As told by Yerachmiel Tilles
Original translations/adaptations by Yrachmiel Tilles – co-founder of Ascent of Safed, creator of Ascent’s seminars, editor of Ascent Quarterly, director of Kabbala Online and maintainer of this internet site and its e-mail lists. To receive the Story by e-mail every Wednesday–sign up here! A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of our most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.
#822 (s5773-51 / 20 Elul 5773)
Give Credit Where Credit’s Not Due
His wife approached him and requested that he repay the loan, but he refused with much chutzpa.
Connection: Seasonal — Rosh Hashana is fast approaching!
#821 (s5773-50 / 13 Elul 5773)
The Partnership Prayer
The Baal Shem Tov entered the study hall, but instead of opening his prayer book he remaining standing, lost in thought.
Connection: Seasonal — Shabbat is Chai (18) Elul, the anniversary of the birth of the Baal Shem Tov in 1698, his personal revelation of a heavenly teacher in 1724, and his public revelation of the Chasidic movement in 1734.
#820 (s5773-49 / 6 Elul 5773)
Doubting the Young Rabbi
At a wedding, Rabbi Shneur Zalman asked rhetorically, “Why is there an orchestra at the wedding?”
Connections (2): Weekly Reading: Deut. 25:5-10; Seasonal — the following Shabbat is Chai(18) Elul, 268 years since the birthday of Chabad’s Alter Rebbe
#819 (s5773-48 / 29 Menachem-Av 5773)
To Measure a Measure
Once, on the eve of Rosh Chodesh, the Rimanover Rebbe sent his faithful attendant and disciple, Zvi Hirsch, to all the shops in town to see whether their weights and measures were sound.
Connections (2): Seasonal — Rosh Chodesh Elul is this week; Weekly Reading: Deut. 25:13-16 appear in next week’s reading
#818 (s5773-47 / 22 Menachem-Av 5773)
“I will give you the answer about King Moshiach in two months,” Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz replied.
Connections: Weekly Reading: a few weeks overdue from parshat Balak
#817 (s5773-46 / 16 Menachem-Av 5773)
Jet Stranded in Kazakhstan
Rabbi Levi-Yitzchak Schneerson was the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of our generation. An outstanding scholar and leading Kabbalist of ther first half of the 20th century, he was the Chief Rabbi of Yekaterinoslav (the major Ukrainian city today called Dniepropetrovsk) until his arrest and exile.
Connections: Seasonal — 20th of Av (2013: Shabbat, July 26-27) is the 69th yahrzeit of Rabbi Levi-Yitzchak.
#816 (s5773-45 / 10 Menachem-Av 5773)
The Last Jewish Organization
“Cancel all my appoitments today!” called out Rabbi J. J. Hecht to the secretary in his Brooklyn office. “I have to go to this church in Manhattan.”
Connections: Seasonal — 15th of Av (2013: July 21-22) is 1) “Jewish Matchmaking” Day; 2) the 23rd yahrzeit of Rabbi Hecht.
#815 (s5773-44 / 1 Menachem-Av 5773)
A Fail-Safe Financial Plan?
When his father-in-law passed away, the Yismach Moshe realized that he would need to find some way to support his family.
Connection: Seasonal — 5th of Av (2013: July 11-12) is the 541st yahrzeit of the holy Ari of Tsfat.
#814 (s5773-43/ 24 Tammuz 5773)
Towers of Gold and palaces of Diamonds
The Baal Shem Tov was enjoying his Shabbat afternoon nap, when suddenly in his sleep he emitted a mighty cry that jolted his wife from her nap.
Connection: Weekly reading – daughters of Tzelafhad (see Rashi on 27:1)
#813 (s5773-42 / 16 Tammuz 5773)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Ohr HaChayim
“As a young man in Jerusalem, I would go every Thursday to the grave of the “Ohr Hachayim.” However, the Mount of Olives was not a totally safe place to be. And, sure enough,…
Connection: Seasonal — 15th of Tammuz (2013: June 23) is the 270th yahrzeit of the holy Ohr HaChayim.
#812 (s5773-41 / 9 Tammuz 5773)
The Chasid Who Cured by Magic?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised him to make a large purchase of a certain material that the fabrics dealer had never purchased before.
Connections (2): Weekly Reading – Num. 23:23; Seasonal – after only 10 days in Kostrama, on his 47th birthday, 12 Tammuz (2013: June 20-21), that sentence too was commuted on the condition that the Rebbe allow himself to be expelled from the country. This day has become the occasion of major annual Chabad Chasidic celebrations.
#811 (s5773-40 / 2 Tammuz 5773)
A Lucky Partnership
The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised him to make a large purchase of a certain material that the fabrics dealer had never purchased before.
Connection: Seasonal – the 19th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
#810 (s5773-39 / 27 Sivan 5773)
Miracle Denial in TZFAT
Panic-stricken Pinchas begged the Nadvorner Rebbe of Tzefat, Rabbi Aharon-Yechiel Leifer, to pray for him and his family.
Connection: Weekly Reading – Korach – the danger of quarreling.
#809 (s5773-38 / 20 Sivan 5773)
The Chief Rabbi of Israel and Napoleon’s Throne
When Rabbi Mordechi Eliyahu was shown the throne of Napoleon at the French National Museum, he asked if it was for sale!
Connection: Seasonal – the 3rd yahrzeit of Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.
#808 (s5773-37 / 11 Sivan 5773)
When Someone Cares
“Since this route has been your custom for many years,” said the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch, “it is not advisable to diverge from it.”
Connection: Weekly Reading (end)-Num. 12:13-Moshe’s prayer that Miriam be healed.
#807 (s5773-36 / 3 Sivan 5773)
The Shavuot Departure of the Besht
The close followers of the Baal Shem Tov, those who might have been able to effect changes in the decree with their prayers, he sent on missions to other communities.
Connection: Seasonal–this Shavuot is also the 253rd yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov
#806 (s5773-35 / 26 Iyar 5773)
The Washerwoman’s Tale
For years, she lived with the memory of the promise to her from Rabbi Shlomo of Zvil.
Connection: Seasonal–68th yahrzeit of R. Shlomo of Zvil
#805 (s5773-34 / 19 Iyar 5773)
A Rebbe’s Debt to a Hitchhiker
“I will believe that you are a Chasid if you will pay me the 20 gold coins your Rebbe owes me.”
Connection: Seasonal–176th yahrzeit of R. Mottel of Chernobyl
#804 (s5773-33 / 12 Iyar 5773)
Six Stolen Tzefat Torah Scrolls
When residents and guests arrived at the the 200 year old Tzemach Tzedek synagogue in Tzefat, they were shocked to discover he doors open, the window bars cut and the ark empty.
Connection: Seasonal–first anniversary
#803 (s5773-32 / 5 Iyar 5773)
The Versatile Mezuza
“Tonight we all go home to spend time with family. Tomorrow our unit is the one that will enter deepest into Lebanon. So I go not just to spend time off but to take leave of them and say Good Bye. Just in case…”
Connection: Seasonal–Israel Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers
#802 (s5773-31 / 23 Nissan 5773)
The Beard to Heaven
Rabbi Shmuel Shneersohn of Lubavitch once described his visit to Prague, and the ancient book of records of wondrous events he saw there.
Connection: Seasonal–131st anniversary of birthday of the Rebbe Maharash
#801 (s5773-30 / 23 Nissan 5773)
The Most Desirable Apples
Everyone eagerly pushed to the stand for the opportunity to buy her apples.
Connection: Seasonal–137th yahrzeit of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz
#800 (s5773-29 / 13 Nissan 5773)
An Impromptu Seder
I had to get home to the Bronx, which was pretty far away, but when the Lubavitcher Rebbe handed me matza, he asked if I could deliver some to a certain family.
