a tale of two pens

Sunday, 31 July, 2022 - 10:21 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Today is Rosh Chodesh – the ‘head of the month’. In this case the month of Menachem Av. The ninth of this month is the national day of mourning for our destroyed Temples – Tisha B’av.

Together with mourning for our lost Bet Hamikdash, this is a time when we become acutely aware and thus extremely motivated to do things to bring Mashiach and to learn all about the Bet Hamikdash.

It was therefore quite inspiring when a Efraim, a retired Jewish man who lives several hours drive away, came in to say hello on his visit to Bangkok earlier this week and unexpectedly talk to me about Mashiach.

He didn’t just ‘talk’ about Mashiach, Efraim actually brought me a new pen in a sheath and said I would like you to keep this pen and use it when Mashiach comes. I looked at him quizzically. Why would I need a pen when Mashiach comes? Efraim explained, when Mashiach comes we will all go to Israel. Please use this pen at that time, to sign the documents of sale for the Chabad Houses in Thailand. After all, if we are all going to Israel, we won’t be needing the properties here.

I explained to him that there is a tradition recorded in the Talmud Megilah 29a that all Synagogues will all relocate to Israel when Mashiach comes:

It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says: In the future, the synagogues and the study halls in Babylonia will be transported and reestablished in Eretz Yisrael

I am not sure exactly how that will be fulfilled in terms of actual buildings and ‘real estate’. There are many wondrous and above-nature phenomena that our Prophets and Sages have shared with us that will come to be when the Mashiach comes. While we look forward to those prophesies being fulfilled, it is clear that we don’t understand nor do we have to understand, exactly how those things will come to be. When Mashiach comes we will find out exactly how things unfold.

In the words of Rambam (Laws concerning Kings and the Mashiach Ch 12, 2)

All these and similar matters, however, man will not know how they will occur until they come to pass; for in the [statements of the] prophets these are undefined matters, and the sages, too, do not have a clear tradition on these subjects except for the [apparent] implications of the Scriptural verses. That is why they have differences of opinion in these matters. In any case, neither the sequence of these events nor their details are fundamental to the faith.

What we do know very clearly is as the Rambam concludes the above chapter:

In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor strife, because good will emanate in abundance and all delightful things will be accessible as dust. The one preoccupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d. The Israelites, therefore, will be great sages and know the hidden matters, and they will attain knowledge of their Creator to the extent of human capacity, as it is said: “The earth shall be full with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea!”

Based on the above, I won’t need the pen for selling properties as the Synagogues and Chabad Houses will relocate. However, I told Efraim that I was very happy that he brought me this pen to be used when Mashiach comes. For it is a good tangible counterbalance to another pen that I was given recently as a promotional item. It is from the Asia-One’ undertaker firm that we use for burials. Khun Hiran of Asia-One brought me some promotional pens from his company. Both pens look quite similar. But what a contrast between their intentions.

One pen is from a company that deals with providing services after death.

The other pen was gifted to me to await the arrival of the coming of Mashiach.

It reminded me of the story of two clocks:

In one of his travels, chassidic master Rabbi Yisachar Dov Ber of Radoshitz occasioned to stay the night at a wayside inn. In the morning, he sought out the innkeeper.

"The clock," he asked excitedly, "the clock you have hanging in my room — where is it from? Where did you get that wonderful clock?"

"Why," said the surprised innkeeper, "it's quite an ordinary clock. There are hundreds like it hanging in homes throughout the country."

"No, no," insisted Rabbi Yisachar Dov. "This is no ordinary clock. You must find out for me where this clock comes from."

If only to humor his guest, the innkeeper made some inquiries, which yielded the information that this clock once belonged to the famed "Seer of Lublin," Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz. An heir of the "Seer" had been forced by poverty to sell all his possessions, and so the clock passed from owner to owner until it came to hang in one of the guestrooms of the inn.

"Of course!" exclaimed Rabbi Yisachar Dov upon hearing the clock's history. "This clock could only have belonged to the 'Seer of Lublin.' Only the Seer's clock could mark time in such a manner!

