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Unread 02-02-2003, 12:35 PM   #1
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Reb Mendel Futerfas a'h

The late mashpia, Reb Mendel Futerfas, o.b.m., arrived in Eretz Yisroel in the summer of 5733. Over the next few years he would almost single-handedly revolutionize the way Israeli Chabad Chassidim related to the Rebbe.

Until then, the physical connection between Lubavitchers in Eretz Yisroel and the Rebbe was very limited, for a number of technical reasons. Many of the things we take for granted today did not yet exist then. There were no Chabad weekly magazines and very few mivtzaim brochures. Most communication with the Rebbe took the form of letters, aside from general directives which Rabbi Efraim Volf received from Rabbi Hodakov by phone. Compared to the price of phone calls today, international phone calls then were very expensive. It would never occur to anyone to pick up a telephone just to find out what was doing in 770. No one knew who had a yechidus or what the Rebbe said to someone. Sunday "dollars" wouldn’t begin for many years, and there was no such thing as video. When the late R’ Levi Yitzchak Freidin made his first film about Tishrei in 770 it was an amazing thing.

In those days the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh usually came out a long time after they were said, and then only in Yiddish, on poor quality mimeographs which only subscribers received in the mail. The Vaad Hanachos B’Lashon HaKodesh had not yet been established. Even the international phone hook-ups that had begun on the big Yud Shvat of 5730 were problematic. There were always difficulties with the phone lines, with numerous interruptions and disconnections.

In general, people didn’t know when the Rebbe would be farbrenging, and most farbrengens weren’t broadcast. In those days, getting through by phone from Eretz Yisroel to New York was an avoda in itself. There was no such thing as a direct line, and you had to keep calling the operator literally for hours because the number was always busy. (Remember, this was before they invented the redial feature. And who had a telephone with buttons?)

When they found out that a farbrengen was going to take place, the first group of runners went to alert Mulik Rivkin, who was in charge of broadcasting. (Unfortunately, most of the time it was impossible to establish contact with 770 in time, and we rarely got to hear a whole farbrengen from the very beginning.) R’ Moshe Slonim would then drive up and down the streets of Kfar Chabad in his car, honking his horn to wake everyone up. (In later years the job of "waking those who slumber" was passed on to R’ Yosef Yitzchak Liberow.) A third group would go alert the yeshiva.

From all over the kfar, people would come running to hear "the king’s word." The farbrengen was broadcast in Prime Minister Shazar’s house, which would take on the look of a yeshiva. Everyone had to pay at the door for the phone hookup, which was sometimes a real monetary hardship for the bachurim.

Traveling to the Rebbe was also a great luxury, as a plane ticket to New York cost about three months’ salary for the average Israeli. Very few people could afford the trip, and certainly not more than once in a lifetime. So for the most part, Israeli Chabadnikim were essentially cut off from the daily routine of 770.

Aside from technical difficulties, there was also a philosophical difference between then and now. In those days, being a Chabad Chassid expressed itself primarily in personal avoda, learning Chassidus, davening, etc. Israeli Lubavitchers went out on Mitzva T’fillin and engaged in outreach with other Jews, but the focus was not so much on the Rebbe and the idea of "the Nasi is everything."

In other words, the atmosphere was much less immediate than it is today. People didn’t concern themselves with what the Rebbe was saying now or what he was asking of them now, and they certainly weren’t lining up to go out on shlichus. Back then, some of the elder Chasidim were still grappling with the whole idea of shlichus.

But everything began to change in the summer of 5733, when Reb Mendel Futerfas arrived in Eretz Yisroel. Reb Mendel was the number one advocate for hiskashrus to the Rebbe and the absolute necessity to give oneself over to him entirely. At his farbrengens Reb Mendel would stress the importance of traveling to the Rebbe and being in constant contact with him. Reb Mendel’s words had a great effect, but as a lone voice in the wilderness it was very difficult to change a mindset that had existed for decades. (In truth, Reb Mendel’s wasn’t the only voice. A few others, most notably Reb Avrohom Pariz, Bentzion Shemtov, and Moshe Slonim, echoed the same sentiments.)
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:23 PM   #2
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When and where was Reb Mendel niftar?
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:31 PM   #3
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4 Tamuz 5755 in England, at the age of 88, after a long illness. He is buried in London.

The vintage chassid, Reb Mendel Futerfas, was wont to say: "There are chassidim who would say: A dank der Oibershter far'n Rebbe'n. "Thank You G-d, for giving us the Rebbe," expressing their genuine appreciation to G-d for giving them the opportunity to know and appreciate the Rebbe.
Others would say: A dank der Rebbe'n far'n Oibersht'n; "Thank you, Rebbe, for giving us the opportunity to know G-d." The intent is not merely that the Rebbe's teachings open up new windows of spiritual awareness. Although this is true, these chassidim meant more: Their intent is that from watching the Rebbe, and seeing his uniqueness, they were able to appreciate G-dliness.

Last edited by Jude; 03-26-2003 at 02:55 PM.
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:33 PM   #4
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Reb Mendel would repeat one of his favorite sayings of our Sages:

“It states in Pirkei Avos,” Reb Mendel would always say, “that when a wise man hasn’t heard something, he admits that he hasn’t heard it. Indeed, this is one of the identifying marks of the chacham — ‘and the opposite is true of the golem.’ But what does this have to do with wisdom? If the golem claims to have heard something he really didn’t, doesn’t that make him a liar rather than a fool?

“The answer lies in the exact wording of the Mishna: ‘Concerning what (ma) he has not heard he says, “I have not heard.”’ Even if he heard what was being discussed but a certain ‘something’ (mashehu) — even the tiniest detail — is still vague, he refuses to claim to understand it. The chacham will not pronounce himself an expert until the entire picture is clear and understood.

“The golem, by contrast, becomes an instant expert, even if he has no idea what it means. He immediately announces ‘I have heard’ and stops listening.”

(Author’s note: Reb Mendel Futerfas was the embodiment of this adage, and was never ashamed to admit that he “had not heard.” Throughout his life he never claimed to understand an issue until his knowledge of the subject was thorough and complete.)
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:37 PM   #5
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The following account was related by Rabbi Yaakov Gansberg:

The story opens in Russia, at a time when the secret police were relentlessly pursuing the “Schneersons” and everyone else associated with them. Many Lubavitchers were arrested, while others were sent into exile. Still others disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. The ones who remained lived in constant fear, never knowing when their turn might come.

