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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Self-sacrifice for Torah and Chassidus II

There are two types of self-sacrifice: Sacrificing the body and sacrificing the neshamah

In reality, sacrificing the latter is (or should be) much more difficult than sacrificing the former. Earlier we discussed this concept. 

A striking example of one who took not only a physical risk, but a spiritual one, was Pinchas:

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 9:7) states that Pinchas’ act of slaying Zimri was “against the will of the sages” to the point that they wanted to excommunicate him. The only reason they didnt was that he became possessed with the Holy Spirit, and declared that “He and his descendants after him will have a covenant of eternal priesthood” (Bamidbar 25:13).

This illustrates all the more the degree of Pinchas’ zeal. For until he became possessed of the Holy Spirit, he knew that what he had done was “against the will of the sages,” i.e., in the opinion of the sages of Torah, his behavior was baseless. His zeal was thus not only an act of self-sacrifice in terms of the body, but also in terms of the soul, because his act flouted the wishes of the sages to the extent that they attempted to excommunicate him.

In this vein, there are many stories of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch whose self-sacrifice was so great that they gave up their share in the World to Come for the welfare of a fellow Jew.

Likewise, there is a famous story of the Alter Rebbe: Once a manuscript of his Chassidus was burned, and he had written on it that one who would read it would be “excommunicated in this world and in the next.” And yet, after it had been burned, the Alter Rebbe sought to know if anyone had studied it. The Mitteler Rebbe asked: “Did you not write that one who would read it would be ‘excommunicated in this world and in the next’?” to which the Alter Rebbe responded: “Where is the self-sacrifice for Chassidus?!”

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Vol. 18, pp. 319-320.
There are another two stories that express the principle of the importance of self-sacrifice for Chassidus, the first is a story of the Tzemach Tzedek and the Alter Rebbe:
When the Tzemach Tzedek was a child of nine, the Alter Rebbe would deliver a ma’amar on Friday nights in his private room. Despite repeated heartfelt pleas, the Tzemach Tzedek was not given permission to attend, and this pained him greatly. Yet he yearned so intensely to hear the ma’amar that he devised a solution.

In the adjoining room there was a large oven, and the outer wall of the oven was partly in the room in which the Alter Rebbe would sit and deliver the 
ma’amar on Friday nights. The Tzemach Tzedek would hide in the oven and hear the ma’amar of the Alter Rebbe, and this recurred for several weeks.

Once it was very cold, so the non-Jew was summoned to ignite the oven. He started putting in the wood, but despite the oven’s largeness, the wood wasn’t going in the oven so well. So he laid the wood closer to the opening of the oven, and ignited it. Shortly afterward the house became filled with smoke, so he began pushing the burning logs further in. But when he saw that this wasn’t working, he was forced to extinguish the logs and take them out in order to see why the wood wasn’t going into the oven until the wall. When he saw that a boy was in the oven, he cried out loudly. This was also heard in the room of the Alter Rebbe, and in the living area—everyone was shocked at the sound of the cry.

Since the house was only lit with a small candle, and the smoke of the wood that the non-Jew had extinguished was suffocating, it wasn’t possible to discern immediately the identity of the young boy in the oven. But they later saw that it was the 
Tzemach Tzedek, and discovered his ploy of hiding inside the oven. The Rebbetzin Rivka o.b.m. told the Previous Rebbe that she herself heard from the Rebbetzin Shaina o.b.m., who witnessed the response of her mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin Shterna o.b.m.:

When the boy was taken out of the oven, his appearance was frightful. My mother-in-law, the Rebbetzin Shterna, cried to my father-in-law, the Alter Rebbe: “See what could have been! What a misfortune! Other people you allow in, but when your own son pleaded, you did not allow it.” My father-in-law said: “Be quiet. 
Moshe Rabeinu came to Mount Sinai through a fire—seeing the flame in the bush—and merited to be the one to give the Torah. One can only take Torah with self-sacrifice. He will be healthy, and he will live a long life.”  

Sefer HaMa’amarim 5708, p. 233-234.
The second is a story of Reb Avrohom Parizh:
It is told that in the year 5658 (1897-1898), the Rebbe Rashab wrote a commentary upon the discourse entitled Posach Eliyahu printed in the Alter Rebbe’s Torah Ohr; however, he did not allow it to be released to his followers.

When Reb Avrohom Parizh, still a student in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah, 
Tomchei Temimim, learned of this manuscript, he was consumed with a desire to study it. He found the suitable opportunity to sneak in and take it, and recruited Reb Chaim Lieberman, a fellow student, to write a copy of the manuscript. Once this task was completed, he returned it to its place.

Reb Avrohom did not keep it to himself; he shared the copy with other students. They all guarded the secret carefully, and ensured that it wouldn’t become known to the Rebbe Rashab or his son, the Previous Rebbe, who was then the main administrator of the Yeshivah.

However, the Previous Rebbe once asked a student what he had been studying in
Chassidus, and the student responded that he had been studying Rebbe Rashab’s Hagahos L’dibbur Ha’maschil Posach Eliyahu 5658. After investigation, the culprits were discovered.

Although at the time they were penalized, the Rebbe related (
Sichos KodeshBamidbar 5729) that the Rebbe Rashab later commented of the incident, “May blessing come upon him, and if only others would also steal.”

Echad Haya Avraham, pp. 22-23.

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