Weekly Dvar Torah: When Father Reads, One Hears No Curses; Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, A Giant in The Rebbe’s Army
The Mitteler Rebbe would hear the reading of the Torah from his revered father the Alter Rebbe.
It happened once that the Alter Rebbe was absent from Lyozna for the week of Parshas Tavo, in which we read the curses and the reprimands, in which Hashem excoriates the Jewish people.
The Miteler Rebbe who was a young boy just short of his Bar Mitzvah, fell ill after listening to the reading from a substitute who filled in for the Alter Rebbe.
He was so ill from heart ache, that his father, the Alter Rebbe, was in doubt if he should allow his son to fast on Yom Kippur three weeks later.
So they asked the Mitteler Rebbe, what was it that made you feel so bad this year, to take it to heart until it affected your health so badly, don’t you hear this reading every year?
And the Mitteler Rebbe responded; ‘when father reads, one hears no curses’!
This story as explained by our Rebbe’s teaches us two important points.
1) The Miteler Rebbe couldn’t handle the pain and suffering that the Jewish people had to go through and suffer, that just listening to the description of these curses made him ill.
The Frierdiker Rebbe tells us that this is just a small illustration of how much the Mitteler Rebbe loved every single Jew, as we find that entire books of Chassidus were written and intended for only a single Chossid.
An example is the ‘Pokeiach Ivrim’, which was written to guide just one Baal Teshuva.
The Mitteler Rebbe saw every individual through one’s soul, he saw the soul all the way from its source, a part of G-d with the maximum potential, and one person’s potential includes all the children and children’s children forever, he didn’t see just one person, he saw generations and generations till the end of time.
So, if you help just one Jew, you helped all the future generations that are destined to come from him forever.
2) The Rebbe learns from this, that someone like the Alter Rebbe was able to see the Torah as it in its original form, 2000 years ahead of the world, the way G-d sees the Torah, a Torah in which there is only good, and even what may look like bad content in our eyes, is really all about the hidden good which is above and beyond our scope.
Therefore, when the Alter Rebbe read the curses, all he read were hidden blessings, and the Mitteler Rebbe who was able to understand his language, did not hear any curses, but when someone else read the curses, all he could hear were the curses as the reader read them, and this affected his health.
And once the Rebbe spoke about this with great emotion, and he read the statement of the Mitteler Rebbe in a choking voice; ‘when father reads it’s something different all altogether’, when a loving father reads there are no curses, only blessings full of love.
I write this thought with a heavy heart, today we lost a giant in the Rebbe’s army, Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, affectionately known as Yossel Rosenfeld, the legendary executive director of the Yeshiva Oholei Torah – Oholei Menachem, for more than 60 years.
When I joined the school in 1960 there were only 50 children in the school of 5 grades, today it is a school with over 2000 students and growing, it has become the flagship Yeshiva of Lubavitch, most, if not all, of the Shluchim that you meet in every corner of the world, passed through the doors of Oholei Torah at some point in their lives.
I take this loss very personally, Rabbi Rosenfeld came to the school together with me some 62 years ago, and he turned the school from 50 students to what it is today.
Rabbi Rosenfeld was a giant, as the Rebbe told him when he summoned him back from Shlichus in S. Francisco: “I need you here”.
He was still up at 2 am and he was already up at 4, he couldn’t sleep if he didn’t know if the next payroll is covered, he was constantly on the move alongside his mentor Reb Michoel Teitlebaum, in whose shadow he always stood, as if he played no role.
I will never forget this, a few years ago when his health was not at its best, I accompanied him to a meeting about the future of the Yeshiva, he climbed up steps on his hands and knees like a baby, because he had to meet the payroll and fill his building dreams, this was something else.
He took the school from a tiny building at 695 Eastern Parkway, to ¾ of a city block on that same street, and thank G-d I was the beneficiary to be privileged to learn there, as did my children and grandchildren, to grow up to be Chassidim and Shluchim of the Rebbe.
With all his passion full of fire and brimstone, he never lost touch, I always cherished the moment that I got a call from him for every holiday, and especially the Chassidic holidays, to wish me Gut Yomtov, and to ask how things are going.
When I asked him once, why do you bother to call me so often when your time is so valuable, you have so much more important things to do, you can call those who have serious money and can contribute much more than I can to support the Yeshiva?
His response was; I love you, you are like my child.
This went on even in his last days, we spoke only less than a month ago on Chof Av, and the month before that on Gimmel Tammuz, he just blew me away every year with his gentleness and love when he remembered my birthday, to wish me a great year.
I think that Rabbi Rosenfeld personified the two qualities of loving every single individual, and seeing each person all the way from the top and his maximum potential, and that’s how he was able to live up to his mission that the Rebbe needed him for, to build the Rebbe’s training school for his Shluchim.
Rabbi, I will miss your monthly calls, but I will forever cherish your shining example.
Thank you for being there for me, thank you for raising me and my children, and tens of thousands of others.
Have a Shabbos full of blessings,
Rabbi Yosef Katzman