The life of our sages was never an easy one. Although persecuted by the Romans, they continued to devote all their efforts to the study of Torah and doing good deeds.
Chazal say that on the New Year, the entire amount of a man’s sustenance is fixed, except for what he spends on Shabbos, Yomim Tovim, Rosh Chodesh and sichar limud. In these cases, if one spends more one receives more; if one spends less, one receives less.
Our sages teach us: “Great is charity and great is its reward.” He who gives charity to the poor, his prayers will be answered; a measure for a measure - midda k’neged midda. He heard the cries of the poor so will G-d hear his prayers when he cries.
Czar Nicholas was a rabid anti-Semite and constantly sought means and methods to convert the Jews to Christianity. But the harsher the decrees he issued against the Jews, the more tenaciously they adhered to the tenets of their forefathers.
There are certain mitzvos that all civilized people can understand and appreciate. One such mitzvah is that of honoring one’s parents. While there are certain specific particulars that are distinctly Jewish, the general concept is one accepted by non-Jews as well. Indeed, when the Talmud sought to find an example of one who observed this mitzvah in its proper form, it selected a non-Jew by the name of Dama ben Nesina.
Modesty, both in conduct to people and in dress and speech has always been a deeply praised virtue — especially for Jewish women. In Yerushalayim there once lived a woman named Kimchis, who symbolized this virtue and was blessed for it.
Those who learn the Talmud are forever indebted to a commentary found on the side of the pages which enables the student to find the source of a particular law. This commentary, known as Mesoras HaShas, is the work of one of the most brilliant and erudite Talmudic scholars, Rav Yosef Shmuel of Cracow.
Chazal posed the following questions to Eliyahu HaNavi: “Why are some of our pious people so poverty stricken? Doesn’t G-d answer the prayers of tzadikim?”
The Gaon, Rav Chaim of Volozhin, one of the most beloved students of the Vilna Gaon, was known to be a genius even as a child.
Once, Rav Shabsi HaCohen, the Shach — author of the Sifsei Cohen on the Yoreh De’ah and Choshen Mishpat - had a dispute with a prominent merchant of Vilna. The matter pertained to a monetary transaction, and each claimed loss and damages.
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.
Reb Raphael of Barshad was a humble and pious man, known as a tzaddik who never uttered a bad word against anyone.
One day, the great sage Choni HaMagel pondered the meaning of Tehillim 26, “A song of ascent, when Hashem returned the captives of Tzyon, we were like them in that dream.”
The Gaon Reb Yosef Ber Soleveitchik avoided criticizing anyone. When once he did criticize a person he felt so bad about it that he later asked for his forgiveness.
If you were to ask the average Jew who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash and who sent Klal Yisrael into galus (exile), he would instantly answer, “The Romans.”
Galicia was able to boast of having three giants of the chassidic movement who lived at the same period of time. They were Rav Meir of Parmishlon, Rav Tzvi Hirsh of Riminov and Rav Naftali of Ropshitz. The latter, especially, was famous for the sharpness of his mind.
Never mistreat a person, no matter how lowly he may be, for you can never know what the future holds in store for him, our sages warn us. As an example, the following story is told in the Talmud Yerushalmi.
The Baal Shem Tov had two grandsons, Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim and Reb Baruch. While both were pious and well educated in Torah, Reb Moshe lived a frugal and poor life while his brother, Reb Baruch, became very wealthy.
In the chronicles of Jewish history, few men have shown as magnificent a soul as the great Hillel. For in order for a leader to qualify for greatness, he must be more than merely a great scholar — although that is, of course, the most necessary attribute. He must also possess depth of character and the sweetness and gentleness of soul that will enable him to under stand the needs and sufferings of his people. Without this sensitivity, he can never truly be a great leader.
The Maharil lived during the period of the Hussite wars, which brought misery upon the Jews of the Rhine, Thuringia and Bavaria. The Jews appealed to the Gaon to intercede with G-d for them. The mercenary soldiers entered the Jewish homes at will and took everything they could lay their hands on. Should anyone protest, they would be shot on the spot.
The following story is told about the Vilna Gaon who was called upon to decide a case of a bill that was due a doctor.