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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Shem Tov’

Reflections Of You And Me

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I had to catch the 6:13 a.m. train from Petach Tikva to Modiin. Otherwise, I would be late for the bar mitzvah. I showed up at the train station at 5:45. It was locked. I asked the guard when they would be opening. He said, “Soon.”

I began to feel anxious.

True, it would take only five minutes from the time I entered the station to board the train. But I have always liked to be early, in plenty of time.

I threatened to complain. The guard was unfazed. Eventually, more people arrived and he opened the gate. The cashier at the ticket booth had not yet arrived. It was 6:05. A young female guard said that if the cashier didn’t come in time, I could pay on the train.

“But why wouldn’t the guard tell me when the station opened?” I asked her.

“It depends,” she answered sweetly.

“On what?”

“We have regulations.”

“What are the regulations?”

She shrugged.

“I might miss my train!”

“Everything is from Above.”

Meanwhile, the ticket booth lady had arrived. Though filled with anxiety, I decided not to complain. It is my job in this world to fix myself, not other people. I felt ashamed of my mounting negative feelings. Though the guard had angered me, he had not actually caused me any harm.

Since I was struggling to make a living, I didn’t think it was auspicious to threaten someone else’s job. I decided to let it go.

My trip required me to change trains in Tel Aviv. I had planned to get off at the last stop, but something made me get off at the central terminal. I had about 20 minutes before my connecting train, and sat down on a bench to say Tehillim.

A scruffy, bareheaded man wearing an earring and smelling of cigarette smoke passed by.

“Tehillim is a good thing,” he said. I acknowledged his remark and called after him, “So say some!”

He walked back to me.

“I have a Tehillim in my bag but I don’t use it.” He took out a book to show me.

“Why don’t you?” I asked.

“Because I don’t know what to say.”

I explained that the Tehillim book was divided into days of the week and days of the month. He decided to say Tehillim for that day, a Thursday.

“I need to cover my head, right?” He rummaged through his bag, pulled out a scruffy kippah, and placed it awkwardly on his head.

He sat down next to me on the bench, and we proceeded to say Tehillim together in whispers. I felt Divinely blessed. These were special moments.

When we finished, I showed him the prayer he could say after reciting Tehillim. He said he’d recite it on the train. He then expressed an interest in learning more Torah. He told me he went to a kollel every morning to put on Tefillin. I made a suggestion or two for Torah classes.

We parted with blessings for one another as the train pulled up.

This fellow passenger was obviously a Divine emissary. After all, something had made me get off at this station, and our meeting had great significance.

The two incidents, the one with the guard and the one with the man, took place half an hour apart. I contemplated on the tremendous difference in the interactions.

The Ba’al Shem Tov said that we are all reflections of one another. We show others what they have inside them, and they reflect our flaws and virtues back to us.

At any moment, we can either inspire others or bring out the worst in them. The choice is ours.

We are all like trains passing each other on our journeys, stopping briefly to make deliveries at each other’s stations.

The female guard was right.

Everything is from Above!

Title: A Never-Ending Tale: Illustrated Parables of the Ba’al Shem Tov and His Disciples

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Title: A Never-Ending Tale: Illustrated Parables of the Ba’al Shem Tov and His Disciples

Author: Gadi Pollack

Illustrator: Gadi Pollack

Publisher: Feldheim

 

 

    A Never-Ending Tale: Illustrated Parables of the Ba’al Shem Tov and His Disciples vividly outlines the lofty character traits that every Jew should strive to attain.

 

   The powerful preamble to the stories sets the tone for these spiritual lessons with an amusing yet hard-hitting mashal about riding in a hot-air balloon. The hot-air balloon motif subtly greets each reader looking at the compelling pictures, drawing them into the text about how to make wise choices versus how to blunder very badly.

 

    Several situations are posed in the text as one man faces a single day filled with fateful decisions. Readers watch him accidentally making foolish choices as they learn how to use Torah-based values for developing wise preferences.

 

    The lessons, provided by the Ba’al Shem Tov and his students in succinct summaries, are easy to understand at almost any age level. Lightly presented dialogue underscored by the author’s own subtle illustrations proves interesting point after interesting point about how best to reconcile physical whims with spiritual potential. The yetzer hara is simply an untamed series of whims; the tzadikim who prepared the material for this book centuries ago explain how to defeat it.

 

    The Never-Ending Tale book is a compelling read for any one following the clever story line. The tale never ends as long as people populate the earth and apply the lessons learned to their personal storylines.

 

    Buy several copies for friends and family. It will be a treat for children of any age. Kiruv professionals would be wise to stock up on multiple copies.

 

   This book is a useful guide for ba’alei teshuva sorting out Jewish values versus godless priorities, and for their bewildered family members trying to make sense of it all.

Title: A Never-Ending Tale: Illustrated Parables of the Ba’al Shem Tov and His Disciples

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Title: A Never-Ending Tale: Illustrated Parables of the Ba’al Shem Tov and His Disciples


Author: Gadi Pollack


Illustrator: Gadi Pollack


Publisher: Feldheim


 


 


    A Never-Ending Tale: Illustrated Parables of the Ba’al Shem Tov and His Disciples vividly outlines the lofty character traits that every Jew should strive to attain.

 

   The powerful preamble to the stories sets the tone for these spiritual lessons with an amusing yet hard-hitting mashal about riding in a hot-air balloon. The hot-air balloon motif subtly greets each reader looking at the compelling pictures, drawing them into the text about how to make wise choices versus how to blunder very badly.

