Stories Archive:
#984 - (5777)

As told by Yerachmiel Tilles,
the co-founder and first educational director of Ascent-of-Safed, originator and maintainer of this website, and managing editor of Kabbala Online, who has hundreds of published stories to his credit, with many having been translated into other languages. He tells them live in Tsfat (Safed) nearly every week, at his home on Friday evenings and at Ascent on Saturday nights. To receive the Story by e-mail every Wednesday--sign up here!


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#1032 (s5777-51/ 27 Elul 5777)

Shofar-Blowing and Spear-Fishing in Oceania

At that time, the town of Lubavitch happened to be under the jurisdiction of a particularly savage 'Poritz' (Baron)


#1031 (s5777-50/ 20 Elul 5777)

"Time for You to Change"

At that time, the town of Lubavitch happened to be under the jurisdiction of a particularly savage 'Poritz' (Baron)

Connections: 1) Weekly Reading-Tshuvah; 2) Seasonal-End of Elul month: Tshuvah; 3) Seasonal-Erev Rosh Hashana (next week) marks xxx hundred years since the birth of the Tzemach Tzedek.

#1030 (s5777-49/ 13 Elul 5777)

The Divorce Solution

About a half a year after the wedding, the young wife lost her sanity. Since she was not in a mental state to legally accept a bill of divorce, her husband was unable to remarry. Her father approached the Baal Shem Tov and asked for his advice and a blessing for her recovery.

Connection: Seasonal - the 257th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov.

#1029 (s5777-48/ 6 Elul 5777)

To Fix or Not to Fix?

"It’s Elul," I told myself. "It's obvious the Al-mighty is sending me a message about my overuse of the computer."

Connection: Seasonal - the month of Elul.

#1028 (s5777-47/ 29 Menachem-Av 5777)

"Daddy, I'm Cold; Where's My Blanket?"

On a cold winter night, Rabbi Eliezer-Zusya Portugal of Skulen saw one of the orphans he was caring for shivering in his sleep.

Connection: Seasonal - the 35th yahrzeit of the Skulener Rebbe.

#1027 (s5777-46/ 22 Menachem-Av 5777)

The Funeral on Monday

Astonished by the doctor's declaration to his congregant, the rabbi sent a telegram to the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, asking him to pray on the boy's behalf.

Connection: Seasonal--the 38th yahrzeit of "Reb Yoelish."

#1026 (s5777-45/ 15 Menachem-Av 5777)

All in the Family

The Imrei Emes of Gur asked, "What can I do to help?" The man admitted that he didn't know what the Rebbe could do.

Connection: Seasonal--Fifteenth of Menachem-Av - Matchmaking Day!

#1025 (s5777-44/ 7 Menachem-Av 5777)

The Coachman Disguise

Rabbi Boruch the tzadik was subjected to a steady stream of curses and insults. But he remained silent, feeling acutely the pain and affront to the Divine Presence in exile.

Connection: Seasonal--TISHA B'AV

#1024 (s5777-43/ 1 Menachem-Av 5777)

Another Plague of Locusts

The Holy Ari of Tsfat stood near the grave of the Prophet Hoshea ben Beari in a long, silent prayer, surrounded by his students. Then they sat and listened to his discourse, words of Torah and Kabbalah that were beyond [most] human comprehension.

Connection: Seasonal--445th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yiutzchak Luria

#1023 (s5777-42/ 23 Tamuz 5777)

The Nursemaid's Kaddish

The Seer of Lublin gave instructions that he shouldn't be disturbed. Nevertheless, his attendant entered to say that a woman in the outer room is crying profusely and insists on seeing him.

Connection: Seasonal--see the story's dedication

#1022 (s5777-41/ 15 Tamuz 5777)

A Proven Fertility Aid

Because Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar had no children of his own, he placed his power to potentially produce children into his holy Torah commentary.

Connection: Seasonal--274th yahrzeit of the Ohr HaChayim.

#1021 (s5777-40/ 9 Tamuz 5777)

When the World Helped the Rebbe

The person most instrumental in securing the safety and eventual release of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1927, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, from Soviet imprisonment and torture was Madame Yekaterina Peshkova, one of the most formidable and fascinating women of the era.

Connection: Seasonal--The 12th and 13th of Tammuz are celebrated as a "festival of liberation" by the Chabad-Lubavitch community [the themes of which the Rebbes insisted are relevant to all Jews -- join the fun at your local Chabad House!].


#1020 (s5777-39/ 2 Tamuz 5777)

Passionate Patience

"Seven and eight year old boys were also present at the farbrengen, squeezing and swaying in their positions on bleacher benches so that I feared for their safety."

Connection: Seasonal--23rd yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

#1019 (s5777-38/ 25 Sivan 5777)

Some with the Hand…

Rabbi Abba Pliskin was one of the more venerated elder chasidim from Russia in all of Lubavitch, although you would never guess so by his modest demeanor and behavior.

Connection: Seasonal--21st yahrzeit of Rav Abba.

#1018 (s5777-37/ 18 Sivan 5777)

Pocket Guards

It was well after midnight when he went to the station to catch a subway train back to Brooklyn.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Shelach (end) -- (which is also the 3rd and final paragraph of the Shma Yisrael prayer), is the biblical source for the commandment of tzitzis.

#1017 (s5777-36/ 11 Sivan 5777)

The Tailor of Nobility

He was terrified of what the baron might do to him in revenge for the ruined outfit. In his plight he went to visit Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Bahalotecha (end) -- "Moses was very humble, more than anyone..."

#1016 (s5777-35/ 3 Sivan 5777)

Laughing Below, Dancing Above

When Shabtai the bookbinder arrived, the Baal Shem Tov asked him, "Please tell us what happened in your home on Shabbos night."

Connections: Seasonal--SHAVUOT is also the yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov

#1015 (s5777-34/ 26 Iyar 5777)

To Sign or Not to Sign?

"Are you insane?" screamed the Stalinist commandant at Rabbi Gedaliah-Moshe Goldman of Zivhil. "I am granting you freedom! How can you waste such an opportunity?"

Connection: Seasonal--Iyar 26 -- yesod of yesod (this year: Monday, May 22] is the 72nd yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo ("Reb Shlom'ke") Goodman of Zivhil.

#1014 (s5777-33/ 19 Iyar 5777)

Innocent Ari at "Cables & Chips"

Howard Feinstein would look forward to Ari Halberstam's weekly visits, when he would put on tefillin and they would chat about politics, religion, and --most importantly -- sports.

Connection: Seasonal--Iyar 19 -- the date this story shall be mailed out to our weekly storylist.

#1013 (s5777-32 / 12 Iyar 5777)

Lag b'Omer in Meron...Again and Again

Zelig was getting older, and had yet to find his destined soul-mate.

Connection: Seasonal--LAG B'OMER

#1012 (s5777-31 / 5 Iyar 5777)

Only Six Words

He poured out his heart to the tzadik, Rabbi Yechiel-Michil of Zolotchov, begging him for help in finding his true roots.

Connections: Weekly Reading of Acharei Mot - Kedoshim. Both record many forbidden incestual relationships.

#1011 (s5777-30 / 28 Nissan 5777)

Levels of Truth

He told Rabbi Ze'ev-Wolf of Strikov that the Kotzker Rebbe was a man of truth to an extreme; no one else could ever approach such a high level of truth.

Connections: Weekly reading-the double portion of Tazria-Metzora -- see Levit. ch. 13-14.

#1010 (s5777-29 / 22 Nissan 5777)

The Mohel-Circumciser who changed his Mind

Unlike in most Jewish circumcision ceremonies, the baby boy was 2 months old,

Connection: Weekly Reading of "U'b'Yom HaShemini"--"On the Eighth Day"

#1009b (132 1st half revised) (s5777-28 / 13 Nissan 5777)

Mining the Table

A foremost desire of all chasidim since the days of the Baal Shem Tov has been to participate in the Passover Seder of their Rebbe....The "Holy Yid" of Peshischa was one of those who chose to be surrounded by chasidim on Seder night.

Connection: Seasonal--PASSOVER!

#1009 (s5777-27 / 7 Nissan 5777)

The Broader Outlook

"As far as I know, the Lubavitcher Rebbe never visited London and had no first-hand knowledge of London."

Connection: Seasonal--the 116th anniversary of the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

#1008 (s5777-26 / 29 Adar 5777)

The Rabbi with the Extra-Large Salary

His mother (grandmother of Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua of Apt) said, 'A rare mitzva has come your way. You should not accept any money for your role in its fulfillment.'

