In the 19th century, the heart of European Jewry – its centers of Torah learning, its crown of glory – was centered in the vast expanse of the Russian Empire. There, under the hand of the czars, lived millions of Jews – poor in material wealth but blessed with a love of Torah and a dedication to their faith that was unshakeable.
The sages asked them, “Why are you unwilling to instruct others?”
In the days of Shlomo HaMelech, the richest man in the land lived in Yerushalayim. His name was Bavsi and he was known as a wicked miser. He oppressed his servants and his slaves and made their days bitter with toil from dawn until late at night. Because he was so stingy, he did not give them enough food to eat, so they and their children constantly suffered from pangs of hunger.
Mattisyahu knew that Antiochus would be enraged when he heard what had happened, so he and his sons fled to the Judean Hills.
“You can have your choice,” said the wise king. “You can choose to take this gold, 100 pieces each, or I can give you each three pieces of advice.”
Who can count the number who died? Who can number those who succumbed to the tortures and embraced Christianity in order to escape the pain and suffering?
Oh, wise man, I have had a dream.
The Jewish people are hardly strangers to persecution and tyranny. When we hear of the complaints of other peoples, we smile bitterly and wonder: What do they know of persecution? What do they know of tragedy and bitterness? We are a people who have experienced oppression for centuries and have drunk deeply of the bitter cup of woe.
There lived in his time a Ukrainian Jew who had strayed from the path of Torah.
He was so persuasive that he managed to convince the landlord. The prisoner was ordered freed.
Her deed found great favor in the eyes of the Almighty and He sent blessings on the work of her hands so that she became wealthy.
The Gaon, Reb Nachum devoted all his time, day and night, to collecting money for charity and helping the poor. The vast majority of the people thought so highly of Reb Nachum that they would deduct a fixed amount of their income every week and give it to him to distribute it to the poor. But there was always the exception, some people just tried to avoid contributing.
The Baal Shem Tov had two grandsons, Rav Moshe Chaim Ephraim and Reb Baruch. Both were pious and well educated in Torah, yet, Rav Moshe lived a frugal and poor life while his brother, Reb Baruch, became very wealthy.
Herod or Hordos — as he is known in the Talmud — was a usurper who seized the throne of the Chashmonaim and caused a terrible tragedy to befall the Jewish people.
When Catherine annexed the city of Shklob, she appointed a general to govern as a reward for the many heroic campaigns he fought on her behalf.
Reb Raphael of Barshad was a humble and pious man, known as a tzaddik who never uttered a bad word against anyone.
Chazal tell the story of a very rich man, who as he grew old began to worry about his future. "What good is all my wealth?" he asked, "if I may soon have to leave it behind me."
He then complained to the emperor that the Jews were rebelling against him.
The inhabitants of Simonia once came to Rav Yehuda HaNasi (also known as Rebbe) and asked him to recommend a scholar to serve as their rav, dayan, teacher and sofer. Rebbe sent them Levi ben Sisi.
In the days of Shmuel Hakatan a terrible drought held the land in its deadly grip. The wheat withered in the field and the grass dried and died. Day after day, the skies remained leaden and no clouds appeared to bring rain and salvation to the parched land.
If the earthly court decreed that today is Rosh Hashanah, Hashem commands the angels to call the heavenly court into session.