When Suffering Is Itself A Merit
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

The Rebbe Rayatz tells us in Likkutei Dibburim [see Vol. 5 in Eng., chapter 40a and the first part of chapter 40b] that despite the terrible suffering the Alter Rebbe endured in his incarceration - likened to the suffering of death, ríl, and the suffering of the Chassidim - it was not considered one of his "ten yisurim" (afflictions), but one of his "ten merits." These yisurim were not the type that lead to later benefit (like the other afflictions listed), but the suffering itself was considered a merit.

Why should this be so? It is true that these afflictions led to the wonderful results of spreading the wellsprings outward in a completely new way, which is referred to as "after Petersburg," but the yisurim seem to be just that - yisurim, not merits.

Perhaps one could say that the explanation for this can be found in Seifer HaSichos 5752 (Vol. 2, p. 485):

Just as mattan Torah (of nigleh of Torah) occurred specifically after and through the Egyptian exile, so too the mattan Torah of pnimiyus haíTorah (on 19 Kislev) came specifically after and through the concealment of the Alter Rebbeís imprisonment (which occurred because of the accusation Above about the revelation of Chassidus) because [as brought in Likkutei Levi Yitzchok:] "Whenever a new light in Torah is revealed, especially a lofty one such as this, there first had to be a concealment of his sitting in jail, etc."

One of the reasons is that in order to innovate something in Torah there must be an addition and newness in man (the one learning and innovating Torah). As long as he is in his usual condition and level, his activity in Torah study is measured according to his usual capacities. Specifically through being imprisoned, the Alter Rebbeís inner and essential powers were revealed, and through his redemption, a change was wrought in him (similar to the change in a freed slave, líhavdil, a chiddush from servitude to freedom). And through this, the chiddush (the "geula") of Toras HaíChassidus was revealed through him, which brought Toras haíChassidus down into the understanding and grasp of Chabad, through which the essence of pnimiyus haíTorah was revealed.

(Actually, this order is reversed, because Torah is the source of everything in Creation. Therefore, you have to say that the reason for the chiddush brought about by the imprisonment and redemption was the intention Above that the time had come for the chiddush in Torah through the revelation of Toras Chassidus Chabad. As a result, there was the imprisonment and redemption, which wrought a change in the Baal HaMaasar and geula, through which the chiddush in Torah came about.)

In other words, the imprisonment was not only about suffering enabling the revelation that followed, but it lifted (as it were) the Alter Rebbe from his prior limitations (as much as we can say that about him), leading to the great revelation of the Chag HaGeula of Yud-Tes Kislev.

This will be better understood based on the explanation in Seifer HaMaamarim 5670 (p. 49 and on, which Chassidim call Hemshech HaNesira), with a parable about nesira (literally, sawing off) from a teacher and a student. It talks about a teacher, who is incomparably greater than his student, and a student, who doesnít begin to understand his teacher. In order for the student to understand any concept, the teacher must first draw back and completely hide what he understands and how he looks at the entire topic. He can then reveal a tiny, limited drop of his intellect that the student can grasp, after which, by means of many constrictions, the student can finally grasp something of his teacherís wisdom.

This is the initial process that occurs before the student can begin to understand anything. After the student has learned and attained what he could attain on his own, the time comes when the teacher wants to lift his student to a higher level the student on his own could never even dream of attaining, a level in which "the studentís senses become like the teacherís senses." In order to accomplish this, the teacher has to reveal concepts that are at first higher than the studentís grasp. Only then can he begin to expand and reveal the matter as it is within himself.

When the teacher reveals concepts from his own perception of them, the student experiences only darkness. There is a "nesira" between the student and the teacher. The student suddenly feels his incredible lowliness and the awesome distance between himself and his teacher. He feels that the teacher is much higher than himself while he remains down below. But it is specifically this tremendous distance he feels that begins his elevation; this is how he can begin to be elevated in order to reach his teacherís level.

The literal meaning of nesira is sawing beams and arranging them for building. Nesira does not refer to breaking followed by fixing, a yerida (descent) that is followed by an aliya (ascent), but to breaking that is literally one with the fixing. When material is cut in order to have a garment sewed, we donít say that we tear the material and then fix it. We see that cutting the material is an intrinsic part of sewing the garment.

So with nesira between a teacher and student: This is not a great descent whose ultimate goal is ascent; the nesira is, rather, an essential part of the ascent and is the beginning of that ascent. It is a process by which the student begins to have a connection to his teacherís level.