 

    Several situations are posed in the text as one man faces a single day filled with fateful decisions. Readers watch him accidentally making foolish choices as they learn how to use Torah-based values for developing wise preferences.

 

    The lessons, provided by the Ba’al Shem Tov and his students in succinct summaries, are easy to understand at almost any age level. Lightly presented dialogue underscored by the author’s own subtle illustrations proves interesting point after interesting point about how best to reconcile physical whims with spiritual potential. The yetzer hara is simply an untamed series of whims; the tzadikim who prepared the material for this book centuries ago explain how to defeat it.

 

    The Never-Ending Tale book is a compelling read for any one following the clever story line. The tale never ends as long as people populate the earth and apply the lessons learned to their personal storylines.

 

    Buy several copies for friends and family. It will be a treat for children of any age. Kiruv professionals would be wise to stock up on multiple copies.

 

   This book is a useful guide for ba’alei teshuva sorting out Jewish values versus godless priorities, and for their bewildered family members trying to make sense of it all.

Bar Mitzvah In The Tundra

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

 


For every Jew alive today, even the most unobservant, it’s necessary to only go a couple of limbs up the family tree to find an observant predecessor. If you peek far enough, sometimes you can find amazingly special people in the family, from famous rabbis to strong matriarchs. For one unassuming family in the cold hinterlands of Alaska, that was just the case.


 


In Alaska one finds plenty of snow, moose and oil, but few Jews. There are less than 6,000 in the entire state. Half of the Jews live in the city of Anchorage, so when Rabbi Yosef and Esther Greenberg arrived in Alaska in 1991 they set up the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska there. Handfuls of Jews also live in remote towns and cities such as Sitka, Kenai, Ketchikan and Kotzubue. Rabbi Greenberg flies to these areas, sometimes in a seaplane, to prepare boys for their bar mitzvahs, put up mezuzahs and teach Jewish classes.


 


The Greenberg’s annual Chanukah party has always been their most popular event. At the 1993 party, Rabbi Greenberg noticed a new couple among the many familiar faces. He introduced himself and spoke to them for a few minutes but did not expect to see them again.


 


A few months later the wife called Rabbi Greenberg and asked him if he could train their son for his upcoming bar mitzvah. Their son had never been to Hebrew school and couldn’t read Hebrew. His parents had not even planned for their son to have a bar mitzvah. However the boy’s elderly grandmother from Los Angeles was persistent that her grandson have one, so to make her happy the couple was now turning to Rabbi Greenberg for help in preparing him for it.


 


Rabbi Greenberg tutored the boy, teaching him Hebrew and training him to say the blessings on the Torah. Finally the Shabbat of his bar mitzvah arrived and the boy’s extended family flew in from all around the country.


 


The bar mitzvah was beautiful. The boy read the blessings, and Rabbi Greenberg chanted the Torah portion and Haftorah.


 


During lunch in the synagogue after services, the boy’s grandmother asked for permission to speak. She stood up and explained why it was so important to her for her grandson to have a bar mitzvah.


 


First she was worried that living in Alaska, her grandson would grow up without a Jewish identity. Therefore she wanted to make sure he would at least have a bar mitzvah.


 


Second, the grandmother related that she had moved to the United States from Russia many years earlier. She rarely attended synagogue, but fondly remembered receiving a strong Jewish education in her youth. She grew up in the town of Berditchev, and a private teacher came to her house every day to teach her and her siblings Jewish subjects. When Jewish observance was banned after the Russian Revolution of 1917, her religious education ceased.


 


Why did her parents value Jewish education so much, and why did she push so hard for her grandson to have a bar mitzvah?


 


“It was very important to me to make this bar mitzvah because of my family tree”, she continued, now looking directly at Rabbi Greenberg. “My family − we come from a big rabbi. Maybe you’ve heard of him. His name was Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov.”


 


Rabbi Greenberg’s jaw dropped. The Ba’al Shem Tov founded the Chassidic movement in the 1700s, of which Chabad-Lubavitch is a part. Two hundred years later, the Ba’al Shem Tov’s efforts helped provide his descendents in Alaska with an authentic Jewish experience and a point of entry to return to Jewish observance.


 


After lunch Rabbi Greenberg approached the grandmother and said he had a piece to add to her story. Rabbi Greenberg said he himself is a ninth-generation descendent of the Maggid of Mezritch, who was the foremost student and successor of the Ba’al Shem Tov. So here in Alaska was a descendent of the Maggid of Mezritch helping to bring back a descendent of his teacher the Ba’al Shem Tov.


 


In the years since the bar mitzvah, the young man and his family have become more observant. Hashem specifically sent Rabbi Greenberg to Alaska because He knew that the deep relationship between the Ba’al Shem Tov and his student would help his descendents return. Plus, G-d knew that the many merits of the Ba’al Shem Tov would remain in the family and be a spiritual catalyst to bring them back.


 


“All Jewish children running around the world are the grandchildren of Tzaddikim and Tzadekot,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “If your child or grandchild was going away from Judaism, wouldn’t you fight to get him back? The Baal Shem Tov was crying in heaven.”


 


Michael Gros is the Chief Operating Officer of the Jewish outreach organization The Atlanta Scholars Kollel. The Teshuva Journey is a monthly column chronicling amazing teshuva journeys and inspiring kiruv tales. To share a story or send other comments, email michaelgros@gmail.com. To receive the column via email or see back issues, visit http://www.michaelgros.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/bar-mitzvah-in-the-tundra/2008/07/23/

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