Beis Moshiach Magazine
The Alter Rebbe said that when they heard teachings from the Maggid, it was considered to be like the Oral Torah, and when they heard a story, that was in the category of the Written Torah. There is a discussion from the Rebbe about what the difference is. There is a big inyan in telling stories, especially when the Rebbe is the one who asked the Rebbe Rayatz to publicize more and more stories of the Rebbeim.
There is a letter that the Rebbe wrote to the Rebbe Rayatz in 5692, in which he writes that although Chabad Chassidim of previous generations were not pleased when miracle stories of the Rebbeim were told, for they preferred to hear more explanations in Chassidus and guidance in avoda, that was then. In our days (over eighty years ago), there can be a Jew who keeps Torah and mitzvos and learns Torah and is still so immersed not only in the materialistic aspects of this world but also in the corporeality of this world that he can forget there is a Creator of the world and One who runs it.
The Rebbe goes on in his letter to say that when a Jew like this hears a miracle story about the Rebbe, about the Rebbeim, it wakes him up a bit from his material, corporeal involvement, and although it is only momentary, when he goes back to his material things he looks at the world completely differently.
The Rebbe then asked the Rebbe Rayatz to publicize more stories.
This is the ko’ach we have, to tell stories about the Rebbe, to strengthen others and be strengthened ourselves.
THE REBBE’S DOUBLE MIRACLE IN RUSSIA
Rabbi Pinchas Teitz (1908-1995) was a great Orthodox rabbi in the United States, who knew the Rebbe Rayatz and our Rebbe. Now and then he would visit the Rebbe, and since he was very involved in printing chiddushei Torah of the Rogatchover Gaon, he would bring them to the Rebbe.
He made 22 visits to the Soviet Union starting in 1964, and he had permission to bring in religious ritual items. Before every trip to Russia, he would inform the Rebbe and ask whether the Rebbe wanted to give him any assignments, for at that time Lubavitch was considered the Soviets’ greatest enemy and it was impossible to officially and directly convey instructions. R’ Teitz would then bring horaos from the Rebbe, and on his return from there he would orally bring the questions of people who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
He once called and said he was going to Russia in two weeks and did the Rebbe want to send anything with him? The Rebbe said yes; he had a Tanya that he wanted shown to the Chassidim. R’ Teitz refused and told R’ Chadakov that a Tanya was dangerous for him because it said “Lubavitch” on it, and if they opened his belongings and saw that he had some connection with Lubavitch, he would be arrested.
R’ Chadakov said the Rebbe would not ask him to do something that would endanger him. “You will be safe,” he said.
When he told the story afterward, he explained that he said to himself, for once I’ll try to be a Chassid, and as a Chassid I have emunas chachomim (faith in the sages); I need to believe in the Rebbe’s wondrous powers. He brought four pieces of baggage to Russia with him and put the Tanya in the bottom of the second one. He knew that they checked the contents of all baggage at border control but as a familiar person to them, he usually went through without any problem.
This time, when he arrived in Moscow, there were new customs officials who did not know him. He had to undergo their scrutiny, which began with their opening the first piece of luggage, emptying out its contents and examining every item. He knew that when they did the same for the second they would find the Tanya.
In the meantime, the officials put back everything they had taken out of the first and were about to open the second. There was no getting out of it. They took it, opened it, scanned it for a moment and then closed it! Numbers three and four they opened, emptied, and examined item by item as they did the first one.
His obvious conclusion was that emunas tzaddikim works!
When he met the Chassidim he told them he has something precious with him, a Tanya from the Rebbe. He arranged to meet with them at a certain location. He told them what happened and they asked questions for him to convey to the Rebbe.
Two men asked whether to continue living in Russia or to try and make aliya. One of them noticed a fold of the corner of a page of the Tanya. He opened to that page where it said a person must flee evil as fast as possible so the evil would have no effect on him. The man excitedly said this meant he had to leave Russia.
The second man found the answer to his question on another page with a fold where the Alter Rebbe writes that the entire purpose of this world is to transform evil into good. He concluded from this that he had to stay in Russia.
The two men said now there was no reason for R’ Teitz to convey their questions to the Rebbe since one had an answer to leave and the other had an answer to stay.
R’ Teitz tried to convince them not to rely on this and said he would ask the Rebbe, but the two men asked him not to ask, for this was a clear answer for them.
When R’ Teitz returned to the US he had a private audience with the Rebbe where he told him everything that had transpired on his trip, including his encounter with the two men. The Rebbe smiled and said: Why did I give you the Tanya and why did I bend the pages? Because I wanted them to get an immediate answer.
When they told the story, one of the Chassidim said the Rebbe not only sent them the answers in the Tanya, but also sent them in the right order so that the one who wanted to leave Russia would get his answer to flee evil, and the other one, whom the Rebbe wanted to remain in Russia, would receive the answer about transforming evil, i.e. to stay in Russia.
The Rebbe asked R’ Teitz what happened to the Tanya. R’ Teitz said the Rebbe had given it to him and he would keep it! The Rebbe agreed to this.
This is how R’ Teitz summed up his miraculous trip: First I saw the miracle of how they did not empty out the second suitcase which contained the Tanya. Then there was the miracle of the two answers which were in the right order.
We see how the Rebbe is the balabus (one in charge) of everything.
BALABUS OF THE WORLD
What does this tell us? We need to know there is a balabus of this world! The balabus is the Rebbe. Obviously, Hashem’s glory fills the world, but the Rebbe sees and knows everything and we have to constantly remember this.
The Rebbe chose twelve p’sukim and maamarei Chazal for Jewish children – and every Jew, for “Israel is My firstborn,” is G-d’s child – and therefore they can, and maybe more than “can,” say the twelve p’sukim and maamarei Chazal. Every child must know that “Behold, Hashem stands above him and watches him and examines kidneys (mind) and heart as to whether he serves Him properly.”
Chazal say, “Tzaddikim are like their Creator.” Furthermore, in Parshas Chukas it says, “And the nation spoke against G-d and Moshe, why did you take us up …” On the words, “Against G-d and Moshe,” Rashi says, “They equated the servant to his master,” meaning, they equated Moshe with Hashem. On the words, “Why did you take us up,” Rashi says, “Both equal.” Why does Rashi have to add this comment when he already said, “They equated the servant to his master?”
Rashi teaches the “Ben Chamesh L’mikra” – do you want to know who Moshe Rabbeinu is? The answer is: both are equal! Not only are tzaddikim like their Creator, they are both equal. When we say, “Behold, Hashem stands above him,” we need to know that the Rebbe also stands above us and the Rebbe “examines kidneys and heart to see whether he serves Him properly.”
One Motzaei Shabbos, I got a phone call from a Chassid in another country. He said that on Friday, moments before candle lighting, his wife fainted. They called an ambulance and were told her condition was very serious. They took her to the hospital and on Motzaei Shabbos the doctors were still saying that her condition was very serious. So he wanted me to ask the Rebbe for a bracha for her.
When I conveyed the man’s request, the Rebbe asked me to tell him two things: First, “I will mention it at the tziyun.” Then the Rebbe asked me to add the following: “Friday night, toward morning, between five and five thirty, her condition was so perilous that the doctors despaired. Do you think that the doctors’ treatment improved matters? No! What caused her condition to stabilize is that I thought about her.”
Then the Rebbe said to me, “Why do I tell you that I sit here in Brooklyn and I see what is happening in another country? Because I want this person to know that ‘you cannot hide from me.’”
I called the Chassid and conveyed what the Rebbe had said and I took the opportunity to ask him about what the Rebbe said. He said that indeed, on Shabbos, toward morning, at about five, the phone in his home rang and his little grandson, younger than three, picked up the phone and conveyed the message to him. On the line was the doctor at the hospital who told him that his wife’s condition had deteriorated and who knew what would be in another half an hour. He said that if they wanted to say goodbye, they should hurry over immediately.
The entire family got ready to go to the hospital. It took twenty-five minutes to get there and upon their arrival, one of the nurses said her condition had suddenly slightly improved.
That Friday night when this happened with the woman, the Rebbe was sitting at home and learning when suddenly he saw that in another country there was a woman in danger. The Rebbe stopped learning and thought about her and blessed her in his thoughts. The Rebbe sits here and sees what happens elsewhere.
