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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

A bochur had pain in his arm...

Vayeitzei In the winter of 5715 (1955), a yeshiva bachur who was studying to become a shochet suddenly started suffering inexplicable pain in his arm. Doctors couldn’t help him so his parents turned to the Rebbe. In an epic letter,[1] the Rebbe explained to the parents that after meeting their son he is certain that there is actually nothing wrong with the arm at all. The pain, the Rebbe concludes, is a result of anxiety. Your son, explained the Rebbe, feels a strong need to secure his livelihood which he assumes will come through shechita. The idea that his future depends on his arm makes him anxious and causes tension in his arm. The Rebbe suggested several things. First, he should prepare himself to possibly earn a living as a rabbi, thereby alleviating the pressure of shechita. Second, whenever he feels weakness in his arm, preventing him from sharpening his knife, he should not force himself to continue, but rather go do other things. And finally, in order to release himself from his constricted outlook and his stressful mindset, he should study Chassidus. Doing so regularly will cause him to feel Hashem’s presence in his life, thereby alleviating his anxiety. After Hashem promised Yaakov that He would protect him, the Torah writes that “Yaakov lifted his feet and went to the land of the people of the East.” Why does the Torah specify that he lifted his feet?

The medrash answers by quoting a pasuk in Mishlei, “A healing heart is the life of the flesh, but anger is the deterioration of the bones.” Our emotional and mental state affects our physical well-being. The medrash gives a simple illustration: Consider how much easier it is to walk when you’re heading somewhere you want to be, as opposed to heading somewhere out of obligation (e.g., a child going to the dentist versus a child going out for ice cream). In Yaakov’s case, nothing practical changed at the time of Hashem’s promise. He was still a penniless fugitive. But with Hashem’s promise in his mind and heart, everything changed. The awareness of the promise gave him hope and put a spring in his step, literally “lifting his feet.” On the 9th and 10th of Kislev we celebrate the Mitteler Rebbe's birthday, yahrtzeit and release from prison. At a very young age, the Mitteler Rebbe was already fluent in Tanach and was recognized as a prodigy. After school one day, he visited his father, the Alter Rebbe, where he found a small group of chassidim waiting for an audience. He overheard Reb Shmuel Munkes ask two of the chassidim, both wealthy businessmen, why they looked so down. "Times are tough, business is not doing well," they concurred.  The Mitteler Rebbe piped up. "It's obvious, Reb Shmuel, why do you even ask? We know from Tehillim that money leads to sadness!" “Atzabeihem kesef v’zahav, maasei y’dei adam.” Their idols are made of silver and gold, the handiwork of man. Atzabeihem (idols) can also mean "their sadness." Their sadness stems from gold and silver, i.e., wealth. Why does money lead to sadness? When people think money is the direct result of "the handiwork of man," the young child explained, then when their business goes through a rough spell, sadness and helplessness set in.[2] When we remember that it all comes from Hashem, we can hand over the problems to Him with a light heart, sure that Hashem will provide.[3] We’re in a deep and dark galus and there are, unfortunately, many things that can bog us down. Concern for the future can worry us sick. But we need not fall prey to it. Let’s make an effort to bring Hashem into our lives, studying Chassidus as the Rebbe suggested to the bachur, and this will iy”H lift us up, making it easier to walk the last steps out of galus. Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

[1] Igros Kodesh vol. 10, pg. 319 [2] This mistake leads to further repercussions, the Mittler Rebbe continued. "They have mouths but don't speak." The Hebrew word for "speak," "yedaber," can also mean to lead. They say words of Torah and Chassidus, but those words have no bearing on how they lead their lives. "They have eyes but cannot see.” Their human perception blinds them to the Divine providence in our everyday affairs. "They have ears but cannot hear, a nose but cannot smell.” They cannot hear the deeper meaning to life; they're stuck on the here and now. This leads to a loss of sensitivity, and they become unable to "smell" the subtle differences between what's appropriate for a Jew and what is not. [3] Likutei Diburim vol. 1, pg. 340