Getting On The Train
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

As the great and holy day of Gimmel Tammuz is almost upon us, I would like to share two stories that relate to these final moments before the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach’s hisgalus. You may have heard them before, but they are definitely worthy of repetition.

The first story I heard from two sources, the late mashpia, Reb Mendel Futerfas, and Reb Refael ("Folye") Kahan, the author of Shmuos V’Sippurim:

As is known, the Rebbe Rayatz’s imprisonment began on the 15th of Sivan 5627 (1927) and continued until 3 Tammuz of that year. Gimmel Tammuz was later established (by the Chassidim, not by the Rebbe) as a day of thanksgiving and of making good resolutions. The chronology of events was as follows:

On Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe Rayatz set out for Kastroma. On Yud-Beis Tammuz, he was officially notified that he could return home. The next day, Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, he was actually released. The Rebbe arrived back in Petersburg (Leningrad) on the 15th of the month and recited the HaGomel blessing.

Several days later, however, it became clear that it was too dangerous for the Rebbe to remain in Petersburg. The local branch of the G.P.O. in Leningrad had not yet reconciled itself with the Rebbe’s release, the Yevsektziya was after blood, and the newspapers were filled with articles denouncing the "counterrevolutionary Schneersohn."

At that point the Rebbe left for Malachovka, a small town near Moscow, to recuperate from his ordeal. He left explicit instructions that his whereabouts were to be kept secret. No one, with the exception of a few individuals, was to follow him to Malachovka. Every minute the Rebbe spent in Russia meant he was still in danger from the authorities.

In the meantime there was much international pressure being brought on the Russian government to allow the Rebbe to leave the country. Eventually all these efforts bore fruit, and the Rebbe received permission to leave the Soviet Union. When he declared that he would not leave without all his writings and books, he was given permission to take them.

Shortly before Sukkos it was learned that the Rebbe would be leaving right after Simchas Torah, on Isru Chag. The Chassidim were both joyous and devastated: joyous over the Rebbe’s release, but crushed by the thought of being "abandoned." It was a particularly terrible time in the Soviet Union, and the persecution against the Jews was unrelenting. The Chassidim had drawn strength and encouragement from the Rebbe’s presence; how would they be able to go on without him? Given the natural order of the universe, the chances of ever seeing the Rebbe again were nil. In those days the Iron Curtain was hermetically sealed, and there was no communication with the outside world.

The upcoming holiday would thus be the last opportunity to be together with the Rebbe. Accordingly, great numbers of people flocked to Leningrad for Sukkos and Simchas Torah.

The Rebbe Rayatz’s sichos kodesh of that Simchas Torah can be found in Seifer HaSichos 5688. There is one sicha addressed to Anash, one to the talmidim of the yeshiva, one for the yeshiva administration, etc. Nonetheless, they all share a common theme. And despite the fact that the phrase only appears once or twice in the printed version, according to those who were actually present, the Rebbe kept repeating one particular sentence over and over: "M’darf zich zehn, m’muz zich zehn, un m’vet zich zehn – We need to see each other, we must see each other, and we will see each other."

The Chassidim were overjoyed by this explicit pronouncement. According to the natural order it might be impossible, but the Rebbe had promised that they would see each other again! Their hearts were set at ease and their fears were allayed. In sheer gratitude they spilled out onto the streets of Leningrad, singing and dancing.

However, some of the most prominent Chassidim of that generation were present that day, and they were not very pleased by what was happening. (Reb Mendel always refused to identify them, and would only say "fun di gor, gor groiseh – from the very, very biggest.") They worried what would happen if, "to the fleshly eye," the Rebbe’s words were not immediately fulfilled. What if all this unbridled enthusiasm lead to a terrible letdown or spiritual crisis?

In any event, these "big Chassidim" decided to "offer the remedy before the affliction" and bring everyone down to earth. They gathered the Chassidim together and told them that the Rebbe did not necessarily mean that his words would be fulfilled in the literal sense. Perhaps the Rebbe was only stating a wish that we be reunited, and was not actually promising. Besides, they continued, being together with the Rebbe is a spiritual concept, and does not necessarily imply geographical closeness. A person can be standing right next to the Rebbe in the physical sense but in reality be as far away from him "as east is from west." By the same token, a Chassid can be on the other side of the world, but if he is truly mekushar, the Rebbe is with him.