What was the point that the Rebbe emphasized to this man? That he needs to know that he cannot hide from the Rebbe. “Behold, Hashem stands over him” – it is just as Hashem stands over him every single moment.
R’ Shmuel Levitin said that when the Rebbe Maharash was four or five, one of the Chassidim went over to him and said, “Shmuel, if you show me where Hashem is, I will give you a gift.” The young Maharash said, “If you show me where Hashem is not, I will give you a bigger gift.”
Hashem is here, every single moment, and when Moshe Rabbeinu is equated with Hashem, it means that the Rebbe is also with every one of us at every moment, because otherwise one cannot live. The Rebbe is the source of our life, like the Alter Rebbe brings in Tanya.
This ought to strengthen every one of us as to how connected we ought to be to the Rebbe. On the one hand, it’s a great z’chus that the Rebbe is always with us and protecting us. On the other hand, we need to be aware of the great responsibility we have, how we ought to behave when the Rebbe sees everything we do.
This knowledge ought to strengthen us; the Rebbe gives ko’ach to be as we ought, and we need to know the responsibility that goes along with the z’chus and ko’ach. We need to ask ourselves how the Rebbe sees our behavior in thought, speech, and action. Because just like Hashem knows thoughts, so does the Rebbe.
THE REBBE SAID: “I SAW”
I will tell you a story that Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka told. In Brooklyn there is a family which is related to the Rebbe. They would ask all their questions for the Rebbe to the Rebbetzin and she conveyed them to the Rebbe. When the Rebbe responded, she would convey the answers to them. They did not go the usual route of the secretaries.
One time, the Rebbetzin got a phone call from a member of this family who said the mother needed an operation. They wanted the Rebbetzin to ask the Rebbe whether to agree to the operation. The Rebbetzin told them that the Rebbe said not to do the operation. The family repeated this to the doctors. Some days passed and the doctors said that since the time that the family had refused an operation the woman’s condition had deteriorated and they had to operate.
The family reported this to the Rebbetzin and asked, in light of the change in her condition, what the Rebbe thought they should do.
The Rebbetzin said that in Chabad you don’t ask the Rebbe twice. When you get an answer from the Rebbe, you work with that.
They said, “Chassidim don’t ask, but you, as the Rebbe’s wife, can ask.”
The Rebbetzin said, “Nevertheless, I try to act as the Rebbe’s Chassid. And since Chassidim do not ask the Rebbe again, I cannot ask the Rebbe again. If the Rebbe asks me if there is news from you, though, I will update him. But I won’t ask.”
The Rebbetzin said that when the Rebbe came home, he asked how the woman was and she told him what the doctors said and what they wanted to do. She added, “I am not asking again.”
The Rebbe became very serious and the Rebbetzin said she never saw the Rebbe looking like that before. The Rebbe said forcefully, in Yiddish, “I said no before and I say no again.” The Rebbetzin was not used to the Rebbe speaking so forcefully. She conveyed what he said to the family.
After a few days, the family called again and said that the hospital administration wanted the family to sign that they released the hospital of all responsibility for what would happen to the woman. Her condition was deteriorating and since they did not want to listen to the doctors, they had to take responsibility for the consequences.
The Rebbetzin conveyed this to the Rebbe and the Rebbe said they should try and heal her with medication. They gave the doctors this message and looked for a doctor in another department who, after they told him the situation, said he knew which medicine the Rebbe meant and he would try to treat her.
With this medication, the woman’s condition stabilized within two days and when they told the doctor that the medication helped, he gave her another dose. Two weeks later, the doctors said she was no longer in danger and in a few days she would be able to go home.
When the mother returned home, the family called the Rebbetzin to tell her the good news. The Rebbetzin said she wanted them to remember the following, “When I told the Rebbe that she returned home, the Rebbe said to me, ‘When they first asked whether to do the operation, I saw that if they did it, she would not survive it. I thought that if the doctors saw how opposed the family was to the operation, they themselves would come up with the idea of treating him with medication, but that did not happen. When the Rebbetzin said her condition had deteriorated and they asked again, I saw that if they did the operation it would be perilous. Since I saw that the doctors were not suggesting treating her with medication, I suggested it.’
