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Make Believe

Make Believe


A certain individual was condemned to Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi as a hypocrite. “He has such a high opinion of himself,” the rebbe was told, “and has assumed all sorts of pious customs and practices. He acts like a real holy fellow. But it’s all superficial: on the inside, his character is as coarse and unrefined as ever.”

“Well,” said the rebbe, “in that case, may he meet the end that the Talmud predicts for such people.”

The informers were taken aback. They had merely desired to “warn” the rebbe about this individual. But now, what sort of calamity had the chassidic master called down upon him?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman explained: At the end of Tractate Pe’ah, the Talmud discusses the criteria for a pauper to be eligible to receive charity. The section concludes with the warning: “One who is not in need, but takes . . . one who is not lame or blind but makes himself as such, will not die of old age until he is indeed as such.”

“In the same vein,” concluded the rebbe, “one who makes of himself more than he is in matters of righteousness and piety ‘will not die of old age until he is indeed as such.’ Acting like a better person will eventually make him a better person.”

Translated/adapted by Yanki Tauber in Once Upon A Chassid (Kehot, 1994).
Painting by Chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman.
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David Perlman Minneapolis, MN via December 31, 2012

I am confused So, if I wish to live in this world forever, I can do that by sustaining my hypocrisy? Makes no sense. Reply

Brian Bergman Gilbert December 31, 2012

JEWISH VALUES vs. DECEPTION What if one wears a costume and pretends to be what they are not in order to gain the confidence and support of a select group of people? Should we praise such activity? Reply

rut USA December 25, 2012

Make believe story What a wonderful story. It actually gives hope to those in the midst of the pious Hasidim. For one can learn from them. It is all a matter of looking inward and seeking Hashem's, blessed be He, righteousness. Thank you for the story. Reply

Jorge Qro/Mexico December 25, 2012

A warning for all those who enjoy deceiving their neighbor. I wonder if this "make believe" is tantamount of saying --we are what we think. A very common saying in our towns. And sure it is true, because the rebbe puts before us the Talmud's warning "one who is not lame or blind but makes himself as such, will not die of old age until he is indeed as such.” And this is --for sure-- a warning, because perhaps G-d grants us what we make believe others we are... at the end of our life. Reply

Chaim Teleshevsky CA December 25, 2012

make believe you are happy ... and you will be happy! In a Chassidic discourse (recited on Sukkot 5721) the Rebbe tells this story and concludes: "So even if one has no reason to be happy (!), but they act joyous anyway, they will indeed reach that state. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem, Israel December 24, 2012

The other side of this coin. I like very much the idea conveyed in this story - that a person should not hold himself back because he doesn't think he is holy enough. If I may add what I have learned to be the other side of this coin - this type of person should continue in his superficially righteous ways, however, he must not think that he is righteous when he does it. If he chooses to emulate the tzadikim, that does not make him a tzadik. If a person acts like the tzadikim, all the while realizing that he is not a tzadik himself, and all the while prays to HaShem to make these actions have an effect on his inside, than he can rest assured that the blessing of the Alter Rebbe will be fulfilled. Reply

Anonymous Charlottesville, VA March 19, 2004

The story Make Believe B"H

I was discussing this exact issue with my rabbi on Monday (before seeing this story on!!), and in this connection he related that the Chofetz Chayim (19th century Jewish legal scholar and noted rabbi) commented that it is easier to learn all of Shas (the entire Talmud) than to change one midah (character trait). This is not such encouraging news. By contrast, this story is very encouraging, and empowering. By forging ahead in our practice, and certainly not saying, "Who am I to perform such and such an act of piety?" the story suggests that our efforts will be rewarded in the end. And this is great news. Reply

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