Alone and together

Friday, 15 January, 2021 - 4:38 am

 This week I would like to describe a little episode to you, which, besides being very moving also expresses unusual strength.

My brother-in-law, my wife’s eldest brother, Rabbi Zusha Gorelick, is a quiet person, almost unassuming. But really he is one of the heroes of the Jewish revolution that has been taking place in Russia in the past thirty years.

He is not the head of some institution; he doesn’t even have a shul. He is “only” a mashpia (spiritual guide) in the Chabad yeshiva in Moscow. But he lives a life of pure truth, clarity of thought and extraordinary devotion to his students. The result is that boys from far-flung cities in Russia, sent by Chabad shluchim to the yeshiva, have become Torah-true chassidim of the first order.

There is a saying that a good manager knows to choose good people to be by his side. Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia and the person who is responsible for the Jewish revolution in the former Soviet Union, is known to have a sharp eye that knows to identify special people. More than 25 years ago, he knew already to hire R. Zusha as the yeshiva’s mashpia, a role that Zusha, together with his family, has fleshed out to include the essence of family, fatherhood, warmth, love, Torah learning, personal counseling – in other words, everything and anything.

This evening R. Zusha’s son became engaged. Mazel Tov! The “L’chaim” party that includes a family gathering took place in the Chabad neighborhood in Kiryat Malachi, but due to the Corona, Zusha and his wife, parents of the groom, could not participate physically in the event. Moreover, because the yeshiva is in a suburb outside of Moscow, they have almost no friends and certainly no family members close to them. So, they are sitting almost alone in faraway Moscow and watching the goings-on in Zoom.

I felt a bit sorry for them; it pained me to see the distance and the difficulty, but then I saw what a real chassid is. R. Zusha simply pulled a melodica (google that one!) and started to play simcha tunes in typical excitement, drawing all the participants into moments of inner joy.

I am familiar with the Chassidic saying, “The Admor Hazaken, Ba’al HaTanya, acted so that a Jew is never alone.” But this time I got to view this phenomenon live.

A Jew is sitting alone in some remote place in Russia, when his son is celebrating his engagement to his chosen one far away. It looks like he is alone; one might think that he is sad and heavy-hearted. But he isn’t alone at all. He is joyous and is making others joyous. He has his faith, Hashem is with him, the Rebbe is with him and all his friends and acquaintances are with him, so why shouldn’t he take out his melodica and start dancing?

The Admor Hazaken was truly successful in his mission.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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