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.
The death penalty in Judaism was seldom invoked because of the requirement for prior warning and two witnesses to the act that called for the penalty. Nevertheless, the Torah solemnly prescribes these penalties and through them one could judge the magnitude of the offense.
It was the night of Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, and the Jews in Jerusalem adhered to the custom of remaining up all night and studying the Torah. Not all, however, could do so, and as the night wore on, a few got up to go home.
Rabi Meir was accustomed to remaining in shul each morning until every person left. He was usually the last person to leave. One day, he davened very fast and left very early. Walking outside, he thought to himself, “Why did I leave early? Is it possible that G-d ordained it so that a miracle may occur through me today?”
The Gaon Yosef Ber Solovetichik, while chief rabbi of Slutsk, was in poor ﬁnancial straits. It was a poor community, and there was very little money for the rabbi. Once, a delegation from Mohlev arrived to offer the gaon the position of chief rabbi of Mohlev, which was a larger and wealthier town. The gaon, however, refused the offer.
“Wisdom is better than rubies, and all things desirable are not to be compared unto her” (Proverbs 8:2). Rabi Aha explained in the name of Rabi Tanchuma ben Rabi Chiya: “My desirable things and your desirable things are not to be compared to her.”
This is the story of a staff, the most miraculous staff that was ever created. It was none other than the staff that Moshe used to perform all the amazing miracles in Egypt.
Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev would use the Yomim Tovim as a forum for his continued dialogue with the Holy One blessed be He and as opportunities to demonstrate to the Almighty that His children, Israel, were deserving of both forgiveness and a better fate.
The Gaon, Reb Yechiel Michel Epstein, the author of the Aruch HaShulchan, and the chief rabbi of Novordak for 34 years, was known to be a very liberal person.
The story of Bnei Yisrael in the land of Mitzrayim is a tale that has become tragically repetitive in the history of our people. It is the story of a land which allows Jews to enter, and devote their talents and energies to building it up land and making it strong, only to have the ungrateful inhabitants turn on them through jealousy and greed.
Pesach is synonymous with aiding the poor and the needy. In the city of Kovno where the great Reb Yisroel Salanter was the chief rabbi, there was a special house set aside for the very poor; there they were housed and given food. Unfortunately, the house was a dilapidated one and in massive disrepair.