When the Rebbe cries

Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 5:52 am

 When a person cries, that means that he is emotionally moved. If he is emotionally moved, that means that the issue is very close to his heart.

In his writings and talks, the Lubavitcher Rebbe touched upon almost everything that was or is in the world – he related to almost every existing topic and realm. But when all of a sudden, you hear him choked up and stop talking, you feel that you are privy to a moment of self-revelation, as if something very internal and personal of the Rebbe is being revealed to you.

The chassidim did a great kindness to us by recording the Rebbe’s weekday talks for forty years. I am extremely grateful to them and to everyone involved every time I operate the iPod and listen to the Rebbe’s voice, recorded when I was still a child, or even before I was born. For reading or learning out of a book is not like listening to a recording. The recording enables me to notice and hear the tone and the intonation, expressions of pain or joy, and, as mentioned, moments of emotion and weeping.

A few years ago I listened to an hour-and-a-half long hitva’adut that was given on the day before Rosh Hashana 5737 (1977). Among other things, the Rebbe spoke about eating kosher food. And then he told “a wondrous story that I heard just yesterday, a story that expresses a Jew’s essence.” The story is about a Jew who grew up in an observant home, but life in Soviet Russia eventually prevented him from keeping kosher. In 1977 they were already living in the U.S., but he had never entered a synagogue. His son turned to him and asked: “You grew up and were educated in a Jewishly observant home until you were bar mitzvah and even beyond that; why, then, do you not enter a synagogue?” His father replied – and here there is a long silence, during which one can sense that the Rebbe is attempting to control himself – “When one has a situation of decades during which one could not observe the laws of kashrut” – and once again the Rebbe’s voice becomes choked up and tearful, to the point that he cannot continue the sentence, and when he does continue he is crying – “When one eats what is called the opposite of kashrut, kan men nit ariengen in schul – he is incapable of entering a synagogue.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was truly world-encompassing; even then his shluchim were spread far and wide. Heads of state, generals, top academic figures, as well as gedolei Torah came to see him. Thousands of chassidim sat in his beit midrash as he would encourage them to move forward and achieve more, with the great goal of preparing the world for the coming of the Mashiach. And here comes a simple and real story like this, and he, the great Rebbe, is moved to tears when he talks about the pure and aching heart of a Jew who does not feel able to enter a synagogue because he feels he is not worthy of it.

This coming Tuesday, the 11th of Nissan, we will mark 117 years to the Rebbe’s birth. In my opinion this is a day that is a compass. With this compass we can examine what really excites us, what really touches us, and also see if in this cynical realm that we live in there is still one corner of purity and simplicity. If not – we ought to create such a spot in the world.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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