Connection: Seasonal–Passover Festival
#799 (s5773-28 / 7 Nissan 5773)
Remembering the Student from Nikolayev
The Lubavitcher Rebbe asked the Rachmastrivka Rebbe whether he remembered a particular student in the underground Torah school in Nikolayev, where they all had lived three decades before.
Connection: Seasonal–111th anniversary of the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
#798 (s5773-27 / 29 Adar 5773)
“Real Rebbe” Criterion
The “Razo” counseled the “Reshab” to make sure henceforth to pray looking at the words in the Siddurprayerbook and not by heart.
Connection: Seasonal–93rd yahrzeit of the Rebbe Reshab
#797 (s5773-26 / 22 Adar 5773)
The Coins That Cured
The man spoke to the Baal Shem Tov defiantly: “Here is my bundle of coins. Take it–let’s see what you can do for my paralyzed daughter.”
Connection: Weekly Reading–accurate accounting of the gold. silver, wool, etc used for constructing the Sanctuary.
#796 (s5773-25 / 16 Adar 5773)
When Rabbi Moshe Weber was diagnosed with serious heart illness, money was raised to fly the tzadik from Jerusalem to the well-known heart specialists in South Africa.
Connection: Seasonal–13th yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Weber
#795 (s5773-24 / 9 Adar 5773)
“It is Purim Today! L’Chaim!”
The Maggid of Koznitz approached the poverty-stricken villager: “Why didn’t you bring me Meshalach Manot”
#794 (s5773-23 / 1 Adar 5773)
The Haunted House
The ten followers of Rabbi Joel Baal-Shem did as he had instructed. Hundreds of Jews and non-Jews crowded outside, waiting to see what would happen.
Connection: Weekly Reading–see Ex. 25:8
#793 (s5773-22 / 24 Shevat 5773)
The Guru That Did Not Follow Torah
After experiencing a variety of what India was famous for–drugs, gurus, yogis, etc.–she was about to give up, when she heard about a small secretive group that was different, secluded deep in a forest.
Connection: Weekly Reading–Ex. 23:4
#792 (s5773-21 / 17 Shevat 5773)
Envoys of the King of England and Queen Shabbat
It was mid-afternoon on a Shabbat in Bagdad, when one of Iraq’s highest-ranking treasury officials arrived with urgent haste at the office of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Salman Mutzafi.
Connection: Weekly Reading–4th of the Ten Commandments
#791 (s5773-20 / 10 Shevat 5773)
The Panicked Nurse
Once, while sick, Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn had the look of someone who was not in this world altogether. His son-in-law came close to hear what he was mumbling and realized that he was reciting by heart and with the Torah melody the words of the Song by the Sea.
Connection: Seasonal–63rd yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rayatz
#790 (s5773-19 / 2 Shevat 5773)
“Rebbe, I am willing to sell you all the pairs of tefilin you see here, except for this pair.”
Connections (2): Weekly Reading–contains two of the four Torah sections inscribed in tefillin (see 7th aliya); Seasonal–213th yahrzeit of the Rebbe Zushya
#789 (s5773-18 / 24 Tevet 5773)
The Magnificent Sundial
The non-Jewish professor scoffed at the solution the teenaged Jew had given.
Connection: Seasonal–200th (!) yahrzeit of the Baal Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad.
#788 (s5773-17 / 18 Tevet 5773)
Just One Shabbat Meal
Unlike others of the group who had to walk up a steep hill, I was directed to a location in the charming Old City of Tsfat right around the corner from the Ascent complex. The family greeted me with warm, smiling faces.
Connection:Weekly Reading–Exodus 2:1 with Rashi‘s explanation
#787 (s5773-16 / 11 Tevet 5773)
The Orthodox-Jewish International Grandmaster
The chess prodigy was known a descendant of the rabbinic genius, Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz, who descended from the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Arizal of Tsfat.
#786 (s5773-15 / 4 Tevet 5773)
Leaving London Late
Rabbi Yidele Horowitz, the Dzikover Rebbe, who rarely spoke, motioned that the group of chassidim should again wait a little longer for his blessing.
