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No Holier Than Thou
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

The mashpia R’ Mendel Futerfas, a’h, would tell the story of the Chassid who served Hashem all his life. He diligently studied Nigla and Chassidus, davened at length, worked on improving his yiras Shamayim (fear of Heaven) and his midos (character traits), did acts of kindness for those in need, performed mitzvos punctiliously, and educated his children and grandchildren in this spirit.

As he lay on his deathbed, in his final moments here on earth, with all his children and grandchildren surrounding him in tears, the Chassid mustered his strength and said:

The yetzer hara (evil inclination) just came to me. He is clever and he disguises himself in many ways. He never stops working, and even in my final moments he wants me to fall in the sin of pride. This is what he told me, wrapped in a silk kapote:

You see that your time to leave this world has arrived. This is your last chance to adjure your children and grandchildren to follow in your path. Use this moment to its fullest, and with your remaining strength speak to them about yiras Shamayim, avodas Hashem, and ahavas Yisroel. Thus they will remember and fulfill what you have told them all their days, and in this merit they will remember you forever.

The Chassid continued: That clever rascal thinks that when he wears a silken kapote and speaks seemingly holy words, he will succeed in implanting pride and arrogance in me, even in my final moments. He hopes that my attention will be focused on aggrandizing my name among you all your lives, so that you will always remember what a great Chassid your father and grandfather was...

But I did not fall into his net. I will not use my final moments in order to promote myself as a great Chassid. I will confess my sins and repent, and will not go to the Next World in self-righteousness.

The Chassid said Vidui (the confession said before dying), Shma, and then passed away.

After the Shiva, Chassidim sat down to farbreng, during the course of which the last words of the Chassid were reported. One of the elder Chassidim said that that Chassid thought that he had managed to defeat the yetzer hara, and that he succeeded in ignoring his flattery, not falling into his net to think about his reputation before he died. But what actually happened was that he did not realize how clever the yetzer hara really is, for we can see by what he said that he fell squarely into the trap. For if he really wasn’t thinking about his reputation before he died, then why did he tell the whole story?

If he hadn’t said anything he would have accomplished both things, nobody would have thought about his “greatness” and he would not have spent his final moments thinking about his reputation (and this is without getting into the question as to whether it may have benefited the family more if he had given them some direction for life, even at the price of “ego” and pride).

There were other Chassidim at the farbrengen who said that the Chassid knew all this, but for the sake of his family and in order to direct them in the ways of Chassidus, he was ready to give up his own good and allow for the possibility that they would think about his caring about his reputation, but at least they would understand how sly the yetzer hara is, and would not fall into his clutches even when he appears in the guise of being G-d-fearing.

It was more important to him to convey the message not to be self-righteous, for in this lies the “point,” the inner core of Chassidus. A person can learn and daven, progress and grow, and at the very same time cause his ego to expand ever more, distancing himself from Hashem instead of bringing him closer. This is why it was so important to him that his family always remember before anything else the Alef-Beis of Chassidus, not to be a “shin mit drei keplech” [lit., the letter Shin (which is the only letter) with three heads on it; that is, not to let one’s head swell], or more delicately put, not to be self-righteous.

Whether the Chassid had conquered his yetzer hara or fell into its clutches was not resolved at that farbrengen, and it really makes no difference to us. What concerns us is not to fall into the yetzer’s trap even when he "comes and reminds" us not to fall into his trap. In short, not to be self-righteous.


The Rebbe’s 90th year — the Year of the Tzaddik (5751) — was a most significant year with regards to the besuras ha’Geula and the Geula itself:

It was “the year in which Melech HaMoshiach was revealed” — particularly, “at the moment that Melech HaMoshiach stands on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and announces to Yisroel: humble ones, the time for your Redemption has arrived!”

In that year we were told, “do all in your power ... to actually bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu” (Chaf-Ches Nissan).

That year we were told to “publicize to all people of the generation” that we have merited to have a prophet in our generation (“the prophecy that Melech HaMoshiach has before the Geula”; not in the role of wise man and judge, but in the role of prophet, which makes it definite”) and that we are obligated to obey him.

