Tag Archives: Chassidim

The Master’s Rebuke

peters-denialThe Ahavas Chaim of Viznitz, zt”l, was a huge scholar with profound yir’as shamayim, like all of those who received semichah from the Maharsham, zt”l, one of the undisputed gedolim of his generation.

The rebbe did not flatter anyone. He was always careful to rebuke the Chasidim when they acted inappropriately. For example, as is well known, it is the custom for a rebbe to distribute shiyarim during the tisch. Many Chasidim would push their fellow and grab whatever they could get as if it was a matter of life and death. In Viznitz, the rebbe would often rebuke them for this. “How can you grab shirayim? Don’t you know that the modest kohanim would not grab a portion of the show breads? Clearly, one should not push and grab even in holy matters. Instead of shoving one’s fellows, he should relax and take shiyarim only if he can do so without pushing his friend.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Proper Rebuke”
Chullin 133

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?Mark 9:17-19

We see that Jesus and the Ahavas Chaim of Viznitz have something in common. They both find it necessary to rebuke their disciples when they display inappropriate or even faithless behavior. Both Masters seem to be a little harsh, but perhaps that’s because there’s so much at stake. If the ordinary Jew is commanded to rebuke a fellow Jew who is sinning or about to sin (based on Leviticus 19:17), how much more so should a Teacher be obligated to rebuke his disciples?

In Judaism (and I’ve said this before) the commandment to rebuke the sinner is compared to saving someone’s life. If a Jew sees a fellow Jew moving away from God by entering into sin and does nothing, it’s like being a lifeguard, seeing a person drowning in the ocean, and not lifting a finger to save him. If one regular person has that level of responsibility toward another, then a Teacher and Rabbi must have a tremendous responsibility to guide his disciples into a proper way of relating to other people and to God. To fail to do so, from his exalted position as Rabbi and tzaddik, would be not only failing his students, but failing God.

However, if you’ve ever been rebuked by an angry, yelling teacher, boss, or parent, you know it doesn’t feel good. Not only that, but you know that being yelled at might not result in you correcting your behavior. If you are even the slightest bit rebellious, your response on the surface might be to appear to be obedience, but inside, your opposition might continue to grow, leading your closer to sin rather than returning you to God.

The story from the daf continues, showing us a different path.

But there is another—often more effective—way to deal with those who are wayward. When Rav Dovid Tzvi Shneiblag, zt”l, was confronted with a student who did not comport himself properly, he would call the student in and open a meseches Chulin to a different statement on today’s daf. He would begin to read in a very emotional tone, . As he did so he shed copious tears. “Rav Yehudah says, ‘One who teaches an improper student falls into Gehinom…Teaching an improper student is like throwing a stone to Merucules…’ ”

As he read, crying, the student could not help but feel moved, until he also cried. The rav would gently explain that certain actions were not befitting for a ben Torah and the young man would tearfully agree to change. Many students later recounted that it was this short time with the rav which galvanized them to make a complete change of direction.”

I don’t believe we have any specific example of Jesus using such a method of “rebuke” when addressing his disciples, but I do not doubt there was a time when the disciples did shed tears and likely did recall everything that Jesus was trying to teach them. Sadly, it was when they thought it was too late that they came to this realization. Peter is an especially poignant example.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. –Mark 14:66-72

The Death of the MasterAfter all of his protests to the contrary, Peter utterly failed his Master. His tears at that moment were bitter but they must have been much worse once Jesus was dead and the disciples went into hiding. Small wonder that, when at the first of the week, Miriam of Magdalah told the disciples that the tomb was empty, Peter ran all the way to see for himself (John 20:1-4). Hope beyond possibility had given him a second chance. But the agony of his failure and even the tears were not over yet.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. –John 21:15-17

Peter denied Jesus three times. After the resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times if he really loves him. Peter would have to be sure of this, for the days were coming when the Master would not be with him, and Peter would have to carry his faith without doubt.

Tears can be more difficult than a loud, angry rebuke, but they can also be the instrument by which we feel the sorrow, rather than angry rebellion, that will inspire us to repent, to turn to God, and to really go in the other direction, walking away from the person opposing God we once were, and to the man or woman of God we were created to be.

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Searching for Sparks

Holding SparksAt one time there were tzaddikim who would look into the soul of a disciple, see the place where the G-dly sparks were awaiting this soul and tell the disciple to go to that place to liberate those sparks.

