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Monday, September 17, 2007


The Zeide Sues the Almighty

Updated from last year’s post, the Dancing Zeide:
Tonight is the 6th of Tishrei, and the 196th yahrzeit of Rebbe Aryeh Leib, known as the Shpoler Zeide ["grandfather"]. Rebbe Aryeh Leib was a disciple of Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz. For a long time Rebbe Aryeh Leib was a nistar, a hidden tzaddik, until he was "forced" to reveal himself. The Shpoler Zeide was a folk Rebbe: singing, dancing, joyful. He consoled, encouraged, counseled, gave remedies, made peace between man and wife and between parents and children, defended the weak, threatened the strong with spiritual punishment, and stood up in defense of the abused Jewish lessees. "He was a father to many, many Rebbes, each one blessed in his own right…a father of perceptions, grimaces, manners, middos [good character] and madreigos [spiritual levels], father of banter and amazing stories…father of the trait of self-amazement which characterized many Rebbes…Rebbe Leib of Shpole, this Zeide, is the father to a multitude of Jews, that is, good Jews and Rebbes.” [from Morei HaChassidus, by Eliezer Steinman].
There’s lot’s more at that post, including highlights about his niggunim.


The following story was adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles of Ascent from the rendition at L’Chaim Weekly. I have added to it very slightly, from the original Hebrew rendition.

The Zeide Sues the Almighty

When Rebbe Aryeh Leib had been Rebbe for three years in Shpola, there was terrible famine in the area, and the Jews suffered more than anyone else. The tzaddik, whose love for the poor, the needy and the widowed was unbounded, felt compelled to provide for the thousands affected by the disaster. He could neither eat nor sleep, and his heartache was so great that for weeks on end he couldn't bring himself to taste anything more than bread and tea.

As the famine spread to the furthest provinces of Russia, Rebbes from other starving communities in the area wrote to Shpola, begging the Zeide to raise a storm in the Heavens, and beg that the deadly decree be rescinded. For who, if not he, a tzaddik and known to work wonders, could accomplish this?

Rebbe Aryeh Leib, for his part, wrote to ten of the greatest tzaddikim of the day: the Rebbe Reb Zusia of Anipoli, Rebbe Yaakov Shimshon of Shipitovka, Rebbe Ze'ev Wolf of Zhitomir, Rebbe Leib HaMochiach of Polnoye, Reb Leib Kohen of Berditchev, Rebbe Yisrael and Rebbe Azriel of Politzk, Rebbe Gedalia of Linitz, Rebbe Mordechai of Neschiz, and Rebbe Nota of Razdil. He requested that they come to Shpola immediately.

They all complied and soon arrived. After they were seated at the long table of the Shpoler Zeide, they heard his awesome words: "Honored rabbis, my masters, I am summoning the Almighty to a din Torah, a lawsuit in rabbinical court, and you are to serve as the judges. It is true that, according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his suit to the place where the defendant is, but since in this unique case, 'there is no place devoid of His presence,' and since, more particularly, 'wherever ten are assembled the Divine Presence rests,' we will hold the court case here."

The holy minyan of Chassidic Rebbes accepted. They then joined in prayer, their fervent supplications battering the Gates of Heaven.

The Shpoler Zeide then instructed his aide to announce: "By the order of those gathered here, I hereby proclaim that Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel, summons the Almighty to a lawsuit which will be duly conducted in this Beis Din [courtroom] in three days."
The holy Rebbes spent the next three days together in fasting and prayer; no one was permitted to interrupt their devotions.

On the fourth day, after they had concluded the morning prayers and were still wrapped in their tallis and adorned by their tefillin, the Shpoler Zeide solemnly signaled his aide to announce that the court case was about to begin.

"In the name of all the women and children of the Jews of Russia," the tzaddik declared, "I hereby state my claim against the Defendant. Why does the Creator of the Universe not provide them with food, thereby preventing their death (G-d forbid) of hunger? Doesn't the Torah itself say, 'For unto Me are the Children of Israel bondsmen; they are My bondsmen'? Do we not have His promise, recorded by the Prophet Yechezkel, that even if His children should someday desire to go in the ways of the nations of the world, that this will never happen? One is forced to draw the conclusion that the Children of Israel are the Almighty's servants for all eternity.

"In that case, they should, at least, be in the category of Jewish servants. Jewish law teaches that a master is required to provide for the wife and children of his servant. Can the Almighty violate his own Torah so blatantly?

"Now I'm well aware that some clever prosecuting angel will argue in defense of the Creator, saying that these servants are remiss in their service; that they don't serve their Master as well as they should. But to this bogus argument I have two replies:

"Firstly, where is it written that if a servant is lazy and doesn't work properly, his wife and children may be deprived of their sustenance?

"Secondly, if these servants are slack in their performance, their Master can fault no one but Himself. For who else gave each servant an evil inclination whose whole job and purpose it is to drive them to abandon their loyalty and to destroy their desire to serve? Why, I can swear that if this evil inclination, which the Master Himself created, would cease to exist, they would become the most perfect servants possible!"

The ten tzaddikim-judges searched their tomes of Torah to ascertain the correct verdict for this unusual claim. After the passage of some time they stood to deliver their unanimous ruling:
"This court finds in favor of Rebbe Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel. The Almighty is accordingly required, by whatever means at His disposal (and the whole world is His) to provide for the women and children of His People. And may the Heavenly Court above agree and support the verdict of this court in the World Below." The court pronounced its verdict three times.

The Shpoler Zeide then asked to have whiskey and refreshments served. The tzaddikim toasted L'Chaim and ate together in a joyous mood before departing for home. Five days after the momentous verdict had been reached, the government announced a shipment of thousands of tons of grain. Immediately, the grain prices fell and before long, there were ample fresh supplies of food at reasonable prices. And during the entire following year, bread was bountiful and affordable for all!

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Zeide's merits protect us all!

Wait! He's the arch-nemesis of Rebb Nahman!
1) What do I have to wait for?
2) Az mah - so what?
3) It so happens that the Zeide cried when Rebbe Nachman passed away. Their machlokess was L'Shem Shamayim [argument was for the sake of Heaven], and not so simple! Here is not the place for it...
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