The Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yehuda-Arye-Leib Alter, author of the Sefas Emes, once asked a relative to take his two sons, Avraham Mordechai (his eventual successor) and Moshe Betzalel, to a certain Jew in Warsaw for a blessing.

The relative set out for Warsaw with the two boys. Upon his arrival, he began to seek out the Jew in question, assuming that he was surely a well known tzadik (holy pure person). To his surprise, it took many long and exhaustive inquiries before he tracked the man down.

The impression he received was that the man was equally bewildered

And, to his even greater astonishment, when he finally met the fellow he found him apparently nothing more than a simple Jew! He brought the boys and asked for a blessing, but the impression he received was that the man was equally bewildered by the request. Nevertheless, the Rebbe's relative was determined to fulfill his mission.

"Even if you know nothing about all this, please bless the children as their father, the Gerrer Rebbe, has requested," he said.

The man did so, placing his hands on the boys' heads and blessing them.

Could he perhaps be one of the world's thirty-six hidden righteous ones?

It was time to leave. The Rebbe's relative was still burning with curiosity to know who the man was and what he had done to merit such attention. Could he perhaps be one of the world's thirty-six hidden righteous ones?

But there were no answers…until he returned to Ger and heard them from the Rebbe himself.

"Yes, he is a simple Jew," the Rebbe said. "But once, when the time came to circumcise his son, he found that he had not even a penny to spend on a meal to honor the occasion. In order to raise the money for the mitzvah feast, he sold his bed linens. Afterwards, he was left truly destitute. This act, by a simple Jew, made a tremendous impression up in Heaven. It was decided to grant him a reward in this world as well — the reward that a blessing issuing from his mouth would find fulfillment.

"The man himself," the Rebbe added, "has no idea that he possesses the power to give blessings that come true."

Connection to weekly Torah reading: Circumcision/power to bless


Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Stories my Grandfather told me" (Mesorah) by Zev Greenwald.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yehuda-Aryeh-Leib Alter (1847 - 5 Shevat 1905), the Sefas Emes, succeded his grandfather, the Chidushei HaRim, to become the Rebbe of the Gur-Alter dynasty at the tender age of 19. Over the decades, he became one of the most influential Chasidic leaders in Europe. His followers numbered in the tens of thousands.

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