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Stories and Parables for Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur

arranged and adapted by Eliahu J. Klein

from original Hebrew sources

It is an honor to be presenting stories for Rosh Hashanah for the Hasidic Stories Web Page. There are countless tales and legends on Rosh Hashanah. Here are some stories you may have read or heard, some you may hear a second time in a new way and some you may never have heard. Let these stories deepen our experience of our Holydays.

If you are interested in learning more about Chassidic legends and teachings you are invited to attend workshops I will be offering. Please email me for details.

Table of Contents:

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Praying for your life

Once, the mysterious Rabbi, Reb Yehudah Tzvi of Stretyn after the long and ecstatic prayers of Rosh Hashanah made an enigmatic statement to his Chasidim. It was during kiddush and the Stretyner turned to his followers: "When Chanukah comes, during the lighting of the fifth candle if you will remind me at that moment, I will prepare a banquet for everyone!"

The Chasidim looked at their master perplexed and thought to themselves, "What is the connection between Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah?" And others thought, "Why a banquet only on the fifth night? Why not every night!?"

The fifth night of Chanukah came and the Chasidim reminded their rebbeh of his promise made on Rosh Hashanah. His face lit up and he immediately ordered a banquet prepared for all the guests. After many L'chaim's were offered someone stood up courageously and asked, "Rebbeh, so what's the occasion of the banquet?"

The Rebbeh began talking in hushed tones, "I saw during the sacred prayers of Rosh Hashanah that a tzadik of our generation would be appointed one of the judges of the heavenly court. I knew there were three possibilities. Either myself, the Rebbeh of Butzchatch or the Holy Rebbeh, Reb Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (The Dinover). I prayed with all my heart to the creator that I wasn't worthy to be a judge of the heavenly court. It wasn't clear to me what the heavenly decision would be until this moment. For as you all know Chanukah is the final seal of whatever happened on Rosh Hashanah. Now I know that I wouldn't be chosen. That is why I have made this banquet."

The Chassidim were awestruck by this revelation. Soon thereafter the news spread that the Holy Dinover had been chosen to be a judge of the heavenly court. He passed away on the 18th of Tevet.

Degel Machaneh Yehudah p. 12 #32

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Linking with the spirit

The great rebbeh, Reb Bunem of Pirshis'cheh, once recounted ...one time he was the service leader on Rosh Hashanah. This happened one year after the death of his teacher Reb Yakov Yitzchak, "the Holy Jew" (as he was known). At the moment Reb Bunem began Kaddish (for the Musaf prayer) until the end of the prayers he clearly had the vision that his rebbeh the Holy Jew was standing next to him clearly in full illumination. Reb Bunem was transfixed and kept turning his head to gaze at the presence of his teacher. Once Reb Bunem concluded his prayers, the Holy Jew disappeared.

Nachlei Binah P. 318 #634

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From the Depths of the Heart

I have heard from my father the Holy Komarna. One time a Jewish peasant boy came to the big town to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. He didn't know how to pray. He could not even read the letter Alef. He only saw that everyone was traveling to the synagogues to participate in the holy prayers. He thought, "If everybody is going to town I must go too!"

He arrived at the town synagogue with his father and watched the congregants crying and singing together swaying to and fro. He turned to his father and asked, "Father, what is this all about?"

His father turned to him and said, "The Holy One blessed be sits enthroned in the heavens and we pray all year long to Him. We especially pray during these two days of Rosh Hashanah when the whole world is being judged and each person is being judged for the rest of the year."

The son responded, "Father, what am I to do since I do not know how to pray?"

His father quickly said to him condescendingly, "All you have to do is be quiet and listen to the other Jews praying. That is enough for you."

"But Father, if I don't know what these people are saying how is that going to effect God's decision? How is being silent going to help me?"

His father became unnerved and blurted out, "Listen, you should be quiet so no one will know you're an ignorant peasant!"

