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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Mordechai Lipskier

Rosh Hashanah on the Ferris wheel.

Rosh Hashanah

Mr. Harry Hirsh worked tirelessly to promote frumkeit in America. In the mid-1920s, he was the managing editor of Dos Idishe Licht newspaper in New York until it went bankrupt. In the summer of 1940, he wrote a letter full of sadness and despair to the Frierdiker Rebbe, who had just recently arrived in America. The Rebbe responded by first complimenting him and then wrote the following (free translation)[1]: Despair is the bitter drip that hangs from the sword of [the force] who destroys Hashem’s world. And it is what leads people astray from the path of life, from fulfilling their purpose as emissaries of Hashem to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and the pleasantness of mitzvos and good middos. There is no one stronger than one who overcomes the worm of despair, which consumes the soul and makes one lose their mind. Faith, hope and trust in “He Who said and the world came to be” are the medicines that heal and sweeten the poisonous venom of despair. They lift a frum yid onto the proper pedestal, and they give him the strength and might to fulfill his life’s mission.

The Frierdiker Rebbe then went on to relay this story: Ahron Chazanov was a very wealthy businessman; he owned train-track factories as well as other investments throughout Russia. Things went very well for him and his family until 1904 when many private enterprises in Russia suffered terribly due to the war. For about one year they managed to keep their business afloat, but alas they saw no way of continuing. Ahron, his son-in-law and the chief manager of his factories traveled to Lubavitch to seek the Rebbe Rashab’s advice. Ahron presented his position to the Rebbe: He believed they should sell all their properties and assets enabling them to at least pay up forty percent of their debt. The other two argued that it would suffice to pay up fifteen percent of their debt and put the rest of the cash towards new business ventures. “Rebbe!” Ahron cried, “for twenty years I have been so successful and tens of Jewish families earned their living through me. Does Hashem now want me to declare ‘shemitah’?! I would rather die, for I have given up hope of ever seeing any good in my life.” The Rebbe Rashab listened and then said: One of the wondrous attractions in Vienna is a great big wheel, with glass, iron-framed cars hanging from it. As the wheel turns, the cars rise and the riders on top can see very far. As it continues to turn, the cars on the bottom rise to the top while those on top are lowered. Chazal tell us that circumstances in this world are likened to a wheel that turns. And similar to the Ferris wheel, those on top look down at those on the ground as insignificant as a garlic peel, and those in the bottom cars feel downtrodden and utterly hopeless. But both are mistaken, for neither will necessarily remain in their current state forever. “Reb Ahron” the Rebbe said, “remove the sadness from your heart. Strengthen your faith and have courageous trust in Hashem.” He then turned to the other two men and instructed them to banish any feelings of despair, and instead strategize how to regain their contracting business. They did so and within a year they were back on top. After relaying this story to Mr. Hirsh, the Frierdiker Rebbe continued: “It is truly so. The main thing is that our faith should dominate, and we should strengthen our hope and trust [in Hashem]. Together with that, we must do whatever possible and not sit with folded hands, crying over the bright past, and we must be cautious with thousands of fences from envisioning a dark future.” The Frierdiker Rebbe wished him well and invited him for a visit. Mr. Hirsh eventually became editor of the Frierdikeh Rebbe’s magazine, Hakriah V’hakedusha. The wheel of fortune seems to be spinning faster in recent history. People are becoming wealthy or, r”l, losing their wealth, gaining power or losing it, at an unusually rapid pace. These days, riding the wheel of life can be more frightening than ever. Until we recognize Who’s turning it. It’s quite ironic that we are now entering a shemitah year. For many of us, the unpredictability of the past year and a half, especially economically, felt like shemitah. At this point, many of us are feeling like we’re just getting back on our feet. Is shemitah really what we need now? But precisely now, as we begin regaining our traction, is the time to reflect on Who’s really in charge. The message of shemitah is that no matter what we have or don’t have, it’s all from Hashem. As we begin the new year, habo aleinu v’al kol Yisroel l’tova v’livracha, let us become strengthened and courageous in our bitachon. If we feel like we are on the bottom, let’s not despair; Hashem can lift us up in a moment. And if we feel like we’re riding high, let’s not lose sight of the source of our brachos. Our loving Father in heaven is conducting this ride, and He will surely arrange for His child to forever ride on top. Ksiva V'chasima Tova and Good Shabbos,  Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier [1] Igros Kodesh, vol. 5, pg. 116

This Dvar Torah is sponsored by:

The Flint family l’zecher nishmas Reb Avraham Michoel ben Yaakov Shimon Halevi a"h

The Moshe Group

Moshe and Rivky Majeski


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