Surgeon of the Soul

I was touched by your supplement on the Beis Yisrael of Gur, zy”a, and as a non-New York, non-chareidi reader of Hamodia, would like to share my memory of this giant of Chassidus.

About 45 years ago, as a medical student, I and a friend davened one Friday night in the Gerrer Yeshivah in Geulah. We were the only two non-Chassidim among the large crowd. At the end of the davening, we joined the long line of Chassidim rapidly filing past the Rebbe to wish him Gut Shabbos. I had been to many a tisch and expected a brief glance and perhaps a nod of the head. After a few minutes in line, I stood in front of the Rebbe, and experienced an occurrence that was totally unexpected and still, after all these years, remains a mystery to me. The Rebbe’s eyes seemed to pierce right through me, and then I had the sensation that I was being split in two as he looked up and down into my inner self and then closed me up again — like an operation, but by a surgeon of the soul. A brief acknowledgment from the Rebbe, and then I, like the hundreds of Chassidim, was running backwards away from him, so as not to turn our backs on his holy presence. I had never experienced, nor have experienced since, such a sensation.

The entire encounter cannot have lasted more than two or three seconds, yet the memory remains crystal clear after almost half a century. In those seconds, the Rebbe saw my soul, and touched it in a way I will never understand, but will also never forget.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

Rodney H. Falk, M.D.