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Wednesday
Jul272016

ONE CHASSID CAN TRANSFORM AN ENTIRE CITY

What motivates a young man who just started his career in the military to leave it all and devote himself to the Rebbes mivtzaim? How did the mayor react to the billboard placed at the entrance to the city without permits? What are thelights of Tohuthat the Rebbe refers to in the famous sicha?


R
Moshe Bardugo was born in Morocco and made aliya at the age of five. When he reached draft age he joined the Intelligence Corps where he served for six years. He was involved in gathering intelligence which aided in the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor the night of Shavuos 5741.

At the end of his six-year stint, he met with R’ Reuven Dunin who took him to shiurim in Chassidus at the Chabad House in Haifa. It was there that he first encountered the light of the Rebbe. His transformation was speedy and complete.

In 5745, when he had to decide whether to continue serving in the military, he chose the Rebbe’s holy mivtzaim instead. Although he could have continued in the army and furthered his career, he chose to drop it all and join the Mitzva Tanks.

Among his other activities with the Mobile Mitzva Tanks in Natzrat Ilit, he focused on shiurim in Chassidus at kibbutzim, directed by R’ Shimshon Halperin, and they also printed many editions of the Tanya.

“I was busy with mivtzaim all day,” says R’ Moshe. “I regularly returned home after midnight. One time, when I was driving late at night, on 14 Iyar 5745, I was in a serious car accident. My car turned over and I lost consciousness. I was unconscious for days in the hospital, having suffered serious injuries all over my body.”

R’ YY Segal, shliach in Migdal HaEmek, asked the Rebbe for a bracha for him. The Rebbe’s answer was, “Refua shleima, I will mention it at the tziyun.” On Lag B’Omer, when the Rebbe traveled to the Ohel, R’ Moshe regained consciousness.

“I saw in this a unique triangle, because the accident occurred as I learned the Alter Rebbe’s teachings; I regained consciousness on Lag B’Omer, Rashbi’s special day, and there was the Rebbe’s bracha, thanks to which I recovered.”

After he recovered, R’ Yitzchok Goldberg, rosh yeshiva of Tomchei T’mimim and shliach in Migdal HaEmek, asked that he join their staff at the elementary school. R’ Moshe made his acceptance conditional on a bracha from the Rebbe. He requested and received the Rebbe’s bracha, and every year in chinuch was better than the one before. He chose the first grade and has been a first grade teacher for over thirty years.

In 5746, he asked the Rebbe about his military service. A lot was invested into his specialized training, which is why he was often called to do reserve duty; but this interfered with his teaching. His question was whether it was proper to serve in the reserves or should he try to get out of it and focus on his teaching job. The Rebbe’s answer was in the title that the Rebbe addressed him by in the letter that he received on the birth of his son (see picture) in which the Rebbe added the words, “melachto meleches Shamayim” (his work is the work of heaven). Right after receiving that letter, he received an exemption from serving in the reserves, which was most unusual.

DO ALL THAT YOU CAN

“After the sicha of 28 Nissan, in which the Rebbe demanded that the Chassidim do all that they could to bring about the coming of Moshiach, I realized we need to roll up our sleeves and start thinking out of the box. I saw that we had to do something we had not done before, something that would have no comparison to what we had already done.”

That is how R’ Moshe Bardugo of Migdal HaEmek describes his thinking after the famous sicha, not that beforehand his life was ordinary and routine. His life story until 5751 could easily have been shared by several people.

“I felt that we needed something that was ‘lights of Tohu.’ Something incomparable to what we did previously.”

He began making house calls to immigrants from Russia who came en masse after the gates were opened. “Not that I speak Russian,” he says with a grin.

The results were fairly immediate. A huge wedding for fourteen older couples who were marrying according to Jewish law was just the beginning of his work. The weddings created a media sensation and were even broadcast in the media with great fanfare while emphasizing the great work of Chabad.

“After the sichos that followed 28 Nissan, in which the Rebbe urged the Chassidim to bring about the hisgalus, I decided to take another step further and speak with people about the Besuras HaGeula in house calls. Many committed to additional mitzvos to hasten the Geula. Every evening for an entire year, I made house calls together with my friend Moshe Zalmanov. Of course, I reported to the Rebbe about everything we did and received many encouraging responses.”

REACHING THE OUTSIDE

“At the end of 5751, when I traveled to Tel Aviv, I saw a billboard that said, ‘Hichonu L’Bias HaMoshiach’ (Get ready for the coming of Moshiach) over the main highway. Back then, all the publicity in Eretz Yisroel about Inyanei Geula amounted to a few signs. I saw this sign and realized there was enormous potential for publicity on the houses of my city, Migdal HaEmek. When I returned home, I began to make huge ‘Hichonu’ signs by hand with my wife, and we hung them all around the city.