The previous level mentioned, of revealing to the student concepts he can grasp and absorb, can be referred to as "one wall for the two of them." The teacher and student both seem to be on one level. You canít see a difference between them, and therefore, it isnít possible for the student to raise himself to his teacherís level. He doesnít even know there is anything higher for him to yearn for. It seems as if this situation is good for everybody. The teacher explains and the student understands, and everybody is content. There is a unity, a cleaving between teacher and student. But this is only a cleaving "back to back," the student receives merely from the "back" and externalities of his teacher, a level he is capable of receiving. However, the teacherís pnimiyus, essence, are completely beyond the student.

Not only is the student not able to relate to the teacherís pnimiyus, he is not even aware that there is a pnimiyus he is not getting! He feels great, for the teacher constantly explains and reveals, and he constantly understands and progresses. And since he doesnít feel a lack, there is no chance he would ever try to achieve anything far greater, incomparably greater.

However, when the teacher wants to give his student from his pnimiyus, in what is referred to as yichud panim bípanim, when the yichud, the cleaving of the teacher and student is from the teacherís pnimiyus to the studentís pnimiyus, then a nesira is necessary to separate the teacher from the student, to give the student the feeling that the teacher is incomparably greater.

At first this will "break" the student. The student feels terrible and powerless. Suddenly he feels that after all he learned and knows, he understands and knows nothing. But it is specifically this "breaking" and nesira that is the beginning of his rise to an incomparably greater level. Only now does he begin to understand that there is a pnimiyus he never knew existed and never felt he lacked. Now that he arrives at the awareness of the great pnimiyus his teacher contained, he begins to yearn for that pnimiyus. Then he begins to work in an entirely different way, so that he will eventually attain the yichud panim bípanim, so that he will receive in his pnimiyus, the pnimiyus of his teacher, so that the "studentís senses are like the teacherís senses," and "he attains the knowledge of his teacher."

The nesira between student and teacher that only exists to stimulate the student into realizing there is something incomparably greater is also accomplished through revelation. The teacher begins to reveal more to the student. The teacher spreads a great light before the student which the latter cannot grasp. This revelation is the teacher "sawing himself off" from the student. It gives the student the feeling of how great the chasm between them is, and it creates a desire to lift himself up to the teacher in his pnimiyus, which is the beginning of yichud panim bípanim. The student will then rise and unite with the teacher with his own pnimiyus and essence.

To reiterate, this is not a descent for the purpose of an ascent. That idea is explained in a parable of a teacher who focuses and lifts himself up higher and higher within himself in order to receive a new, more wondrous intellect so that he can in turn relay it to his student. All the concealment is for the studentís good, for in that parable the teacher does in fact "leave" his student for some short period of time, although it is only for the purpose of being able to give the student more.

In the parable of nesira, however, the student is not left at all. On the contrary, he is given a tremendously lofty revelation, so high that the student is blinded by it at first and thinks he received nothing, when in truth, at the very moment that he doesnít understand and is pained and feels the lack, he is receiving all the lofty pnimiyus.

The parable of the teacher who leaves the student momentarily and goes up above is explained in Chassidus (Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 2, Dvarim) regarding the descent of Galus on Tisha BíAv, etc. For a brief moment there is destruction, but the end is a great ascent. The parable is employed in Chassidus to explain the revelation of mattan Torah. At mattan Torah there was no descent or destruction; the souls of the people departed because of the power of the revelation. That is how it works with this wondrous revelation - at first it breaks and shatters all previous assumptions: ("Their souls flew out"), but then Hashem returned their souls to them with the dew of Torah with which the dead will be resurrected in the Future to Come.

* * *

We were terribly shaken on Gimmel Tammuz and we still havenít recovered. No explanation will suffice. There is no such thing as Chassidim without a Rebbe. There is no Judaism without a Rebbe. No world without a Rebbe. Without a Rebbe, there is nothing. That is what we learned, how we were taught. Thatís how we live and this is what our lives are all about.

We didnít have to have sources (like Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 26, p. 7, etc.) that there must be a Nasi in a physical body in this physical world, for all of Judaism and Chassidus is built on that. It was the essence of all the chinuch we absorbed from all of Toras haíChassidus, Chassidus in general and Chabad Chassidus in particular - especially the Rebbeís teachings - that the Nasi is everything, literally.

We felt great in the period before that. There was hardly a need for emuna because the G-dly truth of Lubavitch was understood, felt, visible. The most honored thing in the world to be was a Lubavitcher Chassid, especially a Chassid of the Rebbe shlita. We saw the Rebbe conquer the world and lead it towards Geula with giant steps. We heard the Rebbeís fiery words at farbrengens and sichos every few days. We saw miracles every step of the way. We received direction and guidance for every detail. "Going with the Rebbe" was the most normal and honorable thing to do.