"Your standard clock," he explained to his host, "strikes such a mournful tone. 'Another hour of your life has passed you by,' it says. 'You are now one hour closer to the grave.' But this clock proclaims: 'Another hour of galut (exile) has gone by. You are now one hour closer to the coming of Moshiach and the Redemption...'

"All through the night," concluded Rabbi Yisachar Dov, "whenever this clock sounded the hour, I leapt from my bed and danced for joy."

I then shared with Efraim, a saying that I had heard jokingly from my dear friend Mr. Abi Kashani and his older brother and business partner, Yitschak.

‘One of two things will happen during our lifetime. Life will not just continue the way it is for ever. Either the Mashiach will come to redeem us, or the ‘malach hamavet’ the angel of death, will come to take us. The question is only, which will come first.’

I wouldn’t have recalled this exchange with Efraim if not for the following notable fact. This discussion took place on Wednesday afternoon Bangkok time in my office.

At around the same time, but 11 hours behind, in NY, in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, Mr. Yitschak Kashani passed away afer an illness, surrounded by his loved ones. May his memory be for a blessing.

Condolences may be sent to his brother Mr. Abi Kashani by email

I realized that this verbal exchange in which I quoted the Kashani’s regarding Mashiach vs angel of death, had happened at the same time as the passing of Yitzchak. I point this out, because of the impact it made on me as it showed me so openly yet another instance of G-d’s Divine Providence.

May Mashiach come and wipe away all tears and eradicate death, before the angel of death is able to take anyone else.

As I reflect on the life of Mr. Yitshak Kashani I recall the below story about his wedding.

Rabbi Kotlarsky of Lubavitch World Headquarters was invited to attend Mr. Yitschak Kashani’s wedding that took place in Long Island a few days before Pesach. Actually, it took place on the eve of 11 Nissan 1989 which corresponded with the Rebbe’s 87th birthday. Rabbi Kotlarsky came very late to the wedding as he waited till the Rebbe addressed the crowd in his Synagogue and only then did he head out to Long Island. Rabbi Kotlarsky was sure that he has missed the Chupa. He was astonished to find that Yitzchak had insisted to wait with the Chupa till he, the Rebbe’s emissary would come. Rabbi Kotlarsky read the Rebbe’s letter of blessing that he had sent for the occasion and the Chupa proceeded. The Chupa was followed by the wedding reception. It was getting late and Rabbi Kotlarsky wanted to head back to Brooklyn but Yitzchak insisted that he stay a while longer. It was soon evident why.

After the first dance, the lights were dimmed, champagne was poured, and a birthday cake was brought out. With 88 candles. The Kashani’s had prepared this cake in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday as he entered his 88th year.

Rabbi Kotlarsky was very touched, and he explained to the assembled that the way to give a birthday gift to the Rebbe would be via undertaking to do mitzvahs in honor of the birthday. The men should undertake to lay Tefilin, the women to light candles among various other mitzvahs.

Upon his arrival back to Brooklyn very late at night, Rabbi Kotlarsky wrote a note to the Rebbe describing the beautiful and inspiring wedding and gave it to the attendant who was living in the Rebbe’s home. The next morning, before Shachrit, the attendant told Rabbi Kotlarsky that in the few hours since he had penned his note, the Rebbe had already responded to his report.

The Rebbe had made a note regarding the birthday candles, that ‘in general, care must be taken with candles placed upon food, to ensure that there are no non-kosher ingredients’. (Candles, especially in the olden times, often contained animal fats which would render it unkosher).

And regarding the report in general, the Rebbe responded, ‘may you always be able to share good news, and in a growing way’.

The above is an inspiring story that speaks of the deep respect and esteem that the Yitzchak Kashani had for the Rebbe. And it gives a glimpse at the Rebbe’s unflagging devotion to leading the Jewish community, paying attention to even the smallest details. Like the concern about checking that the candles on a birthday cake be unquestionably kosher.  

During these days leading up to the commemoration of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash we are instructed to decrease our joy and enjoyment. Click here for laws pertaining to this time period.

As well, during this time we are empowered to study about the building of the Bet Hamkidash. Through studying about its building, we are credited as if we had actually built it. Click here to study about the Bet Hamikdash

This is a time period where we ought to add in good and loving deeds, study more Torah and give more Tzedaka, so that Mashiach comes NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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