Weekly Chasidic Story #813 (s5773-42 / 16 Tammuz 5773)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Ohr HaChayim
“As a young man in Jerusalem, I would go every Thursday to the grave of the “Ohr Hachayim.” However, the Mount of Olives was not a totally safe place to be. And, sure enough,…
Connection: Seasonal — 15th of Tammuz (2013: June 23) is the 270th yahrzeit of the holy Ohr HaChayim.
A Boyaner chasid came to Melbourne,Australia to be the chazan (cantor) for the High Holidays of 5771 (2010). Rabbi Mottel Krasnjanski noticed that from time to time in the middle of the services he would pause and glance at a little piece of paper that he had placed on the podium with his Machzor (High Holiday prayer book).
After the services were over, Rabbi Krasnjanski asked the chazan about the paper. The chazan replied that about 20 years earlier, shortly before the High Holidays, he had gone to the Lubavitcher Rebbe on a Sunday when the Rebbe distributed dollars to be given to charity. The chazan told the Rebbe that he was going to be a chazan in a certain shul. The Rebbe’s response was, “We must remember that we are praying to G-d.”
The chazan appreciated the nice thought but didn’t take it too seriously at the time. After the holidays however, it occurred to him that throughout the services he was so preoccupied with remembering the tunes, hitting the notes crisply, creating the right emotions through his voice, that he really hadn’t thought much about G-d! He then realized that the Rebbe hadn’t just told him a “nice thought,” but rather had given him guidance and something to work on. Since then,” the chazan concluded, “whenever I lead the prayers, I carry with me this piece of paper on which I wrote the Rebbe’s message, ‘We must remember that we are praying to G-d,’ and look at it from time to time during the prayers to make sure that I never forget it!”
Rabbi Krasnjanski asked the chazan what brought him to the Lubavitcher Rebbe that Sunday for a dollar? The chazananswered that he had previously corresponded with the Rebbe, and then began to relate the following story:
“Years earlier, as a young man in Jerusalem, I would go every Thursday to the grave of Rabbi Chayim ben Moses ibn Attar (known as the “Ohr Hachayim” after his famous Torah commentary by that name). There in the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, I would study the weekly Torah portion with the commentary of the holy Ohr Hachayim.
“At that time period, the Mount of Olives was not a totally safe place to be. And, sure enough, one time when I was studying at the Ohr Hachayim’s grave, I turned around and saw an Arab standing behind me with a drawn knife! Petrified, I turned back to the grave and beseeched the Ohr Hachayim to help protect me from the great and immediate danger in which I found himself.
“After my prayer, I turned back around and saw the Arab frozen in fear. An instant later the Arab was running away like someone running for his life! I started to run too, chasing the Arab out of the cemetery. I then continued running until I was back at my own home.
“After this incident, my mother insisted that I stop going to the Ohr Hachayim’s grave each week, as she believed I was putting my life in danger. I disagreed. But she was so determined that I not go that she threatened to cut off her relationship with me. Finally I proposed that we would send a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and whatever the Rebbe would answer we would both accept.
A short while later the answer from the Rebbe arrived: ‘Ask a Rav (a Jewish legal authority).’ I asked the renowned chief judge of the “Badatz” rabbinical court, Rabbi Yitzchok Weiss. The Rav replied that if the Rebbe felt that I shouldn’t go to the grave anymore then he simply would have said so. Rather it must be that the Rebbe wants me to continue, but with the added strength of a pesak halacha (Jewish legal ruling) and that was why the Rebbe had said to consult a Rav. ‘Therefore,’ said Dayan Weiss, ‘I rule that you can continue going there!’ And of course, that is what I did. That was my earlier correspondence with the Rebbe,” said the chazan.
Rabbi Krasnjanski sensed that there was still something else that the chazan hadn’t yet told him. After all, when he and his mother had had the disagreement, they both agreed to consult the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “Why him rather than atzadik (pure, righteous person) or a Rav in Jerusalem?” Rabbi Krasnjanski asked.
The chazan smiled and answered that indeed there was one earlier connection already, and that involves yet another story:
“My wife gave birth to a set of twins. A few years later, one of them was diagnosed with a very serious illness. In addition to consulting with numerous doctors and specialists, we went to various great rabbis and tzadikim for advice and blessings. Someone encouraged us to get a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe as well. We wrote, and the Rebbe’s response was to go see a ‘rofeh mumcheh yedid’ (a doctor who is a specialist and a good friend).
We were very surprised at this advice because we didn’t know any specialists at all, and definitely we did not know a doctor whom we considered a ‘friend’!
We decided to make an appointment with a new doctor whom we had never before consulted, thereby fulfilling at least the ‘specialist’ part of the Rebbe’s response. You can imagine our surprise when as soon as we entered the doctor’s office, the doctor greeted me by saying, ‘Ah my yedid is here, how can I help?’-calling me his good friend with the same expression that the Rebbe had used!
This doctor went on to diagnose the illness and he prescribed a course of treatment and medication. At the end of the appointment, I asked the doctor what he had meant by calling me his ‘yedid’; after all, he never met me before and knew nothing about us before the visit!
” ‘I really don’t know, and I can’t explain why I greeted you with that unusual expression. I can only say that as soon as you entered the room, a very warm feeling toward you enveloped me and that is why I called you my yedid.
“In amazement, I told the doctor of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s response to me, which was actually our reason for making this appointment. The doctor was equally amazed at this clear display of G-d’s guidance, as well as the holiness and power of the words of a Tzadik. He promised to do everything he could for our child and refused to take any payment for his services.
“Needless to say the doctor was indeed the emissary to bring about the full recovery for the child.
“So you see,” the chazan concluded, “my experience and relationship with the Rebbe really goes back a long time, and has repeatedly affected me in truly wondrous ways.”
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from an article by Eli-Noson Silberberg in Living Jewish #351, originally posted on //LchaimWeekly.org. Rabbi Silverberg is a Rosh Yeshiva in Chicago, but every summer he is the rabbi-scholar-in-residence at Machon Alta, a Chabad women’s seminary here in the holy city of Tzefat.
Connection: 15th of Tammuz (2013: June 23) is the 270th yahrzeit of the holy Ohr HaChayim.
Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar (1696 – 15 Tammuz 1743) is best known as the author of one of the most important and popular commentaries on the Torah: the Ohr HaChaim. He established a major yeshiva in Israel, after moving there from Morocco. Chassidic tradition is that the main reason the Baal Shem Tov twice tried so hard (and failed) to get to the Holy Land was that he said if he could join the Ohr HaChaim there, together they could bring Moshiach. His burial site outside the Old City of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, is considered a propitious place to pray.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (11 Nissan 1902 – 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn on 10 Shvat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.