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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

 

THE RIZHINER: THE GREATNESS OF STORIES


The Shul in Sadigora where Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin davened.

Picture courtesy of Diaspora Museum - Beit HaTefutzot

Tonight and tomorrow, Gimmel MarCheshvan, is the 156th yahrzeit of Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin [or Ruzhin], a great-grandson of the Maggid of Mezritch. Besides Rizhin, the dynasties of Sadigur [Sadiger], Boyan, Chortkov, Husyatin, Bohush, Kapishnitz, Vasloi and Stefanesht all come from him. Last year's posting on the Rizhiner can be found here.

When only 15 years old he succeeded his father as Chassidic Rebbe of Prohovitch (near Kiev). With his phenominal talent for organization, the young Rebbe built the community into a Chassidic center. In Rizhin, he conducted his "court" in a palace with all the trappings of royalty: maintaining a staff of servants, an orchestra of musicians, and a splendid horse-drawn coach. Thousands of Chassidim, attracted by the glitter and the opulence, rallied around to the Rizhner. The Rebbe's motive for the ostentatious display of wealth was to raise the standards of Torah and Chassidus. He derived no personal enjoyment from it. He was said to walk on hard peas that he placed inside his elegant leather shoes. He often fasted, and he slept only three hours each night.

***

excerpted from The Golden Dynasty:

From a small village deep in the Russian countryside, a blazing light has spread across the world; a light that has shone through the deepest gloom and darkness, a light which infused a radiance into the most dull and dreary places. The light which the Rebbe of Rizhin kindled still burns as brightly as ever, his message even more important in these dark and confusing times.
At a time when Yiddish [Jewish] pride was at its lowest, the Jewish people persecuted daily with new evil decrees, the Rizhiner sought to uplift their spirits, to rekindle the glow in their neshamos [souls]. Through his quiet aristocratic way of speech and his humane manner he succeeded in infusing new values into the lives of his Chassidim, filling them with joy and purpose.

One of the Rizhiner's greatest admirers was the Sanzer Rav, Rebbe Chaim Halberstam. When his followers expressed surprise that he should also feel it necessary to make the long and difficult journey to visit the Rizhiner, he told them, "Why was the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy Temple), built on Mount Moriah, where the Akeidas Yitzchak (the Binding of Isaac) took place, and not on Mount Sinai where the Torah was given to Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people)? Because the place where a Jew was willing to be moser nefesh (self-sacrificing) for Hashem's name is more important than the place where the Torah was given. The Rizhiner is ready at all times to be moser nefesh for Hashem's Name."

The mere mention of the word "Rizhin" is enough to conjure up stories of fabulous wealth and undreamed of treasures. Indeed, the Rebbe of Rizhin was already a legend in his own lifetime. All of his personal belongings, even his everyday cutlery, were made of the most expensive materials. The buttons on his bekeshes [Chassidic frock coats] were made of solid gold, studded with diamonds, and his pillowcase was woven from pure gold thread. Even though the reasons for the Rebbe's conduct were not understood by most people, he was regarded as one of the greatest tzaddikim of his time.

Although from the outside it appeared that the Rebbe enjoyed all the comforts of this world, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the Rebbe afflicted himself terribly, denying his body even the basic necessities. This point is illustrated by the famous story of the Rebbe's boots. The Rebbe used to wear a magnificent pair of boots. It was rumored that even the Czar of Russia was jealous of these boots. Made of solid gold and studded with diamonds and other precious stones, they were the envy of all who beheld them. Once on a bitterly cold night the Rebbe went out in his boots to sanctify the New Moon. The Rebbe stood for a long time in the snow davening. When he left, the Chassidim noticed blood where he had been standing.
An investigation of the Rebbe's boots revealed that they had no soles. Every time the Rebbe wore them, he was really walking barefoot; and when he stood on the snow his feet became stuck to the icy ground, causing them to bleed when he left. When this story became known, even those people who had until then been opposed to his extravagant life style, bowed their heads in deference, acknowledging that the Rebbe's every action was only for the sake of Heaven and not for his own pleasure.

