Rabbis' Blog

And they lived happily ever after...

In many Jewish communities, before the Covid era of course, Purim jesters would visit homes to enliven the festivities and collect money for worthy causes. They sang a famous Yiddish song-song that roughly translates to this: “Today is Purim, tomorrow no more. Give me a dollar and throw me out the door.”

Once the last crumbs of Hamentashen disappear and the costumes get stored away is Purim truly no more?

Upon studying the Megillah closely many are surprised to discover that the miracle of Purim was an episode that extended for close to a year. (Sound familiar…?) Storytellers often make it seem as if once Haman was killed the Jews lived happily ever after...

That's not what happened. Haman cast his lots two days before Passover and scheduled the Final Solution for eleven months later. Mordechai and Esther swiftly sprung to action and within three days Haman was hanging from the gallows, but his murderous decree was still very much alive. Since it was signed with the king's signet ring, the Jews still faced a terrifying end as long as Achashveirosh remained in power.

Even after Esther begged and pleaded that he rescind the decree, the mighty king demurred claiming it was “against protocol.” Once a decree was stamped with the royal signet ring it was unchangeable. For two months Mordechai and Esther petitioned incessantly, until Achashveirosh finally agreed to issue a counter decree that the Jews should defend themselves on the day they were condemned to death. By no means had the danger passed until they were victorious the next year.

The decree had an interesting loophole since it only targeted “Yehudim” which referred specifically to Jews who refused to become heathens. A Jew that would forsake his or her faith in G-d would be spared death but no one used this escape.

The entire Jewish nation faced the ultimate test of faith and they passed it with flying colors.  For a full year, every single Jew clung to Judaism under penalty of death. 

It emerges that the miracle of Purim did not only unfold in the halls of power but in the behavior of every Jewish man, woman and child for the duration of an entire year. Their deepest connection to G-d was on full display - every single day.

More than any other holiday, Purim illustrates that Torah and Mitzvot are not exclusive to special times and places. Judaism is not only relevant on Shabbat and Festivals, in the synagogue, around the seder table or next to the menorah. We are Jews every moment of the day, wherever we are. Turns out that every day is Purim.

An open letter to my Zaidy, Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik o.b.m.

 Zaidy Garelik (2).jpeg

Dear Zaidy,

I never wrote you letters, nor did I ever express to you what our relationship means to me, but as we mourn your passing I feel it appropriate to write you a public letter so others can learn from you as well.

From the moment I learned of your passing, a veritable ocean of information has been flooding my WhatsApp feed around the clock. You meant so much to the global Chabad community and the anecdotes, photos and videos being shared tell the story of a man who merited to not only be enshrined in the annals of recent Chabad history, but of someone who managed to inspire thousands just by being around.

It was your joyful Chassidic vigor and your unbridled love for the Rebbe - the Rebbe’s teachings and the Rebbe’s work - which you constantly projected, that made your very presence a source of inspiration to so many.

But I’ll leave the official obituaries and tributes to others (and here is one I think everyone should read: and I will try to express what you meant to me as a grandfather.

Living in El Paso meant we were geographically distant, but you made a point to visit us fairly regularly and we often saw you in New York on our trips there as well. Growing up you were a familiar presence in our lives although we barely communicated in a meaningful way. There was a real language barrier between us, but that didn’t matter. Your bright smile, cheerful vibe and the candies you ceremoniously gave us kids made us feel your warmth and love in ways that transcended words and activities.

One summer night in Brooklyn when I was fifteen years old I had an experience I am still processing today. It was the Third of Tammuz, the Rebbe’s Yahrtzeit, and there were many events happening in the Crown Heights neighborhood that evening. On my way to one of the main gatherings I was hungry and decided to make a detour to my uncle and aunt’s home for a quick supper.

I found an empty home but a full refrigerator and as I fixed myself something to eat, you walked into the kitchen and greeted me with your bright smile. As I sat down to eat, after offering you a glass of tea which you so graciously accepted, we had our first real conversation. I was fluent in Yiddish by then and for the next two hours you shared stories and anecdotes of what meant everything in your life: the Rebbe.

The conversation was casual and flowed from story to story. I asked you questions about the glorious years you spent in 770 basking in the Rebbe’s presence and you shared more and more. Sometimes you responded to my probing questions with one of your signature smiles and refused to pursue the topic, but never did I feel shut out of anything.

