One of the most awe-
inspiring spectacles to behold in the Chassidic courts
was the holy avodoh of the Ateres Yeshua during
the hakofos on Hoshanoh Rabbah.
In accordance with the minhag of his ancestors
of the Ropshitzer dynasty, the hakofos would
take a long time, with divrei Torah between each
His last Hoshanoh Rabbah, in the year 5673
(1913), was a particularly emotional one as retold by
Reb Yehoshua's nephew, the Imrei Chaim zt"l of
"Breaking out into tears as he implored `Hoshanoh
Aliyos Hashevotim,' the Rebbe stopped to explain:
`We plead with You Hashem, if You have decreed upon
Your nation to be smitten with shevotim, with
the punishing rod, then aliyas — we beg
You to raise the stick and keep it aloft without
bringing it down upon us.' So saying, the Rebbe resumed
his crying for a long time, surely averting harsh
Then, wiping his eyes, the Rebbe Reb Yehoshua added,
"My father, the Imrei Noam zt"l, used to cry at
the words `Hoshanoh Nefesh Mibeholoh.' For any
failure in our avodas Hashem is only due to the
fact that we live a harassed life and have no peace of
mind to do the will of Hashem as we ought to. However,
this year I will shed extra tears at peiros
mishidofon. I pray that the young men, the fruit of
Klal Yisroel, should not suffer spiritual
deprivation during the coming years."
Indeed the next year, with the outbreak of World War I,
many young men and boys were lost to
The Ateres Yeshua thought nothing of his achievements
and madreigoh and was often heard reproaching
himself as being no more than the lowest of his
His grandson Reb Yidele of Dzikov related that once
after the particularly elating hakofos of a
Simchas Torah that fell on Shabbos, the Rebbe noticed a
group of young men whispering and gesticulating
heatedly. When the Rebbe inquired as to the subject of
their conversation, it turned out that they were just
discussing the immense his'orerus of the past
three days. Rabbeinu nodded in recognition and
exclaimed, "Yes, mitoch shelo lishmoh (pointing
to himself) bo lishmoh (pointing to them). Even
though I don't manage to concentrate all my thoughts
and feelings solely lesheim Shomayim
nevertheless, Boruch Hashem, the correct message
was conveyed and you reach the degree of serving Hashem
At the seudas Rosh Chodesh marking the beginning
of Nisan 5672 (1912), Rabbeinu sat surrounded by his
chassidim. Suddenly he gazed at them intently.
"I see here all the soldiers in the army. Listen
soldiers, I ask of you, when you'll have nothing to
keep body and soul together, save for the treif
meat they serve you, don't lick the bones to the last
morsel. Rather just eat the meat itself, enough to stay
Bewildered, those present looked at one another
uncomprehendingly. They all knew that the Rebbe often
spoke in riddles and hints, but what could this
Only after two years, when all able-bodied men were
drafted into the Army, did they understand in
retrospect the Rebbe's request.
In his typical humility the Rebbe once said to his
"Do you know why such a large crowd comes to me giving
large sums of money as pidyon, whereas by the
Admor of Shinova, the Divrei Yechezkel, so few people
are there with so little money being left on his table?
I'll explain to you by way of a scene that I beheld in
the grand city of Vienna.
"Walking through the streets of Vienna I noticed a
large throng of people milling around. To my inquiries
they answered that the building nearby is a theater.
Soon, they told me, the doors of the theater will open
and the entrance tickets will be sold. The price of the
ticket depends on the seat it represents. The closer
the seat is to the stage, the more expensive the
ticket. I asked what sort of show will be acted out and
was told that it is about a beggar.
" `I don't understand,' I exclaimed. `Here outside sits
a beggar on the ground and nobody gives him a second
glance. Perhaps one in ten will deign to throw him a
penny along with a dirty look, and here you're all
pushing to pay ever more money for a closer seat in
order to see a beggar on stage?'
"Well, they told me, that's how it is. Nobody is
interested in the true beggar. Nobody pays him. The
actor who is trying to impersonate the beggar is the
one we throng to, and pay."
"So," concluded Reb Yehoshua, "now I understand why to
me they throng and pay: because I'm only the impostor
Rebbe. To the real Rebbe, the Shinover, few people come
— that's life!"
Another story that Rabbeinu quoted as having learned on
the streets of Vienna.
"I saw a street cleaner sweeping the roads, something
of a novelty to me since we have no such thing in the
small town of Dzikov. `Tell me,' I asked the cleaner,
`why do you bother cleaning the streets. In a house I
understand — one can control the situation and
keep it clean. But the streets will always gather more
dirt immediately. What's the point of cleaning?'
"His simple answer put me straight, `Rabbiner, if we
don't clean the streets today and tomorrow, in another
few days they will be totally impassable due to the
buildup of filth.'
"Rabboisai! Oy did he put me straight! The
yetzer hora tries to persuade us that it's no
use cleaning the neshomoh, ridding it of its
filth, for tomorrow in a moment of weakness it'll
become tainted once again. But let's use the reasoning
of the road sweeper. If we don't do teshuvoh
today, in a few days time the neshomoh will be
so blighted that we'll be unable to do mitzvos at all,
having sunk, chas vesholom, so deep in the mire
The Rav of Seben, author of Be'er Zvi zt"l, was
present when the Rebbe was convalescing in Krenitz.
Like his grandfather the Ropshitzer who would speak in
riddles, disguising his message in seemingly simple
vertlach, the Ateres Yeshua too would hide his
true mussar behind a facade of jokes and
stories. The simple among his listeners would accept
the tale as it was told, and laugh appreciatively. In
contrast, the sharper talmidei chachomim would
grasp the true, deeper meaning.
The Rav of Seben gave an example of the Rebbe's
mussar wrapped in a joke.
"The Rebbe said: `There's one man sitting here who
hasn't come to me in a long time and I'll tell you why:
he's broigez with me. He wrote me a letter
saying he has everything he needs and now he's turning
seventy. How should he prepare himself for the World to
Come? Nu! What could I answer to a Yid who thinks
everything's all right with him? I told him: If you
sinned for 70 years, continue in this way till one
hundred and twenty.'
"Most of the oilom thought this was an excellent
vertel and slapped their thighs with laughter,"
concluded the Rav of Seben. "But a select few of us
gathered the real intent of the story.
"The seventy-year-old is the yetzer hora, who is
called `an old and foolish king.' He comes to a person
in a moment of his'orerus, when he is
considering his future in Olom Habo, reassuring
him that he lacks nothing. In the end persuades him to
continue in his bad ways."