Practice Makes Perfect
One year on the first day of Sukkos, shortly before dawn, Rav Yisroel Salanter was observed holding his arba minim and shaking them from side to side with tremendous dveikus.
When someone pointed out that it was too early to be yotzei the mitzvah, Rav Yisroel explained, “I am simply acting like a soldier in the army. Before they go out to war, they first practice holding their weapons, marching to and fro, to become accustomed to serve.
“So, too, I am practicing my maneuvers, to fulfill the mitzvah properly.”
Not Just Seven Days
Rav Henoch of Alexander once said, “The Zohar asks, ‘If chometz is a type of yeitzer hora which has to be removed before Pesach, why don’t we refrain from eating it all year?’ To which the Zohar replies, ‘If one can completely eradicate chometz from one’s heart for seven days, it should not harm one all year long.’”
Rav Henoch explained that the same question can be asked on Sukkos. If sitting in the sukkah is like being ensconced in the presence of the Shechinah, why don’t we sit in a sukkah the entire year? To which he replied, “If one can leave one’s home, and move into a temporary dwelling for seven days, it is considered as if one lived in the sukkah all year long…”
The Crippled Shoemaker
Rav Mordechai of Lechovitch had a minhag to buy a large amount of boards and distribute it for free to the poor of the town, to make their sukkahs.
One year, shortly before Sukkos, a crippled shoemaker came to the Lechovitcher and asked for sukkah boards. Rav Mordechai answered that to his great distress, the boards had already been distributed and there were none left.
The Lechovitcher watched from his window as the crippled man painfully hobbled down the street in the rain, looking for sukkah boards. His eyes welled with tears as he said, “Ribono Shel Olam, see how beloved Your mitzvos are by Klal Yisroel! Look how they are moser nefesh to fulfill Your will. It is raining outside, and the streets are coated with mud; despite his distress, the crippled shoemaker is hobbling down the street, looking for sukkah boards. Hashkifah mim’on kadshecha, and bless Klal Yisroel!”
Rav Mordechai then went up on his roof, took some of his own boards, and told his shammas to rush after the shoemaker and help him build his sukkah in time for Yom Tov.
Not a Suitable Candidate
A bochur once applied to the Chasam Sofer’s renowned yeshiva, and came for a farher. It was shortly after Sukkos, and the yard was filled with schach. The bochur was tested and did very well, but was not accepted.
When asked about his decision, the Chasam Sofer explained, “I watched as the bochur arrived, and saw him carelessly step on the schach. One may not step on schach, as it is tashmishei mitzvah. A bochur who is not careful with the honor of a sukkah does not belong in the yeshiva.”
Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski was ill, when he welcomed a talmid chochom who came to speak with him in learning. Rav Chaim Ozer invited him to eat a meal. Since Rav Chaim Ozer had no strength to go into the sukkah, he begged the guest to go alone and be served.
“As for me, I have no strength,” said Rav Chaim Ozer. “A sick man is exempt from the sukkah.”
No sooner had the guest sat down than Rav Chaim Ozer himself arrived, weak and trembling from exertion. The guest was surprised. “Why did the rov trouble himself to come and join me?” he asked. “Didn’t the rov say a choleh is exempt?”
“You are right,” replied Rav Chaim Ozer. “A sick man is exempt from mitzvas sukkah, but I am not exempt from the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim. How can I let you sit in the sukkah alone?”
Take Your Pick
When Rav Eizel Charif was the rov of Slonim, the custom was to not buy an esrog until it was shown to the rov, who approved it. One Erev Sukkos, the esrog dealer only had merchandise of inferior quality. Every esrog that was brought to the rov was declared unworthy.
The unhappy esrog dealer complained to the rov, “No one is buying my esrogim. I cannot sell any of my merchandise!”
The rov replied, “Am I to blame that your esrogim are not of the highest quality? But I have a suggestion for you. Whenever a potential buyer chooses an esrog, give him two. that way, when he shows me the two esrogim, I can choose the superior of the two, and that is the one he will buy….”
No Guests in the Sukkah
One year, Rav Pinchos of Koritz decided that all the chassidim who came to him for brachos and advice were taking away his precious time that could be used for avodas Hashem. He fervently davened that he lose his prestige in the eyes of his fellow Jews, and that he be shunned. Thus, Rav Pinchos would have more time to serve his Creator.
Rav Pinchos’s request was fulfilled. Shortly thereafter, the stream of Yidden who came to him for a brocha trickled, and disappeared completely. Rav Pinchos was ecstatic. He secluded himself and spent most of his time davening and learning without interruption.
Yet this new situation had a downside. As Sukkos approached, Rav Pinchos could not find a single Yid who was willing to help him set up his sukkah. After much searching, he found a gentile who was willing to do the work, but he had no tools. Not a single neighbor would lend him the tools, however. Finally, his rebbetzin begged one of her neighbors to lend her a hammer and nails, and eventually the sukkah was complete.
On Sukkos night, after Maariv, Rav Pinchos tried to invite guests into his home, as was his custom every year. However, no one agreed to join him. Dejected, he walked home alone. Before he entered the sukkah, he invited Avrohom Avinu, the first of the ushpizin, to join him. However, to his consternation, Avrohom Avinu remained outside and refused to enter.
“Have you found my sukkah unworthy?” asked Rav Pinchos.
Replied Avrohom Avinu, “I am not accustomed to enter a sukkah where there are no guests.”
Rav Pinchos realized that far from enhancing his avodas Hashem, his alienation from his fellow Jew was hampering his avodah. Thus, he davened that he once more find favor in the eyes of his fellow Jew, and merit to have guests on Sukkos.
There was once a saintly man who sat in his sukkah the first night of Yom Tov, surrounded by other talmidei chachomim, enveloped in pure simcha shel mitzvah. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
A poor man entered, begging for a slice of bread. The chossid immediately got up and welcomed him, sitting the beggar down at the table and serving him royally. With great simcha, the chossid said to the pauper, “I am grateful to Hakodosh Boruch Hu for giving me the zechus to serve you with the portion of Avrohom Avinu in the sukkah.”
That night, the chossid fell asleep, and dreamed that he was drowning in the sea. Suddenly, when he had given up hope of being saved, the pauper appeared, stretched out his hand, and pulled him out of the water.
When the chossid had recovered from the ordeal (in his dream), he asked his savior, “Who are you?”
“I am your father Avrohom,” the poor man replied. “I came to your sukkah in the guise of a pauper, to give you the opportunity of fulfilling the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim. I am sure that no harm shall befall you or your family this year.” And so it was.
Before Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin became rov in Yerushalayim, he was the rov of Lomza. Simchas Torah was an exceptionally joyous Yom Tov in Lomza. A barrel of tar was ignited in the courtyard, and the children made candles and set the burning tapers all over the shul. In addition to the numerous candles and oil lamps, young boys also held hollowed-out apples with candles burning inside.
Erev Simchas Torah after Mincha, the entire kehillah gathered before the home of the rov and accompanied him under a chupah. The roshei kehillah stood under the chupah with the rov, and the entire kehillah clapped and danced, as if accompanying a choson. The hakafos were one joyous rekidah shel mitzvah, which continued until the wee hours of the morning.
One year, immediately after the hakafos, the rov motioned for the gabbai to approach. The rov whispered something in the gabbai’s ear, and immediately the gabbai went to the bimah, banged for silence, and made the following announcement.
“According to the rov’s request, we are beginning the hakafos all over again!”
Though it was very late and the dancers were exhausted, the entire kehillah blindly obeyed the rov’s directive, without asking any questions. The shaliach tzibbur went to the amud, began “Atah Horaiso,” and the hakafos started all over again.
When the hakafos were finally complete, the exhausted congregation went home to make kiddush. However, it did not occur to anyone to question the rov.
Rav Yehoshua Leib’s beloved son, Rav Yitzchok Yerucham, later questioned his father when they were alone. “What was wrong with the first hakafos?” he asked.
To which Rav Yehoshua Leib replied, “A certain talmid chochom did not receive an appropriate honor, according to his stature. Thus, it was worthwhile to repeat the hakafos, so as not to correct the injustice and restore kovod haTorah.”