“We hung twenty-eight signs which corresponded to 28 Nissan (I did not consider then that ‘Yechi’ is twenty-eight). I took pictures of all the signs and made an album out of them to give to the Rebbe. When I flew to the Rebbe for Yud Shvat 5752, I showed the album to R’ Yaakov Lebenhartz on the plane. He loved it and wanted to go with me to present it to the Rebbe. I later realized that it was all by Divine Providence that I showed him the album.

“When I passed by the Rebbe for dollars, I presented the album on which was written, on the binding, ‘Migdal HaEmek Awaits the Hisgalus of Moshiach.’ I said to the Rebbe that Migdal HaEmek is waiting for the hisgalus. The Rebbe looked at the album and said, ‘Amen, besuros tovos,’ and gave me three dollars.

“A few days later, R’ Yaakov met me and told me the following astonishing story. When the Rebbe went to the Ohel after giving out dollars that day, they had all the people who were in the Ohel leave before the Rebbe went to his special room. R’ Yaakov managed to stay, together with another ten people, and he watched the Rebbe as he read the pidyonei nefesh and letters. When the Rebbe got up to the album, he looked at each page and examined every picture and then put a rubber band around the pages and brought them back to 770!

“Of course, I was very excited to hear this and I asked permission to publicize this in R’ Yaakov’s name. At first he refused because he had been in the Ohel when he wasn’t supposed to be there, but when I told him that it was important to make a big deal about publicity, he agreed and it was repeated in his name.”

For the rest of 5752, R’ Moshe continued with many activities to spread the Besuras HaGeula. He recorded about thirty sayings about the Geula and the preparations necessary to make it happen, and incorporated them into songs about Moshiach. When it was finished, he sent a copy to the Rebbe and was told, “Bracha V’hatzlacha.” He has been playing this recording from a loudspeaker on his car for twenty-four years now (see sidebar).

As for the people who hear it, he says, “Not only does it not bother them, but people who are not Chabad come over to me and ask me to drive in their Hachnasas Sifrei Torah processions. Of course, I tell them that my music is Moshiach, Moshiach, but that doesn’t bother them.

“I placed a six-meter-high billboard at the entrance to the city which reads, ‘In Migdal HaEmek we are preparing to welcome Moshiach with more mitzvos and good deeds’ with a picture of the Rebbe, of course. The sign was put up without any permits and has been there for ten years.

“One day, I was informed that the sign was removed. I went to R’ Boruch Abisrur, deputy director of Chabad in the city who is very friendly with the mayor, Eli Barda. After he reported to the mayor, the mayor said that not only was permission granted to put up a new sign, but he himself would put it up and would pay for the cost of the sign. And the sign is there till today, set up by the mayor himself. At the inauguration of the new sign, I told the mayor that it seems that it all happened so he would be the one to hang up the sign.”

THE ACTIVITIES GO UP A NOTCH

After the extraordinary encouragement of the singing of Yechi at the beginning of 5753, R’ Moshe felt the time had come to publicize the identity of the Goel. “I prepared huge signs which said ‘Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed’ with the Rebbe’s picture in the center, and I began hanging them around town.

“After hanging up four signs, R’ Goldberg called me and told me to stop. When I asked why, he said that any drastic change like this, going from publicizing the Besuras HaGeula to the identity of Moshiach, required the Rebbe’s approval.

“I called R’ Leibel Groner and asked him to ask the Rebbe, but R’ Groner refused, saying that due to the situation, only questions of pikuach nefesh were being submitted. I protested and maintained that something so important, having to do with the redemption of all the Jewish people, is pikuach nefesh. But R’ Groner pushed me off.

“In the meantime, I continued making signs. Every night, I would work for hours and produce another sign. I stored the dozens of signs I made at home and waited for the Rebbe’s approval.

“One day, I asked R’ YY Segal from the yeshiva to call the secretaries and demand, in the name of the k’hilla in Migdal HaEmek, that the question be submitted to the Rebbe. R’ Segal agreed and called the Rebbe’s office. His brother-in-law, R’ Yisroel Levin, answered, and the question was submitted to the Rebbe.

“At seven in the morning, R’ Shlomo Segal, shliach in Afula, who had been in charge of conveying answers from the Rebbe in the north of Eretz Yisroel, told me that there was a response. The Rebbe had responded with ‘Bracha V’hatzlacha’ to the signs with Yechi and the Rebbe’s picture! Obviously, after this answer, we hung up all the signs.