(A classic example of this is the famous story of Reb Mendel, who once mentally composed a pidyon nefesh to the Rebbe Rayatz during his interrogation by the G.P.O. Years later, when he finally left the Soviet Union and arrived in England, he found a letter from the Rebbe with the same date, delivered to his wife’s address, in which the Rebbe told him that his "pidyon nefesh had been received…")

(Another famous story: In the early days of the Rebbe’s nesiyus, when overseas travel was still a luxury, a Chassid once asked the Rebbe for a bracha "for those who have not yet merited to come here." In answer, the Rebbe also gave him a bracha "for those who are already here but have not arrived [in the physical sense].")

The arguments put forward by the "big Chassidim," who seemed to be speaking with such authority, contained certain truths: Hiskashrus does transcend physical location, and only depends on the person himself. But, of course, this is not what everyone had in mind when they heard the Rebbe say, "M’darf zich zehn, m’muz zich zehn, un m’vet zich zehn."

What happened next was that the elated mood among the Chassidim instantly evaporated. Instead of full faith in the Rebbe’s promise that they would be reunited, they were again saddened and depressed at the prospect of being left behind.

However, there was a small group of Chassidim (Reb Refael Kahan would always thank G-d he was one of them) who refused to listen to any such talk. If the Rebbe said we would see each other again, we can rest assured that we’re going to see each other again, in the literal sense. They continued dancing through the streets of Petersburg, turning somersaults, etc.

The end of the story is that all of the Chassidim who believed they would see the Rebbe again b’gashmiyus eventually left the Soviet Union and saw the Rebbe b’gashmiyus. Most of the others, however, were only reunited with the Rebbe b’ruchniyus

About a year and half ago I related this story at a farbrengen in 770. Sitting next to me was Rabbi Zalman Notik, mashpia of Yeshivas Toras Emes in Yerushalayim, who had a similar story of his own to tell:

A few years ago, while on mivtzaim, some boys from his yeshiva met a group of Jews who had recently emigrated from the Soviet Union. Like many of their unfortunate brethren they were almost completely ignorant of Yiddishkeit, through no fault of their own.

The bachurim were helping the men put on t’fillin when all of a sudden an old Russian-born Jew approached them, all excited. "You’re from Lubavitch?" he asked them. "Do I have a story to tell you!

"When I was a child back in Russia," he began, "I used to attend the Lubavitchers’ secret farbrengens. I also used to daven with them and went to their shiurim.

"At one farbrengen I will always remember, the Chassidim were drinking mashkeh as if it were going out of style. The main topic of discussion that day was the desire to be reunited with the Rebbe. We sang ‘Der Eibershter vet geben gezunt un leben, velen mir derzehn zich mit unzer Rebbin!’ (‘G-d should give us good health and life, and we will be reunited with our Rebbe.’) ‘Oy Rebbe, Rebbe, Rebbe…’ Our intense yearning to be with the Rebbe was almost palpable, and was growing from minute to minute.

"In the middle of the farbrengen, a few of the Chassidim suddenly stood up and decided to ‘take action.’ Grabbing some chairs, they turned them upside-down and arranged them in a row to make a ‘train.’ Just picture it – grown men behaving like kindergarten children, sitting on overturned chairs and making believe they were going to the Rebbe!

"Most of the others, myself included, just stood around watching. We laughed at them and told them they were nuts. What ridiculous, childish nonsense!

"But what happened next really make you wonder," the old man concluded. "Within a very short time, all of the Chassidim who rode the ‘train’ received permission to leave the Soviet Union, and actually did go to the Rebbe, whereas the rest of us, the ‘normal’ ones, were left behind. And as you can plainly see, most of us did not have the strength to keep Torah and mitzvos behind the Iron Curtain, and are only now beginning to catch up..."

