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Jul142014

MOSHIACH WAS MEKAREV ME TO CHABAD

It’s a fascinating phenomenon that despite twenty years having passed without our seeing or hearing the Rebbe, thousands of Jews have become involved with Chabad and its teachings and particularly with the subjects of Moshiach and Geula. * We spoke with three young men from different backgrounds who told us about the major changes in their lives with their newfound connection to the Rebbe. * The Truth is mekarev and the Truth is Moshiach!

“Learning Chassidus changed my life in many respects but at a certain point this stopped and everything nearly returned to the way it was previously. Without a Rebbe and without Moshiach, the chayus in Chassidus was lacking significance. It was only when I learned about Moshiach that I got interested again and quickly became a Chassid and mekushar,” said R’ Yonatan Meizel, a shliach in Yishuv Ateret and formerly from a religious-Zionist background.

“If you have no prior assumptions before learning Chassidus, you will see that it all leads to Moshiach. You can’t just take half the truth. The Rebbe and chai v’kayam are the conclusion even without the sichos of 5751-2,” says R’ Dov Rov, who is active in Chabad in Tzfas and from a distinguished Vizhnitzer family.

“Whoever tries deleting Moshiach from the teachings of Chassidus is like someone who wants to eliminate the soul from the body. I have not met, nor do I want to meet, a Lubavitcher who thinks Moshiach turns people off. This is the shlichus we got from the Rebbe and the reality is that it does not turn people off. I am proof of that,” says R’ Yanki Klein, who is active in Chabad in Beit Shemesh and from a generic Chassidic family who was educated in Litvishe yeshivos.

These three men were raised in religious homes and nevertheless they sought something deeper. They felt something was missing. They learned Chabad Chassidus and became mekushar to the Rebbe. The transformation was hard for them and especially for those who know them, but in the end, they all saw that it’s good. Each of the three, in his style and language, firmly asserts that Moshiach is what propelled his advancement toward Chabad.

We asked the three of them pointed questions and they responded with answers that lead to one conclusion: the world today, including the religious world, is more ready than ever for the coming of Moshiach.

LEAVING DOUBTS BEHIND

What were you lacking? What did you find in Chabad?

Yanki Klein: Those who are born Lubavitch can never understand what a “hothouse” of an environment he was born into, one without doubts. In Chabad I learned to speak and feel G-dliness. I learned that every object is G-dliness and that we need to transform gashmius into ruchnius.

I remember that a few weeks after I started learning Tanya, I went home “flying high” and told my wife about my discovery, about being able to observe Torah and mitzvos without threats. Doing mitzvos with joy. No tzaddik or rasha; there are far greater intricacies at work. There is a neshama, a different shlichus for every Jew. Today I don’t leave the house without a D’var Malchus and I am particular to learn the daily Rambam and Chitas. It gives me life.

Yonatan Meizel: I was mekurav through Tanya. In other places, there are lots of “lights” but only with Tanya are these lights given “keilim.” After a journey and searching for meaning and a path in Judaism, I discovered the miracle cure for our generation.

Dov Rov: There are many spiritual approaches within Judaism, but Chassidus is perfectly structured with rational comprehension. With other approaches, the emuna does not become part of you. You and emuna are two separate entities. In Chabad I attained an inner awareness of the truth of Hashem so that it became a part of me. I no longer needed to look for proofs in order to subdue my animal soul.

Also, what affected me greatly was the fact that I came to the conclusion that the Alter Rebbe is the successor of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch. As R’ Chaim Vital said that the revelation of p’nimius ha’Torah began with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and continued with the Arizal. If you truly understand the teachings of Chabad, you know that Chabad is the movement which proceeds from the Besht and the Rav HaMaggid.

DOING MITZVOS OUT OF LOVE

What are the differences in approach from where you’re coming from and what you discovered?

Yanki Klein: I was raised and taught in fear. If you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll have Gan Eden; if not, then Gehinom. The mashgichim in their musar classes idealize the status of those who learn well. Those who don’t know how to learn get the feeling that they’re in a lower league. In Chabad, the approach is vastly different. Every Jew is important and every mitzva that you do connects you to Hashem at that moment. This connection generates simcha and an enthusiasm for mitzvos.

