PREVENTING A SUICIDE
The following story was told over by Rav Yaakov Amzaleg and is translated from the original Hebrew version that appeared in the book ‘Lehavot Aish‘:
“The grandchild of the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt”l, married the grandchild of Rabbi Moshe Halberstam, zt”l, and the whole Orthodox world, including all the Rebbes and Rabbis, came to the wedding, including the Rav.
(As an aside, in all of the pictures of this illustrious occasion, you can clearly see the Rav sitting at the table for the dignitaries, poring over the holy books he brought with him and continuing to learn Torah throughout the wedding.)
“At this time, I was teaching at one of the yeshivos, and I had a student there who was a baal teshuvah who was suffering a great deal from all the errors he’d made in his past. He was being plagued by negative thoughts that didn’t give him any respite.
“He used to tell me what he was going through, and I’d try to give him some chizuk, but on the day that this wedding was taking place, he came to me and told me he just couldn’t continue anymore. The yetzer hara was chasing him nonstop, and he’d reached the end of his rope. He told me, ‘I want to kill myself.’
“I told him, ‘Look, I can’t help you any further, but I have an idea for you: The only way to get past this is to go to Rav Berland. He’s the biggest expert in things like this.’ The student agreed to see him.
“But we still had to solve the next problem, which was how to arrange a meeting between the two of them. At that point, the Rav was very isolated, and it was very difficult to get in to see him. So I told the student, ‘There’s a big wedding tonight that the Rav is definitely going to attend. Go to the wedding, and hopefully you’ll be able to grab a few words with the Rav there.’ He agreed to go.
“The Rav was sitting in the middle of the very long table of Rabbis and Rebbes, and there were a lot of people between my student and the Rav, including rabbinic attendants and ushers. But this student didn’t let anyone put him off, and he patiently worked his way past everyone until he managed to get to the Rav, where he grabbed his hand and quickly told him why he’d come to see him.”
“YOU’RE BETTER THAN ALL OF THEM!”
“The attendants were trying to prevent him from talking to the Rav, but when they saw he’d already got close to him, they decided to let him be, as they didn’t want to make a big scene. If they’d known what was about to happen next, they would have probably thrown the student out immediately, but Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the One who runs the world.
“The Rav listened to the young man and heard everything he had to say. When he’d finished, the Rav squeezed his hand, took off his glasses, and then gestured to the whole table of dignitaries seated around him, before saying,
‘You see all the Rabbis here? You’re better than all of them!’
“And the Rav didn’t say this quietly; he yelled it at the top of his lungs, before continuing, ‘All of them [referring to the Rabbis] don’t even come up to your shoelaces!’ Needless to say, there was a very awkward silence for a few seconds after this happened, as everyone turned to look at the Rav. Even the people who’d been dozing off woke up to see what all the fuss was about.
“After all, we’re talking about a table full of Rabbis and Rebbes, so clearly some derech eretz was required… Who was yelling things like that, so loudly?! Everyone looked at the Rav in astonishment.
“But the Rav didn’t pay them any attention, because he knew that these Rabbis weren’t about to go and commit suicide, God forbid. If it was embarrassing for the Rav, or making an unpleasant scene for him, what did he care? In fact, that would even be an extra bonus for him, if he could also manage to humiliate himself publicly… The most important consideration for the Rav was that there was a Jew standing in front of him who needed to be rescued.
“The Rav hugged the young man and gave him a kiss, and thus they parted.
“When I saw my student a little while after that happened, he was floating on air. He told me so enthusiastically, ‘The Rav told me that I’m worth more than everyone else put together!’ He was still floating on air for a few weeks after it happened, and that’s how the Rav managed to disconnect him from his very negative, even suicidal, state of mind.
“He strengthened himself, got married, and today he’s the father of a big family of bnei Torah in Modiin Illit. Every time I see him, he tells me again how all his success in life is because of Rav Berland,” concludes Rav Amzaleg.