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Rebbe Yerachmiel of Peshischa: The Holy Watchmaker

Rebbe Yerachmiel of Peshischa (Przysucha, Poland) was born in 5544 (1784) to his father, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowitz, known as the Holy Yid. He studied under the tutelage of his father and of the Holy Zaideh of Radoschitz. While his father was alive, Rebbe Yerachmiel earned his livelihood as a watchmaker. When his father passed away, he was succeeded by his preeminent disciple, Rebbe Simchah Bunim of Peshischa. Only fourteen years later did Rebbe Yerachmiel establish his own chasidic court, which was similar in nature to the other chasidic courts in Poland. Rebbe Yerachmiel’s Torah teachings included short, sharp-edged formulations, similar to his father’s, as well as a more popular style of Chasidut from the court of the Seer of Lublin. Rebbe Yerachmiel of Peshischa passed away on the 8th of Iyar 5596 (1836) and was buried in Peshischa.

In a village next to Peshischa lived an orphaned boy who had become a servant for his uncle. The uncle was a severe person and forced the boy to work hard. He allotted him little food and would beat him often. One day, the uncle’s clock stopped working, and he handed it to the boy, instructing him to bring it to town and have it fixed.

The boy went to Peshischa to look for the watchmaker. Passers-by pointed him to the home of the holy Rebbe Yerachmiel of Peshischa, who was also a watchmaker. When the boy saw the holy rebbe, he became frightened and wanted to run away. He thought that the passersby had misled him to make a fool of him.

“My son!” said Rebbe Yerachmiel. “What are you looking for?”

The shocked boy was so confused and embarrassed that he couldn’t get any words out of his mouth.

“Why are you embarrassed?” the Rebbe persisted. “Tell me what you want!”

The boy stuttered that he had a broken watch that needed to be fixed and a passerby had mistakenly directed him to the Rebbe’s home.

“Show me the clock,” said the Rebbe, and examined it carefully.

“Sit here while I fix it,” he ordered the boy.

The boy sat and the holy rebbe began fixing the clock. “Who are you?” he asked the boy.

“I am a servant for my uncle,” the boy answered.

“What is your situation there? Rebbe Yerachmiel continued with his question.

“My situation is very bad!” the boy answered and described how he was being treated.

“You have to leave him!” said the Rebbe.

“How will I sustain myself? I don’t have a ruble to my name,” the boy asked skeptically.

“You can rent an orchard from one of the locals that you know. He will give it to you on credit,” the Rebbe instructed.

“What will be my excuse for leaving my uncle?” the boy was concerned.

“Do something to upset him—twice. Then he will throw you out…”

In the meantime, the clock was fixed, and the boy set out to bring it back to his uncle. On the way, he met one of the local villagers with whom he was friendly.

“Moshke,” said the villager. “Rent my orchard.”

“But I have no money,” said the boy.

“Rent it, and when you make some profit, pay me back,” the villager offered.

The boy rented the orchard. He then returned to his uncle and as Rebbe Yerachmiel had advised him, he did two things to upset him. The uncle became furious and threw him out of his home.

In the meantime, the fruits in the orchard grew nicely and the boy returned to Rebbe Yerachmiel, relating all that had transpired.

“Rent a storage space for all the fruits,” Rebbe Yerachmiel told him. “And rent another orchard if you can find one.”

The boy did as he was told and filled the entire warehouse with fruits, making a handsome profit. From then on, he was more and more successful, until he became a wealthy man with a large estate, fields, forests, and animals.

In this story, we see Rebbe Yerachmiel of Peshischa as a multi-faceted personality. On the one hand, he is a tzaddik whose great holiness is obvious even to a simple boy.  On the other hand, he is an expert craftsman and the townspeople do not think it at all strange to direct the boy to the rebbe’s home in his capacity as a watchmaker. The tzaddik also had another vocation: Giving good advice to the people who came to him.

Every person’s life and livelihood evolve from his soul root, his ‘mazal.’ A tzaddik who knows how to see this root can direct the advice-seeker to the correct actualization of his mazal. Sometimes this will entail a change in his place of work, and sometimes he will even propose a change in his behavior that will result in his being dismissed from his original place of work, enabling him to find a completely new livelihood.

In this story, the uncle was a difficult person. But even if we are relating to a family business that is managed lovingly, there is an advantage to personal work, with the livelihood coming directly from the person’s individual labor. There is a famous saying in Yiddish that highlights this: “When you do it alone, the soul is clean.” Why is this so?

The success of a person in a family business comes from the near-by encompassing mazal, which is associated with the soul’s fourth level, the chayah (living one). This is the level that is associated with family, national, and public ties. This type of success will always leave the successful person within the boundaries of nature and the known world and will not carry him beyond. True success, above and beyond nature, comes from the distant encompassing level of the soul called the yechidah (singular one), which is also a source of mazal. This level is associated with the personal, individual connection that a person has with his Creator. At the level of the yechidah, every person is completely unique and can succeed in the most unexpected and unusual way.

In Hebrew, one of the expressions that means “unusual” literally means “penetrating through the side” (יוֹצֵא דֹּפֶן), pronounced yotzei dofen. Originally, this expression was used to describe a baby born by Cesarean section. The Mashiach, called “Ceasar” in the Talmud, is the general yechidah of Israel. He is also the epitome of the start-up: An amazing innovation that breaks through all barriers. “He will be exalted and lofty and very high.”[1] The word “very” (מְאֹד) also appears in the verse commanding us to love God, “with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your ‘me’od,’” referring to love with all of one’s “more,” so to speak, which is loftier than ordinary love. In this context, it symbolizes personal initiative. When the initiative is true and comes from heaven, it has immense energy for success. May we all merit the Messianic start-up speedily in our day!



[1] Isaiah 52:13.

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