one should celebrate the exit of Shabbat as much as one celebrates its entry. The celebration should take place with lighting candles, eating a special Seudah (preferably bread if possible) and the singing of songs and saying over of Torah.

Shabbat is a day filled with miracles. It is a day that works on its own - a day upon which we rest. In truth, every day is a day of miracles - but it is hard for us to feel and see them. Somehow, on Shabbat - if one has prepared everything well beforehand - one feels far closer to that world of miracles than one can ever feel during the week. 

When Shabbat is over though - we return to a feeling of "an ordinary life". Though of course this should not be so. Rather - we should be able to hold on to the Shabbat experience and bring it in to our entire week. 

Tzaddikim have a way of turning everyday things into miracles. By choosing the Motzai Shabbat as a time to read a story about a Tzaddik, we "fall back" on the theme of miracles as we realise that indeed there are always Tzaddikim in the world, taking care of things and attending to matters most of us would never dream of. Perhaps it's because we think they're closed up in some isolated room somewhere that makes us think that they live a life far removed from us. But in truth, though they may not be as in the forefront as some of the more famous worldwide "stars of the world" - they are far more involved in making miracles happen for many many people - each and every day.

If you're new to reading a story about a Tzaddik at the conclusion of Shabbat, make a start right now - and turn it into a good habit, bringing blessing to your entire week.

The story below is taken from Ascent of Tzefat. It is simply mind blowing! Read it - and read it again - and consider just how amazing are the ways of Divine Providence and the how powerful is the spiritual sight of a Tzaddik.

During the Holocaust, a large group of Jewish women were rounded up in Poland to be sent to the gas chambers. As the group gathered their possessions to take with them into the camp, the Nazi officers called out to all the villagers who were standing by watching, "Anything that these Jews leave behind you may take for yourselves, because for sure they will not be coming back to collect them!"

Two Polish women who were standing nearby saw a woman towards the back of the group, wearing a large, heavy, expensive coat. Not wanting to wait to see if others got the coat before them, they ran to the woman and knocked her to the ground, grabbed her coat and walked away.

As the Jewish women were being led away, these two Polish women lay down the coat to divide the spoils of what was hiding inside. As they rummaged through the pockets, they discovered gold jewelry, silver candlesticks and other heirlooms. They were quite pleased, but still, as they lifted the coat it seemed heavier than it should be. After further inspection they found a secret pocket, and hidden inside the coat was a little baby girl!

Shocked at their discovery, one of the women insisted to the other, "I don't have any children, and I'm too old to give birth now. You take all the gold and silver and let me take the baby". The deal was agreed and the Polish woman took her new 'daughter' home to her delighted husband. They raised the Jewish girl as their own, treating her very well, but never told her anything of her history. The girl excelled in her studies and became a successful pediatrician, working in the top hospital in Poland.

After some years the girl's 'mother' passed away. A week later, she heard a knock at the door. An old woman invited herself in and said "I want you to know that the woman that passed away last week was not your real mother..." and she proceeded to tell her the whole story. The girl did not believe her at first, but the old woman said to her, "When we found you, you were wearing a beautiful gold pendant with strange writing on it which must be Hebrew. I am sure that your mother kept the necklace, go and look." And with that parting advice she left.

The girl went into her 'mother's' jewelry box and found the necklace just as the woman described. She had it extended and wore it every day, but thought nothing more of her Jewish roots.

Sometime later, she went on holiday abroad and saw two Chabad-Lubavitch boys on the main street, trying to interest Jewish passersby to wrap tefilin (the males) or accept Shabbat candles (the females). Seizing the opportunity, she told them entire story and showed them the necklace. The boys confirmed that a Jewish name was inscribed on the necklace but did not know what to say about her status. They recommended that she send a letter to the Lubavitch Rebbe explaining everything.

She took their advice and sent off a letter that same day. She received a speedy reply saying that it is clear from the facts that she is a Jewish girl and that since she had a special talent, she should use her invaluable skills in Israel, a place in desperate need of talented pediatricians.

She took the Rebbe's advice and moved to Israel. There she consulted the Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) who declared her Jewish. She was accepted into a hospital to work, and eventually met her husband and raised a family.

Some years later, when there was a terrorist attack at the Subarro cafe in the centre of Jerusalem in August 2001, this woman was walking nearby with her husband. She told her husband to return home to the kids and she proceeded to rush to the scene where she helped to treat the wounded and get the injured into ambulances and to hospitals.

