Weekly Chasidic Story #1011 (s5777-30 / 28 Nissan 5777)

Levels of Truth

He told Rabbi Ze'ev-Wolf of Strikov that the Kotzker Rebbe was a man of truth to an extreme; no one else could ever approach such a high level of truth.

Connections: Weekly reading-the double portion of Tazria-Metzora -- see Levit. ch. 13-14.

Levels of Truth

One of the main disciples of Rabbi Menachem-Mendel of Kotzk was Rabbi Ze'ev-Wolf from Strikov, a great and holy Jew in his own right. When the famed Kotzker Rebbe passed away, many of his followers chose R. Wolf as their new Rebbe, traveling great distances to be near him and under his influence.

One particular chasid chose not to join R. Wolf. He explained that the Kotzker was a man of truth to an extreme, and no one else could ever approach the high standard of truth that he championed. (Once, as a young child, the Kotzker came home drenched. His mother asked him if it was raining outside. He answered, "When I was outside, it was raining…".)

"Since I," the chasid said, "am committed to attaining the dedication to 'absolute truth' that I learned from the Kotzker, I am not interested in traveling to a person not up to his standard of truth."

Time passed and the man became seriously ill. Even though it was unpleasant for him to seek help from a Rebbe whom he told to his face that he did not accept him, after being bedridden for over a week, he decided it was nevertheless necessary to send his son to R' Wolf to request a blessing for healing.

The Strikover responded to the son's petition that if his father wants to be healed he must come himself. The son responded that it was not possible because of the illness. The Rebbe answered back, "Then let him be carried here in his bed." And that is what happened.

When the chasid was brought into the Rebbe's room, R. Wolf explained:

"We have an interesting insight concerning a person afflicted with a leprous-looking skin disease called tzara'at (see Levit. ch.13). Our tradition (Talmud Bavli, Erchin) teaches that the cause of this disease is spiritual-due to the person speaking lashon hara, evil speech. 'Evil' but not 'false' [if false, it would be in a different category of forbidden speech-'rechilut-slander' -YT.]. Lashon Hara is saying something true about another person but in a way that the person is perceived in a negative light. He was punished because he said something true but in an inappropriate way.

"So how does metzora (the person afflicted with tzara'at) get healed? He has to be brought - even against his will -- to Aharon the Kohen (see Lev. 14:2), whose divine service was to increase peace and harmony within the Jewish people, and between them and G-d. Occasionally, this involved telling a lie. (If Sam and Joe were having an argument, Aharon would first go to Sam and say, "You know, Joe really wants to make up." Then he would go to Joe and say," You know, Sam really wants to make up." Thus he would bring peace between them with a lie.)

"The healing for a person who is being punished from Heaven because he said something true in a manner or situation that could cause divisiveness because of the truth is to humble himself before a Kohen, who was entitled to compromise the truth when necessary in order to bring harmony, even though in general our holy Torah strongly forbids falsehood (Ex. 23:7)."

The chasid understood what Rabbi Wolf was saying: if he wished to be cured, he needed to humble himself to the tzadik-holy man, to apologize for his inappropriate speech and on some level accept R. Wolf as his Rebbe. He did so immediately and was healed.


Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a section of a weekly Torah essay by Rabbi Shaul Y. Leiter, executive director of Ascent-of-Safed, mailed in Spring 2015.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Menachem-Mendel of Kotzk [5547 - 22 Shevat 5619 (1787 - Jan. 1859 C.E.], although born into a non-chasidic family; early became a disciple of R. Yaakov Yitzchok [the "Seer"] of Lublin, R. Yaakov Yitzchok [the "Yid HaKadosh"] of Pshischah, and ultimately of R. Simcha Bunim of Pshischah, Superficially stern, he practiced and preached a zealous and unrelenting search for truth, whose prime enemy is self-centeredness. His oft-quoted aphorisms are characteristically pungent and unsugared. Stressed earnest Torah study. Spent the last two decades of his life in isolation. After his passing, the majority of his followers recognized his disciple R. Yitzchak Meir of Ger as their rebbe. [from Uri Kaploun in "A Treasury of Chassidic Tales"]

Rabbi Ze'ev-Wolf of Strikov. [5566 - 11 Elul 5651 (1806 - Sept. 1891)], the oldest son of Rabbi Avraham Landau of Chekhanov, was considered one of the wisest and most learned of Menac?em Mendel of Kotsk's disciples, Upon the death of the Kotsker in 1859, many of the chasidim accepted R. Ze'ev Wolf as their Rebbe, although he himself became a follower of the Chidushei HaRim of Ger. In 1878, upon the death of his father, R. Wolf succeeded him as Rebbe in Chekhanov. His discourses on the Torah and festivals were published in Zer Zahav-Keter Torah (1901). A collection of his correspondence, discourses and poems (in Hebrew] was published in 1926.

Connection: Weekly reading-the double portion of Tazria-Metzora"

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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