Sunday, April 13, 2008


Tonight Adath Israel Synagogue had a meal in honor of 11 Nissan. Once that was over the night really began with Rabbi Shmuel Lew, Rabbi Manis Friedman, and Rabbi Moshe Feller Farbrenging. It was, as Rabbi Mordechai Friedman would say, awesome. Unfortunately I really don't remember a lot of what was said, but I'll try and write what I do recall. I feel like a moron for writing this, but I'm reminded that the Mitteler Rebbe would say "Sha, Sha" when he was saying Chassidus to calm the torrent of ideas that was coursing through his mind. There are so many stories flying through my head right now, and I'm trying to grab onto all of them. It reminds me of people who go into "money machines", where you can only grab one bill at a time, and they don't know where to start. Anyway, as I said, I'll try...

R' Mendel Futerfas would tell a story of a bunch of Russian troops who were really scared to go into battle, so their commander got them all totally stoned. The result was that they shot all over the place. When the commander was asked to explain his actions, he said, "Listen, so they didn't know what was going on, but at least some of the bullets got to the right place." So too with mashke, everyone drinks a ton, and some of it will go to the right place.

He told another story, that the Germans in 1941 totally overwhelmed a Soviet army, and the Russians who remained retreated to try and regroup. There was only one officer amid the chaos, and he managed to get some order. He had just ordered the men to counter-attack when one of the soldiers piped up and said, "This is all good and fine, but how do we know that you're not a German sending us to our deaths?" The officer replied that this was a good question, and called the soldier up to the front, pulled out a gun, and shot him in the head. All the soldiers understood that he was on their side, and they went to fight the enemy. (Unfortunately I don't recall the moral. R' Mendel Feller was in the middle of telling me that the great genius of R' Mendel Futerfas was not in the fact that he managed to find a moral in his stories, but rather that he managed to make up a story to fit the moral.)

Back in the day Chassanim, after getting engaged, would go to Newark or Montreal until the wedding to learn. Also back in the day, young people wouldn't write into the Rebbe, rather they would tell their Mashpia (spiritual mentor), who would write into the Rebbe and then tell the Rebbe's answer over to them. Rabbi Pinchas Hirschsprung (did I just murder that spelling?) would call a Bochur into his room, put on a gartel (belt), stand up, and relay the Rebbe's message. In the case of these Chassanim, the Rebbe's letter generally said, "I'm happy to hear that you're in Montreal (or Newark), stay there until X." There was once a Bochur, who wasn't considered to be the most Chassidishe guy in the world, who was called in. R' Pinchas began to read the letter, "I'm happy to hear that you're in Montreal, stay there until-" the Bochur interrupted him and said, "Don't tell me now, tell me when my time's up."
The moral of the story? If you start something knowing when it's going to end, then it never really even began. There was a Russian Chassid who came to 770 for Tishrei and was asked, "How long are you staying for?" He responded, "What do you mean? I'm still coming!" Rabbeinu Bachaya says in his commentary to Bereishis, that the moment a child is born he begins to die. By Moshiach it says that it'll be forever. How will we know? Because when something is truly eternal, then it's obvious from the start. Getting back to the story, if a person knows when something ends, then they'll never be able to fully apply themselves to it.

Someone once thought that they angered the Rebbe, and said that they were scared that that perhaps the Rebbe put a Kepeidah on them (a Kepeidah is when a Tzaddik, a righteous and holy person gets angry, and it causes problems for the one who got angry). The Rebbe grew very serious, and said, "From this gate comes only Chessed, kindness."

Once a Chassid was trying out various Rebbeim, and after a few months he realized that the current one just wasn't the right one for him. He came in to the Rebbe, and told him that he was leaving. The Rebbe told him to stay. The Chassid said, "Listen, I'd love to and all, but it's just not going to work out." He turned to go, and as he was walking out the room tripped and broke his leg. He was no dummy, and realized that this was a Kepeidah from the Rebbe. The Chassid twisted around, and said, "With broken bones you won't make Chassidim."
(A side note from a Farbrengen with the aforementioned R' Mordechai Friedman: There's no such thing as a Chassid without a Rebbe. Anything else you hear is a bald-faced lie.)

