Printed from ChabadIndiana.org

Rabbi Zalmanov's Blog

This Blog constitutes primarily of articles written by Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov in various publications.

You are welcome to join in the conversation.

A different Type of Inspiration

There are many inspirational parts of the Rosh Hashanah services, and different people find meaning in different things.

This year my inspiration came in the form of a young thirteen-year-old boy. But let’s back up a bit…

Attendance at services everywhere on the second day of Rosh Hashanah is often much lower than the first day. In the past, we’ve struggled to even get a minyan, so this year I asked the principal of the Chabad school in Chicago—where our kids attend (about an hour away)—if there were any “out of town” post-bar mitzvah boys that would be interested in joining us for Rosh Hashanah.

Turns out there are quite a few, kids whose parents are Chabad emissaries in communities around the world. They live with local families during the year so that they can attend school, and two of these young men, both just past their bar mitzvahs, were indeed willing to spending the holiday with us.

Having them with us gave me some peace of mind, knowing that our chance of having a minyan for all the prayers was now much greater. But then it got even better, as one of the boys turned out to be a Kohen.

A highlight of the service is the traditional Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, and despite our two regular Kohens being away for the holiday, we would not have to miss it.

Because this young man was our only Kohen, when it came time for him deliver the special blessing, he got up at the front of the synagogue covered himself in a tallit and chanted the sweet melody of Birkat Kohanim before the entire congregation.

So many thoughts were going through my mind at the time, but it wasn’t until later that the specialness of that moment dawned on me. A boy, whose family is hundreds of miles away, came to Indiana to ensure that we had a minyan; and to top it off, he delivered the most beautiful blessing. He did not complain that he wasn’t with his family for the holiday, and he most certainly did not shy away from getting up and blessing everyone.

We benefited from his selflessness, something he no doubt picked up from his parents, committed Chabad emissaries in their own community. The Lubavitcher Rebbe instilled in his followers a unique love for fellow Jews, and as we impart this to our children, we are guaranteed that future generations of our people will be in good hands.

(This article originally appeared in The Times of Israel.)

Don't just sit there

A man was once traveling by foot in the Russian countryside in middle of winter. As he was starting to feel numb from the cold, a fellow Jew pulled up in a wagon and offered him a ride.

The driver was a whiskey merchant, and the wagon was transporting barrels to the next town for sale. Grateful for the reprieve from the bitter cold, the traveler climbed into the coach and tried to get comfortable amongst the barrels. He very quickly realized that it was just as cold in the wagon as it was outside.

He looked around the coach and the irony did not escape him. “Here I sit,” he thought to himself, “surrounded by all this whiskey, yet I am shivering in my boots. If only some of the whiskey would go into me—just one sip—I would warm up immediately.”

I often think of this story during the holiday of Sukkos. According to Kabbalah, fulfilling the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah achieves extraordinary spiritual feats, akin to being encompassed by the sefirah of Binah. In fact, this is similar to every mitzvah we perform. In addition to the physical act of the mitzvah and its reward, there is a spiritual accomplishment every time we fulfil G-d’s will.

But if that is the case, one may wonder why it isn’t always felt. We don’t usually experience any great revelation from performing a mitzvah. Of course we know that just doing what G-d commanded us is enough of an accomplishment. But wouldn’t it be nice to actually feel the holiness of the mitzvah? 

So, on Sukkos we sit outdoors, sometimes in the cold, and wonder to ourselves, “I’m surrounded by this beautiful mitzvah of sukkah. But wouldn’t it be nice if some of it actually went inside of me?”

And the answer is yes! That is precisely the purpose of the sukkah. Don’t just sit there looking at the walls. Bring it inside you. Internalize it. Learn to appreciate the uniqueness of this holiday, what each part of the observance represents, and how it can make us better Jews.

Every mitzvah we do has special characteristic. We can choose to let is surround us without us being affected, or we can make part of who we are.

Using the above story as a metaphor, open the barrel, fill a shot glass of whiskey and warm yourself up. L’chaim!

(This article originally appeared in The Jewish Press.) 

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.