#559 (s5768-49 / 11 Menachem-Av 5768)

The Odor of Subtle Theft

A wealthy chassid came with a fine set of tableware as a gift for his rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel of Karov.

The Odor of Subtle Theft

Reb Zellig of Shrintzk happened to be in the house of his rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel of Karov, who was taking a nap, when a certain wealthy chassid came in with a gift which he had intended to present to the rebbe: a fine set of tableware to be used on festive occasions. He had bought two sets, one for himself and one for the rebbe, and he left them both on the table so that the rebbe could make his choice between them. In fact, when he had bought them he had already made up his mind which he wanted for himself and which he would give the rebbe. Later though, thinking it over, he had decided to leave the matter to the rebbe's choice, and he left a message with Reb Zelig to that effect.

Reb Shumuel woke up, received the message from Reb Zellig, and chose the set which the wealthy chassid had in fact intended to give him. Perceiving that Reb Zellig was most impressed by his choice, the tzadik assured him: "Do not assume for one moment that this was divinely inspired. Nothing of the sort. Let me tell you a story involving myself and my brother, who is a rabbi of standing and not at all chasidic.

"My brother once invited me to the marriage of his son with the daughter of some magnate. When I arrived, my brother began to show me all the magnificent clothes which his mechutan, the father of the bride, had prepared for his daughter. Among these was a splendid gown, embroidered from head to foot in gold and studded with precious stones. As soon as my brother stepped forward with this thing in his hand so that I should see it more clearly, I shrank from it and could not approach him. "It smells," I told him.

"When he laughed aloud and scoffed at my reaction, I asked that his mechutan be requested to join us. When he came I began asking him question after question, in an endeavor to establish exactly how he had come by this resplendent garment. It transpired that he had received it as a gift from a prominent gentile nobleman; more precisely, as a token of appreciation -- for the twelve thousand gold rubles which this mechutan had caused him to earn at the expense of some other Jew.

"My brother was awestruck -- but that does not mean that I was making use of the supernatural gifts of divine inspiration. It simply means that if a man is uncompromisingly meticulous about the boundary between his own property and that of his fellow, then whatever object has proceeded in the subtlest degree from theft becomes revolting in his eyes -- though he may not know the reason -- to the point that he cannot even step near it."

[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 Shmuel (Ben Avraham Yeshaya) of Karov-Vinagrov (? -15 Iyar 1820), a major disciple of the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhinsk and then the "Seer" of Lublin, became a rebbe in his own right upon the passing of the Seer in 1815. Many rebbes of the next generation were his students.

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. His weekly mailing of chasidic/kabbalist stories goes to thousands of subscribers.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

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