The Light of Shabbos
The holy Seer of Lublin lived approximately 180 years ago. In those days, the Jewish people lived in ghettos and everyone was religious. But there was one person who never went to Synagogue and he was a real playboy.
One Friday afternoon, the holy wife of the Seer of Lublin didn’t have enough money to buy two candles for the Holy Shabbos. All Friday she was waiting for a miracle, but you know, miracles don’t always happen. It was already five minutes before the beginning of Shabbos, and she still didn’t have the two candles. So she went out on to the street, and she was crying. She pleaded, “Please G-d, don’t let me have the Shabbos without candles.”
At that moment the wealthy playboy passed by in his carriage, pulled by eight horses. He was already late for an important appointment, but he still had a very good heart. He saw her standing on the street crying, stopped the horses, and asked, “Why are you crying?” She said, “It is obvious that you are a rich man, but all I need is two pennies.”
“Two pennies? Here they are.” He put them into her holy hand.
She said to him, “You’ll never know how much you did for me. I bless you; may the light of Shabbos, the light of Heaven, shine into you forever.” He jumped back into his carriage and drove off. She quickly bought the candles, and kindled the Great Shabbos Light, and that light is still shining.
Her holy husband, the Seer of Lublin, began to pray. You know, when we pray we think about our business, but when the Rebbe of Lublin was praying, his soul really went to Heaven. He saw a big commotion in Heaven and the Heavenly court said to him, “You always make trouble for us. You always bless the most unworthy people. And now your wife is following in your footsteps. Look who she blessed! Look where the playboy is going now!”
The Seer of Lublin said, “You are one hundred percent right. But I would like to ask you one favor. Shine the light of Shabbos, the light of Heaven into his heart for just one hour. And let’s see what happens.”
The playboy was driving along when he suddenly felt a very holy and exalted feeling. He thought, “What am I wasting my life with? Why don’t I become a mentch [decent person]?” He turned his horses around and decided to go back to the house where the two candles were burning. According to our tradition, he became one of the greatest Rabbis of that generation.
I thus want to bless all parents, just shine the light of sweetness into your children’s hearts.
Give Shabbos to Someone
You know, a Jew does not forget for one second about Yerushalayim and a Jew doesn’t forget about Shabbos.
The Heilige Karliner would say before Shabbos, “Master of the World, I have fish for Shabbos, I have challah for Shabbos, but where do I get Shabbos for Shabbos?” So you know, this is a very special privilege to have Shabbos on Shabbos, because it is possible to keep Shabbos, to keep every law, but to taste Shabbos? To taste Shabbos is so special. So this is what our Holy Rabbis teach us. There is Shemiras Shabbos – keeping Shabbos Holy. Then there is Oneg Shbabbos – the bliss of Shabbos. The bliss of Shabbos, it’s a special gift, a gift from Heaven.
Chatskele Dovid and the Tshernovitzer Rebbe
The Holy Tshernovitzer Rebbe, the Holiest, the deepest, the Heilige Reb Chaim of Tshernovitz, two hundred years ago. For him Shabbos was everything. If I would ask him, “What does Bereishis mean?” The first word of the Torah, which actually means “At the Beginning.”
Reb Chaim would say, “What a question! It means Shabbos.”
And I would say, “Reb Chaim, what does Borah mean?”
He would say, “Shabbos.”
For him everything was Shabbos. But on Shabbos itself, at that very second when his Holy wife kindled lights for Shabbos, something happened to him. Not really physically, but, somehow, he looked like he was 10 feet taller, he was shining, he was just not in this world, you could see the Divine Presence upon him.
