Moshe The Hood Makes Teshuvah

By Reb Daniel Lev

It was unbelievable but true – Moshe the Hood, the biggest crime boss of Poland, wanted to make Teshuva. He was in his 50’s and had lived what some would call a “very evil life” filled with theft, violence, conspiracy, betrayal, and many, many lies. Now he was childless, wifeless with few real friends (who has time when you can take what you want and make no time for loving relationships and responsibilities!?) He was filled with remorse for all the years wasted on Gashmiut (materialism) and power. Moshe admitted to himself that he needed to turn his life around; to make Teshuva no matter what the price. So, unbeknownst to any of his henchmen or his circle of crime bosses, he secretly made his way to see the great Rebbe, Reb Elimelech. With hat in hand he met the Rebbe in his office and said: “Rebbe, I feel so overwhelmed by what I have done all these years that I cannot sleep and barely eat. I am sick of myself, Rebbe, and I’m willing to do anything to be able to change my life and be forgiven for what I have done.

Reb Elimelech told him: “Moshe, the first step a man like you must take to make Teshuva is that you must write down everything you’ve ever done that has hurt others or yourself. Also, write down all the transgressions you have committed against HaShem and all the ways you have strayed from the Jewish path. After you have listed each one, sell all that you own, turn it into cash and place it in a large bag; bring the money and the list with you to see me again and be prepared to make Teshuva.” Without question, Moshe the Hood returned home and in one month he completed his list of 3500 incidents of transgressions, sold all that he had and placed the large sum of cash in a large carry bag. He set out to see the Rebbe once again prepared to make Teshuva. Reb Elimelech told him to place the bag on a table and come stand before him. The Rebbe took the list and after a brief perusal he was shocked and nearly yelled, “I can’t believe you did all of these things! How have you lived with yourself all these years!” Moshe felt as if he were being slapped but said nothing, feeling even worse. Then the Rebbe began to read each wrongdoing and after each one he’d say something like: “This is absolutely horrible; how could you do that to that little girl’s hair in school! Or, “You’re such a Vildeh Chayah (wild animal) to do such repulsive things! “What gives you the right to bring such evil into the world you heartless monster!?”

After about ten minutes of this Rebbe harangue, Moshe felt so tense and overwhelmed that he fainted dead away. The Rebbe had a glass of water on hand and he doused Moshe. Once revived, he took his position before Reb Elimelech who continued reading the list and heaving at Moshe loud, angry words of reproach. Moshe fainted at least thirty times before the reading was complete. At this point, the arrogant, powerful crime boss felt very weak, exhausted, and hopeless. Moshe awaited the Rebbe’s judgement as to what he needed to do in order to make Teshuva and receive complete forgiveness. The rabbi looked into his eyes and said very softly and with regret:

“Moshe, for these sins there is only one way you can be completely forgiven and bring new life to your soul – you will have to die.” And as if that news was not bad enough, the Rebbe continued: “In the days of the Beit HaMikdash, the Ancient Temple, the mode of execution for this level of evil behavior was to pour hot lead down the throat of the transgressor….So Moshe, are you prepared to die to make Teshuva?” A quiet “yes” was all Moshe said. “Good,” replied the Rebbe, “So you will now do this: Take a little money from the bag and go to town. Buy lead, flux and some coal and bring it here.”

Once Moshe acquired these materials and returned, he found the Rebbe standing before a great fire blazing in his fireplace. Next to it was a large stone with a big spoon and thick cloth nearby. Reb Elimelech instructed him to throw the coals into the fire and stoke it with the spoon until it turned the coals deep red. Moshe picked up the spoon holding its end with the cloth and did as the Rebbe directed him. Once the coals burned red, the Rebbe said: “Now, take the lead and flux, place them in the spoon and hold it over the coals until they have melted. Moshe lifted the spoon filling it with lead and flux and held it over the intense heat of the burning coals. Once they melted red hot, Reb Elimelech told Moshe to set the spoon on the rock and lay on the ground before the fireplace. Once Moshe did so, the Rebbe tied a handkerchief over his eyes and solemnly pronounced: “You Moshe, the criminal, murderer, conspirer, betrayer, and liar; you, who rejected the holy ways of your fathers and mothers and broke all Mitzvot; you shall now die in order to make full Teshuva and receive full forgiveness. You shall be no more in this world because of the harm you brought it and its inhabitants. Now Moshe, known as Moshe the Hood – prepare to die.”

It was strange…Moshe noticed that he was not afraid. Instead, he felt ready to sacrifice himself to be right with his people, with the world, and with HaShem. He felt completely ready to give his life in order to turn his soul around and return to the path of what is right, loving and balanced in life. Soon he would not feel the angst that haunted him all these years. The Rebbe said: “Now Moshe open your mouth and receive your death.” Moshe opened his mouth and…. the Rebbe put a spoon into it and…. Moshe felt his mouth fill with the tangy sweetness of orange marmalade!! He swallowed, sat up and removed the kerchief from his eyes, asking in confusion: “But Reb Elimelech I was supposed to…”

“Sha!” interrupted the Rebbe, “Moshe the Hood is dead; he has left this earth as a forgiven man who made genuine Teshuva. You are someone else….so now, I want you to take that bag of money sitting on the table, go out into the world, perhaps another country, and do good in the world.”

The new man thanked Reb Elimelech, picked up the bag, and walked out the door into a new life.

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