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Devar Torah - Bo

Thursday, 2 January, 2014 - 9:00 am

The Alter Rebbe is speaking to me, to My Life Today
By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

There is a famous story about a famous chosid, Reb Shmuel Munkas. The first time Reb Shmuel Munkas met the Alter Rebbe was in Liozna late one night. Reb Shmuel was looking through town for the house that was lit, certain that it would be the Alter Rebbe staying up late learning. Sure enough he found the correct house and when the Alter Rebbe answered the door Reb Shmuel asked for a place to stay. The Rebbe hesitated asking him why from all the houses that were available in town did he specifically need to stay in his house. The conversation continued with Reb Shmuel insisting on staying until finally the Alter Rebbe threatened to have his goy remove him. Reb Shmuel cried and said; “Rebbe, my goy is stronger than yours”.

What is this story really all about? Reb Shmuel knocked on the door and the Alter Rebbe threw him out etc., why? The Alter Rebbe was asking him; “What are you missing in your service of Hashem, what do you really seek?” There are many “houses”, meaning approaches in the service of Hashem. What brings you specifically to me? The Alter Rebbe wanted to show him, to arouse within him that there is an inner battle, an animal soul within that he has to deal with, and that it’s strong. He was hinting to him that only chassidus and avodah would enable him to overcome its strength. When Reb Shmuel heard that something fundamental was missing in his service to Hashem and that he needed to deal with it, he realized that he really didn’t know what to do. He became hurt and started to cry. He showed the Alter Rebbe with his answer (My goy is bigger) that he understood, and wanted to become his chosid.

The Alter Rebbe explains in the preface to the Tanya that people have many types of questions in avodas Hashem that need to be answered. He states that all of the answers to each individual are to be found within the Tanya. When we learn the Tanya, we may ask, exactly where are those answers? We read about a Nefesh Elokis, a G-dly Soul and a Nefesh Habahamis, an animal soul. We learn about the powers and garments of the soul and how it works. We learn about the level of a Tzadik and a Rasha, and finally a Benoni. But where are the answers to the questions? Why doesn’t the Alter Rebbe just lay out the questions in order, problem one then two etc., and then answer them?

In the Tanya the Alter Rebbe is teaching us first who we are, what our problem is and how the Torah and mitzvos are close to us. We need to understand our makeup, what all the possible levels of being are: a Tzadik a Rasha and a Benoni. We need to know who we are and where we stand.

While I was in yeshiva in Brunoy, my wife’s uncle, Reb Aaron Yosef Belinitsky once said: “Shimon, what do you think; that the G-dly and animal souls are like two cats in a sack having a fight?” The Alter Rebbe is addressing the fabric of our being; he’s speaking to us in our situation, not some theory or intellectual philosophy. When I learn the Tanya, and read about the animal soul, it’s not speaking about the one in shul, aloof and detached. It’s about my animal soul, and how it walks in the world, how it’s affected by the culture the language and activities of the world in all aspects. The Alter Rebbe explains how I function and my capability to be in control. The Tanya explains how I am in charge and how it’s up to me. This is what the first 12-13 chapters of Tanya explain. Our job is to apply it to our daily lives and not dismiss it as a theory. By taking it to heart we can avoid many challenges. When we see that we aren’t making progress we can take an honest look at the nature of our situation and modify our course. This is the opportunity the Alter Rebbe gives us. We are able to change because we learn the Tanya in this way.

Also deeper, the Tanya addresses our moods, our seeming lack of resources and our disappointments along the way. Chapters 26-30 teach about how to deal with our moods with practical advice. This sefer is not written for someone in a cave in Tzfas or an astronaut on Mars, it’s speaking to us. We change from within because we realize that it’s about the powers that Hashem has given us to do our part when the animal soul fools us.  When I realize that every mitzvah connects to Hashem and every aveirah disconnects, I look and see that I am not worse that the kal sh’b’kalim, the most cynical and dismissive from among us. When it comes to challenges of in emunah in Hashem (avodah zara etc.) I see that even the most cynical have mesiras nefesh. Therefore whatever my challenges are that I feel I cannot overcome with regard to any mitzvah, I cannot be less.

The bottom line is that we can learn chassidus realizing that it’s speaking to us personally and the life we know it all it’s detail. What is most important is that Moshiach is a reality, not just a nice speech like the “I Had a Dream” speech. We need to get over looking at it as if it were a dream. By learning chassidus the way it is intended, to be learned and lived, we come to recognize that Moshiach is real and galus is a dream. Through living in the ways of chassidus may we merit to see the complete revelation of Moshiach in all aspects Now!

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