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Thursday
Nov142013

WHEN CHAPTER SIX OF TANYA BEGAN AFFECTING THE LEFTIST WRITER

Avigdor Hameiri (1885-1970), a celebrated writer who was identified with the Leftist camp, became friendly with R’ Meir Blizinsky. As a result of this relationship, he had yechidus with the Rebbe and even began learning Tanya. However, when he finished learning chapter six, he wanted to stop learning since he began to feel the effect of Tanya in his life. * Presented for the upcoming Rosh HaShana L’Chassidus, the Chag HaGeula of the Baal HaTanya.

THE IMPACT OF TANYA

Erev Yom Kippur 5721/1960: When R’ Meir Blizinsky, the great Chassid and baal mochin, went to the mikva after davening Mincha, he suddenly remembered that in some of the Rebbe’s recent letters, he was asked again and again about Mr. Avigdor Hameiri, a famous writer at the time.

R’ Meir Blizinsky had been in touch with Hameiri for a long time already and they were friendly. Although Yom Kippur was a few hours hence, R’ Meir decided to go to Hameiri’s house; both of them lived in Ramat Gan.

Hameiri welcomed him warmly, and R’ Meir told him an inyan in Chassidus which Hameiri enjoyed very much. “Where do you hear such things?” he wondered. R’ Blizinsky told him that this is discussed in Tanya.

“Then I want to learn this book!” said Hameiri, surprising R’ Meir, for he was a writer who strongly identified with the Left and was known for his heretical ideas. In his books, he even mocked religion, and now he wanted to learn Tanya!

R’ Blizinsky promised that the following night, Motzaei Yom Kippur, he would visit again and they would begin learning Tanya. They began the next night. In the first lesson, they learned the first chapter of Tanya, about how the soul takes an oath to be a tzaddik and not a rasha. The next day, they continued with the second chapter, with R’ Meir explaining each point in depth. Every evening they learned together, until they reached the sixth chapter.

When it was time for the seventh shiur, Hameiri bowed out without saying why. When R’ Blizinsky went to his house anyway, he asked Hameiri whether maybe he changed his mind and would learn. Hameiri answered cleverly, “Max Nordau once said that you shouldn’t ask someone over 65 to change his opinions.” He meant himself, for he had already turned 75 and the municipality of Tel Aviv had even held a celebration in his honor.

“I’m not asking you to change completely,” said R’ Meir, who was astounded by how Hameiri had already experienced a shakeup in his heart and soul.

In later years, R’ Blizinsky said that the first six chapters of Tanya had already had an effect and as a result, Hameiri changed his heretical views to the point that he was able to submit to the Rebbe’s wishes.

OVER 100 BOOKS

Avigdor Hameiri (originally Feuerstein) was a writer and poet who learned Chassidus in his later years and was in contact with the Rebbe.

He was born in Hungary in 5646. He was orphaned of his mother at a young age and was raised by his grandfather who taught him Hebrew and Tanach. When he grew older, he learned in the yeshiva named for the Chasam Sofer in Pressburg, Czechoslovakia. However, he later left the path of Torah and mitzvos and became a writer. He quickly became an internationally recognized and esteemed writer.

He was twenty when his first Hebrew poem was published. Later, his poems were published in various publications.

In the First World War, he enlisted in the Austrian-Hungarian army and was taken captive by the Russians. He was sent to a labor camp in Siberia where he suffered greatly. After a prisoner exchange he was released and he went to Odessa where he began publishing articles and poems in Hebrew language newspapers. He made aliya in 5681/1921, and he wrote for the daily newspapers. He published the State’s first independent newspaper and helped to organize the worker’s bank.

Over the years, Hameiri wrote over one hundred books. Many of them were best sellers. In 1968 Hameiri was awarded the Israel Prize for literature.

Hameiri always wrote what he thought. He wrote a lot about his religious past as well as his suffering as a Jewish soldier in a foreign army and then as a POW in a Siberian camp.

For a few years, he belonged to the Right, but then he changed his views and moved to the Left. Most of his books and poems contain Leftist, anti-religious sentiments. He was famous for his sharp and histrionic writing. He would often attack the rabbinic-religious establishment and wrote against the religious galus Jews.

This is why suggesting that he learn Tanya was a daring move.

HORRIFYING READING

In 1930 he settled in Ramat Gan where he knew R’ Meir Blizinsky, who was mekarev many prominent leaders to Judaism and Chassidus. In 1940, their acquaintance turned into a real friendship which lasted thirty years until his passing in 1970.

They had such a deep friendship that they frequently visited one another’s homes. R’ Shmuel Blizinsky, R’ Meir’s son, says that Hameiri would regularly come to their house not only on weekdays but also on Shabbos, “in order to taste the Shabbos food” as he put it.