“Now,” continued the Rebbetzin, “I will tell you what the Rebbe said to me and you need to remember this: What does this story teach us? There can be experts in a field who say to do something and someone who does not consider himself an expert who says otherwise. Whom should you listen to? The Rebbe says that even when experts say the opposite, you need to listen to him.”
What did the Rebbetzin want us to learn from this story? We should learn to what extent we need to be careful with every word we hear from the Rebbe. There might be questions and doubts, but we need to listen to the Rebbe.
THE REBBE SETS THE AGENDA FOR THE YESHIVA
In Parshas Tzav 8:36, it says, “And Aharon and his children did everything that Hashem commanded through Moshe.” Rashi says, “To speak in their praise that they did not veer right or left.” What would have been so terrible if he had added something? Isn’t it a good thing to undertake more than what Hashem said? However, whoever adds diminishes. This teaches us that we need to listen and be careful with what the Rebbe says.
The following story teaches us about the relationship between the Rebbe and the talmidim of Tomchei T’mimim.
One day, I got a phone call from the hanhala of a yeshiva outside of New York. On the line were the rosh yeshiva and mashpia and they wanted to convey a question to the Rebbe. The question was this: the rosh yeshiva demanded that the students know the Gemara, Rashi, Tos’fos and commentaries by heart. Not word for word; the content. The mashpia said he requires the bachurim to know the content of a maamar by heart. The day before, three top bachurim who learned diligently said to them that they were both making a mistake. In their opinion, the Rebbe wants them to focus on mivtzaim. How did they arrive at this conclusion? At the end of every weekday farbrengen, when the Rebbe gave out dollars for tz’daka, did he ask the rosh yeshiva who knew the Gemara and commentaries best by heart so as to allow him to distribute dollars to everyone else? No! Did the Rebbe ask the mashpia which bachurim knew the maamar best so they could distribute dollars? No! The Rebbe said the Tankistin, those involved in mivtzaim, should come up and he gave the dollars to them to distribute. That made it clear that mivtzaim are most important at this time.
So the rosh yeshiva and mashpia wanted to know whether the bachurim were right; if so, they would rearrange the order of priorities in yeshiva and would not demand of the bachurim what they had demanded until now as far as Gemara and maamarim were concerned.
I repeated their question to the Rebbe and the Rebbe said to call them back and tell them (and the Rebbe said this in a sing-song): “For someone who learns in Tomchei T’mimim, the foundation is for him to know the Gemara and commentaries by heart as well as the maamarim. If he doesn’t want to know it, he has no place in Tomchei T’mimim! Is there any lack of yeshivos in America and the world at large?”
The Rebbe then repeated this in a slightly different way and then said: “When we farbreng on weekdays and we are connected to a number of countries who listen in, what honor would it be for Lubavitch, for Tomchei T’mimim, if I would say that the significance of Tomchei T’mimim is that talmidim know Gemara and commentaries by heart and a maamar by heart? That’s a given! If this is what would make Tomchei T’mimim great, it would be most embarrassing for people to think that something so obvious is considered the most important thing in Tomchei T’mimim. So you need to tell the bachurim that a bachur who is not interested in learning the Gemara and maamar by heart has no place in Tomchei T’mimim.”
The Rebbe wants a talmid to know what is expected of him and how the Rebbe relates to each talmid, what level of academic expectation there is in Tomchei T’mimim. When he knows maamarim by heart and Gemara and commentaries by heart, that’s a given. Without that, he has no connection to Tomchei T’mimim.
The Rebbe went on to explain why he gives the dollars to the Tankistin. Since on Fridays, after the morning learning, the bachurim could use the afternoon for their personal matters, and instead of that, they fulfill the Rebbe’s request and do mivtzaim, the Rebbe expresses his gratitude by having them distribute dollars.
This ought to strengthen every talmid. How important it is to the Rebbe to be careful with time, not just showing up at 7:30 or 7:35. The Rebbe wants a bachur to be sitting in the zal at 7:29, ready to learn.
Another point the Rebbe once said at a farbrengen is that when he is told by the hanhala of a yeshiva about a talmid who added one minute to the yeshiva’s s’darim – for example, Chassidus learning ends at 9:30 at night and the Rebbe is told that a bachur added a minute and instead of closing the maamar Chassidus at 9:30 he added just one minute, to 9:31 – the Rebbe said, “This adds to my physical life!”
