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Tuesday, January 16, 2018 29 Tevet 5778



24 Teves
In 1812 Napoleon’s Grande Armée invaded Russia, with the self-proclaimed “liberator’s” aim to bring the whole of Europe under his hegemony. Around that time, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi wrote to one of his disciples:
If Bonaparte will be victorious, Jewish wealth will increase, and the prestige of the Jewish people will be raised; but their hearts will disintegrate and be distanced from their Father in Heaven. But if Alexander will be victorious, although Israel’s poverty will increase and their prestige will be lowered, their hearts will be joined, bound and unified with their Father in Heaven. And this shall be your sign: in the near time, the apple of your eyes will be taken from you . . 
The chassid to whom this letter was addressed, Rabbi Moshe Maizlish of Vilna, was no mere bystander to these events. At Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s behest, Reb Moshe served as a spy for the Russians, passing on information he picked up in the French general command, where he worked as an interpreter, to the czar’s generals.

When Napoleon’s advancing armies approached Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s hometown of Liadi, the Rebbe was forced to flee. The rebbe left Liadi with sixty wagons carrying his extended family and many of his chassidim, escorted by a troop of soldiers attached to the convoy by express order of the czar.
A few miles out of Liadi, the rebbe suddenly requested from the officers accompanying the convoy that they provide him with a light carriage, two good horses, and two armed drivers. Taking along some of his own people, the rebbe rushed back to Liadi. Upon arriving back at his own home, he instructed that a careful search be made to see if any of his personal items had been left behind. After a thorough search, a pair of worn-out slippers, a rolling pin and a kneading bowl were found in the attic. The rebbe instructed that these be taken along, and that the house be set on fire. He then blessed the inhabitants of the town, and quickly departed.
No sooner did the rebbe leave the town than the first scouts of the French army entered Liadi from the other side. Shortly thereafter, Napoleon himself, accompanied by his generals, arrived at the rebbe’s residence, only to find the house engulfed in flames. A proclamation was issued throughout the town and the surrounding villages promising a generous reward in golden coins to anyone who could produce an object belonging to the Jewish rabbi, or a coin he had received from the rebbe’s hand. But nothing was found.

For more than five months, as Napoleon advanced across Russia, took Moscow, and then embarked on his disastrous retreat, the Rebbe’s entourage wandered from town to town and from village to village, only narrowly avoiding the swath of carnage cut by the French army as it moved through the country.
Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, winter of 1812–1813
Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, winter of 1812–1813
The rebbe rode in the third wagon. In the first wagon sat his grandson, Rabbi Nachum, with two military officers. Whenever they would arrive at a crossroads, the entire procession would halt while Rabbi Nachum walked to the third wagon to asked Rabbi Schneur Zalman which way to proceed. At times, the rebbe would reply without moving from his seat; other times, he would walk to the crossroads, lean on his staff, and meditate for a while before issuing his directive.
On one occasion, Rabbi Nachum erred in his understanding of the rebbe’s instruction, and the convoy took the wrong turn. When the error was revealed, Rabbi Schneur Zalman instructed that they continue along the road already taken, but said with great regret in his voice: “How fortunate it is when the grandson follows the grandfather; how unfortunate it is when the grandfather must follow the lead of the grandson.”
Many trials and tribulations followed that wrong turn in the road, culminating in their arrival in the town of P’yene.

The Rebbe’s convoy arrived in P’yene in the dead of winter, on the 8th day of Tevet, 5573 (December 1812). P’yene was a good-sized town, consisting of some three hundred large houses and courtyards, many of which were empty as the men were away at war. The generous townspeople provided housing and kindling free of charge to the refugees.
Ten days later, the Rebbe became ill. On 24 Tevet, motzaei Shabbat (Saturday night) following Shabbat Parshat Shemot, at 10:30 in the evening, after reciting the havdalahprayer marking the close of the holy Shabbat, he returned his soul to its Maker.
Shortly before his passing (by one account, “after havdalah, several minutes before giving up his soul in purity to G‑d”) the Rebbe penned a short discourse titled “The Humble Soul.”
“For the truly humble soul,” Rabbi Schneur Zalman wrote, “its mission in life lies in the pragmatic aspect of Torah, both in studying it for oneself and explaining it to others, and in doing acts of material kindness in lending an empathizing mind and counsel from afar regarding household concerns, though the majority, if not all, of these concern things of falsehood . . . For although the divine attribute of Truth argued that man should not be created, since he is full of lies, the divine attribute of Kindness argued that he should be created, for he is full of kindnesses . . . And the world is built upon kindness.”

* * *

10 Shevat
Friday, January 26, is the 10th of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It is the anniversary of the passing of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and the anniversary of the Rebbe's leadership of world Jewry.
On the first anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's passing, the present Rebbe delivered the very first Chasidic discourse of his reign, beginning with the words from the Song of Songs, "I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride."
Quoting the Midrash, the Rebbe explained that when the world was first created, "The Divine Presence was primarily in the lower worlds." For the next seven generations, mankind's evil deeds caused a gradual withdrawal of the Divine Presence from the physical world, until it reached the "seventh [and furthermost] firmament."
"And then, seven righteous men arose, who would draw the Divine Presence back down toward earth." The process continued, "Until Moses brought the Divine Presence back down into this world."
Moses led the Jewish people to Mount Sinai, where G-d's Presence was openly revealed and the ability to unite the upper and lower worlds was granted. At Sinai, G-d turned to the Jewish people, His "sister and bride," and declared, "I have come into my garden."
The Rebbe then paralleled the seven generations of the righteous with the seven generations of Chabad Rebbes. The Rebbe, with his prophetic vision, unambiguously delineated the unique responsibility of our generation, the "seventh generation," to complete G-d's "dwelling place down below" by establishing Moshiach's reign.
On that day, the Rebbe declared himself at the service of the entire Jewish nation, dedicating himself to the portentous task of completing the Divinely ordained historical mission of the Jewish people. The Rebbe reaches out to every single Jew, to awaken the Jewish spark that can never be extinguished. His every movement and action has consistently expressed the promise of the new age that will soon commence. The Rebbe elevated the world to a higher spiritual level and readied it for the dawn of the Messianic Age.
May we immediately see the fulfillment of our generation's mission: the full and complete Redemption with the revelation of Moshiach NOW!
(To read more about this special day, see current issue of Reaching Out).  

