A Chassidic Maaseh (#27)
Jun03

A Chassidic Maaseh (#27)

A Chassidic Story (#27) Reb Mendel of Bahr once related the following: When I was young, there was a period when I was davening (praying) with particular passion and fervor. One day, while I was davening, the thought struck me: How do I dare daven to God, when I am so filled with sin?! This thought broke my heart. For the longest time I couldn’t rid myself of it. I thought it was a good thought, right thinking. Then, a while later I...

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Breslov Repair Kit–The Honor Habit
May04

Breslov Repair Kit–The Honor Habit

  Anyone who needs other people for his livelihood—or even if he has his own livelihood, but he has a craving for honor and esteem, which is also a form of needing other people, since he needs their honor and esteem—such a person is liable to fall into great falsehood during prayer…[Even if] he is not a complete fraud and imposter—nevertheless, when he needs other people for something, it is extremely difficult for him to pray...

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A Humble Week
May03

A Humble Week

Let’s start with a Chassidic story. The holy Baal Shem Tov was once a guest at someone’s home. He got up to go from a large room to a smaller room, but took a wrong turn and ended up in the cellar. “Check the mezuzahs,” he said. Someone there asked him, “Just because a person made a mistake, he has to find a reason? Maybe it was just an accident.” The Baal Shem Tov responded, “By me, there are no accidents.” From here, every person...

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A Chassidic Story (#25)
Jan06

A Chassidic Story (#25)

A Chassidic Story (#25) This week’s Torah reading, parshas Vayechi, deals with the passing of Yaakov Avinu, our Patriarch, who was the real-live, everyday father of his twelve sons (and Dinah, his daughter). It includes his final words to them, what he felt they had to know to properly fulfill their mission. Similarly, the haftorah tells of King David’s final words and instruction to his son that would succeed him, Shlomo HaMelekh...

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A Chassidic Story (#24)
Dec31

A Chassidic Story (#24)

A Chassidic Story (#24) Reb Shneur, the grandson of Reb Nachman Kosovar, told the following story about his grandfather and Reb Yudel of Tchidnov who was the rabbi of Ludmir. Reb Nachman built a shul (synagogue) in Ludmir, right near a stream. The mikveh (ritual bath) was adjacent to the shul. One Shabbos morning, before beginning the prayers, Reb Nachman and Reb Yudel went to the mikveh. Reb Nachman did everything very quickly. Reb...

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A Chassidic Story (#23)
Dec10

A Chassidic Story (#23)

A Chassidic Story (#23) Listen, if you’re paying any sort of attention to what’s going on in all the parshas (weekly portions) concerning the Avot and Imahot (Patriarchs and Matriarchs), you’re certainly aware that every detail of their lives made—and continues to make—a big difference. Every detail of life is an example of Divine providence. Here’s another example. The holy Baal Shem Tov was once a guest at someone’s home in Nemirov....

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A Chassidic Story (#21)
Nov27

A Chassidic Story (#21)

A Chassidic Story (#21) Since Yitzchak Avinu, champion of yirat Shemayim (Divine awe), is the hero of Parshat Toldot here’s a story and a half about the Rebbe Reb Zushia and yirah. For a certain stretch in his life, the Rebbe Reb Zushia constantly prayed that he be granted genuine yirah, from the innermost point of heart and mind, yirah as powerful as that of an angel. Well, God answered his prayer. The Rebbe Reb Zushia was taken over...

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A Chassidic Story (#20)
Nov20

A Chassidic Story (#20)

A Chassidic Story (#20) One Shabbos morning the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, came home to find some chassidim waiting for him. He asked them if they wanted him to teach them a chassidic lesson or tell them a chassidic story. Here’s what they chose to hear. At the time the Baal HaTanya was a young disciple of the Magid of Mezritch, the holy brothers, the Rebbe Reb Shmelka of Nikolsburg and Reb Pinchas (the Baal...

