Weekly Chasidic Story #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.


When the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the “Mitteler Rebbe”) passed away, there were three prospective successors.

Though all three were immensely qualified for the leadership of the Chabad movement, all three unanimouslydeclined the importuning of the chasidim. These three were: Rabbi Chaim Avraham, the brother of Rabbi Dov Ber and second son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Nachum, the Mitteler Rebbe’s son, and the Tzemach TzedekRabbi Menachem Mendel, the Rebbe’s son-in law and also his nephew, the son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s eldest daughter, Devorah Leah.

As time passed, the pressure among the Chasidim to find a successor escalated, though it seemed that no solution was in sight. Finally, despairing of a resolution being found, two of the chasidim declared, “It is impossible to be without a Rebbe!” They decided to travel to the tzadik of Ruzhin with the intention of accepting him as their Rebbe.

The Ruzhiner RebbeRabbi Yisrael, was the grandson of the Mezritcher Maggid, and so highly thought of for his enormous piety that he was called the “holy Ruzhiner” by chasidim and non-chasidim alike.

These two chasidim travelled to Ruzhin for the festival of Shavuot. As was the custom there, (as well as among many other chasidic rebbes) the Ruzhiner would distribute shirayim – “remaining” food from his table – to the Chasidim present. On the first night of the holiday, the Ruzhiner began to distributes wine from his own cup to each of his chasidim. The two Chabad Chasidim also wanted to participate and receive wine from the Ruzhiner, so they proffered their cups for the “cup of blessing.”

The Ruzhiner, however, refused them, saying, “If you want some wine, you may take it yourself, but I will not give it to you.”

The two were very surprised and protested, “Why won’t you give it to us, after all we have come here in order to accept you as our Rebbe?”

Upon hearing those words, the Ruzhiner sat down at the table and, in a manner totally unlike his usual practice, began to deliver a deep Chasidic discourse based on the theme, “The Giving of the Torah began, not at Mount Sinai, but at the burning bush.”

He explained in great depth that when G-d gave Moses the task of taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt, G-d told Moses to “tell the Jews that I have remembered you and want to take you out of Egypt.”

Moses’ reaction was strange. He replied that he was afraid the Jews would ask him what is G-d’s name. To this G-d replied, “Tell them My Name is, ‘I will be what I will be. ” (Ex. 3:13-14).

The Ruzhiner posed the question, “Why did Moses ask this question of G-d? Moses already knew G-d’s four-letter name as he had been handed down a tradition that it was spelled Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei! And why did G-d answer, ‘I will be what I will be,’ instead of one of the Names that the Jewish people and Moses were already acquainted with?”

The Ruzhiner elucidated the point through the use of numerical equivalents which are often used to explicate texts. He explained that the numerical equivalent of G-d’s four-letter name is 26, while that of the words “I will be what I will be” equals 441 which is “emmet” – truth. G-d desired that Moses be able to reveal to the Jews the truth.

“The word ’emmet’,” continued the Ruzhiner, “[alef-mem-tof, spelled backwards] is also an acronym for, “Torat Menachem Emmet” [“the Torah [teachings] of Menachem is Truth”].

When the two Chabad Chasidim heard these words being spoken by the Holy Ruzhiner, they realized that he was intimating that they should return home to the city of Lubavitch and that the Tzemach Tzedek, whose name was Menachem Mendel, should become Rebbe.

Upon arriving in Lubavitch two weeks later, they discovered that the Tzemach Tzedek had already acquiesced. The returning chasidim repeated to their fellows the discourse they had heard from the mouth of the Holy Ruzhiner in regard to the word “emmet,” intimating that the Tzemach Tzedek should be the Rebbe.

The Chasidim recalled with amazement that the Tzemach Tzedek had delivered the same discourse that very same Shavuot, but when he reached the part which identified the acronym of emmet with his name, Menachem, he merely hesitated and smiled to himself. Now, they all understood why he had smiled.
Source: Adapted/Supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition on //lchaimweekly.org (#1023), with permission.

Connection: Weekly Reading-Ex. 3:13-14, quoted in the story.

Biographic note:
Rabbi Yisrael Friedmann of Rizhin [of blessed memory: 5557 – 3 Cheshvan 5611 (1797 – Oct. 1850 C.E.)] was a great-grandson of the Maggid of Mezritch. At a young age was already a charismatic leader with a large following of chasidim. Greatly respected by the other rebbes and Jewish leaders of his generation, he was-and still is-referred to as “The Holy Rizhinner.” Six of his sons established Chassidic dynasties, several of which-Sadigora, Chortkov, etc-are still thriving today.


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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