by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
Yom Kippur was this past Wednesday, and this Shabbos, Yud-Gimmel Tishrei, is the 136th Yahrzeit of the Rebbe Maharash. I received the following phenomenal story of the Rebbe Maharash, from Rabbi Mendel Moscowitz who heard it from Rabbi Leibel Posner may he be well, who as a child heard it directly from Rabbi Laizer Weissman, the person who personally witnessed it. I verified the story with one of Rabbi Posner’s sons, who filled me in on some additional details.
Some details about Rabbi Laizer Weissman. He is mentioned in the Sefer titled Toldos Agudas Chassidei Chabad B’Artzos HaBris. When I saw him, he was already an older man. I don’t know how old he was. He lived on Chicago’s south side. We lived in the Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. The Bnei Ruven shul used to be there. He used to come to our house for the Yomim Tovim, and also whenever the esteemed Chossid Reb Shmuel Levitin would come to visit Chicago. He often related this story to my parents and they filled me in on the details.
Firstly, I’d like to describe his character. When he’d leave the room after having talked to Reb Shmuel Levitin, Reb Shmuel would praise him, and coming from Reb Shmuel (who was generally not into “flattery”) it meant something. Rabbi Weissman was a Rov in Chicago, until his passing on the 5th of Adar Shein 5703.
Reb Laizer Weissman himself did not grow up as a Chossid, however, his father-in- law, was a Lubavitcher Chossid, and shortly after the marriage, he took Reb Leizer to Lubavitch for Chodesh Tishrei, to the Rebbe Maharash. He explained, I took you as a son in law because you are already recognized as a tremendous talmid chocham, however, I would like you to understand where your wife is coming from. You should have the experience and understanding of the relationship between a chossid and the Rebbe. So out of respect, Reb Leizer agreed to go “this one time”.
After Rosh HaShanah, the Baal Tefilla caught a cold, and became very sick. Several Chassidim requested a Yechidus with the Rebbe Maharash. They told him that the Chazzan was very sick, and that they needed a new Baal Tefilla for Yom Kippur, so who does the Rebbe prefer or suggest. However, the Rebbe didn’t respond, so they didn’t pursue it further.
The situation steadily deteriorated to the point that on Erev Yom Kippur afternoon, the doctor informed them that the Chazzan was literally a “goses” (mortally sick – lying on his deathbed). Once again, the Chassidim approached the Rebbe Maharash and asked him to appoint someone to take the Chazan’s place. The Rebbe Maharash said, “Mein zol im nemen, un mein zol im Tovel zein in der Mikvah drei mol.” (“Take him, and immerse him in the Mikvah three times”)
Reb Leizer continued, it happened to be that the Chazzan and I with my father-in-law were staying in the same “achsanya” (by the same host). When the chassidim came and explained why they were there, I thought they were joking. The Chazzan was so weak that he couldn’t get out of bed. Seeing that the chazzan couldn’t move on his own, some younger Chassidim were called in and began to pick up the bed with the Chazzan on it.
Reb Laizer says, I began screaming, “Rotzchim, ir tor duch nisht!” (“Murderers! Don’t you dare! It is forbidden by our holy Torah to do this”) The yungerleit completely ignored me and my protest, and began to run with the bed in which the Chazzan was lying to the Mikvah. I couldn’t believe what was happening so I began running after them hoping to stop them and to see what would transpire
When they arrived at the Mikvah, he was so weak that they couldn’t even take him off the bed. So they toiveled the Chazzan in the Mikvah while he was still lying in the bed. (Rabbi Posner remembers the way Reb Leizer repeated the story, that) after immersing the Chazzan for the first time, he gave a “chrop”! (That is the sound the Chazzan made to clear his mouth from the water that entered). The Chassidim then toiveled him two more times, as the Rebbe instructed.
The Chazzan opened his eyes and asked them what is happening. They informed him that it is erev Yom hakodosh and he wasn’t well, and the Rebbe instructed them to toivel him, and evidently the Rebbe wants him to be the Chazzan.
Hearing this, he swiftly got off the bed, changed his clothes, went to the Beis HaMidrash, and was the chazzan for Kol Nidrei.
Reb Leizer concluded, I couldn’t believe what happened, I witnessed “techiyas Hameisim (revival of the dead)” happening in front of my eyes. Had I not witnessed it personally, I wouldn’t have believed it. And yes some chassidishe spirit and life entered into me as well.
I thank Reb Mendel for submitting this unbelievable mofes (miracle) to us, and once again I request from you to please continue sending them in. The 564 page Biography on the Rebbe Maharash is now available. If you want it to be shipped via priority mail, the charge will be $27.00, this week only.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and is the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng or speak community and can be contacted at email@example.com