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Wednesday
Nov072018

THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO BE ALIVE

Dear Reader Sh’yichyeh,

We have entered the Chassidishe month of Kislev. It is a month filled with many Chassidishe Yomim Tovim as well as the Yom Tov of Chanuka. The month starts with Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the day that we celebrate the great miracles and kindness of Hashem for the complete restoration of health to our Rebbe in 5738.

In general, the Seifer of HaYom Yom quotes sayings and behaviors of our holy Rebbeim. There are very few entries in the HaYom Yom where a Chassid is quoted. The exceptions are the greatest Chassidim of yore (Reb Hillel Paritcher, Reb Aizik Homler, Reb Moshe Vilenker etc.), and there is only one Chassid who is mentioned twice: Reb Yekusiel Liepler.

Reb Yekusiel was a salt merchant from Lyeple, was one of the great chassidim of the Alter Rebbe, Mitteler Rebbe, Tzemach Tzedek, and for a short while, the Rebbe Maharash. He was a baal middos and baal hispaalus (full of life). Though a simple man by nature (he even found it difficult to learn Chumash with Rashi), he toiled tremendously until his understanding developed, and the Mitteler Rebbe wrote the seifer Imrei Bina, a profound essay in Chassidus, especially for him.

When Reb Yekusiel came to the Alter Rebbe, he wanted to go directly into Yechidus. The Chassidim told him that in Chabad, Yechidus is prepared for. You cannot just go straight in.

So, Reb Yekusiel jumped onto the Alter Rebbe’s second story porch and exclaimed, “Rebbe! Please chop off my left half!” (Referring to the yetzer hora, which resides in the left side of the heart.) The Alter Rebbe motioned for him to descend from the porch. Reb Yekusiel fasted and entered the Alter Rebbe’s room a little while later as the Alter Rebbe was wearing his Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. The Alter Rebbe leaned his head on his hands, then picking up his head he said in his characteristic sing-song, “Master of the Universe, it is said that you give life to everyone!”

When Reb Yekusiel left the room, he was a new man. From that moment onward, Reb Yekusiel became a different person and his heart opened, for the Alter Rebbe “shined” into his neshama the ability to see Elokus as one sees something physical. This shine of his neshama (which he would refer to as “the chassid”) would come and go and his avoda would vary greatly depending on the current expression of his neshama. If while walking down the street it would start to reveal itself, he would start to dance, exclaiming, “Chassid prishol, the chassid has come!” He would grab whoever stood nearby to dance with him. Once while standing and waiting in the Borisov post office, his neshama began to shine, and he broke out in dance with the gentile post office clerk.

With this in mind, we can fully appreciate the following statement in the HaYom Yom regarding Reb Yekusiel: “There were times when R. Yekusiel Liepler, a chassid of the Alter Rebbe, would daven the morning, afternoon, and evening services one right after the other. There was simply no time for breaks between them.”

On the seventh night of Pesach 5697 (1937), the Rebbe Rayatz related the following story:

During the Tzemach Tzedek’s nesius, guests were not allowed to participate at his s’darim. However, they all received Pesach provisions from the Rebbe, including wine, maror, charoses, and even shmura matza. The Chassid Reb Yekusiel Liepler never had set times for visiting the Rebbe. Instead, he would go to Lubavitch whenever he felt so inspired. One year he decided to go to the Tzemach Tzedek for Pesach. Many guests had come for Pesach that year, and the Rebbe’s assistants distributed the Pesach provisions on the night of b’dikas chametz (only the shmura matza was distributed on Erev Pesach).

Before b’dikas chametz, Reb Yekusiel sat deep in thought. He was known for becoming deeply absorbed in the significance of the chicken for Kaparos a few days before Yom Kippur, and greatly engrossed in the physical and spiritual elements of b’dikas chametz before Pesach.

As he sat there lost in thought, the assistant entered and said, “The Rebbe sent this for you,” handing him a package of the Pesach provisions. Reb Yekusiel was sure that since he was receiving something from the Rebbe now, it indicated that it had some connection with the issue he was occupied in and was probably meant to help him in his b’dika. He took the wine, maror, and charoses, poured it all into a cup and drank it down.

The next night, Reb Yekusiel entered the Tzemach Tzedek’s home in the middle of his seider and said, “Rebbe! I don’t have anything for the seider — no wine, no maror, and no charoses!”

The Rebbe began investigating, questioning R’ Chaim Ber, the assistant, who knew nothing about it. They called Hershel der Shvartzer, the assistant who had delivered the food to the guests, and the Rebbe asked him for his list. R’ Yekusiel was indeed on the list. Hershel der Shvartzer added that he had given Reb Yekusiel the provisions and even remembered where R’ Yekusiel had been sitting at the time. R’ Yekusiel finally recalled what had taken place during b’dikas chametz and said, “Ah, what you brought me from the Rebbe when I had to be bodek chametz… Yes, I received it. It revived me. You saved me.”

The Tzemach Tzedek had R’ Yekusiel join him for the seider, which R’ Yekusiel later said provided him with fifteen years’ worth of avoda.

 To Reb Yekusiel, Avodas Hashem was his entire life. The Rebbe tells us (HaYom Yom 6 Cheshvan): “When the Alter Rebbe wished to bless R. Yekusiel Liepler with wealth, the latter replied that he had no desire for it, lest it interfere with his study of Chassidus and involvement in Divine service. When the Alter Rebbe then sought to bless him with long life, he replied: ‘But not peasant years. Not years of those “who have eyes, but do not see; who have ears, but do not hear” — who neither see nor hear G‑dliness.’”

This HaYom Yom is a tremendous lesson for us, living in the final moments of Galus, right before the complete revelation of Moshiach. At first glance, things seem very good for the Jewish people. There is basically religious freedom for all Jews to serve Hashem and communities are growing all around the world. Kosher food is available everywhere and Torah learning is available to everyone in any language through the World Wide Web. It is very easy to get comfortable and settled in this life.

But we must remember “but not peasant years”; we must never get comfortable with “galus years.” We must remember the words of the Rebbe that without Geula “All that I have done is l’hevel v’larik – a waste!” We must internalize the message of the sicha of Mikeitz 5752 (Ch. 11), where the Rebbe discusses the conversation between Pharaoh and Yaakov Avinu: “And Pharaoh said to Yaakov, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ And Yaakov said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my sojournings are one hundred thirty years. The days of the years of my life have been few and miserable, and they have not reached the days of the years of the lives of my forefathers in the days of their sojournings.’”

The Rebbe asks: Granted that Yaakov felt that he had a hard and miserable life. But how can he say that he only had a few years, when at that point he was already 130 years old? The explanation in brief: Of course, Yaakov lived physically for a long time, but he felt that he did not have quality of life. Why not? Because the Geula had not yet arrived. Yaakov lived with Geula (as is implied by Rashi B’Reishis 30:25), and if the Geula is not here, he is not living full years. This is how we must all feel about the life we have until the Geula.

During this special month of Kislev, when we celebrate the gift of Toras HaChassidus, we need to make sure that we are not satisfied with the past, rather, that we are demanding to see the Hisgalus of the Rebbe and receive the Torah Chadasha of Melech HaMoshiach. We want the time that we will be so connected with Hashem, when we will “daven the morning, afternoon, and evening services one right after the other,” and there will simply be “no time for breaks between them.”

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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