‘I Do Not See Him’

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The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (“Kotzker”) (1787-1859) is commemorated on the 22nd of Shvat. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

A Story Of Kotzk

Once, the Kotzker’s brother came to him.

The Kotzker’s Shamash would not allow the brother to cut ahead of the line of people there that day.

This angered the Tzaddik‘s brother who said:

“Don’t you have a clue who I am?!? Tell the Tzaddik that his brother has come!”

“As far as I am concerned” – answered the Shamash – “it makes no difference; everyone gets equal treatment. The one who comes first goes in first.”

The visitor was angry and he grumbled. He did not want to wait any longer.

The Shamash went inside the Rabbi’s chamber, stayed a brief instant inside, emerged and said:

“The Rabbi ordered me to ask you to wait. That all the Jews are his brothers – is what the Rabbi ruled…”

Embarrassed, the brother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel stood and waited his turn.

As soon as his time arrived, he entered into the chamber of the Tzaddik, approached the table, received a greeting from the Rabbi, and then the brother asked for a blessing: He was in need of a blessing for healing.

The Rabbi asked:

“What is your mother’s name?”

“Do you deny that we are brothers?!” – the visitor was surprised and concerned.

The Tzaddik replied:

“About myself, I don’t know a thing and, you would demand that I should know the name of your mother?…”

The Hasidim of Kotzk add:

This story illustrates the hidden meaning in the verse, “who said of his father and his mother, ‘I do not see him’, neither did he recognize his brothers”. (Deuteronomy 33:9 – cf. Rashi on this verse.)

(Kotzker tales)

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