“The mitzvah of drawing water for the baking of the matzah for the Seder comes only once a year. I do not care to share it with a horse.’’
"Interrogate the witnesses extensively; yet be cautious with your words, lest they learn from them to lie,” the sage and leader of the generation, Rabi Shimon ben Shetach admonished the chief justice, Rabi Yehudah ben Tabai. This was because of a grievous error the chief justice had committed.
On the twentieth day of Teves we mark the 808th yahrzeit of Rabeinu Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam (Maimonides). The Rambam (Maimonides) lived from 1135 to 1204. His scholarly works are world-renowned and it is about him that we say, “From Moses to Moses there never arose so great a person as Moses.”
Crowded into their ghettos and suffering legal disabilities that make today’s claims of discriminations pale into insignificance, the German Jews suffered poverty and wretchedness.
For weeks before Pesach the people in small towns across Poland, Lithuania and Russia lived only with the Yom Tov in mind. The housewives turned their homes upside down, the matzah bakery became alive, tailors and cobblers prepared to meet the seasonal rush, and the children worked themselves into a pitch of excitement, which they could not have endured had they had to wait for the seder night one day longer than they already did.
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.
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.
The power of faith is unmatched; it can lift man above adversity and help him climb the highest of mountains. It can help him overcome pain and torture. It can make him see the light in a night that is inky in its darkness. The Gaon Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin manifested such a faith when he was a starving and poverty-stricken rav in Halberstat.
Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, was a deeply learned man who took his sources and admonitions from the Torah.
Many inspiring stories emanate from the Lubavitch chassidic movement. One of the stories published in Di Yiddishe Heim bulletin describes the early years of Rav Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the Tzemach Tzedek. This year marks the 146th anniversary of his passing.
Our forefathers were giants when it came to having faith and a belief that G-d would take care of them. Nothing worried them save that they wasted time not studying our holy Torah. They relied on G-d to take care of their needs.
Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin, the rav of Berlin, was an extremely clever and sharp individual and possessed a remarkable sense of humor that he used well in his attempts to get across Torah views.
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.
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.
“I do nothing worthwhile,” he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds. For the man was a very modest and humble person.
Reb Raphael of Barshad was a humble and pious man, known as a tzaddik who never uttered a bad word against anyone.
So began a marvelous period of good fortune. He invested the twenty-four gold pieces in many types of businesses and everything his hand touched turned to gold.
The piety and good deeds of Rabi Chanina ben Dosa inspired his disciples to follow in his footsteps. Foremost among his good deeds was charity. The following story is told about two of Rabi Chanina's disciples.
One winter morning a terrible blizzard raged, the weather dropped to below zero, and the woman became desperately ill.
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 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.
Rav Yosef Hochgelanter, the rav of the city of Zamushet, where Rav Akiva Eiger received his early training while still a young boy, was a great scholar and the author of Mishnas Chachamim. At the time he was chosen to be rav of the city he was the son-in-law of a very wealthy man who was very generous with his support.
Once a regiment of Austrian soldiers visited the city of Rimanov. Lacking proper facilities to house the troops, the commanding officer decided to use the main shul in the city for their quarters.
Shares In The Embarrassment Among the famous practitioners of our forefather Abraham’s virtue, hospitality, was Rav Akiva Eger. Naturally, on Pesach, it was “Let...
By means of a clever pretext, they succeeded in getting Rabi Yitzhak aboard a ship and sailed it down the river.
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.
On Erev Yom Kippur, the Gaon Rav Atshal of Frankfurt (Tifereth Avraham) would usually permit the eating of every doubtful fowl, which was brought before him to decide. He would make all the doubtful cases kosher.
When the sages prevented Alexander Yannai, king of Yehuda, from becoming Kohen Gadol, he ordered that all the sages of Israel be killed. Many were; those not caught, fled. The greatest sage of them all, Rabi Shimon hen Shetach, was saved by his sister, Queen Shlomit Alexandra, who sheltered him in a secret hiding place.
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.
One of the great gaonim was Rav Yaakov Berlin, the father of the Netziv (Naftali Tzvi Yehuda of Berlin), the rosh yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva and a leader of European Jewry at the close of the 19th century.