Yonatan Meizel: In religious-Zionism there is no memutza ha’mechaber. We were taught that “the entire congregation is holy.” So everyone does their own thing, gleaning from here and there. You can consult with several rabbanim and mashpiim. There isn’t one leader. Most of the mosdos today in the religious camp follow this pattern. Every rosh yeshiva has his own agenda. There are numerous approaches and it engenders great confusion. 

Another problem, in my opinion, is that in religious-Zionism there is a lot of talk about overly generalized ideals, concern for Klal Yisroel, which is positive but comes at the expense of working with the individual.

The religious sector champions being involved in the world, but without a Rebbe and without answers and specific guidance in the individual avodas Hashem of every person, this is an open door to spiritual decline.

Dov Rov: I was raised with the idea that the world is not a true existence; it is an optical illusion. This leads to the ultra-Orthodox shunning of the outside world. Since the world is not a reality, you have nothing to do with it. There is nothing to elevate because you are supposed to stay away. Chabad sees things completely differently. The world is a reality which we need to make into a vessel for G-dliness.

The Ahavas Yisroel of an ultra-Orthodox child is only toward those like him. In Chabad, you see how the fundamentals of Ahavas Yisroel, seeing the good in every Jew, is practical and even more relevant in our generation, despite the demographic shift from the traditional makeup of the Jewish people. Chabad teaches that the p’nimius of a Jew is absolute goodness and we relate to that p’nimius.

CHASSIDUS – TOOLS FOR MODERN TIMES

Why isn’t the general emuna that was fine generations ago, before Chabad Chassidus, enough now?

Yanki Klein: We are in the generation preceding the revelation of Moshiach. I remember that when I was a child, I often heard strong opposition to Chabad. That opposition, which was led by those called “g’dolei ha’dor,” has completely died down. If you look at what is happening today in the religious world, you see that Chabad is the most unifying movement, thanks to the teachings of Chassidus and the Rebbe’s leadership. 

In the past, tradition passed from father to son and technology and enticements were not what they are today. But today there is a real split and people are looking for truth. Images of Gan Eden and Gehinom no longer work with young people. People are seeking to connect to Hashem and to serve Him wholeheartedly.

Yonatan Meizel: This is the generation of Moshiach. In the past twenty years, with the development of the Internet and the exposure to sources of information most of which are propagated by evil, people are facing difficulties and are having a hard time coping.

Yesterday, I met a good friend who I went to school with and who was a top student, but went off the derech. When I talked to him, I heard that he was suffering in his situation, he is depressed, and he explained that there was nothing that could be done.

When I finished talking to him, I thought that the truth is, with his Jewish toolbox, there really isn’t anything that he can do. But if he was exposed to p’nimius ha’Torah, he could deal with life and be victorious. Chassidus understands man’s soul and the challenges he has to deal with and provides clear answers.

Dov Rov: The point of Chassidus is to bring the unity of G-d into the world of created beings (as brought in Derech Mitzvosecha) and this reality happens in two stages. The first stage, before Chassidus came to the world, the world was a “yesh” and a separate entity. Therefore, as the Rambam says, someone who is stingy should go to the opposite extreme. Chassidus came along and explained that the world is a vessel for G-dliness (and you need to work with it rather than simply fight against it) and the Chabad Rebbeim expanded this point from generation to generation.

This approach, which characterizes Chabad exclusively, has infiltrated many places. When I learn the s’farim of Rabbi Tzaddok of Lublin, the S’fas Emes, etc. I find that they use Chabad terminology and quote from Tanya. They bring concepts like the “light that fills” and the “light that transcends,” and those who are knowledgeable in various approaches sees how the teachings got through.

