Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's all about love

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar (whose last farbrengen had some unexpectedly pleasant results) farbrenged on Wed. Night. I didn't really feel like transcribing his every breath, and besides, he speaks quickly, so here's a few of the things he said.

How do you solve a problem? By not being a part of it. When you want to send bochurim on mivtzoyim to a shady part of town (Times Square circa 1970) who do you send, the really chassidishe guy or the one who knows what's going on in Hollywood? If you have a connection to the tachton, how can you expect to be an effectual elyon?
Chinuch has to be in a way that there is no other way. For example, Rabbi Gancz says, when he was a kid, chassidim went to mikveh. That's it. Sure, did it ever happen that they couldn't? But there was one way.

So too with anything. There's only one way. It's not "I'll try." As R. Mendel said, "I'll try" means kushen tuchus.

Nowadays, everyone has opinions. Everyone has a blog. Everyone thinks that their opinion means something, that it counts. This is simply not true! You are what you are, and what you think isn't necessarily the way things are. Without kabbalos ol you'll never accomplish anything. Of course you have to use your brains, but the base has to be simple kabbalos ol.
Sefiras Haomer is tikkun hamidos. That's nice. Who actually does it? It's a vort to say in shul, "Pesach is iskafia, sefiras haomer is tikkun hamidos, shavuos is ishapcha."

A person wrote to me (at, that he was following Simon Jacobson's book on sefiras haomer and he had problems how to implement the exercise for tiferes shebenetzach. I thought, "This is crazy! Here's a guy who knows nothing, and he's doing the right thing, an incredible thing, and I, a Rabbi, someone who learns chassidus, what am I doing?"

A Chassid has to work on his middos. We can't just say, "This is me." We have to change! Obviously we'll never be perfect, but at least we have to work! At least we have to be a mentsch.

The Rebbe Maharash said a maamar "L'havin inyan ohr ein sof." The maamar brings 21 mashalim to understand the infinite divine light. A young chassid who was there was very good at memorizing and chazzering chassidus, and he came to a town and chazzered this maamar. An old chassid there said, "What good is twenty one mashalim explaining what is ohr ein sof if you aren't a mentsch?!"

The Mitteler Rebbe was sixteen years old when he was appointed by his father to be the mashpia of the bochurim. He once said, "Anyone who doesn't work on their middos can't be in my daled amos." The chassidim of the time thought he meant ahavah and yirah in davening, very aidel inyanim. The Mitteler Rebbe said, "No, I'm talking about anger, about jealousy, about basic human emotions!"
My brother went to France to do interviews for The Early Years and the one thing that came across was that the Rebbe was very quiet, never
got any attention, never said anything. They were all amazed when later he became Rebbe and spoke for hours and hours. In fact, once a Rav came for yechidus and complained that he wasn't fit for the job, he didn't like to speak. The Rebbe answered, "And I do like to speak?"

And yet when he had to, the Rebbe went against his nature and spoke. Because when the situation demands it, we have to change. We have to work on our middos.
Rabbi Avtzon recieved a call that a body was found, a Jew, and if he wants to take care of it then be can, and if he doesn't want to then the authorities will take care of it. He said that he'll do what he can, and he got the name. He posted it on shluchim achdus and tried to find out if anyone knew of this guy. The authorities told him that every day that passed without anything being taken care of was 5,000 dollars, so Rabbi Avtzon was understandably a little anxious for it to be resolved as soon as possible.

Three days later a well-known chassid in Florida said "It's my wife's ex-husband, and I'll take care of it." He flew down to Hong Kong, paid the fifteen thousand dollars, and arranged for a burial in Florida.

How did they know he was a Jew? In the seventies this person spent some time behind bars, and right before he got released from prison he went on a shabbaton of prisoners to 770 (Rabbi Lipskier, in charge of Aleph, somehow arranged it).

For some strange reason the Rebbe didn't come in to the farbrengen on time, and about ten minutes after it was supposed to start the inmates recieved a message to split up around the crowd.

After the farbrengen was over Rabbi Lipskier explained that the Rebbe had done this because he didn't want people to be able to point and
say, "Oh look, there's the prisoners."

The prisoners were floored. They had just spent years in jail, where the whole goal was to embarass them, to point them out, to make them feel less than human, and here was someone who cared about them, who treated them like human beings!

They all decided to make a hachlota, and for what ever reason they decided to every day put on a tallis. When this guy was found he was wearing a tallis, that's how they knew he was a Jew.
There's a story of a South African girl, a Lubavitcher, who was going out with someone who wasn't frum. Her parents were very upset, and even after she got him to promise her parents that when they got married he would be frum they weren't happy.

They went into the Rebbe, (this was in the sixties), and the Rebbe said, "Words are cheap. Let him live a frum life-style for a certain amount of time, nothing to do with getting married, and then revisit the issue."

She walked out all happy, the Rebbe hadn't said no, and her parents stayed in to discuss other issue. The Rebbe said that they must call her back in, "I don't want her to think we're speaking behind her back."

Why these two stories? Because we have to have good middos. We have to be sensitive to someone else, to appreciate what they're going through, to try and help them.

There was a convention of Rabbonim to figure out how to respond to a certain government issue, and the Rebbe Rashab took a strong stance. A certain Rav argued, and the Chofetz Chaim got very upset and said that going against the Lubavitcher Rebbe was like fighting Moshe Rabbeinu!

