As told by Yerachmiel Tilles
The co-founder and first educational director of Ascent-of-Safed, originator and maintainer of this website, and managing editor of Kabbala Online. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live in Tsfat (Safed) nearly every week, at his home on Friday evenings and at Ascent on Saturday nights. To receive the Story by e-mail every Wednesday—sign up here!
Want to see the most up-to-date preview, which now includes feedback, approbations and the spectacular cover?
#872 (s5774-50 / 17 Menachem Av 5774)
An Eye for an Eye
“What won’t a father do for his daughter? I jumped out in front of the Rebbe, blocking his path.
Connection: Weekly Reading: “Shma Yisrael…an ornament between your eyes.”
#871 (s5774-49 / 10 Menachem Av 5774)
A Lost Luria
In 1943, the Nazis rounded up the town’s Jewish population, the Lurias among them, and herded them into cattle cars bound for the concentration camps in the East.
Connections (2): 1-Seasonal: the 444th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (last Friday); 2-Weekly Reading: Mezuza & Tefilin
#870 (s5774-48 / 1 Menachem Av 5774)
Linking Battlefield and Yeshiva
As an officer he felt concerned for his soldiers, so he requested that the boys in the yeshiva in Safed should pray and study for them..
Connection: Current Events–The Gaza War
#869 (s5774-47 / 24 Tammuz 5774)
Gilad Shalit and the Lubavitcher Rebbe
The day after her son, Gilad, came home, his mother contacted her Chabad emissary friends.
Connection: Seasonal: War Again 🙁
#868 (s5774-46 / 16 Tammuz 5774)
A Timely Gift for the Sultan
The Ohr HaChayim knew of the danger threatening his brethren and wished to avert it, so he hurried to the palace.
Connection: Seasonal–271st yahrzeit of the Ohr HaChayim
#867 (s5774-45 / 9 Tammuz 5774)
Two Missions Completed
The chasidim were astonished when the Klausenberger Rebbe refused to allow them to summon another doctor to treat him.
Connection: Seasonal–20th yahrzeit of the Klausenberg-Sanz Rebbe
#866 (s5774-44 / 2 Tammuz 5774)
On the Inside
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe met Rabbis Chaim-Ozer Grodinski and Boruch Ber Kaminetz in Vilna, Lithuania.
Connection: Seasonal–20th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
#865 (s5774-43 / 25 Sivan 5774)
Trick and Treat
Replied Reb Hayyim to the Rebbe: “I knew that this was a test. If it were not, you don’t want to know the fury I would have unleashed here today!”.
Connection: Weekly Reading–anger management.
#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).
#863 (s5774-41 / 11 Sivan 5774)
A Quick Trip
The Kaf HaChaim was always begging G-d not to ever force him to leave the Land of Yisrael. But in the end, he had no choice.
Connection: Weekly Reading–true love of the Land
#862 (s5774-40 / 4 Sivan 5774)
After the Baal Shem Tov
In the last summer of his life,the Baal Shem Tov wrote to an intimate disciple to inform him “in utmost secrecy” who should be his successor.
Connection: Seasonal–Shavuot is the 254th yahrzeit of the Besht
#861 (s5774-39 / 26 Iyar 5774)
Miraculous Shabbat Stew
Nobody realized what a lofty level Rabbi Shlomo Goldman of Zvhil was on until the following story happened.
Connection: Seasonal–69th yahrzeit of Rebbe Shlomke
#860 (s5774-38 / 19 Iyar 5774)
An Indispensable Requirement for a Blessing
In 5664 (1904), when Tsfat’ sages learned that the venerable Rabbi Shlomo-Eliezer Alfandri had moved to Israel, they invited him to serve as their city’s chief rabbinical judge. .
Connection: Seasonal–74th yahrzeit of Rabbi Alfandri
#859 (s5774-37 / 12 Iyar 5774)
A Memorable Lag B’Omer Bonfire
“You endangered your whole unit by abandoning your post, and you could have been killed at the same time!” accused the IDF military court prosecutor.
Connection: Seasonal–LAG B’OMER
#858 (s5774-36 / 5 Iyar 5774)
A Palestinian Journey from Jail to Yeshiva
Early release from jail meant return into the areas of the Palestinian Authority–where many would seek to kill him for his connections with Jews and Israelis.
#857 (s5774-35 / 28 Nisan 5774)
A Rebbe’s Sweat
“I am dismissing you as of today,” said Rabbi shmuel schneersohn of Lubavitch. “Please go home, and I will send you your wages there every week.”
Connections: Seasonal-132nd yahrzeit of the Rebbe Maharash
#856 (s5774-34 / 22 Nisan 5774)
The Secret Recipient
The rich man’s countenance changed suddenly. He became very still. He quietly asked the Divrei Chayim to speak with him privately.
