Sunday, April 12, 2015

Melaveh Malkah in Moscow


Otzar Nachmani, sec. 167
From the collected talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein
Translated by Dovid Sears, unedited

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein relates:]
Rabbi Hirsh Leib Lippel, zal, told me that many times he was required [by the Soviet authorities] to travel to Moscow regarding his application to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. While there, he usually stayed with [a fellow Breslover chassid], Reb Moshe “Moskover” (whose family name was Yeruslavsky). According to the Communist regulations, it was forbidden to take into one’s home a stranger who was not a resident of Moscow. The punishment for doing so was harsh—exile to Siberia. However, Reb Moshe endangered himself with mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the mitzvah of receiving guests, and did not heed the prohibition.

Reb Hirsh Leib told how on Motza’ei Shabbos, he often longed to sing the zemiros [of Melaveh Malkah, songs to bid farewell to the holy day] loudly, as was his way. However, this could not be done in Reb Moshe’s home, for fear of arousing the suspicions of the neighbors, [in particular] the Bolsheviks, who were on the lookout for strangers. Therefore, he came up with a strategy. He would go out to the street and pretend to be drunk—like the other drunks who could be found in the streets, according to their custom.

Thus, he started singing the zemiros vigorously, at the top of his lungs, to his heart’s content. Sometimes during his wanderings, he would stumble into some passerby in order to make him go away from him—because according to the law, it was forbidden to touch a drunk. Then he could sing unhampered.

Reb Hirsh Leib attested that the joy, enthusiasm and spiritual arousal he felt at that time, while singing the zemiros—especially “Adir Ayom vi-Norah”—was more precious than gold. And when he came to “Eliyahu ha-Novi,” which includes the words, “the man following whom they declared, ‘Hashem hu ha-Elokim!”—he screamed thunderously, with all his might, repeating seven times: “Hashem hu ha-Elokim! Hashem is G-d!”

He contemplated that Eliyahu was Hashem’s solitary prophet in the midst of nine hundred prophets of Baal and the Asheira [a tree dedicated to idolatry]. And now he too found himself in a street full of drunks and their drunken songs, while he alone directed his heart toward heaven, in singing songs and praises to Hashem…

[Reb Nachman Burstein adds:]
See “Yemey Moharnat” (Reb Noson’s diary), Part II, where Reb Noson describes how he and his disciple, Reb Yehudah Eliezer, while aboard the ship [bound for Eretz Yisrael], once danced along with the sailors. However, the latter celebrated with no thought as to the reason for their festivity—“whereas we, thank G-d, danced and rejoiced because of the privilege of going up to the Land of Israel, thus to recognize ‘the One who spoke and the universe came into existence.’ ” Reb Noson brings a parable from the “Toldos” [Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye], in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: “They danced out of drunken abandon…” see there.

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