Sunday, January 27, 2008


Last night I watched an oldish video of a lecture at Beis Chana. This brought to mind the not so famous (yet) story of Rabbi Manis Friedman, father of our fearless (except when it comes to strong coffee) leader, who was once asked by a non-Lubavitcher (you know what that means) a question. A quick caveat: I don't remember the wording so precisely, and I hope you'll forgive me. Perhaps one of the illustrious Rabbi's sons could provide us with a meduyak loshon. Anyway, the guy asked, "Is it permissible for me to give classes to women?" Rabbi Friedman answered, "Absolutely not." The guy said, "Waddya mean, you teach women all the time!" Rabbi Friedman answered, "I'm on Shlichus, and therefore I have the power of the Meshaleich, the one who sent me, to ensure that only good comes from my teaching, and not heaven-forbid the opposite."
As I was saying, the video I was watching was on the Holocaust. First a Righteous gentile told the story of how she saved many Jew's lives, and then R. Friedman got up to speak a bit about the Holocaust in general. He explained how the Mesiras Nefesh of the martyrs in the Holocaust was different than that of all the other martyrs in Jewish history. The traditional Jew who gave up his life, to sanctify G-d's holy name, died in a fiery pyre, or with a sharp sword at his, throat, proclaiming G-d's greatness to the very end. While it may not have been pretty, it was certainly glorious. The person literally became a martyr, and was revered as such. But the Holocaust was different. The Nazi's intent was to make the Jew less than human, and to accomplish this they mechanized the process of death, taking the humanity out and replacing it with slaughterhouse efficiency. And how did the martyr respond? He sang as he walked into the gas-chamber. His death was not glorious. Indeed, he has been criticized for not fighting to the end. But the truth is that the Jew showed greater courage, greater humanity, by singing. The Nazi's expected the Jew to fight back, because that it what animals do, and the Jew to them was an animal. But to sing? Only a man can sing.
A person realizes when they die a relatively natural death, that they have only a few moments left on this world. And when that realization comes they cease to care about the trivial pursuits with which people clutter their lives. They're not scared anymore. They realize that there is a higher power in play, and transcend the cloud which clogs our earthly vision. When the martyrs went to be killed, they knew they were being killed. And when they sang, they unnerved the guards. Because the guards expected to see sheep being lead to the slaughter, and instead they saw people, still proud of their humanity. They didn't go out in a blaze of glory, because they had past that stage. Their glory was so much higher. It was the glory of the essence of the soul. Because that which is essence can't be tampered with.

Good shtuff, eh? I may have fallen asleep in the middle, so blame me and not the Rabbi if any of this doesn't make sense. Onto slightly lighter material, I had a divine awakening right before Davening today. I decided to translate Pelech Harimon, the magnum opus of Reb Hillel Paritcher, a man who was so Batul, so nullified, before the Tzemach Tzedek that he was half-Rebbe. Why have I decided to translate this obscure work? After all, there's a lot of other Chassidus that certainly deserves to be made available for the masses. The reason is that 1. I'm interested, and 2. I'll finally officially be labeled a nut. How glorious. Seriously folks, though I'll probably abandon this dream in a couple weeks, at least I can imagine, right?


e said...

It's Ok. You're already an official nut.

Just like a guy said...

awe shucks

Anonymous said...

wow. powerful.