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The Lens: Issue 884

These sublime moments brought me back to that day, more than 27 years ago

Do you see me there? I’m standing in the back, holding tightly to my Chaim’l so that he’s able to see over the crush of people that filled the Belz beis medrash in Antwerp last Motzaei Shabbos. The young avreich at the bimah is Rav Shalom, the oldest grandson of the Belzer Rebbe shlita, son of his son Rav Aharon Mordechai. It was the closing of an uplifting Shabbos, but for me, these sublime moments brought me back to that day, more than 27 years ago, when we knew the Rebbe’s chain would endure.

The public phone in the Belzer yeshivah in Jerusalem rang, someone picked up, and within a second, the whole yeshivah was in an uproar. “Rav Aharon Mordechai had a son!” Circles of dancing. Tears in people’s eyes. Total elation. Our Rebbe had had a grandchild! You might think, what was the big deal? But for us chassidim, it was huge. Decades before, after the passing of Rebbe Aharon of Belz, the chassidus was almost lost, and  all eyes focused on the remaining link, a nine-year-old boy, the Rebbe’s nephew, waiting for the day he would take on the mantle of leadership. When he was just 18, the Rebbe assumed the leadership of a dying chassidus and transformed it into an empire of Torah, chesed, and kiruv.

But he waited many years to have a son of his own, during which time chassidim prayed, hoped, and wondered: Would the line continue?

And now, the first grandson! I remember going out to the street and stopping passersby: Did you hear the news? Our rebbe had a grandson! (Of course, they just stared back with puzzled looks — what did they know about the simchah of a chassid?)

Eight days later, at the bris, there was nary a Belzer chassid who remained at home. They streamed from all over the world to see their rebbe become a grandfather. (The guests included my soon-to-be father-in-law who flew in from Belgium, and I, as a chassan, had to make sure I was suitably presentable.)

But much water has flowed through the Jordan and the Schelde rivers since. The baby who made our hearts jump grew up. He became bar mitzvah, got married, and had a baby of his own — all firsts that were marked with great joy. Last Shabbos was an opportunity for us to share the nachas — even the elder chassidim who still remember Rebbe Aharon zy”a listened closely to his profound divrei Torah and were overwhelmed with gratitude to see the fulfillment of a nearly-shattered hope.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 884)

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