#551 (s5768-41 / 14 Sivan 5768)
White on the Inside
He was relieved that Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz did not try to dissuade him from marrying the gentile girl, and only requested that he wear a simple garment.
White on the Inside
A heartbroken man stood before the Belzer Rebbe, weeping uncontrollably. Rebbe Yehoshua waited until he was calmer and was able to tell his sad story.
"I have an only son," said the man, "whom I have cherished from the day he was born. But, some while ago he took up with friends of whom I disapprove, wastrels and men of low character. I told him that his actions pained me, but he was too enamored by his new acquaintances to pay attention. And now the worst blow has fallen. He told me that he is engaged to marry a Christian girl. When I heard this, I was so shocked that I banished him from my house and told him never to return."
The man broke down again and was unable to continue for a few moments. Then, he said, "I don't know if I did the right thing or not. He is my son, after all, and by chasing him out, I have lost all contact with him and have no influence on him. What should I do, Rebbe? Advise me. My burden is too heavy to bear all alone!"
The Rebbe replied, "No, you cannot reject your own son. Go and find him. Bring him back to your home and be sympathetic. Help him, if he needs it. But, most of all, try to bring him here to me, if it is at all possible. You must not despair so quickly."
The Jew returned home and went out to seek his son. When he found him, he could not believe his eyes. His son had left as a proud young man, but he was broken. His clothes were filthy and in need of repair; he looked disheveled and in despair.
"Come home with me," the father offered.
The son allowed himself to be led back home. The father fed him and tended him with loving care. He bought him a new suit and restored his self-confidence. He did not even mention anything about the gentile girl whom the son planned to marry. He ignored the past.
Some time later, the father announced that he was going to visit the Belzer Rebbe. "Perhaps, you would like to join me?" he suggested.
The son agreed. It was a simple request. He was grateful to his father; why not do what he wanted and give him pleasure?
Father and son become much closer to one another during his journey. They talked about many subjects dear to both of them; they even discussed the son's engagement to the gentile girl. But, here, the son withdrew into himself, refusing to talk. "My mind is already made up and nothing that you or the Rebbe say will make me change it. The subject is closed, father. That is final."
The father nodded, but continued in a gentle tone, "And what about the girl's family? What kind of people are they? How do you know that they are not criminals, thieves, scoundrels?"
"Leave me alone, Father. They are very fine people! Why should you suspect them of evil? They are decent, educated folk!"
The father dropped the subject. Soon the two reached Belz and were admitted to the Rebbe's presence. The Belzer Rebbe spoke to the son at length until he felt that he had won his confidence and respect. Then, he offered him a talit kattan four-cornered sleeveless garment of snowy white wool and said, "I would like you to wear this under your shirt at all times. It will serve to protect you wherever you go."
Relieved that the Rebbe was not trying to dissuade him from marrying the gentile girl, the son agreed to wear the garment.
The father and his son returned home. The date of the son's wedding was approaching; it was to be a lavish affair with lusty singing and rowdy dancing and lots of hard liquor -- a typical gentile celebration. According to the Rebbe's advice, the father was to attend too.
The day finally arrived. The unhappy father sat all alone at a small table heaped with kosher food, but he had no appetite. He recoiled in disgust at the drunken behavior and wept inwardly to see his own son, seated at the head table, no better than the rest.
The room filled with smoke and heat. It was soon so oppressive that people began to shed their jackets. The 'chatan' himself began perspiring and took off first his jacket and then even his shirt. At first, he did not realize why people were staring at him. When he looked down, however, he discovered that he was still wearing his white, four-cornered fringed garment that the Rebbe had given him.
"Hey, look!" one of the guests cried out, pointing at him, "That's Jew-clothing. The groom is wearing a Jew-garment! The groom is a Jew!"
The other guests took up the cry and angrily fell on the groom. "Why did you tell that you were a Christian like us?" they shouted. "How did you dare deceive us!" They attacked him with their fists, pummeling him this way and that. He was unable to defend himself against the rain of blows, but succeeded in fleeing to safety.
When he was finally alone, he remembered what his father had suggested and he had denied; that the bride's family were not decent people of good breeding, but men of violence and crime. How true those words had been.
The son returned to his father's home much wiser than before. He became a sincere repentant and baal teshuva, justifying his father's love and the Rebbe's faith in him.
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from Tales of Tzaddikim (ArtScroll Youth Series) by G. MaTov]
Yerachmiel 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, and many have been translated into other languages.
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