Weekly Chasidic Story #853 (s5774-31 / 1 Nisan 5774)
Seeing His Face
Once, while in Petersburg for business, he heard that the Rebbe Rashab was then in town, staying in a hotel.
Connection: Seasonal — 2 Nissan is the 94th yahrzeit of Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn
In the Ukrainian city of Kremenchug there lived many devout and learned Jews, including generous philanthropists who funded the many communal needs. One of them, the exceptionally prosperous owner of a flourmill, had many dealings with elite Russian officials. Over time, however, he left the path of observant Judaism completely and, proud of his riches and impressive connections, spent his time socializing with Russian ministers.
Once, while in Petersburg for business, he heard that the Rebbe Rashab was then in town, staying in a hotel. Though steeped in worldly desires, he had a strong desire to see the Rebbe, who was known throughout the world for his wisdom and holiness. He arrived at the hotel when chasidim were being admitted to yechidus (private audience), but was refused entry by the chasid in charge.
The affluent businessman attempted to enter by force, which resulted in a major commotion. Hearing the uproar, the Rebbe Rashab opened his door and motioned to the chasid in charge that the businessman should be allowed in.
The man triumphantly entered, but when he beheld the Rebbe, he was suddenly overcome with awe and fear. He could not utter a word.
The Rebbe calmed him and inquired why he had come. When he was finally able to reply, the man said, “I did not come to ask for anything; I just came to see.” The Rebbe gave him a blessing and the businessman exited.
Years later, this wealthy man related, “From the moment I saw the Rebbe, I changed completely. Seeing his holy face made a deep impression on me. I have seen great ministers and leaders of the kingdom, but never felt any fear, yet when I saw the Rebbe, an intense awe overcame me. I decided on the spot to change my ways. When I arrived home, I got rid of all my dishes and closed my mill on Shabbos.”
In due course he became a properly observant Jew in every way and maintained a strong connection to the Rebbe.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Lma’an Yishme’u” #174 (based on Zichronot Sussonkin, p.47).
Rabbi Sholom Dov-ber Schneersohn [of blessed memory: 20 Cheshvan 5621 – 2 Nissan 5610 (Oct. 1860 – April 1920)], known as the Rebbe Reshab, was the fifth Rebbe of the Lubavitcher dynasty. He is the author of hundreds of major tracts in the exposition of Chasidic thought. In 1897, he established the Tomchei Temimim yeshivah, the first institution of Jewish learning to combine the study of Talmudic and legal studies with the mystical teachings of Chasidism, from which emerged the army of learned, inspired and devoted chasidim who, in the decades to come, would literally give their lives to keep Judaism alive under Soviet rule.
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.
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