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The King Who Carried Our Burdens

Yossi Elituv and Yerucham Yitzchak Landesman

For over 30 years, Rav Avraham Yaakov Friedman reigned on the Sadigura throne. A scion of Ruzhiner royalty whose concern for all Jews was palpable, the Rebbe was regarded as a king among men. Now his throne is empty, but his message remains. “Everything depends on us,” the Rebbe told Mishpacha in a rare interview eight years ago. “Even the incitement and hatred will subside if we achieve unity among ourselves.”

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

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“He was a king.”

The sentiment was voiced again and again last Tuesday, as the bitter news echoed among chareidi Jewry: The sixth link in the chain of the Ruzhiner dynasty had been taken to Heaven to join his predecessors. Rav Avraham Yaakov Friedman of Sadigur, a king among men, had left this world.

“He was a king, yet he spoke the language of the people,” chassidim kept repeating. “He never sent a Jew away empty-handed. His kingdom was based on service of Hashem, not his own authority. He was a sovereign, but he carried the burdens of the people. He was like David HaMelech, who did not allow even a single sheep to be lost, carrying it in his arms instead.”

Rav Avraham Yaakov was renowned for his abiding love for every Jew. As much as his chassidim describe him as a royal figure, in the same breath they will depict him as a kind, devoted father who showered his love on his children, regardless of how close or far away they may have been.

“Chassidus teaches us how to relate to every Jew,” the Rebbe himself explained in a conversation with Mishpacha prior to Rosh HaShanah 5765 (2004). “The soul of a Jew is a wondrous thing. Everyone, in every situation, has a pintele Yid. Sometimes the worst sinners are the ones who possess the highest souls, and he who can find a way to speak to their hearts can lift them up. Who among us can belittle the soul of a Jew?”

The Rebbe illustrated with a personal anecdote: “Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel, once told me that at the battle of Latrun during the War of Liberation, many Jews were killed, among them soldiers who had been raised on kibbutzim and had never learned a single pasuk. In spite of it all, at the height of battle, moments before their deaths, those young men knew to cry out, ‘Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!’ The Jewish soul thirsts for Torah, and it is held back only by the leaven in the dough — the yetzer hara.”

Those words bespoke the Rebbe’s approach throughout his life, until his very last moments, when the cries of Shema Yisrael echoed through the corridors of Maayanei HaYeshuah Hospital as the Rebbe was summoned up to Heaven.


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