Beis Moshiach/Written by Nechama Bar
Winds of heresy blew in the street and many young Jews were swept up with the empty communist beliefs. One of these boys was Shlomo. Shlomo, in the not so distant past, had been an outstanding yeshiva bachur in the beis medrash of Rabbi Asher of Stolin. He studied Torah diligently and was a model of a scholarly, G-d fearing bachur.
Then one day, the terrible news spread throughout Stolin. Shlomo became one of them!
Everyone was shocked. How could this be? Shlomo?! A bachur who was a role model of a Chassidishe bachur?
But their shock was of no help. His friends and teachers tried to talk to his heart and mind, but in vain. Within a short time the yarmulke was removed from his head and his tzitzis had disappeared. His clothing was changed for what the gentiles wore and he was friends with members of the communist movement.
His parents were in anguish. They tried with all their might to convince, explain, and plead but to no avail. Seeing this, they cried bitterly day and night and were ashamed to appear in public.
Shlomo, seeing that they wouldn’t let him alone, packed his bags and moved in with a group of gentiles in a small house on the edge of the city.
He cut off all contact with his family and he worked in a carpentry shop to support himself.
Weeks and months passed. Life went on. Routine and the power of forgetfulness did their part and it looked as though the story of Shlomo was forgotten by the Chassidim.
Elul was around the corner. The scent of t’shuva and seriousness was in the air. One could see that the Chassidim were focused on contemplation and spiritual accounting as they prepared for the Yomim Nora’im.
Rosh Hashana arrived and the Rebbe’s beis medrash hummed with Chassidim. They were wrapped in their talleisim as they prayed fervently to Hashem. The voice of the chazan could be heard loudly, “And t’shuva, t’filla and tz’daka do away with the evil of the decree.”
Shacharis on the holy day was over. In a little while they would hear the shofar blow and the heart of every person would tremble.
The Rebbe had a special custom. At this time, before the shofar blowing, he went to his room. Nobody knew what he did there but the heart understood that lofty things took place there at this sacred time. Surely, the Rebbe worked to close the mouths of spiritual accusers and to achieve a judgment of a good and sweet year for all the Jewish people.
The Chassidim waited expectantly for the Rebbe to emerge from his room but much time elapsed and he was still there. The Chassidim were frightened. Perhaps terrible decrees had been made and perhaps something had happened to the Rebbe.
Suddenly, they heard the door open and there was the Rebbe, in the doorway, his face like that of an angel.
“Where is Shlomo?” he asked two Chassidim who were his aides. “Did he come to Shacharis today?”
The Chassidim were extremely surprised. It had been a long time since Shlomo made an appearance at the beis medrash and of course, he had not come that day either.
They shook their heads, no. The Rebbe declared, “Bring Shlomo to the davening. Without Shlomo there won’t be t’kios.”
The Chassidim looked at one another in dismay but there was no arguing with the Rebbe. They quickly left the beis medrash and began looking all over for the wayward Chassid.
A reliable source told them that he worked in a carpentry shop. “He’s probably working there today too, as though it’s a regular workday,” they figured. They quickly headed in that direction.
A group of gentile youth looked at them with disdain, as though they had landed from another planet. They laughed loudly.
“Is there a Jew here?” the Chassidim asked hesitantly.
“Yes, one,” they said and they pointed at Shlomo.
Shlomo looked at the Chassidim guardedly.
“Shlomo, the Rebbe wants you at the t’kios. Without you, the davening won’t continue.”
Without saying a word, Shlomo shook the sawdust off his clothing and followed them. The three men were soon at the Rebbe’s room. When the Rebbe saw Shlomo his eyes lit up. He told him to enter and spent a few minutes with him.
Nobody knows what they discussed but when they came out, Shlomo’s face looked more refined and pure. The Rebbe held his hand and led him to the bima.
The shofar blasts were more significant that year than usual. Real t’shuva had taken place.
Shlomo held a siddur and his face was buried in the pages, his whole body trembling. Choked sounds of sobbing could be heard now and then.
At the end of the davening, the Chassidim approached Shlomo and greeted him warmly. They were curious about what had transpired between him and the Rebbe.
As you know, I left yeshiva and my friends for the communist movement. I was enjoying myself. I did whatever I wanted and did not consider returning to the path of Torah. The days of Elul passed without any special meaning for me, and if I had any nostalgic thoughts when I saw Chassidim going to the Rebbe, I quickly thought of something else.
Last night, the Rebbe came to me in a dream and said, “Shlomo, it is Rosh Hashana today. You are a Jew too and you need to come to shul to hear the shofar.”
I tried to remove these thoughts from my mind but the Rebbe’s words did not leave me. I was in a tizzy all day.
During one of the breaks, I looked at my watch and knew that all the Chassidim were in the beis medrash, while I sat among gentiles. Strong feelings of longing overcame me but I did not have the courage to get up and go.
Then suddenly, two Chassidim appeared at the carpentry shop. They removed me from there.
When I was in the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe ignited my Jewish spark and gave me a new Chassidishe chayus. Here I am, and here I will remain.
Shlomo finished and tears came to everyone’s eyes.
Some time later, one of the Chassidim dared to ask the Rebbe how he knew about Shlomo’s inner struggle. Was this ruach ha’kodesh?
The Rebbe said, “I know my Chassidim well. During the davening I felt that Shlomo’s soul was crying out and yearning for Hashem. So I sent for him, to remove him from the impurity and bring him here and get him back on track.”