A TRUE STORY ABOUT THE TERRIBLE DANGERS OF GETTING INVOLVED IN MACHLOKET
Sometime ago, the Hebrew Shuvu Banim website received the following heart-rending true story via email. Now, we’ve translated it into English. This could just be one of the most important things you’ll ever read about the dangers of getting involved in machloket, controversy and lashon hara.
AN URGENT MESSAGE
Please friends, I’m asking you to read this urgent message until the very end, and by doing that, you will help me to say ‘enough!’ to my terrible suffering.
I’m writing this to you, my dear friends, my ‘forum companions’, all those people who busy themselves with gossiping about the latest news from the Chassidic courts (as I myself used to do) in those ‘online forums’ of interrogation and inquest that there hasn’t been the like of since the world was created.
I was a full partner in these discussions with you, and a very active participant, until a short time ago. I used to enjoy reading all the evil theories being concocted online, and I enjoyed it even more when I’d participate in our ‘discussions’, where we’d start spreading rumors, the likes of which no ear had ever heard before.
To cut a long story short, our gossip factory was growing at a rapid pace, and I loved discussing the ‘stars’ of our show (until my terrible trial, which came about because I didn’t accord the proper respect to Hashem’s creations) – in short, I was really one of the guys. I was so interested in every little detail, notwithstanding that fact that I was also a ‘chassid’ from the same circles we were gossiping about, because I had a long-standing hatred for that particular group of chassidim.
ADDICTED TO MAKING NEGATIVE COMMENTS
That’s how I came close to all of you. At that time, I really admired the [NAME DELETED] newspaper, and all the people I found there who were also dripping poisonous, baseless hatred. At that time, I considered those people to be ‘brothers in arms’, and when I corresponded with them in the various online forums and comments sections, I could imagine who they really were by the level of their writing, and the nature of their hostility. So in that particular way, I got addicted to commenting on those sites, as many of you also have.
I have a favor to ask of you, dear friends: please read the following lines with great concentration and attention, because you will find them shocking, and you’ll have a powerful, deeply-felt reaction to what you’re about to read. Truly, there are no words that can really describe the emotions that are welling up inside of me, and it’s difficult to express even just a little of the internal volcano that’s raging inside of me.
PLEASE DON’T TURN THESE WORDS INTO A JOKE
What can I do? It’s a positive mitzvah for me to speak. So I have a request to make of you, that I’m writing with the blood from my broken heart: please don’t turn my words into some sort of mystical ‘joke’, or regard me as someone who has little understanding, or someone who’s full of weird ‘theories’, because that’s a million miles away from the truth.
Some of you know me very well, and you certainly know how averse I am to mystical encounters or emotional outbursts. So please believe me, what I’m writing is still only a pale and watered-down description of what actually occurred. This is so painful for me. It’s so bitter for me, my heart bleeds that I had to learn these things in such a hard way. I’m eaten up by suffering and terrible guilt. But dafka, I feel compelled to share with you the terrible events I’ve recently had to go through.
MY SON, AHARON BEN CHAYA
For sure, the name ‘Aharon ben Chaya’ doesn’t mean anything to you. You never heard of him – and you never will hear of him again. But for me, that name means so much; it’s the essence of a life, and a part of my unforgettable experiences. My Aharele was the apple of my eye, a much-loved child, who was only born after many long, distressing years.
From the time he was born, I made every effort to only give him the best and the maximum I could, everything that a father would be willing to give to their only son. Even when my second son was born, I continued to dedicate my whole heart to both of my children, as though they were the only ones in my life. I’d been waiting for them my whole life, and they were my heart’s joy. People used to say we have two ‘only children’ – and really, they were right!
THE MOST TERRIBLE DAY OF MY LIFE
A few good, happy years passed in this way, full of bounty and satisfaction. Until we came to that ominous day, a month ago. The most terrible day of my life. I woke up in the morning, and while I was still wiping the sleep out of my eyes I happened to glance at Aharele. I don’t know why, but he looked kind of strange to me, so I came over to him and tried to scrutinize him properly.
He looked like he was burning up from fever, much more than I’d ever seen him before. His whole body was red, and his breathing was very uneven. It took my breath away when I saw that his body was completely covered with a type of rash that I’d never before seen in my life. My heart started whispering to me that something very dark and terrible was happening.
I don’t know why, but I started to feel extremely anxious. I bundled him up and ran to the car, and a very short time later we got to the hospital. There, the doctors told me something that I prayed I’d never hear: It was a bacterial infection, and an extremely aggressive, serious one. And they told me a whole bunch of other details about it that I wasn’t really interested in hearing about, in those first few minutes.
A whole crew of doctors quickly showed up, and started doing everything they could to fight for my son’s life. They were dashing all over the place and my teeth started chattering as I watched the spectacle unfolding before my eyes. Without anyone having to tell me anything, I knew that it was a very nasty business.
