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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How Does an Orphan Honor his Parents?
a story about Rebbe Yehoshua of Belz

The original Belz Shul in Galicia

Today is the 112th yahrzeit of Rebbe Yehoshua [Shia’leh] of Belz, son of the Sar Shalom, who was the first Belzer Rebbe. This story was told by Rebbe Mordechai of Bilguria zt”l, father of today’s Belzer Rebbe Shlita. It is my free translation of a story which appeared in this past week’s “Alim L’Trufa,” a weekly Parsha sheet.

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: As we mentioned in a previous post, Tehillim [Psalm] 119 is also known as “Tmanya Apei” – literally, “eight faces.” This refers to the fact that this Psalm goes through the entire Hebrew alphabet eight times. That is, eight verses for Aleph, then Beis, etc. – a total of 176 verses. Belzer Chassidim sing this Psalm throughout Chanuka.

Rebbe Yehoshua of Belz was once at a Bris [circumcision] of a baby who was already orphaned from both of his parents. His father had passed away after his mother had conceived, and his mother died in childbirth. At the Bris, there was a tremendous amount of crying and wailing, which created a very somber and morose atmosphere.

The Belzer Rebbe ordered that the crying should stop, saying that a Bris is a joyous occasion of a Mitzva. Crying is therefore prohibited, and it will in no way help the unfortunate child. At the Seudas Mitzva [the festive meal], the Rebbe commanded that they should sing the entire Tmanya Apei. “You are undoubtedly wondering why I asked that these verses should be sung,” the Rebbe said. And he then told the following story.

Rebbe Yaakov Yitzchak of Pshischa, known as the Yid HaKodesh [the Holy Jew], would learn with the young men in his Beis Medrash [study hall]. Whenever a very difficult question arose to the Yid, he would concentrate very deeply, being often steeped in his thoughts for half an hour or more - until the answer came to him. Once a young man, who was orphaned from his father, was learning with the Yid, when one of these questions came up. As the Yid was steeped in his thoughts, the young man became very hungry, and decided to go home quickly to his mother for a quick bite.

He quickly ran home and asked his mother for some food, reminding her that he was in the middle of his learning, and had to return immediately to the Beis Medrash. After preparing and serving the food, his mother asked him to bring down a package that she needed from the attic. Nervous about returning late, the young man told his mother he had to return to his learning. As he hurried back to the Beis Medrash, he realized what he had done – after all, isn’t all his learning supposed to be in order to fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah, and he had just missed an opportunity to honor his mother?!

He quickly did an about-face and ran home to his mother, pleading for her forgiveness. When she agreed, he brought the package down from the attic, and quickly ran back to the Beis Medrash. Upon his arrival there, as he opened the door, the Yid was aroused from his deep thoughts, and he stood up to greet the young man.

Noticing that the Rebbe had stood up, all the other talmidim [students] also stood. The young man was quite bewildered at all of this. The Yid then delivered his answer to the difficult question, and asked everyone to sit down. Sitting down with them, he turned to the young man and said, “Now tell us everything that happened to you.”

After the young man told his story, the Yid said, “Surely you wonder why I stood up. The Gemara [Kiddushin 32b] says that Abayei [an Amora, one of the Sages of the Talmud] was an orphan from both parents. His father had passed away after his mother had conceived, and his mother died in childbirth. How, then, could he fulfill the command of honoring one’s parents, which is one of the Aseres HaDibros [ten commandments]? Therefore, whenever anyone fulfills this mitzva properly, Abayei accompanies him. So, since you did this mitzva so well, Abayei went with you. When you came here, Abayei came with you, and I stood up in his honor. And it was he who gave me the answer to the difficult question.”

Rebbe Yehoshua of Belz then added that in the Maharsha’s commentary to this Gemara, he brings that the name Abayei is alluded to in the verse, “asher becha yerucham yasom” [the first letter of each word spells out the name Abayei], meaning, “in You the orphan finds mercy” [Hoshea, 14:4]. “We can therefore explain the verse, ‘becha yerucham yasom,’ not by crying over him, but by insuring that he receives a proper Torah education as he grows up. For the gematria [numerical value] of the letters of ‘becha’ [in You] hints at the 22 letters of the Torah, and if we bring the child up according to the Torah, this will bring great satisfaction to his parents in Gan Eden.”

“Now you can understand why I asked you to sing Tmanya Apei,” the Rebbe concluded, “for in the entire psalm is about the Kedusha [sanctity] and greatness of the Torah.”

That's an unbelievable story!
Thanks Dovid,
Glad you enjoyed it!
This is a beautiful story-Yasher Koach.

Do you have anything on the Pittsburger Rebbe ZY"A?

To the person who mentioned the article about the Pittsburger Ilan Ilan-would it be at all possible to copy it online somewhere-I have no access to back issues.
Yasher Koach
Anon: Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I have a copy of the story. The Pittsburgher zt"l compossed it for Rosh Chodesh Nisan, so bli neder I may post it then. Meanwhile, perhaps you or Nachman can tell us where to find that niggun on the web.
I dont know where on the web but they put out a tape a few years ago called CHaim'ke the wonder boy sings...(or something close to that) and on that tape they sing Ilan (together with Hinei Ma Tov, Vesomid vchu').

I would really like to get a hold of that story-if you wont put it up now would you at least be willing to email it to me[SamuelTGold@gmail.com]
Yasher Koach Gadol
Ilan,was recorded on both the first and second Pittsburg recordings.(not on the above mentioned Chaimke album,the third in the series of Pittsburg recordings)Mordechai Ben David recorded this song on his -ONCE UPON A NIGUN-album.
Ilan,was also recorded on chasidishe oitzros volume one.

www.mostlymusic.com/chasidishe-oitzros-p-2186.html(with audio clips)
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