Most of the stories you shared that night I heard from you again on multiple occasions later on, but the significance of that conversation for me was much more than the information you shared. It was the fact that as an elder Chossid you conversed with me as if I was an equal. You spoke of the Rebbe as if I had been there with you and devoted the past 60 years of my life dedicated to his mission.

I did not realize it then, but the two hours you spent with me that night illustrated a fundamental truth I am still processing today. Without saying it you basically told me that night “Levi, you are a Chossid. Whatever it meant to be a Chossid since the dawn of the Chassidic movement over 250 years ago, applies to you, one hundred percent.”

You didn’t preach to me what it means to be a Chossid; you treated me like a full fledged Chossid. And for that I am forever grateful.


Whenever family came together for an occasion or even at a random dinner you had the custom of reading one of the hundreds of letters you merited to receive from the Rebbe over the span of 35 years. You always read the letters with such awe and reverence and often they were letters that were connected to that time period.

Recently you started reading the same letter every time. One you received on the 11th of Nissan 1972 - the Rebbe’s birthday. The content of the letter is similar to the pre Passover blessings the Rebbe would send to thousands each year, but you read it every time as if you were the only one to receive such a beautiful blessing and as if it came in the mail that morning.

I admit that in my youthful impatience and immaturity I would inwardly groan, but thinking about it now I realize what you taught us by sharing the same letter again and again: New discoveries might be exciting, but a serious human being must aspire to appreciate even one empowering lesson and shape their life around its message.


Most of our conversations revolved around stories and I find it providential that the first Shabbat after your passing is connected to one of the stories you told me.

This Shabbat during synagogue services we will read the short Torah portion “Zachor'' (lit. remember) reminding us of the diabolical Amalekite nation who attacked the Israelites after their exodus, for no good reason other than senseless hatred. G-d commanded us to remember the despicable act and to cleanse the world of this evil. In the Haftara we read the story of King Shaul, who was commanded by G-d to wage war on the Amalekites and eradicate their memory.

Reb Zalman Zezmer was a disciple of the Alter Rebbe - the founder of the Chabad movement. As a brilliant young scholar he was unaware of the Chassidic movement until one year on Shabbat Zachor a visiting scholar named Reb Binyamin Kletzker, already a legendary Chossid at the time, was honored with reciting the Haftara. Listening to Reb Binyomin recite the chapter about Amalek, the young Zalmen sensed that he truly hated Amalek with a passion, unlike anything he had heard before. Reb Binyomin was not raging against an ancient enemy of the distant past, but rather fighting against something current, real and relatable.

He asked Reb Binyomin where he learned to hate Amalek with such a passion and after a series of events Reb Binyomin brought him to the Alter Rebbe where he discovered the life changing teachings of Chassidus and learned about the Amalek within each one of us here and now. The force that seeks to dampen our Jewish enthusiasm and distract us from what’s really important. Something you can truly hate when you realize that it’s present and relevant here and now.

Zaidy, you embodied the idea that Judaism is not an academic or religious pursuit, but rather life itself. And you joyfully projected this truth to everyone around you, especially family.

As I continue to hear more of your life and your accomplishments I hope to not be distracted by the fascinating history it all represents but rather seek to apply these lessons in a real way so that I can live up to your treating me as a full fledged Chossid. As I continue to do my part in the corner of planet earth we call El Paso to prepare the world for redemption, please storm the heavens and entreat G-d to finally send us Moshiach, who will usher in an era of global peace and tranquility for all.




Zaidy Garelik (1).jpeg 

Holding me on the day of my Bris, together with my great grandfather Rabbi Sholom Posner, who was the Sandek.


Participating in my Bar Mitzvah celebration.

Zaidy 4.jpeg 

Officiating at our wedding. 


The party that never ends

Have you ever wanted a party to never end, for time to stand still, to savor the ecstasy of the moment? If only the inspiration, joy and serenity could be bottled up and preserved even after the cleaning crew arrives to prepare for a new day.

That’s usually the lingering feeling I get on Simchat Torah day, the final celebration of a month-long marathon of Jewish festivals packed with inspiration and celebration to last a year. Even for someone who attends synagogue daily, there is something unique and uplifting about the rapid succession of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

On Simchat Torah morning during synagogue services we read from three Torah scrolls. Usually one or two are sufficient but on Simchat Torah we conclude reading the Torah at the very end in the first Torah, we start reading from the beginning from the second Torah and we read about the sacrifices that were offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on that day, somewhere in the middle, from the third. We need three Torahs for a technical reason, but the ceremony of taking out three Torahs from the Holy Ark serves as a grand finale for the month-long inspirational journey we’ve just had.

