Weekly Story: The Relevance of a Known Story

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

While everyone enjoys hearing something new, and in general I try not to recycle stories that have already been publicized, that is not entirely the correct perspective.  During farbrengens, mashpi’im often retell the same story to emphasize the importance of the message. Certain concepts have to become part and parcel of our mindset and mashpiim repeat a thought in order that it be ingrained in our DNA.

Recently, I spoke with Rabbi Nissim Mangel may he remain healthy, and asked him to share with me something he would have said by his shabbos farbrengens around gimmel Tammuz and Yud-Beis tammuz, that went on since chof zayin Adar, until the shutdown of Covid19.

He related the well-known story of the Alter Rebbe in 5552 (1792), that from after Pesach it was evident that something was perturbing him in a major way, however, no one knew what was causing the Rebbe so much anguish.

Then during the farbrengen of Shavuos that year, he suddenly stood up and cried out “Zeide [the Baal Shem Tov], Rebbe [the Maggid] arouse Heavenly compassion for me, for your talmidim and for your teachings.”

He then fainted.

Pandemonium broke out. The doctors tried to revive him, but couldn’t. Each second felt like a year, as the concern of the chassidim intensified.

Suddenly the Rebbe’s young grandson entered the room, seeing his beloved grandfather lying on the floor, he stretched out his hand and cried, “Zeide, grab hold off my hand and I will help you get up!”

The Alter Rebbe opened up his eyes and looked at his grandson, the future Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, and said, “zeh yinachuhmeinoo – this one will comfort us. Menachem in the present and Menachem in the future.

Chassidus explains that the name Menachem has the letter mehm in the beginning as well as in the end. The middle letters spell the name Noach.

As is well known Noach lived in a time of the mabul (flood), and his name represents the heavenly spheres of Tohu, while Menachem represents Tikun.

But just as the Alter Rebbe said then that Menachem will comfort us not only then but in the future, we have to know that he was referring to our time now and not just after yud Shevat 5710 (1950).

Now, also chassidim and the world are in shock and some may feel at a loss, how to continue.

To many of us, it may seem that the world has been turned upside down, there is going to be a new normal and what we have been accustomed to may no longer be viable. How are yeshivos, shul farbrengens and our daily life be in the near future? These are questions that no one can give an answer. So now is definitely an unknown and thereby a concerning time.

However, as chassidim we know that the words of our Rebbeim are eternal. The Alter Rebbe assured us Menachem in the present and Menachem in the future.

If we strengthen our connection to the Rebbe and follow his guidelines [Now is a good time to encourage everyone to step up their limud HaRambam as we are beginning a new cycle. Each person can improve by either learning the next level, or learning at least one halacha each day in more depth etc.], and the Rebbe will definitely demonstrate that a faithful shepherd does not forsake his flock and intercede on High on behalf of his mekusharim and the entire Jewish nation.

This week’s post is l’zechus the complete and swift refuah shleima for my sister Chaya Rivka bas Cheyena amongst all cholei Yisroel.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their Chassidim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

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