A simple Jew by the name of Chatskele Dovid lived in a village nearby. He was once in Tshernovitz for Shabbos, and the Shabbos afterwards, when he came into his usual Synagogue, the people could hardly recognize him. He was just a simple Jew who could hardly even pray without making mistakes all the time. Yet now he was full of joy. The Shabbos was burning in his heart. The Divine Presence was upon him. They asked him what had made this sudden change in him. This was his story:
Chatskele Dovid was very poor. He hadn’t died of starvation, but he wasn’t really living either. One day he said to his wife, “If we continue this way all our lives, what will be with our children? They also won’t have enough to live on. For five years, let’s not buy anything. We can save 500 rubles, and buy a business. Maybe we will get rich from it.” For five years, every penny saved was his blood and the blood of his family. Finally he had 500 rubles in his hand, and he went to Tshernovitz to look for a business to buy. He was going around, searching for a good opportunity, when he realized that Shabbos was only one hour away. He went to the house of Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz, told him his story, and asked him to guard the money until after Shabbos. Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz saw that he was a special soul and asked him to be his guest for Shabbos.
They were still talking, when the door opened and a woman came in crying. Her husband was supposedly the richest man in Tshernovitz. He had died a month previously, and his wife only then realized that he not only did not have a lot of money, but he actually owed a lot of money to other people. The wedding of her daughter was supposed to take place this coming Saturday night and she needed to pay 500 rubles for the wedding. If she would not pay the money by Saturday night, she would have to tell them that she was poor. It would be such an embarrassment. Who knew if the groom’s parents wouldn’t call off the wedding? She said, “I’m sorry I didn’t come before, but I couldn’t because I was too embarrassed.”
Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz said, “Oy! What will I do now? How can I collect 500 rubles only minutes before Shabbos!”
Chatskele Dovid heard all this and said, “Please give her my 500 rubles. I am still young, I can save again.” Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz argued with him, but irrespective of that, Chatskele Dovid took the money and gave it to the widow. She left full of joy.
Now, open your hearts. Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz said, “Chatskele Dovid, I don’t even have to bless you that you should become wealthier than you ever dreamed of, because it’s obvious that you will. It’s also obvious that you will live to see the weddings of your great-great grandchildren. But there is one thing I would like to bless you with. Because of you, two precious souls had a blissful Shabbos. What would this poor widow and her daughter have done all Shabbos? They would have cried all Shabbos. You gave Shabbos to two precious souls, so I want to bless you that you should have the bliss of Shabbos all your life.
Within a month, Chatskele Dovid was a millionaire. He himself didn’t know how it happened. He built a Synagogue for Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz and called it Chatskele Dovid’s Synagogue. I asked several old Jews from Tshernovitz about it, and they said that they remember praying in Chatskele Dovid’s Synagogue.
Together with all the Synagogues of Europe, it was burned during the Second World War, and is waiting for Mashiach.
Every one of Chatskele Dovid’s grandchildren survived the Holocaust and went to America. They all arrived penniless, and within a month they were all millionaires again. They knew that it was only because of the blessing of Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz. The first thing they did with the money they made was to print the holy books of Rabbi Chaim of Tshernovitz. In the introduction to his Shabbos siddur [prayer book], they wrote this story.
I bless you with the bliss of Shabbos.
How can we receive the bliss of Shabbos? How can we take all the anger and pain out of your heart, and really be able to taste Paradise? We have to first give Shabbos to someone who doesn’t have it.
Why do we have to invite guests for Shabbos? Because if I want to have the bliss of Shabbos, I have to first give Shabbos to someone who doesn’t have it.
For the Sake of Shabbos
Lekoved [for the sake of] Shabbos… lekoved Shabbos…. On Shabbos everything you do is lekoved Shabbos. When you eat fish, you say lekoved Shabbos. When you eat soup, you say lekoved Shabbos. But this is what everyone does….
