By COLlive reporter
How to “Make the Rebbe My Rebbe” is a challenge chassidim face today and perhaps faced yesterday as well.
As Chassidim throughout the world heralded a new year of the Rebbe’s leadership, many Crown Heights women –and many more online– came to farbreng with two Roshei Yeshiva from opposite sides of the world.
The brothers, Rabbi Noam Wagner and Akiva Wagner, came to farbreng as part of Machon Chana’s 40 year anniversary series. The site of the event, Beis Levi Yichak shul, was packed with of women of all ages.
Rosh Yeshiva Gedolah in Johannesburg, Rabbi Noam Wagner opened the fabrengen by gently urging the crowd to take heed of the moment, insisting that “hayamim ha’eleh niskarim v’naasim,” that when we remember a day properly, it actually comes into being all over again, in an even greater way.
If the audience thought they had come to be entertained, they were quickly made to realize that it was their own work that would truly serve to entertain them.
Rabbi Wagner told how once, in the middle of a fabrengen, as the chassidim sang ‘Ashreinu’ with lackluster, the Rebbe stopped the singing and told a story.
One morning a chassid saw Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev dancing. Upon inquiring why, Reb Levi said, “If I am making the brocha ‘shelo asani goy,’ it means that it could have been different; if I think about this, how can I not dance?”
The Rebbe explained that the reason we don’t break into dance when we say this is because we don’t take this statement personally. Rabbi Wagner concluded: “When a Chassid takes into account what Yud Shevat means today in 5773–that I have a Rebbe who loves me and who I love–how can I not begin to dance?”
Rabbi Akiva Wagner, Rosh Lubavitch Yeshiva in Toronto, took over for his brother and further challenged the audience to examine their relationship with the Rebbe. With a candid exploration of the words “Adoneinu, Moreinu v’Rabbeinu,” Rabbi Wagner encouraged the crowd to think about how the Rebbe acts simultaneously as our boss, our guide, and our teacher.
In exploring the concept of Adoneinu, Rabbi Akiva shared the story of Chassid Reb Dunin who took advantage of his special relationship with the Rebbe and asked the Rebbe, at the close of a long night of Yechidus, who were the dignitaries who arrived escorted by helicopters and secret police.
When the Rebbe replied that they were scientists working for the state department who needed help solving a problem in atomic energy, Rabbi Dunin asked, “and did you help them?” When the Rebbe answered in the affirmative he continued asking, “so why did you help them, bombs are dangerous.” The Rebbe gave three answers, the third the most significant: “So they know who is the boss.”
He continued telling several stories that portrayed the importance of obedience, a concept very integral in the Rebbe-chassid relationship. He then went on to explain how, as Morainu, the Rebbe revolutionized our way of thinking and continues to do so; and as Rabbainu, taught us a derech in learning all aspects of Torah.
Through stories, anecdotes, and chassidishe verter, the brothers brought to the fore the profound depth and love in the Chassid-Rebbe relationship and how one completes the other.
The warm atmosphere in the room could be tangibly felt as the sincere words of the brothers inspired the women to re-evaluate and re-establish their relationship to the Rebbe; to make the relationship a current, personal undertaking and to take advantage of the gift of being a chassid.
Watch Rabbi Akiva Wagner’s weekly farbrengen at machonchana.org