Rabbi Avraham Gluck was a successful English lighting contractor with interests in many European countries. He was also a dedicated follower of the Rebbe. At yechidus (a private audience),the Rebbe told him that every Jew is like a light bulb, waiting for another Jew to help him glow. His mission, the Rebbe emphasized, was to spread spiritual light as well as electric light throughout the continent. Rabbi Gluck dedicated himself to this purpose with self-sacrifice and as result there are Chabad Houses in Hungary, Germany, and Spain.

Once Rabbi Gluck found himself confronted by a particular difficulty. His natural reaction was to consult the Rebbe, and the Rebbe responded with a letter offering blessing and advice.

In addition to his business acumen, Rabbi Gluck was also a devoted father. He kept up a steady correspondence with his son Herschel who at the time was studying in France. One of the points he sought to share with him was an understanding of the Rebbe-chassid relationship and he wanted to show his son the letter the Rebbe had sent him.

He did not feel comfortable sending the Rebbe’s letter by ordinary mail, so when a French yeshivah student appeared in England, he asked him to hand-deliver the letter to his son.

The yeshivah student agreed and took the letter. But as it happens, he did not have the opportunity to deliver the letter immediately. It was put aside, placed in a book and then forgotten.

Almost twenty years later, and about six years after Rabbi Gluck’s passing, his son was troubled by the same difficulty. As a dedicated chassid, despite the fact that it is more than five years after the Rebbe’s passing, he too wrote a letter to the Rebbe.

About that time, a French chassid was putting the books in his study in order. While doing so, he noticed a letter inserted between the pages.

On his next trip to England, he somewhat sheepishly made his way to the home of Rabbi Gluck’s son. He knew of Rabbi Gluck’s passing, but felt that his son would appreciate having the letter the Rebbe had sent his father.

He apologized profusely and gave Rabbi Gluck’s son the letter. Rabbi Gluck’s son accepted his apologies and thanked him. He then curiously opened the letter the Rebbe had sent his father. There was a blessing and advice that served as a most appropriate response to the letter he had so recently written.

There is no way we can fail to appreciate the Hashgachah Protis, the working of G‑d’s hand, in this narrative. And one can only be amazed at how the Rebbe “answers” those who seek to connect to him.

After the passing of his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe urged the chassidim to continue writing to the Previous Rebbe as they had done before. “Don’t worry,” the Rebbe assured them, “the Previous Rebbe will find a way to answer.” And seemingly, the Rebbe also finds his ways. Let’s not belabor the issue, because it is not miracles of this nature, but rather his insight and vision that motivate our connection to the Rebbe. That said, it sure is a nice story.

Parshas Vayishlach

This week’s Torah reading relates that after leaving Lavan’s household where he had lived for twenty years, Jacob set out for Eretz Yisrael. Upon hearing that his brother Esau was preparing to attack him, he relocated his family to protect them against Esau’s advance. That night, Jacob remained alone in his camp. He was met by an attacker and “wrestled with him until the morning.” Our Rabbis explain that the attacker was not a mere mortal, but rather the personification of Esau’s archangel. Jacob was able to withstand his challenge. Although the angel dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob held his own until, at day break, the angel conceded defeat and blessed Jacob.

In commemoration of this encounter, the Jewish people do not eat the sciatic and the peroneal nerves or the tendons on an animal’s hip socket (gid hanesheh; this is the reason that there is no kosher sirloin steak).

The Sefer HaChinuch explains the reason for this prohibition, explaining that it alludes to the future of the Jewish people. Although they will endure many difficulties in exile (“night”) from the gentiles and from Esau’s descendants, Jacob’s victory teaches them to remain confident and secure that they will not perish and that their descendants will endure forever.

Our Rabbis ask: Why is this concept, an idea of sweeping relevance, commemorated by a prohibition that focuses on only one element of the encounter? Moreover, why does the commemoration seem to focus on an undesirable element, a wound that Jacob suffered?

In response, they explain that this motif — that one particular detailenables us to relate to a general principle of fundamental importance — lies at the core of the confidence and trust we must have that G‑d’s providence will protect us and guide us through the challenges of exile.

The intent is that every detailis important. Not only will the Jewish people as a whole be led through exile, but each individual will feel G‑d’s providence. G‑d cherishes every individual Jew as a father cherishes an only son born to him in his old age. With patience and care, G‑d charts not only the path of our people as a whole, but that of every individual, guiding and directing each of us to attain the greatest good that we could possibly reach and enabling us to make our special contribution to the consummation of G‑d’s desire in creation.

The manner in which G‑d manifests His providence upon each individual is not meted out according to any scale of importance which logic could conceive. For because of G‑d’s desire and choice of the Jewish people, every person enjoys unique importance. Each one fulfills a dimension of G‑d’s master plan that another could not possibly fulfill. Therefore He lavishes on each person a unique measure of patience, care and love, enabling that individual to play his part in painting a picture that far surpasses any of his personal aspirations.

To emphasize these concepts, we commemorate Jacob’s encounter by focusing on one detail. For this teaches that there are no mere particulars; everything plays its part in the whole. Moreover, the commemoration focuses on something that appears undesirable, teaching that what we call evil is sometimes the most efficient and perhaps the only means through which — for the person and his condition at the time — G‑d can convey the ultimate good.

Looking to the Horizon

The Torah reading relates that, at their encounter, Jacob promised to visit Esau at his home in Seir. In fact, however, he never made that journey. Our Sages ask: Would Jacob, the embodiment of the attribute of truth, lie?

They explain that Jacob’s words were future-oriented. When would he keep his promise? In the era of the Redemption, when “saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau.”

The intent is that the interaction between Jacob and Esau is of cosmic significance. For the ultimate of existence is not for the spiritual and the physical to remain as separate realms, but for the two to be intertwined and for spiritual awareness to encompass the worldly realm. So while Esau — material reality — is dominant, Jacob will not visit Seir. But ultimately, after the world will be refined and its spiritual content brought to the surface, he will also go to Seir. For every element of our existence must be brought into contact with essential G‑dliness.