By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg,
Mashpia, Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim – Lubavitch, Kfar Chabad
We will begin this week with a portion from the lengthy and
well-known story which appears in the letter from the Rebbe Rayatz to his
daughter, the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. This story describes in living color the
wondrous innovations of the teachings of chassidus. (The following is an
excerpt from The Making of Chassidim, a translation of the Rebbe Rayatz’s
letter by Rabbi Shimon Neubort.)
Reb Chayim had two companions: one was named Reb Yissachar
Ber and the other was Reb Mordechai. These three - Reb Chayim, Reb Yissachar Ber
and Reb Mordechai - were comrades who had studied in the same yeshivah
for many years. Later they had separated, each returning to his own hometown.
But the love they bore for one another remained, and during the first few years
of their separation they corresponded frequently.
Some years later, for certain reasons Reb Mordechai was
living in far-away Podolia. There, he heard rumor of the great miracle-worker
who lived nearby, whose fame as a great scholar and kabbalist had spread
throughout the region. Being a great scholar and kabbalist himself, Reb
Mordechai desired to visit the famous Baal Shem Tov.
When he arrived at the Baal Shem Tov’s court, he remained for
a long time. He was grateful to G-d for giving him the good sense to come to the
Baal Shem Tov. He was, however, distressed that he did not know where his two
childhood companions - Reb Yissachar Ber and Reb Chayim - were. If only he knew
where they were, he would inform them of his whereabouts, about the great Torah
insights that he was privileged to hear, and the paths of avodah and
worship of the Creator that he had been privileged to witness.
Once, the Baal Shem Tov delivered a teaching based on the
verse, "If you see the donkey (chamor) of your adversary collapsing under
its burden, and you hesitate to assist him, you must surely assist him." [The
Baal Shem Tov explained]:
The body is material substance (chomer), but the soul
is pure form. The body is attracted to material matters, while the soul is
attracted to spiritual matters.
G-d created the body out of material substance with the
intention that the physical matter be made into a receptacle for G-dliness. This
is the "burden" that the body bears.
"If you see" - if you carefully contemplate the "donkey" -
the material substance of the body, which is called a "donkey" because it is
unrefined and indifferent to abstract, intellectual concerns - you will realize
[first], your own chomer is "your adversary," because
it is attracted to material things and is repelled by the spiritual nature of
[second], the chamor is "collapsing under its burden"
- it is idle in implementing the G-dly mission for which it was created.
As a result, you may "hesitate to assist him" - you may
refrain from assisting the chomer in carrying out the Divine plan. What
does this mean? That the body is chomer and has no choice but to eat,
sleep, and attend to other bodily needs; but all this must be done as avodah,
not the way a chamor does it.
But when you see that the chomer is "your adversary,"
and is "collapsing under its burden," you may be unwilling to assist it; instead
you will undertake a program of fasting and self-mortification in an attempt to
break the chomer.
This way is not the Torah way, for the Torah forbids breaking
one’s body through fasting and self-mortification, but instead requires that
"you must surely assist him" - you must allow the chomer to remain with
the body, and work jointly with the body until it is no longer a chamor.
One must have mesirus nefesh to do a favor for even a
single Jew in material matters, and especially in spiritual matters.
A soul descends to this world and lives for seventy or eighty
years or more, to do a favor for even a single Jew.
Reb Mordechai repeated this Torah to himself numerous times,
and then meditated deeply about it, thinking to himself: "The Rebbe says that
breaking one’s body through fasting and self-mortification is not the Torah way.
The Torah way is to transform the body, and to assist it in carrying out the
intent for which G-d created it.
"One must have mesirus nefesh to do a favor for even a
single Jew in material matters, and especially in spiritual matters."
The more Reb Mordechai contemplated these words, the more he
began to think about his old friends Reb Yissachar Ber and Reb Chayim. He really
ought to find out where they were, and inform them of the new path being taught
by the Rebbe the Baal Shem Tov. He realized that to find his companions, he
himself would have to travel to the villages around Mohilev. But how could he
possibly leave the Rebbe?
He thought about this for many weeks, but was unable to bring
himself to part from the Rebbe. Once, when Reb Mordechai debated with himself
about his lack of resolve to leave the Rebbe and seek out his friends, his
argument went like this: "Who knows where they are now? And suppose I do manage
to find them, who knows what they are up to these days? And suppose I tell them,
but they don’t want to hear about it, or even laugh at me."
Reb Mordechai remembered well his own reaction upon his
arrival in Podolia, when he heard tales about a miracle-worker called the Baal
Shem Tov - first a melamed’s assistant, a crude individual dressed as a
common person. Later, he had earned his living by digging sand and clay, that he
delivered to town. Eventually, he had stripped off his common clothing and
removed the crude disguise, revealing himself to be a great Torah scholar,
kabbalist and miracle-worker.
At first, Reb Mordechai had been reluctant to believe these
things; nevertheless, out of curiosity he went to see for himself what everyone
was marveling at. He remembered well that on his way to the Rebbe he had laughed
at himself, "How did this happen? A person such as I, a great Torah scholar with
broad knowledge of Kabbalah, taking to the road just because he heard
some popular folk tales?"
Now, even assuming that after much toil and hardship he
managed to find his friends, they would undoubtedly laugh at him, and he would
accomplish nothing with them. He would not be doing them a favor; and he would
be doing the greatest harm to himself by going away from the Rebbe. On the other
hand, the Rebbe said that "One must have mesirus nefesh to do a favor for
even a single Jew in material matters, and especially in spiritual matters." So
where was his own mesirus nefesh? If the Rebbe says that one must have
mesirus nefesh then it must be so. And what greater mesirus nefesh
can there be than going away from the Rebbe?
He nearly resolved to begin the journey and seek his friends/
but somehow he was unable to do so. He could not bring himself to undertake the
actual departure. He decided that would remain with the Rebbe for just a few
more days, and then he would go.
After a few days, he conceived the idea of going in to the
Rebbe, telling him the whole story, and asking his advice. Certainly, the Rebbe
knew by means of ruach ha’kodesh where his companions were now. If the
Rebbe told him this, it would save him much time, enabling him to return that
At first, Reb Mordechai liked this idea, but upon further
reflection he decided against it. Exactly what was he planning to ask the Rebbe
- whether he should be willing to do a favor for his friends? Hadn’t the Rebbe
explicitly said that "One must have mesirus nefesh to do a favor for even
a single Jew in material matters, and especially in spiritual matters"? So why
But the Rebbe could tell him where they were.
Well, that would be the greatest impertinence on his part -
asking the Rebbe to use ruach ha’kodesh just to spare Reb Mordechai some
inconvenience! Furthermore, if Reb Mordechai knew in advance where they were,
then his mesirus nefesh would be less. No - he would not ask; he
made the decision to take to the road and seek his companions. He would discuss
with them the great path of Divine service that he had learned from the Rebbe
the Baal Shem Tov.
He rose very early, prepared himself for prayer, and
davened. After davening, he got ready for his trip. He debated
whether to go to the Rebbe and request permission to depart and receive a
blessing. He could think of reasons why he should, and reasons why he shouldn’t.
In the end, he decided that in spite of the halachic requirement to
obtain permission [from one’s master before departing], he would not do so.
Suppose the Rebbe asked him where he was going, and why. Reb
Mordechai was reluctant to discuss this. If the Rebbe knew it by himself, there
was no need to tell him; on the other hand, if he didn’t know, Reb Mordechai was
disinclined to tell him. He took up the bag containing his belongings and his
tallis and tefillin, and began the journey.
Reb Mordechai had already passed the city limits when the
Rebbe’s attendant overtook him with the message that the Rebbe had sent for him.
When he entered the Baal Shem Tov’s room, the Baal Shem Tov said to him:
"Thank G-d, you were victorious in your battle with yourself.
Do not hurry during your journey, for you can accomplish much before reaching
your final destination.
"To Reb Yissachar Ber, say that if he comes to me I will give
him a program of study that will expand his intellectual capacities.
"To Reb Chayim, say that if he comes to me I will give him a
program of study of Zohar and Midrash that will expand his
"You, I bless with perfection in your avodah with both
mind and heart. Be careful not to reveal your greatness. May G-d grant you
success, so that all the blessings and promises come true."
At first, in past generations, it was possible to grapple
with the question of how important it is and to what extent we should do things
for our fellow Jew, how much sacrifice we must be prepared to make, how much to
yield, even in the realm of our spiritual lives. But this is the seventh
generation, the generation educated by the Rebbe shlita MH"M unceasingly
for decades about the shlichus, the holy mivtzaim, and all the
activities with our fellow Jews. Therefore, we all know well the great
importance, the essential need, and the uncompromising demand of the Rebbe
shlita to put one’s self aside and to do everything in order that our fellow
Jews will get what they need.
We are talking not only about "this generation," but "these
times" (as the Rebbe shlita expressed himself on numerous occasions in
specific reference to the last few years), when "the only thing that remains in
the work of shlichus is to greet our righteous Moshiach in actual deed."
