Stories Archive:
#1138 - 1188(5780)

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 every Wednesday by e-mail--with a printable PDF option--sign up here!


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#1188 (s5780-51/ 25 Elul, 5780 / Sept. 14, 2020)

The Shofar of the Broken Bell

Although the Rebbe of Zhemigrad had the holy shofar that had been passed down from his ancestors, the thought of being caught blowing it by the evil Russian guards brought dread to his very being.

.Connection: Seasonal -- ROSH HASHANA

#1187 (s5780-50/ 19 Elul, 5780 / Sept. 8, 2020)

And Let Us Say, "AMEN!"

For thirty days Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe,“the Levush,” remained isolated from the rest of the community. After, he went to Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav III to ask him to remove the ban and to explain why his oversight had merited such a harsh punishment .

Connection: Seasonal -- Selichot -- even great Rabbis have to request forgiveness.

#1186 (s5780-49/ 11 Elul, 5780 / Aug 31, 2020)

All In for the Daughter

"The Jewish people have done well to have chosen G·d as their G-D, but He too has selected well by choosing Israel as His nation, for even Feivish, ‘The Lowest of the Low,’ consecrated His holy name."

Connections -- Seasonal (2): 1- The Month of ELUL is the month of Tshuvah
2- Early next week (Sun. night-Monday) is the 260th yahrzeit of the holy master, the Baal Shem Tov.

#1185 (s5780-48/ 4 Elul, 5780 / Aug 24, 2020)

The Apartment Next Door

The rabbi was relieved; his tefilin and mezuzahs were examined and found to be 100% kosher. But now what should he do?

Connection: Seasonal -- The Month of Elul (mentioned in story)

#1184 (s5780-47/ 27 Av, 5780 / Aug 17, 2020)

Father of Orphans

Rebbe Eliezer Zusia Portugal, the first Skulener Rebbe, personally cared for some three hundred orphans of the Holocaust, all of whom called him “Tatteh” ('Dad').

Connection: Seasonal -- Wednesday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, 29 Menachem Av, is the 38th yahrzeit of Rebbe Eliezer-Zusia.

#1183 (s5780-46/ 21 Av, 5780 / Aug 11, 2020)

The Helpful List

The brother from Israel came to L.A., dressed in his best suit, and sought the addresses his brother recommended.

Connections (2): 1)Weekly Reading of Re'ey -- Giving to your needy fellow Jew that which he is lacking.(Deut. 15:7-8).
2) Pirkei Avot for this week: "Don't look at the vessel, but rather what it contains." (4:20)

#1182 (s5780-45/ 13 Av, 5780 / Aug 3, 2020

New/Old Security Technology

I received a phone call from the chief of police in the district of Chengu, China: "Rabbi, I want to meet with you!"

Connection: Weekly Torah -- The mitzvah of Mezuzah

#1181 (s5780-44/ 6 Av, 5780 / July 27, 2020)

The Miracle of the Yellow Pages Rabbi

[Beep]."Hi. My name is Christina. My grandfather has been unconscious for ten days; he is on home hospice, and we need a rabbi.”

Connection: Weekly Torah -- The SHMA YISRAEL prayer

#1180 (s5780-43 / 28 Tammuz, 5780 / July 20, 2020)

The Twefth Gate

"How satisfactory!" he thought. "If the Jews would pay him the money - all the better. If not, he would confiscate their property after the expulsion and so would make a profit in any case."

Connection: Seasonal -- Saturday night will be the 448th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the "Holy ARI," leader of the 16th century Safed Kabbalists.

#1179 (s5780-42 / 21 Tammuz, 5780 / July 15, 2020)

Superior Milk and Butter

His faithful disciple looked on silently. It was only many years later that he understood what the Baal Shem Tov had done and why.

Connection: Weekly Torah of [Mattot-]Maasai -- 42 stages of life; mostly forward, some backwards

#1178 (s5780-41 / 14 Tammuz, 5780 / July 6, 2020)

A Noose in Time

"One person isn't enough," Reb Yosef Palloch declared. "My commitment is to give a public class. We need at least one more."

Connection: Weekly Torah -- "zealous Pinchas (see Num. 25: 10-12)

#1177 (s5780-40/ 7 Tammuz, 5780 / June 29, 2020)

Off to a Good Start

"On Simchat Torah, my father-in-law, the Rebbe Maharash,gave a blessing for all the women, young and old, of the family. For some reason I was passed over; this pained me."

Connection: Seasonal --Shabbat is the anniversary of both the birth day and the personal liberation miracle of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe

#1176 (s5780-39/ 1 Tammuz, 5780 / June 23, 2020)

A Dream Painting

"My father was Jewish, but my mother was Catholic. By the way, do you know the great Rabbi from New York? I met him personally."

