When He Was Insulted

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The Yahrzeit of Rebbe Zvi Hirsh of Riminov zl (1778-1846) is commemorated on the 30th of Cheshvan. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

When He Was Insulted

As it happened, our teacher, Menachem Mendel of Riminov used to send inspectors each erev Rosh Chodesh to all the businesses in their town to examine the measures and scales to ensure whether they were fair as we are so commanded in the Torah.

It happened that one time when he sent his servant, the holy master Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Hakohen along with one other to inspect the measures and the scales,  in the store of one wealthy merchant, (a man who we might describe as a well-educated “scoundrel”), there was a defective measure and, they chastised him over this.

But he answered them that, as he understood the law, although the measures may have been off, he was still in compliance with the law because no measure was needed in this particular case.

Rabbi Zvi Hirsh said to him,

“As illustrated by the example which deals with a basket of grapes, doesn’t the law explain that accurate measurement is so critical that, even if there is just the possibility of being slightly off, one may not leave it in the store but rather, one must place the grapes under the heels of his feet and trample them?”

The rich man answered him in insolence:

“‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’

“Is Tzvi Hersh also known as an authority of Torah law?”

And they went away.

When they returned to our teacher the Rav Menachem Mendel, he asked the Rav, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh whether the scales had been found proper from a Torah perspective. Rabbi Zvi Hirsh replied, “Yes, everything proper,” for, in his sense of propriety he did not want to report on the particular rich person that he had not been treated with respect, because his master had a characteristic of severe harshness when it came to handing out punishments.

Of course, his plan didn’t work because shortly thereafter, our teacher, Reb Menachem Mendel, asked the one who had accompanied Rabbi Zvi Hirsh: “How did it go with the inspection of the weights,” and he told him of the whole business.

Immediately, our teacher sent the Shamash to assemble the community for instruction, to tell the people that Rabbi Menachem Mendel would be giving a sermon in the synagogue. And he also commanded him not to tap with a hammer on the doors of this person, this shopkeeper, not to post a certification of inspection. And so, they assembled the whole community into the synagogue and our teacher preached before them on the subject of scales and measures.

This shopkeeper became very anxious when he heard the storm was brewing. And he came to the synagogue and removed his shoes to receive censure. He sought the forgiveness of his master for his transgression and, his master said to him, that he would pardon him if he would give a sum of fifty reds (a small sum).

Furthermore, he added:

“You say that my Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh doesn’t know to study?  Who could say whether the Rosh Yeshivah of your heavenly academy would know to study as well as the likes of him!”

But why, then, had the man gotten off with such a light fine? Here’s why: Before the shopkeeper had yet come in for his punishment, the people in the synagogue noticed the lips of Rav Tzi Hirsh whispering. So they asked him, “Why? What for?” And he said that he was praying for the shopkeeper, that he should not be punished on his account, and so, already, before the man arrived, the story of the prayers of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh had reached our master and teacher, the holy Rav, and so he was appeased.

(Ateret Menachem)

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