A Blessing For Aliyah
Many Eastern European Jews longed to live in the Land of Israel. However,
the difficult conditions in the Holy Land, the expense of travel,
and the dangers of the journey made this a serious undertaking. Chassidim
would not attempt such a move without receiving a blessing from their
Once a chassid, who had a great desire to go to Israel, presented
his request to many of the leading chassidic Rebbes of his time, but
none would give him a blessing to go. He then went to Liozna to consult
the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
"Discuss the matter with Rabbi Leib Sarah's," said
the Rebbe. "Tell him that I sent you to seek his advice. If he
agrees, you may go."
The chassid knew that arranging a meeting with Reb Leib was no simple
feat. Reb Leib was a hidden tzaddik whose whereabouts were
"How will I even be able to find him?" the chassid asked.
The Rebbe told him to wait at a specific inn which Reb Leib would
visit in the near future.
"But, how will I recognize him?"
"A wagon full of wandering beggars will arrive at the inn,"
replied the Rebbe. "They will engage in loud argument and squabbling.
The one whose voice is heard above all the rest will be Reb Leib."
The chassid traveled to the inn and rented a room. He had stayed
there for two weeks when he was awakened one night by a commotion
in the courtyard. Looking out, he saw a wagonload of beggars arrive
at the inn. Precisely as the Alter Rebbe described, they were
arguing loudly. One man, taller and louder than the rest, stood out
among the noisy group.
Recognizing Reb Leib Sarahs, the chassid hurried down to meet him.
"I mustn't miss this opportunity," he thought, "for
he is likely to disappear without warning." He approached the
tzaddik and presented his wish, mentioned that Rabbi Shneur
Zalman had instructed him to seek the tzaddik's guidance.
"Go to Berditchev," Reb Leib replied, "There is a
tailor who lives on the outskirts of town. Order an overcoat from
him. When the garment is ready, go for a fitting. As you put on the
coat, the tailor will measure the button holes, humming a tune as
he does so. While he is humming, ask him if you should travel to Eretz
The chassid followed Reb Leib Sarahs instructions, and presented
his request precisely at the time he was told.
"Go!" replied the tailor, "but continue to wear this
The chassid realized that the tailor must be a hidden tzaddik
and rejoiced at the outcome of the events. On the following day, he
went back to the tailor's house, hoping to meet the tzaddik
again, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Later, he recalled having seen two apprentices assisting the tailor.
He recognized one as the tzadik and rebbe, Rabbi Nachum of Tchernobel
(known for his support of hidden tzaddikim), but could not
identify the second one.
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from "From My Father's Shabbos
Table" (pp. 94-95), Eliyahu Touger's excellent selection and
translation from the first two volumes of Rabbi Yehuda Chitrik's 4-volume
series, Reshimat Devorim.]
Rabbi Shneur Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the
main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of
the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch
HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both
Jewish law and the mystical teachings.
Rabbi Leib Sarah's (1730-4 Adar 1796) was held in high esteem
by the Baal Shem Tov. One of the "hidden tzaddikim,"
he spent his life wandering from place to place to raise money for
the ransoming of imprisoned Jews and the support of other hidden tzaddikim.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated the possibility that Rabbi Leib Sarah's
and the Shpoler Zeide are the same person.
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.