Nisan 3, 5767, 3/22/2007
EVERYONE LOVES STORIES
Everyone loves stories. Rabbi Nachman said that in the future, the stories about Tzaddikim would bring the world back to G-d. So let me tell you a few stories about my teacher, the saintly Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levy, master of the secrets of Torah.
A few weeks ago, I was on my way to an all-night session of prayer and Torah learning with the Rabbi. As I was driving along the highway, a police car appeared alongside my car, and an officer motioned for me to pull over.
Needless to say, it is silly to get angry at a traffic cop when you know he is merely a messenger from the Almighty. “I suppose I have not been exact in giving Maaser,” I said to my passengers, other students of Rav Leon.
The Hebrew term, maaser, means a tithe, the obligation to donate a tenth of one’s income to charity. A few months back, my wallet was stolen from my pants pocket while I was in the mikvah. When I told Rav Leon, he advised me to give a little more maaser, which was his tactful way of saying that I did not give enough. Our Sages teach that if you want to be rich, you should give maaser with an open heart, even 20% of your earnings. The more you give, the more you will get in return. Rav Leon himself gives away 60 percent of his earnings. If you don’t give at least a tenth, then G-d will collect it in some other fashion, whether through plumbing expenses, visits to the dentist, thieves in the mikvah, or traffic tickets.
The cop walked over and asked for my license and car registration. Imagine, a Hebrew speaking cop. After twenty-three years in Israel, it still fills with me with gratitude that we have our own sovereign State.
“Have you had a traffic violation within the last two years?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure. I had received a ticket for not wearing a seat belt, but I couldn’t remember how long ago it had been.
He took my papers back to his cruiser. I could see the screen of his special car computer glowing in the dark.
“Do you think the Holy One Blessed Be He has a computer as advanced as the one in that police car?” I asked the students in my car.
To make a long story short, the search on the computer revealed that I had not yet brought my car into the motor vehicle inspection center for this year’s road test. It also revealed that my seat belt violation had indeed been less than two years before. So I was given two days to do the test, along with a 200 shekel fine. “Thank you,” I said to the cop. “You have given me the opportunity to make a donation to Medinat Yisrael.”
Because of the unexpected delay, we were late. It was after midnight when we reached our destination. The synagogue was packed with local residents who had gathered for the nightlong prayer with the revered and holy Tzaddik. I did not want to go into the main entrance while Rav Leon was speaking, so I found a back door that led to a room where refreshments were spread out on tables. I waited until the Rabbi finished his opening remarks, then snuck into the synagogue and sat down in the first empty chair.
“Fishman,” the Rabbi called out into the microphone. “Kedima!”
Embarrassed by the turning heads of the crowd, I walked forward and sat down toward the front of the synagogue. Again the Rabbi’s voice called out, summoning me to the dais where he and other Kabbalists were sitting. “Be careful not to get any more traffic tickets,” were the first words he said to me. Apparently, he had had his own famous radar turned on. Imagine, if a person can see things via spiritual radar, how humbly we should always behave, knowing that the Radar of Radars is watching.
While we are speaking of cars, the other day, a student of the Rabbi was driving his brother-in-law to the hospital because he had been having terrible pains in his eyes. The student suggested they phone Rav Leon and ask for a blessing. After making a few calls, they reached another student who was at the yeshiva with the Rabbi, who does not have a cell phone of his own. After hearing the student’s request, Rav Leon asked to speak to the brother-in-law. “Can I tell you the truth?” he inquired.
“Sure,” the brother-in-law answered.
“You won’t be angry with me?” the Rabbi asked.
“Not at all.”
“What are those pornographic magazines doing in the trunk of your car?” Rav Leon asked.
The brother-in-law was speechless.
“Did you think that looking at them would be good for your eyes?” the Tzaddik asked him.
When the tearful brother-in-law admitted his misdoing, the Rabbi blessed him, gave him some Psalms and prayers to say, called “Tikun HaYesod,” to rectify his transgressions, and told him to immerse himself in a mikvah as often as he could. “You don’t need the hospital,” he told him. “If you repair the spiritual damage you caused, your eyes will feel better starting today.”
Our Sages tell us: "דע מה למעלה ממך" “Know what is above from you.” And they answer, “A seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all of your deeds are recorded in a book” (Avot, 2:1). The Almighty has a top-of-the-line radar computer. All of our doings appear on His screen. And for everything we do, there will be an accounting. As Rav Leon stresses, sooner or later, anger, arrogance, jealousy, sexual transgression, speaking bad about others - all bring misfortune in their wake. It is just a matter of time. Therefore, Rav Leon teaches, a man should give up his wrongdoings, return to G-d, and be healed.
That’s the story for today. In the near future, G-d willing, we will recount some more Rav Leon stories. The moral to remember is that the possibility for improvement and health is in our hands. What we sow, we reap. As the verse implies: “Know that what is above (the decree that is written above) is ממך - from you.”