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Five Golden Words

mishpacha image


t had been a long, hot day, but the air held a chill as we stepped off the bus into the hazy dusk. We wrapped our sweaters tightly around us.

We trudged up the path to the thicket of trees. The area looked foreboding, and I hesitated for just a moment before pushing through the gate and continuing on. The leaves crackled underfoot and at every snap of a twig, I jumped. The hoot of a bird sounded in the distance, otherwise all was still.

The ohel was full; it always was. A group of American women stood together, swaying quietly. Several Israeli girls, obviously belonging to one cohesive group, mingled through the crowd, each finding a space in which to speak her heart, to express the whispers of her soul. A Mizrachi-looking woman stood to one side, praying intensely.

Everyone finds their way to Lizhensk, to the resting place of the holy Rebbe Reb Elimelech, the tzaddik who will not allow the hushed pleas and fierce supplications of Yidden go unheard Above.

I stared into the flames of the many candles lit next to the matzeivah, until the fiery orange burned in my eyelids. Life was harsh. It sometimes got cold and lonely. Weak, we tread our winding roads, facing the storms and winds and potholes, and I know of too many who tread their paths alone.

I whispered the timeless words of Tehillim, begging for all to be good, for the blessings in my life to continue, for my dreams to take flight, for my future to hold security and stability.

A tap on the arm. One of the girls from the Israeli group handed me a small booklet. I looked down, momentarily confused, then realized it was Reb Elimelech’s Tzetl Kattan, which includes a powerful tefillah infused with strong lessons. As I was about to open it, five words embossed in tiny gold letters on the cover caught my attention.

“Mechulak chinam. Kach lecha — u’l’chaveircha.” Distributed for free. Take for yourself —  and for your friends.

I looked up, held the girl’s gaze, her eyes sincere and warm, mine softened by the wonder of this almost insignificant but magical gesture. I stared at the last little word on the front of the small booklet: l’chaveircha. I don’t know who’d arranged for the printing of those booklets, who’d chosen those few words, but I do know that that last word spoke everything.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 636)

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