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Alone, or alone with Hashem

Friday, 26 August, 2022 - 4:35 am

For a few weeks now, at 7:30 every morning, a 14-year-old refugee from Ukraine has been coming to me to learn Torah.

He is a good boy from a good family. He grew up in the Chabad community in Odessa and until the war he learned in the Chabad yeshiva in Dnipro. When he met me, he had been separated from the yeshiva and his friends for a few months already, and when I offered to learn chassidut together, he jumped at the opportunity as if it were a new iPhone I was giving him. “Oy, how I want to learn some ma’amar,” he said, and didn’t see that I was overcome with emotion at his response.

I admit that when I offered this to him, I thought it would be once a week at the most, but no – he wanted to learn every day, and if I can only do it at 7:30 in the morning, so he shows up at that hour every morning. 

We learned the ma’amarEichah yashvah badad (How has she come to sit in solitude)”, which the Rebbe said on the Shabbat of parashat Devarim, 1971 (5731).

The ma’amar compares, opposes and connects between the simple meaning of the passuk and the chassidic commentary of the third Chabad Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek.

The simple meaning speaks of Jerusalem, sitting alone, in solitude, and as Rashi says: “empty of its inhabitants”. 

The Chassidic commentary speaks of badad as referring to being alone with Hashem and connects it to the passukHashem badad yanchenu (Hashem alone guided them)”.

Wow. What a huge difference between the commentaries. One speaks of someone who is alone, deserted, desolate, with no one with him in the world. And the other speaks of someone who has reached the spiritual level of feeling the closest possible to Hashem. Only with Hashem. Only Hashem guides him.

The first feels deserted; the second feels gathered in, embraced, as in the passuk “Hashem will gather me in.”

In the ma’amar, the Rebbe explains at length how it is precisely the moments of sitting in solitude are those that bring man to a state of feeling Hashem guiding him. How when a person does what he needs to do even when it is difficult, when he is almost incapable of doing it, when the exile is at its height – that is what brings upon him and to him the revelation of being led only by Hashem. 

To further strengthen this point, he brings the chassidic explanation of the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu was the humblest person ever: It was because he knew the tests and trials of our generation, on one hand, and on the other hand he also knew that this generation would observe Torah and mitzvahs – and that is what brought him to humility. In the language of the ma’amar: “And as it is known, the explanation of ‘And the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth,’ and even more so when he saw the generation of the ikveta demishicha (the last generation before the coming of the Mashiach), when there will be a multitude of concealments and hidings [of Divine Providence] etc., and yet they will learn Torah and observe mitzvahs and in a way that increases light, this understanding caused humility in Moshe.”

The boy and I talked about this – that often one can clearly see how it is especially the very difficult moments that connect us to emunah, faith, because these are moments when we really have no one to lean on except our Father in Heaven. 

And then realization dawned: Sitting in front of me was a child who has been separated from his yeshiva and his friends – and that is what pushes him to come every morning to learn, with the aim of achieving a state of Hashem badad yanchenu. I didn’t say this to him – I just was once again overwhelmed emotionally.

Am Yisrael chai!


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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