# 414 (s5766-03/ 14 Tishrei 5766)

A Bit of Kabbalah

Only in the sukkah of Rabbi Gershon of Kitov, no rain was falling.

A Bit of Kabbalah

The brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Gershon of Kitov, lived in Brody. In the same town lived Rabbi Chaim Tzanser (not to be confused with Reb Chaim of Sanz), an eminent scholar who is remembered as one of the earliest to express his antagonism to "the Sect," as the Chassidic movement was nicknamed in its infancy.

One year it rained on the first night of Sukkot, so that Rabbi Chaim was distressed that he would be unable to fulfill in a leisurely manner the mitzvah whose special time was that very night. In the meantime a visitor came in and told him that no rain was falling in Rabbi Gershon's sukka. Rabbi Chaim immediately sent his son to check if this report was true. Sure enough, after only a few minutes the son returned and confirmed the story: Rabbi Gershon was sitting in the sukka, and not a solitary drop of rain was to be felt.

Rabbi Chaim was not a man to be quickly impressed. [He stayed at home in his own sukka,***] and spent the evening exchanging jests with this son about the weird wonders and miracles that the so-called tzadikim of "the Sect" occupied themselves with, in defiance of the spirit of the Torah.

The next morning Rabbi Chaim and Rabbi Gershon met on their way to immerse themselves in the local mikvah, in preparation for fulfilling the mitzvah on the lulav.

"Honored Rabbi," said Rabbi Gershon to Rabbi Chaim, "since when is one permitted to sit in one's sukka and speak lashon hara, slander?"

Rabbi Chaim was astonished. "But how on earth did you find out about that? My son and I sat alone, and no one else was with us at the time. I must therefore conclude that an angel from heaven came along and told you. And if that is so, the how is it possible that an angel should speak lashon hara?"

Rabbi Gershon had an answer.

"Our Sages," he said, "teach us [Avot 3]: 'Whoever fulfills one mitzvah acquires one angel to speak up in his defense, and whoever does one transgression acquires for himself one prosecuting angel.' Very well, then, that very prosecuting angel who was created by your slanderous talk, he's the one who came and told me about it!"

-------- -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- --------

***Alternate version for the bracketed clause:

The rabbi (who in this version was Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi, the chief rabbinical judge of Brody) thereupon told his attendant to take some challot and a bottle of wine, and to accompany him to Rabbi Gershon's sukka.

Rabbi Gershon was taken aback to see the local chief rabbi at his sukka door.

"Why did you have to go to the trouble of coming to my sukka?" he asked. "After all, rabbi, you too could have arranged things through the exercise of practical Kabbala so that it shouldn't rain in your sukka either."

The rabbi promptly told his attendant to pick up their loaves and wine.

"Off we go," he said, "I have no inclination to make use of tricks of this sort."

[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from two separate stories in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Gershon of Kitov [? - ca.1760] was the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov and subsequently an important disciple. He was the recipient of the famous letter from the Besht about his visit to the heavenly abode of Moshiach, as well as other important correspondence. In 1747 he moved to the Land of Israel, living first in Hebron and then in Jerusalem.

Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page
Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION