A GOOD EYE HEALS
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
The two young children hold onto one another as the screaming chaos reigns down ever more abuse. The Bobover Rov HaRav Shlomo Ztl whispers words of chizuk, as the two boys shiver in the cold. They are huddled in a small secret space within a darkened house on a side street in the city of Bochnea, Galitzia hiding from the crazed murderers of the S.S. The trio have leapt from one secret place to another, never far from the murderous grasp of their tormentors, they survive with a faith and belief that kaveuchal the Eibishter will lift them out of this gehenim. Outside they can hear a shrill harsh voice screaming over a bullhorn, ‘Come out now! We will reward you with a quick death of a bullet to your head, otherwise we will hunt you down in your rat holes and chop you up as a butcher would any animal, piece by piece!’
The youngsters shiver, holding the Rebbe’s hand tears streaming down their faces. One boy is the Rebbe’s sole surviving son ‘Naftulcha’, who would in time be tasked with leading the Bobover Community after his holy father’s Petira. The other was Liebela the Rebbe’s nephew who would miraculously survive and ultimately live in London, known to us all as Rav Liebel Stempel a leading light of chasidous and chesed to new generations. As the bullhorn blasted its bloodthirsty message the Rav cried out words from our Yom Kippur machzor, ‘Our Father, Our King….. Then the Rov sobbed, ‘this is all coming because of senseless hate for one another and the poison of machlokas.’
These three holy neshomas survived and were active leaders in the rebuilding of our Torah world. I heard this story from Rav Liebel yesterday, and although close to eighty years have passed, his voice is still aflame with the Rov’s message, machlochas is the poison, the infectious disease that destroys all that we have rebuilt.
Today we sit in unstable times, many locked in isolation. We have given up pretending we can make rhyme and reason of what is happening. We go about our daily tasks ever aware of the invisible scourge that has taken so many.
I am no Tzadik, no witness to what Rav Liebel lived through, nor any of those survivors who survived the Churban. I am just a scribe who writes things as I see them. One thing I do know, all the jealousy and machlokas we witness in our holy community today has consequences, and vaccines won’t dispel the poison we create with them.
If we learn anything from all this turmoil, it must start with a new bond of friendship respect and true love for all Yieden.
The Pnai Menachem of Ger Ztl said:
‘There are many middos that a person should acquire, but ayin tovah (a benevolent eye towards others) is the entranceway to all the others.’
Allow me to share a story I heard many times from the Bobover Rav Rav Shlomo Ztl.
The Koznitzer Magid ztl had a chosid who was a well-respected Rov living in Cracow. In fact this Rov was well renowned for his abilities in paskening and the whole of Cracow loved him greatly. There was but one blot on the Rov’s horizon: he and his worthy Rebbetzin had not been blessed with children. The Rov would make numerous trips to his Rebbe, asking constantly for a bracha. Each time the Koznitzer deflected his request, until one day the Rov just cried out, ‘Rebbe, you help so many, why can’t you bless me?’ With this the Rebbe looked into his chosid’s eyes. ‘My dear friend, what can I do? All the gates in heaven are closed for your bracho. I’ve tried, but I can’t open them.’ The Rov was stricken to his very core. ‘What? All is lost?’ asked the stricken Rov. ‘There is but one man who can help you,’ replied the Maggid. ’Yosef Drudik is that man. Go to him for a bracha.’ Yossele Drudik! The Rov knew him well; he lived in the woods outside of Cracow. There was no one more feared, more discounted, in the whole of the area. Children ran from him. He was awkward, rude and completely anti-social. And from him will come salvation? thought the Rov.
But the Koznitzer Maggid wasn’t to be questioned. So the Rov left and made his way home. Upon arriving home he set about planning how he would get Yossele Drudik to bless him. Mr Drudik lived in the forest, he had an old shack with a few horses at the back. There he existed together with his wife and children. A whole week he traveled through the villages repairing old pots and pans, returning just before Shabbos to his hovel. No one had ever seen the inside of his home nor spent any time with the feared Yossele. The Rov decided to show up at Drudik’s door an hour before Shabbos and explain that he was stranded in the forest and only wanted some shelter till Motzoei Shabbos.
The following Erev Shabbos the Rov put his plan into action, knocking on the shabby door of Yossele’s house and asking if anyone was home. After some time the door creaked open just a bit. A haggard looking lady stared out from the gloom and asked what the matter was. The Rov went into his story of being lost. Could you just let me stay over the Shabbos? he pleaded. ‘No way, my husband never permits people into our house. He would have my head if I let you in!’ ‘Please have some rachmonus.’ After some more tearful entreaties the woman relented somewhat. ‘You can stay at the back with the horses, but not in the house.’
Well, there was nothing for it. So the Rov soon found himself getting ready to be mekabel Shabbos with a congregation of old worn out horses. Just before sunset a presence made itself felt. It was the dreaded Yossele Drudik himself and he was in a towering rage. ‘What are you doing here?’ The Rov stammered his excuses. ’Well just stay away from my house and after Shabbos you had better leave, or else!’ What a Shabbos this was going to be! The poor Rov was quaking in his boots. With tears of disquiet he davened, ate some old challoh he had taken along, and fell asleep in the haystack. Next morning it was more of the same. davening with the horses, staying well away from Drudik’s precious house.
As the sun began to set the Rov started to daven Mincha, the eis rotzon, the moment of Divine grace. His tears started to flow from his eyes. What am I doing here? What did the Koznitzer mean? How will I find help? All the anger and discomfort swelled up and then through his tears his mind wandered to new thoughts. Who am I deceiving? Why do I seek Yossele Drudik’s bracha? l don’t respect him or think him worthy. Is this perhaps the real problem? The Rov looked into his own neshamah. ‘I have built a wall between the Yossele Drudiks of the world and myself.’ The fact is I am not worthy of all the chesed Hashem has shown me because I haven’t appreciated the greatness in others. With this he fell into a heap of sobbing bitterness.
Just then the Rov felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see what only could be described as a heavenly vision. A man stood there with a silver white beard and eyes that pierced one’s soul. ‘Come into my home, let us wash for Shalosh Seudos.’ Dumbfounded, the Rav followed the transformed Yossele. In the house was a table with a clean white cloth, challoh, wine and fish. After washing, the Rav sat still as Yossele started to sing Mizmor L’Dovid. Suddenly he stopped. With closed eyes he moaned, ‘Oy, Srulche Koznitzer ken mech shoen oiched, dear me, the Koznitzer knows about me also.’ Turning to the Rav he asked what he wanted. A bracha for a child. ‘Let it be so, but on one condition: you name him Yossele.’
And so it was, as a year later the Rav’s house was full with the laughter of his own little Yossele.
So many prayers can be left unanswered simply because we fail to bond with others. We see at the end of Parshas Vayechi a total rapprochement between Yoseph Hatzadik and his brothers. All the pain and heartache came from the irritant of not having an ayin tovah, let us all learn, and make amends.