Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Lubchansky

In the freezing winter nights of Eastern Europe, it was the job of the Shammash to tend to the Shul's oven early every morning. Thus, when people came at daybreak, to recite Tehillim or to study before Prayers, they should find the Shul warm. The Shammash, an elderly man and who was a bit lazy, would rely on the out of town beggars, who normally arrived during the night, to light the oven. But many times, when the beggars would not show up, the Shul would be freezing in the morning, and people began to complain. Then all complaints stopped, the oven would be fire-hot every morning. People thought the Shammash was doing a good job, and the Shammash took it for granted that the beggars were tending the oven. No one suspected that it was the Rabbi of the town, Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Lubchansky, who was doing the job every morning. He would also draw the water for the congregants to wash their hands. He did all this, because he wanted to ease the burden of the Shammash.
One early morning, the firewood happened to be particularly wet, thus requiring a lot of blowing to get a fire going. (One could blow his lungs out until the wood finally burned.) With his head in the oven door, Reb Yisrael Yaakov was blowing upon the fire, and the Shammash walked in. In the darkness of daybreak he did not recognize the Rabbi. Sure that it was one of the beggars who were tending to the oven, the Shammash in a joking manner gave the man a good kick. Reb Yisrael Yaakov knew that if he took his head out of the oven, the Shammash would be terribly embarrassed (imagine the Shammash actually kicking the Rabbi). So he pushed his face deeper into the oven. The smoke was burning his eyes and choking his lungs, yet he would not remove his head until the Shammash left. By the time the Shammash walked away, half of Reb Yisrael Yaakov’s beard was gone, due to his beard having been caught on fire.

Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Lubchansky was also the Mashgiach of Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman Yeshiva in Baranovich Ohel Torah. He was also a talmid and son in-law of Rabbi Yosef Yoizel Horowitz - the After of Novardok.

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