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Jul142014

“WHEREVER YOU GO, I AM WITH YOU”

It happened at the Purim farbrengen in 5730/1970. Numerous Chassidim filled 770. Their eyes were trained on center stage where the Rebbe sat for hours, farbrenging on Purim topics, quoting verses from Megillas Esther and connecting them to the daily avoda of every Jew.

Between sichos, the Rebbe paused and the crowd burst into joyous song. Many raised a cup to say l’chaim to the Rebbe and the Rebbe responded with l’chaim v’livracha.

In the middle of the niggun, the Rebbe suddenly turned around and looked for one of the Chassidim. Within seconds, the Rebbe located him and motioned to him with his fingers to whistle.

To whistle? A street activity at a Chassidishe farbrengen? In the Rebbe’s presence, no less? But the Rebbe himself had motioned to whistle. It was quite clear.

A few seconds passed until the Chassid, R’ Meir Michel Abehsera, put two fingers to his lips and began to whistle. A long whistle at the world and all it represents, for the first time at a Chassidishe farbrengen.

The Chassidim looked on in astonishment but R’ Meir’s whistling soon upped the pace of the song. The Rebbe’s face shone and he continued to encourage the whistling with his hand for a long time. The thousands in the shul danced and sang with tremendous joy.

R’ Meir later related that he had attended that farbrengen along with someone who had plans of converting out, G-d forbid. R’ Meir tried to dissuade him from this awful plan and then figured that better than anything he could say would be for this person to see the Rebbe whose holy fire would do away with these unholy thoughts. The man was present when the first whistling in Lubavitch was heard.

When R’ Meir left at the end of the farbrengen, the man excitedly whispered to him, “I don’t know what happened but I decided to remain a Jew.” R’ Meir had no doubt that this decision came about because of the whistling and that this whistling had the power to change a person’s inner direction and straighten the crookedness in one’s heart.

At the next farbrengen, R’ Meir’s assumption was proven correct when the Rebbe told the following story. A couple went to the Baal Shem Tov, crying over their only son who planned to convert. They asked the Besht whether they should sit Shiva. The Besht said, “No, you don’t need to sit Shiva. Simply love him more.” Time passed and the Besht passed on and the Maggid of Mezritch succeeded him.

At this point, the Rebbe looked up and stared in the direction where R’ Meir stood with his friend and immediately went on: One day, they heard a strong wind blowing in the Maggid’s beis midrash and afterward, the young man walked in and expressed his regret to the Maggid.

This affirmed what R’ Meir thought. From then on, whenever R’ Meir was at a farbrengen, he would get a signal from the Rebbe to whistle. R’ Meir would whistle along with whoever was able to join him. The Chassidim knew that heavenly matters were involved.

Some years later, at a farbrengen on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5736, the Rebbe motioned to whistle. A picture of the Rebbe whistling was published in the Algemeiner Journal. Some Chassidim were mortified by the picture and said it wasn’t respectful. They even wrote angry letters to the editor. 

The Rebbe referred to this at the Purim farbrengen, exactly six years after the first whistling. He spoke at length about it:

As soon as the news about the whistling was publicized, they went about at a loss as to what to do and began whispering to one another: Oy, what shall we do? There was a blunder here … they ordered to whistle and so-and-so is going around and making a tumult that whistling is something connected with, l’havdil, a sheigitz in Russia (as it were) – whereas here they whistled in public and not only that, but they told others to whistle too …

And so: The inyan of whistling has a source in Tanach (an explicit verse in Tanach) and in the Gemara (an explicit sugya in the Gemara) – a Gemara in the tractate Chulin, a Gemara learned in yeshivos and kollelim.

And in our case: During the whistling, Jews were present who, one could see by their faces (without the need to read minds) that from now on they would have additional enthusiasm (in Jewish matters) in fulfilling actual mitzvos (I don’t know whether one mitzva, two or three – a person knows himself). And consequently – in such a case, the Rambam paskens that one needs to act just like Dovid HaMelech who acted (not only in a manner of merely hopping and dancing but) in a way of hopping and dancing with all his might.

