5771 Kvarim Trip -- Annipoli ~ Gannopol

by Chossid August. 18, 2011 5852 views

A Bundle of Greens

By Yerachmiel Tilles

Reb Eliezer Lipa was a simple but devout Jew who lived in the town of Tarnow in Galicia. He was not well versed in Torah and didn’t know the meaning of most of his daily prayers, but he always prayed with the minyan (prayer quorum) and was scrupulous to say all the proper responses to the prayer leader. He never conversed about worldly matters in the shul (synagogue), and he accorded the Torah scholars and rabbi their due honor.

Reb Eliezer Lipa was a laborer who knew many trades, but he was most well known as a water-carrier. He worked hard, and managed to make a decent living, as he had four steady customers who were well-to-do merchants and who paid him above the average rate for his services.

One day, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov arrived in Tarnow. This was before the chassidic master had revealed himself to the world, and he appeared as a simple itinerant, but with a gift for telling stories. He used to congregate with the other laborers and tell them stories from the Talmud. He would also speak to them about how much G‑d was pleased with the sincere prayers and straightforward faith of ordinary Jews.

Reb Eliezer Lipa was guiding his wagon with its full barrel of water through the center of town, when he spotted his friend and fellow water-carrier Reb Zalman Dov along with some other men, gathered around a simply dressed itinerant and listening intently with heads inclined to catch his every word.

His interest sparked, Reb Eliezer Lipa went over to join the circle of listeners. The Baal Shem Tov was telling the story related in the Talmud of a wealthy man who lived in the days when the Holy Temple in Jerusalem still stood.

“The wealthy man was taking a fattened ox to the Temple for a sacrifice. It was a massive beast, and when it decided, for reasons of its own, to stop still in its tracks, nobody was able to convince it to walk further towards their destination. No amount of pushing and prodding could make that animal budge.

”A poor man who was on his way home was watching the scene. In his hand was a bunch of freshly picked greens. These he now held to the muzzle of the ox, and when the animal began to nibble, he drew them away and thereby led the animal to its destination at the Holy Temple.

“That night the owner of the ox had a dream. In his dream he heard a voice which called out, ‘The sacrifice of the poor man, who gave up the bundle of greens he was bringing to his impoverished family, was a more desirable sacrifice than your fattened ox.’

”The wealthy man brought a large fattened ox for a burnt-offering. He was so joyful at being able to bring such an animal that he also brought a sheep for a peace-offering and made a huge feast for his family and friends. He also distributed the proper gifts from his sacrifices to the priests. His joy was so intense that he held back nothing. The poor man, on the other hand, had only a bunch of greens to bring home for his family. What were his few stalks compared to the fattened animal of the wealthy man?

“Nevertheless,” concluded the Baal Shem Tov, “G‑d desires the heart. Any mitzvah a person may do, whether great or small, simple or difficult, is judged by how it is performed. A mitzvah done for G‑d’s sake, with great joy and purity of heart, is very precious to the Creator. G‑d cries out to the angels, ‘Look at the mitzvah my son/daughter has done!’ G‑d, from His place in the heavens, saw that although the wealthy man had offered much, the poor man had offered much more.”

Reb Eliezer Lipa’s mind knew no rest. How he longed to be able to do a mitzvah like the poor man in the story, with pure intention and a joyful overflowing heart! The weeks passed and still Reb Eliezer Lipa knew no peace, as his heart ached with the desire to be able to do such a mitzvah.

One day, as Reb Eliezer Lipa was delivering water to one of his wealthy customers, he had an idea, an idea so perfect that his whole being became flushed with a great sense of pleasure and relief. Reb Eliezer Lipa’s four wealthy customers provided him with half of his livelihood, since they paid him far more than the going rate for a barrel of water. On the other hand, his friend Reb Zalman Dov supplied the town’s four synagogues, which paid him half-price for their water. “I can exchange four of my customers for four of his,” thought Reb Eliezer Lipa. “Four wealthy homes for four synagogues.” He was anxious to serve G‑d by providing the water that the congregants would wash their hands with. Certainly the mitzvah was of more value than the profits he would give up.

He went home and told his wife about the story he heard from the visiting storyteller, and how doing a mitzvah with joy is like bringing a sacrifice in the Holy Temple, even though it no longer stands. His wife readily agreed to the idea, as did Reb Zalman Dov, who sorely needed the extra income. The deal was struck and the exchange of customers was made. No one but Reb Eliezer Lipa and his wife knew what had happened, and they were overjoyed at the prospects for their new “business.” There were days when Reb Eliezer Lipa’s wife went to the river to participate in the mitzvah of drawing the water for the synagogues. As they hauled the water, they would concentrate on the mitzvah of preparing the water for the congregants to wash their hands with before prayers, and their joy was boundless. For they understood that G‑d desires the heart.

Amongst chassidim there is a tradition that it was in the merit of their mitzvah, Reb Eliezer Lipa and his wife were blessed with children, for she had formerly been barren. They gave birth to two sons, who grew to be luminaries who lit up the Jewish world and inspired tens of thousands to return to G‑d and to serve Him with joy: Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk and Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli, two of the most illustrious disciples of the Baal Shem Tov’s successor, Reb DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Twenty-fourth in the series

Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, and was his successor. He is regarded as the first systematic exponent of the mystical philosophy underlying the teachings of the Baal ShemTov; through his teaching and leadership, he was the main architect of the movement. He established his base in Mezeritch, where he focused his attention on raising a close circle of great disciples to spread the movement. After his passing, avoiding the unified leadership of the first two generations, this third generation of leadership took their different interpretations and disseminated across appointed regions of Eastern Europe. Under the inspiration of their teacher, this rapidly spread Hasidism beyond the Ukraine, to Poland, Galicia and Russia.

