Weekly Chasidic Story #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.
Reb Chayim was a chasid who made his living by buying and selling in the various European market places and fairs. He devoted all of his free time to studying Torah. Once a year he would come to his Rebbe’s court, to spend time in his presence and be inspired.
Whenever he came, everyone would greet him with great respect, as he was known to be a scholar and a righteous man. On Shabbat, he would be honored with the most prestigious aliyah of the Torah reading, “Maftir,” the final portion plus the Haftorah. After Shabbat, he always made a handsome contribution to the synagogue.
On one of his visits, he went in for “yehidut” – a private personal meeting with the Rebbe, the most special time for a chasid. This time Chayim poured out his heart to the Rabbi, telling him about a difficult problem that was hindering him in his service to G-d, a problem that troubled him every day. “I am hot-tempered, ” he told the Rebbe, “and I am easily angered. Even small issues can set me off. For example, when things don’t work out as I wished, or when people do not do what I asked them to, I explode.”
He finished speaking and eagerly waited for the Rebbe’s response. Many times before he had been in yehidut and had received answers and instructions on a variety of matters. This time, however, was different. The Rabbi merely waved his hand dismissively and said that the problem was small and insignificant, really not a problem at all.
Chayim could not understand. He had waited so long to come to his Rebbe and tell him of his difficulty, and had anticipated receiving an answer that would solve his problem, yet the Rebbe had barely addressed the issue.
Chayim did not give up; he asked again. He described his difficulties, how his problem affected him and all those around him, and waited again for an answer. But again, the response was: “This is a very small difficulty, not really a problem at all,” said the Rebbe.
Chayim tried a third time and received again the same response. He had to leave the Rebbe’s room in disappointment. “I can’t believe that I received no answer!” he thought. “But perhaps I will in time,” he tried to cheer himself.
After Chayim had left the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe called in the gabbai, the one who supervised the synagogue. He instructed him that on the coming Shabbat day, he not give Reb Chayim the honor of Maftir as usual, but rather, give him the task of “Gelila” – the retying of the Torah scroll at the end of the reading (a task often given to children) and covering it.
The gabbai listened to the Rebbe’s request and looked at him in amazement. He began to imagine the astonishment and perhaps furor in the synagogue as a result.
As the Shabbat approached, the gabbai’s concerns grew, and he decided to take action. “It’s best I let him know in advance,” he thought.
He called upon Reb Chayim and told him that on the Shabbat he would receive “Gelila” rather than Maftir. Chayim began complaining at once, and loudly, too. The gabbai explained that this was the instruction he had received from the Rebbe’s mouth. This calmed Chayim down a bit, and he began to understand that there must be something in this.
“It must be that the Rebbe is testing me,” he thought to himself.
The Shabbat arrived. The chasidim had already seen Reb Chayim in the Rebbe’s court, and assumed that he would receive the honor of Maftir, as usual. A few of them tried to guess how large a contribution he would make afterward. But when it came time for the Maftir and the gabbai called the name of someone else, they were amazed. When they turned to look at Chayim and see his reaction, they became doubly astonished: Chayim was standing there, completely calm.
Shortly thereafter he was called for the Gelila task. “He’ll get angry now,” the chasidim thought to themselves. But to their amazement Reb Chayim strode up to the Torah with a little smile on his face, humming a tune under his breath. When he had finished retying and covering the Torah scroll, he returned quietly to his seat, still smiling.
“I wonder what is going on?” they all thought.
At the end of the prayer, Chayim did not leave the synagogue with the others, but waited to talk with the Rebbe. When the Rebbe had completed his prayer, Chayim went over to him. The rebbe smiled at him, and Chayim smiled back.
“Well,” said the Rebbe, “I see that your problem is not as great as you said. Look how you were dishonored in front of everyone because you were not called for Maftir like you usually are, and yet, you did not get angry.”
“Of course not, Rebbe,” replied Reb Chayim , I knew that this was a trick, that you were testing me; therefore I did not get angry. If it were not a trick–if they were truly trying to anger me–you don’t want to know the fury I would have unleashed here today!”
The Rabbi replied, “Now you can understand why I said your problem is not so difficult. Listen to me – it is always a trick! The Holy One, Blessed be He, is always testing us. Everyone who annoys you is His messenger, a part of this exercise in which He tests us and our reactions.
“When you look at all the world in this way,” the Rabbi concluded, “everything will seem different. You will not have to overcome your anger, because you will have no reason to be angry!”
Source: From Mudaot Yehudit by Nadav Cohen, as first translated into English by his mother, Yehudit-Esther Cohen and lightly edited by Yerachmiel Tilles. The published English version is called GPS for the Soul (translator: Zalman Nelson of Tsfat) and is available for purchase at Ascent’s
KabbalaOnline shop site.
Connection: Weekly Reading–anger management.
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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