Monday, January 18, 2010
The Tzaddik in Gehinnom
How R. Moshe Leib Sassover Became a Chassid
Intense Love of the Jewish People
The following story was also told by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, albeit in a slightly different form. This version is from the L'Chaim website, which in turn took it from The Crown of Creation, by Chana Weisberg, published by Mosaic Press.
THE TZADDIK IN GEHINNOM
At his grandson's circumcision celebration, the great Chassidic master, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1810), recounted the following episode:
"Rebbe Moshe said nothing. The guards repeated their request, but he remained silent and did not move. They didn't know whether to drive him out or permit him to remain. They decided to confer with the Heavenly Court, but even it was puzzled. Never had a Tzaddik descended into Gehinnom of his own desire. Rebbe Moshe was summoned before the Throne of Glory where he made his request known.
"Rebbe Moshe began, 'Master of the World, You know how great is the mitzva of redeeming captives. I have occupied myself with this mitzva my entire life, and I have never differentiated between wicked captives and righteous captives. All were equally beloved by me, and I had no peace until I had succeeded in freeing them. Now that I have entered the World of Truth, I find that there are many captives here, too. I wish to fulfill this mitzva here, as well.
"'I will not leave Gehinnom until I have fulfilled this mitzva. So dear are Your commandments to me that I have observed them no matter what the place or time or penalty might be. If I cannot bring these wretched souls to freedom, I would rather remain with them in the fires of Gehinnom than to sit with the righteous and bask in the light of the Divine Presence!'
"The Book of Records was immediately brought, opened and read. The names of all those who had been redeemed by Rebbe Moshe were counted and their children and their children's children. The final figure arrived at was sixty-thousand souls from Gehinnom to Gan Eden.
"Rebbe Moshe began to walk through Gehinnom, looking into countless pits and caves where he found souls who had suffered for hundreds of years and who had long ago lost all hope of redemption. One by one he gathered them and when he was finished, he found their number to be exactly sixty-thousand. Column after column emerged from Gehinnom, marching with them at their head, until they arrived at Gan Eden.
Zechuso yagein Aleinu, v’al Kol Yisrael – May Rebbe Moshe Leib’s merits protect us all!