Rebbe Pinḥas'l of Korets
TOLD BY ITZḤAK CHEPLIK TO MALKA COHEN
Rebbe Pinḥas'l of Korets was a famous rebbe* with a following in many districts of Russia. His house was always full of Jews asking for assistance. The rebbe would receive them and listen to their troubles. Rebbe Pinḥas'l was used to hearing the woes of the common folk. He gave help and encouragement to the masses and did whatever he could for them. He was so busy, both day and night, that he had no time left to attend to his own needs. More than once he had to stop in the middle of the Amidah, although in general it is forbidden to interrupt this prayer. This happened mainly when a sick person came, and he had to interrupt his devotions to save a Jewish soul.
One fine day, after many years, Rebbe Pinḥas'l decided that he would no longer receive visitors. After all, according to the sages, "A Jew who stops studying Torah even for one day is sinning before the Lord." He instructed his servants that no one should be allowed to enter his court.
Jews came and Jews went. Soon the rumor spread that the court of Rebbe Pinḥas'l was closed to all. Jews stopped coming to the town of Korets. This pushed the locals, whose living depended on serving the rebbe's, visitors, to the verge of bankruptcy. Naturally they were unhappy with him. Things reached the point that some of the residents wondered if perhaps they should set up a new rebbe. But how could one do such a thing to Reb** Pinḥas'l?
Time flew, until the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, arrived. The rebbe came to the synagogue. As was his custom, in this season too he invited guests to dine at his table. But none of the townspeople wanted to join him for the feast. On Yom Kippur, the rebbe sensed that his prayer was incomplete and was not being accepted. This made his heart very heavy. The custom was that after the fast many of the leading Jews of the town would come break their fast with him and help him drive the first
*A Hasidic rabbi.
**Rabbi or Mr.