The son stood still for a couple of minutes as his father and the rest of the congregation continued praying and then - the young boy stood up and spoke loudly.

"I am going to pray to God in the way I know best. I will whistle to God as I whistle to my flock of sheep."

He began whistling the sweet calling as most shepherds know. His father was enraged. The boy continued whistling with all his might not caring what other people thought.

Now, it happened to be, that this particular Rosh Hashanah, all the heavenly gates were shut and suddenly because of this pure whistling of the heart, all the gates burst open. The prayers of Israel were finally heard.

Nachlei Binah P. 317 #632 Tehillim Ben Beiti, Rabbi Eliezer of Komarno

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The Disappearing Shofar

The rebbeh of Rizhyn repeated something he overheard from the Rabbi of Apt (the Holy Apter) who proclaimed: the Shofar he would blow with on Rosh Hashanah would be the same Shofar the Messiah would blow...when the great morning would come. After the death of the Apter this Shofar mysteriously disappeared.

In the name of Chortkover, Nachlei Binah P318-319

#636 Imrei Tov Parsha Ki Tisa

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The Last Shofar of the Rizhiner

During the last year in the life of Rabbi Israel of Rizhin (the Rizhiner), his son the Rabbi David Moshe of Chortkov was feeling unwell himself and set up his bed in the same room that his father prayed in. This was a small room, a private prayer chamber that was built into the synagogue. Reb David reminisced that his father's prayers were beyond normal praying, they transcended nature as it were. Especially since the Rizhyner was dying at the time. Reb David said, "After the prayers, my father enigmatically remarked, 'Today during the blowing, I heard the Shofar of the Messiah.' The truth was that year the Shofar blowing was uncannily powerful and wondrous. The Shofar that was used was also strangely shaped and produced eerie sounds no one had heard before."

After Rosh Hashanah this Shofar disappeared mysteriously. This Shofar was brought to Rizhyn by a Chasid as a gift for the Rizhyner literally minutes before Rosh Hashanah and after the holiday disappeared completely.

Nachlei Binah P.319 Divrei David, P. 25 col 3.

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The Power of Forgiveness: A Zohar Legend

Rabbi Abba ( the scribe of the Zohar) once sat at the gateway of the Town of Lud.

He saw a traveler sit down on a pile of rocks at the edge of a mountain overlooking a cliff. The man was exhausted for his journey and immediately fell asleep. R. Abba watched this innocuous scene for a bit until to his dismay he watched as a deadly snake slithered out of the rocks making its way towards to the sleeping man.

[R. Abba, who for some reason was immobilized and transfixed by this unfolding drama,] suddenly watched as a new turn of events happened. A giant lizard jumped out between the rocks and killed the serpent.

R. Abba continued watching and saw that the man stood up and was perplexed to see a beheaded snake lying in front of him. He quickly gathered his possessions and rose to continue his journey. At that instant the pile of rocks he was sitting on collapsed and fell into the ravine below.

The man was about to wander off when R. Abba ran after him and recounted everything he had witnessed. R. Abba asked the man, "My friend to what do you attribute all these miracles that just transpired?"

The traveler at first did not want to bothered but felt the sincerity of R. Abba's question and confided in him.

"Throughout my life I have never let a person harm me, and where I did not pacify him. Never have I gone to sleep without forgiving someone for hurting me in any way. Anyone who would hurt me would I endeavor, with all my heart, to resolve whatever animosity was between us. And lastly, I would turn the hateful situation to doing acts of kindness for the person involved in the misunderstanding."

When R. Abba heard this he burst into tears. This person's actions were greater than Joseph. For Joseph had to deal with his brothers; of course he was going to forgive his brothers. But this man forgives anyone and everyone who has harmed him. It is no surprise that God performs miracles on a daily basis for this blessed man.

Maasiyot HaZohar Vol. 1 P.169 Miketz P. 201B

All stories copyright © 1997, Eliahu J. Klein.

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