Weekly Chasidic Story #697 (s5771-31 / 29 Adar B 5771)
The “Repulsive Beggar” Test
Eliezer Lippman and his wife Mirush’s boundless hospitality did not go unnoticed in the Heavens.
Connection: Torah Reading – the ultimate skin disease
Eliezer Lippman and his wife, Mirush (a diminutive from Miriam-ed.), were unusually hospitable people. Weary travelers, hungry beggars, and itinerant rabbis were never turned away from their home. They were known far and wide for their kindness toward the masses of poor people who sought them out. And, in those days especially, the number of poor people who needed to rely on the kindness of their brethren was seemingly limitless.
Reb Eliezer and Mirush’s boundless hospitality did not go unnoticed in the Heavens. Certainly their lavish performance of the mitzva of hospitality deserved a great reward. A discussion ensued as to how best to reward the couple. But then the Adversary stepped up and commented: “What they are doing is not really so difficult. They do not go without in order to feed their guests. And what of their guests? So, some of them are poor and dressed in rags. A bit disheveled or even smelly. What of it? Would they treat a repulsive beggar with as much kindness and care as anyone else?” questioned the Adversary with a cynical smile.
It was decided that Eliezer and Mirush would be tested. If they passed this test, their reward would be even more sublime.
Days later, a leper knocked on the door of Eliezer and Mirush. Not registering even the slightest amount of shock, Mirush smiled at the leper and invited him in. “But everyone else just gives me food or money at the door and waits for me to leave,” the leper informed Mirush. “It is not necessary for me to come inside. I know what I look like.” And the leper proceeded to point to his many open, oozing sores, his clothes hanging onto his scabs like a second skin, his matted hair and beard.
“I have not bathed for months. No one can stand to help me and I cannot do it alone,” he said quietly, ashamed of the horrific odor he carried with him everywhere.
“Please do come inside,” Mirush offered as she opened the door wide for him. The leper warily entered. Mirush led him to the kitchen where she prepared warm, nourishing food. Then she informed the leper that she insisted he stay in their home until he was healed.
From then on, every morning and evening, Mirush applied special creams to the leper’s sores.
Days passed and the leper’s open sores began to heal. As his skin improved, Mirush carefully and skillfully peeled off the ragged clothing which had been sticking to his body. As soon as possible, Mirush arranged for the leper to bathe and presented him with a new set of clothing.
Over the next few weeks, the leper continued to improve. When he was fully recovered, Mirush and Eliezer encouraged him to stay a little longer until he had totally regained his strength.
When he was finally ready to leave they gave him some money, and Reb Eliezer accompanied him part of the way.
When they were about to part, the guest said to Reb Eliezer, “In the merit of the kindness and hospitality you show toward every person, including a leprous beggar like myself, you and your wife will raise children who will be righteoustzadikim.” And with that, he walked away.
Until that time, Eliezer and Mirush’s three sons were not known to be exceptional scholars. In fact, they had not even been able to keep up with the studies of their peers. But from that time forth, their children began to excel in Torah learning, performance of mitzvot and in the refinement of their personality. Two of their sons, R. Zusya of Anapoliand R. Elimelech of Lyzhansk were amongst the greatest disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov, and subsequently became great Rebbes in their own right.
Source: Supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition on “lchaimweekly.org” (#819), with permission.
Rabbi Zusya of Anapoli (?- 2 Shvat 1800), was a major disciple of the Magid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov. The seemingly unsophisticated but clearly inspired “Reb Zusha” is one of the best known and most beloved Chassidic personalities. He and his famous brother, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk, spent many years wandering in exile, for esoteric reasons.
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhinsk (1717 – 21 Adar 1787), was a major disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov, and the leading Rebbe of the subsequent generation in Poland-Galitzia. Many if not most of the great Chassidic dynasties stem from his disciples. His book, Noam Elimelech, is one of the most popular of all Chassidic works.
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.