Posted in honor of Reb Nosons yahrtzeit, Asarah beTeves (this year, Thursday night and Friday)The First Two Rubles
From "A Chassid's Journey and Other Breslover Tales"
Retold For Children and Illustrated by Dovid Sears
In 1830, Reb Noson began to collect funds to build a large synagogue - later known as the Breslover kloyz - in Uman. He first revealed his plan at a gathering of his students and fellow Chassidim in the village of Ladizin. Their response was highly enthusiastic, and in the manner of Chassidim, they soon joined together in a joyous dance.
One Chassid was particularly excited - Reb Menachem Mendel, a poor laborer. Unable to hold back his feelings, he ran home during the singing, soon to return with his entire savings: two rubles.
Upon being offered this first donation, Reb Noson sought to dissuade Reb Menachem Mendel. "How can I take your last few coins? With what will you buy your next meal?"
But the ardent Chassid would not be refused. "How can you deny me such a precious mitzvah?" he pleaded.
Reb Noson paused to consider the matter. What was the greater cause for pity? To deprive Reb Menachem Mendel of this act of tzedakah, done whole-heartedly and in joy, or to allow the poor man to cause himself physical hardship?
"Because of your mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice), " Reb Noson concluded, "you deserve the first portion in building our shul. And with such a noble beginning, Hashem will surely help us to complete our task."
At the building's dedication in 1834, Reb Noson said, "We have to ask ourselves, how was this synagogue built? Was it primarily through the money of the wealthy, or was it through the holy desires of simple, poor Jews? I think that our shul was built by the latter!"