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A story of light in dark times: The Karliner Rebbe

This Purim week, Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson, Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, celebrates a birthday. Amidst a world that is topsy-turvy she shares an uplifting story of the Karliner Rebbe and the Baal Shem Tov. Find out how we can find light, and even ecstatic happiness, during times of upheaval.

Watch the video and read the article:

I have a birthday today, so I think today we’re going to tell a story. We’re going to tell a story because Purim is a story. We’re going to tell a story because it’s a birthday. We’re going to tell the story because right now with what’s happening in the world, we need a story, we need a story. So, here is the story.

It’s told that Karliner Rebbe had a wagon like the Baal Shem Tov. What was special about the Baal Shem Tov’s wagon? It was known that Baal Shem Tov would sit next to alexia his horseman till the outskirts of Medzhybizh and then they turned around facing the Chassidim. The wagon would go as far as it needed to go and as long as it needed to go and the Chassidim knew that when it stopped it stopped exactly where they needed to be. It’s told that Karliner Rebbe had the same kind of wagon.

One day the rebbe says to his Chassidim we’re going and they’re on the wagon and they start traveling. And the sun starts to set and they’re thinking afternoon what’s happening with mincha we need to be davening mincha, we need to be praying mincha. The sun continues to set and they know the Rebbe knows this, is so they’re not saying anything but they’re concerned what’s with mincha? The stars come out, definitely what happened to mincha? The wagon continues to go they have no idea where they are, because it goes on for hours.

Maybe two o’clock in the morning, they find themselves in the middle of nowhere in front of this inn and the Rebbe says here we will daven mincha. And they walk into the inn and they start davening. Now Karliner are known for the way that they would do somersaults, they scream, they yell, they sing out loud. Two o’clock in the morning, and then of nowhere and then all the villagers they hear all the screaming and yelling from the inn their sure it is on fire, they come running with buckets to put out the fire. And you know, it was fire but not a consuming fire the Chassidim grabbed them put down the buckets grab their hands they start dancing together.

Day breaks the Rebbe makes the motion with his hand and the next thing the Chassidim are on the wagon. The innkeeper is standing there and the Karliner Rebbe says to him “don’t you have something to tell me?” and the innkeeper says

“I want you to know today’s my birthday. I’m 107 years old. When I was seven, my parents owned the inn. What did they have? All they had was the inn, so for my birthday present they told me I could stay up as late as I wanted to.” And I don’t know about you, but I know for myself when I was a child, I always thought life began after I went to sleep.

So here he also, it appears, thought that life began after he went to sleep. He was ecstatic about this present he says “In the beginning it was very exciting a lot of people a lot of things were happening. Less people and less people and I’m so tired but I’m not going to sleep until the end until my parents go to sleep.” He said “we just finished cleaning up” he said “maybe it was like two o’clock in the morning and I am dying, but the door opens the Baal Shem Tov walks in, with his Chassidim. and he says ‘It is here that we will daven mincha’ and they start singing and dancing and praying and the villagers thought that the place was on fire. They come in with their buckets, it was fire but not a consuming fire, fire of  Moshiach, the villagers and Chassidim were all dancing together and day breaks and my parents and I walk the Baal Shem Tov to go to the wagon and he sits on the wagon and he looks down at me and he says and he puts his hand on my head and he says ‘I want you to know today you’re seven but in a hundred years from now it’s going to be a night like tonight you’re going to finish cleaning up the door’s going to open, a Chassidic master is going to walk in with the Chassidim and they’re going to offer the afternoon prayers and they’re screaming and yelling and they’re dancing and then it’s going to think it’s on fire and they’re going to come with their buckets and you know what it’s fire but not a consuming fire and they’re going to dance together until day breaks and then rebbe will make a motion with his hand and the Chassidim will be on the wagon’ and then the Baal Shem Tov said to me ‘when he comes, tell him I was here.’”

I want you to know we’re walking right now in a world it’s not clear what’s happening at all and really what we can offer each other is telling each other that we’re here Purim and Yom Kipurim the Zohar says Yom Kipurim is Ke-purim like Purim. On Yom Kippur we dress up in white, like angels and we go in to a house of prayer and on Purim we walk the streets and Schechina the divine feminine and the kidshu berichu one and only the master of the world they’re in the streets. We’re in the streets. Right now, what do we need to do we need to walk the streets and tell each other I’ve been here, I’ve been waiting for you, I see you, I know you, I’ve been waiting for you. I bless us to have the strength to walk the streets this Purim, this coming shabbat, walk the streets and to tell each other I’ve been here, I’ve been waiting for you. Purim Samaich.


Shavua Tov from Schechter.

Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and  teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.

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