So goes the story about a man in the silly town of Chelm who visited a public bathhouse and found himself in a terrible predicament. Without the distinction of clothing, everyone looked alike. “Among all these men who look alike,” he said to himself, “how will I ever know which one is me?” He solved his dilemma by tying a red string around his big toe.
In the campaign to rob a consumer of any sense of contentedness, which translates into sales, strategy is often focused on confusing need with want and the illusion of being dissatisfied.
“I never said I have nothing to complain about,” she intoned with an expression that belied her age. “I just don’t see the wisdom of protesting. I am fine and I am being adequately nourished.” And with that she went back to her cereal.
One of the ancillary axioms of cornflake fights is that they can never be contained between just two warring parties.
After having written this column for so many years, and covering so many topics, I am (finally) bowing to the numerous requests to write about our blessed family. More specifically, I shall commit to paper everyone’s favorite routine: the scene at our breakfast table.
Overtime proved to be as tense and white-knuckled as the fourth quarter. Halfway through, New London grabbed a defensive rebound and charging toward their basket when Monona’s forward poked away the ball and broke away. In a slick maneuver he managed to split the defense and went up virtually slamming it to give Monona Grove the lead.
Monona Grove was headed to “State” and the Silver Eagle fans went insane. The coming games would not be played in monotonous high school gyms erected in the 1950s. They were off to the University of Wisconsin's colossal Kohl Center where they would play before a crowd of 12,000. The games would be broadcast to a statewide television audience of millions, as a battery of newspapers and stations would be begging for interviews. The Kohl Center was just a short drive from Monona, technically in the same city.
With absolutely nothing to lose, including his employment for the coming year, Dan Zweifel devised a strategy for a team that could not seem to catch an offensive rhythm and for players that had protracted shooting slumps and 10-minute-long droughts. His solution, his only recourse, was defense.
Brief synopsis: Monona Grove High School in Wisconsin was a most unlikely candidate to make it to the 1998 high school basketball championships, referred to as “State.” Especially so since the coach is a very young rookie named Dan Zweifel, who replaced the veteran Coach Verhelst. Andy Witte, the team’s star player, will do anything to please Coach V.
Dear Readers: You may remember how we once did an experiment with a story (about a monster fire in Arizona) without Jewish protagonists, but containing a universal lesson that I believed worthy to record for the readers of Chodesh Tov. We are there yet again, this time directly north in Wisconsin. Please bear with me as we once again record a story we investigated in the hope that the lesson is unique and worthy of our attention. It is going to take us five full columns to complete the tale, and I thank you in advance for your patience.
Reb Elimelech personally selected his burial spot, explaining that on that location he perceived the soul of the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Elimelech returned his pure soul to his Maker on 21 Adar, 1787 at the age of 70. Ever since, his burial plot has become a center for prayer and personal requests.
Ahavas Yisrael, the genuine love of one Jew for another, stood at the center of Reb Elimelech’s teachings. He always found a way to speak in praise of a fellow person and elevate the status of the Jewish people.
After Reb Elimelech had restored the glory of his colleague, Reb Shmelkeh of Nikolsburg, he departed home to Lizhensk. He was en route when a voice descended from Heaven and proclaimed, “In the merit of your helping Reb Shmelkeh you have the privilege of blessing whomever you desire during the next 24 hours. And your blessing will be fulfilled.”
Reb Elimelech was concerned for every Jew but himself. Even when he was physically assaulted by an over-zealous misnagid, his reaction was typical: “Master of the Universe, I forgive him with my whole heart. Let no man be punished on my behalf.” But when Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was persecuted, Rabbi Elimelech rallied to support him. He was always there on behalf of others.
It was when Reb Elimelech assumed the leadership of the chassidic movement that the Austrian Kaiser decreed that before a woman may wed, a tax of 400 golden coins must be paid to the government. This tax was far too exorbitant for the commoner to pay and many feared that they would never be able to marry off their daughters.
Reb Elimelech maintained that just for him alone they will have to make a new Gehinnom, for the one that already exists is not adequate enough. He also commented – in his infinite humility – that the reason people come to him and request his assistance with children, health and parnassah is because it is his sins that are responsible for the absence of these blessings.
As has been noted in a previous column, Reb Elimelech – like the Baal Shem Tov before him – asserted that pessimism and depression cause sin and spiritual apathy. Repentance (yes, even repentance!) that causes depression and sadness distances the Holy Presence.
In 1648 and 1649 Bogdan Chmelnitzky and his hordes of Cossack warriors perpetrated an annihilation campaign against the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine....
Wandering from town to village, the Holy Brothers neglected their physical needs and were sustained by meager coins or scraps of food that were donated along the way.
On the sad day that Eliezer Lipman, Reb Elimelch and Reb Zusha’s father, passed from this world, his children gathered for the week of mourning. At the conclusion of the shivah the sons divided their father’s inheritance in the following way: Avraham received the cash and the house was given to Nosson. The jewelry and housewares went to Elimelech and the outstanding debts were to be collected by Zusha.
To the misnaged-opponent, chassidus was not perceived as a different strand of normative Judaism, nor as a movement to uplift downtrodden Jews – but as an existential threat to Judaism itself. And the threat was no longer viewed as a futuristic potentiality; it was a real and imminent danger, for the movement was no longer limited to just the commoner but had infiltrated the ranks of scholars.
The Baal Shem Tov was the founder and the visionary of chassidus, but the architect who built and spread the movement was Rabbi Dov Ber, the maggid of Mezeritch.
Scholars have debated where precisely the Baal Shem Tov was born, few giving credence to the tiny village of Okopy (pronounced Akup). Most likely he hailed from Kolomyya on the slopes of the Carpathian Mountains and on the banks of the Prut River. Nearly 300 years have lapsed since the passing of the Baal Shem Tov and all the while the stories of his miraculous abilities have increased. Yet all fail to fully portray his greatness.
In 1648 and 1649 Bogdan Chmelnitzky and his hordes of Cossack warriors perpetrated an annihilation campaign against the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine. Almost 100,000 Jews and 300 communities perished at the hands of these murderous mobs. All of the Jews, including infants, were targeted for murder; the general populaces nearly always joined in the attacks, and the torture and degradation of Jews was an integral aspect of the murderer’s procedures.
The popularity of the rise of chassidus did not go unnoticed by those who did not share the same allegiance. As long as the movement was limited to the commoner and isolated in a few pockets of Poland no one perceived it as a threat. But all of this had changed by 1772.