Catriel Lev's Blog: VeHaShalom VeHaEmmet

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Catriel Lev
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Mar 5, 2011

A Tzaddik Believing in the Spirituality of the Simple Jew

Among the congregants of my childhood synagogue, Beth Abraham in Baltimore, MD, in the USA, it is generally recognized that the late Rabbi (and founder) of the shul, Rav Tzvi Elimelech Hertzberg, zt"l, was a great Tzaddik. He was a Belzer Chassid who reached America before World War II, and, among other things, he brought holocaust orphans (children whose entire families perished in the holocaust, and who reached Baltimore with no family) into his home and raised them until they could go out on their own.

Rav Hertzberg, like many great Tzaddikim, always stressed the positive aspects of other Jews and had tremendous optimistic belief in simple Jews and their chances to progress in spirituality. The following story is told about one of the instances of his belief in a simple Jew and his encouragement of that man's progress:

There was a simple Jew, whom we'll call "Avraham" who used to frequent the shul, and Rav Hertzberg acted warm and friendly toward him, and would have the Gabbais call him up to the Torah from time to time.

At some point, one of the congregants approached Rav Hertzberg on a weekday, somewhat upset, and told him: You should know that Avraham, whom you honor and frequently have called up to the Torah in our Shul, doesn't actually keep the Shabbat; he simply drives his car until he is about two blocks from the shul, and parks there, and then walks the rest of the way to the shul!

Rav Hertzberg replied: First of all, any Jew is welcome in my shul, and so is Avraham. Furthermore, all that you are telling me is that LAST week Avraham did not keep the Shabbat, maybe next week he will do so, and I have a responsibility to bring all Jews closer to Judaism; so I will certainly not refrain from acting warm and friendly toward him, and having the Gabbais call him up to the Torah.

This story occurred many years ago (Rav Hertzberg passed away forty years ago), and today Avraham is a Torah-observant Jew, having been Chozer BeTeshuvah a long time ago, and his son is a Rosh Yeshivah in one of the American Yeshivot!

When Jewish leaders have confidence in the "simple" Jews whom they meet, they can help them reach great spiritual heights. We should only be Zocheh that all of our leaders these days should stress the positive elements about other Jews, and encourage them to progress further and further.

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