The holy Rebbe Bershele of Ashbitsine wrote a book 180 years ago and in the foreword he wrote this story: When I was seventeen years old, I was desperate to have a Rebbe. A Rebbe is not someone who gives you information, but someone who connects you to the deepest depths of your heart, to the deepest, highest place in Heaven. I needed a Rebbe. I went to so many Rebbes, but they were not part of my heart. One day I was told that the holy Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover was coming to Ashbitsine for Shabbos. He learned together with the Seer of Lublin from the holy Reb Shmelke. I felt in my heart that this was my Rebbe even though I never met him before. But yet I remembered that when Eliezer was in search of a wife for our holy Forefather Yitzchak, he made himself a sign. So I made myself a sign:
In Ashbitsine there was a Jew called Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos. He was a porter. He was a very strong person. He knew so little, or so people thought. He really knew a lot. He would walk around in the market place and whenever someone would buy something which was too heavy to carry he would bring it to their home. If say on Sunday, Chanah would buy ten pounds of potatoes, she would say, “Hey Chatskele, could you carry the potatoes for me?” Chatskele would pick up the ten pounds of potatoes, and he would say to Chanah, “Forgive me for asking, but do you think that there will be some potatoes left lekoved Shabbos?” She would say, maybe only to do Chatskele a favor, “Ten pounds of potatoes is a lot of potatoes, I’m sure there will be some left for Shabbos.” Chatskele would begin to glow. He would lift up the potatoes to Heaven, much higher than Heaven, and he would start singing, “Lekoved Shabbos… For the sake of Shabbos.” You could see that he was in Paradise when he was singing. He would ask on Monday, and on Tuesday, but on Wednesday he wouldn’t even ask because from Wednesday on whatever you do is for Shabbos. But his day was Friday. The whole marketplace was resounding with Chatskele carrying the apples and onions to all the Jewish homes and singing, Lekoved Shabbos… For the sake of Shabbos.
Rebbe Bershele wrote: This will be my sign. When Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover comes for Shabbos, after the prayers everyone will say good Shabbos to him. If he says good Shabbos to Chatskele like to everyone else, this is not my Rebbe; but if he stops and pays special attention to him, then he is my Rebbe.
The praying and dancing of Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover was so beautiful, it was so holy… This one Shabbos could make a Jew out of you forever. After the prayers were over everyone said good Shabbos to the Rebbe. Only two people were left. I was waiting for Chatskele, and Chatskele, nebuch, was so accustomed to abuse that he thought that most probably the Rebbe wouldn’t even shake his hand. Suddenly Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover turned around and motioned to both of us. He said, “My sweetest friends, I would like to say good Shabbos to you.” I lined up behind Chatskele and he walked up to the holy Kshanover. The holy Kshanover held out his holy hand, and Chatskele reluctantly, bashfully, gave him his hand. The holy Kshanover closed his holy eyes and said, “My friend, what is your name?” He said, “Chatskele.” “Do you have another name also?” He said very bashfully, “People call me Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos.” The holy Kshanover had tears running out of his holy eyes. He said, “Chatzkele, what an honor! I envy you for your name. People call you Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos, what an honor! Tell me who are you?” Chatskele said, while the Rebbe was still holding his hand, “I grew up on the street. I never saw my parents. I’m very strong so I am a porter. I have a wife and children and all I know is to pray a little bit and to recite the Psalms.”
The holy Kshanover said, “Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos, tell me; when you carry something and you sing “Lekoved Shabbos” what are you thinking about?” Chatzkele began to cry. He held on so tightly to the hand of the Rebbe and said, “Holy Rebbe, I know the beginning, but I don’t know the end. I know the beginning; G-d created the world. I know of our holy Forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. I know of the Twelve Tribes. I know we built the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem]. But Rebbe, I don’t know the end. When will G-d rebuild again, the Holy Temple? When will we all go back to Yerushalayim the Holy City? I sing Lekoved Shabbos, let it be soon. For the sake of Shabbos, let it be today. Lekoved Shabbos….” The tears of Chatskele and the tears of the holy Rebbe were flowing.
Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover said, “Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos, if every Jew would know that everything that happens to us is only lekoved Shabbos, for the sake of Shabbos, The Great Shabbos would be so near.”
