In one of his letters my saintly
father-in-law the Rebbe [Rayatz] writes:
...During one of my journeys, my saintly father the Rebbe [Rashab] instructed me to try to do a certain favor for a businessman who was a member of Anash. Upon my return I reported: "I did everything you commanded me, and I did the favor for that person in the best possible manner." Father replied to me:
You are mistaken! You did a favor for yourself, not for him. It was G-d who did the favor for him, for He appointed agents to carry out the intent of Divine providence. You did a favor for yourself, for everything is done by a person's free choice. The favor that a person does for himself [when choosing to carry out G-d's will in doing a favor for another] is described in the Midrash: "Even more than the benefactor does for the poor man, the poor man does for the benefactor."
Father then continued telling me that during the year 5640 anti-Semitism grew stronger in our country (may it not happen to us). In many places the anti-Semites incited the local citizenry to organize pogroms against the Jews. His saintly father the Rebbe [Maharash] then traveled to Petersburg to do what he could for the benefit of the Jewish people.
The Rebbe was acquainted with high government officials and he had access to them. Within a few days of his arrival, he had already established the necessary connections and means to dissuade those who were instigating the pogroms. The high officials suggested that the affair should be given greater publicity. For this purpose a delegation of the most prestigious people should visit the Minister of the Interior and the President of the Senate. The most powerful millionaires and noted intellectuals should participate in this delegation.
In working for the public benefit, the Rebbe Maharash never considered the views of the wealthy or the enlightened classes. Those people resented the Rebbe because of this. The Rebbe invited the above people to a meeting at his residence in Hotel Serapinsky. He suggested an agenda for the work they would do and requested that they select a group of people from amongst themselves to join him in the delegation that would visit the Minister of the Interior and the President of the Senate.
One of the chief attendees (I do not wish to mention his name) replied in the name of all of them that they were not blocks of wood to be played like pawns in a chess game. If he considered them to be men of substance he ought to consider their opinions at all times. And if he did not consider them to be people of intellect, then he could do without them now also. The Rebbe replied:
In the Megillah [Esther 4:14] is written, "...but if you will keep silent at this time, liberty and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other source, and you and your father's house will perish." To me it is certain that liberty and deliverance will come to the Jews. If you do not wish to have a part in this, then it will come from somewhere else. But then, the result will be that you and your father's house will perish; you will lose everything.
[The Rebbe Rayatz concludes]: When my father the Rebbe [Rashab] finished telling the above story, he said:
We must always remember that with each good deed we do, we are doing a favor for ourselves. And if a person is aware of what his real "I" is - that the real "I" is his soul, then he does the deed with especially great enthusiasm.
With simple faith and with absolute trust in G-d, we must remember that "liberty and deliverance will come to the Jews." The attribute of good is greater than the attribute of punishment. And if concerning the attribute of punishment (G-d forbid) it is said that "G-d has numerous agents," then this is all the more true for the attribute of good, which is greater - there are very many good agents through whom liberty and deliverance can be sent. But it that case, "you and your father's house will perish."
"You" refers to the radiance of the soul as it shines within the body. "Your father's house" refers to the source and origin of the soul. The true elevation of both of these - the radiance of the soul and the essence of the soul - depends exclusively upon the avodah that one does here below. This is the meaning of "...will perish." We must see to it that we do not squander the great privilege of having the merit to be the Holy One's agent to do a favor for a Jew.
In one of his sichos, my saintly father-in-law the Rebbe relates another story that his father told him about this period.
[The story, as told by the Rebbe Rashab, follows]:
This happened in the year 5639, when incitement to carry out pogroms began in Russia (may it not happen now). My father traveled to Petersburg numerous times. Father was assured in various government circles that they would put a stop to the pogrom incitement.
After the Kiev-Niezhin pogrom broke out in 5640, father traveled to Petersburg immediately upon his return from a brief trip abroad. Through the intercession of Professor Josef Bertenson, Father was received by the Minister of the Interior. Father was very embittered by the prevailing pogrom situation. Aggressively, he reminded the Minister of his promise that the government would put a halt to the pogrom-incitement. He informed the Minister in no uncertain terms that such treatment of the Jews would cause outrage abroad.
The Minister replied that he was well aware of the great powers of the foreign Jewish Capitalists. But he was also aware that their relations with Russian Jewry were not very cordial, and that they bore no sympathy - in fact, they bore hatred - toward the rabbonim.
Father reacted strongly to this, saying that if he understood the Minister correctly, the Minister was not familiar with the psychology of the Jews and their brotherly love. "To me," Father said, "are addressed inquiries from the influential Capitalists abroad, asking how they should react to the tragic news concerning the situation of Russian Jewry. They ask what they can do to ensure the safety of Jewish lives and property in Russia."
"What do you mean by this reply?" demanded the Minister in an angry tone.
Father: I will make no reply at all until after I hear the government's answer to my mission regarding this situation.
The Minister: Lubavitcher Rebbe! Are you threatening the government with reaction by foreign Jewish Capitalists?
Father: The Minister need not take this as a threat, but he should consider this as a serious fact. Non-Jewish Capitalists will also support this, for humanity in general reacts strongly against such barbaric deeds.
The Minister: Does this mean that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, with the assistance of foreign Capitalists, is about to cause a revolution in Russia?
Father: The Russian government officials themselves will eventually cause that to happen, with their negligent bureaucratic leadership.
Beginning on the evening of that same day, Father remained under arrest for two days in his room in Hotel Serapinsky on Zabalkansky Boulevard. When he was allowed to go free on the third day, Father went to the Minister to receive a reply regarding his mission. He was told that he would receive an answer within two weeks' time.
[The Rebbe Rashab told the Rebbe Rayatz]: "You were born a few days after my father returned from that trip to Petersburg - 12 Tammuz. At the feast celebrating your bris milah, Father was in a very happy mood; he said Chassidus, told stories, and sang many niggunim."
At the conclusion of the feast, Father began to meditate deeply, as he sang the Alter Rebbe's "Niggun of the Four Stanzas." We all became fearful, because of the bitter and nostalgic tone with which he was singing this niggun. After Father finished singing the niggun, he became more deeply engrossed in his thoughts and his holy face took on a very serious appearance. After some time, Father began to tell a story:
When I began to participate in the public service activities of my saintly father - the Tzemach Tzedek - I requested my father's blessing for success in my undertakings. Father answered: "A blessing is like a rainfall. If a field is plowed and planted, and afterwards there is rain, there is better growth of the produce. Before the rain, there must be plowing and planting. Only if you do all that needs to be done for the public benefit will a blessing avail to grant success to your work."
The Jewish people of our country are in troubled times; we are in need of mercy, so that G-d (blessed be He) may take pity on us and send us salvation. I have (with G-d's help) done what was necessary for the public benefit; I have plowed and planted. Now we need the rain, i.e., the blessing that G-d may grant us success and that our salvation may rise.
In the end, Father's mission for the public benefit had the greatest success. For some time, peace was completely restored.
- (Back to text) [Vayikra Rabbah 34:8.]
- (Back to text) [See Rashi on Shemos 16:32]
- (Back to text) [Also known as the Alter Rebbe's Niggun, the most sacred of all Chabad Niggunim. Chassidim usually avoid singing it except on special festival days and certain solemn occasions. See references cited in Sefer HaSichos 5688, p. 12. Musical notes for this niggun are found in Sefer HaNiggunim, Vol. 1., Niggun 1.]