by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
This week we all celebrated Hei Teves, the Rebbe’s victory in the case of the seforim, that were taken out of the Frierdiker (previous) Rebbe’s library and subsequently returned.
I heard the following backdrop to the judge’s decision from Rabbi Alter Bentzion Metzker, may he be well, who heard it directly from the Jewish clerk to Judge Sifton.
A musmach (one who received Rabbinical ordination) from Yeshiva University was a clerk by the judge. When the trial had concluded, the judge asked him, perhaps because he was Jewish and may have shown a greater interest in this case, or perhaps, just because as a clerk for the judge, he would be responsible to search up similar cases and the judge would base his decision on those precedents; “What do you think about the case?”
The clerk replied, “It is a simple case of inheritance. [Implying that perhaps the defendant had some merit, chas v’sholom].”
The judge looked at him and said, “You missed the entire point. The case was about, ‘What is a Rebbe?’ What is the role and life of such an important individual?”
That is why the judge paid attention to the quality of a Rebbe’s character, and the Rebbetzin’s statement that “My father [himself] and the seforim, belonged to the chassidim,” played such a vital role in his decision.
One of the expert witnesses that was called to testify, was Mr. Elie Wiesel. One of the questions he was asked was, “What is a chassidishe story?”
He replied, there is a parable with a lesson, that is brought down to action.
Various times, when I repeated this statement, I heard the following comment; If this is so by an ordinary story, how much more so does it apply to a story that was so personal to our Rebbe! Obviously this level of not having a personal agenda, ego and interest, rather just focusing your entire life, on the well-being of the Jewish people, is a lofty level, that we admittedly cannot reach so easily.
However, as chassidim who strive to be and remain connected to the Rebbe, it is incumbent upon us to try to accomplish something, even if it is one thing, for the furtherance of strengthening Judaism, not for any personal reason, honor, etc., rather just because this is how the Rebbe teaches us to conduct ourselves.
We must strive to bring the fundamental teaching of Chassidus that in essence there is nothing besides the Creator, into actuality. By doing one peulah (act) only for the altruistic reason that this is the will of Hashem, we will succeed.
P.S. I forgot to note last week that I heard the story from my friend Rabbi Shlomo Galperin.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech (educator) in the United Lubavitch Yeshiva Ocean Parkway and the author of numerous books, including the acclaimed Rebbeim Biography Series and Early Chassidic Personalities Series. He can be reached at email@example.com.