Fluent in Maseches Sukkah
The Vilna Gaon once told his talmidim that it was incumbent upon them to be well-versed in one masechta in Shas, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of “Vehogiso Bo.” The Gra taught his talmidim, “It is not always possible to have a Gemara handy. Thus, if one knows a masechta by heart, one can always review from memory.”
One of the Gaon’s talmidim took this matter to heart, and chose Maseches Sukkah as his specialty. He learned it thoroughly several times, until he knew it by heart. The following Chol Hamoed Sukkos, prominent talmidei chachomim came to visit the Gra and sat in the Gaon’s sukkah. Suddenly, the talmid arrived and told the Gra that he had fulfilled the dictum, and learned one masechta by heart.
Whereupon the Gra asked him, “Do you know how many machlokes there are in Sukkah between Rebbe Meir and Rebbe Yehuda, and other Tanaim?” The talmid, shamefaced, admitted that he did not.
The Gra immediately stood up and began enumerating every single machlokes in Sukkah, from Bavli, Yerushalmi, and other Rishonim. Then he mentioned 85 situations that our chachomim bring an example of a sukkah that is possul, the same amount as the gematriya of Sukkah without a vov.
As the talmidei chachomim sat, astounded, the Gaon turned to his talmid and said, “This is what knowing Maseches Sukkah baal peh means.”
A Kosher Esrog during Chanukah
During the days of Chanukah, Rav Shmuel of Slonim asked one of his chassidim, “Do you have a kosher esrog?”
The chossid was taken aback. Why an esrog during Chanukah? “Perhaps the rov meant to ask whether I have a kosher menorah?”
“I meant to ask about an esrog,” stressed the rov. “The Medrash teaches us that an esrog is compared to the heart. And thus, I wanted to ask you, ‘Do you have a kosher heart?’ That is what we need all year long, not just on Sukkos.”
The Last Simchas Torah in the Warsaw Ghetto
During the last Simchas Torah in the Warsaw Ghetto, only a small number of Yidden remained, the majority of the inhabitants having been deported to Treblinka. A group of devoted ovdei Hashem gathered in the courtyard of Rav Menachem Ziemba hy”d to dance hakafos, trembling in fear of being discovered.
Suddenly, a 12-year-old child appeared to join the hakafos. This was remarkable, as almost all the children of the ghetto had long been deported.
As the Yidden passed around the sefer Torah they had miraculously saved and danced around the small wooden table that served as their bimah, Rav Yehuda Leib Orlean lifted the child, and began to dance, the boy in one hand, the sefer Torah in the other. As he danced, he began to shout in a powerful voice that split the very heavens, “A small Yidel and the heilige Torah!” He danced for an hour, with both the boy and the Torah clutched tightly to his heart.
It was the last Simchas Torah dance in the Warsaw ghetto.
Too Many Hands…
In Kazlov, there lived a humble talmid chochom known as Reb Yaakov Kazlover (who lived in Brod for the final years of his life). During the time he lived in Kazlov, the larger city of Berzan did not have a rov, and they begged him to accept the rabbonus of their town. However, he refused to accept it.
One year, before Sukkos, his rebbetzin was in Berzan to purchase something for Yom Tov, and the townspeople begged her to prevail upon her husband to accept the position, where he would receive a respectable salary and better living conditions.
When she arrived home, the rebbetzin repeated the request, and begged her husband to consider moving to Berzan. Rav Yaakov said, “If you fulfill my request, and buy me an esrog mehudar, I will try and fulfill your request.”
The rebbetzin wasted no time in purchasing an esrog mehudar, which she presented to her husband. When the Yidden of Kazlov heard that Rav Yaakov had a mehudar, they lined up in front of his home to have the opportunity of making a brocha on the esrog. After several days, the formerly beautiful esrog was dented and blackened by the hundreds of hands which had touched it.
Rav Yaakov then summoned his rebbetzin, and showed her the esrog. “Do you remember how beautiful it was? Now it is not recognizable anymore, because so many simple folk, who do not know how to handle an esrog, touched it.”
