Avrohom Reinitz, Beis Moshiach
When Rabbi Gurary spoke heatedly about how even someone who never saw the Rebbe, can and must work to connect to the Rebbe, I asked him whether he really believes that someone today, who never saw the Rebbe, can attain the same level of hiskashrus as those who saw the Rebbe hundreds of times and heard sichos and maamarim and had yechidus every year.
R’ Gurary paused and with a bitter smile he rhetorically asked, “And back then, when a bachur had yechidus with the Rebbe and the Rebbe told him directly what he demanded of him, do you think that the bachurim then were such tzaddikim that they immediately carried out all the Rebbe’s instructions?
“I’ll tell you a secret. The yetzer hara of today, who prevents us from fully carrying out the Rebbe’s instructions, is the same yetzer hara that nested in the hearts of the bachurim back then. True, they had yechidus, but the yetzer hara went in with them … and when they came out of yechidus, the yetzer hara worked hard to trip them up, and enormous effort was needed to successfully carry out what the Rebbe said.
“It was so hard that at a certain point, the Rebbe wanted to do away with the annual yechidus that every bachur had for his birthday. The Rebbe complained that the bachurim come to him a year later with the same problems that they spoke about the previous year, as though he hadn’t shown them the proper path.
“Just as in those years, those who really exerted themselves, were successful; the same is true nowadays. Perhaps more effort is needed but one who exerts himself is guaranteed that he will be mekushar to the Rebbe.”
That was R’ Gurary’s main message during the interview that dealt primarily with preparations for 10-11 Shevat: In order to attain ruchniyus, in order to connect with holiness, you must toil at every stage, and when you really exert yourself, you will really achieve!
Over the years, Rabbi Yitzchok Meir Gurary has seen the development of Chabad Chassidus across the American continent. He was born in Crown Heights a few months after the Rebbe Rayatz settled in 770 and thanks to his father, R’ Shneur Zalman, who was one of the distinguished Chassidim, mekusharim and mekuravim of the Rebbe Rayatz, and then the Rebbe MH”M, he merited rare kiruvim from the Rebbe in his childhood.
His childhood and youth were spent in Lubavitch in 770. In 5720, he was sent by the Rebbe to Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim in Montreal, where he was one of the “branches of the menorah” that strengthened the learning atmosphere in the yeshiva. In 5722, he was sent for another year on shlichus, this time to Eretz Yisrael, to Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim in Lud.
In his youth, he received detailed guidance and continuous spiritual oversight in avodas hashem and the Rebbe devoted much time to answering his questions in letters and private audiences and even edited the notes that he wrote for himself of what he heard from the Rebbe in yechidus.
After he married Chana Rivka Altein, daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Dov a’h, he learned in the kollel in Crown Heights. In the middle of the year, he was made an offer to serve as mashpia in Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim in Montreal. After the Rebbe’s agreement, he moved there with his wife and was appointed as mashpia, and he was always particular to report to the Rebbe about the spiritual progress of his talmidim and mushpaim.
PREPARATION PRODUCES RESULTS
Anash and the tmimim prepare for what Chassidim call “Rosh Hashana l’Hiskashrus” by learning the “Basi L’Gani” maamarim that apply to that year, through increased learning of the sichos and maamarim of the Rebbe, and strengthening the fulfillment of his horaos. What general guidelines should a Chassidic young man follow when he looks ahead toward 10-11 Shevat and wants to prepare properly?
Before I speak about the substance of the preparations, I want to talk about the importance of preparing. Chassidus raises on high the importance of preparation so that, to a certain extent, you can say that when there is proper preparation, one receives the spiritual lights that shine forth on the special day in question and when there isn’t the proper preparation, you lose the light.
On Shavuos 5716, the Rebbe mentioned the story about the Rebbe Rayatz about the first “toira” that the Baal Shem Tov said to the Maggid of Mezritch and how in this “toira,” he took him as his disciple. This was also the first “toira” that the Alter Rebbe heard from the Mezritcher Maggid and the same “toira” that he said to his son, the Mittler Rebbe when he trained him into public service. What was that special “toira?”
On the verse (Emor 23:4), “These are the appointed times of Hashem, holy occasions, which you shall designate in their appointed time,” the Baal Shem Tov explained that the way to attain “appointed times of Hashem” is by preparing before the holiday, “which you shall designate.”
The Rebbe added, this is a response to the complainers who say they learn and daven and even daven with deveikus, and still it doesn’t “grab” them. It is because the preparation is lacking!
WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF THE DAY?