The Rav went over to the Chofetz Chaim and said, "Are you saying that I'm like Korach?" Immediately afterwards the Chofetz Chaim, who felt very bad, begged mechila; when the Rebbe Rashab heard what had happened he told his son, "You see the kind of Krias Shema al Hamitah that the Chofetz Chaim says, the kinds of aveiros he has!"
There was a boy whose life long dream was to become a doctor. Throughout school he worked for this, and finally the day came when he had the final exam, an oral test, after this he'd be a doctor!

He answered everything perfectly, and the doctor asked him, for a final question, "What happens if you're walking along and you see a man with a huge gash in his arm, life threatening, what do you do?" The prospective doctor answered, "Well, you take out a tourniquet from your bag and take care of the issue."

"What if you don't have a tourniquet?"
"You go buy one from a store."
"What if there are no stores with tourniquets?"
"Buy a t-shirt, a towel, something!"
"What if there are no stores?"

The doctor said, "You take the shirt off your back!" The student said, "OK, I got a 97%."

"No, you failed."

Why? Because if you can't take the shirt off your back, you can't be a doctor, you can't help someone.

It's very easy when you have two shirts to give one away. But what about when you only have one shirt?
The Alter Rebbe brings a mashal in Likkutei Torah about two different types of weapons. The sword is for enemies who are near to you. The arrow is for those who are far away and hidden from you.

It wasn't easy to make the arrow. Why? Because it's a paradox. The closer you pull it to your own heart the farther it will go. So too is in avodah. The more it effects you...

A sword is good for doing what is near, for chitas and rambam and mikveh. But what about when something is buried deep inside you? You have to bring the arrow inside your own heart, to recognize your own problems, and only then you can fix the issue. And the closer you bring the arrow to yourself, the father it will go, the more it will accomplish.
Rabbi Wolf Greenglass in Montreal became a Lubavitcher when he was running away from the Nazis and came to the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Otvosk. He needed a place to sleep, and he asked one of the bochurim if there was a bed or somewhere he could sleep in that night. The bochur pointed out a bed to him, and said that the bochur who normally slept there was away for some reason, and he could sleep there.

That night he woke up, and saw the bochur who had helped him earlier sleeping on the floor. He realized what had happened, and he thought, "If this is the type of program they have, then I want to be a part of it.


Anonymous said...

As you mention the fact, that the prisoners all decided to wear taleisim -
I remembered the anecdote, re a previous Knesset member, who says he'd lost his tefillin, and at Yechidus - the Rebbe pulled out a talis from his drawer, which the Rebbe had prepared for him.

At a recent visit in an Israeli Chabad house, he related the story, and that he was presently wearing that very talis.

See the link below (Hebrew):

What gets me thinking, why would the Rebbe give him a talis with BLUE stripes (as evident from the photo there)?

le7 said...


Anonymous said...

A couple of corrections. It is unlikely that Reb Volf arrived in Otvotsk running from the Nazis. The chronology doesn't make sense. The yeshivah didn't really hang around much after the invasion. Also I believe the story went (and I'm not sure if it was with him), that the bochur spent the entire night reading Shema.
Thanks for the farbrengen.

e said...


Just like a guy said...

Anon: hey, I just write 'em like I hear 'em.

bonne said...


Anonymous said...

the whole night reading the shma is another story i think

fakewood inc. said...

go texas.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Nice farbrengen. And why a blue tallis? Zecher l'chilazon why else? Also -- not to tell you about your Rebbe -- but by all accounts he was very sensitive to other people and this Israeli might not have been comfortable with a chareidi tallis.

Just like a guy said...

Modeh: the Rebbe just happened to have a blue tallis in his drawer?

Nemo said...

Can't read the whole thing, but I scanned some of it, and sure enough, found a Chassidim-Misnagdim story.

Anonymous said...

TRS 10:15 --

Well, here's the story translated (from the Hebrew link):

"..The Rebbe told me in Yechidus, 'I heard that you lost your talis, and tefilin, but bought new tefilin. What about the talis?", and with that immediately pulled out a talis he'd prepared for me from his drawer.'

"When [Gideon] Pas concluded his story, he pointed at the talis he was wearing - 'this is the Talis from the Rebbe.'"

Quite clearly then, The Rebbe INITIATED the point, and thus INDEED prepared a BLUE talis beforehand..?

Just like a guy said...


Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Or, is it so far fetched that meeting Jews of all types for real and not the so-called "all walks of yiddishkeit" that aguda trumpets (black hat with brim up, with brim down, occasional homburg) he would have a blue tallis around for such an occasion?

And you should know that because of that story I've decided that I'll continue learning chassidus after I'm done the kuntres I'm in the middle of.

Dovid said...

Good job

Anonymous said...

This is the O.P. of the "talis" story.

To Modeh - I'm humbled as to the effect..
And, as you wrote 9:01 - there definitely was this concept of appreciation exhibited by the Rebbeim.

For instance, a group from the famous "Kinder Transport" in the War, stopped at the Frierdiker Rebbe for a brocha. He presented each child with an ASHKENAZ siddur, autographed inside.

Lubavitch isn't there to monopolize, and/or proselytize; the broad spectrum will admit, if only at times.