Rav Yaakov continued, “An esrog also alludes to a talmid chochom. As long as he is not accepted as a rov, he is pristine and beautiful in the eyes of people. However, once he becomes a rov and the simple folk handle him, he loses his chein and his reputation is destroyed. Therefore, I beg of you, don’t speak about the rabbonus position anymore…”
The Three Minim in Auschwitz
Rav Tzvi Hirsh Meisels, the Veitzener Rov, wrote in his memoirs of those terrible days:
“You might wonder, how did we have an esrog and a lulav in Auschwitz? But indeed, a miracle occurred. On one of the transports, a Yid brought an esrog and a lulav from the previous year. Aravos were torn off from a tree near the river where we worked. Thus, we had a set of only three minim, which we carefully handed to those who desperately yearned to fulfill the mitzvah even under such miserable conditions.
“I will never forget the simcha of these Yidden, who took the lulav, esrog and aravos, and made the brocha. Although we missed one of the minim, we relied upon those poskim who say that in a difficult situation, one may make a brocha on three minim…”
Today We Are Alive….
In the sefer Churban Chechanov, the author writes, “I will never forget that Simchas Torah in Chechanov. Only a small group of Yidden remained – most of the inhabitants having been taken to Treblinka on Yom Kippur.
“The small group of Breslover chassidim that remained celebrated their last Simchas Torah in the shtiebel on Gorntzorski Street. As they danced for hours, they sang ‘Today we are living for the Ribono Shel Olam, and tomorrow we will die for the Ribono Shel Olam.’
“The following day, on Simchas Torah, the chassidim were deported to Treblinka, where they were gassed al Kiddush Hashem. May Hashem avenge their blood.”
A Reminder, in the Nick of Time
One year, as the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitlbaum, washed his hands in preparation to make a hamotzi and eat the Yom Tov meal in the sukkah, there was a commotion from above. A flask of olive oil, which had been hanging from the schach, broke loose and came crashing down on the table.
The chassidim were perturbed, wondering whether some rowdy children had managed to climb up on the roof. One chossid went outside to check, and wonder of wonders! The shlack (plastic covering) was still on the schach, and had not been removed.
Hashgocha had intervened with the mishap of the olive oil, so that the rebbe should not eat in a sukkah that was possul.
Not a Kosher Sukkah
During the First World War, the Atzei Chaim fled from the city of Sighet shortly before Sukkos. With the advent of the Yom Tov, he arrived in a city where many refugees sought shelter, among them the Keren L’Dovid. The two tzaddikim began to make arrangements for a proper sukkah. After much searching, they found a Jewish home with a sukkah, and were invited to join for the Yom Tov meal.
As soon as they entered the sukkah, the Atzei Chaim felt a sense of unease and dissatisfaction. The Keren L’Dovid wondered at his reaction, and the Atzei Chaim replied, “I sense that this sukkah is not totally kosher.”
They called the owner and asked him how he had made the sukkah. The owner of the house admitted that he had first built the schach, and later the walls, which is contrary to halacha.
No One Else to Turn to…
The Sanzer Rov once said during the Hoshanos: Often, when a pauper approaches a wealthy man and musters his courage to ask for a donation, he is ignored, or told the financial situation is not stable. “Come back another time, or go to someone else.”
The pauper goes to a second person, who is belligerent. “Why are you coming to me, when there are so many others who are more capable of giving a donation?” A third businessman humiliates the pauper, calling him lazy and a good-for-nothing.
“However, Hakodosh Boruch Hu,” said the Sanzer Rov with emotion, “You cannot say that You can’t help us, because You are ‘adon hamoshia.’ Should we decide to go elsewhere, one must remember, ‘biltecho ain l’hoshiah,’ without Your help we could not have done it. And You do not become tired, because ‘gibor v’rav l’hoshiah.’ And You cannot say that we don’t need a yeshuah, because “dalosi v’li yehoshiah.”
Mesiras Nefesh for a Mitzvah
The Shinever Rov would often relate the following tale:
In a faraway village lived a simple pauper who was a great yorai Shomayim and medakdek bemitzvos. One year, it was already Erev Sukkos, and he still didn’t have enough money to procure schach to cover his sukkah. Thus, he and his wife resolved to go out to the field and cut his own stalks to use as schach.
They worked steadily for several hours, gathering schach into bundles. Suddenly, the poor man realized that the sun was rapidly sinking, and it was almost time for Yom Tov. He still did not have the amount of schach he needed. In desperation, he and his wife began cutting the stalks and branches with their teeth, and soon their mouths were cut and bleeding.
