Sunday, September 08, 2013

This is Torah and This is Its Reward? The Rebbe's Explanation

One bold chassid had a problem with a story related in Yom Kippur's service, so he asked the Rebbe for an explanation.

It's the story of 10 topmost sages brutally murdered by a Roman ruler. He schemed as follows. He knew Torah's punishment for selling a kidnapped victim. He collected sages and asked them what Torah's punishment was for stealing a human and then selling him. They responded, as he wished, implicating the death sentence. Then he reminded them that Joseph had been stolen by his 10 brothers and sold for a pair of sandals, yet the brothers received no death punishment. Accordingly, he was going to make judicious use of that law and kill 10 sages for that still-unpunished crime.

Rabbi Yishmael, one of the sages, said, "You read the Bible's verdict correctly, but allow me 3 days to determine if deeper insight into this edict exists." The Roman agreed. During those 3 days, Rabbi Yishmael ascended the upper world and inquired of the angels. The angels said, "We hear from behind the curtain that your verdict is - to die." [They heard a divine voice - because Angels cannot see God]

Rabbi Yishmael accepted this decree. He descended and told this to his peers, then conveyed his submission to the Roman. The latter proceeded to brutally torture and kill the sages.

During one such horrific atrocity, an angel on high complained to God, "This is Torah, and this is its reward!? [For sages who most purely reflect Torah, by following, studying and immersing themselves in it - this is their recompense!?"]

Said God, "Don't ask me again lest I turn the world into water, into emptiness and darkness."

Said the chassid to the Rebbe, "Finally some angel who could no longer countenance this evil and savagery stepped up to complain, and to this God responds saying "I'll destroy the world"? Why did this dauntless angel, who was fully justified, get knocked down by God? Why the strange answer by God?"

The Rebbe said, "I'll answer your question with a tale".

A King once commissioned his ministers to find an impeccable tailor to sew for him an exquisite robe. They were given a most expensive and beautiful piece of fabric for the job - one made of gold threads. No tailor felt confident he could do the job, except for one experienced Jewish tailor who volunteered. So they gave him the job.

Because they hated Jews, the ministers warned the King to ask the Jew to return all remnants of cut fabric lest the tailor pocket them for himself and thereby become rich.

When the job was done, the tailor brought the robe to the king, who tried it on. It was a perfect fit and the king was thrilled. Then the king asked him for the remnants of gold fabric. The tailor said, "There were no remnants".

The king filled with fury and demanded the tailor be killed. But, as was the custom, the victim could have one last wish. "What's your last wish?", asked the king. "My last wish is to undo all the seams of your robe that I tailored for you", said the Jew. The king found this hard, but for his honor to respect the custom of the state, he conceded.

The tailor then proceeded to undo his masterpiece and when he was done he held up the entire fabric, and, to everyone's amazement, it was the very same whole piece of fabric he was given for the job in the first place. Then they understood the great skill of this tailor, who laboriously managed to fold and stitch the fabric ingeniously in such a way as to preserve it entirely without having to cut any of it away.

The king realized the tailor hadn't lied but was left now without his new robe.

Similarly, said the Rebbe, God did not shut up the angel who stepped forward with the complaint. Nor did God issue a threat. Instead, God explained that for the Angels to understand the reasoning behind the cruel decree He would have to take the world back to its original state as it was before creation, namely to water, emptiness and darkness, for only then would they understand the reasoning.


  1. In your email, you asked the reason why the Roman despot filled his palace with sandals.

    He filled the room with sandals, as “witnesses” to the event, that the 10 brothers sold Yosef for 20 shekel (?) and used the money to buy sandals.

    The punishment for kidnapping is ‘haipech ha-chayim’ (chas v’shalom) – and since the time those 10 tsaddikim (brothers) went unpunished, this ruler, many generations thereafter now, chose the greatest 10 sages of his time, to serve as replacements for the 10 brothers.

    I believe (perhaps said in the name of the Arizal) that it is held that the 10 martyrs were gilgulim of the 10 shevatim.