Connection: Seasonal--the 192nd yahrzeit of the Apta Rebbe

#1007 (s5777-25 / 22 Adar 5777)

The Power of a Promise

Although he was 100% Shabbat-observant, the Chofetz Chaim gave him a stern look and asked him to promise that he would never violate Shabbat.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayakhel--Ex. 35:1-3 ("Do not work on Shabbat")

#1006 (s5777-24 / 16 Adar 5777)

Only Three Coins

"Hey! You! Wait! The Rebbe [Elimelech of Lizhensk] wants His money back!"

Connection: Seasonal-Adar 21 (Saturday night-Sunday) is the 230th yahrzeit of the Rebbe Elimelech.

#1005 (s5777-23 / 8 Adar 5777)

Queen Esther of Jerusalem

Esther-Frumet spoke and wrote English at a near fluency level. She was also skilled and exceptionally smart, so she easily landed a job in the department of the High Commissioner of Palestine.

Connections: 1) Purim--"Queen Esther"; 2) Weekly Reading--Golden garments and ornaments of the High Priest.

#1004 (s5777-22 / 1 Adar 5777)

Descent for the Sake of Ascent

Rabbi Yitzchak-Dovid Grossman received the Israel Prize for 'lifetime special contribution to society and the State' a week before he was to fly to the USA.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Trumah -- the beginning is all about donations

#1003 (s5777-21 / 24 Shvat 5777)

Crying Continuously in Honor of Shabbat

The chief rabbi was perplexed, so he advised her to see Rabbi Yosef Rosen, known as the Rogotshover Gaon.

Connection: Weekly Reading -- The Goring Ox (Ex 21:28-30)

#1002 (s5777-20 / 17 Shvat 5777)

Schwartzie at Woodstock

The moment that Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz passed on to his eternal reward last week, the world became a poorer, sadder place.

Connection: Seasonal - Week of Mourning for Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz of Los Angeles

#1001 (s5777-19 / 10 Shvat 5777)

Ask Grandmother

When he was a young child, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, wondered why it took his father so long with the prayers, which even he, a boy of five, knew so well and could read so fluently.

Connection: Seasonal - the 67th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, and the 184th yahrzeit of his paternal grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivka Shneersohn, wife of the 4th Rebbe.

#1000 (s5777-18 / 3 Shvat 5777)

Right on Time

Rabbi Avraham-Yitzchak Kohn (the previous Rebbe of Toldos Aharon) noticed that his travelling companions were rubbing their eyes in amazement.

Connection: Seasonal - Yud Shvat: Passing of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe in 5710 (1950); inauguration of the 7th Rebbe in 5711 (1951)

#999 (s5777-17 / 25 Tevet 5777)

On the Road

Before Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli was revealed as one of the spiritual giants of the generation, he lived the life of a nomad.

Connection: Seasonal - the 217th yahrzeit of Rabbi Zusya falls this coming Saturday night - Sunday.

#998 (s5777-16 / 18 Tevet 5777)

A Departure from Custom

As Rebbe Yechiel-Michil of Zlotchov was returning home from his pre-Shabbat immersion in the mikveh, he suddenly requested a chair, and then, right there, sat dowin the middle of the street!

Connection: Seasonal - the 204th yahrzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman falls this coming Saturday night - Sunday.

(In commemoration, I shall tell stories at a special Melaveh Malka celebration in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef on Saturday night, 24 Tevet / January 23. COME AND LISTEN - compare the oral to the written delivery!)

#997 (s5777-15 / 11 Tevet 5777)

The Story of the Story of His Life

The Besht, the Maggid, The Baal HaToldos and Menachem Mendel of Horodok/Vitebsk

Connection: Weekly Reading -- "Come together, and I will tell you what will happen in the course of time. Come and listen...." (Gen. 49:1-5, translation from "The Living Torah")

#996 (s5777-14 / 4 Tevet 5777)

A Heaven-Shaking Change of Name

"What will become of me? I will remain here forever. Even after I recuperate, no country will accept me, since I was once sick with typhus."