In Meseches Chulin it brings what it says in Trei Asar (Zechariah) which explains that when the Geula comes, Hashem Himself will take the Jewish people out of galus. The verse continues to say that the manner in which the Jewish people will be gathered will be “I will whistle to them and gather them,” and the commentaries say that Hashem will whistle to the Jewish people!

Obviously, there is no attempt here to copy Hashem, G-d forbid, but nevertheless, in the Gemara a story is brought of a bird that whistled which is called ruchama, and her whistling raised the possibility that this was a sign of the imminent keitz of the Geula. Some thought it was the whistling spoken of in that pasuk! Until they found out that this bird is a “liar” and its whistling is not the desired whistling. So, for a side reason, it was determined that this was not the real whistling of Hashem. Still, what we learn from this explicit Gemara is that Hashem’s whistling is not a “spiritual whistling,” which will be heard only in the eighth heaven (or the seventh) … but a whistling that our ears will hear, human ears! And also, that this whistling can be heard even from a bird; all the more so from “one of the empty ones,” and all the more so by a Jew!

From this we understand: The statement of the Sages is known that “you should honor the mitzvos for they are my emissaries.” So obviously, there is no reason at all to whistle for one’s pleasure into the air … but when there is a matter which is a simcha shel mitzva, when there is a chance that one of those present will have a “Geula” (along the lines of the Gemara in Chulin) from his yetzer ha’ra (“his yetzer overpowered him”), even if in just one mitzva, then it is a mitzva to whistle concerning a doubt and even a doubt of a doubt, and even for one hundred doubts!

If those explicit words of the Rebbe weren’t enough, the following is a shocking story that R’ Meir told. He said that one time, after a farbrengen, the Rebbe said to Rabbi Yaakov Yehuda Hecht, “Since Meir did not whistle enough today, we lost one Jew.”

A TWO HOUR YECHIDUS

After Shavuos, we heard the sad news of the passing of a Chassid who was an inseparable part of the Rebbe’s farbrengens and kos shel bracha on Motzaei Yom Tov for many years, Rabbi Dr. Meir Michel Abehsera a”h.

R’ Abehsera was born and raised in Morocco, a descendent of the illustrious Abehsera family. In his youth, his family immigrated to Paris where he attended the local high school and then went to university in Strasbourg. He earned degrees in engineering, physics and philosophy. He began working on bridges and highways for the government.

Then he decided to change directions in life and began studying natural medicine. Throughout the years, he observed some basic mitzvos but he slowly became more distant from the Judaism he had grown up with, even though his father was a G-d fearing man who brought many to Torah and mitzvos.

R’ Meir married and moved to the US when he was 29. There he heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe for the first time. A friend told him of a “big rabbi” who lived in Brooklyn. He was surprised to learn that there are tzaddikim in modern Brooklyn and he was very curious about him. Although he was far from a life of Torah and mitzvos, he went to 770. “The Rebbe captivated me immediately,” he said later in an interview to Kfar Chabad. “Just seeing him changed my life from one extreme to another.”

At this time, he continued to develop his knowledge and expertise in natural medicine and he also delved into philosophical questions about the nature of existence and the world.

Upon getting acquainted with the Rebbe and the Chabad movement, he began learning Tanya and maamarei Chassidus and felt that he was discovering additional dimensions to topics that he had delved into over the years. More and more he discovered the One who runs the world as well as the Rebbe’s leadership. “I felt that the relationship forged with the Rebbe was real, deep, and eternal.”

