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“We Will Meet at the Redemption”

Aryeh Ehrlich

The Nadvorna Rebbe ztz”l was the address for people in financial trouble, for couples with irreparable marital issues, for parents with children on the fringe, for those others had given up on. His heart was huge, and even the most miserable and forsaken knew they would receive honor from the Rebbe. This week, he would have celebrated his 82nd birthday, but like Moshe Rabbeinu, he left the world on 7 Adar — a shepherd of the generation who cared for the single, thirsty sheep that wandered from the flock.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

nadvorna rebbeIt was the day after Pesach, and Yaakov Yissachar Ber Rosenbaum was becoming bar mitzvah. But it was also 1943 in the Dzurin labor camp, and the fact that he was still alive was enough of a reason to celebrate. Yet Yaakov Yissachar Ber, son of Rebbe Chaim Mordechai of Nadvorna, had been preparing for months. He was drawn to purity – of body and soul – and would toivel every day in the river throughout his twelfth year; during the frozen winter months, that meant chopping away the layers of ice and enduring the freezing waters. Purification became his trademark, and the avodah of ritual immersion remained a fixture in his life until the end. Even as he was battling end-stage cancer, he would drag himself to the mikveh with his last reserves of strength.

Nearly seven decades later, Rebbe Yaakov Yissachar Ber, the Nadvorna Rebbe of Bnei Brak, was seated on his carved, regal chair – a million miles away from Dzurin, but really still in the same place, where all that mattered was being able to help other broken Jews and bringing them, along with him, to a higher spiritual plane. In front of him were a pile of pills for his chemotherapy treatments, a cup of tea, and a secret signed document, carefully concealed beneath a stack of books. It was the Rebbe’s will, signed the month before, containing hundreds of instructions relating to individuals, to families, and to the Chassidus as a whole, so that the Rebbe would not leave behind any machlokes on his departure from this world.

The Rebbe was feeble, his entire body racked by intense pain. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Battelman, who enjoyed a particularly warm relationship with the Rebbe, approached the door.

“I sat before him and saw that he possessed astonishing clarity. He had a painfully clear understanding of his situation,” Rabbi Battelman told Mishpacha. “As I was preparing to leave, the Rebbe made a frightening statement: ‘We will meet again soon, at the Redemption.’

“I stepped outside — and fainted. They gave me some water, I shook myself out of my stupor, and then I understood that … it was over. The Rebbe was on his way up to Heaven.”

Ten days later, on 7 Adar 5772 — the numerical value (gematria) of “Yaakov Yissachar Ber Rosenbaum” — the prediction came true.

“Now we have to believe in the second half of the Rebbe’s prediction, that we will meet again soon, at the Redemption,” Rabbi Battelman said, his voice cracking.

The Nadvorna Chassidus is blessed with rebbes in several cities in Eretz Yisrael, and is connected to many other chassidic courts, including Kretchnif, Chust, Pittsburgh, Temeshvar, and Cleveland, to name but a few.

Yet it was the Nadvorna Rebbe of Bnei Brak who became the address for all those whom others gave up on, for the most difficult shalom bayis cases, for broken souls whom others had lost patience with, and also for shrewd businessmen who found in the Rebbe a practicality and wisdom belying his own personal asceticism. His heart was huge, and even the most miserable and forsaken knew they would receive honor from the Rebbe.

He rarely slept; he never asked for food, even if he was famished; and he lived in absolute purity from the time he was a child. When he became ill, the doctors told the Rebbe to rest more, which he wouldn’t hear of. “I never had anything to do with my body,” he told the doctors. “Now I have to become a mechutan with my guf?”

 

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