Posted by: gruvenreuven | July 6, 2009

Mesirus Nefesh of Freedom

The Previous RebbeThe General Wayne Inn, originally built in 1704 played an important role in the American Revolutionary war as an outpost for Hessian soldiers. Now, some three hundred years later the Inn has been converted and is home to Chabad of the Mainline. Sitting in this historic shul this past Shabbos, I reflected on the synchronization of both Hebrew and Secular calendars, and what it meant to be a free Jew living in the United States. This past Shabbos Chukat-Balak, in addition to it being the 4th of July (American Independence Day), was also Yud Beis Tammuz, or the 12th of Tammuz.

On Yud Beis Tammuz in the year 1927, the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (aka “The Previous Rebbe”), was officially granted release from his sentence of exile to Kastroma in Russia. Twenty-seven days earlier, the Rebbe had been arrested by agents of the Secret Police and the Yevsektzia (“Jewish Section” of the Communist Party) for his activities to preserve Judaism throughout the Soviet empire and sentenced to death. International pressure forced the Soviets to commute the sentence to exile and, subsequently, to release him completely.

On the 4th of July in 1776, 56 of our countries founding fathers also had the chutzpah to stand up for what was right against a tyrannical government. History tells us that five of the Declaration of Independence signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, and nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

On Shabbat, we read Parshas Chukat-Balak which ends with the story of the Zealot Pinchas. Pinchas, who when faced with the evil influences of the Moabite and Midianites nations (brought on by the advice of wicked Balaam), rose up to do what was right and save the Jewish people.

From the lessons of Previous Rebbe, Pinchas, and America’s Founding fathers, we learn what it’s like to have Mesirus Nefesh (Self Sacrifice). Mesirus Nefesh is not about glory and acting in accordance to the status quo. Mesirus Nefesh is a lonely journey of struggle and self-sacrifice, requiring a strong heart and a brave soul.

Remember: freedom is never free; it just takes a little Mesirus Nefesh (and a lot Chutzpah!)

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