#156 (s5761-03 / 11 Tishrei 5761)
THE UNPOPULAR TZADDIK
The word began to spread that
Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz was very, very special.
Pinchas of Koretz was a spiritual giant in his generation. At first, his greatness
was mostly unknown to his contemporaries, but he had no regrets; indeed, it suited
him just fine. He spent his days and most of his nights in Torah-study, prayer
and meditation. Rarely was he interrupted.
But then, the word began to spread,
perhaps from fellow disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, that R. Pinchas was very,
very special. People began to visit him on a regular basis, seeking his
guidance, requesting his support, asking for his prayers, and beseeching his blessing.
The more he helped them, the more that came. The trickle to his door became a
stream, and the stream became a night-and-day daily flood of increased knocks
at his door and outpourings of personal stories and requests for help.
Pinchas was bewildered. He felt he was no longer serving G-d properly, because
he no longer had sufficient time to study, pray and meditate as he should. He
didn't know what to do. He needed more privacy and less distraction, but how could
he turn away dozens and even hundreds of people who genuinely felt that he could
help them. How could he convince them to seek elsewhere, to others more willing
and qualified than he?
Then he had an idea. He would pray for heavenly help
in the matter. Let G-d arrange it that people not be attracted to seek him out!
Let G-d make him be despicable in the eyes of his fellows!
decrees and Heaven agrees," they say. R. Pinchas prayed and so it became.
No longer did people visit him. Not only that, on those occasions when he went
to town, he was met with averted heads and a chilly atmosphere.
didn't mind at all. Indeed, he was delighted; now he had all the time he could
desire for study, prayer and meditation. The old pattern was restored - rarely
was he interrupted. No one was coming to him to seek his guidance, request his
prayers, or beseech his blessing.
Then the Days of Awe - Rosh HaShanah and
Yom Kippur - passed, and there remained only four brief busy days to prepare for
the Sukkos festival. Usually, or rather, every year until now, there had always
been some yeshiva students or local townspeople who were only too glad
to help the pious rabbi construct his sukkah-hut. But this time, not a
single soul arrived. No one liked him, so no one even thought to help him.
being handy in these matters, the rabbi didn't know what to do. Finally, having
no choice, he was forced to hire a non-Jew to build his sukkah for him.
But the gentile did not possess the tools that were needed, and R. Pinchas could
not get a single Jew in the neighborhood to lend him tools because they disliked
him so much. In the end, his wife had to go to borrow them, and even that was
difficult to accomplish due to the prevailing attitude towards her husband. With
just a few hours remaining till the onset of the festival, they finally managed
to complete a flimsy minimal structure.
As the sun slid between the forest
branches and the Rebbetzin lit the festive candles, R. Pinchas hurried off to
shul. He always made a point to attend the congregational prayers on the
holidays; besides he didn't want to miss the opportunity to acquire a guest for
the festival meal, something so integral to the essence of the holiday.
those days in Europe (there being no Ascent), people desiring an invitation to
a meal would stand in the back of the shul upon the completion of the prayers.
The householders would then invite them upon their way out, happy to so easily
accomplish the mitzvah of hospitality. R. Pinchas, unfortunately, did not
find it so simple. Even those without a place to eat and desperate for an invitation
to a sukkah in order to enjoy the festive meal, turned him down without
a second thought. Eventually, everyone who needed a place and everyone who wanted
a guest were satisfied, except for the tzadik, Rabbi Pinchas.
trudged home alone, saddened and a bit shaken up at the realization that he might
never have another guest, not even for the special festive meal of the First Night
of Sukkos. Alas, that too was part of the price of his freedom.... It was worth
it, wasn't it?
Pausing just inside the entrance to his sukkah, he
began to chant the traditional invitation to the Ushpizin, the "seven
heavenly guests" who visit every Jewish sukkah. Although not many
are privileged to actually see these exalted visitors, R. Pinchas was definitely
one of the select few who had this exalted experience on an annual basis. This
year, he raised his eyes, and saw the Patriarch Avraham, the first of the Ushpizin
and therefore the honored guest for the First Night, standing outside the door
of the sukkah, maintaining a distance.
R. Pinchas cried out to him
in anguish: "Father Avraham! Why do you not enter my sukkah? What
is my sin?"
Replied the patriarch: "I am the embodiment chesed,
serving G-d through deeds of loving-kindness. Hospitality was my specialty. I
will not join a festival table where there are no guests."
R. Pinchas quickly re-ordered his priorities. He prayed that everything be restored
to as it had been, and that he should find favor in the eyes of his fellow Jews
exactly as before. Again his prayer was answered. Within a short time, throngs
of people were again finding their way to his door; seeking his guidance, asking
his support, requesting his prayers, and beseeching his blessing. No longer could
he devote all or even most of his time to his Torah-study, his prayer, and to
his meditation. But thanks to his holy Sukkot guest, this was no longer seen as
[Translated/adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from Sippurei
Chassidim and oral traditions.]
Shapiro of Koretz (1726 - 10 Elul 1791) was considered to be one of the two
most pre-eminent followers of Chassidism's founder, the Baal Shem Tov (along with
his successor, the Maggid of Mezritch).
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 stories to his credit.
A 48 page soft-covered
booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store
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