One day after Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover left Ashbitsine, Chatskele disappeared. It was clear to me that he went together with the Rebbe but I never saw him. I became a disciple of Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover and after many years I had the privilege of becoming his successor; the Rebbe of Ashbitsine. I could never forget Chatskele; I was still looking for him. Then one day, many years later, I came to a far away shteitele [town], and I could hear the heavenly music, music from Paradise; “Lekoved Shabbos… Lekoved Shabbos.” I looked at Chatskele and suddenly it was clear to me: Rebbe Shloymele Kshanover came to Ashbitsine, he took me as his disciple, and I was privileged to become a Rebbe. You know what he did with Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos? He became one of the thirty six Holy Hidden People. Who else would become one of the thirty six Holy Hidden People but Chatskele Lekoved Shabbos?
I want to bless you that your life should be lekoved Shabbos.
The Holy Nadverner
The Holy Nadverner from Bnei Brak, of blessed memory, always told his wife and the people who were working in the kitchen, “Please don’t forget, when you cook for Shabbos, you have to say constantly lekoved Shabbos, lekoved Shabbos.”
One Friday night, The Holy Nadverner refused to eat the soup. The people ran in to the kitchen to the Rebbetzin [the Rebbe’s wife]. They said, “G-d Forbid, did something happen to the soup that the Rebbe doesn’t want to eat it?” The Rebbetzin smiled. She said, “I know what happened. I took in a woman, a new cook, and I forgot to tell her to say lekovod Shabbos while she’s making the soup. So the Rebbe won’t eat it.” I bless you friends that not only your food should be Lekoved Shabbos. All your life should be Lekoved Shabbos.
The Bobover Rebbe in Lizhensk
The last few minutes before Shabbos are so deep and so exalted, it’s a little bit like Yom Kippur. It’s a little bit like Sukkot and Simchas Torah, and also like Shavuos. On Shabbos we receive the Torah again. But this is what I want to share with you:
The heilige Rebbe Shlomo Bobover, when he was a young man, of 16 or 17 years old, went to Lizhensk to the grave of the holy Rebbe Elimelech who had passed away 90 years earlier. When he arrived in Lizhensk, he asked, “Is there anybody still alive who saw the holy Rebbe, Rebbe Elimelech?” And they told him, “Yes, there is an old woman here, she is 99 years old. When she was nine years old, she was a dishwasher in the house of Rebbe Elimelech.”
“Oh, this is unbelievable!” he says “Would it be possible to see her?” The Chassidim say, “Gevalt, for the grandson of the Holy Sanzer Rebbe, everything’s possible.”
Rebbe Shlomele said to her, “My dear Bubbe, my dear sweetest lady, forgive me for bringing you here, but I want so much to hear about Rebbe Elimelech. Tell me anything.”
She said, “You know, I’m an old woman, my memory is not so good anymore, I don’t really remember so much.”
Rebbe Shlomele says, “I can’t believe it; Rebbe Elimelech, the Holy of Holiest. You must remember. Tell me anything, even one word, about one moment of his life.” She began smiling to herself and she said, “You know, there was one thing which I could never forget. Hundreds of people came every Shabbos, so there was a big staff in the kitchen. Sadly enough we, the people in the kitchen, did not treat each other so good, we were a little rough sometimes. So on Friday a few minutes before Shabbos the Heilege Reb Elimelech, the Holy of Holiest, the Sweetest of the Sweet, would come into the kitchen. He would stand by the door of the kitchen and this is what he would say, “My precious children, my sweetest friends, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, I hurt your feelings
during the week. Maybe I didn’t treat you with enough respect, maybe I did something wrong to you, I’m begging you to forgive me. Because how could I enter Shabbos if I hurt one of you precious young people?” He would cry bitter tears, and he would walk up to each one of us and say, “Please forgive me, I promise, I promise, next week I’ll treat you better.” Then we, who really didn’t treat each other so good, we began crying, begging each other for forgiveness. Then she said, “Rebbe Shlomele, do you think you know what Yom Kippur is? If you weren’t in the kitchen of Rebbe Elimelech before Shabbos, you have never seen Yom Kippur. But after he came out of the kitchen, the heilege Reb Elimelech would go into his dining room, and there was the Rebbetzen and the children. The heilige Rebbe Elimelech would say again to his children, “My sweetest, holiest children, you are the greatest gifts G-d gave me, forgive me, forgive me. Forgive me if I didn’t treat you good enough. Forgive me if I hurt your feelings, forgive me if I didn’t take care of you the way G-d wants me to take care of you.” He asked every one of his children, with so many tears, with so much love for the children. Gevalt, gevalt there was no Yom Kippur in the world which could compare to the way Rebbe Elimelech asked his children for forgiveness. But then he walked up to his Holy Rebbetzin, because everybody knows that on Friday before Shabbos Adam and Eve have to fix everything that happened between them on the first Friday concerning the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. So Rebbe Elimelech would walk up to his Rebbetzin and he would ask for her forgiveness. He would say, “My Holy Wife, Holy mother of my children, I’m begging of you, I’m crying before you, forgive me, forgive me a million times if I hurt your feelings, if I didn’t treat you the way a princess has to be treated.”
