Weekly Chasidic Story #1025 (s5777-44/
7 Menachem-Av 5777)
The Coachman Disguise
Rabbi Boruch the tzadik was subjected to a steady stream of curses and
insults. But he remained silent, feeling acutely the pain and affront to the
Divine Presence in exile.
Connection: Seasonal--TISHA B'AV
The Coachman Disguise
In general, the study hall of Rabbi Boruch was a joyous place.
During the Nine Days before Tisha B'Av, however, the atmosphere was rather somber,
as if a dark cloud hovered above.
The tzadik himself had disappeared; no one knew where he was. Rumor had
it that Rabbi Boruch had disguised himself as a beggar and was wandering from
town to town, the better to experience the exile of the Divine Presence.
In the village square stood a wagon driver next to his horses. To all outward
appearances he looked like any other wagon driver, but it was really Rabbi Boruch
in a new disguise. It didn't take long until a Polish nobleman asked to engage
The tzadik made a quick calculation: If everything went well, he would
make it back to town on the day before Tisha B'Av. He agreed to take the nobleman
to his destination, and the two set off.
Now, the horses that Rabbi Boruch had procured were not exactly in their prime;
the poor specimens could barely pull the wagon and stopped every few feet to
rest. The most tranquil of passengers would have found it irritating; how much
more so did the Polish nobleman, who was in a hurry to reach his destination.
The tzadik was subjected to a steady stream of curses and insults. But
he remained silent, feeling acutely the pain and affront to the Divine Presence
The journey would take several days, and each evening the two travelers sought
refuge in an inn. The nobleman obtained the finest accommodations, while Rabbi
Boruch slept in the barn with his horses. The tzadik made sure to don
his tefilin and pray several hours before the nobleman woke up. Only
afterwards would he rouse him to resume their travels.
One morning, however, when Rabbi Boruch knocked on the nobleman's door he received
no answer. The nobleman, he soon realized, was in a drunken stupor, having spent
the night before carousing with some local peasants. With great difficulty the
tzadik managed to haul him over to the wagon and dump him in. Throughout
it all, the nobleman remained unconscious.
The next stage of the journey took them through a dense forest. The horses plodded
along at their usual sluggish pace, keeping time with the nobleman's loud snores.
Rabbi Boruch was lost in thought.
Suddenly, a terrible pain ripped through the tzadik's head. When he woke
up he found himself tied to a tree, with the Polish nobleman in similar circumstances.
The horses and wagon were gone, but Rabbi Boruch noticed that his prayer book,
talit and tefilin had been tossed aside. Immediately he thanked
G-d for having saved his life.
Moving his arms and legs the tzadik was able to gradually loosen his
bonds. The first thing he did was to pick up his prayer book, talit and
tefilin and kiss them. Next he turned his attention to the Polish nobleman,
who was still unconscious but appeared to be breathing.
Rabbi Boruch found a stream and splashed some water on the man's face. Nonetheless,
it took a few hours until his eyelids fluttered. "What happened?"
the nobleman stammered. "Why am I lying on the ground?"
The tzadik told him what had happened, but as soon as he heard the word
"robbers" he began to scream. "My money! My money!" Rabbi
Boruch tried to calm him down and told him that he should be grateful for being
alive, but the nobleman remained extremely agitated and kept looking at the
tzadik with barely concealed suspicion.
With no other choice the two set out on foot. After wandering for several days
they came upon an encampment of hunters, some of whom were the nobleman's friends.
Out of earshot of the wagon driver, the nobleman told them that he suspected
his companion of having stolen his money. His suspicion was based on the simple
fact that the driver was the only person who had known of its existence.
One hunter suggested that they shoot him immediately, but the oldest member
of the party demurred. "Let's tie him to a tree," he proposed. "If
he's guilty, he will die. If not, then G-d help him." The tzadik
was immediately seized and bound.
Night fell, and Rabbi Boruch's tears flowed freely as he prayed the evening
service. From the depths of his heart he implored G-d to save him, his voice
echoing back in the eerie silence.
The sound of approaching footsteps suddenly cut off his words. It was the old
hunter who had returned, the very one who had objected to killing him. "I
wanted to see how you were," he said. "I never thought you were guilty
in the first place. The real robbers have just been apprehended and have admitted
to everything. It seems that when our foolish friend got drunk the other night,
he boasted to everyone about all the money he was carrying."
It was the night of Tisha B'Av when Rabbi Boruch arrived back at the study hall,
where his disciples were waiting for him expectantly. And everyone noticed that
the tzadik's reading of the Book of Lamentations was especially emotional
Source: Reprinted from //LChaimWeekly.org (#630), with
Biographical note: Apologies, but it is not clear to me which Rebbe Boruch
Connection: TISHA B'AV
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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