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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


A Bracha for…A Thief?

from our post, two years ago: Tonight and tomorrow, the 22nd of Elul, is the yahrzeit of the Heiliger Pele Yoeitz, Rebbe Mordechai Dov Ber of Hornosteipel. A direct descendant of the Rebbe Reb Zusia of Anipoli, he was also the grandson and successor of the Cherkassy Rebbe, a son-in-law of Rebbe Chaim of Sanz, and a tremendous Talmid Chacham [Torah scholar] and Chassidic Rebbe in his own right. Rebbe Mordechai Dov was descended from many Chassidic greats [besides the Rebbe Reb Zusia]. These included the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl, Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi [Chabad-Lubavitch], and Rebbe Aharon HaGadol of Karlin. But he was not one to rest on his laurels: he left us some great Halachic works, Emek Shaila [responsa], Turei Zahav on the Halachos of Ribis [interest]. He also expounded Chassidic teachings on Torah which are found in the Pele Yoeitz, for which he is known; Emek Chochma [which appears together with his grandfather's (Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkasse) sefer, Emek Tefilla as Shoshanas HaAmakim.

See also last year’s post: Saved at the Mikva


"I learned from all my teachers," David HaMelech says in Tehillim [119:99]. Our Sages tell us in Pirkei Avos [4:1] that a truly wise person is he who learns from everyone. Indeed, the Maggid of Mezritch taught the Rebbe Reb Zusia [of Anipoli] that one can learn three things from a baby, and seven from a thief. Among those seven is that "a thief never gives up. If he fails the first time, he keeps on trying until he succeeds." Sometimes, however, his success is not in what he thinks it should be, as our story teaches us…

This story is from Rabbi Dr. Avraham J. Twerski’s wonderful book, The Zeide Reb Motele.

A Bracha for…A Thief?
The Czarist government set strict limitations on the travels of tzaddikim. The Zeide R. Motele was not permitted to leave Hornosteipel. When he married off his son, R. Baruch David, in Homel, he removed his traditional garb and dressed like a businessman in the hope that he would not be detected. However, due to the throng of Chassidim who gathered for the wedding, the word got out that Zeide R. Motele was there, and he had to flee. Immediately after the chupa, he boarded a carriage to return to Hornosteipel.
En route, the driver suddenly stopped and said, ''Rebbe, I am a highway robber. It is nothing for me to kill someone to rob him. I want you to give me a bracha for success. If you do not, I will kill you.''
(Author's note: Is it not absurd, that a person who robs and murders has faith in the blessing of a tzaddik? Indeed, the Talmud acknowledges this phenomenon. ''A thief who undermines a wall, prays to G-d that he should not be detected'' [Ein Yaakov, Brachos 63]. The Alter Rebbe explains this phenomenon. A person who is at so low a spiritual level is like someone in a dream. In a dream, gross contradictions can exist side by side. Although he is aware that there is a G-d, he can live with the absurd inconsistency of asking G-d's help in stealing.)
Zeide R. Motele did not lose his composure. ''Listen to me,'' he said. ''A similar incident occurred to my grandfather, R. Zusia, who was set upon by a group of thugs, who threatened to kill him unless he gave them a bracha. My grandfather said, 'You will soon find the body of a poritz [feudal lord], who had a great deal of money with him. If you take that money and cease your evil ways, I give you my bracha for success. But if you continue in your ways, I assure you that you will be caught, and the police will lead you in chains before my house.'
''And so it was. Some of the group did teshuva and were successful. Those who remained bandits were captured and led away in chains before R. Zusia's house.
''I have no wealthy poritz to give you, but I tell you this. If you will desist from your evil ways, things will go well for you. If you do not, I assure you, your end will be bitter. Mark my words! Now, if you wish, you may kill me.''
The driver sat stunned, then fell to Zeide R. Motele's feet, begged his forgiveness and asked him to guide him to teshuva. He eventually became a Chassid of Zeide R. Motele, and was known in Hornosteipel as the baal teshuva of Bobruisk.''
Zechuso yagein aleinu v'al kol Yisrael - May the Pele Yoeitz's merits protect us all!

Thanks for the perfect story for Elul.
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