#422 (s5766-12) 19 Kislev 5766
The Missing Rabbi
For years Rabbi Zusha had been honored with lighting the shamash candle of the Maggid of Mezritch.
The Missing Rabbi
The followers of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, awaited his entrance into the synagogue for the lighting of the menorah on the first night of Chanuka. For the past few years, Rabbi Meshulam-Zusha of Anapoli, one of the Maggid's greatest disciples, had been honored with lighting the shamash ("attendant") candle. Reb Zusha would then hand it to the Maggid who lit his menorah from it. But Reb Zusha was nowhere to be seen! The chasidim wondered if his absence was the reason the Maggid had not yet lit the menorah.
Minutes, then hours ticked by, as the chasidim waited for their Rebbe to emerge. Finally, at about midnight, the Maggid emerged from his room and walked towards the menorah. As if to himself, the Maggid said quietly, "Zusha will not be with us tonight. We will light the menorah now."
The Maggid honored another of his chasidim with the privilege of kindling the shamash, the blessings were chanted and the single, solitary wick was lit. Then all of the holy assemblage joined together in singing the traditional Chanuka hymns.
The next morning, just as the Maggid and his chasidim were finishing the services, Reb Zusha walked in. Weary from traveling, Reb Zusha shuffled over to his customary place and dropped down on the bench. His friends came over and gave him a hearty welcome. One of them reported, "The Rebbe waited a long time for you last night. What happened?"
"After we light the Chanuka menorah tonight," promised Reb Zusha, "and with the Rebbe's permission, I will tell you what happened."
All of the chasidim gathered around the Maggid's menorah on
the second night of Chanuka. After the Maggid lit the menorah
they eagerly listened to Reb Zusha's story:
"The storm worsened and I soon realized that I would have to
stop and rest a bit before continuing, if I wanted to make it to Mezritch
at all. And so, I stopped at the home of Yankel in a village not too
far from Mezritch. By this time it was already quite late in the afternoon.
I pounded and pounded on the door until finally, someone called out,
'Who is it?'
"The poor woman burst out, 'Yankel left the house early this morning to gather firewood. He promised he would come back early, for even then he saw we were in for a terrible storm. It is late already and still he has not returned,' she wailed.
"For a split second I hesitated. If I went into the forest now, who knew if I would come out alive? But I knew I had no choice. I put on my coat and scarf once again and set out toward the forest.
"I passed a few rows of trees when I saw the upright form of a man covered with snow. Only his face was visible in that white blur. I saw right away that it was Yankel, and I thought for sure that he had frozen to death. But when I came very close, I noticed to my surprise, that he was still breathing. I brushed Yankel off and tried to warm him up.
"Somehow I managed to drag and carry Yankel back to his house where his wife and children greeted us with cries of joy. With my last ounce of strength I deposited Yankel on the bench near the stove and fell to the floor myself.
" Miraculously, Yankel's wife was able to "thaw" him out. She brought us a bottle of strong hard liquor which we drank eagerly to warm our insides. At about midnight we felt sufficiently strong enough to stand up and light the Chanuka menorah. As we said the prayer, 'who made miracles for our ancestors, in those days at this time," we knew without a doubt that G-d had made a miracle for us now, too.
"As soon as the sun rose in the morning I set out for Mezritch and arrived when you saw me this morning."
Reb Zusha finished his story. The Maggid looked deeply into Reb Zusha's
face. "Know, Zusha, that in Heaven they waited--as it were--to
light the Divine Chanuka menorah until you lit the menorah together
with Yankel. In the merit of your saving a Jewish soul from death,
the Heavens awaited you."
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition on www.lchaimweekly.org
Rabbi Zusha of Anapoli (?- 2 Shvat 1800), was a major disciple
of the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov.
The seemingly unsophisticated but clearly inspired "Reb Zusha"
is one of the best known and most beloved Chassidic personalities.
He and his famous brother, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk, spent many
years wandering in exile, for esoteric reasons.
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.
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