Friday, March 30, 2012

Go'eil Yisrael Money (Shabbos Hagadol)

The Sadigura Rebbe had a minhag (custom) of telling the following story after bedikas chometz (the search for leavened bread before Passover). There was a poor Jew who lived on the outskirts of the city of Kolbanov. He ran an old, dilapidated tavern and inn, which had been on lease from the local squire. Business had always been slow and, month after month, year after year, he failed to make payments to the squire. The squire threatened the poor Jew repeatedly, but to no avail. He simply did not bring in enough money to pay his lease.

After months of the same old sob story from the Jew, the squire's anger began to rage. On the morning of shabbos hagadol (sabbath preceding Passover), he sent a band of Cossacks to rile up this Jew and his family, and to ransack his house and his belongings. The drunk mob threw the cholent pot through the window, overturned his table and chairs, and splashed the sewage bucket onto the poor man and his wife. The innkeeper was left wretched and miserable in his broken down home, and to make matters worse, there was no longer any cholent, their sole staple for shabbos, to eat.

Not knowing where to turn, the innkeeper rushed to the local shul, where he could hear, and perhaps gain consolation, from the shabbos hagadol drasha (sermon). The Rav of the town was Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, later to become the Apter Rebbe. When the innkeeper arrived, Rav Heschel was in the midst of his grand drasha, as is the custom of shabbos hagadol. Those at the shul crowded around the Rav, basking in his profound and holy words. The innkeeper pushed his way into the crowded sanctuary, and found a tight spot in the back of the room. Standing at the back, he was unable to make out the Rav's exact words. But suddenly, the words came to life. And he heard the following: "In our tefillah (prayers) we find a beracha (blessing) that appears in two tenses. In the beracha following the shema and in the haggadah (prayer book for Passover) we find the words 'ga'al Yisrael - He who redeemed us' referring, of course, to G-d who redeemed us, but in the past tense. This beracha refers to the geulah (redemption) from our bondage in Egypt. But in the shemoneh esrei we say 'go'eil Yisrael - he who redeems us' in the present tense. This refers to the redemption that takes place from day to day. For example, if there is a poor Jew in some tiny village who can't afford to pay his lease, and the local squire sends his Cossacks to trash his house, and they overturn his tables and destroy everything in sight, then even this Jew will be redeemed from his state of misery and woe." The innkeeper was moved by these words, and ran onto the streets, singing, "go'eil Yisrael, go'eil Yisrael! The Rebbe said 'go'eil Yisrael!' He who 'redeems' Israel!"

The next day, the squire sent his gang yet again, this time expecting a payment. They found the Jew dancing and singing. Incredulous at the sight, they came to the conclusion that he buckled under the pressure of the financial burden, and went mad. Later that day, word came from the squire that he wanted to meet privately with the Jew. The Jew figured that he was in for a beating. On the way, he recalled the Rebbe's words, "He who 'redeems' Israel." He suddenly became confident, and there was a spring in his step. At the squire's residence he was questioned. "Tell me Moshele, why have you become such a happy-go-lucky? You live a pitiful existence, not able to eek out a penny to pay me or to survive yourself. Come here Moshele," said the squire reassuringly. "I'll give you a note with my seal to take down to the winery in town, and they'll give you wine on account for a certain sum. Sell the wine, and earn a little money. You'll then repeat the story over and over, and you will subsequently have enough money to both provide for your family and to pay off your debt to me."

The plan came off without a hitch. He bought and sold, and bought and sold, and soon had enough money all of the items required for the Pesach seder, and meat and fish and wine, as well. He was now able to pay off his debt to the squire. Before Pesach began, he tied together a bunch of coins into a cloth, and hurried over to the house of the Rav. He handed the gift to Rav Heschel, and exclaimed, "Rebbe, I've brought you some go'eil Yisrael money!"

No comments: