#558 (s5768-48 / 4 Menachem-Av 5768)
The Vanishing Rebbe
On every afternoon preceding a Biblical holiday, the Kalever Rebbe would disappear for many hours; no one knew where he went.
When Reb Yankel revealed himself, the Rebbe became visibly distressed. He exclaimed, "What can I do with you now?" He made the stowaway promise not to ask any questions, not of himself nor of anyone else.
Soon they arrived at a city which Yankel did not recognize. The Rebbe abruptly stopped the wagon, and began to walk down a narrow path that led to a mikveh. He instructed his passenger to wait while he immersed himself there.
Yankel waited in the wagon until he was overcome with curiosity and impatience. Forgetting the tzadik's warning, he hopped off the wagon and sought to question the people nearby. "Excuse me," he asked in Yiddish the first man he stopped, "but where am I?"
"Don't you know where you are?" the astonished fellow replied, thinking that he was dealing with a madman. "Where do you think you are?"
"Well, I was just in Kaliv, Hungary, a few hours ago," Yankel began.
"Now I know you're mad," said the man, "How could you possibly get from Kaliv to Tzfat in a few hours?"
"Tzfat?!" cried Yankel. "You're the one who is mad! How could I be in Tzfat, in Eretz Yisrael, if I was just in Kaliv?"
The argument intensified, and in the heat of the debate Yankel forgot to get back to the wagon before the Rebbe reappeared. To his dismay, he arrived back at the mikveh just in time to see the wagon pulling away. Yankel was beside himself. Here he was, stranded in a town of "meshuga'im" (insane people) who thought they were living in Tzfat!However, he had no choice but to ask one of them to take him in to his home for the Sukkot holiday.
Already during the first hours of
the festival, seeing the different customs and hearing people speaking in the
Holy Tongue and in Arabic as well as Yiddish, Yankel realized that indeed he was
in Tzfat, Astonished, it dawned on him as an epiphany that the Kaliver used a
Divine Holy Name for kefitzat haderech (a miraculous contraction of a journey)
to come to Tsfat every erev Yom Tov in order to immerse himself in the mikveh
of the holy Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria.
His amazement was quickly joined by shock as he realized that he was compelled to remain in Tzfat until the Rebbe would return the following Yom Tov. How else could he possibly get all the way back to Europe?
Meanwhile, back in Kaliv, the Fisch family was frantic about Yankel's sudden disappearance. They ran to the Rebbe for advice. The Kaliver smiled as he assured them that there was no need for concern, promising that Mr. Fisch would return just in time for the Passover Seder!
And so it was. Six months later, Yankel Fisch was delighted to see the tzadik's wagon arriving at the Arizal's mikveh on Erev Pesach. This time he made sure not to miss the ride back home.
The Rebbe extracted a promise from Yankel not to reveal this incident in his lifetime; it became known only after the Rebbe passed away in 1821.
[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Gut Voch " (Mesorah) by Avrohom Barash]
Yitzchak Luria (1534 - 5 Av 1572), Known as "the holy Ari," revolutionized
the study of Kabbalah and its integration into mainstream Judaism during the two
years he spent in Zefat before his death at 38.
Yerachmiel 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, and many have been translated into other languages.
A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.
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