    Dovid Sholom

  2. Don't ask me any questions, but this is what I found in a search:

    From a sefer "Beis Yitzchok" the author writes that one would remove his shoes when standing before the King as a sign of respect, and to keep one's shoes on would be insulting to his honor, so the Roman ordered his palace filled with shoes so that everyone would know why he was putting the 10 martyrs to death--for rebellion against the kingdom.
    ובארצות הקדם המנהנ אף כעת בבואם
    לבית שר ונכבד להסיר המנעלים ולעמוד במנעלים יחשב כפוגע בכבודו,
    והנה העשרה הרוגי מלכות אשר האחד המיוהד היה ר״ע אשר שאפו
    תמיד לחירות ולהקל מעליהם עול הרומיים לכן למען להראות לעין כל
    על מה המד, נשפטים צזה למלאות פלטרו נעלים — כלומר את בית
    המשפט מלאו נעלים למען ידעו כולם על מה המה נאשמים כי בחטאם
    הרחיבו עוז כנפשם לבקש חירות במקום אשר מחויבין לעמוד יחיפי
    רגל ומרדו במלכם.

    Here, in a sefer called "Kol Tzahala" he says (left column, middle) that "shoes" represent the heads of the people and the palace full of shoes means that he ordered the heads of the Jewish people to be brought to him.

    On a pnimiyusdike note, see what the Arizal says about the death of the 10 Martyrs, that their death was only for the sake of elevating sparks that were trapped in the klipos:

    Shaar Hagilgulim

    הקדמה לו

    גם טעם עשרה הרוגי מלכות, ר' עקיבא וחביריו, שמעתי ממורי זלה"ה, כי ע"י שנהרגו על קדוש ה', זכו הם ללקט ולברור כל הנצוצות של הנשמות, אשר למטה ממדרגתם, הנתונים בעמקי הקליפות, ועל ידם מוצאים ומובררים, והם מעלים אותם אל הקדושה להשתלם ולהתקן:

    עוד יש טעם אחר והוא, כי עד הזמן ההוא, היה כח אל הנשמות שמתוך הקליפות לצאת, ולהעלות בסוד מ"ן אל המלכות, ומאז ואילך אין עוד כח ויכולת אל המעשה הזה, ולכן הוכרחו הם ליהרג, כדי לעלות למעלה בסוד מ"ן, וישמשו שם במקומם בבחי' מ"ן אל המלכות. ועוד יש בזה תועלת אחד, כי על ידי עמידתם אצלה למעלה בסוד מ"ן, יקנו הנצוצות שתחתיהם מציאות תקוה להתקן. והענין הוא במה שנתבאר אצלינו, כי עשרה אלו, הם כללות כל ישראל, כי הנה הם בחי' עשר שבטים, ועשרה טפות זרע שיצאו מיוסף הצדיק, כמבואר בדרושים שקדמו:


  3. Don't give a reason9/11/2013 10:26:00 AM

    The brilliance and kindness of the Rebbe is that like many of us, he feels the pain and suffering even of 10 holy tzadikim. There is no amount of rationale in the world that can explain away the persecution we as a nation have been through these 5774 years.

    Eli Weisel was once confronted after a speech and asked for a reason for the holocaust. He responded "If I provide a reason that is adequate enough to help you sleep better at night, then how are you different than a Nazi?"

  4. Yes, the Rebbe surely feels all of our pain.

    Yet, it's time to get past the backwards-looking suffering-focused golus-reality. The Rebbe did NOT support Holocaust Museums, and when Eli Weisel was by the Rebbe the Rebbe offered him "a new start".

    The moshol that is posted on this blog is an illustration of the words of the novi: "odcha Hashem ki anafta bi"--that in the Messianic future (when we see the one fabric of the entire garment of Creation) we will thank Hashem for all of the "punishments" we endured.

    We can live with this now, and help others (whose pain we should feel, yes) to live with it also.

    Gmar chasima tova.