Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reb Aharon of Chernobyl Makes Peace

The following story relates to this week's parsha, parshas Ki Seitzei, concerning the returning of lost items. Reb Aharon Chernobyler was one of the eight sons of the Maggid of Chernobyl, Reb Mordechai, who was the son of Reb Menachem Nachum Twersky, the Meor Einayim. Reb Mordechai's eight sons all became Rebbes in their own right. Skver, Tolna, Hornsteipel and Rachmestrivka are a few of the dynasties that emerged from the Maggid's sons. The subject of our story is the son who continued the Chernobyler dynasty, Reb Aharon Twersky.

A man was traveling through Berditchev, and stopped into a shtiebel to inquire whether the members of that particular shtiebel were Chernobyler chassidim. When they replied in the affirmative he took out some money, and asked them to plan a festive meal for the evening. At the meal, he related to the chassidim that he had just come from Chernobyl for a visit with their tzaddik, Reb Aharon. "I will now tell you a story that will demonstrate just who your Rebbe is," said the stranger.

"A number of years ago I was traveling through Berditchev. On the road I saw a man drop his wallet in the distance. I walked up to the wallet, and found a fat sum inside; so fat, that I had to adjust my eyes at the sight, because I had never seen such a sum of money before at one time and in one place. I inspected the wallet further, thereby hesitating from doing the right thing. But then I remembered that the parshas hashavua (weekly Torah portion) was ki seitzei. 'And does it not say,' I thought to myself, 'hasheiv toshiv le'achicha (that you should surely return it to your brother - a lost item; Devarim/Deutoronomy 12:1). And it doesn't merely say that you shall return, but rather uses the double lashon (expression), hasheiv toshiv, you shall SURELY return.' So I began to run after the poor man, but once he entered the market I could no longer keep my eye on him. I tried for half an hour to pick him out, but to no avail. This man was a businessman, as I later found out. He made trips to Berditchev laden with all sorts of local foods and delicacies from his township, and would sell them at profit, return the money and the profit to those who sent him, and then be given a commission for every product he sold. When he returned home from this trip his creditors were infuriated, and he was no longer allowed to do business. He was trusted no longer. He became ill, and died a few months. His wife became a wretched widow, and she had no money to give the children an education. Meanwhile, I invested my new-found money wisely and, in time, G-d made me a wealthy man.

"A few years later I had a dream. The businessman appeared, and asked, 'why did you kill me? And furthermore, you made my wife a widow, and my children are now illiterate. I summon you to a tribunal in the world of truth.' When I awoke I was shaking until my wife gave me some warm milk and calmed me down. Pondering the dream in bed later that night I thought 'does not Zecharia HaNavi (Zacharia the Prophet) say that dreams speak falsehood? And don't chazal (our Sages) say that the content of dreams are merely the product of what a man ponders in his heart by day?' And so I went back to sleep.

"The next night the businessman appeared to me again. 'Why did you kill me?' he asked. 'My wife is a widow and my children don't know how to read or write. I summon you to a lawsuit in the world of truth.' The dream occurred on a third night, by which time I finally spoke back. I told the businessman that I would have to think about it. The next night I actually did agree, but told him that the lawsuit could not take place in the world of truth. Because what good would it do him if my wife became a widow, as well? He agreed that I would get to choose the time and the place.

"The next morning I set out straight for Reb Aharon of Karlin. He told me that the case was beyond his capabilities, and he instructed me to travel immediately to Reb Aharon of Chernobyl. I made my way. After telling over the course of events to Reb Aharon, he agreed to hold the case at his court. An appointment was made up for the next day, and he instructed me to pass the information over to the businessman when he appeared to me that night in a dream. The businessman subsequently agreed.

"As I sat in front of the tzaddik, his clairvoyance was apparent in his face. I didn't see the businessman; I didn't hear the businessman. But what was transpiring was very clear. Reb Aharon was, in fact, in communication with the soul from the world above. He shook his head, up and down, up and down. He then said to me, 'this man has many well-founded claims against you. What do you have to say for yourself?' I stumbled over my words. 'I wanted to return the wallet. OK, I guess I hesitated for a moment or two, but I...I.. did finally go after him...' Reb Aharon continued. 'Does it not say in the Torah hasheiv toshiv le'achicha? And does the Torah not speak the double lashon, you shall SURELY return making it an emphatic statement, whereby you should not have stood there first counting the money?' Reb Aharon peered into my eyes, and finally asked, 'if I hand down a verdict right now, will you abide by it?' I shook my head in agreement. He then asked the businessman, and by the manner in which Reb Aharon shook his head it was apparent that the businessman would be agreeable to the verdict, as well. And so Reb Aharon instructed me, 'you are to go home, and take an honest stocktaking of all your money and property down to the last shoestring. You may keep half of it for yourself. You are to go to this man's township, and personally deliver half of your money to his wife. While you are there you are to hire competent tutors for the children. With your half of the money you will give a chunk of it - and exactly how much is to be determined by you - to tzedakah. If you follow my instructions then the businessman will be at piece with you, and he will no longer haunt you in your dreams.'"

"And so," said the man. "I have just come from the tzaddik in Chernobyl to inform him that I have followed his instructions, step by step, and that myself and the businessman are finally at peace." He gazed at the chassidim sitting around him in the shtiebel, and said, "and since I was traveling home by way of Berditchev, I thought I would stop in and throw a thanksgiving meal in honor of your tzaddik, and relate this story to you so that you may know the full greatness of your Rebbe."

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