Leader of the Kolel

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The Yahrzeit of Reb Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt (or Apta, the Apter Rav, 1748-1825) is commemorated on the 5th of Nissan. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

Leader of the Volhynia Kolel

It was Yom Kippur and when he recited the Avodah section and reached the words,

“And such is what he would say”

they heard him say instead:

“And such is what I would say”.

And he explained:

“I now still remember the time when I served as High Priest in the Holy Temple. For once I dwelt in the Holy Land.”

And he was surprised when there was astonishment on their part.

Regarding their questions on how could it have been possible, he explained to those dear ones of his community:

“At this time, I am in my tenth incarnation in this world. But previously, I have been at the level of High Priest, leader, and at the level of king and head of the exiled Jews in Babylon, etc.

“But now, I am nothing.”

Just at that moment, an emissary came from our Holy Land and in his hand, an official document for him from the Kolel of Volhynia in Tiberias.

The Rav was overjoyed and asked for the making of a festive meal. And he said:

“I will give fifty silver roubles for a burial plot adjacent to the grave of Hosea the son of Beeri in Tiberias.”

On the night he took leave of this world, the people of Tiberias heard a sound knocking on windows of the Volhynia Kolel Meetinghouse which said:

“Go out to accompany the Rav of Apta!”

The members went out and they could see thousands of souls walking with his casket until they had walked to the cemetery. And they saw his face in a grave. And they walked from there.

In the morning, others were told of this and, they didn’t want to believe it had happened until they saw for themselves in that place in the cemetery, the appearance of newly dug soil. And it was only after all this happened in Tiberias that they found out that he had died on that same day!

Before his departure from this world, he cried out over our state of being exiles:

“Why is the son of Jesse (Moshiach) delayed?”

And he wept and said:

“The Rav of Berditchev said before his departure:

‘When it will happen that I make my way to that place, I will neither rest nor be quiet until Moshiach comes!’

“But, after he died, those Tzaddikim on the other side took delight along with him in ascents into palaces and levels until he forgot what he had said.

“I, however, will not forget!”

(Ten Lights)

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