Stories Archive:
#1032 - 1082 (5778)

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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#1082 (s5778-51/ 23 Elul 5778)

Foiling the Third Decree

A hush fell on the room as the Tzemach Tzedek entered. A path miraculously appeared. The Rebbe made his way to his place, and Rosh Hashana evening prayer began.

Connection: Seasonal -- Erev Rosh Hashana (2): 1- The story begins on Erev Rosh Hashana; 2-Erev Rosh Hashana is the birth date of the Tzemek Tzedek.

#1081 (s5778-50/ 16 Elul 5778)

Three Brothers

On Friday, the Baal Shem Tov announced that it was imperative that he pray all the prayers of the holy Sabbath at the home of the dying Reb Dovid.

Connection: Seasonal -- Elul 18 (this year: Tues. night - Wed., Aug. 29-30) is the 320th anniversary of the birth of the Besht.

#1080 (s5778-49/ 9 Elul 5778)

Clutching the Sleeve

“Look into this bucket of water,” said the Koznitzer Maggid to the desparate, abandoned woman, “and tell me what you see.”

Connection: Weekly Reading of Ki Teitze -- broken marriages (Deut. 24:1-4)

#1079 (s5778-48/ 2 Elul 5778)

The Sash and the Cloak

When they gave him the overcoat of the Maggid of Mezritch (great-grandfather of the Holy Rhiziner), he immediately acquiesced to their request

Connection: Weekly Reading of Shoftim -- Deut. 17:15 is cited in the story.

#1078 (s5778-47/ 25 Menachem Av 5778)

The Skulener Rebbe and Senator "Scoop"Jackson

The Rebbe whispered something to his gabbai who in turn whispered something to Reb Moshe, the translator. Moshe turned pale. He looked helplessly at Senator Jackson.

Connection: Seasonal-29 Av (Friday, Aug. 10) is the 36th yahrzeit of the Skulener Rebbe.

#1077 (s5778-46/ 18 Menachem Av 5778)

Finding the Positive - Twice!

A young man in Israel who had ceased to be Torah observant for two years surprised his father by agreeing to accompany him to a Shabbat afternoon lecture by Rabbi Aharon-Leib Shteinman.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Ekev - "You shall teach them (limaditam) to your children" [Deut. 11:19 ]. Rashi: your own children. Last week's reading [ibid. 6:7]: "You shall teach them (limaditam) to your child(ren)." Rashi: your students.

#1076 (s5778-45/ 11 Menachem Av 5778)

Hundreds of Mezuzahs

Every fundraiser needed some kind of gimmick." Theirs would be a compilation of video clips of the locals who had appeared before the Rebbe for "dollars."

Connection: Weekly Reading -- "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your homes." (6:8)

#1075 (s5778-44/ 4 Menachem Av 5778)

When Smart Jews are not Smart

"I used to hang out with one of your buddies. Ever heard of Rabbi Yoel Teitlebaum [the Satmar Rebbe]?" said the non-Jew from AAA.

Connection: Seasonal -- Nine Days + Tisha b'Av

#1074 (s5778-43/ 26 Tammuz 5778)

The Fifteen-Seconds Sermon

Shortly after Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov came to America, he was strongly slandered by a local New York Rabbi.

Connections -- Seasonal (3): Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av (Friday) is the 18th yahrzeit of the Bobover Rebbe;

Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av (Friday) begins The Nine Days (leading into Tisha b'Av) when we are cautioned to be extra careful to not speak negatively of a fellow-Jew.

This past Shabbat we started this year's 3rd cycle Of Shabbat Pirkei Avot study with chapter 1, which is referenced in the story.

#1073 (s5778-42/ 19 Tammuz 5778)

French Wine

An man appeared to the Baal Shem Tov in a dream. "My soul cannot rest; my son, who lives in Paris, does not follow the Torah way of life."

Connection: The Weekly Reading of Pinchas gives details on the daily, weekly, monthly and holiday offerings on the altar, all of which had to be accompanied by kosher wine libations.

#1072 (s5778-41/ 14 Tammuz 5778)

An Expensive Piece of Meat

Rabbi Chayim Ibn-Attar used to slaughter an animal in honor of the Shabbos meal every Friday, and distribute most of the meat to poor Torah scholars in his city.

Connection: Seasonal -- This Thursday (15th of the Jewish month of Tammuz) is the 275th yahrzeit of the Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh.

#1071(s5778-40/ 5 Tammuz 5778)

Fearless Final Words

The Nazi officer waved the tefillin in the air and said, "Dog! I sentence you to death by public hanging for wearing these."