All of Judaism owes the Alter Rebbe a lot, whether they know it or not. Most of the general (not specifically Chabad) Chassidus out there takes ideas and inspiration from Tanya, even without quoting it. The Alter Rebbe taught us to look from a deeper perspective and not to pay attention to externals. According to the Baal HaTanya, we don’t do a mitzva for the reward but to connect with Hashem. There is a reason why it says that we will go toward Moshiach with the Tanya …

PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING FOR G-DLY TRUTH

Today there is a strong trend toward learning Chassidus. It’s no secret. Why do you think this is happening now? Where do you think it will lead? – after all, we don’t see the Rebbe.

Yanki Klein: There is no logical explanation. When friends from the past ask me about Chabad, they always mention that Chabad has no Rebbe today and how do I handle that. When I tell them that the Rebbe is with us, they have a hard time understanding this. They have no tools with which to understand what a Rebbe is. I explain to them that if the Rebbe was not with us, Chabad would not be becoming stronger. Truth is something that grows. 

Yonatan Meizel: It’s a supernatural phenomenon. The whole topic of Geula is gilui ha’etzem and we see that in the entire world, especially the Jewish world, there is a major “clarifying” going on. Things today are polarized; either you are on the side of holiness or, G-d forbid, the opposite. In order to successfully withstand the challenges of this world, you have to learn Chassidus and specifically, live Moshiach.

Dov Rov: People today are searching for chayus and the neshama has to feel Elokus. I meet Chassidim from other Chassidic groups who learn Torah Ohr or Tanya and some of them don’t understand what they’re learning, but the neshama definitely understands. The trend in the direction of Chabad has no logical rationale but for the fact that this is a channel of G-dliness that the soul yearns for.

In Chabad there is the concept of the Rebbe as he is connected to Atzmus Ein Sof. The Rebbe said that hiskashrus to him is not by looking at him but by learning his teachings, and nothing changed in that since Gimmel Tammuz. There is a strong attraction to this dimension; people are searching for G-dly truth.

PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO LIVE MOSHIACH BECAUSE IT OBLIGATES THEM!

What did you think when encountering the idea of chai v’kayam? Isn’t it possible to learn Chassidus without the sichos of 5751-2?

Yanki Klein: People often ask me, are you a Meshichist? I tell them that every Lubavitcher is a Meshichist. People react negatively when you talk to them about Moshiach because they are afraid. It’s something that obligates them. If the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach, you have to listen to him. The sichos of the last years are like the finale to all the earlier sichos. In general, Chassidus without Moshiach is like a body without a soul; the one leads to the other.

Yonatan Meizel: I personally experienced what it’s like to learn Chassidus without Moshiach. At a certain point, after I became interested in Chabad in Nepal and began to learn, I went to a yeshiva for baalei t’shuva in the US where there was no emphasis on Moshiach. I felt myself deteriorating spiritually. I thought the Rebbe was a big tzaddik but apparently I wasn’t born at the right time. I felt that I missed the train.

By divine providence, I ended up visiting 770 and there things turned around. I realized that the Rebbe is chai v’kayam and that there is a Rebbe today too. I remember a farbrengen in 770 when R’ Shimmi Goldstein, shliach in Pushkar, said to me, “The Rebbe doesn’t look for volunteers. He looks for soldiers.” He had hit the target, for before I had become exposed to the subject of Geula, I thought that perhaps I’d be a volunteer, a mekurav. But Moshiach turned me into a Chassid and a mekushar.

Dov Rov: The question is what the person is looking for. If he is looking for experiences and feelings, then he can suffice with learning Chassidus, but if he seeks truth without prior assumptions as to how the truth ought to look, he will quickly reach Moshiach. The problem is that some people have decided how the truth ought to look and at a certain point they stop. If the Baal Shem Tov is truth, and the Maggid of Mezritch is a continuation and is truth, and the Alter Rebbe is the successor until the Rebbe who is the seventh leader, then this is the truth and there is no other.

THE SICHOS OF 5751-2 GIVE TREMENDOUS STRENGTH

The Rebbe stresses the importance of learning inyanei Moshiach and Geula. How vital has this been for you?

Yanki Klein: I made my first steps to Chabad from an emotional place. I felt that in Chabad there is Ahavas Yisroel, the acceptance of every Jew for being a Jew without “examining his tzitzis,” and this touched me. Later on, I decided to attend Tanya classes and later still, classes on the Rebbe’s sichos including those of the last years. There is no question that when learning these sichos we get the strength to handle the challenges of the time.

