Weekly Story: Hei Teves

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

Being that Hei Teves is this Sunday, I felt it is appropriate to share the following detail as it is related to the court case. This is about my father Reb Meir a”h’s connection to the case.

As it is well known, the Rebbe instructed two members of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, Rabbi Y. Krinsky and Rabbi A. Shemtov to obtain legal counsel to prevent the selling or transferring of any of the seforim. However, before the Rebbe gave it to them, he said the following.

“In truth, this effort should be headed by my father-in-law’s chassidim, such as Mendel Futerfas and Meir Avtzon. However, being that they are not knowledgeable in the ways of the courts, I am giving it over to you.”

Almost immediately after receiving those instructions, Rabbi Shemtov, who is a mechutan to my father, rushed over to my father’s dwelling, (in the house adjacent to the Library) and repeated these words of the Rebbe to him.

Hearing this, my father felt that he has to do whatever is his ability to be involved. So every day he went to the court and would sit in the benches reserved for the people and say Tehillim.

One day after a break, the judge informed the lawyers that the defendant claims that one the spectators had harassed him and that it was part of a plan. The lawyers denied any knowledge of it and after identifying the “culprit” my father was called to the Judges table. [Being that he probably wouldn’t know what was being said, my brother Reb Yonah a”h went along with him, to translate whatever was being said to him].

Judge Sifton said to them, I have noticed this man here every day praying earnestly from his book, [Tehillim], is he the one that harassed the defendant. Yes, your honor he harassed our client today.

Turning to my father, the judge told him that it is forbidden to harass the defendant and does my father understand that and commit not to repeat it.

My father replied, I never intended to speak to him, however, he initiated the conversation saying, he understands the young chassidim, who never saw his grandfather, the Frierdiker Rebbe, would be against him, but I, who saw his grandfather, the Rebbe, I should be with him. So I told him in a chassidic way of what I hold of him, and I don’t think he will approach me again, so the judge can be assured that there won’t be another conversation between us two.

As an author, Hei Teves has a personal connection, and I thank the schools and mosdos who reached out and are showcasing my books to their community, demonstrating the importance of these books. However, I have to state that while I am the author, credit and hakaras hatov has to go to the generous benefactors who make it possible, by covering some of the expenses. Thank you to each one individually.

Bezras Hashem the 648 page biography on the Rebbe Rashab, should be available around Yud Shevat. I instructed my editor to please review the biography of the Mitteler Rebbe, which is presently out of print and then Bezras Hashem it would be reprinted. I have begun the research and writing of the biography of the Frierdiker Rebbe, which probably would be two volumes.

If anyone wishes to participate in that project or any of my other projects please contact me. Thank you

Being that this week was Chanukah and there is a minhag of chassidim to farbreng on the night of the 5th light, I thought some of you might enjoy one such farbrengen as related by the Frierdiker Rebbe in Sefer HaSichos 5702, pp. 55-58.

One of the takkanos of the Rebbeim is that in every community, someone is appointed as the mashpia. It can be the Rov, the shochet, a melamed or someone who is supported by the community to be their mashpia. In the town of Shetzdrin, which was established by the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, the mashpia was Reb Yisroel Moshe.

Every year on the night of the 5th candle, there was a farbrengen at night and another one during the day, and the entire town participated in them. However, one year it came out on a motzei Shabbos and Sunday, and Sunday was a market day for all the towns around it. So obviously the merchants that had a table or stall in the market place weren’t able to be there for the entire farbrengen, so it was decided to postpone the second farbrengen to Sunday night. But even then, some of the vendors came late.

To Reb Yisroel Moshe this wasn’t just a sign of laziness or an indifference to darkei HaChassidus, it was a demonstration that an apathy to Chassidus is brewing inside them. I missed the earlier farbrengen, so it is alright if I come somewhat late to this farbrengen. In the chassidic terminology, it is the Chomer is more powerful than the Tzurah.

He began discussing the greatness of Adam Harishon, who was created/formed by Hashem’s hands. He was so full of light that he outshined the light of the sun. He was so wise that while the angels who stand in the presence of Hashem couldn’t decipher the names of all living creations, yet Adam was able to ascertain the life force and state through which words each item was created, and he therefore was able to inform us of each items name.

Yet Adam HaRishon sinned and he was given his punishment which he accepted stoically. He knew he brought it upon himself and now there is nothing for him to say in his defense. He felt like a wise man that knows he lost his understanding or a wealthy man that lost everything, he was broken. Yet, our sages tell us, (Pesachim 118a) that when Hashem said you will have thorns in your food, he broke down in a torrent of tears and cried out, “Am I and an animal the same?!”

Reb Yitzchok Moshe continued, Hashem created each one of us in the form of Adam HaRishon. But nowadays, some people don’t feel bad and definitely don’t shed a tear, when their conduct is similar to their animal. Where is the Tzurah (refinement) of the Chomer (body).

A person should understand that he and the animal are not the same; a person has a higher mission than an animal. His mission is to be connected to Hashem.

This week’s post is l’zechus the complete and immediate refuah of my sister Chaya Rivkah bas Cheyena and all those who can use a brocha in whatever they need.

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