Shabbos Parshas Re’eh
Shabbos Aleph Rosh Choidesh Elul
The Month of Yud Gimmel Middos HoRachamim, when the King is in the Field
Tiere Reb Pinchas, Askonim, Family & Friends Sheyichyu
שלום וברכה 😊
In addition to the preparations for the month of Elul, which are themselves preparations for the month of Tishrai, I have also been spending a lot of time on other preparations. In appreciation to Hashem Yisboraich for returning me to my family and taking me out of a place called Prison, and also in appreciation of everything my fellow Yidden did to help me, I have been preparing to print a book of the letters I wrote from a place called Prison which discuss the Avoidoh of Elul and Tishrei, or which describe my experiences and the lessons I took from them.
The following is part of a letter that was prepared for publication in this book, written in 5776 to a group of alumni from our Yeshivoh in Postville with whom I had a weekly Shiur by email:
Reopening the Well
In the late 1980s my father, Zol Zain Gezunt, started a business to Shecht Behaimois in “that city,” in “that state.” At some point, with the guidance and Brocho of the Rebbe, I came to help. Boruch Hashem I always love learning, and my new surroundings allowed me to learn very thoroughly the halacha that "Aisov Soineh LiYakoiv." The inexplicable and baseless hatred for the Yid was always present, in living color, every day of every week of every month of every year, and it manifested in many ways!
In keeping with the standards and laws of food production in the US, the plant had many USDA inspectors on site every day. They oversaw every aspect of the plant, and as the plant grew, so did the number of inspectors. They were always there when the plant was working, day or night. This story features one of these inspectors.
I can still picture this person. As was the case with many of his associates, his hatred for Yidden was very evident in the course of his work, but never more clearly as in the following story:
Soaking and salting must be done within three days, and because the site was so distant from the major Jewish communities in New York and elsewhere, we needed to handle soaking and salting on site before we shipped the meat.
Initially this was done by hand, but at some point, a large system of vats and conveyors was built to Kasher the large quantities of meat we were processing. The soaking was done in two huge stainless-steel vats, each which was filled with thousands of gallons of fresh water every morning.
The plant had its own deepwater well, capable of supplying the water to the plant. The well had been unused for many years before my father bought the plant, and since then the "water table" had also dropped and the water coming up from the well initially had a light rust color to it. Instead of using our well, the plant was purchasing its water from the city.
Of course, we preferred to use our own water and hired a company to address any issues with the well. After a few months, the well company announced that the well was ready, and they were ready to switch our water systems from the city water to the well water on the next Monday.
There’s Dirt, But Not in the Water
Among the responsibilities of the USDA was to inspect the cleanliness of the water being used by the plant. No production could begin before they gave the green light.
The inspector was not happy about the planned switchover to our own water, and early Monday morning the first thing he did was go to the sinks to see if the water was dirty. He was sure the water would have the rust color in it, but as he went from sink to sink around the plant, the water as clean as the week before! An employee overheard him muttering to himself "The water has got be rusty… gotta be dirty..." but he couldn’t see anything wrong from the flow in the sinks.
He then went to the room with the Kashering system and climbed the ladders on the big vats. He looked down into the thousands and thousands of gallons of water and decided that he saw some dirt in the water. He announced that the water in the vat could not be used! The whole plant came to a standstill - because if the water in the Kashering vats had dirt that meant the well was not fixed and all the water was dirty.
The workers dutifully complied with his ruling, draining the thousands of gallons of water and refilling the vats. When their task was complete, they called him to inspect the water again, so the day’s production could begin. Again, after climbing up and looking into the tank, his ruling was that also this water was dirty, and it couldn't be used. The workers went up the ladder to look in and he "showed" them where the water was not clean. They didn't see any dirt or discoloration at all, but he was the authority. They had to comply, and they emptied the thousands of gallons of water again, and again they refilled the tank, and they called him for re-inspection. Again, he ruled that the water was dirty and couldn't be used!
By now the workers were very upset. They went to their managers and explained what was going on. They said “We can’t start work because of the water problem! The well is obviously not fixed! The wellwater has rust in it and we need to have the well company switch us back over to the city water, so we can get to work!
I will always remember the look on their faces when they were told that (despite the announcement) they had, in fact, not yet switched over! The plant was still using the city water, the same water as before! The “dirt” the inspector was seeing was not in the water - it was in his head, fabricated by his evil imagination!
The inspector was told the truth that the water he thought was well water and "must be dirty" was actually city water. Suddenly, upon further inspection, the water was determined to be clean and the operation of the plant was allowed to begin!
