Weekly Story: The Power of a Small L’Chaim

by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon

A chossid once travelled by foot for a few days until he finally arrived in Lublin. Happiness glowed from his face, which took away all of the soreness of his feet from this long trek, as he was finally about to quench his thirst and fulfill his desire of being with his Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, for Yom Tov. He had dreamt and hoped for this to actualize over the past few years, and now he is here. With joy and jubilation, he took the final few steps to the Chozeh’s beis hamidrash.

However, his happiness was short lived, for as soon as he arrived and gave Sholom (greetings) to the Chozeh, the Chozeh instructed him to return to his home immediately. The chossid was dumbfounded and distraught; he had hoped and planned for this for years, and now, why and what, he didn’t know. But the Rebbe clearly said, he cannot remain in Lublin for Yom Tov, or even for one day, he must go home NOW!

There was no room for questions, the Rebbe said to go and he was going to listen. Distressfully  he picked up his bags and began trekking back on the same road he had so happily traversed the past few days, just now it was with a heavy heart, instead of the buoyant spirit he had.

That evening (or the next), he stopped off at an inn for the night. Upon entering the inn, he saw a group of fellow chassidim sitting around a table and farbrenging, so he sat down and joined them. Noticing his lack of enthusiasm, and in fact some sadness or perhaps melancholy, a few of the chassidim asked him why is he so troubled?

We are going to our Rebbe, the great Chozeh of Lublin, they said joyfully, join us and the Rebbe will definitely help you, they exclaimed.

Unable to contain his emotions any longer, the chossid sadly replied, It is some years that I hoped and planned on being with the Chozeh for Yom Tov, and indeed I finally succeeded, I arrived in the Rebbe’s beis hamidrash. However, as soon as I gave the Rebbe, Sholom, he instructed me to return home without any delay. Why he didn’t say, but that doesn’t help me.

The chassidim were shocked at this turn of events, evidently, for some reason the Rebbe didn’t want to see him. But one of them said, “Come join us at the farbrengen and we will say L’chaim. He then took a cup and said to the newcomer, L’Chaim, may you once again find favor in the Rebbe’s eyes. Return with us and we will try to intercede with the Rebbe, on your behalf.”

The chossid was overjoyed, his fellow chassidim are going to intercede on his behalf, he didn’t need another invitation and happily joined in the farbrengen that continued for some hours. The next morning after they davened Shacharis, they all continued on their way to Lublin. True to their word, they went to the Chozeh first and requested of him to allow this chossid to be with the Rebbe for the Yom Tov.

The Chozeh said to them, call him in. He then said to him, “When you arrived here, I saw a harsh decree against you. You were to pass away in a few days. Therefore I instructed you to return home immediately. You would then have passed away in the presence of your family, and would have received a proper and respectful funeral. Just imagine the grief your family would have endured if you passed away on the road and for a few days, or maybe even for a longer time no one would have known what happened to you.

However, there are a few ways of changing a strict and indeed severe judgment to life, and one of the ways is through tefillah (prayer).

We begin on Rosh Hashanah by saying the additional tefillah (prayer) of zuchreinu L’chaim – remember us for life. The tenth word of that tefillah is elokim, which represents the strictness and judgment of the Creator. Now zuchreinu is similar to the root word of zikoron (as both of them mean remember), and one of the names of Rosh Hashanah is Yom Hazikoron. The tenth day from Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur, the final day of judgment. So we pray on Rosh Hashanah that the strict judgment be overturned and we all be blessed with Life.

However, not always does prayer help.

But there is another way to mitigate severe judgment of midas hadin, and that is through a farbrengen. The Hebrew word of Elokim, has the numerical value of 86, while the Hebrew word of Kos (cup) also has the numerical value of 86. Through the good wishes of chassidim especially as you are participating in the farbrengen, they changed the judgment and you merited to live a long life.

This is akin to what Reb Hillel Paritcher related in the name of the Alter Rebbe, that a chassidishe farbrengen can accomplish more than the malach Michoel.

So let us have a good brotherly farbrengen and wish each other good from the depths of our hearts, and all of Israel be blessed with a wonderful happy year, culminating in the swift coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. Amen.

I heard this story from Rabbi Nissan sheyiche Mangel at a farbrengen.

The author can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com.


    • 2. Sholom Avtzon wrote:

      The Rebbe instructed the hanahala (Rabbi Yosef MM Tenenbaum) that when the mesivta boys farbreng, a drop of mashke should be placed in a full bottle of soda (sprite/gingerale etc.) and the bochurim should say Lchaim on that.

  • 3. Hello my name is Mendel and I am an alcoholic wrote:

    Stories like this was my beginning. Now I attend a weekly 12-Step program.

    • 4. Rabbi Sholom A vtzon wrote:

      By farbrengens the story is related how two elder chassidim sat down to farbreng and poured a cup of lchaim and in the morning after their unique farbrengen they poured the mashke back in the bottle.
      so please don’t blame the concept of farbrengen. Perhaps those who lead farbrengens have to make sure that I it doesn’t turn into a drinking experience but the benefits of a farbrengen are tremendous.
      And yes farbreng without the mashke

    • 5. Hello my name is Mendel and I am an alcoholic wrote:

      With respect, when a story is told – it is because it is UNUSUAL and NOT an every day occurrence.

      So yes indeed there is a story of “two elder chassidim that poured a cup of lchaim and in the morning after their unique farbrengen they poured the mashke back in the bottle” – but that is just it: a story about something unusual and different.

      The usual and common is empty bottles after a farbrengen. I know, because I became an alcoholic and now doing my 12-steps program.


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