That year we were told that the “only remaining avoda is to actually receive our righteous Moshiach,” and that “we already see a taste and a beginning of Melech HaMoshiach’s work on all the nations,” etc.

In fact, that year had an additional significance because the redemption from Egypt took place when Moshe Rabbeinu was eighty years old, which is hinted at in the double letter Pei (which equals eighty) in “pakod pakadti,” whereas the final Redemption is connected with the number ninety, and is alluded to in the double letter Tzaddik (which equals ninety) in “tzemach yitzmach,” as explained in the sicha of Parshas VaEschanan, 5751.

The Rebbe also mentioned numerous times the fact that we were in the year “that Jews called Shnas HaTzaddik (the Year of the Tzaddik),” and he repeatedly connected it with Redemption and the idea of eternity. (See for example the sicha of Parshas Chayei Sara, 5752, where the Rebbe says “netzach” (victory) is an acronym for: Nun — the Fiftieth Gate — Tzaddik — Shnas HaTzaddik — and Ches — Moshiach, who is one of the “eight princes.”)

* * *

At the beginning of the 90th year, at the farbrengen the Rebbe held on Shabbos HaGadol (the Shabbos before Yud Aleph Nissan, 5751), the Rebbe explained some extremely important matters:

First, the Rebbe explained at length (and emphasized) the fact that there must be a Moshe Rabbeinu in every generation, a Rebbe living as a soul in a body, for only through a Moshe Rabbeinu can the home in the lowest realms be made — with the strength of the G-dly man,” who contains all the infinite G-dliness along with all human limitations — and that only through Moshe Rabbeinu can the utterly infinite G-dliness be united with this limited physical world.

Then the Rebbe explained the significance of the word “tzadi” (which is how the letter Tzaddik is written in Chazal), which means “my side”: Despite the fact that G-dliness and Torah and mitzvos are seemingly a Jew’s entire existence, and not just his “side” (something tangential, for the word “tzad,” side, seems to indicate that this is only one of two sides), a Jew must know that the “right side” is his side, for in the soul’s descent into a body it confronts a world that conceals G-dliness. For a Jew is not overtly compelled to behave in accordance with Hashem’s wishes; rather, he has the choice to act as he pleases. So it is as though he “stands on the side” and is not forced to act one way or the other. That’s why we tell a Jew to “take a side” and to be on the “right side,” the side of Hashem and His Torah. By doing so he will have the strength to transform the world and make the world itself have a connection to Hashem, His Torah and mitzvos.

A Jew can accomplish this through the strength of “Moshe the G-dly man,” who unites within himself the unlimited G-dliness with the limitations of the world (by being a soul in a body). With this strength, a Jew can make the limited world — which seems to have different “sides” — see that G-dliness is his “side.”

This sicha was said at the beginning of the ninetieth year, and I think that as we begin the Rebbe’s fiftieth year of leadership, we have to stress this point that a Jew in general, a Chassid in particular, must be on the “right side,” even when it seems to him that it is only one of two possible sides. And he should not be afraid of the fact that he is “taking a side,” and he shouldn’t “stand off on the side.”

This especially applies to the “only remaining service,” to receive our righteous Moshiach”: At the start of the jubilee (50th) year of the Rebbe’s leadership, at the beginning of “Geula titnu l’aretz” [lit., “redemption shall you give to the land,” a reference to the law of the jubilee year, in which landed property is redeemed and returned to its original owner], the most important resolution each of us can make is to put Moshiach at the center of our lives, and do all we can towards our shlichus. In this is expressed the “bittul and hiskashrus to the nasi ha’dor.”

The very decision that “this is my side,” and I support it and identify with it, might well be the final act that tips the scales and brings about the ultimate purpose of all things, the final and complete revelation of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, immediately NOW!


“But I did not fall into his net. I will not use my final moments in order to promote myself as a great Chassid. I will confess my sins and repent, and will not go to the Next World in self-righteousness.”




There must be a Moshe Rabbeinu in every generation, a Rebbe living as a soul in a body, for only through a Moshe Rabbeinu can the home in the lowest realms be made...


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