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The Best Defense

Aryeh Ehrlich

According to the Biala Rebbe of Bnei Brak, we’re a worthy generation that engages in Torah and chesed like never before

Monday, September 18, 2017

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“There has never been such a wonderful and dynamic generation, so wonderful. There are problems? Nu, you can always find problems. But come, let’s talk about the positive qualities of the generation. Believe me, in comparison, the problems are batel b’shishim” (Photos: Shuki Lehrer, Biala archives)

I t was the first thing I noticed when I entered the building of the Biala chassidus on Rechov Yerushalayim in Bnei Brak: the crates of cucumbers. You’d expect the entrance of a prominent institution to be its showcase, with memorial plaques on the walls and at least one potted plant in the corner. But it seems that for Biala–Bnei Brak, stacked crates of vegetables that take up half the floor space is a badge of honor, and therein lies their secret.

From the day the Rebbe — Rav Yaakov Menachem Rabinowitz shlita — succeeded his holy father, the Lehavas Dovid (Rav Dovid Mattisyahu) of Biala, the banner of the chassidus has been chesed. According to his instruction, doing a good deed for a needy Yid precedes achieving the lofty levels in avodas Hashem in which the chassidus is well-versed. Because of this synergy, it’s no bushah for the disadvantaged either, and whoever is in need can come at any time and make up a package of food for his family, no questions asked. Then, he can go up one flight, make himself a cup of coffee, and if he’s fortunate and the timing is right, see the smiling countenance of the Rebbe, who’s sure to give him chizuk and a brachah.

In fact, the Rebbe runs an enterprise that aids widows and orphans throughout the city, personally overseeing the distribution of funds and foodstuffs; and when, chalilah, the head of a family passes away, the Rebbe climbs the steps, accompanied by his gabbai, to provide a check for the family of the deceased

“…it gives me chiyus when a Yid stands before me and says, ‘Rebbe, thanks to you, I started putting on tefillin. In your merit, I began keeping Shabbos. Thanks to you, we’re practicing the laws of family purity.’ Do you know what a zechus it is to help establish proper generations of Jews?”

“Often,” one of the yungeleit of the chassidus says, “the Rebbe will be seen walking alone on the streets of Bnei Brak in the middle of the night, stuffing an envelope into the mailbox of a needy family and then leaving silently.”

It’s not only the Rebbe’s personal mission; he encourages his chassidim to stretch themselves beyond their perceived capabilities in order to help widows, orphans, and others who find themselves down-and-out.

And so, it was really no surprise when the Rebbe — a warm, personable leader in his fifties — turned my agenda upside down. In a pre–Yom Tov message, I assumed he would talk about the yeridas hadoros, the spiritual decline of the nation, and how Am Yisrael must do major teshuvah and fortify itself in order to be reinstated in Hashem’s graces.

Instead, I was pulled into his heart-space, listening to his limud zechus on the entire generation.

Let’s Talk about Merits

“Indeed, Reb Aryeh,” the Rebbe says, as if to cut off my list of complaints about the troubles of our times. “There has never been such a wonderful and dynamic generation, so wonderful. There are problems? Nu, you can always find problems. But come, let’s talk about the positive qualities of the generation. Believe me, in comparison, the problems are batel b’shishim.”

This was a twist in the plot. I had come to speak about the problems, to seek direction, but the Rebbe held his own: a righteous generation, the Rebbe ruled. Chas v’shalom to highlight problematic issues. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 678)

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