For the preparations to be done properly, says R’ Gurary, we need to define the essence of the day for which we are preparing. We need to appreciate the value, the importance of the day for which it is worth investing preparations. If we do not understand the greatness of the day, why would we prepare for it?
How would you define the essence of 10-11 Shevat?
When you want to be connected to the Rebbe, the first thing is to know what is the idea of a Rebbe as it pertains to us, and what is the idea of the connection between a Rebbe and the Chassidim.
In Igeres Ha’Kodesh, chapter 27, the Alter Rebbe explains that the inyan of a Rebbe is to transmit emuna, ahava and yirah (faith, love and fear). This is the life of the Rebbe, this is what we receive from the Rebbe, and this is how we connect to the Rebbe. Obviously, this is what a Rebbe is all year round, but on the yom hilula of Yud Shevat this light shines much brighter.
When I was a bachur in Tomchei Tmimim in the 50s, the Rebbe placed a special emphasis on Yud Shvat, the Rebbe Rayatz’s yom hilula. Among Chassidim, of course, they also put an emphasis on 11 Shevat, the day the Rebbe accepted the nesius by saying the maamar, etc. But the Rebbe spoke only about Yud Shevat and about hiskashrus to the Rebbe Rayatz, even after the histalkus.
[Only in later years, did the Rebbe start to talk about 11 Shevat too, the day the seventh generation began. This was expressed most clearly in the sicha of 22 Shevat 5752, “The tenth day of the tenth month (10 Shevat 5710) is the conclusion of the era of the avoda of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, Nasi Doreinu in his life in this world; whereas the day after that, the 11th day of the 11th month (the first complete day following the histalkus), and particularly in the 11th year (5711), is when the continuation and chiddush of the new era and the “hanging of the luminaries,” began.]
However, since the Rebbe’s sichos about Yud Shevat focus primarily on the hiskashrus of a Chassid to the Rebbe after Yud Shevat, this is the same subject of 11 Shevat, the day the Rebbe accepted the nesius, whose main focus is identical: hiskashrus to the Rebbe.
Therefore, when a Chassid looks forward and sees that we are getting closer to 10-11 Shevat, he ought to sense and feel that the day when he can receive a fresh infusion of faith in Hashem, love of Hashem and fear of Hashem from the Rebbe is approaching. It is an auspicious time, the door is open and we can receive!
And since we are all very far from perfection in these lofty matters, which are from the very essence of what Chassidus is about, when we know that we have a special day in which we can advance in love of Hashem etc, we should be longing for that revelation and prepare accordingly.
The problem is that in order to long for these giluyim, we need to feel that this is something we are lacking. When we feel a lack, we act accordingly. But if we don’t feel we are lacking …
I recently learned the maamar where it explains that the attribute of mercy up above opens the door and makes it possible for G-dly light to shine upon a Jew down below. But in order to arouse the attribute of mercy above, we need to arouse the attribute of mercy down below, i.e. to feel that we are lacking! If you don’t feel you are lacking, you won’t seek anything.
Therefore, part of the preparations for Yud Shevat is to contemplate and understand that we are lacking. We always complain about what we are lacking materially, but we need to meditate upon our spiritual state and realize that we are lacking spiritually. When we understand that we are lacking, and know that on a certain day we can receive those things which we lack, then we make every effort to be ready for that hoped for day, and we employ the instructive counsel provided by the Rebbe – submitting a duch to a mashpia with our spiritual advancement and preparations over each ten day period until Yud Shevat.
OVDEI HASHEM WITH THOUGHTS OF TESHUVA
You speak about Chassidim longing to receive love and fear of Hashem from the Rebbe, but there are Chassidim who haven’t even reached these levels. What do you say to them?
In the above mentioned Igeres Ha’Kodesh, toward the end of the explanation, the Alter Rebbe adds a very interesting line, that a tzaddik illuminates not only to the students who saw him and learned from him directly but also “his students who became ovdei Hashem through his teachings and avoda, and this illumination that is upon them from above puts thoughts of teshuva and good deeds into their hearts.” All the more so in our generation, when the Rebbe is the Nasi Ha’Dor and continues to lead us as before.
We see two important points: 1) Whoever becomes an oveid Hashem through the Rebbe’s teachings and avoda, is connected to the Rebbe and the Rebbe shines his light toward that person and 2) We are not talking about ovdei Hashem of the caliber of R’ Itche der masmid, for right afterward, he says that the illumination that the Rebbe shines upon them puts into them thoughts of teshuva…
This is, as it is explained in Tanya, chapter 15, that an oveid Hashem is one who does more than he is accustomed. So whoever learns the Rebbe’s sichos and maamarim and as a result of the learning, he increases in avodas Hashem, even a bit more than he is accustomed to, that is how he becomes connected to the Rebbe.