Despite the atmosphere of terror and intimidation, and the fact that participants in any innocent gathering could be immediately arrested for unlawful assembly, Chassidim never stopped acting as Chassidim. Minyanim continued to meet, shiurim were given, and of course, farbrengens continued to be held on special occasions.

I’d like to quote from a book written by the late Rabbi Shmaryahu Noach Sassonkin, entitled My Memoirs, that depicts the nature of farbrengens in the old days in Russia.

“There were many people who warned us Chassidim against having too much mesiras nefesh, insisting that it placed our lives in unnecessary danger. It’s one thing to have mesiras nefesh for davening or learning Torah, or for Shabbos or the chinuch of our children, they claimed. In those cases mesiras nefesh is worthwhile, and brings great spiritual benefit. But why endanger yourselves just to farbreng together? Wouldn’t it be prudent to forgo such gatherings until the danger has passed?”

[Note: It should be pointed out that in those days, farbrenging involved a lot less talking and a lot more singing than nowadays. Furthermore, before the g’zeira against drinking too much alcohol was issued, it was not unusual for participants at farbrengens to pour out their hearts without constraint.]

Rabbi Sassonkin concludes:

“The facts reveal that almost all of those who attended farbrengens were able to withstand the trials and tribulations of the Soviet era and remained frum, whereas most of those who didn’t attend eventually succumbed to the pressure and caved in…”

Reb Yaakov Gansberg’s story illustrates that same mesiras nefesh:

As Purim approached, it never occurred to us not to have a farbrengen. We were a sizeable group, including Reb Mendel Futerfas, who lived in a suburb right outside Moscow. It was decided that we would meet in a certain house; if my memory serves me right, it was the house in which the mashpia Rabbi Nissan Nemenow was then staying.

In those days, in the middle of the Second World War, disorder ruled in Russia. Bands of thieves and robbers roamed about freely, exploiting the lawless situation. There was no one to complain to, no system of justice at all. Things got so bad that it was often dangerous just to leave the house. The gypsies were the worst of all. Unusually tall and physically robust, they excelled in their chosen line of work. And as always, Jews were the first victims.

Nonetheless, no power in the world could prevent us from farbrenging on Purim. Not the secret police, and surely not the threat of violent gypsies.

We had almost reached our destination when we were suddenly attacked. The gypsies were armed with knives and hatchets, and a variety of other frightening-looking weapons. Our group began to scatter, screaming at the top of our lungs for help.

But not everyone succeeded in running away. I was seized by a giant gypsy, who proceeded to squeeze the life out of me and almost broke my ribs. At that moment, which lasted an eternity, I was sure it was all over. The world that is entirely good seemed to beckon…

Everyone was yelling and screaming, but this was not so unusual a sight as to draw attention. Drunken peasants were always acting rowdy on the streets. Since it was Purim, our friends already inside the house might not even realize the seriousness of the situation.

When Reb Mendel saw what was happening to me, he didn’t hesitate. Reb Mendel was then still relatively young, and a lot stronger than I was. Without further ado, he jumped on the giant and caught him by surprise.

The gypsy, surprised and angered by the attack, momentarily lessened his grip on me and turned his attention to Reb Mendel. I quickly ran away, but now Reb Mendel was caught. The enraged robber took out his knife.

Mustering all his strength, Reb Mendel bit down on the man’s finger. He bit and bit until…the finger came off.

The gypsy was in so much pain that he forgot about Reb Mendel, who took the opportunity to dive into a huge mound of snow. Aroused by their fellow bandit’s cries, all the other gypsies came running over with murder in their hearts. Again and again they thrust their knives into the snow, determined to find the Jew. Reb Mendel bore a scar on his face for the rest of his life after this incident. Thank G-d, a crowd gathered, and the band of gypsies gave up their search and dispersed.

Reb Mendel Futerfas saved my life. It was a demonstration of pure and unadulterated mesiras nefesh – mesiras nefesh without any considerations whatsoever.
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:40 PM   #6
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Reb Mendel Futerfas was held for 14 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps. During this time, he spent most of his free hours in prayer and study. Nevertheless, he chose not to remain totally aloof from the gentiles who shared his lot, and spent a few hours each day conversing with them.

Included in this group were many types of people: political idealists who had fallen out of favor with the Stalinist regime, businessmen who had run undercover private enterprises, and ordinary people jailed for crimes the criminal nature of which neither they nor many of those who arrested them understood.

Among the latter was a circus performer whose claim to fame was his skill as a tightrope walker. He and Reb Mendel had a standing argument. Reb Mendel could not understand why a person would risk his life walking on a rope several storeys above the ground (for this was before safety nets had become standard circus practice).

"There must be," Reb Mendel maintained, "some hidden cables to hold you in case you slip."

For his part, the tightrope walker maintained that there was no need for cables. "It is not all that dangerous," he said. "One begins practicing on low ropes, and having gained experience, the risk of falling is minimal."

The argument continued until after Stalin died, and the prison authorities relaxed their rules. Several months before May Day that year, the guards told the prisoners that they would be allowed to prepare a makeshift circus to celebrate the day. Our acrobat suddenly came alive, becoming the center of attention. He organized various performances, the highlight being his tightrope walk.

He made sure Reb Mendel was in the audience. After the other acts were completed, the drums began to roll. He climbed the pole to the rope. His first steps were timid -- after all, it had been several years -- but within a few seconds, it all came back to him.

He began to twirl a hoop with his hands and wave to his friends. As he neared the end of the rope, he hesitated for a moment, made a fast turn, and then proceeded to the other side. On his way back, he exuded confidence; he performed several stunts and caught hats thrown to him. Completing his act, he climbed down and ran to Reb Mendel.

"You see, no cables holding me up," he gleamed in satisfaction.

"Yes. You're right, no cables," agreed Reb Mendel.

"You're a smart man," the performer continued. "Tell me. What's the secret? Is it in the hands? The feet?"

Reb Mendel paused to think. The performer had moved his hands freely, and it did not appear that his footwork was the determining factor.

After reviewing the scene in his mind several times, Reb Mendel replied: "It's the eyes. At all times, your eyes were riveted on the opposite pole."

The performer nodded in agreement. "When you see your destination in front of you, you know where to put your feet.

"And what is the most difficult part of the process?" he asked Reb Mendel.

Reb Mendel thought again and replied, "the turn."

"That's right," agreed the performer. "For then, you lose sight of the first pole and the other has not yet come into view."

R' Mendel took to heart the urging of the Baal Shem Tov to learn a lesson from everything we see and hear. The lesson from the above description is clear: we need to keep our eyes on the goal, otherwise we're lost.
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:42 PM   #7
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The Jewish ABC

by Tuvia Bolton

I heard this story from my teacher, the mashpia Rabbi Mendel Futerfas of blessed memory.