These sichos led me to commit to things that, those who knew me from before would testify, were hard for me, like growing a beard or being the organizer of a Shacharis minyan at six o’clock in the Chabad shul. Before my involvement with Chabad, even if I had set an alarm clock, I would not hear it. Chabad changed me not only externally but internally.

Yonatan Meizel: Real hiskashrus to the Rebbe can only be reached through learning the sichos of the D’var Malchus. A Chassid needs to examine where the Rebbe’s koch is and be there. We saw how the Rebbe treated these sichos with a special koch. The sichos from earlier years are a pleasure to learn and arouse one to heartfelt t’filla and to proper Chassidishe hisbonenus, but if you remain there, and don’t move along with the Rebbe to the later sichos, you are like a train that refuses to reach its destination and is stuck somewhere.

Dov Rov: All the sichos and maamarim throughout the years of all the Chabad leaders are deep and spiritual. With them it is hard to measure to what extent we truly believe and whether they penetrated and are truly felt. With the sichos of 5751-2, the Rebbe shows how Moshiach permeated the world not through s’firos and spiritual levels. He takes the French Revolution, the vote in the UN and other examples and explains how to see Moshiach in them. If we relate to these sichos, that indicates that we are permeated by them. If we “make a face” when it comes to these ideas, then that means the previous sichos didn’t really permeate us either.

The truth is that when I first got involved with Chabad, the topic of Moshiach irked me. We know of tzaddikim who wanted to bring the Geula and even said when Moshiach would come. They were great men, tzaddikim like Ramchal, the Kozhnitzer Maggid, and the Chozeh of Lublin, and at first, I thought that the Rebbe was one of those tzaddikim who tried but wasn’t successful. This thinking changed when I learned the sicha where the Rebbe explains that the world already has the revelation of the existence of Moshiach. In other words, the Rebbe explains how the Geula train has already left the station. We are at the point of no return. This gave me tremendous chizuk. The Geula is a happening process and we relate to it by learning the sichos of the D’var Malchus.

In general, Moshiach changed me from an admirer of Chabad and someone with an inclination toward Chabad to a Chassid. Many religious Jews will never understand the topic of chai v’kayam if they don’t examine it in depth in the sichos. It is clear to me that only by learning Chassidus properly can one attain this understanding.

MOSHIACH: IT DEPENDS ON HOW YOU MARKET IT

It’s no secret that within Chabad there are those who think that publicizing about Moshiach turns people off from Chassidus. What can you say from your experience?

Yanki Klein: The topic of Moshiach never scared me off; on the contrary, it’s something good – who doesn’t look forward to Moshiach? You could say I was educated to open-mindedness. I always wanted to understand what lay behind everything and was never put off by stereotypes. The first Lubavitcher I met who directed me to the Chabad shul was a Meshichist who told me that the shul is next to his house, the house with the big Moshiach flag. If Moshiach would have been off-putting, I think my family today would not be Chabad. When my friends ask me about this I respond sharply that it’s better to be involved in Moshiach and not with the nonsense they are involved in.

Yonatan Meizel: The question whether to publicize about Moshiach is not a question since the Rebbe himself did it. We, as Chassidim, have the obligation to do so. That being said, obviously, before we go out to the street, we need to learn the subject in depth so we know what to say. I see for myself that hiskashrus to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh is the best way. People today see that the Rebbe answers them with wondrous answers and does miracles. Afterward, when you talk to them about Moshiach and show them what the Rebbe said in the sichos, they are receptive.

Dov Rov: Anything can turn people off. If you market the best product with the worst marketing methods, people will be turned off. You have to publicize Moshiach! The question is how to do it. In my humble opinion, a religious Jew and an irreligious Jew relate to messages differently. A religious Jew does not relate to flags and signs but more to learned explanations. And mainly, you have to prove to him that the subject of Moshiach is not simply the whim of some overheated Chassidim but something that has support in halacha.

