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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

It is a long cherished custom amongst Chasidim to tell stories of early Tzadikim. Within these charming tales lies deep truths, lessons to learn for all our daily lives. So pull up a chair and allow me to share one with you.

In the late 17th early 18th century the Chasidic world of Poland was led by some of the most glorious of spiritual leaders. One such Tzadik was Rav Avrohom Landau of Chekhanav Zt”l. The Rebbe was a student of Rebbe Fishel of Strikov who was one of the founders of Chasiddus in central Poland. A close friend of the Chiddushei HaRim the Rebbe did not accept a leadership role until the Gerrer Rebbe was nifta.

His two sons both became leaders, each with their own unique path. The eldest, Rebbe Ze’ev Volf of Strikov followed the Rebbe of Kotzk Zt”l, whilst his brother Rebbe Dov Berish followed the Vorka Rebbe.

The Rebbe Dov Berish, who lead his Chasidim from the town of Biala, was renowned for his efforts thru fervent prayer in bringing prosperity for his followers. He once noted that over the matter of wealth and abundance he disagreed with his own Rebbe, Reb Mendele, the son of the first Vorka Rebbe, Rebbe Itzikel. The Vorka felt that it was actually better if the Yidden didn’t have more than necessary. He feared that with too much money the Yieden would get caught up with the challenges of becoming rich, and this would come between them and The Eibishter. Rebbe Berish held that the comfort of material wealth would allow them to grow closer in their service to Hashem, thru not having to worry over their needs daily.

One time, Reb Berish went to his Rebbe in Vorka for Yom Tov. He was staying in a local inn with a number of his own Chasidim. Whilst the chevra were eating a chasidic seudah, the gabbai of the Vorka entered announcing, “The Rebbe has asked that you come immediately”. Rav Berish declined the invitation, murmuring something about not being able to leave. The Gabbai insisted, after all, The Rebbe didn’t usually ask his Chasidim to spend private time with him. In attendance was a young chassid of the Vorka who took umbrage for his Rebbe’s honour and pulled the tablecloth off the table causing general havoc with dishes and glasses crashing all about. Rav Berish stood up and immediately went to his Rebbe. The two tzadikim spent the next two hours closeted in deep discussion. Rav Berish exited with his face wet from sweat, droplets being caught in his beard. With red eyes, he whispered, ‘The Rebbe wants that the chasidim should not have to live with the challenges of wealth. He insists that materialism will creep in and cause them to drift away from the Eibishter. I stood my ground, and explained to the rebbe that with wealth the chasidim will be enabled to focus on higher levels of spirituality, given the security they will have.  We discussed this from all sides, the Tzadik has held to his view, but I am not in agreement.’

After the Vorka’s petirah , a large group took Rebbe Berish as their Rebbe, his leadership lasted seven years, and in all that time there was an unusual flood of parnasah amongst the olam, so much so that before Pesach, there was never any need to collect funds for local families in need.

Allow me just one more side note that will add to the context of this holy battle. The Rebbe Reb Berish lived his whole life in dire poverty. He refused any communal salary and tried several business ventures that all failed. In the later years he scraped by with at the minimal income from an Inn his Rebbetzin managed.

Years ago the Rebbe, Rav Naftali of Bobov Zt”l mused that the Eibishter had given us fifty years of comparative wellbeing and parnasah so we could rebuild after the Churban. And rebuild we did, with the blessings of our Tzadikim, we have rebuilt beyond anyone’s dreams. Our present Golus has seen wealth never thought possible, and our young have advantages that we never even dreamt of.

So, we must ask ourselves, have we spiritually gained from our present situation, or suffered due to it? Have all these gifts drawn us closer to the Eibishter, or have we squandered our material blessings by forgetting they’re holy intention?

In Parshas Chukas we learn that when the Yieden sinned by speaking out against Hashem and Moshe saying:

“Why did you take us out of Mitzrayim to die in the dessert? There is no bread and no water! We are getting disgusted with this unsubstantial food.” (21:5)

In answer Hashem sent fiery snakes against the people and they began suffering horrendous bites. The people then ran to Moshe crying:

“We have sinned by speaking against Hashem and you. Pray to Hashem, and have Him take the snakes away from us.” (21:7)

Moshe made a copper snake and placed it on a high pole. Whenever someone was bitten he was told to look up and gaze at this copper snake and be healed.

Chazal explains that this was done so that those inflicted would look up to the Shomayim and remind themselves from whence all help comes, and that it is the Eibishter that cures the inflicted.

Those Yieden ate manna every day, all their needs were to hand, yet they complained. Somehow they lost the plot and forgot that everything is a gift from Hashem.

In our present Golus, we too are in danger of forgetting that it is Hashem that gives everything to us. We can easily get subsumed by all the stuff and become professional purveyors of gluttonous junk food, glatt kosher of course. The brochos for parnasah that our Tzadikim sought for our people were meant to be a tool that brings us closer to Our Father the Eibishter. We should enjoy these gifts, otherwise we would be acting unthankful, but our enjoyment must be in keeping to our Torah. Hashem’s gifts are given so that we connect our material with our spiritual. We are meant to act with modesty, and awareness of Hashem’s constant presence. This is our true roll and we are blessed with the opportunity to do it.