When Rabbi Mendel was five years old learning Torah in a cheder in Russia, it happened that one of the boys forgot to bring his ink bottle and asked the boy at his side for some of his. "No," replied the latter. "I haven't enough; you should have brought from home." So the first boy had to ask someone else.

The teacher noticed this and said nothing, but a half hour later he asked the second boy if he could show the class an Aleph, a Bet and a Gimmel (the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet). "Of course," answered the child as he pointed in one of his books. "This is an Aleph, this a Bet, and this a Gimmel."

"No," said the teacher. "You are wrong."

The boy was confused. "But teacher" he said, "this is what you taught us… this is what we have been reading for the last two years!"

"No," the teacher repeated. "You are wrong."

"Aleph is: When your friend asks you for ink, you give it to him.

"Bet is: When your friend asks for ink, you give it to him.

"Gimmel is: When your friend asks for ink, you give it to him."
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Unread 02-09-2003, 02:44 PM   #8
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Reb Mendel Futerfas was the spiritual mentor of the city of Kfar Chabad in Israel. But in the 1940s, he was imprisoned and finally exiled to Siberia by the Soviet government. His crime: teaching and practicing Judaism.
On his birthday one year in Siberia, Reb Mendel longed to celebrate in the Chasidic manner by gathering with one's friends, making an account of the past year and good resolutions for the upcoming year, and by having a private audience with the Rebbe.

Reb Mendel's only "friends" in Siberia were the boorish Cossacks and political prisoners with whom he was exiled. A Chasidic gathering he could not make. But what he could do was to have a private audience with the Rebbe -- in his mind.

Reb Mendel made the customary spiritual preparations for the communing of his soul with the Rebbe's.

He then pictured himself writing a note to the Rebbe with all of his requests for blessings for the coming year. He imagined himself giving the note to the Rebbe and the Rebbe reading the note.

Then, in his mind's eye, the Rebbe assured him that everything would be well.

Reb Mendel felt encouraged and strengthened.

Years later, when Reb Mendel was released from Siberia, he joined his wife and children who had meanwhile moved to England.

One day, as Reb Mendel perused the correspondence that his wife had received from the Rebbe in his absence, he came across a telegram.

The telegram's date was the day after Reb Mendel's birthday, years before. The Rebbe had sent Mrs. Futerfas a telegram to notify her that, "I received your husband's letter..."

No distance, physical, spiritual, or medical, can separate a Jew from the Rebbe.

(a slightly different version: Years later, after he was released and united with his family, his wife showed him a strange letter that she had received from the Rebbe. The Rebbe had written her several letters but all were addressed to her and this one was addressed to Rav Mendel although he was in Siberia far from home at the time.

He read it and also at first didn’t understand, until he noticed that the date on the letter was the same as his birthday six years ago, the same day he had imagined his ‘Yechidus’. When he read it again he saw that it
contained answers to all the questions he asked, in the order that he had asked them. The Rebbe was with him.

Last edited by Jude; 03-02-2003 at 01:20 PM.
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Unread 02-10-2003, 09:56 PM   #9
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Reb Mendel Futerfas related:

“Once I was imprisoned in Russia on the night of Kol Nidrei, and observed the entire Yom Kippur within the walls of my cell. For the evening and morning prayers I succeeded somehow in saying the prayers by heart.

However, I only remembered a small part of the liturgical poems of musaf with difficulty, and it happened that I remembered ‘All are true believers.’ In the middle of reciting it, I was given pause by the thought “Is it really true that ‘all are true believers’? What of the evil communist regime? And the members of the ‘Jewish section’ of the party who actively uproot Torah: should they be called ‘believers’?”

Two weeks later they transferred me to a concentration camp, and there they squeezed me into a hall, where about sixty beds were crammed in tiers on the surrounding walls.

All the criminal offenders snatched the best places, and I was pushed into a corner. I tried to hide from these hoodlums, and since it was Shabbat night, I closed my eyes and immersed myself in the Shabbat prayers. After several minutes a mustached Uzbek with a powerful physique and a scarred face approached me and asked, “You are praying now, aren’t you?” I nodded.

“You should know that I am also a Jew! This year, for the first time in my life I fasted on Yom Kippur in prison, and I even prayed! Actually I don’t know a word of Hebrew, for even my father received a communist education, and I did not see a trace of Judaism in my father’s house; however, my grandfather taught me in my childhood to say Modeh ani.

Believe me, Mendel, I fasted all day, with my lips murmuring constantly: "Modeh ani . . . modeh ani . . .’“

“This was an answer from Heaven,” concluded Reb Mendel, “to my question concerning “All are true believers.”

(Excerpted from: Days Of Awe, Days Of Joy)
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Unread 02-10-2003, 09:58 PM   #10
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Reb Mendel Futerfas used to tell the following story of his youth:

The famous Chasid and mashpia, "Reb Itche der masmid" (may G-d avenge his blood), was one shliach who knew how to "sow ruchniyus and reap gashmiyus" during his fund-raising travels. It was said of Reb Itche that he prayed all day long, and at night farbrenged until dawn.

One time Reb Itche arrived in Nevel and immediately sat down to farbreng, as was his usual custom upon arrival in a new city. In those days the mashgiach of Chasidus at Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim-Nevel was the mashpia Rabbi Nissan Nemanov. Reb Nissan took his job seriously, and announced that no student would be allowed to interrupt his seder of learning in order to attend Reb Itche's farbrengen.

Reb Nissan Nemanov, however, was "also" a Chasid, and very much wanted to hear Reb Itche. Back and forth he paced in the study hall, the inner turmoil and conflicting emotions he was feeling visible on his face. In the end Reb Nissan could not control himself; his strong desire to hear Reb Itche won out over his obedience to rules and regulations. Making sure the bachurim were well immersed in their studies, Reb Nissan snuck out through a back door and ran to the home of Reb Shmuel Levitin, where Reb Itche's farbrengen was being held.

As soon as he had left, several bachurim, Reb Mendel Futerfas included, noticed his absence. Following his lead, they too closed their sefarim, left the zal and raced to join the farbrengen.

Of course, the bachurim could not exactly enter Reb Shmuel Levitin's house; they remained outside, hiding behind the doors and windows, and peeked in. But it didn't matter: the most important thing was to hear what was being said.

