1147 (s5780-10 / 4 Kislev, 5780)

The Broken Engagement

Rebbe Yisrael of Koznitz sent the man on a long arduous journey to the Chozeh ("Seer") of Lublin, known for his power to discern the state and provenance of a person's soul.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayeitze - a broken betrothal (Yaakov tricked to marry Leah instead of Rachel)

Story in PDF format for more convenient printing.

The Broken Engagement

There was once a chasid who travelled to his rebbe, R. Yisrael of Koznitz, every month to take in the atmosphere of holiness which filled the very air of the Rebbe's court. Although in general he was happy with his lot in life, he knew he would only be completely content if he had a child.

Several times his wife had encouraged him to ask the Rebbe for a blessing to cure their childlessness, but to no avail. Yet, his wife wouldn't desist from her pleas. "This time," she insisted, "you must not leave the holy Rebbe until he answers our request."

The next time when the chasid came to Koznitz and was admitted into the Rebbe's chambers, he told the Rebbe of their longing for a child. The Rebbe listened and offered him the solution his spiritual vision afforded him: "If you are willing to become a pauper you will be granted the blessing you seek." The man agreed to discuss the condition with his wife and return with her answer.

The woman didn't think for a moment. "Of course. It's worth everything to me." The man returned to Koznitz and accepted the harsh prescription. But poverty was not the end of the Koznitzer's advice; the man was sent on a long arduous journey to visit the famous tzadik, the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin.

The Chozeh was known for his power to discern the state and provenance of a person's soul, and when he met the chasid he studied his visitor long and hard before he spoke.

"I will tell you the source of your childlessness and what you must do to correct the problem. Once, when you were very young, you promised to wed a certain woman, also quite young. When you matured, she didn't interest you any longer and you broke your promise. Because you hurt her feelings, you have not been able to have children since. You must find her and beg her forgiveness. Go to the city of Balta (which was very distant); there you'll find the woman."
* * *

The chasid wasted no time in embarking on the journey. But when he arrived in Balta no one knew anything about the woman. He rented a room and waited to see how the words of the tzadik would materialize.

One day, he was walking down the street when he was caught in a sudden downpour. He ran to a nearby shop to escape from the rain and found himself standing near two women who were also seeking shelter. Suddenly, he was shocked to hear one say to the other, "Do you see that man? He was once betrothed to me in my youth and deserted me!"

He turned to see a woman dressed in the richest fabrics and wearing beautiful jewels. He approached her, whereupon she said, "Don't you remember me? I am the one you were engaged to so many years ago. Did you marry? Have you any children?"

He immediately poured out the entire story, telling her that he had come only to find her and beseech her to forgive him. He begged her to ask of him anything to atone for the terrible pain he had caused her.

"I lack nothing, for G-d has provided me with everything, but I have a brother who is in desperate need. Go to him and give him 200 gold coins with which he can marry off his daughter, and I will forgive you. In the merit of marrying off a poor bride you will be blessed with children, as the tzadik told you."

"Amen!" responded the chasid heartily. "But please, won't you give your brother this money yourself?". I have travelled many months and I'm very anxious to return home."

"No," the woman adamantly refused. "I am not able to travel now, and it is not feasible to send by post such a sum of money. No, you must go yourself." With that, she turned, left the store and proceeded down the street.
* * *

The chasid ventured on yet another journey to a distant city where he was able to locate the woman's brother. He introduced himself, but before he could explain why he had come, the brother, who was in a terrible state of agitation, spoke first: "My daughter is betrothed to a wealthy young man, but I have suddenly become penniless and unless I can find the dowry money, the marriage is off."

The chasid listened to the heart-rending tale and then said: "I will give you two hundred gold coins which will be more than enough for all your expenses."

The man couldn't believe his ears. "What, you don't even know me -- why would you do such a thing for a total stranger?"

"I have been sent by your sister whom I met a few weeks ago in Balta. Many years ago I was once betrothed to her but I broke off the engagement. I recently sought her out; the help I'm offering to you is my promise to her and my tikun (soul-rectification)."

"What are you saying?" the man turned pale. "What kind of crazy tale are you spinning, and why? My sister has been dead for fifteen years. I should know -- I buried her myself!"

Now it was time for the chasid to be shocked. He pondered the miracles G-d had wrought on his behalf so that he would be able to make amends to his former fiancée and merit to have a child of his own. He handed the man the golden coins and the man blessed him to be granted many sons and daughters and a long and happy life of joy from each and every one of his children and grandchildren to-be.

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the version on //Lchaimweekly.org (#990), with permission.

Connection: Weekly Reading of Vayeitze - a broken betrothal (Yaakov tricked to marry Leah instead of Rachel)

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Yisroel Haupstein [5497 - 14 Tishrei 5575 (1737 - Sept. 1814 C.E.)], the "Maggid" (preacher) of Koznitz was a major disciple of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lyzhensk and the author of the chassidic-kabbalistic work, 'Avodas Yisrael' and other books. His miraculous birth to an elderly couple is the subject of a famous Baal Shem Tov story.

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz [of blessed memory: 5505 - 9 Av 5575 (1745 - Aug. 1815 C.E.)], known as 'the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin', was the main successor to the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk and leader of the spread of chassidism in Poland. Many of his insights were published posthumously in Divrei Emmes, Zichron Zos, and Zos Zichron.


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.

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