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Masked Splendor

Regal, elegant, and masked, the Rebbe made his way down

There are magazines that do rebbe pictures better than this one. In their glossy pages, you can see flowered beketshes and silver bowls spilling over with grapes and various seasonal accessories — bows and arrows or esrog boxes or groggers.

Still, the most rebbishe picture I’ve seen doesn’t feature any of those standbys. It’s got something new: something light blue that costs less than a dollar.

Other years, I showed my children the live feed of the Boyaner Rebbe’s Lag B’omer hadlakah in Meron as an example of how a person can have tens of thousands of eyes on him and yet be internally focused enough to show nothing, not to react or play to the crowd, not an extra shuckel or motion.

It was royalty.

This year, I showed them how a person usually surrounded by masses and now standing before a sparse crowd composed primarily of media people with “connections” can appear the exact same as in years past. Crowds or not, it made no difference, because he was so much bigger than the lights or bleachers or drama, alone with his thoughts and tefillos and kavanos as he extended a hand to light the fire.

And then, as he descended from the platform, he reached into his pocket and pulled out… a mask.

Regal, elegant, and masked, the Rebbe made his way down. In Ruzhin, the tzaddikim often used silence to teach. As a scion of that dynasty, the Rebbe spoke volumes with this act, forfeiting not an ounce of dignity.

At the Mountain, Klal Yisrael wanted only to rush forth, to touch it and soak in the kedushah — and they had just one commandment. Hold back. Desist. The Kedushas Levi says that the name accorded to this Yom Tov, “Atzeres” (from the word “stop”) represents that power to stand back and control the holy urge to run forward when it’s what Hashem wants.

This Lag B’omer we saw it. It wasn’t the mask, but the dignity of submission, the strength and splendor in doing the right thing: to light the fire of fires, fueling the passion of a nation looking on, and then to step back and be in such control as to calmly pull out a mask from a pocket… this is the Torah of Ruzhin, expressed in an image.

If ever I win a lottery and have time and ability to browse the upscale auction house catalogs seeking that one special item, I will skim over the faded manuscripts and silver cups and even the worn-out cane.

I want the Boyaner Rebbe’s mask.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 812. Yisroel Besser may be contacted directly at sruli@mishpacha.com


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