Another thing, the entire subject of Moshiach frightens religious Jews. Religious Jews have lots of historical holdovers regarding the “End of Days.” Great people tried and failed. We have had false messiahs who made tremendous inroads so that the general populace today maintains that the topic of Moshiach should be set aside and let’s leave it to Hashem to decide when to bring the Geula.

The right approach is to explain why, when it comes to the Rebbe, it was said as a prophecy and not as a hope or prayer which makes it essentially different. Furthermore, the Rebbe does not ask us to do things that go against halacha; only to strengthen the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos. 

I recently attended a farbrengen in B’nei Brak and a Poilishe Chassid sat next to me. Since our external look is the same, he got into a conversation with me and for twenty minutes I explained to him the revelation of the Baal Shem Tov and how Chabad Chassidus is the true continuation of his path down until the seventh generation. He listened and then said, “So let’s say Yechi together.” At that moment, I did not understand the connection. But after a few minutes he told me that he had been learning Chabad Chassidus for a long time after having a crisis of faith, and he struggled with the question about whether the Rebbe is Moshiach. What I told him clarified matters for him and made it clear to him that there is no recourse and this is the unavoidable truth.

THE REBBE ESTABLISHED WHAT GIMMEL TAMMUZ IS ABOUT

Coming from Gimmel Tammuz, what is your message for Chabad Chassidim?

Yanki Klein: On 3 Tammuz 5754 I was seven years old. That day, I joined my father on a trip he made to the airport which was packed with Chabad Chassidim. When I asked my father where they were all going, he told me, to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Who would have believed then that one day I would have the z’chus to be a Chassid of the Rebbe myself and that I am planning a trip to 770? As for your question, the most important thing is to intensify the learning of the Rebbe’s sichos and have set times to learn them as well as doing things that will inspire other Jews to Judaism and hasten the hisgalus.

Yonatan Meizel: I’m not a mashpia and I think everything has been written and said. Rivers of ink have been poured and many words have been said at farbrengens and various gatherings. We’ve done things but if the Rebbe is still not revealed, then we need to do more than we’ve done thus far. Every shliach knows that as much as he has done in his place of shlichus, there are still many Jews he did not reach and this is what we need to do – step up our activities.

Dov Rov: In the sicha of 3 Tammuz 5751, the Rebbe defined the day as the is’chalta d’Geula. As Chassidim, we know that if the Rebbe points something out about a certain date, there has to be a connection between the day and the subject. The essence of 3 Tammuz, according to the Rebbe, is is’chalta d’Geula. Therefore, we need to relate to the day in this way and this reality ought to inspire us to get busy until we see that this beginning reaches its conclusion with the hisgalus of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach.

 

R’ YAAKOV (YANKI) KLEIN

R’ Yanki Klein was born in the city of Torah and Chassidus, B’nei Brak, to a generic Chassidic family. His parents are mekuravim to Satmar and Vizhnitz. All his brothers are Vizhnitzer Chassidim. As a child he attended the Chug Chasam Sofer School and continued in Litvishe yeshivos. He learned in Nachalas Dovid in Petach Tikva for high school and later on, he learned in Nezer Yisroel and Mir.

After his chasuna he settled in B’nei Brak. From there, the couple moved to Yerushalayim and from there to Beit Shemesh. 

“By divine providence, we bought a house two blocks from the Chabad shul, which is why I davened there one Shabbos. The rest is history. I became a regular there and frequently attended farbrengens and shiurim. My wife got pulled in after me. The messages of Chassidus and the role models of the Rebbe’s shluchim and the community appealed to us.”

Being hosted one Shabbos at the shluchim, the Weiners’ home, and the Chassidishe atmosphere there, made them decide to send their daughter to a Chabad preschool. This precipitated the process of their becoming Chabad Chassidim.

They recently discovered that his wife’s grandfather was active in Lucerne, Switzerland as the Rebbe Rayatz’s shliach, even though he did not look like a Chabad Chassid. He later had a correspondence with the Rebbe MH”M. A famous story that the grandfather would tell is how he met the Rebbe in Paris, and was there in the shul when the Rebbe was asked to give a shiur and the Rebbe had a different Gemara in front of him but quoted the Gemara he was speaking about by heart.

