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At the Shabbat Table

Sugar Coated

The father and son who went to Reb Aryeh Levin, fighting over the winter coat. who gets it. we thank Rav Benji Levin Reb Aryeh's grandson for telling us the story this week that he heard from his grandfather. He told us that he asked his grandfather why does everyone come to you for help and advice all differnet typs of jews. and reb aryeh answered that he tryes to listen and feel the person's pain, and then told him this story: it's also published in Tzadik Yesod Olam


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Cheshvan 14 5781
Children eagerly looked out the windows of their apartments, calling to each other in excitement. The long-awaited winter rainy season had finally begun. The youngsters looked on, as the rain poured down from the sky, and washed the white stone buildings and cobblestone alleyways.
Shlomo was less enthusiastic about the weather. It was one thing to watch from the window, or splash in puddles. It was another to have to walk home, after a long day of work, and be drenched by the watery gift. Shlomo stuffed his chapped hands into the pockets of his thin jacket. Only a few more buildings until he would be home.
Shlomo stamped the water off of his shoes as he walked up the steps to his family’s apartment. He wasn’t usually one to complain. He had a lot to be grateful for. He was young and healthy, and had managed to find a job that would allow him to bring in some grushim to support himself and his parents. Times were tough, and if not for Shlomo, the family wouldn’t even have been able to afford bread. He knew well that many neighbors of theirs weren’t as fortunate. He just wished he could be a little warmer on his walk to and from work.
As Shlomo opened the door, he spied his father’s coat hanging on a hook. Somehow, all the frustration that Shlomo felt boiled over, and almost before he knew what had happened, he began yelling.
"There’s a coat here, just hanging on a hook! Do you know what I go through, trudging through the rain to support this family? I know it’s Abba’s coat, but you just stay here all day, and I’m the one who has to go outside and work hard, so that we’ll have what to eat! Don’t I at least deserve a coat?!"
Startled by the sudden attack, Shlomo’s father was quick to respond at equal volume. "So you deserve my coat! What does that even mean? It’s my coat! You don’t deserve something that belongs to me already! Besides, I don’t stay home all day. How am I supposed to go to shul without a coat?"
Shlomo’s mother walked into the room just then. Despite the weather, or perhaps because of it, things were starting to heat up. It was time to take action.
"Why argue about this?" she interjected. "Both of you, go to Rabbi Aryeh Levin, and ask him what to do!"
The combatants were momentarily immobilized. They couldn’t help but agree that asking the renowned tzadik of Jerusalem to arbitrate made more sense than continuing to yell at each other. The father and son ventured out into the slashing winds, and headed toward the rabbi’s house.
Who should get the coat?
Answer of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, zt"l:
The story continues:
Rabbi Levin graciously invited Shlomo and his father inside, and listened attentively as Shlomo and his father presented their claims. Much to their surprise, Rabbi Levin didn’t issue an immediate ruling.
"Before I come to a conclusion, I have an assignment for both of you" the rabbi explained. "Both of you go home, and come back to me tomorrow with an argument for why the other person should get the coat!"
Left with no choice, Shlomo and his father returned home, each one lost in his thoughts. Now what was there to say in defense of the other side?
"My father gets much colder than I do. At his age, staying warm might even be a matter of protecting his health," Shlomo mused. "Maybe… he needs it more than I do."
"Shlomo works so hard for the family. He goes out in the cold, while I’m at home most of the day," Shlomo’s father thought to himself. "Maybe… I was too tough on him when I yelled at him like that."
The next day, father and son returned to Rabbi Levin. Each one presented their arguments as to why the other person should get the coat. Rabbi Levin smiled broadly.
"After carefully listening to both of you, I’ve decided," Rabbi Levin paused. "I’ve decided that both of you need a coat!"
And with that, Rabbi Levin walked over to his closet, and took out another coat!
"I happen to have an extra, and it would make me so happy if you take it home with you," Rabbi Levin explained.
Shlomo and his father were speechless! They definitely hadn’t expected that verdict.
"Rabbi, we’re so grateful for the gift!" Shlomo’s father began. "But, but if you had an extra, why did you wait until today to give it to us?"
"I couldn’t have given it yesterday," Rabbi Levin patiently explained. "If I had, the two of you would have argued over who gets the new coat. Now that I see that both of you are thinking about each other, I know that I can give you the coat, and you’ll peacefully work out who can have which coat."
(From the book Tzadik Yesod Olam, page 76)

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