HOPE HAD BEEN EXTINGUISHED
I could see the despair in the eyes of the doctors, when my son’s rash didn’t react at all to the strongest antibiotic they could give him. I saw that hope had been extinguished in their eyes, when they came to update me that his body’s internal organs were collapsing. I saw how my son’s body was going into spasms, how he was finding it harder and harder to breathe, the fight he was having to hold on to just a moment more of life.
In my heart, I knew what was happening. The fight was being lost. I pushed that thought down, and asked my friends to start praying; I asked the Tzaddikim of the generation to pray for my son, and I even sent a messenger to the grave of one of the big kabbalists from the previous generation, who I used to regularly visit at his home, when I used to live in the South. I hoped that maybe his merits would help my son pull through this terrible time.
An hour passed, and then another. My heart was like a petrified rock, as though it couldn’t take any more of the bitter pain and suffering. Almost a whole day passed like that, that first Sunday of last month. At dusk, in the time before the evening set in, the hour when the gloom reigns over the world, and the night is trying to overcome the last rays of light from the day, at that time the sun also set over my own personal world.
THE SUN SET, AND TOOK A PIECE OF MY SOUL WITH IT
The sun set, and took a piece of my soul with it. Quietly and peacefully, the soul of Aharele returned to his Maker, to those hidden Heavenly heights. As this happened, me and my wife, may she live, started shuddering to the very depths of our souls.
Once again, we had an ‘only son’, but now really in the simplest meaning of the words. We were in such utter shock, it’s indescribable. Even now, I can’t describe how terrible I felt, how I walked around so bent over, after the death of my heart’s joy, whose years were cut so short. We walked around as though we were in a dream, over the following days. We couldn’t come to terms with what had happened, we couldn’t find any comfort. We had no idea what we’d done to deserve such terrible suffering.
We believed that yesh din, ve yesh dayan – there is a Judge, and there is judgment. We knew this. It’s basic emuna; we knew that there was no injustice, and that God is straight and just. But our hearts still bled.
‘WHY DID GOD DO THIS TO US?!’
We tried to think about why God had done this to us, but we couldn’t come up with anything specific. I was close to one of the Gedolei HaDor, so I went and asked him if he could tell me something specific we could grab onto, something that could help us to improve the situation. After a lot of repeated requests, he finally told us to look into the matter of how we were treating other people (adam le chaveiro).
We tried to find things that we’d done, but we didn’t come up with anything. We’d never had a heated exchange with anyone.
Thus, the seven days of the shiva (mourning period) passed, in a state of such enormous pain that it seemed we’d never be able to heal for even a moment. I really never knew that a person possessed such deep wellsprings of pain, and this pain attacked us and ate at our hearts, 24/7, without any exaggeration. You should never know such suffering.
‘YOUR SON IS BURNING UP!’
On the way back from the cemetery, we went to pick up our second child, the only one who remained to us, from his babysitter, to take him back home with us. And then, as though I was stuck in a horrible dream, I felt his head, and I realized it was burning up. I thought maybe I was hallucinating, so I asked a neighbor who was standing next to me to feel his head as well, and he was stunned.
He told me: “Your kid is burning up with fever!” My heart skipped a beat, and I thought that I was going to faint. I cried out silently to God. This was the only present left to me, the only remnant. It took me a couple of minutes to get a grip on myself. I drove at break-neck speed, and once again I found myself before the gates of that awful place, where I’d just lost the person who was most dear to me.
Believe me, that even now as I’m writing these words, I’m unable to stop myself from breaking into the most terrible tears, because I’m reliving those awful moments again, as though they were happening right now. But because I feel I’m a messenger who’s been tasked with a mission, I’m forcing myself to continue.
STRUCK FOR A SECOND TIME
I recognized the hospital’s medical team, and they immediately recognized me, too. They were astonished when they realized we’d been struck a second time. Once again, began the series of checks and diagnoses. And once again, my ears explode from the doctor’s pronouncement, because it seemed like the same thing was happening all over again.
For a second time, they were talking about a dangerous, predatory infection, except this time around, they’d discovered it an earlier stage, so perhaps there was still hope, said the doctor. He apparently had no idea that he’d just cut my heart to pieces, without anesthetic.
I started weeping very loudly; my wife, may she live, sank into a depressed state of shock, and the doctors went back to their work, fighting for my son’s life. They knew they had a real fight on their hands, and that each moment counted. There was a religious male nurse there, and he saw me sobbing and saw my wife completely bewildered and lost. He said a few words to us that sharply brought us back to reality.
He took me by the shoulders and shook me, like I was a packet of frozen peas, then started yelling at me: ‘What’s with you?! Right now, you can still go and pray!’ The way he emphasized the words ‘right now’ snapped me out of my hysteria, as though he was telling me ‘tomorrow, it’s already going to be too late….’
