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Postcards from Kotzk
9: Me and My Radio

Provided by Revach L'Neshama (

Revach L'Neshama

A village Jew once cried to the Kotzker Rebbe that he lives in a remote village with unlearned low quality people and feels all alone. The Kotzker screamed" What? Alone? Avrohom Avinu was also alone. Is there Heaven in your village? Is there a gemara? It says in Koheles "Af Chochmosi Umdah Li"; the wisdom I gained in solitude is what stood by me. You received a gift like this from Heaven and you complain about it?"

Rav Shimshon Pincus asks why is it that people hate to be alone. Being in the car is torturous for us and we must be accompanied by the news or music or we'd go crazy. Why not just relax and enjoy it? What is wrong with being alone with our own thoughts? Are we scared of ourselves? Why must we passively sit back and be constantly entertained by outside stimulus. Are we totally devoid of inner thoughts? Is mind numbing noise and trivial brain cluttering information our comfort in life?

The Kotzker was a unique Rebbe in the respect that he was a one man crusade against the zombie like Chasid/cult like Rebbe relationship. The popular notion of Chasidus is that the Chasid totally submits himself to the Rebbe who lifts each Chasid's soul to heights through the Rebbe's own greatness. This idea was totally repugnant to the Kotzker who demanded that each Chasid search within himself and forge a direct link to Hashem and not forgo a relationship with Hashem to gain a better one vicariously through the Rebbe. Once a Chasid came to the Kotzker crying for the Rebbe to daven for him. Reb Mendel replied "Are you too sick to wrap yourself in a Tallis and daven for yourself?"

The Kotzker himself spent the last few decades of his life in solitary confinement to both work on himself and because he could not deal with the idea that Chasidim wanted him to conduct himself as a typical Rebbe.

Much like the Kotzker, the great Slabodker Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Isaac Sher in his sichos on Elul says that Hashem did a wonderful Chesed for us by making Rosh Hashanah and the Yom HaDin once a year. He says that it is a person's responsibility to constantly monitor and review his actions. Unfortunately this is a chore we'd rather not do because we are afraid what honest analysis will tell us about ourselves. Furthermore we know before we start that it is a hopeless endeavor to try to reach the level that we know we should achieve so we avoid self analysis altogether and just go through our lives without thinking.

Fortunately Hashem in His kindness gave us a Chodesh Elul and a Yom HaDin every year. This leaves us with no choice but to prepare ourselves for judgment day by doing honest introspection of ourselves throughout the past year and to undertake real change in the hope of getting a favorable judgment for the upcoming year. Even a blind fool knows that in Elul when he gets into the car he must turn down the volume and fire up the heart.

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