Weekly Chasidic Story #1090 (s5779-08/20
The Very First Match
"I could never consider nullifying the marriage without a specific order
to do so from the Rebbe, R. Moshe-Zvi of Savran.
Connection: Weekly Reading of Chaye Sarah -- the above story's
title is a good description of its dominant theme.
PDF format for more convenient printing.
The Very First Match
A young unmarried chasid named Meir celebrated the New Year festivals in Kishenev*
with his rebbe, Rabbi Moshe-Zvi of Savran. A day or so after Simchat
Torah, when he was admitted to the rebbe's room for a parting blessing, he brought
up the difficulties he was having finding a wife. Because of his poverty, and
his threadbare, half-starved appearance, no one was willing to help him find
a marriage partner.
"Trust the Al-mighty," said the Rebbe. "Agree to the first offer
of a match that is suggested to you."
Meir set out on the long journey to his home town. He arrived in a certain
village just as it was becoming dark, so he entered the local inn to arrange
to spend the night there. What met his eyes was a crowd of carefree men sitting
at several adjoining tables, drinking, and laughing raucously at their own silly
jokes. Wanting to keep a low profile and feeling fatigued and cold from the
long day of travelling, he sat down next to the stove in the corner of the large
room, as far away as possible from the crowded tables.
It didn't help. The drinkers noticed him right away. One of them asked where
he was from and why he was traveling. Meir responded with the name of his town,
and that he was returning there after having passed the holidays with his Rebbe
"What did you request of the rebbe, and what blessing did he give you?"
Meir innocently recounted what had transpired. "I asked him to pray for
me that the Al-mighty allow me to soon meet my destined wife. He said I should
accept the first match that I am offered."
One of the wilder partiers smiled broadly and called out: "Listen! I have
a great idea for you. My sister is a young widow, very pretty, and she even
has a hundred silver rubles for a dowry. She is here right now, in the kitchen.
I'll introduce you and you'll let me know what you think."
What Meir didn't realize was that this joker had no family connection whatsoever
to the woman he referred to as his sister. Rather, she was the daughter of the
innkeeper, a man named Tzvi Velbka, who happened to be away from home that evening.
The prankster ran into the kitchen, explained the joke to her and asked her
to play her role, saying it would be excellent for the inn's business, as many
celebratory drinks would certainly be ordered. She decided to humor the tipsy
customers and agreed. When she emerged into the main room, she was greeted with
loud cheers and applause.
A few minutes after he introduced them, the brother nudged Meir and whispered,
"So, what do you say? Do you agree to the match? Shall we conclude it?
Meir answered coolly: "Fine; I agree."
The boisterous customers rushed to order a selection of hard drinks and began
to merrily toast the new 'bridegroom.' They had a great time calling out l'chaim
and showering upon him their blessings for his fortunate engagement, while privately
they ridiculed the naïve young chasid.
An hour or so passed in this manner, when suddenly one of them yelled out that
he had a great idea: "Look how much fun this engagement celebration has
been for us. Let's continue by making the wedding. Right now! Then we can throw
a really super party."
His suggestion earned an enthusiastic reception, until a slightly more sober
member of the crowd wondered aloud, "But none of us here is a rabbi. We
don't know the text of the ketubah (marriage contract document) or how
to conduct a chupah (wedding ceremony)."
Meir, overhearing them, spoke up that he knew how to write a ketubah
and how to administer the wedding. The crowd burst into pleased laughter. One
of them 'borrowed' from Meir his tallit and drafted four others to hold
it up at its corners with broomsticks over the heads of the couple as a chupah
canopy. Meir carefully scribed the marriage contract and, after one of the
drunks cheerfully donated a gold ruble, Meir solemnly intoned the tradional
phrase to the giggling 'bride,' "You are sanctified to me [as my wife]
with this coin, according to the laws of Moses and Israel," and gave her
the gold coin.
After every one loudly shouted out "Mazaltov" in unison when the
glass was broken, the bride (on a chair) and groom were hoisted onto the shoulders
of the crowd. The customers were enjoying the entire prank so much they began
to tease the young chasid even more outrageously, including poking at his hat
and pulling him by his long coat.
When they started to actually slap him around a bit, Meir realized that the
situation had become untenable, and at the first respite snuck out of the building.
He managed to arrange to sleep in the house of a nearby non-Jew, trusting that
the bride would be cared for by her brother.
The next morning he returned to the inn, but he stopped outside the entrance.
He was apprehensive about going in and possibly having to deal with further
verbal and physical abuse. As he was standing there deliberating what to do,
he overheard one worker say to another: "Look! The boss is about to leave."
Meir walked quickly over to the man indicated and said, "Good morning,
The innkeeper's eyes opened wide in shock. "Who are you? What are you
talking about?" he demanded.
"I'm the fellow who married your daughter last night."
"What! How can that be? Where is she? In the kitchen?" He couldn't
contain his agitation. "Come out here right away! Now!" he shouted
The daughter ran out and explained: "This chasidic guy kept everyone amused
last night. He is so naïve. I pretended to be someone's eligble widowed
sister, and we made a pretend engagement and marriage ceremony. It was so much
fun! And, father, you will be quite pleased when you see how much extra food
and liquor was sold."
Her father was visibly upset. He plied her with questions in order to find
out exactly what had taken place. When he heard her answers, he became furious
and shouted at Meir: "Idiot! How dare you make a legally binding marriage
with my precious daughter? Those silly ignoramuses may not understand the implications
of a ketubah and a wedding ceremony in front of witnesses, but if you
are a chasid and a scholar as you mode of dress indicates, you should certainly
have known better. How could you not realize that they were playing a joke on
He became angrier and angrier, until finally he slapped the startled young
man across the face. "I cannot abide this. You must divorce her immediately!"
Meir said not a word. He simply shook his head from side to side.
The innkeeper quickly perceived that a violent approach was not going to succeed.
"I'd better not get him too angry; then he will refuse me simply out of
spite. I'll have to speak reasonably to this pathetic tramp to persuade him
to release my poor daughter."
Whereupon he changed his tone, and asked the young man again to agree to divorce
his daughter, this time calmly and politely. When that didn't work, he offered
him twenty silver rubles. "After all," he added in a friendly tone,
"This must be a difficult experience for you."
To his surprise, the visibly impoverished chassid quickly refused. He raised
his offer several times-50, 80, 100 rubles, a significant amount of money --but
each time with the same lack of success.
"Sir, you might as well stop trying to buy me off," said Meir finally.
"Let me tell you what is really going on. I was with my Rebbe for the holidays.
I had a private audience with him afterwards, and he told me to accept the first
marriage proposal that was offered to me. I trust him completely and simply
followed his orders. Those people last night intended to play a trick on me
and had a good time laughing at me, but I related to everything said to me as
real and accepted the match wholeheartedly. Even though you don't want me as
a husband for your daughter, I could never consider nullifying the marriage
without a specific order to do so from the Rebbe."
"Who is your rebbe?" demanded the innkeeper
"Rabbi Moshe-Zvi of Savran, in Kishenev."
The innkeeper smiled at hearing this. "I know your Rebbe; I have great
respect for him. Let's go see him together. Whatever he decides, we will do."
When they arrived in Sevran, Mr. Velbka expressed to the Rebbe why he was so
upset: "Last night, I had to be away from the inn. I left my daughter in
charge. This pauper wanders in, hears from some unrestrained clown who makes
up a story that my daughter is his widowed sister and she wants to get married
again. So he accepts this joker's proposal to marry her without ever being told
that she is my daughter.
"Then they went under a wedding canopy in front of witnesses! One of the
customers gave a gold ruble to be in place of the ring, while he himself even
wrote a ketuba for the occasion!
"I want to dissolve it and I offered him some money to do so, but he won't
agree unless you first approve. I still am prepared to stand by my final offer
to him of one hundred silver rubles-a fortune for him-but only if he grants
my daughter a divorce."
The Rebbe then turned to Meir, who insisted that he was delighted with the
match. The innkeeper's daughter struck him as a nice person, of good disposition,
generous and kind, and she seems to be quite willing to be married to him.
The Rebbe turned back to Tsvi Velbka and said, "I suggest that you go
to your hostel here and get some rest. In the meantime, I'll speak further with
the young man about the matter."
A few hours later the innkeeper came to the Rebbe's house again. The Rebbe
told him, "We discussed the divorce and your offer at length. My advice
is that you give him a thousand silver rubles, not a hundred. I can arrange
the gett (document of divorce) and two witnesses within a week. At that
time I will introduce you to an excellent young man from a respectable family
that I thought of for your daughter. And he is an accomplished Torah scholar
as well. But you needn't worry about suffering a financial loss; this one will
come with a thousand silver rubles that is prepared to contribute for the marriage.
You can either keep the money, or leave it for the young couple to start their
"Of course I will do whatever the Rebbe thinks best," responded the
astonished innkeeper. "As for the delay of a week, anyway I need that time
to arrange the money."
The Rebbe took from his desk drawer three hundred rubles and hurriedly summoned
one of his Chasidim to buy a new suit and an impressive shtreimel for
Meir. With his new clothes, he seemed a different person. Everyone was struck
by his newly presentable appearance, one that allowed his intelligence and refinement
to shine through.
Exactly a week later the innkeeper returned, with the money and accompanied
by his daughter, to participate in the divorce procedure. The Rebbe suggested
that Velbka first go with him to the Beit Midrash Study Hall for a peek at the
young man he had in mind for Velbka's daughter. From the door he pointed to
the young man in new clothes studying intently at a table in the middle of the
room. The innkeeper did not recognize Meir at all.
At that point the Rebbe murmered to Velbka, "This young chasid is already
your daughter's husband!" A pained look crossed the innkeeper's face. The
Rebbe ignored it and swiftly continued. "I can guarantee that this young
man comes from a fine family of distinguished ancestors, and that he possesses
excellent character traits. The only problem anyone could find with him was
his poverty. New clothes and a good diet have already improved his appearance
considerably. Now, praise G-d, he will also have a thousand silver rubles! You
are strongly advised to let the marriage remain in force. He is the ideal husband
for your daughter. I want you to know: this match was truly ordained from The
One Above. The reason it had to come about in such an unusual manner is because
otherwise you would never have agreed to it."
Tsvi Velbka and his daughter were convinced by the Rebbe's words, and agreed
happily to let the marriage continue. The couple went on to live together in
joy and prosperity, and in full compatibility with the bride's pleased parents.
* Editor's note: Not for sure. Could be one of his earlier rabbinical
postings -- see 'Biographical Note' below.
Source: Translated-freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles
from Sipurei Chasidim-Torah (#49) by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, with significant modifications
based on other written and oral sources. (First published in Festivals of the
Rabbi Moshe-Zvi Giterman of Sevran [of blessed memory: 5535 - 27 Tevet
5597 (1775 - Dec. 1837 C.E.)] was a disciple of his father, whom he succeeded
as Maggid of Savran in 1802, and of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of and Rabbi Boruch
of Mezhibuz. He later became the Rabbi of Berditchev after the passing of Rabbi
Levi Yitzchak in 1810, and subsequently of the towns of Uman and Kishinev as
well. He had thousands of chasidim. His Torah insights were collected and printed
in the book, Likutey Shoshanim.
Connection: Weekly Reading of Chaye Sarah -- the above
story's title is a good description of its dominant theme.
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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