# 416(s5766-05/30 Tishrei 5766)

A Prophet and a King

The townsfolk of Nikolsburg disapproved of the seemingly odd behavior of their rabbi, R. Shmuel-Shmelke Horowitz, and decided to dismiss him

A Prophet and a King

The townsfolk of Nikolsburg were not chasidim, and they disapproved of the seemingly odd behavior of their communal rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel-Shmelke Horowitz, who was a Chassidic rebbe. The most prominent burghers therefore called a meeting, decided to dismiss him, and instructed the synagogue attendant to inform the rabbi of their decision.

This shammes, who was a simple fellow, but honest and upright, asked them why they had suddenly decided to do such a thing.

"It is no business of yours," they told him brusquely. "Your job is to do as you're told."

But since the shammes pressed for an answer to his question, they told him simply that Rabbi Shmelke's odd behavior made him unfit for the post of rabbi.

The shammes was insistent: "I know for a fact that our rabbi is a perfect tzadik."
His employers knew their shammes to be a truthful man, so they asked him: "How do you know that he is a tzadik?"

"Very well," he answered. "As you know, it is the custom in this city for someone to knock on the doors of all the Jewish townsfolk before dawn, to wake everyone up for the morning service of the Creator. And as the synagogue attendant, that task became mine. Every night I go a-knocking on my rounds. When I come to the rabbi's house, I usually drop in, and I always find him sitting up studying Torah; and next to him sits another man, whom I don't know. Well, one day I asked him who it was. He told me that it was Eliyahu the Prophet, of blessed memory.

"One morning it happened that for some reason I came around later than usual, and saw the rabbi at the door of his house, holding two candlesticks. Two men were with him -- one was the one I see there always, and the other wore a golden crown. The two men left and went their way, and the rabbi went back inside. I asked him who was the visitor with the crown of gold, and he told me that it was Menashe ben Chizkiyahu, king of Judah.

"When I asked the rabbi what business brought Menashe ben Chizkiyahu to his home, he explained that he was concerned regarding the outcome of a halachic query that a certain rabbi had sent our rabbi that very day.

"He told me that in the city of that other rabbi there lived a chassid, who had taken it upon himself to smash all of the icons and crucifixes in the local church. He was handed over to the courts, sentenced to death, and hanged. That city has a welfare brotherhood, whose task it is to give financial support to poor widows whose husbands have left them penniless.

"But when the widow of this poor chassid came to them, and asked them for a little money, they refused, because they claim that their regulations only allow them to support the widows of men who have died a natural death, not the widows of men who have committed suicide -- and they say her husband, by doing what he did, was such a man. Their dispute came up for adjudication by their local rabbi, and he referred the question to the rabbi of Nikolsburg.

"He said that he was in two minds over the whole business, when all of a sudden along came Menashe ben Chizkiyahu, and told him that he had been reincarnated in that very chasid, in order that he should be able to set right the evil that he had done in his earlier life, when he had set up an image in the Temple. So he had come to ask our rabbi to see that the poor widow of that chasid should get her due."

Author's note:
This story is known to us from a leading chasidic rebbe of a succeeding generation, Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pshischah, who would conclude his telling of it with these words: "How beautiful is the modesty of the shammes! Night by night Eliyahu the Prophet stood revealed before his eyes, but it never occurred to him that he had any reason to be proud. All he did was to speak in praise of his rabbi: to him Eliyahu had appeared, and had revealed to him the secrets of the Torah."


[Selected and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke HaLevi Horowitz of Nikolsburg (1726 - 2 Iyar 1778) was a major disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch along with his younger brother, Rabbi Pinchas, who became the Rabbi of Frankfort. Many of the leading rebbes in Poland and Galitzia were originally his disciples. Among the books he authored are Divrei Shmuel and Nazir HaShem.


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.

back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page
Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION