Weekly Chasidic Story 1291 (s5782-53)
9 Elul 5782/Sept. 5, 2022
"Help From a Haunted House"
As they neared the inn, he accidentally bumped into a coach parked nearby.
A string of obscenities rang through the air as the other driver roundly cursed
whoever it was that dared bump him.
Connection: The problems of divorce and aguna are set forth in this
week's reading, Ki Teitzei.
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing
Help From a Haunted House
It happened one of those times that an agunah
came to consult with the third Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn,
known as the Tzemach Tzedek. Her husband had disappeared, leaving
her and their young son alone. Having heard amazing stories of miracles wrought
by the Tzemach Tzedek for others sharing her plight, the woman now set her hopes
on meeting with the Rebbe. Her brother accompanied her and her little boy on
the journey to Lubavitch, and shortly after they arrived, they were admitted
into the Rebbe's yechidus (private audience) chamber.
Overcome with emotion, the woman burst into tears, hardly able to form words
together. Her brother came to her rescue and described his sister's unfortunate
situation, asking the Rebbe for his blessing.
"But I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet!" said the Tzemach
Sensing the Rebbe's reluctance, the brother changed the subject. "I am
planning to travel to the Land of Israel," he said. "Will the Rebbe
The Tzemach Tzedek thought before responding.
"Well," he said, "if that's the case, I want your sister to
travel with you. The journey is a long one; perhaps your sister will find her
missing husband on the way."
"Alright," said the brother.
The Tzemach Tzedek then blessed them both and the pair left the Rebbe's room.
They returned home and began getting ready for their journey, loading their
belongings onto a carriage and taking farewell of family and acquaintances.
It did not take long until brother, sister, and the son/nephew left their hometown
and set out for their first stop, the city of Odessa.
"You know," said the brother as the carriage rolled along the country
roads, "I've been thinking about a possible problem concerning your son.
The passport officials in Odessa are very particular about their job. They take
great pains to check every detail mentioned in people's passports. Your son
isn't mentioned in all your papers, so we are likely to be headed for trouble
trying to go through Odessa.
"Better, you take the boy and go through Yassi, where they are not so
particular. We'll meet up together afterwards."
"How could you leave me alone with a little boy?" cried his sister.
"I can't make the trip without your help!"
"Okay," her brother shrugged. "Then we'll both travel through
He pulled on the reins, turning the horses towards Yassi. Ever mindful of the
Rebbe's counsel, the travelers made certain to stop at every village on the
way. They combed the streets and questioned local residents, but to no avail.
They could not locate the missing man.
They continued driving through the country, getting almost to Yassi, when nightfall
forced them to stop at a roadside inn. The near complete darkness confused the
brother and, as he neared the inn, he accidentally bumped into a mail coach
parked nearby. A string of obscenities rang through the air as the mail driver
roundly cursed whoever it was that dared bump his carriage.
"He sounds like my husband," whispered the woman.
"Don't be ridiculous," her brother answered. "Stop fantasizing;
it's some Russian peasant. Can't you hear from his language? Let's get away
before he vents his anger on us."
He drove right up to the inn where, tired and hungry, the small group entered
for some food and rest. The innkeeper quickly approached his newest customers,
sat them down a table, and offered them a warm meal.
"You know, we bumped into the mail carriage outside," said the brother.
"Who's the person sitting in it out there?"
The innkeeper sighed. "He used to be a Jew like us," he said. "He
"That's interesting," said the brother. "My sister says he sounds
like her runaway husband."
The innkeeper opened his eyes in surprise. "That's too bad," he said,
shaking his head sadly. "He's a real difficult character. No way you'll
receive a writ of divorce from that crook."
Suddenly the door crashed open and the mail driver stormed into the room, still
cursing the driver who had collided with his carriage. The lady rose from her
chair with a cry of surprise and the villain, seeing her, stopped dead in his
"So you found me" he said sulkily. "I suppose you want a divorce.
We can go to the next village. There's a rabbi there; he'll do the divorce for
Now it was the innkeeper who cried out in surprise. He had never seen the loathsome
creature act so gracious - without offering an argument or total denial.
