The Unwaivering One

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The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Ostroh (“Rav Yiivi”) zl (1738-1791) is commemorated on the 20th of Tishrei. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

The Rav, the Chossid, Rav Yiivi, [i.e., Yaakov Yosef of Ostroh], didn’t give special treatment to a man and he wouldn’t just flatter someone. And here, I will tell you something that really happened which I heard from the mouth of a reliable historian, an elder of our town. [Here is what Reb Yiivi did] to strengthen the mighty Reb Abeli, head of the wealthy Sussman family:

There was a foreign [non-Jewish] servant who worked in Reb Abeli’s horse stable. One time on a Shabbos, the servant rose early before the light of dawn, raked the manure from the horse stable and transported it in a cart to outside of the town.

Another, who saw this, went to the Rav Yiivi and told him of the matter. Immediately after Shabbos, on Sunday, the Rav Yiivi z’l went to Rabbi Abeli to enforce penalities because they had desecrated the Sabbath in his household.

Rabbi Abeli apologized to him, saying that the foreigner did what he had done without Rabbi Abeli’s knowledge and Reb Abeli implored Reb Yiivi that Reb Abeli might punish the servant with the paying of a penalty sum, or even that he should not take penalties from him, but rather, he thought, the servant should be publicly shamed.

However, the Tzaddik, Rav Yiivi, didn’t want to hear and he said to him, that in a place that there is a desecration of God, no regards should be paid… [In other words, Reb Abele was coming off as righteous in deciding to take his servant to task.] And regarding a great and important man such as Reb Abeli, he should especially feel compelled to heed this because the people will take note and fear.

Reb Abeli understood, for the words of the Tzaddik were just and he gave over to him the fines. They loaded the fines onto a cart and they were transported on all streets of the town and the official of the court went ahead of the cart and announced aloud:

“These fines were collected from the mighty Reb Abeli because in his household they desecrated the Sabbath.”

(Recollections of the great ones of Ostroh, [Ukraine], page 214.)

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