Two Jewish tales concerning righteousness
By Rabbi Baruch Lederman
SAN DIEGO — Hillel says: Do not judge your fellow till you have reached his place. (Avos 2:5)
If we are sensitive to understand what others are going through, if we can feel the pain, hardship, trials and difficulties that others feels; we will respond with greater love and
compassion, as the following true stories illustrate:
The whole of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) was in an uproar! A well-known man, a member of the Belzer Chasidic sect, and his wife had just given birth to their first child – a boy – after being childless for twenty-eight years! The sholom zachor (party in honor of baby boy held the Friday night before the bris) that Friday night was the event of the year. Well over a thousand people came by to wish Mazel Tov to the proud and exhausted father. The food supply ran out in short order as did the drinks, but no one seemed to mind. At the height of the celebration, the crowd quieted down as the father indicated that he would like to say a few words.
He began in a loud voice, “Thank you all for coming and sharing in the simcha (joyous celebration). Although I have no more food to offer, let me at least tell over a story which I’m sure you’ll appreciate.”
The ecstatic new father composed himself and continued. “When I was a bochur (unmarried student) learning in the Belzer Yeshiva , there was a cleaning lady who would come by every day to tidy up and scrub the Beis Medrash and adjoining rooms. She was a fixture in the yeshiva and devoted her life to maintaining the yeshiva building. She was, however,
not a wealthy person by any stretch and as her own family grew, she was at a loss of options as far as taking care of her children. She decided to bring her kids with her to work, and as she cleaned and mopped in one area of the building, the young children would run amuck, screaming, crying and generally causing quite a commotion, in the rest of the
yeshiva. At first, we put up with it; we even thought it was cute for a time. But after a while, the kids really began to ‘shter’ (disrupt) us in our learning and davening. Try as we might to control them, they wouldn’t listen and continued on in their childish games and noise. A number of younger bochurim (students) asked me, as one of the oldest in the chaburah (group), to ask her not to bring her children anymore to the yeshiva
“I agreed to talk to her and I brazenly walked up to her and told her that her kids were disturbing everyone in yeshiva and she should find some sort of alternative method of child-care for them. I’ll never forget how she looked at me with tired eyes and said, ‘Bochur , you should never have tzaar gidul bonim (the pain and anguish that one goes through
when raising children.) The crowd gasped.
“As many of you know,” continued the father, “my wife and I have been to countless doctors who’ve recommended every sort of treatment. We moved abroad for awhile to be near an ‘expert’ which proved to be fruitless. One last, extreme treatment was offered and after trying that, it too, turned out to be just a fantasy; we felt doomed to a life without the
pleasure of raising a yiddishe family.
“After that last attempt, as we walked back into the apartment that we lived in for the past twenty-eight years, our entire sad situation hit us full force, like a ton of bricks. Together, we broke down crying. I suddenly remembered the incident with the cleaning lady. I realized how insensitive I was to her plight and pain. I decided to ask for forgiveness. But how? I spent hours on the phone until I came up with an address, which I ran over to immediately. She did not recognize me obviously, but when I told her over the story, a spark flickered in her eyes. I tearfully apologized for my harsh words and she graciously forgave me with her whole heart.”
Beaming from ear to ear, the father announced, ” Rabbosai, that took place exactly nine months ago!”
The famous Chassidic leader referred to as “Der Rebbe Reb Zisha” was known for his profound cleverness and for constantly being in search for more Mitzvahs, as the following true story, submitted by Avraham Moshe HaCohen Adler, illustrates:
Someone once handed Reb Zisha an envelope consisting of a present for him of ten Rubles. Reb Zisha was delighted to receive such a nice gift, but he was stuck with one problem. Since Reb Zisha was a very poor man and seldomly handled sums of money as large as this one, he never needed to buy a safe. He had no safe place to keep the money. After pondering the situation for a few minutes, Reb Zisha decided to sit down and learn a little before returning to his problem. That week was Parshas Yisro. Reb Zisha opened his Chumash and began reading. When Reb Zisha reached the Passuk, “Lo Tignov – Thou shalt not steal” he stood up and said, “Yes! This is the answer to my problem.”
I will put the money in my Chumash next to where it says, “Do not steal” and when a thief comes to take the money he will read what it says and surely won’t touch it.
The next day Reb Zisha came back to check on the money, to his astonishment the money was missing. Reb Zisha wondered how someone could anger Hashem so, when it said right there, “Do not steal.” Reb Zisha put down his Chumash and was about to leave when he noticed something was stuck inside. He turned to the page it was stuck in, and found some money. He found five Rubles. Exactly half the amount he left in the Chumash the day before. He read the Passuk on that page, “V’Ahavtah L’Rayacha Kamocha – Love your neighbor like yourself.” Reb Zisha stood up and sighed, “Oy! Look he is a bigger Tzadik than I. I had ten Rubles and kept them all for myself. He had ten Rubles and shared them equally with his friend.”
Dedicated by Rabbi & Mrs. Zvi Fruend on the occasion of the Yahrtzeit of his father Abe Freund, Avraham ben Moshe Yechiel.
Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego