by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
As this Shabbos is Parshas Zochor (remembering what Amalek did to us and the obligation to obliterate Amalek from within us), I would like to share a thought that was mentioned at a chassidishe farbrengen, based on a thought that was said in the name of the noted chossid Reb Yochanan Gordon.
The person noted that Reb Yochanon was farbrenging and he said, people have the conception that when we mention anecdotes and the conduct of the chassidim of previous generations, we have to learn from the outstanding ones. While, there is much to learn from them, sometimes the kluginke “the sly inclination” says that point which you are addressing can be accomplished by Reb Hillel Paritcher or Reb Issac Homiler, but you are a good but ordinary chossid, how can you compare yourself to them. You see we don’t mention that an average chossid accomplished that.
While this is argument is not true, as they paved the way for us to follow in their ways with ease, but never-the-less, it may be on your mind, so let us learn from a simple chassidishe wagon-driver or water-carrier.
You know sometimes, even by the not so old, in middle of your sleep nature calls and a person awakes and take cares of what they have to do. What do you do after you attended to your needs, you go wash negel vasser again, say asher yutzar and then back into bed and go back to sleep.
However, chassidim of earlier generations, and I am not speaking about the famous and outstanding ones, but the everyday regular chassidim and they would look at it differently. They would think to themselves, a few hours ago I said krias shema before I went to sleep and I concluded it with saying biyudcha afkid (In Your hand I give over my soul) and Hamapil. There I declared that my neshoma (soul) is returning to its source, that Hashem should give it new strength for the next day.
So he says to himself, now that I awoke, do you think the neshoma descended back into my body, just in order that I can go to the washroom. Evidently, it is time for me to arise and accomplish something in the service of Hashem. Therefore, you read in sichos of the Frierdiker Rebbe about the shuls that were full early in the morning with these sincere Jews saying Tehillim or learning.
A person might dismiss this as nostalgia and say that was “A’mul” (once upon a time, in the olden days and it is not the way things are done today. [But let us not forget that this Shabbos is also Tes Adar, the day the Frierdiker Rebbe declared “America iz nisht anderish – America is not different than pre-war Europe]).
Now there is a chassidishe vort (saying) that Amul is from the same root word of amalek.
It says in the megilla, “And these days are mentioned and remembered.” Chassidus explains this akin to the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov on the halachah “Whoever reads the megillah out of order, he did not fulfill his obligation.” The Baal Shem Tov explains this to mean, ‘That whoever reads the megillah and says that it happened a few thousand years ago, he did not fulfill the obligation of listening to the megillah.’ The message of the megillah is, just as then the current events etc., were orchestrated by Hashem Himself, so too whatever is happening in our lifetime, it is not coincidental, but we should come to the recognition that it is being driven by His will.
Here also by reminiscing about the past, how chassidim would conduct themselves, it is only in order to fulfill it now.
So just as chassidim of yester year awoke for the day, when their neshoma came down, so should we.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at email@example.com