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A Chanukah Story - Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuz

Thursday, 6th December 2012

 

It was the first night of Chanukah. Outside a snowstorm raged, but inside it was tranquil and warm. The Rebbe (Rabbi), Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuz, grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, stood in front of the menorah, surrounded by a crowd of his Chassidim (Hassidics). He recited the blessings with great devotion, lit the single candle, placed the shammash ("servant candle") in its designated place, and began to sing HaNairot Halalu. His face radiated holiness and joy; the awed Chassidim stared intently at him.
The flame of the candle was burning strongly.  Rebbe and Chassidim sat nearby and sang Maoz Tsur and other Chanukah songs.  All of a sudden, the candle began to flicker and leap wildly, even though there wasn't the slightest breeze in the house. It was as if it were dancing.  Or struggling. And then, it disappeared!
It didn't blow out, there was no smoke, it just was not there anymore.  It was as if it flew off somewhere else. The Rebbe himself seemed lost in thought. His attendant went over to re-light the wick, but the Rebbe waved him off.
He motioned to the Chassidim to continue singing.  Several times, between tunes, the Rebbe spoke words of Torah.  The evening passed delightfully, and the Chassidim present had all but forgotten about the disappearing Chanukah candle.
It was nearly midnight when the harsh sound of carriage wheels grating on the snow and ice exploded the tranquility. The door burst open and in came a Chassid who hailed from a distant village. His appearance was shocking.  His clothes were ripped and filthy, and his face was puffy and bleeding. And yet, in stark contrast to his physical state, his eyes were sparkling and his features shone with joy.
He sat down at the table, and with all eyes upon him, began to speak excitedly. "This isn't the first time I came to Mezhibuz by the forest route, and I know the way very well. But there was a terrible snow storm this week, which greatly slowed my advance. I began to worry that I wouldn't get here in time to be with the Rebbe for the first night of Chanukah.  The thought disturbed me so much, I decided not to wait out the storm, but to plod ahead and travel day and night, in the hope that I could reach my destination on time.
"That was a foolish idea, I must admit, but I didn't realize that until too late. Last night, I ran into a gang of bandits, who were quite pleased to encounter me.  They figured if I was out in this weather, at night, alone, I must be a wealthy merchant whose business could not brook delay. They demanded that I surrender to them all of my money.
"I tried to explain, I pleaded with them, but they absolutely refused to believe I had no money. They seized the reins of my horses and leapt on my wagon. They sat themselves on either side of me to keep me under close surveillance, and then drove me and my wagon off to meet their chief to decide my fate.
"While they waited for their chief to arrive, they questioned and cross-examined me in great detail, searched me and the wagon, and beat me, trying to elicit the secret of where I had hidden my money. I had nothing to tell them except the truth, and that they weren't prepared to accept.
"After hours of this torture, they bound me and threw me, injured and exhausted, into a dark cellar. I was bleeding from the wounds they had inflicted, and my whole body ached in pain. I lay there until the evening, when the gang leader came to speak with me.
"I tried to the best of my ability to describe to him the great joy of being in the Rebbe's presence, and how it was so important to me to get to the Rebbe by the start of the holiday that it was worth it to endanger myself by travelling at night.
"It seems that my words made an impression on him, or else he was persuaded by my being adamant even under torture.  But whichever it was, thank G-d he released me from the handcuffs, saying:
"I sense that your faith in G-d is strong and your longing to be with your Rebbe is genuine and intense.  Now we shall see if this is the truth.  I am going to let you go, but you should know that the way is extremely dangerous.  Even the most rugged people never venture into the heart of the forest alone, only in groups, and especially not in a storm and at night.  You can leave and try your luck.  And I am telling you, if you get through the forest and the other terrible conditions safely, unharmed by the ferocious wild beasts or anything else, then I will break up my gang and reform my ways.
"If you actually reach the outskirts of the city, then throw your handkerchief into the ditch next to the road, behind the signpost there. One of my men will be waiting, and that is how I will know that you made it.
"I then became terrified all over again.  The hardships I had already endured were seared into my soul, and now even more frightening nightmares awaited me.  But when I thought about how wonderful it is to be with the Rebbe at the menorah lighting, I shook off all my apprehensions and resolved not to delay another moment.  My horse and carriage were returned to me and I set off on my way.
"There was total darkness all around.  I could hear the cries of the forest animals, and they sounded close. I feared that I was surrounded by a pack of vicious wolves.
"I crouched down over my horse's neck and spurred him on. He refused to move in the pitch blackness. I lashed him.  He didn't budge.
"I had no idea what to do. At that moment, a small light flickered in front of the carriage. The horse stepped eagerly towards it.  The light advanced.  The horse followed. All along the way, the wild animals fled from us, as if the tiny dancing flame was driving them away.
"We followed that flame all the way here.  I kept my end of the bargain and threw my handkerchief at the designated place.  Who knows?  Perhaps those cruel bandits will change their ways, all in the merit of that little light."
It was only then that the Chassidim noticed that the Rebbe's Chanukah light had returned.  There it was, burning in the elaborate menorah, its flame strong and pure as if it had just been lit.
Biographical note:  Rabbi Baruch was born in 1753 in Mezhibuz, the town from which his illustrious grandfather, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, led the Chassidic Movement which he founded. Rabbi Baruch was the son of the Baal Shem Tov's daughter, Adel, and her husband, Rabbi Yechiel Ashkenazi. He was one of the pre-eminent Rebbe's in the generation of the disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch and had thousands of Chassidim.

