On the yahrtzeit of the Holy Klausenberger Rebbe ztz"l
Streaming Tears of Empathy
The Sanz/Klausenberg Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, was a unique individual. His love for all Jews was legendary. Although he lost his wife and eleven of his children in the flames of the living hell called the Holocaust, throughout those years of terror and horror he continued to try to spiritually uplift and encourage his fellow prisoners.
The Klausenberger had an especially keen interest in children. Immediately following World War II and its accompanying atrocities against the Jewish People, the Rebbe opened a yeshivah and a Bais Yaakov school in a Displaced Persons camp. The conditions were dismal and lamentable, but Torah study, the lifeblood of our People, has to continue.
One day, the Rebbe was told about Meshulam, a young man who had succumbed to the heresy that followed Hitler's holocaust of our People. Until the age of sixteen, Meshulam had exhibited signs of becoming a superior Torah scholar. He was exceptionally diligent in his Torah study and meticulous in his mitzvah observance. Then came the Holocaust. Having lost most of his family and observed the tragedy that befell so many others, he rejected his Judaism, undermining any attempt to bring him back to observance.
The Rebbe was not a person to take "no" for an answer, especially when a Jewish soul hung in the balance. He asked that the bachur, young man, be brought to him. When Meshulam entered the Rebbe's room, the Rebbe motioned for him to sit down next to him. "I am told that you are the son of Reb Laibish, whom I knew very well," the Rebbe said. "Yes," Meshulam responded, glibly. He was not going to be lulled into any conversation about Judaism and faith in G-d. He knew it all, and he had rejected it after Auschwitz. For him, the world of religion was something of the past.
"They tell me you were once exceptionally diligent in your studies, back home. Is this true?" the Rebbe asked in a non-confrontational tone. Knowing fully well the significance of Torah study to the Rebbe, he decided not to give the Rebbe the pleasure of telling him that at one time he had conformed to the demands of religion and loved Torah study. He simply nodded to the Rebbe's question.
"But, now you are angry," the Rebbe said in a soft, soothing tone.
"Of course, I am angry," he blurted out. "How could I tolerate the heinous, brutal destruction of so many people? The best were taken from us, the finest are lost forever, and you expect me not to be angry!"
The Rebbe lovingly extended his hand and touched Meshulam's face, telling him, "You are so right. I also suffered heavy losses. They took my beloved wife and eleven children and murdered them. I was left alone, with nothing. You are right. The best were taken from us and look at what is left." With these words the Rebbe suddenly burst out in tears and began to sob. As the pent-up emotion poured from him, Meshulam also began to cry. Together, the Rebbe and Meshulam mourned their losses on each other's shoulders.
It was no longer necessary for the Rebbe to say anything. Rebuke was not and had never been a factor. There was so much bitterness bottled up in Meshulam that only needed a release. The Rebbe was that catalyst. Words were not necessary. Tears, streams of tears, an outpouring of emotion is what Meshulam needed. The Rebbe understood this -- while others, regrettably, did not. Meshulam returned to the traditional ways of his people, because the Klausenberger Rebbe understood his need.
[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles on ascentofsafed from a submission by Rabbi Gershon Shusterman of Los Angeles. Originally published in Echoes of the Maggid (page 272).]