Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Heroic Struggles

I started reading this book on Shabbos, as a preparation for Gimmel Tammuz. In the past, I have rarely focused on any aspect of Gimmel Tammuz aside for it being the day that the Rebbe passed on from this world, and I realized it would be appropriate to learn about "the Frierdiker Rebbe's Gimmel Tammuz".

I dunno if I'm allowed to talk like this, but the Frierdiker Rebbe writes phenomenally. Reading the translated memoirs, I felt like I could personally guide you through the silent darkened corridors of Spalerno, in and out of the multitude of rooms and offices, up and down the iron ladders. But I wouldn't dare--the guards and their ever-present ammunition frighten me. And apparently, the Rebbe himself was emotionally effected from the prison. The Rebbe writes of moments that were extremely difficult for him, of his emotional outbursts, of his searing pain, of his hearing words that caused him to shudder, of his fear.

Yes, the Frierdiker Rebbe writes in his memoirs that he felt fear.

Suddenly the cry of a man begging for mercy was heard, and then an officer's voice in Russian, commanding, "Place your hands on his mouth to silence him." Then a heavy silence. My hands and knees trembled. In a moment I would faint. From the courtyard I suddenly heard a bizarre cry. "Ay, Ay!" and the sound of rifle shots. A wellspring of tears flowed from my eyes. I felt incapable of uttering a single word. Fear gripped me upon hearing footsteps approaching our room. Once again a door opened.

And later on, the Rebbe writes-

The announcement was heard, "Lay down to sleep." I had already recited the evening prayers and was lying in my bed. We suddenly heard footsteps approaching. We were gripped by fear. A few seconds passed. The locks were opened. The ray of a flashlight shone into the cell. We looked at each other in astonishment, confusion, and the very fear of death.

It was weird. It was extremely weird for me to read that the Rebbe felt fear.
The Rebbe? Fear??
But a Rebbe is above that! A Rebbe is above all human responses and emotions! A Rebbe doesn't deal with such things...things such as...such as...fear!

But no. The Rebbe did deal with fear.
He dealt with it and then dealt away with it.
But he did experience it.

That first excerpt ("Suddenly the cry...") continues with a description of what happened the rest of the night: the sounds of gunshots and human beings crying out in intense pain which lasted until dawn and the Rebbe ends off, "I obviously could not sleep".

A cool breeze wafted in through the window. The oppressive silence of death prevailed in that place of wanton murder. My pain had diminished somewhat, fear passed from me, an exalted spirit steadied me, and my thoughts merged into meaningful order. My first thought was "It is written, 'the world abounds with G-d's glory,' and this includes Spalerno also." The image of Petrropavlovskaya Krepostj and the imprisonment of my grandfather the Alter Rebbe, our first father, of blessed memory, stood before my eyes. I beheld this vision while fully awake. How powerful is the faculty of thought and the quality of imagination, enabling man to envision mental imagery as if it were authentic experience. At such a time one can entirely transcend the wasteland of the physical and the material. The eyes blur, one's thoughts surge as though ascending within the realm of soul and spirit, man's pain-ridden flesh is alien and distant from him.

So yes, there was fear and that excited and encouraged me.
Why was that so?
What use have I for an angel of a leader?
What good can be accomplished when I'm guided by a different species?
If I cannot relate to my teacher, and my teacher cannot empathize with me, I can little learn from him.

To read that the Frierdiker Rebbe was afraid, calmed me.
Now I know that I too can deal with fear.
Earlier, I had imagined that it was way out of the Rebbeim's realm to be frightened of such things.
There was this immense separation between us-I get scared when I hear footsteps, you automatically think of levels of Elokus and what footsteps represent in Avodas Hashem.
So there was always this block.
And a block that didn't just sit in its corner, blocking only one pathway, but rather a moving block.
Yes, emotional blocks are moving blocks.
So, when you told me to do all I can and you're giving over your job to me, the block moved there and said, 'You can't do it. You don't have the strength, the ability, the vision that the Rebbe has.'
But now there's no block.
I do have the strength, the ability, the vision.
If the Rebbe could overcome the occasional fear he experienced in the notorious Spalerno prison, I too could overcome the fear I experience in my own life.

It's not that I'm making the Rebbe on our level.
No, don't think that.
It's that now I have another channel through which I can connect to my Rebbe.

When the Rebbe instructs me to relentlessly hunt down Jews in love, to help them reveal their connection to Hashem, I know I can do it.
The Rebbe is really talking to me. The Rebbe really knows my abilities. The Rebbe really can trust me.
I suddenly feel so empowered.

