Who was Reb Yehoshua Elazar?

After his father, Reb Nochum (the first Chernobyler rebbe) passed away, he would often visit his son, Reb Motele. His father’s Neshama (soul) came from Gan Eden to visit him. Then for a while his father did not show up, for quite a long time. Reb Motele was pained by this. He missed his father and his father not showing up.

After a long time passed, Reb Nochum showed up one day. He came to visit his son. Reb Motele was pleasantly surprised and asked his father where have you been for so long?

His father said, I’ll tell you the truth, as you spend more time in Gan Eden it becomes harder and harder to come back into the coarse and crude environment of the physical world. So, it becomes harder for me to come and visit you as you are still in this physical world.

So why did you come now? he asked his father.

Reb Nochum said, I came because there was an announcement made in Heaven that all the souls who during their lifetime were involved in chesed (acts of kindness) – tzedakah (charity), pidyon shevuyim (this refers to redeeming captives including Jewish people persecuted by ruthless governors, rulers, and squires who would make their Jewish lives miserable and they would persecute them and imprison them and he would get a ransom to save them). Reb Nochum was very involved in pidyon shevuyim all his life. The announcement in Heaven was that all who were involved in all kinds of chesed including pidyon shevuyim – which Reb Nochum was very involved in during his lifetime – should go down to this world to welcome the soul of a Jew called Reb Yehoshua Elazar who had just passed away.

I was one of the neshamot summoned to go and greet this neshama to escort it to Gan Eden. Since I, said Reb Nachum, was involved during my lifetime in chesed, in pidyon shevuyim, I was to greet this neshama. Since I was coming to this world in any case, I thought I would come and visit you. This is what Reb Nachum told his son.

Reb Motele then continued and said he wanted to know who is this Reb Yehoshua Elazar for whom all these souls had come down to greet him? And this is what he found out.

This Jew, Reb Yehoshua Elazar lived in Berditchev when Reb Levi Yitzchak was the rav of Berditchev. Known as Shia Luzer, he was a man of average learning, not a wealthy man, but he had what to live on.

He was once walking through the marketplace of Berditchev when he saw a Jew sitting on the ground, weeping and crying hysterically and there was a large crowd around this man. He started asking people why he was crying? They explained that this man lived in a village close to Berditchev. His business and livelihood he derives from buying merchandise in the city in the market which is not available in the villages and he brings it to the villages around Berditchev selling it for a profit. He came to Berditchev for market day to buy merchandise and he had 600 rubles with him.

200 rubles were his own; 200 rubles came from other people who invested with him so he would share some profit with them; and the other 200 rubles were loans. He borrowed money because he was so confident in his ability to sell the merchandise for a profit that he borrowed money to buy more merchandise. What happened was that when he came to the marketplace, he suddenly realized that his wallet with all his money had disappeared. He was totally devastated because now not only did he lose some money, but he would owe money to his creditors and to the investors. He was in a terrible situation. He was crying and weeping and could not be consoled.

When Shia Luzer heard this, he walked over to the man who was crying and asked him, can you describe to me how the money was wrapped. In what was the money placed? Please describe it to me because maybe I can find it.

The man answered Shia Luzer, I divided it into three portions, 200, which was my money, I placed in one type of wrapping; 200 which was a loan I kept in another type of wrapping; and the third 200 rubles I kept in another wrapping. I separated them so I would know which was the loan, which the investment, and which was my own money. He described in detail how each was wrapped.

Shia Luzer said thank you and disappeared. He went home, took his own money which he wrapped exactly as it was described to him, and went back to market. He told the merchant that he found his money.  Here it is. I found it. The man was very happy. He thanked him profusely.

The next day a Jew found the three packages of money. He realized that this was the money the man lost. He came to the merchant and told him, look I found your money. He answered him that it can’t be because it was already returned to him. But when he looked at the wrapping, he realized that it looked more authentic.

The merchant went to look for the person who first returned his money and said to him, Here is your money back. I know you did not find my money, because it was found today.

Shua Luzer refused to take the money back saying, do with it whatever you would like. I never take gifts from anyone. I gave it to you and it is yours to keep. The man responded, I know you meant well but I want to give it back to you. It doesn’t belong to me. They were not able to agree, so they went to the rabbi of the city of Berditchev to adjucate the case.

Reb Levi Yitzchak was the presiding judge over the case.

Reb Motele concluded his story: I don’t know what Reb Levi Yitzchak decided and what was the result of the case. What I do know is the following:

This case came before Reb Levi Yitzchak during the month of Elul before Rosh Hashana. During the prayers on Rosh Hashana, when Reb Levi Yitzchak was about to blow the shofar, he raised his eyes to Heaven and called out to G-d saying: Before you judge this world and before you judge the Jewish people, look at this case I just had, and see what kind of people you have that these are the type of arguments they have!

This was the soul of Yehoshua Elazar who had just passed away and all the souls were told to come down and greet his soul to escort him to Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden – abode of souls).

And that year the Jewish people were blessed with an extraordinary year of blessings!

As told by Rabbi Eli Silberstein – Shliach in Ithaca, NY.

“V’Yaakov halach l’darko” – And Jacob went on his way. Wishing each one a year of G-d’s abundant blessings!

*Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev – 1740-1809 – a contemporary of the Alter Rebbe, student of the Maggid, rabbi in the city of Berditchev where he is buried and Jews go to pray at his burial place till today! It is told that on the day of his birth, the Baal Shem Tov held a joyous farbrengen (gathering) and informed his followers that a soul of a ‘defender of the Jewish people’ had entered the world!

*Reb Yankele Pshevorsk – 1907-1998. The Pshevorsk Chassidic dynasty began in Poland and is descendant from Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk. After surviving WWII, they moved to Paris and in 1956 settled in Antwerp, Belgium. It continues today by his son Leibish Leiser who is the current rebbe of Pshevorsk in Antwerp.

*Chernobyl Chassidic dynasty began with Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch. All Twersky’s are generally descendants of this line. Rabbi Avrohom Twersky of Trisk – 1806 – 1889 – was the son of Rebbe Mordechai Twersky of Chernobyl. He is the author of Mogen Avrohom and was the first rebbe of Trisk.

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