Don’t Delay!

When a plague hits, all who remain alive must realize that life is a gift from Heaven, and repentance cannot be postponed for a later day…

5 min

Kalever Rebbe

Posted on 15.05.24

It is told of the holy Tzaddik Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev: He once met a destitute straggler on the street, and the man poured out his heart to him how poor he was with no food, no proper clothing, and no lodging for the duration of his stay in the city of BerdichevRebbe Levi Yitzchak told him that he was willing to bring him into his house and give him all his necessities for his stay, but on the condition that he would then fulfill the Rebbe’s request with whatever he asked of him. 


The poor man wholeheartedly agreed to this, and the rabbi brought him into the house and extensively gave him good food and garments to wear for several months. 


When the eve of Yom Kippur came, the rabbi turned to the poor man and said to him: “Now I have a small request of you, as per our agreement. I want you to go to the priest and ask him to convert you.” 


The Jew was a very simple man who was unlearned and did not keep the commandments properly. But when he heard such a request he was very alarmed, and immediately replied forcefully: “In no way in the world will I do such a thing against the Creator who created me and grants me life at every moment.” 


But Rebbe Levi Yitzchak did not leave him alone, and demanded that he not repay his kindness with evil and fulfill his end of the agreement that he would fulfill whatever the Rebbe asked of him. The Rebbe began to drag him forcefully towards the priest’s residence, but the Jew resisted with all his might and fought with him vigorously, until he tore a few hairs from Rebbe Levi Yitzchak’s beard. 


At that moment the Rebbe of Berdichev rejoiced greatly. He hurried to the Shul, ran up to the Holy Ark, and holding up the hairs he exclaimed: “Lord of the Universe! Please look down and see your simple Jew. He owes me everything he has, and is willing to do whatever I ask of him to the point of devotion. Nevertheless, he will under no circumstance forsake his religion and is ready to wrestle with me even to the point of ripping out hair from my beard.” 


This story illustrates how deep and immutable the pure faith of every Jew is. In his heart he knows that G-d gives him his life, so when a challenge to his belief in the God of Israel arises, he recalls that he owes the greatest gratitude to G-d. But on a daily basis most people do not think about it, because the evil instinct strives to erase this from the human heart. 


When I ask people to get stronger in the service of the Creator, there are people who sometimes respond that they harbor resentment to Him for not giving them all their requests such as more children or more extensive livelihood and so on. This is comparable to someone who received a great gift, but instead of thanking the benefactor, he resents him for not bringing him more gifts. 


The verse (Lamentations 3: 39) says: “Why should a living man complain?”. And the sages (Kiddushin 80:) explain this to mean: Why will a person complain and resent that he does not get everything he wants, after the grace that God does with him in that he is alive. Also, the sages (Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim, 5709) interpreted the verse (Tehillim 150:6) “Let every soul praise God. Hallelujah! כֹּ֣ל הַ֖נְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּ֥ל יָ֜֗הּ הַֽלְלוּיָֽהּ The word Neshama-soul also translates to Neshima-breath. One must praise Hashem for every breathe he takes. 


And to this the sages say (Brachot 5.) that one of the useful tips against the evil instinct is “remind him of the day of death”, because when a person remembers the day of death then G-d takes from every person his life and no money or other remedy can save one from the day of death, it is a stark reminder that all life is only from G-d. And when a Jew strives to observe this always, and not forget it even when he is occupied with his business dealings, it prevents him from doing things that are against the will of the Creator who grants him life every second. 


Even when a person remembers the day of death, the evil instinct will attempt to mislead him that for the time being he does not have to pay so much attention to the commandments of the Creator, because he will still have time to do the Creator’s good will during his later years. One must however remember that death comes sometimes very sudden as the sages said (Shabbat 153), “Repent today lest you die tomorrow,” and the sages also warned (Avot 2: 4), “Do not say when I have available time tomorrow I will pursue the study of Torah, perhaps tomorrow you will die.” 

 In this regard, the late Rebbe Rabbi Shlomo of Bobov, heard from his father, the late Rebbi Ben Zion of Bobov, that his uncle, Rebbe Yechezkel of Shinava, once stopped in a city on his way back to his home. Many people who wanted to be blessed came to his hostel, and in the middle of receiving the crowd,  the  Rebbi  of  Shinava  wanted to return to the train station because the scheduled time for departure was approaching. The Rebbe’s secretaries, who were eager to allow more people to come and bring monetary gifts, said it was not too late. But the Rebbi of Shinava held that one must hurry and not wait until there was a fear the train could be missed. On this occasion he wanted to teach those present to apply this concept in the service of the Creator, so he shouted aloud: “Why wait until late, why not repent while there is still time?! The scripture says, “Arise for an elder” and this can be interpreted to mean that before you grow old you will rise and repent, for it is not to be delayed until it is too late! “When these words came out of the mouth of the holy Rebbe, all who heard were thrown into shock and fear, and repented. 


This is apropos in a period such as ours when human beings died suddenly according to a decree from Heaven, one realizes that all who remain alive will observe that all life is given to them as a gift from heaven, and also they will observe that repentance cannot be postponed for a later day. 


It can be said, that for this reason on Yom Kippur, the matter of the death of the two sons of Aaron, that G-d took their soul suddenly in one moment, is read in the Torah, because it reminds human beings that their whole life is only from G-d, and that he can take their soul at any moment, This causes hearts to be strengthened immediately to draw closer to G-d again, and to make good resolutions to do His will wholeheartedly, which is the purpose of Yom Kippur. Thanks to this they will be sealed on Yom Kippur for a good year. 


The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at