Tuesday, July 24, 2007

THE ONION PLOT & The Chozeh's Kiddush Cup

(s5760-23/ 10 Adar I 5760)

“Wow! This is exactly the opportunity I’ve been waiting for!” said Reb Naftali of Rofshitz, one of the leading disciples of the Seer of Lublin.


Blizzards and storm winds had pounded Lublin and the surrounding countryside for several weeks. The roads were piled so high with snow that no one was able to go anywhere. This meant that the farmers weren't able to reach the city with their produce and food supplies were dwindling rapidly.

Many items were completely lacking, such as onions. There weren't even any onions to use in the tasty foods prepared in honor of Shabbat. This fact constituted a near tragedy, because in Lublin, the mixture of chopped eggs and onions, known in Yiddish as eiyr-un-tzibl, was considered a nearly indispensable ingredient of the holy day. The Jews of Lublin could remember occasions when there was no meat, or no fish, but whoever heard of being without onions?

The household of the famous tzadik, the Seer of Lublin, was particularly distraught. After all, Chasidic tradition attaches great significance to this humble dish. They tried to secure some onions by every means they could think of, but to no avail. Someone even managed to plod his way through the snowdrifts to a few of the local farmers, but they didn't have any onions either.
On Friday morning, one of the leading disciples of the Seer, Rabbi Naftali of Rofshitz, rose early as usual to make his way to the Rebbe's shul and pour out his heart in prayer to the Creator. On his way home afterwards he passed through the marketplace, where he unexpectedly came upon a peasant farmer with a sack filled with onions!

"Wow!" said Reb Naftoli to himself, struck by a bold idea. "This is exactly the opportunity I've been waiting for! Baruch HaShem." He approached the gentile and offered to buy the entire sack. The farmer knew very well the value of his precious merchandise and had been looking forward to making a tidy profit. He wasn't going to compromise now. No wholesale discounts! He stated an outrageously high price. To his great surprise, R. Naftoli instantly agreed and handed him the money.

But that wasn't the end of the surprises. "I'd like to buy your fur coat and hat too," the Rofshitzer added. The farmer couldn't believe his ears. Astonished, he refused. How could he possibly return home in the freezing cold without his coat and hat? But the thick wad of bills in his customer's outthrust hand argued persuasively, and the second deal was also quickly struck. Reb Naftoli strode home with his sack of onions and unusual new items of apparel.

* * *

Later that day, a farmer appeared outside the Seer's door. He was clothed in furs, peasant-style, with a huge hat covering his forehead and upper face and boots covered with mud. In the language and intonation of a gentile farmer he called out, "Onions! Onions for sale!"
Chasidim came pouring from every direction. Everyone wanted onions in honor of the holy Shabbat. They crowded around the onion-seller, attempting to bargain with him. He refused to budge from his price. Then, suddenly, he announced that he was stopping for the day. No more onions!

The chasidim pleaded with him. "But we still have to get some for the Rebbe. He is a great, holy man. Blessings will shower upon you, if only you will allow us to buy onions for him."
"If he is as special as you say, I'll do it," rejoined the farmer, "but only if I can sell them to the holy man directly, in person, face-to-face."

The chasidim were shaken. How could they bring such an unrefined character to the Rebbe? After a few moments of confusion, they realized they had no choice. A solemn delegation led the onion-laden farmer to the Seer's house.

When they came in, the Seer was busy polishing his unique kiddush cup, as he did every Friday before Shabbat. This was an extraordinary chalice, exquisitely crafted of pure gold, with intricate engravings depicting famous sites in the Holy Land, such as the Western Wall, the Tower of David, and the Mount of Olives.

Many rumors surrounded this kiddush cup and its history. It was said that the Seer had inherited it from one of the great chasidic masters of the previous generation, and whoever was privileged to make a blessing over its contents and drink from it benefited infinitely. Not that this merit was easy to come by. The Seer did not allow anyone else to use it or even touch it. The whole week it stood in a locked cabinet until Friday, when he would work on it until it glistened and sparkled on the white Shabbat tablecloth.