Connections: 1) Weekly reading-acting in a loving manner towards your fellow Jew (Lev. 19:18). 2) Seasonal-138th yahrzeit of the Divrei Chayim.
#855 (s5774-33 / 13 Nisan 5774)
From Berditchov to Japan
“Our numerous encounters with hundreds of Jews residing in that part of the Far East remains etched in my heart.”
Connection: Seasonal — PESACH FESTIVAL
#854 (s5774-32 / 7 Nisan 5774)
Japan’s Best-Selling Talmud Teacher
“The Rebbe kept zeroing in on Japan and how this was the right place for me. He even made a comparison to the Peace Corps of President Kennedy.”
Connection: Seasonal — 11 Nissan is the 112th anniversary of the birth of Rabbi M. M. Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of our generation.
#853 (s5774-31 / 29 Adar Sheini 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
#852 (s5774-30 / 22 Adar Sheini 5774)
The Pre-empted Circumciser
So eager was Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitch to perform the mitzvah of circumcision that he never once declined an invitation to act as mohel.
Connection: Weekly Reading (beginning) — Circumcision on the eighth day
#851(s5774-29 / 16 Adar Sheini 5774)
The Strict Butcher vs. the Lenient Rebbe
The Baal Shem Tov heard a heavenly voice: “Remove the kosher slaughterer of Kamenka from his position.”
Connection: Weekly Reading 11:47 –“…Between the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten.”
#850 (s5774-28 / 8 Adar Sheini 5774)
Purim Repeated in Persia
In their desparate plight, they decided to send a messenger to Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Holy Ari of Tsfat.
Connection: Seasonal – PURIM!
#849 (s5774-27 / 1 Adar Sheini 5774)
To Save a Drowning Man
The Baal Shem Tov explained great length the meaning of the verse in Psalms 107, “Those who go down to the sea in ships and do work in raging waters.”
Connection: Weekly Reading–the sacrifices (yes, I know, the Thanksgiving sacrifice is in Tzav, not Vayikra; but next week has to be a Purim story).
#848 (s5774-26 / 24 Adar Rishon 5774)
The Cigarette Beggar
Some said that Berel Zlodowitz had built the very institution whose charity now housed and fed him.
Connection: None that I can think of, other than a continuation of the smoking theme from last week.
#847 (s5774-25 / 17 Adar Rishon 5774)
Smoking on Shabbat in Meah Shearim
Only on Shabbat she couldn’t stop smoking her cigarettes; she had no trouble the rest of the week!
Connection: Weekly Reading–Ex. 35:3
#846 (s5774-24 / 10 Adar Rishon 5774)
General vs. General and Elijah “the Prophet”
An air force pilot is cruelly punished. His crime? Giving bar mitzvah lessons.
Connection: Weekly Reading–Haftorah (Eliyahu HaNavi / Elijah the Prophet)
#845 (s5774-23 / 3 Adar Rishon 5774)
A Pricey Pinch of Snuff
Only in unusual cases would the Baal Shem Tov instruct him to increase his charity allotment.
Connection: Weekly Reading (end) Ex. Ch. 30:1-10 – the Incense Altar
#844 (s5774-22 / 26 Shevat 5774)
The King, the Jews, the Rain
This may read like a tale from several centuries ago, but the reality is that this episode took place recently, in early 2014.
Connection: Current Events!
#843 (s5774-21 / 19 Shevat 5774)
Two is Better Than One
“You have to choose between me and the synagogue. If you go to the synagogue tonight, don’t come back home!”
Connection: Seasonal–26th yahrzeit of the Rebbetzin Chaya-Musya
#842 (s5774-20 / 12 Shevat 5774)
Esrog Jam on Tu b’Shvat
In the shul of the Rebbe Shlom’ke of Zevhil, the tables overflowed with trays and baskets filled with every species of fruit imaginable, in a spectacular variety of colors that challenged the ability of the eye to assimilate.
Connection: Seasonal–TU B’SHVAT
#841 (s5774-19 / 5 Shevat 5774)
Laws of Promising
The rabbi went again to the Rebbe Rayatz. “He does not let me live,” he appealed to the Rebbe.”
Connection: Seasonal–Shabbat, Yud Shefat (2014: Shabbat, Jan11), is the 64th yartzeit of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe.
#840 (s5774-18 / 27 Tevet 5774)
Jewish Weightlifting in Haifa
“Those who go on Lubavitch outreach regularly know this type a mile away. You could see the angry eyes and the way he was getting ready to curse us out.”
Connection: Weekly Reading–Its ending (Ex. 13:1-10,11-16) consists of two of the four paragraphs written on parchment inside the tefillin boxes.
