Thursday, March 20, 2008

Guest Posting By Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin - Purim In The Rebbe’s Court

I sometimes see myself as a bridge between the past and the future. In connecting with my own roots I am also reviving a new transmission of mesorah for my children. Yet it is not just about nusach hatefillah or how I put on tefillin, etc… It isn’t even about my great great grandfather Benzion’s (a Koidenover Chassid who never made it to America) Megillas Esther that I have. The greatest impression I have had in spending time with the Rebbe, even more than learning old minhagim or singing old nigunim, has been in the experiential realm. To experience a Shabbos, a Pesach Seder, a tekias Shofar, a davening…Davening is not the same. Shabbos and Yom Tov are not the same. I have been blown away by the intensity and the passion for Avodas Hashem that I have witnessed, and I have come to see myself and what is possible in a different light.

I have fond memories of the time I spent by the Rebbe when I was in Eretz Yisroel. I experienced every Yom Tov in Koidenov besides Shavuos and Purim. While I have a special connection with Shavuos (for reasons I will not go into here), Purim was the one yom tov that I have felt a harder time connecting to. As my kids were growing, I found myself lacking a “memory” of the type of Purim I wanted to create for them. I felt that until I could experience Purim by the Rebbe, something was lacking. I did not have what to draw upon, some internal picture from which to derive chizuk. As I had not been to Eretz Yisroel in seven years, I was itching to go back, and with a milestone birthday approaching, I felt that last Purim was the time. With my wife’s brocha, I embarked alone on a weeklong trip to Bnei Brak.

There were so many memories: Taanis Esther, going to the Rebbe’s mother’s grave on her yohrtzeit, Parshas Zachor, Krias haMegillah, the Purim tish, and of course Yerushalayim. So much had changed in 7 years. Young boys were now married men with children. There was a new Koidenover yeshiva. A complete revival had taken place. Old nigunim were now being sung again. Shalosh Seudos was now in the dark. Koidenov was much different than when I last visited, though much more similar to how it was hundred and seven years ago.

Of all the incredible experiences I had during my stay, one of the most memorable has to have been hearing the Rebbe leyn the Megillah. I recall learning the Kav haYashar (perek 99) about the awesome kavanos of the brocha al mikra megillah. It has always been somewhat of a letdown to hear that brocha every year after learning what the Kav haYashar writes. However, this year when I heard the Rebbe make that brocha, it was clear that he had something in mind. He was jumping up and down and saying it b’kol ra’ash gadol. It was worth coming just to see his intensity. When he leyned the Megillah it was an avodah. He wasn’t just reading a story that happened a long time ago. The recurring theme throughout this visit as well as all of my interactions with the Rebbe has been to view mitzvos in an entirely different light. It is not about going through the motions, discharging an obligation, or following “tradition.” Mitzvos, especially Shabbos and Yom Tov, are transformative and must be approached with care and yiras shamayim. This is my greatest hope for my children, to find Yiddishkeit meaningful and full of vitality. Instead of “having to sit through the Megillah” bored out of our minds, chas v’shalom, to understand what is really going on in the spiritual realms. Life becomes entirely different.

So as I prepare for Purim and we get ready to make our first seudah ever at home, I am excited to share with my family what I experienced. And while I missed spending Purim with them last year, I now have something to pass on to them which is much more meaningful than even Zeide Benzion’s megillah. A freilechen Purim.

Experience a glimpse of Purim 5767 in Koidenov by listening to this recording of the Purim tish, full of nigunim and divrei Torah (Yiddish). The three and a half hour recording can be downloaded here.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin's website can be seen here.


At March 20, 2008 at 4:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Beautiful story. B"H you were able to go to Bnei Brak and experience what you did. If that Purim had been experienced at home, every Purim after that would be the same. But since you "sacrified" that one Purim by not being with your family, all of your subsequent Purims will be that much greater. Kol hakavod and ashrecha that you now have such great experiences to look back on.

-Dixie Yid

At March 24, 2008 at 7:24:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How were you able to get your great great grandfather Benzion’s Megillas Esther?

At March 24, 2008 at 9:27:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father had a box in his closet filled with old photos and religious articles such as the Megillah (there was actually another megillah from my other great great grandfather as well)tefillin, and siddurim. My grandfather, who was still alive at the time, had given it to him. As I was always interested in the family, genealogy, etc... I started looking through the box and I found it. He never made it to America. His wife did, as did her children, including my great grandfather. One of them brought it over.

By the way, as a postscript to the original posting, my wife told me this Shabbos that she was so glad that I went to Eretz Yisroel last year because this Purim was the nicest yet.


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