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Weekly Story: Being Truly Connected

by Rabbi Shoom DovBer Avtzon

I am pleased to announce that the reprinted edition of Reb Pinchos Reizes has arrived and is now available in the stores. In this print it is in hardcover.

Being that one of the stories in the book is connected to the Sukkos that he couldn’t travel to Liozna/Liadi, due to his frail health, yet he was still with the Rebbe in a most phenomenal way, I chose to post it.

As many of you are aware, the books in the Early Chassidic Personalities now have a Farbreng section, so following the story about him, will be the thought that is printed in the back of the book in the section called, Farbreng With Reb Pinchos Reizes. Yes the purpose of a story is the lesson one can learn from it, and obviously there are many more thoughts that can be derived from the story.

At this time I thank everyone for their good wishes and brochos and may it indeed be a wonderful and joyous year for all individually and as a part of klal yisroel.

BEING TRULY CONNECTED

The Alter Rebbe put limits on how often a chossid could come to him and how long he could stay during each of these visits.[1] However, for those who were extremely close to the Alter Rebbe, such as Reb Pinchas, these restrictions did not apply.

In addition to being with the Alter Rebbe for all three Yomim Tovim, Reb Pinchas would remain there for the entire month in which the Yom Tov took place, and for the month of Elul as well.

One year Reb Pinchas was not feeling well, and he was unable to travel to the Rebbe for Elul. Then to his great distress, due to an early and bitter winter and his health issues, he was unable to go for that Tishrei either.

On Shemini Atzeres, while he was sitting in the sukkah and eating the Yom Tov meal, Reb Pinchas suddenly cried out, “Oy Rebbe!” To everyone’s amazement, Reb Pinchas told them, “The Rebbe is thinking about me right now.”

Indeed, at that very moment, the Alter Rebbe was also in his sukkah farbrenging. Suddenly he said, “Pinchas Reizes needs physical healing. What I am unable to give him, I don’t give.[2] However, I can give him a brochah for physical health.”

Among those who were present with the Alter Rebbe were chassidim from Shklov. They were very intrigued that the Alter Rebbe had mentioned Reb Pinchas in middle of the meal. After the Yom Tov ended, the chassidim all began their journeys home.

On their way, those who passed through Shklov stopped at Reb Pinchas’ house and asked him to honor them with a l’chaim. Reb Pinchos immediately served them a l’chaim and invited them to sit down for an impromptu farbrengen.

To the delight of Reb Pinchas and the other chassidim who had been unable to be with the Rebbe, they repeated some of the teachings they had heard from the Rebbe during Yom Tov. During the friendly conversation that followed, they mentioned that the Rebbe had spoken about Reb Pinchas at a farbrengen on Shemini Atzeres.

To their astonishment, some of the chassidim who had remained in Shklov remarked, “We know, since at that moment Reb Pinchas cried out, ‘Oy, Rebbe!’”

As it was customary among chassidim in those days to help a fellow chossid rid himself of any trace of pride or ego,[3] they began to chide Reb Pinchas, saying, “Is it befitting for you to boast that you knew that the Rebbe was thinking about you?”

Reb Pinchas answered, “It is not ‘I’ [who felt it]. You see,” he proceeded to explain to his fellow chassidim, “when I had my first yechidus with the Rebbe, I entrusted to him with my nefesh. At my second yechidus, I gave him my ruach and at my third yechidus, I surrendered my neshamah.

“Since I gave my three levels[4] of nefesh, ruach and neshomah to the Rebbe, it is not ‘I’ who knows.”

When telling this story about how Reb Pinchas was able to sense this, the Frierdiker Rebbe concluded by saying that this is what is called an “inner feeling.” Sefer HaSichos 5705, pp. 54-55

HISKASHRUS TO THE REBBE

A THOUGHT ON BEING TRULY CONNECTED

As is known, the neshomah is called with five different names: nefesh, ruach, neshomah, chayah and yechidah. Reb Pinchas noted that at his first yechidus he gave his nefesh over to the Rebbe. Nefesh, which is the lowest of the five levels, corresponds to one’s actions. So in essence, Reb Pinchas was stating that at that time he became the master over his actions, so he could do things in the way the Rebbe wanted.