* * *

"Der Rebbe iz a guter – the Rebbe is good," the Rebbe declared in the famous sicha of Shabbos Parshas Eikev 5713. This means that the Rebbe relates to each and every individual in a reciprocal manner:

If a person thinks of the Rebbe as "above the seven celestial firmaments, and even higher," the Rebbe will interact with him as if he, too, is "above the seven celestial firmaments" – that is, very far away. At the same time, if a person wants to be close to the Rebbe down here in the physical world, the Rebbe will actually be with him on that level.

On many occasions the Rebbe emphasized the important distinction found in the words "kasheh alai p’ridas’chem – your leaving is difficult for Me." The "leaving," as it were, is only initiated by you; from the Rebbe’s perspective, no estrangement exists. The Rebbe is close to all Jews, individually and as a whole. The Rebbe "stands over each and every one and searches his heart, to see if he serves him properly." Every positive action causes the Rebbe nachas ruach and adds to his physical well-being. Every opposite deed, G-d forbid, causes the opposite.

The Rebbe offers his holy hand to all who are willing to take it, affording us his blessing every step of the way. The Rebbe knows the contents of our hearts, and guides us wherever we go and in all circumstances. The Rebbe "understands" when we don’t behave exactly as we’re supposed to, and even then he does not abandon us. On the contrary, he helps us overcome our difficulties and improve our conduct.

As David HaMelech says in T’hillim (139:8), "If I ascend up to Heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there." It makes no difference whether our spiritual level is high ("Heaven") or low ("Sheol"); the Rebbe is always with us and accessible.

The only thing necessary is that we relate to the Rebbe in the proper manner. We have to relate to the Rebbe as a vibrant, living king who is chai v’kayam in the present tense, on the physical plane, and not as someone who only existed in the past, G-d forbid. For as explained many times, the main function of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita, the "seventh generation," the s’fira of Malchus (and especially during this one hundredth year – Malchus she’b’Malchus), is to complete the process of drawing G-dliness down into the very lowest levels of existence.

Our relationship with the Rebbe must be sincere and genuine, and not just "as if" we’re "riding on the train." (Of course, even doing something "as if" has a profound effect on the universe. As the Rebbe explained many times, physical reality changes according to the will of the Jew, the "baal ha’bayis" over the world.) However, this must be accompanied by the recognition that such is the true reality.

These principles are not up for discussion or debate. As the saying goes, the simpler and more profound something is, the better it is because the truer it is.

The way we relate to the Rebbe is reciprocal. When we relate to the Rebbe as the "Rebbe shlita" – without resorting to explanations or justifications but as simple, literal and immutable fact – the Rebbe responds in kind. For this reason, it cannot be emphasized enough how crucial it is to refer to the Rebbe as "the Rebbe shlita" both in writing and in speech. In my opinion, this is just as important (and maybe even more so) than referring to the Rebbe as Melech HaMoshiach, for it also serves to accustom the world to gradually accept this as the true reality.

However, the relationship works in the other direction, too. When the Rebbe wants something from us and we don‘t live up to his expectations and make all kinds of excuses ("it will push Jews away"; "it will denigrate Lubavitch in the eyes of the world," etc.), we see that it causes certain concealments on the Rebbe’s part.

For example: By the summer of 5751 the Rebbe had already responded positively and enthusiastically several times concerning the psak din of the Rabbanim confirming him as Melech HaMoshiach, the singing of "Yechi," petitions for "kabalas ha’malchus," etc. Yet when some people started "explaining" that all this focus on Moshiach and Geula would alienate other Jews, it led to a slight "cooling off" period during which the Rebbe didn’t talk about it quite so openly.

* * *

The bottom line: The main way to forge the "vessel" for the Rebbe’s hisgalus is to state the facts as they exist, and proudly tell the world that there is no alternative. May we merit that this lead to the ultimate fulfillment of G-d’s plan for the Jewish people and the entire world, immediately and at once.

"Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!"


Some of the most prominent Chassidim of that generation were present that day, and they were not very pleased by what was happening...




"If the Rebbe said we would see each other again, we can rest assured that we’re going to see each other again, in the literal sense."




When we relate to the Rebbe as the "Rebbe shlita" as a simple, literal and immutable fact – the Rebbe responds in kind.


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