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by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin
Published and Distributed by
1969 Coney Island Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11223
In conjunction with HILLEL PRESS. Jerusalem
Copyright 1980
0-89906-902-9 (Hardcover) 0-89906-903-7 (Paperback)

621 pages


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 yourself?"
"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 severely.

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 you?'

" '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:

'I never 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 grace."

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 him money?"

"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."



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