Once he succeeded in that objective, he was ready to work on the next level. So Reb Pinchas traveled to the Alter Rebbe and had another yechidus, which set him on the path of refining his ruach. Ruach is normally translated as spirit and it corresponds to one’s speech. Reb Pinchas began toiling on his speech, to ensure that it would always represent a chossid of the Rebbe.

Refining one’s speech goes beyond the obvious of avoiding lashon hara and other forbidden speech. Rather, it means to work on making sure one’s speech is pleasant and uplifting, in a way that encourages others to improve in their personal avodah.

Once that was accomplished, Reb Pinchas went to the Rebbe a third time. A Jew must always strive to improve, so he went to the Rebbe for further guidance. This time, Reb Pinchas began to work on his neshomah, that even his thoughts would be in the spirit of the Rebbe.

When a person achieves mastery over his actions, speech, and even thoughts, so that they are in accordance with the Rebbe’s teachings, he becomes connected on such a high level that the chossid can actually feel when the Rebbe thinks about him,[5] just as Reb Pinchas did.

However, it would be erroneous and indeed false to say that one is not connected to the Rebbe until one attains this level.

Chassidim relate that there was once a farbrengen where elder chassidim were discussing hiskashrus, and the Frierdiker Rebbe, who was then a young boy, was also present. The chassidim asked the Frierdiker Rebbe, “What is hiskashrus?” He replied, “Learning the Rebbe’s maamorim.”

The elder chassidim replied, “That is a chossid’l (a small chossid). The hiskashrus of a chossid means to do and fulfill the Rebbe’s will. Learning the Rebbe’s maamorim and wanting to fulfill the Rebbe’s directives is the very fiber of a chossid. However, everyone has a life and has responsibilities, and while they will give beyond their means for the Rebbe’s institutions and activities, often they are busy and leave the difficult work for others, while feeling satisfied with their financial contributions.”

“But then there is another chossid who says, ‘The Rebbe requested that this be taken care of. I will not wait until someone else finds time to take care of it; I will attend to it myself.’ That is a chossid.”

I have heard from numerous mashpi’im that the chassidim of yesteryear are to be looked up to and we should learn from them in many aspects. However, at the same time, we must realize that those chassidim would be envious of today’s chassidim who give up every comfort in the world to fulfill the Rebbe’s will to reach out to another Jew, even those who live in the remotest of places; places where they lack even basic necessities.[6]

The main thing is “toporu duh plachu,” that our actions should be as the Rebbe wishes.

Alternatively, we should note that once, when the Rebbe mentioned that the Rebbeim think about those who are or want to be connected to the Rebbe, he stated that the act of the Rebbe thinking about a person causes the person, suddenly, and without knowing why, to become inspired and desire to become better.

However, since Chabad demands[7] that a person’s elevation come as a result of their own toil, therefore the emphasis of this thought was placed on accomplishing and creating this connection through one’s own effort.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

[1] These restrictions and guidelines are known as takkonos Liozna.

[2] I heard from mashpi’im that this was alluding to the fact that he never blessed him to have children.

[3] See the story “Humble Yourself,” on pp. 23–26.

[4] A neshomah of a person is divided into five parts: nefesh, ruach, neshomah, chayah, yechidah. The lower three can be constrained by the human body. Therefore it is possible for the body to conceal the G-dliness found within them. By contrast, the two higher levels cannot be constrained by the body. They are the source and the cause of a person’s sudden inspiration to come closer to Hashem, when they hear a heavenly call to return to Hashem.

[5] The Rebbe stated numerous times that he thought about his chassidim on a daily basis.

[6] This comparison and contrast between today’s chassidim and those of yesteryear is somewhat analogous to one who contemplates for hours on the greatness and importance of fulfilling a certain mitzvah, yet for some reason doesn’t actually fulfill it. [Similarly, almost all of the great chassidim lived among other chassidim, and didn’t have to give up that “luxury” to assist other Jews.] This is in contrast to a simple Jew who doesn’t contemplate about or even realize the importance and significance of the mitzvah, but nevertheless fulfills it because that is what Hashem wants him to do. [Similarly, perhaps a shliach cannot daven with a minyan on a daily basis, but he gave up every comfort just to reach out to another Jew.]

[7] This is the essential difference between the approach of the Alter Rebbe and that of the other talmidei HaMaggid. The Alter Rebbe stated that although he will help his chassidim elevate themselves, they must accomplish this on their own. His colleagues, on the other hand, were of the opinion that a tzaddik can and should elevate his chassidim.

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