A student of Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshischa (let’s call him Berel) was attending his rebbe’s Torah lesson one morning, when he suddenly felt strong hunger pangs. He recalled that he had not eaten breakfast that morning, but decided to persevere in his studies despite his discomfort.

But then, one of the students asked a complex, penetrating question, and Rabbi Bunim silently began to ponder the question. While his teacher was deep in thought, Berel decided he would have time to hurry home quickly to get something to eat. When the rebbe was lost in thought, it usually took some time before he was ready to resume his lecture, and by then Berel hoped he would be back.

Berel dashed home, ate a bit, and was about to run back to the study hall

Berel dashed home, quickly ate a bit, and was about to run back to the study hall, when his mother called to him to help her with a chore. Berel was torn: he felt pressured to return in time to his class; how could he take the time to help his mother? On the other hand, how could he ignore this opportunity to fulfill the commandment to honor one’s mother?

He thought to himself, “I learn Torah in order to fulfill it. How can I ignore this mitzvah when the opportunity is presented to me? If I were willing to risk being late for the lesson in order to satisfy my hunger, I should surely be prepared to take that chance to fulfill the commandment of honoring my mother!” He immediately hurried to do his mother’s bidding.

As soon as his task was completed, he ran back to the study hall. To his relief, Rabbi Bunim was still engrossed in his thoughts; but as Berel slid into his seat, the rebbe looked toward him with a smile and gave a succinct answer to the difficult question.

“The soul of the Talmudic sage Abaye accompanied you”

When the lecture was concluded, Rabbi Bunim called Berel over and asked about his absence. In trepidation, Berel related what had occurred. The rebbe smiled and remarked, “Until you came in, I could not think of a satisfactory explanation for our topic. When you entered, the soul of the Talmudic sage Abaye accompanied you, and his holy presence emanated wisdom which enabled me to resolve the difficulty! Now I understand why he was here!”

Rabbi Simchah Bunim went on the explain that Abaye, as the Talmud relates, was an orphan from birth—his father died before he was born, and his mother in childbirth—and thus, he never had the opportunity to fulfill the commandment to honor one’s parents. Therefore, whenever anyone makes a special effort to fulfill this commandment, the soul of Abaye accompanies him.

Adapted from Gut Voch by Avrohom Barash (Mesorah).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshischa (1765–12 Elul 1827) spent many years as a businessman and a pharmacist. He was a beloved disciple of the “Seer of Lublin” and of the “Holy Yid,” whom he succeeded. Known as “a rebbe of rebbes,” his major disciples included the Kotzker and the first rebbes of Ger and Alexander.

Editor’s note:
There is a similar story told of the holy Ari of Tzfat and one of his famous students. See my story #439 on the ascentofsafed.com site.

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