Connection: Seasonal -- Wednesday night-Thursday is the 26th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

#1175 (s5780-38/ 23 Sivan, 5780 / June 15, 2020)

The Potential Third

"Sure you may speak with me, but if you've come for a donation of money you're wasting your time," the miser said dryly.

Connection: Weekly Torah with the name "Korach" (this week in Israel, next week in Diaspora), who is mentioned in the story.

#1174 (s5780-37/ 16 Sivan, 5780 / June 8, 2020)

Yiddish and its Fringe Benefits

"if Yiddish is a dead language no longer in use then how could it be that a secretary in the UK in the year 1974 could understand the elderly rabbi?

Connection: Weekly Torah - the end of the Torah Reading of Shelach (this week in Israel, next week in Diaspora) is the source for the commandment for men to put the special fringes (tzitzit) on four-cornered garments.

#1173 (s5780-36/ 9 Sivan, 5780 / June 2, 2020)

A Torturous Shabbat

The Baal Shem Tov felt as if he had lost all his spiritual powers. Shabbos was approaching, but he had no idea where they were or what they should do.

Connections (4): Seasonal -Shavuot, whose holiness in Jewish Law extends into the 6 days following the biblically commanded first day, is 1) the yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov, 2) the anniversary and celebration of hearing the Ten Commandments, 3) of which the fourth is Shabbat observance

#1172 (s5780-35/ 2 Sivan, 5780 / May 25, 2020)

A Shavuot Deposit

After the singing of Hallel, Rebbe Mordechai of Neshbiz left to prepare himself for the recitation of the Akdamot and the Reading of the Torah. Some of the chasidim, feeling weak from the all-night vigil, darted into the Rebbe's house to nibble a bit of pastry.

Connection: Seasonal - SHAVUOT!

#1171 (s5780-34/ 24 Iyar, 5780 / May 18, 2020)

Four Layers Of Moon And Handkerchief

The chances to recite the Sanctification of the New Moon prayer seemed slim; the sky was covered with thick clouds, the moon was not sufficiently visible.

Connection: Seasonal - Iyar 29 (this Friday), is the 170th yahrzeit of the Primishlaner Rebbe.

#1170 (s5780-33/ 17 Iyar, 5780 / May 11, 2020)

Lag b'Omer in Jail

When Lag b'Omer 2013 was only a few days away, an honorable Jew in Jerusalem was imprisoned, feeling very upset that he would not be able to go to Meron.

Connections (2): 1) Lag b'Omer; 2) Lockdown!

Video version on YouTube, recorded on May9, 10:45pm

#1169 (s5780-32/ 10 Iyar, 5780 / May 4, 2020)

A Budding Engineer in Search of Meaning

His 3rd third the Lubavitcher Rebbe in private audience was, "What do you advise me to do when I return home to Israel?"

Connection: Weekly Reading of Emor -- beards (Levit. 19:27 - Not to shave off your beard)

#1168 (s5780-31/ 3 Iyar, 5780)

The Souvenir

The sun rose harshly over the Sinai Desert, casting its crimson rays over the shattered remains of an Egyptian bunker, and waves of heat over the bodies of the Israeli soldiers who lay sleeping in the sand.

Connection: Seasonal -- This week, on Wednesday, Hei (5th) Iyar, is Israel Independence Day. The "Yom Kippur" War is one of the many modern Israel has had to fight in order to remain in existence and independent.

#1167 (s5780-30/ 26 Nissan 5780)

Growth Spurts

"I am the older brother, and an older brother should be taller than his younger brother."

Connection: Seasonal -- Saturday night, the 2nd of the Jewish month of Iyar, Tiferet sh'b'Tiferet, starts the anniversary of the 186th birthday of the Rebbe Maharash.

#1166 (s5780-29/ 17 Nissan, 5780)

New Jews from Transylvania

What could do they do to us? Put us in jail? Our ancestors had also been imprisoned. Maybe we would be forced into the very same cells.'

Connections (3): Seasonal-Passover is mentioned in the story once (briefly)
Weekly Reading of Shemini-Keeping Kosher is mentioned in the story once (briefly)
Weekly Reading begins "On the eighth day"-Circumcision is a theme in the story.

#1165b (s5780-28b/ 10 Nissan, 5780) >= #478b -Dec. 2007

The Holy Slop Bucket

The Rebbe Elimelech, with tears in his eyes, told his brother Rebbe Zusha, "This will be the first day in my life in which I will not have the opportunity to pray."

Connection: Topical -- the Wuhan-China / Corona Virus restrictions on Judaism

#1165 (s5780-28/ 10 Nissan, 5780)

The Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Polio Epidemic

They told the Lubavitcher Rebbe what my prognosis was. The Rebbe just made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "He'll outlive the doctor," he declared.

Connections (2): Seasonal -- the 118th anniversary of the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Saturday night - Sunday, 11 Nissan 5780 (April 5). Topical -- An epidemic story for the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic, which will fade away very soon, G-d willing

#1164 (5780-27/3 Nissan, 5780)

Providing Passover Expenses

The Rebbe Elimelech's words made no sense to the chasid, but he dutifully followed the rebbe's instructions nevertheless.

Connection: Seasonal -- The first of the Kozhniter Rebbe's three pre-Pesach stories

#1163 (s5780-26/ 27 Adar, 5780)

Chassidic Commitment

One by one, the chassidim told stories about the miraculous powers of their rebbes.

Connection: Seasonal -- Friday, the 2nd of the Jewish month of Nissan, is the 100th yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab.

#1162 (s5780-25/ 20 Adar, 5780)

Heavenly Soup

Toward the end of his life when he ate very little, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk explained, "I wish I could eat, but my body is rejectings are all things physical."

Connection: Seasonal -- This Tuesday, the 21st of the Jewish month of Adar, is the 233rd yahrzeit of the Rebbe Elimelech.

#1161 (s5780-24/ 13 Adar, 5780)

Pre-empting the Anti-Semites

Rabbi Reuven-Yisrael Kott was a Torah prodigy whose cleverness and chutzpah saved thousands of Jews from annihilation

Connection: Seasonal -- PURIM! (when we read Megilat Esther, where almost everything is not what it seems and nearly everything turns into its opposite)

#1160 (s5780-23/ 6 Adar, 5780)

The Haunted Bride

When the Avnei Nezer heard about the threat of a 'summons' to the Heavenly Court, he grew excited and roared.

Connection: Seasonal -- 11 Adar (this year: Shabbat, March 7) is the 110th yahrzeit of the first Sochatchover Rebbe

#1159 (s5780-22/ 29 Shvat, 5780)

A Timely Rebellion

"I do not need the prayers of the Jews, but their money I cannot do without!"

Connection: Seasonal -- 4 Adar (this year: Shabbat, Feb. 29) is the 224th yahrzeit of Rabbi Leib Sarah's

#1158 (s5780-21/ 23 Shvat, 5780)

$98,000 Cash

"We were in total shock and disbelief. This kind of thing only happens in the movies."

Connection: Weekly Reading of Mishpatim - finding and returning lost objects (Ex. 23:4. See also Deut. 22:3).

#1157 (s5780-20/ 16 Shvat, 5780)

"Don't ask Twice; Just Listen"

"I consider myself a chasid of the Rebbe and I do as the Chasidim do."

Connection: Next Sunday night (Shvat 22/Feb 17) is the yahrzeit of the Rebbetzin, Mrs. Chaya-Mushka Shneerson

#1156 (s5780-19/ 9 Shvat, 5780)

Wandering Jews in the 9th Arrondissement

"The Rebbe [Rayarz] instructed us to wander through the streets of Paris. Why? He did not say."

Connection: Seasonal - Yud Shvat (Tuesday night, Wednesday) is the 70th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, and thus the 70th anniversary of the ascension of our Lubavitcher Rebbe to the leadership of Chabad.

#1155 (s5780-18 / 1 Shvat, 5780)

Thirty Thousand Lsraeli Jews in Amsterdam

They looked like they had gotten a lot out of their stay in Amsterdam; their brows, nostrils and lobes were well-pierced with rings and studs; small tattoos
decorated their arms and all had hair dyed unnatural colors.

Connection: Weekly Reading - Contains the first two of the four mentions of the mitzvah of tefillin in the Torah

#1154 (s5780-17/ 23 Tevet, 5780)

The Volper

In a rare moment of seriousness and lucidity, he rested his head on his hands and listened closely to Rabbi Shneur Zalman's discourse.

Connection: Seasonal - This Monday night-Tuesday is 208th yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe of Chabad.

#1153 (s5780-16/ 16 Tevet, 5780)

The Cult-buster Rabbi who Honored a Missionary

"For the Love of Truth"

Connection: Seasonal - Last Tuesday was the Fast Day of the Tenth of Tevet, when [in addition to commemerating the Siege of Jerusalem leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple,] Kaddish is also said for the murdered victims of the evil Nazis whose dates of death are unlnown.

#1152 (s5780-15/ 9 Tevet, 5780)


Towards the end of his life, Rabbi Moshe Biederman of Lelov, at age 74 and not in good health, moved to Eretz Yisrael. He said that if he would be able to pray at the Wesrtern Wall, it would hasten the coming of Moshiach.

Connection: Seasonal - Tuesday is the 171st yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Lelover

#1151 (s5780-14/ 3 Tevet, 5780)

Last to Testify

In his later life, Rabbi Yechezkel-Shraga Halberstam, the Shinover Rav, began to search for anybody who had actually met the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk.

Connection: Seasonal - The 121st yahrzeit of the Shinover Rav.

#1150 (s5780-13/ 25 Kislev, 5780)

The Visible Light of the Menorah

Suddenly, he remembered the rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad]'s exhortation to light the Chanukah menorah in public view.

Connection: Seasonal - CHANUKAH

#1149 (s5780-12/ 18 Kislev, 5780)

Yud-Tes Kislev, From Father to Son

He was angered that the Governor presented various nobles to the Czar first, and only then did he present the sons of the Alter Rebbe of Chabad.

Connection: Seasonal - the chasidic festival of YUD-TES KISLEV

#1148 (s5780-11/ 11 Kislev, 5780)

The Russian Chasidic Rabbi Who Wore an Earring and a Top Hat!

An immigrant from Russia, the scholarly rabbi was a foreigner Manchester, English. Wearing a Russian kasket cap on his head and sporting a long black beard, he was an anomaly to the typical Englishman.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayishlach - Jewish men with earrings (see Gen. 35:4)

#1147 (s5780-10 / 4 Kislev, 5780)

The Broken Engagement

Rebbe Yisrael of Koznitz sent the man on a long arduous journey to the Chozeh ("Seer") of Lublin, known for his power to discern the state and provenance of a person's soul.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayeitze - a broken betrothal (Yaakov tricked to marry Leah instead of Rachel)

#1146 (s5780-09/ 27 Mar-Cheshvan, 5780)

A Mother's Pride

In the early 1900's, purchasing a new dress was an "event."

: Weekly Reading of Toldot - the first verse (with Rashi's explanation).

#1145 (s5780-08/ 20 Mar-Cheshvan, 5780)

One Hundred Signatures

Once, in Siberia, he was confined in a pit for a week, without food, and he said that he almost died. Rats were biting at his feet.

: Seasonal - 24th of Cheshvan is the 72nd yahrzeit of Rebbe Gedalya-Moshe of Zevhil

#1144 (s5780-07/ 13 Mar-Cheshvan, 5780)

For Generations to Come

The Lubavitcher Rebbe told the teacher twice, “The education of Jewish children is a conduit for blessing – both material and spiritual – for you and your family for generations to come.”

: Weekly Reading of Vayera -- "I have known him [Avraham], so that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep G-d's way, doing charity and justice" (see Gen.18:18-19).

#1143 (s5780-06/ 6 Mar-Cheshvan, 5780)

The Respectable-Looking Thief

"You had better do what the Baal Shem Tov says. Otherwise, I don't even want to think about what might happen to you."

: The weekly Torah reading of Lech Lecha -- Brit Mila (Circumcision)

#1142 (s5780-05/ 29 Tishrei, 5780)

A Deadly Pair of Dogs

A Jewish prisoner in a Siberian prison camp went to fellow inmate Rabbi Mendel Futerfas and asked him for a blessing for his planned escape.

: The weekly Torah reading of No'ach -- Treatment of kosher and non-kosher animals

#1141 (s5780-04/ 24 Tishrei, 5780)

A Shabbat Test from the 1930's Depression

Some 90 years ago there was a small Jewish community in Pueblo, Colorado,and most on the community members were not that observant.

: The weekly Torah reading of Bereshis 1) is the source of the text of the Friday night Kiddush recital; and 2) takes place on the first Shabbat of the 5780 yearly cycle -- An excellent time for Jews to renew or initiate their commitment to our weekly holy Shabbat and its pleasures.

#1140 (s5780-03/ 14 Tishrei, 5780)

A Happy Hassid Helps the Angel of Death

The chassid was devastated. No one was willing to lend him even a single plank of wood to build his sukkah.

: Seasonal -- SUKKOT

#1139 (s5780-02/ 8 Tishrei, 5780)

The Kol Nidrei Plot

His opponent concocted a plan on how to put Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev to shame in shul on Yom Kippur.

: Seasonal -- YOM KIPPUR

#1138 (s5780-01/ 3 Tishrei, 5780)

Rosh Hashana in a Non-Kosher Restaurant!??

The rabbi joined in the lively Kabbalat Shabbat service even though the sun was still high above the rippling Atlantic waters.

Connection: Seasonal --ROSH HASHANA 5780! Let's start the year as kosher as possible -- in all aspects of our lives, not just food.

Growth Spurts

Toward the end of his life when he ate very little, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk explained, "I wish I could eat, but my body is rejectings are all things physical."


Archived Stories (click on the desired year):
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#101-153 (5760)
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#1032-1082 (5778)
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#1138 - 1188 (5780)
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#1189 - 1239 (5781)
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