Weekly Chasidic Story #812 (s5773-41 / 9 Tammuz 5773)
The Chasid Who Cured by Magic?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised him to make a large purchase of a certain material that the fabrics dealer had never purchased before.
Connections (2): Weekly Reading – Num. 23:23; Seasonal – after only 10 days in Kostrama, on his 47th birthday, 12 Tammuz (2013: June 20-21), that sentence too was commuted on the condition that the Rebbe allow himself to be expelled from the country. This day has become the occasion of major annual Chabad Chasidic celebrations.
In Kutis, a town in then-Soviet Georgia, a young Chabad chasid served as resident scholar for the local populace, giving underground Torah classes to young children.
One day in the spring of 1927 the GPU [forerunner of the KGB] summoned him to an interrogation.
According to their custom they began casually with side issues; then they pounced: “So who is paying you to teach the children?”
Keeping his cool, the chasid replied innocently, “Teaching? Kids? What are you talking about?”
“Then why do you go to different homes every day?”
“Sometimes I do a little magic against evil spells to help sick people.”
“And your magic charms work?”
“I really don’t know. But it brings in a few kopeks [like pennies] here and there.”
The interrogators were a bit bewildered by all this. Not yet sure what should be their next move with this detainee, they ordered him to leave the room.
The chasid, playing his innocence to the hilt, headed straight for the exit. To the guard’s query, “Where are you going?” he replied, innocently of course, “They told me to go home.” Then he waved good-bye, continued on his way, and hid at a friend’s house.
Shortly thereafter he traveled to Leningrad, to consult with Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe then. It was at the end of Sivan in 1927. Only when he arrived did he learn of the Rebbe Rayatz’s arrest and severe imprisonment two weeks before. He decided to remain and wait for the anticipated release.
The Third of Tammuz came, and with it, the commutation of the Rebbe Rayatz’s death sentence, thanks to international pressure, replaced with a decree of 10 years hard labor in Siberia, but then soon after reduced to 3 years of internal exile in Kostrama, a town deep in the interior of Russia, far from any Jewish community. Disregarding his own personal danger as well as defying the ban for chasidim to travel there, the chasid made the long journey to Kostrama and asked to meet with the Rebbe.
After incessant attempts he was allowed in. The Rebbe displayed great affection for him, and told him, “Travel to Moscow. There you’ll meet many of our people who acquire goods with government approval, and receive receipts for each transaction. Ask them to write out a number of receipts with your name; then immediately go back to Kutis. Go back to the GPU office and say to them, ‘After you told me you weren’t interested in my role of village wise man, I made up my mind to be a merchant,’ and show them the receipts.”
The Rebbe also gave him a small note addressed to Mr. Baruch Shalom HaCohen containing instructions that none of these activities occur during The Three Weeks mourning period, which were only two weeks away [which culminate on the Tisha B’Av 24 hour fast day].
The chasid traveled at once to Moscow and there an amazing thing happened. On his first trolley trip, he ran into Baruch Shalom, the man the Rebbe told him to find (who later told him that for some incomprehensible reason, that very morning he felt a powerful urge to go to the trolley station). Hearing that the chasid had just come from Kostrama, he invited him home at once, and there the chasid gave him the Rebbe’s note.
The next day – with news circulating that the Rebbe would be released in a day or two – a giant farbrengen [Chasidic gathering]took place, during which the chasid received assurances that all his “business” would be concluded before the 17th of Tammuz fast day [the beginning of The Three Weeks].
With receipts in hand, the chasid headed home. His wife pleaded with him to hide quickly; the GPU was on his trail, and had repeatedly conducted house searches. His reply, “The GPU is my next stop!” sparked a long string of tearful entreaties from her and the rest of his family.
It was of no avail. The chasid wouldn’t budge: “That’s what the Rebbe told me to do, and that’s what I’m doing!”
As soon as he entered the GPU building, he was taken straight to the interrogations office.
“Why did you run away?”
“Run away? You told me to go, so I left.”
“Where were you?”
He answered according to plan, “I understood that you didn’t want me to be the village wise man, so instead I decided to be a merchant. I went to Moscow to buy some things to sell. Here are the receipts.”
“Better a merchant than a wise man of superstitions. Better still is a worker!
But you should know one thing” the GPU agent continued: “If we had gotten our hands on you, you’d be in Siberia for ten years. However, now that you came of your own volition, we will let you go. You are free…. Leave!”
Source: Adapted and expanded from the rendition of Tuvia Natkin, which was published in Kfar Chabad Magazine – English.
Connections (2): Weekly Reading – Num. 23:23;
Seasonal – after only 10 days in Kostrama, on his 47th birthday, 12 Tammuz (2013: June 20-21), that sentence too was commuted on the condition that the Rebbe allow himself to be expelled from the country. This day has become the occasion of major annual Chabad Chasidic celebrations.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (12 Tammuz 1880-10 Shvat 1950), known as the Rebbe Rayatz, was the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 1920 to 1950. The only son of his predecessor, the Rebbe Reshab, he established a network of Jewish educational institutions and Chassidim that was the single most significant factor for the preservation of Judaism during the dread reign of the communist Soviets. In 1940 he moved to the USA, established Chabad world-wide headquarters in Brooklyn and launched the global campaign to renew and spread Judaism in all languages and in every corner of the world, the campaign continued and expanded so remarkably successfully by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
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.