ליל ועש”ק פר’ ויחי, שבת חזק, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק
The following story was related to the Rebbe by a chosid from Australia, during a yechidus that took place in 5724. The yechidus is recorded in the hosafos of sichos kodesh of that year:
During the nesius of the Frierdike Rebbe, there was a chosid who had an illness in his kidneys, and the doctors recommended surgery to have his kidney removed. They asked the Frierdike Rebbe, who responded that they should not go ahead with the operation.
There was a non-Lubavitcher Rov who was involved at the time, and he strongly objected to their following the advice of the Rebbe. “He is not present” that Rov protested, “he did not see the ill person, and cannot have a proper understanding of the severity of the disease. This is a very serious situation, and it is plain wrong to follow the opinion of someone who is offering it from afar”.
Needless to say, the chosid heeded the advice of the Frierdige Rebbe, to the consternation of the Rov.
22 years later, the above-mentioned Rov met the chosid who had been unwell. “So”, asked the Rov, “did you ever remove your kidney in the end?”
The chosid responded that 2 years ago he finally had the operation.
“You see”, retorted the Rov, “I was right”!
The Rebbe listened to the story, and remarked: “That is a misnagdisher hergesh”!
Perhaps this can shed some light on a perplexing gemoro, that is connected with the parsha of this week. The gemara relates (Taanis 5b): R’ Yitzchak stated in the name of Rabi Yochana; – Yaakov Ovinu didn’t die.
R’ Nachman asked him: “How can that be?! Was it in vain that the eulogizer eulogized him, and the embalmers embalmed him, and the burial society buried him?!
The question on the gemara is obvious: What did R’ Nachman mean by asking that if Yaakov didn’t die then the embalming and burial etc. were in vain, were for naught? The question should have been a much stronger question; – how could they have done all of this to him if he was indeed alive? What does he mean by asking that these things were all for naught (see also Liku”S chelek 35)?
Perhaps the answer can be understood based on the above story. R’ Nachman’s question was – if in fact Yaakov is truly still alive, then the embalming and burial etc. are for nothing; – because for the Chassidim they are needless and they won’t make any difference, since they will anyway believe in the truth that he’s alive.
And for the misnagdim they are also for naught and unnecessary, because even without the embalming and burial, the misnaged will anyways be clinging to his mindset, and refuse to believe that Yaakov didn’t die!
[OK all you misnagdim, just kidding, no offense].
In truth, the 2 approaches, that of pure faith and that of rational analysis, each have their place, and they can even supplement each other.
There was a chosid of the Mitteler Rebbe who had a partnership with a misnaged. The chosid was always encouraging his partner to travel to the Mitteler Rebbe and meet him, but the misnaged did not see a point in the expense and the trouble.
Once, the two had occasion to make a business trip to very near to where the Mitteler Rebbe was staying. The misnaged this time agreed that it would be worthwhile to take advantage of the opportunity, and they spent Shabbos together by the Rebbe.
After Shabbos, the chosid asked his partner about his impressions. The misnaged was ecstatic. He couldn’t stop describing the bliss he experienced that Shabbos by the Rebbe. ‘I literally felt myself as if I was standing by Har Sinai and hearing the Aseres Hadibros from the Eibishter himself. It was like spending a Shabbos in Gan Eden etc. etc.”!
Now it was the turn of the chosid to feel dejected. He loved his Rebbe, and was a devoted and loyal chosid, and had spent years learning from the Rebbe and following his directives. Yet he had never felt anything like what his partner was describing, in his very first Shabbos! What was wrong with him?
With a heavy heart, he turned (as a troubled chosid will invariably do) to the Rebbe. During yechidus, he poured out his worry to the Mitteler Rebbe. Was the misnaged that much greater than him as to reach in one Shabbos a higher revelation than he’d reached in years?
But the Rebbe put his mind at ease. That is the way it is meant to be, he explained to the chosid. “A chosid muz gloiben, ober a litvak muz ibertzeilen!” [a chosid needs to believe (and therefore doesn’t need to be able to enjoy such a lofty experience), but a litvak needs to be able to count over (i.e., he deals with things that are visible and tangible to him)].
