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Chassidic master Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl (1730-1797) devoted much money and effort to ransoming Jews who had been imprisoned by the poritzim (feudal overlords) of Eastern Europe for their failure to pay a debt, for some real or imagined offense, or, often, for no reason other than the caprice of the local poritz.

On one occasion, Rabbi Nachum was himself arrested on some trumped-up charge and found himself in dire need of the very help he extended to others. As he sat in a dank, underground cell wondering what he might have done to deserve such suffering, he had a vision in which he was told:

“Abraham’s labor of love was the mitzvah of providing hospitality to travelers. It was for this reason that G-d instructed him, ‘Go, you, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house.’[24] By becoming a homeless wayfarer himself, he was able to better appreciate the needs he filled in others and the depth of his kindness to them.

“It is for this reason, Reb Nachum, that it was decreed that you suffer imprisonment: in order that you gain a deeper appreciation of the mitzvah to which you have devoted your life.”

Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Yanki Tauber.

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[24]. Genesis 12:1.

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