The Kindness That Came Back

Thursday, 29th November 2012

 

The Kindness That Came Back by Yisrael Nathan, Jewish Magazine

Don't think that the really great stories are the one's that are written by the world's greatest writers. The really great stories are the stories that really happened to real people and they are really and absolutely true. The following is one of the many really great stories. Great because it's really true!

America had finally entered World War I. Troops poured into Europe to put an end to the war. The war was in it's final stages. American troops were dispatched throughout Germany. The year was 1917.

A lone Jewish soldier from Duluth, Minnesota, Alex Lurye, found himself in a small German town called Seldes. It was Friday night. Being far away from home was lonely. The young Jewish soldier had some time on his hands. Feeling out of place, he decided to see what the local Jewish population was like. Entering the local village synagogue must have created a stir. An American soldier in uniform!  The Americans fought the Germans in bitter combat. The lone soldier felt out of place. He was greeted by a kind German Jew by the name of Herr Rosenau who made him feel at home in the synagogue.

After the services, Herr Rosenau invited the serviceman to his house for kiddush and the traditional Friday night meal.
Seeing the beauty of a traditional Shabbat together with the warmth and kindness of this German-Jewish family made a deep impression on this young soldier. He was a stranger, a foreigner, even an enemy Yet because he was Jewish he was invited to another Jew's home, given a delicious warm kosher home cooked meal, complete with wine and the traditional Shabbat songs.  Herr Rosenau's family, together with his teenage daughter, gave the soldier the feeling that he was not alone, certainly not an enemy, even in such a far and distant land.

The soldier was never able to come back again to see this kind family again. However, the warm impression that he had received, the experience of the Shabbat in a warm and caring Jewish home did not leave him. It meant so much to this young soldier that when he finally returned to Duluth, Minnesota, his home town, he took time out to sit down and write a letter to the German Jew who had touched his life with such kindness. This was is 1917. For some unknown reason, although Herr Rosenau received the letter it was never answered. It was placed in a desk drawer and there it rested for twenty one years.

Time moves on. Ruth, the teenage daughter of the German Jew, has grown up and married a German Jew by the name of Eugen Wienberg. She now has three small children. The oldest is a boy of eleven. The time is a bad time for the German Jews. The year is 1938. The dreaded Adolf Hitler has taken hold upon Germany and anti Jewish proclamations are being contrived and enforced on a continually regular basis. Herr Rosenau is now a grandfather. He is bothered about the dark and dismal future for himself and his fellow Jews in Germany. He doesn't pay attention to his eleven year old grandson, Sigbert, as he is rummaging through his desk looking for something of interest. Suddenly a foreign postage stamp catches his eye. He pulls out the envelope with the postage stamp from America. "Grandfather, can I have this?"

Twenty one years have past since he received the letter. "Yes, take it," the grandfather replies. After years of giving, an old forgotten envelope makes his grandson happy. He takes it home to his mother. "Look, look what grandfather has given me!"

The mother and her husband, Herr Wienberg eye the envelope with curiosity. The letter is still inside. They remove the letter and read it. It is the thank you letter from the American service man, from twenty-one years ago.
The mother remembers the young man. "Let's write to him! Maybe he will remember us and sponsor us, enabling us to immigrate to America" (It must be remembered that the U.S.A. did not let refugees come to its shores freely. However if someone would sponsor you, then there was a chance.)

Looking on the envelope, they saw that there was no return address only the name, Alex Lurye, and the city and state, Duluth, Minnesota. "We have no future in Germany, we must get out before this mad man, Hitler, begins to do worse things to the Jews".

