The word ‘hiskashrus’ is one frequently heard by farbrengens and among chassidim. But what does it truly mean? A close look at the Rebbe’s relationship with the Frierdiker Rebbe gives us a good example.
“YOU WILL NEVER SEE IT”
“Wednesday, Parshas Lech Lecha.
“I have just returned from the train station, to escort, together with the rest of anash, the Rebbe’s son-in-law…
“How pleasant and sweet it was to see the honor and respect that was accorded to the Rebbe’s younger sonin-law. There are no words to describe the great name that he has acquired for himself during his recent trip here in our city.
“It pains me greatly that the Rebbe never saw it, nor will he ever see it, for whenever he is in the presence of the Rebbe, he nullifies himself as a flame before a torch…”
This is an excerpt from a fascinating account by Reb Eliyahu Chaim Althaus, about Tishrei 5690 in Riga, Latvia, in the absence of the Frierdiker Rebbe, who was visiting the United States.
Chassidim who encountered the Rebbe in those early years in Europe already took note of the Rebbe’s hiskashrus to the Frierdiker Rebbe. When the Rebbe held a farbrengen for the yeshivah bochurim in Otvotzk in 5691, hiskashrus was an important part of the talks, as evident in the Rebbe’s own reshima of the event.
The Rebbe explains at length how the sukkah and its dimensions and the lulav with its four types of plants represent shleimus, completeness. But then he quotes a Midrash which says that the possuk “[three are beyond me] four I do not know” is referring to the four species—which seems to imply a certain deficiency. This, the Rebbe says in a short but charged paragraph, is because “after all, there are certain levels that are not within the ability of a person, no matter who he is, to reach on his own… Therefore, we are miskasher ourselves with the Rebbe, so that he will guide us and we will follow in his path.”
SOMETHING GOING ON
One of the enduring depictions of the Rebbe’s conduct during the Frierdiker Rebbe’s nesius, is the complete bitul and hadras kavod the Rebbe portrayed in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s presence.
As one elder Chossid described it:
“At farbrengens, the Frierdiker Rebbe would sit at the head of the table. The Rebbe would sit at his left, and Rashag at his right. During the sichos, the Rebbe would lean closely to the table, with his ear close to the Frierdiker Rebbe, without moving, ready to catch every word. Sometimes, he would watch the Frierdiker Rebbe’s lips closely. If someone would ask a question, the Rebbe would often answer it, so that the Frierdiker Rebbe wouldn’t need to exert himself.”
[A similar sentiment was expressed by the Rebbe to Reb Yitzchok Dubov, just days before the Frierdiker Rebbe’s histalkus: After Rabbi Dubov asked the Rebbe to participate in his son’s wedding meal, the Rebbe said that he had a scheduled session to learn with the Frierdiker Rebbe, “and that is something I will never miss.”]
Reb Yosef Goldstein had similar memories:
“On Rosh Hashanah 5703, I had the merit to participate in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s minyan for Maariv on the first night, in the small room that formerly served as Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah’s bedroom.
“The Rebbe would always pay close attention to the Frierdiker Rebbe’s davening, and this time was no different. The Rebbe focused on the Frierdiker Rebbe for a long time, and meanwhile, I watched the Rebbe. The Rebbe noticed my attention, and glanced at me several times to see if I was still watching him. He realized that I noticed that ‘something is going on here.’”
THE FINAL SAY
Rosh Hashanah 5689 was the first Rosh Hashanah the Friediker Rebbe celebrated in freedom from the USSR. Chassidim, many of whom hadn’t seen the Frierdiker Rebbe for years, traveled to Riga to participate, and everyone’s feelings were on a high.
For tekios on the second day (the first day was Shabbos), the shul and all its surrounding rooms were packed with people. Later in the day, the Frierdiker Rebbe led a large procession to tashlich, and upon their return, he said a maamar for the assembled—the second one that Yom Tov—which lasted into the night.
After the Frierdiker Rebbe concluded the entire maamar, the Chassidim, led by the Rebbe, broke out in a joyous dance, which went on for a very long time. Afterwards, Reb Eliyahu Chaim Althaus wrote to the Frierdiker Rebbe, “Today you merited to acquire an additional Chossid: none other than your own [son-in-law], who could not pull himself away from the dancing!”
In countless letters printed in Igros Kodesh, we find that the Rebbe actively collected copies of sichos and maamarim of the Frierdiker Rebbe, especially when he wasn’t in his presence.
