Teshuva, Don’t Leave the World Without It

Once a Chassid from a neighboring town came to Reb Hirsh Riminover and begged him to somehow intercede so that his father-in-law would die. “What!” exclaimed Reb Hirsh, “What are you talking about.””Well, my father-in-law is very old, already more than 100 years” explained the chassid, “And he has to be watched over all the time. He can’t really do much for himself, and he is miserable most of the time.” “He doesn’t learn and doesn’t daven any more. He has had enough of life already, but he just keeps hanging on day after day, week after week, year after year.”

R’ Hirsh didn’t really know what to say, but he reasoned that a Yid who lived to such an age must have some kind of merit. He commanded the chassid to bring in the old man to speak with him. The chassid protested saying that his father was too old and too feeble, but R’ Hirsh wouldn’t relent. “Bring him in anyway as I have requested,” he ordered.

So they picked up the old man and brought him to Riminov. They carried him in on a bed and placed him in front of R’ Hirsh. R’ Hirsh began to ask him questions.. He soon found out that the old man had been a simple, boorish Jew. He had been a Ba’al HaAgaloh (wagon driver) all of his life. He davened in the morning, but his real interest was to get to breakfast. He went to Shul on Shabbos, but the cholent (Sabbath stew) was his goal.

R’ Hirsh peppered him with more questions to find out of the old Jew could remember any reason that might account for his many years. Maybe there was some special mitzvah that he did once or some experience, maybe he had been to a Tzaddik on some special occasion.

Then the old Jew recalled once some Avrechim had asked him to take them for Shabbos to a town about a half a days journey away called Lizhensk. The pleaded with me but I didn’t want to go. I told them that I like Shabbos at home with my bed and my cholent. But they promised me a good wage and the same food that I would eat at home and then some. So I finally agreed and we set off. We got there not long before Shabbos and they set me up in a nice hotel”.

“Sure enough, right after the davening, they showed up with a great meal, everything, just as I like it. They came back a little while later and they asked me I wanted to go with to some kind of gathering, but I told them that I didn’t come for that kind of thing, and they should let me sleep. So, being decent guys they did.”

“In the morning after the davening, they again brought me a good meal with a cholent even better than what I would have gotten at home. I ate my fill and went to sleep.”

“When I got up from my nap it was close to dark and nobody was around. I waited awhile but none of my passengers showed their faces. So I went to look for them. I came to the Shul and I heard the loudest singing and wildest dancing you can imagine. It sounded like they were all shikker (plastered). I peeked inside and there were empty bottles on the table and these guys were singing and dancing like anything. When I went in I saw that they were in a circle and they were all dancing around with one of them in the middle. He must have been the chief shikker or something because he was tall and his face was red like fire and he was dancing with his eyes closed and they were all singing and dancing around him.”

At this point R’ Hirsh stopped the old man exclaiming that now he understood everything. The tall one in the middle with a face red like fire was none other the Rebbe R’ Elimelech of Lizhensk. He explained that there it is well known that anybody whoever saw the even just glimpsed the face of R’ Elimelech would not be able to leave the world until he had done Teshuva.

Then R’ Hirsh turned towards the old man and started to explain to him in a gentle fatherly way how Hashem created the world, and how everything in it was put there for our benefit. He described the beauty of the creation, how every aspect of it is perfect, existing together in total harmony.

Then he began to explain the nature of the Jewish soul. He described how every Jew is like one Neshama, we are only separated by the physical bodies that we bear. Later, he gave us the Torah and its Mitzvos, specific instruction for serving Hashem and understanding His will.

The old Jew sat and listened but didn’t utter a sound.

So R’ Hirsh continued. He began to describe how we were given the Shabbos to further bring ourselves closer to Hashem. We welcome the Shabbos, and Hashem comes to us and so to speak, sits at our table with us sharing our food and company.

At this point the old Jew turned his head and stared dreamily out the window. A moment passed and he let out a deep sigh. R’ Hirsh (who was a Cohen) quickly ordered all of the Cohanim to immediately leave the room (Cohanim even today are forbidden contact with the dead). The old Jew, heaved one more sigh of remorseful repentance, and left this world for the world to come.

