Thursday, October 22, 2015

Restoring My Soul

The truth is, I'm still processing it.

I had the z'chut to attend the annual hilula (celebration) of my Rebbe, Reb Kalonymous Kalman Shapira zya hyd this past motzei Shabbos. It was such an incredibly moving event, the intensity of it all is still so overwhelming that I constantly found my thoughts drifting back to the words that Rav Moshe Weinberger spoke.

This year, the hilula coincided with the debut of a new book that my good friend Binyomin Wolf put out. A collection of the ma'amarim Rav Weinberger gave over the last 15 years since the inception of the hilula in 2000, this slim volume serves not only as an introduction to the Torah of Piaseczna, but that of Rav Weinberger as well. It's a beautiful addition to the legacy of the Rebbe, a strong homage to the message of the Aish Kodesh.

I consider myself fortunate. Lucky to have been introduced the the writings of the Rebbe during a particularly difficult time in my life and then later on - through my efforts to share his work with others - discovering the fount of Torah wisdom that is Rav Weinberger. It's no coincidence that the same praise and gratitude that Rav Weinberger himself attributes to the Piaseczna is said about himself by others. In this year's ma'amar (indeed, the motivation behind the book) Rav Weinberger addressed the phenomenon we are witnessing that people from all walks of life - Jews and non-Jews alike - are drawn to the Torah of the Aish Kodesh in ever growing droves. Soul searchers, academics, meditation enthusiasts, philosophers, people from various streams of Judaism - all come to drink from the wellsprings of Reb Kalonymous Kalman. What is it about the Rebbe? What is the appeal? Rav Weinberger discusses this and more, and it can be listened to here.

For me, personally? As Rav Weinberger intimated, there are people who search for tzaddikim who can breathe life back into our souls. They feel deflated, defeated, lost in the chaos of a world moving at breakneck speed. They long to hear words of encouragement, to taste - briefly - the "dew of life" on their parched lips. They seek healing; some may be healers themselves, giving away their own vitality to others while wondering (doubting!) in the back of their mind whether they have anything to give.

I am such a person.

The Rebbe's writings - in the inimitable words of Rav Soloveitchik - address themselves to the reader's soul. Even if the passage itself is not relevant to my situation, the essence of the Rebbe permeates every word and touches me to my very core. His teaching are a touchstone for me, a guide for my daily living. And many times I don't internalize his words, and I don't feel worthy of considering myself a talmid, let alone a chassid. Still, because of who the Rebbe was, I can never stay far away from him. It is the conviction, the knowledge that the Rebbe is speaking directly to me from the perspective of one who has also suffered that comforts me when I'm confronted with the existential loneliness that we all share.

It's his words of fire and hope that illuminate my darkness, the same words that Rav Weinberger echoed in that darkened room this past motzei Shabbos.

It strengthens me, and I can take hold of myself once more and plunge back into the fray.

1 comment:

Neil Harris said...

Thank you for this. You captured, I think, the feelings of us all.