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Wednesday
Aug092017

THE CORRECTIVE LENSES OF A CHASSID

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh,

This Shabbos Parshas Eikev is 20 Av, the Yahrtzait of the rav and mekubal Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, the father of our Rebbe. In his honor we will discuss the HaYom Yom that the Rebbe prepared for 20 Av 5703, one year before the passing of his father. Everything is B’hashgacha Pratis. Therefore, we will try to learn lessons from this HaYom Yom and connect it to the life and avoda of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.

The Rebbe writes: “The mitzvah of t’fillin […] relates to a specific place on the head, where one feels its weight, and on the arm, where one feels the tightness [of the straps]. Similarly, the mitzvos of loving and fearing G‑d [must be felt physically]. Thus Rambam writes (in Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:1): It is a mitzvah to love and fear this glorious and awesome G‑d, as it is written, ‘And you shall love G‑d your L‑rd,’ and as it is written, ‘You shall fear G‑d your L‑rd.’

“Now, these mitzvos may be considered fulfilled when one experiences them physically, in the very flesh of the heart. [One’s feelings of love for G‑d should have an effect] similar to meeting a faithful friend. [Then] not only does the encounter give him a feeling of well-being, so that he forgets all the matters that bother him, but moreover, inner energy and positive expectations are aroused within him, because of his positive disposition.

“Likewise, with the attribute of fear of G‑d, great fear and dread should possess him, for at that time he will recall his undesirable thoughts, words, and actions, and his heart will feel actual pain from his fear of punishment, his fear of Heaven. On occasion, he will feel awe that leaves him abashed, and sometimes he will even feel an elevating sense of awe of G‑d.”

The beginning of this HaYom Yom of the Yahrtzait of the Rebbe’s father, which compares love and fear of Hashem to the mitzva of t’fillin, is very similar to the content of the HaYom Yom for 22 Teves, which compares the mitzva of t’fillin to chinuch of children. In that HaYom Yom, the Rebbe speaks of the responsibility that parents have to be involved in and think about the chinuch of their children.

In the Rebbe’s words: “My father proclaimed at a farbrengen: Just as wearing t’fillin every day is a mitzva commanded by the Torah to every individual regardless of his standing in Torah, whether deeply learned or simple, so too is it an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the Torah-education of children, and to do everything in his power and beyond his power to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.”

In this HaYom Yom we can see a direct connection to the life and mission of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was the epitome of a Chassid, and this HaYom Yom expresses what a Chassid really is.

In the HaYom Yom of 5 Av (which is also the yahrtzait of the great mekubal, the Arizal), the Rebbe writes:

“‘Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.’ The Baal Shem Tov explained this verse as follows: Every physical thing that is permitted to us contains good and evil. Its material dimension is evil and the Divine vitality that animates it is good. A person who makes use of a physical object must ‘turn away from evil’ and not long for the materialistic pleasure which that object affords. He must also ‘do good’ — desire to be sustained and supported by the Divine life-force that lies within the physical object.

“Moreover, one must ‘seek peace and pursue it’ — a person who ‘turns away from evil and does good’ must actively seek to make peace between physicality and the Divine vitality that sustains it.”

From this HaYom Yom it is clear that at the beginning of our avoda we must learn how to separate ourselves from physical pleasures. This is also explained in HaYom Yom 1 Tammuz: “The [extent of the] self-sacrifice appropriate for Torah scholars is indicated by our Sages’ interpretation of the phrase, ‘If a man dies in a tent.’ The Sages taught that [if one seeks to dedicate himself to the tents of Torah,] he must kill [i.e., eradicate] the desire for all worldly pleasures. For even insignificant worldly pleasures prevent one from being utterly devoted to the tents of Torah study.” However, this same HaYom Yom stresses that the ultimate goal is for the physical body and world to be vessels of expression of the spiritual.

The Rebbe writes in HaYom Yom 29 Adar 2: “My father said at a farbrengen: G-d created the universe and all physical objects Yeish Mei’ayin, something from nothing. Jews must transform the ‘something’ into ‘nothing,’ transform the material into spiritual. The avoda of turning the physical into spiritual and making the physical into an instrument for the spiritual is a personal obligation. Every single person, individually, is required to do this.”

The key to this avoda is to really understand that, at its core, the physical world is also spiritual. Even more than that, the physical world is the vessel for the ultimate spiritual revelation, the revelation of Dira Ba’tachtonim with the coming of Moshiach. This understanding comes from learning the inner part of Torah, Chassidus and Kabbala. By learning the secrets of the Torah, we see the secret in creation.

This is evident from the HaYom Yom of 6 Elul: “The Tzemach Tzedek related that the Baal Shem Tov cherished light exceedingly. Commenting on the word for light in the Holy Tongue, the Baal Shem Tov declared: ‘The word אוֹר (which means ‘light’) is numerically equivalent to רָז (raz, which means ‘secret’). A person who knows the secret within any entity can diffuse light.’”

When one sees the world through the eyes of Chassidus and Kabala, that this world is just a vessel to reveal the existence of Hashem in the world, that perspective will express itself practically in Mesiras Nefesh for Hashem and His Torah. When a person is completely dedicated to Hashem, he doesn’t sit and question if he is supposed to or allowed to sacrifice himself for this specific mitzva or not; rather he stands up for what’s right with total disregard for his personal comfort and safety.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was such a person. His mitzvos of loving and fearing G‑d were felt physically. It was his existence. That is what gave him the strength to stand up to the communist regime. For that he made the ultimate sacrifice, passing away in communist exile in distant Kazakhstan.

It is this connection to Hashem, which knew no barriers between the physical and the spiritual, which gave him the special merit to be the father of the redeemer of Klal Yisroel, the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach. The Gemara (Baba Basra 17a) tells us about Amram the father of Moshe, and similarly Yishai the father of Dovid, that “he was entirely sinless throughout his life, and was rewarded for this by his corpse remaining without any signs of decay.” This means that his physical body was totally permeated with the love and fear of Hashem. Such a person will merit fathering the first redeemer of Klal Yisroel. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, whose Yiddishkait and Ahavas v’Yiras Hashem permeated his existence and expressed itself in true Mesiras Nefesh, merited to be the father of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

In 5751 (Seifer HaSichos 5751, page 761 footnote 98), the Rebbe explained to the Chassidim why his father passed away and is buried in the distant exile of Kazakhstan. It is because through this very low place, the greatest elevation can be reached. The Rebbe adds that this special Ko’ach was given to all those that learn the S’farim and go in the ways of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. This is especially true for those who are involved in spreading Yiddishkait and Chassidus with true Mesiras Nefesh.

In a letter of the Rebbe, dated Motzaei Tisha B’Av 5744 and written to the Talmidei HaShluchim of Casablanca Morocco, the Rebbe writes the following: “I have the personal responsibility and great privilege to request and ask etc. that on 20 Av, the yahrtzait of my father, to learn from his Torah at a farbrengen and to donate to tz’daka in honor of his Neshama.”

From here we see that this day is very personal and special to our Rebbe. Let us all gather together and strengthen each other and our connection to this great Tzaddik and let us all take on hachlatos tovos in his z’chus. Through all this, may we merit the full revelation of his son, the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach!

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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