Friday, April 30, 2010

Parshas Emor: Picking and Choosing Tzaddikim

Once, when Rav Yochanan of Rachmastrivka, zt”l, visited a certain city, a huge throng came out to greet him. Among the crowd were all the Jewish notables and virtually every Jewish man, woman, and child in town. A certain person who fashioned himself an opponent of the rebbe was also present and was very distressed to see such an impressive welcome. This man was so furious that he actually approached the rebbe and brazenly said, “You are supposed to be modest and hold yourself to be of no consequence. If this is so, why has everyone come out to greet you? What have you done to deserve such honor?”
“I also have no idea why they are giving me such distinction,” the rebbe shrugged. He immediately added, “Yet if this is how they are treating me, it is clear that this is heaven’s will and if that is the case, you should be as afraid to provoke me as you would a raging flame!”
A similar thing happened to Rav Meir of Premishlan, zt”l, when a chassid of Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin, zt”l, spent time with him. When it was clear that the chassid was judging Rav Meir and found him wanting compared to other tzaddikim, Rav Meir said, “Do you know why the mekoshes eitzim deserved to die? The word for wood, עצים, can also refer to tzaddikim. As our sages explain on the verse, 'היש בה עץ'—‘is there any tree there?’—the spies wanted to know if there is a tzaddik in Canaan whose merit will protect them. It is possible to explain that a mekoshesh eitzim is one who picks and chooses between tzaddikim and arbitrarily decides that one tzaddik is worthy and deserving while another is not. The punishment of such a person is very severe...”

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