Therefore, even someone who still did not attain the levels of longing for love and fear of Hashem, needs to know that the spiritual flow from the Rebbe causes him to be an oveid Hashem in the sense of adding and constant ascending in avodas Hashem. In fact, when the Rebbe speaks about preparing for Yud Shevat, he demands increasing beyond what one is accustomed to: adding in Torah, avodas ha’tefilla, and chesed. And reporting this to one’s mashpia every ten days. This is the course that the Rebbe established!
In connection with the language that the Rebbe used regularly, that we always need to increase, in my work with talmidim I would send detailed reports to the Rebbe about their spiritual state, what they ask and what I answer. When I asked the Rebbe in yechidus whether he is satisfied with my work, the Rebbe said, “Yes, but I want more and [said with a smile:] I have this strange nature that I always want more and I think that this nature is not one we need to want to change…”
SPECIAL KIRUVIM FROM THE REBBE
When R’ Gurary starts to tell about unique expressions that he heard from the Rebbe in yechidus, I asked him to share with our readers other gems from the kiruvim he merited to receive over the years.
He was not quick to respond, and made it clear that he received the kiruvim because of his father who was considered one of the distinguished Chassidim and mekusharim to our Rebbeim. In the end, he was willing to share some stories which contain lessons and guidance in avodas Hashem:
In the early years of the nesius, the Rebbe began giving out Chanuka gelt to tmimim who learned Chassidus. I was not yet bar mitzva but the Rebbe asked my father whether he learned Chassidus with me, since he wanted to give me Chanuka gelt. My father asked what could be learned with such a young child and the Rebbe said that generally they would learn the easier maamarim from Likutei Torah such as “Adam Ki Yakriv Mikem.”
[I relate this because it is important to know that it is possible and necessary to learn Chassidus even with children before bar mitzva, because this is what helps them not fall into the net of the yetzer hara. Another important point: Some start learning maamarim like Kuntrus U’Maayan etc. with children, which deal with correcting middos and that is closer to the world of children, but the Rebbe mentioned the maamar “Adam Ki Yakriv Mikem,” which speaks of lofty spiritual things, beyond the heavenly throne, because this is also part of the chinuch of a child, that there are things he doesn’t understand.]
When I went in for yechidus for my birthday, there were years that the Rebbe added something special. For example, when I was 12, the Rebbe said that at the age of 12 one becomes a mufla hasamuch l’ish (a term denoting near maturity), which has halachic implications in a number of matters. Therefore, I needed to respect that and conduct myself accordingly.
A year later, in yechidus for my bar mitzva, it was the week of parshas Shemos and the Rebbe said:
The Alter Rebbe says that we need to live with the times, that is, every week we need to learn the weekly sedra. This week’s parsha is parshas Shemos and at the beginning of the parsha, on the verse, “these are the names of the children of Yisrael,” the Medrash says that they did not change their names and dress, Reuven and Shimon went down; Reuven and Shimon went up.
We need to understand, why does the Medrash mention Reuven and Shimon and not the other shevatim? It is explained in Chassidus that the meaning of “Reuven” is seeing the greatness of G-d and “Shimon” means understanding G-dliness. This is alluded to in the Medrash, that wherever and whenever a Jew may be, he needs to be a “Reuven” and “Shimon.” Even when in Egypt, from the Hebrew root meaning straits and limits, they did not change their names.
Therefore, every Jew should not reckon with the place and environment that he is in, and needs to know that he may not change his name. He should not say to himself, what difference does it make whether I change my name, as long as I am G-d fearing. Therefore, concluded the Rebbe, although you are in America and learn secular studies, you too, should not reckon with the place and environment; be a yerei shomayim and Chassid.
Later, when I was a bachur, aside from the yechiduyos I also received answers and letters from the Rebbe and in some of them, he wrote to me about the importance of sticking to the yeshiva schedule and how it helps in all other things. For example, in one letter, the Rebbe wrote regarding this “for a young yeshiva man in general and for a student of Tomchei Tmimim in particular – this is the channel and vessel for all his matters, whether in a manner of from below to above (i.e. personal growth) or in a manner of from above to below (i.e. divine assistance in said growth).”
