(Courtesy: Rabbi Ysroel Ciner)

Rav Abraham Twerski tells of the seeming animosity that existed between Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh and Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev. Rav Boruch was sharply critical of Rav Levi Yitzchok and would never miss an opportunity to mock and belittle him.

One time, two merchants traveled from Mezhibozh to Berditchev for business. While there, they wanted to see Rav Levi Yitzchok for themselves. They entered his house and found him immersed in prayer. Suddenly, he ran over to one of the merchants, grabbed him by the jacket and said, “What can the angel Michael possibly say about you?!” and then returned to his prayers.

When they returned to Mezhibozh, they rushed to tell Rav Boruch about Rav Levi Yitzchok’s latest bizarre behavior, planning to give him more material to scoff at. However, when the merchant related the entire story, Rav Boruch began to shout at him, “You thief! Return the money you stole immediately!” The man was shocked into admitting that he had, in fact, stolen money from his companion.

Rav Boruch then explained. “When a Jew sins, the angel Michael pleads his case before the Heavenly Court. If a poor person steals, Michael alleges that the persons impoverished state distorted his judgment and caused him to act out of desperation. However, when a wealthy person, such as you, steals, what plea can he enter for you? That is what Rav Levi Yitzchok meant.”

He then explained further. “Rav Levi Yitzchok is a tzaddik {righteous individual} whose spiritual sensitivity allows him to perceive everything. Why do I criticize him? Jews constantly pray for the coming of the Moshiach {Messiah}, the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash {Holy Temple} and the restoration of the Divine Service. Some of the angels say to Hashem, “Who needs the Temple? The prayer and service of Rav Levi Yitzchok is as great as that which the Kohen Gadol {High Priest} performed in the Holy of Holies.’ I criticize him to show that I am not satisfied with him as a replacement for the Kohen Gadol — we need the redemption and the Temple rebuilt!