Weekly Chasidic Story #1028 (s5777-47) 29 Menachem-Av 5777
From the desk of Yerachmiel Tilles: editor@ascentofsafed.com

"Daddy, I'm Cold; Where's My Blanket?"

On a cold winter night, Rabbi Eliezer-Zusya Portugal of Skulen saw one of the orphans he was caring for shivering in his sleep.

Connection: Seasonal - the 35th yahrzeit of the Skulener Rebbe.

"Daddy, I'm Cold; Where's My Blanket?"

The pure righteousness of Rabbi Eliezer-Zusya Portugal, the Skulener Rebbe, is well known, and even more for his extraordinary and constant deeds of kindness and caring for others. What he was most famous for, though, was his loving devotion to the [literally] hundreds of orphaned Jewish children before, during and after WWII, personally rescuing them from Nazi violence and Communist oppression, and raising them in his own home with tender care, until his was also able to help them get married and start faithful Jewish homes of their own.

One freezing winter night, when the cold penetrated into one's very bones, the rebbe noticed that one of the orphans he was caring for was shivering in his sleep. He tiptoed into the room, removed the blanket from his son, and added it to the blanket covering the shivering orphan.

Almost immediately, his son woke up and began crying. "Tatteh (Father), I'm so cold!"

The Rebbe comforted him as best as he could, and gently explained to him about the great merit he accrued for the extra special good deed he did of relinquishing his blanket for the sake of a freezing orphan.

The words of comfort helped his son to calm himself, and he fell back asleep. But only for a brief respite; the bitter cold could not be denied, and soon the cry was heard once more: "Tatteh, I'm so cold!"

The Rebbe again tiptoed into the room and over to his son's bed, and whispered in his ear. "I know you are suffering from the cold, my son. * I know, I know. Believe me, I am also. But consider, please, between the two of you, who is better off? Surely it is you. You may not have a blanket at the moment, but you do have a father to cry out to. The poor orphan boy does not have even that."

* and only biological child, Rabbi Yisrael-Avraham Portugal, the Skulener Rebbe of today. Currently in his nineties, he is still highly active in good deeds and as a Chasidic leader of thousands. Certainly not impaired as a result of that freezing blanket-less night.

Source: Translated and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Bein Adam L'Haveiro".

Biographical note:
Rabbi Eliezer-Zusya Portugal, the Skulener Rebbe [1 Cheshvan, 1898 - 29 Av 1982], immigrated to the USA in 1960, after imprisonment in Rumania and international efforts to secure his release. He was a prominent follower of the Shtefaneshter Rebbe and the author of Noam Eliezer and Kedushas Eliezer, but is best known for his superhuman efforts to rescue Jewish orphans and refugees in Eastern Europe before, during and after WWII and his continuing support of them, and his "Chessed L'Avraham" network of schools for children that continue until today. Those who merited to be in his presence were astonished by the length of his prayers and the beauty and intensity of the tunes that he composed, many of which have become internationally famous today. He has been succeeded by his son and only biological child, Rabbi Yisrael-Avraham Portugal (born 5783 (1923)].

Editor's note:
In the mid-seventies I had the merit and great pleasure to be a sole Shabbat Evening Meal guest of the Skulener Rebbe and his wife. Forty years later, I still tremble when I recall the intensity, focus and slow pace with which he recited Kiddush.

Connection: Seasonal-the 35th yahrzeit of the Skulener Rebbe.


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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