In the city of Koretz, lived one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Pinchas. Koretz was a good kosher town, full of good kosher jews. Everyone prayed three times a day, ate only kosher food, put on tefillin everyday,everyone except for one, Avraham the tailor. He never came to the synagogue, he didn’t eat kosher, and most evenings you could find him drunk, in the local cretchma.
Upon entering the synagogue, he noticed his community in a bit of an uproar. Rav Pinchas asked what all the fuss was about. A congregant replied, “ Don’t worry yourself, Rabbi. It’s just that the most disgusting jew in the city has died, and no one wants to be a part of his burial.” To which, the holy Rav Pinchas said, “I wasn’t aware Koretz had any disgusting jews.
May I ask who is so unworthy of a proper burial?” “It’s that wicked jew, Avraham the tailor.”
Rav Pinchas’ face turned white and his eyes filled with tears. Everyone in the shul ran to his side, as he looked as if he would faint. “ I, for one, will be honored to escort this holy jew to his final resting place.
Now, everyone in Koretz knew that Rav Pinchas only went to funerals of tzaddikim, holy people, and the people started to realize that he had probably been one of the lamed vav tzadikkim, one of the 36 hidden righteous people on which the whole world stands. The entire city came to his funeral. The entire village was mourning, crying from the depths of their heart. “Avraham, please forgive us,” they wailed. There is a teaching that says if you want to know the status of a man in the next world, you look at his levaiyah, his funeral.
As the procession made its way towards the cemetery, Rav Pinchas, walked behind the casket of Avraham the tailor, with giant tears rolling down his face the whole way escorting Avraham the tailor to his final resting place.
The holy Rav Yaivah, another student of the Baal Shem Tov, happened to be visiting Koretz.
After the funeral, standing next to Rav Pinchas, he asked,” Rav Pinchas, perhaps you can fool everyone else in this town, but we both know, Avraham the tailor is exactly what he seemed, a poor Jew and perhaps even a little wicked. What did he do that merited him a funeral such as this, and why were you so moved by it?”
“Ah, how little we know. How little we know about the deeds of others. Let me tell you a story about Avraham the tailor. You know the orphan girl we raised in our home as our own, well, the time came for her to be married and we found her a wonderful boy from a nearby village.
I begged and borrowed from everyone I know to make them a beautiful chuppah. On the night of the wedding the groom came running up to me. He said,”Rabbi, I don’t have a tallit! I have to have a tallit or everyone will laugh at me. I knew the boy was right and I pleaded with him to give me a little time until I could find the money. A new tallit cost 10 rubles, and I had already asked everyone I know to pay for the wedding. He wouldn’t give in, and I agreed to get him a tallit, after all, I was all this boy had in the world.
I started walking downcast, wondering where in the world I would even begin to find the exorbitant amount of 10 rubles. I started walking and decided I would go up to the first home I found with a light on. And there, I see a house. I knocked on the door and found Avraham the tailor beaming at me. “Rabbi! I am so honored to have you at my home! I know I’m not very good, but I have always loved you so much..” “Shalom, Avraham, I don’t have much time. I am here on urgent business. I have 2 orphans waiting to be married and I need to collect 10 ruble to buy the groom a tallit. Do you think you would be able to help me?”
Avraham’s face dropped. “Rabbi, you know how poor I am.” And, I did. “But, through the years I have managed to save a little. I could give you 1 ruble.” “Thank you, Avraham!
That would help me so much. HaShem bless you!” I left the tailor’s house, feeling much lighter and more hopeful. While continuing on my way, I heard the sound of footsteps behind me. I turned around and saw Avraham the tailor running up to me with a tear stained face, and sobbing. “What’s wrong, dear tailor? Why are you so sad?” He held up his clenched fist, holding 9 more ruble. “This is all the money I have saved all my life. It is absolutely everything I have. Do you think if I gave you all my money right now, I would have a place with you in the next world?” “Holy tailor, every minute counts, if you give all your money for this tallit, the two orphans will only marry because of you, and I promise you that you will have a place in the next world.”
“When I arrived in the shul the next day. I heard that Avraham the tailor had passed on to the next world, and as I walked behind his casket I saw his soul wrapped in the tallit he had bought for 10 rubles, escorted by our holy fathers, Avraham, Itzchak, and Ya’akov. So, you see, Rav Yaivah, we really have no idea of the tallits wrapped around people’s souls.”