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Tales of the Hasidism

Martin Buber

Jewish Graphic

A rabbi named Zusya died and went to stand before the judgment seat of God. As he waited for God to appear, he grew nervous thinking about his life and how little he had done. He began to imagine that God was going to ask him, "Why weren't you Moses or why weren't you Solomon or why weren't you David?" But when God appeared, the rabbi was surprised. God simply asked, "Why weren't you Zusya?"

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When the founder of Hasidic Judaism, the great Rabbi Israel Shem Tov, saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted. Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Maggid of Mezritch, had occasion for the same reason to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say, "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer." Again the miracle would be accomplished.
Still later, Rabbi Moshe-leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, "I do not know how to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhin to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God, "I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer and I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient."
And it was sufficient.
For God made man because he loves stories.

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A man who lived in the same town as Rabbi Zusya saw that he was very poor. So each day he put twenty coins into the little bag in which Zusya kept his phylacteries, so that he and his family might buy the necessities of life. From that time on, the man grew richer and richer. The more he had, the more he gave Zusya, and the more he gave Zusya, the more he had.
But once he recalled that Zusya was the disciple of a great maggid, and it occurred to him that if what he gave the disciple was so lavishly rewarded, he might become even more prosperous if he made presents to the master himself so he traveled to Mezritch and induced Rabbi Baer to accept a substantial gift from him. From this time on, his means shrank until he had lost all the profits he had made during the more fortunate period. He took his trouble to Rabbi Zusya, told him the whole story, and asked him what his present predicament was due to. For had not the rabbi himself told him that his master was immeasurably greater than he?
Zusya replied: "Look! As long as you gave and did not bother to whom, whether to Zusya or another, God gave to you and did not bother to whom. But when you began to seek out especially noble and distinguished recipients, God did exactly the same."

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Rabbi Moshe of Kobryn related:
"My teacher, Rabbi Mordecai of Lekovitz, taught me how to pray. He instructed me as follows: 'He who utters the word "Lord" and in doing so prepares to say "of the world," is not speaking as he should. At the moment he is saying "Lord," he must only think of offering himself up to the Lord, so that even if his soul should leave him with the "Lord," and he were not able to add the word "world," it would be enough for him that he had been able to say "Lord"' "This is the essence of prayer."

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Rabbi Bunam said to his disciples: Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into the one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: 'For my sake was the world created,' and in his left: 'I am earth and ashes.'

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Once, when Rabbi Mordecai was in the great town of Minsk expounding the Torah to a number of men hostile to his way, they laughed at him. "What you say does not explain the verse in the least," they cried. "Do you really think," he replied, "that I was trying to explain the verse in the book? That doesn't need an explanation! I want to explain the verse that is within me."

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Once some disciples of Rabbi Pinchas ceased talking in embarrassment when he entered the House of Study. When he asked them what they were talking about, they said: "Rabbi, we were saying how afraid we are that the Evil Urge will pursue us."
"Don't worry," he replied. "You have not gotten high enough for it to pursue you. For the time being, you are still pursuing it."

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Three youths hid themselves on a Sabbath in a barn in order to smoke. Hasidim discovered them and wished to flog the offenders. One youth exclaimed: "I deserve no punishment, for I forgot that today is the Sabbath." The second youth said: "And I forgot that smoking on the Sabbath is forbidden." The third youth raised his voice and cried out: "I, too, forgot." "What did you forget?" he was asked. The lad replied: "I forgot to lock the door of the barn."



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