Connection: Seasonal-this happened 24 years ago on 13 Tevet/Dec 21, 1988.
#785 (s5773-14 / 26 Kislev 5773)
There was one young man in the circle of seats who was obviously not Jewish….I was relieved that I would not seem ill-mannered if I didn’t hand him a Chanukah kit.
#784 (s5773-13 / 20 Kislev 5773)
He shouted for his servants to bring clubs and whips to beat the tavern keeper….The news of this tragedy reached Rabbi Moshe-Leib Sassover.
Connection: Weekly Reading— thrown in the pit-dungeon
#783 (s5773-12 / 12 Kislev 5773)
Protected by Esau’s Angel
“This army officer, who despises Jews and does everything he can to torment us, is about to become our mayor. It will be disastrous for us. Only you can help us, Rebbe.” [Baal Shem Tov]
Connection: Weekly Reading–Gen. 32:25
#782 (s5773-11 / 5 Kislev 5773)
“No Farbrengen? Why Not?”
The attendant gave one final look at the Lubavitcher Rebbe, then announced, “Mincha at 4.” The chasidim groaned in disappointment.
Connection: Seasonal–Anniversary of birth and of liberation and of death of 2nd Lubavitcher Rebbe
#781 (s5773-10 / 27 Mar-Cheshvan 5773)
The Shabbat Desecration Donation
Normally Rabbi Yisroel of Chortkov never looked at the money given to him. This time, however, the Rebbe took the money which the assimilated Jew had sent and put it in his breast pocket.
Connection: Weekly Reading (2)–Rashi’s comments on 26:12 & 26:13)
#780 (s5773-09 / 20 Mar-Cheshvan 5773)
The Red-head, the Beer and the Amen
I stopped mid-song, looked up, and mentally snapped a picture.
Connection: Weekly Reading–Matchmaking
#779 (s5773-08 / 13 Mar-Cheshvan 5773)
The CEO Who Cared
CBS News featured a special report which reviewed his altruistic decision
Connection: Weekly Reading–exactly opposite to the business practices in Sodom.
#778 (s5773-07 / 7 Mar-Cheshvan 5773)
A Beggar’s Blessings
When a few of his chasidim were going to Vilna, the Baal Shem Tov asked them to invite the former tailor to Mezibuz.
Connection: Weekly Reading–verse 12:2
#777 (s5773-06 / 1 Mar-Cheshvan 5773)
Rabbinical Life in Montana
The sight of a rabbi dressed in Chassidic garb caught the attention of a non-Jewish police officer who was guarding the State Capitol in Helena, Montana.
Connection: Weekly Reading (2)–animals, language
#776 (s5773-05 / 24 Tishrei 5773)
The Substitute Prayer Belt
In memory of this miracle, Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen of Izmir entitled the next book he wrote, Eizer Eliyahu[“The Helper of Eliyahu”].
Connection: Weekly Readings (2)–serpents this week and a specific verse next week.
#775 (s5773-04 / 17 Tishrei 5773)
The Real Roof
“I promise you G-d had pleasure in your desire to beautify the mitzva of Sukka.”
Connection: Seasonal: Sukkot
#774 (s5773-03 / 8 Tishrei 5773)
From Prayer to Forgiveness
Reb Mendel Futerfas was imprisoned in the Soviet Union on the night of Kol Nidrei, and had to observe the entire Yom Kippur within the walls of his cell.
Connection: Seasonal: Yom Kippur
#773 (s5773-02 / 4 Tishrei 5773)
Alone in the Forest
The Alexander Rebbe thought his end was near, whereupon his son embraced him and swore that no harm would befall him.
Connection: This week’s reading of Vayelech – verses 31:17-18.
#772 (s5773-01 / 27 Elul 5772)
The Prayerbook of Screams
Written on cigarette paper in a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp
Connection: Seasonal: Rosh Hashana 5773