THE FATEFUL VISIT TO THE KOTEL
Like a man possessed, I immediately jumped into a cab to take me to the Kotel (I was scared to drive by myself, at that point.) Once I got there, I cried like I’ve never cried before. I thought that after the week I’d just had, a week so full of tears that the ‘well of tears had run dry’, I quickly learned that I hadn’t yet come to the end of my weeping.
I roared out a few chapters of tehillim (psalms), and then I begged the Creator of the world that he would send us the miracle we needed, and save my Shlomo’le. People heard the name ‘Shlomo ben Chaya’ being yelled out a lot at the Kotel, at that time, very loudly. I simply couldn’t hold my feeling back anymore. I sensed that everyone there was joining me in my tears, but my heart was so overwhelmed I couldn’t really ‘feel’ it.
My heart was focused on one thing, and one thing only: ‘Shlomo’le! Shlomo’le!’ And again, ‘Shlomo’le!’
Just before I was about to leave the Kotel, I felt like I had to make one more request. I had a small moment of internal clarity, and my heart told me I had to ask God for one more thing, too. I stood there so dejectedly, and I begged the Creator of the world: ‘God, please answer me! Show me Your ways, teach me, please, why am I being so beaten? Why am I being punished so harshly? Please open my eyes, so that I’ll understand what it is I need to rectify, before it’s too late!’
CHILDREN ARE PUNISHED ON ACCOUNT OF THE PARENTS
I knew that a person’s small children die on account of the sins of the parents, and I was hoping with all my heart to be given the chance to improve, and to save my Shlomo’le, the light of my life.
I sat in the hospital and I anxiously listened to the words of the medical team, because the situation had only stabilized a little, and the following days were going to be crucial and decisive for whether my son would live, or die.
With that knowledge, I kept reading tehillim, because that was the only thing I could do. And instead of losing my child, I was given a ray of hope that God’s salvation was on the way. It seems that I was saying the tehillim, I fell asleep on my chair, as I sat in the room that was next to the isolation ward in the intensive care unit where my son was being treated.
THE DREAM AND THE ANSWER
And this was the dream that I dreamt: It was a clear dream, like it was actually happening in real life. I’m not someone who usually dreams about things, but this time, I felt I was really discerning the truth, and every word sounded like a bat kol (a voice from Heaven).
In my dream, I saw my Aharale, Aharele, zl, looking his best, with neat payot (side curls) and dressed in his Shabbat clothes. Sitting by his side was his younger brother, Shlomo’le, my sweet son, and at the head of the table stood my teacher and my rebbe, ztl, who was a very big kabbalist that I used to go and visit.
His usually always smiling face now looked furious. I went over to him and grabbed hold of the edge of his gown, and then I broke down into bitter sobbing and entreated him to act on behalf of Shlomo’le, Shlomo ben Chaya, that he should have a complete recovery.
I saw a blazing look in his eyes that penetrated to my innermost regions. I kept waiting for his paternal gaze to appear, the one I’d got so used to seeing from this holy, merciful elder – but it didn’t show up. I felt that he was being very strict with me, and that he was kind of trying to torture me with a moral rebuke.
I let out a wild scream, and I turned to him and asked him: ‘Please teach me, my rebbe, what have I done wrong, that I need to rectify?’
DON’T HARM MY TORAH SCHOLARS!
And then I heard his voice, which even now still rings in my ears, as he started reading from a big, old sefer (holy book): ‘Every person who disgraces a talmid Chacham (learned Torah scholar), he has no healing for his sickness. Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav Meir, as it’s written, don’t touch my Moshiach or my prophets. ‘Don’t harm, and don’t touch my Moshiach’ – these are the babies of Beit Rabban. ‘And don’t harm my prophets’ – these are the Talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars). (Masechet Shabbat).
This is what he read, and went back and repeated again and again, and his voice was threatening and scary-sounding. I was bewildered. I had no idea what he was referring to. He glared at me again, and flashed me another scathing look. I blinked. I felt like I couldn’t bear his gaze anymore. So he added a few more words, and like he was reading my mind he told me: ‘And so you say, that you have no idea why there’s so much anger, and that you have no idea what I’ve revealed to you here. Why this is being done to you. Recall your deeds, and see if you didn’t recently harm the honor of a Talmid Chacham!’
‘YOU STILL HAVEN’T LEARNT YOUR LESSON!’
Believe me, at this stage I still hadn’t made the connection. It seems that all the things of this sort that I’d written on the internet didn’t seem to count in my head as things that had ‘harmed the honor of a Talmid Chacham.’ So, I heard his voice again rebuking me in a way I’d never heard before, and he said: ‘Was it in vain that your son was taken, and you still haven’t learnt your lesson?! You already buried one of your beautiful children, and right now the second one is on his way to the graveyard too, and still you don’t know where you stumbled?!’