The Bochurim in Tomchei Tmimim in Lubavitch once broke into the kitchen because they were starving. The Mashpia was outraged, and screamed at them, because he felt that they should have had Hiskafia, they should've held themselves back. The Mashpia went to the Friedriker Rebbe, who at that time was in charge, and expressed his indignation regarding the Bochurim's behavior. The Friedriker Rebbe told him, "There shouldn't be no food and therefore the Bochurim have Hiskafia; rather there should be plenty of food, and then the Bochurim have Hiskafia."
(This puts me in mind of an old tale, that a rich man once came to Tomchei Tmimim and said that he didn't understand what was so great about the Bochurim. He proceeded to lay forth a lavish feast and the Bochurim ate it, together with the rich guy, with gusto. He said, "Ha, I've exposed the humbug!" The Mashpia in Lubavitch told him, "Not so fast, make the same meal for tomorrow night, and we'll see what happens." The rich man did as he was told, and once again the Bochurim found themselves with plenty to eat. Five minutes into the meal, the Mashpia signaled to the waiters, and they removed all the fancy food, and replaced it with the normal fare, and believe you me, it wasn't much. The rich man immediately began to protest, while the Bochurim started to eat without a whimper. The Mashpia turned to the rich man, and said, "You understand the difference between my Bochurim and you?")

I heard a story many moons ago that I really liked. I wrote it in short a few months ago, here's the link, and tonight Rabbi Manis Friedman told a different version. They don't have the same moral, so it's possible that both actually happened, but it's unlikely. Anyway, there was a town which had a large population of Chassidim, I believe Chernobyler, but don't quote me on that one. Whenever the Rebbe came to town the Chassidim would heat up the local Mikve, as per Chassidic custom, and they used a chain gang to do it. Unfortunately, there were also a bunch of Misnagdim in town, and if they knew what was going on they would have made more problems than a bull in a chine shop, or even a badly written idiom, so the Chassidim had to warm the Mikve at night. This resulted in one of the Chassidim getting badly burned by the scalding water. The Rebbe came to town, put his hand on the Chassid's face, and he was cured. A little while later the Alter Rebbe visited, and this Chassid, with a bunch of his friends, was completely taken by him. They decided that they couldn't remain Chassidim of their old Rebbe any longer, and decided to tell him of their switch. They were all really scared to do so, however, so they decided to draw lots. As luck would have it, the healed Chassid got the short straw, and he went in to tell the Rebbe. All the other Chassidim crowded in behind, wanting to find out what the reaction was going to be. The Chassidim also knew that they were in danger of a Kepeidah, but they figured that truth demanded certain things of them, and it was worth the risk. The Rebbe, upon hearing the news, sat deep in thought for a while, and then said, "A fine young man." The Chassidim knew that he approved.

This story put me in mind of another one that happened when the Rebbe Rashab and his son the Friedriker Rebbe were traveling around Europe. They came upon a little Chassidishe shteeble, and saw there very old Chassidim cleaning up as if Pesach was coming. No work was too hard for these men. Surrounding them, watching, was a group of young Chassidim. The Rebbe Rashab asked for an explanation, and was told that the Chassidim's Rebbe was coming, and the older men had the great honor to prepare the Shul for his arrival. The water they were using was coming from across town, because one of the rich Chassidim had bid for the right to have the water from his well be used to clean. The young Chassidim were not helped to help; this privilege was reserved for the old among them. The Rebbe said to his son, later, "Only in Lubavitch do the older Chassidim have the Mesiras Nefesh to allow the younger Chassidim to participate."

Some people could ask me, "It's so late, why don't you write some of this tomorrow. Additionally, you have so much today, and tomorrow you may have nothing. Wouldn't it be better to split it up?" The answer is that when the spirit strikes you, just hold on and hope for the best.


Mottel said...

"and tomorrow you may have nothing to do"?!?! T'would not be said by a Chossid.

Thank you very very much for posting this. It makes your whole blog worth it :-)

e said...

It was so readable, I actually read the whole thing on my phone.

Just like a guy said...

Everyone is so nice today. How nice.