When his chassidim brought in the gentile with his sack, the Seer understood the reason at once. "How much do you want for your onions?" he queried the farmer.

"One moment. Not so fast," the farmer replied coarsely, holding up his hand as if to ward off the Rebbe's offer. "I'm frozen stiff. I need a proper drink to warm me up."
It was clear that such a person didn't have in mind a cup of tea. The Seer instructed his attendant to serve the man some whisky and a brimming shot glass was quickly set down in front of the farmer.

"That's all?" cried out the farmer, as if insulted. Just this little cup?"
"Give him the whole bottle and let him do as he likes," said the Rebbe, turning away.
Now the onion seller seemed mortally offended. "What! You think I'm a drunkard?" he shouted angrily. "I'll show you! I'll go home. I won't sell you anything!" He tied up the sack and fastened his garments, as if preparing to leave.

The chasidim hurriedly attempted to soothe him, anxiously muttering words of appeasement. Finally he calmed down. Then he smirked. "I tell you what," he offered. I'll sell you my onions if, and only if, you fill this goblet with whisky for me to drink." He pointed at the Rebbe's golden cup shining on the table.

The chasidim drew back, aghast. From this holy kiddush cup which no one dared touch except the tzadik, this uncircumcised drunken peasant should imbibe his crude booze? They offered him other cups and glasses, bigger ones, singly and in combination, but he was stubborn. "Only from this one, like I told you. Otherwise I go home."

They tried again to dissuade him, but nothing worked. He simply refused to budge. With trembling hands and heavy heart, the Seer himself filled the precious vessel with the coarse fluid and, with a helpless shrug, presented it to the farmer. The latter lifted it with his right hand, squeezed his eyes shut, and with great concentration and intensity called out, "Boruch atah...shehakol neyeh bidvaro."

Everyone was shocked speechless. Only the Seer, after a quick stare, realized what had taken place. A broad smile spread across his face. "L'chaim, Reb Naftali! You are so clever; it must be that you deserve to drink from this cup. L'chaim u'livracha! - May it be for life and for blessing."
[Translated and freely adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Sichat HaShavua #74.]

Biographical note:

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (1745 - 1815), known as 'the Seer of Lublin', was the successor to R. Elimelech of Lizensk (1717-1787), and a major personality in the spread of the chassidic movement throughout Poland.

Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz (6 Sivan 1760 [the same day as the Besht's passing!] -11 Iyar 1827) became the rebbe of many thousands of chassidim. He was noted for his sharp wit and humor and his elusive shining aphorisms. Some of his teachings are collected in his works, Zera Kodesh, Ayalah Sheluchah, and Imrei Shefer. Many stories about him appear in the book, Ohel Naftoli.

For more Chassidic Stories

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Holy Kiddush Cup, Aliyah and Redemption

(Image courtesy of Hadad Bros)

#296 (s5763-42 / 18 Sivan)

The Holy Kiddush Cup, Aliyah and Redemption

"My white beard is unwilling to allow any postponement," replied Rabbi Moshe of Lelov

The chasidim of Poland were reeling from the shock. Their rebbe, Rabbi Moshe of Lelov, had decided to make aliya, to ascend and settle in the Holy Land!

How could they possibly go on without his holy leadership? To his most intimate chasidim he revealed that since early childhood, he had had an overwhelming desire to do something special to hasten the coming of Moshiach.

When he was a small boy, Rabbi Moshe's father, Rabbi David of Lelov, had told him, "I did not merit to see the Holy Land, but you must go there. Through your divine service which you will perform there, you will succeed in bringing Moshiach sooner and hastening the Redemption."

This was the true reason, known only to a select few, that the tzadik was preparing for his journey to the Holy Land. He passed through many towns and villages on his way, accompanied by his chasidim. At the town of Sadigur, he stopped to say his farewell to the tzadik, Rabbi Israel of Rizhin. When the Rizhiner Rebbe heard of the Reb Moshe's plans to journey to the Holy Land, he begged him to wait and allow him to go along.

