Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yahrtzeit: Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkass (Elul 13)

The New Matzeiva for the Cherkasser, zy"a

Believe it or not, I did not have time to translate or write anything original for the Cherkasser's yahrtzeit. Quickly, Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkass was the third of eight sons of the Chernobyler Maggid, Reb Mordechai, who was the son of the Maor Einayim, Reb Nochum Chernobyler. His grandson was the Rebbe Reb Motele of Hornosteipel, and thereby the originator of the Hornosteipeler dynasty we all know and love. Here are a few stories that I have heard from the Rebbe, shlit"a, but never had the chance to commit to writing. They are all borrowed from Heichal Hanegina.

From here till the end of the post is a direct rip-off from the wonderful blog, Heichal Hanegina:

The Cherkasser and Saving Souls

Today is the 13th of Elul, and the 131st yahrzeit of Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkassy, one of the eight sons of Rebbe Mordechai of Chernobyl, and ancestor of the famous American Twerski family [of the Hornosteipel dynasty]. My previous post on him can be found here.

Before our story about today’s Baal Hilula [yahrzeit], I’d like to present a short one, which is related, about his beloved grandfather, Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl. This is my free translation from this week’s "Sichas HaShavua" published in Hebrew by Chabad.

Who is Saving Whom?
Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl’s Chassidim were sitting down to a Melave Malka [a festive meal after Shabbos, escorting the Sabbath Queen out], and they began to examine their matzav [status] in regards to how they serve Hashem. Each one found many faults and shortcomings in himself, until they felt very, very low. Their one consolation was that they had an affiliation with the great tzaddik, Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl, and decided they should make the journey to visit him. Surely he would pull them out of their lowly state.

They traveled the entire night until they came to Chernobyl. The next morning, they went in to greet the tzaddik. Rebbe Nachum told them that the previous night, at the Melave Malka seuda, he sat down and made a self-assessment. He came to the conclusion that he was the lowest of all men, and despaired of all hope. Then he remembered that G-d fearing Chassidim were attached to him, and this gave him consolation. Surely they would be concerned for their Rebbe and pray for him.

When Rebbe Yitzchak of Skver, another grandson of Rebbe Nachum’s, told this story, he added: "This is the power of true Hiskashrus [attachment, bonding] to a tzaddik."

Pulled out of the Depths
In the book, The Zeide Reb Motele, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Twerski relates*:
*[NOTE: I have added a sentence and some explanatory words, from another source - yitz.]

This story is particularly dear to me, because it is essentially a first-person story.

I met an elderly cousin who was a grandson of the Rebbe of Koidanov. He told me that when he was a child of nine, he had a melamed (tutor) who was not a Chassid of his grandfather. "Why are you not a Chassid of my grandfather?'' he asked.

The melamed said, ''I was a Chassid of your great-great-grandfather, the Rebbe of Cherkassy. The practice was that at Shalosh Seudos (the third Shabbos meal), the Rebbe would expound on Torah until it was dark. When Shabbos was over, he would have someone light candles, and he would continue his Torah discourse until late.

''This one Shabbos, the Rebbe did not expound on Torah. He was deep into meditation. No one brought in candles, and we sat silently in the dark. ''All at once, the Rebbe opened his eyes and said, 'The Talmud says that on Shabbos, all the neshamos (souls) that are in Gehinnom (Hell) are released. When Shabbos is over, there is a declaration, ''The wicked must return to Sheol [a part of Gehinnom – Hell]'' (Tehillim, 9:18). But how can this be? We have a principle not to make a declaration of punishment.

"We all sat silently, not knowing what to answer. Then the Rebbe said, 'I'll tell you the answer. There is a place known as avadon (lost), in which souls are doomed to eternity. But I say that souls should be released even from avadon. Do you all agree?'

"We all responded, 'Yes, we agree.'

'' 'Then let someone bring in candles,' the Rebbe said.

"When the candles were brought in, we saw that the Rebbe was in a cheerful mood. He said, 'The declaration, ''The wicked must return to Hell,'' is not a declaration of punishment at all. To the contrary, it is a declaration that the neshamos that had been doomed for eternity in avadon may be released to Gehinnom, from which they will be released after twelve months.' "

The Chassidim who were present at that Shalosh Seudos told over that as the Rebbe was speaking, they felt him "grabbing the neshama in avadon by its 'hair' and bringing it into Sheol"- that he gave it its tikkun.

