Weekly Chasidic Story #1018 (s5777-37/
18 Sivan 5777)
It was well after midnight when he went to the station to catch a subway train
back to Brooklyn.
Connection: Weekly Reading of Shelach (end) -- (which is also the 3rd
and final paragraph of the Shma Yisrael prayer), is the biblical source
for the commandment of tzitzis.
Shneur Zalman Stern is a talented photographer and computer programmer, originally
from Kentucky. He attended Hadar HaTorah in the 70's, the first yeshiva
for young men who had little or no Jewish background. He was very close with
the famous chasid, Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson,* who founded the yeshiva.
The road to a Torah life has its ups and downs. Once, on a Saturday night,
after Shabbos was over, against Rabbi Jacobson's advice, Stern went to visit
a photographer in Far Rockaway, Queens, the last stop on the subway line. They
spoke for several hours, and it was well after midnight when Schneur Zalman
finally left. He went to the station to catch a subway train back to Brooklyn.
He took note that there was no one else on the platform except himself. But
suddenly two black youths grabbed his arms from behind and demanded his money.
With his heart pounding, Shneur Zalman said to them, "If you rob me or
hurt me, you should know that there is a G-d in the world, and He will surely
pay you back, in this world or in the next."
They sneered. One of the youths shoved his hand into Shneur Zalman's pants
pocket and made a grab for his money, but then suddenly he began to scream:
"Aiy! Aiy yaiy yaiy! Pocket guards! He got pocket guards!"
His fingers had gotten tangled in the tzitzis strings of Stern's 'little
tallit' [four-cornered sleeveless garment worn under a male's shirt],
and it cast a fear upon him. Extricating his fingers with difficulty, he jumped
away and ran off as fast as he could, shouting, "Pocket guards! Pocket
The other young man was deeply affected. "Listen," he said. "You'll
never catch a train here. The next one doesn't come till morning. Come with
me. I'll take you to a different station."
And so, in the dark night, he led Shneur Zalman out of the station, and across
several fields, till they came to another station, where he caught a train,
and finally returned to the yeshiva.
Before they parted company, Stern gave the former mugger his blessing.
The tzitzis had protected Shneur Zalman Stern physically and spiritually,
saving him from one gangster, and transforming the other into an angel of kindness!
Source: Expanded by Yerachmiel Tilles from a weekly email
of Dovid Sholom Pape, editor of "The Moshiach Times" (I also heard
this story directly from S.Z.S.).
Editor's note: It happens that Rabbi Jacobson's yahrzeit
falls at the beginning of this week, on Sunday, Sivan 17.
Connection: Weekly reading of Shelach (end--which is
also the 3rd and final paragraph of the Shma Yisrael prayer), is the
biblical source for the commandment of tzitzis.
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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