This ability to see non-existent dirt on the Yid culminated in the 9,311 charges “that state” made (up) against me. Boruch Hashem they were all proven to be false and fabricated only in order to hurt the Yid.
As we continue to battle, we know that there is nothing to rely on but Hashem Yisboraich and we are protected by Hashem Yisboraich and B'Ezras Hashem I will be freed very speedily! :)
Honest, Cleared-Eyed Vision
The Baal Shem Toiv teaches us that from everything a Yid hears and sees he must take a lesson in his Avoidas Hashem. :)
This Shabbos is Rosh Choidesh Elul, a very important month in the year because the month of Elul is the bridge that connects the previous year with the coming year. Like any bridge, it has two ends, two parts: one connected to the previous year by making a true accounting of the shortcomings of the previous year in order to correct them, and the other connected to the coming year by identifying and committing to Hachlotois Toivois, the necessary resolutions to return and reconnect to Hashem. Through these two parts we ensure that we will have a Kesivoh VaChasimoh Toivoh LeShonoh Toivoh UMsukoh :)
The name of our Parsho is Re’ei, which means “to see." To properly see, we can’t have any preconceived ideas and our "mind’s eye" can't be biased and bribed by personal desires. The way we see the world around us in general, and our purpose in life in particular, might be warped by the things our hearts desire, but that view of things, that “sight,” is like that inspector who "saw" the "rust" in the water when there was none there, because he was told the water was from the well and not from the city! We must make an honest accounting of where we are and where we want to go, which we can only do by seeing clearly and truthfully through all the darkness and lies of this world!
Once you realize this, how can we do this? How is a Yid a able to see clearly and truthfully?
The Toiroh is called "Toiroh Oir," the Toiroh of Light, because it is the source of our clarity which illuminates the darkness. Hashem Yisboraich gives us the Toiroh so we are able to see the world accurately and be able to identify the path of life and goodness - and the path of death and evil. Only the Toiroh can give us this clarity because Hashem creates the world and knows the true existence of everything. By learning Toirah Oir we are able to see everything for what it truly is. The takeaway is very simple: we have to learn.
Facing the task of not only seeing clearly but seeing our way back to Hashem in Choidesh Elul, we are not alone. Hashem gives us the Koiach to be successful in awakening our love to him. As we engage in both aspects of the month of Elul, looking back and looking forwards, Hashem shines his Yud Gimmel Middois HoRachamim upon us, giving our Neshomoh all the strength and inspiration it needs.
The Alter Rebbe explains that even though the month of Elul doesn’t have any days with the status of a Yoim Toiv, that is not to say that they are mundane, unremarkable days. In truth, the Yud Gimmel Middois HoRachamim, the high level of Kedushoh from where we receive our forgiveness, and which are revealed on Shabbos and Yoim Toiv, is also revealed and experienced throughout the whole month of Elul!
This immediately raises an obvious question: Why aren’t the days of Elul treated as Shabbos or Yoim Toiv, since they are infused with the same holiness? Why are they regular weekdays in which we go about our work the same as on any other weekday of the year?
The Alter Rebbe gives us a Moshol to understand how great holiness can be present in the workday without transforming it to a Yoim Toiv, and how that is actually a tremendous opportunity.
When the King is in his palace, his glory is seen with its full intensity - sitting on his throne in majestic robes and a royal crown, he inspires awe and admiration in all who see him. Not everyone can approach the King, though. Only the ministers and dignitaries are granted entry to the palace to see him!
When the King is traveling, things are very different. Before he enters the city, while he is still in the fields, the populace gathers to greet him and everyone, regardless of rank or riches, is able and permitted to approach the King, greet him and ask him for everything he needs! The King receives each person with a pleasant demeanor and shows a joyous, pleased, smiling face to them all.
When the King finally returns to the city and his palace, all those who came to greet the King follow him, now better people, closer to the King than they were before.
During the month of Elul, Hashem reveals himself to every Yid - even to the Yid who is working in the “field" and is not thinking about the King, and even to the Yid who is in the desert of Klipoh! Everyone can receive this revelation, precisely because the King is not in his home, in his palace, radiating power and glory with full intensity.
This revelation gives the Yid’s Neshomoh the Koiach, the strength and inspiration, that it needs in order to wake up from the noise and confusion of the world him. Hashem is ready to greet every Yid during the month of Elul - the only thing the Yid needs to have is the will and desire to go and see the King, to stop his regular work and accept Hashem as his King, being Mikabel Oil Malchus Shomayim, accepting the Yoke of Heaven.
