The saintly Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir (1851 – 1925), affectionately known as Reb Shayele, was a Hungarian Chasidic Rebbe renowned for his dedication to helping the downtrodden and for his love of all Jews. Remarkably, after decades of relative obscurity, interest in Reb Shayele has flourished in recent years. Our generation has merited to see biographies and songs written about this Tzaddik and a renewed dedication to visiting his holy gravesite for yeshuos and inspiration. You have probably even seen a picture of Reb Shayele’s radiant face adorned to the walls of even the most unassuming of houses and storefronts. (If you don’t know why, it may be better to not find out!)
Yet, what attracts people to this righteous individual seems to be a mystery. He left us with no ethical will, no famous sefer, and not even a large Chasidic lineage. Why has our generation merited to bask in the light of this lofty soul?
Perhaps the answer to this question lies in one of the many legends retold about this Tzadik. Reb Shayele was acclaimed for distributing rolls of bread, bulkelach in yiddish, to whomever was in need. Miraculously, Reb Shayele’s bulkelach supply never ceased. “The sack is empty,” remarked Reb Hershel’e of Liska, “but he continues to give.”
The holy seforim teach us that every generation has a unique mitzvah associated with it and that our generation, the generation of the ikvesa d’meshicha, is tasked with engaging in chessed, acts of lovingkindness. We may not be capable of the highest level of Torah learning or the most contemplative prayers, but we have the inner desire to help another Jew. Reb Shayele inspires us to give to others of all backgrounds even when “the sack is empty.” He teaches us we can always dig a little deeper and give another bulkelach, dollar, or word of encouragement to those in need. Reb Shayele may not have left us with much written Torah, but his commitment to his fellow yidden others continues to be a shining light for us to this day.
Reb Yeshaya ben Reb Moshe zechuso yagein aleinu...
- Yonatees products - Sticker, Short Sleeve Tee, Long Sleeve Tee
- Songs: Zusha Reb Shayaleh || זושא ר׳ שעי׳לה
- Books: Reb Shayele: The Warmth and Wonder of Kerestir