Weekly Chasidic Story #810 (s5773-39 / 27 Sivan 5773)

Miracle Denial in TZFAT

Panic-stricken Pinchas begged the Nadvorner Rebbe of Tzfat, Rabbi Aharon-Yechiel Leifer, to pray for him and his family.

Connection: Weekly Reading – Korach – the danger of quarreling.


Pinchas burst into the shul of the Nadvorner Rebbe in Tzefat, Rabbi Aharon-Yechiel Leifer, weeping copious tears. “Rebbe help please! My wife and baby are in terrible danger!”

His wife had been in labor for many hours, and the doctors had begun to suspect that things were not going well. Her blood pressure had risen to a dangerously high level, and they told him that unless there were some drastic changes, both she and the baby were not going to make it.

The panic-stricken Pinchas begged the Rebbe to pray for him and his family. He could hardly control his emotions. The Rebbe looked at Pinchas and tried to calm him. Finally, he declared, “Pinchas, everything will be all right. I promise you. Everything will be fine!”

Although Pinchas was startled by the Rebbe’s optimistic proclamation, he was not about to question it. He thanked the Rebbe and ran back to the hospital to be with his wife.

Moments after he arrived, the doctors told him that they could not explain precisely what had happened, but that his wife’s blood pressure was once again normal and she and the baby would be fine. Sure enough, an hour later his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

The chasidim informed the Rebbe of the wonderful news, and the Rebbe wished them all “Mazel tov.” One of the braver chasidim wondered aloud how the Rebbe could have possibly guaranteed that the mother and baby were going to be all right.

While some declared it a miracle, the Rebbe himself brushed this thought off as nonsense. Then, as the chasidim gathered around, the Rebbe began to explain how he knew that all would be well. It was a lesson they would never forget.

“You see, a few days ago I was sitting in the front of the beis midrash when I noticed a poor person come into the room. Pinchas was sitting in the back of the room, preparing for Mincha, the Afternoon Prayer. We removed prayerbooks from the shelves, put on our prayer sashes, and began to recite [Psalm 145, the start of the Prayer] Ashrei.

The beggar walked around the room, collecting. His face was an image of brooding and discontent. He obviously had a very difficult life. One by one, the men each placed a coin in his hand.

As soon as Pinchas placed a coin in the beggar’s hand, however, there was a huge clattering of coins as they dropped to the floor, causing a commotion in the shul. Everyone thought that the beggar had dropped the coins, but one quick look revealed otherwise. He had not dropped the coins, but had thrown the entire handful at Pinchas.

Besides the fact that the coins had hurt Pinchas, now everyone was staring at him. The man stared harshly at Pinchas; it seemed as if his gaze would bore a hole right through him. None of the others said a word; they were hoping that the distraught man would just leave them alone. But it was not meant to be.

Suddenly, he lashed out at Pinchas with a verbal assault the likes of which is unheard of in a shul. It seemed clear he was directing his anger at Pinchas only because he had been the last one to give a ‘mere’ coin.

The tirade lasted for a few minutes, with everyone looking on in horror. As the shul began to fill with more people, each individual who entered was treated to a whole new diatribe aimed at Pinchas. The man would ask them if Pinchas was always so cheap and despicable or if it was just this time. His invective tore through Pinchas’ heart.

At this point, many tried to stop the beggar’s unfair and unwarranted criticism. Everyone knew that Pinchas was one of the nicest and sweetest people in town. However, that day he demonstrated that he was more than just nice. He was agibor – a man of true might – and thus able to control himself in an extraordinary fashion. While everyone else was trying to get the man to stop, Pinchas sat there quietly.”

The Rebbe continued telling the story to the large crowd. The next detail was the most amazing one.

“Then, Pinchas pulled out his checkbook and walked over to the beggar!

“‘I am so sorry you felt that I was slighting you … what amount should I give you that would help?’

“Now, Pinchas is not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but he felt the pain of another Jew in a real way. He knew that this man lived a pathetic life and was terribly embarrassed after the scene he had created. He also understood that the yelling was not directed at him personally. Rather, the poor man was lamenting his own sad situation.

Pinchas wrote him a check for a significant sum and wished him well, and then escorted him on his way, while the beggar himself was speechless in shock.”

The Rebbe concluded, “The Gemara in Tractate Chulin (89a) tells us that the world is upheld in the merit of those who ‘bolem (seal)’ their lips at the time of a quarrel, as the verse in Job (26:7) states, ‘Toleh eretz al blimah’ – ‘He suspends the earth on nothingness’. I reasoned that if the entire world is upheld in the merit of these great individuals, then most certainly Pinchas’ restraint would be able to save his wife and child.”

Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from A Touch of Warmth by Yechiel Spero, as submitted by Daniel Keren in his weekly mailing (keren18@juno.com).

Connection: Weekly Reading – Korach – the danger of quarreling.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Aharon Yechiel Leifer [?- 1 Sivan, 2000], was born in Bania, Rumania, where his father, Dovid, served as Rebbe, a descendent of the famous Galitzean dynasty of Nodvorna rebbes. As a young man he served as the Rabbi of Shatz, his wife’s birthplace, also in Rumania. He arrived in Israel shortly after the war of Liberation in 1948. Previously he had lost an entire family in the Holocaust, but had married his deceased wife’s sister and started a whole new family. Legendary in Zefat for his hospitality and kindness to those in need, his home and shul were a center for Jews of all stripes for fifty-two years. Beloved equally by Chasidim, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, by Europeans, Israelis and Americans, his death a little before (or after!) the age of ninety marked the end of an era in Zefat. 


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.