Living by Faith

36It was the custom of R’ Zusia of Anipoli, to recite his morning prayers at length. After he concluded, he would retire to his room next to the Shul. Once there, he would open the window and lifting his eyes to the heavens call out, “Master of the World, Zusia (he always referred to himself in the third person) is very hungry and desires to eat something!”

Every morning, his attendant would wait until he heard R’ Zusia’s appeal, then he would bring in R’ Zusia’s morning meal of cake with a little schnapps.

One morning the attendant thought to himself, “Why doesn’t R’ Zusia ask me directly for his meal. In fact, who does he think he is fooling by calling out to Hashem like that. He knows full well that I bring him his food everyday.” So on the spot he decided that the next morning he would not bring R’ Zusia’s meal when he called out. He would just wait to see what would happen and where R’ Zusia’s would look for his meal.

The next morning, R’ Zusia awoke as usual, well before the light of day. As he did every morning, he first went to the town Mikveh to immerse himself in preparation for the day’s holy work. The night had been a rainy one in Anipoli, and the streets of the town had already turned to rivers of mud. In order to get from one side of the street to another, one had to cross on narrow planks that were laid across the flowing mud. As R’ Zusia was crossing in the direction of the Mikveh, a man whom he didn’t recognize, a guest in town, was coming towards R’ Zusia from the other side. When he saw R’ Zusia, gaunt, almost emaciated, dressed in rags without a tooth in his mouth, the stranger yelled out, “Itinerant!”, and with a hearty laugh jumped up and down on the plank causing R’ Zusia to tumble into the mud.

R’ Zusia didn’t say a word. He calmly picked himself out of the mud and continued on his way to the Mikveh, while the stranger sauntered off into the distance, chuckling merrily the whole way as he re-enacted his great prank over and over in his mind. When he arrived back at the inn where he was staying, he couldn’t help but brag to the innkeeper about his good prank. The innkeeper didn’t laugh so quickly. He asked the guest to describe the “itinerant” whom he had catapulted into the mud. He suddenly clapped his hands to his head and cried out in anguish, “Oy VaVoy, Oy Oy, do you know what you did!? That was not just some itinerant, that was the Rebbe R’ Zusia!”

Now it was the turn of the guest to cry out “Oy VaVoy”. R’ Zusia was known to all as a holy man and a Tzaddik. Trembling, the guest cried out, “Oy Vey, Oy Vey! What am I going to do now? What am I going to do now?!”

“Don’t worry”, exclaimed the innkeeper regaining his composure, “Listen to me, I know what you should do. R’ Zusia spends many hours every morning in prayer. When he is finished he goes into his private room next to the Shul. There he opens the window, and anybody can see how he leans out and lifting his eyes to heaven calls out, ‘Master of the World, Zusia is very hungry and desires to eat something!’ I’ll prepare some cakes and some schnapps for you to take to him. When you hear him call out to the Creator, you go in immediately with this gift, and offer it to him and beg his forgiveness. I’m certain that he will forgive you whole-heartedly.”

That morning, like every morning, after the prayers, R’ Zusia went into his room, opened the window and called o, “Master of the World, Zusia is very hungry and desires to eat something!” The attendant, upon hearing R’ Zusia, held his ground and clasped his folded arms together even tighter, waiting to see what the outcome would be. “Let Hashem bring him his cake this morning”, he huffed to himself.

Suddenly the door to the Shul opened and a man, holding a large plate of cakes and a bottle of schnapps came in and made his way to the room of R’ Zusia. He went straight in, put the cakes on the table, then fell to the floor in grief, begging the Tzaddik for his forgiveness (which he was certainly granted).

Let it be known, that the attendant came to understand that it really was the Master of the World who brought R’ Zusia his breakfast every morning.


39In the town of Anipoli there were two Rabbis, R’ Zusia the Chassid and the town Rav, a Misnagged. R’ Zusia was always happy despite the fact that he had nothing but troubles; poverty and ill-health. The Rav on the other hand, despite his honorable position in the community was always unhappy, depressed, bitter and angry. He couldn’t bear others, nor even himself.

