“HEADACHES”

Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum had some peculiar ideas. He was a fervent supporter of miracles, but vigorously disapproved paranormal phenomena. When in the shtetl some inexplicable phenomenon took place, he organized endless discussions in the Bet Hamidrash with the purpose of ruling if that inexplicable phenomenon was kosher or treif; in other words, if it was a blessed miracle or a damn paranormal phenomenon. It was not easy to discern. Frequently, it was not even easy to discern whether it was an inexplicable phenomenon or a simple narishkayt (a foolishness). Hence, when in the shtetl some inexplicable phenomenon occurred, his disciples tried by all means to prevent Rabbi Teitelbaum from finding out. On one occasion, however, this was inevitable since the inexplicable phenomenon had the rabbi himself as its protagonist. The following happened: the rabbi’s wife had started making matzos, and she asked her husband to find a tray to put them on. Rabbi Teitelbaum was able to decipher the most intricate mysteries of Kabbalah, but the demand of his wife surpassed him. Where was he going to find a tray? After much meditating on the subject, he got headache and decided to go out to the garden to get some air. But there were clouds in the sky, so when he left the house he extended his hand palm upwards with the intention of checking if it had started to rain. Well, just as he was leaving the house with his hand outstretched, a tile detached from the roof and fell on his open hand. Surprised, the rabbi turned and went back into the house. “Did you get the tray?”, his wife asked. And he deposited next to her the tile that turned out to be the right size to contain the pile of matzos. 

The cataloging of this incident (miracle, paranormal phenomenon or foolishness?) had occupied the Rabbi Teitelbaum for seven days when he got a terrible headache. His disciples begged him to stop worrying and just let the incident go. “To let it go?”, he said, “I’d rather cut my sideburns!”. And then he started writing a letter to Rav Bentzion Halberstam of Bobov, a very wise man, requesting his help to solve the question. He received the answer by return post. But, like every self-respecting wise answer, the Rav Bentzion’s answer had something of enigmatic: “The steak is burning and now you come with this nonsense!” 

The interpretation of this enigmatic answer plunged the rabbi into even deeper meditations than those to which the incident of the tile had given rise, thereby prolonging his headache indefinitely.


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