A slap from the Tzaddik sweetens harsh judgments
(Originally published on January 11, 2018.)
At the recent gathering in Eilat, Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, was seen rebuking one of his talmidim (students). Anyone who’s familiar with the ways of the Tzaddikim knows that these types of incidents are relatively common by the truly big Tzaddikim, and that their behavior is guided by much deeper mysteries and secrets than is apparent to a casual observer.
Our true Tzaddikim see things with their holy eyes that aren’t at all clear to us, and they spend their whole lives engaged in trying to cancel the harsh decrees, and to sweeten the judgments, and to bring the nation of Israel closer to their true goal and purpose.
Rav Yaakov Selma, shlita, head of the ‘Netzach Netzachim’ Kollel in Bnei Brak recently shared some of his insights into the world of the Tzaddikim. We’re pleased to share with you a few of his holy words:
Evil-doers don’t really want answers to their questions
“I head from Rav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, that a rasha (evil doer) doesn’t come looking for real answers to their questions, they are just interested in acting defiantly,” begins Rav Selma. “When someone like this comes to us, we’re forbidden to answer him, because he’s not really looking for answers. Rather, he’s just trying to pick holes. As soon as you answer one difficulty that he has about Judaism, he’ll just start up with a different problem about something else.
“The following words aren’t addressed to those people who nurse any feelings of hatred or animosity towards the Tzaddik and the gaon, Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita. Those people aren’t really looking for answers to their questions, and they’re already coming with all their preconceived notions. The following words are for those people who are really seeking answers to their questions.”
Rav Selma continued:
“There have been other Tzaddikim who have behaved in the same way that the Rav acted towards that particular Jew, in Eilat. There was Shammai, who pushed away that person [in order to try to bring him closer], and there are Tzaddikim in our own generation, too.
‘The Milkman’ rebukes his student to try to save his baby
“Look what happened with Rav Chaim Cohen, shlita, the ‘Milkman’. One day, one of his talmidim (students) came to his shiur (Torah class), and the Milkman rebuked him very harshly, and told him to leave. But, this student understood that the Milkman wasn’t shaming him stam, for no reason, but rather that his intention was to effect some sort of yeshua (salvation) by doing this.
“So he went outside with a bowed head, and waited by the door. Ultimately, the Milkman came and told him that he’d tried to cancel a very harsh decree [that was hovering over him], but it didn’t appear that he’d been successful, these were his words, but that he had still been able to postpone it.
“Some time passed, and then the baby son of this student, who was 10 months old, unexpectedly passed away from S.I.D.S. That same day, the student went back to the Milkman, who told him that he’d known in advance that this would happen, but that all he’d succeeded in doing was postponing the decree.
“We see that the Tzaddikim are always doing things to sweeten the judgments that are hanging over Am Yisrael, and to try to save them.
‘His days were numbered’
“One Jew came to see the Rav on his 21st birthday, to try to get a bracha (blessing) from him. Moranu Rav Berland sent him off to go and collect a sum of money to do a pidyon nefesh. As soon as he brought the pidyon, the Rav took the envelope [containing the money] and threw it down on the table, all the while yelling at the man: ‘Does it look like I need your money?! Get out of here, and go outside!’ And with his own two hands, the Rav very forcibly kicked him out of the house, and then slammed the door shut.
“This young man, who wasn’t a Breslover Chassid, and who wasn’t familiar with this type of behavior from the Tzaddikim, was extremely hurt by this, but the Rav sent his attendant to run after him, and to ask him to give the pidyon again. This same Jew, even though he was chiloni (secular), he came back to Rav Berland for a second time with his pidyon, but the exact same thing happened again – right down to the attendant running after him again, to ask him to come and give the pidyon again, for a third time.
“This time, the Rav revealed to this young man that he’d had a decree of death hovering over him, and that the humiliation he’d subjected him to was akin to having his blood spilled, which took the place of him having to actually die. The young man was extremely moved by this, and he returned home and told his mother, who almost went crazy when she heard this. This is what she then told her son:
“’Twenty one years ago, when we were still living in Georgia, there was a fortune teller there who told me that the days of my first-born child were numbered, but that he wouldn’t pass away until he was 21.’ Now, anyone who didn’t have the whole picture could fall into all sorts of doubts and difficulties. But from that point on, this young man made teshuva and today he’s a student of the Rav.”
500 terrorists at the exit from Hevron
Rav Selma continues:
“Rav Moshe Tzanani, shlita, told me that: ‘Many years ago, the yeshiva went with the Rav to Hevron. The Rav wanted to immerse in the mikva there, but the mikva was locked. One of the students told him that he had a key that could open any lock. The Rav kind of smiled at that, then started to yell out really loudly: ‘What a community of thieves!!’ as the students continued to walk after him, while the Rav was humiliating them.
“When we got to the Mearat HaMachpela (burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs), the Rav started to recite the Tikkun HaKlali with such relish, as though he was out of this world. Immediately after he’d finished saying it, the Rav told everyone present: ‘When there is din (harsh judgment), the Tzaddik has to act with din. You should know that 500 terrorists were waiting for us, when we were going to leave Hevron.’
“Rav Tzanani continued: ‘Everyone thought that Rav Berland was exaggerating, because after all, when did anyone ever hear of 500 terrorists being together in one place?’ But immediately after they tried to leave Hevron, the army stopped them. They found out that the Arabs in the neighboring villages had got word that a coach full of Breslov chassidim were coming to the Mearat HaMachpela, and they’d made a plan to ambush them on the way out, and to try to lynch them all.
“Rav Tzanani continued: ’The soldier suddenly told us that 500 Arab terrorists had been waiting for us at the exit, and that the army was currently dealing with them.’
‘The Rav’s slap saved me from death’
“Another Jew told me that when he was with the Rav in Johannesburg, the Rav had also slapped him, the same sort of thing that happened in Eilat, but that he felt that the Rav had sweetened a harsh judgment hanging over him, but doing that,” continues Rav Selma. “The day after that happened, he was passing through some isolated place when 10 large Africans jumped on him, who tried to rob him and who also wanted to murder him.
“This Jew told me: ‘I have no idea how I got away from them, but it’s very clear to me that I narrowly escaped being murdered. And it’s even clearer to me that this happened in the merit of the slaps I received from Rav Berland, shlita. Afterwards, I told the Rav about the miracle that had occurred, and he was really happy and smiling.’”
You can hear Rav Yaakov Selma’s full remarks for yourself (in the original Hebrew) by playing the video, above.