Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Eretz Yisrael

A Simple Jew asks:

In your posting for the yahrzeit of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk you wrote of your feelings of attachment to him. Given this tzaddik's great love for Eretz Israel, did you ever contemplate moving to Eretz Israel as he did in 1777? Also, do you believe that living in Eretz Israel is a central point in his teachings?

Chabakuk Elisha responds:

For generations, Chassidim (and non-Chassidim for that matter) have longed to go to Eretz Yisroel. The Baal Shem Tov's desire and unsuccessful journey to reach the Holy Land is legendary, as it was similarly so for many subsequent Tzaddikim. Indeed, reaching Israel was an ideal sought after throughout our history, and especially by Chassidim. Reb Mendel made it and remained there, and one must ask what that meant to him and to chassidus.

The importance is further highlighted by the fact that Chassidim throughout Europe were told to, and did, send much needed funds to support the community R' Mendel had established, and a number of Chassidim eventually joined R' Mendel's community.

It is generally accepted that R' Mendel left Europe because of the many persecutions Chassidim experienced at the hands of the Misnagdim. However, it cannot be the only reason as R' Mendel and the Chassidic movement was still growing with great success, and R' Mendel was the leading figure. R' Mendel would probably have been the single leader of Chassidus and successor to the Maggid. Was he simply fed up with the struggles of Europe? Especially in light of the hardships he still had to endure in Israel, it is unlikely that that's all there was to it.

With this in mind, it would have to be said that living in the Holy Land was a significant, if not the most significant, element of R' Mendel's legacy today. But, R' Mendel also stated that the Land of Israel is not acquired with ease; it is a great zechus to live there - a zechus that not everyone merits. He would pray constantly that the Eretz Yisroel would accept him and continue to allow him to live there. Chazal also tell us that even those who live in Israel are not necessarily treading Holy Land as malachim, we are told, throw earth from chutz leaaretz under the feet of those who do not deserve to tread the Holy soil.

Sure, I wish I was in Eretz Yisroel, and I hope I will be one day. I also regret that I didn't move there when I was young (when it would have been much easier), but unfortunately, for now, I remain in America. Personally, I'm an American boy and with a house full of children and adjusting would be hard on many levels - but I pray that I will get there one day.

In the interim, I can try to live with this story: It is told that in 1857 there was a Chossid of the Tzemach Tzeddek that wanted to move to Israel. When he asked his Rebbe for a brocha, the Tzemach Tzedek said, "Mach da Eretz Yisroel" (basically, wherever you are, make that place into Eretz Yisroel)


(Picture courtesy of Akiva of Mystical Paths)

13 Comments:

At May 24, 2006 at 5:52:00 AM EDT, Anonymous ayhb said...

What is not terribly well known is that R' Mendel was in fact the Rebbe of the Baal HaTanya, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad commonly describes their seven fold shalsheles as going from the Baal Shem Tov to the Magid and then to the Baal HaTanya. Curiously, they miss out R' Mendel even though the letters of the Baal HaTanya clearly show that after the death of the Magid, R' Mendel was the Rebbe. I have yet to hear a cogent explanation for this.

 
At May 24, 2006 at 12:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

AYHB brings up an important point, and if anyone has an answer for this, please post it!

CE wrote: In the interim, I can try to live with this story: It is told that in 1857 there was a Chossid of the Tzemach Tzeddek that wanted to move to Israel. When he asked his Rebbe for a brocha, the Tzemach Tzedek said, "Mach da Eretz Yisroel" (basically, wherever you are, make that place into Eretz Yisroel).
One wonders which task is more difficult, or perhaps one should wonder which is more attainable - to make wherever you are into Eretz Yisrael, or to make Aliya!
As we approach Yom Yerushalayim, may we see all of you here soon!

 
At May 24, 2006 at 1:22:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

ayhb: Don't forger also about Rabbi Avrohom haMalach zy"o.

 
At May 24, 2006 at 1:37:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin once said, "The trip that Rabbi Mendel made to Eretz Israel was equivalent to that made by Avraham Avinu to that country. Both wished to blaze a path for G-d and for the Jewish people."

 
At May 24, 2006 at 1:47:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

AYHB,
Thank You.
I think I also mentioned your point in my original posting on R' Mendel – It is fairly well known in Chabad; the Rebbe spoke about this on many occasions.

This is of course probably not the entire reason, but I will say this:

I think that the basic reason that the Malach & R' Mendel are not listed as part of the shalsheles is that the Baal HaTanya was more of a talmid-chaver with them. Also, the Baal HaTanya would call the Maggid "Tatte" and the Besh"t, "Zeide." He did not use those terms for the Malach or R' Mendel. And on a simple level, the Malach did not ultimately lead the movement for any length of time, and R' Mendel essentially abdicated the throne, with the Alter Rebbe staying behind. Also, the Alter Rebbe viewed himself as directly carrying the Maggid's legacy, as it was with all talmidei hamaggid that spread out to spread chasidus in their region...

Yitz,
Please daven for me to get there!

 
At May 25, 2006 at 3:32:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

CE,
Perhaps when we say the Ani Ma'amin of "achakeh lo b'chol yom she'yavo" [I wait each day for him to come] that we should have in mind not just Moshiach, but all of our wonderful brethren who are [nebech] in Chutz La'aretz as well!
Looking forward to putting out the welcome mat for you and ASJ, may it be now!

 
At May 25, 2006 at 7:56:00 AM EDT, Anonymous ayhb said...

I don't believe that the letters from the Alter Rebbe to R' Mendel show anything but the fact that the Alter Rebbe considered R' Mendel his Rebbe. It would seem that if R' Mendel would not have gone to Eretz Yisroel, that the Alter Rebbe would have continued as secondary to R' Mendel. Indeed, unlike the other Talmidim of the Magid, the Alter Rebbe clearly did not see himself as ready to assume the mantle of a Rebbe after the Magid passed away.

 
At May 25, 2006 at 10:33:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

AYHB,

I agreee.

However, things turned out otherwise, and the AR did assume the mantle of Rebbe, etc...

 
At May 25, 2006 at 4:33:00 PM EDT, Anonymous ayhb said...

chabakuk,
True enough, but qualitatively, it's hard not to therefore include him in the shalsheles unless there is some unwritten criteria of longevity. Aron Lezer from Tzfas told me that the last Rebbe asked this question apparently, and said that there was no good answer---whatever that means.

 
At May 25, 2006 at 6:30:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

ayhb - and what the difference practically anyway? Whoever you'll put (or not put) in the list, Reb Mendl z"l and his sforim will remain an integral part of Chasidus.

 
At May 26, 2006 at 1:33:00 AM EDT, Anonymous ayhb said...

a yid: there is a big difference. It means the Rebbe wasn't Dor Sh'vii something no chabadnik would accept. It means his Yohrtzeit would become a Chabad event. My view is that the real reason he wasn't counted was that his model was too
Zionist. It has never been the model in Chabad that a Rebbe picks up, and tries to take as many chassidim with him to Eretz Yisroel. Chabad believe that you make Eretz Yisroel out of Golus through the Nitzozos.

 
At May 26, 2006 at 12:22:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

I just would tell you, I'm happy such things don't bother me at all. I think there are much more important issues to worry about.

 
At May 29, 2006 at 1:55:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

ahyb,
I must say that i agree with A Yid here, but just for the sake of taking a position I will say:

1. "Dor Hashviei" is a count from the Baal HaTanya... It dosent include the Besh"T or Maggid anyway, and as such, it would have not include R' Mendel either...

2. The Alter Rebbe & Rebbe Rashab had planned to move to Israel, but it didn't work out. I don't think a real case can be made to say that the Rabbeim in Chabad were opposed to moving to the Holy Land.

Honestly, I don't understand why you think those two points are very strong...

 

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