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Encounters

The following is a recollection the Rebbe Naphtali of Ropshitz:

He would often say that he had lost three verbal encounters.

The first time he lost to his son, the future Rebbe Eliezer of Dzhikov. Seeing him play one day, Rebbe Naphtali scolded him for wasting precious time, time he could have put to better use- to study Torah, for instance. "It's not my fault," said the little boy "It is the fault of the yetser-hara, the evil spirit. It is he who led me into sin."--"Well answered son," said the father. "But you should follow the example the yetser- hara; even he, by inducing you to sin, obeys G-d's will. Why don't you do likewise?"--" for him it is easy," said the little boy. "the yetser-hara has no yetser-hara to influence him against obeying G-d's will!"

The second time he was defeated by a little girl. He had met her in a small village, with some ten Jewish inhabitants. Still, it did have a synagogue and a cemetary. "I don't understand," said the Rebbe to the little girl. "either the cemetary or the synagogue is superfluous. If one person dies, there will be no more services in the synagogue. If no one dies, what's the cemetary for?"--"Don't worry," said the little girl. "The synagogue will remain open. As for the cemetary, it's for strangers."

The third defeat was inflicted upon him by a coachman. It was on Simhat Torah Eve. The Hasidim were rejoicing, celebrating-- as one should-- the presence and sanctity of the Torah by dancing to the point of drunkenness, by singing to the point of ecstacy. Suddenly the Roshpitzer saw in the middle of the crowd a coachman who was known for his primitive way of life and ignorance. "What!" the Rebbe cried out. "You participate in the festivity?Yyou who never study Torah, you who obey its commandments so badly and so rarely? How does this festivity concern you?" And the coachman replied: "Rebbe, Rebbe, if my brother arranges a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or any other celebration, am I not allowed to participate?"



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