Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin once related (the lesson from this story is the same as the lesson described earlier here):
Once there lived an innkeeper who did not believe in the power of Tzaddikim, while his wife believed in Tzaddikim very sincerely. It happened that his business dealings took a turn for the worse, and he had not paid the landowner his rent for three years. The landowner set a date, and warned him that if he would not pay his debt, he would throw him in prison and evict his family.
His wife said to him: “I heard that in Ruzhin there is a Tzaddik who works miracles. Travel there, and you will be saved.” Her husband laughed at the suggestion: “Will the Rebbe give me money?!”
When the date approached and the required sum was still lacking, the wife returned and urged her husband until he became so sick of it that he said: “What do you want from me? If you want, travel there yourself!” So the woman did. When she arrived, she met another woman who had come to the Ruzhiner to ask for a blessing for her husband to have a speedy recovery. Both women wrote their written requests, and the assistant took their letters and delivered them to the Ruzhiner.
However, when the assistant left the Ruzhiner’s room, he mistakenly switched the responses that the Ruzhiner had given him: To the woman who asked for a blessing for her husband’s speedy recovery, the assistant responded in the Ruzhiner’s name that G–d would help her; while to the woman whose husband was an innkeeper, the assistant responded in the Ruzhiner’s name that she should put bankes (small hot glass cups that were placed on the back of the sick person, which sucked in the flesh until blood would flow, thought to be a remedy).
When the woman returned home, she told her husband about the Ruzhiner’s response. Her husband laughed in scorn at the Tzaddik, exclaiming: “Am I sick?! Do I need bankes? I need money!”
But as the date of payment drew closer and the innkeeper was unable to pay, his wife said to him on the day of the repayment: “Look, the landowner is preparing to throw you into prison regardless. What do you have to lose by listening to the Tzaddik’s advice? Lie in your bed, and I will affix bankes to your back.” At a loss, this time the man consented.
Shortly after, the servants of the landowner arrived to bring the Jew to the landowner’s mansion. The woman brought them into her husband’s room, and showed them that he was lying sick in his bed. The messengers returned to the landowner and told him that the Jew was sick. The landowner angrily cried out: “He is just pretending! Bring him here, alive or dead!”
The messengers returned to the inn, and saw that the Jew was lying on his bed and the sheet was covered with blood. They had pity on him, and carried him on his bed to the landowner. However, the landowner still did not believe, and told them to remove the sheet. But when he saw the wounded back of the Jew, he asked him in shock, “what happened to you?”
At that moment, the Jew had an idea. In a broken voice, he responded: “I knew that today is the day of payment, so I went yesterday to the city in order to borrow money. I borrowed the entire sum, and returned to the village via the forest. But on the way bandits attacked me, injured me, and robbed me of all the money. Now I owe a double amount—to you, my master the landowner, and to those from whom I borrowed the money!”
The landowner had pity on the Jew, and said: “If so, I forgive the entire debt. And since it was on my account that they hit you so cruelly, I will even forgive the payment for the next three years in advance!” So did the bankes save the tenant and his family.
When the Ruzhiner finished relating the story, he added: “When the woman’s note reached me, I saw that it was not possible to help her, so I wrote, ‘May G–d help’ [which was a way of saying that the Tzaddik would not give a blessing]. Obviously it did not occur to me to tell her to prepare bankes for her husband, and that was a mistake of the assistant. Rather, it was the woman’s pure faith in Tzaddikim that brought the salvation!
Translated from Sippurim Chasidiyim, Vol. 1, p. 68.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This teaching expresses the greatness of the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezeritch, and the Alter Rebbe, and explains that through learning their Chassidus, we connect with their lofty level.
The Tzemach Tzedek writes about the Alter Rebbe: Also from my grandfather, may his soul rest in Gan Eden, we heard predictions of the future [that were fulfilled] to a hairsbreadth [i.e., with total precision].[1]

This appears difficult to understand: Does the Tzemach Tzedek mean to praise the Alter Rebbe for miracles, which are a superficial thing? Does this define the Alter Rebbe’s greatness? Rather, this comes in continuation to what is written there earlier: He [the Baal Shem Tov] and his student, the Maggid [of Mezeritch], would see from one end of the world to the other with a seeing eye ...

This was possible because the light that was created on the first day that G–d hid in the Torah was revealed before them. Of this the Tzemach Tzedek says “also from my grandfather, may his soul rest in Gan Eden, we heard predictions of the future ... ” The expression “also” implies that the “predictions of the future” expressed by the Alter Rebbe is the same idea as what was written earlier concerning the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid—the revelation of “the light that was created on the first day.” However, the Alter Rebbe perceived this in a manner “[that was fulfilled] to a hairsbreadth.”

“The light that was created on the first day” is a reference to the light that transcends the Hishtalshelus,[2] and “the light that reveals G–d’s very Essence.”[3] Although this light shone for the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid even in the physical world, the Alter Rebbe had the additional quality that this light shone in a settled manner—“to a hairsbreadth.”

In order for the light that transcends the Hishtalshelus to enter the world in a settled manner, the light is not enough; this can only be accomplished through G–d’s very Essence, which can reconcile all opposites. So will it also be in the Messianic age, when the purpose for which G–d created the world will be fulfilled—“to make a dwelling place for Him in the lower realms [i.e., this physical world].” [“For Him”] means a dwelling place for His Essence. G–d’s Essence will enable the combination of physicality and spirituality, such that “The glory of G–d will be revealed, and all flesh will see.”[4] This means that the physical flesh will perceive G–dliness, and it will rest there in a settled manner.

This is the inner meaning of the Tzemach Tzedek’s expression “also from my grandfather, may his soul rest in Gan Eden, we heard predictions of the future.” The expression “predictions of the future” alludes to the revelations of the Messianic age.

The Alter Rebbe imbued all this into the teachings of Chassidus Chabad. By learning Chassidus we “take” the highest levels, and even the “hidden light,” and even higher, and this descends into the intellect of the Divine Soul, until it reaches the understanding of the intellect of the Animal Soul, until the glory of G–d will be revealed, and even all flesh will see, with the arrival of our righteous Moshiach, may it happen very soon.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 4, pp. 1137-1138-1139.

Derech Emunah
[2] See Torah Ohr 44c.
[3] The “contraction,” in which G–d’s infinite light was hidden in order to make it possible for the worlds to be formed. This level of divine light stemmed from a level that transcended this one. See
Sefer HaMa’amarim 5670, Noach
Yeshaya 40:5.
In my own words: The Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch were able to see from one end of the world to another, and perceive everything that took place, including future events. The Alter Rebbe had the additional power to perceive these events with total accuracy. The reason they possessed this power was that they perceived a level of G–dliness that transcends all limitations, G–d’s very Essence as it were, such as will be revealed when Moshiach comes. 

This enabled their perception to transcend the limitations of time and space. We are granted the ability to connect with these lofty levels through learning Chassidus in general. Chassidus Chabad enables these lofty levels to permeate the person, and even the intellect of his Animal Soul. This prepares us for and hastens the coming of Moshiach, when this sublime level will be revealed and permeate one and all.