Leadership With Open-hearted Vulnerability

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The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn zl (1796-1850) is commemorated on the 3rd of Cheshvan. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

His Meeting with the Gaon Reb Y. Orenstein

At the time when the Holy Rav of Rishin, (may we be protected by his merits), was in Lemberg seeking medical care, he went to greet the holy Rav, our teacher, the Gaon, the Reb Yaakov Orenstein, author of “Yeshuot Yaakov“, for Reb Orenstein was then the religious leader of the town. For this role of leader, the aforementioned Rav, the Gaon, was preparing stringently and, since he was a Mitnaged / one opposed to the Hasidic movement, he had the opinion in his mind that the Rav, the Tzaddik [of Rishin], likely would speak about some new idea of Torah innovations, saying something of the basic meaning of a text and deviating [from the Gaon‘s tradition].

However when the Tzaddik came before the aforementioned Rav, the Gaon, he asked:

“Of which thing is the covering for the top of walls of the town of Lemberg made?”

The Rav, the Gaon replied:

“Of iron sheets.”

He asked further:

“Why actually of iron sheets?”

The aforementioned Gaon replied, that they would provide protection in the event of a fire.

He asked further:

“If that’s the case, could they be made of:

לבנים / tiles?”

When the holy Rav left the aforementioned Gaon, his mouth was filled with laughter and he said:

“Is this the man who stirs up the universe and its inhabitants, that droves of hasidim will flock to him, so that he should deal with things like this?”

Behold, when another Rabbi, the Rav, the holy Tzaddik, Reb Meirl of Premishlan heard that the Rav haKadosh, “the Rizhiner”, was to be found in Lemberg, he greatly hurried to travel there so he could meet with him. However, the meeting didn’t happen, for, when he reached Lemberg, he couldn’t obtain his goal of seeing the holy Rav, for the Rav had already journeyed away from there.

When the people of the town began to inquire of Reb Meirl regarding the Rizhiner’s behavior with the Gaon, (for they had told him the words that were exchanged with the aforementioned Rav Gaon), he explained:

“The Gaon, the head of the court didn’t understand anything of the words of the Holy Rav, for the Rav asked in a cryptic way:

Just as the top covering of walls is providing protection over the entire house, so must the Rav of the town provide protection over the entire town’s inhabitants, and for him, there must be a broken heart as:

לבנים / of children, whose hearts are easily broken. But why was it as hard as an iron sheet?‘”

(Knesset Israel)

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