So they wrote a letter addressed only as follows:  Alex Lurye, Duluth, Minnesota

What can you do? Can you send a letter to a person in a large city without a street address and expect it to be delivered?  Of course not!   You would have to be foolish to think that it would get to its destination. But sometimes it works out. In this case, Alex Luyre had become a wealthy businessman who was well known in Duluth, a town of over a hundred thousand people. The postmaster delivered the letter.

When Alex received it, after a lapse of twenty one years, he quickly sent a return letter acknowledging his receipt of their letter and pledging to help bring the Wienberg family to Duluth. Alex kept his promise. The entire Wienberg family was brought over in that year and arrived in May of 1938. Shortly there after, the Rosenau family came over to America.

In Duluth, the Wienberg family began working hard to make life bearable through the depression era. Sometimes two jobs were necessary for both the father and mother in order to make it through the week. Yet in Duluth as in Seldes, Germany, the family made sure that the Shabbat would be joyously honoured.

The rest of the family was quickly brought over to the states. Unfortunately, the horrible World War II swiftly came. The rest of German Jewry was destroyed.

Yet the kindness that Herr Rosenau had given to a stranger twenty one years earlier had come full circle. Because of their kindness, without any thought of personal gain, Herr Rosenau and his family were spared from the horrible fate of their fellow German Jews. The chessed that they had so warmly given to others with out desiring a payment in return had come back to them with dividends. The entire family was saved.

Today that family has sprouted and grown. A family blessed with many children and grandchildren and great-grand-children (Bli Iyin Hara).  All have taken upon themselves always to honour the Shabbat.

Doing chessed (an act of loving kindness done without any expectation of remuneration) is the Jewish way. Helping another Jew, with out trying to receive a thing in return. Pure and unadulterated kindness. It's for you and for me.
 

Colour Red in Sderot

Thursday, 22nd November 2012

 

Red Colour - Tzeva Adom

A song to help children deal with the missiles. 
Click the image below to watch the video directed by Yoav Shoam! 

Click this image for inspirational video.

Jessica Cox

Thursday, 15th November 2012

 

Click on the images below to watch two videos about Jessica Cox.  Born without arms, Jessica Cox, the first person with no arms to be granted a light sport pilot certificate by the FAA, met with AVweb at AirVenture Oshkosh 2009. Be prepared to never complain about anything ever again.  Be inspired about her positive attitude and how she lives her life.  Are there no limits to human perseverance!

Click here to watch video Click here to watch video

Lessons from a pencil

Wednesday, 7th November 2012

 

Lessons from a Pencil (Louis Finkelstein)

A pencil maker told the pencil 5 important lessons:

1) Everything you do will always leave a mark.

2) You can always correct the mistakes you make.

3) What is important is what is inside of you.

4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings, which will make you a better person.

5) To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.
 

Leading with Lollipops

Thursday, 1st November 2012

 

TEDxToronto - Drew Dudley "Leading with Lollipops"
Drew tells us about a simple truth which can immediately enrich all of our lives.
 

Click this image to watch inspiring video - Drew Dudley - Inspiring with lollipops

March of the living ... with a twist!

Wednesday, 24th October 2012

 

March of Life in Poland: 1,300 Miles on Foot for Friendship and Reconciliation. Descendants of members of Wehrmacht, police, or SS join Polish descendants of the victims set a mark against anti-Semitism.

From August 19 - 24 2012, 270 international participants from Germany, the US, and Israel walked together with 150 participants from Poland a distance of 2200 kilometers all across Poland.

Click the image below to watch moving video.


March for Life - click this image to watch emotional video

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's Ark!

Wednesday, 17th October 2012

 

 

Kosherpages Image

 

1. Don't miss the boat.

2. Remember that we are all in the same boat.

3. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

4. Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

5. Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

6. Build your future on high ground.

7. For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

8. Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

9. When you're stressed, float a while.

10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
 

11. No matter the storm, when you are with G-d, there's always a rainbow waiting.

(Re)touching lives through photos

Thursday, 11th October 2012

 

In the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, mixed into the wreckage were lost and damaged photos of families and loved ones. Photo retoucher Becci Manson, together with local volunteers and a global group of colleagues she recruited online, helped clean and fix them, restoring those memories to their owners.

After the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Becci Manson and her volunteer colleagues cleaned and restored hundreds of damaged photos.

Click the image below to watch the inspirational video.

Click this image to watch the video

Life Vest Inside

Friday, 5th October 2012

 

Click the image below and watch the inspirational video
as the camera tracks an act of kindness as its passed from one individual to the next
and manages to boomerang back to the person who set it into motion.  

 

Click the image below to watch inspirational video - Life Vest Inside - because KINDNESS keeps the world afloat

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