Stories & Memories of Rabbi Yudi Dukes

By: Vivi Deren February 17

A Real-Life Chassidishe Maiseh, 21st Century Version

Chassidim have always treasured stories, real life stories about real life people, for a very obvious reason. The ultimate goal of existence, of our lives and our purpose, is to take the very lofty ideas that Torah teaches and make them part of our real life, every day world. Transcendence, on the grandest scale, permeating every part of our lives.

But how does that happen? The ideas are so big and so holy, and we are just puny little people, so easily dazzled by the "raisins and almonds" of the smorgasbord we call life, so easily knocked off course by clouds, real or imagined. So easily distracted....

Since the time of the Baal Shem Tov we have been taught to treasure "chassidishe meises" - stories of chassidim, real people, who brought the words of Torah to life, who blew the dust off of the Holy Books, and made them come alive, in full color and sound.

That's what Rabbi Yudi and (she should live and be well) his wife Sarah have done for all of us. They took lofty ideas, ideas that are so powerful - but all too often seem so remote, so unattainable for most of us. They showed us, over and over again, through the raw vulnerability of grappling with the challenge of making these ideas real, that even plain folks, regular people like you and me, can have a shot at great accomplishments.

Two examples:

Sarah's simple yet revolutionary phrase: "Nothing Changed".

No matter what is going on, Hashem is in charge, Hashem can do anything, nothing is too hard for Him, and nothing, nothing is ever random. Those two words galvanized legions of people praying for Rabbi Yudi's recovery, and over the many months of this saga, up until his last week, were the harbingers of yet another miracle. And another, and another.

These two words have since become a mantra for so many people, in so many different situations. "Nothing Changed". Hashem is in charge, Hashem can do anything. And by remembering that, we are better able to focus on OUR part:

"What can I do in this situation?" Which, ultimately, is the only thing in our control...

There are Big Ideas, ideas we had studied and thought about for many years, yet simply because they are such lofty ideas, they seemed out of reach.

Sarah's simple two word phrase made those ideas so immediate and relevant. Nothing Changed.

And it's still true. Nothing Changed. Our job to do everything we can to make this world a home for Hashem, is still our job. Our job to do everything we can to bring Moshiach is still our job. Nothing Changed.

And the second example is from the day after Rabbi Yudi went home, and then had to immediately go back to the hospital.

A friend texted him, imagining what he must feel like under these most undesirable circumstances.

Rabbi Yudi's reply: "I am exactly where Hashem wants me to be".

No wasted energy on trying to figure out the answers that we do not have the data for, no wasted emotion on all of the "druthers" that we don't get to choose.

Just keeping focus: "I am exactly where Hashem wants me to be".

Would that each one of us could always keep that idea front and center in our own lives.

We're taught that we should see the present not through the lens of the past, but through the lens of the future, the future that was painted in such vivid colors by our prophets and teachers through the ages.

The Rebbe showed us how to use our 21st century experiences in that way, in imagining and working for the world as it is meant to be.

Rabbi Yudi and Sarah Dukes are a 21st century "chassidishe meiseh". They have shown us how to live these ideas, big and bold, with imagination, persistence, grace, humor and courage, and dedication to the details of daily Jewish observance. They did it on a grand scale, on a huge stage, writ large on the screen of life.

That's the formula of the miracle of Jewish existence for over 3,000 years. These two have shown us how it is the formula that will carry us over the finish line to the ultimate success.

Moshiach Now.

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