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 was once a tzaddik from Poland, Reb Velveli, who decided to settle in Eretz Yisrael. The land was poor and inhabited by very few people, but he and his wife had such love for the land that they were willing to suffer privation and hunger just to be one of its citizens.
The stories concerning Rav Naftali of Ropshitz are quite numerous and reveal his sharp biting wit. Rav Naftali was often persecuted and sneered at by misnagdim but the sharp mind with which he was blessed always served him in good stead in finding proper answers.
From the remarkable Beis Midrash in the town of Brodi came forth a dazzling number of Talmudic chachamim (scholars), many of whom went forth to greatness in the annals of Israel. One of them was Rav Chaim Tzanzer.
The great sage Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) would never stop lauding the brilliance and sagacity of his fellow Jews to King Alfonso V of Portugal. Abarbanel was the King’s treasurer and he was respected and loved by the monarch.
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.
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 Premishlan, Rav Tzvi Hirsh of Rimenov and Rav Naftali of Ropshitz. The latter, especially, was famous for the sharpness of his mind.
It is very easy to catch a thief when one has clues and evidence. It is a far different matter, however, when one must attempt to find the guilty party through his own wits alone. It is then that we must have a truly wise man- one as wise as, say Shlomo HaMelech.
Once when there was a drought in Eretz Yisrael, the rabbanim approached Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakkai. “Rebbe,” they said, “please pray to Hashem that He send rain before the people perish from thirst and hunger.”
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.
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.