This is the message that we must live with ourselves and bring to the "outside."
Thus, it is simple and clear that each and every one of us must know and
understand how relevant it is that this message be spread as much as possible so
it may reach even the most distant and remote places in the world.
This message, as with all messages, must be conveyed in a
"comprehensive" fashion, e.g., billboards, "gimmicks" - flags, advertisements,
all other possible formats. But also in a more internal way, through correct and
proper explanation in laymen’s terms -"with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge
in a manner that is acceptable in the mind of everyone."
We meet many of our fellow Jews under a variety of different
circumstances, and the opportunity does not always present itself to speak with
all of them and give over the necessary message as it should be. What do we do?
One of the best means to convey the message, particularly for
explanatory purposes, is the written form. When someone receives from you some
informational literature, especially if it is aesthetically appealing, he will
want to read it and internalize it with full awareness, even after you depart
from one another.
Indeed, there is a great quality to educational material that
comes specifically out of a book, where matters are explained at length and with
(Here is an appropriate opportunity to remind and awaken
people about the marvelous seifer ‘Ata Yadati’ by R. Chaim
Sasson, and the equally publicized booklet ‘B’Emuna Shleima’ by Mrs. S.
Shemida. I have heard very warm reactions about the very clear and acceptable
presentation of explanations that appear in these publications with great
validity, even beyond the "announcement of the Redemption," all based on
collected statements by the Rebbe shlita MH"M and many other sources.
Naturally, there are many other good s’farim, and their authors will
forgive me if I don’t list them all, as it is simply impossible to do so here.
All of us should certainly do our utmost to distribute them more and more.)
On the other hand, with all the great importance of learning
a seifer, there is also a specific advantage to a concise hand-delivered
informational brochure. First, there is the matter of quantity. Obviously, it is
possible to print and distribute such leaflets in much larger numbers than
s’farim, and therefore, they can reach much more people. In addition, not
everyone is prepared to devote a lot of time to this subject by sitting and
reading a whole book. As a result, from the very outset, there will be those who
will be discouraged from even starting to read it. However, if the brochure is
not too long, there is a better chance that even those who are less serious will
take several minutes to read it. They will begin coming closer to Yiddishkeit,
and this will arouse their interest to continue doing so.
There is an additional special quality to a weekly brochure,
published in time for distribution before Shabbos. When people get used to it
and look for it, they enjoy reading it and come even closer to the subject.
This week, we celebrate the printing of the 100th issue of
the HaGeula brochure, published by the World Chabad Center to Greet
Moshiach, and distributed by Matteh Moshiach in Eretz HaKodesh.
There is special significance to the fact that it occurs this year, when we
celebrate the 100th birthday of the Rebbe shlita MH"M and the
commencement of his 101st year, which is an indication of unparalleled
advancement and effort, in comparison to what has been achieved until now.
This publication has already established an honored place for
itself among the weekly brochures in Eretz Yisroel. Its exterior is also
designed to catch the eye, and its content is pure Melech HaMoshiach and the
Redemption in concise beautiful explanations, as mentioned before - "with
wisdom, understanding, and knowledge in a manner that is acceptable in the mind
of everyone." Baruch Hashem, through continuous weekly printings, week
after week without interruption, the brochure has made tremendous improvements.
It brings the announcement of the Redemption and the Redeemer with full force,
without pastel shades, without concern about "What will they say?" etc. in an
attractive, clear, and suitable format to which all its readers can give
Each and every one of us, particularly Chabad House directors
and those who are involved in the work of spreading the announcement of the
Redemption (and who isn’t? - this is "the only thing that remains in the work of
shlichus") must make every effort - "do everything in your ability" - in
order that this brochure (together with other similar brochures which publicize
the announcement of the Redemption and the Redeemer, e.g., Sichas HaGeula,
a publication with unique merit that is beyond words) will reach as many people
and places as possible and bring the announcement of the Redeemer and the
Redemption to all.
To put it simply, we must make every effort to order early
and in advance (to ensure printing of the appropriate number of copies) a
sizable quantity of the "HaGeula" brochure via the Matteh Moshiach
(Tel.: +972-3-960-7922) and to distribute them as much as possible in order that
the announcement of the Redeemer and the Redemption will reach every town and
hamlet and fulfill its purpose, primarily the only main purpose - the complete
revelation of the Rebbe shlita MH"M before our very eyes with the true
and complete Redemption, mamash - NOW!
Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach l’olam