Indeed, what they overheard was Reb Itche directing his remarks primarily to Reb Nissan Nemanov, their mashgiach. Over and over Reb Itche kept repeating the same words: "Malchus hot doch oychet a gantze partzuf" (the sefirah of malchus also has a "complete partzuf"). Another Chasid who was present, Reb Zalman Moshe, kept nodding his head in agreement. "Yes, yes. Of course, of course!"

Now, Reb Nissan Nemanov was renowned far and wide for his outstanding quality of kabolas ol, the acceptance of the yoke of heaven. Before taking any action he would always try to demonstrate "iskafya": Rather than doing what he really wanted, Reb Nissan would always choose the path he found less personally desirable. His learning and his davening were similarly infused with kabolas ol. Hour after hour he would sit and commit chapters of Tanya and Chasidic maamarim to memory; in fact, Reb Nissan always said that a Chasid measures the distance between two locations by the number of chapters he can recite by heart during the journey... When Reb Nissan prayed, each word was uttered as if he were a soldier standing before his supreme commander; it was said that the Frierdike Rebbe had once called Reb Nissan "a ziser soldat" (a sweet soldier).

Yes, Reb Nissan was a tough character, demanding the same kabolas ol and obedience from others he demanded from himself. A person had to work hard at being a good Jew, without asking questions or taking personal preferences into consideration. People said that whenever Reb Nissan began to take pleasure in his learning he would close the sefer immediately: if he was learning nigleh, he would switch to Chasidus, and the other way around. The main point was never to allow the neshamah to experience too much enjoyment...

This character profile explains the reason Reb Itche was directing his comments to Reb Nissan. Yes, Reb Itche was saying, kabolas ol is the foundation and basis upon which the entirety of our avodah must rest, but dry and lifeless kabolas ol is not our goal. A person's intellect and emotions must be ignited in his service of G-d; a certain amount of enthusiasm and joy is required to serve Him properly. Even the sefirah of malchus, Reb Itche explained, the entire essence of which is pure kabolas ol and bittul (self-nullification), contains within it the characteristics of the other nine sefiros (the meaning of the word "partzuf," i.e., a sefirah containing other sefiros). Even the most absolute bittul and kabolas ol must be tempered with vitality, sweetness and enthusiasm, Reb Itche was telling him...
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Unread 02-10-2003, 10:08 PM   #11
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Reb Mendel once shared some of the plain wisdom of life. The wisdom of life coming from one who went through the Gulags and Russian prison cells. From the Chosid who was the heart and soul of the Jewish Underground back in the dark old days of Communist Russia and who endured many lifetimes of experience at the hands of our oppressors. He said in YIDDISH, oib m’farlirt di gelt, hot men gornisht farloren – gelt kumt, gelt geit- oib m’farlirt di gezunt hot men halb farloren, ober oib m’farlirt di MUT! hot men alles farloren.

“If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. Money comes, money goes. If you lose your health, you’ve lost half, you’re half the man you were if you haven’t got your gezunt. But if you lose your RESOLVE, your mut, you’ve lost it all!”
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Unread 02-12-2003, 01:28 PM   #12
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R' Tuvia Bolton relates:

When I first arrived in Israel over 25 years ago, before I got married, I learned in the Yeshiva in Kfar Chabad for a year.

Now, everyone knows that Chabad encourages outreach.

So early every Sunday morning I would catch a long passenger train filled with Israeli soldiers that stopped in Kfar Chabad, and put Tefillin on as many passengers as possible, and then get off at the last stop to catch the train back.

It so happened that early one Sunday morning Rabbi Mendel Futerfass, theHead of the Yeshiva, saw me rushing out the door and asked me where I was going.

Rav Mendel was over sixty years old, very impressive looking and had recently been released from over five years of hard labor in one of Stalin’s Siberian prison camps.

When I told him I was going to put Tefillin on soldiers in a train, without hesitating he said, "I want to go too."

I figured he was just being nice so I said, "Fine, Reb Mendel, G-d willing we’ll go together some time, but now I’m in a hurry."

"Good!" he answered, "Let's go!"

I was already late and it was a ten minute run, but he just said (and kept yelling at me all the way there) "You just run and don’t look back, I’ll make it, just don’t look back!!"

So I half-heartedly ran and miraculously I made it in time. But I figured that Rav Mendel didn’t have a chance (he also had troubles with his legs so it was hard for him to run).

The next thing I knew, he was pulling himself up the steep steps after me into the coach, and the train pulled out!

How he did it I never really figured out, but needless to say he was really out of breath, and as the train began moving he just motioned to me to give him some Tefillin and begin without him. So I gave him one of my four pairs, entered the first car and went to work.

The way it usually worked was that at first a few people would politely refuse until someone broke the ice and agreed, and then there would be a flood of takers.

But this time I was in for a surprise.

As expected the first man said no, as did the one sitting next to him.

But the third man, in a short, stocky, middle-aged, balding, beady eyed, bull necked, mean-looking fellow got angry...really angry.

In Israel there are a lot of people that really hate Judaism and religious Jews...and he was one of them.

His face became red like an apple, and the veins stood out on his neck. He squinted his eyes in hatred, leaned toward me to the edge of his seat, like any instant he would spring, and began hissing a string of menacing Israeli threats such as:

"T’oof MiKan Oh Ashbor l’chaw et HaPartzuf!" (lit. Bug off or I’ll break your face!) with appropriate Israeli gestures and motions.

I took the hint, forced a smile, and moved on.

Then someone in the middle of the car wanted to put on Tefillin, then another, and before I knew it all three pairs were in use.

Suddenly I remembered...Reb Mendel!

I had completely forgotten about him. Certainly he had caught his breath by now and would enter any minute. I had to save him from that bull-necked monster! Who knows what he might say (or do!!).

I whipped around in time to see that (Gevalt!) the worst was happening!

The first two men had refused him also, and Reb Mendel was beginning to lean over to speak to....Him!

I tried to catch Reb Mendel’s attention but to no avail.

"Our friend", reading a newspaper, saw Rav Mendel from the corner of his eye and began to twitch with rage.

Then one of the soldiers behind me called out, "Nu, Rabbi, how do I take off the Tefillin!" Then another, "Hallo! My turn, I want to put on!"

I quickly turned to them, removed the Tefillin from one and put it on the other, when suddenly the unmistakable high-pitched voice of Reb Mendel pierced through the noise of the crowd:

"I love you! You are my brother! Come, put on Tefillin! I love you!"

I shot a look over my shoulder and saw that Reb Mendel was reaching over the first two men, grabbing the arm of the amazed "beast" and was preparing to slide Tefillin on it.

Again the soldiers called me back, so I had to stop watching, and take care of the next set of customers.