After I married I received many instructions from the Rebbe. I will share what I think also applies to others. First: Since a woman did not learn in Tomchei Tmimim, there could be gaps between her and her husband who learned in Tomchei Tmimim and the husband is asked to raise the spiritual level of the wife. The Rebbe made it clear to me that it is not necessary to demand of a woman things she is not used to, and if you are asking her to advance in a certain area and forgo something, then you need to compensate her in some other area, so she won’t feel she is losing out.
Second: The Rebbe once said to me that when one seeks to bring chumros (stringencies) into the house, don’t start with such chumros that make it hard for someone else.
THE REBBE SHOWS THE WAY
You’ve told about directives you received directly from the Rebbe. Today, can we also get answers from the Rebbe with that same personal feel, that the Rebbe is speaking to us directly?
Definitely! I saw a bachur who came to talk to me about questions he had in avodas Hashem. That day, when he learned Igros Kodesh, he opened to a letter in which the Rebbe wrote precisely on the subject that was bothering him.
As I said earlier, it all depends on the preparation. When a Chassid feels he is lacking in avodas Hashem, the Rebbe will fill in what he is lacking and give him the clear sense that the Rebbe is listening to him. He will sit down to learn a maamar and suddenly see an answer to what was bothering him. But if he does not feel he is lacking, then even if he learns the maamar, he will pass it by without realizing that the Rebbe is talking to him.
If someone is serious, the Rebbe shows him that he senses him and his struggles and is showing him the way.
Therefore, Chassidim need to write to the Rebbe about whatever they feel is lacking in their avodas Hashem. Then, when learning the Rebbe’s sichos and maamarim on the subject, and committing to obeying the Rebbe’s instructions, you will suddenly see the Rebbe’s view on the subject and feel that the Rebbe personally answered you.
If you want to get horaos from the Rebbe and feel that the Rebbe is leading you step by step, you need to be serious and carry out everything the Rebbe says.
True, sometimes we fall, but when there is the desire to “get out of the mud,” then the Rebbe sees to it that we open a letter addressed to a Chassid who went a bit off the derech and the Rebbe guides him back.
The point is that we need to work on ourselves to make the Rebbe’s ratzon the most important focal point in our lives, the axis around which all our actions revolve.
THE GREAT JOY OF 5711
You had the privilege of being around the Rebbe even before he accepted the nesius. I heard that during davening, you sat on the same bench as the Rebbe and that on weekdays, you often went to the Rebbe’s room and that he was mekarev you with extraordinary endearment. What do you remember of Yud Shevat 5711?
I was a boy, ten years old, so I don’t remember any details. Anyway, you can read the details in the diaries of the time … What I do remember is the great joy of the Chassidim when the Rebbe began saying the maamar. After a tense year in which the Rebbe refused to accept the nesius, we finally had a Rebbe!
But the main thing we should be talking about is the Chassidim signing on the ksav hiskashrus. I remember Chassidim who were utterly devoted to the Rebbe Rayatz who found it very hard to devote themselves to the Rebbe, but they did it, and signed with a full heart.
Signing the ksav hiskashrus wasn’t trivial. It is a very serious step. When a Chassid signs a ksav hiskashrus, he obligates himself to listening to all of the Rebbe’s instructions and guidance and asks the Rebbe to take responsibility for his life, materially and mainly spiritually.
After a Chassid signed the ksav hiskashrus and the Rebbe agreed to accept it, a Chassid knew that from then on, he had to bare his deepest feelings to the Rebbe. They would tell everything to the Rebbe. And the Rebbe not only listens but if something needs correcting, then the Rebbe says: Do such and such and the rest is on my shoulders. If you make sure to carry out the horaos you were given, the Rebbe will take care of the rest.
KABBOLAS HA’MALCHUS OBLIGATES!
Starting in the summer of 5751, the Rebbe agreed to accept the letters of kabbolas ha’malchus in which Chassidim accepted the Rebbe’s malchus as Melech Ha’Moshiach. In what way does that obligate the person who signed?
When you sign kabbolas ha’malchus, it is like signing a ksav hiskashrus but far more than that. Take, for example, the wording of the kabbolas ha’malchus from 4 Iyar 5751 to which the Rebbe responded particularly positively: “All those gathered here accept the Rebbe Melech Ha’Moshiach’s malchus, to act with mesirus nefesh in everything he wants and everything that he will demand from us with joy and gladness of heart.” Read each word carefully and you will see that this is a serious commitment that includes absolute bittul to the Rebbe to the point of mesirus nefesh!
