Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A Smile…and a Reminder

Every now and then, we experience some great happening when we can literally feel a smile from Above, the special Hashgocha of Hashem. Without our being prepared for it, the curtains of hester ponim suddenly part and we are able to see the Yad Hashem. Such an event took place on the last night of Chanukah, a true miracle. On Erev Chanukah, we suffered the irreplaceable loss of our manhig hador, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt”l. Then we were reeling from the terrible tragedy that befell the Azan family at the beginning of Chanukah. Our hearts were numbed by this shocking news of a mother and children snatched from this world by a raging fire. May Hashem bring comfort and yeshuos for the rest of the mishpacha.

And then, suddenly, without any hint of something dramatic about to take place, phones everywhere were buzzing.

“Did you hear the news? Reb Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin is free!”

“Really? Are you sure? How? When? Where is he now?”

Without any forewarning, an egregious miscarriage of justice was coming to an end. The scenes of the simcha were so emotional and heartwarming. This, in and of itself, must have brought a smile to Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Frum Yidden everywhere from various circles who did not know Reb Shalom Mordechai personally were beside themselves with joy. There was singing and dancing in the streets of Lakewood, Monsey, Boro Park and Crown Heights, as one big happy family rejoices when one of its members experiences a yeshuah. It was the geulah of a yochid, but we all felt the yeshuah. It seemed like this was a small taste of what we will feel when the ultimate geulah comes, may it be soon.

The Yated can stand tall and proud for its efforts on behalf of Reb Shalom Mordechai. With Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz leading the way, it was at the forefront of raising money for his defense, publicizing his plight, and arousing people not to forget about him. Mrs. Debbie Maimon’s informative articles kept us abreast about what was going on, and with this awareness we were at least able to constantly daven for his release.

Reb Shalom Mordechai is a true hero in our time. We learn about the unwavering emunah and bitachon of earlier generations. But here we saw a living example of rock-solid faith in Hashem. We were able to read his correspondence with those who wrote to him. Not only didn’t he despair in his difficult situation, but he served as a great source of chizuk to others. His sudden freedom serves as a lesson to us that yeshuos from Hashem can come with the blink of an eye. And who amongst us can’t use such chizuk? As long as we’re in golus, we all have problems, big or small, that worry us and constantly occupy our minds. We should never lose hope and we must keep on davening. And of course, this should strengthen our emunah in the geulah klalis of Klal Yisroel that could come at any moment to bring tikkun to the entire world.

What would the secular news media have to say about this event? People anticipated that they would surely report about it and use it as an opportunity to criticize President Donald Trump for commuting the sentence. Certainly, they would try and dig up some scandal here. Furthermore, the public celebration of so many people would have made a good story, something that they are always on the lookout for. Yet, interestingly enough, for some strange reason, they were relatively quiet about it. No great loss. To the contrary, it left our simcha pure and untainted.

Some had the feeling, “What can the media, so full of falsehood and ‘fake news,’ possibly understand about our rejoicing? They don’t believe in the emes of a smile from Above, or share our emunah in Hashgocha Protis. They cannot possibly perceive the feelings of a Yiddish hartz in golus, that every Yiddishe neshamah is bound together. That we feel each other’s pain and we experience genuine simcha when another Yid has a yeshuah. No, this is not their domain and we are thankful that they stayed off of it.”

Seforim say that any occurrence during the week has its roots in the Shabbos that preceded it, for Shabbos is the mekor habracha, the source of blessing of what happens during the following week. This is why the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol, for it was the source of blessing of the geulah that transpired the following week. Similarly, the Shabbos before Yom Kippur is Shabbos Shuvah, for it leads us to repentance that week. The Shabbos before Reb Shalom Mordechai’s release was Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz, a very propitious sedrah for his redemption, for it speaks about the release of Yosef Hatzaddik from prison. And there is a great lesson there for all of us.

On the posuk, “And they rushed him from the dungeon” (Bereishis 41:14), the Seforno comments: “Like the way of all salvations from Hashem that come instantly, as it says, ‘For my salvation is soon to come’ (Yeshaya 56:1), and as it says, ‘If only My people would heed Me In an instant I would subdue their foes…’ (Tehillim 81:14-15). And so it happened in Mitzrayim, as it says, ‘For they were driven out of Mitzrayim, for they could not delay’ (Shemos 12:39).” As Chazal say, their dough did not have time to become leavened for the King of kings. The Holy One Blessed Be He revealed Himself to them and redeemed them. And this is how it will be in the future, when the geulah arrives, as it says, “Suddenly, the Lord Whom you seek will come to His sanctuary” (Malachi 3:1).

