“What if There is an Eibishter?”

The Ohel of Reb Shlomo Karliner in Volodymyr, Ukraine

Motzei Shabbos Story: When the Alter Rebbe heard the travel plans of his student, he requested he pay a visit to Reb Shlomo Karliner. The subsequent encounter, while baffling at the time, had a far reaching effect, decades later.

By Yossy Gordon Chabad.org

When the Alter Rebbe, began teaching the new path of Chabad Chasidism, he attracted many different types of individuals. Some sincere and some not so sincere. The latter were attracted to the novel intellectual discipline introduced by Rebbe, but not so interested in taking the difficult steps necessary to internalize the lessons for the sake of self-improvement.

One such young man was a businessman by the name of Shlomo Feigin. Though he was brilliant and enjoyed the intellectual challenge of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings, sadly, his heart was not in it.

It happened once that Shlomo needed to take a business trip to Leipzig. Prior to his departure, the Alter Rebbe summoned him. To Shlomo’s surprise, the Alter Rebbe wanted to hear his travel itinerary. When the Rebbe heard that he was passing through the city of Karlin, he asked him to please pay a visit to his colleague, the saintly Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, and convey his regards. Shlomo promised to fulfill the Rebbe’s request.

Upon arrival at the home of Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, Shlomo Feigin was shown to the waiting room, directly adjacent to Rabbi Shlomo’s study. As he waited, he heard Rabbi Shlomo pacing in his study. Suddenly, the door to the study swung open and Rabbi Shlomo walked out and began to pace in the waiting room. Suddenly, Rabbi Shlomo loudly exclaimed: “Young man, young man, what will be if indeed there is a G‑d in this world?”

Rabbi Shlomo then returned to his room. Shlomo Feigin, mesmerized by this strange scene, continued to wait.

A few minutes went by. Rabbi Shlomo’s pacing inside his office could again be heard in the waiting room. Again, the door swung open in a rush. Out came Rabbi Shlomo. Again came the pacing and exclamation: “Young man, young man, what will be if indeed there is a G‑d in this world?!” When this scene repeated itself a third time, Shlomo Feigin realized that this must be the reason for the Alter Rebbe’s request that he visit Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin. He was supposed to witness this scene. He left and resumed his journey to Leipzig.

Some time later, Shlomo Feigin’s spiritual wellbeing took a major turn for the worse. He eventually succumbed to the promise of grandeur and power and forsook his faith. Highly gifted, he rapidly climbed the ladder of success till he was appointed to a high position in the Czar’s government.

More years passed. The Alter Rebbe passed on to his eternal rest. The government decided to build a highway that would traverse the entire breadth of the land. To the chagrin of the Chassidic community, the proposed road’s route ran directly through the place where the Alter Rebbe’s holy remains had been laid to rest. The Chassidim decided to use whatever influence they had to change the route. Inquiries were made, and it turned out that the one in charge of the route was the apostate Jew Shlomo Feigin. The Chassidim were greatly concerned. Would a former colleague turned stranger, a man like Shlomo Feigin, be sympathetic to this cause?

The old chassid Reb Moshe Vilenker, who years earlier had spent time together with Shlomo in the Alter Rebbe’s court, was asked to intervene. An appointment was secured. The aged Reb Moshe sat down with Shlomo and explained the situation. Without hesitation, Shlomo promised to reroute the road. But he had one request of Reb Moshe. Could they sit together that evening and schmooze like in times of old? Reb Moshe agreed.

During the course of their discussion, Shlomo confessed to something most personal: “You see all of my success, all of my wealth, all of my power? I cannot enjoy it. I constantly hear the words of Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin ringing in my head. ‘Young man, young man, what will be if indeed there is a G‑d in this world?!'”

Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org

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  1. The story is that the Jewish community of Haditch received the cemetery from the local government and by mistake they gave federal land not provincial land.
    So the government wanted them to rebury them in new land and they succeeded in getting the federal government to agree to accept other land in its place

  2. Mashpiim would add after retelling this story:
    Why did the Alter Rebbe send him to Reb Shlomo Karliner, why couldn’t he tell him that statement on his own?
    The answer must be, “in Chabad iz nishta kein sfeikos” (in Chabad there is no place for doubts). The Alter Rebbe would not be able to tell him “if indeed” there is a G-d!

  3. Reb Shlomo Feigin was one of several students of the Vilna Gaon hand-picked by the Gaon to study secular wisdom with the intent of developing a synthesis between the knowledge of the Torah and worldly science. For this purpose, the Gaon sent him and nine other disciples to Germany to study in the academies there.
    The Gaon’s experiment failed. With few exceptions, Reb Shlomo and his colleagues all returned to Lithuania with severe doubts concerning their faith.
    Reb Shlomo began to seek other sources of inspiration. Despite the Gaon’s ban against the chassidim, he visited the Alter Rebbe.

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