Friday, May 04, 2007
Rebbe Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov – A Simple Jew
This Shabbos is the 17th [Tov] of Iyar, and the 32nd [Lev] Day of the Omer. The Hebrew words in brackets have the gematria – numerical value – of the numbers before them; thus today has a connection to "Lev Tov," a good heart. The significance of this can be found in the sefer Bnei Yissaschar on Lag B’Omer.
Shavuos with the Zeide, the Baal Shem Tov
Although the Degel spent time under the Maggid of Mezritch and Rebbe Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye [the Toldos] after the Baal Shem Tov’s passing, he would visit his grandfather’s grave in Medzibuzh each year before Shavuos, his grandfather’s yahrzeit. At the same time, he would utilize the opportunity to visit his brother, Baruch, who was the Rebbe of Medzibuzh.
One year, he came to Medzibuzh, stopped at the kever, and returned to Sudylkov (where he was the Rav) without seeing his brother. After Shavuos, he returned to the gravesite, and only afterwards did he visit his brother.
"Don’t worry about me, dear brother," he told the Rebbe Reb Baruch, "that I didn’t visit you before the holiday when I was here, and now only after I had been at the kever. For I had a desire receive the Torah on Shavuos as it was given on Mount Sinai, which requires a lot of help from Heaven. I therefore went to our grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov’s kever, so that he should help me in this. When goes with this intention, with holy readiness, how can he have his brother in mind? I was so detached from worldly matters!''
"What can I tell you, dear brother? Grandfather helped me, and I received the Torah just like at Mount Sinai--with thunder and lightning, with trembling and sweat, until I could no longer bear it. Just now, I went to the kever to ask him that this madreiga [attainment, level] be taken away from me, for I had lost almost my strength. Now that I returned it to grandfather, we are brothers as before."
The Lifestyle of a Simple Jew
Rebbe Moshe Charm Ephraim’s impoverished lifestyle contrasted sharply with that of his brother, the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Medzibuzh, who had a "king’s table." Rebbe Baruch once came to Sudylkov spend a Shabbos with his brother. Aware of his brother's extravagance, Rebbe Moshe Chaim Ephraim told the members of his household to make the fanciest Shabbos possible.
When the brothers arrived home after the Shabbos davening [prayers], the table was set: with two small wax candles flickering in clay candlesticks, a simple linen tablecloth, two small challos, glass cups, wooden plates, and herring with onions to eat.
After making Kiddush and HaMotzi, Rebbe Baruch could no longer restrain himself. ''Brother Ephraim, how can I see you live like this? How can you live such an impoverished existence?"
"Is there anything lacking in my house?" retorted his brother.
"In my house, we light candles on silver candlesticks, and the table has all the good things: choice wine in a golden goblet, meat, peppery fish, and all sorts of delicacies.''
"But where do you get the money for all those things?'' asked Rebbe Moshe Chaim Ephraim.
"I travel around Volhynia and Podolia, guiding the Jews in avodas Hashem and the ways of Chassidus, and they support me generously."
"Ah," said the Degel. "You see, my situation is really better than yours. While it’s true that you have silver and gold in your home, you yourself are not at home, but are wandering about in galus [exile]. But my lot is a fortunate one, for although the silver and gold are in galus and not in my home, I myself am always at home and close to my family."
Zechuso yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Degel's merits protect us all!