Dreaming of Moshiach

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I Believe With Perfect Faith in the Coming of Moshiach

Based on "The Singing Train", a story by P. Flexer in M.S. Geshuri

Although he was centered in Otvoczk, Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar, zs'l, of Modzitz had Chasidim throughout the major towns and cities of Poland. One of these was Reb Azriel David Fastag, zs'l, who became noted for his exceptional voice throughout Warsaw. Many came to the shul where Reb Azriel David would pray on the High Holy Days.

Reb Azriel David's happiness came from the world of negina - song. His moving tunes made their way to Otvoczk, where Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar appreciated them immensely. The day a new niggun (tune) of Reb Azriel David's came to Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar was like a "Yom Tov" for him.

The clouds of Nazism began to cover the skies of Europe. Most Jews could not fathom what was about to befall them. Only a few "read the map" correctly and managed to escape to safe havens. One of them was the Modzitzer Rebbe, whose Chasidim made a tremendous effort to save him. As the Nazis entered Poland, the Chasidim smuggled him out of Poland to Vilna (Lithuania), and from there he made his way across Russia to Shanghai, China, eventually arriving in America in 1941.

Meanwhile in Poland, tens of thousands of Jews were being herded daily to their death in cattle cars. What did it look like in one of those cattle cars of the "death train"? What could one expect to find other than people crying?

In one such car on its way to Treblinka in 1942, a tune of life managed to emerge from those crushed people. How could people on their way to the slaughter sing? Was this not some cruel Nazi joke?

An elderly Chasid, wrapped up in his ragged clothing, his face white as snow, made his way over to his neighbor on the death train, begging him to remind him of one of the special tunes the Modzitzer Rebbe sang on Yom Kippur.

"Now you want to know about songs?" answered the other, thinking that maybe all the suffering had caused the Chasid to lose his mind.

But this Modzitzer Chasid, Reb Azriel David Fastag, was no longer paying attention to his friend. In his mind, he was praying next to the Modzitzer Rebbe, leading the prayers before all the Chasidim.

Suddenly, before his eyes, the words of the twelfth (of 13) Principle of Jewish Faith appeared: "Ani Ma'amin b'Emuna Sheleima, b'vias HaMoshiach; v'af al pi she'yismamaya, im kol zeh, achakeh lo b'chol yom she'yavo - I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach; and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait each day for his coming." Closing his eyes, he meditated on these words and thought, "Just now, when everything seems lost, is a Jew's faith put to the test."

It was not long before he began to hum a quiet tune to these words. Amidst the heavy atmosphere of death and despair on the train, Reb Azriel David's attachment to G-d took him above it all.

"How can one of us be singing at such a time?" wondered his fellow Jews on the train. "And with such a sweet voice! It must be, that from Heaven they are accompanying us, in mourning, to our death... But listen, what is it that they are singing? You're about to be slaughtered, shot, poisoned or burnt and what are they singing? - I believe!"

The Modzitzer Chasid was above it all, a pillar of song - the song of the eternity of the Jewish People. He was unaware of the silence in the cattle car, and of the hundreds of ears listening in amazement. He also didn't hear the voices as they gradually joined his song, at first quietly, but soon - growing louder and louder! Meanwhile, he made sure to write out the notes of the newly composed song.

The moving tune, with its holy words, had penetrated the hearts of the Jews on the train. The song spread from car to car. Every mouth that could draw a breath joined in "Ani Ma'amin - I believe."

As if waking from a dream, Reb Azriel David opened his eyes to the sight of the singing train. His eyes were red from crying; his cheeks, wet with tears. Deeply moved, he yelled to whomever would listen, "My dear brethren! This niggun is the song of the Jewish soul. It is a song of pure faith, that thousands of years of exile cannot overcome!"

Then, in a choked voice, he continued, "I will give my portion in Olam Haba (the World to Come) to whomever can take these notes of my song 'Ani Ma'amin' to the Modzitzer Rebbe!"

A hushed silence descended upon the train. Two young men appeared, promising to bring the notes to the Modzitzer Rebbe, at any cost. One of them climbed upon the other, and in the small crack of the train's roof, made a hole to escape. Poking his head out under the open sky, he said, "I see the blue Heavens above us and the stars are twinkling"

"And what do you hear?" asked his companion.

Turning white, the man answered, "I hear the Ministering Angels singing the 'Ani Ma'amin,' and it's ascending to the seven firmaments of Heaven..."

Bidding farewell, the two proceeded to jump off, one after the other. One was killed instantly from the fall, while the other survived, taking the notes of the song with him. He eventually found his way to the Holy Land and the notes were sent by mail to Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar in New York.

Upon receiving the notes and having the "Ani Ma'amin" niggun sung, the Rebbe said, "When they sang 'Ani Ma'amin' on the death train, the pillars of the world were shaking. G-d said, 'Can it be that My Torah is a fraud? No! But whenever the Jews will sing 'Ani Ma'amin,' I will remember the six million victims and have mercy on the rest of My People.'"

It is told that on the first Yom Kippur that the Modzitzer Rebbe sang the "Ani Ma'amin," there were thousands of Jews in the shul. The entire congregation burst into tears, which fell like water into the pool of tears and blood of the Jewish Nation. The tune soon spread throughout world Jewry.

"With this niggun," said Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar, "the Jewish People went to the gas chambers. And with this niggun, the Jews will march to greet Moshiach."

The song Ani Maamin composed by Reb Ezriel David Fastag HY"D on the way to Treblinka, 1942, sung by R' Mordechai ben David; click here

"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach; and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait each day for his coming... "




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו