Levi Liberow, Beis Moshiach
Two veteran shluchim were sitting at a Sheva Brachos for their grandchildren at a Midwest Chabad House. One grandfather was asked to farbreng and share words of hiskashrus and chizuk with the members of the local community which he gladly did.
He began to talk to them about how even after Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe is with us and even more than before, quoting the famous words of the Zohar (brought in Tanya Iggeres Hakodesh siman 27), that “a tzaddik who passes on is found in the world yatir mibchayohi — even more than when he was alive.”
The mechutan, a mashpia renowned for his direct, no-nonsense, non-diplomatic style, was sitting all the while listening quietly. When he heard this, he mumbled to himself in a tone loud enough to be heard by a few others, “Chaval shehu loh met kodem — if so, it’s a shame he hadn’t passed away earlier…”
I’ll leave the reaction at that table to the reader’s imagination…
Sometimes, a provocative statement brings a message home better than anything else. Doesn’t that statement expose a logical flaw in the idea of yatir mibchayohi?
I mean, if a tzaddik is present more when he’s not constrained by the limits of the body, isn’t it a shame to keep him in the world for a moment longer than he needs to? Isn’t being alive in this world only impeding his influence which can grow a thousand fold when the tzaddik is freed from his bodily constraints?
Cynicism aside, I think its a fair question and it deserves an explanation. It’s especially funny, because the sharp reaction a Chassid naturally feels hearing such words comes from feeling a sort of “repulsion” from such a “selfish” hiskashrus.
Hearing such words forces us to ask ourselves: Is that truly me? All I want from the Rebbe is just more brachos and more hashpaos from the Rebbe and therefore I’d benefit more from him with him being in the Heavens?”
The easiest answer is that there’s a l’chatchila and a b’dieved: we want the tzaddik here with us, but if Hashem decides to have him closer to Him, then no worries: the tzaddik can be up there and down here at the same time, actually more!
In more “balebatishe” terms, its simply a coping mechanism. There was a group of broken Chassidim who lost their Rebbe, so the Alter Rebbe helped them cope with the loss by explaining that the tzaddik is still with them in spirit, and in a way, more than before. But l’chatchila, no one would wish a Chassid that his Rebbe should pass away so he can have the Rebbe yatir mibchayohi…
But the Zohar and the Tanya are not feel-good books — it’s Torah and its true: yatir mibchayohi is exactly that — more than in his lifetime, leaving us with this disturbing question of why then we would want him in this world.
Hiskashrus means a connection, a relationship. Like in every relationship, you can be in it for yourself of for the other:
A Chassid may choose to engage in hiskashrus for the physical and spiritual benefits he gets from it — the brachos, the inspiration, the guidance, the meaning and the sense of belonging that the Rebbe gives him. But a greater form of hiskashrus is to be in the relationship for the Rebbe’s sake, to be a soldier of the Rebbe helping him realize his Divine mission.
I heard that once Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka shared with one of the people close to her, how the Rebbe related to her his “frustration” with the Chassidim. “When I give out something — lekach, a kuntres, and so on — there are people waiting in line until Brooklyn Avenue. Where is that line when I request for something to be done?”
A Rebbe serves a dual function: to give to us and transmit Divine influences and to get from us and make us contribute towards the Divine goal of the world. This Divine goal progresses through many stages, each led by a new Rebbe who is chosen by Hashem to lead his generation in contributing their special part.
There is inspiration coming from previous generals, but the “zahir tfei” of the generation, where we shine most comes from “our” Rebbe.
What we “get” from tzaddikim, can come from tzaddikim of the past, what we “give” is something that comes only from the Nasi Hador.
I would carefully say that the Alter Rebbe’s message of “yatir mibchayohi” and it’s comforting echo was only possible on the backdrop of him being the successor.
In other words, “yatir mibchayohi” can not be a stand alone concept, as it lacks the anchor of a Rebbe’s main function — leading the dor in its tafkid in the world. It can only be said by the next Rebbe to Chassidim who will use this absolutely true and powerful concept as a tremendous chizuk in their avoda that the new Rebbe gives them.
Only a Rebbe can declare a state of “yatir mibchayohi”
In practical terms:
Certain aspects of the yatir mibchayohi concept certainly apply after Gimmel Tammuz. The idea of the removal of certain physical barriers to approach the Rebbe, for example, is true now, as hundreds of Chassidim experience daily. Also the important realization that the Rebbe’s life isn’t a life of flesh but a spiritual life, a fact that’s certainly true also during a tzaddik’s lifetime, is assisted by this matzav of concealment of the Rebbe’s holy body just as much as a histalkus could and even more.
But we must be very careful that when we apply these concepts to our unprecedented situation, we don’t turn the Rebbe into a Rebbe that those who saw him and heard him b’gashmiyus are closer than those who never had that experience yet, because it simply isn’t true.
Perhaps we should coin a new phrase: Yatir — everything now about hiskashrus is more and better and greater mibchayohi — because it’s coming from a Rebbe who is truly more alive than ever, spiritually and physically.
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