Weekly Chasidic Story #688 (s5771-22 / 26 Shevat 5771)


“It is forbidden to hurt people’s feelings,” declared the “Beit Yisrael” of Gur

Connection: Seasonal – 34th yahrzeit


Rabbi Yehoshua Kleinlehrer, a shaliach [emissary] of the Beis Yisraelthe Rebbe of Gur for the first 30 years of the state of Israel, testified to the Rebbe’s sensitivity and nobility revealed in their full glory. Countless times he saw how his soft heart and desire to do good for others caused him to notice the tiniest details. He went out of his way to make sure he never caused anyone a hint of annoyance or distress.

There were two brothers who studied in the yeshiva together. The younger brother was exceptionally brilliant; the older one was an ordinary student who did not excel in any area.

Once, the pair arrived at the Shabbos night Tish (a rebbe’s open table) just as the Rebbe was distributing wine. Amid the noise that naturally accompanied the distribution and the shouts of “L’Chaim” from all directions, the Rebbe instructed me to remember to give the older brother wine before the younger one, and to give him a larger amount, so that his extra respect for the older one would be unmistakable.

“The younger brother is a better learner, and his brother probably feels bad about that,” the Rebbe explained. ”The older brother needs to be encouraged so that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable.”

Do you know what a Tish is like? Reb Yehoshua asks. Hundreds of people standing, each one with his own personal thoughts – and the Rebbe thinks about a Chevron bachur who might feel uneasy during the distribution of wine.

* * *

Rabbi Yehoshua Kleinlehrer also told how the Rebbe was extremely considerate of others and went to great lengths to ensure that people’s feelings were not hurt.

A certain Rosh Yeshiva who had only recently been appointed to the position once came to theTish. Afterwards, I accompanied the Rebbe. Also with us was Rabbi Yehoshua Noach Binke, z”l, the Rebbe’s outstanding faithful attendant.

The Rebbe began complaining to Reb Yehoshua Noach. “So-and-so was recently appointedRosh Yeshiva, and he should have received the respect due him at the Tish, but when you announced his name, you said, ‘Leizer Moishe’ [name has been changed], as if he were just anyone! True, that’s the custom among chasidim, but he might think I don’t want to acknowledge the fact that he’s a Rosh Yeshiva. Don’t we have to be considerate of his feelings?”

The Rebbe then turned to me and said, “Go to his house and tell him that you heard me express my distress to the gabbai over the fact that he hadn’t announced his name with proper respect. Why should a Jew feel resentful?” he asked.

As it was quite late at night, I suggested to the Rebbe that the Rosh Yeshiva might already have gone to bed.

”No,” the Rebbe insisted. “He hasn’t gone to sleep yet. Go tell him what I told you to say, and report back to me.”

I followed the Rebbe’s instructions, and indeed the Rosh Yeshiva was still up. When I told him what the Rebbe had said, he seemed enormously pleased. I reported this back to the Rebbe.

The Rebbe glowed. He smiled that special, broad smile of his and said, “Nu, was he sleeping already?” I confirmed that he had still been awake.

Nu,” the Rebbe said with satisfaction, “who has [“holy spirit”] — you or me? Now he’s sleeping well.”

Then, after pausing for a moment, he added, “It is forbidden to hurt people’s feelings.”

Source: As translated and posted by Yitz for from “Shalheves Beis Yisrael,” as told by R. Yehoshua Kleinlehrer.

Connection: Seasonal – 34th yahrzeit

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael Alter of Ger (1894 – 2 Adar 1977), known as the Bais Yisroel, was the fourth Rebbe in the Gur dynasty. Following the death of his father in 1948, Ger grew under his leadership to be the largest Chasidic group in Israel. He lost his wife, children and grandchildren in the Holocaust, and although he married a second time, had no further children. He was succeeded by his brother, Rabbi Simcha-Bunim Alter, and then his youngest brother, Rabbi Pinchas-Menachem Alter.


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.