How Dare You!

News on December 1st, 2017 No Comments

Shalom aleichem!

Rabbi Zalman Zezmer was the rabbi in Krislava, and would regularly travel to nearby villages to share the wellsprings of Chassidic teachings.

Wherever he would arrive, he would request permission to deliver a talk in the synagogue. He would speak from the bimah, wrapped in a tallis, as was the custom of the day. Without people realizing that he was a chassid, he would discuss profound Chassidic ideas, inspiring those present to serve the Almighty with a personal passion.

Arriving in Volozhin, he requested permission to speak from the brilliant Torah scholar Rabbi Chaim, the disciple of the famed Vilna Gaon.

Arrangements were made for Reb Zalman to speak in the central synagogue, one hour before the Shabbat afternoon prayers.

A large group gathered in anticipation of the guest’s sermon.

Reb Zalman spoke about the Torah portion of the week, Parshat Vayishlach, and concluded with a deep interpretation on the verse, “And Jacob sent angels to Eisav.”

“In his spiritual service,” Reb Zalman explained, “Jacob was involved in elevating holy sparks that had fallen into the material world, returning them to their source, that is, G-d Almighty.

“And that,” continued Reb Zalman, “is what the verse, ‘And Jacob sent angels to Eisav’ is teaching, on a deeper level. ‘Angels’ refers to the fallens sparks of holiness. Jacob returns them to ‘Eisav,’ that is, to G-d Almighty.”

Before Reb Zalman even had a chance to step down from the bimah, he was deluged with criticism:

“How dare you refer to G-d Almighty by the name of the wicked Eisav?!”

and, “Woe is to us for being subject to such heresy!”

Overtaken by anger, the crowd began to physically assault Reb Zalman. Since it was Shabbat, after all, they made sure not to hit him hard enough to draw blood, which would be a violation of the Holy Shabbos, Heaven forbid…

In the middle of this tumult, the great genius Reb Chaim entered the shul.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

The gabbai explained everything that had happened, and recounted the blasphemous teaching that Reb Zalman had related.

“Bring him to me,” said Reb Chaim.

They schlepped Reb Zalman across the shul, and everyone gather around.

“Chutzpah! How dare you make such a derogatory statement about G-d Almighty! Why did you think it was a good idea to refer to the Almighty by the name of the wicked Eisav?”

“I didn’t make it up,” replied Reb Zalman calmly. “our sages use that very expression.”

Reb Chaim sat silenty, pondering the statement of Reb Zalman.

After a few, long minutes, he said, “It seems to me that you are mistaken! As far as I can recall, there is no statement of our sages referring to G-d as Eisav, not in the Babylonian Talmud, not in the Jerusalem Talmud, not in the Midrash, not in Mechilta, and not even in the Zohar.”

“Actually,” said Reb Zalman, “it is quite a well-known statement. Our sages say: ‘The entire Torah is made up of the names of the Holy One, Blessed Be He!’ The name Eisav also appears in the Torah, and is therefore also one of the names of G-d Almighty!”

A smile slowly spread across Reb Chaim’s face. He instructed that Reb Zalman be left to go on his way, and that he should be compensated for any pain he was caused.

* * *
What do you think is the message of this story?

A few things come to mind:

1. Just because something looks bad on the outside does not necessarily mean that is the case;
2. Sometimes you need someone else’s viewpoint to give you a fresh perspective.

What do you think? Please reply to this email to let me know!

Good Shabbos,
Shaul

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