Jewish Personalities

Gentle Persuasion

The Ahavas Yisrael, Harav Yisrael Hager of Vizhnitz, zt”l, was known for his love of all Yidden. One day, the Rebbe informed his gabbai that he’d like to go for a walk. A few minutes into their stroll, the Ahavas Yisrael stopped and knocked on the door of a maskil who was the manager of a prestigious bank. The bank manager opened the door. Surprised by his unexpected visitors, he invited them inside. The Rebbe and his gabbai went in and took the seats offered them. Although the man was curious about why the Rebbe had come, out of respect, he did not ask any questions. After a few moments of silence, the man could not contain himself and whispered to the gabbai, “Why is the Rebbe here?” The gabbai shrugged. “I don’t know,” he whispered back. After a few more minutes of uncomfortable silence, the Rebbe stood up and walked out. The manager escorted him to the door and at the last moment blurted out, “Why did the Rebbe come?” The Ahavas Yisrael replied, “Just as it’s a mitzvah to say what will be heard, so too there is a mitzvah not to say what won’t be heard. I came today to fulfill the mitzvah of keeping quiet when someone refuses to listen.

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I knew you would not listen to what I would ask of you, so I came to keep quiet.” “What is it that the Rebbe did not want to tell me?” the bank manager asked, his curiosity piqued. “I can’t tell, or I will have defeated the whole purpose of my visit.” After the man pleaded with the Rebbe for a few minutes to reveal the purpose of his visit, the Ahavas Yisrael conceded, “If you fulfill what I ask of you, I will be at liberty to say.” The man agreed. “There’s a poor woman in town who is on the verge of losing her house. She has a huge mortgage and she cannot repay her loan. The bank has threatened to repossess the house. As you are the bank manager, I’d like you to resolve this issue.” “But Rebbe, I am just the manager. I do not have such power!” the man protested. “You told me you would fulfill whatever I asked of you,” the Ahavas Yisrael said firmly. “And besides, you have enough money of your own to bail the woman out.” The bank manager protested further, but the Ahavas Yisrael walked away. The man could not get the conversation out of his head; wherever he went, the Rebbe’s words plagued him. A few days later, he paid off the woman’s mortgage out of his own pocket.

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