While Simchat Torah is the only day on the Jewish calendar that we read from three Torahs every year, there are some other times that we do so if the calendar works out that way.

This year Shabbat coincides with Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Jewish month) Adar and we will therefore read from three Torahs! The first to read the weekly parsha of Mishpatim, the second to read about the sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple in honor of Rosh Chodesh and the final reading known as “Shekalim'' historically served as a reminder to all Jews to prepare their annual half shekel tax for the communal sacrifices in the Holy Temple, in the third Torah. It’s a déjà vu of Simchat Torah smack in the middle of the year and serves as a powerful lesson in Jewish living.

Last week’s Torah reading was about the dramatic and sensational event of “Mattan Torah” - the Revelation at Sinai. This week’ parsha Mishpatim opens with a lengthy and detailed discussion of mundane and workaday types of laws. Civil litigation, farm animal damages, bribery and the like. The types of rules that would bore you in the classroom but are the nitty gritty bolts and nuts that ensure a functional society. A disappointing wake up from the lightning and thunder drama at Sinai.

But then the Torah narrative abruptly returns to the events at Sinai with even more vivid descriptions of the divine visions and interactions the Jews experienced on that special day.

The message is clear. Jewish inspiration and spiritual experience must be immediately anchored with down-to-earth, day-to-day Jewish behavior. And specifically that workaday, consistent Jewish living will bring you to even greater inspiration and celebration down the line.

Don’t wait for a special occasion to add another Mitzvah to your routine or another Torah session to your schedule. Do it now and you can be sure that the next special Jewish experience you have will be beyond your wildest expectations.

Because Judaism is a party that never ends.


What party do you belong to?


Today is the Yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Other than her steadfast support for the Rebbe as he initiated the greatest renaissance of Jewish life in centuries, precious little is known of her life.

The Rebbe channeled the grief of her passing in 1988 into unprecedented global Chabad growth. Hundreds of schools, synagogues, libraries and Mikvas were established in her memory, not to mention the tens of thousands of newborn baby girls named for her; many who serve as Chabad emissaries around the world today.

While her legacy looms large in the global Jewish world, I’d like to share a short but fascinating story about her early adulthood in Soviet Russia.

She was the daughter of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, who assumed leadership of the Chabad movement in 1920, just as the Bolsheviks established their tyrannical anti-religious regime in Russia. Organized Jewish life was systematically and ruthlessly dismantled and the Previous Rebbe worked feverishly to keep Judaism alive, albeit underground, with great risk to his own life and the lives of all his students and followers who heeded his call to maintain Judaism in the country at all costs.

For years the communists sought to quash the Rebbe’s “religious anti-revolutionary rebellion” to no avail and in the summer of 1927 the soviet secret police barged into the Rebbe’s apartment in Leningrad after midnight to arrest him. The following is an excerpt from the Rebbe’s personal account of what happened that night:

They began their search in the room of my daughters, Chayah Mussia and Sheine, and asked them: “What party do you belong to?” 

“We belong to our father’s party,” they replied; “we are nonpartisan daughters of Israel. We are fond of the old ways of our Patriarch Israel, and detest the new aspirations.”

Profound and powerful words spoken by young women staring evil in the eye, but their principled position was as old as Judaism itself.

In this week’s parsha we learn about the revelation at Sinai; when G-d gifted the Torah to the Jewish people and made them a nation for eternity. Here as an important description of Torah taught in Chassidus:

There are two types of laws: a) laws that create life, and b) laws created by life. Human laws are created by life so they vary from land to land according to circumstances. G-d’s Torah is a divine law that creates life. G‑d's Torah is the Torah of truth, the same in all places, at all times. Torah is eternal.

Today we are fortunate to live freely without religious persecution, but as Jews we are constantly confronted with the question “what party do you belong to?” Society always entices us to invest ourselves in new trends, philosophies and fads. While there may be much good in the various isms out there, we must never forget that our cherished heritage, the Torah which  transcends time and space, is relevant here and now, as it was when our ancestors stood at Sinai 3,333 years ago. Everything else will be a footnote in history.

At Sinai we became members of the most ancient nonpartisan party known to humanity and it is our privilege and sacred duty to preserve this glorious heritage as we prepare the world for the arrival of Moshiach, when peace and tranquility will reign for all.

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