With R’ Meir’s encouragement, Hameiri wrote letters to the Rebbe. He also began sending his books to the Rebbe. When he sent his book, HaMoshiach HaLavan, a book full of heresy and anti-religious incitement, he first received a letter that said his book had arrived. A few weeks later (before Pesach 5713) the Rebbe wrote him the following:

What is most horrifying are the disease and [evil] impulse that manifest in the soul of man, and [especially] as it comes to actual [behavior], and it is known the statement of our Sages on the verse, “for a hanging person is a curse of G-d.” Since man was created in His form and image, the weakness and shamefulness within man impacts even up above.

Some time later, Hameiri went to the US. Before he left, R’ Meir asked him to visit the Rebbe. So that Hameiri would feel obligated to do so, he sent a letter with him for the Rebbe.

Hameiri went to the Rebbe and had a private audience with him. Afterward, he remarked that before walking into the Rebbe’s room, he had imagined the Rebbe as a great king surrounded by servants. How surprised he was when he saw the Rebbe, “who is not just a king but also a servant who toils and labors and whose time is so precious that every minute is important to him.”

When he entered for yechidus, he did not imagine that the meeting would take so long, an hour and a half. The Rebbe spoke to him about various things and asked him what he provides the youth as far as Judaism is concerned, even though he was not religious.

Hameiri was very confounded by this question and had no answer. The Rebbe helped him by saying that he did not have to give him an answer on the spot but could respond after he returned home.

When the Rebbe asked him about his book, HaMoshiach HaLavan, and showed that he was quite familiar with its contents, Hameiri marveled that the Rebbe was knowledgeable about his books when they were not in line with religious thinking and even opposed the religious-rabbinic establishment. He asked the Rebbe when he had the time to read books like these. The Rebbe said, “Time is something that has no limits.” 

17 of Hameiri’s books are in the Rebbe’s library.

POWER OF INFLUENCE

He returned to Eretz Yisroel by ship. While on the way, he sent a letter to R’ Blizinsky asking that R’ Meir visit him as soon as he arrived since he had a lot of news to tell him.

When R’ Meir arrived at his house, Hameiri told him about the yechidus with the Rebbe and mainly discussed the question that the Rebbe had asked him about what he provided for the youth. This question bothered him for months. More than once, he asked R’ Meir what he should answer, but R’ Meir told him that it was a personal matter and only he could respond.

Hameiri continued writing to the Rebbe. When his health deteriorated, he asked the Rebbe for a bracha. The Rebbe responded in a letter dated 20 Iyar 5716 in which he said he was sorry to hear about his poor health. Then the Rebbe quoted the aphorism of the Baal Shem Tov that Ahavas Yisroel is even for a Jew one has never met. After this introduction, the Rebbe wrote:

All the more so for someone whom Divine Providence granted the power of influence in his immediate and even distant environment, such that every improvement in your material and spiritual state causes and leads to an improvement in general in all those who are influenced by you … Therefore, I firmly hope that by the time you receive my letter, your health will have already improved and G-d who sees the heart recognizes the resolution to change in those matters we discussed when you visited here and I also alluded to them in my letter to you. [Apparently, the Rebbe is referring to his question about his influence on the youth.] This will increase the blessing of the Healer of all flesh, and your recovery will be a quick one. I await good news and conclude with wishes for good health, physically and spiritually.

Half a year later, in Tishrei 5717, the Rebbe sent him wine from the farbrengen with R’ Shmuel Blizinsky.

THE REBBE’S BRACHA FULFILLED

The great influence that Hameiri had in those days gave R’ Meir the added impetus to be mekarev him. The Rebbe constantly encouraged R’ Meir to continue working with him.

In a letter that R’ Blizinsky received after Pesach 5717, the Rebbe included a General Letter for Pesach so he could pass it along to Hameiri. The Rebbe explained that although Pesach had passed, the Rebbe Rayatz says that Chassidim don’t say “Chasal Siddur Pesach” since Pesach continues all year. The Rebbe wrote that if Hameiri did not understand this explanation, R’ Blizinsky should explain it to him.

At the end of the letter, the Rebbe made a special request, that Hameiri be a rising flame: 

May you succeed in blowing the G-dly spark in him until it becomes a flame that rises of its own accord, as Chazal say this is the goal of raising up the lights.

Then the Rebbe asked R’ Blizinsky to start learning Tanya with Hameiri.

A short while after he began learning Tanya, Hameiri became partially paralyzed and could not speak. He asked his wife to write to the Rebbe about his condition and to pray for him. His wife asked R’ Blizinsky to do this, and R’ Meir wrote to the Rebbe about Hameiri’s poor state of health.

The Rebbe’s bracha was fulfilled a short time later; although he was already 75, his speech was restored and he recovered and lived a number of years more.

He passed away in Adar II 5730, having, to a great extent, done t’shuva.

 

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