And gevalt, gevalt the old woman said, “I want you to know that those few minutes before Shabbos in the house of Rabbi Elimelech, they carried me forever.”
The Viledniker’s Mother
Bentching licht, kindling the Holy Lights before Shabbos, fixes the whole week. G-d entrusted to our Holy Mothers, to our Holy Sisters, to kindle the light of Shabbos. You may ask me, “Isn’t Shabbos itself such a great light? Isn’t Shabbos, as the Talmud says, a torch? Why do you need a little candle?” But you see, you are asking with the mind of six days of the week. Yes, Shabbos is a great light, but the little candle, the little fire is so precious, so precious before GYd.
When our Holy Mothers kindle lights and our Holy Sisters kindle lights, at that one moment, there’s no wall between them and GYd. There is no wall between them and their husbands and their children. There is no wall between them and all of Israel. There is no wall between them and the whole world. What a moment….
I bless you children, you should always stand next to your mother when your holy mothers kindle lights. What a moment… what a moment…. The deepest moment in Shabbos.
In Vilednik, 150 years ago, the Holy Viledniker Rebbe lived. The heilege Reb Yisroel of Vilednik, one of the greatest pupils, one of the greatest Chassidim of Rebbe Mottele Chernobyl.
You know, sadly enough, today we’re living in a different world. Sadly enough, so many marriages break up, so many hearts are broken, so many windows are just knocked out. But in the time of the Viledniker, 150 years ago, it barely happened.
One day the holy Viledniker was told that the wife of one of his Chassidim had moved back to her parents. He was so heartbroken, he called the woman and this is what he said, “I want you to know, your husband loves you so much. He is up all night in the synagogue, reciting the Psalms and praying that you should come back to him, because he loves you so much. So I’m begging you, please, please, please, go back to your husband who loves you.”
And this is what she said, “Rebbe, let it be clear to you, I didn’t leave my husband because I don’t love him. On the contrary, I love him so much. But GYd didn’t bless us yet with children, and a house without children is more destroyed than the Holy Temple. A house without laughter, without crying of children, is so lonely, so empty. I couldn’t bare it anymore, so I went back to my parents’ home. But Rebbe, if you want me to go back to my husband, bless me with children.” She was a very clever woman, so added said, “Rebbe, if you bless me with children, bless me to have a son like you.”
The Holy Viledniker just smiled and he said to her, “I’ll be so happy to bless you to have a son like me, but you have to promise me something: If you will be a mother like my mother, then you will have children like me. Let me tell you about my mother: It should never happen to any child in the world. My father left the world when I was seven, and I had a brother who was only five years old, and my mother was taking care of us. My mother was so good to us, gevalt was she sweet, gevalt was she holy, gevalt was she beautiful. One morning, one morning she woke up and she said “Yisrolekle mien tier kind [Yisrolekle, my precious son], please bring me a Prayer-book. I have to pray but I am too sick to get out of bed.” I brought my mother the prayer-book and she held it in her holy hands. This is what she said, “Master of the World, Tatte Zeese, Heilege Tatte [Sweet Father, Holy Father], I’m so sick. I can’t even pray. But Master of the World, You know the truth; if I won’t take care of my children, there is nobody else who will take care of them. So just for the sake of my children, Tatte Zeese, Master of the world, make me well.” I swear to you: she got up, she was well.”
