The Jews of Razhvanitz were mostly quite poor,
but being Chassidim, their poverty did not dampen their inbred happy
spirits. The secret of their joy lay on the other side of the Austrian-Gallicean
border, for in the town of Sadigora lived their rebbe, the
tzaddik, R. Avraham Yaakov.
To travel to the Rebbe in those days was very expensive, far
beyond the modest means of most of the Chassidim. Instead, each one
would make periodic small contributions to a special fund, dedicated
for spending festivals and special occasions with the Rebbe.
When the time came, the winner of a lottery would get an expenses-paid
trip to the Rebbe as a representative of the entire congregation.
There, in Sadigora, this representative received special attention
from the Rebbe. The tzaddik would invite him to his
house, and listen intently.to a detailed report on the personal situation
of each of his chassidim in Razhvanitz. Also, before the representative
departed for home, the Rebbe always gave him a coin of pure silver.
These coins were treated by the chassidim as a communal treasure.
A special place was designated for them to be kept, and over the years
a large number accumulated.
One year, a month before Chanukah, the leaders of the community called
a special meeting in the shul to discuss a matter of major
importance. When the senior trustee rose to speak, everyone in the
crowded audience could see that he was pulsing with awe and excitement.
"As you know," he began after the appropriate salutations,
"we now have quite a lot of the holy silver coins from the Rebbe
and their total worth has become quite considerable. It is time to
use them for a holy purpose. We propose taking them to a G-d-fearing
silversmith, who will melt them together and fashion from them a giant,
glorious Chanukah menorah."
The speaker paused. He seemed to be growing even more excited. As
he drew a deep breath before he resumed, all the chassidim were on
the edge of their seats.
"The menorah will have a prominent place in our shul.
On Chanukah, the privilege of lighting it will be auctioned each night
to the highest bidder. The money will be used for communal needs,
including the various tzedakah funds for helping the poor and
the sick and endowing brides."
The audience greeted the proposal with unanimous wild approval. When
the first night of Chanukah arrived, both the men's and women's sections
of the shul were packed, more even than on Yom Kippur. There
was barely room to breathe, but who was interested in breathing?-everyone
stared fixated at the southern wall of the shul, where the exquisitely
crafted, magnificent silver menorah shone and sparkled.
The auction began. The bids rose steadily upward, and soon all the
poorer people and even those of average means were forced to drop
out. The wealthy continued to call out higher and higher amounts in
spirited competition. In the end, the merit of lighting the first
candle ever on the new menorah was acquired by Reb Lipa the timber
merchant. In an emotionally charged voice he chanted the three blessings
with intense concentration and fervor. Then, even before the chorus
of loud 'Amen's had completely died down, he stretched out
his right hand with the shammes candle to kindle the precious
The same story repeated itself for the next seven nights. The wealthy
chassidim strove with fiery enthusiasm to outbid each other, while
the poor majority resigned themselves that this merit would forever
remain out of their reach. At least they were privileged to answer
'Amen' and to see the holy menorah alight.
One person only could not get himself to accept this 'decree.' That
was Reb Boruch the tinsmith. He was a totally dedicated chassid who
was bound by love and devotion to his Rebbe with all the strings
of his soul. It pained him deeply that he could not have the opportunity
to personally light the menorah made of the Rebbe's silver
coins, not even a single time.
Chanukah passed. A dreary winter settled on the town, but not for
Boruch, who energetically added hours to his already long working
day. All the extra cash he was able to earn, he wrapped in a special
bundle and dedicated to the fulfillment of his burning desire. The
months sped by. Tishrei, with its many festivals and extra expenses
came and went, and still Boruch remained with a significant stake,
carefully preserved for the Festival of Light to come.
But then, just a month or so before Chanukah, Boruch's wife fell
sick. The usual natural treatments and folk remedies were all tried,
but nothing helped the seriously ailing woman. Boruch was forced to
call a doctor from the big city, whose hefty fee took a sizable bite
out of his precious horde. Was the remainder enough? He would never
know. It all went to purchase quantities of the expensive medicines
that the doctor prescribed. Thank G-d, the wife recovered fully, but
financially the bankrupted tinsmith was back to the bottom rung.
Chanukah arrived. The auction began. Boruch's frustration kept building.
He had been so close to attaining his heart's desire....
The second night. The third night. The fourth night. Boruch stared
with burning eyes at the shining pure menorah.
The fifth night. The sixth night. The seventh night. He felt as if
his heart was about to burst.
The bidding on the eighth night mounted quickly, as all those who
could afford to take part reflected how it would be a whole year until
the next opportunity. Suddenly, to everyone's surprise, Reb Boruch
could be seen pushing his way through to the bima. He leapt
up the steps of the platform and cried out fervently:
"My brothers and friends! This is the second year that I, a
mere tinsmith, have been consumed with the desire to light our wonderful
menorah. For a whole year I exhausted myself to put aside money,
coin by coin, to acquire this unique privilege. Then, my wife got
sick, and it all went for her medical expenses. Believe me, I can't
bear it any more-my soul longs and thirsts. So now I have an idea.
My little house is worth three hundred coins; I pledge my house to
this holy congregation! I'll continue to live in it, but I'll pay
monthly rent money to the community chest. Please accept my offer
and my prayer, and restore to life the soul of a poor tinsmith."
The sincerity and innocence of Boruch's plea deeply touched everyone
in the room. Virtually in unison they all called out, "Mazaltov!
Sold to Reb Boruch!"
There was not a dry eye or an untrembling heart in the shul when
R. Boruch lit the leftmost candle of the holy menorah. Many
would say afterwards that the flames that rose from the eight wicks
were outshone by the fire exploding from the depths of the tinsmith's
[Translated and freely adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first
published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Sichat
HaShavua #257. ]
Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Friedman (20 Cheshvan 1819-11 Elul 1883),
the first of the Sadigorer dynasty, was the second son and successor
of his famous father, the 'heiliker Rhyzhiner,' the holy R. Yisrael
of Rhyzhin (1797-1850), who passed away in Sadigora. His elder son,
R. Yitzchak (1849-1917), became the first Boyanner Rebbe. His younger
son, Yisrael (1853-1907), succeeded him in Sadigora as the rebbe of
tens of thousands.