Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Soul Attractions

Art: Vladimir Kush

Sometimes, when a person performs great acts of charity, he is not merely acting under the inspiration of the outstanding baalei tzedakah (masters of charity) of the past, but his act of charity may forge a spiritual link with those great baalei tzedakah.

R' Shmuel Uzida, author of Midrash Shmuel on Pirkei Avos, was a close disciple of the Holy Arizal. One time, he visited his master, and the Arizal showered extraordinary honour upon him. First he stood up before him. Then he sat R' Shmuel at his side in the position of highest distinction.

The Arizal's foremost disciple, R' Chaim Vital, was amazed by this most unusual conduct, and after R' Shmuel took his leave, he humbly asked his master for an explanation.

The Arizal replied: "You should know that it was not for my dear student R' Shmuel that I stood up! Rather, I stood up for the holy Tanna, R' Pinchas ben Yair, who entered the room together with him."

Upon hearing this, R' Chaim Vital ran after R'Shmuel and asked him "What special mitzvah did you perform today which might have earned you great merit?"

R' Shmuel reluctantly revealed what had transpired early that morning. "I was passing by a house and I heard heartrending crying and wailing coming from within. Upon inquiry, the members of the household told me that their home had been broken into that night, and the thieves had stripped the house bare of every last item. The thieves had even stolen the clothing off their backs. I didn't hesitate for a moment, and I gave them the clothing off my back in order to calm them down. I then ran home and put on my Shabbos clothing which, as you can see, I am wearing right now."

R' Chaim Vital went back to his master, the Arizal, and related this story to him. The Arizal observed: "Now you can understand why the spirit of R' Pinchas ben Yair accompanied R' Shmuel today. Because R' Pinchas excelled in acts of kindness, charity and ransoming captives, so his soul is attracted to those who follow his example."

[Shulchan Hatahor, Shaar Tzedakah, Chapter 2]

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