13 Tamuz 5779 / Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | Torah Reading: Pinchas
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Tale of Two Printing Presses    

Tale of Two Printing Presses

A juxtaposition of good and evil: why is it so easy to perpetrate darkness in the world, yet spreading light is met with massive resistance and indescribable difficulties?


I recently finished reading Through Fire and Water, the story of Rebbe Natan’s life.  Anyone who reads his story, will have renewed and deepened appreciation for Rebbe Natan and all he endured in order to preserve and spread the Torah-inspired teachings of Rebbe Nachman. Rebbe Natan was slandered, beaten, threatened, verbally assaulted and jailed. Worst of all, this often happened at the hands of other Jews – the very people to whom he was sacrificing his life in order to bring these teachings.


Some went so far as to want him dead and, purposefully lied to the anti-Semitic Russian authorities with the hopes of inciting them to destroy Rebbe Natan. Thankfully, Hashem protected him and he was jailed but not physically harmed. The printing press he so painstakingly secured in his home in order to most effectively print Rebbe Nachman’s works, was taken over by the government. He was forbidden to use it so that it sat for many years collecting dust. He went through trial after trial and obstacle after obstacle to find other ways to get the works printed.


Whenever I hear of anyone who is faced with suffering and obstacle after obstacle when trying to bring good into the world, I have great difficulty processing the information. My emuna is challenged and there is much wrestling inside. The question, “Why does Hashem make it so difficult to bring light into the world?” plagues me. Why does a tzaddik who brings teachings down to the world must often pay a cost? For instance, in order to reveal Tikkun Haklali to the world, Rebbe Nachman knew that two of his children would be taken from him. Out of love for the Jewish people and for Hashem, he paid that cost.


I went to bed with all these questions rambling around in my head. When I woke up the next morning and later checked my email, I saw that Hugh Hefner, who brought Playboy into the world, had died…


Hugh Hefner did with his printing press the exact opposite of what Rebbe Natan did with his. Yet Hugh had no trouble doing what he did – bringing such darkness into the world through the printing of his dark-side vomit. How much damage did this cause? How many lives and marriages were destroyed because he opened the gate through which many more increasingly perverse things came into being?


How many lives were destroyed, entering into the world of pornography with this “gateway” drug that took them in? It makes me think of when an alligator sinks its teeth into a human and then proceeds to take him under the water and drown him. That’s what his magazines were. Some got so hooked they went deeper and deeper into the world of pornography, needing more and more extremes because the “soft stuff” didn’t work for them anymore. Some got such a taste for it, they entered a deep sickness and went on to abuse children or commit violent crimes against women. One of these extremes, serial killer Ted Bundy said in an interview, “I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me, and without exception, every one of them was deeply involved with pornography. Without question, without exception, deeply influenced and consumed by addiction to pornography.”


Again, as I looked at the picture of Hugh Hefner, it struck me how hard it is to bring light into the world, yet how easy it seems for darkness to be brought in with no apparent cost to the perpetrator. Hugh Hefner was living in his mansions with his women in all his opulence…. Having his parties where no doubt there were children available. As a child in the 70’s, I and other children were brought to these kinds of parties thrown by the wealthy. Our souls were shattered amidst their celebrations and champagne toasts.


Something shifted in me as I looked at the picture of Hugh, and all I could think of was his impending rude awakening as he greeted reality – real reality. He would give everything he had during his life, everything he had acquired, not to be in the place where he is right now. He would give everything to just have an hour of peace. But he has nothing with which to barter. He is now penniless with a debt so extreme, I’m not sure it could ever be paid. Even now, as a man goes into a store, G-d forbid, and picks up Hugh’s magazine, what will the results be? How will it affect the generations to come? Hugh’s debt goes deeper and deeper.


Though I still don’t completely have an answer to my question, I do think of Rebbe Natan, and the light he worked so hard to bring and preserve. I think of the treasures that awaited him when he entered Gan Eden. For him there was no rude awakening. Just story after story of lives that were changed for good because of what he did – because of the priceless treasure he passed on to all of us. Every single time one of us reads Likutey Tefilot, studies Likutey Moharon, reads any of the emuna books by Rav Shalom Arush or Rabbi Lazer Brody, we have Rebbe Natan to thank. He paid the cost to give us a priceless treasure, to breathe life into our souls and light Rebbe Nachman’s fire. May we all realize the gift this is and embrace this treasure with whole-hearted gratitude!

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