While many of the Rabbanim of the cities and towns near the city of Tolna would have been delighted to spend various Yamim Tovim throughout the year in the presence of the Rebbe, Harav Dovid of Tolna, zy”a, they were unable to leave the residents of their town. It was only on Shavuos, a two-day Yom Tov during which far fewer halachic questions arose than a Pesach or Sukkos, that they would travel to the Rebbe.
Among the Rabbanim standing on line to give shalom to the Rebbe one Erev Shavuos was a Rav who, unlike the others, didn’t consider himself a Chassid. Since, however, most of the residents in his town were devout Tolna Chassidim and cognizant of the fact that all the other Rabbanim of the area were spending Shavuos with the Rebbe, he felt he had no choice but do so as well.
The Rebbe greeted each visitor cordially, but when it came to this Rav, he expressed surprise at his coming.
“How can a Rav leave his townspeople like a flock without a shepherd over Yom Tov?” The Rebbe asked him.
The Rav was taken aback.
“I am not the only Rav who came,” he protested. “There are many other Rabbanim here, and the Rebbe didn’t tell them anything…”
“The others who came left their [being a] Rav at home,” the Rebbe explained. “You brought the Rabbanus with you…”
This anecdote helps explain why two individuals may travel to see a Gadol or attend a shiur of a leading Rav, and one will leave inspired and uplifted; the other disappointed at the empty feeling in his heart.
It all depends on how one prepares for the visit or event, on the attitude one brings with him, and what he leaves at home.
We learn this week how, after more than two decades of separation, Yosef Hatzaddik meets his brothers. He immediately recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him.
Rashi teaches that this is because when Yosef was sold down to Egypt at the age of seventeen, he did not yet have a beard. His older brothers on the other hand, already had beards at that time.
This explains why they didn’t recognize his physical characteristics. But how is it possible that the saintly Shevatim, each of whom was a towering spiritual giant in his own right, didn’t sense the great kedushah of the man they were speaking to, which would have led them to realize that he wasn’t a mere Egyptian viceroy?
One approach is that, although the Shevatim were hoping to find Yosef in Mitzrayim — and were willing to spend whatever was necessary to redeem him — clearly they didn’t think that the brother they had sold as a slave would be the most powerful figure in Egypt after the king.
When they traveled down on a mission to buy food, their only intention in dealing with the man they knew as Tzafnas Paanei’ach was to supply their material needs.
Indeed, they had traveled to one of the greatest tzaddikim of their generation. But since their preparations for the encounter, and their intentions for this meeting, weren’t for spiritual inspiration and growth but to buy food, they didn’t feel the kedushah and tzidkus of Yosef Hatzaddik. (Based on a teaching by the Divrei Yisrael.)
Every Shabbos is a lofty time of spiritual recharging and inspiration. Shabbos is an oasis of ruchniyus, a time when we put away all our weekday worries and preoccupations and focus on growing closer to Hashem.
Rosh Chodesh also is a day of remembrance, and salvation of the soul. It is a time of atonement and also hischadshus — renewal.
Among the main decrees the Greeks enacted in their efforts to tear the Jews of the time away from the Torah was a prohibition against celebrating Rosh Chodesh. For Rosh Chodesh heralds a new beginning: The moon wanes each month and finally disappears, only to appear again and then steadily grow larger and larger, casting ever-greater illumination. The Greeks were determined to take from us this power of hischadshus, so they banned Rosh Chodesh.
Chanukah, too is a special time for renewal. The word chanukah — as in Chanukas haMishkan — usually means an “inauguration,” a preparation for something of primary importance that is yet to come. As the Kozhiglover Rav, Hy”d, teaches, Chanukah lights up the entire year with the power of hischadshus — renewal.
How much more so when these three lofty periods of time, Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah come together in one!
May we have the wisdom to enter this Shabbos with the proper mindset, and become vessels to receive the great inspiration that lies within Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Teves.