#439 (s5766-29/19 Nisan 5766)

Surprise Respect

When the holy ARI stood up to honor the teenaged boy, Rabbi Chaim Vital gaped in astonishment.


This story is in honor of the engagement of Yehuda-Shmuel Tilles of Safed

to Sheina-Rochel Weinstein of Betar Elit, Israel. Mazal Tov!


Surprise Respect

One day Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy Arizal, was in his house discussing Torah with his chief disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, when a teenage boy knocked at the door.

"Come in," invited the Ari, and the youngster, Shmuel, opened the door and bashfully entered.

Immediately R' Luria stood up and greeted him. "Baruch HaBa! Welcome." He shook the boy's hand and invited him to sit beside him.

"What can I do for you?" asked the Ari politely.

As they spoke, Rabbi Chaim Vital gaped in amazement. His mentor never acted like this. Why did he stand up for a young boy? And why did he give him a chair to sit on?

As soon as the boy left, Rabbi Chaim could no longer contain his curiosity. "I've never seen you act in this manner with anyone before. What is the reason for this, if I may ask?"

"By your life!" called out his mentor. "I did not stand up for this youth, nor was it him I greeted with 'Baruch Haba.'

"What really happened was this. I saw the soul of the Mishnaic sage, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, hovering over the boy's head -- a merit this boy earned today by performing a commandment for which Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was famous when he was alive. It was for him that I stood up and to him I called out 'Baruch HaBa.'"

R' Vital marveled at this revelation. What commandment, he wondered, had the boy done to deserve such a handsome reward? With permission, he dashed outside in search of the youth.

"Shmuel" he called out, "Where are you? Wait!"

Soon he found him in one of the cobblestone lanes, and asked, "Tell me, Shmuel, what extra commandment did you do today?"

"The only thing out of the ordinary today," he answered hesitantly, "happened this morning while I was going to shul. I left my house at the crack of dawn and walked through the dark lanes in the direction of the synagogue. As I turned a corner, I suddenly heard crying from one of the houses. Why would adults be crying, I wondered?

"I decided to find out. When I entered the courtyard and peered in the house, I saw a few pieces of furniture turned over and the family undressed, sobbing. A band of thieves had taken everything of value, they told me, even their very clothes.

"I gave the father my clothes and dashed home to put on my only other garments, my Shabbat clothes. As you see, I'm still wearing them."

Delighted, R' Vital kissed him and returned to his master.

"In the merit of this mitzva," smiled R' Luria, "Shmuel certainly deserved that the tzadik's soul should envelop him. Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair had been famous precisely because he redeemed captives and helped forsaken people whenever he could."

[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Safed - The Mystical City" by Dovid Rossoff.]

Editor's note:
The boy, Shmuel de Uzeda, grew up to become the author of Midrash Shmuel, one of the most revered commentaries on Pirkei Avot, which nearly all Jewish congregations begin to study this Shabbat afternoon.

Biographic Note:
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-5 Av 1572), Known as "the holy Ari," revolutionized the study of Kabbalah and its integration into mainstream Judaism during the two years he spent in Zefat before his death at 38.
(For a more full biography) (For teachings of the Ari translated into English)


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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