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One of the supreme qualities which are prerequisite to becoming a Jewish leader, is extreme ahavas Yisroel - love for the Jewish Community. In the current parshios of the Torah, we see demonstrated how much Moshe, the Savior of Israel, sacrificed his personal well being for the benefit of his People. Moshe was raised as Prince of Egypt, on Par'oh's lap. He could have easily rationalized that he can do much more for the Jews from his position, within the palace walls, as an undercover Jewish agent, than he can while among them; especially being branded an escaped criminal. He did not know yet that Hashem would appoint him to redeem the Jews from their suffering and take them to the Promised Land. Nevertheless, he did not let himself be fooled. He abandoned the greatest luxuries of the world, at that time, and went out to his brothers and sisters; to be with them in their suffering and help them as best he could.

Countless stories are told about all of our great leaders, all through the generations, which demonstrate their selfless love for their flock. One outstanding giant was Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum ztvk"l, the Satmerer Rebbe. Among other things, he was famous for his unconditional empathy for every single Jew. Although he fought a fierce battle against those who would try to undermine the supremacy of the Torah; when a Jew was in need, he would stop at nothing to help him, regardless of his religious convictions. This was especially apparent during the Holocaust, when the Rebbe, in Hungary, led rescue efforts for the refugees of Poland; never making any distinctions among them.

King Shlomo said, "Even a child is known by his doings, whether what he does is pure and right:" (Mishlei 20:11). The Midrash interprets this passage to mean that a person's character can be recognized even from what he does as a child. Rabbi Teitelbaum was no exception. Even as a young boy he expressed his concern for others and performed charitable deeds to help the needy. The following is one story of many; which is recounted in the book, "Moshian Shel Yisrael." When young Yoel was 9 years old, his father, the Kedushas Yom Tov, the Rebbe of Sighet, appointed one of his chassidim, Reb Ya'akov Tzvi Friedman z"l, to supervise the child.

One day, Yoel's parents bought him an expensive fur coat, to help the frail boy survive the freezing wintry cold in Hungary. The saintly Rebbetzin asked Reb Ya'akov Tzvi to keep his eye on the coat and to make sure that the boy does not lose it or leave it somewhere. Sure enough, after a few days, he noticed that Yoel was going around without the coat. When he questioned the boy, he answered that his home was very close to the synagogue and the study hall and he could function just fine without it.

When Reb Ya'akov Tzvi persisted to question the boy about the coat's whereabouts, he reluctantly admitted that he had left it for collateral with a very rich man, Zyshe Elefant a"h, from whom he had borrowed a large amount of money.

Startled at the boy's behavior, Reb Ya'akov Tzvi immediately went to visit Zyshe who confirmed Yoel's story and added that it is not the first time that he borrowed huge sums of money from him and left valuable items for collateral.

Reb Ya'akov Tzvi returned to the boy and asked him why he borrowed the money from Zyshe. Young Yoel replied that he had overheard a man pleading with his father for help. The man had explained that his daughter's wedding date was quickly approaching and he did not have nearly the amount he needed to fulfill his part of the expenses.

"My father gave him a nice grant," explained the youngster, "but it only covered about half of the poor man's costs. I felt so sorry for him that I quickly rushed to Zyshe and borrowed the rest and gave it to him so that he could go home happy and satisfied that his needs had been completely taken care of."

Reb Ya'akov Tzvi found himself in a quandary. How could he get back the coat he had been put in charge of guarding? Young Yoel understood his predicament and came up with an idea. "Why don't you be my partner in this great mitzvah?" he suggested. "Come with me to my father's shul, between Minchah and Ma'ariv, and we'll approach all of the congregants and ask them for some tzedakah (charity). We'll put together the sum in no time and you'll be able to redeem my coat from Zyshe."

When the Kedushas Yom Tov noticed the two collecting alms, he asked Reb Ya'akov Tzvi what was going on. Upon hearing the explanation, the Rebbe was very proud of his son and contributed a hefty sum for the cause. Within a short time, they were all able to get the coat back on Yoel's back, where it belonged.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel