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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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Our Holy Visitors


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Yosef embodies the divine attribute of yesod (foundation). Man is known to be at his most vulnerable when he is well off and enjoys much success, or conversely when he is beset by troubles and poverty. Yosef HaTzaddik had God so deeply embedded in his heart that he could not possibly entertain the thought of transgressing – neither as a lowly slave for a Mitzri nor when he was enjoying fame and fortune as the most successful man in the land.

And he dressed the part. Aside from his handsomeness, his exterior reflected a man with the times – one of the reasons cited for his appeal to women; Potiphar’s wife, for example, sought to seduce the young Yosef at whatever the cost.

Yaakov Avinu, on the other hand, never had an interest in appearing “stylish.” While Yosef’s preening was his way of keeping his inner righteousness under wraps, it nonetheless invited attention he could have done without. It was precisely at such a critical moment that he envisioned his father standing before him and came to realize the virtue of his father’s “old-fashioned” ways. (Divrei Meir)

Dovid HaMelech exemplifies the divine attribute of malchus (sovereignty). The world says that actions speak louder than words – a truism exemplified by the aforementioned personalities. Dovid HaMelech did one better: he managed in magnificent fashion to capture in words the essence of every act and aspect of life, along with every human emotion known to man. Small wonder that our prayers, recited on weekdays, Shabbos and special holidays, are replete with the verses of Psalms penned by the king of Israel.

A sovereign, a true leader, is in tune with his subjects, while at the same time being cognizant that it is the King of kings Who runs the world.

Dovid HaMelech sums it up neatly pretty much at the start, as in his third Psalm: “To God is the salvation and upon Your people is Your blessing…” It is Hashem’s responsibility to save His servants and His people, and it is His people’s obligation to bless Him for His salvation. (Rashi)

And so we see how the mannerisms of our seven holy shepherds during their lifetimes were influenced by one critical attribute: emunah, perfect faith. No small credit is due Avraham Avinu, who started it all. The ground he broke in recognition of our One and Only God was unprecedented and set the stage for the belief system of future generations.

* * * * *

The chassidim were taken aback by the sight of the Jewish man who had come to the home of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk. Their interest was piqued by his attire – short coat, starched shirt collar and “modish” hat – which was so unlike their own.

The visitor accompanied the chassidim to the beis medrash where the Rebbe soon arrived for Minchah. As he strode to the podium, the Rebbe’s sharp eyes settled on the newcomer whom he greeted warmly and invited to sit with him up front.

Afterward, the outsider accompanied the Rebbe back home where the two retreated to the Rebbe’s private chamber and engaged in a prolonged tête-à-tête. This further aroused the curiosity of Reb Elimelech’s chassidim as well as of his own children, who did not know what to make of this strange association.

Once the guest had taken his leave, with an effusively warm send-off from his host, the Rebbe’s eldest son Reb Elazar questioned his father about his unusual visitor. Reb Elimelech’s response was brief: When the time will come, you too will know.

Speculation and conjecture eventually simmered down and the incident was all but forgotten. Some years later with the advent of Sukkos the community found itself facing a shortage of esrogim and dispatched emissaries far and wide to procure the sought-after fruit. Reb Elazar himself traveled to the large city of Hamburg in Germany where esrogim were said to be in abundant supply.

The journey to Hamburg was an arduous one, and to the tzaddik’s consternation he found he would not make it home in time for the start of Sukkos. Stranded in unfamiliar territory, Reb Elazar was in need of not only a roof over his head for Yom Tov, but one with a kosher sukkah.

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