#330 (s5764-22/ 26 Shevat)

A Timely Loan

The Tzemech Tsedek often saw, either in dreams or a waking state, his deceased holy grandfather.



Although his grandfather -- the saintly Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi -- had passed away many years earlier, the TzemachTzedek merited to envision his grandfather often. At times he saw him at night; at times by day. This afforded him the unique opportunity to present his Torah difficulties before his grandfather for solution. After becoming accustomed to these visions, the Tzemach Tzedek prepared for them by accumulating his questions in advance.

The Tzemach Tzedek was therefore quite distressed when the visitations suddenly ceased. It was 5575 (1815), he was twenty-five years old and his father-in-law, Rabbi DovBer, was the Rebbe in Lubavitch. The Tzemach Tzedek had gathered many complex Torah questions for which he could find no solutions. He had always relied on his grandfather for answers and felt greatly anguished at this sudden change.

One morning, as the Tzemach Tzedek was walking to synagogue, he passed through the village marketplace, where he was approached by one of the merchants, a chasid by the name of Reb Mordechai Eliyahu. "Could you lend me five or six rubles just until tonight?" he asked the young scholar. "I expect to make a profit during market hours today."

"Certainly," replied the Tzemach Tzedek. "Come to my house after I return from the synagogue and I will lend you whatever you need."

When the Tzemach Tzedek arrived at the synagogue, he prepared himself for prayer. He had already taken out his tallit and put it over his shoulder in readiness to wrap himself in it, when a sudden thought occurred to him. "Doesn't the Talmud (Bava Batra 10a) say that Rabbi Elazar would give a coin to the poor and pray only afterwards? And doesn't the Talmud (Sukkah 49b) also say that loaning money is greater than charity?"

The Tzemach Tzedek immediately regretted his actions. Rather than delaying the good deed, he should have offered Reb Mordechai Eliyahu the loan immediately. In the meantime the chasid could possibly have earned something. He laid down his tallit at once, returned home, and took out the amount of money the merchant needed.

The Tzemach Tzedek could hear a loud commotion as he retraced his steps to the marketplace. Dozens of merchants had descended on the market place, each offering various kinds of wares. The hundreds of customers haggled loudly, animals brayed, clucked and mooed, and merchants fought with each other over prospective customers. Finding Mordechai Eliyahu now would be no easy task.

The Tzemach Tzedek walked slowly through the bustling marketplace, looking intently at every face. The minutes ticked away as he sought out the needy merchant. Finally, after much effort, the Rebbe located Reb Mordechai Eliyahu and gave the grateful merchant the funds he so desperately needed.

Leaving the busy market behind, the Tzemach Tzedek returned to the synagogue to resume his prayers. A pleasant surprise awaited him; no sooner had he donned his tallit and tefillin when his grandfather suddenly appeared to him, his face radiating spiritual joy. "Loaning money to a fellow Jew in a wholehearted fashion has great merit," said the Alter Rebbe. "Doing a selfless favor for a fellow Jew without imposing restriction, in accordance with the great precept to love your fellow as yourself, throws the portals of Heaven wide open."

The Tzemach Tzedek realized he had merited this divine revelation with the act of loaning charity before even starting his own prayers. He then advanced his complex questions, receiving his grandfather's replies for all his queries.

Decades later, when he related this incident to his youngest son and successor, Rabbi Shmuel, the Tzemach Tzedek added the following: "Helping another Jew earn his livelihood - even just to earn a small amount on a calf -- opens the doors of all the Heavenly chambers."

[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from"The Third Judge" by Rabbi Elchonon Lesches, and 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.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn [1789-1866], the third Rebbe of Chabad, was known as the Tzemach Tzedek, after his books of Halachic responsa and Talmudic commentary called by that name. He was renowned not only as a Rebbe, but also as a leading scholar in his generation in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah.


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.

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