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Prelude to a Sermon

Prelude to a Sermon


A well-known preacher once came to Barditchov before Rosh Hashanah and requested permission from the head of the Jewish community to preach. "I am a widely-acclaimed preacher," he said, "and consider myself worthy of preaching in the synagogue of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak."

"I would gladly allow you to preach in any other synagogue," the communal leader replied. "If, however, you wish to speak in Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's synagogue, obtain permission from him."

The preacher went to the Chassidic master and presented his request. "I give you my permission on condition that I say a few words before your speech," said Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.

Word spread quickly that a visiting preacher would be speaking in the Rebbe's synagogue and that the Rebbe himself would introduce him. Crowds of people flocked to the shul and listened attentively as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak made his introduction.

"Master in Heaven, the day of judgment approaches. The Satan will come before You to accuse the Jewish people. Do not listen to him, for You have written in Your Torah, 'One witness shall not suffice to accuse in judgment.'

"This visiting preacher has come to preach in our city. Should his words contain accusations against Your people, do not hearken to his words. Do not accept him as a second witness. He is unqualified to pass testimony, for he has a personal interest in the matter. He is preaching only because he is in need of funds to marry off his daughter.

"However, if his words are commendable to Your people, listen to them, though he is only one witness. Our sages have taught us that while the testimony of a single witness is not sufficient to obligate a person, it is sufficient for a vow to be taken. And You have made a vow to our forefathers."

The preacher was at loss for words. The talk he had prepared was filled with fire and brimstone, condemning the people for their many faults. He announced that in light of the Rebbe's words he had nothing to say. The crowd dispersed.

After Rosh Hashanah, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok himself collected money for the needy preacher and provided him with the funds necessary to marry off his daughter.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchov (1740-1810) is one of the most popular rebbes in chassidic history. He was a close disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. He is best known for his love for every Jew and his active efforts to intercede for them against adverse heavenly decrees. Many of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published Kedushat Levi.

Adapted by Rabbi Yrachmiel Tilles from From My Father’s Shabbos Table, Eliyahu Touger’s excellent selection and translation from Rabbi Yehudah Chitrik’s Reshimos Devarim.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Edna Turner Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada April 23, 2012

My ancestor Levi Ytzhak Thank you for saying such wonderful things about my revered ancestor.

He was my great grandmother Esther Rosenthal's grandfather. Reply

Anonymous October 10, 2004

To Rabbi Tilles I don't understand the part about the testimony of a single witness being sufficient for a vow to be taken (what vow?). But in spite of that, I thoroughly enjoyed Rabbi's Yitzchak love story for his people.

As for this biographical note, and others, they are treasures. I'm studying Judaism on my own, and these kind of biographical notes are simply terrific teachers. Take this one here: it gives me the name of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchov and tells me something very important about him - I can now learn about this Rabbi and also about Barditchov -- there's the Maggid of Mezritch; I know very little about him still -- there's the 'Kedushat Levi' which contains many of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak teachings (and who knows what else).

Thank you so very much. Reply

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