Stories of Tzadikim / 28 Motzie Shabbos, Shabbos Teshuva
Hold on to Shabbos with
Stories of Tzadikim
With Rav Yussie Zakutinsky
A gut voch everybody. Motzei Shabbos shuva, everybody’s getting ready for Yom Kippur. I’ll tell you a Yom Kippur’dik Maaseh. It’s always a good thing to say stories of Tzadikim but in this time of year it’s important to say stories of R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.
One Yom Kippur people were gathering in the shul and they were getting ready to start Kol Nidrei. They see in the corner of the room that there was a man clearly drunk and rieked? Of alcohol. People were thinking and talking saying what’s he doing drunk in shul for Kol nidrei?
Finally the Rebbe comes in. The gabbaim quickly go open the Aron kodesh and they begin to take the sefer torah out for kol nidrei. Davka at that moment this drunk guy wakes up. He doesn’t even know what’s going on, he thinks it’s simchas Torah he screams 100 Ruble Ata horeisa. Everyone shushes him. The Berditchover turns to them and says let him be.
And that’s what happened, that guy in the back was saying Ata Horeisa and dancing and everyone else said Kol Nidrei. Everyone was curious and went to ask the Rebbe why he didn't do anything about the man. The rebbe said, this guy's name is Reb Shmuel. He’s not a drunkard, he’s a good guy. How did it happen that he got drunk for Kol Nidrei? It was erev Yom Kippur, and this Shmuel got a message from one of the surrounding shtetlach that there was a widow who was late on their rent. You had to give rent to a Porutz and oftentimes they were antisemites.
This widow with her children owes rent, she was very behind in her payments. This porutz (landlord) decided that he would take advantage of this time of year and on Erev Yom Kippur he threw them in jail. This Reb Shmuel heard about this, and he said how can I go about my day and let this family be in jail for Yom Kippur. So he goes to the Porutz and he says you don’t know who I am, but what’s it going to take to get this family out at least for Yom Kippur.
The Porutz says I'm not budging. They’re staying here until I get every single penny they owe. And how much is it? He says 1000 ruble. He says I’ll give what I can give but I don’t have that money. Okay so they’re staying in jail.
Reb Shmuel leaves, he’s not a gabbai tzedaka, a fundraiser by profession but I need to step up. I’ll give what I can, and I’ll go knock on doors. The problem is, everyone in the town was poor. The Gabbaim already went around collecting money for the poor people in the community, it was going to be difficult to raise money for a family from another town they don’t know about.
He’s struggling to get the funds. After all his efforts in collecting money for Erev Yom Kippur he has 700 Ruble altogether which is an amazing accomplishment but this Porutz isn’t budging. He gave all the money he could, collected from the yidden as much as he could. As he’s walking home thinking of ideas, he sees people in a bar. And he happens to notice amongst all the people there, there was one particular table of young men dressed nicely and classy. He figures you know what, it can’t hurt to try.
He goes into the bar, they look at him, they can tell that he needs something. He gives them the whole story with this widow and children who are stuck in jail for the holiday season and that he needs 300 more ruble. They see, hey we can have fun with this guy. They say, if you drink this whole bottle of Vodka we’ll give you a hundred Ruble. He’s not used to drinking, he sits down and starts preparing. He takes it down, they were super shocked and they give him a 100 ruble. They say you know what, if you drink another bottle we’ll give you another 100. He was already losing balance, pushing himself to take down the second. By now he’s already out of it but they say if you drink a third we’ll give you another 100. It’s pikuach nefesh for this family and he pushes himself even more.
He gets all the money, stands up and it hits him even more. Before it all kicks in completely he quickly makes his way to the porutz’s house, staggers in front and gives the money. Boruch Hashem this family is freed and they can go to shul. Meanwhile he has to get to shul himself and he doesn’t have time to get ready. It's already starting. He runs in, makes it to shul and passes out. Then when the sifrei Torah came out he was completely drunk and actually thought it was Simchas Torah.
The Berditchover said although it might look like he was completely drunk and made this mistake. You should know for all of us it was really Yom Kippur. But for him, he was poel all the yeshuos he needed for Yom Kippur and he was already holding by the simcha of Simchas Torah. He brought all the Kapparas Avonos, tikkunim and yeshuos for his family he got from that act of chessed. He was truly holding by Simchas Torah. I hope that he’ll bring us along to Simchas Torah as well.
We have no idea how impactful an act of mesiras nefesh. When a person pushes themselves to help another hjew, even if it’s to the detriment to themselves to an extent it can propel a person all the way to simchas Torah.
We should have a gmar chasima tova, a year of light, yeshuos venechamaos, a wondrous year of nissim and niflaos b’vias goel tzedek amen.