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A Chassidic Story (#19)
Nov13

A Chassidic Story (#19)

A Chassidic Story (#19) We promised you last week a classic chassidic story. Here it is. For some reason it seems apropos to Parshas VaEra and Avraham Avinu serving guests. But it’s classic because of the Rebbe Reb Zushia’s simple tefilah (prayer) which is so easy to imitate in the saying, but almost impossible to duplicate in the feeling. After Shachris, the morning prayer, the Rebbe Reb Zushia would never ask his personal attendant...

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A Chassidic Story (#17)
Oct30

A Chassidic Story (#17)

A Chassidic Story (#17) The Baal HaTanya, the founder of Lubavitch Chassidus, once wrote a letter to the Rebbe, Reb Zushia of Anipoli. In the heading of the letter, he addressed the Rebbe, Reb Zushia as sar haTorah, “the prince of the Torah.” His chassidim questioned about that. “Rebbe, it’s true that the Rebbe, Reb Zushia is a great tzaddik and one of the most devout people on the face of the earth. But sar haTorah is reserved for...

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A Chassidic Story (#16)
Oct22

A Chassidic Story (#16)

A Chassidic Story (#16) With God’s help I hope—and pray—to visit the kever (grave site) of the Rebbe, Reb Zushia of Anipoli this week. So here’s a story, fairly well-known in chassidic circles, about the Rebbe, Reb Zushia and the parshah (weekly portion) we read this morning, Bereishis. The Rebbe, Reb Zushia once asked his brother the Rebbe, Reb Elimelekh of Lizhensk, “Dear brother. It’s written in the holy books [i.e., Kabbalistic...

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A Chassidic Story (#15)
Oct08

A Chassidic Story (#15)

A Chassidic Story (#15) This story is one of my personal favorites. It’s human in many ways: the innkeeper’s desire to help both at the story’s beginning and end; in the protagonist’s tenderheartedness and his desire to celebrate Shabbat as best way possible. There’s a deep current of mystery running throughout and—it’s a fish story. The compiler of Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov heard this story from both the Toldot Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye...

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A Chassidic Story: The Rebbe, Reb Shmelka (#8)
Aug15

A Chassidic Story: The Rebbe, Reb Shmelka (#8)

A Chassidic Story (#8) Here are two stories from Shemen HaTov, a collection of Torah commentary and insights (Part I) of, and stories (Part II) about the Rebbe, Reb Shmelka of Nikolsburg. Throughout I will refer to this tzaddik as the Rebbe, Reb Shmelka because that’s what we chassidic cognoscenti do. Once, Reb Chaim of Tzanz, the author of Divrei Chaim and founder of the Tzanz chassidic dynasty, was hosting a number of rabbis and...

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A Chassidic Story (#7)
Aug06

A Chassidic Story (#7)

Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov #67 [The compiler of Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov writes] I heard this from Reb Gedaliah of Linitz. There was a somewhat wealthy Jew who lived in Mezritch. As he reached late middle-age he thought to himself, “What have I done with my life? What’s going to happen to me for having spent my life on worthless, transient trivialities, instead of on Torah and good deeds?” At first he didn’t know what to do, but after...

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A (non-) Chassidic Story (#6)
Jul31

A (non-) Chassidic Story (#6)

Here’s a chassidisheh maaseh that’s not a chassidisheh maaseh. It’s a parable from the Magid (preacher) of Dubno, who was a contemporary of the Vilna Gaon. I’m posting it because it’s from Shabbat’s haftorah (Parshat Masei) and the Kotzker Rebbe said the parable hit the bull’s-eye. A verse from the haftorah reads, “Has any nation changed its gods, even though they are non-gods? But My nation has exchanged its Glory for what cannot...

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A Chassidic Story (#5)
Jul24

A Chassidic Story (#5)

Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov #65 {This story was also told by Reb Zelig to the compiler of Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov. Even though it is not about the Baal Shem Tov, it is included because it teaches some important lessons. The one whose dream-vision it is, is assumed by many to be Reb Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, the author of Toldos Yaakov Yosef, the first printed collection of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings. Although this is not 100% certain,...

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