***

The Greatness of Stories

House of Love and Prayer, San Francisco, 5732 – Reprinted from the Holy Beggars' Gazette – Transcription by Donna Anderson Maimes
Reb Shlomo Carlebach speaking:
Two people came to Rebbe Yisrael Rizhiner: One, a storyteller who had a book of stories, and the other, a great scholar who had written great treatises on Halacha. So the shammes asked the Rizhiner who he would see first.
The Rebbe says, "I want to see the storyteller first."
The secretary was really astounded that he would call in this uneducated storyteller in preference to this great scholar, but he doesn't say anything. So he ushers in the little storyteller and the Rebbe looks at his book and says, "Oh this is such a beautiful story, it's the greatest story I ever read. The story is really holy."
Then he asks to see the scholar and his great treatise on Halacha. He is looking at the book, and he says. "Oh this is so deep, it is really from Mt. Sinai."
Then they both leave and the secretary comes in and says, "I don't understand it. Here is a great scholar who has studied many years, who is one of the greatest men, and you ask him to come in second. First you hear the storyteller."
"So." the Rebbe says. "I'm just doing it the way Hashem did it in the Torah. First Hashem was telling stories -- He told the story of Creation, the story of the flood, the stories of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; the story of slavery, the story of redemption, and then He led us before Sinai. After he told us all these stories he gave us the laws."
Rebbe Nachman [of Breslov] said G-d created man because He loves stories. The whole world is G-d telling a story. G-d is telling us stories, creating the world, creating people, telling long stories.
There is such a thing as prayer, which is very deep, but, Rebbe Nachman says, prayer is not the deepest depths of closeness to G-d. The deepest depths of closeness to G-d is when you can tell G-d a story. The Tree of Knowledge is theories and the Tree of Life is stories. Everything we understand comes from our consciousness.
Where do stories originate? Imagination. The truth is, the story comes from beyond my consciousness, but it flows into my consciousness. The story itself is really beyond.
Rebbe Nachman says when you dream, you always dream stories, not theories. When your imagination is completely free, then you dream stories. When people sit and tell each other stories, they really become friends.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You know we are living in a world where there is hardly anything that children do not know. But, you know what they are missing: stories. Stories are so real that they are both old and new. They are so holy and so deep. They touch something in the soul.

*****

Some brief vignettes about the Rizhiner, from around the Web:

THE PURPOSE OF TRAINS
Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin was once sitting with a few of his mekuravim [close confidants] and they began speaking about the news. The locomotive had just been invented, shaking up the world. One of the Chassidim remarked that the train would make it easier to gather all the Jews from all four corners of the world to bring them to Eretz Yisrael.
The tzaddik took one of the cups on the table and said, “We don’t need trains for kibbutz galuyos, because gathering the exiles will take place in manner resembling how I move the cup from one side of the table to the other. The purpose of trains will be so that the gentiles will be able to come and see the Jewish people’s glory.”
(Ner Yisrael vol. 2 p. 188)

***
“ONE IS SILENT AND EVERYBODY LISTENS”
R. Shaul Brook lived in the Ukraine where there were Polish Chassidim. There were grandchildren of the tzaddik Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin, and the way they did things at the Tish was that the tzaddik sat in silence and everybody else sat silently as well. They did not sing. The tzaddik would look at each Chassid and this changed the Chassid’s essence. Then they all got up.
Once, an old gentile walked in. When he left, he was asked what he saw and he said, “I saw one who was silent and they were all listening.”

