Rabbi Rael Blumenthal


#VaYera #תשפב

One evening, when Reb Simcha Bunim of P'shischa was a still child, his father was learning with three friends.

The discussions continued until late in the evening. It was the week of Parshas Vayera, and these exceptional Talmidiei Chachomim sat deep in discussion, contemplating Avraham Avinu and his Hachnasos Orchim (hospitality to guests).

Listening in by the doorway was young Simcha Bunim. His father welcomed him into the room and smiled at him. “Simcha Bunim”, he said “I would like you to think hard, and come up with a new interpretation on the mitzvah hachanasos orchim. Perhaps you could come up with a chiddush (original Torah thought) to share with us before going to bed.”

Simcha Bunim agreed and went into the next room.

Half an hour later, as the four men got up from the table, Simcha Bunim's father called into him, and said, “Let's hear your chiddush on the mitvah of hachnosos orchim.”

Simcha Bunim took his father's hand and led him into the next room. There were three beds with three pillows and three sheets and covers for his father's friends.

“Tatteh,” Simcha Bunim explained, “My chiddush in Hachnosos Orchim is that the beds should be ready in case they need to spend the night.”


#Vayera #תשפא

Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev was well known as possessing a an extreme love for the Jewish people, but also for being both brilliant and somewhat eccentric.

Berdichev was a town with more than a few non-observant Jews, and was often host to enlightened Jews, who reveled in opportunities to catch a frum Jew on some hypocrisy in their behavior, or inconsistency in their understanding of Torah and mitzvos. Many of these maskilim were exceedingly learned, well versed and brilliant in their own right. Which made them all the more dangerous to an unsuspecting minyan goer...

There was a certain maskil that had heard rumors of the brilliance of the Berdichever, and relished in the opportunity to challenge him on issues of faith and mesora and authenticity.

He arrived in town dressed as a regular Jew, and armed with well developed arguments, he asked for an appointment with the Rebbe. He was informed that the Berchiver was davening. No matter, he said, I wait on the side of the small Beis Medrash. And what a sight it was to behold. The Rebbe was eccentric beyond belief. His davening began in one corner of the room and he appeared to jump and dance with little rhyme or reason from one corner to the other.

The Maskil began to chuckle to himself. How naive the chassidim could be to think that such a person, with his oddities could possess any philosophical sophistication. Perhaps it was not worth the time to come.

One end of the room to the other, he davened and danced. And the maskil looked on, slowly drawn into the seemingly strange movements of the Rebbe. Little by little, as if in a trance, the Maskil began noticing the patterns of his arms and legs. What appeared to be random eccentrics gave way to a complex choreographed performance, with an audience of two. The maskil and Hashem.

His mind gradually emptied, his breathing relaxed. His eyed fixated on the dance. Until as if all at once, the Rebbe's face was directly in front of him. Broken out of the reverie, the Rebbe grabbed him by his collar and firmly asked: “And what if you're wrong?”

All the walls had finally come down. The Maskil stood in that little room and cried and cried. Echoing over and over in his mind: “And what if you're wrong?”