Weekly Chasidic Story #682 (s5771-16 / 14 Tevet 5771)

Purposeful Carelessness

Before becoming the world-famous Rebbe of Pshischa, Rabbi Simchah Bunim earned his living as a businessman.


Before becoming the world-famous Rebbe of PshischaRabbi Simchah Bunim earned his living as a businessman, often visiting the large annual trade fair at Danzig. Danzig boasted a large Jewish population, but many of these Jews were not observant. Not only did they not keep the mitzvot, they often ridiculed those who did. Still, Reb Bunim did not keep his distance from such people. On the contrary, he sought their company and through his clever, winning manner, often succeeded in changing their ways and making them repent.

Once, Reb Bumin was playing chess with a secular Jew. In the course of the game he made a stupid move. His opponent smiled broadly, for the game was now as good as won. But, when Reb Bunim said that he regretted his move, his opponent did not say a word. He allowed Reb Bunim to make a different move instead.

The game continued on. Then Reb Bunim made another careless move. Although he had already removed his hand from the chess piece, he again asked his opponent to allow him to retract the move. Now he met with refusal, “This is the second time; I will not allow it.”

Reb Bumin opened his mouth, but he did not attempt to argue his right to retrieve a move. Instead, he began chanting in the plaintive melody used by traveling Jewish preachers, “Woe unto the man who had gone far astray and made many false moves, but is prevented from turning back. …”

His friend, who had thrown off the yoke of Torah and mitzvot, understood exactly what Rabbi Simcha Bunim was hinting at. The words penetrated deeply into his heart. He left his misguided ways and repented wholeheartedly.

[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Tales of Tzaddikim” (ArtScroll) by G. MaTov]

Biographic note:
Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (1765 – 12 Elul 1827) spent many years as a business man and a pharmacist. He was a beloved disciple of “the Seer” and of “The Holy Yid” whom he succeeded. Known as “a rebbe of rebbes,” his major disciples included the Kotsker and the first Rebbes of Ger and Alexander.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). 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.