Weekly Chasidic Story #791 (s5773-20 / 10
The Panicked Nurse
Once, while sick, Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn had
the look of someone who was not in this world altogether. His son-in-law came
close to hear what he was mumbling and realized that he was reciting by heart
and with the Torah melody the words of the Song by the Sea.
Connection: Seasonal--63rd yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rayatz
The Panicked Nurse
In 1947, only a few years before Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn (the
"Rayatz"), sixth Rebbe in the Lubavitch/Chabad dynasty, passed
away, his son-in-law and eventual successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,
traveled to Paris. His mother had made it out of communist Russia. The Rebbe,
who had escaped from Europe to the United States in 1941, arrived in Paris to
greet his mother whom he had not seen for more than 15 years and escort her
back to the United States.
In Paris, he met a group of Lubavitch chassidim who had survived the Holocaust
and very much wanted to immigrate to the Unites States but could not get visas.
They asked him that upon his return he tell the Rebbe Rayatz of their plight
and ask him to awaken compassion and mercy upon them from Heaven. The Lubavitcher
Rebbe explained to them that they must be a little naïve to think that
the Rayatz needs to be directly informed in order to be made aware of their
problems. In order to make his point he told them the following story.
At the time, the Rayatz was ill and required a certain injection of drugs every
day. A private nurse would come to his study at 770 at a set time to administer
the injection. One day the nurse was a few minutes late. When she knocked on
the door of his study there was no answer. Usually, there were Rabbis from the
Rayatz's secretariat around, but this time there was no one there. So she slowly
opened the door to his study. When she walked in she saw him sitting at his
desk, his eyes gazing off into the distance, obviously unaware that she had
entered. He had the look of someone who was not in this world altogether. She
had never seen anything like this and was certain that something had happened
to him, perhaps he had even lost consciousness.
She ran out looking for someone from the family or the staff. She encountered
the "Ramash" (as the Rebbe-to-be was known in those days), who quickly
came into the room and approached near to his father-in-law's mouth to hear
what he was mumbling. He heard that the Rebbe Rayatz was reciting by heart and
with the Torah melody the words of the Song of the Sea, Az Yashir. It
was as if the Rayatz was praying. So, immediately he realized that the Rayatz
was in a state of communion (with G-d) and not that he was sick. This state
is known as disembodiment and the person seems to have lost touch with reality
(the truth is very much the opposite, as we will see in a moment). Indeed, after
a few minutes the Rayatz seemed to snap out of it.
But, the Rebbe sensed that there was a reason for all this. He decided to do
some research and learnt that during those very moments that the Rayatz was
in a state of communion and disembodiment, thousands of miles away, a small
group of chassidim had tried to illegally make it across the Russian-Polish
border. If they had been caught, they would have been summarily executed. During
those critical moments, the Rebbe Rayatz had awakened the mercy of Heaven that
they be successful.
So, the Rebbe-to-be told the chassidim in Paris that after this
story they should understand that the Rebbe Rayatz does not need anyone to tell
him when to awaken mercy on his disciples. Every chassid is always on his mind.
He sees and knows exactly what is happening with him, and continually sacrifices
himself and prays for each and every one of them.
This is an important story to make us reflect that the Rebbe is indeed thinking
of each and every one of us, and continually awakening the mercy of Heaven upon
One more point that we can take with us from this story is that there is a powerful
connection between saying the Song of the Sea and awakening mercy from Heaven.
If the Rebbe noted this (he could have told the story without noting what the
Rayatz had been saying during his disembodiment), it means that we should be
aware of this. If you think about someone who needs Heavenly mercy and recite
the Song of the Sea with sincerity and the proper intent, you will be awakening
the Heavens to be merciful with him. This is true both for an individual and
for the entire Jewish people.
The Song of the Sea appears in parshat Beshalach, the Torah reading of
the week during which the tenth of Shevat-the Rayatz's yahrzeit-usually
falls. So this story and its teaching are particularly suited to the tenth of
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation/rendition
on inner.org, which is based on a talk by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh at
a children's gathering in Ramat Aviv, six years ago. (Actually, he told there
two stories. For the other, here is the link:
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (12 Tammuz 1880-10 Shvat
1950), known as the Rebbe Rayatz, was the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe,
from 1920 to 1950. The only son of his predecessor, the Rebbe Reshab, he established
a network of Jewish educational institutions and Chassidim that was the single
most significant factor for the preservation of Judaism during the dread reign
of the communist Soviets. In 1940 he moved to the USA, established Chabad world-wide
headquarters in Brooklyn and launched the global campaign to renew and spread
Judaism in all languages and in every corner of the world, the campaign continued
and expanded so remarkably successfully by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi
Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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