One night, bitter and frustrated he went to ask R’ Zusia for help. He sneaked out of his house at an hour when nobody would see him and secretly made his way to the hovel which R’ Zusia called home. When he arrived the lamps were still burning, so he knocked hesitantly. Almost immediately R’ Zusia appeared at the door with a smile and an invitation to enter.

“How is it that you are so happy and content and I am always angry and cursing everybody”, asked the bewildered Rav?

“Let me give you an example”, offered R’ Zusia. “Take the wedding of R’ Moshe’s daughter. When Reb Moshe, the local philanthropist, made a wedding for his daughter recently, he dispatched a messenger to personally invite the special citizens of Anipoli. When the messenger came to your house, you demanded to see the guest list. You saw that you were 14th on the list”.

“‘Chutzpah!’, you shrieked, and decided that you would attend, but come late. When you arrived, all the guests were sitting at the tables already and eating the festive meal. When you arrived, there were no empty places to be found.”

“Soon, Reb Moshe the philanthropist saw you looking for a place to sit. ‘Rabbi’, he called out, ‘where have you been?’ They brought you to the head table, but there were no more empty places. They brought you a chair, but you sat behind somebody else. You were furious, looking for somebody to lash out at, but nobody was really paying any attention to you. The waiter didn’t even see you. By the time the host noticed that you weren’t eating, all the food was gone.”

“R’ Moshe went into the kitchen to find something, but it was not a portion befitting the Rav of Anipoli. Everything had already been picked through. By this time you were cursing the host and the waiters and the guests and even the bride and groom themselves. When it came time for the bentching (Grace after Meals) and the Sheva Brochos (seven blessing said after the festive meals in the presence of the bride and groom), you had been all but forgotten. You went home broken, angry and bitter, cursing the Master of the World Himself.”

“When the messenger came to the house of R’ Zusia, (he always referred to himself in the 3rd person), Zusia was taken aback. What a kind gesture! Reb Moshe is inviting Zusia to the wedding of his daughter?! What has Zusia ever done to deserve an invitation to their wedding?!

So Zusia went two hours early to the wedding. Zusia asked what he could do to help set up. Zusia officiated at the ceremony. Zusia ate a full meal. Zusia was honored with bentching and Zusia recited the Sheva Brochos.”

“You see”, R’ Zusia continued his explanation to the Rav of Anipoli, “You wanted everything, but you ended up with nothing. Zusia didn’t ask for anything, but he got it all!”

A Slow Wagon to Shabbos

310Once the two Tzaddikim, R’ Yaacov Yosef of Polonye, the “Toldos”, and Reb Nachman of Horodenka, were travelling to Mezhibuzh to spend Shabbos with their Rebbe, the Ba’al ShemTov. It was Friday, and they set out from Polnoye with their horse and wagon in time to arrive in Mezhibuzh by midday.They hadn’t even travelled half the distance, when they saw ahead of them a broad regal carriage, trimmed with gold and ivory, and drawn by four white horses. Obviously it was the carriage a wealthy and important individual. It was making its way along the road leisurely, as if Shabbos wasn’t to be expected later in the day. Passing was impossible at this time of year due to the mountainous snowdrifts piled high along the both sides of the road. They had no choice but to slow down and to follow along behind.

The “Toldos” became very agitated and began to bewail the situation, predicting that they would surely have to profane the Shabbos if they wanted to spend Shabbos in Mezhibuzh. Reb Nachman however, kept calm, reminding his companion that everything would be okay, that all that Hashem does is for the best. Moreover, as disciples of the Baal ShemTov, they had learned that Hashem guides everything that occurs in the world, and therefore their situation was certainly Hashem’s hand at work.

Less than an hour passed before they had to come to a complete halt. Spread out on the road ahead as far as the eye could see was a company of Russian soldiers, and they were marching at pace that confirmed that their job this morning was to compact the mud of the road with their feet.

Now the “Toldos” became doubly agitated, not knowing who to lash out against first. But Reb Nachman assured him that everything in Hashem’s plans are for the ultimate good.