“One more story about my mother: Can you imagine how many tears my mother shed, how many prayers she offered, when she kindled lights before Shabbos? I was so little, but yet I knew; the only one who prayed more than my mother, was the High Priest on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holiest. So one Friday she was crying so much, and I guess she bent over the candles, and her tears fell on the candles. When she opened her eyes, it was already Shabbos. There were no more candles. The tears extinguished the fire. My mother said, “Master of the World, Heilige Tatte in Himmel [Holy Father in Heaven], I can’t live without the light of Shabbos. Master of the World, Master of the World, Master of the World, how can I have Shabbos without my Shabbosdike licht [light of Shabbos]? But it’s already Shabbos, so I’m begging You, Master of the World, please You, You Master of the World, rekindle my light, rekindle my Shabbosdike Licht.”
The Viledniker Rebbe said to the woman, “I swear to you, I saw a hand coming down from Heaven and kindling the lights of Shabbos.”
Good Shabbos… Good Shabbos…
Let me share with you a story which happened to my family. A relative of my grandfather, in Halbershdadt, a Jew by the name of Mr. Hirsch, was dealing with copper. He had a big business. In the year 1871 there was a war between Germany and France. It broke out on Shabbos. On Shabbos morning he received a telegram. He didn’t open it. Every hour he received another telegram but only after Havdallah he opened all the telegrams and this is what the telegrams said: The German government needs copper and we’d like to buy copper from you. We offer you 10,000 marks for so and so much copper. But since he didn’t answer because it was Shabbos, the next telegram said, “We offer you 20,000 marks.” By the end of the Shabbos, the German government was so desperate they offered him 150,000. He opened all the telegrams and Sunday morning he went to the station he had to contact. He told them, “To tell you the truth, I didn’t ignore the telegrams because I didn’t like the price. I would have sold it to you for 10,000 marks. I just didn’t open the telegrams because it was Shabbos, but I’ll sell it to you for 10,000.”
They couldn’t believe how honest this person was. The story went all the way to the German Kaiser, who asked my great great uncle to come before him. The German Kaiser said to him, “I never met an honest person like you. I guess that when you keep Shabbos, Shabbos makes an honest person out of you. First of all, let me have the privilege of paying you 150,000 marks, because you deserve it. We decided to give it to you. But above all, I would like to make you a Barron.”
Everybody has heard of Barron Hirsch.
Friends, I want you to know Shabbos is the greatest gift. Shabbos is the sweetest thing in the world. A Jew cannot live without Shabbos. A Jew cannot exist a second without Shabbos. One second after Havdallah, I’m already waiting for the next Shabbos. Friends, I bless you with Shabbos, heilige Shabbos.
and the Cossack
Do you know what an assimilated Jew is? Someone who thinks that the world is stronger than GYd, than Yiddishkeit, than the Torah. Hopefully, you and I know the truth: When you really want to do something, the whole world respects you. So this is the story: At the end of the First World War, when Russia lost the war and needed a scapegoat, they said, “Why did we lose the war with Germany? It’s very simple. Because the Jews speak Yiddish. Yiddish is German, so all the Jews are German spies, and they gave over all the secrets of Russia to Germany. So because of the Jews, we lost the war.”
So in all those little shtetlach where the peasants were angry that they lost the war, they had a little custom; every Friday afternoon they would hang up ten Jews and say, “These are the ten spies.” The Holy Amshinover Rebbe, the heilige Amshinover, sent messengers all over the area to redeem those people, because the police, for a hundred rubles, would let a Jew go. So one of the closest disciples of the Holy Amshinover went Friday morning to a village to redeem the ten Jews who were supposed to be hanged. He was on his way back to Amshinov through the forest, and suddenly the wheel broke off his wagon. It was late, almost Shabbos. He was desperate. Suddenly he heard Cossacks coming. I don’t have to tell you, friends, the way Cossacks drive their horses – at a crazy pace. But he’s not afraid; he places himself in the middle of the way.