Connection: Seasonal -- This Friday (9th of the Jewish month of Tammuz) is the 24th yahrzeit of the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, R. Yekutiel-Yehuda Teitelbaum

#1070 (s5778-39/ 28 Sivan 5778)

Avoid Quarrels

The Tolner Rebbe in Jerusalem has testified that due to the fantastical nature of this story of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, before telling it in public he personally re-checked and verified all the details.

Connections (2):
~ Shabbat Reading of Korach, the name of an important Jewish personage who complained publicly against the leadership of Moses and Aaron (ultimately instigating a rebellion against them).
~ This Shabbat is the 24th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. May all the seeds he planted continue to grow, flourish, and have their intended effect.

#1069 (s5778-38/ 21 Sivan 5778)

An Expensive Mitzvah Repair

He waited at the side of the road for several hours in the hope of encountering a passerby who would happen to be carrying the proper strings.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Shelach concludes (Num. 15:37-41) with the mitzvah of tzitzis.

#1068 (s5778-37/ 15 Sivan 5778)

"If Only I Knew!"

"Request what you want; your wish will be fulfilled."

Connection: Weekly Reading of Beha'alotecha (Num. 11:5) -- "longing for the fish"

#1067 (s5778-36/ 8 Sivan 5778)

A Young Billionaire's Priorities

His wealth was recently estimated at $2.6 billion; he tops Fortune Magazine's list of the world's most influential business people under the age of 40; he now observes Shabbat and loves every moment of it.

Connections (2): Seasonal -- On Sunday, Shavuot, we heard the Ten Commandments, including the fourth.

Weekly Reading -- The contributions of the wealthy tribal princes to the Mishkan (Sanctuary in the centuries before the Temple)

#1066 (s5778-35/ 1 Sivan 5778)

The Silent Storyteller

Shortly before his passed away on Shavuot 5520 (1760 C.E.), the holy Baal Shem Tov summoned his closest disciples, and instructed each of them what he should do afterwards.

Connection: Seasonal -- This Shavuot will be the 258th anniversary of the passing of the Baal Shem Tov.

#1065 (s5778-34/ 22 Iyar 5778)

Immersion Prophecies

Tzaddikim said that the passing of Rabbi Shlomo of Zevhil on the same day that WWII ended demonstrates his intense involvement in the spiritual battle against the Germans.

Connection: Seasonal -- The 26th of Iyar is the 73rd yahrzeit of Rebbe "Shlom'ke".

#1064 (s5778-33/ 15 Iyar 5778)

Open 24/7

Three Rebbes: the Father (Divrei Chayim of Sanz), the Oldest Son, the Young Son-in-Law

Connection: Seasonal -- this is The Week! -- starting the day after Sunday, Iyar 14, Pesach Sheini ("Second Passover")

#1063 (s5778-32/ 8 Iyar 5778)

"Painful" Surgery

His son David asked the doctors to describe to Rav Ovadia Yosef what the procedure would be like in order that he wouldn't be shocked when the pain began.

Connection: Seasonal -- month of Iyar -- The Hebrew letters of Iyar are also an anagram for "ani Hashem rofecha" - "I, G-d, am your healer."

#1062 (s5778-31/ 1 Iyar 5778)

Birth on a Sifting-Bed and an Unexpected Name

The Tzemach Tzedek stood immobile with his face to the wall during the entire time of the delivery of his son, Shmuel.

Connection: Seasonal -- 2 Iyar --Tiferet sh'b'Tiferet--is the 184th anniversary of the birth of the Rebbe Maharash.

#1061 (s5778-30/ 24 Nissan 5778)

After 32 Years!

"When I arrived at the hall for the circumcision ceremony, I was amazed to find that instead of the average attendance of 30 people, there were a good 300 people milling about."

Connection: Weekly reading (in Israel) of Tazria-Metzorah -- the opening verses are about women giving birth, either to a boy or a girl.

#1060 (s5778-29/ 17 Nissan 5778)

Now You See Him, Now You Don't

Once, during Chol HaMoed, Rabbi Gershon Kittover noticed that his brother-in-law the Baal Shem Tov was not putting on tefillin during the morning prayers.

Connection: Seasonal -- Chol HaMoed: the "Intermediate" Days of Passover and Sukkot

#1059 (s5778-28/ 10 Nissan 5778)

Meeting the Rebbe from Paris, Israel and Lakewood, NJ

"I could not appreciate my father's intensity at the Seder until he disclosed the story of my birth."

Connections (2): Seasonal -- PESACH!; and Nissan 11 is the 116th anniversary of the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

#1058 (s5778-27/ 3 Nissan 5778)

Honoring the Young

When Reb Shmelke, the son of Rebbe Moshe Leib of Sassov, was still a young man he set out to study at the feet of Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Apter Rebbe.

Connection: Seasonal -- Nissan 5 is the 193rd yahrzeit of the Apter Rebbe.

#1057 (s5778-26/ 25 Adar 5778)

A Swimming Tip for Life

He was a sensitive boy and often felt homesick. Also, he found the yeshiva lacking in cleanliness and he didn't like the food. All this led him to become quite depressed.

Connection: Rosh Chodesh Nissan (which falls on this Shabbat) is almost exactly in between the yahrzeits of the two Rebbes in the story.

#1056 (s5778-25/ 18 Adar 5778)

Hospitality for Man and Beast

"Honored Rabbis," he cried out to Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusha. "Why have you done this to me?"

Connection: Seasonal: Wednesday night-Thursday is the 231st yahrzeit of the Rebbe Elimelech of Lishinsk

#1055 (s5778-24/ 11 Adar 5778)

A Unique Present for the Bride

His mother was radiant with joy, but when she opened the package, her eyes bulged in astonishment.

Connection: PURIM!

#1054 (s5778-23/ 4 Adar 5778)

An Unusual Death-Bed Request

Every year, on the seventh of Adar, the yahrzeit of Moses, the members of the Jewish Burial Society have a custom to fast, and at nighttime they join together for a special large meal.

Connection: Seasonal -- Seventh of Adar

#1053 (s5778-22/ 28 Shevat 5778)

The Best Hiding Place

to his dismay, his children did not follow the Torah path. They all left Israel and moved to America to get away from their father and his strict religious ways.

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading of Trumah -- Donations!

#1052 (s5778-21/ 20 Shevat 5778)

Rewards for Refusing Rewards

"In eight days, the Jews of Prague must hand over the sum of 20,000 pieces of silver to the royal treasury, or else..."

Connection: Weekly Reading of Mishpatim -- Returning lost objects (Ex. 23:4...see also Deut. 22:1-3)

#1051 (s5778-20/ 13 Shevat 5778)

Faithful Farmers

Yaakov was the only religious person on the settlement. When the others played cards in the social hall in the evenings, he would be learning in the moshav's empty shul.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Yitro -- Shabbat observance is the 4th of The Ten Commandments, which are read publically in all synagogues this Shabbat. (And if his crops included wheat or barley, then there is also a hint to the festival of Tu b'Shvat that is celebrated in the middle of this week.)

#1050 (s5778-19/ 6 Shevat 5778)

Struck By Lightning

The Rebbe Rayatz requested to be met at the station by "a fine Jew," but not a Chabad chasid as that woulkd likely cause chaos.

Connection: Seasonal -- Friday is the 68th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Shneersohn, the sixth Lubvitcher Rebbe.

#1049 (s5778-18/ 28 Tevet 5778)

The Medical Convoy

"The last yime I was here I was confined to a wheelchair; now I'm standing on my own two healthy feet!"

Connection: Seasonal -- Shabbat is the 34th yahrzeit/hilula of Rabbi Yisrael ("Baba Sali") Abehatzeira

#1048 (s5778-17/ 21 Tevet 5778)

Brooklyn to France: Israel's Prime Minister on a Religious Mission

Upon his return, PM Menachem Begin remarked to one of the religious Knesset members, "Listen to what happened to me in America!"

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading of Va'eira, 2nd of three Readings about the exile in Egypt. The sages teach that our merit before G-d to save us was we did not change our Jewish names or clothing styles and we adhered to the Jewish marriage laws.

#1047 (s5778-16/ 14 Tevet 5778)

Changing Professions

Returning home, the rabbi foound his wife in tears, for she had heard about his visit to the stables.

Connections (2): Weekly Torah Reading -- "The Egyptians enslaved the Jews with harsh labor to break them" (Ex. 1:13-14). Midrash: "They made the males do female labors and the women do male labors" -- i.e. strange, demeaning, inappropriate work. Seasonal: next week is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe.

#1046 (s5778-15/ 7 Tevet 5778)

Not a Simple Request

The desperate woman beseeched her Bnei Brak cousin, 'I know you are not chasidic at all, but please, when you are in NY, approach the Lubavitcher Rebbe on my behalf."

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading -- the Yissascher-Zevulin arrangement. (Gen. 49:13 with Rashi's explanation)

#1045 (s5778-14/ 1 Tevet 5778)

Nazi Prisoner # 7-4-1-6

Jerry gasped. Yehuda responded curtly: "Surely you've seen concentration camp numbers on other survivors before."

Connections (2):
1) This week's Torah reading, Vayigash, features two dramatic reunions.
2) Next week, on Thursday, is the sunrise-to-nightfall Fast of the Tenth of Tevet. It commemorates the onset of the siege outside the walls of Jerusalem that led to the destruction of the Holy Temple on the Ninth of Av. In addition, in our times it has become the date to say Kaddish for those martyrs of the Holocaust (and all the others through the centuries) whose date of death is unknown.

#1044 (s5778-13/ 23 Kislev 5778)

The Patient Menorah

The Chanukah menorah stood prepared but unlit, even though it was past 10:00 at night.

Connection: Chanukah: Dec. 12-20

#1043 (s5778-12/16 Kislev 5778)

The Book that Solved and Saved

"Celebrate your people's New Year holiday," suggested my non-Jewish fiancee. "Go to synagogue, I'll show you where one is."

Connection: Thursday, Yud-Tet Kislev--the anniversary of the printing of the Tanya, the primary text of Chabad Chasidut, in 1796; the date of the liberation from prison of its author two years after; and the 246th yahrzeit of the Maggid of Mezritch, the second leader of the Chasidic movement and the Rebbe of Rabbi Shneur Zalman--falls this week on Wednesday night-Thursday.

#1042 (s5778-11/ 9 Kislev 5778)

No Place Like Home

After the Mittler Rebbe passed away on the 9th of the Jewish month of Kislev,1827, his son-in-law the Tzemach Tzedek refused to accept the mantle to become the third Chabad Rebbe.

Connection: Tuesday, Yud Kislev is the 190th yahrzeit (and simultaneously the 244th anniversary of his birth!) of Rabbi DovBer, the 2nd Rebbe of Chabad.

#1041 (s5778-10/ 2 Kislev 5778)

Connecting the Dots

She had been told that her only hope was a bone marrow transplant, for which the best chance is a close blood relative, but Mrs. Levy had none alive.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayetzei: "you are my bone and flesh" (Gen. 29:14")

#1040 (s5778-09/ 24 Cheshvan 5778)

Naming with Divine Inspiration

Their Rabbi advised, "That's a beautiful name, but it's rarely given. Perhaps you should add a second name which is more common."

Connection: Weekly Reading of Toldos ("Offsprings"), which was also the Reading on the Shabbat between the murders and the circumcision.

#1039 (s5778-08/ 17 Cheshvan 5778)

Blind Date

When Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss's mother met her future daughter-in-law for the first time, she she wanted to immediately cancel the wedding.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Chaye Sarah - featuring the first "shiduch" in the Torah.

#1038 (s5778-07/ 10 Cheshvan 5778)

The Baal Shem Tov's Closest Follower

Rabbi Ze'ev-Wolf Kitzis approached the holy Baal Shem Tov as he was immersed in prayer. He lifted the Besht's tallis to see, took one glance...and fainted.

Connection: Seasonal -- 230th yahrzeit of R. Ze'ev-Wolf Kitzis

#1037 (s5778-06/ 3 Cheshvan 5778)

The Coachman's Second Profession

"Tell me," asked the Tzemach Tzedek unexpectedly, "What was the name of the wagon-driver who brought you here?"

Connection: Weekly Reading (end) -- Circumcision

#1036 (s5778-05/ 26 Tishrei 5778)

Three Brokers

The broker listened to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev's message, but thought it was just a jest.

Connection: Sunday of this week was the 207th yahrzeit of the Berditchever.


#1035 (s5778-04/ 18 Tishrei 5778)

The Rebbe and the Black Belt

"I have never been in a synagogue, and I have no wish to see one," said the Israeli guard, "not even on Simchat Torah. You go inside and I'll look for a place to get something to eat."


#1034 (s5778-03/ 12 Tishrei 5778)

The Kansas Sukkah Doctor

Radiation oncologist Dr. Jay Robinow has saved hundreds of lives. That's his day job. Late into the night he has also saved hundreds of lives, spiritually.


#1033 (s5778-02/ 5 Tishrei 5778)

The Forest Cantor

"Comrade Officer! Excuse me, but I have to tell you that in the original version, that song is sung differently."

Connection: YOM KIPPUR

#1032 (s5778-01/ Erev Rosh HaShanah 5778)

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)



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