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Tuesday
Jan232018

SAVED BY THE REBBE RAYATZ WITH A WAVE OF HIS HOLY HAND

PART I

It was shortly before World War II. In Warsaw, capital of Poland, there was a veritable Jewish kingdom, blessed with many Chassidic streams and courts. These groups counted tens of thousands of Chassidim, including prodigious Torah giants, budding Torah scholars and those who revered them.

In those days, a Lubavitcher Chassid, a businessman by the name of R’ Zalman Shmotkin, lived in Warsaw. Every afternoon he would make his way from the business center and go to a yeshiva that was located nearby. There, he would daven Mincha which was followed by hours of in-depth Torah study, entering into learned discussions with the talmidim of the yeshiva, especially with the sharpest minds among them.

One day, one of the top bachurim, an ilui by the name of Meir, said, “Why don’t you teach us Chassidus? You are a Chabad Chassid and it would be fitting to arrange a shiur in Chassidus.”

R’ Zalman looked at the young, serious face of the bachur. The honesty and innocence with which he said this touched his heart and he accepted the complaint positively. On the spot, it was decided that there would be a daily Tanya shiur.

For several weeks, R’ Zalman diligently delivered the shiur. Every day, additional curious talmidim joined the shiur. They were drawn in upon hearing R’ Zalman’s erudite explanations and they quickly became regulars. The best bachurim and iluyim attended the shiur.

Over time, their love for R’ Zalman grew by leaps and bounds, and they longed to hear his explanations of Chassidus. Within a short time, they even began consulting with him regarding their Torah and Chassidic conduct. His wise counsel, which was suffused with Chassidic feeling, was their guiding light.

The Chassidic atmosphere in yeshiva was becoming transformed. Chabad customs began to appear in the conduct of the students, and their hearts were impassioned by the wellsprings of Chassidus. This made R’ Zalman very happy, for he saw his influence having good results.

The Admur who presided over the yeshiva, however, found it hard to make his peace with the fact that his best students were ardent participants in the shiur. He could see that their hearts were not with him, and this greatly disturbed him.

PART II

It was a spring day before Pesach when R’ Zalman arrived, as usual, at the yeshiva. He had just walked in when one of the staff told him the rosh yeshiva wanted to speak to him. R’ Zalman went off to the rosh yeshiva’s office.

“We know about the Tanya shiur you give here every day,” he began directly. “As you’ve noticed, since you’ve come here, a change has taken place and many of the outstanding students are turning toward the path of Chabad.”

The rosh yeshiva spoke openly. “Although we respect Chabad Chassidus, we do not agree with them, and our way is different. Therefore, I got instructions from the Admur not to allow you to give the shiur in our yeshiva.”

R’ Zalman nodded and waited to see how things would turn out.

***

On Shvii shel Pesach, a group of talmidim, mushpaim of R’ Zalman, gathered in his home for the Moshiach’s Seuda. Suddenly, the look on R’ Zalman’s face changed and it was obvious that some secret was bothering him. After a few moments, he told them about the loaded conversation with the rosh yeshiva and his unilateral decision. R’ Zalman sighed and said, “So I won’t be able to give a shiur in the yeshiva anymore.” The talmidim looked greatly disappointed.

They said, “If we have it somewhere else, not in the yeshiva, nobody can tell us what to do. Once we’ve discovered Chassidus, we cannot forgo it. Without Toras Ha’chassidus we cannot live!”

Having no choice, they decided to move the shiur to one of the apartments near the yeshiva. A few bachurim from the yeshiva joined the shiur and the shiur soon became a draw for many talmidim.

When the Admur, leader of the Chassidic community under whose auspices the yeshiva operated, learned of this, he placed a ban on these talmidim and forbade their parents from meeting with them until they repented their ways. They became outcasts in the community and were not even allowed to join a minyan.

Due to the harsh events, R’ Zalman was forced to turn the shiur into a full-fledged yeshiva program, and to move the yeshiva somewhere else, far from the local community.

The bachurim felt terrible. They were isolated and they feared the Admur’s anger, which was known to be harmful. Nevertheless, they did not refrain from joining the new yeshiva and, mainly, the new path.