The Cossack stops and says to him, “Dirty Jew! What do you want?” He says, “I’m stuck here in the forest. I have to get to Amshinov before Shabbos. I’ll be happy to pay you 100 rubles to take me back to Amshinov.” The Cossack says, “I’m not taking a dirty Jew in my carriage.” He attempts to make the horses go, but this Chassidishe Yid of Amshinov was a farmer and he knew how to handle horses. He put his hand on the horses and they stood quietly. The Cossack said, “Let me tell you something, I know the Jews, there is nothing they are more afraid of than Cossacks. But let me ask you; how much are you afraid of Shabbos? How much does Shabbos mean to you? Enough so that because of Shabbos you’re not afraid of Cossacks?” And then he said, “If Shabbos means that much to you, let me have the privilege of driving you back for free.”
So he arrived in Amshinov. That night he was sitting next to the Rebbe, and he told the Rebbe the story about the Cossack. I heard the story from the Chassidim and they said, “It wasn’t really clear anymore: Was it really a Cossack or was it Elijah the Prophet?”
The Sfas Emes and the Soldier
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a war between Russia and Japan. Sadly enough, many young Jewish people were drafted. They all came to the heilige Sfas Emes, the deepest of the deep. And they asked him for his blessing. He blessed everyone that a miracle should happen, and they should not have to go to the war. There was one man, so eidel [gentle], so holy; really, he was not fit to be a soldier.
The Sfas Emes said to him, “Wait a minute.” The Rebbe went into his room, and came back with a book. It was a little manual on how to do circumcisions, how to make a bris. The Rebbe said to him, “Here, learn how to make a bris, and I bless you, even when you go to the army, you should come back beshalom [peacefully], and with joy.” The boy began crying, and said, “Rebbe, please bless me that I shouldn’t have to go to the war.” But the Sfas Emes was already talking to somebody else. The boy gets drafted and goes to basic training. Without saying anything bad, all those Russian and Polish peasants are just so dirty, their officer is ashamed of them. They don’t shine their shoes, they don’t take care of their rifles. Suddenly a general comes to look at the basic training, at the new soldiers, and the officer tells him. “I’ll tell you the truth, I’m not so proud of all the other soldiers, but there is one Jew here. He is very clean and he looks very well kept.” So he is introduced to the general. The general says, “I want to talk to you in private.” He takes him to his office, takes a pistol in his hand and says, “Is it true that you only eat Kosher food?” The young soldier says, “Yes.”
He holds the pistol to his heart and he says, “Hey, you are a soldier of the Czar of Russia, and the Czar doesn’t want you to be hungry, the Czar wants you to eat all the food you can get your hands on. So, I’m ordering you to eat treif food.”
The boy answers says, “I’m sorry, I’m a servant of GYd, not of the Russian Czar.” The general walks up and down the room and then he comes up to him again and says, “I heard you keep Shabbos.” He answers, “Yes.” He says, “You are crazy! You are a soldier in the army of the Russian Czar, and you keep Shabbos!? The Czar needs you to work everyday.”
Mamish, this young man knew that this is the test of his life. He says, “I’m sorry, I’m a servant of GYd.” The general was holding the pistol against his heart. Suddenly he smiles and puts down the pistol and says to him, “Listen to me, nobody knows, but I’m Jewish. My wife just had a baby and I need a mohel to do the bris. I’m not religious, but one thing I know: A mohel has to keep Shabbos and eat kosher food. So I just wanted to test you to see if you really eat kosher and if you really keep Shabbos. But now that I see that you do, I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you. I’ll sign you out from here and say I need you and take you with me. And after you do the bris, after you circumcise the baby, I will give you civilian garments and you can just run home.”
Suddenly the boy remembered; ‘I don’t even know how to make a bris.’ Gevalt, gevalt, the heilige Sfas Emes gave him a book on how to do it. You know friends, those Rebbes, what eyes they have, what hearts they have. It is such a privilege to know them. Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos.