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“When It Comes To Faith, He’s Just Like My Bubbe!”
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

There is a famous story told about an encounter between the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita and a certain professor who was considered a leading authority in several areas of science. This professor was also a vocal advocate of the political far left.

The professor had heard many stories about the Rebbe’s knowledge of scientific matters from several colleagues who had met the Rebbe in person and were extremely impressed. Time and again they had urged him to go to the Rebbe and see for himself.

The professor found it hard to believe that a Chassidic Rebbe could be so open to what the modern world had to offer, but eventually he made an appointment for a yechidus. He resolved that he would speak to the Rebbe, but fully expected that the meeting would fail to impress him.

Of course, like so many before him, he left the yechidus stunned by the experience. When the bachurim in 770 begged him for details, he related the following:

“Before I entered the Rebbe’s room I had resolved not to be impressed, but as you can see, I have never been so excited. The Rebbe impressed me in a way that no other person in the world has ever done!

“The Rebbe began the conversation by bringing up a certain scientific topic for which I have a tremendous interest. In fact, I have researched this topic for years, and am considered the number one expert in the field. Only a handful of people have even the slightest notion of what it involves. I was shocked to find that the Rebbe was completely conversant on the subject, down to the latest scientific discoveries. His comments not only impressed me with their depth and scholarship but with their striking simplicity and logic.

“From that topic we moved on to another, and again I was struck by the Rebbe’s breadth of knowledge. This happened time and time again, no matter which subject we talked about.

“My initial plan, that I would once and for all prove to my colleagues that their estimation of the Rebbe was exaggerated, evaporated completely. I felt like a dwarf in the presence of a giant. Here I was, a world renowned professor, and I felt like a child – discussing the very same topics about which I am supposed to be the expert!”

The professor paused for a moment, as if finding what he was about to say difficult to articulate.

“But I must tell you that your Rebbe does have one major shortcoming. It was amazing! No matter which scientific topic was under discussion, he was ‘progressive’ and enlightened. But the minute the conversation turned to faith, I saw that he believes in every single world and letter – just like my bubbe, a simple old woman who doesn’t know anything!”

* * *

In connection with Chaf Av, the yom hilula of the Rebbe’s saintly father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, o.b.m., I present the following excerpt from a letter written to his son, the Rebbe MH”M. (The complete letter is printed in Igros Levi Yitzchak; the excerpt is on page 263.) In addition to expressing Rav Levi Yitzchak’s unique blending of all aspects of Torah into a comprehensive whole, it also emphasizes the concept of emuna in every little “dot and crown” of our G-d-given Torah, whereby each detail complements and perfects the others:

“In short, do not imagine that the process of argument and debate as engaged in by the Sages of the Mishna and Talmud and those who followed…falls into the category of regular human intellectual pursuit. No, it is not that at all… Rather, each of the Sages perceived the Torah’s wisdom as it exists Above, according to the source of his soul and his individual portion in Torah, whether in halacha or Aggada.

“There is absolutely no doubt that everything in both the Oral and Written Torah, and in all the s’farim written by the chachomim and tzaddikim, who studied Torah for its own sake…everything was said by G-d Himself, in that particular and exact wording.”

Our Torah is described as “Torah t’mima,” a complete and perfect entity that does not require any “apologies” to make it palatable to the world. This is the basis of all Yiddishkeit — that every single letter and “crown” of the Torah is Divine. Indeed, it was this belief that the early proponents of the German Enlightenment, who coined the phrase, “Be a man in the street and a Jew in your tent,” could simply not tolerate.

There are many stories told about Shimon the Heretic of Zamot, who was sent by the Maskilim to infiltrate religious circles and ensnare unsuspecting Jewish souls. In his battle against “those who experience hallucinations, the Chassidim of the Rebbe of Liozna,” he advised that religious youth be given “a reading list of books that ridicule the devout – those who believe in angels, the evil eye, demons, and spirits – for the purpose of uprooting the ignorance implanted in them by their totally ignorant melamdim.”

When the heretic met the Alter Rebbe in person, the Alter Rebbe asked him how he interpreted the verse in Chumash, “And Yitzchak trembled very much.” Certainly not according to Rashi’s second explanation, the heretic replied, i.e., that Yitzchak “saw Gehinom opening up before him.” “The developing minds of children should not be subjected to Aggadic tales, especially frightening ones about Gehinom and the like,” Shimon insisted. At that, the Alter Rebbe declared that he had fallen into a heresy of such magnitude that no one had ever emerged from it.