Today, Yanki is one of the Chabad activists in Beit Shemesh.

 

R’ YONATAN MEIZEL

R’ Yonatan was born in Har Nof in Yerushalayim to a religious-Zionist family. After finishing the religious public school in his neighborhood, he attended yeshiva high school in Chashmonaim and hesder yeshiva in Netivot. When he finished his military service, he spent time learning in Machon Meir in Yerushalayim. From there he went into chinuch. He took a job as a counselor in the music yeshiva Kinor Dovid in yishuv Ateret.

“After two years of intensive educational work, I felt I needed a break and I flew to the Far East. Even before that, while still in Eretz Yisroel, I was looking for a derech I could relate to. I started my touring in India and from there I went to Nepal where I found a common language with the shliach in the city of Pokhara, R’ Avrohom Fuchs. For several weeks we learned Tanya together for two hours every morning.

“When I returned home I knew that I wanted to be a Chabad Chassid but knew hardly anything. The shliach in Pokhara recommended that I attend a baal t’shuva program in the US and I decided to fly there and try it out. My time spent in that yeshiva did not improve or advance my involvement with Chabad; on the contrary, I left the yeshiva after a few weeks with a feeling of being ‘spiritually choked.’ I thought the Rebbe was a great leader but I had missed the boat. I should have come to Chabad earlier.”

Before leaving the US, he stopped off at 770 where everything changed completely.

“My encounter with the bachurim revived it all. I felt that Moshiach completed the puzzle. After a few weeks I began opening the Rebbe’s sichos of the last years and learned them in depth. Since then, I became a Chassid. It was just a matter of time.”

He married and the couple went back to work in the yeshiva in yishuv Ateret. R’ Meizel also serves as a shliach who works with the youth of the yishuv.

 

R’ DOV ROV

R’ Dov grew up in the Vizhnitz community in Rechovot.

“My family has followed the Vizhnitz chassidus for three generations and is one of the most famous families within the Chassidus because of the large number of descendants. The main messages I was raised with were: shmiras ha’lashon, shmiras ha’einayim, without too much in the way of explanation and understanding, only that this is what Hashem commanded. A mitzva creates a good angel and a sin creates a bad angel. How does this work? What’s an angel? What is its standing as compared to a Jew? They don’t quite explain this and someone with the desire to delve into things has a problem.

“At a certain point, I began a serious search. I had a lack of clarity in the inner meaning and sense of truth in the foundational principles of the Torah. I began looking for answers to my questions.

“I thought that perhaps the problem is with me and if I just learned more and more s’farim, matters would become clear. That is the way I am by nature. I love to read and to delve into things. I read and learned s’farim of Chassidus in general but nothing gave me a definitive answer that would satisfy me.

“I decided to check out Chabad despite their strangeness. I heard about the Chassidus library in B’nei Brak where you can borrow books. I saw copies of Beis Moshiach and avidly read the articles written by R’ Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg, the mashpia. They touched me and I felt that this was truth.

“When I finally ‘got it,’ I was euphoric. When I understood the approach and logic of Chabad, along with the feeling that this is true and that the Alter Rebbe was the successor of the Maggid in bequeathing the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, the whole subject of chai v’kayam and Moshiach didn’t bother me. On the contrary, thanks to this, I began believing that there really is a Creator of the world, that there is G-dliness within everything in creation, so Moshiach should bother me?!

“I understood that if Chabad is the successor and the Rebbe is the seventh generation, then Gimmel Tammuz could not stop all this. Woe to us if we think there is a break. Furthermore, the fact is we see that it is all part of the process. Chabad today reaches places that it did not reach previously. People are thirsting for Chassidus.”

Today, after marrying and with a third child born just a few weeks ago, the Rov family lives in Tzfas and is part of the Chabad community. R’ Dov, in addition to his work in writing articles that explain the approach of Chabad Chassidus in the seventh generation, is active at the Chabad house in the south of the city.

 

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