When he was five years old, his family home burned down. On hearing his mother weeping, he asked: “Mother, do we have to be so unhappy because we have lost a house?” She replied that she was mourning the family tree, which was destroyed, and traced back to King David via Rabbi Yohanan Sandlar, a master in the Talmud. The boy replied: “And what does that matter? I shall get you a new family tree which begins with me!”

Rabbi Dov Ber learned from the Baal Shem Tov to value everyday things and events, and to emphasize the proper attitude with which to study Torah. The mystical philosophy of the Baal Shem Tov rejected the earlier emphasis on mortification of the body in Musar and Kabbalistic traditions, seeing the greater spiritual advantage in transforming the material into a vehicle for holiness, rather than breaking it. This could be achieved by the perception of the omnipresent Divine immanence in all things, from understanding the inner mystical Torah teachings of Hasidic thought.

He attracted a remarkable group of scholarly and saintly disciples, including most of his fellow students of the Baal Shem Tov. devoted his main focus to articulating the mystical-philosophical system within the Baal Shem Tov's teachings to his close circle of disciples, who would lead the future movement. The simple folk were also able to visit during the Sabbath public attendancies of Dovber, and receive spiritual encouragement and comfort.

The elite group of holy disciples, the “Chevraya Kaddisha” (“Holy Society”), included Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, the brothers Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk and Rabbi Zusha of Hanipol, the brothers Rabbi Shmelka (later Chief Rabbi of Nikolsburg) and Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz (later Chief Rabbi of Frankfurt-am-Main and author of profound Talmudic commentaries), and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (author of the Tanya, and by instructions of his master, author of an updated version of the Shulchan Aruch Code of Jewish Law for the new movement). These disciples, being themselves great Talmudic authorities as well as well-versed in Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy, were extremely successful in turning Hasidus into a vast movement.

Reb Meshulam Zisil, or Zushe of Annipoli, was one of the most well known students of the Mezritcher Maggid.

Protection Money

By Elisha Greenbaum

Ever heard a little kid bargaining with G-d? “G-d, if I pass this test/get a Barbie doll/don't get into trouble, I'll brush my teeth every night/walk around the block sixteen times without stepping on a crack/hold my breath and count to 100…”

Ridiculous? Small-minded? Immature? Well, are our desires any more mature, our deals any more intelligent? So you promised to stay in shul for the entire service/read a Jewish book/say something nice to your mother-in-law. Are you any more likely to be guaranteed a positive answer to your hopes and aspirations?

There is one “bribe” that G-d doesn't refuse: charity.

We'll read in the Torah this week that we have the responsibility and privilege to support the poor. It is traditional to increase our charitable donations especially at this time of year (Elul, the lead-in month before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). However, isn't this just a particularly blatant attempt to bribe G-d? Does it really work? Why tzedakah (charity) more than any other mitzvah?

A wealthy Jew had been a long time financial supporter of the famous Rebbe Zushe. He used to provide the Rebbe's household running expenses and was content to receive regular blessings and advice in return. Once he showed up in Annipoli, Reb Zushe's hometown, only to find Reb Zushe's wife home alone.

“Where is the Rebbe?”

“He's gone to visit his Rebbe.”

“My Rebbe has a Rebbe?”

The rich man was no fool. “If my Rebbe has a Rebbe, why am I wasting time with the disciple? I've been doing so well by receiving the blessings of Reb Zushe, imagine the jackpot that awaits me were I to transfer my support to his Rebbe…”

He abandoned Reb Zushe and became a follower of Rabbi DovBer of Mezritch, Reb Zushe's Rebbe.

A few months later, after a series of calamitous business failures, he was back in Annipoli, totally bankrupt.

“I accept that my business failure is punishment for deserting you,” he cried to Reb Zushe, “but why? What was wrong with my logic?”

“There was nothing wrong with your logic per se,” Reb Zushe answered, “just in the application. Till now, when you gave tzedakah without assessing the worthiness of the recipient, G-d responded in kind, looking after you, irrespective of whether you truly deserved it. Once you started cost-benefit analyzing where you could get the best value for the money, G-d had a good look at how deserving you are, and you obviously came up short.”

I submit that this is why it is traditional to increase in charitable giving at this time of the year and that is why we always read this parshah the week Elul begins. We're committing to change, to improve. We pray that G-d accepts us favorably, but who among us can be truly comfortable with the year that was? Ill decisions made, promises broken and wrong forks taken on the road of life. Our only hope is that G-d takes us back, warts and all, without examining too closely whether we deserve it. And, to set an example to G-d, we too hand out help with an open hand to all, until, please G-d, this year we will all receive the greatest gift of all: the final redemption.

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There are 4 comments , add yours!
Gianluigi Gg 8 years, 9 months ago

very nice and very interesting.

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Finbarr 8 years, 9 months ago

Awesome post !!

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Moira 8 years, 9 months ago

I like the 6th too interesting set .

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
Joe 8 years, 9 months ago

Nice set, Leah. Thanks for sharing. Like the mood of #6, good shot.

8 years, 9 months ago Edited
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