I finished as fast as I could, and when I looked back toward where Reb Mendel was, I beheld one of the most amazing sights I'd ever seen in my life:

The same fearsome "wild man" that wanted to destroy me moments earlier was now rocking slightly back and forth, reading the SHEMA from a small page, with Tefillin on his arm and head. Reb Mendel was looking lovingly at him with the most angelic look on his face, like a mother hen at one of her chicks.

He had literally conquered him with love.
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Unread 02-16-2003, 12:06 AM   #13
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R' Mendel urged his talmidim to continue to go to the Rebbe, both after 27 Adar and after 3 Tamuz. He himself was on the way from Eretz Yisroel to go to the Rebbe in Elul, 5754, and took ill in London, where he stayed (with his son) until he passed away.
There were minyonim in his son's house, after which R' Mendel would participate in saying Yechi.
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Unread 02-16-2003, 12:52 PM   #14
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The mashpia Reb Mendel Futerfas, of blessed memory, once related:

Years ago I had a friend, a Chassidic Jew, who for decades had fought with great self-sacrifice to spread Torah and Yiddishkeit behind the Iron Curtain. One time, in the course of our conversation, he made an observation that was very perceptive. On the surface, it was only an offhand comment, but upon deeper reflection, I realized that it reveals something quite fundamental.

In his continual efforts to elude the K.G.B., my friend had the opportunity to attend many different shuls throughout the Soviet Union for the Yomim Nora’im. Some were Chassidic, some were non-Chassidic, and they followed all varieties of nuschaos of davening. His observation was as follows:

In every synagogue where Jews come together to pray, there are certain portions of the davening that are more "exciting" than others. Some prayers seem to spiritually arouse the congregation, while others do not elicit the same enthusiastic response.

Having visited a wide assortment of shuls, my friend detected a small but significant distinction between Chassidic and non-Chassidic kehilos. In non-Chassidic shuls, the most stirring parts of the davening were those that focused on Rosh HaShana as the Day of Judgment: "Today the world was created. On this day, all creations are subject to judgment"; "Who will live and who will die, who at his appointed time and who before his time, who by water and who by fire, etc."

By contrast, in Chassidic shuls, the spiritual arousal would climax during the recitation of "You are the King, the living and existing G-d"; "You alone, G-d, will reign"; and "King of the entire earth."

In fact, this tiny but significant difference actually expresses the innovation of Chassidus and the way it teaches us to relate to the entire High Holiday season.

If a Jew hasn’t studied Chassidus, no matter how frum or learned he is, he will look forward to the Yomim Nora’im with fear and trepidation. For how can he do anything else? On Rosh HaShana, the Holy One, blessed be He, the Creator of the universe, will put him under the microscope. The fate of the Jewish people and the entire world will hang in the balance. On Rosh HaShana, G-d gives every individual exactly what he deserves – reward to the righteous and punishment to the wicked.

The verdict on Rosh HaShana will affect everything in the coming year, every spiritual and material detail in the individual’s life: who will live and who will die, who will lead a tranquil existence and who will suffer. How can we stand in judgment before the One Who knows everything, and from Whom there is no escape? The Holy One, Blessed Be He cannot be bribed; how can we ever justify not having lived up to His expectations, given that "G-d only requires of a person according to his strength"? When we look at ourselves honestly, we all recognize our many failings and lack of perfection. It is only natural, therefore, that any believing Jew will be prompted to return to G-d in teshuva, to ensure that he be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet New Year.

For this reason, before the advent of Chassidus, the month of Elul was generally regarded with anxiety and dread, a time in which intensive efforts had to be made to appease the King before it was too late. People would walk around with downcast faces, weddings and other simchas would be postponed, and the emphasis was on begging and imploring G-d to overlook our sins and unworthiness and give us another chance.

Not that there is anything wrong with doing teshuva, of course; Chassidus certainly expounds upon the subject at great length. But with such a negative approach and outlook, there was nothing really all that joyful about the month of Elul. It was a depressing time! For who could say with confidence that he wouldn’t repeat his past mistakes, even if G-d were merciful and granted him a reprieve?

When a person knows that he is being judged and the verdict is crucial to his future, it is impossible for him to remain indifferent. The knowledge will motivate him to improve his behavior and correct his ways. At the same time, he will be very frightened and terrified of the outcome. Thus, it is not farfetched to say that if given a choice, such a person would willingly forgo the entire "unpleasant" experience of Elul and the Yomim Nora’im altogether!

Despite the fact that Rosh HaShana is the Day of Judgment, with all that that implies, Chassidim have always rejected the idea of Elul being in any way negative or depressing. The Kotzker Chassidim, who never refrained from using sharp language, used to relate such a negative perception of Elul to the word "elil," meaning idol, as we say in the Aleinu prayer, "…and false gods will be utterly destroyed." (Among Polish Jews, a shuruk, as in "Elul," is pronounced the same as a chirik – "elil.")

This entire approach stems from the narrow perception of our relationship with G-d as merely a contract between an employer and an employee: G-d’s part of the bargain is to create us and give us life and livelihood, while our obligation is to learn His Torah and fulfill His commandments. When we fail to live up to our responsibilities, we worry about how our Employer is going to react.

Chassidus, however, changes the whole way we relate to Hashem. More accurately, it reveals the underlying reality of the relationship by defining the eternal bond that exists between the Jew and G-d. Seen in this light, the Yomim Nora’im are neither sad nor depressing, but the happiest and most joyful days of the year. We are judged and we do have to correct whatever mistakes we’ve made, and a certain amount of regret and bitterness is certainly appropriate. But the most important thing to remember is that not only is the Judge before Whom we stand omnipotent and all-powerful, He is also all good, the essence of good itself, and "the nature of goodness is to extend goodness to others"!

On Rosh HaShana, it isn’t just any "employee" coming before the Judge; every Jew is an only child of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and if for whatever reason he has become estranged from his Father, now is the time to repair the rift. In Elul, the King goes out into the field to meet with His subjects, even to the most remote locations in His kingdom. (As the Rebbe has explained, this includes even those Jews who live in a "desert.") The King extends a warm and loving hand to every individual, helps him shake off the dirt that accumulated over the course of the year, and prepares him for entering the King’s own palace chamber. There, the King and his subject will become completely united, for the King’s essential love for him surpasses that of "elderly parents, whose only son was born in their old age."

