Weekly Chasidic Story 776 (s5773-05 / 24 Tishrei 5773)

The Substitute Prayer Belt

In memory of this miracle, Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen of Izmir entitled the next book he wrote, Eizer Eliyahu [“The Helper of Eliyahu”].

Connection: Weekly Readings (2)–serpents this week and a specific verse next week.


Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen of Izmir, author of Shevet Mussar, was once searching for his prayer sash so that he could wear it for prayer. Unable to locate it, he finally spied a black rope on the floor. He stooped down, picked up the rope, and tied it around his waist.

After he had completed his prayers, Rabbi Eliyahu began to untie the rope, when it suddenly uncoiled itself and slithered away! It turned out that the “rope” he had worn was actually a poisonous snake!

In memory of this miracle, R’ Eliyahu entitled the next book he wrote, Eizer Eliyahu [“The Helper of Eliyahu”].

When the chasidic rebbe, R. Moshe of Kobrin, would recount this story, he would always add the following postscript: “It is really not so wondrous that the snake neither bit not choked Rabbi Eliyahu. No living creature can harm a person who has not damaged his tzelem Elokim — his Divine image. For it is written, ‘The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth’ [Gen 9:2]. And the fact that the snake did not try to flee while R’ Eliyahu prayed is also not astonishing; the snake was afraid of the tzadik, so he stayed absolutely still.

“The truly striking point about this story is Rabbi Eliyahu’s greatness. In his tremendous devotion to G-d even before he began praying, he never noticed that the ‘rope’ he was picking up was actually a living snake.”

[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Stories my Grandfather told me” (Mesorah) by Zev Greenwald]

Connection: Weekly Readings (2): serpents this week and a specific verse next week.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen of Izmir, Turkey [1650 – 1 Adar B 1729], is best known as the author of Shevet Mussar, a major work of Torah ethics and morality. He also wrote Midrash Talpiot. In the historical work, Shem HaGedolim, it states, “Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen of Izmir wrote almost 40 books and turned many away from sin with his public lectures.”

Rabbi Moshe Pallier of Kobrin [1784 – 29 Nisan 1858] was a close follower of the Rebbe, R. Mordechai of Lechovitch and afterwards of his son, R. Noach. In 1833 he became the first Rebbe of the Kobrin dynasty, with thousands of chassidim, many of whom subsequently moved to Israel. His teachings are collected in Imros Taharos.


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.