However, their cuts and sores did not bother them in the least. They were grateful to be fulfilling the mitzvah properly.
They arrived home shortly before Yom Tov with the kosher schach, and quickly covered their sukkah. That night, as they sat down to eat their meager repast, there was a knock on the door. It was a hungry guest, apparently waiting for an invitation.
“Welcome to my sukkah,” the pauper said. “However, I must admit that I have nothing to eat. My wealthy neighbor next door might have some nourishing food, though.”
“I didn’t come to join your seudah,” the stranger replied. “I am your forefather Avrohom. I have been sent from Shomayim to appear before you, as a reward for the mesiras nefesh you exhibited to fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah.”
The First Day of Reckoning…
The Tiferes Shlomo once asked, “Why is the first day of Sukkos called ‘rishon l’cheshbon avonos?’” He explained:
When the Soton comes on the Yomim Noraim with a heavy sack of aveiros and begins to enumerate the sins of Klal Yisroel, there is a huge outcry in Shomayim. The defending angels come to the rescue of Klal Yisroel, saying that the Yidden are innocent. They were merely influenced by the Yeitzer Hora, who tries to persuade them to sin by telling them their sins are really mitzvos.
To which the Soton replies: Why do the Yidden allow themselves to be persuaded in the aveiros department only? Are they also so gullible when their business deals are involved? Do they believe everyone’s word without question? If they will want to buy an object that is worth ten pennies, will they be convinced to pay five gulden?
The Bais Din Shel Maaloh decides to wait several days, to see how the Yidden conduct their business dealings. Shortly after Yom Kippur, the Jews go to the marketplace to buy their esrogim and lulavim. Although all year round, these citrus fruits and palm leaves are worth a miniscule amount, before Sukkos their prices skyrocket, way past their actual value.
“You see what they are doing?” the defending angels ask the Soton. “You see how much money they are paying for an inexpensive item? If so, they must be gullible, and not aware of an object’s true value.”
These proofs silence the Soton, who is no longer allowed to be mekatreig on Klal Yisroel. Thus, the first day of Sukkos is rightfully the “rishon l’cheshbon avonos.”
Warmth in the Sukkah
Rav Ahron, the Belzer Rov, sat in his sukkah on a frigid day. The strong gusts of wind shook the thin walls as the chassidim shivered in their fur lined coats. In vain did they plead with the rebbe to forsake the sukkah and seek shelter inside, lest the cold harm him.
The rebbe replied, “My grandfather once said that the walls of the sukkah have the same kedusha of the Bais Hamikdosh. If so, the sukkah also shares the same climate of Eretz Yisroel, and in the holy land, it is warm this time of year…”
Living in the Sukkah
Rav Ahron Yeshaya Fisch, the Hadasser Rav, would learn in his sukkah with tremendous hasmodah. On Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur, he was occupied with his thousands of chasidim, so he utilized the Yom Tov of Sukkos to learn Torah.
His chossid, Reb Issac Leib Greenbaum, related that each year, he would rush his own seudah to attend his rebbe’s tish, yet by the time he arrived at the rebbe’s sukkah, Rav Ahron Yeshaya would already be learning Torah.
To Serve with Joy
The Kedushas Levi would remain awake the entire night on Sukkos, waiting with anticipation for daybreak, so that he could fulfill the mitzvah of the arba minim. As soon as day dawned, the Berditchever Rov would take the arba minim, kiss them reverently, and rejoice with this great mitzvah.
One year, in his zeal to take the esrog and lulav, the rebbe shattered the glass of the cabinet and cut his hand, which began to bleed. Yet in his great hislahavus, the Berditchever did not notice, and continued with the mitzvah of netilas lulav with his hands still coated with blood!
Likewise, on Motzoei Simchas Torah, the Berditchever did not close an eye. He remained awake the entire night, waiting for dawn and the opportunity to put on tefillin once again. Every single mitzvah was infinitely precious to him – both the ones he fulfilled once a year, and the ones he fulfilled every single day.
During the last year of his life, on Motzoei Yom Tov, Rav Levi Yitzchok said, “In reality, my time has come to leave this world in the middle of Yom Tov. However, since it was difficult for me to part from my two beloved mitzvos – sitting in the sukkah and arba minim – I davened that my time be extended until after Yom Tov.” And so it was.
