Weekly Chasidic Story #1024 (s5777-43/
1 Menachem-Av 5777)
Another Plague of Locusts
The Holy Ari of Tsfat stood near the grave of the Prophet Hoshea ben
Beari in a long, silent prayer, surrounded by his students. Then they sat and
listened to his discourse, words of Torah and Kabbalah that were beyond [most]
Connection: Seasonal--445th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yiutzchak Luria
Another Plague of Locusts
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy Ari [Lion],
together with his students, made their way quietly from Tsfat to the grave of
the Prophet, Hoshea ben Beari. They were accustomed to study in the mountains,
and occasionally the Ari would invite the members of his group to pray at the
various burial sites that were scattered throughout the area. They already knew
that by such visits, one could attach his soul to that of the tzaddik
interred there, and learn secrets of Torah.
The Ari stood near the grave of the Prophet in a long, silent prayer, surrounded
by his students. Then they sat and listened to his discourse, words of Torah
and Kabbalah that were beyond [most] human comprehension.
Suddenly, the students noticed that their Master's face had changed. The joy
that always reigned turned to an expression of stressful concern. For quite
a time the Ari was thoughtful, and then he turned to his students: "I have
just been informed that a difficult decree is now hovering over the inhabitants
of Tsfat. A plague of locusts will descend on Tsfat, that will eat all the grass
of the land and consume all the fruit trees, until there will be no source of
sustenance remaining in the area."
The students became very frightened and asked: "Rebbe, why has this severe
punishment been decreed? What sin have the residents of Tsfat committed?"
The Ari replied: "All this has come about because of one Jew, named Yaakov
Altrin. He is terribly poor and has lost his source of parnasa [livelihood].
He poured out his grievance about his severe condition to the Al-Mighty. When
they saw from Heaven that none of the inhabitants of Tzfas had come to help,
the harsh decree was issued."
"But, Rebbe," the students called, "perhaps it is possible to
do something, to save the whole town from disaster, Heaven forbid. What should
The Ari ordered each of his students to contribute a certain sum of money,
which amounted to a respectable sum. Then the Ari summoned R. Yitzchak HaKohen,
his student, gave him the bundle of money, bidding him to take it and deliver
it to the poor man.
R. Yitzchak went forth and searched the courtyards of the city, until he located
the house of the man. The external appearance of the house was quite miserable.
The student knocked on the door, but was not answered. Only the sound of bitter
weeping could be heard coming from the house. After taking a moment to compose
himself, the student opened the door, and right in front of his eyes was R.
Yaakov Altrin sitting in the center of the house, surrounded by his family.
His speech was directed upwards, and he was crying...
The surprise entry of the Ari's student immediately silenced R. Yaakov's crying.
He looked into the visitor's face in wonder and, asked: "What do you want?"
R. Yitzchak told him that he was a student of the Ari, and he had just heard
that R. Yaakov was in deep trouble and would like to help him. "What happened
to you, and why do you cry?" asked R. Yitzchak.
R. Yaakov poured out his heart before his guest. He told of his daily struggle
to earn a livelihood, to bring bread home. He had a large ceramic jug, with
which he brought water to the homes of his neighbors in the region. With the
little he earned from this, he had managed to support his family. Now the jug
had broken, and his livelihood went down with it. Without a jug, there was no
point to go out to work, and he could no longer feed his family.
"In my distress, I turned to The One Above," the simple Jew added.
"I claimed: Is this proper for me? Has the penalty of hunger been decreed
upon me and my family? Am I more evil than the rest of the world? Does He not
sustain the world with grace, lovingkindness and mercy? Why did He take away
the source of my income from me?..."
The student was amazed to see how accurate the words of the Ari were. He took
out the bundle of money collected by the students, turned to the Jew and said:
"Listen R. Yaakov, G-d has heard your prayers, and from now on you will
no longer lack anything. We, the residents of Tsfat, will support your family,
for whatever is needed."
His face lit up, and his joy knew no bounds. He looked happily at his family,
and at the coins placed into his hands, and did not stop thanking G-d Al-Mighty
and expressing his thanks to the guest who came just at the right moment, to
save his family from the shame of hunger.
However, R. Yitzchak paid no heed to these words of thanks. With a serious
face, he turned to the Jew in a tone of reproof: "Do you know that on account
of you, almost all the residents of Tsfat were at risk of extinction and hunger?!
When you came with your claims against Heaven, they looked down and saw from
Heaven that you were without any help from your brethren and neighbors, and
a harsh decree was cast. If not for our holy Rabbi who became aware of this,
and in whose merit all the residents of the city were saved..."
The man was very sorry about the things he said in his distress, and promised
that henceforth he would put his trust in G-d, and complain no more. He parted
from R. Yitzchak excitedly, and the latter returned to his friends to tell them
the story of R. Yaakov.
The group of disciples asked the Ari whether the decree had indeed been averted.
He responded to them that indeed, the charity money they gave to the poor man
worked to remove the decree from the residents of Tsfat.
Time passed. Suddenly, what seemed to be a heavy cloud of locusts was seen
approaching the hills of Tsfat. Horror befell them all. The students turned
to their Master, and asked if the Divine decree had not been averted after all.
The Ari's face was peaceful and shining, without a trace of worry. "Continue
to learn, my sons," he said, "and your concern will pass."
A few moments later, a strong wind appeared and moved the entire cloud of locusts
out to the sea, until not one remained.
The story spread and made waves. Everyone learned that in the merit of the
holy vision of the Ari, the entire area was saved from a plague of locusts.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation
by Reb Yitzchak Dorfman from the Hebrew weekly Sichat HaShavua
#1177 and posted on his old blog.
Connection: Seasonal--445th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria --the Holy Ari [of blessed memory:
5294 - 5 Av 5332 (1534 - July 1572 C.E.)], the leader of the Tsfat Kabbalists
during the last years of his life, was the most influential Jewish mystic since
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 1400 years earlier. Much of Chasidic thought is based
on the Ari's teachings, as recorded by his main disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital.
(For a more full biography) (For
teachings of the Ari translated into English) (To send a prayer to be read
at his gravesite, go to http://www.kabbalaonline-shop.com/
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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