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A Connoisseur of Souls

Your descendats shall be as the dust of the earth (28:14)

For you shall be a desirable land to Me…

Malachai 3:12

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov taught that the Jewish people are like a plot of land: earthy, one might even say downright rough, but replete with potential treasure. Beneath the surface are vast stores of precious gems and metals, life-giving waters, and great reserves of energy. Its soil is alive with the promise of lush crops, ready to break surface upon a proper investment of devoted toil.

To access these treasures, one must first have the insight and foresight to look beyond the pedestrian grit. One must carefully probe the terrain and faithfully drill, mine, pump, plow, sow and water in order to reap his rewarding return.

Every individual - surface topology notwithstanding - is rich, fertile soil. Incumbent upon him and his fellows is both an opportunity and responsibility: to unearth and develop his diverse and fruitful resources to the utmost.

- Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

On Simchat Torah of 1888, Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch delivered the discourse Ein Hakodosh Boruch Hu Ba B'terunya ("G-d does not come with unreasonable demands to his creatures"), which discusses the special qualities of the simple Jew. He cited the metaphor of 'the heel and the hot water': the heel lags far behind the head in intellectual capacity, but when a person is required to enter a tub of hot water, the heel ventures forward while the head is reluctant to proceed. Simple Jews, explained the Rebbe, are blessed with a greater degree of self-sacrifice and wholehearted devotion to the Almighty then their more learned brethren.

Present at the Rebbe's discourse was a fellow known as Dovid Shlomo's Matti Yossi1, a jolly community activist and member of the Lubavitch firefighters brigade. He was the first to respond to the Rebbe's words. As soon as the Rebbe finished speaking, he sprang up, pounded on his heart, and announced: "Rebbe! I will found a Po'alei Tzeddek2society!"

The members of the society would rise at three o'clock in the morning to recite the book of Psalms in the synagogue known as 'Reb Binyomin's Shtibl.' They also scheduled classes in Jewish law. One would see them in the streets of Lubavitch, walking home from one of their classes and reviewing the laws they had just learned. Rabbi Sholom DovBer derived great pleasure from their activities and often praised their sincerity and wholesomeness. On one occasion (at the wedding of his sister, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Horenstein) he asked to dance with the members of Po'alei Tzeddek. He returned to his seat drenched in sweat and said to two of his foremost 'intellectual' chassidim: "I have just bathed in the merit of Israel…"

One of the prestigious chassidim of Rabbi Sholom DovBer was the learned diamond merchant, Reb Monia Mosenson. Once, Reb Monia expressed his bewilderment at the Rebbe's veneration of these simple folk. "Why does the Rebbe devote so much of his invaluable time to them?" he asked. Rabbi DovBer began to tell Reb Monia of the special qualities which so endeared them to him. "Rebbe, I don't see it," objected Reb Monia.

"Do you have any of your diamonds with you?" asked the Rebbe. Reb Monia said he did and, as man discussing his profession is wont to do, began to excitedly describe his most recent acquisitions. "This time, Rebbe, I managed to acquire some real beauties," he exclaimed, "but I cannot show them to you just now - the sun is shinning too brightly."

Later, the diamond merchant was sufficiently satisfied with the lighting to spread his wares on the table. "Look at this one" he prompted the Rebbe preceding to extol its particular virtues. But the Rebbe failed to understand the specialness of the stone. "I just don't see it," he protested. "Ah, Rebbe," said Reb Monia "on a diamond, one must be a maiven."

"Ah, Reb Monia," countered the Rebbe, "on a Jew, one must be a maiven…"


1. i.e. Matti Yossi, the son of Dovid Shlomo.
2. 'Doers of Righteousness'



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