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 Aharon-Leib Shteinman.

Connection: Weekly Reading -- "And you shall teach them to your children." (11:19)

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 Shabbos observant.

Rabbi Shteinman turned to the young man and asked,

"How long has it been that you are not keeping Shabbos?"

"Two years."

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 him.

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)

Biographical note:
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.


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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