By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
This week we are learning Hilchos Rotzeach uShmiras Nefesh — the laws of a murderer and protection of life” in the Rambam and we are also approaching the Yom Tov of Pesach, on which we celebrate the redemption from exile. At the beginning of Perek 7, halacha 1, the Rambam writes that “when a talmid (a student of Torah) is exiled to a city of refuge, his teacher is exiled together with him. This is derived from the passuk (Devarim 19:5) which states: ‘He shall flee to one of these cities, and he shall live.’ Implied, is that everything necessary for his life must be provided for him. Therefore, a scholar must be provided with his teacher, for the life of one who possesses knowledge without Torah study is considered to be death.”
Torah is Our Life
Besides the obvious lesson that the Rambam is teaching us — that to a Jew, Torah is life itself and therefore we send the teacher into exile with the student — the Rebbe (20 Teves 5746) learns another important lesson: The importance of Aseh Lecha Rav — appointing a mashpia.
The Rebbe had been campaigning about the importance of each Jew having a personal mashpia, and the Rebbe brought out a very strong point from this halacha: If a Jew has a personal “Rav,” then even if reaches a low point in his service of Hashem requiring him to be “exiled,” his Rav will go along with him to keep educating him so that eventually he will be brought out of his personal exile.
“The Rebbe is Bound to You with Shackles”
As we are coming from 11 Nissan — the birthday of our beloved Rebbe, I would like to “farbreng” a little about this lesson from the perspective of Hiskashrus of the Rebbe to Chassidim. While it is very comforting to know that the Rebbe will be connected to his Chassid in every situation, each Chassid really needs to ask himself: Do I want to be the cause that the Rebbe should need to go to galus?
We are all familiar (Igros Kodesh vol. 3 p. 472, letter nu. 755) with the letter that the Rebbe wrote to a Chassid that wanted to go to college The Rebbe wrote three reasons not to go, and then added this heartfelt fourth reason:
“And this is of greatest consequence: What do you have against the Rebbe that you must drag him into the college? For the powers of the Rebbe are invested in you. When your body goes to college, your G‑dly soul which is confined in your body must also go. And, as a result, the powers of the Rebbe which are enclothed in [your] G‑dly soul — for, as above, they are part of the essence — [must also accompany you]. And so you are, as it were, dragging the Rebbe along with you.”
Many are not aware of the continuation of the conversation between the Chassid and the Rebbe. The Chassid wrote that it pains him to bring the Rebbe into college, so he will disconnect from the Rebbe. The Rebbe responded (vol. 4 p. 52, letter nu. 809):
“This is no longer possible. [To cite a parallel:] As is well known even in the realm of revealed Torah Law (Nigleh), once a person converts [to Judaism], he can never undo the conversion, Heaven forbid. Even if he sins afterwards, he is still a Jew because he converted once. Similar concepts apply in the realm of holiness itself. When a person became a Chassid once, and when he became bonded to a Rebbe — and as a result, “as water reflects a face,” the Rebbe became bonded with him — it is no longer within his capacity to cease the connection. For that is also dependent on the Rebbe, and because of [the Rebbe’s] abundant goodness and kindness, he is bound to him with shackles.”
Hashem Is In Galus With Us
The above is also a very important lesson for us in our special Avoda of getting ourselves and the world around us ready for Moshiach: A Jew must realize that every moment that we are in galus, the Shechina is in galus! The Jewish people are the “students” of Hashem — as the Passuk (Yeshaya 54:13) says: “And all your children shall be disciples of the L-rd, and your children’s peace shall increase.” As the student of Hashem, the Rambam rules:”“When a Torah student is exiled to a city of refuge, his teacher is exiled together with him.”
When we awake from our slumber of exile, and the time of Pesach is a most opportune time for that, we will not only redeem ourselves from galus, but the Rebbe and the Shechina itself. As the famous saying of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochay (Megillah 29a):
“It is taught in a baraisa: Come and see how beloved the Jewish people are before Hakadosh Baruch Hu: As every place they were exiled, the Shechinah went with them. … When, in the future, they will be redeemed, the Shechinah will be with them, as it is stated: “Then the L-rd your G-d will return with your captivity” (Deuteronomy 30:3). It does not state: He will bring back, i.e., He will cause the Jewish people to return, but rather it says: “He will return,” which teaches that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will return together with them from among the various exiles.
A Kosher and Freilichen Pesach!