Weekly Story: How We Accomplish Something?

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon 

Recently a letter of Reb Chatcha Feigjn, one of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s secretaries in Europe was published. There he writes the following story which he heard directly from the Frierdiker Rebbe. 

The Alter Rebbe had a chossid who due to his business was traveling in the vicinity of Karlin. The Alter Rebbe told him that he should stop off there and observe the tzaddik Reb Aharon Karliner.

Grateful that he was given the opportunity to do something on behalf of the Rebbe,  the chossid made his way to Karlin and found a place to sleep.

Going outside he noticed some chassidim running and he inquired of them, where are they rushing to?

The Rebbe had been fasting these past three days and is going to break his fast, they replied.

Since he will be breaking his fast in front of the chassidim,  I have the opportunity to observe him right now, thought the chossid, and will be able to fulfill the Rebbe’s instructions. So without delay he followed them into Reb Aharon’s beis Hamidrash. 

After washing his hands for hamotzie and eating some Challah, the first course was served. Reb Aharon began eating, but he immediately put the food down, moved the plate away and exclaimed in anger, it is too salty. Who prepared such food?

Hearing the commotion the Rebbetzin came to see what happened. Turning to his Rebbetzin, the tzaddik asked Did you prepare this?

Yes was the reply.

It is so salty and inedible, it is grounds to give a divorce, thundered the tzaddik. 

Everyone present was stunned. This is so uncharacteristic of the Rebbe.

One of the elder chassidim decided to take a taste from the plate that was served and then said, Rebbe, yes there is some extra salt on the food, but it is not so salty that it warrants giving a divorce.

Hearing these words the Rebbe began dancing with joy.

The Alter Rebbes chossid didn’t know what to make of this. He was so bewildered, and to him it bordered on a Purim shpiel. So he decided that he would relate some other aspects he noticed, such as that Reb Aharon fasted for three days and then ate the meal in front of the chassidim. 

Hearing this the Alter Rebbe asked and what happened at the seudah?

Having no choice, the chossid related what he witnessed, thinking to himself, evidently the Rebbe had sensed that something out of the ordinary occurred.

Sensing the chossids’ uneasiness about what he had noticed. The Alter Rebbe explained, Reb Aharon saw that there was a severe decree against a Jewish community. They were to be expelled and banished from their homes and livelihoods. it would be a calamity for them. To avert this decree he fasted for three days. But to no avail, the decree remained. 

The tzaddik made a seudah and said that the Rebbetzins food was inedible and therefore a divorce was in order. The Rebbetzin was representing that Jewish community, whose actions or inactions gave Heaven such distress that it was decreed that they deserve to be banished from their homes, thus he said he would divorce the Rebbetzin. 

But then the elder chossid argued, granted it is salty but it isn’t so salty warranting a divorce. In other words, even though that community sinned and deserves to be reprimanded, a reprimand is sufficient and there is no need to take the drastic step to divorce, i.e. being banished from their homes.

These words penetrated heaven and the decree was nullified and the tzaddik began to dance in happiness.

Hearing this the chossid realized he completely misunderstood and judged Reb Aharon’s actions. Turning to the Alter Rebbe he asked and why don’t we see this by the Rebbe?

We accomplish these things through saying a maamar chassidus, replied the Alter Rebbe. 

Reb Chatcha concluded, I am writing this to you because I heard that there is a rift among your community and I want you to know that I see that it is giving the Rebbe distress, as he added something about negating baseless hatred in the recent maamar he said. He added something from the famous maamar of Heichultzu, which discusses this topic.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeiim and their chassdim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com


  • Mushkie

    From the story it is apparently clear that the Karliner chosid was able to accomplish what the Karliner Rebbe could.

    First, why did the Karliner Rebbe need a chosid to point out that “although the food is salty it isn’t that salty to justify a divorce”, couldn’t the Rebbe say that point on his own?!

    Second, how can a chosid, even an older chosid, argue and contradict his Rebbe?


  • Anonymous

    Third, is salty food ever grounds fir divorce?

    Suppose the food was exceptionally salty, maybe it was so accidently, at no fault if the wife? And even if done purposely, is salty food such a terrible “aveira” to justify divorce?

    Fourth, the point that the Jews aren’t so bad that they should deserve “divorce” can be made without the drama if complaing about the salty food – it’s a simple point!

  • Tomim

    Amswer to first question: Sometimes there needs to be a hisarusa milmata, that the chosid should demand and then the Rebbe delivers. Similar to “Tu ALTZ” that the Rebbe told US to do all we can because he “needs” us.