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Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Lechatchila Ariber - the Rebbe Maharash

Tonight and tomorrow, Tishrei 13, is the yahrzeit of the fourth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rebbe Shmuel Schneersohn, known as "Maharash". He was born in the town of Lubavitch (White Russia) in the year 5594 (1884). His father was the third Chabad Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek (1789-1866).
Although Rebbe Shmuel was the youngest of Rebbe Menachem Mendel's seven sons, he was chosen to succeed his father as Rebbe and leader of Chabad in the movement's capital, Lubavitch (five of his brothers established branches of Chabad Chassidism in other towns in White Russia and Ukraine). In addition to leading his Chassidim, guiding and advising their spiritual and material lives and authoring and delivering more than 1,000 ma'amarim (discourses of Chassidic teaching), Rebbe Shmuel traveled extensively to throughout Europe, meeting with government and business leaders to exert pressure on the Czarist regime to halt its instigation of pogroms against the Jews of Russia. Rebbe Shmuel passed away at the age of 48 on the 13th of Tishrei, 5643 (1882).

From the Sefer HaToldos Admur Maharash, Translator's Introduction to the English Edition by Shimon Neubort:
One of the things that caught my attention during the first farbrengens I attended was the awe and respect with which the Rebbe would refer to the Rebbeim who were his predecessors. In my earlier years, I noticed this especially with respect to his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz. In later years, I was struck by the Rebbe's evident emotion whenever he mentioned the Rebbe Maharash, or referred to the Rebbe Rayatz's remarkable physical resemblance to him.
Who can forget the singing of the Rebbe Maharash's Niggun near the conclusion of many of the Rebbe's farbrengens! The Rebbe's eyes would be tightly shut, and he would lead the singing by nodding his head slowly to the rhythm of the solemn melody - especially one stanza, which he would signal (by silent gesture of his head) to be repeated again and again, often ten times or more.
The Rebbe often referred to this niggun - and indeed, to the Rebbe Maharash himself - by the name Lechatchilah Ariber. He explained this by quoting a characteristic motto of the Rebbe Maharash:
Di velt zogt: az men ken nisht arunter muz men gehen ariber; un ich zog az men darf gehen lechatchilah ariber. People say that if one can't go underneath, one has to go over the top; but I say that one must go lechatchilah ariber. That is, one must go over the top to begin with, as the first choice. I.e., ordinary people expect to encounter obstacles, and they look for ways to get around them. But the Rebbe Maharash acted as if obstacles did not exist in the first place.
Lechatchilah Ariber! This concept is so typical of the Rebbe Maharash's approach to all things, that the Rebbe would often use the phrase as a substitute name when referring to the Rebbe Maharash. And yet, in Sefer HaToldos Admur Maharash - one of the Rebbe's earliest published works, first printed in 5707 [1947] - this phrase is not quoted even once. But, as the reader will quickly discover, the whole biography of the Rebbe Maharash features example after example of lechatchilah ariber. Indeed, the very date of his bris, Netzach ShebiNetzach signifies the ideal of lechatchilah ariber. And the fact that he - the youngest son - was evidently favored by his father over his elder sons, and succeeded his father the Tzemach Tzedek as Rebbe, bypassing his elder brothers who were themselves all great and learned tzaddikim, manifests the idea of lechatchilah ariber.
Another example that comes to my mind is the manner in which he disarmed a would-be assassin simply by reminding him that he was a Jew: "A Jew must not have the 'hands of Esav.' Give me what you have with you." The young man then took a revolver out of his pocket and gave it to [...the Rebbe Maharash], who threw it out the window.


Besides his genius and his great knowledge of all areas of Torah - both revealed and hidden - he possessed outstanding talents and an excellent memory. A few examples follow:
At the end of the sefer Hon Ashir [Lit., "The wealth of the wealthy," containing commentaries on the text of the Mishna and other subjects, including a poem on Shabbos, mila and tefillin, with accompanying musical notes. Printed in Amsterdam, 5491] by the same author as Mishnas Chassidim [R. Emanuel Chai Reiki (1688-1743), rabbi, kabbalist and poet], there is a song marked with its musical notes. A facsimile of this page is reproduced at the end of Sefer HaNiggunim. The Rebbe Maharash read them and then remarked that the song written there inspired him to sing a certain melody. He then sang the niggun long known among Chassidim by the name "One Two Three Four," or the "Ein Sof Niggun." This is the niggun of the Rebbe Maharash, which was regularly sung at the Rebbe's farbrengens; the Rebbe called it the "Lechatchilah Ariber Niggun."


The Rebbe Maharash's Niggunim:
L'Chatchila Ariber - Rebbe Maharash
Shuvu Shuva - Rebbe Maharash
Niggun of the Chassidim of the Rebbe Maharash

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