A maaseh mit der zeide R’ Zushe

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    For many years the two saintly brothers, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk and Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli, wandered the back roads of Galicia. Disguised as simple beggars, they journeyed from town to town and from village to village, refining their souls with the travails of exile and inspiring their brethren with words of wisdom and encouragement.

    Late one evening, the brothers arrived in the town of Lodmir. Seeing a lighted window in a large, well-appointed home, they knocked on the door and asked for a place to stay the night. “I don’t run a hotel,” was the irate response of its large, well-appointed resident. “There’s a poorhouse near the synagogue for wandering beggars. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding accommodations there.”

    The heavy door all but slammed in their faces, and Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusha walked on. Soon they came upon another lighted home, whose resident, the town scribe, welcomed them in and put his humble hut and resources at their disposal.

    Several years later, the two brothers again visited Lodmir. This time, they were official guests of the community, which had requested that the now-famous rabbis come for a Shabbat to grace the town with their presence and teachings. At the welcoming reception held in their honor and attended by the entire town, a wealthy gentleman approached them. “Rabbis!” he announced, “the town council has granted me the honor of hosting you during your stay. G‑d has been generous to me, and you’ll want for nothing in my home. I’ve already explained to your coachman how to find my residence, though he’s sure not to miss it—everyone knows where ‘Reb Feivel’ lives…”

    The gathering dispersed, and Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusha went to pay their respects to the town rabbi and meet with the scholars in the local study hall. The rich man went home to supervise the final arrangements for the rabbis’ stay. Soon the coachman arrived with the brothers’ coach and luggage. The horses were placed in the stables, the luggage in the rabbis’ rooms, and the coachman settled in the servants’ quarters.

    Hours passed, but still no sign of the two visitors. Growing anxious, the host sought out their coachman. “What happened?” he asked. “When are they going to come here?”

    “They’re not coming,” said the coachman. “Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusha are staying at the scribe’s home.”

    “At the scribe’s?! What are you talking about?! You’re here, aren’t you?”

    “Those were the rabbis’ instructions. ‘Take the horses and our luggage to Reb Feivel’s,’ they said to me. ‘We’ll be staying with the scribe.’ ”

    Reb Feivel rushed to the scribe’s hut and fairly knocked down the door. “Honored Rabbis,” he cried, finding Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusha before the fire, having a cup of tea with their host. “Why have you done this to me? It was agreed that I would host you. You must tell me what I have done to deserve such humiliation!”

    “But you are hosting us,” said Rabbi Elimelech, “at least, that part of us that you desire to host. Last time we were here, but without a coach, horses, coachman and bundles of pressed clothes, you turned us away from your door. So it is not us you want in your home, but our coachman, horses and luggage—which are currently enjoying your hospitality…”

    The little I know

    There is a story of Reb Zushe published in several of the reputable collections of chassidic tales. Reb Zushe came into a town as Rebbe, and was invited to lead a meal in his honor. As he weas served the food, he turned the plate over onto his kaftan. The hoist was horrified, apologized for the mistake, and sent for another portion. This, too, Reb Zushe dumped onto his bekeshe.After the third such event, the host begged Reb Zushe to explain to him why he is doing this. Reb Zushe explained that several years before, he and his brother Reb Elimelech were traveling through this town, and they were unable to find anyone wishing to provide them with even a morsel of food. Reb Zushe related that after several days of painful hunger, he davened, and HKB”H made two nipples grow in his mouth, one providinig him milk and the other honey. That miracle was needed for his survival. Reb Zushe told him that he is now here in this same city, and being showered with honor. Reb Zushe says, “I am the same Zushe that no one would feed. All that is different is my attire, the bekeshe. This food is being brought for the bekeshe, not for me. So I am delivering it to its target.”

    Reb Eliezer

    There is another famous story about the two brothers who stayed in a motel and their room was situated next to the bar. A drunken soldier picks one of them up and starts dancing with him. He continues this many times. Eventually the dancing brother has enough and tells his brother let us change places such that next time he will dance with you. So the soldier arrives and says, I danced enough with you now I will dance with the other one. A saying developed from the rebbe who said, ob es is beshert zu tanzen, tanzt man, if it is fated to dance, one dances.


    RebE, thanks, I heard the latter story with drunkards kicking one of them (R Zusya who seems to be the more “unlucky” one in general) rather than dancing. But the saying seems to be about dancing.

    Reb Eliezer

    It was my father’s favored saying.

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