Weekly Chasidic Story #706 (s5771-40 / 3 Sivan 5771)
In the Merit of the Fourth Commandment
Rabbi Nachum of Horodna decided to ask the company to allow the Jewish soldiers to desist.
Connections (2): Seasonal — Shavuot festival; Weekly Reading — healing of Miriam
In the year 1860, a vast army of soldiers camped in and around the city of Horodna, and established a large military camp. Among the soldiers were many Jews who were forced to work on Shabbat and the Jewish holidays.
When the tzadik Rabbi Nachum of Horodna heard about the plight of these Jewish soldiers, he was greatly saddened. He decided to ask his friend, Rabbi Alexander Moshe Lapidus, who was then serving as the chief rabbi of a nearby town, to join him in seeking an audience with the company commander. They would request the commander to let the Jewish soldiers desist from all work on Shabbat and the holidays.
Rabbi Alexander Moshe agreed to accompany Rabbi Nachum and together, the two went to see the military leader. He agreed to receive them and Rabbi Lapidus began.
As he spoke, he pointed to Rabbi Nachum. “Sir, you see beside me a holy and righteous man. He has come to ask a favor of you: Allow the Jews among your troops to rest on the Shabbat and our holy days.”
Upon hearing Rabbi Alexander Moshe’s words, the commander grew visibly excited. “How fortunate you have brought a holy man here! Perhaps he can find a way to cure my only daughter, who has lain sick for many days now. The doctors can not heal her. If you are successful, I will do as you ask. You have my word!”
Rabbi Lapidus reacted instantly. “This we cannot do!” he burst out. “Are we to take G-d’s place?” But much to his astonishment, Rabbi Nachum whispered in his ear, “HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, blessed be He) can do it!” And before the commander could react to Rabbi Lapidus’ outburst, Rabbi Nachum asked to see the sick girl.
The commander led them to her room. His daughter lay in bed, very ill indeed. Rabbi Nachum gazed at her for a moment, and then went to stand in a corner of the room. Lifting his eyes heavenward, he prayed, “Master of the Universe! In the merit of Your holy Shabbat and Your holy festivals, heal this girl, so that all the nations may know that You are the L-rd of all the world — and that life and death are in Your hands!”
The two righteous men then turned to the commander. “We have done what we can. G-d, in His mercy, will send a complete cure to your daughter.”
That same day, the girl opened her eyes and asked for something to eat. A few days later, she had recovered completely from her long illness.
A week had passed when an elegant coach pulled up outside Rabbi Alexander Moshe’s home. A messenger descended from the coach, entered the house, and asked the Rabbi to return with him to see the company commander. The Rabbi sent for Rabbi Nachum, and they travelled together to the army base.
The commander greeted them with joy and honor. He led them into his daughter’s room. The little girl was playing with her toys as though she had never had a day’s illness in her life.
“Welcome, Rabbis of Israel!” the commander cried. “As you can see, your prayers have been answered, and my daughter is fully recovered. Every doctor who treated her despaired of finding a cure, yet you did it. You have given life to the person dearest to me in the world!
“And now,” he continued, “I will keep my end of the bargain. I will do as you have asked. From this day on, the Jewish soldiers will be exempt from all duties on the Shabbat and the Jewish holidays!”
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Stories my Grandfather Told Me” (Mesorah) by Zev Greenwald.
Rabbi Nachum (ben Uziel Kaplan) Grodner (1812 – 8 Cheshvan, 1879) was a great Talmudist, yet he preferred to hold the humble position of “shamash” in a synagogue in Grodno. He spent a great part of his time going from house to house, collecting for the poor. He was also an eloquent and forceful preacher. Today he is best known as the teacher of the Chafetz Chaim.
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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