Can we fathom what the Rebbe is saying? The Rebbe’s physical life depends on the learning of the bachurim!
THE SPECIAL REGARD THE REBBEIM HAVE FOR THE T’MIMIM
In 5706, the Rebbe Rayatz founded Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Chicago, a city with a sizable Jewish population. After Simchas Torah 5706, the Rebbe sent some bachurim to learn in the yeshiva in Chicago, as his emissaries. I was one member of this group. We sat and learned and our mashpia was R’ Yosef Wineberg. R’ Mordechai Hershberg, later rav in Mexico, was the rosh yeshiva. In Shevat, he had to be in New York and he had yechidus with the Rebbe.
During the yechidus, he asked the Rebbe Rayatz how his health was (it was known that the Rebbe was weak) and the Rebbe said, “It depends on what you will tell me about the talmidim learning now in Chicago. If you tell me that the bachurim are keeping the s’darim of the yeshiva and are learning diligently and are behaving properly with Yiras Shamayim, then I’ll tell you that I feel well. Otherwise, G-d forbid, I will not feel well.”
The Rebbeim’s physical lives do not depend on balabatim or rabbanim, but on the talmidim in yeshiva. When a bachur takes this into account and thinks for a moment how with his behavior, his diligence in learning, his keeping the yeshiva schedule, his davening properly, and his Yiras Shamayim he strengthens the Rebbe’s health, he will learn and daven properly and behave as he should.
Yeshiva bachurim should not only hear this, but think about it. It’s not enough to know and understand; it has to be taken to heart.
By all the Rebbeim, from the Rebbe Rashab to our Rebbe, we saw the special regard they had for the talmidim: the concern for them, the constant thinking about them, how each talmid was important to them, and they did and do all they can so that the talmidim will be as they ought to be.
EVERY SOUL IS HAND-PICKED
R’ Shmuel Levitin was one of the first talmidim in Tomchei T’mimim, in the years 5657-59. He was born a month after the passing of the Rebbe Maharash and was the first to be named for the Rebbe.
He was a Chassid of the Rebbe Rashab, then the Rebbe Rayatz, and then our Rebbe. When the Rebbe Rayatz arrived in America, he appointed him as the rav and posek for all halachos pertaining to Beis HaRav. Any kashrus question was asked of him. He was also the mashpia in Tomchei T’mimim in New York.
There were two mashpiim in yeshiva; in the lower class was R’ Yisroel Jacobson and the higher class had R’ Shmuel Levitin. He would farbreng with us occasionally and it was interesting to hear him farbreng.
He said that when he learned in Lubavitch, they said then (and he did not say whether it was said in the name of the Rebbe or the Chassidim) that the Rebbe Rayatz said that his father, the Rebbe Rashab, said he picked every neshama that would merit to learn in Tomchei T’mimim, and not just at that time but throughout the years of the yeshiva’s existence.
R’ Shmuel said that when the Rebbe Rashab founded the yeshiva, many potential students came from Chassidishe families but many of them were not accepted. Regarding them, the Rebbe Rayatz said, apparently my father did not choose these neshamos.
So those who have the merit to learn in the Rebbe’s yeshivos, whether called Tomchei T’mimim, Toras Emes, Beis Menachem or whatever name, if they are under the Rebbe’s authority, they are in the category of souls chosen by the Rebbe Rashab.
The Rebbe Rashab made it possible for these souls to be as good talmidim ought to be. He gave them the kochos and opportunities. If they were only utilized, they would be T’mimim as the Rebbe Rashab envisioned.
MEDICINE ON THE SHELF IS NOT ENOUGH
One time I wasn’t feeling well, but I did not want to miss a day with the Rebbe so I went into the office. The Rebbe looked at me and the first thing he asked was, “What did the doctor say?”
I hadn’t thought of going to the doctor, but since the Rebbe asked, I told the Rebbe that when I left, I would go to the doctor near 770.
Afterward, when I came back from the doctor, the Rebbe asked me again, “What did the doctor say?” I said the doctor gave me a bottle of medicine and told me to take a few drops twice a day.
