"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Rebbe rules on himself

On a number of occasions the Rebbe has discussed the idea that we are judged in the heavenly court according to the way we judge others (for example, see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 4, p. 1207). On the occasions that the Rebbe first discussed this, the immediate lesson was the importance of looking at another Jew with a favorable eye, considering that otherwise the very same guilty verdict that one issues upon the conduct of others may well, G–d forbid, befall oneself in the Heavenly Court.

However, on later occasions the Rebbe would also quote this idea in a novel, positive way, using it to explain how we ought to relate to
Tzaddikim. Following are some examples:

1. The Rebbe derives from the Alter Rebbe’s statements concerning Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk that the same applies concerning the Alter Rebbe himself:


The Baal Shem Tov taught (Kesser Shem Tov, Hosafos, #89) concerning the statement of the Mishnah: “Retribution is exacted from a person with his knowledge and without his knowledge” (Avos 3:16): A person knowingly [“with his knowledge”“rules” upon another person the punishment that that person deserves for a certain action. Then, when he succumbs to temptation himself in a similar matter, “retribution is exacted from him without his knowledge,” for he has already decided the punishment that the other person deserves. [The verdict is then issued that he be punished similarly.]

Thus, since the Alter Rebbe wrote and explained in Iggeres HaKodesh (section 27, which was written to console the disciples of Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk) about the tremendous spiritual impact of the Yom Hillula [day of the passing] of a Tzaddik, and this concept he wrote “with his knowledge,” ... through this we know the tremendous greatness of the Alter Rebbe’s Yom Hillula, through his own words, which were written “with his knowledge.”


Hisva’aduyos 5742, Vol. 2, pp. 682-683.
2. Likewise, in the ma’amar (Chassidic discourse) of Ve’atah Tetzaveh—which holds extra relevance and importance to our time because it is the most recent ma’amar that the Rebbe distributed to the chassidim with his holy hands—the Rebbe says the same idea concerning the statement of the Previous Rebbe about Mordechai HaTzaddik (and by extension, of course, implying the same thing about himself):

By quoting in his ma’amar the statement of the Medrash that Mordechai in his generation was considered equal to Moshe in his generation, through this the author of the ma’amar [the Previous Rebbe] issued a ruling upon himself that he is the faithful shepherd—on an open level—of all the members of the generation.

Sefer HaMa’amarim Melukat, p. 133.
For chassidim of the Rebbe, the main relevance of this way of applying the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov to the way we regard Tzaddikim is in terms of the way we regard the Tzaddik closest to us, our Rebbe. Thus, it follows that in these Sichos in which the Rebbe speaks about other Tzaddikim “ruling on themselves,” the Rebbe is in fact also “ruling on himself” that his words concerning the earlier Rebbeim teach us how we, as chassidim, should view the Rebbe himself. This particularly applies with respect to the Rebbe’s numerous statements concerning the Previous Rebbe. It may be asked: how are all these statements concerning the Previous Rebbe directly relevant to us, if we are first and foremost chassidim of the Rebbe? Rather, in these statements the Rebbe is indirectly but clearly and unmistakably teaching us how to be his chassidim.

This is especially relevant in our current situation, in which we do not see the Rebbe physically. We can and must learn how to relate to the Rebbe after his Histalkus on Gimmel Tammuz from reading the way that the Rebbe spoke concerning the Previous Rebbe after Yud Shevat.

Admittedly, there is of course a significant difference between the two situations, namely that the Previous Rebbe’s leadership was followed by the Rebbe’s, while the Rebbe’s leadership continues even after his Histalkus. Yet these statements are still relevant to us, for:

1. The Sichos quoted above demonstrate that the Rebbe even learns from the statements of Tzaddikim concerning other Tzaddikim in different situations than themselves.


For example, at first glance one might think that one could not learn from the Alter Rebbe’s statement concerning Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, because he was on a different level than the Alter Rebbe. (As is known, although he was the Rebbe of the Alter Rebbe after the Maggid of Mezeritch’s Histalkus, he is not counted among the chain of the Rebbeim (shalshes ha’yachas) because he is not from Beis Dovid.) Likewise, Mordechai HaTzaddik and the Previous Rebbe lived in totally different ages, and yet the Rebbe says that the Previous Rebbe’s statement explaining the level of Mordechai HaTzaddik teaches us how we ought to regard the Previous Rebbe (and by extension, of course, the Rebbe himself).

2. If anything, this is a reason to apply the Rebbe’s statements even more. Although the Rebbe was destined to succeed the Previous Rebbe as Rebbe (which took place officially when the Rebbe first delivered a Ma’amar), he continued to teach and set an example for chassidim in how to maintain their Hiskashrus to the Previous Rebbe. If so, all the more so now, after Gimmel Tammuz, when the Rebbe’s leadership continues, are these statements of the Rebbe concerning the Previous Rebbe applicable to the way that we regard the Rebbe.

Put differently, the Rebbe’s statements after Yud Shevat concerning the importance of maintaining and even increasing our posthumous bond with the Previous Rebbe were less practically relevant for chassidim at the time, because although they surely maintained their devotion to the instructions and teachings of the Previous Rebbe, they were soon to appoint the Rebbe as successor. In contrst, these statements are of much greater relevance now, when there is no successor, and the Rebbe continues to lead us posthumously.

3. This question can only be asked in the first place concerning the sichos delivered after 10 Shevat 5711, the day when the Rebbe assumed leadership of the chassidim openly and officially. Until then, however, the Rebbe had not assumed the mantle of leadership (though we believe that he was already the Rebbe), and so his statements concerning how to maintain one’s Hiskashrus to the Previous Rebbe after Yud Shevat mean just that: Guiding the chassidim in how to relate to the Previous Rebbe after Yud Shevat and how to maintain and even strengthen their Hiskashrus with him.

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