Guests Short of Cash
Why do we dance and rejoice on Simchas Torah?
The Kalever Rebbe explained it with a moshol:
A visitor once came to a guesthouse, and arrogantly demanded the most comfortable, elaborately furnished room, and the most elegant meals. After several days of being wined and dined, he packed his bags and prepared to leave. The innkeeper then presented him with a bill, which was rather steep, due to the lavish treatment he received.
To the innkeeper’s surprise, the distinguished guest’s face turned red from shame. “I am sorry to say that I don’t have enough money to pay for this,” he stammered.
“Well then, I will call the police and they will arrest you,” said the innkeeper sharply, annoyed at being taken advantage of. “Perhaps that will teach you a lesson.”
“What benefit will you have from putting me into jail?” the guest begged tearfully. “You won’t receive the money in any case. I have another option. I happen to be a professional dancer. Let me dance before the guests and entertain them. Word will quickly spread about the wonderful entertainment, and additional customers will flock to your guesthouse. Thus, you can earn the money you lost by giving me the best room and board.”
The innkeeper readily agreed to the proposition, and the once-honored guest became a dancer at the guesthouse.
The parable is clear. Says the Kalever Rebbe, “We beg for an entire package of blessings from Hakodosh Boruch Hu. We beseech Hashem for children, for a long life, for parnossah and health. And we promise to pay our bill, with mitzvos and maasim tovim. Yet when Simchas Torah comes, we stand ashamed, with empty wallets, unable to pay our debt.
“Thus, like the guest in our parable, we dance before Hakodosh Boruch Hu and rejoice with the Torah, awakening other dormant souls to do teshuvah. That is our compensation for the ‘package’ we receive from Hashem.”
They Didn’t “Smell” Right….
One year in Poland, it was difficult, if not impossible, to obtain kosher hadasim. All the hadasim that were imported from overseas were completely dried up and unable to be used.
Rav Shmuel Abba of Zichlin was very distressed about the matter, and determined to have a fresh bundle of hadasim to be mekayem the mitzvah of arba minim. His chassidim redoubled their efforts, trying to procure bundles of hadasim, yet among all the bundles, not a single one was suitable.
For Yom Kippur, a large contingent of chassidim went to Zichlin to be with the rebbe, and the chassidim spoke of the rebbe’s tzaar about the lack of hadasim. The wealthy gvir Reb Yitzchok Zefkowitz from Azarkov took the rebbe’s pain to heart.
He suddenly remembered that in a small shtetl near Azarkov, in the garden of the poritz, beautiful hadasim were growing. Thus, on Motzoei Yom Kippur, Reb Yitzchok immediately entered the rebbe’s study and declared that he undertook to bring the rebbe fresh, beautiful hadasim for Sukkos. Rav Shmuel Abba’s face lit up, and he thanked the chossid for the news.
The next day, Reb Yitzchok immediately traveled to the shtetl and visited the poritz’s estate. He offered the poritz a generous sum, for several bundles of fresh hadasim.
“I am sorry, but there are none left,” the poritz said. “When word got around in the neighboring community about my myrtles, they literally grabbed them out of my hands, offering any price. I wonder why the normally level-headed Jews were so infatuated with myrtle branches, all of a sudden. Can you explain?”
Reb Yitzchok explained the significance of the arba minim, and how he had personally promised the rebbe that he would bring him fresh hadasim. Seeing his distress, the poritz came up with an idea. “I have a friend in a neighboring village who also has myrtles growing in his garden. They are probably not sold yet, because the Jews don’t know about it. If you wait, I will send a messenger and explain our request.”
Reb Yitzchok waited anxiously for the messenger to return, and he wasn’t disappointed. In his hands, the messenger had numerous bundles of fresh, beautiful hadasim. Overjoyed, the wealthy man paid the messenger well, and brought home the bunches of hadasim.
Early the following day, he sent them to Zichlin with another chossid, Reb Yankel, who was headed to the rebbe. Reb Yitzchok was elated, visualizing the rebbe’s gratitude and joy as he beheld the beautiful hadasim, fresh and green.
