This is a raw transcript of a story told by Dr. Marc Gafni in our weekly broadcast of One Love, One Communion: Many Paths, One Mountain. It is a deepening of the First Principle: "Reality is pleasure. The pleasure of transformation is the highest pleasure. The highest pleasure of transformation is the transformation of everything, which is the pleasure of power."
"This is a short story about a holy teacher, such a holy teacher, one of the greatest masters of modern times. His name was Kalonymus Kalman, the Master of Piaseczno which was near Warsaw. He perished in World War II in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was called the Master of Children. We’re all children, right? We’ve got to child as a verb. It’s only the child who enters the kingdom of heaven. So let’s child as wise men and women. This master would say that children at five years old, they already need a master, they need someone to connect their souls to heaven. So he gathered around him in Piaseczno literally a kingdom of children. He had a school with thousands of kids and he was their father, their mother, their best friend. Then he was moved by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940. He wrote the most precious book called The Holy Fire, which he would write down on Saturday night the teachings that he gave on Saturday, because he didn’t write on the Sabbath. I share with him that principle. He was killed in the death camp of Treblinka.
So I want to share with you the story of a man who met Kalonymus Kalman, someone that’s so close to my heart. I’m going to tell the story about this master in the first-person, the way that my friend told the story. This is in first-person. The person talking here is Shlomo Carlebach, a great master of song. I’m going to tell you the story in his first-person voice.
When his book came out after the war was over, The Holy Fire, I couldn’t believe its beauty. It so pierced my heart I asked everyone, “Where are those kids of that holy master, the precious children who heard these teachings from him every week? I’d love to speak to them.” And I was told there was nobody left, nobody. But one day a few years ago I was walking down HaYarkon…
I saw there a hunchback on HaYarkon Street in Tel Aviv, a hunchback so broken. His body was so broken and his face was beautiful, so handsome, but his whole body was misshapen. He was sweeping the streets. I had a feeling this person was special and so I said, “Shalom aleichem. Peace unto you.” He replied to me in the heaviest Polish accent…
…and he said, “Aleichem shalom. Peace unto you.” I asked if he was from Poland and he said, “Yes, I’m from Piaseczno.” I couldn’t believe it. “Piaseczno? Have you ever heard of the Holy Master Kalonymus Kalman of Piaseczno?” He said to me, “What do you mean have I heard of him? I’ve seen him. I was a student in his school. I was a child in his school from age 5 to 11.” Wow, I couldn’t believe I had finally met one of the children on this great master. Then this holy hunchback went on and he said, “When I was 11 I went to Auschwitz, to the death camp of Auschwitz, and I was so strong they thought I was 17 and I was whipped and hit and kicked. They broke me. They broke my body and I never healed. That’s why I look the way I do now. I’ve got nobody in the world. I’m all alone.” And he kept on sweeping the ground.
My holiest friends, open your hearts. I said to this man, this holy hunchback on HaYarkon Street in Tel Aviv, “My sweetest friend, do you know my whole life I have been waiting to see you in person who saw the Master of Piaseczno, a person who was one of his children. Please give me one of his teachings.” The hunchback glared at me. He said, “Do you think you can be in Auschwitz in a death camp for five years and still remember teachings?” I said, “Yes, I’m sure of it. I know. I know teachings that are real, that are first principles, teachings that come from the heart never leave the heart. The master’s teachings, you can’t have forgotten them.”
So this holy hunchback said, “Okay, wait.” He went to the water fountain to wash his hands and he found a tie and he put on a jacket and then he came back to me and he said one more time, “Do you really want to hear the teaching?” I said to him, “I swear to you I’ll tell your teaching all over the world.” So he began. Holy friends, if you can, open your hearts. He said, “I want you to know there was never such a day as a Sabbath in Piaseczno when I was there. We danced, hundreds, maybe thousands of children, and the master would sing and greet the angels. At the meal he would teach between every course and after every teaching this is what the master would say. After every course he would say, ‘Kinderlach’—which means children—‘the greatest thing in the world is to do someone else a favor.’”
The hunchback sighed, the holy hunchback, and he said, “You know, my parents are gone and my whole family and there’s no one anymore. I have no more family. Oh my god, when I was in Auschwitz and alone I wanted to commit suicide. I wanted to break so many times. And the last moment when I would go to the electrified fence I would stop and I would hear my master say, ‘Kinderlach, children, the best thing, the holiest thing in the world is to do someone favor.’
“There I was in Auschwitz. Do you know how many favors you can do in a death camp at night? People are lying on the floor crying and no one even has any strength to listen to their stories anymore. I would walk from one person to the other and ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ and they would tell me about their children, their wives, their people they’d never see in this lifetime again. And I would hold their hands and I’d cry with them. Then I’d walk to the next person and it would give me strength for another day. When I was at the end and I wanted to kill myself, I’d hear my Rebbe’s voice.. "
“Then the war was over and I came here to Israel to Tel Aviv and I’ve got no one in the world. Sometimes I take off my shoes and I walk down to the beach late at night and I go up to my nose in the ocean, ready to sink. And then again I can’t help but hear my teacher’s voice saying, ‘The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody a favor.’ ‘Remember, my precious children,” he would say, ‘the greatest thing in the world.’” And the holy hunchback stared at me for a long time and he said, “Do you know how many favors you can do sweeping the streets of the world? Do you know how many favors you can do?”
Every time my heart closes, I open my heart and look at the people who are in my circle who need me, I’m their angel. To be an angel means you’re a messenger. There’s an “I love you” you can say. There’s a “You love me” you can do. There’s an action you can do. There’s a creation you can do that no one else in the world can create but you. It’s yours to do. For us together, it’s ours to hold hands, it’s ours to love each other madly. We are the first principles. We are Homo sapiens becoming Homo Amor. We are the first values. We are the dharma. It’s not separate from us.
But we’re not just committed to “Did this fulfill me?” We’re not just committed to “Did this open my heart?” We’re committed to opening the heart of the world. We’re committed to articulating First Principles and First Values that can actually take us from a suffering that you can’t imagine into a utopia beyond all imagination. That’s our commitment. That’s where we stand. It’s not easy. The whole world is walking on a very narrow bridge, veha’ikar, but the most important thing, lo lefached klal, don’t be afraid at all, nothing, no fear at all, because you can’t fall off the bridge, because everyplace we fall, we fall into each other and we fall into She. Even at the moment of death there’s a continuity of consciousness and you know that it goes on and you know that it’s not over."
This blogpost is a direct quotation from Dr. Marc Gafni from our weekly Live Global Communion Service on Sunday at 10 am PT.
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Receive a deeper transmission of this story and the First Principle of the Pleasure of Transformation by listening to this featured clip.