Weekly Chasidic Story #714 (s5771-48 / 1 Menachem-AV 5771)
The Shameful Celebration
It was the custom of Rabbi Yissachar Ber of Radoshitz to make a festive meal for completion of a Talmudic tractate on Hei Av, the yahrzeit of the holy Ari of Safed.
Connection: Seasonal — 439th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the “holy lion” of Tzfat
It takes a notable celebration indeed to override the prohibition against eating meat and drinking wine during the Nine Days (that begin the Jewish month of Av). For this period, at the end of the annual Three Weeks of Mourning which begin with the fast of the seventeenth of Tammuz, culminates in the fast of the Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples. A notable celebration of this order under certain circumstances might be the festive meal that follows a circumcision or marks the conclusion of the study of an entire Talmudic tractate.
It was the custom of Rabbi Yissachar Ber of Radoshitz to complete the study of a tractate in the Gemara and to celebrate the occasion with a seudat mitzvah complete with meat and wine every year on the fifth of Av – for this date is the anniversary of the passing of that giant among kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal. And every year, in the midst of the gloom of the Nine Days, the Sava Kaddisha (“Holy Grandfather”) of Radoshitz would recount the same story to all the chassidim and students who had gathered for this festive meal. Here is the story.
In a faraway town there lived a man who used to sleep so much that he was nicknamed “the Sleeper.” The month of Elul arrived in all its awe. Seeing the Days of Judgment within reach, every Jew alive trembled, and roused himself in repentance. But this fellow slept. It was already Rosh HaShana; his wife rose early to join the congregation in prayer – but he slept on. When the morning service was underway she went home to nurse her baby. While there she tried to wake up her husband, but he neither budged nor stirred.
Several times throughout the morning she interrupted her prayers and stole away from the synagogue. Nothing helped. But when the congregation began the reading of the Torah, and time was running out before the high point of the days service, she ran home crying, and shouted at the top of her voice: “They’re about to blow the shofar!”
He jumped out of bed in a flurry, grabbed some tattered garments strewn with feathers and threw it over his shoulders, bolted all the way to shul, and burst inside, puffing and panting, with slumber on his eyelids. The staid worshippers gaped at the comic spectacle. Some – and not only the children – even snickered. The poor fellow felt so disgraced and humiliated that his burning shame flew up and appeared before the Heavenly Court. The verdict was pronounced forthwith: having been seared and cleansed by his shame, this humble Jew was now to have all his sins forgiven.
“So too with us,” concluded the Sava Kaddisha. “Here we are, in the depths of this period of mourning over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, sitting down to a festive meal. Why, this is such a shameful thing that on its account the Merciful one should forgive the sins of the entire House of Israel!”
And with this plea from the heart, the tzadik wept so profusely that his tears fell into the wine goblet over which, in preparation for the Grace after Meals, he was about to recite the Psalm which laments the Exile: “By the waters of Babylon we sat, yea, we wept, when we remember Zion….”
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “A Treasury of Chassidic Tales” (Artscroll), as translated by the incomparable Uri Kaploun, from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin
Connection: Seasonal – The Nine Days and the 439th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the “holy lion” of Safed
Rabbi Yissachar Dov [1765-18 Sivan 1843], the “Sabba Kadisha” (holy grandfather) of Radoshitz, was a disciple of the Seer of Lublin and of the Holy Yid of Peshischa. Famed as a miracle maker, he lived in poverty as a simple tutor.
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-5 Av 1572), Known as “the holy Ari,” revolutionized the study of Kabbalah and its integration into mainstream Judaism during the two years he spent in Zefat before his death at 38. Much of Chasidic thought is based on the Ari’s kabbalah teachings, as recorded by his main disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital.
(For a fuller biography) (For teachings of the Ari translated into English)
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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