Chassidus explains at length the essence of Melech Ha’Moshiach and his elevation above all tzaddikim and when you sign to accept his malchus, the bittul must be absolute.
Alongside the great obligation that we accept upon ourselves when signing the ksav kabbolas ha’malchus, the fact that the Rebbe agreed to accept it means it is a great zechus for us and we need to think about this and be amazed that this lofty soul, yechida klalis, which has existed from the beginning of Creation, descends from its glorious height and takes an interest in us and is ready to accept us and guide us!
This meditation arouses enormous love for the Rebbe MH”M and a yearning to fulfill all his instructions with love and delight. This is like what it says in Tanya that when a person contemplates that he is like the lowest person lying in a garbage-heap and the king exerts himself to raise him out of the garbage and hug him and lead him to the palace, great love for the king will be aroused in his heart.
We need to constantly remember that the Rebbe is thinking about us, about every single Chassid. As the Rebbe writes in the Hayom Yom (29 Iyar), “It is certain that at all times and in every sacred place they may be, they offer invocation and prayer on behalf of those who are bound to them and to their instructions, and who observe their instructions. They offer prayer in particular for their disciples and disciples’ disciples, that they experience salvation, materially and spiritually.”
The Rebbe wrote similarly to me in a letter in 5716, “Since he has the merit and he learns in Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim, whose founders and administrators – the Rebbe, my father-in-law, and his father the Rebbe Rashab – arouse great-mercies on behalf of all of their students, if he will learn with the previously mentioned exertion he will succeed more and more.”
We need to know that the Rebbe’s love for the bachurim is unlimited. The Rebbe helps every serious bachur who wants to connect with him and carry out his wishes.
YOUNG CHILDREN ARE INCLUDED
We mentioned earlier about the kiruvim that you were privileged to receive from the Rebbe as a child, and you told of the Rebbe’s instruction to learn Chassidus. To what extent do young children have any connection to this whole issue of hiskashrus to the Rebbe?
Throughout the years, we saw that the Rebbe has a special feeling for children. The Rebbe dedicated special sichos to children. There is no question that hiskashrus also applies to children.
However, as it is explained in Tanya, in Chinuch Kattan, we need to educate a child in the mitzva of love (of Hashem), i.e. not emphasizing gehinnom for sins but Hashem’s love for us and the great privilege we have to be able to carry out His will. Thinking about this, that Hashem lowers Himself from His infinite heights and waits for our small action, itself arouses enormous love.
So too, with hiskashrus, we need to explain to children the greatness of the Rebbe, who aside from being the Nasi Ha’Dor and a neshama klalis is also Moshiach who will immediately bring the Geula. We emphasize to a child that this great Rebbe is waiting for his little action, and he cares about what a child does. The powerful love that this generates in the heart of the child when he understands this, defies all description.
There is an edited sicha of the Rebbe, in which he says that it is possible to be mechanech a child before bar mitzva to attain love of Hashem “b’hisgalus ha’lev,”(as a revealed emotion in the heart, something it says in Tanya that not every beinoni can achieve). We can say that it is possible to teach a child to love the Rebbe with a tangible love that is noticeably felt in the heart.
EVERYTHING LEADS BACK TO MOSHIACH
The Rebbe said that everything needs to be permeated with the point of how this leads to greeting Moshiach. How do we instill this point in our preparations for 10-11 Shevat?
First, while preparing for 10-11 Shevat, we need to keep tabs on ourselves: are we ready for the moment of the hisgalus, when we pass by the Rebbe, as sheep before the shepherd, so we are not ashamed?
Second, we spoke earlier about all Chassidim needing to feel that 10-11 Shevat is a most auspicious time in which we can receive from the Rebbe infusions of faith, love and fear of Hashem. And you commented that I am speaking of high levels …
The truth is that a Chassid who “lives” with inyanei Moshiach, and all of his matters are permeated with preparing to greet Moshiach, knows that one of Moshiach’s main activities is, as the verse says, “and you shall circumcise the orla of your hearts.” That means, the heart will open to serving Hashem with total love and from a place of joy, and the mind will open up to learn Torah in a way of “knowing Hashem.”
One who believes and is saturated with this point, will also try to live now as in the times of Moshiach, as it says, “those who taste it, merit life,” and longs, even now, in the final moments of galus, for love and knowledge of Hashem.
When we think about this, make resolutions and ask the Rebbe for help, he will surely help!
May it be “the Will,” that the very act of making a positive resolution in these matters will hasten the complete of hisgalus of our Melech, our Moshiach, may he come and redeem us and lead us upright to our holy land, immediately now!
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