Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The following is part one of an intense, mind-altering encounter between Daniel, from Chabad of Antwerp, and the Rebbe. Special thanks to Rabbi Shabtai Slavaticki and the editorial staff of the Avner Institute. Also attached is a first-time released photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive (RebbeArchive@gmail.com).
Rabbi Slavaticki Relates:
"I first met Daniel at the Chabad House when someone brought him over for a visit. A tall young man, with a refined and intelligent face, he worked in computer operations for the European Common Market. Sometimes it can take weeks, months, or even years until two people make a connection. Other times the connection is made instantly. It might have something to do with gilgulim (past lives) or the celestial source of souls.
Whatever the case, we hit it off at once. Daniel loved to learn and expressed interest in the deepest concepts in Chasidus. With his quick mind and unusual sensitivity he absorbed everything; he could bring the highest, most abstract concepts down into the practical and relate them to the world and people around him. Most importantly, however, was the way Chasidus changed him. A new world had suddenly opened up. Daniel began to understand himself better and find answers to his questions. Within a short time he was laying tefillin, keeping kosher, and observing Shabbos.
Every few weeks Daniel would make a trip to Italy, especially on his time off. Whenever I asked him why, he answered, "To meet friends." I always found something strange about this, or more accurately, I always read something between the lines. He never looked me in the face when he said it; rather he seemed to toss it in at the end of our conversation, as if wishing to relieve himself of a burden. Once we were at the Chabad House until the middle of the night.
A long farbrengen (Chasidic gathering) had just ended. Still under the spell of the niggunim (melodies) and the magic of the Chasidic stories, we found it difficult to get back to "real life." It was then that Daniel approached me and opened up. "I think I'm a little tipsy," he began sheepishly."It's not the mashkeh (drink), it's the farbrengen," I explained.
"A Chasidic farbrengen is like a fiery furnace. It brings the inner Jew to a 'boil' so that all the chitzoniyus (externals) evaporate and the penimiyus (inwardness) becomes more concentrated. After a farbrengen, we are more 'real.' Some people know what is required of them, but they're not sure 'where they're holding.' Others, however, have the merit to know both what they must do and where they're holding. I could see that Daniel took the hint. He gave me a weak smile. "You already know," he said, "that it's been awhile since I started becoming more observant, although everything is relative. Over the last few months I've severed all my ties to the past with the exception of one." He trembled and lowered his voice. "I just can't do it.
If I take this step, it will tear me apart. Nothing of me will remain." I didn't ask him what the tie was; I knew it was something I shouldn't ask, something he had to tell me himself. Daniel was obviously uncomfortable. It seemed as if he was staring in the mirror for the first time and suddenly seeing himself as he really was, all the masks removed. Daniel averted his eyes, and I was reminded of his trips to Italy. It suddenly occurred to me that this might be the one tie that still bound him. "I have a girlfriend," he finally mumbled, "but she isn't . . . one of us."
He lapsed for a moment into silence. "Some of my friends have suggested she convert, but I don't think it would be right. Conversion is too holy to profane simply for the sake of my conscience; it would be defiled if there were ulterior motives. If someone converts to Judaism just to get married, it isn't a real conversion. So I've never even mentioned it to her.
"I went to a few different rabbis – specifically not Chabad – for help, and each one told me what a terrible sin it is to intermarry. Some of them even described the punishment in Gehinnom that awaits someone like me, but nothing they said convinced me to break it off. I'm not sure I can do it." Daniel was trembling; I could sense the battle royal raging inside him. The look he gave me almost broke my heart. "Help me!" he pleaded wordlessly.
Save me from myself!" Source of All Souls "Your problem," I slowly replied, "is universal, something we all face. It all goes back to the strangest shidduch in the world: the 'marriage' between the body and the soul. "The body and soul are essentially different, completely dissimilar in their likes, dislikes and loyalties. Yet not only do they have to live with one another, each one has to complete the other and make it whole. The funniest thing is, it works -- the greatest proof being that after 120 years, neither wants to be parted from the other. You are being pulled between the desires of the body and the desires of the soul." "What should I do?" Daniel cried. "Where can I get the power to free myself?"
If a well runs dry," I answered, "building a beautiful house over it won't help. The only solution is to dig deeper, all the way down to the water's source. You too must dig deeper until you reach your roots. There you will find the strength you need, as well as the answer to your questions." Daniel was puzzled.
"What do you mean?" "I mean it's time to go to the Rebbe!" By now I had his full attention. He no longer tense and desperate; rather, he waited, listening intently.
"Go to the Rebbe, There you'll find your answers and the strength you need. I didn't have to urge him further. A few days later Daniel was already at 770, standing in the long line for dollars. He waited there in excitement over his very first yechidus (audience) with the Rebbe.
Posted by The Avner Institute / Menachem M Kirschenbaum at 9:24 AM