“I remember an interesting incident from this campaign. After we hung up all the signs, twenty-eight of them (at this point I had ‘Yechi’ in mind), R’ Goldberg called and asked, ‘What about a sign for my house?’ I told him that we purposely made twenty-eight signs and if we made one for him, it would no longer be ‘Yechi’ signs. He said the Rebbe had no problem with twenty-eight plus one sign. Naturally, I couldn’t refuse. I was very happy that I merited to be instrumental in such an important thing that had been done with the Rebbe’s consent and blessing. It was a clear indication as to how important it was to take action with the agreement of the Rebbe’s shluchim.

“By Divine Providence, right after the conversation with R’ Goldberg, someone called and asked me (for shalom bayis reasons) to remove the sign from his house. So I had a sign to give R’ Goldberg, the twenty-eighth one.

“We took pictures of these signs too and made an even nicer album than the first one. I flew to the Rebbe for Yud Shvat again and brought the album with me. I submitted it to the Rebbe through the secretary, R’ Binyamin Klein, and was told that the Rebbe went through every page and nodded his head affirmatively. According to R’ Klein, it pleased the Rebbe and the Rebbe even had a bottle of mashke sent for me, which was rare at that time. Of course, this gave a big push to everything associated with publicizing the identity of Moshiach.”

According to R’ Moshe, the secret to his success has to do with the fact that all his activities are done with the full cooperation of the Rebbe’s shluchim in his city.

“I saw that activities that are done along with the shluchim were successful far beyond what we expected. I think that by doing so, it is fulfilling the Rebbe’s guideline of ‘lights of Tohu in vessels of tikkun’ – doing big things (lights of Tohu) through the local shluchim (vessels of tikkun), and in a way that people can accept it.”

ILLUMINATED “BORUCH HABA” SIGNS

Another idea R’ Moshe came up with was illuminated “Boruch Haba Melech HaMoshiach” signs that were hung on hundreds of homes all over the country.

“It started because I felt it was time to refresh the publicity and to light up the dark streets. I asked bachurim from the yeshiva to come and help me after s’darim. We made more than a thousand of these signs, ready to hang up, for only the cost of the materials. I gave it up after eight years when R’ Yaron Bar Zohar replaced me in distributing these signs.”

THE DIRECT APPROACH

In 5756, R’ Moshe began arranging a Moshiach shiur for men every Motzaei Shabbos and for women on Wednesday night. These shiurim are still ongoing.

“It’s a shiur with a Melaveh Malka meal. The shiur is given by rabbanim from Chabad communities. I prepare source sheets with excerpts from sichos, and Boruch Hashem the shiur is very interesting. At every shiur I pour l’chaim from the bottle I received from the Rebbe in 5753.”

When you consider the wide-ranging work of this man, you have to be impressed by the ability of one person to transform his environment. We asked R’ Moshe what motivates him in all his activities and he said:

“Aside from the sicha of 28 Nissan and the sichos that followed it, I always think of what the Rebbe wrote to the shluchim of Migdal HaEmek (it appears in Likkutei Sichos Volume 14, p. 338) that by going out of the limitations of Migdal HaEmek, all of Eretz Yisroel will go out of its limitations to the true and complete Geula. In a footnote there, the Rebbe notes what it says in the Zohar that Moshiach will be revealed in the Galil, so that from Migdal HaEmek the light of Moshiach will go forth.”

THOSE WHO MOCK THE FOOTSTEPS OF YOUR ANOINTED ONE

When we spoke with R’ Moshe about his recording which he plays on his loudspeaker as he drives around Migdal HaEmek and all over the country, we had to know whether he ever encountered opposition. His response was unequivocal, “No, except for one time.

“When I started going around with a loudspeaker, someone came over to me and demanded that I not pass his house and his entire street with music and announcements. Since the man seemed a bit threatening, I did not want to start up with him and I stopped passing by his area.

“About a month later, as I was driving around with the music blasting, I saw him standing at a bus stop. He came over to my car and began knocking on the window. I did not want more threats, which is why I did not open it but he continued to knock.

“Finally, when I opened the window, he said, ‘I have to do t’shuva, I have to do t’shuva.’ I tried to figure out what he was talking about and he told me that over the previous month, from the day that he tried to undermine the Geula proclamations, he was nearly run over three times, and all in one month!

“He was so frightened that he said, ‘You must continue driving all around with your car. I won’t bother you.’”

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