#434 (s5766-24/ 15 Adar 5766)

Bad Example

"I, not being a tzaddik," announced Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtze, "must as far as possible abstain from food."

Bad Example

Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtze used to fast a great deal. "A person is obliged," he would say, "to change his very nature and to accustom his digestive system not to demand its needs. When a perfect tzaddik eats and drinks," he would add, "by this very activity he comes closer to G-d. But I, not being a tzaddik, must as far as possible abstain from food." And in fact he reached a point where he fasted even on Shabbat.

It once happened that he summoned to his study a Jew who had desecrated the Day of Rest publicly, and rebuked him for his shamelessness.

"But Rebbe," retorted the sinner, "you also desecrate Shabbat!"

"I - - what?" asked the startled tzaddik.

"Rebbe," explained the other, "you fast on Shabbat -- surely a mark of disrespect for the Holy Day!"

"You are right, my son," conceded the tzaddik. "But still, my desecration of Shabbat is not quite the same as your desecration of Shabbat. You see, from your example people will learn; from my example, that is not so likely.…"

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

Biographic Note:
Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtze (1851-19 Adar 1928) was a disciple of Rabbi Elimelech of Grodzinsk, who said that he would account it a privilege if after his death R. Meir Yechiel would refer to him as his rebbe. An outstanding scholar who lived an ascetic lifestyle, he led a following of learned chassidim. His intricate sermons, which drew heavily on gematria, came to be known as "Ostgrovotze pshetlach." They have been collected in Meir Einei Chachamim, and his teachings on Bereishit in Or Torah.


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.

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