All his Chasidim strove to be present when Rabbi David of Tolna kindled his Chanukah lights. It was a powerful event. The Rebbe would be intensely focused and in an exalted state and his menorah in itself was something quite impressive. It was made of pure gold, and magnificently crafted with intricate designs. The chasidim who merited to be in the house would be inspired, and the nights of Chanukah would be filled with joyous festive songs and melodies. Do you bend over towards her or does she raise herself up to your height?
One year, on the first night of Chanukah, just before the time to light the flame, the Rebbe was standing before the menorah, involved in his last-moment inner preparations. The crowd of chasidim pressed around him. Unexpectedly, the Rebbe turned to a certain chasid and said, "I know that your wife is quite short. When you need to speak to her, what do you do? Do you bend over towards her or does she raise herself up to your height?"
Immediately upon uttering this remarkable question, the Rebbe began his recital of the Chanukah blessings and lit his golden menorah.
The astonished man to whom the Rebbe had directed his question, as well as all the other Chasidim of Tolna, were totally bewildered by the Rebbe's mysterious words. No one could even begin to suggest what the tzadik could possibly have meant.
Standing among the Chasidim at the time was Rabbi Mordechai Dov of Hornsteipel, a grandson of one of the Rebbe's brothers, who was already known as a tzadik. He had come to visit with his relatives for a while. Seeing how perplexed the Chasidim were by their Rebbe's words, he cleared his throat and addressed them. The Divine Presence never descends lower than ten…
"Shall I explain to you what my holy great-uncle said? It is taught in Kabbala that 'The Divine Presence never descends lower than ten (tefachim, or handbreadths from the ground)'. The one exception is the Chanukah light. According to its law, ideally it should be lit at a height of less than ten tefachim (about eighty centimeters/two feet, but higher than three tefachim) above the ground. Then the Divine Presence will descend to 'lower than ten.'
"The holy Ari of Safed stated that this secret of the descent of the Divine Presence is the mystical root of the Talmudic statement, 'If your wife is short, bend over and whisper to her.' It is this secret that the Rebbe, my great-uncle, wished to hint at and invoke with his words to that tall chasid."
The next evening, when it was time to kindle the second light, the Rebbe of Tolna turned to a different chasid, and again said something baffling that no one could penetrate. Then, as he turned back to the menorah, he addressed his great-nephew, the young tzadik, and remarked, "This time you will not be able to decipher it for them."
And so it was.
Rabbi David Twerski of Tolna [1808-10 Iyar 1882], son of the famed tzadik, Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl, had thousands of chasidim that relied on his leadership. His works include Magen David. There is a Tolner Shul in Safed even today.
Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twerski of Hornisteipel [1840-1904] was named after his two maternal great-grandfathers, Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl and Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch. He was also a direct descendant of Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli and the son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz. A highly respected Talmudic scholar, he was also the author of a popular book of Chasidic guidance, Pele Yoetz.
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