Rabbi Aharon Moshe was a follower of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz, the Seer of Lublin. He always made an effort to spend as little time as possible in the company of Jewish sinners. This was not because he looked down upon them, or even that he did not have feelings of love for them as his fellow-Jews. Neither was the case.

Rather, his level of purity was such that with one glance, his penetrating spiritual vision could detect their most intimate secrets, including every physical sin they had done. This awareness made him so uncomfortable that he avoided such encounters whenever he possibly could.

“What shall I do, that I am able to see into the hearts of others...?"

One time he happened to be in the same place as Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Rebbe of Apt, known to one and all as the Ohev Yisrael -— “Lover of Jews.” The chassid seized the opportunity to consult with him, and asked plaintively, “What shall I do, that I am able to see into the hearts of others, and what I see distresses me so?”

The rebbe (who often referred to himself in the plural) replied, “My dear Aharon Moshe, in our youth we also saw things. When a Jew would come before us, we would immediately know what he was and what were his deeds. How many incarnations he had been through, and what were his mistakes and blemishes in each lifetime.

“Later on, we came to the realization that it is not appropriate to see into another Jew’s heart and the mysteries that are concealed there, in order to perceive things that are not positive. So we prayed to the Merciful One that He remove from us this ability. Since then, whenever a Jew comes before us, we see only the good deeds and the soul-rectifications that he accomplished in each incarnation.

“So you too, Aharon Moshe, should request this of the Almighty, and thereby cease to perceive what is not necessary to see.”


Connection to Weekly Reading: “The secret things are for G‑d, our G‑d, while the revealed belongs to us and our children.” (Deut. 29:28)

Translated and adapted from Sichat HaShavua 1073.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel (1755—5 Nissan 1825), the Apter Rebbe, was an important disciple of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. He is also often referred to as “the Ohev Yisrael,” both after the title of the famous book of his teachings, and also because its meaning (“Lover of Jews”) fits him so aptly.

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