The commander of the company, seeing the regal looking coach coming his way, obviously recognized that a personage of some importance was inside and gave orders for the entire company to thin out and make passage for the dignitary and his “entourage”. In moments the two Tzaddikim, following close behind the carriage of the dignitary, were beyond the sea of soldiers, continuing on the road to Mezhibuzh.

Not more than a few more minutes passed until they came to a fork in the road. The dignitary in his coach went one direction, the Toldos and Reb Nachman the other. Regaining speed, they arrived in Mezhibuzh with ample time to prepare for Shabbos.



The famine in Russia that year was worse that anybody could ever remember. Slowly but surely the markets became bare and soon there was only a meager selection of vegetables and the barest amount of groat bread and margarine for sale.Letters from all over Russia began to arrive in Shpole. These emergency messages were addressed to the Tzaddik, the Shpoler Zayde, for he had always been able provide for the poor and downtrodden of his people. He was called the Zayde, (grandfather) on account of his great spiritual and practical benevolence. He himself was in such anguish over the famine that he could only partake of a few bites of bread and some tea for weeks on end. Who could beseech Hashem that the decree be rescinded. Even the Gentiles looked to the Jews for help them, and the Jews looked to the Shpoler Zayde. Still, Hashem wasn’t answering prayers for food. The famine spread.

The Shpoler Zayde decided on a bold course of action. He requested 10 of the generation’s most venerated Tzaddikim including, Reb Zusia of Anipoli, Reb Shimshon of Shipitovka and Reb Wolf of Zhitomir, to meet with him in Shpole.

When they had all finally arrived a few days later, he seated them around a long and broad table then arose to address them. “My Masters’, I have decide to press charges and to take the Almighty to court. While according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his case to the place where the defendant is located, nevertheless Hashem is called Makom (the place) and there is no place devoid of His presence. Not only this, but as we all know, a place where there is a gathering of 10 men is considered a dwelling place of the Shechinah. (divine presence) Therefore, the court case will conducted here in this chamber”. The attendant then announced, “Reb Aryeh Leib ben Rachel hereby summons the Almighty to a lawsuit in this location three days from now.”

For the next three days the Tzaddikim fasted and prayed, allowing no one to interrupt them. On the fourth day, wrapped in his Tallis and crowned in his Tefillin, the Shpoler Zayde instructed his attendant to call the court to order.

The Shpoler Zayde presented his case. “In the name of all of the men, women and children in Russia, I come to claim that the defendant, The Almighty, is failing to live up to His obligation to His People. Instead of sustaining them as is written, “He opens up His hand and satisfies every living thing with His favor” (Psalms 145), he is allowing them to perish from hunger.” “Does not the Torah itself state, ‘For the Children of Israel are bondsmen to me, they are my bondsmen . . .’? (Lev. 25:55) They belong to the Almighty for eternity. And doesn’t the Law as stated in the Mechilta and the Talmud require the master to provide for the wife and children of the bondsman? How can the Almighty disregard His own Torah?

Now I can imagine that some prosecuting angel might argue in the defense of the Almighty that these servants do not serve the Master properly as they should. ‘Nevertheless’, I would answer him, ‘Where is written that if the servant is lazy and unfaithful therefore his wife and children should suffer? Furthermore, it is all the fault of the Master Himself. For He burdened His servants with a Yezter Hara (base inclination), which constantly tries his loyalty. I am confident that were it not for this Yezter Hara, they would provide the Almighty with the most praiseworthy service.”

With that, the Shpoler Zayde fell silent. He slumped into his chair, exhausted from the ordeal of bringing a lawsuit against the Almighty. Clutching his head in his hands, he awaited the verdict.

The judges huddled, discussing the case amongst themselves for some time in hushed, solemn tones. Finally, Reb Zusia rose to his feet to announce the verdict.

“The court finds”, he declared, “that justice is with Reb Aryeh Leib ben Rochel. The Almighty is therefore obligated to find whatever means He deems appropriate to provide for His people. It is our prayer that the Heavenly Court concur with the decision of this court.”

Then all the Tzaddikim rose to their feet, and declared the verdict aloud three times in unison, sealing the outcome.

