Weekly Chasidic Story #1187 (s5780-50/
19 Elul, 5780 / Sept. 8, 2020) This week
And Let Us
For thirty days the Levush remained
isolated from the rest of the community. After, he went to Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav
to ask him to remove the ban and to explain why his oversight had merited such
a harsh punishment .
Connection: Seasonal -- Selichot
-- even great Rabbis have to request forgiveness.
format for more convenient printing.
And Let Us Say, "AMEN!"
Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, known as "the
Levush" after his famous ten-volume work, was one of the foremost rabbis
and Jewish leaders in Central Europe some four hundred years ago. In 1605, at
age 75, he was offered the position of chief rabbi in the important Jewish community
of Posen, which he accepted on a single condition. Before starting his post he
would travel to Italy and study the Torah laws of ibur chodesh, i.e. the knowledge
of the lunar cycles necessary for understanding the Jewish calendar of new months
and leap years, under the great Sephardic sage Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav, in Venice.
He spent three months there until he mastered the subject.
Towards the end of his stay, he happened to be in the house of his teacher when
a child made a blessing on a fruit. Everyone answered "Amen," with the
exception of the Levush, who unintentionally neglected to respond. The Abuhav
rebuked him strongly for this omission and declared a nidoi, a personal excommunication,
against Rabbi Yaffe.
For thirty days the Levush remained isolated from
the rest of the community, while the ban remained in force. At the end of the
period, he went to the Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav to ask him to remove the ban. He
also requested to know why his oversight had merited such a harsh punishment,
as this was difficult for him to understand.
The Abuhav said that at the
moment that he had not answered amen to the child's blessing, a heavenly death
sentence was issued against him. The thirty-day ban had weakened the decree, and
it could be completely overturned if the Levush and his descendants would undertake
to teach the importance of responding amen to all blessings. "You Ashkenazim
tend to be too negligent in this matter," he added wryly.
the Levush that when speaking about amen he should relate the following incident,
which highlights the life-or-death power of the amen response:
a king who despised the Jews and was always looking for an excuse to banish them
from his dominion. There was only one thing that prevented him from doing so:
in his kingdom was one pious Jew whom he liked and respected. This man was always
successful in persuading the king to refrain from carrying out his wishes.
one occasion the king was especially angry at the Jews, but once again the pious
Jew subdued his wrath. A priest was present in the court at that time, and he
proceeded to give the king a lengthy blessing in Latin. When he finished everyone
answered "amen," with the exception of the Jew, who was in the middle
of reciting Mincha and did not understand what had been said.
was furious and said that because the Jew had not answered amen, the blessing
would not come to fruition. The king's love of the Jew suddenly turned to hate,
and he sentenced him to death on the spot.
Some time after his brutal execution,
the pious Jew visited a surviving acquaintance in a dream and explained what he
had done to merit such a terrible end. Once a child had made a blessing on bread
in his presence, but he had not answered "amen." As a result, a heavenly
decree of death had been decreed upon him, but had been held off until the incident
with the king.
After the Abuhav annulled the ban against him, Rabbi Mordechai
Yaffe undertook to teach the importance of saying amen for the rest of his life.
Once a month he would fully recount the above incident, and he would often speak
about the critical importance of responding to a blessing with amen.
Indeed, until this day, the descendants of the Levush continue to bear
the responsibility to tell this story.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from an article by Rabbi Daniel
//Torah.org/learning/tefilah-life or death, and supplemented from
the out-of-print book, "Let Us Say Amen," and the book, Just One word:
Halachos of Amen.
Connection: Seasonal - Selichot / asking and receiving
Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe (1530 -
3 Adar B 1612) was one of the foremost rabbis and Jewish leaders in Central Europe
in his generation. An expert in Talmud, Lewish Law and Kabbalah, and also in mathematics,
astronomy and other sciences, he headed the Yeshiva in Prague, where he was born,
until 1561 when the Jews were expelled from Bohemia. He was known as "the
Levush" because he wrote ten books which he called by the general name
of Levushim ("garments"), and each had the word Levush in its title.
Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav III (b. 1520) of Venice was
a noted authority on Jewish Law and author of commentaries on the Torah (not to
be confused with 15th century Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav II, after whom the famous
synagogue in Safed is named and who is his grandfather, nor with the latter's
great-great-grandfather, the 13th century Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav I, author of Menorat
one of his ten volumes is about the laws of Rosh Chodesh, which he titled "Levush
As cited in Kaf HaChaim 124,30
Which I heard one
of them do at a Melaveh Malka in Los Angeles.
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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e-mail every Wednesday--sign
of the Full Moon"
the Full Moon" vol 2 - holiday stories)
now available for purchase
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1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set, "Saturday
Night, Full Moon",
also available for purchase on
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