Monday, May 24, 2010

A Rebbe and His Chassid

At a wayside inn, a dozen chassidic merchants were warming themselves at the fire. The group included men from towns and villages across Russia and Poland, all traveling to the great annual fair at Leipzig. The conversation soon turned to the greatness of their rebbes, as each extoled the virtues of his master.
One by one, the chassidim told stories about the miraculous powers of their rebbes. One told how for fifteen years he and his wife had yearned for a child, until they received a blessing from their rebbe: within a year, they were cradling their newborn son in their arms. A second told of how his rebbe had neutralized the Jew-hating, pogrom-inciting priest in their village, while a third related how his rebbe's blessing and special instructions had brought home his wayward son. And so they passed the hours, recounting the wonders performed by their holy mentors.

Finally, they all turned to the one chassid who had listened in silence to their stories. "Let's hear something about your rebbe."
The chassid said: "I deal in lumber, and several years ago I was offered a forest for sale. The price was high, but the opportunities were even greater -- there was talk of a railroad to be constructed, raising the demand for and profitability of the local lumber. As I do with all major decisions in my life, I consulted with my Rebbe. He advised me to buy the forest.
"The purchase ruined me. The railroad project fell through and I was left with a basically worthless forest. I lost my entire fortune and was cast heavily into debt."
After a lengthy pause, one of the listeners asked, "And then? What happened?"
"Nothing," said the chassid. "I am still struggling to feed my family and repay my debts."
"So what's the miracle?" they all asked.
"That my relationship with the Rebbe has nothing to do with his wonder-working powers. That I continue to follow his directives in every area of my life. The miracle is that I am still his chassid."

I envy people with this kind of faith. I envy them every time I have to make a difficult decision. These are people who leave full responsibility for every important decision in their lives to someone they trust so completely...someone they believe lives in a world beyond ours.

These are true chassidim.

I've always believed that there are leaders who are worthy of that kind of reverence. I believe that there are Rebbes who have some sort of Divine Inspiration...a kind of prophecy, maybe. A higher vision. I don't know exactly what it is, but it doesn't really matter to their followers. A true chassid is willing to hear what their Rebbe says, and to accept it unhesitatingly. There are no questions. No doubts.

It seems so easy, in a way. Someone takes the crushing weight off your shoulders. He tells you what to do. He guides you. And he is someone who sees deeper than ordinary human beings, with a clarity that goes beyond ordinary intuition. So easy...

It's not. I discovered that today.

During the year my son spent in Israel, he formed an attachment to a specific chassidic group. He davened there as often as he could, and he has tremendous respect for the Rebbe.

We had a monumental decision to make. We spoke to our Rav and followed his advice. We spent hours on the phone. And we arrived at a decision. We would go ahead. But before we do, we agreed to seek a bracha from this Rebbe. A mere formality, I thought. It was what my son wanted.

We didn't get it. There was no bracha. The Rebbe said no.

I want to believe that the Rebbe sees something I cannot see. I want to feel know that we were just saved from making the biggest mistake of our lives. I want to know with certainty that this is the right decision. The only decision. I want to believe.

But I don't. My heart is not at peace.

I am not a true chassid.


  1. Ah, but because you struggle with it, but do it much the same, that is its own greatness.

    Yasher koach to you and to your son, literally.

  2. I hear the battle: one says yes, one says no. It's hard to listen to one over the other. But being that this is a lifetime decision for your son, it would definitely make sense to listen to the advice he got. Good for you for accepting that, even if it is hard to embrace it.

    Also, what's so bad about not being a true chassid, if you really aren't one (a chassid)? You're a chassid of Hashem and Daas Torah and that's what matters.

  3. :-( This must be so, so hard for you. Hope your son is managing okay....

    Question: If you asked your Rav already, why wasn't his approval enough?

  4. I think, at risk of sounding like an apikores, that TODAY getting a bracha from a rebbe is like a placebo. Maybe in earlier generations there was more kedusha, but the concept is bankrupt today. Makes you feel good, having a "guide", but theres very little it's grounded with.

    A bracha? Tell it to poor Mr. Samet, doing 27 years hard time, after his rebbe said "all will be good, go to court, DON'T take a plea deal of a 2, maybe 3 year sentence"

  5. Staying Afloat...

    I am doing it, but not because I fully believe that this is the right thing to do. I'm doing it because I'm not sure at all...because maybe this is what we need to do, and I'm afraid to take any chances. No greatness in that...


    There's nothing wrong with that at all. And the Rav we asked originally...that's Daas Torah. A part of me can't help thinking...why was that not enough??


    It was...
    My son just wanted that bracha. It was important to him. And I think he's kicking himself...almost as much as I am.


    I had to google that. I didn't know that story. Wow...
    But if I believed what you do, then this wouldn't be a struggle for me. I'd just go ahead and do what I feel. I don't, apparently. I guess there's that bit of chassid in me somewhere.

  6. Right, I agree that the Rav you asked is Daas Torah. I just thought you felt bad that you weren't a "true chassid" and I was saying that you can be a chassid of Hashem and his Daas Torah, rather than a Rebbe, and be a true chassid like that.

    As for why it wasn't enough, it's probably because this is a decision your son has to live with- it makes sense for him to want to speak to HIS Daas Torah first and ultimately to listen to whatever advice he's given.

    Don't get me wrong, I understand completely how hard it is to believe and accept it, but I just think it makes sense.

  7. MW, in my opinion, the fact that you're not shalem with it and you struggle IS th greatness.

    I can see how this is hitting you hard, based on the earlier post of doing the whole process when you're in between hashkafos. I have been there, though with two different POV's, and it's so hard not to be shalem. But I feel like it's always been a step on the way to something or somewhere. So maybe this is one of those growth opportunities that, for you, is more about the process than the actual subject matter. (Can you tell I've been reading Battle Plans?)

    Which I know is so easy to say from my chair an internet away.

  8. halfshared...

    I do feel bad about that, but only because we asked and I am having a hard time accepting the answer. I am listening to it because I agree that it does make sense to, but it's really hard.

    Staying Afloat...

    Maybe this IS a growth opportunity, but I wish I knew for certain that the Rebbe has some sort of Ruach Hakodesh and that's where his response came from. IF, as Bernie says, it's just a placebo (and I don't quite believe that either), then this would be a real shame...and where's the growth in that?

  9. Well here's the way I see it.

    One should only go to a Rebbe if he or she is a Chassid of that Rebbe.
    A Rebbe is supposed to love the person before him, and that love is reciprocated with a real chassid.
    A Rebbe is supposed to take that persons burden and put it on his own shoulders.
    Obviously that did not happen here, because there's no relationship like that here.
    It's not about believing in Ruach Hakodesh.

  10. So why wasn't the original brocha enough? That's your Rav, that's your daas Torah. Okay, if this Rebbe is your son's daas Torah, that's a whole different story. Now you're in a bit of a bind...can you go back to your Rav and ask him what to do?

  11. DOL...

    Some Rebbes have thousands of chassidim. It's not possible for a Rebbe like that to have that kind of relationship with each chassid. But his chassidim believe that he loves them and takes their burdens on his shoulders.
    If it's not about Ruach hakodesh, then what is it? How is it any different than going to any Rav?


    I AM in a bind. And I'm not sure there's anything that can be done here. I may just have to drop it. my heart...something feels very wrong...

  12. Sorry, I don't believe that story is true. I don't believe there is such a thing as a Rebbe telling his chossid to invest in something and it turning belly up.

  13. I'm sorry you don't believe it, but that is actually a true story. The rebbe was Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch. Look into it.