A TREASURY OF
ON THE TORAH
by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin
Published and Distributed by
MESORAH PUBLICATIONS, Ltd.
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Brooklyn, New York 11223
In conjunction with HILLEL PRESS. Jerusalem
0-89906-902-9 (Hardcover) 0-89906-903-7 (Paperback)
Vayikra - Leviticus
"You shall not go about tale bearing" (19:16)
As he walked up and down the beis midrash of Reb Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger,
all that could be heard from his mouth was an uncomplimentary barrage of
rebukes, all of which were addressed at no less a personage than himself, Reb
Pinchas Eliyahu of Piltz. Words like these one would hardly hurl at the most
unworthy individual, and when they were heard by the speaker's uncle, Reb
Avraham of Parisov, he approached him and said: "Young man, if you don't mind,
please don't say such harsh things about our Reb Pintchi, for round these parts
we consider him to be a man of some stature. In particular, I would advise you
to watch out for the wrath of our younger chassidim, because if they get to hear
you saying unpleasant things about our Reb Pintchi, they'll want to break your
bones ... Besides, if I were to say this kind of thing about you, you would no
doubt be angry with me, so who gives you the right to talk this way about
"True enough," said Reb Pintchi. "If anyone else were to say these things about
me, I would probably regard him as an enemy. But when I talk about myself this
way why, I'm my own friend."
"I will play before God, and be even less esteemed than this" (Haftorah
on the Torah portion)
Looking through the window, Reb Zusya of Hanipoli
once saw a wedding procession passing his house. He went straight out, and
danced in the street before the bride and groom with the greatest of
joy. When he came in again, his family remarked that it was
neither seemly nor dignified for him to dance out there in the
street for some wedding or other.
"Let me tell you a story," said Reb Zusya. "In my youth I was a pupil of Reb
Yechiel Michel, the Maggid of Zlotchov, and it once happened that he scolded me
He later came around to clear up any hard feelings, and said: 'Reb
Zusya, forgive me for my harsh words.'
" 'Rebbe,' I answered, 'I forgive you.'
"Before I went to sleep he came again, and said:
'Reb Zusya, forgive me!'
"I reassured him again: 'Rebbe, I forgive you.'
"And when I lay down to sleep,
but was still awake, my rebbe's father, Reb Yitzchak of Drohovitch, appeared to
me from the World Above, and said:
'One only son I left after me in the World
Below, one precious son and do you want to destroy him because he insulted
" 'Rebbe!' I protested. 'But I have already forgiven him with all my heart and
soul! What else should I do?' "
'This is not yet a perfect forgiveness,' he
said. 'If you come along with me, I will show you how to forgive.'
"I got out of
bed and followed him, until we came to the local mikveh.
There he told me to
immerse myself in it three times, and to say each time that I forgave his son.
Coming out of the mikveh, I saw that Reb Yitzchak's face radiated a light so
bright that I could not look at him.
When I asked him what it came from, he said
that all his life he had been careful to observe the three things to which the
Talmudic sage Rabbi Nechunyah ben HaKanah attributed his longevity:
gained honor at the expense of the degradation of my fellow;
I never went to
sleep without forgiving everyone for the day's vexations;
and I have been
generous with my money.'
Reb Yitzchak added that what he had attained through these three things
could also be achieved through joy.
"Therefore," concluded Reb Zusya, "when I
saw the wedding procession passing by our house, I hurried out in order to
participate in the joy of a mitzvah."
"Blessed is the man who trusts in God" (Haftorah on
the Torah Portion - Bechukosai)
The Baal Shem Tov was once instructed by a voice from heaven to make the journey
to a certain village in order to learn a lesson in how to trust in God. Arriving
there with his disciples, he took up lodgings with the local arendar, an
innkeeper who held his hostelry on lease from the squire of that region. Their
host was an elderly and dignified gentleman, and was obviously happy to be able
to extend a warm welcome to guests such as these.
The next morning, as they were preparing for their prayers, a sheriff in the
service of the squire strode into the inn, struck the table three times with a
hefty rod, and strode out. The guests asked no questions, but searched the face
of their host for an explanation. His cheerful equanimity had not been ruffled
in the slightest. Half an hour or so later, after their prayers, they witnessed
the same odd visit, repeated exactly.
The Baal Shem Tov asked the innkeeper what was going on, and received the
following answer: 'This is a warning that today I am obliged to pay his master
the annual rent on the inn. He does this three times. If, after the third visit,
the squire doesn't get his money, he comes along and throws the leaseholder and
his family into his dungeon."
It is clear, just from looking at you, that you have the necessary sum in
hand," said the Baal Shem Tov. "I would therefore suggest that you go along now
to the squire, before breakfast, and pay up your lease. We will wait till you
return, and then we will all be able to sit at the table at leisure."
"At the moment, though," said the arendar, "I haven't even got a single penny
but the Almighty will no doubt bring some money my way. Let us therefore sit
down, please, and eat and drink without haste, for I still have three hours
They took their time over their meal, and one would never be able to tell from
the host's face whether he needed the money or not. As they finished eating, in
came the sheriff on his third visit and hammered his threefold warning into the
table but the innkeeper did not stir.
When they had all recited the Grace
after Meals with unhurried devoutness, the innkeeper rose from the table, donned
his best Shabbos coat, belted it with his broad girdle, and said: "Gentlemen, I
must now be on my way to pay the squire his lease."
The Baal Shem Tov repeated his earlier question: "But do you have enough money?"
"I haven't got a single penny of it yet," answered the innkeeper, "but the
Almighty will no doubt see to that."
Taking his leave of them he went on his way, while the Baal Shem Tov and his
Chassidim went up to the balcony overlooking the highway, to see him off from
afar as he set out on his unpredictable mission. From out of the distance they
could discern a wagon rumbling dustily along to meet him. Now it stopped, and
they could tell that its driver was exchanging a few sentences with their
innkeeper. He then continued walking further away from them as before, and the
wagon likewise continued in its own direction, coming towards the inn, but more
slowly than before. After a moment or two the wagon stopped, its driver called
out to the innkeeper asking him to retrace his steps, and when he reached the
wagon they could see that money was changing hands.
The innkeeper thereupon resumed his previous direction and was soon out of
sight, but when the wagon finally arrived at the inn, the Baal Shem Tov and his
Chassidim asked its driver: "Tell us, please, what was this little incident with
our host, whom you called back after he had already walked away, and then gave
"I proposed a business offer," said the driver. "I would buy up the vodka that
he is due to make next winter. At first we couldn't agree on a price. But later,
when I saw that he stood his ground, and was prepared to wait for his price, and
even walked away and I know him to be an honest man I had to give him the
price he asked. But I couldn't spend much time talking with him, because he said
he was on his way to the squire to pay up his lease."
"Just look," said the Baal Shem Tov to his disciples, "how mighty is the power
of a man's trust in God!"
Bamidbar - Numbers
"And the man Moshe was very humble" (12:3)
Learning that the chassidic book Noam Elimelech was written by a disciple of
Reb Dov Ber of Mezritch, a certain prominent misnaged chose to give unmistakable
expression to his sentiments toward "the Sect" by
depositing it under the bench he sat on.
When he was
once visited by Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, he asked his guest to describe for
him the character of its author, Reb Elimelech of Lyzhansk.
"Rabbi," said the guest, "even if you were to put the author himself under your
bench, he would not say a word."