I broke down again in terrible sobbing. And so then he told me, in a slightly softer tone: ‘You awakened some Divine mercy with your prayers today, and I was sent to reveal to you the claim against you.’ Then he cried out in a loud voice: ‘There sits in his house the tzaddik of the generation, who is sanctified in Heaven, and who’s words are always listened to Above.
‘He’s the leader of so many people, and he brings a holy shefa (bounty) down to them, and he is the central pillar that’s upholding this generation of darkness. All he thinks about is how to benefit his flock, and how to raise them up and help them – both materially and spiritually. He is full of Torah, and the fine details of halacha (Jewish law), in a way that is unparalleled in this generation.’
Now, I finally understood what I was being judged for, and what was being demanded from me because I’d disgraced rabbis. Woe to me, and woe to my soul! I suddenly understood everything, and how.
THE DANGERS OF DISGRACING TZADDIKIM
My rebbe continued: ‘You and your evil friends shamelessly created destructive weapons for the Sitra Achra (the forces of darkness), to harm and damage, by spreading lies and profanities designed to blacken the name of this holy leader, and his community. The Heavenly court sat in judgment, and found you guilty of disgracing a Talmid Chacham, and so they punished the ‘babies of Beit Rabban’ with death, as it says in the Gemara.
‘They took your Aharale away from you before his time, and you still didn’t understand what they wanted from you. The attribute of strict justice was accusing you vigorously, and almost snatched away your second son, also, Shlomo’le. They already prepared a place for him here.’
My rebbe pointed at Shlomo’le, who was standing very close to him, his eyes full of innocence. ‘But, it’s still not too late! You awoke Divine mercy at the right time, and now judgment has been given over to your hand. If from now on, you will never do this again, and you will try to rectify everything that you damaged, in return, they will give you the life of your son, as a gift.
‘But if you don’t do these things, if you don’t…’ – here, his voice once again become bloodcurdling and threatening – ‘if you don’t, then the words of the Gemara will be visited upon you, and there will be no healing for your sickness, God forbid.’
‘YOU NEED TO PUBLICIZE THIS MATTER’
And then, he gave over the secret of how to rectify the situation: ‘If you will follow my advice, you should publicize this matter as widely as possible, and repeat it word for word in those exact same places where you wrote those words disgracing a Talmid Chacham. Make this known to all your ‘friends’ there, because they are doing what you were doing, and what you were punished for.
‘Do this so people should be aware that there is a Judge, and there is judgment. But at this stage, don’t mention my name, because the glory of God wants the matter hidden. So, you should be careful to wake up the other misguided people, who were writing those things with you, and who were talking badly about such a great Tzaddik.
‘And to conclude matters, you should please go and visit that Tzaddik, and ask him to forgive you. When you see him, you can tell him who I am, and what I told you.’
I swore to him that I would do exactly what he’d said, and then I begged him to ask for mercy on my behalf, that I shouldn’t be punished again, in the same way I had been with my Aharale, zl. Then, I saw him leave with my Aharale, and he left me there alone, still dazed, with Shlomo’le.
SHLOMO’LE COMES BACK TO LIFE
I woke up back in the present, drenched with sweat, and with a tremendous feeling of panic I went to find out what was happening with my Shlomo’le, the light of my life. I went into his room, and I could already see the signs of a huge improvement in his face. I summoned the medical team to double-check that my eyes weren’t just playing tricks on me, and they also verified that Shlomo’le was improving – without any reason that they could discern or understand, that accorded with the natural way of the world.
I almost don’t need to add that Shlomo’le was discharged the following day, as healthy as the next person, may his soul live.
My dear friends. I know that there will be cynics amongst you, who will scorn my words. But, please pay attention to the words of a bereaved father, so you don’t one day find yourself standing in my place, God forbid. I can’t make the truth any clearer than this:
See and remember this: Today, there is no doubt in my heart that anyone who speaks or writes even a word of disdain and scorn against any of the Tzaddikim of the generation, in the end he will be uprooted. Let those who read these words really take them to heart, and let them stop their activities.
It’s so sad that tender souls could end up being damaged, like my precious Aharele, zl, because of this terrible sin.
If you want to ask me what happened, and how I suddenly had the merit of being shown this terrible vision, all I can say is that you apparently don’t understand the depth of the pain a father experiences when he’s on the cusp of losing his last child. It seems that at least one of my prayers merited to finally pierce through the barrier surrounding me, and to wake me up to my wrongdoing.
Your friend with the sad heart that’s still so full of pain and suffering, on this day, the 31st day after the death of my son, Aharon ben Chaya.