Once, in a certain town, a group of chasidim of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, were being severely oppressed because of their chasidic practices. Some of the chasidim were even arrested, due to the slander and false accusations presented to the local authorities. G‑d was merciful, however, and the innocent victims were released. They immediately sat down together to write a letter to the "Alter Rebbe" informing him of the good news of their deliverance.

Among this group was a poor tinsmith named Shimon, who was only average in knowledge and understanding, but was strongly bonded to the Rebbe with love and dedication. He was often heard to spontaneously cry out, "Oy Rebbe!" This Shimon took it upon himself to arrange the delivery of the letter to the Rebbe. Instead of sending it by regular mail, he decided to hire a private messenger in order that their letter get to the Rebbe "express," absolutely as soon as possible. He arranged to pay for the extra costs out of his own pocket.

...he intended to pay the expensive fees for the express messenger out of his own meager funds...

In those days, every Chabad-Chassidic community had its own council, which would direct all chasidic matters. The council members were all well-acquainted with Shimon's dire economic situation—how he sometimes had to trek from village to village to find more work, how he barely managed to support his family at the most minimal level, how his wife and children were sick. When he said he intended to pay the expensive fees for the express messenger out of his own meager funds, they refused to hear of it. They told him he shouldn’t do it.

Shimon, however, refused to accept their decision. He said that the good news of their release would give the Rebbe relief and happiness, and if such news could reach the Rebbe even just one hour earlier, it was worth more to him then all the wealth in the world.

As part of the council, one chasidic elder in each community was responsible for matters of education and guidance, and he would report on a regular basis directly to the Alter Rebbe. When the matter of the messenger was brought before the elder chasid in this position in Shimon’s town, who also oversaw the fundraising campaigns for the "Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess" fund [to support the chasidic community in the holy land] and for "Maimad" [to support the Rebbe’s household], he counteracted the council and endorsed the tinsmith’s choice.

Eventually, the report of what Shimon had done became known to the Maharil ztz"l (Rabbi Yehuda Leib, brother of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and a tzadik in his own right), who had been appointed by the Rebbe to be the overall supervisor in chabad communal matters of tsedakah.

...a letter to Reb Shimon...written entirely in the personal handwriting of the Alter Rebbe himself!

After some time had passed, one of the leading chasidim, Rabbi Yaakov of Semillian, arrived in the town as an emissary of the Rebbe. He had been sent to collect the money for the above-mentioned campaigns from all the chasidic communities in that area of Russia. Much to the astonishment of the chasidim who had all gathered to meet with R. Yaakov, he delivered a letter to Reb Shimon the tinsmith, which was written entirely in the personal handwriting of the Alter Rebbe himself! In it the Rebbe thanked him for arranging a special messenger to deliver the good tidings of the release speedily. The Rebbe concluded by blessing R. Shimon that G‑d Al-mighty should bless him to be always a bearer of good news.

Not long after that, R. Shimon’s situation started to improve. His wife and children became healthy, and he himself began to prosper greatly. The Rebbe’s blessing was fulfilled. Because R. Shimon the tinsmith exerted himself to make another Jew happy, and especially a great tzadik, and at great personal sacrifice, he merited to become a bearer of happy news: of himself and his family, and of the chasidic brotherhood of his town.

Connection to Weekly reading: delivery of the good news about Joseph to his father, Jacob.


Translated and retold from "Ahavat Yisrael" #2.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shnuer Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.

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