by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
“Mendel” is probably the most popular name in Chabad families around the world. It is also a very popular name within the general Jewish population. There must be hundreds of thousands of Jews named Mendel today. But if you mention the name Reb Mendel to any adult Chabadnik, they will know who you are referring to…Reb Mendel Futerfas (1906-1995). Reb Mendel was a legend in his own time.
Reb Mendel operated underground cheders (religious elementary schools) in communist Russia. He would also dig mikvahs inside closets in Jewish homes in order to give Jewish women a way to have their babies conceived in spiritual purity. The atheist communist regime outlawed such religious practices, and the police vigorously enforced their laws. He was caught and imprisoned in freezing Siberia for 14 years. The man exemplified mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice). When you saw Reb Mendel, no matter where you were, you stopped, stared, and if you could even formulate words in your head, you wondered, “What has this man been through?”
One day, a student of Torah asked Reb Mendel about the most perplexing problem in his life: He did not know which path to follow. Surely, he knew that he was going to follow a path of Torah, but there are so many different paths within the Torah-observant world. He asked Reb Mendel, “Which path of Torah should I take?”
Reb Mendel answered, “Take the path that leads to joy.”
There are four types of joy in this world. There is physical joy, such as comes from eating delicious, kosher food when you are hungry. Then there is emotional joy, like the joy you experience when you see your loved ones after having been away from them for a long time. And there is intellectual joy, like the joy you experience when you master a difficult tractate of Talmud. And finally, there is spiritual joy, which comes only when Hashem reveals His holiness to you.
Which joy do you think Reb Mendel was referring to?