Weekly Chasidic Story #1077 (s5778-46/
18 Menachem Av 5778)
Finding the Positive - Twice!
A young man in Israel who had ceased to be Torah observant for two years surprised
his father by agreeing to accompany him to a Shabbat afternoon lecture by Rabbi
Connection: Weekly Reading -- "And you shall teach them to your
Finding the Positive - Twice!
A boy from a religious family in Bnei Brak left the path of Torah and mitzvot
observance and moved in with an irreligious cousin somewhere else in Israel.
His situation became progressively worse and he became engaged to a non-Jewish
girl. Even his irreligious cousin became quite upset with him, but was unable
to convince him to break the engagement. However, he did manage to convince
him that since taking such a step would mean cutting ties with his family as
well as with the Jewish people, he should at least go home once again after
his two-year absence, and face to face tell his parents what his plans were.
He agreed and invited himself home for a Shabbos on "his terms."
Friday night was spent smoking
on the back porch and Saturday found him again on the porch on his iphone.
In the afternoon his father politely invited him to attend a class he was going
to, given by the esteemed elderly Torah sage, Rabbi Aharon-Leib Shteinman.
Much to everyone's surprise, he agreed to go.
After the lesson, his father brought him over to Rabbi Shteinman to say 'Good
Shabbos.' He informed the great rabbi that unfortunately his son is no longer
Rabbi Shteinman turned to the young man and asked,
"How long has it been that you are not keeping Shabbos?"
The Rabbi probed further. "During that period did you ever have thoughts
of teshuva - of returning to observance?"
"How many times?"
"About four times."
"And how long did the thought of repentance last each time?"
"Approximately 10 minutes."
"Ah, concluded the Rabbi, smiling warmly. "So, it turns out that
for 40 minutes during the last two years you were 'in the place that a person
who wishes to return to God stands, even the most righteous cannot stand.' Of
that I am jealous! Good Shabbos."
The boy went home with his father, but immediately after Shabbos returned to
his cousin's house. However, Rabbi Shteinman's compassionate reply left him
no peace. The engagement was broken, and from there his life turned around.
Today he is, thank -G-d, fully mitzvot observant.
His family of course understood that it was Rabbi Shteinman's wisely chosen
words that influenced him to return to Shabbos observance, but they couldn't
even guess what came over him that he agreed to go to the Rabbi's class. "You
were smoking and using your I-phone on Shabbos ('G-d have mercy!'), yet you
agreed to participate in a serious Torah lesson?!"
He replied that if anyone else had been the teacher he wouldn't have gone or
even considered going. But...when he was in fourth grade, in cheder, his class
was taken to be tested by Rabbi Shteinman. Their teacher they found out afterwards
had requested an easy exam, so the boys were asked very simple questions. Each
boy, upon answering a question received a candy from Rav Aron Leib.
When this boy's turn came he did not know the answer to the question. So Rabbi
Shteinman asked him an easier question. Again he did not know. The Rabbi then
asked him the most elementary possible question, but still he was unable to
answer. As a result, when the testing was over, everyone had a candy besides
As the boys were respectfully filing out, Rabbi Shteinman motioned for him
to come over. He told the boy, "In Torah and Judaism we reward for effort,
not results. All the other boys put in an effort for one question so I gave
them one candy; you put in the effort for three questions so you are getting
3 candies." And with a smile, he handed him 3 candies!"
Source: Submitted by my loyal assistant for //ascentofsafed.com,
Mrs. C.R. Benami. Lately featured in various WhatsApp groups and probably other
social media. Edited and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles. (Photo credit: Hidabroot.com)
Aharon Yehuda-Leib Shteinman (Nov. 13, 1914 - December 12, 2017), originally
from Brisk, was one of the preeminent leaders of the Lithuanian yeshiva world
in the late 20th and the 21st century until his passing at age 104 (!). He was
the only member of his family to survive WWII. In 1945 he was able to leave
Europe for Bnei Brak, Israel, where in 1964 he became the head of the Ponevezh
Kollel. Among his many published works are the Ayeles HaShachar series, on the
written Torah ("Bible") and on the Talmud. His kindness and compassion
to all Jews were well known and considered astonishing. After the passing of
leading arbiter of Jewish law Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv in 2012 (at age 102),
who almost always deferred to Rav Shteinman on issues of public policy, Rabbi
Shteinman faced fierce opposition. Because of his pragmatic positions on different
public matters, some considered him too moderate compared to previous Lithuanian
leaders. Despite them, his funeral at age 104 in Bnei Brak was attended by hundreds
of thousands (600,000 according to police estimates).
Connection: Weekly Reading of Ekev - "You shall teach them (limaditam)
to your children" [Deut. 11:19 ]. Rashi: your own children. Last week's
reading [ibid. 6:7]: "You shall teach them (limaditam) to your child(ren)."
Rashi: your students.
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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