The Shpoler Zayde jumped to his feet with great joy, and called for refreshments to be served. The food restored their strength a bit and they bouyantly drank L’Chayim together, celebrating the victory. Then each Tzaddik left to return to his home town in expectation of the salvation to come.

It was only five days later that the Russian government announced that they would soon be bringing inexpensive wheat and other grains from Siberia over a previously inaccessible route. The price of available grain plunged, as merchants scrambled to cash in before the arrival of the new stock.

Within the month, new supplies were on the market. That whole year, even the family with the most humble of means had plenty to eat.

Proper Vision

chasheadR’ Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch once related the following story.When I was four years old, I asked my father: “Why did G-d make people with two eyes? Why not with one eye, just as we have been given a single nose and a single mouth?”

“Do you know the Alef-Beis?” asked father. “Yes”, I replied.

“Then you know that there are two very similar Hebrew letters, the Shin and the Sin. Can you tell the difference between them?”

“The Shin has a dot on its right side, the Sin on its left,” I answered.

“Well done”, exclaimed father. “From this we learn that there are things which one must look upon with his right eye, with affection and empathy, and there are things which are to be looked upon with the left eye, with indifference and detachment.”

“Upon a Siddur or on another Jew, one should look with the right eye. Upon a candy or toy, one should look with the left eye.”

Tzaddik Talk

R’ Pinchas of Koretz once compared himself to R’ Yaacov Yosef of Polnoye, the “Toldos”. “The Toldos loves “truth””, he said. “In fact he loves it so much that he speaks great quantities of truth everyday. And if a little bit of falsehood should creep in, it would be worth it for the great amount of truth that would have been spoken.” “I on the other hand abhor falsehood.” “Therefore I barely speak at all lest I utter a bit of falsehood.” Here is a story about the power of words.Part One

Reb Moshe was the son of the contemporary/disciple of the Baal ShemTov, Reb Pinchas of Koretz. Reb Moshe was a very talented individual. Reb Moshe especially was very artistically inclined, and in his younger years learned the scribal arts. Later he turned his attention to the printing industry and even developed a new type of printing process.

When he founded his own printing press, his work soon became the industry standard for accuracy, quality and beauty. Even today, books from the famous Slovita press are sought after by book lovers and collectors. A set of the Talmud from the Slovita press will bring its seller tens of thousands of dollars.

Reb Moshe became very wealthy from the printing business. The business later was turned over to his two sons, Reb Pinchas and Reb Avraham Abba, and it continued to thrive.

The Slovita Shas became the finest in the industry. Nevertheless at the same time, there was a printing of the Shas in Vilna, and the competiton for what was a very limited market became heated. Vilna, was the home of the Misnagdim, the opponents of the new Chassidic path. There were those in Vilna who used the competition as an opportunity to fan the flames of contention.

There was at this time a man who worked for the two brothers who was an alcoholic and a wife beater. She complained regularly to Reb Pinchas and Reb Avraham Abba and they reprimand him with threats of terminating his employment. Once, in a drunken stupor he had an accident in the press and struck his head so hard on a piece of machinery that he died. He was found by some of the workers and they, fearing what the local police might conclude, hid his body until they could bury him secretly, but the plan was found out.

A man called Shimshon Finkelman used this opportunity to vent his hatred against the Chassidim and reported to the authorities that the Slovita Press was involved in anti-government activities and about to print literature for a mass anti-government campaign. He claimed that this worker knew about it and had decided to report the information to the proper authorities. When the brothers found out about it, they decided to have him killed.

An investigator was appointed to find out what had happened. The brothers, knowing what kind of anti-semitism was prevelant in the country, reasoned that a handsome bribe would close the matter and terminate the frivolous charges against them.

The investigator however, took the money and understanding it to be further evidence of the guilt of the brothers, turned it over to the authorities.

The two brothers were immediately arrested and sentenced to receive 1500 blows in the gauntlet. The gauntlet was made up of two long rows of brutal soldiers holding a club in each hand. The victim would have to pass between the two rows absorbing the brutal blows as he struggled to reach the end. One in a thousand survived. Most barely made it a third of the way through. Surviving was not necessarily desirable since the survivor would be sent to Siberia. The two brothers actually made it through, but they were disfigured and mutilated in the process.

It is told of the legendary Yiras Shamayim of Reb Pinchas. As he was passing through, one of the blows sent his yarmulke flying. Not wanting to go on without it, he backtracked to retrieve it absorbing many extra blows as a result.

They survived and were sent to Siberia. They got only as far as Moscow and were not able to travel any further because of their injuries. They were admitted to a goverment hospital where they stayed for a number of months until the Czar died and they were granted pardons.

They returned to Slovita as heroes, mutilated in body but elevated in spirit. Many Jews were drawn to them and they acquired large followings of Chassidim inspired by the Yiras Shamayim of Reb Pinchas and Reb Avraham Abba.

Part Two

This a story that was first told by R’ Yisrael of Ruzhin. The comments of the Rizhiner are crucial to the understanding of the events.

Reb Aryeh Leib was known as the Shpoler Zeide (grandfather) since he emulated the ways of our grandfather, Avraham Avinu. His home was always open to guests and he loved his fellow Jew with a genuine and encompassing love. In fact, within a short time after he arrived in Shpole, every Jew in town had become a dedicated and pious individual.

The Shpoler Zeide had a chassid who was very devoted. Tragically, this individual was married for many years and still had not been blessed with children. On numerous ocassions he came to beseech his Rebbe (who was quite fond of him), for a blessing for offspring, yet the Shpoler Zeide rejected his requst every time.

One day, the Chassid and his wife decided that enough was enough. They decided that he would go to beseech the Rebbe once more. This time he resolved that no matter what, he would not take no for an answer.

He arrived in Shpole and found the Rebbe absorbed in a private tefillah. He interrupted the Zeide gently and told him the reason for his appearance. The Shploer Zeide told him that he was involved in a matter of great importance having to do with the welfare of the entire Jewish people, and now was not the time to accept individual petitions.

When the Chassid realized the his Rebbe might actually be speaking to the Almighty face to face, he understood that this was an auspicious moment and he redoubled his efforts to gain a blessing from the Shpoler Zeide. He was so relentless that finally, with more than a trace of aggravation in his voice, the Zeide turned on the Chassid with the full force of his presence and assured him that he would never merit to have a child.

Broken, and distressed over his tragic mistake, he went on his way. If there was even a minute chance that he might have a child before, there was certainly no chance now. He absorbed himself in his business and his travel to forget his anguish.

One day he came to the town of Koretz, where Reb Pinchas was still a young man hiding himself in the Beis HaMedrash engaged solely in his Avodas Hashem. The Chassid had spent enough time in Shpole to recognize a person of exemplary qualities when he saw him, so he decided to get to know Reb Pinchas a bit. His further research only confirmed his notion that Reb Pinchas was a man of great spiritual stature. The Chassid, with the hope that maybe one day Reb Pinchas could reverse the curse of the Shpoler Ziede, made a point of visiting Koretz whenever his business took him in the general area.

Once, he arrived in Koretz a few days before Pesach. Reb Pinchas was sitting in the Beis HaMedrash learning and praying, and as usual was destitute. Neverthless, even the approaching holiday did not cause him to waver from his studies.

The wealthy Chassid went to the Rebbitzen and inquired whether or not they had the means with which to celebrate the upcoming Pesach. The Rebbitzen informed him that they had neither meat nor chicken nor fish. Not wine, not candles, not even Matzoh, and no prospects were in sight for obtaining the items. The Chassid turned to the Rebbitzen and offered, “I will provide all the needs for the entire holiday if you will let me be at the seder.” The Rebitzen readily agreed.

When Reb Pinchas left his house the morning before Pesach, he knew that there were none of the provisions needed for the Holiday. He went to his Avodah like on any other day.