* * *

The Promise
By Avraham Jacobson 
Like every young couple, Ronni and Esther Navon looked forward to having children. As the years went by they began to worry. They went from doctor to doctor, each one telling the couple that medical science had nothing to offer them.
In the summer of 1991, Ronny and Esther moved from Israel to Queens, New York, where Esther's parents live.
On the first Sunday after they moved, Ronny went to the Rebbe to ask for a blessing for children. "When I stood in his presence." relates Ronni, "I was seized by an uncontrollable inner trembling. 'We have been married seven years and we still don't have children. We ask that the Rebbe bless us with children.' The Rebbe gave me two dollars with his assurance: 'b'karov mamash-really soon.'"
Ronni returned twice in the next month. This second time the Rebbe handed him two dollars, again saying, "b'karov mamash." The next time the Rebbe gave him two dollars with the assurance of "besurot tovot-good news."
"I went back to the Rebbe a fourth time. This time the Rebbe gazed at me with especially penetrating eyes. When I finished my request, he took out three dollars and gave me the first one and said, 'This is for you.' Then he gave me a second dollar and said, 'This is for your wife.' When the Rebbe gave me the third dollar, he said, 'And this is for the children who will be born.'
"After this explicit promise I didn't have a shadow of a doubt that we would have children. My joy knew no bounds. My wife and I fully believed in what the Rebbe had said, and we decided to buy a stroller as a concrete expression of our faith and to make a 'vessel' for the Rebbe's blessing. I thought that if the Rebbe had promised children, in the plural, it seemed we were going to have twins. So we bought a double stroller."
Ronni opened a business in the Rebbe's neighborhood, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, called Union Limousine Service. Months went by. Years went by.
"They were very difficult years, years that tested our faith, but thank G-d, we can say we withstood the test. We were 100% convinced that the blessing of the tzadik of our generation would be fulfilled.
"Two years ago," continued Ronni, "when we moved, Esther momentarily hesitated about whether to take the stroller with us. I told her that the stroller was a sign of our strong faith in the Rebbe's blessing and that we would take it to our new home."
In order to make additional "vessels" for the Rebbe's blessing, Ronni made good resolutions in a number of areas, especially in the Rebbe's suggestion to study each day Chitas (a portion of the Torah, Psalms and Tanya) and Maimonides' Mishne Torah. I learned the Rebbe's and Rebbetzin's chapters of Psalms by heart, and often while traveling I would say them and feel a special closeness to the Rebbe," he says.
"In my work at the car service I make sure that every car is equipped with a charity box and a Chitas as per the Rebbe's instructions years ago. In general, I tried to use my work at the car service as a means of disseminating the Rebbe's messages. When I drive I often hear people's stories. People tell me their problems and I tell them about the Rebbe's various campaigns, for whoever fulfills them merits much blessings and success. I am sure that over the years I have gotten hundreds of people to check their tefilin and mezuzot and to take on new mitzvot.
"More than anything else, I tried to talk to my passengers about the importance of loving a fellow Jew, the mitzva that is considered a great principle of the Torah. In recent years I've written to the Rebbe regarding a blessing for children and have put these requests in the Igrot Kodesh (volumes of the Rebbe's letters). Often I received explicit answers in which the Rebbe acknowledged receipt of my letter and wished me good news regarding children.
"A little over a year ago, I received an answer in the Igrot Kodesh that I should donate money to yeshivas world-wide, and that this merit would help us to have children. The Rebbe continued in that letter to say that certainly after the birth of the children we would make sure to give them a Chasidic education.
"Eleven months ago, in the middle of a routine trip in Crown Heights, my cell phone rang. My wife told me with tears of joy that the results of her blood test were positive. I was stunned. I stopped the car and began crying like a child. I informed the Rebbe that very day that his bracha (blessing) was being fulfilled. Then I told Rabbi Leibel Groner, one of the Rebbe's secretaries, with whom I had been in close touch over the years. Rabbi Groner told us about various directives concerning pregnancy that he had received from the Rebbe.
"Two months later, the doctor told us it was twins. We saw how the Rebbe's blessing was being fulfilled precisely. On Tuesday, 7 Cheshvan 5762 at 10:20, our twin sons were born."
On Wednesday, 14 Cheshvan, the twins' circumcision took place at the Georgian shul in Queens. In light of the Rebbe's directive to publicize the wonders and miracles that G-d does for us to hasten the Redemption, the entire congregation, family and friends, heard about the twins who had been born after 17 years of waiting in the merit of the Rebbe's blessing.
"We named our oldest son Adam Daniel, and his brother, Ariel Avner," concludes Ronni. "The meal following the circumcision became a powerful demonstration of faith and trust in the Rebbe's words.
There is no doubt in the minds of all who shared in our simcha (Joy) that the Rebbe's prophecy that our generation will experience the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption will immediately be fulfilled."

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