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Shabbos by the Ba’al Shem Tov

Have you ever experienced Yom Kippur in the middle of the winter? Can you imagine doing it with your Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva, the person who spurs you on to the greatest spiritual heights? How about standing by the Kosel Hama’aravi, or Kever Rochel for the very first time; can you remember the emotional avalanche, the tears  cascading down your cheeks? Now, try taking all three and rolling it up into one and then you can possibly understand the feelings that I felt standing by the Ba’al Shem Tov’s Kever this past Shabbos Parshas Zachor. But of course, I’m getting ahead of myself so let me tell you about the most amazing spiritual experience I’ve ever had, from the beginning.

Our group of ten men, including Mordechai ben David, Avi Fischoff, Yitzy Bald and other well-known “chevra”, departed JFK on Wednesday night and arrived in Kiev Boryspil International airport at about 3:00 PM Thursday afternoon. We were excited and anxious to get going and nothing could slow us down from here on in, including MBD’s luggage which never arrived – but we’ll get back to that later! We were met at the airport by a “heiliger yid”, a Breslover Chassid by the name of R’ Yisroel Meir Gabbai, who runs an organization named “Derech Tzaddikim”, whose main task is to locate and restore kivrey tzaddikim throughout the Ukraine. He arranged our entire trip, from buses to accomodations, in (Russian) first -class style.

After a short stopover in a busy Kiev marketplace, to change money and buy some soda for the road (this took longer than expected because after buying six bottles of soda, we could not, in any way shape or form, make the lady understand that we needed a bag! For some reason, just saying “Bag-oski” didn’t do the trick!), we traveled two hours to the kever of the holy R’ Avrohom Hamalach ZT”L, son of the Mezritcher Maggid. With the last rays of sunshine disappearing over the horizon, we davened Mincha at his newly restored kever, although it was curiously located directly in the middle of what seemed to be a non-jewish cemetery. To the chorus of constantly barking dogs, we yelled out “Y’hei shmei rabbah”, lifting the tzaddik’s neshoma even higher in Gan Eden – this probably being one of the few times that this backward Ukranian village has heard the likes of such enthusiasm in hundreds of years! It was inspiring to say the least, and we left kvitlach wherever we could find a place to put them. As you can imagine, our bus ride was filled with music, laughter and good-will, and with Yitzy playing his guitar, we sang old songs and learned new tunes all throughout our trip.

About two hours later, we arrived in Uman where the famous R’ Nachman of Breslov ZT”L is buried. Recently, thousands of people have been coming to Uman during the Yomim Noraim, and a beautiful tziyon over the tzaddik’s kever was something to behold. After going to the mikveh, where the only, single, solitary shower in the entire town worked at that hour (forget hot water!), we approached the kever of “Rabbeinu Na – Nach – Nachm – Nachman” with a mixture of awe and trepidation. The Breslover Chassidim from amongst us immediately lost it – weeping and moaning over the Rebbe’s kever – while the rest of us, including some newly converted Breslover Chassidim (Motty), said the special tefillos and davened Ma’ariv with extra concentration and enthusiasm. I personally got – “that feeling” – the next morning after Shacharis and let me tell you, when you actually feel like the tzaddik is talking directly to you, there’s nothing in the world like it! Afterwards, MBD (Mordechovsky, as he was known during the trip!) taught us some Yosher Divrey Emes and we returned to our “luxurious accomodations” – seven guys in one apartment, no running water and little heat (although, we did have a bathtub full of ice cold water thanks to one quick-thinking soul!). We didn’t come to sleep – and G-d definitely made sure of that!

