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Shabbos Mevorchim Tammuz

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We bentch Rosh Chodesh Tammuzon Shabbos Parshas Korach, Rosh Chodesh falling on Shabbos Kodesh and Yom Rishon (June 28 and 29). This month has been associated with tragedy and misfortune throughout our history – ever since Moshe Rabbeinu descended the mountain with the Luchos in hand. Greeted with the distressing sight of his people dancing around a golden calf (a transgression of idol worship that was the root cause of the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash), Moshe dropped the Luchos and broke them.

Next came the sin of the spies who were sent by Moshe on the 17th of Tammuz to assess the inhabitability of the Holy Land and report back their findings – a lamentable show of distrust in G-d that eventually culminated in the destruction of the second Bais HaMikdash.

Among the yahrtzeits commemorated during Tammuz are those of the first Bobover Rebbe; the Trisker Maggid; the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe; Rabeinu Tam; R’ Baruch Frankel-Teomim (6 Tammuz); the Alter of Ger; the Baal HaTurim; the Shagas Aryeh; the Ramak; Yosef HaTzaddik; R’ Elazar Abuchatzeira; R’ Elazar of Lizhensk; the Yismach Moshe; and Rashi (29 Tammuz).

HaRav Baruch Frankel-Teomim (also known as Baruch Taam) was the father-in-law of the holy Rebbe of Sanz (the Divrei Chaim), and the great-grandson of the famed Kabbalist, R’ Nosson Nota Shapira, the Megale Amukos. A Gaon in his own right, R’ Baruch was regarded as a Gadol HaDor of his time. At the age of eighteen he had already been appointed Av Beis Din in the city of Vizhnitz in Galicia, a post he held for over 23 years. He then moved to Leipnik where he served as Grand Rebbe with great distinction for almost all of his remaining years. His tremendous ahavas Yisrael was legendary…

In the city of Leipnik, there lived a poor man by the name of Yossel who peddled his meager wares day after day. Known by all as a happy-go-lucky fellow, Yossel’s lackluster parnassah never got the better of him. His dejected-looking wife, however, hardly shared his simchas ha’chayim and Yossel would often attempt to cheer her with words of chizuk.

As he was walking to the marketplace one day, the post wagon came riding by. When the dust cleared, Yossel noticed two pieces of mail lying on the ground. While one seemed like ordinary mail, the other was far from ordinary: it was an envelope containing a tidy sum of 30,000 marks!

Stuffing his newfound wealth in his pocket, Yossel chased after the wagon. He managed to catch the attention of its driver and handed him the one plain envelope.

Yossel soon greeted his wife with a jovial “Did I tell you not to fret? Luck has finally shined on us!” His distraught wife scolded him for his dishonesty. “Don’t worry,” countered Yossel. “No one will suffer from the ‘lost’ envelope. The postal business belongs to the government which has enough funds to cover the loss.”

Her husband’s words failed to placate the good woman who insisted that holding on to money that was not theirs made them outright thieves. When Yossel wouldn’t come around to her way of thinking, his wife reasoned that the postal authorities would soon come looking for their lost envelope… “Since you returned one envelope to them, they will naturally suspect you of keeping the other for yourself.”

The import of her logic was not lost on Yossel who hastily sought and found a secure hiding place for the money… with just moments to spare before two postal agents came knocking on their door to inquire about the lost envelope. Yossel feigned complete innocence, as his unhappy wife stood silently by. She wasn’t, after all, going to give her husband up to see him hauled off to jail.

Yossel was arrested on suspicion of theft nonetheless. The town was in an uproar… an innocent man languished in jail while his wife and children were bereft of their breadwinner. At the same time, the postal service offered a reward of 500 gulden to anyone who would be of help in recovering the stolen money.

Yossel’s agitated wife retrieved the envelope from its hiding place and made her way to R’ Baruch Frankel-Teomim, who was widely known for his extraordinary wisdom and perceptiveness.

As she neared the rav‘s home she could hear him learning with his talmidim. Not wishing to disrupt their Torah study, she discreetly tossed the envelope through an open window of the rav’s study and left before anyone noticed her presence.

When the rav saw the markings on the envelope, he instantly knew it was the one poor Yossel had been accused of stealing. R’ Baruch Taam was in a quandary… if he returned the money to the postal authorities, the simple truth of how he had acquired it could possibly create a worse predicament for the city’s Jews, who might then all be accused of collaborating together to cover the crime of one of their own.

R’ Baruch stepped out to clear his mind and reflect upon this unexpected dilemma that had literally landed at his feet. On his walk he encountered none other than the city’s priest who greeted him warmly. The rav’s deep contemplation had the priest inquire whether he could be of any help.

Turning to face the priest, R’ Baruch asked, “If someone confides something to you in the way of a confession, are you obligated to keep it a secret?”

“Of course,” replied the priest. “These are confidences I am not permitted to reveal to anyone!”

After ascertaining that the priest was allowed to receive confession from “outsiders” as well, the rav said he had a confession to make – with one caveat: that it take place in the priest’s home rather than in the church. The bewildered priest agreed; an exception could certainly be made for the rabbi whom he held in high esteem.

At the appointed time, R’ Baruch appeared at the home of the priest, where he confessed the truth about how he had obtained the envelope in his possession. The rav then asked the priest to take it from him and present it to the postal authorities, having “received it in the process of confession.” The priest would not be obliged to reveal any further detail, for confessions were known to be held in the strictest of confidentialities.

The priest was pleased with R’ Baruch’s proposal, and by the following day word quickly circulated that the money had been found. Yossel was promptly freed and sent home.

Effusive in her praise of R’ Baruch and his wisdom, Yossel’s wife advised him to pay the rav a visit to personally convey his gratitude in person and to confess the entire truth to him.

R’ Baruch was overjoyed at seeing Yossel before him – who, in turn, let the rav know that he was not innocent and expressed his sincere regret at having had allowed himself to fall prey to his evil inclination.

Just then the priest stopped by to give the rav the reward money from the postal authorities. Declining to accept it, the rav insisted the money belonged to the priest who had extricated him from his untoward dilemma. The priest adamantly refused to take ‘payment’ for his deed and advised the rav to give it to the poor if he didn’t wish to keep it for himself.

R’ Baruch’s attention was suddenly drawn to poor Yossel who had been wordlessly witnessing the back and forth.

“Ah, here we have Yossel, the victim who has suffered more than anyone and is truly a needy soul,” exclaimed the rav. “I believe the reward money to be rightfully his…”

Yossel accepted the 500 gulden upon the rav‘s urging and invested the money in a small enterprise. He subsequently became a successful businessman, distributed charity unstintingly and was never needy again – owing in no small part to the righteous woman at his side.

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