By Dovid Zaklikowski for COLlive and Hasidic Archives
After the passing of Rabbi Dovber, known as the Maggid of Mezritch, in 1772, a group of his Chassidim approached Rabbi Mendel of Horodok, asking him to succeed Rabbi Dovber as their leader.
They presented Rabbi Mendel with a letter, signed by Rabbi Dovber’s greatest disciples, in which they addressed him with various honorific titles and stated that they accepted him as their Rebbe.
Rabbi Mendel took the letter, read it, and kept it for a short while, only to give it back to the person who delivered it.
“If you did not accept the letter,” the chassid asked, “why didn’t you return it right away?”
Rabbi Mendel, who would become one of the great Chassidic leaders of his generation, replied:
“At first, I thought to myself, ‘There are some great people’s signatures here. When I come to the next world, I will show them the letter, and with so many important witnesses, they will believe that I worthy [to go straight to heaven].’ For this reason, I accepted the letter.
Then I thought to myself, ‘What if, in the next world, they ask me what I think about this letter?’ Knowing that my response would not be favorable, I realized I had no use for the letter, and returned it.”
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