Rosh HaShana is not only the Day of Judgment, but first and foremost the day on which we coronate the King. We implore our Father in Heaven: "Reign over the entire world in Your glory" and "L-rd our G-d, You are He Who alone will reign over all Your works." In the same way that a trumpet is blown when a mortal King is crowned, the "mitzva of the day" on Rosh HaShana is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn.
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Unread 02-16-2003, 01:33 PM   #15
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The mashpia, R’ Mendel Futerfas, a”h, related: “In the town of Chernovitz lived a Jew of Vizhnitz chassidic stock who had departed from the ways of his fathers somewhat. Although generally speaking he was observant, even if it took quite a bit of effort, he did not withstand the test when it came to not shaving his beard, and used a
razor, r”l.”

R’ Mendel explained the severity of the issur to him, and tried to
convince him to at least get an electric shaver, which some authorities permit, but the man refused since electric shavers were
very expensive.

R’ Mendel once told him: “Listen here! Eating pork involves one transgression, but when you shave your beard with a razor you are
transgressing five prohibitions! So it turns out that each time you shave
your beard it’s like you ate pork five times!”

The man listened and was greatly affected, but not in a positive way. On
the one hand, not shaving in Soviet Russia was too great a test for him to withstand. On the other hand, he simply couldn’t afford an electric
shaver (at least, that’s what he thought), and that’s why he felt so hurt. He was so upset with R’ Mendel that he refused to talk to him.

R’ Mendel was most perturbed by this state of affairs and he decided on
another approach. He used his own money and bought an electric shaver
for the man. With shaver in hand he approached him and said, “See, I
bought this for you. You can pay me back over time, in many installments, all I ask of you is: do not use a

The man, who was really a G-d-fearing Jew at heart, accepted the
shaver from R’ Mendel with great emotion and promised to pay him
back when he would be able to do so. He warmly thanked him for his
concern, and they became friendly once again.

“Now I understand the Chazal in P’sachim,” the man said, “which says
that the amei ha’aretz would say: ‘Give me a Torah scholar and I’ll bite
him like a donkey.’ How could a Jew say a thing like that about a Torah
scholar? The answer is that the talmidei chachamim are at fault, for they express themselves like the amei ha’aretz! “You have to know how to talk to a Jew! When you don’t speak properly, even if what you say is true, it can cause damage and even bring a person to anger and sharp words.

“So when you told me that every time I shave with a razor it’s like
eating pork five times, I was beside myself! I try to do the best I can, and sometimes I endure suffering to the point of mesirus nefesh in order not to eat forbidden things. Suddenly you come along and tell me that each time I transgress it’s like eating pork five times!

“How did you expect me to deal with you after that? You really hurt
me, more than if you had stabbed me, and that’s why I reacted the way I did. “However, when you tried a different approach and spoke in a
warm and friendly manner and put tremendous effort into helping me
withstand the test, I enthusiastically agreed to behave properly. I even
thanked you from the depths of my heart for the kindness you did for

“Like I said, you must watch out and think twice about how to say
something without hurting another person’s feelings. Otherwise, you may
not get the desired result: ‘Give me a talmid chacham and I’ll bite him like a donkey.'
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Unread 02-23-2003, 01:31 PM   #16
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A prominent non-Lubavitcher rabbi once asked Reb Mendel, "Tell me the truth, do you really believe that the Rebbe is as great a tzadik as the Baal Shem Tov?"

Said Reb Mendel, "You remind me of the K.G.B. interrogator who made my life so miserable when I was in Russian prison. Day after day he bombarded me with questions, but one time he must have been in a particularly good mood. "Tell me the truth Mr. Futerfas. You're an intelligent person. Do you really think Moses waved his staff over the water and the sea split? Do you really believe that?"
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Unread 02-24-2003, 02:48 PM   #17
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Reb Mendel related: Once I stayed with a family in the Soviet Union during my various travels fleeing from the government. A frightful accident happened then. The lady of the house who was sleeping with her baby woke up in the middle of the night and to her horror realized that the baby was lifeless. Evidently she had suffocated it accidentally.

From my bed I heard her pacing back and forth, repeating incessantly to herself, "What have I done? What have I done?"

This continued for hours and then she began to ask herself, "What do I do now? What do I do now?"

On that difficult night two stages of teshuva became vividly concrete for me: charata al ha'ovar (regret for the past: "What have I done?") and kabbala al ha'asid (a good resolution for the future - "What do I do now?")
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Unread 02-25-2003, 03:45 PM   #18
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Immediately after the miraculous Six-day war in 1967 the Lubavitcher Rebbe began ‘Mission Tefillin’; all Chabad Chassidim were to take to the streets and put Tefillin on any Jew that was willing.

The idea of approaching non-religious strangers in the street with a request to do a religious act, and such a complicated one at that, was unheard of (and even today only Chabad is ‘crazy’ enough to do it)and no one knew exactly how to take it. Meetings were made throughout Israel to discuss the issue, and the Chassidim in Kfar Chabad made a big ‘Farbrengen’ .

That night the main speaker was Rabbi Mendel Futerfas, a salty Chassid and the spiritual director of the main Yeshiva, who had spent many years imprisoned in Siberia for his Jewish outreach activities. That entire night he and everyone present tried to bring examples or possible explanations for this totally unorthodox, seemingly unacceptable idea, with no success.

Then he remembered a story that he heard when he was a prisoner fifteen years earlier. From everything he heard and saw in the six years he was in Siberia, Rav Mendel tried to learn a lesson in the service of G-d, and usually he succeeded. (He once told me that the reason that the Tzadik Rav Zusia of Anipoli said that it’s possible to learn seven positive lessons in the service of G-d from a thief [sefer ‘ha'Yom Yom’ pg. 107] is because he never sat in prison. But if he had sat in prison he would have learned thousands of things!) But there was one story that, try as he could, he couldn’t figure out what was the spiritual point …. until now.

The prisoner telling the story had been a deep-sea diver in the Czar’s navy, imprisoned now by the Communists, and his story was as follows: “It occasionally happened that one of the ships of the Czar’s navy would sink, sometimes because of a storm at sea, or because it struck a rock, or sometimes in battle.

"Now, ships are worth a lot of money, just the metal and the equipment alone were often worth millions, so the navy developed a means to lift the ship from the ocean floor so it could be towed to shore and fixed or at least partially salvaged. And that's where I came in.

"What they would do is situate two towing-ships on the sea above where the sunken ship was. Each ship would lower a long, thick chain with a huge hook on the end, and I would dive down, attach one hook to the front and the other to the rear of the sunken ship. Then the towing-ships would reel in their chains, lift the sunken one from the ocean floor and tow it in to shore.

“Now, this was all fine when the sunken ship had been under for less than a month or so, but after that the ship began to rust and the hooks would bring up only huge chunks of iron, leaving the rest of the ship behind.

