By Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
This story was supposed to be posted last week, but due to the unforeseen and sudden tragedy, I posted a tribute to my brother Reb Yonah a”h. I take the opportunity to thank all of the readers and friends who reached out to the family in our time of mourning. May we have only happy news to share with each other.
There was a Chassidic Jew, who lived in Brooklyn when the Frierdiker Rebbe settled in 770. Although he came from other chassidic groups, he became connected to the Frierdiker Rebbe and would often daven in 770. When the Rebbe assumed the nesius (leadership) in 5711 (1951), he decided that out of respect to the Frierdiker Rebbe, he will daven on Shabbos with his successor, the new Rebbe, and sound him out. Is he a Rebbe I can become connected to?
In 5711, the minyan was upstairs in 770, (the downstairs shul was built later on in 5620/1960 and then expanded a few times later), and the Rebbe’s place to daven was by the southern door of the shul, adjacent to the next room (which served as the Eras Noshim). Incidentally, that was the same place that his father in law the Frierdiker Rebbe designated for him when he arrived to America on the 28th of Sivan 5741 (1941).
This Jew stood at the back of the shul on the western side next to one of the windows that faced the back/side courtyard (where we now have the big Sukka built). He noticed the Rebbe entering in his fedora hat, a regular kapota (and not with a shtreimel and fancy or colorful bekishe) walking to his place in a dignified but unassuming manner and davened.
Observing him, he felt disappointed, to him something was missing. All of the other Rebbes’ that he witnessed davening (besides the Frierdiker Rebbe who was in a wheel chair and would daven upstairs) their entire body would shake in movement as they davened. He understood that as an expression of their devoutness, fervor and connection to Hashem. By this Rebbe there was only an extremely slight movement. To him it seemed, it was nothing to talk about.
So on his way home he decided that tomorrow for Shacharis he will daven with a Rebbe who fits his understanding and description of what a Rebbe should be and how a Rebbe should be dressed and daven.
That night in his sleep the Frierdiker Rebbe came to him in a dream and said “AI TIGOOO B’MISHECHOI – (Don’t touch my anointed one)”.
Hearing these words the man understood that the message was in connection to his dismissive opinion of the new Rebbe and realized that the Frierdiker Rebbe was informing and perhaps reprimanding him for his mistake, and guiding him to have a clearer understanding. He awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep and decided that he will daven shacharis in 770 together with the new Lubavitcher Rebbe, maybe I will observe something that I missed.
He entered 770 and once again stood in the back of the shul, keeping his thoughts to himself.
When the Rebbe entered the shul, he would normally make a left and walk across the shul to his place on the far left, walking between the Aron kodesh and the bimah. However, that Shabbos morning, he walked towards the window, straight to the person and whispered to him something to the affect, Don’t believe everything you see or hear in a dream, and then continued on to his place to daven shacharis.
The man was overwhelmed with thoughts. He didn’t inform anyone of his thoughts or his dream and yet, here the new Rebbe, the one whom he thought yesterday was not Rebbe material, just revealed to him pure ruach hakodesh. He is indeed Rebbe material and perhaps elevated that level to a new and higher degree.
Obviously to say he remained with the Rebbe.
May we all strengthen our connection to the Rebbe and realize that if there is a lack of appreciation, it may be a positive step in the right direction, identify and correct that lack which is within us.
I heard the above story from Rabbi Nissin Mangel sheyichye a few years ago. When I repeated it at a kiddush this Shabbos, Rabbi Shumel Heber sheyichye told me his father heard a similar story from Rabbi Marinovsky of Kfar Chabad, who heard it from a person (who happened to be a mohel) with whom it happened. According to his version:
The person said it was the Rebbe that came to him in a dream and the words that the Rebbe said to him in shul the following morning were, “Chalomois lo maalin v’lo moridin – Dreams don’t elevate someone or lower them.”
This week’s story is lzecher nishmas my brother, Reb Yonah ben Reb Meir a”h. May the family have only besuros tovos and may they continue his legendary work of spreading Torah and Chassidus to tens of thousands of Jews on a daily basis. As we were told by numerous people “There is not one English speaking chossid or follower of the Rebbe who did not benefit from his dedication.”
Please express your appreciation for his wonderful work, whether it be Lessons in Tanya, Rambam on the telephone, or one the few hundred seforim he published and contribute in the amount you are comfortable with. This expression of support will strengthen the organization and give his family the strength and encouragement to continue his phenomenal work. Click on www.sie.org to contribute.