Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Esrog in Berditchev

All of Berditchev was in a panic just before Sukkos, because there was no esrog to be found in the vicinity. Reb Levi Yitzchak had one last hope, and that was to send a few of his chassidim to the crossroads in the hope of finding a passer-by who owned an esrog for Yom Tov. And, indeed, the chassidim came across a Jew who was carrying a big, beautiful esrog, but he lived in a far-off town, and was in quite a hurry to return before the start of the holiday. The chassidim begged him to come into town, and when the man continually refused, they told him that he was summoned by Reb Levi Yitzchak himself to appear with his esrog in hand.

Reb Levi Yitzchak immediately entreated the man to spend the Yom Tov in Berditchev, so that the Rebbe himself, in addition to as many townsfolk as possible, could pronounce a bracha on the lulav and esrog. But the man had a wife and children waiting back home. He couldn't possibly have them spend Sukkos alone. Reb Levi Yitzchak offered him brachos for children and wealth, but he already had seven children, and he was a wealthy man. Finally, Reb Levi Yitzchak made him an offer: "If you stay in Berditchev for Sukkos, I can promise you part of my portion in the world to come." And at this the man agreed, and the people of Berditcheve were overjoyed.

Following this news, Reb Levi Yitzchak issued an unusual order saying that no townsman is allowed to receive this man into his sukkoh. The people were baffled, but, after all, this was an order from the Rebbe. Upon coming home from shul, the man entered his rented room, and found wine for kiddush, two challahs, candles, and a complete Yom Tov meal. He exited the house only to hear singing and general jubilation coming from his temporary landlords sukkah. When he entered, he was told that he was not allowed in. Dumbfounded by this decline, he took a walk around town, listening to and watching complete families exult in the simcha of the festival. But whenever he poked his head into a sukkah he was denied entry. Finally, he learned that this was by order of the Rebbe. "What is all of this? What have I done to deserve it?" he asked of Reb Levi Yitzchak. "If you will waive your claim to the promise I made to you earlier (to receive part of the Rebbe's portion in the world to come), then I will rescind my order, and you will then be allowed to enter the sukkah of your choice," said Reb Levi Yitzchak.

"What to do now?" wondered the man. It was a choice between receiving a portion of the Rebbe's lot in the world to come vs. fulfilling the mitvah of eating in the sukkah this year. The sukkah had won out. "All my life I've been sitting and eating in the sukkah each year, and now, this year, would I simply eat like a goy, indoors?" The two shook hands. The promise of the Rebbe was taken back, and the man found a nice family with a nice sukkah for the evening meal.

As Sukkos came to an end, Reb Levi Yitzchak called for the man. "I hereby return my promise to you," said the Rebbe. "Naturally, I wanted you to have part of my portion in the world to come. But I didn't want you to gain your extra portion in the world to come cheaply through a small matter of bargaining. I wanted you to earn it, through your deeds. And so that is why I put you through the test with the matter of the sukkah. And now, since you've withstood the test, and demonstrated the self-sacrifice of mesirus nefesh so that you could fulfill that mitzvah, now you really do deserve a portion of my lot in the world to come."

More to come...

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