Saturday, October 5, 2013

Two Stories: Shpoler Zeide/Rebbe Nachman and Bais Yisroel of Ger from Yom Kippur War

I saw a great story over Shabbos in the sefer Sippurei Chassidim by Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, zt"l and heard another story from Rav Weinberger at Shalosh Sheudos which share a lot in common so I wanted to share both.
Some chassidim heard about all of the negative things the Shpoler Zeide said about Rebbe Nachman and decided to go to Rebbe Nachman's town to do a little "self help" to prevent Rebbe Nachman from continuing his work.
The Shpoler Zeide heard about this and summoned the "activist" chassidim. When they came, he first told them not to touch Rebbe Nachman or harm him in any way. He then told them the following vort:

Rashi brings down that when the Torah says about Noach that he was a "tzadik in his generation" that some of chazal explain this positively that even in such a horrible generation, he was still a tzadik! And others explain it negatively, that by comparison to his low generation, he was considered a tzadik, but that if he had lived in Avraham's generation, he would have been considered like nothing.

The Shpoler Zeide asked the well-known question: If it's possible to explain the fact that the Torah calls Noach a tzadik positively, why on earth would any of the sages have explained it negatively?! Doesn't the mishna say in Pirkei Avos that one should judge every person favorably!

The Shpoler Zeide therefore explained that because Noach is the first person in the Torah who is called a tzadik, chazal were concerned. Although they wanted to explain Noach only positively, they were worried that if they did so, everyone would say that someone can only be considered a tzadik if he has no opposition among the other rabbonim and tzadikim. Chazal therefore made a point to find some basis for "opposition" to Noach so that from then on, everyone would know that opposition by tzadikim to someone does not mean that the person isn't a tzadik.

We see from this that even though the Shpoler Zeide was stridently opposed to much of what Rebbe Nachman was doing, that as a person, he considered him a tzadik.

I heard the second story from Rav Moshe Weinberger at Shalosh Sheudos. He said that during the Yom Kippur War, many parents were coming to the Bais Yisroel of Ger for help because of their children who were fighting in the war. He was completely immersed in talking with, crying with, and davening with these families.

The Bais Yisroel davened every day at the Kosel, begging Hashem for mercy on these young men. At one point he told a number of people the following thought: He started off by asking the same question asked by the Shpoler Zeide above; why chazal would explain the way the Torah refers to Noach as a tzadik pejoratively if there other, more positive, ways of explaining it. After all, it was in Noach's zechus that the whole world was saved!

He answered that it must be chazal were concerned that if everyone saw Noach was such a big tzadik and he succeeded in saving the world, that they would think that only a big tzadik can save the world. Chazal minimized Noach's tzidkus in order to teach us that even a "little tzadik" can save the world. The Rebbe continued with a tefila that maybe even a "little tzadik" like him could accomplish something in saving some of the boys fighting in the war.

Rav Weinberger concluded that we each have to believe that we too can save the world and do not have to be the biggest tzadikim to do so.

May we all be zoche!

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