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Spiritual Masters

Spiritual Masters: Rebbe Chaim of Amdor

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A Beautiful Lantern

Rebbe Chaim of Amdor, or Rebbe Chayke, as he is called was known as an ascetic and a tzadik even before he became a disciple of the Magid of Mezritch.

Once the Magid spoke of a beautiful and perfect lantern that resides in Amdor; it is full of oil, has a wick, but is lacking a match to light it. The Magid sent his foremost disciples led by Rebbe Aharon the Great of Karlin in order to meet Rebbe Chayke and draw him to the path of Chassidut.

When Rebbe Aharon and the others arrived in Amdor they made their way to the Beit Midrash (study hall) and there found Rebbe Chayke learning Torah with great intensity. Rebbe Aharon approached him and asked, “What are you doing?”

Rebbe Chayke answered, “I am studying Torah for its own sake.”

“If so,” countered Rebbe Aharon, “where are all the great gifts promised by Rabbi Me’ir in the mishnah in Avot?”1

Rebbe Chayke was taken aback by Rebbe Aharon’s question while Rebbe Aharon quickly left the Beit Midrash. Rebbe Chayke decided he needed to speak more with Rebbe Aharon and quickly followed him, hardly catching up with him. When he did, he asked him, “So what can one do?”

Rebbe Aharon replied, “Come with me, we are traveling to Mezrtich.”

When they arrived, the Magid took a figurative match and lit Rebbe Chayke. This is how Rebbe Chayke was brought to Chassidut and to the Magid.

Years later, Rebbe Chayke related that prior to meeting the Magid he had already fasted a number of times from Shabbat to Shabbat and had stayed up a thousand nights, engaged in Torah study and serving the Almighty, but he had not had a taste of Divine service before meeting the Magid.

Between Amdor and Chabad

Rebbe Chayke was a friend of Rabbi Shne’ur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe and founder of Chabad. Once the Mittler Rebbe, the Alter Rebbe’s son happened to see achassid (disciple) of Rebbe Chayke praying with great intensity and devotion and was very impressed by the sincerity of his service. The Mittler Rebbe was somewhat astonished; how could there be a Jew, who was a disciple of another Rebbe, not his father’s, who could pray with such devotion? He went to his father and asked him frankly, “How can an individual pray in such a manner without having studied the teachings of Chabad?”

The Alter Rebbe answered with his usual melody (the Alter Rebbe always spoke with a melody, as if he was singing a song): “It is not him praying. It is his master, Rebbe Chayke Amdorer praying.” In other words, this disciple of Rebbe Chayke was praying not with his own abilities, but with his teacher’s devotion. “And our goal,” continued the Alter Rebbe, “is that you learn how to pray and not your Rebbe pray through you.”

This is the main difference between the spiritual path taught by the great tzadikim of Poland and the path taught by the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s. Both require the follower to devote himself to his master, but in Lubavitch the goal is to attain an independent ability to serve God.

Continues to Burn

Rebbe Chayke passed on the 23rd day of Adar, 5547 (1787), just two days after the passing of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. At Rebbe Chayke’s funeral, Rebbe Zusha (Rebbe Elimelech’s older brother) said, “When he was alive, we did not recognize who Rebbe Chayke was. We thought he was merely a human being, but in truth he was a seraph, an angel of burning fire. Let me tell you that even now he continues to burn before the Almighty.”

Rebbe Chayke’s teachings were recorded by his followers and were published over a hundred years after his passing in a volume titled Chaim Vachesed (Warsaw 1891).2

(based on the farbrengen given at the Sheva Berachot of M”M and Devorah Faya Friedman, 24 Adar, 5766)

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

Notes:

1. Rabbi Me’ir says, He who learns Torah for its own sake, receives many gifts. Moreover, with his learning, he justifies the existence of the entire world. He is called a friend, beloved, one who loves the Almighty, one who loves people…. (Avot 6:1).

2. One of his teachings on the secret of the seraphim was taught and explained in length in this same farbrengen and then published as a pamphlet.

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