It was the custom of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Liska1 (father of the tzadik Reb Naftali of Ropshitz) to sign his letters with his name and follow it with the epithet ohev Yisrael (“lover of Israel”).

Once it happened that when he was about to sign his name and write the words ohev Yisrael, the pen fell from his hand. He picked it up, and again began to sign the letter, when another mishap occurred and once again he was unable to sign. The tzadik understood that he was being prevented from signing. He began to cry profusely.

“Just one good habit I have acquired, with which I pride myself, the mitzvah of loving my fellow Jews,” he sobbed, “and also this is taken from me.”

He reflected on his actions of the day, wondering if perhaps he had embarrassed someone, but he could not think of anything that had been untoward. He called his family together and asked them if perhaps they had embarrassed someone or hurt someone’s feelings. It then became clear that indeed that was the case. In the morning, a simple, uncouth individual, dressed in the attire of ignorant and coarse individuals, came to the home of the tzadik and wanted to go into the tzadik’s room. The family pushed him off and did not allow him to enter. So he left, disgruntled.

Immediately, the righteous man told his assistant to search for the man and bring him to the tzadik’s home. The aide went from home to home and from inn to inn, but he did not find him anywhere. Finally, someone told him that he saw such a person go into an inappropriate place. The rabbi’s assistant went there and found the man. He said to him that the tzadik asked to see him because he wanted to speak to him. The man refused to go. The aide then took him by the arm and brought him to the tzadik, telling the tzadik where he had been found.

However, the tzadik did not pay any attention to this at all. He greeted the man pleasantly, asking forgiveness for the shameful way he had been treated that morning. He accorded the visitor great respect, and asked that food and drink be placed before him. When the man saw how much the tzadik loved him and how he treated him so warmly and respectfully, thoughts of teshuvah entered his heart, and he regretted his previous actions.

When the man left, the tzadik saw that the people around him were wondering why he spent so much time and acted so nicely to someone so coarse and full of sins.

The tzadik said to them: “The Prophet Isaiah prophesied about the days of Moshiach, saying: ‘And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations a gift to G‑d.’2 The question can be asked: Who are the Jews who will wait till the non-Jews bring them to Moshiach as a gift? The chassidim, when they will hear that Moshiach is here, will surely run towards him; and those who are not chassidim may not be running, but they will nevertheless be walking, and surely they, too, will not wait for the non-Jews to bring them to Moshiach. So, the verse is speaking about those who have sinned and are immersed in the opposite of holiness. Thus, the verse says, that when the non-Jews will hear that Moshiach has come, they will search and find those Jews and bring them to Jerusalem as a gift to G‑d.

“And it is such a ‘gift to G‑d’ which I embarrassed today, for which I am so sorry. And now that this ‘gift’ returned and came to me, shall I not shower him with love?”3