In the morning, our Israeli contingent met up with us, including Mona Rosenblum, Charedi radio personality Yossi Gil and a special individual by the name of Mota Frank, who personally arranged and delivered, from Yerushalayim, all the food we could ever need for Shabbos. Not to mention an overflowing fountain of Torah and Chassidus. As we were leaving the town of Uman, Mota pointed out a park where, as the story he told us goes, a Jewish girl by the name of Sophia was wrongly accused of a crime she did not commit, and punished with death. The Russian authorities later felt bad for what had happened and named this park in her honor. R’ Nachman of Breslov would say that this park was a special place for introspection and so, we detoured off the road and stopped. The next thirty minutes were special, as we all marched and sang, arm in arm through the long winding park, finally reaching a lake that was totally frozen over. We then did the most logical thing we could do: we walked out into the middle of the lake and danced fervently for a while, not caring what the Ukranian onlookers thought and said. We then marched back out of the park – and bought bottles of soda, without a bag, of course!

The next four hours on the bus were filled with song – and when MBD told over in the name of the seforim hakedoshim, that Moshiach will only reveal himself in the month of Nisan, after a group of yidden will completely fulfill the mitzvah of erasing the name of amalek on Parshas Zachor – every variation of “Timcheh es zaicher amalek”, both new and old, broke out. We felt it was our destiny!

But most men are struggling to discuss it with a doctor soon.Pilots ought to evade the dosage, if they are departing to fly the sildenafil viagra generico aircraft between 4 to 6 hours comparatively like that of pill. In other case, his shaft might get long but canadian viagra samples not hard. Owing to its high medicinal properties, ginseng is believed to make infants more susceptible to health problems in men and women are almost viagra delivery canada Full Article same but their affects on them are different. This drug will help you to get cialis super active back your sexual strength. We arrived in Mezhiboz about an hour and a half before shabbos and this time, the accomodations were truly first-class. R’ Gabbai had built a beautiful, brand-new Hachnossas Orchim house, not more than fifty feet from the tziyon of the holy Ba’al Shem Tov! Complete with a gorgeous, fully equipped Beis Medrash, spacious dining room and, yes, believe it or not, deluxe bedrooms, the fact that unless you were the first one in the elegantly tiled Mikvah and shower, the odds of getting hot water or decent water pressure or electricity in the bathroom was not very good, did not seem to matter. However, the odds of getting all three – that was impossible! (Fortunately, I made it my business to be the first as…. somethings are better left unsaid!) Of course, the locals, who must have had some kind of radar-tracking system on us, emerged out of the wood-work, and within moments an entire street bazaar was in full swing. Every kind of Russian chatchke, fur hat or wood-craft was on sale; the lady with the mustache (it could make Albert Einstein’s look paltry by comparison!) sold out almost immediately! But all kidding aside, standing over the tziyon of the holy Ba’al Shem Tov for the first time, that Friday afternoon, triggered emotions of kedusha and recollections of stories about his saintliness and miracles. The thought that no matter what chassidus a person belonged to or what rebbe held his allegiance, the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of chassidus, was the Rebbe of all the Rebbes was a powerful concept which helped to put all of our feelings into their proper perspective.

The first hint that we were in for an unusually special shabbos occurred during kabolas shabbos. Conservation of electricity is an immutable tenet of Ukranian life and midway through davening, the lights went out. Unfazed, we continued on and towards the end of Lecha Dodi we all got up and started dancing. Suddenly, a slight glimmer of light came on (apparently, the back-up generator kicked in) and as our singing and dancing grew in intensity, so did the light in the Beis Medrash, but no sooner had we finished “Boey Beshalom” – the lights dimmed and within seconds, extinguished. We continued on and began Ma’ariv, each of us enthusiastically saying the words loudly, and as we simultaneously said the words “Ohr M’pney Choshech V’choshech M’pney Ohr” – “Light from darkness and darkness from light” – BOOM, the lights kindled brightly and stayed on for good! “Goosebump-skys” were breaking out all over the place! Then, as soon as davening was over, Mota Frank could be seen going over to each person asking, “Did you bring any wine?” Apparently, nothing was overlooked except for the wine, which is an obvious necessity for shabbos. No one else had thought to bring wine and as a last resort, we were considering making kiddush over the challah. All of a sudden, one of Mona Rosenblum’s teenage sons comes down from his room carrying three small bottles of Kedem wine! He explained that on the flight over from Israel, the stewardess was handing out bottles of wine and although nobody else bothered with it, he unthinkingly took three bottles and stuffed them in the bottom of his carry-on luggage! Now I ask you, when was the last time you were on a flight and they handed out bottles of Kedem wine? And you took three?! On a Swiss-Air flight, nonetheless?!! Boy, were we feeling it at that point!

The meals were delicious, the singing heavenly and the inspiration flowing. Following the afternoon meal, R’ Gabbai took us to the site of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s house and his Beis Medrash, which, not surprisingly, he is in the process of rebuilding. He then led us to the home of the sole remaining Jew in Mezhiboz. Just close your eyes and imagine the look on this 84 year old man’s face, who hadn’t seen a yid in dozens of years, as 21 chassidish and yeshivish-looking men poured into his dilapidated, hovel of a home, and pressed him for details of his life. It was classic – but not as classic as the look he made when one of the chevra handed him a $100 bill after shabbos; rumor has it that the look of shock on becoming the richest Mezhibozian in history, didn’t wear off for days! Shalosh Seudos was the next in a string of unforgettable events. Of course, the lights went out in the middle, but it was just as well because who needed actual light when the incredible spirit and illumination of our singing, divrey torah and exuberant dancing lifted up our souls to the heighest heights? Believe me, “T’hei Hasha’ah Hazos” was never sung with more enthusiasm and by the time we bentched, almost 3 hours later, we were just in the mood for what came next. We all put on our winter coats and went out to the tziyon to daven Ma’ariv at the side of the heiliger Ba’al Shem Tov. Words cannot describe the incredible emotion which each one of us felt at that time; like I said in the beginning, it was surely what Neilah on Yom Kippur in the middle of the winter actually feels like! It’s hard to put such feelings into actual words, but just to give you an idea of what it was like – Ma’ariv that Motzei Shabbos took us one hour and ten minutes! That was some powerful Ma’ariv, let me tell you! And to top it all off, MBD read out loud the famous prayer “Gut fun Avrohom” – not one person standing there had a dry eye. How could we? He cried and we cried and then, of course, we danced and sang, but the memory of that Ma’ariv, and the inspiration I felt standing there, will last with me for as long as I live.

Next came Melaveh Malka, and at that point I felt myself emotionally over-loaded. But the food kept coming and the music kept playing, so how could I not join in? Yossi Gil managed to call in to his Motzei Shabbos radio show in Israel and from that point on he conducted his show live from Mezhiboz. We all participated a little and he interviewed MBD and Mona, while we sang and carried on in the background. This went on until after 2:00 AM.

After a solid night’s rest (I got up at 5:15 AM to be only one of two people to get at least a lukewarm shower!), we were on our way again. Our Israeli friends had left in the middle of the night to return to Israel, and some of our newly converted Breslover Chassidim decided to have another go at the kever of R’ Nachman, so we were only left with six people. We traveled on to Berditchev, where we first stopped at the famous Berditchever Beis Medrash, which unbelievably after almost 200 years, is still in use till this very day! We met the Shamash and he told us that just this morning, they had a minyan with 29 people present! From there, we went to the cemetery and the tziyon of the great R’ Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev ZT”L, the “Kedushas Levi”. Again, standing over the kever of the tzaddik who was renowned for his love of all yidden and his tireless devotion to defending them and only seeing their good, how could one not daven with a little extra concentration, asking the tzaddik to bring our prayers before Hashem and fulfill our needs? As much as we thought we were over-loaded at that point, we still managed to find more inspiration and spirited enthusiasm in Berditchev.

The trip to the airport was uneventful – if you call passing through Ukranian roadblocks, braving a blizzard and getting into an accident, uneventful! We managed to make our flight, but of course, we weren’t worried for nothing could stop us now. We truly felt in our bones that in the merit of the great tzaddikim that we were fortunate enough to have davened by, nothing could shake us and our true emunah shleimah.


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