A freilichen Shabbos Shuva!
ב”ה ועש”ק פר’ וילך, שבת (ת)שובה, שנת תשע”ג לפ”ק
Dear Alumni Sheyichyu!
Mazel Tov to Tzvi Selliger on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Chaim Rosenstein on the occasion of his engagement. May they use out the special period of Yokor Mikol yokor to its’ utmost! (If anyone is aware of any mazeltov’s that I omitted please let me know).
Thank you as always for the feedback, it is much appreciated.
Regarding the tremendous power of Teshuva, the gemoro in avoda zara (17A) relates the following:
Elozor ben Durdaya was a young man who, unfortunately, went astray. Conducting himself in a manner that today would be dubbed “OTD”, Elozor followed his passions and allowed his temptation to control his life. The gemoro relates that this went so far that it reached the point that he had an account with every internet server in the world. Once he heard about a new internet provider at the other end of cyberspace that cost a purse full of money to sign up, and he crossed seven seas in order to join it.
(Besides which, he didn’t go on tahalucha!).
Well, to make a long story short, Elozor had a wake-up call; – his own temptation mocked him saying he would never be able to do teshuva. Now, even the most misguided pleasure-seeking sinner is only thus occupied because of his deep-seated certainty that when he so decides, he’ll be able to repent and return. So, (for example) the bochur thinks to himself, let me enjoy life now while I can, and eventually (when I’m 95 years old) then of course I’ll do teshuva and turn into an elterer chosid.
But the thought of losing the opportunity to repent was extremely unsettling. It was, for Elozor, the ultimate shake-up. He dropped whatever he was doing (which was not very nice), and began to examine whether indeed that’s the case. He tried to enlist the mountains and valleys, the heaven and the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars to back him and give him some reassurance that all was not lost.
But it was in vain. They all were preoccupied with themselves.
Finally he realized that his only hope was to actually try to do Teshuva. Him. Now.
So, without further ado, he placed his head between his knees and cried out of such anguish over his sorry state that he expired.
At that moment a bas kol emanated from the heavens, and declared “R’ Elozor ben Durdaya (that’s right, he got semicha just then as well) has been welcomed to olam habo!”
Rabbenu haKadosh, Rabi Yehuda hanasi, heard this, and wept, exclaiming: “There are those who must toil for many years to acquire their portion in the World to Come, and there are those who acquire it in one instant” (or in one “ker”, – one turn).
Which raises an obvious question. Why was that a reason to cry? The beautiful and lofty Teshuva of R’ Elozor ben Durdaya should be a source of inspiration, and the fact that it was effective in earning his olam habo should be heartening and encouraging, but not something to cry about?
Needless to say, Rebbi didn’t begrudge R’ Elozor ben Durdaya his years of aveiros. Rabenu haKadosh, who lifted up his ten fingers before his demise and testified that, despite his extraordinary wealth, he didn’t derive even the smallest amount of pleasure from worldly indulgences, didn’t feel even a tinge of jealousy of R’ Elozor ben Durdaya for having found a short cut to paradise. Rebbi’s avodas Hashem was a labour of love that he wouldn’t have traded for anything.
The good news of the bas kol should have, therefore, served as the most joyous tidings, what cause was there for tears?
Following are 2 of the answers that Chassidus offers for this question:
1) Indeed, the tears of Rabbenu haKadosh were not sad tears but, rather, tears of heartfelt emotion. Chazal relate that when Rabi Akiva grasped the secret meanings of Shir Hashirim, the deepest sodos haTorah, his eyes were flowing with tears. These were not tears of melancholy; rather they were expressions of the greatest ecstasy. His emotions were so intense that he was unable to contain them, thus they came out in the form of tears.
Similarly, when Rabbenu haKadosh heard of the remarkable teshuva of R’ Elozor ben Durdaya, a teshuva that came from such a depth of the neshomo that it was powerful enough to transform a person from one extreme to the other in one instant, he was so overcome by the intense emotions that he was only able to express them by tears.
2) Another explanation is that these were indeed tears of sorrow. While it’s true that R’ Elozor managed to attain such a high level of teshuva that it transcended any limitations, and the teshuva had the power to elevate him from the depths of depravation to an exalted place in olam habo, nonetheless Rebbi was concerned about what R’ Elozor would do upon his arrival there. For, after all, olam habo is the place where the neshomo basks in the glory of Hashem, and the vessels to be able to appreciate this are from the mitzvos and Torah that took place in this world. But in the case of R’ Elozor ben Durdaya, who attained his olam habo instantaneously, he would be lacking the Torah and mitzvos that would enable him to appreciate and take advantage of this lofty olam habo!
[There is a story about three tzaddikim who were once travelling in a wagon. By and by, the wagon-driver became drunk, and fell asleep. The horses began running freely, and all the passengers were in great danger. Their very lives were in jeopardy.
Just then another simple wagon-driver passed by, and, realizing the danger, risked his own life to jump onto the errant wagon and regain control of the horses. His efforts were successful, and the tzaddikim owed him their very lives.
