Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another Questionable Story?

There is a story printed in the biographical appendix of Degel Machaneh Ephraim about the Degel and Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov that strikes me as being of questionable veracity since in this story the Degel carries himself in a royal manner and utters a seemingly disparaging comment that is very uncharacteristic of him.

While Rabbi Tal Zwecker told me that the part of the story about Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk is originally found in Eser Tzachtzachos and Seder Doros HeChadash, the most recent printing of Degel Machaneh Ephraim contains the introduction to the story as well. The story goes like this:

Many tzadikim came to Sudilkov in Volhynia to derive pleasure from the shefa emanating from there. It is told that even from distant Galicia the holy tzaddik, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov came up to visit the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. When he arrived, he sent one of his talmidim to inform the Degel about his arrival. The Degel responded coldly, "The border dwellers are all rebbes; I don't want to see him!"

Despite this, the talmid went and informed Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov that he could go in to see the Degel. The Degel was then trimming his fingernails in preparation for Shabbos, and he sat with his back toward anyone who entered. After he finished washing his hands from a golden pitcher, he stretched out his hand behind him to greet the guest, simultaneously asking,

"Are you a student of Reb Elimelech? Could you tell about one of your teacher's wonders?"

"That I cannot do precisely," answered the Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov. "But this I can tell from my teacher. That there is an artery in the ear that can be perceived to be pulsating only at the time of a person's death. And I saw it pulsating in my teacher every time that he prayed Shemoneh Esreh!"

Only then did the Degel turn his face to him and greeted him anew with a smiling countenance. After additional conversation, the Degel became attached to Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov with love, and they were inseparable for that entire Shabbos

It strikes me that the first part of this story is questionable as other stories about the Degel have proven to be. Why would the Degel who was known for his humility act in an pompous manner and give Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov such a cold reception?

I plan to ask this question to the Sudilkover Rebbe in the future and will post his answer at that time.


At May 22, 2008 at 11:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Dont be so quick to dismiss stories that have reasonably reliable sources. It is not impossible for Tzaddikim to act out of character for various reasons (sometimes undisclosed ones)

At May 22, 2008 at 11:11:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: Indeed you made a very good point. What you wrote reminded me of a discussion we had back in 2005 about the Degel's younger brother here

At May 22, 2008 at 12:29:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Why tell the story if the reason for the Tzaddik's behavior in it is a total mystery to us? Is it told to show that Tzaddikim think and act on a different level? If so, what moral lesson can it teach us for our own lives?

At May 22, 2008 at 12:43:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Bob: I posted this story because I personally found it perplexing and wanted to see if others did as well. I also wanted to bring up the concept that Chabakuk Elisha noted in his comment.

At May 24, 2008 at 3:18:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

The most puzzling part of the story, for me, was the golden pitcher. THAT seems really out of character for the Degel, who didn't have silver candlesticks, for example. His remark about the Riminover may have been to test him, or to remove some kind of ayin hara, which tzaddikim often did for each other. I'm not surprised in the least about that.

But I do look forward to the Sudilkover Rebbe's response.

At May 25, 2008 at 8:22:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: EXACTLY! That golden pitcher seemed to bother me as well. Rabbi Tal Zwecker also honed in on that as wel.


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