Machine Rabbis

R’ Shmuel Levitin headed a Yeshiva in Nevel, Russia for training Rabbis. He remarked, “My Yeshiva produces machine Rabbis,” and explained, “When manufacturing machine tzitizs, one inserts wool on one side of the machine and tzitzis emerge from the other end. With matzos, one inserts flour into one end, and Matzo comes out the other. In my Yeshiva, א גוי אן עם הארץ walks in from one side and an ordained Rabbi walks out the other.

(Repeated by my grandfather.)


The Rabbi and wagon driver

Chief Rabbi Izaak of Homil never veered from his practise of praying at great length even while on the road. These lengthy sessions gave his uneducated wagon driver ample time for observations and thought… After one such session, he shared with the Rabbi an observation he made from their many trips: The faster the horses ran, the quicker the wheels turned…

The Rabbi advised him once more that spending more time to at least daven like a mentsh, rather than gobbling through it, would allow him less time to focus on such nonsense.

To which the wagon driver retorted, “How can the Rabbi compare himself with me? We both stared school together in the same class. With his sharp mind the Rabbi quickly ascended to Chumosh, then Mishna and Gemoro class. You barely spent 3 months learning Ivri? How well can you know it? No wonder it takes you so long to read through the Siddur. With my thick head, I spent years in Krioh class. After so much time, I became so fluent in Ivri, I fly through the Hebrew prayers in no time…

The mashpia and the bath tender

Shortly before his demise, R’ Shmuel Ber of Bobroisk shared a story with his disciples. He was always awkward about sharing it, he explained, but he did not want to take it to the grave. One time, a difficult question in a specific Maamar bothered him. In yechidus, he asked the Rebbe Rashab about him and the Rebbe advised him to ask the bath tender in his own shtetl. Surprised, R’ Shmuel dutifully did what he was tod. Twitching his eyebrows, the bath tender thought several moments and then blew R’ Shmuel away with the answer he came up with.

R’ Shmuel was incredulous. True, this Chasidishe bath tender studied some Chasidus and, in general, was a שטיקל יודע ספר but he certainly was no match for this leading mashpia. You need to understand exactly R’ Shmuel’s standing. When the Rebbe Rashab said the deep hemshech ayin bais, the misnagdim could not believe that the fifty year old Rebbe came up with it himself. They were certain that the senior mashpia with his advanced knowledge in Chasidus, assisted the Rebbe with its contents.

So R’ Shmuel asked the simple bath tender how he came up with the answer. The bath tender explained that apparently R’ Shmuel must have been so deeply exasperated by this question that he turned to a simple bath tender for an answer. Seeing how much it bothered R’ Shmuel, he made his best effort to attempt to resolve it.

Sugar and blood veins on the walls?

The Rebbe Rashab was known to boil before Pesach all sugar he consumed during the Yom Tov. The idea was that as the sugar dissolved into liquid, any wheat kernels in it would become noticeable and would be removed. (The sugar back then was not necessarily as pure as it is today and there were legitimate concerns of other grains mixed in it.)

His own brother-in -law R’ Moshe Horenstein (I’m not sure he was a Lubavitcher) owned a sugar plant. During one Pesach he personally offered the Rebbe some cubes vouching that his factory went to great lengths to ensure all sugar was pure. The Rebbe turned one cube on all its corners. Then, breaking the cube, a seed came right out.

R’ Moishe later remarked that this incident did not sway him. He reminded his listeners about a מחלוקת the holy Arizal had with the local מרא דאתרא, meaning the Bais Yosef about a specific animal part. The Beis Yosef writes in Shulchon Aruch that the part may be consumed after all blood veins and fats were properly removed (or cut open). The Arizal, however, maintained that the part is too infested with blood veins and fats and cannot, therefore be properly cleaned of these items.

At a repast he hosted, the Beis Yosef served the Arizal the exact part they were debating. He wished to finally bring the matter to rest. The Arizal simply turned over the meat a few times, cut it open and showed the Bais Yosef some veins which were overlooked. The Beis Yosef was very disturbed by this incident. He practically advised world Jewry to eat a meat cut which was certain to contain prohibited blood and fat. In his dream that night, however, the Beis Yosef was advised not to be discouraged. The Arizal in his great holiness could produce blood veins on the walls…

“So too,” concluded R’ Moshe, “the Rebbe can produce grains on the walls…”

(Rav Zevin relates a similar story regarding R’ Akiva Eiger and his son-in-law the Chasam Sofer.)

Hatred of Esov to Yaakov

An Israeli backpacker once shared at the Shabbos table of an Australian shliach his experiences in the Australian outback just one week prior:

He originates from a completely secular background. He always was ashamed of his Jewish identity. He felt the Jews stole a country from the Arabs and provoked the UN. After he completed the Israeli military, he traveled abroad. His destination: far from his shameful Jewish brethren. Appropriately,  he arrived in Sydney and flushed his Israeli passport in their international airport. So he thought. As he walked through the streets of Bondi, he encountered scores of very visibly Orthodox Jews. Ultra Orthodox, modern Orthodox and everything in between. Determined, he moved north to Cairns, Queensland where he clearly reached his desired goal. No orthodox Jews lived or visited here. He quickly became friendly with the locals and blended in well with them. One Saturday afternoon, as they were enjoying a beer in the pub, one of the guys remarked how Australia has such a remarkable קבוץ גליות. Another suggested that each person around the table should announce his nationality. And so they went around the table. One individual was American, a second a Turk, a third Russian and on it went. Several, of course were true blue Aussies. As our friend announced that he’s Jewish, all his peers spontaneously rose as they exclaimed, ” a Jew?!” Spitting, they moved to a different table leaving the Israeli a table all for himself.

Sunday morning, the Jew spoke with his pals about yesterday’s events. He inquired each one about any possible Arab, Muslim or UN background or other motive for their reaction. Each denied any such motive adding, “Mate, we were stoned drunk and had no idea what we were saying. Don’t take it personal. Forget about it. OK mate?”

Finally arrived about the chronic reality of anti-semitism, the backpacker immediately returned to Sydney, resolved to reconnect with his brethren.