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Devar Torah - Chukas

Thursday, 11 July, 2019 - 7:04 pm

The 25th Anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz:
Desiring a Living Connection, from the Heart
By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This Shabbos is the week following  the 25th anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz.  The following story teaches us an important insight into the meaning of Gimmel Tammuz and our connection to the Rebbe.

Rabbi Hillel served as the Chassidishe Rav of the city of Paritch which had  both Chassidim and non-Chassidim. In those times acquiring a proper esrog for the mitzva of the arba minim on Sukkos was always a challenge. One year, the Rosh HaKahal (who was not Chassidish), the most prestigious leader in the community that was involved in overseeing communal affairs, acquired a mehudar, beautiful esrog for Sukkos. Word of the beautiful esrog spread throughout town and early on the first morning of Sukkos R’Hillel knocked on the door of the Rosh HaKahal  requesting the honor of making a bracha on his esrog. The Rosh Hakahal, seeing Rav Hillel at his door so early with a pure desire to fulfill a mitzvah b’hidur was clearly moved. He invited Rav Hillel in with open arms, welcoming him with great honor and afforded Rav Hillel the opportunity of fulfilling the mitzvah of shaking the arba minim with his esrog. 

Word of their encounter spread around the town. When the Rav of the Rosh HaKahal heard about it he decided that he too would request to use the esrog. When he arrived, the Rosh HaKahal let him use the esrog but did not afford him the kind special honor as he did for Rav Hillel. The Rav  taking notice of this asked; Why is it that when Rav Hillel, who is not your Rav, came you afforded him so much honor, and then when I came you did not? The Rosh HaKahal answered his Rav honestly. When Rav Hillel came, he came strictly for the purpose of fulfilling a mitzvah. For that there is no difference between a chosid and a non chosid. You however came because you heard that Rav Hillel came. Now it's not so much about the mitzvah, it’s a matter of your honor. If the reason you came is because  (as it says in the Haggadah) “Kein asah Hillel, so did Hillel” then no special honor is necessary.

On Gimmel Tammuz we may choose to light a candle, to say Mishnayos learn Maamarim of the Rabbe. We then ask ourselves,  what are we doing and why are we doing it? Are we just going through the motions because that’s what we do with no particular feeling or connection? Then it’s no more than checking off items on our to do list. Then it's like we're doing it similar to the Rav in the story, because Hillel did it.  We are doing it because it's the socially acceptable and proper thing to do not because we truly desire to be connected to the Rebbe. If we however do the activities of Gimmel Tammuz similar to the way that Rav Hillel woke up early and knocked on the door of the Rosh HaKahal, then we doing it to be connected. We are doing it because we want to strengthen our connection, bring it out further than ever before and raise it to a higher level. This is the real reason we commemorate Gimmel Tammuz.

Before Yud Shevat 5710 the Rebbe wrote repeatedly about the importance of having a picture of the Previous Rebbe and to look at it often. The Rebb wrote in a letter: I wish you have a picture of the (Previous) Rebbe. Looking at it will give you fresh strength to do a lot of good in general, and in particular your personal tasks.  Looking at a picture of the Rebbe strengthens our emunah and bitachon. This is why we have a picture of the Rebbe in our homes. It’s not because it's the right thing to do or the normal thing to do. It's not because every Jewish house must have pictures of Gedolim on their walls.

This week, coming from the 25th anniversary Gimmel Tammuz it's  good to ask ourselves where are we standing. Are we serving Hashem and being connected to the Rebbe without feeling or inspiration,checking it off of our to-do list or are we doing it to stay connected and to grow that connection? 

There is a story about a Shliach who’s father who was from Montreal and became a Baal Teshuva when he went with the Shaliach R Zushe Zilberstein on a trip to a fabrengen of the Rebbe. During the fabrengen everyone was lifting their cups to make l’chaim to the Rebbe. He looked around for some wine but couldn't find any  in the surrounding area. Since he wanted to make a l’chaim to the Rebbe he decided to hold his hand around the cup in a way that you couldn't tell if it was empty or full and held up his hand covering the cup to get the Rebbe’s acknowledgment. The Rebbe seemed to skip him repeatedly acknowledging the person to his immediate right and left but not him. Finally he came to the conclusion that the Rebbe did not notice him. He decided to do something bold and stood up on top of a bench prominently displayed with his outstretched arm covering the empty cup as he solicited the Rebbe’s acknowledgement, just to hear the Rebbe say l’chaim u’l’veracha. The Rebbe then pointed into the Rebbe’s cup to signal he didn't have anything inside of his cup. It was as if to say that you can't make a l’chayim on an empty cup.  He couldn't fool the Rebbe. He was finally given some wine and finally made a proper l’chaim and only then the Rebbe acknowledged him and wished him l’chaim u’l’vracha. 

When he came home after the fabrengen he was so inspired from what had transpired that he wanted to immediately start putting on tefillin, grow a beard, keep Shabbos and kashrus etc. The Shaliach had to slow him down a bit not to take on too much too quickly.

The story  of this first empty which ended up getting filled and finally getting the bracha reminds us of our approach towards connecting ourselves to the Rebbe. We can't come with an empty vessel. If we want a bracha we have to have accomplishments and commitments where the bracha can enter and take hold.  When the 25th anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz comes around and we think about how we can deepen and expand our connection to the Rebbe we expand our commitment to learning the Rebbe’s maamarim, try to daven better, learn a Sicha at least once a week; go on mivtzoyim and do all we can for education, all in a tangible and real. Even when we make these commitments and we uphold them, still, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing it to check off that box on our to do list, to fit in with our community, or because we really feel the connection. If we feel that connection like Rav Hillel then our cup is not empty, then we can lift up receive the blessings the Rebbe’s brachos and thereby expand with great desire to fulfill all of the Rebbe’s directives b’simcha v’tuv levav. We can then share in the Rebbe’s desire to see and ultimately witness the coming of Moshiach now.

 A Good Shabbos

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