Weekly Chasidic Story 690 (s5771-24 / 10 Adar A 5771)

Reconstruction and Deconstruction

Rabbi Akiva Eiger announced publicly that whoever had his house built on Shabbos would not see it stand for long.

Connection: Weekly Reading – Not to do specific types of work on Shabbat (verse 35:3)


In about the year 1800, a fire broke out in the city of Maerkisch-Friedland, where the illustrious Rabbi Akiva Eigerwas chief rabbi. A large segment of the Jewish quarter was destroyed as a result of the fire, and many homes had to be rebuilt. Rabbi Akiva Eiger issued a proclamation advising all those planning to rebuild their homes to stipulate in their contracts with the builders that no work was to be performed on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

All members of the community complied with the Rabbi’s directive, except for one man, who was the president of the community and its wealthiest member. He wanted his new house built without delay. To this end, he hired workers to do the work non-stop, Shabbos and Yom Tov included. All protestations from the Rabbi and members of the community fell upon deaf ears.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger himself then announced publicly that he was certain that whoever had his house built on Shabbos would not see it stand for long, yet the work on the rich man’s house continued unabated.

The president’s new house was not only the first to be completed, but also the largest and most magnificent of the reconstructed buildings. The Jews of the city were appalled by this flagrant display of insubordination to their great rabbi.

However, the episode did not end there. Not long afterward, one of the beams of the president’s house suddenly collapsed and crashed to pieces. It was subsequently discovered that the entire wooden frame of the house had become infested with timber-decay, and the building would have to be completely demolished and rebuilt.

The builders and engineers were at a loss to explain why only that particular house became infested, while the other houses built at the same time from the same timber supply remained intact. But to the Jews of Maerkisch-Friedland, there was no doubt as to the answer of this puzzling question.


Source: From the book Toldos Rabbi Akiva Eiger by A.M. Bleichard, who heard it from the sons of R. Eiger. Adapted and translated into English by R. David Ribiat in The Thirty-Nine Melochos (Feldheim), vol.1, p.85.

Connection: Weekly Reading – Not to do specific types of work on Shabbat (verse 34:21 – and also next week, 35:3)

Biographical note:
Rabbi Akiva Eiger [1761 – 13 Tishrei 1837], the chief rabbi of Posen, Prussia for 23 years, was an acclaimed scholar whose analyses of and innovative insights into the Gemora are studied in nearly all yeshivas.

>> Tombstone of Rabbi Akiva Eiger in Poznan, Poland >>

Photo credit: Moshe-Ber HaKohen Katz


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of 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.