# 444(s5766-34/26 Iyar 5766)


The calm, holy face of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev appeared at the window of the carriage



The chassidim accompanying the Rebbe stared out the window of the carriage in shock. A fierce looking man had run out of the house when they approached his property, his eyes burning with murderous rage at the coach full of Jews. In his hand he carried a revolver. At his heels, his favorite pet, a massive black dog, yelped and snapped at the carriage.

Before they could react, the angry householder drew his gun and began to shoot at the coach. The gun clicked… but no bullets emerged. Again and again he pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.

Just then, a calm, holy face appeared at the window of the carriage. With a fascinated stare, the angry man lowered the gun and pulled the trigger. A bullet spewed forth and struck the black dog, killing it instantly.

At the holy passenger's request, one of the travelers approached the householder. "Sir, we are chassidim traveling with the holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev," he stammered. "It is time for our evening prayers and we would like to ask your kind permission to pray in your house."

"The Holy Rabbi of Berditchev? Why yes, of course, you have my permission," said the man, as if in a dream. With that, he turned and strode into his house without a backward glance at his beloved dog.

His servants and friends were puzzled. They expected to enjoy the massacre of the Jews -- these Jews who seemed not to know or care that no Jew dared step onto this property since the owner's murderous reputation had become known. The disciples of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak were perplexed, too. Why had their Rebbe asked them to accompany him to this unknown place, leaving Berditchev very early, traveling quickly and stopping only once along the way to say Psalms? And the homeowner himself was also confused. "I know the gun was in perfect order, and yet it would not shoot when I pointed at the carriage. It must be the power of that holy Rabbi," he muttered to his friends.

News of the arrival of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and the estate owner's seeming change of heart reached the Jews living nearby. They began gathering at the estate to see Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and to pray with him. Many non-Jews also joined the gathering since Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's holiness was known by the entire countryside.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak led the evening prayers himself. Before saying the opening words, "And He is merciful, He forgives sin, and will not destroy. He turns back His anger many times and does not arouse his wrath," the Rebbe began to sing a moving melody. It was sad and poignant and had a haunting effect on all who listened. It turned everyone's thoughts to their own private world, contemplating past regrets and the evil and folly of a person's actions. Each heart was full of despair and bitter regret. The disciples understood the melody to depict the suffering of the pure and holy soul, forced to leave the beautiful heavens, and come to this evil, false world.

But just as the notes seemed to fade into the very abyss of doom, the Rebbe raised his voice in a triumphant call of hope and salvation. The words, "Oh
G-d, please save. The King will answer us on the day we call," were sung in a joyful tune, stirring everyone to confidence and hope. But, before the Rebbe had sung the last of the sad notes, the host cried out hysterically and fell to the ground in a faint.

Everyone was mystified by the events. The chassidim now understood that the purpose of the journey had to do with their host. But what were the redeeming qualities of this Jew-hater that he merited the special attention of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak?

A few hours later, the Chasidim saw the host emerge, his eyes red and his face tear-stained. In broken Yiddish, the host stammered, "I am a Jew. I, too, am a Jew." In wonder, they listened to his story:
"I was born in Germany to Jewish parents. As a young man I joined the Kaiser's army. The higher I rose in rank, the looser my ties to Judaism became. By the time I was a personal guard of the Kaiser, I had totally disassociated myself from Judaism. Finally, I became a Jew-hater and relished every opportunity I had to persecute Jews.

"Now, with you and your Rebbe here, I remember that I am a Jew. I want to be a Jew again. Please, I beg of you, ask your holy Rebbe to teach me how to be a Jew again!"

The next morning, prayers were conducted with a festive atmosphere. The host joined the Jewish villagers. He borrowed a talit and tefilin and asked to be shown how to use them. After prayers, he was closeted with the Rebbe for several hours, their conversation remaining a secret. The Rebbe warned his chassidim never to breathe a word about this journey.

A short time later, the former Kaiser's guard sold his estate and disappeared. Around the same time, a stranger came to live and study in Berditchev. He became a close disciple of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and the father of one of the finest Jewish families.
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition by Basha Majerczyk on www.lchaimweekly.org (#768).Ms. Majerczyk is the translator of two popular collections of chasidic stories: Extraordinary Chasidic Tales (Otsar Sifrei Lubavitch) and (Chassidic Stories Made in Heaven).]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-25 Tishrei 1810) is one of the most popular rebbes in chassidic history. He was a close disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. He is best known for his love for every Jew and his active efforts to intercede for them against (seemingly) adverse heavenly decrees. Many of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published Kedushas Levi.


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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