The photo that appeared in Friday’s paper depicting the large gathering of Gedolei Torah on Thursday night in Bnei Brak and the preparations for the battle on the future of the existence of chareidi Jewry in Eretz Yisrael brought joy to many hearts that appreciated the message of unity.
How symbolic it is that this gathering after so many years took place on the eve of the yahrtzeit of one of the greatest giants and leaders of the previous generation, the Beis Yisrael, zy”a, which is Monday night.
This was a man who, in his youth said, “Even after I pass on from this world, no one will know who I am,” and chassidim said in the name of his father, the Imrei Emes, zy”a, that he knew that his son was concealing himself from him, “But I know.”
Thirty-six years have elapsed since his passing, and it seems to us that we know so much about him, but the truth is, we still do not really know who he was.
When the war was over, and the extent of the destruction of European Jewry became clear, the Beis Yisrael was left alone. His entire family had been deported to Auschwitz a mere few months before the liberation.
However, despite having experienced so much tragedy in his life, he did not let that stop him. On the contrary, he was surrounded by survivors, and there were oh, so few of them, who slowly trickled in, one from each town, two from a family. He took the fragments of what remained and from them, he rebuilt anew.
“Eheyeh ketal l’Yisrael, I will be like dew for Yisrael.” He, with his broken heart, infused new life into the brittle bones. One survivor related: “I came to Yerushalayim at the end of 5708/1948, and we wanted to go into the Rebbe. Our guide, Reb Yechezkel Frankel, z”l, sent me to ask one of the meshamshim when it was open.
“I arrived and the Rebbe came out to greet me, asking me what I needed. I asked, and the answer was, ‘By me, it is always open.’”
It is hard to describe what this answer did to that orphan, survivor child with no family. But what the Beis Yisrael did for Am Yisrael is impossible to describe.
“By me, it is always open.”
The Rebbe had a custom of inviting people in for tea in the very early morning. On one occasion a young bachur was invited to the Rebbe for a pre-dawn visit.
It was still very dark outside and the curtains were drawn, the doors closed. The gabbai was not there and the young bachur stood outside feeling lost. Suddenly the lights came on and the Rebbe opened the door wide.
“The door was open all along,” he said. “All you needed to do was turn the knob and push it.”
The Rebbe then told the bachur the following vort, which relates to our parashah.
When Yaakov Avinu came to the well that had the very large stone on it, other shepherds were standing around, waiting for everyone to come and lift the stone together.
“Anyone could have lifted the stone,” the Rebbe said. “But they all saw a big stone and said, ‘I can’t lift it, so I am not even going to try.’ Yaakov Avinu also saw a big stone and believed that he wouldn’t be able to lift it, but he said, ‘Let me try’ — and indeed he could do it. My door is open 24 hours a day; one must just push it,” the Rebbe concluded.
Indeed, it was always open for any topic, any issue.
One of the lesser known facets about him was his participation in the battles for the future of Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, his deep involvement in Agudas Yisrael and his constant input on every question and issue that arose, together with his brother-in-law, Harav Yitzchak Meir Levine, zt”l.
He bore the burden on issues such as chinuch, kashrus, Shabbos, army draft, and the female draft, and he was involved in every battle and every decision. Sometimes he was on the front lines and sometimes his involvement was behind the scenes, but whenever and wherever it was, those involved knew that they had a senior partner in everything they needed.
Quietly, the Rebbe forged close relationships with Gedolei Yisrael from across the spectrum of Torah Jewry and he worked closely with them on all the burning issues of his day.
There is no doubt that had the Rebbe, zy”a, been with us today, he would have been an integral part of every struggle and every gathering for the future of Am Yisrael. We will never truly “know him,” nor the full extent of his myriad accomplishments for the individual as well as the public. But the legacy of the Rebbe whose door was always open, and who taught us that with siyatta diShmaya, the proper hishtadlus and determination, a destroyed world could be rebuilt and the heaviest stones lifted, will continue to light up our lives and guide us until the coming of Moshiach.