And so, my melamed said, ''if I was a Chassid of a Rebbe who could release neshamos from avadon, can you expect me to be a Chassid of anyone else?"

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v’al Kol Yisrael – May the Cherkasser’s merits save and protect us all!

From Hornosteipel to Cherkassy...and Back!

The following story was translated from the sefer, "Admorim L'Beit Sanz", by R. Avraham Yitzchak Bromberg. An added feature of the story is that it includes the Cherkasser’s grandson, Rebbe Mordechai Dov of Hornosteipel, whose yahrzeit is just over a week later - 22 Elul.

One day in the year "Kesser" [crown], 5620 [or 1860], Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael, one of the "eight candles of the Menora," as the eight sons of Rebbe Mordechai of Chernobyl were known, had his household items packed up, and announced, "We are moving to Cherkassy." As the news circulated, the town of Hornosteipel was full of commotion. How could this be? After thirty years, all of a sudden the Rebbe is packing up and leaving us?
The town's elders and leaders went to the Rebbe to try to dissuade him from his plans. When all words failed, they began to beg him: if the Rebbe leaves, not only will his spiritual influence be missing, but their source of livelihood will dry up as well. For in these thirty years, most of the Jews earned their living from the Chassidim who came to visit the Rebbe. Now, what would they do?
But can one really comprehend the depths of the Rebbe's intentions? Only he is aware of this. If he has decided to leave Hornosteipel, it must only be because the people have sinned, and no longer deserve his presence amongst them. Now, they must absorb their punishment and shame. Amidst cries and wailing which pierced the Heavens, they escorted their Rebbe out of town.
An eyewitness to that bitter day described it: "That day will forever be etched in my memory as one of tragedy, which I'll never forget. It was an awesome sight to see the Rebbe and his family leave town, and all of us - men, women and children - escorting him whilst crying and wailing. The cries were heard in the neighboring towns, until even the Gentile farmers came out and joined the escort of the holy Rabbi. We escorted the Rebbe's wagon for several miles, crying, until we reached the river bank and could continue no longer."
"Then the Rebbe stood up in his coach, turned to us and said, 'I promise you that Hornosteipel will be neither embarrassed nor shamed.' We understood these words only three years later..."
After settling in Cherkassy, many of the Chassidim began to come there. Hornosteipel emptied out, its roads forsaken. Three years passed. The Rebbe's grandson, R. Mordechai Dov, who accompanied his grandfather to Cherkassy [he lived with him after his parents died], was totally absorbed in his Torah learning...
In the year 5623, Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkassy fell ill and was bedridden. His youngest grandson, R. Mordechai Dov, was at his bedside day and night, out of his great love for his grandfather.
One day before daybreak, the Rebbe sat up in his bed and said to his grandson, "I'm not really sick. The doctors don't know what they're talking about. I know more about myself than they do. Just like one has 248 physical limbs, he has a similar amount of spiritual ones. When one harms a 'spiritual limb,' it affects the physical one as well, and that's what we call 'sickness.' I began to contemplate; perhaps I have harmed a spiritual limb. I was informed from Above that I have harmed my connection to the Oral Law - Torah she'baal Peh - and I have therefore undertaken to learn 18 chapters of Mishna a day, between Mincha and Ma'ariv." With that, he got out of bed.
Then he continued, "My son, your time has come to be a Rebbe, and your place is Hornosteipel. It is time to leave me and to take your rightful place."
Bursting into tears, R. Mordechai Dov responded, "But I'm so young, how can I take on such an awesome task?"
"Our Sages say, 'One kingdom does not overlap another, even by a hair's breadth,'" responded his grandfather. "It is time for you to become a Rebbe. If you want me to live a long life, you must depart from me, and go to your designated place."
"I will obey my grandfather's wishes, and take leave immediately," responded R. Mordechai Dov, shaking with fear and humility, and realizing his fate.
R. Mordechai Dov and his grandfather remained attached to one another throughout life. There was no matter for which Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael did not consult his grandson, who was a scholar and tzaddik, even after R. Mordechai Dov left for Hornosteipel to become Rebbe there.

Zechuso yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Cherkasser's merits protect us all!

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