***

Why do many Chassidim pray so late?
Chassidus demands that prayer be preceded by strenuous preparation: Immersion in the mikva, studying Chassidus, meditating into the greatness of G-d, etc. This is especially true on Shabbat, a day which is supposed to be devoted to spirituality and our connection with G-d. Therefore, it was often the accepted practice by Chassidim to start praying late.
Chassidim consider the preparations for prayer as part of prayer (because it is impossible for a Chassid to pray without it), and therefore, if the preparations started on time, there is no problem.
A Chassidic master (I think it was Rebbe Meir of Premishlan) once said: There is no such thing as tefilla b'zmana (timely prayer). The Misnagdim (non-Chassidim) have b'zmana (timeliness), but no tefilla (prayer - because they do not prepare properly), and Chassidim have tefilla but not b'zmana!
This, obviously, applies only to someone who is actually involved in preparing for prayer from the early hours in the morning...
Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin once gave the following parable: There was once a peasant who would come home from work every day at five-thirty in the afternoon. At six o'clock, every day, the door to the kitchen would swing open and his wife would walk in with a plate of boiled potatoes and black bread.
One day the peasant comes home, as usual he sits down by the table and waits for the standard meal to come, but six o'clock comes and goes and his wife does not appear. At first he is slightly annoyed, but then he realizes that the reason for the delay is because his wife is most probably preparing a special meal tonight. Nu, it's worth it to wait a little extra!
It's seven o'clock, eight o'clock, nine o'clock... By now the peasant is envisioning a scrumptious meal with tender meat and fine wine followed by a delicious dessert. At nine-thirty the door swings open and the wife appears with a plate of… boiled potatoes and black bread!
When the peasant sees this he starts screaming: "This is what I was waiting for all this time?!"
Similarly, if we make G-d wait for our prayer it better be a good one. Otherwise G-d asks, "This is what I was waiting for?!
However:
Chassidus occasionally stresses values that are downplayed in the more general Halachic process. This phenomenon is manifest most famously in the area of zmanei tefilla - the time frames for prayer. Chassidus tolerated minor deviations in the pursuit of greater dveykus. Misnagdus is completely intolerant of such liberties. The pursuit of perfection demands meticulous attention to Halachic parameters.
As with all neat and simple definitions, this is an over-generalization. Many great Rebbes observed zmanei tefilla meticulously. Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev warned not to delay the fulfillment of mitzvos because one feels a lack of fervor (hislahavus), lest the time frame of the mitzva pass.
Yet other outstanding Rebbes justified their not abiding by the clock. Rebbe Yisrael of Rizhin said that time frames for mitzvos are a result of the sins of Adam, Chava and the golden calf. Tzaddikim were not involved in those sins, and are therefore not restricted by time.
(Ta'amei HaMinhagim U'Mekorei haDinim p. 519 (see also p. 27 there). R. Leibele Eiger of Lublin asked R. Tzadok HaKohen if he was justified in forsaking the hiddur Mitzva of zrizin makdimin l'Mitzvos (those who are meticulous perform a Mitzva as soon as possible) in order to muster greater kavana and tahara. R. Tzadok (end of Levushei Tzedaka and the Yad Eliyahu Kitov ed. of Tzidkat HaTzaddik p. 16) was firm in stating that this is indeed the case. Many Misnagdic sources agree, although others disagree. See Encyclopedia Talmudit vol.12 pp. 416-421.)

***

A NIGGUN LINK:
Al Naharos Bavel, niggun Rizhin

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May Rebbe Yisrael's merit protect us all!


Comments:
Yitz: Have you ever heard anything about this?
 
Thanks for the stories. I have a few Rizhner english seforim including Golden Dynasy and the House of Rhizhin by the Boyaner Rebbes father. You should put a link for the niggun attributed to him by Reb Shlomo from his Holy Brother album.
 
ASJ - Nope, I think I told you that when you first posted it a few months ago. Upon reading it once again, I was disappointed that Ansky seems to be more concerned about the destruction of buildings that are no longer used, than the pogrom of Jewish People. Don't our Sages tell us that Hashem took out His wrath on the wood & the stones of the Beis HaMikdash, in order not to harm the People???

FWQ - The link you refer to was in last year's post. :))
 
Regarding last years post, which Sadigara album are you making reference to? Is it available today in my local judaica store or online somewhere?
 
FWQ - As mentioned there, it's called "Rachem B'Chasdecha", Niggunei Malchus Sadigora Bet, put out by the Galpaz Studio in Israel. I think it's from the 1980s and appears to be out of circulation, since I couldn't find it online, even on the galpaz.co.il website.
 
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