#491 (s5767-30) 30 Nissan 5767

One Month Per Family

Not one of the chasidim thought it proper to trouble the Rebbe Maharash with the current downturn of their income.

One Month Per Family

In Vitebsk, in White Russia, there lived a goodhearted nobleman from whose estates many Jews made their livelihood. The entire town of Chekhov belonged to him, and not only did he forgo the taxes of the poor Jews who lived there, but in addition he allowed the religious functionaries of the community -- the rabbi, the shochet, the prayer leaders and the Torah teachers -- to pasture their cows and goats without payment.

This graf, however, was an ailing man, and as he grew older and weaker he had to visit Dr. Bertenson in Vitebsk more frequently, leaving the administration of his estates, his castle and all of his business interests in the hands of his manager, who was a sworn anti-Semite.

The Catholic parish church stood on the squire's estates, and on the instigation of its zealous new priest the manager began to deprive the local Jews of their livelihoods, and to exact taxes from even the poorest of them. This went of for some two years.

Most of the Jews of the town were chasidim of Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch. When they visited him for a festival or a Shabbat they would listen to a chasidic discourse from his mouth, and when speaking to him privately they would ask for his blessings for their children, for health and for their livelihood -- and then they would travel home, certain that the Al-mighty would have pity on them. Not one of them thought it would be proper to trouble the rebbe with an account of what was happening to their sources of income, or with stories of some anti-Semite parish priest.

One of the Jews whose business affairs had been connected for generations with the estates of this graf was called Reb Shmuel Isaacs -- an honest, respectable and well-to-do merchant, who was moderately leaned in both the revealed and the mystical aspects of the Torah. When he visited Lubavitch for the festival of Shavuot in the year 1880 the rebbe asked him detailed question about the state of the livelihoods earned by the Jews of the town, and the merchant told him the whole truth.

"I know of the condition of the graf," said the rebbe, "for Professor Bertenson has told me that it is precarious. But why did you not tell me all this time about the change in the policy of the administration towards the Jews on his estates?"

The rebbe spent some moments sunk in thought, and then said: "Travel home now, and at the first opportunity at which you see the graf tell him in my name that I know that his condition is dangerous, and that his physicians have despaired of saving his life. I promise him nevertheless that if he helps the Jews of Chekhov and the neighboring villages, the Al-mighty will give him one month's health for each family."

As soon as Reb Shmuel the merchant returned home he began to frequent the squire's courtyard in the hope of meeting him, but for days on end he was not to be seen outside because of his delicate health. One sunny day, though, his doctor advised him to prepare his carriage so that they could take a ride in the fresh air in a nearby forest. Reb Shmuel saw him being led out to his waiting carriage, frail and listless.

The graf saw him too, and invited him to join him in his carriage. No sooner did he hear what the rebbe had said than he asked Reb Shmuel to draw up a list of all the Jewish families in the region who could earn their living from his properties, after visiting them all either personally or by proxy -- but no one was to know of his mission.

Reb Shmuel duly provided him with a list of more than one hundred and sixty families from the township, with an additional couple of dozen families from the surrounding villages. The Jews were once again able to earn a living -- and the graf was restored to health. Reb Shmuel became highly regarded around the castle, and every year the graf would send with him a lulav from his palm trees, together with sprigs of myrtle, as a gift to the rebbe in honor of the festival of Sukkot.

In this way he enjoyed fourteen years of uninterrupted good health -- but then suddenly he felt very weak. He sent for Reb Shmuel and asked him to set out at once for Lubavitch, where he was to visit the resting place of the rebbe -- for the tzadik had passed away in 1882 -- and to notify him that the graf felt weak, though according to his reckoning he was owed another year and seven months of life. Would the rebbe therefore honor his promise?

[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of chasidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]

Biographic Note:
Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn (2 Iyar 1834-13 Tishrei 1882), the fourth Lubavitch Rebbe, known as "the Rebbe Maharash," was the seventh and youngest son of his predecessor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, "the Tsemach Tsedek".

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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