#140 (s5760-40/18 Sivan)
WILL THE ANGELS SAY?”
He said that
only the tzadik of Berditchev could teach him how to atone for his sin
WILL THE ANGELS SAY?”
of Mezhibuzh, sometimes used to speak harshly of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak
of Berditchev. One Friday night, when the Chassidim were gathered around his
table, he announced: "If anyone here is willing to speak evil of the Rebbe
of Berditchev, I hereby promise that he will be rewarded by receiving a portion
in the World to Come."
One young man present wanted to step forward
at once, but the elder Chassidim who stood near him dissuaded him. "G-d forbid
that you should do such a thing and say loshon hara ['evil speech'] on
a Chassidic rebbe," they said. "Our Rebbe no doubt has some profound
intention in saying what he did; his words are not to be taken at face value!"
next day, at the Shabbos midday meal, the same offer was repeated, and
again no one present dared oblige - except for the same young man, who again seemed
intent on earning the great reward effortlessly. His friends once more appealed
to him to hold back. He agreed, certain that he would be given one more chance
to do what he wanted, at the late afternoon Third Meal.
And so it happened.
This time, as soon as Rebbe Baruch repeated his strange announcement, this impetuous
young man broke loose from the entreaties of his friends, and burst his way forward
towards the tzaddik.
Seeing his efforts at pressing his way through
the crowd, Rebbe Baruch called to him: "Come near, my son, come near, and
tell me what you know of the Rebbe of Berditchev."
"I once traveled
on business to Berditchev," said the young man, "and it occurred to
me that this would present me with a fine opportunity to drop in on his shul
to watch him at his prayers, for I had been told that this was a wonderful sight.
So I took off time that morning to go to his synagogue. When I arrived there and
heard the sound of his ecstatic prayers I did not dare to walk in; I just remained
standing at the entrance. But when he reached the passage
meshartim vasher meshartav - "He creates ministering angels who stand
in the heights of the universe" - the tzaddik suddenly jumped towards
me, and in the middle of his prayers, when one is least allowed to interrupt oneself
by speaking, he demanded of me in anger: "What will the Angel Michael say?
What will the Angel Gavriel say?" Then he ran back to his place.
whichever way you look at it," concluded the young man, "this episode
sounds crazy. How was he allowed to speak in the middle of the morning prayers?
And on top of that to be angry? And what do those strange words about the angels
mean? And what did he want altogether?"
Rebbe Baruch of Mezhibuzh heard
the young man out to the end of his story, and then responded to him in the hearing
of that entire assemblage: "You should know that Rebbe Levi Yitzchak is an
advocate for all of Israel in the Heavenly Court, speaking up in defense of his
fellow Jews even when they have sinned. When in the course of their morning prayers
Jews in This World reach the passage that speaks of the ministering angels who
stand in the heights of the universe, that is the moment at which Michael and
Gavriel and all their hosts speak in defense of the House of Israel, seeking to
have them acquitted of the charges that have been laid against them. And when
the rav of Berditchev reaches that passage, he joins them on their noble
endeavors and reinforces their arguments.
"But when he suddenly saw
you standing there before him, besmirched with the sin that you had committed
that very morning in your inn - for did you not pocket a silver spoon that caught
your fancy at breakfast? - he was enraged, because he could find no mitigating
circumstances to submit to the Court in your favor. You are a prosperous man,
lacking nothing. Why then did you steal that silver spoon? This was what made
the tzaddik ask in desperation: "What will the Angel Michael say?
What will the Angel Gavriel say?"
The young man was shaken to his very
foundations. His entire being surged with shame and regret for his conduct. He
begged his rebbe to guide him to repentance, but Rebbe Baruch declined: he said
that only the tzaddik of Berditchev could teach him how to atone for his
sin, and only by following his instructions would his repentance be found acceptable
in the Court in the World Above. The young man complied, and in the fullness of
time found peace for his soul.
[Selected by Yrachmiel Tilles from
the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated
by the incomparable Uri Kaploun.]
of Mezhibuz [1753 - 18 Kislev, 1811], the town of the Baal Shem Tov, was the
son of R. Yechiel Ashkenazi and Adel, the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov. He was
one of the pre-eminent Rebbes in the generation of the disciples of the Maggid
of Mezritch and had thousands of Chassidim.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
(1740-25 Tishrei 1810) is one of the more popular rebbes in chassidic history.
A close disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, he is best known for his love for
every Jew and his active efforts to intercede for them against (seemingly) adverse
heavenly decrees. Many of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published,
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder
and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and
the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published
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