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What I Learned From A Thief


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In 2003 I traveled for three weeks with my friend Rabbi Levi Gopin to Saxony-Anhalt in Germany. Our mission was to meet Jews in the cities of Magdeburg, Halle and Dessau. The Jews we met were Russian Jews who, because of Germany welcoming all Jews, were given free housing and living expenses. The Germans didn't want the big cities to get overcrowded with immigrants, so for the first few years, the government decides in which city these immigrants should live. And that's how these Jews ended up in these cities.

After meeting a ninety something year old Jew I would walk out of the apartment thinking to myself: "Isn't this amazing? We just met this Jew, we had a difficult time conversing, his broken German and our Yiddish. Yet he put on Tefilin and maybe after 70 years of anti-religious communism this will be his only Jewish experience? G-d arranged this one meeting between us and him, to put on Tefilin maybe for the only time in his life! And how much longer will this Jew even live? It seems so small, a short encounter, one "small" Mitzvah and little communication. Yet to me it was huge!

This week’s video is an inspiration from an entry in the Chassidic calendar HaYom Yom written by the Rebbe, Rabbi Schneersohn, in 1943. It is the entry on the Hebrew date, 3 Iyar:

"We can learn how to serve G-d better from all behavior-traits, even those that are no-good or even evil. All based on the Torah’s teachings.

"For example, the righteous Rabbi Meshulam Zusya of Anipoli, of blessed memory, learned a number of methods of serving G-d - from a thief: 1) He works quietly without others knowing. 2) He is ready to place himself in danger. 3) The smallest detail is of great importance to him. 4) He labors with great toil. 5) Alacrity. 6) He is confident and optimistic. 7) If he did not succeed the first time, he tries again and again." -HaYom Yom entry to 3 Iyar

There is much to think about in this short saying. These are 7 ideas to meditate on, each one can be life transforming. The one that I thought about the most when I read it this week was "The smallest detail is of great importance to him." 

This is one of the things our teacher, the Rebbe, Rabbi Schneersohn taught us: the importance of every action and every Mitzvah, no matter how small it may seem. And this is one of the guiding lights for a Chabad man or woman standing on a street corner asking a passerby "excuse me sir, are you Jewish?" Just to do a onetime side-of-the-road hit-and-run Tefilin! Or to impress upon a Jewish woman or girl to light Shabbat candles for even one time. Because even if they seem like small things, even “the smallest detail is of the greatest importance”.

In life we seem to get caught up in the "big things" and we don't really pay attention to the "small stuff". I'm Jewish, I go to High Holiday services. I keep Passover. Those are the big Jewish stuff. What about the day to day stuff? Doing a onetime Mitzvah or putting just a few coins in a charity box every day? That's small stuff. Are they that important?

And that is what my friend Levi and I were doing in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany; one Jew and one Mitzvah at a time. Because every robber knows, one little mistake and he is finished! So what "small" Mitzvah can I do today?

 

 

A Different Perspective on Challenges

The inspiration for this video I got from Psalms 147.

"Who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds...
"Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who causes the mountains to sprout grass."
147:3,8

"Rabbi, When I Ate My Cheeseburger..."

A guy calls up his Rabbi and says "When I ate my cheeseburger, I..." Cheeseburgers are not kosher yet find out how I was inspired by this guy! And please let me know what you think!

Eat Matzah and get out of Egypt

What is the connection between going free and eating Matzah? 

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