When she herself arrived at the hospital she met an elderly man who was in a state of shock. He was searching everywhere for his granddaughter who had become separated from him. She calmed him down and went with him to search amongst all the patients in order to find his granddaughter. Asking how she could recognize her, the frantic grandfather gave a rough description of a gold pendant necklace that she was wearing. After searching amongst the injured, they finally found the granddaughter who was wearing the necklace.

At the sight of this necklace, the pediatrician froze. She turned to the old man and said, "Where did you buy this necklace?"

"You can't buy such a necklace" he responded, "I am a goldsmith and I made this necklace. Actually I made two identical ones for each of my daughters. This is my granddaughter from one of them, and my other daughter did not survive the war."
...And this is how the Jewish girl was reunited with her father.

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a submission by Shmuel Gavriel Halevi Tornek, director of the Tachshov Tov - Think Good Project [], citing author Moshe Kormornick.

Connection: Weekly reading - gold jewelry.

Biographical note:

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersonthe Lubavitcher Rebbe (11 Nissan 1902 - 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn on 10 Shvat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on ourstore site.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Winter Jew

You may have heard that Tu B'Shevat - just two weeks ago - is the time when fruit begins to grow on the trees. Here in Israel, it's still very much winter. Take a look at the picture above… What do you see? There are some wonderful buildings – apartments. Did you see the lamp post? If you look carefully, you'll probably even notice the one side of a bench. But if you're really observant you'll notice that the photographer had meant for us to see something else. The beautiful tree! Did you see it?!

It's nearly 13 feet tall already! It stands proudly on its own! It has the most beautiful branches and luscious leaves growing from it. As for it's tasty fruit, you've never tasted anything quite like it! But then again… you probably didn't notice it! You probably never saw anything more than some twigs standing, barely able to support themselves. Your attention – more focused on the surrounding park area than the subject of the photo. To you, there wasn't much more than the start to the making of a barbeque in front of your eyes – if that. Nothing much more.

But it's all there… the leaves, the might of this tree, and even possibly some fruit! Apparently – something was standing in the way of our eyes. It's winter! But wait around for just another few more weeks. They say that spring is on the way. In just a short while this "pathetic" looking creature will be turning into something quite marvellous. By the time the start of summer comes, you probably won't even be able to recognise it! Best get in while everyone else has their attention diverted… take another look and you'll see a beautiful creation of G-d. Praise G-d and even thank the tree for the beauty it will soon share with us. At the very least it will provide the park with some physical beauty. It might even provide some shade when the heat waves of the summer begin. Then you'll probably be wishing you had seen its true beauty when you had the chance. Well of course – whether you choose to appreciate now – or only when it's real beauty comes out – you'll still be able to say "thank you." But wouldn't it be nice to be a little less superficial in life?! Wouldn't it be nice to be one step ahead of the rest? To be just a little bit of a deeper person in this world than a shallow twig. 

You see, you're just looking at the outside skeleton – which will actually just end up being the inside skeleton soon. Then, suddenly – everything that this tree really is will be clearly visible to all. You can be one step ahead of the rest though. Every time you look at a tree like this, you can already see its true beauty – because you know that at the right time, it will spread out it's leaves and surround the entire area of grass with its true splendour.

The reason that tree seems so sad, so empty, so plain and so much so - that it has nothing which to give the world – is because it's winter. Actually all its beauty is still there, it's just that everything going on outside it is so cold, that it's unable to truly be itself! But you wait… when spring comes and everything around it starts to warm up, it will too. Then you'll realise what it was really all about.

That tree – is the winter Jew. He most often looks like nothing much at all. Seems to contribute nothing to anybody. Even looks a little out of place – perhaps even ugly! Looks like he can't even support himself. But there's probably a reason why too… it's winter all around. So long as his outside sources are filled with such ice towards him, he probably won't want to come out much. He'd prefer to keep to himself. But wait till the spring… then you'll see just who he is.

Have you ever felt barren, empty, ugly and just old and plain?! Never mind what others think… it's just their way of blowing some ice around that's holding back who you really are. But inside you're still filled with fruit, with luscious leaves and long beautiful branches. Your roots, still planted firmly in the ground (or at least the heavens!) You know it… but at some point in time it must show. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of a warmer environment before it can all come out.

But don't forget, if at some times you feel parched with nothing to offer, you're still the same person. All that good stuff is still very much inside you. It can never disappear. Every Jew is indeed a portion of G-d from above. He can never change, because that's what he is. It's only that sometimes… it's just winter.

Not for nothing does the Torah teach, "Man is a tree of the field." (Deuteronomy 20:19)


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