Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka was among the most devoted disciples of Rabbi Bunim of Pshis’cha. One of Rabbi Yitzchak’s associates was especially critical of Rabbi Bunim. Despite being an accomplished Torah scholar, this man would often disparage Rabbi Bunim, saying the most unsavory things about him. This happened all the time, even in the presence of Rabbi Yitzchak.

Yet no matter what his friend said, Rabbi Yitzchak never seemed upset about the man’s unpleasantness. Time passed and people began to wonder about Rabbi Yitzchak’s silence. How could he bear the disrespect to his mentor time and time again and never lose his patience?

Finally, a few chassidim challenged him: “How is it that you hear this fellow say the most terrible things about our master, and you say nothing? More so,” they continued, “you go out of your way to visit him as if nothing were wrong.”

“Let me tell you a story,” replied Rabbi Yitzchak.

“It once happened that I was traveling along the road, and I came to a certain city. A short while after I arrived, I noticed someone staring at me. Soon the person mumbled to himself, ‘It’s him!’ and walked away. A few minutes later, another person approached, looked at me intently and said, ‘It’s him, all right!’ and strode away. I was beginning to wonder what was happening, when a third person came over and did the same thing.

“In no time the three men returned together with a small group of people, including a woman whom I had never seen before. ‘This is your long-lost wife, whom you so cruelly abandoned so many years ago.’ They berated me more: ‘She has been suffering alone all these years, unable to remarry because she was still “chained” to you. Come with us to the rabbi, right now, and give her a divorce so that she can finally move on with her life!’

“I, of course, had no idea what they were talking about, and tried to explain that they were mistaken. I felt terribly sorry for the poor woman, but getting a divorce from me would do her no good. But the more I tried to explain, the more insults were heaped upon my head. It did not take long until they had dragged me before the town rabbi, demanding that I divorce my ‘wife.’

“Thankfully, the rabbi was more levelheaded than his constituents, and I was able to demonstrate very clearly that I was not—and had never been—married to the woman.

“Now tell me,” continued Rabbi Yitzchak, “when those people were accusing me and cursing me, do you think I was upset at them for their abuse? Of course not; I understood very well that they were really directing their ire at someone else, and if they would only have known who I was, they would have never said anything to me at all.

“The same thing applies to my friend,” he concluded. “Sure, I hear him speaking ill of Rabbi Bunim, but I know full well that it’s because he does not really know him. If only he would get to know our master, he would say nothing at all.”

Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka. Photo by Wikimedia
Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorka. Photo by Wikimedia

Translated and adapted from Siach Sarfei Kodesh, vol. 2, p. 117.