The Rebbe also copied some material into his own reshimos. Perhaps most notable is Reshimas Hamaasar, the Frierdiker Rebbe’s personal account of his imprisonment. The original document has yet to be discovered, but the Rebbe was able to publish it from his own handwritten copy.
When the Rebbe was in the presence of the Frierdiker Rebbe, elder Chassidim remembered how the Rebbe took charge of chazara. As Reb Sholom Chaskind related:
“During Tishrei, the Rebbe would go over to the bochurim or Chassidim that were able to do chazara and split up the responsibility for remembering and transcribing the sichos—‘You remember from this point of the sicha until this point,’ etc.”
The Rebbe also played a leading role in the actual chazara following the sichos. As Reb Yosef Goldstein related:
“After the farbrengen, the Chassidim would gather for chazara, and the Rebbe would sit there the entire time. Any time a question arose about the precise wording of the sicha, the Rebbe was the one who resolved it.”
RECORDING FOR GENERATIONS
The Rebbe was also heavily involved in publishing those sichos, and in the United States, he assumed the full responsibilities for it as the chairman of Kehos.
Rabbi Aaron Leib Raskin of Mareches Otzar Hachassidim has worked on the Frierdiker Rebbe’s sichos, maamarim and reshimos for over 30 years. In a conversation with Derher, he explained the following:
“The Rebbe’s involvement in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s Torah began in Europe, when the Frierdiker Rebbe would send him material—Hatomim, Likkutei Diburim, etc.—for editing. The Friediker Rebbe would even send the Rebbe sichos and letters that he had personally written, asking for his input, and the Rebbe would respond with significant edits.
“In America, as chairman of Kehos, the Rebbe was in charge of publishing all of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s Torah.
“Sometimes, the Frierdiker Rebbe himself would write the sichos, but otherwise, the process was often as follows: Following a farbrengen, a hanacha would be written up by one of the chozrim, often edited by other chozrim as well (some of the chozrim were Reb Elya Simpson, Reb Shmuel Zalmanov, Reb Mordechai Mentlik and Reb Moshe Pinchas Katz). Then, the Rebbe would finalize the hanacha with his own input, adding significant segments of sichos in his own handwriting and correcting the work of the others.
“Afterwards, Reb Shmuel Zalmanov (or Rabbi Simpson) would rework the entire sicha into one continuous form, and the sicha would be submitted to the Frierdiker Rebbe for hagaha. (Often, the Frierdiker Rebbe would digress and add very sizable segments to the sichos, to the point that they would be unrecognizable to the people who attended the farbrengen).
“After all the work was finished, the Rebbe would edit the sicha for print, adding footnotes and the like.
“One of the sichos which stands out is Likutei Diburim from Pesach 5703. The Frierdiker Rebbe’s sichos that Yom Tov seem to have been especially rich, and the Rebbe reached out to benefactors to sponsor their publishing in a beautiful kovetz, with many footnotes and even a tochen inyanim at the beginning.
“Initially, the main focus was on maamarim, while sichos were printed only periodically. However, in 5705 the Rebbe began a campaign to print the Frierdiker Rebbe’s Torah, and two years later, the first Sefer Hasichos (5700) came out.”
The Rebbe sent out all the maamarim and sichos of the Frierdiker Rebbe to Chassidim and others all over the world. The Rebbe would usually add at the end of a letter: “Enclosed is the kuntres of… You will certainly share it with the public…”
A mere glance at any of the Rebbe’s letters from 5702 and on, teaches us how the Rebbe really wished for these copies to be taught and disseminated in each community.
Another associated project was explaining the Frierdiker Rebbe’s sichos in the public realm. During the early years in America, a controversy arose surrounding the Frierdiker Rebbe’s sichos; people were upset that the Frierdiker Rebbe interpreted teachings from nigleh with terminology of Chassidus. The Rebbe took to demonstrating how every detail in those sichos were actually fully founded on the teachings found in nigleh, dedicating long letters to this topic.
BRINGING IT TO OTHERS
“If the Baal Shem Tov would live in New York, would you visit him?” This question was posed by the Rebbe in the early years in America, to a former Polisher Chossid, who had cooled off after the Holocaust and his arrival in New York. The fellow answered in the affirmative, and the Rebbe responded, “You should know that he lives in 770…”
The Rebbe didn’t suffice with personally being involved in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s activities. Hiskashrus was something that the Rebbe demanded from everyone, and it is a clear theme in the Rebbe’s letters and conversations from before the Frierdiker Rebbe’s histalkus.