While speaking about the final redemption that will come suddenly, the Chofetz Chaim related the following incisive moshol: Kneppel the peasant never left the borders of the hamlet where he lived far from the big city. He heard a lot about the wonders of the great metropolis, and for many days he dreamt about seeing it with his very own eyes. He saved penny by penny to be able to afford such a trip, and when he finally accumulated a nice some of money, he went into action to realize his ambition. He packed his suitcase, took his savings with him, and set out for the train station.

For the first time in his life, he was on a train. He sat there wide-eyed. Everything was new and strange – the people, their mode of dress, the train, and the cushioned seats. He got a jolt when the locomotive emitted a piercing whistle and tensed up a bit as the train started moving quickly. He looked with wonder at the scenes outside the window: the fields, the meadows, and the trees passing by so quickly. He couldn’t get enough of these sights.

On the same car sat a group of young pranksters who were looking for someone to play a trick on. It didn’t take long for them to spot Kneppel and identify him as easy prey. They approached him and sat down next to him, pretending to be interested in his whereabouts.

“Where are you headed to?” they asked looking very serious.

“To the big city,” he answered respectfully.

“Do you have any relatives there or any business dealings?”

“No,” he answered in all innocence. “I saved up some money and I’m going there to see some of its exciting features.”

They gazed at him with a pitying look. “Like that you are going to the big city? With a peasant’s clothing?” They could barely contain their laughter, but they had to appear as if they were really concerned.

“What should I wear?” he asked. “How do the city people dress?”

“Well, don’t you have any nicer clothing?” they persisted.

“Yes, I do. I have my nice clothing packed in my suitcase. I will change into them once I am in the hotel.”

“They won’t even let you step into a hotel with clothes like that. You won’t be able to rent a room!”

Now he was in a quandary. “I never thought of that. What should I do? Do you have any advice for me?”

“Not a problem. You can change right here on the train.”

“Here? On the train? In front of everyone? I can’t do that!”

“Don’t worry,” they said. “We are approaching a long dark tunnel. We’ll give you the signal right when we’re entering the tunnel and you can change in the dark.”

Sure enough, Kneppel opened up his suitcase to get ready for the tunnel. “We’re coming up to the tunnel any second. Get ready, get set… Now!”

Kneppel quickly removed all of his clothing down to his undergarments. But there was only one problem. The tunnel wasn’t as long as they made it out to be. Just as he was about to start putting on his suit, he found himself standing on the train in broad daylight…without any clothing!

There was an explosion of laughter on the train as these pranksters pulled off their hilarious stunt at Kneppel’s expense.

When the Chofetz Chaim told this story, his listeners laughed along. Even Rav Elchonon Wasserman, who usually had a very serious demeanor, let out a slight chuckle.

But the Chofetz Chaim continued: “We are really laughing at ourselves. The world is compared to the night (Bava Metzia 83b). But the wheels of history are turning very rapidly, and very soon we will be out of the darkness and into the bright light with a stunning suddenness. ‘He who prepared himself on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos’ (Avodah Zarah 3a). If we clothe ourselves while it is still dark, we will be covered when the light arrives. But if we don’t act soon, that dark tunnel might be beyond us before we know it. We must be careful to prevent ourselves from remaining bare or being covered with a peasant’s clothing. We must don royal clothing while we still are able to.”

After the geulah comes, when we no longer have nisyonos and difficulties, we will not be able to advance in our madreigos the way we can now. Our spiritual level will become frozen in its place. Kneppel the peasant suffered embarrassment for just a short while until he put on his nice clothing. But we will not have that opportunity. “And those years arrive of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Kohelles 12:1). This refers to the days of Moshiach, when there will be no merit or guilt (Shabbos 151b). Our clothing ensemble should be acquired before those great days arrive, so that we will be assured of being well clad in mitzvos when the darkness is gone.

This wonderful news of Reb Shalom Mordechai’s release should hopefully be a portent of good things to come for the rest of Klal Yisroel. At the same time, it should serve as a reminder that the geulah could come at any time suddenly…and we should be prepared.



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