22 Av 5780 / Wednesday, August 12, 2020 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
 
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Covers Are Misleading    

Covers Are Misleading



The first thing I noticed was the black silk yarmulke on Mr. Levi's head and the television in the corner. "These people can't be too religious," I assumed.

 



We tend to judge people, like books, by their covers. But covers are often misleading.
 
 
During my recent visit to the United States, I discovered just how misleading a cover can be.
 
The first thing I noticed as I entered the living room was the black silk yarmulke perched on Mr. Levi's head and the television in the corner. "These people can't be too religious," I assumed.
 
Mr. Levi considered himself a student of the late Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, one of the first Breslover Chassidim in the United States, and a major force in spreading Rebbe Nachman's teachings. Yet, he certainly did not look like a Breslover chassid, let alone an Orthodox Jew. After a few moments of polite small talk I began my interview, "So how did Rabbi Rosenfeld impact your life?"
 
"He gave me religion."
 
"Could you be a bit more specific?" I asked.
 
Mr. Levi's story took place in the early 60s. Although he belonged to an orthodox synagogue, like most of the other members of his shul he attended services early Saturday morning before driving to work. During the winter, he made havdala in the office. In the summer, he returned to shul for Mincha, a Torah shiur (class), Maariv and havdala.
 
The summer that Rabbi Rosenfeld delivered the Shabbat afternoon shiur revolutionized the small congregation..  "He inspired us! We were literally enchanted." As Rabbi Rosenfeld's classes gained popularity, the number of men attending grew from week to week, and their level of religious observance increased significantly.
 
"I was so inspired by the material we were learning that decided to stop working on Shabbat. When I told the Rabbi, he was thrilled. But then I told him that although I would not be going into work on Shabbat, my stores would remain open.
 
"'Bill,' he said, clasping my hand warmly, 'if you want the full blessing of Shabbat, close your store. I promise you that you will never regret it – and you will never lose money as a result. The money will come from another source.'
 
"Rabbi Rosenfeld was so sincere, so real, that I decided to close my store and keep the Shabbat fully."  
 
"That must have been a real challenge," I said.
 
"Yes, it certainly was," Mr. Levi responded. "I earned more money on Saturday than I did the entire week. Every Saturday, I earned over $100,000!"
 
I literally jumped out of my seat. I had never met a person who had shown such dedication and self-sacrifice to keep Shabbat. He had willing given up close to six million dollars annual profit for the sake of a mitzvah!
 
Mr. Levi asked me why I was standing.
 
"Because a person stands in the presence of greatness. I have never encountered a person willing to give up so much for the honor of Shabbat! I don't think many people would be willing to do what you did."
 
"But Debbie," he countered, "I did not lose a thing. My rebbe promised me that I would not lose from it. He said that I would only gain. So what's the big deal?"
 
As you can imagine, that only increased my admiration of Mr. Levi.
 
That one encounter revolutionized my outlook towards the many precious Jews I encounter. Mr. Levi appeared to be a wealthy Jew who was marginally religious. Yet, beneath the exterior, I discovered a person who I can whose level of commitment and dedication I can only hope to emulate.
 
Today, whenever I meet someone for the first time, I remind myself that although that person might appear to be "nuthin' special" there is a very high probability that he is really a hidden tzaddik. After all, every Jew has a portion in the Next World; every Jew, no matter how far he may appear from Torah and mitzvah observance, contains a Divine spark. But before we can ignite it, we must be able to see it – both within ourselves, as well as within others.  




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