The group quickly left the inn and soon two carriages could be seen headed
for the nearest village. They arrived at the rabbi's home, informed him of the
circumstances, and the divorce was properly performed. The convert remained
strangely subdued throughout the entire procedure, granting the divorce without
demanding conditions of any sort. With gratitude in their hearts, and warm thoughts
of the Tzemach Tzedek, the freed woman now eligible for remarriage clutched
the precious paper and returned to lodge at the inn.
Inside, the innkeeper stood alone at a table in the quiet dining hall and thought
about the amazing scene he just witnessed - the renegade Jew, the fearsome ruffian,
acting so respectfully to his despised wife.
The next moment he jumped as the door crashed open again. The mail driver stood
in the doorway, shaking with cold. He closed the door and sat down at an empty
"Pour me a large beer!" he shouted to the frightened innkeeper.
The innkeeper hurried behind the counter and filled his largest glass with
the frothy liquid. After all, the driver deserved the best treatment for his
dramatic reversal from his usual behavior.
He brought the glass over and set it down on the table.
"I just gave the divorce," the driver said to no one in particular.
"Didn't ask for anything."
The innkeeper steadied his shaking hands. Out of the corner of his eye he saw
the brother and sister enter the room and sit down nearby. Curiosity overcame
his fear as he sat down opposite the driver.
"That was very nice of you," he offered. "Some people refuse
to give a divorce until they demand and receive money in return. Why didn't
The driver took a few large gulps and wiped his dirty sleeve across his mouth.
"I know you're surprised," he said gruffly. "No matter. I'll
tell you everything and you'll understand. You know the haunted house near this
The innkeeper nodded. It was a reference to an empty ruin nearby, understood
to be frequented by evil spirits. All kind of hair-raising stories were associated
with the demons living in that place, and local residents made sure to give
the house a wide berth.
"My mail route passes it every day," continued the renegade Jew.
"I drive past that haunted wreck, past your inn, and I deliver mail to
the villages. I couldn't care less about the demons; what can they take from
me anyway? I drive right by there every day and laugh right in their faces."
The driver took another swig and set the glass down.
"Today it was different though," he said grimly. "The horses
had barely trotted toward the ruins when I was overcome with fear. I pulled
the reins and just parked there, shaking in fright. I could feel the goose-bumps
cover my body. My hair stood on end; my teeth chattered violently. I was totally
powerless and unable to command the horses any further. Whenever I merely thought
of continuing, the fear intensified tenfold.
"Suddenly, something crashed into the back of my carriage. Apparently,
someone accidentally bumped into my wagon and, strangely, I felt the fear dissipate
at once. I cursed them - whoever it was - and felt my old courage return. Yet
the whole thing was so strange - the sudden fear and its inexplicable end -
that I resolved to get to the bottom of the matter and find out who had bumped
me. I came into the inn and
, well, the rest you know already.
"The demons were holding me hostage until I gave the divorce, of that
I was certain. So I gave in, I went with my wife and did whatever the rabbi
wanted. I didn't request anything, not a penny. You can ask her."
The driver stood up and approached his former wife.
"Here!" he said, offering her a wad of bills. "This is for the
boy. He's my son after all."
He finished his glass and left the inn, leaving his family agape in wonderment
at the supernatural powers of the Tzemach Tzedek. They rested up, thanked the
innkeeper for his hospitality, and continued onward to the Holy Land.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "The Third Judge"
by Rabbi Elchonon Lesches.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn [29 Elul 1789-13 Nissan 1866], the
third Rebbe of Chabad, was known as the Tzemach Tzedek, after
his books of Halachic responsa and Talmudic commentary called by that name.
He was renowned not only as a Rebbe, but also as a leading scholar in his generation
in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah.
Connection: The problems of divorce and agunah are set forth
in this week's reading, Ki Teitzei.
Footnote: A woman that it is not known if her husband is alive
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.
To receive the Story by
e-mail every Wednesday--sign
of the Full Moon"
the Full Moon" vol 2 - holiday stories)
now available for purchase
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set, "Saturday
Night, Full Moon",
also available for purchase on
back to Top back
to this year's Story Index Stories
home page Stories Archives