Could We Speak Against A True Tzaddik
Yaakov Kadaner sat down wearily and stretched his tired bones. Here, in
the main room of the roadside motel, close to the roaring fire, the
day’s travels seemed to dissipate. Relaxing, he looked around the room
and noticed a large group of merchants sitting together and talking.
“Who are those people over there?” he asked someone near him.
just a bunch of businessman from Shklov.”
Shklov?” Reb Yaakov bristled. Shklov, a fortress of Misnagdim, was the
antithesis to anything and everything the Maggid of Mezritch and his
Chassidus represented. In the past, Shklov had caused much grief to the
Baal Shem Tov, his followers, and his teachings of Chassidism. As a
stout follower of the Maggid, Reb Yaakov had little desire to share a
room with these people who enjoyed deriding Chassidim and their leaders.
fears were well founded. Although the merchants were obviously a
scholarly bunch and had begun speaking about Torah-related topics, not
long passed before the group of businessmen turned to their favorite
topic of discussion — Chassidic rebbes. Each had a joke to tell, a
jeering comment to make, a snide remark to laugh about. “But the
Maggid!” someone spoke up. “How dare we open our mouths to say
anything about this saintly man, this holy tzaddik. Remember the
story with the epidemic? It happened to one of ours, a businessman from
Yaakov approached the group, eager to catch every word. Most of the
group had apparently heard of the incident before, but this in no way
diminished their enthusiasm in retelling the following story:
merchant from Shklov looked anxiously at the darkening sky and at the
unfamiliar forest surrounding him. Although he had been en route
for Shklov just yesterday, he was hopelessly lost now. More than
twenty-four hours had passed since he had lost his bearings, forcing him
to wander aimlessly in the frigid cold, yet he seemed no closer to
Shklov or any familiar ground. If only he could find a warm place,
somewhere where he could get a hot drink and directions.
trees suddenly began thinning and the merchant could make out the
outline of houses. Gathering his strength, he turned in the direction of
the little village and plodded slowly toward help. The town was cloaked
in deep darkness; everyone had retired for the night. The merchant
continued walking the streets until he spied a light winking in the
distance, the only house in the entire village still lit up.
merchant banged loudly on the door. He was ushered inside, made
comfortable, and served a hot meal while he asked for directions to
Shklov. “You are in Mezritch now,” members of the household said.
Suddenly the door opened and a saintly individual appeared in the
doorway. With a shudder, the merchant realized that this was none other
than the Maggid of Mezritch.
Maggid greeted the guest. “Where are you from?” he asked.
come from Shklov,” answered the merchant. “I was on my way home when
I lost my way in the forest. I have been walking around in circles for
an entire day already.”
happens by chance,” said the Maggid. “Even blundering in the forest
and arriving here is for a reason.” He donned his glasses and peered
at the merchant. The merchant had heard of these glasses. It was rumored
the Maggid could see from one end of the world to the other, seeing
world events as one unit. In order to “contract” this
all-encompassing vision and focus on a particular event, the Maggid
would wear glasses and concentrate his vision on a singular aspect of
the Maggid interrupted his thoughts, “your son is sick!”
merchant nodded dumbly. His son had become sick — very sick — when
he left Shklov. In fact, a lot of children were getting sick lately.
“There is nothing to worry about,” said the Maggid. “I will tell
you how to reach Shklov. When you get there, you’ll find your son hale
and hearty. However, you must follow my instructions to the letter —
otherwise, your son will become sick again and suffer the same fate as
the other children.
totally righteous man is about to be slandered,” the Maggid continued.
“You must expose the true culprit; only this will avert a tragedy.”
merchant listened carefully as the Maggid described what was currently
happening in Shklov, what would transpire in following days, and what
the Maggid expected him to do. After a decent meal and some rest, the
merchant set off quickly for Shklov.
merchant arrived in Shklov and found complete pandemonium, just as the
Maggid said he would. Mothers wailed loudly from behind closed doors.
Men walked around grimly, their mouths murmuring T’hillim. A
deadly epidemic had broken out among the Jewish children of Shklov.
Children lay in every home, listless and at death’s door. Many other
children had died already. Strangely though, no grown person had fallen
victim to the plague — only children.
merchant arrived home and was greeted jubilantly by his worried family.
The Maggid was right — his children were all healthy. Even his son who
had been so sick earlier had made a sudden and miraculous recovery. The
town’s rav and leading sages had met earlier to uncover the
spiritual lapse responsible for the mysterious disease, but their
efforts had yet to bear fruit.
even among the misery, there was still some reason for joy. One of the
wealthiest Jews in town had just had a child, and the bris was
scheduled for the following day. A messenger arrived at the merchant’s
home and notified him about the bris, just as the Maggid
next day, the merchant joined the large gathering to welcome the new
infant into the covenant of Avrohom Avinu. After the actual bris,
the crowd sat down to partake in the seudas mitzva. The most
notable members of the community graced the head table and soon the
discussion turned to — what else? — the latest epidemic. This too,
was just as the Maggid predicted.
a few prominent businessmen stood up and pointed at a certain
individual. “You see him?” they shouted. “He’s the sinner! His
disgusting behavior has brought calamity on our village. He’s
responsible for killing our children.” They continued inflaming the
crowd while they advanced upon this individual, holding out their fists
and ready to hit him. The merchant caught his breath as the Maggid’s
words rang in his ears: “A totally righteous man is about to be
slandered. You must expose the true culprit; only this will avert a
merchant jumped to his feet and ran to the businessmen. Just as one of
them raised his hand to strike, the merchant grabbed his hand and began
screaming wildly, loud enough to quiet the room and attract total
attention. “Admit! Admit!” he said hysterically. “You are
the real sinner, not him! Wicked person that you are, admit your sins
and save our innocent children from dying.”
hush fell on the crowded room. The businessman, shaken and pale, lowered
his hand. “I admit,” he breathed heavily. “I am the guilty one;
the children are dying because of me.”
the plague ended. Just as the Maggid predicted.
Yaakov Kadaner listened in silent amazement as the group of merchants
finished relating their story. “We cannot — G-d forbid — say
anything against this tzaddik,” they concluded. “True, we are
against the Chassidim and their new path of worship. But how can we deny
that which our eyes have seen and that which our own ears heard? The
Maggid is a true tzaddik.”
Yaakov returned to his place by the fire. He had, after all, been wise
in staying near this group of businessman instead of leaving the room.
He now had a remarkable story about the Maggid, one he would repeat
again and again to spread the wonders of his holy Rebbe.
Sippurim Nora’im p. 26-8)