I'm now going to post part of an email from R' Boruch Kaplan-

In last week's parsha there are two very powerful messages that assist in understanding this relationship [ed-our connection to the Rebbe] and its importance in our lives.
At the beginning of the parsha we learn of the para aduma. Of course we all know the paradox involved in this procedure; the mitaher, the one bringing his fellow Jew to a state of tahara, is himself plunged into a temporary state of hepech hatahara! This reveals just how great the love of a fellow Jew must and can be! In order to elevate another out of a state of spiritual impurity it might be necessary to subject oneself to a situation that is spiritually dangerous. The question must be asked. How can he allow himself to leave the safety of his own Yiddishkeit and encounter the impure state of another? It is due to this problem that the Torah states that the para aduma must be brought to Moshe, "Veyikchu elecha para aduma...". The ability to assist another and yet remain connected to kedusha comes directly from Moshe. Davka if we are connected to him do we have the strength and brocha to leave the safety of the Beis Medrash and enter into the world of the impure in order to elevate and purify it. This might entail a temporary state of less purity but our connection to the Rebbe ensures that it will be done with his brocha and in the spirit of his selflessness an Ahavas Yisroel. (Based on Likutei Sichos chelel dalet) (It is interesting to note that in Parshas Behaaloscha the Rebbe teaches that the Kohen would stand on a stool in order to light the menora on the Mikdosh. This teaches that lighting the neshoma of another is actually an elevation for the one doing the lighting!)
Later in the parsha (Bamidbar 21:21) is, of course, the famous Rashi that teaches that Moshe is Yisroel and Yisroel is Moshe and that the nosi hador is the whole dor as "hanosi hu hakol". All of the physical and spiritual goodness and brocha that we receive comes to us through Moshe, the Rebbe. Moshe's complete dedication and total identification with the people creates a state of unity such that not only is he one with them, but they are one with him (see Likutei Sichos chelek 33 on Parshas Chukas).

I feel bad that I'm too tired to finish writing up my thoughts properly. I started organized but then had to stop and now I'm exhausted. I guess it fits though. Who has organized thoughts regarding the Rebbe on Gimmel Tammuz?
There are tons of things (especially from R' Yossi Jacobson) that I recently heard and read that I want to share. I wanted to do it properly, yknow summarize etc, but like I said, I'm just way way too tired.
The following was written by R' Dov Greenberg.

The fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber, was once talking with one of his prominent disciples, a successful diamond merchant named Reb Monia Mosenson. This individual expressed bewilderment that the Rebbe devoted an inordinate amount of time to simple folk who seemed rather unremarkable, ordinary.
“Rebbe, with all due respect,” Monia asked, “why do you spend so much time with the commoners? They’re nice people, but hardly worthy of the investment of this much of the Rebbe’s time and attention. I can’t imagine they’re asking any profound Talmudic questions or engaging in deep philosophical discussions.”
The Rebbe thought for a moment, then turned to Monia and asked, “Do you happen to have any of your merchandise with you?” Monia said, “As a matter a fact, I do” as he opened his pouch and spread some of his wares on the table. He selected a single gem and lifted it up for the Rebbe to see. “Look at that color and clarity. Perfection! A beauty, isn’t it?”
The Rebbe was not impressed. “Frankly, I don’t see it,” he said. “As a matter of fact, that one seems rather ordinary to me. I find this bigger and shinier one far more impressive.”
Somewhat disappointed, Monia smiled and said respectfully, “Rebbe, one has to be a ‘maven’, an expert, on a diamond in order to appreciate its true value.”
“Ah, quite correct, Monia” replied the Rebbe. “And one must also be a ‘maven’ on a soul, in order to appreciate its true value. What you see in those ‘ordinary’ folk is not quite the same as what I see”.
It is this perspective that animated the approach of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. What he saw in people is not quite the same as what most of us see. How then was he able to invigorate and motivate his followers to come around to his way of seeing things – inspiring them to branch out and open thousands of educational institutions, humanitarian projects and outreach centers across the globe – sparking one of the greatest renaissances in Jewish history?
Perhaps an exchange we find in the Talmud will offer some insight. In one of the Tractates dealing with marriage, the Talmud records a fascinating debate between the great schools of Hillel and Shammai. “How is one to praise a bride at her wedding?” was the question on the floor of the study hall.
The School of Hillel held that, regardless of what one observes, one should always say, “The bride is beautiful and gracious.” In other words, on her wedding day, a bride must be made to feel like the most beautiful woman alive.
The School of Shammai, on the other hand, maintained that you can only call it as you see it. After all, “distance yourself from a lie” is a fundamental Torah principle. Falsehood is anathema to Judaism. Thus, says Shammai, if she is beautiful, talk of her beauty. If she has nice eyes, talk about her eyes. If she has virtue, talk of her virtue. But if you see nothing worthy of praise, then it’s best to remain silent rather than offer untrue platitudes.
While Hillel’s approach certainly seems more sensitive and “politically correct,” his opinion is problematic. After all, Shammai demands honesty and truth. Does Hillel discount the importance of speaking the truth?
The answer is that Hillel is not asking you to lie – not at all. What he is saying is that you are at a wedding in which this groom is marrying this bride. To him, this woman is the most beautiful in the world. To him, she is the greatest woman in the world. So, says Hillel, when you’re at a wedding, respect this man’s affection and taste. Find a way to see the bride the way her husband does. Just as he sees her beauty and proclaims it as such, find a way to merge his view with your own –see what he sees – and come from that truth.
Throughout scripture, we find that the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is referred to as a marriage. The Jews met G-d in a desert where they first pledged their love. The event at Sinai was the wedding where G-d married the Children of Israel, joined His fate to theirs and entered a covenant of mutual loyalty. This was not only a marriage with the people, collectively, but with each individual Jew, for all eternity.
From the Rebbe’s perspective, when you gaze at a fellow Jew, you are seeing someone whom G-d selected as His bride. To G-d, this Jew is the most beautiful person in the world. Likewise, when you look at a Jew, he would say, view the person from G-d’s perspective.
The Rebbe was a great defender of the Jewish people when many others were critical, sometimes rightfully so. He sang the melody of Hillel and was able to see the good within the not-yet-good. For over 40 years of leadership, one note infused all of his talks: the love, generosity of spirit, even awe for this people who, though much afflicted, never gave up its faith. This remarkable people who, after the Holocaust, collectively rebuilt Jewish life throughout the world; this exceptional people who, despite the weight of modernity and post-modernity, still identified as Jews, came to the aid of other Jews in need wherever they are, who carried underneath the surface of their lives a shimmering ember of identity which - with but a gentle touch - could be fanned into a flame.
The Rebbe saw every Jew as a beautiful bride and extolled her as beautiful and gracious. He saw in every Jew’s heart a spark of heavenly fire and marvelous potential.
To the Rebbe, ahavat yisrael, love of every Jew, was not a refusal to see deficiencies, but an unequivocal love regardless of his or her spiritual state. He loved and taught that G-d loves – as a father loves his children – regardless of who and what they are. And he believed that through this love, we would be able to help others actualize their deepest potential.
Today, in many works of post-Holocaust Jewish theology you will find the same question. What unites the Jewish world now, with all our disagreements and denominational fragmentation? Their answer is usually this: What links the Jewish people today is memories of the Holocaust, fears of anti-semitism, and its new, virulent form which questions Jewish existence in Israel. In short, what unites us as a people is that many gentiles hate us.
The Rebbe taught the opposite. What unites us is not that gentiles hate us, but that G-d loves us; every one of us is touched by the Divine presence and together we can we can build a world of righteousness worthy of being a home for G-d. Surely that message is much more empowering and inspirational than the alternative.
Where others might have seen gloom and limited worth, the Rebbe saw the priceless gem that is the soul. Moreover, he sought to make us into experts, that we might see it too. So that when we looked at our fellow, we would not only see him for who he is today, but for who he can become; that we would spare no effort or energy in reaching out to another Jew, revealing that inner diamond – nurturing it, polishing it, cherishing it.
Indeed, within every Jewish “bride” there is something unique, yet something that is all too easily eclipsed, and can only grow when exposed to someone else's recognition and praise. To see the virtue in others and let them see themselves in the reflection of our regard is to help someone grow to their potential. In the words of the Talmud, “Causing others to do good is even superior to doing good oneself.” To help others reach their potential is to give birth to creativity in someone else's soul. This is not done by criticism and negativity, but by searching for the good in others, complimenting it, helping them see it, own it, live it.
The idea that each of us has a fixed amount of holiness, virtue and faith is incorrect. Each of us have holiness which can lie dormant until someone awakens it. We can all achieve spiritual heights which we never thought ourselves capable. All it takes is for us to meet someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Such people change lives.
This is what the Lubavitcher­ Rebbe did for so many. This is what he empowered us to do. How urgently we need this message today. May this legacy continue to inspire us, as we seek together to mend the Jewish world and bring redemption to humanity.
The Song & The Spirit

R' YY Jacobson said that when he watched the Rebbe in shul, it seemed to him as if the Rebbe was conducting a symphony of musical souls. In the rebbes world, each Jew represents an individual note in the symphony of Jewish history, conscience, future and eternity.

Think about song.

Unlike conversation, where another voice in the midst of your words is deemed an interruption, melody is only enhanced by harmony.

Just as every note is crucial to the melody, so every Jew is crucial to the melody of our history, of our present and of our future.

And the Rebbe didn't only teach this idea, the Rebbe didn't only live this idea, the Rebbe didn't only lead us with this idea--but the Rebbe actually gives us the strength to do it (Chanie, like what you said)

Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu.

The whole flow of this post really makes sense, it does--Seeing that the Frierdiker Rebbe was afraid and then dealt with it, made me realize that I too can do 'Rebbe' things and what kind of things are Rebbe things? Well, I just posted some articles explaining.


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