Years passed, and the 3 tzaddikim were once sitting together, and they decided to use their ruach hakodesh to ascertain what happened with their benefactor. They determined that he had passed away from the world some time ago. Upon his arrival in the Heavenly Court, his defending angels recounted the story of his saving three Jewish lives. Anyone who saves even a single life is considered to have saved an entire world; – how much more so in the case of this simpleton who saved the lives of three tzaddikim, who would eventually influence hundreds of thousands of Yidden.
This act stood in his merit, and it was decided to award him olam habo. However, olam habo consists of enjoying G-dliness, something which is dependent on the vessels that we created through Torah and mitzvos.
This simpleton had no means of appreciating or benefitting from olam habo. Thus it was decided that his only possible reward would be to place him in olam hadimyon: He was given the illusion that he was driving the most magnificent wagon, being pulled by 4 large and powerful horses, on a road that was straight and devoid of any obstacles or potholes. And this went on endlessly, because this was the extent of what this simpleton was able to enjoy.
When the tzaddikim who were his beneficiaries saw the state that he was in, they found a way to do a favour to his neshomo, and elevate it to a level of gan eden].
According to this explanation, Rebbe was in fact crying tears of sadness over what R’ Elozor was missing.
Perhaps it is logical to assume that both explanations are equally correct. Rebbe cried with intense emotion over the loftiness of R’ Elozor’s teshuva and what was accomplished through it. But simultaneously he cried tears of sadness over the fact that such a lofty revelation would not be able to be appreciated.
Rosh Hashono 5773. Thousands of Chassidim, young and old and from all parts of the world, came together to spend the special time with the Rebbe. As always, the climax of the Yom Tov was the farbrengen in the afternoon of the 2nd day. Everyone converged to 770, grabbed their places, and spent the end of Yom Tov in that unique atmosphere.
I attended as well, sat in my place on a bench, and – as is often the case – felt tears in my eyes.
They were, undoubtedly, tears of intense emotion and awe. The experience of joining thousands of Chassidim in this periodic display of stubborn and relentless emunah and bitachon is and always remains infinitely uplifting and inspiring. The sight of countless young bochurim, who had never personally been able to experience this farbrengen, joining in with boundless enthusiasm and unquenchable hiskashrus is awesome.
I remember how even during the Rebbe’s farbrengens, the enthusiasm would occasionally wane and the singing would die down, and it took the sight of the Rebbe visibly encouraging us to renew it and recharge it. And here stand these Chassidim young and old, and especially the young bochurim, with unstoppable excitement and undying passion. They all just completed the rather exhausting two days of Rosh Hashono, and the actual farbrengen is rather repetitious, following the identical pattern year after year. And yet they stand in their places with holy fervor, jumping up and down with excitement.
It is an event that overshadows all the negativity that sometimes occurs in between, and is endlessly awe-inspiring. It is witnessing a hiskashrus and faith that is so deep that it cannot be contained, and can only come out in tears.
And yet, they are surely also mingled with tears of sadness.
They are tears of sadness for what we’re missing. Tears of sadness over the fact that such a lofty and holy experience is missing the one ingredient that can channel it, utilize it and direct it. Sadness, as well, over how some are missing even the memories, that others of us possess.
[Standing in 770 this year before tekios, trying to picture the image of the Rebbe on the bima at that unequalled moment, I suddenly recalled a story:
The Rebbe Rashab once called a select group of the elder Chassidim into his room, and recited a maamar to them. The maamar was based on the Possuk נעשה נא עליית קיר קטנה, and was an extremely geshmake, avoda’dike maamar that those present enjoyed (if that is the right term to use about a maamar) immensely.
After the maamar, one of the mashpi’im there (R’ Michoel?) remarked to his colleague: “As much as I gained so much and appreciated so much hearing this maamar, still, I feel bad that the bochurim missed out on it. If I had a way, I would give up my chance of having been there if that would enable the bochurim to hear it”
I wondered, standing there, and having had the zechus to be present by the tekios of the Rebbe for a number of years, – if I had the ability to do so, would I give up one of my years of having been physically present at the rebbe’s tekios in order to afford today’s bochurim, our children, the opportunity to experience it?]
Both emotions are genuine, and both are present.
The Arizal taught that the aseres yemei teshuva are days of tears, and that one who doesn’t cry then is lacking in the wholeness of his neshomo. These tears, as well, are bittersweet, and combine the sadness over the state that we’re in, with the emotional reaction to the loftiness of the time. In Lubavitch, which is a microcosm of the world, we are experiencing this bittersweetness in our own situation, and they continue in unison throughout the experiences of the month of Tishrei.
We can only endeavor to tap in adequately to the inspiration and strength that we can draw, while properly channeling our bitterness and sense of yearning to the heartfelt cry of ad mosai! Together they will result in the true teshuva, our returning from this unsustainable state which we’re in to be once again children who are visibly and forevermore at their father’s table, and Hashem will wipe away all tears from our eyes and with everlasting joy we will celebrate the geulah ho’amitis vehashleima!
L’chaim! May we all take advantage of these days of teshuva ila’a to completely transform our existence to one of total oneness with Elokus, and may the Eibishter do His part to return us to Him, and do His teshuva by bringing the immediate hisgalus of Moshiach Tzidkeinu TUMYM!!!
Rabbi Akiva Wagner
לזכות ר’ שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ”י ממש בטוהנוהנ”ג