Dreaming of Moshiach

Friday, December 01, 2006

Malach Yehudi HaKadosh

A hassid passed away and was brought, trembling, before the heavenly court. But to his vast relief not one accusing angel was in sight. Instead, a chorus of joyous shouts greeted him. "Baruch Haba! Welcome!" shouted throngs of gleaming angels. The chasid recognized them all. Here was the angel created by his hours of learning, there was the angel created by his heartfelt prayers. Joyfully the angels began accompanying him to his place in Gan Eden. But a prosecuting angel blocked his path.

"You're going nowhere!" it snarled, "You have one sin and for that sin you must be punished!"
"But, but, it wasn't my fault," stuttered the chasid. "My wife forced me to do it!"
"Ha!" sneered the angel. "Is that what you call an excuse?"

The heavenly court ruled. "The hassid must indeed pay for his sin,". "And, as for you, prosecuting angel, for laughing at the hassid, you are sentenced to go down to earth and marry an earthly woman. Then we'll see how well you manage."

This prosecuting angel was born as none other than the Rav Yaakov Yitzchak, the Yehudi (Yid) Hakadosh (holy) of Peshischah, zs'l, a man so holy that the mere mention of his greatness is enough to raise the fear of heaven in men's hearts.

Reb Yaakov Yitzchak was a tzadik nistar from birth. Not yet realizing his son's greatness, his father, Rav Asher of P'shedvorz, zs'l, was disappointed because the only thing that seemed to interest his son was lovingly tending the needs of the family's flock of sheep. In addition, the boy seemed to be a glutton because he was constantly running off with more bread than five boys his age could consume. In desperation Rav Asher beat his son to force him to change his ways.

But one morning Rav Asher was passing the local beis medrash when he heard sounds of weeping and shouting. Drawing closer, he peered through the window and saw his son so exalted in prayer that he was close to fainting. Soon afterwards, he also discovered that the bread his son took was not for himself, but for paupers.

Rav Yaakov Yitzchak continued to hide his special ways even after his marriage. In fact, his father-in-law began to suspect that he was an absolute good for nothing. But Rav Yaakov Yitzchak's mother-in-law pointed out that he was greatly mistaken.

"Go to the place where he hides himself [in the bet medrash] and you'll see what he really is!"
When Rav Yaakov Yitzchak heard that his secret was lost he cried out, "Oy vay! He's lost his daughter because of that!" Sure enough, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak's wife passed away soon afterwards and he married her sister, Sheindel, a'h.

The "Kedushas Levi",zs'l, said that Rav Yaakov Yitzchak's first wife,a'h, passed away because he had the soul of Rabeinu Tam, zs'l, who married two sisters. And Rabeinu Tam married two sisters because he possessed a spark of the soul of Yaakov Avinu, zs'l, who married the 2 sisters, Rochel and Leah Imenu, a'h.

Sheindel became a nag and scold and constantly found fault with his saintly ways. However, for many reasons, she can hardly be blamed for this. Firstly, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak was the first to admit that Sheindel was really a patient, understanding woman who would never have given him a moment of distress. It was he himself who davened to Hashem that she should oppose his ways.

Furthermore, just before Rav Yaakov Yitzchak's death when his talmidim resentfully tried to push Sheindel away from his bed, she cried out to him, "Tell your talmidim that it was you yourself who commanded me to behave like a shrew all these years." Too weak to speak, the rebbe lifted his head and nodded his head in silent assent.

On top of that, the couple lived in absolute, abject poverty because Rav Yaakov Yitzchak had taken upon himself to fulfill two mitzvos with absolute "mesirut nefesh," the command to eliminate negative physical impulses and the mitzvah of charity. Concerning the first, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak said that he was as distant from negative physical impulses as a corpse that has lain in the earth five-hundred years, and concerning the second he never allowed even one penny to remain in his house overnight before giving it to charity.

Because of his willingness to give away his last coins to charity, Sheindel was often reluctant to give hospitality to Rav Yaakov Yitzchak's talmidim.

Rav Yaakov Aryeh of Radzamin, zs'l, a guest of Rav Yaakov Yitzchak, related that one Erev Pesach, Sheindel told him to go packing.

"Yaakov,"she said. "Don't think you'll be spending Peasch with us - we don't have even one penny for ourselves. Not even for matzos and potatoes." When Rav Yaakov told this to Rav Yaakov Yitzchak he commanded him, "Yaakov! Lift the table leg!"

Rav Yaakov lifted the table leg and found underneath a gold coin worth more than all his expenses. The second Sheindel heard of this she stormed into the Rebbe's room and demanded, "What about us. For Rav Yaakov you're worried, but us you leave to starve?" Rav Yitzchak Yaakov didn't turn a hair. "Lift up the second table leg!" he told her.

She lifted it up and sure enough, there lay another gold coin. Excited by the miracle, Sheindel never spent the money at all. Instead she kept the two coins her whole life as a keepsake of her husband's sanctity. After the Rebbe passed away, Sheindel also revealed why she constantly tried to prevent petitioners from reaching her husband's door.

"He had so much mercy on them," she explained, "that if he realized, with his holy spirit, that death was irrevocably decreed on someone, he would offer one of his own children in exchange. Could I sit idly by and do nothing?"

Nevertheless, nag and scream as she might, Sheindel rarely roused any reaction from her saintly husband. Only on one occasion did he lash back at her in response and begin to argue.

The Rebbe's talmid, Rav Simchah Bunim, zs'l, watched this in amazement. "What happened this time?" he asked. "Why did you answer back?" "I realized," replied Rav Yaakov Yitzchak, "that this time my wife was suffering from my obstinate silence. So to make her feel better I yelled back."

Once, when Rav Yaakov Yitzchak was a guest of the Maggid of Kozhnitz, the Maggid turned to him and asked, "Yid Hakodesh! Perhaps you can explain why I feel more sanctity on the second day of Yom Tov than on the first?" After a moment's thought, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak replied, "The second day of Yom Tov was only instituted after Israel were exiled to Babylon. Now, when a husband and wife quarrel and make up, isn't their love greater than ever before?"

The “Yehudi HaKadosh", zs'l, once told his Chossid, Reb Simcha Bunim of P'shischa, zs'l, to set out for a trip. Although the Rebbe didn’t tell him where to go, Reb Simcha Bunim knew there was a reason behind the strange request. After hours of traveling with the Chassidim, Reb Simcha Bunim stopped the wagon at the inn to feed the group. They ordered a dairy meal, for they were concerned of the Kashrut of the unknown owner. “Sorry, but all I carry is meat meals.” The Chassidim asked a million and one questions about the standard of Kashrut of the meat. A voice came from a man behind the stove; “Chassidim-chassidim, why do you ask so many questions? Why are you SO careful what goes INTO your mouth? You ask every detail to know whether or not it’s permitted to eat. Yet, when it comes to the words that come OUT of your mouth, do you stop to THINK if it’s permitted?” Reb Simcha Bunim overheard the whole incident and realized the purpose of the Rebbe sending them on the mysterious journey. He gathered up the Chassidim and returned to the “Yehudi HaKadosh."

The Chiddushai Harim, zs'l, said that the Yehudi Hakodosh hid his true level by publicly showing a different aspect of their persona to blind people to their real spiritual stature.

The Yehudi HaKadosh and his student, Reb Simcha Bunim Alter of Ger, a'h, were discussing how it'll be when Moshiach's arrival is announced. Reb Simcha Bonim said he'll sleep litte and have his Tfillin and and Talit under his head and when Moshiach's arrival will be announced, he will right away wake up, ready. The Yehudi HaKadosh answered that "During the birthpangs of Moshiach, no one will be able to sleep".

Once, in the middle of a shiur, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok encountered a problematic text and was soon immersed in profound thought. One student, who had lost his father, knew from past experience that it might be hours until the Rebbe emerged from his contemplation, so he took the opportunity to slip out for a snack. Just as he was about to return his mother called out, "Son, please fetch me some fodder down from the loft!" The son raced to do the chore and then hurried back to the shiur. Just as he entered, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok straightened out and asked him, "What mitzvah have you just performed?"

"Kibbud eim," replied the youth.
"Now I understand," said Rav Yaakov Yitzchak "When you re-entered the beis medrash, you were accompanied by Abaye, zs'l, who had no parents, and accompanies people performing 'kibud av ve'eim' to gain a share in their mitzvah. And once he arrived, he gave me the answer to what was bothering me. After all, he himself was one of the disputants in that sugya."

Shortly after his marriage he told his wife that if he was ever missing for a long time, she should search for him in the hayloft. "I often faint during my prayers," he said, "and it will be good if you come and revive me." And this often happened. Many were the times that she found him prostrated in a dead faint and only after much exertion would he regain consciousness.

Rav Yaakov Yitzchak was once journeying with Rav Moshe Leib of Sassov when he disappeared for three days. What had become of him? Rav Moshe Leib was as sensitive to holiness as a bloodhound and using his spiritual sense of smell he drew closer and closer to Rav Yaakov Yitzchak's hiding place until he found him davening in such absolute devekus that his soul was just about to leave his body. Rav Moshe Leib instantly fell on Rav Yaakov Yitzchak and begged him to stop davening before it was too late.

The Yehudi Hakadosh also had absolute control over his midot. When his father, Rav Asher, passed away in 1798, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak came for the funeral in P'shedvorz just before Shabbos. To the town's astonishment, that whole Shabbos Rav Yaakov Yitzchak behaved joyfully as if nothing had happened at all. What was going on? Didn't the rebbe care that his own father had passed away? But after Shabbos the riddle was solved. The minute Havdalah was over, the rebbe collapsed from his chair and rolled onto the floor in an hour long paroxysm of grief.

Rav Yaakov Yitzchak passed away on 19th Tishrei 1813 when he was only forty eight years old. Because he passed away very young, he asked that none of his descendants be named after him. The Ruzhiner remarked, "He died younger than us all, but he was greater than us all."

So poor was Rav Yaakov Yitzchak that the only tallit he possessed was a plain sheet with tzitzit attached. His son, Yehoshua Asher, zs'l, provided a tallit of his own for the funeral.

May the merits of Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, zs'l, the Yehudi HaKadosh protect all Am Israel, Amen.

This article originally appeared in Yated Neeman, Monsey NY




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו