DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE? PROVE IT!
January 16, 2013
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #865, 10 Shvat, Farbrengen

Today, everyone is screaming different versions of “We Believe.” Some are screaming that we believe that the Rebbe is still our Nasi. Some are screaming that we still believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach and some are screaming that we believe that the Rebbe is still alive. Whichever version you proclaim does not interest me. All I want to know is one simple question: “Who is ready to volunteer?”

There was once a man who stretched a tightrope across Niagara Falls. A crowd gathered as he walked across the falls on the tightrope and came back to the same bank. He turned to the crowd and asked, “How many of you believe I can walk back and forth on this tightrope, blindfolded?”

The crowd cheered and cried out, “We believe! We believe!” The man made the trip blindfolded. The crowd went wild, cheering and clapping.

The man then asked the crowd, “How many of you believe I can walk this tightrope blindfolded, pushing a wheel barrow?”

The crowd yelled even louder, “We believe! We believe!” The man performed the feat and once again the crowd screamed and cheered, this time even louder than before. Then he asked, “How many people believe I can walk this tightrope blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow with someone inside it?”

The crowd went absolutely wild, yelling and screaming, “We believe! We believe!” The man turned to the believers and yelled over the roar:

“Who is ready to volunteer?”

Sixty-one years ago, in his first Maamer (Basi L’Gani 5711), the Rebbes stated: “This is what is demanded and expected from the seventh generation – starting from the Alter Rebbe – to bring the Ikar Sh’china back to this world with the coming of Moshiach!”

Today, everyone is screaming different versions of “We Believe.” Some are screaming that we believe that the Rebbe is still our Nasi. Some are screaming that we still believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach and some are screaming that we believe that the Rebbe is still alive. Whichever version you proclaim does not interest me. All I want to know is one simple question: “Who is ready to volunteer?”

***

The Rebbe is leading the revolution to change the mindset of those of us here in Olam HaZeh from seeing this place as Olam/Helem, the mindset characterizing the Galus mentality, to one of Geula/redemption, of freedom. The revolution will be successful regardless of our work. However, the Rebbe is allowing us to participate. When we join of our own free will, we elevate ourselves. Instead of being regular people, we turn into the Rebbe’s Angels.

I want to share a story that I heard directly from the Baal HaMaaseh.

I have a friend who went on Shlichus to South Africa while a bachur. At that time he was studying for Smicha in Milan, Italy. The following story occurred on Purim of that year.

“Everything was running late, as usual. Purim came and went, and then … oops! We, the rabbinical students in the Milan Yeshiva, realized that we had forgotten to deliver the mishloach manos (Purim food gifts) to the children who had attended the Chabad day camp the past summer.

“So we sat down with a map and figured out where we’d visit that evening. All in all, there were about forty houses within a four-square-block radius. The rabbi, an indefatigable optimist, gave us his word that we would need no more than an hour and a half to do the whole job. Not bad.

“‘Oh, by the way,’ said the rabbi, ‘there is one family, the Cohens, who lives about fifteen minutes out of the area. There’s only a small chance you’ll make it there, but I’ll mark it down on the map anyways, just in case …’

“Two of us, a friend by the name of Yisroel and me, volunteered to do the rounds. We set out at eight at night, planning to return to home base around nine-thirty.

“From the moment we began the route, everything seemed to go wrong. As we trudged from one house (nobody home) to another (she’s sleeping already), and then on to another (non-existent address), our spirits plummeted. Murphy’s Law was working overtime that evening.

“It was already ten past nine and we hadn’t met even one kid. Our hands were hurting from lugging the heavy bags, and to top it all off we realized that we were lost.

“We stopped our aimless walking to study the map. I finally determined our current location, and turned to my partner.

“‘Yisroel!’ I told him. ‘We have good news and bad news. Bad news: we’re way out of our four-block radius. Good news: we’re five minutes away from the one house that we were not planning on visiting!’

“We decided to make our way to the Cohens’ house to try our luck over there. Tired and somewhat discouraged, we made our way to our destination. Don’t ask me how, but somehow we managed to get lost again. By the time we reached the right building, we were a shabby sight.

“We rang the bell. And yes! The kids were home! And awake! Oh, how relieved we were. We ran into the building, into the elevator, forgot which floor we were heading to, and got lost … After a few trips walking up and down the stairs, though, we made it…

The child’s mother warmly welcomed us into her simple apartment and gave us drinks and hamantashen (“the best in town”), and asked us to share some Torah thoughts. We gladly complied.

“Ten minutes later, we had shared a few thoughts with her and the kids. The mother was eagerly listening to every word and asking for more. I had run out of things to say, so I related to her the entire saga of our evening, how ‘truth be told, we were not planning to come to your house tonight, but for some reason nothing worked out and we got lost, so…’

“Suddenly she burst out crying; her whole body shook as she sobbed. What did I say wrong? Did I offend her? I felt terrible.

“After a few long minutes, she managed to relate her story through her tears. ‘Just recently, my life has taken a turn for the worse. My husband left me, and my children are having a very hard time adjusting to this new situation. To make matters worse, I have no money to support my family. Everything seems to be going wrong.

“‘So this morning, I turned to G-d in despair, and asked Him to send me a sign, a sign that He remembers me and cares for me. The entire day passed by—no sign. Then you two boys show up. It was nice, but I did not find my sign.

“‘Then you shared with me how this was not a planned visit, how you got lost. How this was the one house you were not planning to visit. How nobody answered all your knocking. How you made it to my home… I immediately realized that G-d had answered my prayer; He sent me a sign in the form of two angels.

“‘Thank You, G-d, for sending me these angels!’”

***

Yet, there may be a few that who hesitate to join the revolution. They believe that although the Rebbe did tell us our destination, we are not ready to give from ourselves and join the journey to redemption. If that person is you, or someone you know, I would like to share the following story:

The news passed swiftly through the city of Chernigov, leaving shock and sorrow in its wake. Reb Yekusiel, a wealthy businessman and pillar of the community, had been arrested on charges of tax evasion and misappropriation of government funds.

All who knew Reb Yekusiel had no doubt of his innocence. Reb Yekusiel was known for his honesty, charity and modesty. Despite his immense wealth and influential position, he regarded every man as his equal and was always ready to lend a helping hand and attentive ear. For this, he had earned the respect and trust of all Chernigov’s residents, Jew and non-Jew alike. But this was Czarist Russia, where a man could be arrested on a bureaucratic caprice or by the stroke of a vengeful commissioner’s pen.

Inexplicably, Reb Yekusiel was convicted. Nothing – not his connections in the government, not the numerous appeals by his expensive lawyers or the prayers of the community – could stave off the fate ordained for him. Reb Yekusiel was sentenced to ten years of hard labor in distant Siberia.

On the day before Reb Yekusiel was sent east, a man knocked on the door of Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Chein, rabbi of Chernigov. “Rabbi,” said the visitor, who was none other than the warden of the local jail, “Reb Yekusiel requests that you come see him. Special permission has been granted for you to visit him in his cell, should you desire to come.”

“Certainly,” said the Rabbi, “of course I’ll come,” and he hurried to get his coat.

Tears filled Rabbi Dovid Tzvi’s eyes at the sight that met him upon entering the cell. Reb Yekusiel, too, was overwhelmed with emotion. The two men embraced and wept silently for some time. Finally, the prisoner began to speak:

“I asked you to come, Rabbi, not because I have any personal request to make, but because I want to tell you why I am here. Perhaps others can learn a lesson from my story.

“Several months ago, I was traveling to Petersburg for a series of meetings regarding my dealings with the government. As usual, I obtained a compartment in the first-class section of the train – a crucial necessity for any businessman seeking potential contacts among government officials and fellow merchants. It was then that I learned that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was on the train.

“I passed by the Rebbe’s compartment, hoping to catch a glimpse of his holy face. The door was ajar, and suddenly I found myself gazing into his eyes – eyes that looked deeply into mine and seemed to know the innermost reaches of my soul. For a long moment I stood there, rooted to the spot. It was a while before I realized that the Rebbe was motioning to me to enter.

“With awe and trepidation I entered the Rebbe’s compartment. But the Rebbe soon put me at ease, inviting me to sit and offering me a cigarette. He expressed great interest in our community, as well as in my personal life and business dealings. In parting, the Rebbe said to me: ‘I’m sure you’ve heard of the railway that the government is planning to build across Siberia. I think this is a perfect business opportunity for you. As one who has close connections with Minister Potysukshnikov, you should be able to obtain a sizable contract as a lumber supplier.’

“I returned to my compartment in a state of confusion. The last thing I expected from the Rebbe was a business tip. On the one hand, I felt that the advice of a tzaddik should be followed. On the other hand, the proposal held no attraction for me, despite its great financial potential. My business affairs were going well, thanks to G-d; why should I leave my family and community and spend many long months, if not years, in far-off Siberia? At the end, I hesitated long enough for others to avail themselves of the opportunity; to my considerable relief, I must confess.

“And so, now I’m on my way to Siberia. I thought that the Rebbe was dispensing business advice, but he must have seen that there is something there, in Siberia, that I must achieve, some part of my mission in life that must be played out in the frozen east. I could have gone in comfort, as a wealthy businessman and government contractor. Now I am going in chains… “

We will all reach the Rebbe’s goal and destination. The question is only in what manner we will make the journey there……

***

I wish to share one more story:

There was a big Chassid in Crown Heights whose name was Rabbi Eliyahu Gross. He was very involved is Beis HaRav and in the Rebbe’s Mivtzaim and Mosdos. One day in the eighties he started to feel weak. After a few days he went to the doctor for a checkup. The results were frightening: his kidney was failing and he needed an emergency transplant. The problem was that the waiting list for transplants was as long as the Galus….

He came home that night, contemplating his life. He started making a Cheshbon Ha’nefesh. While going down memory lane, he remembered an interesting episode that happened over forty years before.

Rabbi Gross had a brother whose Bar-Mitzva was in 1944/5. His parents had arranged that he would get Maftir in the minyan of the Frierdike Rebbe. The boy was very excited and prepared accordingly. How shocked he was when the got to 770 and were informed by the Gabbaim that Maftir was Taken!

The Rebbe’s son-in-law lost his father that year, the Gabbaim said, and he gets the Maftir every Shabbos. The boy was heartbroken. The Gabbaim felt bad and told the boy that maybe he could work something out with the Rebbe’s son-in-law (our Rebbe). He approached the Rebbe and explained his predicament, how he prepared the Maftir and wanted to say it.

The Rebbe listened to the boy and answered: “I have an idea. Why don’t you make a side-minyan and say your Maftir there?”

The boy looked at the Rebbe and responded: “Great idea! Why don’t YOU get your Maftir in a side minyan?”

The Rebbe looked at the young Bar-Mitzva boy for a while and finally said: “Let us make a deal. You go to the side minyan and I will owe you one!” The boy agreed. He got his Maftir and the story was forgotten.

Rabbi Gross got up, quickly called his brother and reminded him of the story. He asked him if he ever cashed in his favor. When his brother responded in the negative, Rabbi Gross asked if could get him a kidney from the Rebbe. The brother agreed to call the Mazkirus. Two weeks later Rabbi Gross had a new kidney and lived for another 15 years.

Dear Chassidim, the Rebbe sees what you are going through. He knows how hard it is to give up your Taavos and desires in order to join the revolution. My message to you is that “The Rebbe will owe you one” and you can take that to the bank!

Let us unite around the Rebbe’s vision and join the journey to Geula. Let us strengthen ourselves in learning and teaching others Inyanei Moshiach U’Geula and V’nizkeh Zhen Zich Mitten Rebbe…V’hu Yigaleinu!

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
See website for complete article licensing information.