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Two Guests

A pleasing fragrance to G-d (1:17)

Regarding an animal-offering the Torah says "a pleasing fragrance to G-d", and regarding a fowl-offering the Torah also says "a pleasing fragrance to G-d." This comes to tell you that whether one offers much or offers little it is pleasing to G-d - so long as one directs his heart to heaven…

- Rashi's commentary

One day, Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch said to his son, Rabbi Sholom DovBer: "Today, two people came to see me. From one, I derived great pleasure; from the other, only aggravation.

"The first was Reb Eliyahu, a simple merchant from Abeleh, a small settlement near Lubavitch.1My conversation with the Reb Eliyahu went as follows:

'Reb Eliyahu, how are things with you?'

'Thank G-d.'

'How's business?'

'Thank G-d. But, Rebbe, my heart aches for Yosef of our village - he simply has no success in anything. We raised a small sum between us and bought him a horse and wagon so that he could take some goods to the city, but the poor fellow has no luck. Always something happens: the axle cracks, the horse breaks a leg, and then the horse is stolen altogether. All shlimazeldikpossibilities befall him. Oh, Rebbe, how can I help him?!'

"Reb Eliyahu emitted a deep sigh and burst into tears: 'Rebbe! Please help him!'

"I said to Reb Eliyahu: 'But indeed, there is much that you can do for him. When a Jew participates in the sorrow of his fellow and prays for him, he banishes all negative decrees.'

"I then took a coin from my pocket: 'I want to be your partner,' I said. 'May the Almighty grant that you be privileged to be of assistance to a fellow Jew and may your efforts meet with success.'

" 'Rebbe, you want me for a partner!?' cried Reb Eliyahu, trembling from head to foot. 'Do you know what I am? I am the 'coarse substance'2which the Tanyaspeaks of, whose only rectification is to be crushed…'

"And the my second guest? The esteemed chassid Rabbi Eliezer of Plotzk, author of the work Mishnat Eliezer, was also in Lubavitch today.

'How are things?' I asked.

'Thank G-d. I give an in-depth class in Talmud to the young men, and they learn well. On Shabbos they meditate and pray long after the congregation has concluded. They study the teachings of chassidism…"

'What of their character traits?' I interjected.

'Well… You know how it is with the children of the rich…"

"I said to him: 'The fault is their mentor's, not theirs. The foundation of education and guidance is the imparting of a good character. Not to teach the book but to teach the person.

'As soon as you return home I want you to establish a free loan fund. Every one of these young men should contribute half of his dowry.'

'But Rebbe,' protested Rabbi Eliezer, 'I will never prevail upon them to do this!'

'If I say so, you will manage. Tell the young men that when they give, they are not giving what is theirs, and if they do not give, they will not have what to give. I hope that on your next visit you will bring me better tidings.'

When the Rebbe finished telling his son about these two encounters, he remarked: "Had I wished to give in to the desire of my G-dly soul,3I would have grabbed Reb Eliyahu Abelehr and covered his face with kisses…"

FOOTNOTES

1. Abeleh was one of the hamlets that Rabbi Shmuel was trying to turn into a 'town'. At the time, a new anti-Jewish decree had been passed by the czarist government forbidding Jews to live in villages; so the Rebbe invested much effort to promote as many settlements as possible to the status of 'town'.
2. 'Chomer hagas.'

 

 


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