#193 (s5761-40 / 6 Tammuz 5761)


The voice said: "Go outside and follow the bier of the Rebbe of Apta!"




It was in Mezhibuzh, on the night of the fifth of Nissan, 1829, that Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Ohev Yisrael of Apta, departed This World. On the very same night, in the holy city of Tiberias, people heard a knocking on the windows of Kollel Vohlin. The beadle inside, alone, was the one who held the keys to the gates of the cemetery. The voice from outside said: "Go outside, go outside, and follow the bier of the Rabbi of Apta!"

He ventured outside and was chilled by terror, for the bier was being followed by a grim retinue of a myriad of human forms from the Other World. One of these followers intimated to him that this was the funeral procession of the tzadik of Apta; he had died in Mezhibuzh, and angels from Above had borne his coffin here for entombment in the soil of the Holy Land.

The beadle repeated his story in the morning. People refused to believe him, until on the suggestion of an elderly sage they went together to the cemetery, where they found a newly-covered grave.

Letters from Apta later confirmed that the tzadik had indeed passed away on that very day. Before his passing he had cried out to heaven in bitter protest over the length of the exile. Why was the Messiah tarrying so long? And in his heartache he had wept and said: "Before the holy Rebbe, R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev left This World he promised that he would not rest, nor allow the tzadikim in the World of Truth to rest, until their insistent pleas would bring about the Messianic Redemption. But when he arrived there, the saintly souls in the Garden of Eden found spiritual delight in his company, and ascended with him to the palaces of supernal bliss - until he forgot his own promise. But I will not forget!"

When the Rebbe, R. Chaim Eliezer of Munkatsch visited the holy sites in Eretz Yisrael in 1930, he asked the oldest citizens of Tiberias as to whether any of them knew where the Rabbi of Apta was buried. They led him to a certain stone slab in the old cemetery which their hoary elders, who were now in the World of Truth, had shown them - the place where the Ohev Yisrael had been brought to rest [a site still known to us today].

[From A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by the incomparable Uri Kaploun.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel
(?- 5 Nissan 1825) the Apter Rebbe, was a main disciple of the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhinsk. He is also often referred to as "the Ohev Yisrael," both after the title of the famous book of his teachings, and also because its meaning ( "Lover of Jews") fits him so aptly.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-25 Tishrei 1810) is one of the most popular rebbes in chassidic history. He was a close disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. He is best known for his love for every Jew and his active efforts to intercede for them against (seemingly) adverse heavenly decrees. Many of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published, Kedushas Levi.

R. Chaim Eliezer Shapira of Munkatsch (1872-1937), in addition to being a chassidic rebbe with a large number of followers, was also one of the halachic authorities of his generation. Among his many books is his famous collection of responsa, Minchas Eliezer.

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.

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

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