Weekly Chasidic Story #1298 (5783-04) 29 Tishrei 5783 (Oct.24, 2022)

"Found in a Chengdu Cosmetic Store"

That afternoon, both couples with all their children went to the famous and gigantic New Century Global Mall in Chendu, China, which has an indoor beach along with a water park, and many other different entertainment facilities for kids.

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading of Noach (the universal Torah commandments for Non-Jews, commonly referred to as "The 7 Laws of Noah" ("Do the Seven, Go to Heaven").


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Found in a Chengdu Cosmetic Store

In spring 2021, I [Rabbi Shimon Freundlich] and my wife arrived in Chengdu from Beijing. We were very warmly received by the local shluchim (emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe], Rabbi Dovi and Sara Henig. They were celebrating the Opshernish [traditional first haircut and 'peyot-leaving'] of their three-year-old son Mendel the next day, and we had come to spend this special occasion with them.

In the afternoon, both of our families went to the famous and gigantic New Century Global Mall in the city, which has an Intercontinental Hotel and indoor beach along with a water park and many other different entertainment facilities for kids.

While walking in the mall, Rabbi Dovi mentioned to me that there is a French cosmetic store that has a single volume of Shulchan Aruch - "The Code of Jewish Law" authored by Rabbi Yosef Karo in Hebrew and French - as part of their display design since the mall opened in July 1, 2013.

He further told me that he had tried a number of times to persuade them to give it to him, but was unsuccessful. They very politely and respectfully told him that they have a retailer franchise from the international Kiehl's Cosmetics conglomerate and the store's display is sent to them from the main office in France, including the book.

Hearing this, I said to Dovi, "Please take me to the store. I would like to try."

We all entered the store and saw an extensive display with multiple books on Jewish literature (not holy books) and then the lonesome volume of Shulchan Aruch. My heart sank as I saw this holy book lying under a porcelain bowl of dried slices of lemons.

As I stared at the Shulchan Aruch, the woman at the counter walked over. I asked her in Chinese if she had a business card (thinking I would contact the boss to ask if I could have the book).

She responded, "We don't have a business card but if you want Ican give you our story WeChat."

After scanning my code, she sent me a message in Chinese asking what I wanted. I explained that I am Jewish and the Rabbi of the Beijing Jewish community. "This book is one of our holiest books and it is very hard for me to see it as a display piece and unused," I wrote. I added that I would be willing to pay for it.

She looked at me and said, "If I give it to you, what will you do with it?"

"I will learn and teach from it."

"Is it for you?" she asked.

"No, it is for the Jewish community in Beijing."

She then removed the sefer (book) from under the bowl and handed it to me.

"How much do you want for it?"

"Nothing," she replied, "it is a gift for your community."

I thanked her profusely and then suggested to my wife that we should buy something as a show of appreciation. The items were pricey but it was worth it. I think this is the most I ever "paid" for a single sefer, and it will be one of my enduring favorites.

After leaving the store I turned around to Rabbi Dovi and exclaimed, "What hasgacha pratit (Divine supervision)!"

He looked puzzled and asked me what I was referring to. I said that I had just remembered what happened on this date in Jewish history.

In 1509, Emperor Maximilian of Germany ordered that all Jewish books in the city of Cologne and Frankfurt-am-Main be destroyed, as a result of a claim by Pfefferkorn, a baptized Jew, that Jewish literature was insulting to Christianity.

The Jews appealed to the Emperor to reconsider this edict, and Maximilian agreed to investigate the matter. Appointed to conduct the investigation was Johann Reuchlin, a famed and highly respected German scholar.

His report was very positive. He demonstrated that the books openly insulting to Christianity were very few, and anyway viewed as worthless by most Jews themselves. The other books were needed for Jewish worship and contained much value in the areas of theology and science.

The Emperor rescinded his edict on the 14th of the Jewish month of Sivan, 1510.

From Tzfat (where the code of Jewish law was written), to France (where this volume was printed), to Chengdu (where it was sent as a display piece), the Shulchan Aruch was redeemed on the 14th of Sivan 5781 (2021: 511 years later), and found a home in Beijing, where it will be studied reverently.

Source: adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a report by Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, Director of Chabad of Beijing. First published on ColLive.com on 14 Sivan 5781 (May 25, 2021). Submitted by C. R. Benami, long-time editorial assistant for www.AscentOfSafed.com.

Rabbi Freundlich's postscript:
Thank you, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Henig for this opportunity. May your incredible Chabad House and community thrive and continue to be an outstanding oasis for Jews and Judaism in Chengdu, China.

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading of Noach (the universal Torah commandments for Non-Jews, commonly referred to as "The 7 Laws of Noah" ("Do the Seven, Go to Heaven").

1]Capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province and China's 5th largest city - estimated population (as of 2020): 16 million.
2]See story #1182 from two years ago on this email list

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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