“So someone developed a brilliant idea. The two tugboats, instead of lowering just one chain each, would spread a huge, hollow, rubber mat with thick rubber walls over the place where the sunken ship was. Inside the entire length of the mat was a large flat sheet of steel with several hundred steel ropes attached to it. The ropes ran though special airtight holes in the lower rubber wall in a way that no water could get in and no air would escape, and at the end of each dangling rope was a hook.

“My job was to go down with a few other divers, lower the mat, spread it over the sunken ship and attach the hooks to as many places as possible. Then a motor on one of the two tugboats would pump air into the mat and slowly inflate it. It began to pull upwards until … WHOOPA!! suddenly the entire ship lifted at once and could be towed to dry land.”

“Just now I began to understand the story,” said Rav Mendel. “The ship is like the Jewish people, rusty and falling apart because they have been sunk in exile for almost two thousand years.

"The Rebbe’s idea is to save the ship and we Chassidim, are the Rebbe’s deep-sea divers. We have to attach a hook to every single Jew … put Tefillin on as many Jews as possible, and then when enough ‘hooks’ are attached …WHOOPA!!! HaShem will pull everyone up TOGETHER.”
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Unread 02-25-2003, 04:04 PM   #19
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One of the prisoners in Rav Mendel’s camp was an old Cossack imprisoned because of his loyalty to the Czar. Although the Cossacks were usually rabid anti-Semites, ‘misery loves company’. One long cold Siberian winter night, when they were sitting in the barracks (the guards were afraid to let them work outside in the dark) he opened his heart to Rav Mendel and began reminiscing about....his horse.

When he spoke his eyes became moist and his voice filled with emotion.

"Aaahhh!!! A Cossack horse!!! There is nothing in creation like a Cossack horse!!!! A regular horse in Russia cost one month’s wages - five rubles. A workhorse cost up to ten. But a Cossack horse cost five hundred, six hundred rubles!!

You see, the Cossack horse was different than all other horses, incomparably different! A Cossack’s horse had a different heart.

Not only it would do anything for its master; jump into fire, over trees and even houses. Anything. And it was stronger, faster, and braver than anything alive.

But most of all, it had a different heart.

"I will explain," continued the Cossack, pausing and drawing deeply on a cigarette.

“How did they catch a Cossack horse? Do you know? Well I will tell you, this is a story!”

He exhaled and leaned back in his chair as the smoke was pouring from his mouth and nostrils.

"The Cossacks were experts at this. There was a special group that would wander the mountains and fields on horseback looking for herds of wild horses.

This was very important because a Cossack without a horse is like a Cossack without legs, like a cripple, do you understand?

Then, if they were lucky and found a large herd, say of a thousand, two thousand horses. They would stampede them and get them all running in the direction of the nearest river. Like I say, they were great experts, and sometimes they would run for days until they got there, but when they did they would start screaming and shooting their guns in the air and force the herd into the widest, deepest part of the river. You see, horses can swim, and so they had to get over, through the current to the other side, or die.

Now, on the other side was waiting another group of Cossacks. The whole thing was planned from the beginning, and they would watch to see what the horses did.

There were always three types of horses; the majority were the regular horses that would make it to the other side and run away to live their lives. Then there were older horses that couldn’t get across and would
unfortunately drown. And there were the young horses, that had the stamina so they didn’t get tired, but didn’t have the strength to cross over, so they just floundered in the middle of the river."

His voice became serious, and he sat a bit straighter.

"But sometimes... Not always, but sometimes, there was a fourth type; maybe only one or two at the most, that were sort of crazy horses.

They would make it across, but instead of running away, they would turn around, look back into the river to see if there were horses in trouble and then jump BACK in to save them."

There were tears in his eyes now, he was leaning forward with arms outstretched as though grasping for the past.

"They would swim to the young horses, grab them with their teeth by their mane and start dragging them in. They just couldn’t stand to see their fellow horses in danger.

The Cossacks would throw some paint on these special horses and chase them for days until they caught them. Then it would take several months of hard work until they trained them. But the main thing was the heart; it was a horse with a heart.

This was a Cossack’s horse!!!"

Rav Mendel said that he immediately got the point.

The Cossack’s horse is a Chassid.

A Chassid has to be ‘crazy’ and risk everything for his fellow man; he can’t stand to see his brother in danger of drowning. He can’t bear to just live for himself; learn Torah and do the commandments just in order to cross the river of life and get into heaven.

A Chassid has a different heart. And this is the secret of “brotherly love” that the Baal Shem Tov strived to teach.
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Unread 02-25-2003, 10:02 PM   #20
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R' Mendel Futerfas would ask, "What is a misnaged?" when in a merry mood, and then he would answer, "A misnaged is someone who believes in Hashem only because the Rambam says so and the Raavad doesn't disagree with him. (The misnaged goes on excitedly to say: and I have yet another proof that G-d does indeed exist, and more evidence, and another sign ...).

"According to this approach, everything must begin with the Torah and must have a Torah source. The only reason we believe in G-d is because the Torah tells us to, because it's written in the Rambam and the Raavad raises no questions ... Otherwise, we would have no basis for emuna or bitachon in the existence of H"KBH.

"True," Reb Mendel would point out, "everything begins with Torah and must have a source in Torah, but there's a certain level on which the Jew believes in G-d that precedes even the Torah! Don't get nervous; there's nothing wrong in saying this. A Jew doesn't believe in G-d just because it's written about in our holy sefarim. On the contrary, our belief in Torah stems from and derives its authority only from our emuna! The belief in G-d is inherent in the neshama of every single Jew; it is therefore above the level of Torah and precedes it. (Of course, it is through the Torah that this belief is more fully revealed and has its desired effect)."

"How can you say that?" an indignant voice is heard. "I come and prove to you that G-d exists by showing you explicit proof in the Torah, "the Toras emes," and the "Toras chayim," and you offer me emotion? Isn't it preferable to build our foundation upon the sources and explanations found in our holy Torah?"

In truth though, I think anyone can understand that a person whose belief in G-d is based solely on the fact that the Raavad doesn't dispute the Rambam's assertion, has a serious problem in emuna, and a serious flaw in his connection with the Aibershter ...

This is not to say that our belief doesn't have a source in Torah, chas v'shalom, just that a Jew's emuna isn't subject to intellectual considerations, to shakla v'tarya and Talmudic pilpul. That's not emuna. Emuna is absolute, as the Previous Rebbe stated, "Azoy, un nit anderesh! (That's just the way it is).

