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Rabbi Menachem Nachum of
By Lenny Braun
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernibol
was a famous Chassidic Rabbi who lived about two hundred and fifty
years ago. He was renowned for his piety, scholarship and for
his kindness in helping out those less fortunate Jews that abounded
in those days. Jews from all walks of life, sought him out. The
wealthy asked him business and investment advice. The poor and
sick asked for charity. All people were received with a kind voice,
a smile and a sincere and warm heart. Indeed, his doorstep never
gathered dust due to the non stop crowds who frequented his house.
No one was ever turned away or
not accepted by Rabbi Menachem Nachum. Indeed, his family, his
friends, and his students were not fazed by the sight of groups
of people gathered about his door, waiting to gain entry. Each
person was gladdened by the sight of the next person to leave
Rabbi Menachem Nachum's private study, for no one ever left with
out a smile on his face. Rabbi Menachem Nachum would not let some
one just leave, but he troubled himself to insure that his visitor
not only receive the help he was seeking, but also was set into
a happy and radiant frame of mind. Seeing that his visitor was
happy and relaxed, Rabbi Menachem Nachum would give him a warm
handshake, a blessing and escort the happy visitor to door.
One day, Rabbi Menachem Nachum,
contrary to his warm and understanding nature, refused to accept
any visitors. His family was perplexed, but abided by his wishes
and announced to the disappointed crowd, that Rabbi Menachem Nachum
would see no one today. The next day, seeing that Rabbi Menachem
Nachum was in good spirits and good health, the needy assembled
at his door. Again the message came out that like yesterday, no
one would be admitted. No charity would be given out.
His friends, family and students
did not understand the reason. Why had he become so inhospitable?
Why had he changed? Instead of helping people, he locked himself
into his study and bid no one to enter.
A week past, and then another
week. Finally Rabbi Menachem Nachum announced that he would receive
visitors. The crowds began streaming to his door as before. And
they received the same encouragement and warm heart, together
with advice and charity as before.
His students were puzzled. Why
had Rabbi Menachem Nachum stopped his customary reception of needy
people for the two week period? What was behind it all?
One of the students decided that
he would approach the master and ask him to explain his seemingly
Rabbi Menachem Nachum answered
him. "I have always had a soft heart, and when some one came
to visit me, and they had troubles, it bothered me dearly. The
more a person would tell me his problems, the worse I felt. I
had to make him happy, because that alleviated my personal pain
of hearing of his pain. Each person who came to me, I did my best
to make him happy, because if I didn't make him happy, then I,
too, would be unhappy.
"Suddenly, I realized that
I was not helping him because it is a Commandment from G-d, but
because I was in pain to hear about another Jew and his
problems. Can you imagine how I felt? Terrible! I knew that I
had to work on myself to give and to help because it is a commandment
and not because I wanted to feel good."
"But what's the difference?"
his students asked. "You resumed helping out the needy just
"Yes, it's true. From the
side of the needy, it is the same. The difference is from me.
What if some one were to come and ask for help and I did not feel
his pain? Would I have been so charitable as if I felt his pain?
There fore I had to work on myself to give generously with out
feeling the needy persons pain, just like if I felt their pain!"
And may we all merit to give to
our less fortunate brethren with a warm smile and in a generous
manner even though we do not feel their pain.
from theMay, 1998 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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