Weekly Chasidic Story #1100 (s5779-18
/1 Shevat 5779)
Channeling the Ultimate Authority
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad and Rabbi Levi-Yitzchak of Berditchev were deep
in discussion of a difficulty in the Rambam. Rabbi Meshulam-Zusha of Anapoli
silently observed them.
Connection: Seasonal -- The 2nd of Shevat (this year: Tuesday, Jan.
8) is the 219th yahrzeit of Reb Zusha.
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing.
Channeling the Ultimate Authority
Rabbi Zusha was one of the outstanding disciples of the
Maggid of Mezritch and an intimate of the Alter Rebbe.
Once, when Reb Zusha fell ill, the Alter Rebbe attended to him in person, and
when the Alter Rebbe printed the Tanya, he sent a special envoy to Reb Zusha
to seek his approbation for it.
The Rebbe, R. Shalom DovBer relates (Torat Shalom p.84):
The Alter Rebbe considered Reb Zusha of Anipoli a genuine Torah luminary-that
he did so can be attributed to an incident that took place during their youth,
in Mezritch, at a time when they were both students of the Maggid. It so happened
that the Alter Rebbe and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev were
deep in discussion of a difficulty in the Rambam. Their analysis
was proceeding apace, each in his own way trying to justify the Rambam's position
and reveal it in its true light, when along came Reb Zusha and silently observed
them. At a given moment he drew near and asked them what it was they were discussing
so intensely. At this question they could not conceal a smile-Reb Zusha was
not one given to wrestling with the intricacies of Nigleh study! However, since
he persisted in his inquiry, they told him what the Rambam stated and why, for
a variety of reasons, it was so problematic.
Reb Zusha's approach-whenever the solution to a problem eluded him-was to shed
hot tears and cry out: "Zusha doesn't know the explanation of this question!"
The tears would continue to flow until he fell into a slumber. Once in this
state, the author of the particular halacha, or the prophet Elijah himself,
would appear to him and reveal the explanation that he sought. At this point
he would immediately come to. And so it was: as soon as he was informed of the
difficulty in the Rambam, he cried out: "Zusha doesn't understand what
the Rambam means!" He fell into a slumber, the Rambam appeared to him in
a vision, and presented him with the explanation. On awakening, Reb Zusha hastened
to the Alter Rebbe and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and repeated what he had heard. It
was indeed a revelation to his comrades.
For this reason the Alter Rebbe considered Reb Zusha a true Torah luminary.
All other ways of explaining the Rambam were necessarily partial and prone to
error. However, when the Rambam himself explained the Rambam, his words bore
the stamp of ultimate authority. Therefore Reb Zusha merited this tribute, in
that he received the explanation in its most authentic form, as heard from the
lips of the author himself.
His final resting-place is in Anipoli, next to the tomb of the Maggid of Mezritch.
Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles
from Days in Chabad, as translated by Yosef Cohen from the original Hebrew
publication of Rabbi Yosef Y. Kaminetzky,
Biographical notes (in order of appearance):
Rabbi [Meshulam-]Zusha of Anapoli [of blessed memory: ? - 2 Shvat
5560 (?-Jan. 1800 C.E.)], was also a major disciple of the Maggid. The seemingly
unsophisticated but clearly inspired "Reb Zusha" is one of the best
known and most beloved Chassidic personalities. He and his famous brother, the
Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk, spent many years wandering in exile, for esoteric
Rabbi Dov-Ber [of blessed memory: c.5460 - 19 Kislev
5533 (c.1700- Dec. 1772 C.E.)], the son of Avraham and Chava, known as the Maggid
of Mezritch, succeeded his master, the Baal Shem Tov, as the head of
the Chasidic movement. Most of the leading chasidic dynasties originate from
his disciples and his descendants. The classic anthologies of his teachings
are Likutei Amarim and Torah Ohr (combined by Kehas Publishing
as Maggid Devorav l'Yaakov), and Ohr HaEmmes.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman [of blessed memory: 18 Elul 5505
- 24 Tevet 5573 (1745 - Dec. 1812 C.E.)], one of the main disciples of the Maggid
of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov. He is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic
movement and the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well
as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (Deberamdiger) of Berditchev
[of blessed memory: 5500 - 25 Tishrei 5571 (1740 - Oct. 1810)] is one of the
more popular rebbes in chasidic history. He was a close disciple of the Maggid
of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov. He is best known for his love for
every Jew and his perpetual intercession before Heaven on their behalf. Many
of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published Kedushat Levi.
R. Moshe ben Maimon; [of blessed memory: 4895 - 20 Tevet
4964 (1135-1204 CE)], known as the Rambam - the Hebrew acronym
of his name, or as Maimonides. was one of the most important Torah scholars
in the last 1000 years. Born in Cordoba, Spain, he fled with his parents and
family from persecution to North Africa, passing through Morocco and Israel,
and eventually settling in Egypt, where he became the Sultan's personal physician.
His numerous books, including Mishna Torah and Guide to the Perplexed, were
--and still are -- influential in the three fields of Jewish law, philosophy
Connection: Seasonal -- The 2nd of Shevat
(this year: Tuesday, Jan. 8) is the 219th yahrzeit of Reb Zusha (and ten days
prior to that, the 24th of Tevet/Jan. 1) was the 206th yahrzeit of Rabbi Shneur
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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