Weekly Chasidic Story #864 (s5774-42 / 18 Sivan 5774)

Patient as Hillel

Around three o’clock in the morning he called the former Sepharadic chief rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.

Connection: Seasonal–4th yahrzeit of R.M.E. on Sunday night – Monday, Sivan 25 (June 22-23).


A young man in Israel, who was not that particular about keeping the mitzvot, heard a Talmudic story about the man who made a bet with somebody that he would be able to cause Hilled the Elder to become angry. The man came to Hillel’s house on a Friday afternoon when Hillel was in the bath. Time after time he disturbed Hillel with all kinds of foolish questions. Nevertheless, Hillel did not become angry.


The young man who heard this story wanted to know if the rabbis of today possess that same quality of patience. He thought to himself: “The rabbis certainly all know this story, and maybe they also use the story in their sermons. I want to find out if they indeed practice what they preach.”


He prepared a telephone list with a number of important rabbis. At two o’clock in the morning he phoned up the first rabbi on the list and asked him: “What blessing do you make over an apple coated with honey?”


The answer was not long in coming: “Can’t you call me at a more normal hour in order to ask questions like these??!” and the rabbi slammed the receiver.


Our acquaintance continued to phone up rabbi after rabbi, call after call. The reactions were all the same, indignation for waking them up in the middle of the night for such a minor matter.


Around three o’clock in the morning he called the former Sephardic chief rabbi,Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.


When the rabbi picked up the phone, the man asked: “Can I ask you a halachicquestion?”


“Certainly”, the rabbi replied. “Just tell me if the question can be delayed until I’ll wash my hands.”


The young man agreed, and after a short while the voice of Rabbi Eliyahu could be heard: “Yes, I’m ready to listen.”


When the man presented his inquiry concerning the sugar coated apple, the rabbi gave him an elaborate answer and explained to him all the halachic details involved.


Finally he added: “You may call me and ask me any question you like, and whenever you want!”


Source: Adapted/supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Chassidic Gems” by Tuvia Litzman, who heard it from a friend of the questioner.


Biographical notes:
Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu (1929-25 Sivan 2010), the former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, was born in Iraq. A noted sage in all areas of Torah study, as well as a significant kabbalist, he was considered to be one of the leading authorities on Jewish law in Israel. His son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, is currently the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Zefat.


Connection: Seasonal-4th yahrzeit of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu on Sunday night – Monday, 25 Sivan (June 22-23).



Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.


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