Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Avinu loi meis

In the honor of Gimmel Tammuz, a re-post of a portion of Rabbi Posner’s parsha class.

What does Gemara mean when it says that we can learn that Yakov did not die from Torah not stating explicitly that he did die? “Did not die” in what sense? What is this concept of dual realities of Egyptians (in which Yakov Avinu died) vs. Jews (where he did not)?

To understand why Yakov did not die, we need to understand first what it meant for him to live. I think it’s a really important concept that should be understood very carefully, for a number of reasons. So, pay attention. Rabbi Posner briefly goes off on a bit of a tangent in the middle explaining about the Four Worlds, but then he returns to Yakov Avinu at 10:00.

And a story (heard from Rabbi Posner over Yom Kippur):

Most Chassidic groups have a custom called shirayim: the Rebbe eats a little bit from his plate, and then his Chassidim come and take each a peace for themselves. The source of this custom is the idea that everything that a tzaddik owns becomes holy too, since tzaddikim serve Eibeshter on the level of b’chol meoidecho (“with all your might”), which means that ther serve Hashem with everything they do, own or touch — and impart the essence of themselves and revealed holiness of their avoida on their possessions.

So, whatever the Rebbe partakes of becomes holy. And then his Chassidim partake of it to attach themselves to the Rebbe.

Well, for a number of reasons, this is not a custom of Chabad Chassidim. In short, one attaches oneself to the Rebbe b’pnimiyus, not b’chitzoinius. By studying his teachings (which the Rebbe makes accessible to the Chassidim), not by holding on to his gartel, so to speak. Even though elements of attaching oneself to the Rebbe through chitzoinius also exist in Chabad (after all, chitzoinius is a part of the equation), pnimiyus is the ikkar and chitzoinius is de-emphasized.

Anyway, the story goes that a Jew from a different Chassidic background had become a Lubavitcher chossid, but did not yet know that in Chabad they don’t do shirayim. So, when he was in the presence of the Frierdiker Rebbe, as soon as the Rebbe started eating, he came over and attempted to take some food from the Rebbe’s plate. The Rebbe smiled at him and gave him the shirayim and then said: “By others, getting shirayim is a privilege. By us, getting shirayim is also a responsibility.”

I also remembered something that Rabbi Posner said over a dinner one time. He had been to a farbrengen in Crown Heights, where a rabbi who had never seen the Rebbe in his life was telling people about the greatness of the Rebbe. An amazing feeling. He also talked about the love that one felt during the yechidus. “I was not going to speak, but then he asked me to speak, so I said: ‘You know, I've been to a yechidus with the Rebbe. When I was fourteen. And I did not feel love. I felt awe. I felt an overwhelming sense of awe. When you meet a person, you see him, his personality, character, history. When I saw the Rebbe, there was the sense of great Nothing. Just a source of pulsing power, of very direct purpose. He was there for a reason, and his whole life, his whole essence, his interaction with other Jews was geared towards that reason, that goal. And one was being overwhelmed by this [singular feeling] when standing in front of him.’”

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