Monday, January 26, 2015

A Close Call

Otzar Nachmani
, sec. 98
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein writes:]
Rabbi Yankel Melamed, of blessed memory (whose yahrtzeit is 9 Shevat), told me that there was a time when the Breslover Chassidim used to go for hisbodedus to the cave of Tzidkiyahu HaMelekh in Yerushalayim. It once happened that a group of Breslovers went there to seclude themselves, to pray and supplicate and cry out to Hashem “seventy cries” [like a woman giving birth; see Likutey Moharan I, 21, 36; II, 2], as is the way of our brotherhood. But afterward, when they wished to leave, they couldn’t find their way back to the cave’s entrance. The more they searched, the more they became lost in the cave’s interior. (As Rashi remarks on II Kings, chap. 25, this cave extends to the plains of Jordan, which Tzidkiyahu HaMelekh traversed in his flight from his palace by way of Jerico, where the second mouth of the cave is located).

Thus, they went farther and farther away from the entrance, wandering around in the lightless caverns for hours in search of a way out, until the day began to wane and it started getting dark. The darkness of night in a cave is far greater than its darkness by day. Thus, it was utterly impossible to detect the opening. Now they were in actual danger, since no one else knew where they had gone, and calling for help would be to no avail; the sounds could not be heard outside, but merely echoed within the walls of the caverns. Moreover, there were small children with them, and the group had no candles to light. They also had neglected to take food or water with them, since they had merely planned to spend an hour or so in hisbodedus, not more. Therefore, the danger steadily increased.

Suddenly they heard Reb Yonah Lebel, zal, calling loudly to the rest of the group, “If this is how it is, let us all cry out to the Almighty! Nobody can help us—so scream, scream all together! Hashem hoshiya, ha-Melekh yaneinu bi-yom koreinu! May Hashem save us! May the King answer us on the day we call!” (Psalm 20)

Immediately they all began to scream loudly in unison, “Hashem hoshiya, ha-Melekh yaneinu bi-yom koreinu!” They repeated this verse over and over again, entreating mercy, as well as other verses of supplication. Then they began to recite the names of tzaddikim, each individual according to what he could remember (as the Rebbe states in Sefer ha-Middos, “Tzaddik,” that reciting the names of tzaddikim has the power to alter the laws of nature).

Together, they recited Tikkun ha-Klalli with deep emotion and tears. After this, Reb Yonah began to cry out already hoarse from supplication, “Shema Yisrael!”—and the others repeated his words, as if this were the end. The little children wept, and cried for their mothers.

At this point, their deliverance began to break forth. About fifteen minutes before dusk, one of the group who had ventured far into the cave started screaming, “Over here! With Hashem’s help, I’ve found the way to the cave’s entrance! Everyone come to me and don’t delay, because the sun is about to set!”

However, due to the many windings of the path out of the cave, it was hard for them to tell where he was; so they called for him to raise his voice, so that they could reach him by heading in that direction. He did so, and they drew nearer to him, until all together at last, they beheld the mouth of the cave. There, they broke into dance and fervent rejoicing in gratitude to Hashem for their deliverance.

Beside the entrance, they stood and prayed Minchah with great happiness. And so they emerged from the cave without mishap or harm, healthy and whole and in high spirits, through Hashem’s kindness.

Reb Yankel told me that one member of the group had not believed that they would get out alive, because that had previously heard about people who had disappeared into the cave without a trace. However, Chazal taught us: “Even if a sharp sword should be against your neck, do not despair of God’s mercy” (Berakhos 10a)! And the Rebbe cried, “Kein ye’ush iz gohrnit fahrhand’n … Absolutely nothing is hopeless!” Thus, they emerged in peace, in fulfillment of the verse, “And they cried out to Hashem in their dire straits, and from their distress He brought them forth” (Psalms 107).

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