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Thursday
Oct112018

THE CHASSIDISHE BOOSTER SHOT

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

There is a famous Chassidic story regarding the power of a farbrengen. After the Mezritcher Maggid passed away, the Alter Rebbe became a Chassid of R’ Menachem Mendel of Horodok. On one occasion, the disciples of R’ Menachem Mendel were sitting in Horodok farbrenging, and the Alter Rebbe was present. After speaking words of Torah, they began discussing various holy matters, while drinking spirits. In the middle of the farbrengen, one of the Chassidim stood up. This individual, lo aleinu, suffered a great deal from bad health, and the doctors could not help him. He began to cry, requesting of the other Chassidim to bless him with a complete recovery.

One of the Chassidim began to jest, “As if we have the power to give such blessings! How could you suggest such a silly idea?” Others complained that he was placing too much faith in simple people, for blessings can only be given by individuals of unique stature, by the righteous of the generation. But this did not quiet the Chassid. He continued to beg the Chassidim to bless him, pleading from his heart, with tears flowing from his eyes. Seeing this, the Chassidim started to sing a niggun, hoping that this would calm him.

“Quiet!” shouted the Alter Rebbe, stopping the niggun abruptly. Even the weeping Chassid stopped sobbing. “Brothers and friends,” announced the Alter Rebbe, “have you forgotten the teaching that the decrees of holy angels can be annulled by the students of our holy Rebbe? Dos vos es ken oiftaun a Chassidishe farbrengen ken malach Michoel nit oiftaun – what a Chassidic farbrengen can accomplish cannot even be accomplished by the Angel Michoel!”

As all those present were reminded of the teaching, they became inflamed with a fire of brotherly love, and they blessed their fellow Chassid with a complete recovery. On that occasion, the Alter Rebbe explained the concept with an analogy. Children are naturally possessive of their own belongings, and they defend their own property from other children, in a display of selfish character traits. They do not care about others and worry only about their own possessions. This is a source of distress to their father. Therefore, the father hires an educator to train the children with good traits. After a period of time, the father watches his children again and sees them caring for each other, which gives him tremendous pleasure. Now he is much more likely to grant any request that the children may have.

There is an fascinating letter of the Frierdike Rebbe (Igros volume 3, page 289) written in 1935, while he was taking medical treatments in the famous Sanatorium Purkersdorf outside of Vienna. The sanatorium was more of a hotel than hospital and turned into a social and artistic venue of Viennese society. Among the treatments provided were mineral baths, physical therapies, therapeutic massages and physiotherapy.

The Frierdike Rebbe describes what happened to him that day: Today, I was visited by the doctors and they wanted to give me an injection through a needle. I watched their careful preparation for this procedure. They cleaned the equipment, as this was days before disposable hypodermic needles were invented, and the doctors washed their hands a few times. They also checked their fingernails to ensure that no dirt was left there. In addition, they sanitized their fingers through putting on strong cleansing liquids. They also washed my feet with alcohol to make sure that there was no dirt there at all.

When I saw how careful they were being with this injection, I asked them: Why do you need to wash my feet again, if I just bathed a little while ago and my body is clean? They answered: It is the law that whenever an injection is given, we most thoroughly wash and sterilize the place where the injection will be given. For there might be some dirt there and if it enters the bloodstream it can – in addition to preventing the medicine from working – bring additional illness to the patient.

The same is true with a Chassidishe farbrengen, continues the Frierdike Rebbe, as it is a “chassidishe injection.” We must make sure that the needle is sterile and the place of the injection is washed. The disinfectant that prepares the drug for injection comprises humility and ahavas Yisroel.

The Frierdike Rebbe finished off (HaYom Yom 24 Tishrei): “Holding public farbrengens in general, but especially on Shabbos or Motzaei Shabbos, is one of the foundations of the path of chassidim and Chassidus. It is a portal to the observance of the fundamental mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel, the obligation to love one’s fellow Jew. In most cases, the main speakers at each farbrengen entreat the participants to fine-tune their conduct and way of life, to fix times for the regular study of Chassidus, and to keep this commitment. Moreover, the subject matter should be studied with the intention of putting it into practice. The concept of admonishment in general and its proper administration are thoroughly explained in the maamer entitled Ve’im ruach hamoshel (Kuntres 30). It is appropriate for every member of the chassidic brotherhood to study that discourse well and to take it to heart. And indeed, admonishment exchanged at a farbrengen should concern matters that cause no trace of embarrassment. This is the way of old — a person would admonish his friend with love and deep affection.”

Dear Chassidim!

Many have observed that, especially in the later years, the Rebbe has pushed for more and more farbrengens. Whether it is celebrating every individual birthday with a farbrengen or bringing back the custom to farbreng on Rosh Chodesh, the Rebbe keeps on encouraging this special chassidishe custom.

While nobody can say that they know “the” reason behind the instructions of the Rebbe, I would like to share a perspective. I will first preface a strong point that I heard from one of the elder Chassidim today, Rabbi Menachem M. Aronov of Toronto.

We were sitting by a farbrengen in the Toronto Yeshiva, and he wanted to explain to the T’mimim about the importance of a farbrengen. He said the following: “When we were in Russia, it was forbidden to congregate and come together for a Minyan. Therefore, on most of the Shabbasim, the Chassidim would daven privately in their homes. The exception was Shabbos Mevarchim. On that Shabbos, the chassidim would get together for the Minyan. The main reason for putting themselves in danger on Shabbos Mevarchim was the farbrengen that would follow the minyan.”

One of the young bachurim asked: “I understand why the Chassidim were not Moser Nefesh for a minyan, but why would the Chassidim be Moser Nefesh for a farbrengen?”

Rabbi Aronov explained: “We could not have survived in Russia without farbrengens. Communism was the reality and we did not see it ending. Chassidim were being persecuted and it is only normal for people to lose hope and give up the battle. This is especially true when the Frierdike Rebbe left Russia and contact with the Rebbe was extremely limited. Alone, we would fall. It is only the chizuk that we received by the farbrengens that kept us going strong.”

This may shed some light on our current situation: We all know that right before the Hisgalus we are facing a tremendous nisayon. The current exile seems to not have an end r”l, and the radiant light and daily inspiration of the Rebbe is not as revealed as in the past. This leads many to feel alone, abandoned and apathetic. It is really hard to keep pushing “Mivtza Moshiach” when deep down we have personal doubts and fears.

This is why farbrengens are so important. We need to strengthen each other and share our struggles with each other. We also need to share our successes and inspirations. We need to share stories of the Rebbe that happened recently to keep the hiskashrus and chayus strong. This is the way that we will be able to overcome this last test of galus. L’chaim friends! Let us all start farbrenging with our friends and communities and the achdus that will be generated from these farbrengens will IY”H be the final deed that will tip the scale to geula now! L’chaim!

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com

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