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Wednesday
Feb042015

THE HAPPIEST MOMENT IN THE REBBETZIN’S LIFE

One of the widespread problems of our generation is the problem of concentration and attention. The commotion, even turmoil, of life, constantly distracts us.

This problem has been highlighted as regards to children and in recent years, more and more adults are being tested for attention and concentration problems. The truth is that we all have areas in which we experience attention deficits to some extent or another.

Life is so intense and fast-moving and there is so much technological distraction that it is hard, very hard, nowadays, to remain focused. But even in these challenging times, we need to concentrate our energy and focus. Chabad demands p’nimius. Chitzon is a derogatory term to Chassidim. The Rebbe Rayatz once said: “A p’nimi is someone who grasps everything well, laid out on a solid foundation and adapts perfectly all of his soul faculties.”

THE PROPER WAY TO PREPARE

They tell about the Chassidim of the Rebbe Rashab that they were once sitting at the Rebbe’s farbrengen and between a sicha and a maamer they sang the Niggun Hachana. But they sang it quickly, figuring that the sooner they finished singing it, the sooner they would hear the maamer. Not a bad Chassidic idea.

But the Rebbe wasn’t pleased by this and he expressed his dissatisfaction to his son, later to become the Rebbe Rayatz, who was then the acting dean of the yeshiva. The Rebbe said this was the behavior of a chitzon. A Chassid p’nimi needs to be completely involved in whatever he is doing at the moment, without thinking ahead to the next minute. Now they are singing, so all attention and energy needs to be focused on the niggun.

This is a fundamental idea for chinuch. A person must accustom himself to be completely involved in whatever he is doing and not have his mind wander afield.

This is much harder in our generation when the external disturbances and enticements are much greater than in previous generations. How many times has it happened that we were davening and our thoughts wandered, or even, l’havdil, when talking to a friend, have we glanced around, distracted by things going on around us?

A Chassidishe askan once complained to the Rebbe that he could not find time to learn because when he finally sat down to learn, he was constantly disturbed with phone calls and his mind was constantly occupied by askanus.

The Rebbe gave him a tip which contains a deep idea that is worth adopting. When you sit and learn, said the Rebbe, treat the phone and the like as though it is Shabbos!

Meaning, when you sit and learn forget about your askanus and put all your energy into learning. The askanus can wait. Nothing is running away.

Aside from the practical advice which is brilliant in its simplicity, an idea that helps neutralize all the outside disturbances and gets us focused on what is truly important, there is something deep here.

Shabbos is a model that teaches us how to concentrate, how to be a p’nimi. Shabbos is a quiet, serene island of normalcy within all the cascading turbulence of material life. Each week, Shabbos anchors us once again.

All the customs of Shabbos, and especially the halachos, teach us to neutralize and remove all those things which, during the rush of daily life, move us away from the center point of our lives, and get us to focus on that which is truly important. The spirit of Shabbos needs to be extended over the rest of the week.

A TRUE P’NIMIS

Speaking of being a p’nimi, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka comes to mind. People who had the privilege of visiting with her spoke highly of her warm hospitality in which the Rebbetzin gave her guests the feeling that they were the most important thing at that time. This was a feeling which was expressed in every aspect of her hosting, starting with the refreshments that were graciously served with forethought, and ending with the attention given the guests, in talking to them, in really listening, in empathizing, in identifying with them.

When the Rebbetzin spoke with someone, she was fully present.

Dr. Weiss, the cardiologist who was called from Chicago to treat the Rebbe after the heart attack in 1977, said, “When I arrived, the Rebbetzin welcomed me. She insisted that before seeing the Rebbe I make kiddush and eat something. I said I had come to treat the Rebbe. She replied, ‘Your colleague, Dr. Tishholtz is with the Rebbe now and everything is under control. Please, first make kiddush and then eat something and only then go and see the Rebbe.’

“Having no choice, I agreed. That was my first encounter with Rebbetzin Schneersohn, the remarkable, courteous wife of the Rebbe, who always treated me with concern and care.

“I could immediately see that this was a unique personality possessed of outstanding qualities; she treated her role as hostess with great seriousness.

“In addition to the three secretaries of the Rebbe who updated me on the Rebbe’s condition, my closest ally was the Rebbetzin. We spoke nearly every night so I could get an update on the Rebbe’s condition as this was in the days before the direct flow of information in the Internet era. She was such a wise woman, so perceptive, so that I always knew what was happening with the Rebbe.

“At the same time, the Rebbetzin had a good grasp of what was happening on the other end of the phone. She almost always knew what the results of the last Cubs game was. She knew that I was an ardent fan of the Cubs and she could tell when they won or lost; she was able to read me from the other end of the phone.

“The Rebbetzin loved the Rebbe with all her heart and the Rebbe was bonded to the Rebbetzin with all his heart.

“The Rebbe constantly expressed his concern and care for the Rebbetzin. He would always tell me after every visit, please go to the Rebbetzin and reassure her that everything is fine. She is always so worried.

“The Rebbetzin felt enormous admiration and respect for the Rebbe and the Rebbe greatly valued the time he spent drinking tea with the Rebbetzin. He once told me that he considered their daily drinking of tea together as vital as putting on t’fillin and he meant it! The Rebbetzin was very dear to him.”

***

That was our Rebbetzin, perceptive, modest, wise, and p’nimius’dik, completely focused on whatever she was doing with seriousness, responsibility, and caring.

They once asked the Rebbetzin, “What was the happiest moment of your life?” and the Rebbetzin responded, “This moment is the happiest moment.”

That is the answer of a p’nimi, someone who lives in the moment with full chayus and intensity, with the understanding, and beyond that, the internalization, that this is the happiest and most significant moment. To really be in the here and now is a very high level. May we all merit to attain many such happy moments in our lives.

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