But Rabbi Moshe was impatient to continue his journey. "My white beard is unwilling to allow any postponement," he replied; and so he continued his journey alone. From time to time, when the retinue stopped, Rabbi Moshe delivered chasidic discourses. He expressed his intentions to the chasidim, telling them that upon arriving in Jerusalem he would, "First go to the Kotel [the Western Wall] and blow the shofar so that all the worlds [this world and the innumerable spiritual worlds] will shake. I will refuse to move from that spot until the Moshiach comes. "I am also bringing with me the kiddush cup which belonged to my teacher and rebbe, the "Seer" of Lublin.

This cup is filled with great holiness*** which will enable me to work many wonders." The tzadik continued his journey until he reached the point of departure. Then, he bid a final farewell to his disciples and, together with his family boarded a vessel bound for the Holy Land. After a long voyage, they landed on the longed-for shores of the Holy Land. They headed at once for Jerusalem and reached the gates of the Holy City.

No sooner did they approach the city gates when the precious goblet which had belonged to the Seer slipped from Rabbi Moshe's sack and shattered on the stones. They tried to continue their journey, but Rabbi Moshe was suddenly overcome with a terrible illness. They had no choice but to break their trip until he recovered. But the tzadik only became sicker and sicker, until he became critically ill. In a few short days, Rabbi Moshe felt that he would not live much longer. He entreated his family to quickly carry him to the Kotel, and this they did, fearing that his end was, indeed, approaching. But as they hurriedly carried the tzadik toward the Kotel and were about to reach the final turn, they were attacked by Arabs hurling stones down from the surrounding houses, and were lucky to escape with their lives.

Rabbi Moshe of Lelov passed from this world 72 days after his arrival in the Holy Land, without having realized his fondest dream and without having succeeded in bringing the Redemption, for it was ordained by Heaven that the time for Moshiach's arrival had not yet come.

[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition on www.lchaimweekly.org (#276).]

*** Editor's note: For more on the kiddush cup of the Seer, see Story #123.

Biographical note: Rabbi Moshe of Lelov [? - 13 Tevet 1851] was the son of R. David of Lelov and the son-in-law of "the Holy Yid " of Pshischah. He declined to officially succeed his father as rebbe, considering himself unworthy of the position. He moved to Israel, where he helped to strengthen the Chassidic community, although he passed away. He is buried on the Mount of Olives, near the prophet Zacharia.

Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit

For more Chassidic Stories

Friday, July 13, 2007

OK how do I make Kiddush?

I will add other versions here is a simple one for starters:


Text of Friday Night Kiddush

Kiddush - vs Havdalah

There is a famous saying - if the Jew doesnt make Kiddush the Gentile will make Havdalah. This means that if we arent proud of keeping our heritage and expressing it and showing that we are Jews and sanctifying G-d's name then the gentile nations make havdala, separation, they will remind us that we are different

I believe history seems to point this out as a truth, from the spanish inquisition & expulsion to the holocaust many Jews who had assimilated and became like the gentile neighbors, and even forgotten their Jewish roots were sought out and forced to acknowledge their Jewish ancestry, how terrible it was! (btw I am not suggesting a reason for our exile or sufferring Heaven forbid I should judge anyone)

May G-d help us to cherish our Jewish background and make Kiddush!

What are your thoughts please share them with us!

Kiddush Hashem!

Shalom welcome to my latest blog about kiddush. Kiddush is probably one of the most famous mitzvos - commandments that Jews from all walks of life have heard of and perform. Its a simple easy and pleasurable mitzvo. Just take a cup of kosher wine on Shabbos / Shabbat or the Sabbath (or however you pronounce it!) and recite the kiddush! Say the blessing Borei Pri HaGafen and walla! Instant sanctification and holiness!

This blog will hopefully share with you customs of kiddush, how to pronounce and say kiddush, kiddush stories and more! So please join us!