In a letter to his fellow Maskilim describing the Chassidim, Shimon wrote that even the simplest woman would wash her hands three times and dry them with a towel before uttering a word from the Rebbe. Realizing that pure and simple faith was the “secret weapon” of the Chassidim, he devised various strategies to uproot it; “otherwise,” he wrote, “all our efforts will be in vain.”

* * *

Throughout the generations, our Rebbeim have fought valiantly against changing the traditional method of Jewish education even a hairsbreadth, insisting on the old-style melamed with his lessons in phonics as a way of instilling an awareness and appreciation for the holiness of the Hebrew letters. “Miracle stories” have also always formed an integral part of a traditional Jewish chinuch.

The Rebbe Rayatz’s memoirs, like his reshimos and sichos kodesh, are replete with stories about tzaddikim and their “mofsim,” and yes, with spirits and demons, too. The reason is that such stories inspire the Jewish heart with faith that transcends the human intellect, and convey an awareness of holiness that no one need defend.

For when all is said and done, the “antidote” to all the illnesses of our present era, and indeed, the basic principle of Chassidus, is simple faith. For it is the only foundation upon which the entire edifice of Yiddishkeit can stand without toppling.

The following is a free translation of the Rebbe Rayatz’s “Kol Korei” dated 16 Sivan 5701 (1941), which I believe is particularly timely:

To those who oppose and fight us! (“Answer a fool according to his folly”):

In reaction to our call and warning of “l’alter l’Geula” (“immediately to the Redemption”), you have responded with the ridiculous yet terrible rejoinder that such is the stuff of missionaries!

What has happened to you? Where is your knowledge of Jewish concepts? What is it that you believe in? Indeed, you are making a dire and foolish mistake. How can you ascribe one of the most fundamental beliefs in Judaism, the belief in the coming of Moshiach, to the nations of the world, just because they mention it (in their own way) in their preaching? Would you also surrender Shabbos, taharas ha’mishpacha, t’fillin, and tzitzis if the Christian missionaries began advocating them, too?

Do you really not know that the belief in the coming of Moshiach is one of the fundamentals of our holy Torah, the foundation of all [the writings of] our Prophets and Sages?

Do you truly wish to influence the masses of Jews to stop believing in Moshiach’s coming, as you are doing, by telling them that it is “treif” – just because the missionaries talk about a “Christian Messiah?”

Will you ever be able to redeem yourselves and do teshuva for such a terrible sin? Making the belief in Moshiach loathsome to the masses of Jews, based on a stupid and fictitious argument?

Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon HaKohen, offered a “strange fire” upon the altar of Israel and were burned for it. They received the greatest punishment, G-d forbid, because they introduced a strange fire to a place where only a G-dly, holy fire should have been. About this, the Torah warns us, “I will sanctify Myself in them that come near to Me.” For such a grave transgression there is no forgiveness, even for holy people like Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon.

In your quest to defile the holy fire of belief in the Redeemer’s coming you are now doing the same thing, to our great misfortune, by introducing your own “strange fire.” Do you really want to bring upon yourselves the same terrible punishment, the burning of the soul and the demise of the body, G-d forbid?

Do you not believe that Moshiach will come, our Jewish Moshiach, the one foretold of by our Prophets in the Tanach and by our Sages in the holy Gemara?

To those who oppose us, I respond in the words of the wisest of all men, “Answer a fool according to his folly”: 1) You must obviously be hoping that our words will be revealed as fraudulent and that Moshiach will not come in the near future, just to prove that you alone are the wise and religious ones, and in order to retain your control over the Jewish people. But aside from the fact that you will be sorely disappointed, you should even now be ashamed of yourselves for opposing our Kol Korei. No intelligent person will ever believe that you pray to the Creator to send Moshiach, and you have already demonstrated your dishonor and shame by opposing those who recognize the truth better than you!

2)       By disseminating the false, criminal, and ridiculous idea that to inform Jews of the imminent coming of Moshiach is “the stuff of missionaries,” very soon you will be forced to include on the list of “missionaries” (G-d forbid) the true and final Herald of the Redemption, Eliyahu HaNavi, who will imminently be confirming our Kol Korei. No doubt you will neglect to ask him how he knows [about the Redemption], just as you neglected to ask us, and he will certainly not approach you before he has approached the rest of the Jewish people.

3)       You assume that your battle will bring you the reputation of being wise and practical religious leaders, but your illogical conduct has already established you as the opposite. You cannot really hope for Moshiach to come soon, as it will make you look like fools. And as for your piety, there is really nothing to say, as you failed to take this into consideration before waging battle. The words of the Prophet are being fulfilled, “Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined,” and people’s true faces will be revealed. By characterizing our call as “the stuff of missionaries,” you have very clearly demonstrated your lack of scholarship, fear of G-d, and basic intelligence.

