Inspirational Stories

More than just the clothes

Ayungerman once came to the Divrei Chaim of Sanz in order to receive permission and approval to become a rebbe. The Divrei Chaim was mekarev the aspiring rebbe and treated him with respect the entire Shabbos. During the midday meal on Sunday, as the yungerman was about to leave, the Divrei Chaim related the following story. *** There was once a poritz who had an only son, Jonas. The arrogant lad did not behave properly and spent his days partying. The poritz was terribly distressed about his son’s irresponsible behavior. Years passed, and the situation did not improve. The elderly poritz agonized about what to do with his vast fortune. Should he bequeath it all to Jonas, his profligate son? Eventually, the poritz decided to entrust his fortune to the local priest, who would give his son a stipend each month. That way Jonas would always have enough to live on, despite his wasteful ways. The elderly father did not have the courage to tell his son about his plans, afraid of provoking a violent confrontation, so he left his instructions with his lawyer.

After his death, Jonas was told the bitter truth by the lawyer. Jonas ranted and raved, to no avail. The will was legal and could not be contested. But Jonas would not rest. With the help of his friends, he came up with a plan. He would become a priest, and thus the money would be his to spend as he wished. He traveled far away and presented himself to the local priest as a student wishing to be ordained. A generous bribe sealed the deal. “Stay here with me for a few days, and I will teach you whatever you need to know,” the priest said. For several days Jonas remained at the priest’s home, where he was taught religious basics. However, it soon became obvious that the lad was completely uninterested in his studies; all he wanted was an official document attesting to his status. Late one night, the priest had a brainstorm. His protégé had fallen asleep.

Quietly, so as not to awaken him, the priest dressed the slumbering Jonas in priestly vestments, then sat back and waited. Within a short while, Jonas groggily opened his eyes, and croaked, “What am I wearing? What’s going on?” The priest made a show of appearing bewildered at this miracle. “Apparently, your true calling is to be a priest. Thus, when you fell asleep, the heavenly forces dressed you in a cassock to show their approval.” Delighted at this turn of events, Jonas strutted about the room, proud as a peacock. “So when can I have my certificate?” he crowed. “Why, I can give it to you right now,” said the priest, glad to be rid of the spoiled young man. He pocketed the generous bribe and wrote a certificate attesting that Jonas was a full-fledged priest. Although Jonas knew nothing about the priesthood, the main thing was the “miracle” that had occurred; in his sleep, he had been dressed in the right clothing. Jonas was no fool. He realized what had happened.

However, he rationalized that just as he was a sham, a non-priest in the costume of a priest, so too were the others. They also knew nothing and were simply masquerading in their garb. *** The tzaddik finished his story and addressed the yungerman who wanted to be a rebbe. “You want to be a leader, so you don the costume and assume that just as you know nothing, the other rebbes are also unqualified to be leaders of klal Yisrael and are simply masquerading. “Let me tell you something,” the Divrei Chaim continued forcefully. “The other rebbes, who wear rabbinic garb just like you, share one important difference. They are all authentic leaders, eminently qualified to guide and lead. However, you are still young and inexperienced, so why are you parading around in the clothes of a rebbe?” The young man heard the message and sheepishly removed his satin bekeshe. He understood that there was a lot more to being a rebbe than wearing the right clothes. 

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