Although Rav Yosef Ber Solovetichik was a misnagid, who opposed the chassidim, still, he admired them for their fine qualities, especially that of always being happy.
“The trouble with the misnagdim,” he would say, “is that they are always worrying. They worry about their income, their health, and their children. All their lives they live a life of worry. But the chassidim are always carefree and never worry. They, too, suffer a life of privation and trouble, but they say that their Rebbe will take care of their worries. So they dance, sing and make merry.”
The Rav’s tolerant attitude attracted many chassidim. Once a chassid entered the rav’s study and engaged him in idle talk. Out of respect, the rav listened to him, but after an hour, when he saw that this would turn into an all day marathon, he arose to leave the room.
“I trust that the master is not angry that I wasted so much of his time,” said the chassid.
“G-d forbid, I should become angry,” replied the gaon. “Only fools become angry and I hope that you will not become angry.”
The Charity Collector Gives Charity
Once, a meshulach from one of the yeshivos came to the rav on an erev Shabbos. As it was nearing evening, Reb Yosef Ber invited him to spend the Shabbos with him.
“Before you change your clothes for Shabbos, will you please loan me five pennies?” Reb Yosef Ber asked the meshulach.
The guest didn’t hesitate. He took out five kopeks and gave them to the Rav. On Motzaei Shabbos, after Havdalah, Reb Yosef Ber took out the same five kopeks and returned them to his guest.
The meshulach was astonished. “If the master will excuse my impudence, I would like to ask him a question,” he said.
“You may ask,” replied the gaon.
“Why did you borrow five kopeks from me erev Shabbos, and now after Shabbos return them?”
“It’s simple,” replied Reb Yosef Ber. “You are always traveling around the country, from town to town and from city to city, always borrowing, begging and pleading for money for the yeshiva. You are constantly urging people to give charity, and you are instrumental in providing them with great mitzvos. But you, however, never have the opportunity of gemilas chesed, helping others by loans or charity. Therefore, I wanted you to also have the mitzvah of loaning money which you so kindly did erev Shabbos.”
Reb Yosef Ber was known throughout the world and people came to him from many countries to ask him questions about the Torah. He never turned anyone away and his house was open to everyone.
When he died the people called upon the famous maggid, Reb Yisrael of Minsk, to deliver the hesped. Imagine their surprise when he refused the honor.
“I’m ill,” he said, “I cannot deliver a eulogy for this great gaon.”
The following day a wealthy miser whom the people disliked, died and the maggid Reb Yisrael, delivered the eulogy for him.
The leaders of the community were incensed. “Yesterday, when we asked you to deliver a eulogy for one of the greatest gaonim of our day, you refused because you were sick. Now, suddenly, one day later you are able to deliver a eulogy for a person whom everyone despises,” they shouted.
Reb Yisrael replied: “Don’t compare both cases. To make a hesped, a eulogy for an ignorant and mean person is a simple mater. I could do it even if I am sick for no one cares what I say. But to make a hesped for such a great person, whose loss to this world is irreplaceable, is an impossible thing to do. Words can never express his greatness and I became sick at the very thought of it. Even when I am in the best of health I can find no words to describe the greatness of the gaon Reb Yosef Ber Soleveitchik.”