Yudel House: Gathering in the Sparks
No doubt, my dear readers, you recall the story The Miracle of the Mezuzah.
Jimmy Keanes, an assimilated Jewish lad from an affluent American suburb, was contacted by the holy neshamah of a great Rebbe from the Ukraine via one of his letters to a follower of his from over half a century ago . It was our very own Reb Yudel, a disciple of this very same Rebbe, who discovered this magical letter and translated it to Jimmy Keanes. He thereby discovers that Jimmy’s home had no mezuzahs and Reb Yudel rectifies this with great dedication. Jimmy’s heart is then seized with pangs of yearning for more and more mitzvos.
( Full story: The Miracle of the Mezuzah: Reb Yudel does Outreach can be found in: The Collected Teachings of Reb Yudel: Volume 348; Section 36; Chapter 3)
“Aren’t there other Jewish neshamahs like myself who are gasping for more Yiddishkeit?” asked Jimmy.
“There most certainly are,” answered Reb Yudel, stroking his long beard, while his mind longingly meandered to the old days back in the Ukraine when miracles were an almost daily event. “We were once many big lamps of holiness, and our Rebbe kept us aglow with teachings and miracles so that our flames never grew dimmer.”
“Never grew dimmer, not even a flickering?” asked Jimmy.
“Oh, they would flicker on occasion, but when they did a new miracle would occur to rekindle us. Sometimes even many at once,” answered Reb Yudel. His mind wandered back to his own journey over the bridge which is holy Rebbe had lifted up with his own hands while in deep prayer so that it would not fall.
(Miracle of the Bridge: Complete story can be found in: The Collected Teachings of Reb Yudel: Book 186: “Reb Yudel’s Awakening” : Section 387, Chapter 478: “A Bridge of Miracles”)
“Do you think my bridge was the only bridge he lifted this way?” Reb Yudel raised two clenched trembling fists while his eyes gazed upwards. It was hard to tell if he was about to lapse into a prayer or a song. “Eight such bridges, eight bridges…that’s how many the Rebbe did lift. In one year alone!! There were eight stories of the miracle of the bridge, each different from the other. In one story the bridge wasn’t even in the Ukraine, but it was the Brooklyn Bridge right here in the USA. Some of the Rebbe’s followers were incensed, thinking that someone was telling the story wrong. Other versions of the story told of the lifting of bridge as having taken place during the war when the antisemites of the Ukraine plotted to destroy a bridge bringing matzohs to the Rebbe’s town. This incensed the loyal followers even more. They wondered which of these stories was the true one. The Rebbe himself solved this quandary. “All of these miracles are equally true. If Hashem can help me lift one bridge, are eight bridges too hard for Him? ” The town’s people were amazed at the simple wisdom of the Rebbe’s answer, and took it upon themselves to emulate their Rebbe’s total faith in Hashem and in His Mercy. They celebrated that Chanukah by telling a different bridge-lifting story for each night of Chanukah…”
Reb Yudel went on for quite a while telling Jimmy about those days back in the old country, when miracles were a daily event. When one miracle turned into eight. And when eight miracles turned back into one….When Jews were united as one great flame….But Reb Yudel’s ecstasy was matched by Jimmy’s profound sense of having fallen from some great spiritual height.
“Why not me? Why haven’t I merited to witness Hashem’s presence the way you have?”
Jimmy was at the point of tears when he thought about his lonely nights wandering aimlessly along the streets in the downtown section using the name “Jamal Abdullah” and hanging out with some tough punks.
“But you have merited a taste of such holiness, ” interrupted Reb Yudel.”Remember that mysterious letter in which the Rebbe told you to check your mezuzot and your monthly cycles? Clearly the Rebbe’s presence was there in this very room when I read it to you. He reached out to you across decades and across the ocean to remind you to take your medication, check your mezuzot and go to the mikvah. How many can claim such wonders?”
Jimmy felt some remorse for doubting that Hashem had worked wonders with him as well.
“But why only a taste? Why not the glowing flame you yourself were privileged to be part of?” Jimmy was hungry for much more than a mere taste. His hunger became so ravenous that he grabbed one of the books of the Rebbe’s letters and impulsivley opened it to a page.
“Here,” said Jimmy. “Let the Rebbe speak for himself, as he had spoken to me before!!”
“What is he telling me now? I’m sure he knows me body and soul”
Reb Yudel took the book with apprehension, hoping there wouldn’t be yet another letter about monthly cycles.
His wish came true. No monthly cycles in that letter. The Rebbe was telling someone to open a house of Torah study and outreach.
Reb Yudel translated the letter for Jimmy:
“Yossi ben Yochanon from Jerusalem said: “Let your home be open wide to the multitudes.”
“If you open your home to the multitudes,” says the Rebbe, “you will gather in the sparks of those neshamahs which have fallen off from the larger flame. They will then be united with the holiness from which they been drawn away by the dark exile of assimilation”
The letter went on about having holy books in one’s home and having one’s doors open to all who seek a Torah-true life.
“The Rebbe has spoken to me yet again,” exclaimed Jimmy. “Weren’t you just telling me about how he kept the lamps lit by his teachings and his miracles?
“Yes,” said Reb Yudel proudly, impressed at how well Jimmy was absorbing his newly-found Yiddishkeit. “Many are the sparks which have fallen away from those great lamps of holiness. And the Rebbe is telling you to lift those sparks up from their fallen state.”
“Me? Lift sparks? But how?” Jimmy was puzzled again, but this time there was no despair in his voice. He knew the Rebbe had a plan.
“By opening your house wide to the multitudes,” answered Reb Yudel. “Here you live all alone in a multi-story brownstone in the posh part of town, while thousands of your fellow Jews are famished for Yiddishkeit. Clearly the Rebbe has reached out to you yet again!!!” Reb Yudel stretched his own arms out to Jimmy and grabbed him by the forearms , drawing him closer and closer to himself. “Miracles do still happen today. Only we fail to recognize them,” whispered Reb Yudel into Jimmy’s ears when he was close enough.
“Another miracle!!!” shouted Jimmy with joy while hugging Reb Yudel. “Bring as many holy books here as you can. From now on, my house is your house. That way you can gather in holy sparks which have fallen off from the flames of holiness. I will open my house to the multitudes as the Rebbe says.
Reb Yudel called up some of his colleagues from the Yeshivah to help him gather in some of the fallen sparks he hoped would come there frequently.They moved into Jimmy’s house along with Reb Yudel and brought their holy books there.
The house was named: Yudel House. After all, it was none other than our very own Reb Yudel who deciphered the true meaning of the Rebbe’s letter written decades before and oceans away. But obviously intended for Jimmy, who had himself once been one of those fallen sparks.