יום שישי י"ג בתמוז תשפ"ד 19/07/2024
  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!


בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.



  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.



Holidays & Festivals

The Potential Greatness of Man

The year 5572/ 1811. War broke out between Russia and France. At the same time an argument was enflamed between the students of the Maggid of Mezritch on whom to daven for victory- Russia or France. What is a Jewish Chanukah?

Chaim Brim 15/12/2009 12:23
The days of Chanukah are designed to commemorate and celebrate the delivery of the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of tzaddikim, the corrupt into the hands of those who study Toras Hashem. At first glance, it seems that there is no actual connection between the physical military victory and those who were singled out to distinguish themselves for their might – that the victory was of miraculous proportions and that ordinarily, such physically weak people could never triumph over superior physical might. However, this is not so – in fact, Chazal have informed us that the connection between the miraculous events and those chosen to execute them is of an everlasting nature, a connection that will never be severed. When a person is on such a level that he can control himself entirely, then he will merit, and will succeed in controlling others, as a natural consequence.

Jews are not like the surrounding nations. The non-Jews of the world all admire and pursue ‘physical culture’ and the glorification of the physical, endeavouring to strengthen and develop the body and test its endurance. This is their pride and glory. Compare this to the Jews – the human body is merely a stranger in this world which we have to nourish and respect as much as is necessary to preserve it, but no more than that. There has never been any emphasis or importance placed upon the development of physical strength or the learning of warfare. Quite the opposite – the pride and glory of the Jew has always been his struggle to learn how to control himself, to oppose his natural desires and break them, in order to fulfil a higher calling – as Chazal state; “Eizehu gibor, hakoveish es yitzro – Who is the mighty one? The one who conquers his own inclinations.” The essence of a Jew has always been found in constantly endeavouring to subdue his physicality, that part of him that holds such great sway over him, as it states; “A man is born wild,” and “The heart of man is evil from his youth,” – from the time when he emerges from his mother’s womb – and he must subdue this physicality by the power of his own spirit.

These two aspects of man, his physicality and his spirit, are positioned opposite each other – to be precise, one is in the mind, and the other is in the heart of a person. The spiritual aspects of a person are located in his mind, by use of which a person can come to an understanding of his task in the world and a knowledge of how to nurture his spiritual capabilities, elevating them for the purpose of serving Hashem. And yet, as long as the nefesh habehamis, the animal-natured soul, is still within him, he is constantly being pulled downwards by it, and he must constantly struggle to overcome its attempts to persuade his mind to follow the dictates of the heart.

When a person succeeds in breaking the hold of his heart over his mind, the natural consequence is “hergel na’aseh teva – actions become habitual” – the hold of the mind over the emotions becomes stronger and more absolute, without vacillation.

In the year 5572, a bloody war broke out between Russia and France, giving rise to the eruption of a fiery dispute between several of the talmidim of the Maggid of Mezritch, over the matter of whether they should be davening for the victory of Russia or of France.

The Baal haTanya asserted that they should daven for the welfare and victory of Russia, giving as his reason and rationale, as is brought down in one of his letters; “If Bonaparte [Napoleon] is victorious, he will improve the condition of the Jews and increase their material wealth, but the hearts of the Jews will become detached from the Father in Heaven. If Alexander [the Czar of Russia] is victorious, the situation of the Jews will decline and their poverty will increase, and they will instead delight in and bind themselves to their Father in Heaven.”

During this period, the Baal haTanya commanded one of his chassidim by the name of Reb Moshe Meizlish, who was a great scholar and could speak German, Russian, Polish and French, to approach the French military command and ingratiate himself into their good favour, until they accepted him into their service. Once he had become their trusted comrade, he was to secretly relate all that he learned from them to the Russian forces, so as to aid the Russians and help them to achieve victory over the French. And so it was; within a short period of time, Reb Moshe indeed succeeded in finding favour in the eyes of the top French officials, and gradually he learned all of their secrets.

On one occasion, the top officials of the French army were sitting and arguing over military strategy, with Reb Moshe also present at the meeting. Suddenly, the door to the room was opened with great force, and the figure of Napoleon himself appeared, entering in great haste and speaking in a furious tone of voice with his face contorted with anger. In the middle of his diatribe, he turned to Reb Moshe and demanded to know, “Who is this stranger sitting amongst us?”

As Reb Moshe sat quaking inwardly in fear, Napoleon approached him and roared at him in French, “You are a Russian spy!” Reb Moshe felt as if his heart were being constricted in a vise. Nonetheless, he was accustomed to keeping his emotions in check, firmly under the control of his mind and seichel, and he managed to maintain his composure and calm his racing heart. Confidently and serenely, he answered Napoleon that the officials of the French Emperor had taken him on as an interpreter, since he was fluent in all the necessary languages to serve in such a position. In later years, when he related this experience, Reb Moshe would add; “At that time, the ‘aleph’ of chassidus stood by me to save me from certain death.”

What was this central point of chassidus to which he was referring? He was alluding to a concept whose source is in the Zohar, brought down and elaborated upon in the Sefer haTanya (chapters 12 and 30) where the words of the Zohar (part 3, 224 amud aleph) are quoted, whilst discussing the necessity of the mind being master of the heart.

Achieving control of the mind over the body is a daily and constant avodah which impinges upon every action undertaken by a Jew. The yetzer hara burns within a person like a flaming torch, and it is a great and mighty battle to defeat it.

Nonetheless, it can be achieved, by the method of “asei tov – striving to act as one should” (rather than focusing on avoiding doing wrong), for instance, by davening with kavanah and by pouring out one’s emotions before Hashem with all one’s might, relating all one’s difficulties in the struggle to suppress the animal instincts within a person which endeavour to prevent him from concentrating his efforts on the correct matters.

Each and every mitzvah and good deed that a person does towards this purpose will go towards achieving this goal of mastery of the mind over the heart. One must steel oneself to act with determination, without compromise and without laziness which is caused by the body exerting its desire for an easy life. When a person accustoms himself to acting in this way, eventually he will gain total mastery over all his desires and emotions of the heart, as it says in Chazal; “The hearts of tzaddikim are in their hands.” Even matters unrelated to the desires of a person, such as the influence of the emotions in general over the heart, will be affected by such an achievement, and the emotions will come under the control of the mind as a person accustoms himself more and more to overcome his natural physical tendencies and subordinate himself to ratzon Hashem.