During the month of Elul, Hashem receives every Yid and smiles to him and shows him a happy face! Through his efforts to come close to Hashem during the month of Elul, which are encouraged and strengthened by Hashem’s display of closeness and affection, the Yid is elevated to be like those important people who are allowed to come into the King’s palace. This is experienced during the month of Tishrai, when we are in holy context and environment on the Yomim Toivim, starting on Roish HaShonoh when we make Hashem our King.
Through our preparations in the month of Elul which lead us to be one with Hashem as we experience in the month of Tishrai, we are certain to have a Kesivoh VaChasimoh Toivoh LiShonoh Toivoh U'Mesukoh!
There are a number of special Minhogim in Choidesh Elul. We say L’Dovid Hashem Oiri, beginning from the first day of Roish Choidesh. As instituted by the Baal Shem Toiv, we say three Kapitalach of Tehilim each day, beginning on the second day of Roish Choidesh (completing the Tehilim by Yoim Kippur).
We also begin blowing the Shoifor each day until Erev Roish HaShonoh, but there are two opinions on what day this Minhog should be started. One opinion associates this Minhog with Elul and says we should start from the second day of Roish Choidesh, which is the first day of Elul proper.
The other opinion associates this Minhog with the forty days Moishe Rabainu spent on the mountain asking Hashem for forgiveness for the Cheit HoEigel. If you count back forty full days from Yoim Kippur, when Hashem forgave us, the first day of Moishe’s time on the mountain was the first day of Roish Choidesh.
Our Minhog, as explained by the Rebbe Rayatz, is to begin on the second day of Roish Choidesh, but to blow “Lihislameid” - to (re)learn the skill - on the first day.
There is a deeper message here, and the idea of designating a day to blow in order to (re)learn the skill cannot be understood is merely technical. Firstly, if it is this retraining is necessary then any responsible Baal Toikaiya will do it even without a Minhog and if it’s not necessary, then why establish such a Minhog? Secondly, if it is meant literally than in a calendar year like ours, when the first day of Roish Choidesh is on Shabbos, we would be instructed to conduct this training on Friday, and we are not.
The explanation is given based on the single Shoifor blast that is made after Ne’ilah on Yoim Kippur. Unlike the comparatively complex series of sounds we make throughout Elul and Roish HaShonoh, this is a single formless blast. It is the cry of the essence of the Yiddishe Neshomoh which is an infinite spark of Hashem and has no restricted form. When our core of our Neshomoh expresses itself, it is in a single, simple, raw cry from the depths of the soul - a yearning to return to our Source, Hashem Yisboraich!
This is the peak of the Avoidoh of Elul, Roish HaShonoh, and Yoim Kippur. After we’ve worked through all the details and made every effort to correct ourselves and connect ourselves, we reach for the connection to Hashem that is deeper than all of that, the yearning of the depths of the inner soul, which is expressed in that single, simple blast of the Shoifor.
This is the real intention behind the instruction to blow in order to (re)learn. When you learn to blow the Shoifor, the first thing you learn, before you learn how to shape the sound in various ways, is how to make the raw sound - that simple, unsophisticated cry which echoes the essence of our Neshomoh.
We need to engage in all the details of the Avoidoh, but that needs to lead to the expression of the simple desire of the Neshomoh to connect to Hashem. In the same way, our efforts must begin from that point. Before we get into the details of our Avoidoh, the first thing we need to do is blow that first, raw blast of the Shoifor (typical of those learning to blow) beginning our Avoidoh with that powerful and unsophisticated yearning of our inner soul to connect to Hashem.
This year, Shabbos takes us part of the way towards revealing this part of our Neshomoh, so we don’t physically blow the Shoifor to get that physical help, but we can still (and we still need to) sound that raw Shoifor blast in our hearts and our Neshomoh, the blast of Toikin LiHislameid, blowing as those who are learning do, and return to Hashem with the depths of our soul!
Yehi Rotzoin from Hashem Yisboraich to give every Yid his and her Geuloh Proti today with our Geuloh Kloli now with Moshiach Tzidkainu :)
A Guten un a Frailichen Shabbos Roish Choidesh Elul :)
Podoh BeSholoim Nafshi :) Besurois Toivois Didan Notzach :)
Uzi Ailecho Azamairoh, Kee Eloikim Misgabee Eloikai Chasdi :)
Sholom Mordechai ben Avrohom Aharoin Halevi