Climbed up to the Alter Rebbe’s second-floor window, R. Yekusie Lyepler cried out, “Rebbe! Cut out my left side! I can’t deal with him!” From that moment on, he became a different person and his neshama shone intensely – in surprising moments.
Reb Yekusiel Lyepler, 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 midos and baal hispaalus (full of life). Though a simple man by nature – even finding it difficult to learn Chumash with Rashi – he toiled tremendously until his understanding developed, and the Mitteler Rebbe wrote for him the sefer Imrei Bina, a profound essay in Chassidus.
When he first came to the Alter Rebbe, Reb Yekusiel heard a maamar about the chalal hasmali, the left ventricle of the heart where the nefesh habahamis resides. He climbed up to the second-floor window, while the Alter Rebbe was wearing Rabbeinu Tam’s teffilin, and cried out, “Rebbe! Cut out my left side! I cannot ‘deal’ with him!” The Alter Rebbe responded, “It says ’Ve’ata mechayeh es kulam’, and You give life to all.”
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 chossid,” 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 ‘shine,’ he would start to dance, exclaiming, “Chossid prishol, the chossid has come!”
Once while standing in the Borisov post office, waiting to have something done for him, his neshama began to shine. Seizing the first person, he began dancing with the goyishe post office clerk, until he realized and ran off in shock.
R. Yekusiel would daven for many long hours, practically all day. There were times when he davened Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv one right after the other, since there was no more time in the day.
When the Alter Rebbe wished to bentch R. Yekusiel with wealth, he said he didn’t want it, since he didn’t want to be distracted from learning Chassidus and from his involvement with avoda.
When the Rebbe then offered to bentch him with long life, he replied, “Uber nit mit poierishe yohren, not with ‘peasant years’ – who have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, who don’t see getlechkeit or hear getlechkeit.”
Traveling through Lyeple, one of the young Chassidim stayed over for a number of days, and each day he chazered a maamer of the Mitteler Rebbe. Due to his sharp mind and eloquence, he made a strong impression on his listeners, yet Reb Yekusiel was unable to grasp the maamorim.
Totally crushed, Reb Yekusiel kept the yungerman back for three weeks to teach him the maamorim, but it was to no avail. Out of desperation, he left his store in the hands of his family, and traveled to Lubavitch.
Upon arrival, he encountered tens of yungerleit learning Chassidus diligently, yet he could not comprehend the maamar the Rebbe delivered. Reb Yekusiel stayed up all night crying, fasted and said Tehillim. Afterwards, he went for yechidus and told the Rebbe what had been happening.
The Rebbe told him that ultimately everything was up to his desire; if there is a will there is a way. Reb Yekusiel decided to stay in Lubavitch, and for four months, he toiled tirelessly in the study and contemplation of the Mitteler Rebbe’s Chassidus. His efforts bore fruit, and his mind opened; as Reb Yekusiel later described, “I felt like a new creation.”
After the Tzemach Tzedek’s histalkus, R. Yekusiel came to Lubavitch to choose which of the sons of the Tzemach Tzedek would be his Rebbe. Eventually he connected to the Rebbe Maharash, saying, “Until now you were a ‘you’ to me, now you are my Rebbe. Please put on your hat and tell me Chassidus.”
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