Connection: Seasonal: Kaddish Day for holocaust martyrs

#995 (s5777-13 / 25 Kislev 5777)

A Deserved Chanukah Miracle

The first time the two rabbis of the "Chabad Terror Victims Project" met Sgt. Ohad Benyishai of the IDF, he was lying unconscious in a hospital bed, having been critically injured during "Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza. It was uncertain if he would survive.

Connection: Seasonal: Chanukah miracle

#994 (s5777-12 / 20 Kislev 5777)

The Fluctuating Price of Lumber

Before Rabbi Simcha-Bunim became the Peshischa Rebbe, there were years when he earned his living as a lumber merchant, and as a pharmacist.

Connection: Weekly Reading -- Yosef & Potifar (Gen. 39:1-5).

#993 (s5777-11 / 11 Kislev 5777)

A Tsfat Ticket to Success

People who go to his grave, study his seminal work, Bat Ayin, learn from his ways, and/or arrange a celebratory meal to honor the yahrtzeit, can merit salvations and blessings

Connection: Seasonal--Yahrzeit of the Bat Ayin on 12th Kislev (2016: Dec. 12).

#992 (s5777-10 / 5 Kislev 5777)

Welcoming Angels

"I've been waiting over 50 years to relate this story!"

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayetzei -- two camps of angels (last two verses)

#991 (s5777-09 / 27 Cheshvan 5777)

Precious Kiddush Bread

Reb Yudel Holtzman sighed. "What shall I do? I have already borrowed and given away all the money for tzedakah (charity) I will have to give for all of next year."

Connection: Weekly Reading - Maaser (tithing) - Gen. 26:12 w' Rashi (+28:22 next week and 14:20 last month).

#990 (s5777-08 / 21 Cheshvan 5777)

A Valuable Book Sale

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev thought for a moment and then replied, "Yes, I think I know the right girl who will make a fine wife for your son.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Chaye Sara - the only Jewish shiduch (match) and betrothal discussed in the Written Torah.

#989 (s5777-07 / 13 Cheshvan 5777)

Better Wood and Stone

Although Rabbi Mordechai of Neshitz held a position of authority and honor, his congregants were far too poor to pay him a decent salary, and so, he was as poor as they were.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayera -- hospitality

#988 (s5777-06 / 6 Cheshvan 5777)

From Tianjin, China to Tsfat, Israel

What brings a young man born in modern, communist China to the Land of Israel and to Orthodox Judaism?

Connection: Weekly Reading of Lech Lecha--"Go: from your land, from your birthplace, from your father's home...."

#987b (424 revised) (s5777-05 / 29 Tishrei 5777)

A Miracle for Safed

Featuring: Rabbi Aharon Eliezer Zeitlin, of blessed memory

Connection: Seasonal - first yahrzeit on the 2nd of Mar-Cheshvan (2016: Nov. 3)

#987 (s5777-04 / 24 Tishrei 5777)

On a Narrow Winding Safed Street

Rebbe Shmelke of Nickelsburg explained his custom by saying that when one recites a blessing it creates an angel, but the angel isn't complete unless someone answers Amen to the blessing.

Connection:Weekly Reading of Bereshis -- [On the sixth day,] G-d created the human body complete with all its complexities.

#986 (s5777-03 / 14 Tishrei 5777)

Preferable to Silver

He explained his community's desire to honor the Lubavitcher Rebbe with an impressive gift, but his own reluctance to do so if it should be against the Rebbe's wishes.

Connection:Seaonal - Sukkot

#985 (s5777-02 / 8 Tishrei 5777)

Blessing for a Falsified Medical Document

The chasidim stood shocked and bewildered. Never had they heard such an uncharacteristic outcry from the Rebbe, R David-Moshe of Chortkov.

Connection:Seaonal - Yom Kipur

#984 (s5777-01 / 29 Elul 5776)

The Missing Sobs of the Shofar

Although he was often asked to lead the synagogue in prayer and was always chosen to sound the shofar on Rosh HaShana, it wasn't enough.

Connection:Seaonal - Rosh HaShana.


#1012 (s5777-30 / 24 Nisan 5777)

Levels of Truth

It is said that the Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk was a man of truth to an extreme, and no one else could ever approach his high level of truth .

Connection: Seasonal - the 158th yahrzeit of the Kotzker on 22nd Shvat (2017: Feb. 18).
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