The Rebbe, Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa put down his cup one motzei shabbos and turned to his chassidim with worried eyes. “I see a time just before Moshiach will come that Jews will not be able to support themselves with a regular Parnassah. They will need to find work on the side to support their needs. I'm shivering at the thought of it...”
To the Chassidim of that generation, this vision most likely conjured images of extreme poverty and hardship. But perhaps the Rebbe was glimpsing at us – a generation of extreme consumerism and the side hustles needed to support it.
Our generation has witnessed the emergence of a new class of American holidays: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even more recently, Prime Day. These Yamim Tovim are celebrated across the country with ever increasing participation and excitement.
When the Maggid of Mezritch was a young boy of 5 or 6 years, he once came home from cheder and saw his house burning down and his mother crying bitterly. To comfort her he said, “Mommy, please don’t cry, Hashem will give us a bigger, nicer home.”
His mother replied, “Berele, I am not crying because of our home, but because of our Shtar Yuchsin, the document of our ancestry, which describes our beautiful family tree. Now, because of the fire, we no longer have it.”
Upon hearing this, young Berele said, “Please don't cry: if our old yichus letter was destroyed, with Hashem's help, a new yichus will start with me.”
Indeed, the Maggid (whose Yahrzeit is 19 Kislev) built an empire of Torah and Chassidus, imbued with this spirit: Regardless of whatever has been, we begin again now.
Truthfully, however, we have a far more complex relationship with our pasts, both nationally, and personally. It is neither simple nor advisable to neglect our rich and often fraught histories. For Yaakov Avinu, his past catches us with him this Shabbos.