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In Honor Or In Chains

"Wake Up, Yidele!"

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Pray For Rain

"Wake Up, Yidele!"
By Tzvi Jacobs

Back in the summer of 1982, when black strands still dominated his long, untrimmed beard, Rabbi Avrohom Lipskier would sit down every Thursday night with the students in his yeshiva. It was a time for sharing Torah thoughts, searching one’s soul, and lively singing.

Ultimately, it was a time for nourishing and reviving our hidden G-dly souls. Most of us baal teshuvas had been far from the path of Torah and mitzvos and had only recently begun to discover that we even had a soul, let alone a G-dly soul. We’d make some l’chaims to open our hearts and convince our coarse "animal" souls to lay down and let our G-dly souls emerge. Such a process could not be rushed or forced by the hands of a clock. Sometimes nothing would seem like it was getting through our "grub" souls. But if one stayed up late enough and drank enough Chassidic teachings...

"There was once a Jew," said Rabbi Lipskier, with a raspy voice and a mischievous smile, "who thought he was so holy because he learned Torah all day. Not only did he learn Torah all day, but for 40 days he did not speak any dvarim beteilim, idle talk. He read that if a person doesn’t speak idle talk for 40 days, he will merit to see Eliyahu HaNavi, you know, Elijah the Prophet. Well, he didn’t see a thing, so he traveled to the Baal Shem Tov to find out what happened. Before he could ask his question, the Baal Shem Tov said to a horse, within earshot of this ‘holy’ Jew: "My, you’re such a holy horse. You haven’t spoken any idle talk for 40 days."

I always thought of myself as refined and educated. After all, I had graduated from the University of the South, "Sewanee," one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. On top of that, I had recently earned a master’s degree in Public Health. I resisted the implied slight to my character and intelligence. Throughout the night, I listened with an open mind to Rabbi Lipskier’s words, but inside I was kicking and stamping and saying "neigh" to his words.

Then, a "miracle" happened. I realized I was a horse – a Carolina stallion, still doing everything, with a pile of hay in mind. It was a shocking revelation to me.

At the climax of the gathering, we sang and danced in a circle, Chassidic-style, and pranced our Rabbi home. The hidden sun cast its light onto the black sky and revealed a subdued blue above us. Dawn was quickly approaching. With inspired joy, I said the "Sh’ma" — "Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." I felt very happy to be learning in Rabbi Lipskier’s yeshiva.

As I plotzed onto my bed for a blissful sleep, the warm light of the Chassidic stories and teachings engaged my thoughts. A pleasant mixture of cake and vodka brought a smile to my stomach. With such a sweet brew, I knew I could sleep late.

Unlike every Sunday through Thursday, during which we had classes from 7:30 am until 9:30 pm, the focus on Fridays was outreach — to visit the sick or the elderly, or see our regular ‘clientele’ of Jewish business people, lawyers and others and share a word of Torah and promote the wearing of t’fillin or the lighting of the Shabbos candles. So, after that all-nighter, I went to sleep, planning to say the morning prayers late and go on my outreach route in the afternoon.

"Good morning! Everybody UP!!! It’s almost nine o’clock!" a student with the voice of a drill sergeant announced. Oh, no, it was Rafi.

"Come on, Yankel. It’s almost time to say Sh’ma, he said to the guy in the cot next to mine, while shaking his lifeless body back and forth.

"Tzvi, wake up. It’s time to say Sh’ma," he boomed in my face.

My eyes would not open. "I already said Sh’ma," I muttered. "I need sleep."

Thank G-d, he left the room! I could hear his "bang, bang, bang" on each of the dozen dorm rooms that were up and down the hall, shouting, "Everyone up. It’s time to say Sh’ma. Get up. It’s mivtzaim day."

I wanted to say, "If you were at the farbrengen...," and then I remembered that he was also at the gathering with Rabbi Lipskier till the end.

Oh, no, he returned. "Nu, Shmuely, wake up," Rafi barked at the Argentinean student on the other side of my room.

Who does this fired-up Israeli think he is coming into our room and waking us up? Does he think we’re in the army?!

My bed was next to an open window. A soft, summer breeze gently brushed across my face. It smelled of the fresh tree-covered foothills surrounding Morristown, New Jersey.

"I’m right, right?" I asked myself, as I began to fall back into deep sleep. Then, a thought caught me as I tottered on the brink of consciousness.

"I wonder what the Rebbe would say?" I said in my head.

Half a second passed. "BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ." The sound of a bee entered from the direction of the open window.

My left eye lid lifted a crack. The bee headed across my bed, made a quick loop, and shot into the fleshy flesh between my thumb and index finger.


I jumped up, feet on the floor. I quickly splashed water onto my hands. The sting was already swelling and hurting.

My sleepiness had vanished.

By the time, I got to the beis midrash and wrapped the t’fillin around my left hand, I noticed the swelling of the bee sting was totally down. The only trace was a tiny hole.

I laughed. I guess the Rebbe gave this horse an answer: "Wake up, Yidele!"

A selected story from: From the Heavens to the Heart. Ask for it at your local bookstore or at bn.com, amazon.com, borders.com, or buy.com


The Baal Shem Tov said to a horse, within earshot of this ‘holy’ Jew: "My, you’re such a holy horse. you haven’t spoken any idle talk for 40 days."










"Good morning! Everybody UP!!! It’s almost nine o’clock!" a student with the voice of a drill sergeant announced. Oh, no, it was Rafi..."



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