#494 (s5767-33) 21 Iyar 5767

The Pilgrimmage of a Polish-Catholic Nobleman

"Is it because you think I'm a sorcerer that you have come to me," asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.

The Polish-Catholic Count and the Rebbe


A little before Rosh HaShana in the year 1883 the Polish count Dravski -- who had long ago earned fame as a poet and as a fighter in the battle for independence in 1831 -- made the journey to pray at the resting place of the tzadik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov. All the nobility of the Rimanov region gathered to pay their respects to him, and the eighty-year-old guest of honor explained the reason for his unusual pilgrimage.

"When I was a child of eight," he said, "I became critically ill. My mother summoned the best physicians available, but none could help. Then one of her aristocratic friends found her weeping in despair over her only son, and told that in Fristik -- for that was where this holy man used to live -- there was a rabbi who worked wonders. She had her horses harnessed at once, and by five in the morning the carriage with the two ladies had arrived at the rebbe's house.

"The household was already awake and active, for this was the time at which they used to bake bread for the needy. A servant informed the holy man of their arrival, and he sent back word that he would receive them at nine, after his morning prayers.

"At the appointed time the noblewoman told him of her friend's request, and he replied in perfect Polish: 'Is it because you think I am a sorcerer that you have come to me?'

"'No,' she replied, 'but your life-style is closer to G-d than that of most people, and that is why your prayer is heard more attentively.'

"'In that case,' said the rebbe, 'I shall pray for the child.'

"The two women left the room, but through the door, which they had left ajar, they saw him turning towards a corner and then praying with such fervor that beads of perspiration stood out on his face. After three hours of exertion he called for them, just as the clock which hung over his bed struck noon.

"'Right now,' he said, 'just as the clock is striking twelve, the child has felt better. When he has completely recovered bring him to me so that I can bless him.'

"My mother came home, and anxiously asked one of the servants how her child was faring.

"'Nothing has changed,' she was told, 'except that instead of lying motionless as he had been doing the whole time, he woke up at twelve and asked for water.'

"A few weeks later," concluded the aged count, "I was completely well. I was brought to the rebbe, who gave me his blessing, and told me that I should always treat Jews with kindness. I have kept my promise, and now, in my old age, I desired to make the journey here to Rimanov in order to pray at his resting place."

Dravski wept profusely at that holy spot, and following the Jewish custom, left there a kevitil [note] -- written in Polish.

In 1901 the German scholar Aharon Marcus wrote in his Der Chassidismus that he had succeeded in securing that very kevitil. (The tzadiks's surname was Turim, and the signature at the end, giving the name of the supplicant and his mother, follows the traditional Jewish ordering of such requests.) It reads as follows:

Ye souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- pray for the soul of the late Mendel Turim! And you, Mendel, since you stand already in the presence of the Heavenly Throne, pray for the oppressed nations -- the Jewish People and Poland -- and pray too for me, for my children, and for my grandchildren!
Miechislav Dravski the son of Victoria.

[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.]

Biographic Note:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov [?-19 Iyar 1815], was an important Rebbe in the third generation of chasidism. His was a main disciple of the Rebbe Elimelech, and many rebbes of the succeeding generation studied with him. His teachings are collected in Menachem Zion and other works.

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