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A Sukkah Sponsored by the Angel of Death

“How Come I Have Everything, Yet I Have Nothing?”

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    3579 views
  • October 15, 2016
  • |
  • 13 Tishrei 5777

The Sukkah

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Class Summary:

In the world of yesteryear in a small village near Karlin, Belarus, lived two Jews. One was a Caossid—a pious follower of the great Chassidic master Rabbi Aaron of Karlin. The other was a Misnaged, from those Jews who deeply apposed Chassidim and Chassidism and everything they represented. In keeping with age old tradition the misnaged (the opponent) was tremendously wealthy and the Chassid—a desolate pauper.

The wealthy Jew had everything a man desires, except one thing: cheerfulness. He was a bitter and miserable soul. He never had a pleasant moment; he was always tense and suppressed. He would be quicker to pay full price for something than to smile. He was a religious person, but his religion has no soul, no smile, and no joy. It was all about rigid law.  

Across the street at the corner, was a shack, a wretched excuse for a home, where a karliner Chassid lived or, to be more accurate, was surviving. He barely had money to buy nutritious meals for his family. He lived on the edge. But one thing that never lacked was joy, exuberance and warmth.

On Sukkos, the great confrontation happened. The angel of death got involved, and a new life was breathed into a miserable soul.

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in honor of
Sholom Yosef Gavriel ben Maya Tifcha, Gavriel Nash.

A Tale of Two Jews

In the world of yesteryear, in a small village near Karlin, Belarus, lived two Jews. One was a Chassid—a pious follower of the great spiritual master Rabbi Aaron of Karlin. The other was the type they used to call a Misnaged, a Jew who deeply apposed Chassidim and Chassidus and everything they represented. The misnaged (the opponent) was tremendously wealthy and the Chassid—a desolate pauper.

This wealthy man had everything a man desires. He had fine children, a dedicated wife, and was healthy like the day he was born. All a man can wish for except one thing: cheerfulness. He was a bitter and miserable soul. He never had a pleasant moment; he was always tense and suppressed. He would be quicker to pay full price for something than to smile. He was a religious person, but his religion had no soul, no smile, no joy. It was all about rigid law.  

Friday evenings in this man’s home were solemn and glum. He would sit at the head of the ornate mahogany table with a stern face, tense shoulders and eyes that bespoke tension. Even the Shabbos melodies were depressing, sung fulfilling his duty, without warmth.

Truth be told, this man was most comfortable and content with Tisha Bav, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar; by contrast Simchas Torah was a day he dreaded.  

If there ever a soul of darkness, it was he!

Across the street at the corner, was a shack, a wretched excuse for a home, where the Karliner Chossid lived or, to be more accurate, was surviving. He barely had money to buy nutritious meals for his family. He lived on the edge. But one thing that never lacked was joy, exuberance and warmth.

Friday evenings at the chassid’s home were other worldly. Joyful and lively tunes reverberated throughout and the house was filled with a heavenly euphoria and ecstatic elation. He hugged each of his children and made them feel like princesses. He laughed, he sang and he danced. He loved the Shabbos and he loved people. He was in love with life.

And so it was week in week out, the misnagad’s home made the North Pole look like Miami, and the chassid’s home was a haven of warmth and light, pulsating with joy and excitement.

Now, the chassid’s good natured personality irked his wealthy neighbor to no end. “How can it be,” he would often wonder “that I, who posses all a man can want, yet I am so bitter and angry, while this penniless Chassid is so joyful and upbeat?!” Inasmuch as it disturbed him, he remained bitter. This was the 18th century, pre-therapy days, so when you were irked by your neighbor, you just repressed it.

The Sukkos Trauma 

Sukkos was his worst holiday. The holiday of joy was something he could not bear. He would sit outside in the Sukkah upset and distraught. His poor wife and children sat with him somber and hard faced. A gloomy atmosphere always filled the Sukkah.  

Across the street was the chassid’s sukkka full of dancing and singing. Many lechayim’s were shared and beautiful stories told. The Sukkah walls were bursting with positive energy.

The Decree

One Sukkos, the positivity and joy was more than the misnaged could handle and he decided he must put a stop to the Chassidic lunatic who was driving him mad. Being the wealthiest Jew in the shtetl and practically providing everyone’s livelihood, he devised a plan.

You see, how would the poor chassid build his Sukkah every year? He would approach Yankel and ask him for a piece of wood or two; then go to Chatzkel and request a piece or two, then he would go to another few friends and borrow for the week a plank or two, and eventually put together his little sukkaleh. So as the next year came around, as Sukkos approached, the wealthy Jew warned one and all not to help the chassid with his Sukkah. “Under no circumstances is anyone allowed to lend him lumber,” he warned. “Anyone that does, can look for a job somewhere else.”

His word was heeded. This year, the poor chassid got the same response from everyone he approached. “I would love to help you but your neighbor forbade us to help you. I have young mouths to feed; I’m sorry but I can’t afford to lose my job.” Every person he went to rejected him.

The chassid was devastated. It was a night before his most cherished holiday and he still had no Sukkah. He had no money to purchase his own lumber, nor would anyone lend him even a single plank of wood. What do I do? He thought to himself.

Suddenly he had a plan; he would go to the cemetery.

The Cemetery

The custom back then was, when a poor person who cannot afford a marble tomb would pass away, the shtetel community would provide a wooden plank for his tomb. The cemetery had hundreds of such planks with the inscription “Here Lies” (Po Nitman), and when someone poor would pass away, they carved out his name on the plank of wood, and stuck it into the ground. This would constitute the tombstone on his grave.

“Well,” thought the chassid to himself, “let me go borrow the planks of wood from the cemetery to build my Sukkah. “Who’s going to die on Sukkos, and if someone does, how many will die already? There are hundreds of planks in the cemetery. I will borrow these planks for my Sukkah and return them after the holiday! Certainly, the kehilah (community) would allow me to do so.”

And so off he went with tens of wooden planks and built himself a Sukkah the size of an airport! The cemetery had so many planks, that he could afford to build himself a gigantic Sukkah, larger than he ever built before.

The Night Comes

The eve of Sukkos arrives and the misnaged is sitting in his Sukkah rubbing his hands. “Finally,” he says to himself as he settles in his palatial Sukkah, “it’s about time I taught that Chassidic dance box a lesson! Finally, I will enjoy one Sukkos without those lively tunes, festive celebrations, and ecstatic dancing from the Chassid. Finally I will be able to remain happily depressed without anyone making me feel how misrable I am.”

You can imagine his shock and horror when he hears his neighbor singing like never before. The voices from the other sukkah are more jubilant than any other year! He goes to see for himself and… Oy! His neighbor is sitting in a massive Sukkah, larger than ever before, surrounded by his wife and children, plus a few guests, dancing and singing, and enjoying immensely.

The wealthy Jew never had a worse meal in his life.

The next night, he could contain himself no longer. He ran over to the Chassid’s Sukkah, his face burning red with anger, his veins looked like they would burst out any second. “Who gave you this wood?” he roars at the poor Chassid. Who defied my orders? Tell me right now, from whom did you obtain such a massive, beautiful Sukkah?”

The chassid, who was a clever individual, looks at his neighbor and smiles. “First of all, Gut Yom Tov my friend, sit down and relax and I will explain it all to you.”

An Encounter

The Chassid tells him the following story:

Due to your decree, I was not able to gather materials to build a Sukkah. As you know, I’m sure, I don’t either have a steady job. So with no Sukkah to build and no work to do, I was left with a lot of time on my hands.

It was the night before Sukkos, and I had nothing to do. What does a Jew with time on his hands do? I decided to go for a walk.

I went out for a stroll. It was after midnight.

As I am strolling, I meet someone I have not seen in a long time: the angel of death.”

“Sholom Aleichem,” I tell the angel of death. “What brings you to our neighborhood on the night before Sukkos?"

The angel of death tells me he came to do a job. Someone’s time is up and he got to seize the man’s soul.

“Who?” I asked the angel of death. Who are you coming to take?

“Ah,” the angle of death says, “I am on my way to kill your rich neighbor. The guy who really can't tolerate you. His time is up.”

So I turned to the angel of death, and I said: “Don’t bother with him. Leave him alone."

"Why?" asked the angel of death. "He despises you with a passion. Why not finish him off?"

So I told the angel of death: "It is a waste of your energy and time to kill this man. You see this person has long been dead. Trust me, there is no need to kill him; he died many decades ago. He has not been alive for probably 50 years.”

The angel of death thanked me profusely for giving him the night off. Then he asked me how he can repay my favor. I told him: I need a Sukkah!

So the angel of death told me: Go to the cemetery and build your Sukkah with all the wooden tombstones that are there. I promise you, I will make sure no one dies for the next eight days, and you have no reason to worry about those planks of wood. You can take them all!”

At this point, the chassid points to the walls of his Sukkah and says: Look, I can prove it. Pointing at the “Here Lies” (Po Nitman) inscription that was on all the boards, he says, "you see they are all from the cemetery."

The Breakdown

The misnaged could no longer contain himself. Years of ignoring and suppressing his emotions and feelings, stifling his crying soul, suddenly gave way, and the dam crumbled. Rivers of tears flowed freely, as he wept like a baby. He cried for the decades of lost time; he cried for his soul, for a live lived so meagerly and miserably.

“How is it that I have everything yet I have nothing; you have nothing, yet you have everything?” From where do you get it? From where?” cried the welathy man in agony.

“For this,” replied the chassid, “you need a Rebbe.” A Rebbe lifts you up in a moment of hardship, and empowers you during challenging times. A Rebbe allows you to remain connected to your own deepest soul, reminding you of your essential connection to G-d. A Rebbe is always there for you, pushing you up the mountain of life, telling you that you can climb yet higher. And when you are connected to a Rebbe, you realize that there are things larger than your own ego, you don’t take yourself so seriously. You can laugh at yourself.”

“Go to Karlin, go to the great Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, my Rebbe. There you will begin to live.”

Tradition has it that this wealthy Jew turned out to become one of Reb Aharon’s greatest disciples.

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  • HM

    Heather Melamed -8 months ago

    Dear Rabbi YY, 

    you are truly that person . In our busy day we look so forward to a daily shiur and have been inspired to draw inspiration and strength from your knowledge . You uplift our souls and talk to the heart . May you be blessed to co rinye tour outreach and your passion. Shana Tova 

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  • EW

    Eddy Wachsstock -7 years ago

    Small coment on other shiur
    You mentioned a chassid went to the RUZHINER '' and discussing Russian politics before shabbes ''
    I am sure the RUZHINER did not סטם discussed politics....
    It was erev shabbes and suddenly the RUZHINER put his pipe (lilke) down.
    The lubavitcher chassid asked him what happened, the RUZHINER answered that he looked outside and saw that the whole בריאה changed, it started shabbes.!!!!
    Rabbi Jacobson, you great inspiration in all your classes

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  • CD3

    carpe diem 36 -7 years ago

    Thank you, Rabbi Jacobson, for writing this and sending it directly to me, so that I will enjoy it and share with others.

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  • B

    Baba_Metzia -7 years ago

    LOVELY! Inspiring. Hag Sameach!

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  • MZ

    Mendel Zilberberg -7 years ago

    Thank You. Very interesting story. I am most certain that Misnagdim (those who out of sincere belief opposed Chassidim) are essentially extinct although there are still many who do not embrace Chasidim and/or Chasidus.. However there are many many thousands who have adopted the title and dress of Chasidim. What i find most thought provoking is the description and the very high bar set for a Rebbe.

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    • SK

      Sholi Katz -7 years ago

      The first 2 or 3 generations (depending on how you count) of Rebbes, they were very holy and pure. All they thought about was Hashem and how to uplift the people. After that, the subsequent Rebbes own interest came in and you get what you see today, a power struggle of money and control, just take a look around. Not to say once in a while, at some generation, some Rebbe comes in with good intentions with integrity and doesn't eventually fall into the trap . That is where the bar can be set high for that Rebbe. ( An example is the last Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L- he only lived for EVERY other Jew).

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  • IN

    Isaac Neuwirth -7 years ago

    Great inspiring story...
    What does it take for us now in 2016 to get close to a rabbi like R' Aron Karliner?? How can we find this "evrything" that's missing when Rabbies like Karlin are no where to find these days......

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    • RYJ

      Rabbi YY Jacobson -7 years ago

      appove

      Office of Rabbi YY Jacobson | Dean, TheYeshiva.net
      7 Fieldcrest Drive | Monsey, NY 10952
      www.TheYeshiva.net www.theyeshiva.net=""/> | 347.913.3322

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Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • October 15, 2016
  • |
  • 13 Tishrei 5777
  • |
  • 3579 views
  • Comment

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in honor of
Sholom Yosef Gavriel ben Maya Tifcha, Gavriel Nash.

Class Summary:

In the world of yesteryear in a small village near Karlin, Belarus, lived two Jews. One was a Caossid—a pious follower of the great Chassidic master Rabbi Aaron of Karlin. The other was a Misnaged, from those Jews who deeply apposed Chassidim and Chassidism and everything they represented. In keeping with age old tradition the misnaged (the opponent) was tremendously wealthy and the Chassid—a desolate pauper.

The wealthy Jew had everything a man desires, except one thing: cheerfulness. He was a bitter and miserable soul. He never had a pleasant moment; he was always tense and suppressed. He would be quicker to pay full price for something than to smile. He was a religious person, but his religion has no soul, no smile, and no joy. It was all about rigid law.  

Across the street at the corner, was a shack, a wretched excuse for a home, where a karliner Chassid lived or, to be more accurate, was surviving. He barely had money to buy nutritious meals for his family. He lived on the edge. But one thing that never lacked was joy, exuberance and warmth.

On Sukkos, the great confrontation happened. The angel of death got involved, and a new life was breathed into a miserable soul.

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