In one particularly pointed letter, the Rebbe responds to someone who seems to have excused himself for not carrying out a certain task: “In the world of commerce, your letter is brilliant, and it includes answers to all possible complaints. You have demonstrated that you are worthy of standing before the greatest businessmen, but you are mistaken in your choice of address, because I am not a businessman, and [your excuses] don’t impress me. What is more important . . I am only a conduit to fulfill the will of my father-inlaw the Rebbe shlit”a, and he isn’t a businessman either, so he will also not be impressed.”
Another particularly sharp letter is about the importance of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s work: “The Lubavitcher Rebbe doesn’t engage in business. His goal is to spread Elokus in the world, especially through spreading Toras Hachassidus in various ways. Thus, anyone who contradicts him, battles his activities, or prevents and inhibits them from being carried out, is actually preventing the spread of Elokus in the world, concealing the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov, and is delaying the coming of Moshiach for a period of time. If the purpose of this conflict and prevention is for personal gain, then, in addition to the above, he is also mo’el in kodesh and kodesh hakadashim…”
THE CHASSIDIM OF PARIS
The Rebbe’s demands of Chassidim in hiskashrus, came particularly to the fore when he traveled to Paris to pick up his mother, Rebbetzin Chana, and arrange her immigration to the United States.
The Rebbe remained in Paris for three months and he farbrenged with anash there on several occasions. A significant group of Chassidim had just been able to leave Russia, and they were slowly migrating from the DP camps that had housed them for several months. One group had just arrived in Paris, and the Rebbe spoke to them constantly about the importance of hiskashrus.
In the Rebbe’s own words: “During farbrengens here with anash and the Temimim, I said that hiskashrus needs to be in everything. First of all, as Chassidei Chabad, it must begin with our Chabad through studying the Rebbe’s maamarim . . and if there remains a doubt as to [the hiskashrus] the answer is to give nifneh (a code term for maamad)…”
During those farbrengens, the Rebbe also encouraged them to travel to see the Rebbe (for some, this was like traveling to the moon).
Reb Refoel Wilschansky was a bochur in Paris at the time, and the Rebbe told him on one occasion: “A bochur’s place is by the Rebbe. Even though the primary kiruv is a spiritual one, nonetheless, we see that physical distance does create a hefsek, and therefore one needs to remain near the Rebbe.”
Giving maamad was another focus during the Rebbe’s visit. During one of the farbrengens, the Rebbe opened with the following words: “Chassidim in the past desired to be connected to the Rebbe also in a physical sense. Therefore, it would be appropriate to establish a maamad fund, and I will be the first donor.” The Rebbe pulled out a sum of money, and other anash then began to follow suit.
While in Paris, the Rebbe also told the Chassidim about the importance of their involvement in hafatzas hamaayanos, and encouraged them to be mekarev the Jews in their surroundings, many of whom were searching for meaning and purpose in those trying times after the Holocaust.
A year and a half later, the Rebbe wrote a long, powerful letter to one of the eminent Chassidim in Paris at the time, bemoaning the fact that nothing had, in fact, been done.
The Rebbe wrote about another individual, and what he had accomplished: “A young man was forced to flee his home; [this individual] isn’t shayach to avodas hatefillah, he isn’t a maskil or an oved, he doesn’t wear a beard, etc. etc. and never learned in Tomchei Temimim or in a yeshivah altogether. He wandered to a very distant land, both geographically and in relation to Yiddishkeit.
“Within a period of time, letters began arriving from men and women to my father-in-law, the Rebbe shlit”a. For example, a businesswoman who had an offer to rent a store in one area of the city or another, and she asked the Rebbe’s opinion.
“She never saw him, she knows that the Rebbe was not only never in her city but not even in her country and she isn’t a member of anash and apparently not a descendant of anash. But she heard the earnest words of this young man, ‘Yesh Rebbe b’Yisroel, and this Rebbe is beyond the limits of nature, and whoever wants to go in a sure path, whether in business, raising a family, etc. should not do anything without first asking the Rebbe.’
“She recognized that the man spoke genuinely, and asked that he write this question [to the Rebbe on her behalf]. Now she is naturally shayach to nifneh, she is becoming closer to Yiddishkeit, and surely, with time, she will run her home with kashrus, taharas hamishpacha, etc.
“This is the impact of a simple young man, and he does it not out of mesiras nefesh or kabolas ol. Because to him, it isn’t counterintuitive, not even contrary to his sechel enushi.”
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