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Weekly Story: A Purim Story

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

The Frierdiker Rebbe advised Reb Chatsha (Yechezkel) Himmelsthein to become a Rov in a certain town/city. Reb Chatsha known for his humility replied, “I am unworthy of becoming a Rov as there are certain halachos (laws) in Choshen Mishpat (monetary matters), that I am not a hundred percent clear in them.”

The Frierdiker responded by telling him the following story.

It was a purim day and as in many towns and villages someone drank more wine or mashke than he should have and fell asleep on a bench. Some of the children saw him in his deep slumber and wanted to have some fun.

So they obtained the clothing of a gallach (a priest), (being it was on Purim, so it was a costume, when many people dress up) and put it on him. Sometime later, when this person woke up, he was still somewhat intoxicated, and saw that he was wearing the garb of a priest. Looking at himself, he said this is not possible, I am not a priest. I am a Jew.

However, being that his mind was still foggy he then said, “But I am wearing the garments of a priest, that means I must be a priest.” Unable to come to a conclusive clarity, he decided he would make a test to see if he is a gallach or not.

I will open up the book of gallachim and see; If I can read it, that means I am a priest, if I can’t read it that means I am not a priest. So he opened one of the books and saw that he can’t read a word, as it was written in a language (i.e. Latin) that is foreign from him. At that point he said I am definitely not a priest.

However, a moment later he rebuffed that proof, if I am not a priest, why am I wearing priestly garments?! The only ones who wear these vestments are gallachim (priests). He concluded, I am a priest, and most probably the majority of priests also cannot read it. After all, I am not a kayliche (crippled etc.) and if they can be a priest even if they can’t read this, I too can be a priest.

The Frierdiker Rebbe concluded, ‘A moral that is to be learned from this is, ‘Don’t think that others are more endowed with wisdom than you. Everyone has their deficiencies; just those who succeed do not allow the deficiencies to hamper them on their path of success.

When I repeated this story to others, some of them informed me that they heard that the Frierdiker Rebbe’s message was much more than that, as well as there being a second message.

The Frierdiker Rebbe was telling him, when you are given a responsibility or task to accomplish, it is common for one’s “humility” to claim, I am incapable of accomplishing that. So the message is, look at those who accomplished things, do you think initially they all had the talents to succeed? No they didn’t, but they persevered and succeeded anyways. So too, even if it is true that you are missing clarity in certain halachos, with the time and perseverance, you will gain that knowledge.

The second point is; Your clothes or position may influence your behavior. However, at the same time one should realize, the garments on their own don’t make you into that person. The Frierdiker Rebbe wanted him to become a Rov, and by accepting that position does not fill in the void that he felt he was lacking in. He would have to toil to grow into that position.

This weeks story is l’zecher nishmas, hayeled (the infant) Meir ben yibudel l’chaim tovim v’aruchim Yom Tov Lipman.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. His newest book Farbreng With Reb Binyomin Kletzker, (vol. 6 in the Early Chassidic Personalities Series), is now available in Crown Heights seforim stores and on line. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be reached at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

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#1 Comment By Great story and great lesson On March 15, 2019 @ 2:05 pm

I enjoyed the story and was inspired by the lessons. Is the story printed anywhere? Did Rabbi Himmelshtein end up being a rov – I assume this was in the Soviet Union (I think Rabbi Himmelshtein was a mashpiah)? Reading between the lines it would appear that Rabbi Himmelshtein DID know clearly ALL the other halochos of Shulchan Oruch save and except selectef few in Choshen Mishpot! Is that correct? Can you clarify what is meant by a “book of galochim”? (I don’t believe a frum chassidic Yid would look at their bible!) Thank you for this story and the weekly story you share with all of us.

#2 Comment By Rabbi Sholom Avtzon On March 15, 2019 @ 4:34 pm

The official language of theirs is Latin.
That was in parentheses.

Did he become Rov I assume so but I don’t know for certain so I didn’t write about it.

#3 Comment By Ad D’lo Yada On March 15, 2019 @ 2:36 pm

This yid was really yotzeh Ad D’lo Yada till not knowing if he is a Jew or a priest!

#4 Comment By appropriate story for 9 Adar II On March 15, 2019 @ 3:20 pm

Appropriate story for 9 Adar Two – the day Freirdiker Rebbe arrived to America in 5700 (1940).

#5 Comment By Question On March 15, 2019 @ 4:03 pm

Was the Friediker Rebbe saying a real story that took actually place or was it a moshol to illustrate a point? (Like, if it was a real story, did this Jewish man tell over to others his thought process?)

#6 Comment By Humility On March 15, 2019 @ 4:23 pm

Sometimes our yetzer hora pretends to be humble and tells us we are not worthy to be a chosid of such a great Rebbe, so we are unworthy to be mekushar to him. With humility the yetzer hora tells us we cannot be l’dovka bo. Humility can sometimes jarm a person in Avodas Hashem, just as ego harms. We must channel humility positively.

#7 Comment By This is so Dor Hashishi On March 15, 2019 @ 4:31 pm

Today if the Rebbe asks someone to swim a cross the ocean, would the chosid say, I am not such a great swimmer? Or would the chosid just jump in the ocean. We of Dor Hashviie would never argue with the Rebbe over our qualifications. If he tells us to do, we do. True we are donkeys compared to the great chassidim of yesteryear. But we are loyal donkeys. This story is about Dor Hashishi. We are Dor Hashviie!

#8 Comment By Ezra On March 16, 2019 @ 9:18 pm

No, we wouldn’t argue, but many of us would say we’ll do it and then not follow through. (Consider the reason the Rebbe stopped the annual teaching of a niggun on Simchas Torah.) Or we’d just ignore it altogether. Don’t think Dor Hashvi’i is that much better; אכשור דרי, בתמיה?

#9 Comment By This is so Dor Hashishi On March 16, 2019 @ 10:28 pm

Ezra, as explained in Likutei Sichos vol 1 pg 247 that good accumulates and grows over generations – applied here, the dedication of chosid to Rebbe “might” be greater in our generation than in previous. One such example is the acceptance of the Rebbe (by all chasidim before Gimmel Tammuz) as Moshiach which was unprecedented in previous generations.

#10 Comment By Anonymous On March 15, 2019 @ 5:54 pm

Reb Chatche Himmelstein was mashpiah and menahel of yeshiva ketana on which Reb Mendel Futterfaus leatned. He, Reb Chatche would give a half hour shiyur in Tanya on an elementary level. He was very thin and short – not taller than any of the young students. He also suffered from tuberculosis. He couldn’t eat food – he ate a cube of chocolate by letting it melt in his mouth. A doctor said he lived on the pleasure of learning Torah. He was also mashpiah in Gostina, a city that had Tomchei Tmimim, Rosh Yeshiva wss R’ Hillel Gurevitch.

#11 Comment By Thank you for this story On March 15, 2019 @ 6:25 pm

I once heard this story a little bit different.

Is the story maybe printed somewhere?

#12 Comment By Anonymous On March 16, 2019 @ 9:38 pm

The story comes from R’ Simcha Bunim of P’shischa in a different context

#13 Comment By Rabbi Sholom Avtzon On March 16, 2019 @ 9:46 pm

Please send your version to avtzonbooks@gmail.com
Thank you