And another essential point. At that time we all thought and understood things the same way. We were united - with one view, one feeling and one action. Thatís how we conquered the world step by step. No one was able to stand in the way of such an amazing army, for everybody knew it was all only with the Rebbeís kochos.

Then suddenly there was Chaf-Zayin Adar, then Chof-Zayin Adar again, and then Gimmel Tammuz. This was a mighty nesira, a nesira that seemed to separate us from the Rebbe. A nesira that showed us the Rebbe was way up there and we were way down here. We donít see the Rebbe, we donít hear him at farbrengens. Thereís no "dollars," no kos shel bracha, no lekach, no yechidus, no letters and telegrams, no notes and no verbal responses. We were left like a ship at sea that seems to have no captain.

But we were taught: "Der Rebbe hut doch altz bavorent" (The Rebbe set it all up in advance). This was not a "breaking for the sake of breaking," and not even a "descent that is only for an ascent." This is a test that is not a true reality, and this nisayon (from the root "nes," a banner flown high) is for the purpose of lifting us up from the state of yichud achor bíachor to a state of yichud panim bípanim.

It is a test in which the student is meant to understand what is happening and what is required from him - that he believe and understand and know that all this is nothing but a part of the aliya required of him so that he become elevated and reach the complete hisgalus with the true and complete Redemption.

We are being asked to "go out of ourselves," to leave whatever we had before in order to enter a completely different state. For example, from a state of emuna and hiskashrus to the Rebbe as it used to be; from a state of devotion and dedication to the Rebbe and fulfilling his directives without considering what the world would say, the same way we used to have this dedication; from a state of emuna and expectation, learning and meditation, and "living with Moshiach" in the old way; from the same level of ahavas Yisroel and unity among Chassidim that we used to have; a state of achorayim and chitzoniyus. Now we are asked to achieve a truer emuna, even at a time when our eyes and minds tell us the opposite; to have hiskashrus with the Rebbe in a more pnimiyusdik and real way, to be utterly devoted to the Rebbe and to fulfill his directives taking nothing else into consideration; to learn and meditate and live with Moshiach in a loftier manner; and also, yes, in all seriousness, to have ahavas Yisroel and achdus among Chassidim in a truer and more atzmiyusdike way.

Before Gimmel Tammuz our emuna was limited. We had utter emuna because we saw, heard, and understood. The fact that now we donít see, donít hear, and donít understand is in order to bring us to another type of emuna entirely - an essential faith that is unconditional.

Before Gimmel Tammuz our hiskashrus was limited. We could think that, chív, there were times that the Rebbe didnít look at us and didnít know what was doing with us. We knew it wasnít so - that the Rebbe had no limitations - but since we saw and heard, we looked at things from our perspective, as though, chív, at those times we did not see and hear, maybe... We were put into this situation so that we would rise to an entirely different state of emunas tzaddikim and hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH"M.

Indeed, it is after Gimmel Tammuz that the feeling that the Rebbe is not at all restricted and that he sees each one of us all the time, has intensified. It is now that the belief that the Rebbe is chai víkayam even in a physical body, in the most literal sense, is at its strongest, even when it looks the opposite. It is now that people ask and consult with the Rebbe (through the Igros Kodesh and the like) about every detail, and feel in a stronger way that the Rebbe leads us all, and each one of us, in an entirely different way.

Earlier, we anticipated Moshiachís coming; we were involved in inyanei Moshiach and Geula; we publicized Moshiach and lived with Moshiach, each in his own way. We are being asked to do this an entirely different way now, with no limitations, without taking the worldís opinion into consideration, to be - as the Rebbe said - "crazy about Moshiach" in a way that fills our entire lives and beings and affects our environment and, in turn, the entire world, with no exception.

Another important point: Before Gimmel Tammuz we had ahavas Yisroel and achdus, etc., because we all had the same emuna, the same understanding, the same feeling and the same actions. We are asked to love each other not because of all this, but even when we have differences of opinion, different feelings, and even when we do different things, we ought to love one another with true love, as the Rebbe has taught us.

We are asked to understand what is going on and what is required of us - that we rise above and not be put off by all the concealments; that we know that the nesira is only to take us out of our previous state, to lift us up to something else entirely, which is happening right now and is about to be realized imminently, the true and complete Redemption with the revelation of our King Moshiach, the Rebbe shlita.

Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu VíRabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach líolam vaíed!


These afflictions were not the type that lead to later benefit, but the suffering itself was considered a merit.




The student is blinded by it at first and thinks he received nothing, when in truth, he is actually receiving the lofty pnimiyus.




This is a test that is not a true reality, and this nisayon is for the purpose of lifting us up from the state of yichud achor bíachor to a state of yichud panim bípanim.


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