# 430(s5766-20/ 17 Shevat 5766)

Suing the Al-mighty

The Shpoler Zeide instructed his family to commemorate 19 Shvat throughout the generations.

Suing the Al-mighty

A life-saving miracle occurred on 19 Shevat to the tzadik, Rabbi Aryeh Leib, known as the Shpoler Zeide. Subsequently he instructed his family to commemorate this date throughout the generations. To this day, family banquets of the Shpoler's descendants are held annually.

In keeping with the Zeide's instructions, no waiters are hired, and every family member is personally involved in the service. Special importance is put on inviting poor people to partake of the meal. (Descendants of the Shpoler Zeide may contact Rabbi Mordechai Kalmanson, at 718-756-0500.)

What happened? When Rabbi Aryeh Leib had been rebbe for three years in Shpola, there was terrible famine in the area. The tzadik, whose love for the poor, the needy and the widowed was unbounded, felt compelled to provide for the thousands affected by the disaster. He could neither eat nor sleep, and his heartache was so great that for weeks on end he couldn't bring himself to taste anything more than bread and tea.

As the famine spread to the furthest provinces of Russia, rebbes from other starving communities in the area wrote to Shpola, begging the Zeide to raise a storm in the Heavens, and beg that the deadly decree be rescinded. For who, if not he, a tzadik and known to work wonders, could accomplish this?

Rabbi Aryeh Leib, on his part, wrote to ten of the greatest tzadikim of the day - including Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli, Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon of Shipitovka, Rabbi Ze'ev of Zhitomir -- requesting that they come to Shpola immediately.

They all complied and soon arrived. After they were seated at the long table of the Shpoler Zeide, they heard his awesome words: "Honored rabbis, my masters, I am summoning the Al-mighty to a din Torah, a lawsuit in rabbinical court, and you are to serve as the judges. It is true that, according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his suit to the place where the defendant is, but since in this unique case, 'there is no place devoid of His presence,' and since, more particularly, 'wherever ten are assembled the Divine Presence rests,' we will hold the court case here."

The holy minyan of Chasidic rebbes accepted. They then joined in prayer, their fervent supplications battering the Gates of Heaven.
The Shpoler Zeide then instructed his aide to announce: "By the order of those gathered here, I hereby proclaim that Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel, summons the Al-mighty to a lawsuit which will be duly conducted in this Beit Din courtroom in three days."

The holy rebbes spent the next three days together in fasting and prayer; no one was permitted to interrupt their devotions.

On the fourth day, after they had concluded the morning prayers and were still wrapped in talit and adorned by tefilin, the Shpoler Zeide solemnly signaled his aide to announce that the court case was about to begin.

"In the name of all the women and children of the Jews of Russia," the tzadik declared, "I hereby state my claim against the Defendant. Why does the Creator of the Universe not provide them with food, thereby preventing their death (G-d forbid) of hunger? Doesn't the Torah itself say, 'For unto Me are the Children of Israel bondsmen; they are My bondsmen'? Do we not have His promise, recorded by the Prophet Yechezkel, that even if His children should someday desire to go in the ways of the nations of the world, that this will never happen? One is forced to draw the conclusion that the Children of Israel are the Al-mighty's servants for all eternity.

"In that case, they should, at least, be in the category of Jewish bondsmen. Jewish law teaches that a master is required to provide for the wife and children of his bondsman. Can the Al-mighty violate his own Torah so blatantly?

"Now I'm well aware that some clever prosecuting angel will argue in defense of the Creator, saying that these servants are remiss in their service; that they don't serve their Master as well as they should. But to this bogus argument I have two replies.

"Firstly, where is it written that if a bondsman is lazy and doesn't work properly, his wife and children may be deprived of their sustenance?

"Secondly, if these servants are slack in their performance, their Master can fault no one, but Himself. For who else gave each servant an evil inclination whose whole job and purpose it is to drive them to abandon their loyalty and to destroy their desire to serve? Why, I can swear that if this evil inclination, which the Master Himself created, would cease to exist, they would become the most perfect servants possible!"

The ten tzadikim-judges searched their tomes of Torah to ascertain the correct verdict for this unusual claim. After the passage of some time they stood to deliver their unanimous ruling:

"This court finds in favor of Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel. The Al-mighty is accordingly required, by whatever means at His disposal (and the whole world is His) to provide for the women and children of His People. And may the Heavenly Court above agree and support the verdict of this court in the World Below.

The court pronounced its verdict three times.

The Shpoler Zeide then asked to have vodka and refreshments served. The tzadikim toasted l'chaim and ate together in a joyous mood before departing for home. Five days after the momentous verdict had been reached, the government announced a shipment of thousands of tons of grain. Immediately, the grain prices fell and before long, there were ample fresh supplies of food at reasonable prices. And during the entire following year, bread was bountiful for all.


[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition on www.lchaimweekly.org (#305).]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Aryeh Leib [1725 - 6 Tishrei 1811], known as the Shpola Zeide ("grandfather"), is famed as a miracle worker and for his devotion to the succor of poor Jews in distress. In his early years, he was a disciple of Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, a leading figure in the first generation of chassidim. He was not called "zeide" because of advanced age, for that was his nickname even when he was very young - given by the Baal Shem Tov, but that's another story. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe proposed that he may be identical to the tzadik, Rabbi Leib Sarah's.)


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.

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