As soon as Reb Pinchas left, the Chassid and the Rebitzen went to work. The previously ordered supplies began to arrive. When darkness fell over Koretz and the candles were lit, the home of Reb Pinchas was prepared for royalty. There were meat and fish and chicken. There was Shmura Matzoh and there were wines of every type. Fresh fruits from all over the world were piled high in baskets. All the furniture in the house was replaced. The table was decked with a new snowy white cloth, new porcelain dishes, gleaming silverware, Kiddush cups and a tall candelabra. The children and the Rebbitzen had new outfits, and a white silk Kittel was draped over the back of Reb Pinchas’ chair. The family anxiously awaited the arrival of Reb Pinchas.

But he, knowing that there was nothing to come home to, stayed on at the Beis Medrash for a while after the davening before he finally turned for home. When he walked in the door and saw all that was before him, he was speechless. He immediately, donned the silk Kittel and with great exultation began to make Kiddush and to recite the Haggadah. Reb Pinchas’s exuberance was infectious and the family sang and chanted and discussed the Exodus from Egypt with great passion until they reached Shulchan Orech, the seder meal.

Reb Pinchas turned to the Rebbitzen and asked for an explanation. She motioned to the guest indicating that he had wanted to spend Pesach with them and had provided the bounty.

Reb Pinchas, still in a rapturous state turned to the chassid and asked him if there was anything that he could do for him. The chassid realizing that his chance at last had come, broke down and told the whole story of how he had been a Chassid of the Shpoler Zeide and how he and his wife had been childless for so many years, and how he never merited a blessing from his Rebbe until he bothered him when he shouldn’t have and received a curse instead of a blessing.

Reb Pinchas, being in the exalted state that he was and very moved by the man’s story replied, “If I have any Zechus in the Heavens at all, it is my oath that this year you will be blessed with a son!”

The Rizhiner related that the moment that Reb Pinchas made his oath, a great tumult erupted in the Heavens. Here were two promises, made by two great Rebbes and they contradicted one another. Whose would be upheld? The Heavenly Court finally decided to examine the chronicles of the lives of each Rebbe to see if one of them had been so cautious as to have never before made an oath or promise. Only Reb Pinchas had been so circumspect in his speech that he had never made an unqualified promise or oath. Therefore the Chassid and his wife were indeed blessed with a child within the year. The reknown of Reb Pinchas began to spread.

The Rizhiner concluding his story saying, “Despite the fact that Reb Pinchas’ blessing was upheld, one must nevertheless learn from this an important lesson that one ought not go against the words of another Tzaddik. The grandson of that Chassid was Shimshon Finkelman, the Misnaged who brought about so much trouble for the grandsons of Reb Pinchas.

The Tzaddik Works on Behalf of His People

85A secular Jew in Israel from a Chassidic background once related the following story.His son, a commander of a Tank Artillery division had become vehemently anti-religious. He even went so far as to complain about a photograph of his grandfather which hung on the wall in his father’s house. The photograph of the grandfather, in traditional Chassidic garb with peyos and a long beard, was particularly offensive to the young soldier. “That man is a barbarian. Take the picture down”, he would shriek.

One day, the soldier became religious! What happened?

It was June 1967, the Six Day War, in the Sinai Desert. The tanks were all spread out. If attacked, they would have to regroup and fight together. Suddenly, Egyptian tanks approached. The commander turned his tank around and raced back to the platoon. The fastest way was straight across an open stretch.

Suddenly, he saw an old man davening, enwrapped in tallis and tefillin, right in his path. “Doesn’t the fool have any place better to pray than in the middle of the desert”, he screamed. “I’m going to run him over.” But at the last minute he swerved to avoid the old man. The Egyptian tank in hot pursuit behind him didn’t have any such tinge of sympathy. As it ran over the old Jew it exploded into a fiery inferno as it tripped a landmine underneath.

When the soldier visited his father after the war, the photo was still on the wall. Although he had seen it hundreds of times before, the face familiar in a strange way. He recognized the face of the old Jew who was praying in the desert.

“I realized that he was praying for me that I should live”, explained the newly religious soldier, “And I want to be like him.”