#839 (s5774-17 / 20 Tevet 5774)
Masters of Song
Once, when Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi passed through Shklov, local scholars who opposed Chasidism visited him and asked many learned questions.
Connection: Seasonal–201st yahrzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. (Plus, in two weeks is “Shabbat of Song” so keep this one around!)
#838 (s5774-16 / 13 Tevet 5774)
Take for Yourself
Two Chabad Chasidim declared, “It is impossible to be without a Rebbe!” They decided to travel to Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin with the intention of accepting him as their Rebbe.
Connection: Weekly Reading-Ex. 3:13-14, quoted in the story.
#837 (s5774-15 / 6 Tevet 5774)
Eighteen Equals Life
Spring of 1944 brought the terror of the Nazi horror to Northern Transylvania.
Connection: Seasonal-This Friday is the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet, which has become also the date to say Kaddish for those martyrs of the Holocaust (and all the others through the centuries) whose date of death is unknown.
#836 (s5774-14 / 28 Kislev 5774)
A few years after his first arrest, the old charges were revived and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, was arrested a second time.
#835 (s5774-13 / 23 Kislev 5774)
The Light in the Window
“You must cross the river in the winter when it is frozen. When you reach the other side of the river you’ll be entering no-man’s land.”
#834 (s5774-12 / 15 Kislev 5774)
Five Times More
After leading a stirring chasidic melody, the Lubavitcher Rebbe began reading the notes, telling each person how much to add.
Connection: Seasonal-Yud-Tes Kislev is Thursday night-Friday, Nov. 21-22.
#833 (s5774-11 / 8 Kislev 5774)
A Difference Between Angels
The Devrei Chaim of Sanz gave the poor man a letter of recommendation to a wealthy Torah scholar whom he counted among his chasidim.
Connection: Weekly reading–as quoted in the story.
#832 (s5774-10 / 1 Kislev 5774)
Although not Chabad, he received nearly 100 letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe! – the envy of many Chabad chasidim.
Connection: Weekly reading–wedding expenses (see Midrash Rabba on Gen 29:22, for how the clause order in the verse indicates that Laban forced the guests to pay, and how he went about it.)
#831 (s5774-9 / 24 Cheshvan 5774)
Outed by an Eleven-Year-old
“Help! My Mother Is Under the Influence of Missionaries,”wrote a desperate 11-year-old boy to Yad L’Achim.
Connection: You won’t catch it until you read the last sentence of the story!
#830 (s5774-08 / 17 Cheshvan 5774)
A Present for a Bride
“I asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe for advice about where to look for rabbinical work, now that I was getting married.”
Connection: Weekly Reading – engagement/wedding presents
#829 (s5774-07 / 10 Cheshvan 5774)
Missing a Penny
i Mordechai of Chernobyl told the merchant that his going early to buy merchandise from the farmers before praying is illogical.
Connection: Weekly Reading-Last week’s Torah Reading – Gen. 13:8-13 (income vs. faith)
#828 (s5774-06 / 3 Cheshvan 5774)
The Asset for Austria
When the Rhizhiner Rebbe was forty years old, he was arrested on false charges of having ordered the execution of an informer.
Connection: Seasonal – the 163rd yahrzeit of the “Holy Rhizhiner”.
#827 (s5774-05 / 26 Tishrei 5774)
From Benedictine Monk to Rebbe’s Assistant
For three years, Aharon Calderon was a monk at a Catholic monastery, living an austere existence of contemplation and introspection.
Connection: Weekly Reading – The Laws of Benei Noah.
#826 (s5774-04 / 18 Tishrei 5774)
Repercussions of Wine and Dance
Simchat Torah with the Wife of the Baal Shem Tov and his Daughter.
Connection: Seasonal — SIMCHAT TORAH
#825 (s5774-03 / 11 Tishrei 5774)
The Darkest Busiest Sukkah in Jerusalem
One Sukkot day in pre1948 Jerusalem, Chief Rabbi Shlomo-David Kahane agreed to explain in his crowded sukkah hut the reason for his strange custom.
Connection: Seasonal — SUKKOT
#824 (s5774-02 / 7 Tishrei 5774)
The Knock Before ‘Kol Nidre’”
Please! Amshinover Rebbe,” begged the desparate couple; “ask the priest, who respects you greatly, to delay until after Yom Kippur.”
Connection: Seasonal — YOM KIPPUR
#823 (s5774-01 / Erev Rosh Hashana 5774)
The Mistress of the Blessings Staff
The salvations that Rebbetzin Miriam Chaya Sochaveh of Shatz, daughter of Rebbe Meir of Primishlan, effected were substantial even in comparison with those of the more famous wonder workers of the generation.
Connection: Seasonal — ROSH HASHANA