In fact this story became the basis (apparently) of an expression of the RaZA (the brother of the Rebbe Rashab), that was later used by the Rebbe to teach an important lesson:
The Rebbe Rashab was once farbrenging, when he turned to his brother’ the RaZA, held onto him, and said: “Come and hear Chassidus from father” (the Rebbe Maharash – this was some years after his demise). They both put on their hats and gartelach, and stood for awhile with intense bittul.
Afterwards the RaZA remarked: “A Litvak doesn’t believe unless he can personally count, but to count (i.e., to personally witness) and still not to believe . .?!”
The Rebbe quoted this saying in letters to shluchim, who had written to the Rebbe about complaints and concerns and worries etc. The Rebbe, in his response, quoted the above saying. He wrote to them: ‘You saw so many miracles, you witnessed the supernatural way that you arrived to the point that you reached.
It’s not some high level of emunah that’s being demanded from you now.
You counted already. You were shown the miracles black and white. At this point even a Litvak is ready to accept. At this point even the Litvak in you should be more trusting! Stop worrying and complaining, and start trusting and believing!
Which is a message that, I believe, we should all be taking very much to heart. Everyone should make an honest evaluation, and I think you’ll clearly see the hand of G-d that brought you to where you are today. Perhaps you’re a shliach, overseeing programs, balancing a budget, meeting gvirim etc. But if you’re honest with yourself, don’t you have to admit that it’s nothing short of a miracle that you accomplished all that you did thus far, that perhaps a decade ago, you wouldn’t imagine that you’d be where you are today?
You say, of course, there was never any doubt that everything is from the Eibishter.
But that’s not so simple.
Why is it that when it comes to learning a shiur in Torah (for yourself, not for your balebatim), you suddenly can’t find the time. You’re worried – not about yourself ch”v, but about the success of the programs, for the sake of the hafotzoh. Or, in the middle of davening, you can’t concentrate because you’re busy checking your texts and e-mails, because you don’t want to be religious at the expense of the outreach work.
But why are you suddenly so concerned? If you truly recognize the constant Hand of Hashem in all your heretofore progress, then why should you feel such a pressing need to assist him now, to the point of compromising on the other things He expects of you?
Or, perhaps you’re a businessman. You can’t pay attention to the chitas that you are learning, because one eye is following which direction your stocks are headed. Or maybe your davening is distracted by disturbing thoughts about whether your sale will go through (or whether or not the other guy will – ch”v – make more money than you).
But what’s the big preoccupation? If you can truly concede that it was only a miracle that made you the millionaire you are now, why do you think the Eibishter will suddenly hand over the reins entirely to you? Continue to make a vessel for Hashem’s blessings, to be sure. But recognize that it is He who is playing the main part in it, and therefore if you pay more attention to the things that He wants from you, then that definitely won’t hurt the bottom line.
A Litvak has a healthy dose of skepticism, of rationalization. But even that has its boundaries. When you see things clearly, then even the Litvak needs to bow his head and accept. Even if you didn’t see the miracles in the areas in which you want them or in which you are awaiting them, nevertheless, the miracles that you did recognize should suffice in convincing you that everything is entirely in Hashem’s hands.
And the practical application of that is to feel enough peace of mind to properly apply ourselves to learning and davening. We need to allow the recognition of Hashem’s miracles to dispel those worries and concerns that distract us from fulfilling His Will. Let us do what He expects of us confidently and single-mindedly. And we can trust in Him to continue to do His part, to efficiently remove our difficulties and obstacles.
L’chaim! Let us all recognize and acknowledge all the miracles that we experienced (especially now, just after Chanuka, the time of Pirsumei nisa), and use that realization to ensure that we are not distracted or deterred from fulfilling our obligations to Him, and may the Eibishter in turn continue to perform miracles, providing all our material and spiritual needs עד בלי די in a miraculous and wondrous way למעלה מן המשוער וביותר מן היותר, including very speedily the ultimate miracle; – the complete and immediate revelation of Moshiach Tzidkeinu TUMYM!!!
Rabbi Akiva Wagner
לזכות ר’ שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ”י ממש בטוהנוהנ”ג!