4)       Although you present yourselves as the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people, your words are designed to achieve the exact opposite: Very soon you will be forced to give an accounting, and bring upon yourselves the very greatest punishment, G-d forbid, if you do not immediately take back your sinful words and admit that you have made a terrible mistake. It is very clear that you must be the first ones to repent in full teshuva, more than any other members of the Jewish people.

To those who believe, and to those who still have doubt!

I now address myself to you!

To those of you who believe in our Kol Korei, and to those who have doubts because of some supposedly religious Jews who are attempting to cool off your enthusiasm, we say:

There is no need to rebuke you or to use harsh words, for this is not our way; we have only done so against our will, directed against those who are deathly apathetic and those who oppose us.

But to you we say heartily, as one brother to another, words that are motivated only by Ahavas Yisroel: The hour has come!

Now that the long-awaited and auspicious time has arrived that G-d is about to redeem us from the exile, we must cease being “Galus Jews,” with our own [petty] wants and needs. Rather, we must now be “Geula Jews,” in order to merit the immediate Redemption!

Join our “Machne Israel,” which is not in competition with any other movement or in conflict with the wishes of any individual! Help us increase our numbers and do the work that is crucial at present on behalf of the entire Jewish people!

Gravity is the call of the hour!

Jews and brothers, be serious! Desist from small-mindedness and all petty individual ambitions. An entirely new age is upon us, a time of emergency, in which all individual ambitions will not see fruition.

We are not trying to appropriate anyone else’s boundaries. We are not attempting to disturb anyone or impinge on anyone’s honor. All we want to do is awaken you and bring you merit, and make sure that you and others are aware of what is happening.

We could no longer sit with our hands folded, watching what was happening and remain silent. We realized that we had no choice but to be the impetus for setting the Jewish world on the right track. We have pointed you in the right direction; from now on, it is yours! We have established HaKriya VeHaKedusha for this very purpose. We have initiated the creation of Machne Israel; let it be your work as well! Come, help us with genuine dedication to the cause, for the sake of the entire Jewish people! Help us conquer the final frontier, with G-d’s help. Help us remain strong and bring about miracles, for all other positions are pointless! From now on, all other strongholds will dissolve and crumble. We warn you that we speak the truth. It is for your own benefit that you believe us now, before you see it for yourselves. It will be your own tragedy, G-d forbid, if you wait too long for our words to be proven, and fail to perceive the truth in time.

Gravity is the call of the hour! Pettiness has always been foolish; now it is actually life-threatening.

“Immediate Redemption” is not an illusion or a religious wish. Not now – it is the call of the hour!

The Redemption is on “the other side of the wall,” and it is fast approaching with rapid steps. Mighty fortresses will dissolve into fragments, nations and peoples will turn upside-down overnight. The entire world will be shocked, “but the word of our G-d shall stand” – G-d’s word, as transmitted through our Prophets, is going to be fulfilled in our own generation!

Would that we all merit to remain alive with the rest of this generation, and achieve perfection with the chosen portion of humanity! As Jews, we can only attain this through complete and aggressive teshuva, with serious faith in G-d’s word and by anticipating the Righteous Redeemer. In this manner we will be worthy of greeting him.

Have faith, be grateful and you will merit salvation and consolation! Believe in and obey our call, and G-d willing, you will be saved from the birth pangs of the Redemption! Believe, and you will be worthy of seeing the Geula!

L’alter l’Geula!” is the cry that you must now convey to your children. Tell them that G-d has remembered His suffering people, and He is about to redeem them from the exile and its troubles. And tell them that the dreadful agony of the Jews, wherever they may be, is G-dfinal warning to His children that they return to Him in teshuva, and go back to being Jews who are dedicated to the Torah.

L’alter l’Geula!” is our blessing to Klal Yisroel, and our wish that all our Jewish brothers share in the merit, Amen!


Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach l’olam va’ed!


The professor found it hard to believe that a Chassidic Rebbe could be so open to what the modern world had to offer, but eventually he made an appointment for a yechidus.






“In reaction to our call and warning of ‘immediately to the Redemption,’ you have responded with the ridiculous yet terrible rejoinder that such is the stuff of missionaries!”





“Do you truly wish to influence the masses of Jews to stop believing in Moshiach’s coming, by telling them that it is ‘treif’ – just because the missionaries talk about a ‘Christian Messiah?’”







“The Redemption is fast approaching. Mighty fortresses will dissolve into fragments, nations will turn upside-down overnight. The entire world will be shocked.”


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