He burst into tears and wept

Friday, 5 March, 2021 - 7:07 am

Jews have always gone to their rabbi or rebbe, seeking a blessing or advice. Sometimes the requests are about important – but not critical – issues. But sometimes a Jew comes to his spiritual guide for something that is crucial for his life, and he is approaching him as a last resort.

One of the stories that has stayed with me since childhood is a story that the Rebbe told a number of times – about someone who came to the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, in order to receive a blessing regarding some truly critical matter, which if he would fail in it, would mean total breakdown. He had traveled a long way in order to reach the town of Lubavich, and had prepared himself spiritually and materially. He was completely focused on one goal: to reach the Rebbe and ask for a Bracha (blessing). There was no other way for him to deal with his problem.

Much to his surprise, when he entered the Rebbe’s room and presented the problem, the Rebbe said, “I can’t do anything for you. I can’t help you.”

The Rebbe’s response landed on him like a bombshell. All the tension and pressure he had been enduring erupted: when he came out of the Rebbe’s room he burst into tears and wept – sobbing deeply and brokenly. The sobs were coming from the depths of his broken, shattered heart. (In the words of the Rebbe: ausgebrechen in a bittern gevain). “Even the Rebbe can’t help me…”

Outside he met the Rebbe’s brother, Rabbi Zalman Aharon Schneersohn, and when he  heard what had happened, he went into his brother’s room and asked: “Is this the way things go? A Jew comes to you to request a Brachaand you tell him you can’t help him, to the point that he cries bitterly?”

The Rebbe, in response, readied himself and received the broken man again, giving him a blessing that was later realized.

You would ask, Why? What did the Rebbe say at the beginning that he couldn’t help, and in the end bless him anyway?

The Rebbe explains a wonderful point: when the person entered the first time he was not yet a “vessel” that could contain the blessing, certainly not such a big blessing that could extricate him from the problem he was facing. But – and that’s a big “but” – after he came out of the room and cried a cry of deep brokenness, which brought him to pour out his heart to Hashem, he became a different person, one who is a vessel worthy of such a blessing.

In this week’s Parasha, the Jewish People experiences a great fall. Moshe Rabbeinu comes down at last from Mount Sinai, holding the two Tablets of the Law, but instead of giving them to the people, he shatters them, in great pain. Bnei Yisrael, who only forty days before heard from Hashem the words “I am Hashem, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt” had pointed at a golden calf and had said “This is your G-d, Yisrael, who took you out of the land of Egypt.” It was clear to Moshe that they were not worthy – they were not yet a “vessel” for this great Bracha of receiving the Tablets. A break was necessary; and that is exactly what he did: He broke the Tablets.

After this terrible calamity, and because of it, the people became vessels worthy of the blessing and indeed they received the second set of Tablets from Hashem. But they didn’t forget the fall, the breakage. The fall is extremely important, since it enables a person to obtain a more correct perspective.

That is the reason for the amazing fact we learned in tractate Bava Batra (14b): “The Tablets and the fragments of the Tablets are lying in the Ark.” The Holy Ark that was in the Holy of Holies contained not only the whole Tablets that they received the second time from Hashem; it also contained the pieces of the first Tablets. Because one must remember the fall, the breaking. It can serve as a springboard to personal and national growth. A break, a fall, has both meaning and a goal.

As the Kotzker Rebbe put it: “There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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