Weekly Chasidic Story #1241 (s5782-03)
13 Tishrei 5782/Sep.19, 2021
Refined Thief in the Sukkah?"
The "Megaleh Amukot"
warned his wife that the door of his room has to stay closed at that time and
that no one should enter, because it would be dangerous.
Seasonal: the festival of SUKKOT
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing
Thief in the Sukkah?
It was before Rabbi Natan Shapira
became known as the author of the book "Magaleh Amukot". At the time
he was a young man of about 30 years old, whose life was dedicated to learning
Torah and serving G-d. He tried to hide his saintly lifestyle from the eyes of
others and even asked his wife not to divulge his deeds to anyone.
was the daughter of a highly respected citizen of Krakow. One day in discussion
with her sisters she couldn't resist. She told them of the special qualities of
her husband: "Do you know? My husband prays every night tikun chatzot
(the midnight prayer mourning the destruction of the Temple) and angels come to
listen to his prayer. He told me that the door of his room has to stay closed
at that time and that no one should enter, because it would be dangerous."
sisters told their husbands, who smiled dismissively. One day they decided to
prove that the warning of their brother-in-law was of no consequence. That night,
when Rabbi Natan went to immerse himself in the river as was his habit, his brothers-in-law
slipped into his room and hid under the bed.
On his return from the river,
Rabbi Natan prepared himself for tikun chatzot without sensing the
presence of his brothers-in-law. After he finished lamenting the destruction of
the Temple, he sat at the table and started to learn Torah.
The next morning
a terrible catastrophe was discovered. The men who disparaged the warning of Rabbi
Natan were found lifeless under the bed.
Rabbi Natan was devastated by
the tragedy. He decided to judge himself as one who murders another unintentionally,
and decreed upon himself to go into a long exile. He made his wife swear not to
tell anyone where he went. "How long will this exile be?" she asked.
from Heaven I will be shown that my sin has been forgiven." he said.
his father-in-law heard of the mysterious disappearance of his son-in-law, he
was beside himself with anguish. He just lost two of his sons-in-law and now the
third one is not to be found! He tried to convince his daughter to tell him details
that might help him to discover where her husband had gone, but she pretended
not to know anything.
In despair he sent letters to the Rabbis of different
cities describing his son-in-law's appearance and requesting their assistance
in finding him.
In the meantime Rabbi Natan was far away. He joined a group
of paupers who went from town to town and from Jewish house to Jewish house to
beg for alms. At night he slept in the hekdesh (the community shelter for
paupers). His clothes were tattered and his whole appearance told of poverty and
On the eve of the holiday of Sukkot the group
of beggars arrived in Lublin. Rabbi Natan had not accepted any invitation to be
a guest at someone's house since he began his self-imposed exile. He did accept
this time though, because he wanted to have the opportunity to make the blessing
over the etrog (the citrus fruit in the Four Species that are bundled together
on Sukkot) of his host. It was his luck to be invited to the house of one of the
rich people in town.
On returning from synagogue they entered the beautiful
sukka. Rabbi Natan's feelings were so uplifted by this that for a moment
he forgot his state of exile. Loudly and with great devotion he began to sing
"Enter Heavenly Guests" (traditional song for Sukkot). His host paid
close attention to his guest and concluded that his was no regular person.
Natan immediately composed himself. During the meal he didn't say a word. The
repeated request of his host that he share a Torah thought didn't change his mind.
He tried as hard as he could to continue his anonymity. In spite of this, the
way he ate and his general comportment strengthened the conviction of his host
that this was a great man.
After the meal Rabbi Natan asked permission
to sleep in the sukka, which was granted. Because the host trusted his
guest he didn't take into the house the beautiful silverware that was on the table
in the sukka.
Rabbi Natan was soon immersed in the study of the
book of Kabbalah that he had with him, he was completely oblivious of his surroundings.
That is how he was unaware of the thief who entered the sukka and was putting
all the expensive vessels into his sack.
When the host returned to the
sukka he was shocked to see it empty of the exquisite silverware. His suspicion
immediately fell on the "imposter," the guest who obviously must have
hidden the silverware, and then returned to the sukka pretending to be absorbed
in learning. He started shouting and yelling. Soon all the neighbors came running.
the shouting and even the beatings couldn't make Rabbi Natan admit to a crime
he didn't commit. When it became obvious that nothing would help, they took him
to the hekdesh and locked him in till he would "confess".
Rabbi Natan was worried only about one thing - where would he get arba
minim ("Four Species": the etrog, palm branch, myrtle leaves and
willow leaves used on Sukkot) to make a blessing over! Beaten and humiliated he
sat down next to the window, while begging the passersby to bring him arba
minim. They laughed at the thief who all of a sudden wants to excel in
When the Rabbi of Lublin arrived in shul for the morning prayers
he was told what occurred. He asked to speak to the thief. As soon as he looked
at him he recognized him as the young man whose father-in-law had written him.
He instructed Rabbi Natan to be brought to a separate room and there ordered him
to tell him his identity.
Left no choice, Rabbi Natan admitted that he
was the lost son-in-law. He told the Rabbi the reason for his self-imposed exile.
Immediately the Rabbi left the room to announce that he had questioned the prisoner
and was satisfied that he was not the thief.
After the holiday Rabbi Natan
told the Rabbi of Lublin that the fact he had to disclose his identity was for
him a sign from Heaven that his sin was forgiven. He would now return home, to
Krakow. The Rabbi decided to accompany him.
On the way the word reached
them that the rabbi of Krakow had passed away. The rabbi of Lublin advised the
community of Krakow to make Rabbi Natan their rabbi. And so it was. At the age
of 31 Rabbi Natan Spira became the rabbi of Krakow.
Translated from Sichat Hashavua #508 by C.R. Benami, long-time editorial assistant
for AscentOfSafed.com. Edited and supplemented by R. Yerachmiel Tilles.
Rabbi Natan-Nota Shapira [5345 - 13 Menachem-Av 5393 (1585-July
20,1633)] was a noted rabbinical authority and kabbalist, who at the young age
of 24 became the Chief Rabbi of Krakow in 1617. He was a main figure in the dissemination
of the Kabbalah teachings of "the Holy Ari" of Safed throughout Poland.
He is often referred to by the title of his most important book, the "Megaleh
Amukot," an astonishing work containing 252 explanations of Moses' prayer
in the first verse of parashat Va'et'chanan.
Connection -- Seasonal:
the festival of SUKKOT
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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