Thursday, October 6, 2011
Rabbi Cleans Streets
On the Tel Aviv street next to the Sadigerer Shul, an elderly Yemenite Jew
worked diligently, sweeping the street. He worked quickly and methodically,
sweeping first one side of the street and then the other. When he approached
the entrance to the shul, however, he stopped sweeping and passed by the
building with his broom aloft. Then he continued sweeping the road.
My grandfather, Rabbi Chaskel Besser, who resided in Tel Aviv at the time
and frequented the shul, noticed this odd behavior and wondered about it. He
approached the street cleaner and asked him how come he had not swept in
front of the shul.
The gentleman looked at my grandfather. "The rabbi doesn't allow me to."
My grandfather's curiosity was aroused, and he approached the Sadigerer
Rebbe and asked for an explanation, but the rabbi only smiled. My
grandfather asked again, and then again, until finally, the rabbi told his
The rabbi had been visiting Vienna in 1938 when the Nazis entered Vienna.
They immediately sought out the prominent Jews and arrested them, among them
the Sadigerer Rebbe.
In a chilling hint of the humiliation and degradation which they intended to
visit upon the Jews, they took these Jewish leaders and found different ways
to publicly disgrace them.
The Sadigerer Rebbe, a man of regal bearing and conduct, was given a little
brush and stood in front of the great Vienna Opera House. They placed a
small street cleaner's hat on his head, and ordered him to sweep the stairs
of the building with this ridiculously ineffective brush.
As this holy rabbi stooped on those ornate steps, tears streaming down his
cheeks, he whispered a prayer, and a vow, to God:
"Almighty, save me from these beasts. Lead me out of this country and to
your home, the land of Israel. And I promise that there I will sweep the
streets with delight and gratification."
The rabbi smiled at my grandfather. "Thus, I insist that the street cleaner
leave those precious few yards of sidewalk, the entrance to God's house, for
me to sweep."