All that has changed is the perception of the disciples. If you are where you are with the blessing of the Rebbe, you are where you belong. And you are there with a profound purpose.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
from the wisdom of the Rebbe
Menachem M. Schreerson
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth

Well, I – I think that it – it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

Dorothy
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

It is said that we contain Divine Sparks from our Creator and those parts of us that belong to Him yearn to return to the Source. It’s what causes people to search for something beyond themselves; sometimes not even knowing what they are looking for or how to find it. It’s the part of us that brings some people to God and others to less than noble destinations, believing some false teaching is the answer they need.

It’s also believed that there are other sparks in the world that correspond to those we contain and that finding and liberating those sparks defines the purpose of our lives. Put in less mystic terms, we all have a purpose that gives meaning to our lives. We only need to discover that purpose in order to experience accomplishment, fulfillment, and to understand why we were created by God.

Some people search for this all their lives and die with the truth about themselves still undiscovered. While Hamlet calls death the undiscovered country, I think that “country” is rather the truth of our existence which we must discover while we are still alive. Even David said that once dead, we can offer nothing:

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave? –Psalm 6:5

It is not the dead who praise the LORD,
those who go down to the place of silence;
it is we who extol the LORD,
both now and forevermore.
Praise the LORD. –Psalm 115:17-18

Continuing with this theme, Vine of David’s commentary on Levertoff’s Love and the Messianic Age tells us:

“Although every man has the divine potential of a godly soul planted within him, this is not a guarantee that every man will enter into a relationship with HaShem or even that every soul will be redeemed. Instead, the soul is separated from God by a wall of partition – sin and guilt. HaShem removes the wall of partition between man and Himself through the work of the Messiah. When the wall is removed, then the soul can connect with HaShem. Then He can “use it for the gathering of these ‘sparks’.”

We journey near and far looking for and gathering sparks in order to fulfill the script of our lives written by God on our souls. But must we necessarily travel to distant and strange lands to find what we seek? Rabbi Freeman gives us part of that answer as he again relates the Rebbe’s wisdom:

People want to run away from where they are, to go to find their Jerusalem. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing there, make that a “Jerusalem”.

I wonder if the Rebbe ever saw The Wizard of Oz?

Hide and SeekGod is mindful of the days of our lives, where we go, what we are doing. He watches us as a father might watch his small son take his first, halting steps. We watch our children as they learn to walk, almost willing them in how to take the next step and in which way they should go. We cannot interfere unless they are about to be hurt, because otherwise, they’d never discover how to walk on their own. God is like that with us. The difference is, we should know that we are learning how to walk and be paying attention to the path. We should know that our Father is watching over us and that He’s ready to keep us from harm. Often, we don’t:

A certain chassid who had suffered a major financial loss stood before Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and lamented over his debts. “All you are telling me,” Rabbi Schneur Zalman replied, “is what you need. Who needs you, you don’t say much about. Do what G-d expects from you, and He will provide what you want from Him.”

Lest you think that God only expects us to serve and that He doesn’t care about who we are, our fears, our needs, and our concerns, we have two messages that console us; one from the Rebbe, and the other from “the Maggid of Nazaret”, Jesus:

The teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: Not only is the movement of a leaf as it falls off a tree, the quivering of a blade of grass in the wind-each and every detail of existence directed, vivified and brought into being at every moment from above-but beyond that: Every nuance is an essential component of a grand and G-dly scheme, the gestalt of all those vital minutiae.

Meditate on this. And then think: How much more so the details of my daily life.

-The Rebbe
as related by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. –Matthew 6:25-33

Finally, in our little game of “hide-and-go-seek” with the Divine in ourselves and in the Universe, Rabbi Freeman presents the Rebbe’s teachings on this matter, again from his book Bringing Heaven Down to Earth:

G-d is not something of a higher realm that you cannot reach Him. Nor is He made of stuff ethereal that you cannot touch Him. G-d is “That Which Is” – He is here now, everywhere, in every thing and in every realm – including that realm in which you live. The only reason you do not perceive Him is because it is His desire that you search for Him.

Life is a game of hide and seek. G-d hides, we seek.

God does not play “hide the ball” with the Universe. He means for us to not only find Him, but everyday, to find who we are in Him. Start gathering the sparks. He’s there. And so are you.