PART III

After a few months, the brother of Meir, leader of the “rebels,” showed up at the new location of the yeshiva. He told his brother that the Admur said he wanted to see him after Mincha. The ilui Meir did not agree with the approach of the Admur, though this did not affect his esteem for him as a Torah scholar and holy leader.

He tensely walked to the Admur’s room, imagining what might happen in this encounter. “One thing is for sure,” he thought, “I am continuing on this path that was revealed to me.”

There he was, facing the Admur, looking at him with abashed eyes. The Admur’s voice was soothing.

“What are you learning now?” he asked gently.

“We are learning the maamer ‘V’hiskadishtem,’ in Likkutei Torah of the Alter Rebbe.” Meir began to review for him the content of the maamer with great enthusiasm, as his upper body swayed in excitement and his thumb cut through the air.

When he finished, the Admur looked impressed by the depth of the maamer, but not by the derech … Meir tried to explain the new path, his motives, the yearning to rise and be raised upward on the true path, but the Admur remained unconvinced. At some point, the name of the Rebbe Rayatz was mentioned, and the Admur responded with a sharp statement.

The shocked bachur could not tolerate it any longer, and he ran out.

PART IV

The day after the painful conversation with the Admur, Meir began to feel a terrible weakness spreading throughout his entire body. He became ill and his body temperature began to rise. It quickly became clear that he had come down with malaria, and he was hospitalized.

His mother, who had avoided visiting him due to the prohibition placed upon the parents by the Admur, turned to him with a request to bless her son to recover from his illness. The answer of the Admur shocked her:

“His behavior caused this,” said the Admur sharply. “To the extent that he continues his rebellious stand, he will die within two days.”

The sharp arrows of the Admur pierced the pained heart of the mother, and she was terrified. She hurried to the hospital and requested to be allowed to visit her son who was confined to his bed, barely able to move his limbs. She knew that this meeting was portentous, and she did all that she could to plead with her son and convince him to return to the yeshiva and the spiritual path of the Admur. The heartrending cries of his mother affected Meir deeply and troubled his conscience.

After endless pleadings, he said to her with great emotion, “Mama, give me two hours to think about it.”

The mother looked silently at her son, nodding her head slightly. She felt that there was some hope. After two hours of tense waiting, she returned to his bedside and leaned in towards him, as if begging to hear the words that she so wanted to hear.

“After I already know the truth,” he said passionately, “I am determined to continue on this path of mine. And if, perish the thought, the price of the truth is a death decree, it makes no difference to me. I will not concede!” he concluded steadfastly, to the sound of his mother crying hysterically.

After that, all of her pleas fell upon a stubborn heart, which refused to reconsider his decision, although he felt his own heart breaking over the sound of his mother’s cries of suffering.

A full day passed and Meir’s condition worsened. His suffering grew more intense, and the pain attacked him relentlessly.

PART V

All of this was taking place during the High Holidays period. The word of the arrival of the Rebbe Rayatz to Warsaw was making the rounds, and the word reached the ears of Meir’s friends who feared the worst for him. After consulting with R’ Zalman Shmotkin, two of them went to the Rebbe to ask for his blessing.

When they were granted entry to the Rebbe, they presented their request and broke down crying. The Rebbe, almost as if he was ignoring them, looked off into some unseen distance and became engrossed in his thoughts. Suddenly, the Rebbe gave a dismissive wave of his hand, and with a slight smile on his face indicated that the yechidus was over.

The two had no idea as to the significance of the Rebbe’s hand motion, and so returned home despondently, broken and shattered.

After returning home, the two went fearfully to visit Meir in the hospital. Upon entering his room, they could not believe their eyes. Meir, who before their trip was unable to move his shriveled body, had suddenly been revived. After two days, he was already back to full strength and his face was glowing…

PART VI

Meir – Reb Meir Blizinsky – ended up developing into one of the outstanding Chassidim of his generation. His name is exalted in high praise by his hundreds of students and people who were influenced by him. They received and absorbed so much from his Chassidic cleverness, his prodigious elucidation skills, along with his fear of G-d and refined character which were so integral to his personality.

The protagonist of the story recounted the details at the 12-13 Tammuz farbrengen in the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, in the presence of R’ Mendel Futerfas.

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