An Important Lesson

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Leib Erblich of Sassov (1745–1807) is commemorated on the 4th of Shvat. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

From a Gentile Villager, The “How” of “Ahavat Yisrael” Is Learned

The Holy Rav, Rabbi Moshe Leib told us that he learned from a gentile villager about how he should go about loving his fellow Jew (lit. “Ahavat Yisrael” / “Love of Israel”):

Once, when he was at a gathering with some villagers, one of the villagers was feeling a bit giddy with wine, and he asked his friend, “Do you love me? Or no?”

The latter replied, “I love you very much!”

Then, the villager said:

“You say  you love me, yet you don’t know what I lack. Indeed, if you truly loved me, wouldn’t you know what I lacked?”

The second villager was dumbfounded and could not say a single word.

But from this dialogue, the Rav learned that Ahavat Yisrael is:

To feel everything a person feels missing in his life and to share in all the pain this causes the person and, in all their troubles was he troubled.

(From the “Complete Teachings of Reb Moshe Leib”)

7 Responses to “An Important Lesson”

  1. Yitzhak Buxbaum Says:

    Dear Seth, you’ve mistranslated the text. The peasant says: “If you loved me, you’d know what I need!” yb

  2. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Dear Yitzhak: Thank you for letting me know. I have made the correction. I am always glad for feedback of any kind. Seth

  3. Yitzhak Buxbaum Says:

    Dear Seth, you’re a holy yid. Instead of being annoyed and defensive, you responded like a mensch. I’ve done a lot of translating of Hebrew Hasidic stories into English for my many books and I’ve learned a lot about it. To give you a little present for your menschlichkeit I’ve translated the anecdote. The last clause is difficult to do because it’s a complicated quote so it’s not finished. If you study what I’ve done you can learn from it. If you want, phone me and I’ll give you a free 15 minute class on translating Hasidic tales.
    Rebbe Moshe Leib of Sassov said that he learned love of Israel– how to love his fellow Jews– from a gentile peasant. He said that he had once been in a tavern [where a lot of peasants were drinking] and he overheard a drunken peasant say to his friend, “Ivan, do you love me?” “Of course I love you!” his friend answered. “I love you a lot!” “You don’t love me!” said the peasant. “If you loved me, you’d know what I need!” At this the friend fell silent; he had nothing to say. From this, Rabbi Moshe Leib learned that loving a fellow Jew meant that you knew what he lacked and needed. And that you felt his pain and shared his suffering, and so too for all Jews: “in all their trouble was he troubled.”

  4. Monique~Miriam Says:

    Correction noted. And also the correction of another reader ( to be found in the comments) that translates, “if you loved me, you’d know what I lack”.

    Ahavat Yisrael –in’deed– is a heart of many rooms, opening wider and wider. A palace for the King. Needs to. We have too many lacks, needs, and desires aflame ready to light up the sky, not to allow for that much for the tradition of interpretation which is ours. Am Israel Chai. Reb Dovid highlighted such truths for me. He was a man after his own heart. I remember Reb Zalman, also one of my Rebbes, happy to learn I had connected with Professor-Rabbi Hartman. The Professor carried passion in his heart. He shared it freely too!! Inspired me…as one gets inspired when one slides from one letter of the Torah to another… letting the white fire in between nurture us, without burning us; thanks to the black letters :), crowning creation anew, each day.

  5. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Please read following beautiful teaching from reb zalman which touches on Ahavat Yisrael:

  6. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Dear Maggid Yitzhak:
    Thank you for your kind words!
    I do not doubt that you’ve learned a lot about this over the years because of your amazing work.
    Your present was deeply appreciated and timely since I just celebrated my birthday a few days ago.
    I would be delighted to meet with you on the phone or Skype. I will contact you to set up a time. Happy new year!

  7. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Dear Yitzhak: Thank you for your suggestion. I thought about it, I went back to the original text, and then, I came up with the following for the ending which, I feel, is the best I can do, integrating your sense and the original text:

    “To feel everything a person feels missing in his life and to share in all the pain this causes the person and, in all their troubles was he troubled.”

    Please e-mail me when I can call.

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