Over time, he merited unusual kiruvim (signs of closeness) from the Rebbe. His first yechidus was in 5730 and it lasted two hours. Most of the time, Abehsera himself spoke about philosophical ideas while the Rebbe sat and listened without interrupting the flow of his words, except for one time … “I had no idea what a Rebbe is. I acted as though I was speaking to any great man and not with the Rebbe. Today I cannot grasp from where I had the nerve to open my mouth before the Rebbe and to speak for so long.”

When he finished his learned dissertation, the Rebbe said, “You have an obligation to be mekarev Jews.” R’ Meir, who had only just begun getting involved in Judaism once again, protested, “But Rebbe, I don’t know anything about Judaism!” 

The Rebbe looked at him and said a few words that rang in R’ Meir’s ears all his life. “Meir, wherever you go, I am with you.”

In that yechidus he asked the Rebbe for permission and his blessing for him to make aliya. The Rebbe declined and said his place is in the US. R’ Meir was surprised and said he did not like life in the US and that he prayed every day that he would be able to make aliya. The Rebbe asked, “How many years are you praying? Ten? I am already praying for seventy years.”

Interestingly, at the same time, his parents visited Eretz Yisroel and saw Baba Sali (R’ Yisroel Abehsera) and asked for his bracha that their son come swiftly to Eretz Yisroel. Baba Sali said, “Meir needs to remain in America near the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

SOLDIER OF THE REBBE

R’ Meir left the yechidus with the Rebbe knowing his life’s task and he was determined to carry it out. Through his work as a renowned natural healer, he reached the hearts and souls of thousands whom he was mekarev to Judaism and Chassidus. He used his encounters with patients to spread the wellsprings. Thousands of ill people who knocked at his door became acquainted with the Rebbe and Judaism through him. He never told patients directly what to do but instilled the belief in the Unity of G-d through the teachings of natural medicine. In every encounter he would guide the patient in the connection between the method of natural healing and the Unity of G-d and the creation.

Over the years, R’ Meir had many other private audiences with the Rebbe. Each time, like a soldier, he reported what he had done until then and received advice and guidance on how to continue. Sometimes, he gave the Rebbe descriptions of people he had been mekarev.

The Rebbe encouraged R’ Meir to write a book about Judaism. For a long time, the Rebbe asked him to devote time to this. Every now and then, R’ Meir would get a phone call from R’ Chadakov asking where he was up to with the book. The Rebbe was involved in every detail in preparing the book for print, including the book’s aesthetics. The Rebbe asked R’ Meir to take a break from his work at the clinic and concentrate on writing the book and the Rebbe supported him financially to make up for the lost patients.

When he sent some questions to the Rebbe regarding his book, the Rebbe referred to it publicly at a farbrengen in R’ Meir’s presence. The Rebbe began with, “There is a Jew who is in the midst of writing a book that will help the world, and instead of hurrying up and publishing the book, he tarries over trivial details. This week, he asked me about some trivial details. You need to know that all these questions come solely from the yetzer ha’ra …”

 

DO IT

One year, Erev Yom Kippur, R’ Meir was asked to deliver a lecture on Jewish topics on a radio program. When he finished the program, he hurried to 770 in order to get a piece of lekach from the Rebbe.

After he passed by the Rebbe and received lekach, the Rebbe called him back and asked him whether the program had been successful. R’ Meir was astounded by this question since he had just done the broadcast and the Rebbe had been giving out lekach at the time, so how did he know? He was so dumbfounded that he could not speak.

The Rebbe did not wait for a reply but immediately asked, “Did you speak about doing mitzvos?”

“Of course.”

“Which mitzvos did you speak about?”

“All the mitzvos.”

“Did you speak about lighting candles?”

“No.”

“About t’fillin?”

“No.”

“Tz’daka?”

“No.”

R’ Meir understood where the Rebbe was going with his questions and told the Rebbe that from now on, he would speak not only about the concept of Torah and mitzvos but also about actually doing them. That is what he did in all his lectures from then on, not sufficing with philosophy but emphasizing the actual fulfillment of mitzvos with a focus on specific mitzvos.

 

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