Weekly Story: Yud Shevat
by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
At a farbrengen on Yud Shevat I was asked to expound on what I wrote last week about Hiskashrus, so I decided to post it. As always your feedback is most appreciated.
In the maamar of Basi L’Gani, the Frierdiker Rebbe states that at a time of war, the king splurges all of his treasures in order that the regular soldiers would have whatever they need to win the war. The only condition is that the soldiers should demonstrate that they are interested in receiving these weapons. In chassidic terminology that is explained that they show that are capable of receiving and utilizing them or simply said that they are a Keli – receptacle for it.
This explains a paradox. Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Karzarnofsky related that after Yud Shevat 5710, there was a court case initiated against Agudas Chasidei Chabad. It was filed on behalf of the first engineer/architect of the ohel, whose plans were not accepted. Either in the courtroom or in a deposition in his lawyers office, the lawyer asked, “Now that Rabbi Josef I. Schneersohn is no longer among the living who is the President of Agudas Chassidei Chabad?”
Our Rebbe pointed to himself.
The lawyer then asked, “From when?” to which our Rebbe replied, ”From Yud Shevat.”
Comes the question, So what was happening the entire year, until Yud Shevat 5711?
On one hand the Rebbe refused to officially become Rebbe. Yet on the other hand. he not only continued farbrengening on Shabbos Mevorchim which he was instructed to do by the Frierdiker Rebbe, shortly after he arrived in America; but he began to farbreng on other days as well.
So was he accepting the Nesius or not?
The answer is, The Rebbe knew who he was and that he would officially accept the nesius, but he wanted that we show that we want him to be our Rebbe. Rebbe doesn’t merely mean our teacher, but as we say, Adoneinu, Moreinu v’Rabbeinu – our master, our mentor and our teacher. The first thing is that he is our master and whatever he says we will do. Just as a servant obeys his master, so too we will obey him.
This brings to mind something I heard from the mashpia Reb Melaich Zwiebel. There was a mashpia in Eretz Yisroel who went from community to community explaining to everyone the importance and necessity of signing the ksav hiskashrus. Yet when it came to his community, he demurred signing it, saying I am not ready. But then a few days later he asked for it and signed it.
At that point the chassidim asked him if he would explain what was going on in his mind. First you encouraged all of us to sign it, then you yourself don’t sign and now you did.
The mashpia replied; it is quite simple; there was never a question that we have to sign it. However, when it came to me i thought to myself what am i doing? I am requesting that the Rebbe accepts the Nesius. In other words, I am asking him to give up his life in order to focus on the chassidim. No longer can he conduct himself as he had done until now, learning the entire day etc.
Yet what am I giving him in exchange for that? As is customary among chassidim that one gives the Rebbe some money, so I will give him a few Lira’s. In essence all I am giving is a meal or two. At best I will be hungry for a few days. But am I giving away my life? NO! So how can I ask him to give away his life if I am not willing to do the same? This is what I was thinking about the last few days.
But today I remembered that I have something very precious. I have two letters that I received over twenty years ago, from his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe. He wrote them before he left Russia, and whenever my situation was desperate those letters gave me the fortitude to pick myself up and go forward. I am giving him those letters and not just some measly Lira’s.
In other words he was saying I have to make myself into a receptacle to receive whatever the Rebbe will give me.
Someone else at the farbrengen offered a different thought.
The Alter Rebbe had a chossid by the name of Reb Mordechai Liepler, who he instructed to became a precious stone merchant and to sell to the nobility at a bargain price, This way he became friendly with them and in the course of their conversations was able to mitigate numerous decrees that they were considering to make against the Jews.
However, after he moved there he said that he was faced with numerous tests that he didn’t have when he lived in a shtetel of only Jews. He then stated the way I was able to withstand these temptations was by saying to myself, “You are a chossid and you are connected to the Rebbe. Is it appropriate for a chossid of the Rebbe to act in such a manner? No! It is below my dignity.”
So by becoming connected to the Rebbe you won’t falter. As Reb Meir of Permishilan said, “Since Meir’la is connected to Above, he doesn’t fall below.”
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org