Three Tales, The Rebbes of Vorki and Kotzk

Click here for Hebrew text.

The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorki (Warka, Poland)  (1779-1848) is commemorated on the 22nd of Nissan. The following three meises / hasidic tales, “Disputes For the Sake of Heaven”, “Overheard” and “The Deliberation” appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)


His meetings with R Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

Part I: Disputes For the Sake of Heaven

The Hasidim of each community knew that their two Rebbes, the holy Tzaddik and Gaon, our master and our teacher, the Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, (Kock, Poland), z’tzl and the holy Gaon, the Rav Yitzchak of Vorki z’tzl, had close ties and affection for one another but, they also knew that their Rebbes were somewhat divided in their opinions, which created discord between the two communities.

It happened once, that by good fortune, their two Rebbes were in the same town at the same time and, they met. The holy Rav, the Reb Yitzchak, of Vorki, ztz’l, began to speak and, he said to the Rabbi of Kotzk, z’tzl:

“I have some good news to share! Our Hasidim, those dear ones of our respective communities, have made peace with each other!”

But when the Rabbi of Kotzk, ztz’l, heard these words, he stood up, as one deeply shaken, and, he raised his voice in holy response, speaking with eloquence and mystery, saying:

“If it really is the case that they have made peace with each other, then the power of falsehood has already prevailed and the effort by Satan to erase, (God forbid), what little truth was left in the world has succeeded!”

The holy Rav, our teacher, Reb Yitzchak, z’tzl, was amazed at this fearful picture and asked him:

“What is your source for this?”

The Rabbi of Kotzk, z’tzl, answered him:

“I have proof of this in Midrash Bereishit:

“When the holy One of blessing wanted to create man, the angels were divided with differing opinions:

  • Hesed / lovingkindness said that he should be created, for all the world is generous acts.
  • Emet / Truth said that he should not be created, for all the world is lies.
  • Tzedek / righteousness said that he should be created for all of it is auspicious.
  • Shalom / Peace said he should not be created for all the world is dispute.

“What did the holy One of blessing do? He took Truth and He cast it to the earth, as it is written,

‘And he will cast truth to the earth,’ (Daniel 8:12 and cf. Midrash Bereishit).

“And behold, regarding this Midrash, the heart of each one who reads it will wonder about it. It raises a question.

“While for Emet / Truth, He cast it to the earth and immediately did not delay in creating man, since the prosecuting angel dropped his case being outnumbered. However, although dropped, the case made by Shalom / Peace to not create is still present in creation for, indeed, Peace argues, it is all dispute and quarrel.

“And what could they say to answer this claim? Surely Peace seems to be correct in this. For the sages z’l said with respect to Peace’s claim of there being dissension that, the matter of ‘disputes for the sake of heaven’ branches out from the source and root of the Truth. And since the Truth itself was cast down from heaven, there is still Peace up above making a good case.

Truth is vital for the world even if it causes discord because:

For God, there is no difference at all between one particular path of truth for serving Him Yitbarach or its opposite.”

(Isaac’s Tent, 84)

Part II: Overheard

Once, the Holy Rabbi, our teacher, the Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, z’l was in Vorki at the house of Reb Yitzchak and, they were together in a particular room where, unbeknownst to them, a certain young man had hid himself under the bed to hear their words.

First, the young man overheard the holy Rav of Kotzk ask Reb Yitzchak to explain to him his reason for advising his followers on the protocol for declaring someone sick, that for an ill non-Jew, they should say it in Hebrew, but for a Jew, they should say it in the vernacular.

And the holy teacher the Reb Yitzchak answered him:

“Since we don’t want to pronounce it in such a way that will potentially seal the matter.”

[NOTE: Original text as originally published. Not wanting to contradict the Rav of Vorki, but I would say that we don’t want to seal the matter in either case. Gabbai Seth]

Next, he asked him:

“Why did you name your daughters, ‘Hannah’ and the like after the matriarchs who were barren?”

And he answered:

“Indeed, afterwards, the matriarchs were remembered by God in answer to their prayers for children.”

Then, he asked him:

“Why do you use as a Shammos a Jew ignorant of religious law?”

And he answered:

“What happens typically with those who serve is that they become corrupted. So I take one who is already corrupted [and work with him].”

Then, he asked him:

“Why did you, on behalf of your son, enter into a marriage agreement with your in-law from a wealthy family, instead of availing yourself of the honor of entering into an agreement with me, Reb Menachem Mendel, i.e. for your son, the daughter of a Talmud Chocham / Torah scholar?”

He answered him:

“What else could I have done? For already it had happened from before that the angel announced for this, ‘The daughter of this one for that one’.”

After this last interchange, the young man hiding under the bed felt himself become very weak because he had overheard these words of the holy Rabbi Reb Menachem Mendel z’l. For he could see clearly that there should not have been a person in the house at the time witnessing this private conversation.

And they had to make the young man travel to Kotzk to help him to calm down. The Rabbi forgave him and, he became well again.

(ibid 127)

Part III: The Deliberation

I heard that when the first wife of our master, our teacher, the holy Rabbi of Kotzk, ztz’l, became sick, they took her, at her request, to the holy Rabbi of Vorki, ztz’l.

Later, the master our teacher of Kotzk came to the town of Vorki to visit his sick wife and, he stayed there for several days.

Afterwards, when he went to journey home, the holy Rabbi of Vorki went to accompany him along with the Hasidim and, the wagon went in front of them.

At some point along the way, the holy Rabbi of Kotzk and the holy Rabbi of Vorki ztz’l walked alone and, they turned off the road, creating some distance from those Hasidim who were accompanying them on this trip and, they spoke in privacy for several hours.

Afterwards, they returned to the others and sat in the wagon as they turned around and journeyed back to the town of Vorki.

And our master, our teacher of Kotzk, ztz’l, stayed there, in Vorki, for several more days. And his sick wife passed on to her eternity.

(ibid, 99)


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