#124 (s5760-25/17Adar I)
BOILING LEAD TREATMENT
The great Kabbalist, Rabbi
Moshe de Leon, looked at the well-known sinner of 13th century Spain penetratingly
THE BOILING LEAD TREATMENT
A man who had acted against the Torah all his adult life suddenly
started to be terrified by the thought of his fate in the world-to-come. Much
to his own surprise, he found himself entertaining thoughts of repentance, even
though he realized how difficult it would be for him. He decided to discuss it
with Rabbi Moshe de Leon, but that he would do so without actually committing
Entering into conversation with the great Kabbalist, he introduced
the matter in joking fashion. He told him that he had a serious disease and wondered
if there was any medicine for it. The sage looked at the well-known sinner of
13th century Spain penetratingly for a long moment, and then replied that there
is no cure for the man's countless intentional transgressions other than an early
The man's eyes widened. Then he said soberly, "If I accept upon
myself this judgment, and all the suffering that will accompany it, will I then
have a share in the World-to-Come?"
The Kabbalist assured him that
he would, but the man insisted, "Swear to me that I will be in the same place
R. Moshe de Leon promised that when the time came, he would
do his best in Paradise to keep him close.
Hearing this oath, and believing
it, the man stood very still, visibly shaken. He left, and for a period of time
tried to forget the great sage's words, but without success. He could not get
them out of his head. His former way of life now seemed empty and unfulfilling.
In the end, he returned to R. Moshe de Leon.
"Alright," he said
finally in a low but firm voice, "I agree. I will take upon myself whatever
the Rebbe decrees upon me."
"Follow me," the Rabbi said,
and strode off to his Study Hall.
As soon as they arrived, he sent for some pieces of lead and a bellows. He
fanned a huge flame with the bellows and held the lead over it in a pan. As
the pan heated up, the lead liquefied and bubbled. He then called over all the
men studying Torah, young and old, and sat the man on a bench near the bellows
and showed him the boiling lead, explaining that this was one of the four methods
of biblical executions. "Confess all your sins," he intoned. "Acknowledge
G-d's majesty sincerely and wholeheartedly; say 'Shma Yisrael
echad'; and accept this death in atonement for all of your sins
and having rebelled against your Creator and angering Him your whole life."
The Jew sprang up from his seat, and did exactly
as the Master had commanded him, the whole time crying bitter powerful sobs. His
obvious sincerity affected everyone present. The Rabbi moved to stand next to
him and told him to sit down. "Open your mouth wide and I will pour into
it this boiling lead," he said severely. He covered the man's eyes with his
handkerchief and tied it securely. "Prepare yourself," he warned.
crowd of Torah scholars stood around them, shocked and terrified. The man braced
himself and stretched open his mouth as wide as he could. R. Moshe de Leon swiftly
removed from the folds of his robe a jar of rose-honey, and leveled a spoonful
of it on the blindfolded man's tongue. "May your sins depart and your crimes
be atoned," he recited loudly.
As soon as he tasted the honey and realized
what had happened, the man screamed in shock and outrage. "Rebbe, Master,
what did you do to me? Why didn't you kill me? Why do you deceive me? Destroy
my body just as you promised, in honor of our Creator, the King of kings, the
Holy One, blessed be He. I can't bear my evilness any longer; why should I live?
And I haven't suffered at all - not a blow, not a wound, not even a drop of blood.
Please! Do it to me."
The Rabbi put a hand on his shoulder and did
his best to calm him. "Dear friend," he began gently; "Don't panic
and don't be agitated. G-d desires the change of heart of the wicked, not their
death. Your return and repentance have been accepted on High. Now you have to
live a new life of purity and righteousness."
From that moment on,
the Jew was a completely different person. He spent all of his time in the Study
Hall, totally attached to R. Moshe de Leon, drinking thirstily as much of his
master's teachings as he could. He prayed and repented, and studied day and night,
eating very little and hardly speaking to anyone.
Years went by. The great
Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe de Leon, was taken to the Heavenly Yeshiva. His baal
teshuva (repentant, "successful Returner") was inconsolable. He
prayed that G-d do him the kindness to take him from this life and restore him
to his irreplaceable master. Day after day he prayed and pleaded thus. Rivers
of tears flowed from his eyes and heart. Finally, his request was granted. He
became ill, and never again rose from his sickbed. One day soon thereafter, he
suddenly sat erect and called out, "Clear the way for our teacher and master,
Rabbi Moshe de Leon, who comes now to fulfill his oath to me and escort me to
his chamber in Paradise."
A few seconds later, his soul departed to
its eternal reward. It is said-and some even saw in a dream - that he indeed merited
to study Torah in the Heavenly Academy with his beloved teacher.
by Yrachmiel Tilles from HaMidrasha #17.]
Rabbi Moshe De Leon (1238-1305) of Guadalhajara, Spain, is best known as
the first publisher of the Zohar (the teachings of second century mishnaic
sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as recorded by his students, which constitute
the primary text of Kabbalah). He is also the author of the Kabbalah tome, Shekel
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
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