The Rebbe said, “If you take the bottle and put it on the shelf and twice a day you go over to the shelf where the bottle is, bow (and the Rebbe inclined), and say to the bottle, ‘I know you are able to heal people,’ you won’t be cured that way. You need to take the bottle, open it, take a spoon and put the right amount on it, and put it in your mouth. When the medicine enters your body, it will heal you.”
In other words, it is not enough to be aware of the power that medicine has to heal while it remains on the shelf; you need to swallow it.
This was the miracle of Chanuka, the Rebbe taught us. When the Kohanim returned to the Beis HaMikdash and found just one jar of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, what should they have done with it? Send the rare oil to the biggest museum in the world so that in the years to come, Jews and non-Jews would see the jar of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol? If they had done so, we would not have had the miracle of Chanuka. The miracle occurred when they took the jar of oil and poured it (there are differences of opinion as to how they poured it, whether only an eighth or all of it) into the menorah.
What does this teach us? A Jew needs to know that if he sees that Hashem gives him more abilities than others, like wealth, for there are a small number of extremely wealthy people in the world, what would happen if such a person would say to Hashem, “Until I became rich, I lived a peaceful life. Now, with wealth, I have no peace, not by day nor by night. People are constantly knocking at my door, each one with his requests. The phone does not stop ringing.” Would this man ask Hashem to take back this blessing? Certainly not!
Similarly, when someone has a special talent or ability that he received from Hashem, and he doesn’t use it, said the Rebbe, it is like he is saying to Hashem: I have no time to use it, so You can take it back.
If you are blessed in a certain area, this indicates that Hashem gave you the ability to use it to help other Jews. When we hear what kochos the Rebbeim instilled in the T’mimim so they would be as a Tamim ought to be, a talmid has to know that if he does not utilize the tremendous kochos the Rebbe gave him, as compared to other souls, it is like he is saying to Hashem: Thanks, but no thanks. I have no use for this and you can take it back.
This thought ought to encourage and inspire every talmid, to know that he has additional kochos as compared to other people. What wondrous things Hashem and the Rebbe gave him for the purpose of him using them, and the more he uses it, the more successful he will be in all areas, in conduct, learning, diligence, Nigleh and Chassidus, and in avodas ha’t’filla.
THE T’MIMIM WILL DANCE HERE
Simchas Torah 5701/1940 was the first Simchas Torah since the Rebbe Rayatz arrived in the US in 5700. In the middle of the farbrengen, the Rebbe said that he bought four dances: one for the T’mimim learning then in the yeshiva, the second for the T’mimim who learned there previously, the third for the businessmen, and the fourth dance for the children under the age of bar mitzva.
The Rebbe sat at the head of the table and pointed: Here the current T’mimim will dance, here will dance the T’mimim from the past, there the businessmen will dance, and there will the children dance.
I was there and I remember the scene.
My father a”h learned in Toras Emes in Yerushalayim and it wasn’t clear whether Toras Emes was included in Tomchei T’mimim or not. So he stayed in his place and didn’t know which group to join. The Rebbe asked him, “R’ Mordechai, why don’t you go and dance?”
My father asked, “Where? I don’t belong anywhere.”
The Rebbe said in astonishment, “What? My father said that Toras Emes is Tomchei T’mimim; it’s the same thing, so you belong here.”
From this we see how the Rebbe viewed a Chassid who previously learned in Tomchei T’mimim; that he is also called a Tamim. When people would compose a text for a gravestone, they would submit it to the Rebbe for his comments. When I submitted them, there were times that the Rebbe would ask: “Did he learn in Tomchei T’mimim? Why don’t they write the word ‘Tamim’ on the gravestone? What could be a more honorable designation than to say ‘HaTamim’ about someone? Tell the family to add the word ‘HaTamim’ because it is the most important description. He is no longer here but he remains a Tamim!” This is the reality, the reality of a Tamim.
L’chaim, l’chaim, may Hashem help so that whoever once learned in Tomchei T’mimim, and all those who learn there now, will be as the Rebbeim demand of us so the Rebbeim will have much nachas from us and as the Rebbe said, it adds life and health, and may we merit to increase in all these areas until we merit to see the Rebbe below ten hands-breadth, v’hu yigaleinu – and he will redeem us.