Last edited by Jude; 04-13-2003 at 12:53 PM.
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Unread 02-27-2003, 02:21 PM   #21
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It was a terrible time in Russia, a time of great want and almost a complete lack of the basic necessities of life. Millions of people literally hungered for a scrap of bread but found nothing to still their pangs of hunger. Given the circumstances it was obviously difficult to obtain sefarim. There was a severe shortage of sifrei kodesh, especially sifrei Chasidus.

One time, said Reb Mendel, I noticed Reb Shlomo der Geller, one of the greatest Chasidim and a talmid of the famous Rashbatz, rummaging around in the sheimos pile. I watched as he took pages and half-pages of a maamar (each page having no connection to the others)from 'sheimos' (unusable holy books are not thrown away but rather kept in a special bin until they are buried) bound them together and would spend hours reading. When Rav Mendel saw this, he asked his friend how could he read pieces of a page without knowing what was written before and afterward.

R' Shlomo answered, "There are three dimensions in Torah: Some people learn for the sake of learning, for the comprehension and understanding of the Torah's wisdom. Others learn Torah not so much for the understanding that is derived but with the intent of serving Hashem through the effort and labor involved in Torah study, the subjugation of the intellect to the Divine.

There is a third level, that of learning the osiyos ha'Torah, the letters of Torah in to which Hashem has invested His very essence. The letters of the Torah contain the essence of its holiness. Studying Torah in this manner comes from the inner recesses of the neshama, a level which supersedes chochma. In this way a Jew connects himself to Hashem's essence, above the limitations of understanding and above the efforts of the individual.

So what do I care if I understand what is written or not? What do I care if the pages are torn, or if there's no discernible connection between sentences or phrases? The words themselves contain Hashem's essence! On the contrary, the more I don't understand, the more I am able to grasp that essence!"

"If you have the essence, the 'light' of Torah," Reb Mendel used to say, "a little goes a long way. Even when circumstances beyond your control dictate that you can devote only a short amount of time to Torah study, it doesn't matter if you have the essence, for Hashem's essence isn't something that is subject to measure.

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Unread 03-02-2003, 12:53 PM   #22
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Reb Mendel related:

One time when I was still a young boy (before bar mitzva) I had occasion to accompany the gaon Rabbi Zalman Shimon Dvorkin on his way to shul where he was going to teach Chasidus. Although R' Zalman Shimon would later serve as mara d'asra in many locations, at that time he was still a 19 year old bachur in Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim, albeit one who was already proficient in Shas and Poskim. Everyone said he had a great future ahead of him.

In any event, while we were walking we happened to pass an outdoor cafe. The tables and chairs were full of emptyheaded young men sitting and smoking cigarettes and talking foolishness. As soon as they saw us, two yeshiva bachurim, they decided we were an easy target and started to curse and make fun of us. We made believe we didn't hear them and continued walking.

Halfway down the block however, R' Zalman Shimon changed his mind. Doing an aboutface, he marched right back to where those hooligans were loafing and vehemently quoted to them the second verse of Shir Ha'Shirim with several appropriate additions.

I was shocked. "Is that how a Tamim is supposed to behave? I asked him accusingly. Why did you go back? Why was it necessary to stoop to their level?"

"I'll tell you," Reb Zalman Shimon replied. "At first I was of the same mind as you, thinking that it made no sense to respond and that the best thing to do was ignore them. But then I remembered something I once heard from the Rebbe, that when one encounters people who mock and ridicule Torah and mitzvos, one must fulfill the halacha of "and do not be embarrassed in front of those who scorn," and quote the second verse of Shir Ha'Shirim ... The only reason I went back was to fulfill the Rebbe's words."
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Unread 03-02-2003, 12:57 PM   #23
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Reb Mendel would explain what "Amalek" is as follows:

"A Cossack could kill Jews all day, but at night he would get drunk and cry. Never mind that the next day he would continue killing. But he did it because he was an animal and his murder was from fury. But when the Germans came it was completely different. A German could spend hours killing Jews, take a cigarette break, wipe off his boots and resume."
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Unread 03-02-2003, 01:18 PM   #24
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In Siberia it was permissible for prisoners to receive parcels from home. The most important parcel of the year was the one before Pesach containing Matzos and enough food for the eight days of the holiday.

But the first Pesach he was there, although Rav Mendel’s wife sent the package months earlier, it didn’t arrive.

So Rav Mendel went the entire eight days on a diet of water and a few sugar cubes.

(True, he could have eaten, say, potatoes cooked in a not-Kosher pot in order to save his life, but he wasn’t thinking about his life, he just couldn’t bring himself to even come near something not Kosher, especially on Pesach.)

Miraculously he didn’t die, but when his package did arrive weeks later, he was so traumatized by his experience that he immediately took a piece of Matza broke it into several pieces, wrapped it in newspaper and never let it out of his possession the entire duration of his exile.

It seems that the thing that affected him the most from his ordeal was not the fact that he almost starved to death but that he couldn’t fulfill the mitzvah of eating Matza.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 01:46 PM   #25
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In the period following Zach Adar 5752, the mashpia Reb Mendel Futerfas would often repeat the famous saying of Reb Itche "Der Masmid," (R' Yitzchok Horowitz, may Hashem avenge his blood) uttered years ago when, to the fleshly eye, it appeared as if the Rebbe Rayatz had lost his power of speech. "The Rebbe isn’t sick!" Reb Itche had explained. "Der Rebbe iz gezunt! The world is just too megusham (coarse) to be able to hear him."

As Reb Mendel used to bring out, Reb Itche’s message was that whenever we perceive any kind of “defect” in the Rebbe, we must realize that the imperfection lies in us and not in the Rebbe, G-d forbid. The Rebbe is “ashir be’eztem” – essentially well off – and the concept of defect or imperfection just doesn’t apply to him. In the truest sense of all, the Rebbe is well, and can speak as much or as little as he wishes. The problem lies entirely in the world’s being so “megusham” that it cannot perceive this.

Whenever Reb Mendel related this he would burst into tears. A few minutes later he would recover his composure and sing a joyous niggun. Then he would start crying again…

Reb Mendel would also repeatedly emphasize the necessity of having emuna not only in Hashem but in chachomim and tzaddikim, which is why it states "Moshe commanded us the Torah" and "Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant," even though the Torah is obviously Hashem’s. Only when a Jew has one hundred percent faith in "Moshe Rabbeinu," when he is completely connected to the Rebbe, can he have true faith in Hashem. If, G-d forbid, his emuna in Moshe Rabbeinu is flawed, his emuna in Hashem is also defective.

Last edited by Jude; 03-07-2003 at 12:39 PM.
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