The Price Of A Mitzvah

139After WWII, the Poles decided to build a highway through an old Jewish cemetery. The local Burial Society had to remove all the bones to a new resting palce. To their amazement, they found one body that had not decomposed! It is considered a sign of great righteousness. But even more to their wonderment, he was buried in the robes of a priest!! They quickly made enquiries among the elders of the town, and this is the story that was revealed.Reb Naftali was the Gabbai Tzedakah of the town. He was well respected and he would always distribute the funds fairly. One day, after he had already collected quite a sum of money for a dire emergency, a man knocked on his door. “Naftali, please you must help, I have nowhere else to turn”, he begged. The man, already burdened by the expenses of a large family had a child who was very ill, and the medical bills were putting the family under undue financial distress. Naftali went out to collect again; and people helped, but not like the first time. He returned home exhausted, but satisfied that he had done the right thing. Then there was a knock on the door again. A man whose roof had caved in on his house was in the doorway. The family of 10 souls was homeless. Naftali couldn’t go around collecting three times in one day…but he did.

He went to beseech the young son of a wealthy merchant who was entertaining some of his friends at the local pub.

“Don’t tell me you that are collecting again”, he screamed in disbelief. They all began to ridicule Naftali mercilessly.

Suddenly, the young man had an idea. “Naftali, we will give you the entire amount of 20 zlotys that you need. All you have to do is to walk through the main street of town wearing priests robes.” Naftali agreed.

They all walked behind him singing hooting. Other townspeople, seeing Naftali, shouted curses and pelted him with eggs. But he got the 20 zlotys, plus an extra 20 so that he didn’t have to go collecting again that day.

Naftali went home a broken man. He threw the priest’s robes in the back of his closet and collapsed into bed.

A year later, the Divrei Chayim, R’ Chaim of Tzanz passed through that same town. As he was [passing the house where Naftali lived he exclaimed, “I smell the fragrance of Gan Eden (Paradise) here.” They went into the house and began to question Naftali, what did he ever do that would cause the fragrance of Gan Eden to descend upon his house. Naftali remembered the incident of the priest’s robes.

R’ Chaim commanded the Burial Society that when when Naftali’s time comes, he should be buried in those same priests robes. The angels of destuction will not dare to touch him


glassmemorial2This story was told to me by a friend, Reb A.N. Brizel, a 5th generation Yerushalmi who heard it as a child. It took place about 90 – 100 years ago. A renowned personage of the old Jewish settlement in Jerusalem was the holy R’ Dovid Biederman, a scion of Rabbinic and Chassidic lineage. He was known as a Tzaddik among Tzaddikim. His only concern in life was whether or not he was living up to the expectations of his Creator.

Once, R’ Dovid decided to undertake the arduous, almost day-long trek on donkey from Jerusalem to the gravesite of Rachel Imainu. He set out early in the morning, right after the conclusion of the sunrise minyan. The entire way he contemplated and organized the prayers he would say there. He wanted to be sure not to forget anything, since it was only infrequently that he had the opportunity to make the journey.

When he finally arrived he saw that was not alone. A woman with a number of small children had arrived previously and was making herself at home in the monument’s domed chamber. She had already spread out a blanket and laid the youngest child down to sleep. When R’ Dovid arrived she was busy preparing the evening meal.

R’ Dovid was incredulous. Did she have no regard for the sanctity of the site? Didn’t she realize where she was? How could this woman busy herself with such mundane matters in such a Holy place?

R’ Dovid approached the woman and in a less than friendly tone demanded an explanation.

The weary woman looked up at R’ Dovid from her seat on the floor and replied softly, “I would think that our Mother Rachel would be pleased that we are eating and resting here.”

R’ Dovid felt suddenly faint and uneasy. He realized that he had been making the journey to Rachel’s Tomb for decades and had not even begun to understand what it represented. Here was a simple unlearned woman, yet she possessed a profound grasp of the true holiness of Rachel’s Tomb. What had been be doing here all those years!? He now understood that Rachel was the mother who wept and prayed for her children. Her desire is only that we should have some relief, some comfort in life, some peace of mind in order to better serve Hashem.

From that day on, whenever R’ Dovid travelled to the Tomb of Rachel, he made sure to bring with him a meal which he would share with all the others who came to entreat our mother Rachel to intercede for them and bring their prayers on high.