As Yankel entered the shtetl, everyone rejoiced with the news that the rebbe would have hadasim after all….
Imagine the chossid’s shock and surprise as Rav Shmuel Abba carefully scrutinized the hadasim, and announced “I cannot make a brocha on these hadasim, as I sense a tzelem (cross) on them.” And he asked the chassidim to dispose of the tainted hadasim.
The chossid arrived home, dejected, and told Reb Yitzchok what had observed. The gvir was very surprised, but knew that the rebbe’s holy eyes could see what others could not. He resolved to go back and trace the origin of the hadasim at the poritz’s estate.
On Chol Hamoed Sukkos, Reb Yitzchok climbed aboard a wagon, heading to the nearby village. He had no trouble persuading the poritz, whom he had paid generously for the hadasim, to let him see the garden where the beautiful myrtles grew.
The poritz, chest puffed with pride, escorted his wealthy customer to the garden behind his estate. Reb Yitzchok was shocked and horrified to discover that it was the poritz’s family plot, a Christian cemetery, filled with idols and crosses! Now Reb Yitzchok understood that the rebbe’s holy eyes sensed the impure source of these hadasim, and would not use them for Sukkos.
When the River Overflowed
The Sanzer Rov would donate large sums of money for charity. One year, before Sukkos, the rebbe needed the princely sum of 600 reinush for an important dvar mitzvah. Since all the wealthy townspeople had already given large donations, the rebbe still did not have the money on Erev Sukkos.
A few hours before Yom Tov, two prosperous timber merchants arrived in Sanz, desperate to see the rebbe. The rebbe’s son, Rav Boruch Gorlitzer, asked them what their request was. The merchants explained that their company usually sent the timber downstream on barges. However, it did not rain all summer, and the river had nearly dried up. If it didn’t rain soon, the timber would rot, and all their profits would disappear.
The Gorlitzer Rov said to them, “If you agree to contribute 600 reinush for tzedokah, my father will daven for you on Shemini Atzeres.” The two merchants agreed. The Sanzer Rov was very happy to receive the money, which he promptly distributed to the poor.
Upon the rebbe’s invitation, the merchants remained in Sanz for Yom Tov. On Shemini Atzeres, in the middle of Tefillas Geshem during Mussaf, the heavens opened and a strong rain began to fall, continuing for several days. The merchants hurried home immediately after Yom Tov, and saw, to their immense satisfaction, that the river was overflowing its banks. The lumber was shipped without any problems, and they made a fantastic profit that year.
Who Touched My Esrog?
In Russia, there was often a dearth of esrogim. Many wealthy chassidim would travel far and wide in the days before Sukkos to procure an esrog mehudar for their rebbe.
One year, a chossid of Rav Mottel of Chernobyl traveled to a distant city to buy an esrog for his rebbe. Once there, he remembered that he would pass Ruzhin on his way back, and decided to buy the Ruzhiner an esrog as well. Of course, he bought the first esrog for his rebbe, and the second esrog for the Ruzhiner.
On his journey back home, he studied the two esrogim, and decided that the second esrog was more mehudar than the first. Thus, upon consultation with his traveling companions, he decided to switch the two esrogim, and give the Ruzhiner the first esrog he bought, saving the nicer one for the Chernobyler.
When the chossid showed the Ruzhiner Rebbe the esrog he bought, which was also a mehudar, the rebbe looked at it carefully and asked, “Is this my esrog?” Having no choice, the chossid was forced to give the rebbe the second, nicer esrog. When the rebbe saw it, he said, “Indeed, this is my esrog.”
Finally, the chossid arrived in Chernobyl and handed his rebbe the first esrog. Rav Mottel studied it and asked, “Who touched my esrog?” The incredulous chossid repeated the entire story with the Ruzhiner.
The rebbe then explained, “On Chamisha Asar B’Shvat, an esrog is set aside for everyone. When you gave the Ruzhiner the lesser esrog, the rebbe thought that perhaps he did not receive the esrog that was set aside for him on Tu Beshvat. He thought about his maasim of the entire year, but could not find a p’gam. Therefore, the rebbe did not want to take the first esrog, and was only satisfied with the esrog you had originally chosen for him.”