A Story About Reb Simcha Bunem

News on July 14th, 2017 No Comments

Chassidim had gathered in the court of Reb Simcha Bunem of Pshischah, when something unusual happened.

A man, dressed in the modern attire typically attributed to assimilated Jews, entered and requested to see the righteous Rebbe.

The chassidim quickly concluded that he was there merely to pose irksome questions, and they gave him the cold shoulder.

“I guess I’ll have to go somewhere else,” said the man before departing.

His parting words penetrated the hearts of some of the chassidim, and they decided that they should tell the Rebbe about this encounter. The Rebbe was not pleased to hear that they had “chased away” this inquiring Jew, and requested that they follow after the man and bring him back.

They found him on the outskirts of town and told him that the Rebbe himself had requested that they bring him back. Yet upon returning to the Rebbe’s court, they were shocked to hear the question that he put forth:

“Two shidduchim (potential marriage matches) have been proposed to me: One is a very beautiful young woman, but her family is not so distinguished; the other comes from an excellent family, but is not beautiful. Whom should I marry?”

As surprised as they were to hear some an unbecoming question, they were even more surprised when the Rebbe responded, “Beauty! That really is beauty!”

No sooner had this stranger left, that the Rebbe explained what had taken place: “This ‘assimilated Jew’ asked me whether he should study Kabbalah according to the system of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (“Ramak”) or according to the school of thought of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (“Arizal”). I told him that he should follow the teachings of the Arizal.

* * *
I think that one message of this story may be about answering questions.

This anonymous man asked a question in a coded fashion; the Rebbe could have responded with a straightforward answer: “study Kabbalah according to the teachings of the Arizal.” He nevertheless chose to respond in kind, using the same language as the questioner.

Perhaps when someone asks something of us, how they ask is equally important to what they ask.

Shabbat Shalom,

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