Chassidic story & lesson for Parshas Mikeitz
In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Mikeitz, we learn of Joseph’s ascent to power, becoming the viceroy of Egypt, and receiving all authorities of the king, becoming like the king himself. Human nature would influence a person in this position to take vengeance against anyone who disrespects him and certainly against his enemies who have tried to kill him. It would’ve been completely understandable if Joseph would’ve chosen to harm his brothers in retaliation for kidnapping him and selling him. However, not only did Joseph not allow the reins of power to be used against his brothers who acted like his enemies, but furthermore he paid them back with kindness, providing them with food and sustenance and in the end giving them a place of refuge in the country, as explained in the next week’s portion. The Zohar states, as recorded in Tanya, that every person should learn from Joseph to not only not seek retribution for those who have harmed him, but furthermore to grant them kindness and benevolence. In the following Hasidic story, we will see how a most famous and wealthy and scholarly Hassid, who was one of the closest disciples of the Alter Rebbe, did not allow his wealth and fame and knowledge to get to his head, and when needed he would bow his head even to a lower stature Hasid and at times completely humble and humiliate himself in face of the public.
“Is this what the Rebbe has taught you? I don’t want to remain in your house”
Rav Shmuel Munkus takes Rav Pinchas Reitzis for a broomstick ride:
The following story was related by Rav Zalman Shimon Dworkin A”H, as he heard it from Rav Shmuel Gronam Estherman, the famed Mashpia of the original Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva in Lubavitch:
Rabbi Shmuel Munkus was once passing through the city of Shklov and he entered into the house of the famous Chassid, Rabbi Pinchas Reitzis. Pinchas Reitzis was one of the closest disciples of the Alter Rebbe, and was likewise extremely wealthy. He owned a huge mansion which was surrounded by high walls and contained many spacious rooms. He was likewise considered a great scholar in both the revealed and concealed aspects of the Torah, being the son of the chief Rabbi of the city of Shklov, and having been appointed one of the prime and most trusted Chozrim for the Mamarim of the Alter Rebbe. Thus, Rabbi Pinchas Reitzis truly lived up to the statement “Torah Ugedula Bemakom Echad/Torah knowledge and wealth in one place.” Now, while Rabbi Shmuel Munkus was himself no ordinary man or ordinary Chassid, as he had reached very high levels of righteousness, nonetheless he was certainly lower in stature than his friend Rabbi Pinchas Reitzis in both wealth and knowledge.
When Rabbi Shmuel Munkus arrived at the home of his friend Reb Pinchas, neither Reb Pinchas or his wife were home at the time, and he was thus introduced into the home by one of the servants. Reb Shmuel made his way into the lavish living room and got himself comfortable on the expensive couch made of the rarest embroidery and the most comfortable of materials. Having just arrived from his journey and being very tired, Reb Shmuel lied on the couch with his feet up on the cushions without even bothering to remove his wet and muddy shoes. Naturally, mud and dirt stained those precious cushions.
When the wife of Reb Pinchas arrived home and saw a man looking like a pauper lying on her most precious couch with dirty shoes, she became bewildered. Not having recognized the man as someone who they know, she rushed to call her husband.
When Reb Pinchas arrived, he immediately recognized his good friend Reb Shmuel, and after exchanging momentary pleasantries, he told him that it is not befitting and is not Derech Eretz to lie on the couch with dirty shoes and if he wants to lie on it, he should remove his shoes beforehand.
When Reb Shmuel heard this from his friend, he became enraged and got up and said to him, “Is this what our teacher the Alter Rebbe has taught you? This is what you think about?” “I don’t want to remain in your house,” he concluded emphatically and began making his way to leave the home. Reb Pinchas, taken by surprise, and more importantly by the truth of his words, began to plead to him to remain in his home. Only after much begging and persuasion did he get Reb Shmuel to agree to remain, but on condition that he Reb Pinchas would take a broomstick and ride it between his legs, and walk this way throughout the marketplace and streets of Shklov, similar to a small child. Reb Pinchas did exactly what his friend told him, despite him being the son of the chief Rabbi of Shklov, and one of the wealthiest and most respected community members.
The Divine lesson from the story:
Rabbi Shmuel Gronam Estherman would conclude this story by saying that from here we see the greatness and humility of Reb Pinchas, that although he was much greater in stature than Reb Shmuel both in Torah and Avoda, nonetheless, he humbled himself before him. The Divine lesson that we can all learn from this story is manyfold:
- Don’t put too much personal and emotional care into materialistic matters that really have no meaning in the long shot of one’s life mission of spiritual growth. Furthermore, if something materialistic is not perfect, don’t take it too much to heart as your energy and focus needs to be on the things in life that really matter.
- If you have a guest over and he’s/she’s doing things that you feel do not uphold the standards of beauty, cleanliness and decor of your home, then before you tell him anything, remember the story and contemplate whether you should really care about it that much and whether or not you should just suck it up and ignore it, or should make mention of it. Contemplate what possible reaction the person will have and if he may take it personally, as you may end up looking like a child riding a broomstick, as in the above story. Likewise, contemplate that perhaps this guest is a Divine messenger to help enter a little bit more “Bittul” into your character, as in the above story in which Reb Shmuel was a divine messenger to teach Reb Pinchas an important Hasidic lesson.
- Even if you’re wealthy, or of great lineage, or of great Torah scholarship, don’t ever make yourself feel more entitled and elite than others, and accept the truth from those who say it. If you are wrong, then admit it, even if it means that it will make you look like a child who is riding on a broomstick around town. Truth and humility are to be two of the most prized and chased after character traits that a Hasid is to strive to attain throughout his life.
 Zohar 1 p. 201a
 End of Tanya Chapter 12
 Brought in Shemuos Vesippurim Vol. 2 p. 55, compiled by Rav Nachamn Rafael Kahn. This particular story was written by Rav Zalman Shimon Dworkin, and was personally heard by him from Rav Shmuel Gronam Estherman.
 See Sanhedrin 36a; Gittin 59a