Weekly Chasidic Story #026 (s5777-45/ 15 Menachem-Av 5777)

All in the Family

The Imrei Emes of Gur asked, "What can I do to help?" The man admitted that he didn't know what the Rebbe could do.

Connection: Seasonal--Fifteenth of Menachem-Av - Matchmaking Day!

All in the Family

One day in the years between WWI and WWII, a chasid visited his Rebbe, the Imrei Emmes of Gur, to consult about his financial worries. He said, "For years, I've been buying merchandise at a good price from a Jewish corporation in Berlin, which I then sold for a nice profit. But I recently received a letter from them, stating that they won't be selling to me anymore. Now I don't know how I will earn a living.…"

The Imrei Emmes asked, "What can I do to help?" and the man had to admit that he didn't know what the Rebbe could do.

The Imrei Emmes was pensive for a few moments, and then he said, "Soon, I will be traveling with my brother-in-law, the Rav of Bendin, to the resort in Marienbad. En route, we will pass Berlin. Ask my brother-in-law whether he is willing to make a stop in Berlin, to visit this company. If my brother-in-law agrees to take this detour, I also agree. We will speak with the heads of the company. Perhaps that will help you."

The man thanked the Imrei Emmes, and went to the Rav of Bendin. His response was, "If this is what the Gerer Rebbe desires, of course I concur."

So the Imrei Emmes and his brother-in-law stopped in Berlin, and went to the company. The proprietor didn't recognize them, but was impressed by their scholarly and rabbinic appearance. The Imrei Emmes introduced himself, "My name is Avraham Mordechai Alter. In Poland people call me the Gerrer Rebbe. And this is my brother-in-law, Hanoch-Zvi HaKohen Levin, the Rav of Bendin. We are also mechutanim ("relatives through marriage"-the daughter of one is married to the son of the other).

The owner jumped from excitement. "Can you repeat what you just said?"

The rebbe repeated, "I am the rebbe of Gur, and this is my brother-in-law and mechutan, the rabbi of Bendin."

For some reason, these words made him very happy. His partner was upstairs. He called him down. The partner came down, and the proprietor asked the Imrei Emmes to repeat what he said a third time.

The Imrei Emmes obliged: "I am the rebbe of Gur," he said, "and this is my brother-in-law [husband of my sister] and mechutan, the rabbi of Bendin."

The two business partners looked at each other, smiled broadly, and began to dance energetically. The Imrei Emmes and his brother-in-law stood there astounded, wondering what this was all about.

Finally, one of the partners explained: "We are also brothers-in-law. I have a daughter, he has a son, and we thought that it would be nice if the children marry each other. But on second thought, we were concerned that perhaps it isn't proper for cousins to marry each other. So we pushed away the idea to the back of our minds. But this caused a problem, because to run our busy business, we need to speak with each other often. Due to our indecision, an uncomfortable tension rose between us and we hardly spoke. We weren't able to run a business successfully this way, and contemplated closing it.

But now you come to our store and tell us that you are brothers-in-law and also mechutanim. That means our children can marry one another--if you did it, so can we! Our dancing was kind of an advance engagement celebration, because we are so happy. In addition, we won't lose our livelihood either. We will be able to speak normally with each other, and remain in business. It is like a miracle!"

When the partners calmed down, the first businessman said, "I'm sorry for carrying on. I didn't even give you a chance to tell me why you came."

The Imrei Emmes explained that he came to help one of his chasidim. "He used to buy from you, but he received a letter stating that you won't be selling to him anymore."

The proprietor replied, "There is nothing to worry about. I will write another letter, stating that he is welcome to do business with us as before, and you can bring it to him. We only sent that last letter because we thought we were closing shop. But now that we know that our children can marry, our business can continue."

Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from Torah Wellsprings: "Collected Thoughts from Rabbi Elimelech Biderman," as compiled and translated by Rabbi Boruch Twersky.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Avraham-Mordechai Alter (1866 - 6 Sivan 1948), the son of the Sfas Emmes, was the third Rebbe in the Gur dynasty. Known as the Imrei Emmes after the title of his major book, he was the spiritual leader of over 250,000 Chassidim in pre-WW II Poland. In 1940, he managed to escape with three of his sons to Israel (then Palestine), although the vast majority of his followers did not survive. He began to rebuild the Gerrer community in Jerusalem, but he died there during the siege of Jerusalem on Shavuos, 1948.
Rabbi Hanoch-Zvi HaKohen Levin [1870 - Shabbat, 6 Adar A,1935], a chasid and major Torah scholar in Poland, was the chief rabbi of Bendin before World War II. He was the grandson of Rebbe Hanoch of Alexander and a son-in-law of the second Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Yehuda-Aryeh- Leib Alter, the "Sfat Emet," who said about him that "the Rav of Bendin is a complete person."

Connection: Seasonal--Fifteenth of Menachem-Av - Matchmaking Day!

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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